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A Study of the Bhagavadgita


Chapter 3: The Transmigration of the Soul (Continued)

Therefore, birth and death, which was the sorrow of Arjuna, constitute not the characteristics of the soul. It cannot be drenched by water, it cannot be burned by fire, it cannot be cut by any kind of weapon. It is unaffected in every way because it is a consciousness that transcends the idea of the duality of subject and object. A condition of being affected by something is the condition of accepting the existence of an object totally different from one’s own self. But, applying the same logic that we were referring to earlier, you will find unless there is a consciousness that is transcendent to both the subjective and the objective side, you will not even know that the world exists. So in your perception of the world which is apparently outside you, you are acting on behalf of a consciousness which is neither you, nor the object.

Three Sanskrit terms will subsequently occur in the Bhagavadgita: adhyatma, adhibhuta and adhideva. The perceptive consciousness, your position as a seer of the world, is the state of the adhyatma, or the so-called individuality. Atma is the subjective consciousness. Anything related to the Atman, or subjectivity of consciousness, is the adhyatma. Adhibhuta is the objective side, the entire universe of perception. The whole world of humanity and everything is the external, poised or counterpoised before the perceiving consciousness. Inasmuch as there is a difference between the objective side and the subjective side, there would not be any possibility of the subject knowing that the object is existing at all. As the world is totally outside you – it is not clinging to your skin – how would you know that it exists unless there is a relationship between the subjective side and the objective side? That relationship also has to be conscious. Unconscious connections cannot produce conscious apprehension of the object outside.

In our act of perception of the world in respect of the object or the world outside, this position that we, as the adhyatma or the subjective side, occupy can be explained by nothing else than an intervention of something between us and the object outside. I cannot know that you are sitting in front of me unless there is a link between us. This link is the adhideva consciousness, the superintending divinity. We cannot see it with our eyes. I can see myself and I can see you, but we cannot see anything that is between us, notwithstanding the fact that without the positing of that third thing we cannot explain or account for the act of perception itself.

You may ask me why it is that we are not able to see it. Because it is neither a subject nor an object, no one can see it. It sees only itself; therefore, we call it transcendent. If you understand me and whatever I say has actually entered you, you will have great peace of mind. You will become a different person after one hour if it has entered your bones, because it is something serious, something which affects you every minute, something which will reform you, transmute you, make you super-individuals, divinities – God-men, I may say – if this has actually entered your mind.

So this transcendent consciousness, which is imperative as a correlative link between the subjective and objective sides, is a divinity known as adhideva. I mentioned three different words which are in the Eighth Chapter of the Gita – the adhyatma, the adhibhuta, the adhideva: the subjective, the objective and the transcendent. Inasmuch as our very perceptive existence is conditioned by a transcendent, deathless consciousness, we may be said to be entirely conditioned by it, and in that sense we are deathless. Our subjectivity is linked to this transcendent element between the subjective and objective sides in the same way as the objective side is also connected with this transcendent. Two sides of the balance are placed in a position of harmony, as it were, by a third thing that is hanging on top. It is like the apex of a triangle which holds in position the two bases.

Therefore, Arjuna, there is no death, finally. Who dies when somebody seems to be dying? It is the same thing that happens in the process of evolution. You cast off the shell in which you are enclosed, which is redundant now, and put on a new coat, as it were, for the purpose of further evolution. Consciousness, which is universal, gets individualised when it becomes a personality, and the impulse behind the entry of a universal into individuality is called a desire.

It is not possible to know why desire arises at all unless we reach the state of the Transcendent Being. We have to take it for granted that desire is the cause of the delimitation of the Universal Consciousness as an individual, so-called, a person. Desire is actually a wish of consciousness to be something and to do something. Inasmuch as something is not everything, it becomes only something for the purpose of achieving something. You are what you are; you cannot be another person. Though the same Universal Consciousness is pervading you and everybody, the wish of that Universal to be only something, for the sake of achieving something, has limited itself to one person, as if there is no connection of one with the other. This is because the wish is for only certain things, for the purpose of achieving certain things only. This limitation of the wish in a guarded fashion cuts off consciousness from its own face on the other side; it forgets its universality, and enters into this darkness of involvement in the predicament of pure individuality, and becomes one person only.

Now, the desire, even if it be for getting involved in one form only, arises from the universality of consciousness, so there is an impossibility of fulfilling any desire. There is a blunder that consciousness seems to be committing in wanting to achieve only something, to the exclusion of something else. All desires arise from the Universal Being but, because of the universality behind this desire, it is impossible to fulfil it. Unless you get everything you want, you will not fulfil your desire. But as you have already counteracted that possibility by wishing to be only something and wanting to do only something, you cannot fulfil your wish.

In this world, therefore, no one can fulfil their wish entirely. No desire of yours can be fully accomplished. There is a basic blunder at the very thought of fulfilling the desire because, on the one hand, it is impossible to fulfil it on account of the universality that is at the back of it; and secondly, there is an insistence of this part of the universality to be only something. So what happens? As this little body that is manufactured by the wish of consciousness to be individual finds it impossible to fulfil all its desires, it is cast off as a worn-out garment. When you find that an instrument is of no longer of any use, you throw it away and get a fresh instrument  to continue your work.

Thus, birth and death actually mean casting off the redundant sheath of the individuality for the sake of assuming a new sheath in order to see if the desire can be fulfilled through the new one, which is rebirth. Hence, rebirth – entering into a new body, the evolutionary process of becoming something else – is, again, a futile attempt to find the universal in the particular. The Universal is universal; the particular is completely different from the universal. Therefore, to be an individual, and wanting to be an individual for all time to come, and yet trying to fulfil all desires universally, is not a worthwhile attempt.

Who dies? This question is answered by the argument that the sheaths of the body are cast off, as the universal desire cannot be fulfilled by any kind of sheath that you put on, and so endless births and deaths take place. Therefore moksha, liberation, complete freedom of the spirit is not possible as long as you wish to be something and do something; but would you like to do everything? Nobody wishes to do everything, and also nobody wishes to be all things – the entire space, time and cosmos. It is not your wish, but this is the only solution. You are free only when you are all things and can do everything. Therefore, as everyone in the world can be something only and not all things, and also do only something, birth and death cannot be avoided.

“So Arjuna,” says Bhagavan Sri Krishna, “the Atman, the consciousness, does not die. Basically, you have passed through many births, as have I. The only difference is that I know the entire series of incarnations through which I have passed, whereas you are not aware of it.” The intensity of attachment of consciousness to the particular body of an individual prevents it from knowing that it has taken previous births. The attachment of your consciousness to this particular body is so vehement that it is severed automatically from any connection or memory of the previous life, so that you cannot know what you were in the previous birth, nor can you know what you will be in the next birth. You know this birth because of terrible attachment to only this body. You do not have attachment to anything else. Sri Krishna says, “I am not so attached. I stand as a transcendent incarnating principle” – a subject which will come in the Fourth Chapter – “and, therefore, when I pass from one incarnation to another, I move, as it were, from one room to another room of a house; and nobody forgets the room from which one has exited and entered. But you are not like that. I know everything, but you know nothing. Now, knowing this, be free from the dread of dying, and also have no love for life.”

The Manu Smriti says you should neither love life nor hate life because both are wrong issues, for the reason already mentioned. “How wonderful, how beautiful is this world, how happy is life!” – do not say that. “How idiotic, how wretched is this world, how bad is life!” – do not say that, either. Neither is this world beautiful and nice, nor is it idiotic and stupid. It has no such characteristics. To put it psychologically, you are foisting, projecting your own psychological circumstance on persons and things outside, and seeing things which are not there.

So Sri Krishna comes to the point that, placed in this situation, what is your duty? “Having told you that the consciousness, which is the Atman, is deathless, universal in its nature, and also having told you what birth and death are, now I am placing before you a little principle of what you are to do.” The Bhagavadgita is an answer to the question of what human duty is. Given a particular certain circumstance and being placed in a condition, what is it that you are supposed to do? The answer does not fully come in the Second Chapter; it will come much later on.

Anyway, Sri Krishna rebuts the arguments of Arjuna by saying, “Your understanding is turbid. There is no prajna in you, really speaking. You lack buddhi-yoga, discriminative understanding.” ‘Sankhya’ is the word used. You lack sankhya-buddhi. Sankhya-buddhi is discriminative knowledge, and the application of it in practical life is called Yoga. Sankhya is the wisdom of life; Yoga is the application of this wisdom in your daily life. Inasmuch as you lack this discriminative faculty and are blabbering something according to your own whim and fancy, you cannot adjust your life harmoniously in this world. You are a disjointed personality.

Sankhya is the wisdom of life. This is a word that philosophers are acquainted with. It is one of the schools of philosophy. Among the six schools – Nyaya, Vaisesika, etc. – Sankhya is one. Now we are entering into a little difficult subject, the principle of Sankhya, which is actually the doctrine of the evolution of the cosmos. Unless you know where you are actually placed in this life, you cannot know what to do in this world. You are standing somewhere. You have to do something – move in this direction, or do something, or speak in a way to somebody – but nothing can be done unless you know where you are standing. Where are you, actually? Unless you know the atmosphere of your location, you will not be able to take even one step in any direction. So duty, the fulfilment of your obligations in this world in any work whatsoever, cannot be attempted unless you know where you are actually placed. The knowledge of your placement in the midst of this cosmos is the Sankhya.

Are you in Rishikesh, are you on the Earth planet, are you in the solar system, are you in the sky? Do you know that you are in a spaceship? This Earth is a spaceship rotating, revolving in space. You are in an airplane, as it were. It is really so. Every second, it covers some thousands of miles. You are thinking you are in Rishikesh, but you are not in Rishikesh. You are in mid-space.

This is the way in which it becomes necessary to know in a larger dimension where we are actually placed. We are in the solar system, not in India, not in Delhi or Rishikesh, or Uttar Pradesh or Dakshin Pradesh. We are in the solar system, conditioned by the great ruling force Suryanarayana, the Sun, and the galaxies, and the entire space-time complex.

Sankhya is the enumeration of the categories of evolution. ‘Sankhya’ is a Sanskrit word which means computation. The computation of the categories of the cosmos is the Sankhya doctrine. Firstly, it has been accepted that there is a consciousness. Whatever I have been telling you up to this time amounts to this: there is a consciousness. And I have been telling you all this time that this consciousness is eternal, the Soul Supreme, infinite, indefinable, indivisible consciousness. The Sankhya calls it Purusha. The supreme directing principle of the whole universe is called Purusha, the Supreme. As it is uncontaminated by externality or relativity, it is Absolute. You can call it Absolute Existence, Absolute Consciousness.

The universal force that causes the delimitation of this Universal Consciousness and entry into a particularity or an individuality is called Prakriti. So there is Purusha and there is Prakriti. This Prakriti is a name that we give to the blending of the three forces called sattva, rajas and tamas. Rajas is kinesis, dynamism, and tamas is statis. In the language of physics we may call it dynamics and statics, but in science there is no third thing equivalent to sattva. We have only dynamics and statics; there is no equilibrating factor in science. Sattva is the equilibrating force between dynamics and statics, between action and no action, between moving and not moving, between doing and not doing. Between stability, fixity and motion, there is a harmonising element. That is called sattva. These three forces are the constituents of what is known as Prakriti, the cosmical motivation behind the wish of the Universal Consciousness to enter into an individuality.

Today we shall close with this apparently difficult subject.