Essays on the Gita (The Mother’s Institute of Research) - Session 5 (24 February 1998)

Last time we were speaking of Sri Krishna receiving the message from Rishi Ghora:

उद् वयं तमसस् परि ज्योतिष् पश्यन्त उत्तरम् |
देवं देवत्रा सूर्यम् अगन्म ज्योतिर् उत्तमम् ||

ud vayaṃ tamasas pari jyotiṣ paśyanta uttaram |
devaṃ devatrā sūryam aganma jyotir uttamam ||

The Veda 1.50.10

That was the verse from the Rig Veda which was indicative of the kind of knowledge that He received from his teacher. As I pointed out last time, there are three things in the Bhagavad Gita which are central if you want to understand the whole teaching. One is the fact that the teacher is the divine teacher, that the student is the human student—the human disciple, and third is the occasion. The occasion is a sanguinary battle and a huge war of men and nations who have come together with different motivations to settle a very big national issue. An occasion of a great crisis in which the hero undergoes a personal crisis, and it is in that national and personal crisis the teaching emerges which is crucial for the settlement of both the crises.

Now, when we say that the teacher is the divine teacher, there are three things which are conveyed by this expression: 'divine teacher'. The first is that there is an implicit affirmation that the Divine Himself, the supreme Lord Himself, can become incarnated in a human body, that this incarnation can be historical in character, and thirdly, that although this incarnation is presented as a historical event, the emphasis is not laid upon the historical Avatar but upon the essential Avatar. Now let us elucidate this very important point.

First of all the Bhagavad Gita maintains that the Reality is one without the second—there is only one Reality. This is a distinction from many other philosophies, which are called 'dualistic' philosophies, or 'pluralistic philosophies, or 'materialistic' philosophies, and this philosophy is not a mental philosophy. It is not by speculation that the conclusion is arrived at that there is only one Reality; it is based upon a direct spiritual experience: "This Reality is one without a second". And yet this Reality, which is one, is complex in character. In one of the expositions of Sri Aurobindo, we find that Reality is described as simple-complex, simultaneously. When we were discussing the concept of Sachchidananda, the very fact that we regard reality as Sat, Chit, Ananda, it is already a complex of three things; it is mobile and immobile. In this context therefore, the Supreme is present everywhere and in a sense, you might say that everything in the world is an avatar of the Lord. If the Lord is present everywhere, everything incarnates Him and yet every incarnation has its own specific quality. What we call the embodied human soul is also the supreme Divine; what we call Vibhutis are also in some sense incarnations of the Divine. And the supreme Avatar—the direct Avatar—that also is his own distinguishing mark. The human soul which is embodied in the human body is nothing but the Divine's own fire; Vibhutis are special manifestations of the Divine with a special emphasis of Power, or Love, or Joy, or Beauty. That is also the way by which the Divine manifests, but neither the Divine, neither the human soul, nor the Vibhuti can be equated with a special manifestation of consciousness and power of the Divine which centrally takes possession of a human body, and the Divine Himself acts through the human body, no more as a soul would act, no more as a Vibhuti would act, but as the supreme Lord Himself acting. This is the special mark of what we call the Avatar.

Question: Do Avatars have a soul? Yes.

Question: I also would like to ask one question. Is the Vibhuti uncovering of a manifestation or is it a special manifestation?

In fact everything in this world is uncovering because everything in the world is filled with the Divine.

Question: So the differentiation between an ordinary manifestation and a Vibhuti is an evolution?

...a greater evolution through which the uncovering is much greater and as a result you find a special manifestation.

Question: Do you mean to say that from the beginning it was quite uncovered?

No. Not necessarily from the beginning. It may grow through the law of growth but the growth is a very special kind of growth. As parents may have two or three children who all grow together, but one of them, like Vivekananda who was one of the brothers, becomes the Vibhuti, the special manifestation.

Question: Is the Avatar one who chooses to be born again... on purpose?

The Avatar has also past birth, as Sri Krishna Himself says in the fourth chapter, when he tells Arjuna, "You had many birth in the past but you do not know them; I too had many past birth but I know them all." The Bhagavad Gita (chap.IV, N°8) also speaks of Sri Krishna: sam bhavami yuge yuge, I come again and again from age to age.

So there are three special phenomena connected with the special manifestation of the Divine: a manifestation of the Divine as a soul, the manifestation of the Divine as Vibhuti, and the Divine's manifestation as the Avatar. And the speciality of what we call Avatar is that the Divine Himself takes a human birth or assumes the body and acts through that body with the fullness of His authority—as the Lord Himself. That is also the Vaishnavism, one school, which speaks of nara narayana, a relationship between the human soul and the divine soul—the Divine Himself. Man in God is nara, God in man is narayana. Now, in this concept we have a new introduction: God in man that is to say, there is a soul which contains an inner avatar of the Divine. As a result of that, when the individual soul gets in search of finding himself through the morass of the ignorance of the self, he can discover himself only when the companionship with the Lord is realised. I cannot recognize myself except as a friend of God who is always with me. The inner Divine is the eternal Avatar of the Lord; the 'inner' avatar of the Lord is different from the 'cosmic' Lord and the 'transcendental' Lord. The transcendental Lord also is there above everything, irreducible, supreme. The Lord is also in the cosmos, everywhere—the cosmic Lord. But there is also the eternal Lord, seated in the human creatures, and when the individual grows and the veil is cut asunder between him and the companion then the individual soul discovers and finds himself—what he is, is known. A stage comes when he really can see God face to face, can talk to Him, can perceive the Divine's voice. And then, the Divine Himself, the inner Divine who is always present occupies the outer body of the individual, occupies him occasionally or partially, and this is a very special kind of phenomenon which is created when the veil between the individual and the inner Divine is wrenched asunder. Then, two kinds of phenomena occur. One is that the individual feels that a higher power is acting through him all the time, but the other phenomenon is where occasionally or for a long time, or permanently, you might say, the individual feels that he is no more being acted through by the Lord, but that the Lord Himself is acting. So, this is one series of experiences one can have when one is in the process of getting in contact with inner divinity, and as one moves forward, one first of all gets in touch with the Divine, one can speak face to face with the Divine.

It is the veil of egoistic consciousness, it is a special kind of veil, which makes you think that you are self-sufficient, that you are separate from the others, and that you are the originator of yourself, and your actions: these are the marks of the veil of egoism. This is the result of the veil between you and the supreme Lord because actually speaking, you are never self-sufficient, but when you have not seen the Lord and not yet cut the veil, you think that you are self-sufficient. So when this veil is cut, then you discover that you are all the time in the hands of the Lord, and that your very nature is such that you cannot exist by yourself. That is what is called self-finding. When you really discover yourself, you discover that you are not, ever, independent, that you are not yourself the originator, that you cannot exist except as a companion of the Lord, that you yourself are nothing but a spark of His fire—a spark cannot exist without the fire, you only exists by the fire. So, you discover yourself at the same time as you discover the presence of the Divine. You never discover yourself as yourself, saying: 'I have discovered myself, now I will discover God'. To discover yourself is to discover yourself as a companion of God. It is not as though you can say, "'I have now known myself and now as a higher step I shall try to know God". To know yourself is to know yourself as a spark of the divine fire. It is a simultaneous realisation, and when that realisation comes and first is a great contact, intimate contact, the real embrace of the individual with the Lord, the supreme Love and ecstasy, great Union, and then the Lord Himself begins to use you as it were, Himself, and you become an instrument. But at a farther stage even that vanishes and the Lord Himself acts as if He is the Master of all that you are, which He really is always behind the veil.

That is how, for example, if you examine the experiences through which Sri Chaitanya passed, you will notice that he had a double experience. Sometimes he used to feel that he was a Bhakta of the supreme Lord Krishna; but sometimes he used to speak as if he was Krishna Himself. There was no difference; he was no more there at all: it was Sri Krishna Himself. If you examine Christ you will find the same experience. Jesus said, "I am the son of God"—the spark of the divine Fire and the son of God—but he also said, "The son and the father are one." And he spoke with the authority of the Lord quite often, "I am the Lord, I am the Way", He declared.

It is a special kind of phenomenon, which occurs on this line of development; but there is another line of development when the Lord Himself assumes the body, the Unborn is born as it were, He takes a special kind of a birth, right from the beginning, and there the phenomena are quite different. The Lord may not all the time declare that He is the Lord, but in His consciousness right from the childhood, right from His early stages, there is a consciousness that He is the Lord and takes all His actions with that supremacy, with that responsibility, as if He were responsible for the whole world—it is not with the consciousness of the soul, which is never responsible for anything in the world fundamentally. But when the Lord acts Himself He may not be talkative about Himself, he may not say to people, "Look, I am the Lord". He may look to the whole world as a human being among all the human beings but in His consciousness He knows that he is responsible for the whole world, He is conducting the whole world.

Take for example Sri Rama who is known as the Avatar in India, but in the Ramayana He never declares that He is an Avatar. But all His activities that He performed, all the decisions He took, and the majesty and the authority with which He did all His work, it was like the Lord Himself. Sri Krishna also had the same majesty, He might again not talk about His avatarhood, but sometimes He did speak about it. In fact, the whole of Mahabharata recognizes Sri Krishna as a human hero or a human leader who was the Avatar Himself. Therefore, when you read the Bhagavad Gita, wherever Sri Krishna speaks it is written: sri bhagavan uvaca, it means the Lord Himself is speaking. So the Mahabharata, at least the author of Mahabharata, recognizes Sri Krishna as the Avatar. In Ramayana, Valmiki does not declare Sri Rama the Avatar, so there is a difference between the two, but both Sri Rama and Sri Krishna were Avatars, they acted with the authority of the Lord.

What is important in the Bhagavad Gita is not that you must believe that Sri Krishna was an Avatar. The significance of Sri Krishna's presence is that He reveals that inner Avatar of the Lord, that inner Divinity; what is emphasized in the Bhagavad Gita is not His own human avatarhood but the fact that even without this, the Avatar is available to every human being; it is already there, seated in our hearts.

I would like to read with you now two or three paragraphs from the text itself because these concepts require to be fixed quite well, and if you read Sri Aurobindo's text, it will make it much more luminous.

On page 10 or 13, according to your books.

India has from ancient times held strongly a belief in the reality of the Avatara, the descent into form, the revelation of the Godhead in humanity. In the West this belief has never really stamped itself upon the mind because it has been presented through exoteric Christianity as a theological dogma without any roots in the reason and general consciousness and attitude towards life. But in India it has grown up and persisted as a logical outcome of the Vedantic view of life and taken firm root in the consciousness of the race.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Divine Teacher

Now, is the exposition of Indian view of the Avatarhood:

All existence is a manifestation of God because He is the only existence and nothing can be except as either a real figuring or else a figment of that one reality. Therefore every conscious being is in part or in some way a descent of the Infinite into the apparent finiteness of name and form. But it is a veiled manifestation and there is a gradation between the supreme being of the Divine and the consciousness shrouded partly or wholly by ignorance of self in the finite. The conscious embodied soul is the spark of the divine Fire and that soul in man opens out to self-knowledge as it develops out of ignorance of self into self-being. The Divine also, pouring itself into the forms of the cosmic existence, is revealed ordinarily in an efflorescence of its powers, in energies and magnitudes of its knowledge, love, joy, developed force of being, in degrees and faces of its divinity. But when the divine Consciousness and Power, taking upon itself the human form and the human mode of action, possesses it not only by powers and magnitudes, by degrees and outward faces of itself but out of its eternal self-knowledge, when the Unborn knows itself and acts in the frame of the mental being and the appearance of birth, that is the height of the conditioned manifestation; it is the full and conscious descent of the Godhead, it is the Avatara.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Divine Teacher

This is the second formation.

All existence is a manifestation of God because He is the only existence and nothing can be except as either a real figuring or else a figment of that one reality. Therefore every conscious being is in part or in some way a descent of the Infinite into the apparent finiteness of name and form. But it is a veiled manifestation and there is a gradation between the supreme being of the Divine and the consciousness shrouded partly or wholly by ignorance of self in the finite. The conscious embodied soul is the spark of the divine Fire and that soul in man opens out to self-knowledge as it develops out of ignorance of self into self-being. The Divine also, pouring itself into the forms of the cosmic existence, is revealed ordinarily in an efflorescence of its powers, in energies and magnitudes of its knowledge, love, joy, developed force of being, in degrees and faces of its divinity. But when the divine Consciousness and Power, taking upon itself the human form and the human mode of action, possesses it not only by powers and magnitudes, by degrees and outward faces of itself but out of its eternal self-knowledge, when the Unborn knows itself and acts in the frame of the mental being and the appearance of birth, that is the height of the conditioned manifestation; it is the full and conscious descent of the Godhead, it is the Avatara.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Divine Teacher

Now is the third.

But when the divine Consciousness and Power, taking upon itself the human form and the human mode of action, possesses it not only by powers and magnitudes, by degrees and outward faces of itself but out of its eternal self-knowledge, when the Unborn knows itself and acts in the frame of the mental being and the appearance of birth, that is the height of the conditioned manifestation; it is the full and conscious descent of the Godhead, it is the Avatara.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Divine Teacher

The Vaishnava form of Vedantism which has laid most stress upon this conception expresses the relation of God in man to man in God by the double figure of Nara-Narayana, associated historically with the origin of a religious school very similar in its doctrines to the teaching of the Gita. Nara is the human soul which, eternal companion of the Divine, finds itself only when it awakens to that companionship and begins, as the Gita would say, to live in God. Narayana is the divine Soul always present in our humanity, the secret guide, friend and helper of the human being, the "Lord who abides within the heart of creatures" of the Gita; when within us the veil of that secret sanctuary is withdrawn and man speaks face to face with God, hears the divine voice, receives the divine light, acts in the divine power, then becomes possible the supreme uplifting of the embodied human conscious being into the unborn and eternal. He becomes capable of dwelling in God and giving up his whole consciousness into the Divine which the Gita upholds as the best or highest secret of things, uttamam rahasyam. When this eternal divine Consciousness always present in every human being, this God in man, takes possession partly or wholly of the human consciousness and becomes in visible human shape the guide, teacher, leader of the world, not as those who living in their humanity yet feel something of the power or light or love of the divine Gnosis informing and conducting them, but out of that divine Gnosis itself, direct from its central force and plenitude, then we have the manifest Avatar. The inner Divinity is the eternal Avatar in man; the human manifestation is its sign and development in the external world.

When we thus understand the conception of Avatarhood, we see that whether for the fundamental teaching of the Gita, our present subject, or for spiritual life generally the external aspect has only a secondary importance. Such controversies as the one that has raged in Europe over the historicity of Christ, would seem to a spiritually-minded Indian largely a waste of time; he would concede to it a considerable historical, but hardly any religious importance; for what does it matter in the end whether a Jesus son of the carpenter Joseph was actually born in Nazareth or Bethlehem, lived and taught and was done to death on a real or trumped-up charge of sedition, so long as we can know by spiritual experience the inner Christ, live uplifted in the light of his teaching and escape from the yoke of the natural Law by that atonement of man with God of which the crucifixion is the symbol? If the Christ, God made man, lives within our spiritual being, it would seem to matter little whether or not a son of Mary physically lived and suffered and died in Judea. So too the Krishna who matters to us is the eternal incarnation of the Divine and not the historical teacher and leader of men.

"In seeking the kernel of the thought of the Gita we need, therefore, only concern ourselves with the spiritual significance of the human-divine Krishna of the Mahabharata who is presented to us as the teacher of Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The historical Krishna, no doubt, existed. We meet the name first in the Chandogya Upanishad where all we can gather about him is that he was well known in spiritual tradition as a knower of the Brahman, so well-known indeed in his personality and the circumstances of his life that it was sufficient to refer to him by the name of his mother as Krishna son of Devaki for all to understand who was meant. In the same Upanishad we find mention of King Dhritarashtra son of Vichitravirya, and since the tradition associated the two together so closely that they are both of them leading personages in the action of the Mahabharata, we may fairly conclude that they were actually contemporaries and that the epic is to a great extent dealing with historical characters and in the war of Kurukshetra with a historical occurrence imprinted firmly on the memory of the race. We know too that Krishna and Arjuna were the object of religious worship in the pre-Christian centuries; and there is some reason to suppose that they were so in connection with a religious and philosophical tradition from which the Gita may have gathered many of its elements and even the foundation of its synthesis of knowledge, devotion and works, and perhaps also that the human Krishna was the founder, restorer or at the least one of the early teachers of this school. The Gita may well in spite of its later form represent the outcome in Indian thought of the teaching of Krishna and the connection of that teaching with the historical Krishna, with Arjuna and with the war of Kurukshetra may be something more than a dramatic fiction. In the Mahabharata Krishna is represented both as the historical character and the Avatar; his worship and Avatarhood must therefore have been well established by the time—apparently from the fifth to the first centuries B.C.—when the old story and poem or epic tradition of the Bharatas took its present form. There is a hint also in the poem of the story or legend of the Avatar's early life in Vrindavan which, as developed by the Puranas into an intense and powerful spiritual symbol, has exercised so profound an influence on the religious mind of India. We also have in the Harivansh an account of the life of Krishna, very evidently full of legends, which perhaps formed the basis of the Puranic accounts."

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Divine Teacher

So we have now a statement as to what exactly is the essential Avatar and the historical Avatar. And what is important in the Bhagavad Gita is to realise the essential Avatar although Sri Krishna is also presented as the historical Avatar. The whole teaching of the Gita has this fundamental significance: that we have to see the importance of the teaching of the Gita even if the Avatar, as Krishna, were not manifested on the earth. Whenever Sri Krishna says, "Turn to the Divine", He does not necessarily mean, "You turn to Me as the historical Krishna". You turn to the Divine that is the essential Avatar in you. So the supreme Lord, which is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, is not the Lord who manifested but the Lord who is always present to everybody. Otherwise it may be argued that Arjuna was especially fortunate and he could resolve his problem because the Avatar was present with him. But we, other human beings, how can we find Sri Krishna to whom we can refer to resolve our problems? The answer is that even if as a historical Avatar, He is not with you, we can always turn to Him because as an essential Avatar, He is always present to everyone of us. Therefore we can have the same kind of result which Arjuna could have.

If you read the Mahabharata, you will note that Sri Krishna behaves just as the essential Avatar would behave—not the historical Avatar. His very special functioning in the Mahabharata is such that He keeps His own Avatarhood as it were behind the screen, although He is a manifested Avatar. And although He is a historical character, in all His dealings He really acts manifestly as an Avatar, He does not say to people, "You obey Me because I am the Lord." And therefore, Sri Krishna's action in the Mahabharata is a revelation of how God Himself works in the world, even though not known by people, not recognized by people, He is always acting in the world. So if you want to see the working of God in the world, you examine Sri Krishna's life and you will find that God also acts naturally even though we do not know Him, He always goes on acting in the same way in which Sri Krishna was acting, but not known to people as the Lord acting in the world.

Sri Aurobindo speaks of three categories of people whom we find in the war of Mahabharata. The first category of people consisted of those who had come not for any personal profit but who came to offer help for the conquest of Justice, for the victory of Justice. To them, Sri Krishna was a natural leader. Then there were others who were opposed to the Right and Justice and to them Sri Krishna was an enemy. They saw in Krishna even an instigator of the entire war; like Dhritarashtra who spoke of Sri Krishna as though He wanted the war but could have avoided it if He wanted so, sincerely. He was also despised as the one who broke all conventions of good and evil, as the Breaker of Law, as a diplomat, as one who maneuvered various forces and it is true Sri Krishna Himself is the baffler of the designs of the opponents. And He had tremendous knowledge in fact even as an ordinary character. He knew the strengths and weaknesses of each important member of the Mahabharata, impartially, and therefore, He was capable of dealing with every one of them with some kind of sovereignty. This is the second face of Krishna: as an enemy who baffles the designs of the opponents, who slays the opponents, and commands the war against them as an instigator. And then there is the third category of people who are in the war by virtue of their own karma, by their own past life, in the momentum of the life which they had led so far, and to whom this war was an occasion of a great experience through which they had to pass in order to gain some very special experience of mastery. With them, Sri Krishna's behaviour is veiled; he allows people to act according to their own egoism, but also helps each one of them at the critical moment, but that much which was just necessary, and gets hidden once again, except when it becomes absolutely necessary; when the crisis becomes absolutely acute, He really breaks the veil and stands before one of them like Arjuna, and makes him realise He is the Avatar.

In our own lives, most of us actually belong to this third category. All of us are pursuing experience in the chain of our karma, and in our movement of life occasionally we do feel the presence of God. But normally we think that we are doing everything, karta aham, "I am the karta of everything". When I come to crisis I turn to God and sometimes God lifts me up, but again He veils himself to allow me to move onwards. God is always present, we are never alone, but He remains hidden, allowing us to grow through our own ignorant actions. Like Arjuna himself, although a friend of Krishna, although he loved Krishna, adored Him, and in return he was loved by Krishna also who was a counselor, a friend, a companion and they were moving together, feasting together, enjoying together. But Arjuna never suspected that this friend was the supreme Lord Himself and he himself confesses in the Gita, "I never knew although I called you everything, but now I realise that you are the supreme Lord."

Such is the condition of most of us in our world. We are neither there in the war—because we are here in the war of life—, we are neither as those who were just there for the sake of helping, nor are we there as opponents of the Right and Justice, like very few of them who were very hostile, and considered the Lord as the enemy. But most of us, we belong to those who are constantly moving onwards with our ordinary egoism, with our own actions but always supported by the Divine, and who always consider the friend just enough to give a helping hand so that we do not fall, are always rescued, kept on the right track. But if you come to a real crisis then He manifests also, gives up all the ways, and manifests as the inner divine Avatar always present. It is from this that we learn how God himself works in the world, and this is the second great significance of Sri Krishna as a divine Teacher in the Bhagavad Gita.

The first aspect is the presence of Sri Krishna as a historical Avatar, but emphasizing the spiritual significance of the inner Avatar; the second aspect is that through His actions in the Mahabharata, Sri Krishna tells us how normally God works, acts in the world; and the third significance is Sri Krishna's companionship with Arjuna, the divine Teacher in his relationship with the human disciple: this is also symbolic, typical. We can say from this symbolism that in every situation we can look upon ourselves as the disciple of God. It is up to us, but He is always present, the Lord is always present as a teacher, and we are always human disciples; so, if you act as human disciples of the Lord, then what happened to Arjuna in the war can happen to us at every time whenever we take this attitude that we are the pupils of God Himself directly. He is in our chariot, moving with us as our charioteer, conducting us through the war and battle, and ready to give us the right advice at the right moment. This double aspect of God as a teacher and the human being as a disciple is a symbolism in Indian tradition right from the Vedic times. In the Vedic times we find the concept of two birds (RV 1,164,20) sitting on the same branch of the tree, one who is eating the fruit and the other who is watching from above. The same symbolism appears again in the Upanishads. There is also the story in the Veda (Rig veda) of Indra and Kutsa both travelling together in the chariot. Indra is representative of the Lord and Kutsa is the pupil. And then according to the story, Kutsa is said to accompany Indra who is the real warrior, kills all the enemies, comes to a conquest and gives knowledge to Kutsa. And it is also said that Kutsa while travelling with the Lord, with Indra, in the chariot became so much like Him that when they arrived at the home of Indra it was difficult to discern between the two, both having become so much alike with each other. Only Sachi, the wife of Indra could recognize Indra as distinguished from Kutsa.

And such is the possibility of all of us while travelling with Sri Krishna or with the Lord, we can become like Him to such an extent that to distinguish between the two would be difficult. This is the third significance of the symbolism of Sri Krishna as a teacher and Arjuna as a disciple.

Once again, I would like to read the paragraph, page 14, in '"Essays on the Gita" concerning what I said just now, so that all becomes much clearer for you.

Secondly, there is the typical, almost the symbolic significance of the human Krishna who stands behind the great action of the Mahabharata, not as its hero,

Because Arjuna is the hero, Krishna is not the hero of Mahabharata.

..but as its secret centre and hidden guide. That action is the action of a whole world of men and nations, some of whom have come as helpers of an effort and result by which they do not personally profit, and to these he is a leader, some as its opponents and to them he also is an opponent, the baffler of their designs and their slayer and he seems even to some of them an instigator of all evil and destroyer of their old order and familiar world and secure conventions of virtue and good; some are representatives of that which has to be fulfilled and to them he is counsellor, helper, friend. Where the action pursues its natural course or the doers of the work have to suffer at the hands of its enemies and undergo the ordeals which prepare them for mastery, the Avatar is unseen or appears only for occasional comfort and aid, but at every crisis his hand is felt, yet in such a way that all imagine themselves to be the protagonists and even Arjuna, his nearest friend and chief instrument, does not perceive that he is an instrument and has to confess at last that all the while he did not really know his divine Friend. B.G.11.41 He has received counsel from his wisdom, help from his power, has loved and been loved, has even adored without understanding his divine nature; but he has been guided like all others through his own egoism and the counsel, help and direction have been given in the language and received by the thoughts of the Ignorance. Until the moment when all has been pushed to the terrible issue of the struggle on the field of Kurukshetra and the Avatar stands at last, still not as fighter, but as the charioteer in the battle-car which carries the destiny of the fight, he has not revealed Himself even to those whom he has chosen.

Thus the figure of Krishna becomes, as it were, the symbol of the divine dealings with humanity. Through our egoism and ignorance we are moved, thinking that we are the doers of the work, vaunting of ourselves as the real causes of the result, and that which moves us we see only occasionally as some vague or even some human and earthly fountain of knowledge, aspiration, force, some Principle or Light or Power which we acknowledge and adore without knowing what it is until the occasion arises that forces us to stand arrested before the Veil. And the action in which this divine figure moves is the whole wide action of man in life, not merely the inner life, but all this obscure course of the world which we can judge only by the twilight of the human reason as it opens up dimly before our uncertain advance the little span in front. This is the distinguishing feature of the Gita that it is the culmination of such an action which gives rise to its teaching and assigns that prominence and bold relief to the gospel of works which it enunciates with an emphasis and force we do not find in other Indian Scriptures. Not only in the Gita, but in other passages of the Mahabharata we meet with Krishna declaring emphatically the necessity of action, but it is here that he reveals its secret and the divinity behind our works.

The symbolic companionship of Arjuna and Krishna, the human and the divine soul, is expressed elsewhere in Indian thought, in the heavenward journey of Indra and Kutsa seated in one chariot, in the figure of the two birds upon one tree in the Upanishad, in the twin figures of Nara and Narayana, the seers who do tapasyā together for the knowledge. B.G.4.33 But in all three it is the idea of the divine knowledge in which, as the Gita says, all action culminates that is in view; here it is instead the action which leads to that knowledge and in which the divine Knower figures himself. Arjuna and Krishna, this human and this divine, stand together not as seers in the peaceful hermitage of meditation, but as fighter and holder of the reins in the clamorous field, in the midst of the hurtling shafts, in the chariot of battle. The Teacher of the Gita is therefore not only the God in man who unveils himself in the word of knowledge, but the God in man who moves our whole world of action, by and for whom all our humanity exists and struggles and labours, towards whom all human life travels and progresses. He is the secret Master of works and sacrifice and the Friend of the human peoples.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Divine Teacher


I think we shall stop here today. You wanted to ask some question?

Question: Is it ignorance only when people are opposing Krishna?

They are also in ignorance but in ignorance there are various degrees.

Question: So, what is forgiven and what is not forgiven?

Everything is forgiven but when a person is not only in the state of ignorance, or in the state of error, but also in the state of falsehood—the distinction between error and falsehood is that error is only a stage of development towards knowledge, but falsehood is to insist upon error all the time and refusing to move towards knowledge.

Question: Is that the result of egoistic consciousness?

Both are egoistic. But the state of error is less egoistic because it is a process towards Knowledge. All of us, for example, are in that state. We are making errors but we sincerely want to cross over. But falsehood comes when you know it is an error, you insist that it is not an error, and present it as a truth.

Question: How do you know that it is an error? Because whenever I observe I find that if an error is perpetuated, I don't think people are aware that it is an error.

But for example Duryodhana himself says MilL he knows it very well! So there are human beings who are really aware. How for example people deliberately speak lies? They know that what they say is a lie, but they affirm consciously that it is not, and even when contradicted, they reject it. They say, "No, this is the truth."

Question: When Duryodhana says that he had no nivritti from error, does that mean that he is perpetuating the falsehood?

That's right. Correct. He is in that grip of falsehood. He cannot avoid it. So those who are in falsehood, they are hostile, they cannot even hear the name of God actually, because it really disturbs their balance, their scheme of things is immediately broken. Because if God really manifests his whole thing will be shattered.

Question: Are there so many people who use God as a crutch? Does that mean that they are not in the falsehood?

No it depends whether what you call "crutch" is a mask, or if really you are in need of a crutch, and you obtain God as your crutch. It depends.

Question: What is a mask?

Many people use Him only as a mask. How many pundits, and how many so-called holy men are actually using God as a crutch only to advance themselves.

Question: Is the inner voice a very good guide to doing what is right?

There is always a voice but the veil is so thick that it does not reach you.

Question: But the more you listen to your inner voice, the stronger it gets!

Yes, of course! Certainly! To hear the voice and follow it is a part of Sadhana. Question: About what is mentioned here about Indra and Kutsa and the other things, does the choice of the sreyas and the preyas in the Katha Upanishad come to this relevance because I think in the ordinary consciousness that has no relevance to people?

You are right. It is once you have chosen sreyas that you can have God with you in the travel-car.

Question: That is applicable only to the elevated people...

Those who have really reached that point where they are actually worthy of travelling in the car with Sri Krishna, with the inner Divine.