Text of the Bhagavagd Gita (Mother's Institute of Research) - Session 41: Questions and Answers (10 February 2001)

ahaṁ vaiśvānaro bhūtvā prāṇināṁ deham āśritaḥ |

“I am not only Light, but also I am fire…” the two are actually simultaneous, the two are inseparable, the light and fire are simultaneous, so, He says “ahaṁ vaiśvānaro, it is the same light which is the fire, it is that fire which in the bodies”. All this is a state of realisation, when you realise what you realise, you realise Myself as the Light, you also realise Me as the fire. It is this fire, prāṇāpāna, by prāṇa and apāna, this fire moves and digest everything, pacāmy annaṁ catur–vidham ||15.14||, there are four kinds of foods: that which can be eaten, that is called ‘bhakṣya’; that which is enjoyed which is called ‘bhojya’; ‘lehya’, that which can be licked; ‘coṣya’. These are the four kinds of food, all these are digested by this Agni, by this fire, the whole world, in other words is maintained by this fire.

sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca |
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo vedānta–kṛd veda–vid eva cāham ||15.15||

“It is Me…” Now comes the question of ‘being’. First is the light and the fire, then comes the knowledge of the being. Then you find that I Myself, My being, sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo, I ma seated in all, through fire and light you come to know Me and then you find that all these things which are, are Myself, My being; mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam, it is because of Me that there is the experience of memory, or the experience of knowledge; apohanaṁ ca, even when they lapse, it is also because of Me.

If there is one thing to be known, vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo, it is My being that has to be learnt. So, you can see, first of all you learn the knowledge the light, the fire and then you come to know Him, the being of the Divine; vedaiś ca sarvair, of all the Vedas if you learn the whole Veda, the only thing to be learnt is aham, the supreme Divine is to be learnt, is to be known; vedānta–kṛd, I am Myself the creator of Vedanta, veda–vid eva cāham, I am Myself the knower of the Veda.

And then you come to know now the secret of this Being that there is three Purushas: the Kshara Purusha, the Akshara Purusha and Purushottama. When you know all this, then you know the most secret knowledge.

So, last verse:

iti guhyatamaṁ śāstram idaṁ uktaṁ mayānagha ||15.20||

“Therefore I have now revealed to you the entire, the most secret truth of My being. When you know all this, then you become sarva–vid, you can be called the knower of all things.” The word sarva–vid is a very important word: what is the meaning of being ‘the knower of all things’?

There is a very important sentence in Chhandogya Upanishad: knowing which all things can be known. This is the question that Shvetaketu is asked by his father. The story: Shvetaketu as you know was a student, son of Aruni. He himself was a teacher, but he sent his son to learn from another teacher. For many years he lived with his teacher and Shvetaketu came back home after studying. When he came back he believed that he had known now everything, as all young people feel after studying that ‘now there is nothing more to be learnt, I have done so much and may be my father and my mother also don’t know as much as I do’ and that was his feeling, in the Upanishad it is said that Shvetaketu felt that he had known now everything and he had become even quite proud and arrogant.

The father being a very good teacher, he recognises he is proud of it also but wants to put him in his place, so, he says to his son: “my son, have you learnt everything?” “All that my teacher knows I know now”. Then he says: “Then you will be able to answer one question I will ask you.” So, he said “of course!” “So, tell me what is it knowing which everything can be known.” He was startled. “Tell me knowing which…what is it knowing which everything can be known.”

So he could not answer the question. But now he felt that “if I don’t plead with my father, my father will send me back to my teacher’s house.” So he said that “I am sure my teacher did not know the answer to this question, therefore you only teach me now.” So, the father said “all right, I will teach you”, then he asked many questions such as “you put salt in this water, then taste from here. Then he said: “Do you need now do drink from all sides to know that wherever you drink it will be salty? Because you know salt is there in it so wherever you drink from, it will be salty. So, if you know that salt is mixed with it you can be sure about all that is happening in the water: it is salty. So, knowing this one thing you know everything about this water. Similarly if you know that the supreme Divine is everywhere, if you know that you yourself are that and if you know the nature of the supreme Divine, then you can be sure that wherever you go in the world, you know that this is all divine: so, you become sarva–vid, just as a good cook knows when the rice is cooked: only one grain is to be tasted and you know that all that is tasted. Similarly sarva–vid does not mean that necessarily you examine each and everyone and say ‘this is my knowledge’, what we call all is nothing but different names and forms. You can say in general ‘all these are names and forms and there can be thousands and billions and billions of forms, this is known, forms can be one crooked, one straight, one beautiful, one ugly, all kinds of forms are there, you know it already: so, there is one knowledge. Then you know what is behind a form.”

If you want the collectivity to rise very high, we should first of all get a few individuals rise very high. Then that realisation of the individuals is shared by a large number of people and then large number of people can rise up. This is how the universe and the world develop: this is the mechanism: that’s the meaning of Vibhuti. Vibhuti concentrates in himself, then rises up, he becomes a leader and by his presence others are benefited.

Question: The other day I went to hear Swami Dayanandji. And he said that prayer is free will. I did not understand very clearly.

Actually first of all a prayer arises from you not under compulsion, if it is a genuine prayer, it rises up from your being. In a certain sense it is out of joy, all prayers are movement of joy, necessarily. It may not be in every case so because one is very much troubled, then also prayer comes, but there is a joy behind it because there is a feeling that by prayer you will get a hand of help and that which gives you joy inwardly.

So, fundamentally all prayers are movements of joy and nobody can be joyous artificially, just as nobody can be painful artificially: all pain is sincere pain, you are very sincere in your pain experience; you cannot say that well! I want to be pretending to be painful and I am painful. When you are really painful, you are sincerely painful; similarly when you are really joyous, it’s a real joy, a sincere joy. Both these experiences are sincere; it is only the middle terms which can be artificial. But basically the true joy is a free joy; there is no compulsion in it.

Now, secondly all prayer is an expression of an aspiration. There is either a demand for something, to rescue you from pain, or it can be for gaining something. Either you are painful therefore you want pain to be removed; or you are having a state of a want therefore you want ‘want’ to be overcome. Or you have a desire to move upwards. Or finally you may need nothing excepting the joy of relationship with the Divine: there is no demand that this should happen or that should not happen; it is simply a state in which there is a joy of meeting the Divine; you don’t demand anything from the Divine, you only give yourself; as a result of which there is a joy of union.

In any case there is a kind of an aspiration in all the four kinds of prayers. All aspiration is a manifestation of a will; therefore if somebody defines prayer as ‘an expression of free will’, it would be quite good, except that contrary is not true: free will, expression of free will need not necessarily be a prayer. In the prayer there is a new ingredient which is that of ‘a sense of submission’. In every sense of prayer there is an admission or a confession that one to whom you pray is superior to you and you want help from him. But in every exercise of free will, it need not necessarily be so. So, all free will is not prayer, but all prayer can be defined as an exercise of free will.

Question: Actual physical pain, the body pain, does it cease to impact you as you move upwards, or you can disassociate with your body more easily?

That is true, that is true. One can more easily bear the pain. But that may not be a kind of a criteria whether you have risen up or not, it depends on the kind of pain. Like Sri Ramakrishna, He had the pain of throat cancer, so merely because He was in pain does not mean that He has not risen high. Ramana Maharshi for example, he had cancer of his arm, he was in great pain and he used to groan the whole night , so…

Comment: Disassociation is easier?

Even disassociation is helpful but it is not a permanent disassociation, that capacity if very, very high to completely come out of it. You can have many experiences of disassociation from pain, for long hours, but again you come down. These are examples already with Sri Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi, even Christ was in pain in his agony, on the cross, agony of Christ is very famous in fact, it disassociate Himself…the bodily experience is a part of the movement upward, because it is out of that pain that aspiration rises very intensely to go upward, so you are not minus out from that, you can conquer it in a great way but not necessarily you can so conquer it until you reach a very high level. Ultimately that pain can be transformed into delight. Instead of feeling pain, you feel a very great delight. In fact even ordinarily, there are alternations between pleasure and pain and pain can become pleasure and pleasure can become pain. So, ultimately the intensest pain can be ecstasy in fact. So, shall we start now?

Question: Just a little question…regarding the pain…when has reached the stage of delight, the pain has turned into delight only then the real work can be done or it can be done at lower stages?,

No, all work is being done through all these experiences: the agony of Christ is also a manifestation of the work of the Divine, even through that in fact how many people in the world have been transformed because of the agony of Christ: so it’s a transforming force. Everything that is thrown into the sacrifice creates a fire which moves upwards. So, pain as well as pleasure, or joy all that is thrown into the sacrifice creates the fire which moves upward.

Question: So, the real work is basically throwing that agony into the fire, to be able to disassociate to the extent that you can really do the real offering…

Yes, it is not you.

Comment: It’s the Divine who is doing the work..

Yes, that’s right. Correct.

Comment: So, through Christ, crucifixion, the work was that compassion came into this world? After all that brutality, after all it was his agony that created compassion in this world..

Quite right, humanisation of humanity.

Shall we start now?

We have actually arrived at a very important stage when we completed chapter 15. Now, chapter 16 is a transition towards the revelation of the supreme secret of the Bhagavad Gita. It is there that the real answer to Arjuna is provided. So, we shall revisit again Arjuna’s question, so that we understand the answer better.

Arjuna’s question basically was: “Is it possible to perform the purest action, or is it that every action is fundamentally rooted in some kind of imperfection?” That is why he says: ‘I shall withdraw from all action, I will not fight. Whatever action I do, there will be impurity in it and so I shall withdraw from it.’ This was really the basic attitude of Arjuna and Sri Krishna said: you act! And he could not understand why Sri Krishna does not allow him to withdraw from action. Why is He enjoining him to do an action, not only an action but ghoraṁ karma, terrific work, a work in which there is a work of slaughter? Now, even if you act, but with a detachment, even then, as far as action is concerned, there is imperfection in it. We may be detached therefore in a sense we are free. So, Arjuna’ question was not merely how to be free from action, but whether it is possible that action itself could be completely pure and perfect.

So, Sri Krishna’s answer which comes at the end is that there is a possibility of a perfect action and He compares that action, which is perfect, with Divine’s own action. Divine is not only Akshara, but He is also Kshara and in His position of Kshara He does not get diminished, it is not as if in a status of Akshara Brahman, Akshara Purusha, He remains absolutely pure and in the moment He performs action, He becomes slightly imperfect. Even in the movement of dynamism, He remains perfect, that is why “purṇamadhaḥ purṇamidam”: He is perfect here, He is perfect there also”.

Such is the nature of the Divine and that is the real meaning of the 15th chapter that Purushottama is at once static and dynamic and in both the condition He is perfect. And therefore if you attain to the divine–hood, it is possible for you therefore to perform actions which are as perfect as the actions of the Divine Himself. So, a perfect action is possible. This is the real answer of Sri Krishna to Arjuna and therefore He enjoins him that even while doing that action, if you derive your force from the Divine Himself, then there is no sin, there is no blemish. That is why the last one is: ‘you go beyond all limitations, become divine and then sarva–pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi, (XVIII, 66), “I will liberate you from all the sins”. And that comes about only when you surrender fully to the Divine, then you become really divine. As long as you remain you, there is a distance between you and the Divine therefore imperfection always pursues you.

Now the question is how to rise therefore from the present state of our consciousness into that divine state of consciousness. There are two important passages from where we are to the ideal where we want to arrive at. One is to attain the state of Akshara and second is to attain to the state of Kshara: when the two are combined together, then you attain that condition in which your action will be perfect. Movement in which you enter into Akshara is often described as a state of ‘Moksha’. The state by which you enter into Akshara and you can remain in the state of Akshara is often called the state of ‘Moksha’: ‘liberation’. But mere liberation does not by itself give you the guaranty that your action also will be perfect. If you want to be perfect in the action, a farther step is to be taken. That farther step is the subject matter of chapters 16, 17, and 18. What are the farther steps by which you rise to a state of perfect action?

So, the Bhagavad Gita now analyses the state of our ordinary consciousness of action, when you normally act. What is the machinery of our action? : Analysis of that state. Now, how this machinery can be altered? How this alteration takes place? And then how you reach the highest state? In brief the answer is that normally all our action is woven by three Gunas: all our action. The Akshara is devoid of three Gunas, always, but in our action, where we are now is an intertwining of three Gunas: Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas, these three are always together and that is why in the 14th chapter, we had the three Gunas described.

In fact if you see chapters 13, 14 and 15, they are concerned with the description of Akshara and Kshara as we understand them now. Chapter 13 tells you that there is a difference between kṣetraand kṣetrajña, the one who observes the field of action and the field of action itself. Now, the field of action is filled with the 3 Gunas. So, chapter 14 is a description of the three Gunas. Then in chapter 15, you have the reconciliation of the Kshara and Akshara, but it is not explained in full how Kshara and Akshara become identical. Let me therefore explain this in detail because this is important for understanding the whole of the last block of the Bhagavad Gita: chapter 13 to chapter 18. Then, this can best be understood if you take recourse to two statements of philosophy. One is a statement of ‘Sankhya’ and the other is a statement of ‘Vedantic Sankhya’.

According to the Sankhya there are two principles of existence: both of them are original. These two principles are the principle of Purusha and Prakriti. All that we see in the world, the kṣetra, is nothing but a manifestation of Prakriti. By Prakriti is meant: ‘that which is moving’, prameans that which is moved forth, kṛti means that which is in action. Forward action is Prakriti. So, all that which is moving in the world can be described in one word, as Prakriti.

According to Sankhya the original condition is that of ‘quiescence’. The three Gunas, according to Sankhya are, as it were, jammed: the Tamas restrains action, Rajas pushes forward and Sattwa harmonises, but neither the inertia is complete, nor the movement of Rajas is complete, nor the movement of Sattwa is complete. Therefore normally they remain in a disequilibrium. A certain time can be reached when somehow, by combination of these three forces it may get jammed. Comment: But not equilibrated?

…not equilibrated, it may get jammed.

If this is Tamas and if this is Rajas, then both are moving in their own directions but there is a jam done, arrestation. So, if there is arrestation at a given spot, it may remain there perpetually like that unless something is introduced into it and disequilibrium again takes place. According to Sankhya, it is Purusha ‘glancing’ at Prakriti which produces this disequilibrium: the moment Purusha looks at Prakriti, that element is thrown into Prakriti by which the jam is dissolved. For the movement of Prakriti therefore, according to Sankhya, glancing of Purusha is indispensable. Prakriti does not unfold itself without Purusha glancing at it.

Question: When it is in a state of equilibrium and Purusha glances then the movement does not take place?

It should take place logically even then, but according to Sankhya, the Purusha does not get entangled into it. Prakriti goes on moving, but Purusha does not get entangled into it. In Sankhya there are propositions which are not all logically absolutely perfect. I am only expounding. Afterwards I should criticise it also. Your question is therefore very valid and I feel sorry how much it is valid, but for the moment I am only expounding what Sankhya says. Prakriti in the beginning is in a state of folding condition; it is not unfolding, not because there is absence of activity, but activity is jammed because of three forces acting against each other, they are in a state of arrestation. Then Purusha glances at it and Prakriti begins to unfold.

Question: Unfolding of Prakriti is creation?

You may use the word ‘creation’, but usually creation would mean bringing out something which does not exist at all, but the word which is used in Sankhya and in other philosophies is ‘manifestation’. It is not a ‘creation’, but a ‘manifestation’: Prakriti ‘manifests’, manifests in the sense, it manifests what is within itself. What is within itself is nothing but the play of Gunas. So, the whole world is nothing but the play of Gunas and all that is there in the Prakriti comes up.

So, apart from the Gunas there are 24 elements. So, these 24 elements come out of it: the pañca mahabhūta(s): that is earth, water, fire, air and ether; pañca tanmātrā(s), the essences of these five; then five senses of action and five sense of knowledge; then there is manas, ahaṅkāra and buddhi; and the Prakriti itself. These are all 24 elements. The whole world is nothing but manifestation of 24 elements.

Comment: So this ‘jamming’ and ’equilibrium’ is not to be confused?

No, you are right. So, Purusha when it glances at Prakriti, it not only bombards the arrestation of Prakriti, but something more also happens, it gets entangled into Prakriti. Not only is Prakriti released into action but Purusha itself gets entangled into the movements of Prakriti. There is a loss of its own selfhood, of the Purusha and gets identified with the movement of Prakriti. The only thing that remains of itself is the sense of enjoying. The only sense we have in which we say ‘I am not Prakriti’ is only in the status of enjoying. When you say ‘I enjoy’ or ‘I suffer’, both are enjoyments in the sense of Sankhya: even suffering I enjoy therefore I am suffering. All that you experience in this world is your enjoyment. So, as long as you feel you are suffering and you are enjoying, and this is our constant experience, this experience shows you that you are not merely Prakriti: you are different from Prakriti and as a result you are enjoying or suffering, you are in other words ‘in the sense of bondage’, you are bound to Prakriti. This is how you recognise yourself while in the play of Prakriti. You recognise yourself as the enjoyer or as the sufferer in the world and therefore you begin to battle with Prakriti. Prakriti may be recognised as circumstances, field of circumstances, kṣetra of circumstances and normally we are tied up with circumstances…

…we feel that we are ourselves the circumstances, even the thought that you can come out of circumstances takes a long time of our experience. Normally we are pell–mell tide up with the circumstances. When you begin to feel that there is a problem with the circumstances, you don’t like the circumstances, you want to come out of the circumstances, then you begin to realise that you are different from circumstances and then you begin to find the ways and means by which you can come out of the clutch of circumstances, of Prakriti.

Then you begin to find out how to come out of it, what is the instrument by which you can come out of it; after lot of experiences you find out that there is in you or that is in the Prakriti a faculty, which if you purify and develop fully then only you can come out of the clutches of Prakriti: that faculty is buddhi; this is also a part of Prakriti itself.

So, if you get your Prakriti more and more purified, when it becomes completely pure, then, buddhi becoming the power of discrimination, it will distinguish between Prakriti and the Purusha, it will show you that you are different from Prakriti: this is the special quality of buddhi: buddhi is the power of discrimination.

Question: Discrimination is viveka?

viveka. You distinguish your Self…all power of distinction is the power of buddhi. It is the buddhi which distinguishes between this and this, between appearance and reality. One may say that one may smile and yet may not be genuine. How do you know this? By what power do you know this? Like Hamlet says that ‘one may smile and yet be wicked: by what power do you distinguish this? It is by the power of intellect, by the power of buddhi, by the power of discrimination.

Now, if this power of discrimination is made absolutely transparent, and you might say that 9/10 of the Yoga consists only on this effort. You go on purifying your intellect until it becomes like a mirror, so transparent, without a ripple, you see very clearly this is Purusha or this is Prakriti. Then in that state Purusha can easily come out of the clutches of Prakriti: there is a clear understanding, ‘I am different from Prakriti’.

In that state Purusha is liberated and for you Prakriti comes to a standstill: ‘for you’. It’s a complete state of equilibrium in which you are not caught. There is a quietude on Prakriti on one hand and quietude of your Purusha at the same time. Quietude of Prakriti is a quietude of equilibrium.

Question: So, when you get to this equilibrium, is that the state that we are all aspiring to?

At present, although in that state also there is still not a complete quietude as one would have in the state of Purusha: Purusha is completely quiet. Prakriti’s quietude is only a state of equilibrium. But equilibrium does not mean ‘Akshara’, completely immobile.

In that state of equilibrium there is the principle of Sattwa which predominates and Sattwa is the principle of harmonisation, of equilibrium. So, Rajas and Tamas are overpowered by Sattwa, therefore there is equilibrium; but that does not mean there is absence of Rajas and Tamas, they are also present, but they are held, as it were, under an overwhelming power of Sattwa in a state of harmony. But in that state, Purusha recognises, experiences its complete immobility: there is no mobility at all.

Question: So, there is no involvement in this state of…,

That’s right, quite right. There is no involvement. He does not identify itself with it.

Question: Evolvement?

Involvement, there is no involvement.

Question: But evolving?

Evolving also, it ceases because there is…now equilibrium is reached, there is no enfoldment of Prakriti either.

Question: But this is not Akshara…,

This is Akshara: the state of Purusha is the state of ‘Akshara’. Question: But the state of equilibrium in the Prakriti…you say there is no evolution, but Rajas and Tamas have been…,

They are under the control of Sattwa.

Question: But there is no…perfection of Rajas and Tamas.

There is no perfection either of Rajas or of Tamas.

Question: So the activity ceases?

…activity ceases…’for you’; but as far as other Purushas are concerned the Prakriti continues…enfoldment.

Question: Prakriti for the person individually?

…individually, it is in a state of equilibrium. It does not enfold. Question: And the Purusha willingly glances at Prakriti?

Now, that is a very important question in fact.

Question: This is the status of Shankara’s…?

Shankara, no. This is the pure position of Sankhya. Sankhya is the philosophy of Kapila; it is attributed to Kapila.

Question: At this stage, the only activity that carries on is that which is very necessary for the body to live?

Even that ceases.

Question: Breathing?

There is death then.

Question: That is what the older thing of Moksha was?

Moksha

Question: Even breathing stops is it? In this state breathing continues?,

There are stages. As long as you are in the body, that complete state is not attained, it is what they say is deha mukti. You have Moksha only when you go out of the body.

Question: Except that in Akshara it has gone beyond the three Gunas,

That’s right.

Comment: And the …….Gunas are still there, Tamas and…,

But they are only in Prakriti. No, in Purusha there is triguṇātīta. …they are there but they can be recognised as some …different from you. Discrimination has come about now therefore, although Gunas are there, guṇaḥ pravartante, they continue but Purusha knows, it is not identified with those movements.

So, it is in that condition that there is Moksha. So, Moksha is normally understood in the terms of withdrawal of movement and station in the state of Akshara, that which is immobile.

Question: So in the Purusha all these three Gunas are not harmonised, they are?

In Purusha there are no Gunas at all, it is triguṇātīta, there are no Gunas.

Question: But how Kapila’s Sankhya is different from Shankara’s Mukti?

No, it’s a good question, actually…I’ll come to that first after criticising Sankhya, because Shankara also criticises Sankhya.

Now, there are three questions which can be raised in respect of Sankhya.

What is the nature of Purusha and what is the nature of Prakriti? The answer of Sankhya is: Purusha by nature is completely immobile, and Prakriti by nature is completely mobile.

Secondly mobility and immobility have no relationship with each other: what is immobile is immobile; what is mobile is mobile.

Thirdly, that which is immobile is completely conscious; what is mobile, that which is dynamic is completely unconscious.

Prakriti does not know itself; it is unconscious. Purusha knows itself, but knows itself only as conscious. Conscious, immobility is Purusha; unconscious, mobility is Prakriti. Now, these are the premises of Sankhya.

And the question is: if Purusha is immobile, how does it “glance” at Prakriti? Glancing is an activity. So, if Purusha was completely immobile, the question of glancing of Purusha would not arise: this is the first contradiction in the Sankhya.

Secondly, if Prakriti is completely different from Purusha, why Purusha’s glancing move Prakriti; it’s unconscious! Why should its movement depend upon Purusha, if it is independent from Purusha?

Next: if Purusha is conscious, it is conscious of what! If it has no connection with Prakriti at all, surely it cannot know Prakriti, it can know only itself, immobility; how does it know mobility at all?

And then how does it happen that Purusha forgets itself? If Purusha is a pure mass of consciousness, from where does this forgetting arise? Forgetting means some kind of absence of consciousness. But if its very nature is mass of consciousness, how does it happen to forget? And not only forget, it forget itself to such an extent that it becomes identified with Prakriti. If it is completely different from Prakriti, how does it get even identified with it?

Now, these questions are not answered in Sankhya. That is why Sankhyan account of the whole process is incomplete or inadequate.

Now, you look at the other side: if Purusha is really independent of Prakriti, why should the liberation of Purusha depend upon the development of Prakriti? To such an extent that Buddhi should get completely purified, should become like a mirror. Why should Purusha’s freedom from Prakriti depend so much upon Prakriti? So, this question also is not answered in the Sankhya. So, one feels that there is something inadequate and we need to find out something much more formidable, something which is the real secret.

One of the questions that Shankara raises: how can there be two independent existences at all? Purusha and Prakriti are two ultimate existences, but both are existences; therefore they must be common as far as existence is concerned; therefore this idea two ultimate entities is not sustainable: both are existences; therefore as far as existence is concerned they must be the same. The common element: both are existences. What is it that makes existence ‘existent’? In that there can’t be a difference! If both are ‘existence’ they are in common as far as the existence is concerned. So, ultimate ‘existent’ must be ‘only one’ according to Shankara. There can’t be two.

Now, if there is only one existent and only one Reality, (not two Realities), then the question is: is that Reality immobile? What is the nature of existence, immobile or mobile? Now, his analysis is: it must be immobile, because all mobility implies imperfection. It moves towards something else so as to become ‘more’ than before; therefore its present condition must be imperfect, there only it can move forward to be what it is not, to become what it is not. But what is not ‘is not’. To become what is not, that means that there is something like ‘is not’. Now, ‘is not’ is a self contradiction as far as the existence is concerned. Therefore ‘existent’ must be of such a nature that it cannot move towards that which is not, therefore the ultimate Reality must be immobile. And that immobility is conscious, completely conscious.

Now, this is the line of reasoning in Shankara.

Question: I have missed one line in between, I have not understood: to become what it is not is a self contradiction because…

…‘is not’ does not exist,

Question: ‘is not’ does not exist, so existence should be of the nature that…

…that it is moving towards ‘non existent’.

Comment: So?

So, it must be mobile.

Comment: But we are talking of Shankara’s philosophy,

Shankara, yes. According to Shankara the movement does not exist actually.

Comment: That is mithya.

That’s right. Movement does not exist.

Comment:

That…I am coming afterwards. At the present moment only this much: the becoming does not exist.

Question: There is only ‘being’

Only being.

Question: And he proves it in this manner?

This is the argument. Existence is existence!

Question: And when you try to become something?

…yes, that means that you are moving towards ‘non existent’!

Question: That which you ‘are not’,

…or, which ‘is not’; ‘is not’ never exist.‘Is not’…

Question: Because there ‘is’ existence,

‘is not’ is that which does not exist. What is the meaning of ‘is not’? That which does not exist, so, ‘is not’ does not exist.

Question: So, all movement does not exist, it’s only an illusion.

That, afterwards; that, afterwards.

Logically, these are the steps.

Now, add to this, the statement that according to Sankhya, Purushas are many; there is not one Purusha: there is plurality of Purushas. Each one us is a Purusha. And each one of them is ultimate.

So, according to Sankhya, not only are two principles ultimate, Purusha and Prakriti, but each Purusha is ultimate. So, Sankhya is at once ‘Dualist’ and ‘Pluralist’: Dualist because it maintains that Purusha and Prakriti are the two ultimate principles; and it is Pluralist because, it maintains that each Purusha is different from the other. And the proof of this, (according to Sankhya), is that when one Purusha is liberated, all are not liberated at the same time. Therefore there must be many Purushas: that is Sankhya’s great argument.

Question: As many Prakritis then?

No, according to Sankhya, Prakriti is only one.

Question: Is it not a contradiction?

There is a deeper contradiction. Not only this, there is a deeper contradiction actually; we shall come to that.

Now, according to Shankara, if there are many Purushas, all are existent, again there must be all equal in the existence, so there must be only one existence, so, Purushas can’t be many. Therefore, according to Shankara, there is only one Purusha, which he calls ‘Brahman’: there is only one Brahman.

Question: These many Purushas are at different levels of consciousness?

Yes, that is the argument of Sankhya. Unless there are different Purushas, they can’t be at different levels. The whole idea of level itself is tied up with the idea of many Purushas. According to Shankara the whole idea of being at different levels (and all that) cannot be. There is only one status of consciousness in immobility, and that alone exists for ever. And ‘for ever’ does not mean any time movement; time movement means this is a movement, and movement means moving from what ‘is’ to what ‘is not’; what ‘is not’ does not exist!

Then the question is: what is all this that we see all around? We do see all movement. So, his answer is: it cannot be. Therefore it still seems to be, it can only by ‘illusion’. And illusion is what? That which presents itself ‘what–it–is–not’: this is the meaning of illusion; that which presents itself as ‘what–it–is–not’. So, when the ‘immobile’ presents itself as ‘mobile’: that is illusion.

Question: But how the immobile ‘presents itself’, because the presenting is an act of mobility?

This is the next step of the argument.

Question: Contradiction to Shankara?

What is this ‘presentation’, presentation to whom? So, his answer to this question is that ‘presentation’ itself is an illusion; that sense of presentation, that ‘immobile’ presenting itself as ‘mobility’ is itself an illusion: it even does not happen.

Comment: So, we are actually not seeing anything; there is no ‘seeing’.

You…’who’ are you?

Comment: There is no ‘you’.

That’s right.

So, there is only a Brahman, only the Brahman which is immobile. Now, that is Shankara’s position. ,

Now, this also is very unsatisfactory, as you can see very clearly. If you ask the question: if this statement is true, ‘there is only one immobile Brahman’, there’ll be nothing else, no phenomenon, no movement, then it is in full contrast to, not only the movement that we see all over the world, which you can’t rub out, but it is in contrast to the deepest urge in human being to be liberated.

We all have an urge to be liberated, but if Shankara premises is correct, each one of us is an illusion, is illusionary trying to be liberated from a world which itself is an illusion. So, you have to concluded, there is none bound, none seeking liberation and therefore it is a mockery of all our effort.

Now, Shankara to be consistent with himself would say: ‘Yes, it is so.’ This whole chimera which is there, there is none seeking liberation, although you might say: ‘Yes, but I am in bondage, I want to come out of it!’ but that is also an illusion. So, his argument would be only this: that you should come out of that illusion.

Question: But then there is no ‘you’?

So, if this answer is obtained, that ‘you’ should not therefore be deluding ‘yourself’ that ‘you’ are deluded. Then you are left in a contradiction: you are still asking me to be disillusioned from the illusion from which I am suffering, (which I am not really suffering). I am suffering from illusion; I ought not to be suffering and I am not suffering. Therefore to whom are you advising, to whom this exhortation and if there is liberation at all, then there must be somebody who is liberated. Brahman cannot be liberated from itself! It is always in a state of liberation! Then who gains?

So, ultimately his argument would turn into a kind of sophistry: sophistry is a statement in which words are played upon and you mix up the argument by shifting one ground to the other, without appearing to have shifted but which in fact is shifting. This is the limitation of this whole argument.

Now, in contrast, we now come to the 15th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.

The 15th chapter that we have already seen can be understood more properly and more significantly now in this background: Sankhya is not satisfactory; Shankara’s position is not satisfactory.

Question: What is the position of the Bhagavad Gita?

Now, according to the Bhagavad Gita, the position is complex, Reality is complex: this has been the real position of Veda, Upanishad and the Gita. When it is said: ekaṁ sad viprā bahudhā vadanti(Rig Veda 1, 164, 46), this is the Vedic statement: ‘Reality is one, but it can be spoken of variously’. So it is ‘one’ that is ‘various’, this is the complexity. If Reality were ‘one’ and could be described only in that ‘one form’ and in no other form, then, Reality would not be ‘complex’. It is “one” that is “various”: that is the complexity.

Question: This statement is from?

This is from the Rig Veda: ekaṁ sad viprā bahudhā vadanti.

It is also the other statements which are often quoted: it is adbhutam, ‘the Reality is wonderful’; this is also a Vedic statement. Why is it so very wonderful? “Because although it is itself, Reality is itself, it has its motion in another”, (this is a statement of the Rig Veda), “Being itself, it has motion in another”.

Now, imagine anything: ‘I have motion in another’, I am moving not in myself but moving in another. Being myself, if I have motion in another, what does it mean? But this is exactly the statement of the Rig Veda: anyasya cittam abhi sancancerenyam, these are the words in Sanskrit; anyameans another, citta means consciousness, abhi sancanrenyammovable: “I am movable in another’s consciousness”: that means “I am Myself, yet I am another”; ekaṁ sad, the reality is only one. It is capable of being variously described because “Even tough I am one, I am still another”: this is the complexity: being Myself, still I am another and if I can have movement in the consciousness of another, then the Reality is very complex, in fact unintelligible to us, therefore it says very clearly: uttādhitaṁ vinaśyate, “When it is contemplated upon, when you think about It, It vanishes”, you cannot hold it, you cannot grasp it. Therefore you call it adbhutam.

The strangeness and wonder of anything is only when you can’t grasp it. The element of wonder arises only when you can’t understand; if you understand it’s not wonderful: because it is not understandable it is not wonderful; therefore it describes: cas tad veda yad adbhutam: who understands it, who knows it that which is wonderful.

Now, this is the statement of the Rig Veda. Now, this statement has three aspects: Reality is itself. Secondly it is another than itself. Thirdly that it has motion in the consciousness. “It is itself”: that means it is existent by itself. “It is”: means it is existing. It is another than itself. That other itself is consciousness.

It is itself existence; it is another in the sense it has a consciousness; and its motion is connected with consciousness. So, the distinction between Existence and Consciousness of such a nature that there is a difference between Existence and Consciousness and yet this difference should not exist because Consciousness must be Existence and Existence must be Consciousness and motion must be also rooted in Consciousness.

These words indicate it is anya: there is existence and yet there is something else than existence: that something else is called Consciousness and motion is connected with this Consciousness. In other words we have now here the first formulation of what we can call “sat–cit”: Reality is Sat–Chit. Sat is ‘Existent’, is that which exists; Sat is that which is Chit. And Chit is not only Consciousness; it is also capable of motion: Chit– Shakti, it is that which is motion.

Now, the complexity therefore is brought out also very clearly in the Isha Upanishad, it says: Reality is one but it is of such a nature…tadejati tannaijati, “It moves, It moves not”. So, Reality which moves and which does not move at the same time is the very nature of Reality. So, that which moves is not illusion according to this theory: all motion is a motion not towards that which is not, (that was the argument of Shankara that ‘all motion is a motion towards that which is not’), all motion according to this theory, according to this Reality is a motion ‘in that which exists’. Existence is something which can’t be rubbed out: “It is that which exists”. His motion is not outside that existence: there is nothing outside because Existence is the only thing that is there. The motion therefore, our idea of motion is that it always moves from what ‘is’ to what ‘is not’ is a wrong understanding of motion: the nature of motion is not of that kind. It does not move from ‘that which is’ to ‘that which is not’: it is simply “a partial self limitation unfolding itself”.

Comment: Partial?

It is partial because all movement is a result of self limitation: this is the speciality of the nature of Reality. All capacities of the Divine, (of the Infinite), include the capacity of self limitation.

Comment: So all movement…

All movement is a result of self limitation returning back again in its enfoldment, not outside Reality, not outside Existence: such is the nature of motion in the world.

That is why…if you examine the nature of self limitation, you will find: ‘when I limit myself I do not become incomplete’, when I limit myself I do not cease to be complete.

When a mother talks to the child in the language of the child, the mother’s adult consciousness is not abolished: it’s a self limitation. I limited myself to be correspondent to the child’s language: so, self limitation does not cancel out the fullness of existence and my self limitation when it unfolds itself, it does not unfold into something which does not exist; it unfolds itself into something which already existed.

So, motion is not motion towards that which is not, motion is towards that which already exists; such is the nature of motion in the world. Motion is then understood in the Veda and the Upanishad as “That which is within Itself”.

…That which is very far is not outside Itself, it is at the same time…It is near: it is simply a result of self limitation.

This is how therefore, in the Bhagavad Gita, we have full statement that at once Reality is at once immobile and mobile; it is Akshara and Kshara at the same time. Because it is Kshara, it can also become multiple; if it was only Akshara, it cannot become multiple. All multiplicity is due to the mobile character of the Reality. In immobility it is one; in its mobility it is multiple, therefore we get the description the Reality is ‘one–many’: oneness is not destroyed because of multiplicity, oneness remains, in immobility oneness always remains; in mobility there is always multiplicity.

But at the same time, this Reality (which is at once Kshara and Akshara) can be described as two that are one. Akshara is one, Kshara is another, they are two, these two are really one, because Oneness is never abolished. So, you have mathematics of the Vedic knowledge: “one that is two which is many which are two which are one”. Such is the nature of Reality: one that is two, which are multiple, which are two, which are one.

Comment: Is it something like the father who is the son who becomes the father.

Yes, this is the Vedic idea.

So, that is the nature of complexity of Reality. Therefore we say Reality is complex, not simple: if it was only simple it would be ‘one’ that’s all. When we say Reality is complex, it means: the Reality is one that is two which is multiple, which is two, which is one. That is the Reality: Reality is of such a nature.

Comment: And this statement also shows the movement.

Everything!

Comment: The entire evolution.

Yes, everything! Yes, absolutely.

So, that is the idea of Purushottama: one is Purushottama. He is not only Purusha: if there was no complexity it would not be Purushottama at all, no need to say Purushottama. It is Purushottama because it is complex. So, Purushottama is that which is two: He is Purusha and yet Para Prakriti, which are two, which are one.

Reality which is absolutely Itself, It has the capacity of manifesting without loosing its immobility: therefore they are two. But both must be one otherwise from where does it come into existence? It must be one by itself: therefore it is one that is two which are one.

Therefore the Vedic idea was…there is an image of a bull and a cow: the bull and the cow are one; He and She are one, this is the secret knowledge you might say. There is a canto in Savitri which is entitled, ‘Secret Knowledge’. And this is the secret knowledge: He and She are one and the play between He and She is the secret of the whole world: the whole world is nothing but a play of He and She, that is Purushottama and Para Prakriti: this is the play of the whole world and if you don’t grasp this difference and this identity, the world is inexplicable.

Comment: This is Shiva and Shakti,

Shiva and Shakti, they are both one and yet…there is a play between the two.

Question: But why do you say it is a play between Purushottama and Para Prakriti,

Because it is the Supreme: Shiva is Purushottama, Para Prakriti is the Shakti: Shiva–Shakti, this is the play between Purushottama and Para Prakriti.

Question: Akshara is also Purushottama and Para Prakriti…?

Purushottama is Akshara that is Kshara.

Question: Can you say that it is Akshara which becomes Kshara…

It does not become: Akshara remains Akshara, it does not diminish

Question: So, it is both Akshara and Kshara together,

The moment you make a division, you fall into a trap.

The Reality must be seen as it is. Supposing I say there is one diamond it has eight aspects: we see diamond isn’t it, so many aspects of the same diamond? Such is the Reality. So if you ask the question: where the oneness of the diamond cease and where the ‘eight–ness’ starts? If you ask this question, how will you answer? You simply say: such is the nature of diamond, it has different facettes; Reality is of such a nature. What can you do about it? Then you can say: where that oneness ceases and where that eight–ness starts? Such is the nature of Reality: you have to describe Reality as it is.

Question: But the name of the oneness would be Aksharam or Purushottama?

Akshara is not different from Kshara. You might say Purushottama is one which is at once Kshara and Akshara which are also one. Such is the nature of Reality, you cannot say now: why should it be like that? That is why it is adbhutam, this Reality is adbhutam!

Question: Is it correct to say that Brahman is the Aksharam?

The word Brahman is normally used for ‘Essence’: that is Akshara. Brahman is a word which is used for Akshara, but it is also used to indicate that it is that which is the “stuff” that all that moves. Akshara is the Essence, but not merely ‘Essence’; it is also the stuff of all that moves: that is the full description of the word ‘Brahman’. But normally when you speak of Akshara or Brahman, it’s identical. But really speaking it is not so. The full definition of Brahman is: ‘It is essence which is also the stuff of all that moves’. This table is also ‘Brahman’. The stuff of it is the Brahman.

So, there are now three words which are been used: Purushottama is at once Brahman, Purusha and Ishwara. Now this is a very important secret of the Indian knowledge. Let us delve a little upon it.

The only thing that has to be known in the world or anywhere is “That which exists”. The only thing that has to be known or which can be known is only “That which exists”. You cannot know “What is not” because “That is not”, so, it cannot be known. So, the only thing that is to be known and that can be known is “That which exists”. That is why it is said in Indian philosophy: “Have the knowledge of ‘That which exists’, ‘That which is’”. Sat is the real object of knowledge: Sat is “That which exists”.

Now, what is the nature of this “Sat” which is the only thing to be known? And the answer is: “Know this Reality as the originator of all that is there”. This Reality, this “Sat” is not only “Sat that which exists”, it is also the originator of all that you see. That is the first answer.

Second, it is not only the originator of all that is there, it is also the “Essence” and the “stuff” of all that is there. A carpenter may be the originator of a chair, but he himself is not the stuff of the chair; he is the originator of the chair, but this Reality, this Sat is of such a nature, it not only originates, it is also the stuff of all that is originated, it is itself the chair, you might say.

Thirdly, it is also the Lord and Master of all that is there. When you know the Reality in these 3 aspects, then you have the Knowledge, that is the true answer of India. The Reality is the originator of all that is, Reality is the essence and stuff of all that is, and Reality is Lord and Master of all that is.

As the originator the word that we use in India is Purusha. The Reality as the originator is called Purusha. Instead of using these 3 words: ‘originator’, ‘stuff’ and the ‘Lord’, we have 3 words in Sanskrit: the Reality, the Sat as the originator is called Purusha. The Reality as the stuff of all things is Brahman. The Reality as the Lord is Ishwara. So, when you know that Reality is Brahman, Purusha and Ishwara, you have the complete understanding of it. But when you say this all the complexity is involved in it. The reality is one, but the moment you say: it is Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara, all the complexity is present in it.

Question: Shiva and Purusha are the same thing or…,

No. Shiva is Ishwara or even Purushottama, He is the supreme Lord. Purusha is only the originator.

Question: Would you call Purusha also the experiencer?

Yes, that is a subordinate aspect: because it is originator, so as an originator it then looks at what is originated and it experiences it. Originator, Experiencer and Enjoyer, these three things are correlated. So whenever we speak of Purusha: Purusha is originator, experiencer and enjoyer; it is the specific demarcation of the word Purusha.

Question: Who has propounded this as a whole philosophy, – only Sri Aurobindo?,

Only Sri Aurobindo. You have all…so confusing, yes, that is why the Vedic philosophy, the philosophy of Upanishads is fully brought out by Sri Aurobindo, because Veda is not written as a book of philosophy; Upanishad is not written as a book of philosophy. It is only in philosophy that all elements are related very clearly: that is the speciality of philosophy.

Philosophical knowledge is the knowledge of all the terms in that inter–relationship and their significance. So, even if you have this experience, but if you don’t know the relationship with other experience, the two experiences will stand in your consciousness as still unrelated; then you try to relate them: this is the task of philosophy.

Or when the two experiences are experienced simultaneously, then when you connect them intellectually, then intellectual manifestation is only a play for you, because the relationship is known to you in experience, but when you described it, it is only a play for you.

So, philosophy can be either an effort to relate or it can only be a kind of a joy for you to express the relationship that you have known.

That is what Sri Aurobindo did,

That’s right. That’s what Sri Aurobindo did.

Question: Only this philosophy can explain the existence?

That’s right. Unless these three terms properly and their inter–relationship…

…now, when we say what is the Reality, the answer is: Reality is one that is the originator of the world, which is itself the essence and stuff of the world, and which is the Lord of all that is manifested. Such is the nature of Reality.

When it is said: atah brahma jijñāsa, the enquiry into the nature of the Brahman, then the answer to brahma jijñāsais this: Brahman is Purusha, (originator); Reality is Brahman being the essence and stuff and Reality is the Lord of all that is here. These three put together is the nature of Reality; it is that which distinguishes the Indian answer from all the other answers of the nature of Reality.

There are many other answers also, but this answer is a complete answer, it is an integral answer to the question as to what is Reality. It integrates different answers which have been given and according to some answers Reality is only the Lord. According to some Reality is only the Originator, He origins the world and then leaves the world to its own fate. According to others Reality is itself the world, but not the Lord, not merely the Originator so that answer is not given there.

So, integral answer it is at once Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara and the inter–relationship of these three is a complexity which explains this world. This world is only the inter–relationship of Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara. And many paradoxes of the world experience can be explained only if you have got all the three answers together, and if you know how the three are related with each other.

This is the full exposition of chapter 15 actually although I started the 16th but we went back into chapter 15 because without it the chapters 16, 17, 18 cannot be fully understood. Chapters 16, 17, and 18 require the knowledge of the inter–relationship of Brahman, Purusha and Ishwara, then only you can understand chapters 16, 17, and 18. So, now we will be ready for the next chapters, all right?

I want to find one day more because what I am doing now at present is incomplete statement. It is always injurious to leave statements incomplete; I would like to complete it.

It is in this light that we have to understand the problem of bondage and liberation and perfection. Not only mokṣa, but vimokṣāya, this is the word of the 16th chapter, (XVI, 5); it’s not only for mokṣa, but vimokṣāya; that means is mokṣa still surpassed, vi means: that is surpassed, surpassing mokṣa. So, going beyond mokṣa is perfection, is immortality; not only to be liberated but also to attain to immortality so that your action becomes immortal, perfect: action becomes perfect. All right?

Comment: Is it not surprising that this is being so clear what Sri Aurobindo has expounded, still there are so many intelligent people are stuck to those inadequate philosophies.

That is true. That is because, you know, our tradition first of all is not fully understood by us; we don’t understand ourselves the tradition; we don’t know the whole history. Here when I am explaining that Veda said this, Upanishad said this, Gita says this, so you can see easily one line, but people don’t understand.

For example most of the people have not read what I have just now quoted from the Veda: anyasa cittam abhi sancarenyam. So only Sri Aurobindo has brought it out so we can now understand it, but it is in the Veda.

So, in the Isha Upanishad when he says that, tadejati tannaijati, many people say: ‘well it is a way of saying that that which is moving is illusion’ but tad tannaijatithat is Reality, now you can interpret in any way you like, but it’s an interpretation.

Bhagavad Gita also is not understood: what this Kshara–Akshara being one, Purushottama being the highest, what is this? it requires a lot of probing in fact.

Comment: Because the way you are putting the Bhagavad Gita seems to be complete.

Yes, absolutely, you are right, only Sri Aurobindo makes Bhagavad Gita so intelligible. I tell you that when I read the Bhagavad Gita for the first time, I was completely dissatisfied with the Gita. It is only when I read Sri Aurobindo and came back to the Bhagavad Gita that I understood Bhagavad Gita actually.

Comment: So what you recommend we read to get it absolutely instilled and ingrained and…

You read the chapter called “Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara” in The Life Divine. All right? This is a very difficult chapter, but all the complexity is in this one chapter; it is called Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara, it is a long chapter, but it is a most luminous chapter in fact. But many people who read it for the first time, they find it extremely obscure, because without this background which I have given now, it may seem to be obscure, but now if you read, it may not be so obscure, even though it’s difficult.

Any way this is the task that we have to do. No? To grasp the difficult because reality is that and here we are to know that Reality, so we have to do it sooner or later, so we should be really absorbed in it.

Question: Some time I would like to know all about the gods and goddesses…I am really confused because there are so many gods and goddesses and…

No, it is like so many human beings and yet god. So, it is true gods also are many…all are facets of the Divine…the eight facets of the diamond…all are facets. This analogy of the diamond is very apt actually; how can Reality be one and yet many and how even the many–ness does not therefore diminish the oneness…diamond remains one diamond: wherever you touch the facets, it is diamond, and yet you have multiplicity, complexity.

Comment: That’s the partial vision that’s the problem.

Yes, absolutely, perfectly, the partial vision is that limitation. Very true.

Comment: May be peripheral.

Yes, quite right! When you go into the depths, so all this vanish. All right? Thank you so much, thank you so much because I feel myself very happy.


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