1. Four Major Experiences and Realisations of the Gita's Yoga
The Gita expounds the working of the synthetic method of its yoga and provides us authentic descriptions of the relevant experiences and realizations in great detail. The peaks of these experiences include: (i) the knowledge of divine birth, (divyam janma) and divine work, (divyam karma);69 (ii) the attainment of Brahma-nirvana,70 the total nirvana in the state of immobile Brahman in the freedom of which divine work can take place; (iii) the great perception of the birth and development of divine qualities in the cosmic movement and, the vision of the vibhutis in the cosmos;71 and (iv) the great vision of Sri Krishna in action,72 the great time-vision, specially granted to Arjuna by Sri Krishna.
Divine Birth and Divine Work (Divyam Janma, Divyam Karma)
Divyam janma, divine birth, can be regarded as the crucial means of Karma Yoga, and divyam karma, divine work, may be regarded, as the culmination of Karma Yoga. These two constitute the centrality of the answer that Sri Krishna gives to the bewildering questions which arose from the unbearable intensity of the crisis which was not prepared to accept any compromising acquiescence. These, divine birth and divine work arise, according to the yoga that Sri Krishna expounds, from the operation of the law of sacrifice,
which essentially vibrates with Para Prakriti, and which, therefore, constantly uplifts all that is in the world of the operations of the three gunas of Apara Prakriti and their products, including desire and ego. When the individual offers the sacrifice, the will that is inherently at work in the individual is essentially divine, and it can be understood in terms of the operations of Para Prakriti, even though it may be in the beginning and for a long time mixed up with the operations of Apara Prakriti. In any case, according to the law of sacrifice, every act of offering evokes a response of the higher Prakriti, even though it may be greatly mixed up in the beginning and for a long time with the operations of Apara Prakriti.
In the beginning, the act of offering is largely ignorant, and it is mixed up with motives that are filled with desire and ego, and the object of sacrifice is ignorantly conceived and experienced or else, the object of sacrifice to whom sacrifice is offered is related to larger and wider forces working in the world, partly in the realms or planes of the Apara Prakriti, or in the planes which are higher but not highest in the Para Prakriti. These cosmic powers are recognized to be dynamically present and operative as varieties of gods and goddesses; but one needs to rise still higher; therefore, the Gita speaks of the need to purify the offering in the fire of knowledge, since there is nothing as pure as knowledge (IV. 3 8); it is that sacrifice which becomes so imbued with knowledge that ultimately it becomes free from taints of desire and ego, and therefore acceptable directly by the Supreme Lord, who presides over Para Prakriti and who is free from all the limitations of the gods and goddesses. As a result, in accordance with the law of sacrifice, there is to every pure offering a pure divine
response, the response of the highest will of Purushottama operative in the highest planes of Para Prakriti.
This divine response is the divine birth that descends into the movements of upward will of the offering. It is by the junction of the two that the divine will is injected into the aspiring individual; it is then in the purity of the individual's consciousness that the divine will begins to operate. That will is the transcendental will, the will that constantly unifies all the workings of Para Prakriti and Apara Prakriti, and the resultant action is the divine work, divyam karma, which by its very nature unifies and promotes the highest good of all towards increasing and constant harmony, lokasangraha. This is the reason why Sri Krishna speaks of the object of lokasangraha as the distinguishing characteristic of the divine work. The consequence of this entire working of the sacrifice is to remove the barrier between the human will and the divine will by the constant movement of sacrifice in the fire of which the barrier is burnt and the human instrument is so purified that it becomes the vehicle of the operations of the higher Prakriti and the divine will, and the individual not only becomes but realizes in direct knowledge that he is a mere instrument (nimitta) of the Divine Will. That divine will, if followed or allowed to be operated in complete purity, manifests the kind of action that Arjuna had asked for, namely, the action devoid of any blemish whatsoever, the action in the performance of which there is no sorrow whatsoever. That divine will automatically ensures lokasangraha,73 as it was often illustrated by king Janaka and others who had attained perfection.
Divine Birth, Divine Work, and the Secret of the Divine Incarnation
The path of sacrifice is all-inclusive. It is the path of
offering, and the offering is multisided, and it develops into all-sided offering. The Gita's phrase of this total offering is sarvabhāvena, — offering in every mode of being, in every state of being, in every sentiment, in every emotion, in every thought and in every act of will. And the union of the jiva with the Purushottama to which this all-inclusive offering leads is three-fold; (i) the integral knowledge of the Purushottama, in all states of being of the Purushottama, — the immobile and the mobile and the supreme; (ii) the most intimate power of the will of the divine that culminates in Divine Action, divyam karma; and (iii) the most momentous influx of the supreme Lord Himself in the bud of the growing lotus of the jiva that opens itself up in a total state of receptivity and surrender to that influx. This union contains the supreme experience of the divine birth and divine action, the importance of which is explicitly stated in the following words of Sri Krishna: "O Arjuna! He who knows thus in true nature the secret in its essential truth of My birth and action transcends the movement of rebirth when he leaves his body, and by his surpassing movement, he arrives in Me. Free from all desire, fear and anger, having surrendered himself to Me and having become thoroughly united with Me, many, purified by the concentration of knowledge, have attained to My Nature (parā prakriti)” 74
The divine birth of which Sri Krishna speaks has significance not only for the individual in whom that birth takes place, but since that birth arises from the universal and transcendental supreme divine, it has also universal significance and universal consequence, a wider and higher significance, and it is in that context that the Gita's meaning of divine incarnation in the human body is contained. This is the yogic knowledge and yogic confirmation of the doctrine
of divine incarnation that we find in many traditions and in regard to which Buddha, Christ, Krishna and others have been described as divine incarnations.
All union with the divine, all knowledge by identity with the divine, all the manifestation of the divine in human being, is essentially an influx of the divine from its transcendence and universality, and each individual who receives in his being this influx is a recipient of the descent of the divine consciousness and therefore of divine incarnation, divine avatarhood. But Sri Krishna goes farther and describes certain conditions under which the world-situation offers itself to the supreme divine in an ardent prayer with such intensity that that prayer becomes prayer of universal significance, and in reply to that prayer and that intense need of the world, the Supreme Lord, by means of a special process of descent, incarnates in a human body, right from its birth, and that Divine Birth has even a greater universal significance and consequence. The divine incarnation, the avatar, is thus not a sporadic or accidental or a miraculous manifestation for the display of the divine powers for human wonder. The avatarhood of which Sri Krishna speaks is a part of the process of evolution on the earth, which follows a rhythm of the law of sacrifice and of evolution, the secret of which is not easy to discern, but which is described in a few pregnant and meaningful words by Sri Krishna in the following words:
"yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata
abhyutthānam adharamasya tadātmānam srjāmyaham
paritrānāya sādhūnām vināśāya ca duskrtām
dharma samsthāpanārthāya sambhavāmi yuge yuge”
"O Arjuna! Whenever there is decline of dharma, and
whenever there is the uprising tide of adharma, then I assume My own birth. To extend all-sided protection and upliftment of all those engaged in the pursuit of the Good, and in order to exterminate those engaged in actions that are perverse and resistant to the Good, and in order to establish dharma, I incarnate Myself at every epochal movement of the world movement."75
The word dharma that has been used in these verses has a special meaning; it means neither a religious creed nor good human conduct. The highest meaning which is understood by the word dharma is contained in reference to that state of law of manifestation and action that is involved in what the Gita calls the state of sādharmyam. Sādharmyam is a state that is attained when the state of consciousness manifests parā prakrti, the higher nature of the Divine Himself, which transcends the lower Prakriti of the three gunas, and it is the state of trigunātita, which is also described as madbhāvam, the divine's own becoming. The divine movement of becoming has also a law, but that law is the law of action that manifests the universality and the transcendence of the Supreme Divine. It is the law, which has been described in the Veda as the law of Vastness and Harmony, and which is symbolically described as the law of Varuna and Mitra. In the evolutionary movement, that law is the supervening law, much beyond the laws conceived and formulated in terms of standards that are erected from time to time under various needs of the human growth and evolution. Those laws are required to be transcended, so that that transcendence becomes a gate of the attainment of the divine law of action of the higher nature of the Supreme. The knowledge of that divine dharma, the divine law, opens the gate of attainment of that liberation, that moksha, by
living in which every fibre of action that deviates from the supreme law is eliminated. It is then that the state of sādharmyam is attained.76 That supreme law, that dharma is an active law, and it is that law which constantly operates in the world like uplifting magnet by the attraction of which evolution is led upwards at every stage of its development. It is when that dharma and the operation of that dharma becomes dimmed, and when there is uprising tide of the operations that resist the divine law of action, that at that critical point, the divine incarnation occurs as a part of the divine operation of the evolutionary process. It is by the assumption by the Supreme Lord of the human birth that provides all-round protection to those who are pursuing the Good, and the Law of divine action; it also causes elimination of all those who are engaged in works that are resistant to the Good. It is again that divine birth, or divine Incarnation, that establishes the divine law of action which is needed at that historical moment for lifting up humanity to a higher stage of evolution. The dharma that is established by every divine incarnation, which occurs at every epochal moment of human history, yuge yuge, is an explicit expression of the supreme divine law of action, but that expression is specifically related to the guidance that is required to humanity so that the humanity at that stage can be uplifted towards the next higher stage of evolution.
The divine incarnation is thus an important feature of the law of evolution. For that reason, every avatar is an example that serves as a manifest embodiment of the divine descent and human ascent, so that human evolution is facilitated by the example of the life and work of the divine avatar. In this connection, therefore, it is significant that Sri Krishna in the following verse lays down the role of the best, the role of
śrestha, that is played in the generalization of the law of action by which humanity can be uplifted at a given epochal stage of evolution: "Whatever is the mode of the action of the best leader, that very mode characterizes people in general. Whatever ideals he puts forth, that ideal is followed by the people."77
And in the next three verses, Sri Krishna explains his own mode of action as an example of the divine incarnation in the following words: "There is nothing that I need to do in all the three worlds; there is nothing that I require to add to Myself, and yet I am engaged in action. If ever I did not engage Myself in action unwearied, O Arjuna, human beings would follow My path in every way. Should I cease to work, these worlds would be destroyed. I would cause confusion in the maintenance of the order of the society, and thus destroy all the people. O Arjuna! While the ignorant perform actions out of desire, the wise perform actions without any desire and solely for the operation of the law of harmony of universal unity (lokasangraha)”.
Following the example of the divine avatar, the Gita provides in the third, fourth and fifth chapters the signs of the human worker, who has attained by Karma Yoga the highest status of the divine worker. First of all, the divine worker is a liberated man; he is a large and universal doer of all works, krtsna karma krt.78 By the flaming intensity and purity of the knowledge, all his actions are devoid of desire and human intentionality, and they are all burnt up as in a fire. His mind remains without any stain or disfiguring mark; he is calm, silent, seated in brahma-nirvana, unperturbed,
white and clean and pure. All works proceeding from the divine will are executed through him as the arrow is shot through a bow, and there is therefore no personal egoism of the doer. He has renounced all enjoyment of the fruits of action, and even though he is engaged always in works, he remains non-doer of works. He has no personal hopes; he does not seize on things as his personal possessions. His action is indeed a purely physical action, śāríram kevalam karma; he commits no sin in any of his actions.79 Impersonality is the next sign of the divine worker. The result of this impersonality is perfect equality in the soul and the nature. He has passed beyond the dualities; he is dvandvātīta. He is equal in his state in success or failure. In all he sees two things, the Divine inhabiting every being equally, and every manifestation unequal only in its temporary circumstances. For animal and man, for dog, for unclean outcast and for the learned and virtuous Brahmin, for saint and sinner, for indifferent and friendly and the hostile, for those who love him and benefit and those who hate him and afflict, he has in his heart all the same equal kindliness, the same divine affection.80 Circumstances may determine the outward clasp or the outward conflict, but can never affect his equal eye, his open heart, his inner embrace of God. A still further sign of the divine worker is a perfect inner joy and peace which depend upon nothing in the world for their source and for their continuance; they are innate, they are the very stuff of the soul's consciousness, they are the very nature of the divine being. In all things, the divine worker has the same imperishable ananda, sukham aksayam aśnute.81
The Gita insists on the difference between the inward and the outward renunciation, tyāga and sannyāsa. Sannyāsa
is valueless without tyāga, hardly possible to attain without it, unnecessary when there is the inward freedom. In fact, tyaga itself is real and sufficient sannyasa. The divine worker is a sannyasin, because he has renounced all desires inwardly. "He should be known as the eternal Sannyasin, who neither hates nor desires; free from dualities, he is happily and easily released from all bondage."82 It is further said of him as follows: "He who, having abandoned attachment, acts reposing his works on the Brahman, is not stained by sin even as water clings not to the lotus-leaf," padma patram iva ambhasā.83
The divine worker rises above the action of the three gunas, and even when the gunas are active, and he sees, hears, tastes, smells, eats, moves, sleeps, breathes, speaks, takes, ejects, opens his eyes or closes them, he holds that it is only the senses acting upon the objects of the senses.84 The divine worker is trigunātīta. This , trigunātītya is also a high sign of the divine worker. But seated high in that state, the will of the Supreme works in him, and that work also does not belong to him but belongs to the higher nature — parā prakrti. The divine worker is identified with the akshara Purusha, the immobile Self, and has renounced his actions into Him, the Purushottama, and he works out His will. Such are the works of the divine worker, of the liberated soul, muktasya karma, and the more the action of the supreme is transmitted through the divine worker, the higher and higher are the operations in him of Para Prakriti. His actions rise from a free spirit and disappear without modifying it,, like waves that rise and disappear on the surface of the ocean.
Gatasasangasya muktasya jñānāvasthita-cetasah
yajñāyācaratah karma samagram pravilīyate.85
But this is not the last word on the divine work.
Fullness of the Divine Work or of spiritual action, which Sri Krishna affirms as the highest possibility that can be attained by the synthesis of yoga of works, knowledge and devotion, needs still to be affirmed fully, and a deeper understanding of the nature of the fullness of spiritual action needs still to be further elucidated. "He who knows the supreme as transcendental of the Gunas, it is he who attains My own nature." (XIV. 19) This is what Sri Krishna affirms, and he thus makes a distinction between His own nature from the nature of the three gunas, the distinction that was already expounded in principle in the seventh chapter where a distinction was made between Apara Prakriti and Para Prakriti, the Prakriti of three gunas and the higher Prakriti by which the entire world is upheld.86 But in the last six chapters this subject is expounded in greater detail and by means of a more comprehensive analysis of some of the major elements which arise from higher nature but which are distinguishably embedded in the workings of sattwa, rajas and tamas of the lower nature and therefore more easily capable of being disentangled from the lower workings of the gunas or brought back or transformed into the movements of higher nature, the divine's own nature, madbhāva.
Attainment of Brahma-nirvana
Perfection that is sought to be attained by the divine birth and divine action cannot be unassailable, unless at an appropriate stage of development, the experience and realization of Brahma-nirvana are attained. Towards the close of the fifth chapter and much of the sixth chapter is, therefore, devoted in the Gita to the experience and
realization of Brahma-nirvana. Mark of the status of Brahma-nirvana is the supreme peace of a calm self- extinction, śāntim nirvāna paramām (VI. 15). The Brahman, it is to be noted, connotes in the Upanishads primarily at least the inner timeless Self withdrawn from active participation even though immanent in the externality of Nature. The Brahman consciousness is keynote and comerstone of integral knowledge; it is by rising into that consciousness and by stabilizing oneself into it (brahmavid brahmani sthitah)87 that one becomes the knower of the Brahman. The idea of the brahma-yoga and of the nirvana or self-extinction in the Brahman is expounded in the Gita in the following verses:
"When the soul is no longer attached to the touches of outward things, one finds happiness that exists in the self; such a one enjoys an imperishable happiness, because his self is in yoga, yukta, united by yoga with the Brahman. The enjoyments obtained by the contact of the senses with their objects are the sources of sorrow; they have a beginning and an end; therefore, the wise man does not delight himself in them. He, who is able to resist and endure without being deflected by the impulse of desire and anger even before departing from the body, is verily a yogin and a happy person. He, who has the inner happiness and the inner ease and repose and the inner light, that Yogin becomes the Brahman and reaches self-extinction in the Brahman, brahma- nirvānam.”
"The sages attain to Nirvana in the Brahman, they in whom the stains of sin are effaced and the knot of doubt is cut asunder; they are masters of their selves, and they are occupied in doing good to all creatures, yatātmānah
sarvabhūtahite ratāh; those who practise self-mastery by yoga and austerity, and who are delivered from desire and wrath and for them nirvana in the Brahman exists all above them, encompasses them, they already live here in it because they have knowledge of the Self. Having put outside of himself all outward touches and concentrated the will between the eyebrow and made equal the prāna and the apāna moving within the nostrils, having controlled the senses, the mind and the understanding, the sage devoted to liberation, from whom desire and wrath and fear have passed away is ever free. When a man has known Me as the Enjoyer of sacrifice and Tapasya, the mighty lord of all the worlds, the friend of all creatures, he comes by the peace."88
There are three important characteristics of the Brahman consciousness. First of all, it is emphasized that this consciousness is to be attained, while one is still in the body. This emphasis is identical with that which is to be found explicitly and emphatically in the Kena Upanishad, where also the Brahman consciousness is expounded. It states: "If here one comes to that knowledge, then one truly is; if, however, one comes not to the knowledge, then great is the perdition."89 Secondly, the state of brahma-nirvana does not imply continuous withdrawal into some deep sleep of Samadhi away from all world consciousness, nor is it the preparatory movement for a dissolution of the natural being and the individual soul into some absolute Self, since that state of brahma-nirvana can exist simultaneously with world-consciousness and it is even in its own way included. For it is stated that the sages who have won nirvana in the Brahman are occupied in doing good to all creatures and for them nirvana in the Brahman exists all about them, encompasses them, and they already live in it because they
have knowledge of the Self. Once again, this is a reaffirmation of the statement in the Kena Upanishad90 where the Brahman consciousness is described as "tad vanam”, the transcendent Delight the all-blissful ananda of which the Taittriya Upanishad speaks as the highest Brahman from which all existences are born, by which all existences arrive in their passing out of death and birth. It is this beatitude which has been meant by the immortality in the Upanishads, and by knowing and possessing Brahman as the supreme ananda, Kena Upanishad affirms, one becomes the knower and possessor of the Brahman and towards Him the desire of all creatures is directed. In other words, he becomes a centre of the Divine delight shedding it on all the world and attracting all to it as to a fountain of joy and love and self-fulfillment in the universe. Thirdly, one who lives in Brahman consciousness is led to a further climax, namely, the knowledge of the mighty lord of all the worlds, the friend of all creatures and the knowledge of Him as the Enjoyer of sacrifice and Tapasya.
The sixth chapter of the Gita is a large comment on and a full development of the idea of the brahma-nirvana, the state of brahma-consciousness which firmly synthesizes peace of akarma (non-action), of sannyasa (complete renunciation), and peace that is supreme and that passeth understanding, on the one hand, with the world- consciousness, which is realized as a constant sacrifice, and which is presided over by the supreme Purushottama to whom all sacrifice is offered and who enjoys the sacrifice and manifests that Delight in divine action, divyam karma.
The sixth chapter begins by the statement of the real sense and essence of sannyasa and points out that it is an
inward and not an outward renunciation. "Whoever does the work to be done without resort to its fruits, he is a sannyasin and the Yogin, not the man who ceases to ignite the fire of the work of sacrifice and one who ceases from the performance of the works. What they have called renunciation (sannyasa), know to be in truth yoga of works; for none becomes a yogin or the Divine Worker, who has not renounced the desire-will in the mind."91 Sri Krishna explains, in effect, that works are first to be done by ascending on the path of yoga, for then the works are the cause of self-perfection and nirvana in the Brahman; but once that state is obtained, the calm of self-mastery and self- possession becomes the cause of fixity in the Self or in the Brahman consciousness, and also of perfect equality in which the divine works of the liberated man are done. "For when one does not get attached to the objects of sense or to works and has renounced all will of desire in the mind, then is he said to have ascended to the top of yoga of works."92 One who has conquered his very self by his own self and has attained tranquility, one who remains balanced and one who has reached the perfect calm in which his highest self is manifest to him, for him that highest self is always concentrated in its own being, samāhita, in Samadhi, not only in the trance of the inward-drawn consciousness, but always in the waking state of the mind as well, even when exposed to the causes of desire and of disturbance, to grief and pleasure, heat and cold, honour and disgrace.93
It is, of course, admitted that yoga is not an easy thing to acquire, since the restless mind is always liable to be pulled down from these heights by the attacks of outward things and to fall back into the strong control of grief and passion and inequality. Mere buddhi yoga of which Sri Krishna had
spoken earlier is not always sufficient, and one needs to undertake a special process of rajayogic meditation also, a powerful method of practice 'abhyāsa’, a strong way to the complete control of the mind and all its workings. Sri Krishna elucidates: "The seeker should set in a pure spot his firm seat neither too high, nor yet too low, covered with a cloth, with a deer-skin, with sacred grass, and there seated with a concentrated mind and with the workings of the mental consciousness and the senses under control, and he should practise Yoga for self-purification". The process of concentration, self-control and freedom from fear are then underlined. As a result, the supreme peace of nirvana is attained, and one also attains to the knowledge that the supreme peace of nirvana has its foundation "in Me", in the Purushottama, śāntim nirvānaparamām mat samsthām.94
Once again, Sri Krishna describes the nature of the self- realization and the result of the yoga which comes by nirvana or self-extinction of the separative ego-mind and its motives of thought and feeling and action into the Brahman consciousness, which includes the cosmic sense, though lifted into a new kind of vision. Sri Krishna explains: "The man, whose self is in Yoga, sees the self in all beings and all beings in the self he sees all with an equal vision. He who sees Me everywhere and sees all in Me, to him I do not get lost, nor does he get lost to Me."95 The supreme yogin is then described in the following words: "The yogin who has taken his stand upon oneness and loves Me in all beings, however in all ways lives and acts, lives and acts in Me, he, O Arjuna, who sees with equality everything in the image of the Self, whether it be grief or it be happiness, him I hold to be the supreme Yogin."96 Once again, these descriptions underline the synthesis of knowledge and works, but they
also bring here as always Bhakti as the climax of the yoga, sarvabhūtasthitam yo mām bhajati ekatvam āsthitah.97 In the climactic words of this chapter, Sri Krishna underlines this synthesis once again and speaks of the bhakta, the one who realizes the Supreme and one who performs actions with love for the Supreme and as an expression of that love as, the greatest of all the yogins: "The yogin who has attained the highest status of yoga by Karma Yoga is greater than the doers of askesis, greater than the men of knowledge, greater than the men of works; become then the Yogin of Works, O Arjuna. Of all the Karmayogins, one who has with all his inner self given up to Me, one who has for Me love and faith, him I hold to be the most united with Me in yoga."98
Vision of the Vibhutis
While the synthesis of knowledge, action and devotion grows and develops, there arises in the movement of the lower nature of the seeker increasing operation of the Para Prakriti; there comes about the birth of higher nature and of divine qualities. In a sense, all yoga is a yoga of Apara Prakriti, since it is in Apara Prakriti that ignorance manifests as the operation of three gunas, and it is by the attachment of the jiva to these operations that the jiva becomes bound to the ignorant movements of nature and forgets his own true nature and his true source in the Purushottama and Para Prakriti. It is only by the increase of the growth of the sattwa in Apara Prakriti that the higher will of the jiva begins to manifest and it is by that gradual manifestation that the jiva becomes able to uplift itself from the lower self to which it is bound by attachment and by the strong clutch of the ego, ātmanātmānam uddharet.” 99 The greater the operation of the jiva on Apara Prakriti, the greater is the flow into Apara
Prakriti of the Para Prakriti which constitutes the nature of the jiva. And, with the increasing force of the sacrifice of the jiva, there comes about greater response of the Divine and of the divine nature in the Apara Prakriti. A stage can be reached where the seeker, by force of some extraordinary development of the powers of emotion, feeling, thought and will, the boundaries of Apara Prakriti are broken; this is accompanied by the constant infiltration of the divine qualities of Para Prakriti, the higher nature which is higher than sattwa; some of these divine qualities get more and more stabilized and become more and more effectively operative. That stabilization and effective operation of one or two or more divine qualities can rightly be termed as the operations of Vibhuti, or special becomings, — special, wider, intenser and super- natural and super-human. Indeed, with the upward movement of the synthesis of yoga, one also begins to gain the knowledge of the operations of Vibhutis in the entire world, since during the long period of evolution from Matter to Mind, a large number of Vibhutis have manifested m the domains of Matter, Life and Mind.
Of these vibhutis, there is no end, nāsti anto vistarasya me.100 Vibhuti is manifestation of extraordinary qualities and even incarnation of divine qualities proceeding from the operations of Para Prakriti. Again, since there is no unbridgeable division between Purushottama and Para Prakriti, there is always some manifest operation of Purushottama in vibhutis. But the manifestation of vibhutis during the long process of evolution from Matter to Mind is distinguished in the Gita from the manifestation that occurs by the descent of the Purushottama Himself on the earth. In both these phenomena, the Purushottama and Para Prakriti descend in the operations of Apara Prakriti, but the purpose and the
manner in which this descent takes place is special in each case.
First of all, a distinction is to be made between the manner and purpose of the descent of Jivatmans and those of the descent of the Purushottama Himself in the workings of the Apara Prakriti. The jivatmans are the multiple self- representations of the Purushottama in His power of Becoming, Para Prakriti. They have been released into Para Prakriti by the Purushottama, and the process by which they are cast into the evolutionary process of Apara Prakriti is -indicated in the Gita in the eighth verse of ninth chapter where it is stated: "Leaning My own Nature downwards, prakrtim svām avastabhya, I loose forth variously, visrjāmi, this multitude of creatures helplessly where they are subjected to the control of Prakriti." The purpose of evolution can be effected by the multitude of creatures (bhūta grāmam)101 entering into Apara Prakriti. The jivas, on account of the process of intense activity involved in the uplifting of Apara Prakriti from the inconscience and ignorance, become identified with that intense activity; they therefore become forgetful of themselves. That forgetfulness can be overcome with the increasing evolution of consciousness in the field of Apara Prakriti, and at the human level, more consciously and more rapidly by the process of yoga. On the other hand, the purpose of the avatar is to support the endeavour of the jivatmans who, at critical conditions in the evolutionary process, find it impossible to cross over the crisis; it is in response to the imperative need to overcome the crisis that a decisive descent of the Purushottama Himself becomes inevitable. This is the purpose which has been described in the fourth chapter to which reference is already made earlier above. In regard to
the process of this avatarhood, Sri Krishna states as follows: "I am unborn, imperishable, and am the lord of all beings, a and standing upon My own nature, I am born by My self- Maya, prakrtim svām adhisthāya sambhavāmi ātmamāyayā."102 In the next verse, Sri Krishna adds, "I loose forth Myself, ātmānam srjāmi.”103 In regard to the birth of the jivatmans in the world, the word that has been used is avastabhya. The action implied in that word is a forceful downward pressure by which the jivatmans are overcome, oppressed, blocked or limited in their movement and they become, for the purpose for which they have been pressed down, helplessly subject to the powers of Apara Prakriti, avaśam vaśāt.104 Apara Prakriti is unconscious and ignorant; it is mechanical and multitude of creatures is held helpless in the mechanism, not lords of their own action. But the action implied in the word adhistāya means not only dwelling in, but also standing upon and over the Nature, a conscious control and government by the in-dwelling Godhead in which the Purushottama is not helplessly driven into Apara Prakriti; but his own Para Prakriti remains full of the light of the Purushottama. In the phenomenon of the avatar, therefore, the divine birth is that of the conscious Godhead in our humanity and essentially, the process is opposite of the ordinary birth of the jivas. The avatar is the divine born into the body as Lord of Nature, standing above and operating in her freely by His will, not entangled and helplessly driven round and round in the mechanism. The avatar, therefore, is a direct manifestation in humanity of the Purushottama. The descent of the avatar aims at providing a special help to the evolutionary movement at a critical point of development, so that the crisis is overcome, and the path of the human ascent is hewn and made ready for facilitating
general ascension of human consciousness to the new height that comes to be established by the avatar.
We may now come to the phenomenon of the manifestation of vibhuti. This phenomenon is distinguishable from that of the avatar; vibhuti is a special and distinguished becoming, a becoming which is exceptional. When the powers of the Apara Prakriti grow into some kind of critical maturity, they open up and become receptacles of some of the movements and qualities of Para Prakriti, and if the divine qualities of Para Prakriti are received and nourished by means of constant exercise, they become fixed in the Apara Prakriti. As a result, vibhutis are to be found on all major levels of evolution, in Matter, in Life, in Mind, and one who sees the Divine in all can see in these vibhutis a direct proof of the omnipresence of the divine consciousness. It can be seen that at a certain point of intensity, each force in us, force of knowledge, force of will, force of love, force of delight, can result in an explosion; it can break the shell of the lower formulation and liberate the energy and manifest some kind of a special becoming, vibhuti. The truth of this process can be seen in all exceptional individuals and even in certain special developments of material existence and organic existence.
It is true that every avatar is a manifestation of the higher powers of Para Prakriti in the operations of Apara Prakriti, and therefore every avatar is also a vibhuti, but every vibhuti is not an avatar. The purpose of the phenomenon of vibhuti is to effect gradual infusion of the qualities of Para Prakriti at those points where, by the process of evolution, such tensions are produced that they result in the explosions that bring down the downpour of this or that quality or some of the qualities of the Para Prakriti. In that process, there is no
involvement of the process that is involved either of the downward forcing down of jivatmans into the Apara Prakriti; nor is there that process of the descent by which the avatar descends into Apara Prakriti.
In order to expound the integrality of knowledge of the total working of the world and its evolution, Sri Krishna provides the knowledge relating not only to the nature of Apara Prakriti and Para Prakriti, and to the respective roles which are played by the immutable Purusha and the mutable Purusha and of the Purushottama, but also to some of the unending vibhutis that can be recognized at different levels of existence.
A summary enumeration of vibhutis begins with a statement of the primal principle that underlies all the power of this manifestation in the universe. All classes, genera, species, individuals manifest their respective vibhutis. Among all the living beings, cosmic godheads, super-human and human and sub-human creatures and amid all their qualities, powers and objects, the chief, the head, the greatest in quality of each class is a special power of the becoming of the Godhead. In living beings, the mind among the senses is the vibhuti; the power of resolution and perseverance and victory are also vibhutis; the power that rules, the silence of things secret, the knowledge of the knower, and many other such powers are also vibhutis. Among the great and well- known personalities, Rama is reckoned as vibhuti among warriors, Bhrigu among the great rishis, Ushanas among the seer poets, Krishna himself among the Vrishnis, Arjuna among the Pandavas and Vyasa among the sages; many more are named as vibhutis in this account given by Sri Krishna to Arjuna.105 In this way, Sri Krishna answers the question
under which Arjuna wanted to know those divine glories by which the Purushottama abides and pervades all these worlds and by dwelling upon whom one can meditate upon the Purushottama and his omnipresence in the universe.
Vision of the Supreme
A vast panorama of a vast synthesis unfolds itself before the eyes of the mind in images that strive to visualize some living representation of infinitude and eternity. But how can the mind capture it? Even the descriptions of the special becomings (vibhutis) in this universe, of the physical world, vital world, mental world and even of the higher worlds, — do not provide that concreteness that the sensations of vision and audition provide to human consciousness. And nothing proves to the human consciousness the reality of the Real as the images that are captured in direct vision, when the eyes are opened and the panorama of the world gets imprinted on sensations and perceptions.
In this vast physical universe, that is so dumb and insensitive, all sensations that vibrate in the organic life is a marvel, the mystery of which is unfathomable. And the marvel of sensations and subsequently of perceptions gets more and more intensified when we look upon the operations of the sense-mind, which can coordinate sensations and translate them into mental images. And when we begin to analyze how greater or faster processes of ideation are developed and how we can inwardly distinguish between various faculties of the mind and the reason, of cognition, affection and volition, the marvel and mystery, if we do not allow ourselves to be blinded by constant familiarity, seem to us to be still more mysterious and strange and wonderful. But the realm of yoga opens up in our consciousness even
vaster marvels and mysteries when mental consciousness is extended and transcended in its capacities of experience. The psychological development that can take place by the intensities of our capacities opens up vistas of inmost sight and inmost audition and many other correspondences of sensations and perceptions. Yogic life abounds with phenomena of these inmost operations; these have been studied and have been classified, and laws of these phenomena have also been discerned. There are faculties of revelation, inspiration, intuition and discrimination, and the conditions of the development of these faculties have been described, and methods have been developed by which these faculties can be developed and even perfected. The phenomena of drsti and śruti, of inner sight or revelation and inner hearing or inspiration have been recognized and developed by the methods of yoga given in the Veda, Upanishads, Gita and many other records of experiences in the East and the West. Indeed, these faculties need right conditions and austere practices of psychological exercises, if they are to yield veridical knowledge, power, right inspiration for action and devotional intensities of feeling. But there are occasions and there are critical states of consciousness in which mystic guides and teachers can by mere touch or will power bestow upon the seeker a sudden opening of inner consciousness, and the inner sight and inner audition begin to operate, and the resultant operations can give to the seeker that kind of proof and that kind of certainty which neither our ordinary sense perceptions nor highest flights of reasoning can provide.
Arjuna was in a critical condition, and the dialogue had opened up in his mind surprising visions of the vastness and wonder of the supracosmic and cosmic reality, and his heart
had begun to feel the delight of the incomprehensible Presence of the divine consciousness; in that state, he was led to ask Sri Krishna if he could see the Form of Sri Krishna, the embodied Lord and the Supreme Purusha. Arjuna revealed his state of mind and his deep aspiration that had arisen in him in the following words:
"Thou hast graciously given to me the secret of secrets concerning the Self, and by this my delusion has been dispelled. But O lotus-eyed One! I have heard from Thee of the vastness of beings, how they appear and how they . disappear and also about Thy imperishable Glory. O Lord, O Purushottama, Thou hast spoken of Thyself, but, I aspire now to behold Thy Divine Form. O Lord! Lord of Yoga, if Thou thinkest that I am capable to behold Thy Divine Form, then reveal to me, to my vision that Imperishable Self."106
The answer that Sri Krishna gives is one of the best known and most powerfully poetic passages in the Gita and it is intended for a poetic and revelatory symbol. It is best to present this great yogic vision of the universal Purusha, viśvarūpa darśana, as an extremely important record of yogic experience, confirmable and verifiable in yogic life of yogic sādhanā .
Sri Krishna replies, first, that what Arjuna was to see cannot be grasped by the human eye. There is, according to Sri Krishna, a divine eye, an inmost seeing, by which the supreme Godhead in His yoga can be beheld and it is that eye that Sri Krishna was to give to him. Sri Krishna told Arjuna that he was to see hundreds and thousands of divine forms of Sri Krishna, the Avatar, that he was to see the Adityas, the Rudras, the Maruts, and the Ashwins, — all the great symbolic figures of the Veda, — and that he was to see
many wonders and the whole world related and unified in the body of Sri Krishna. Indeed, it was to be the vision of the One in the Many and of the Many in the One, — and all as the One.
The supreme Form was then made visible. Arjuna saw the Divine Form possessing many faces and a worldwide Divinity seeing with innumerable eyes. That Divine was decked with divine garlands and divine garments, anointed with divine perfumes; He was full of wonders, effulgent, boundless, with innumerable faces on all sides; the radiance of that Supreme Being was as dazzling as would be if a thousand suns were to shine forth simultaneously in the sky. There Arjuna beheld the entire universe, with its manifold differentiations situated unified within the body of the Supreme Lord. Then, overwhelmed with wonder, with his hairs standing on their end, Dhananjaya, Arjuna, bowed down his head to the Supreme and spoke with folded hands:
"I see all the gods in thy body, O God, and different companies of beings, Brahma the creating Lord seated in the Lotus and the Rishis and the race of the divine Serpents; I see numberless arms and bellies and eyes and faces; I see Thy infinite forms on every side, but I see not Thy end nor Thy middle nor Thy beginning, O Lord of the universe, O Form universal. I see Thee crowned and with thy mace and the discus, hard to discern because thou art a luminous mass of energy on all sides of me, and encompassing blaze, a sun- bright, fire-bright Immeasurable. Thou art the supreme Immutable whom we have to know, Thou art the high foundation and abode of the universe, Thou art the imperishable guardian of the eternal laws. Thou art the semipeternal soul of the existence."
But in the greatness of this vision, Arjuna also sees the terrific image of the Destroyer. This godhead has a face of blazing fire and is ever burning up the whole universe with a flame of his energy. Arjuna cries out: "All the directions as well as the space between the sky and the earth is pervaded by Thee alone, O Supreme Soul! Beholding this terrible and wonderful form of Thine, the three worlds are agitated. The companies of the gods enter Thee, afraid, adoring; the rishis and the siddhas are crying out: "May there be peace and weal", and they praise Thee with many praises. The eyes of Gods and Titans and Giants are fixed on Thee in amazement. Thou hast enormous burning eyes and many mouths that wait to devour, and thou art terrible with many tusks of destruction. On seeing all this, the worlds are terrified and so also myself. O Vishnu! Having seen Thy form that is touching the sky, radiant with many colours, with wide opened mouths, and large burning eyes, I tremble in my inmost self in fear, and I find neither courage nor tranquility. Seeing Thy mouths with gruesome jaws-, resembling the blazing and devouring fires of destruction, I have lost the sense of direction and find not happiness. O Refuge of the World! O God of Gods! Be Thou gracious. All the sons of Dhritarashtra with their companies of kings and also Bhishma, Drona, Kama along with the chief warriors belonging to us are rushing forward and entering into Thy dreadful mouths of gruesome jaws. Some are caught between the teeth with their heads crushed to powder by them. Just as many rushing torrents of the rivers hasten towards the ocean, even so these great warriors of this human world are entering into Thy fierce-flaming mouth. Just as moth with accelerated velocity enters into blazing fire to perish, so too all these people are entering with accelerated
velocity into Thy mouths for their destruction. O Vishnu! Thou art devouring all the worlds by Thy blazing mouths and Thou art licking them up. They terrible radiance is filling this entire universe and scorching it with their fierce rays with Thy intense light."
"Declare to me who Thou art that wearest this form of fierceness. Salutation to Thee, O Thou great Godhead, turn Thy heart to grace. I would know who Thou art, the Ultimate Origin, for I know not the will of Thy workings."107
Sri Krishna answered: "Destruction is the Will of my workings with which I stand here; I am Time the destroyer and even without thee, all these warriors shall be naught, who are ranked in the opposing armies. Therefore arise, be thou glorious, conquer thy enemies and enjoy an opulent kingdom. By Me and none other already even are they slain, do thou become the occasion only, O Savyasacin, slay by Me who are slain, Drona, Bhishma, Jayadratha, Karna and other heroic fighters; be not pained and troubled. Fight, thou shalt conquer the adversary in the battle."108
Arjuna cried out: "Rightly and in good place, O Krishna, does the world rejoice and take pleasure in Thy name, the rakshasas are fleeing from Thee in terror to all the quarters and the company of the siddhas bow down before Thee in. adoration. How should they not do Thee homage, O great Spirit? For Thou art the original Creator and Doer of works and greater even than creative Brahma. O Thou Infinite, O Thou Lord of Gods, O Thou abode of universe, Thou art the Immutable and Thou art what is and is not and Thou art that which is the Supreme. Thou art the ancient Soul and the first and original Godhead in the supreme resting-place of this All; Thou art the knower and that which is to be known and
the highest status; O infinite in form, by Thee was extended the universe. Thou art Yama and Vayu and Agni and Soma and Varuna and Prajapati, father of creatures, and the great grandsire. Salutations to Thee a thousand times over and again and yet again salutation, in front and behind and from every side for Thou art each and all that is. Infinite in might and immeasurable in strength of action, Thou pervadest all and art everyone. For whatsoever I have spoken to Thee in rash vehemence, thinking of Thee only as my human friend and companion, 'O Krishna, O Yadava, O Comrade', not knowing this Thy greatness, in negligent error or in love, and for whatsoever disrespect was shown by me to Thee in jest, on the couch and the seat and in the banquet, alone or in Thy presence, I pray forgiveness from Thee the Immeasurable. Thou art the father of all this world of the moving and unmoving; Thou art the One to be worshipped and the most solemn object of veneration. None is equal to Thee, how then another be greater in all the three worlds, O Incomparable in might? Therefore I bow down before Thee and prostrate my body and I demand grace of Thee, the adorable Lord. As a father to his son, as a friend to his friend and comrade, as one dear to him he loves, so shouldst Thou, O Godhead, bear with me. I have seen what never was seen before and I rejoice, but my mind is troubled with fear. O Godhead, show me that other form of Thine. I would see Thee even as before crowned and with Thy mace and discus. Assume Thy four-armed shape, O thousand-armed, O Form universal."109
Godhead in answer to Arjuna's prayer reassumed His own normal Narayana image, svakam rūpam, the desired form of grace and love and sweetness and beauty. But first he declared the incalculable significance of the other mighty
image which he was about to veil. Sri Krishna spoke to Arjuna:
"This that thou now seest is My supreme shape, My form of luminous energy, the universal, the original, which none but thou amongst men hast yet seen. I have shown it by My self-yoga. For it is an image of my very Self and spirit, it is the very Supreme self-figured in cosmic existence; and the soul in perfect Yoga with Me sees it without any trembling of the nervous parts or any bewilderment and confusion of the mind, because he descries not only what is terrible and overwhelming in its appearance, but also its high and reassuring significance. And thou also shouldst so envisage it without fear, without confusion of mind, without any sinking of the members; but behold once again that same Form of mine, getting rid of fear and with a cheerful state of the mind. The greater Form is only for the rare highest souls. The gods themselves ever desire to look upon it. It cannot be won by Veda or austerities or gifts or sacrifice; it can be seen, known, entered into only by that Bhakti which regards, adores and loves Me alone in all things."'110
Sri Krishna revealed to Arjuna again his gracious form, having seen which, Arjuna said:
"Having seen Thy peaceful human form, O Krishna! I am now free and am delighted, and I am restored to my natural state."
Sri Krishna repeated the significance of the earlier image and said:
"O Arjuna, he who performs My work and one who is free from all attachment and who is free from enmity among all creatures, he is My supreme devotee, and he comes to Me
The message that comes out from this vision is that the very action which Arjuna had rejected is that very action conducted by the supreme Lord who always acts, even when He is free from action, free in action and free in everyway to do this action or that action, and whose every action is an assemblage of harmony which advances always the harmony, solidarity and unity of peoples (lokasangraha). But as in the divine consciousness, so also in the consciousness of Arjuna, there has to be a reconciling greater knowledge, a diviner consciousness, a high impersonality, a spiritual standard of oneness with the will of the Divine acting in the world from the fountain light and with the mature power of the spiritual nature. The message for Arjuna is that he has to transform the whole ignorant action so as to make that action follow a new inner principle of works, which is the same principle that is operative in the divine consciousness. Arjuna has been uplifted from the poise of the normal man and from the standards, motives, outlook, egoistic consciousness of his ignorance, away from all that had finally failed him in the hour of his spiritual crisis. Arjuna has now received a direct command from the Supreme Lord and that command is to carry out the divine action as an instrument of the Divine Will which always works for the sake of the world-harmony and in union with the Spirit who dwells in it and all its creatures and in whom all its workings take place. Arjuna has now accepted that command with the knowledge of the divine consciousness and the knowledge of the divine will; his personal will is emptied of egoism and will act now only by the knowledge of the command and as an instrumentation of the sacred Master of works. Arjuna's sacrifice of works is now turned into a state of adoration and
love for the Divine, and he has in that state of this new knowledge, given up all the human standards of action and surrendered himself in a close intimacy with the supreme Soul of all existence. This is a state of Karma Yoga in which a new condition has been created for the perfect union of the perfected powers of knowledge, will and love. A new foundation has been created in Arjuna and from that foundation, he can act in safety; he is now lifted above all cause of stumbling, delivered from egoism and its limitations, rescued from all fear of sin and evi1 and consequence, exalted out of that bondage to the outward nature and the limited action which is the knot of the ignorance. He can now act in the power of the Light no longer in twilight or darkness, and a divine sanction upholds every step of his conduct. Arjuna is now in the state of the Karma Yogin, whose works of sacrifice have led him to the knowledge and vision of the Lord and whose adoration and devotion and love for the divine is infused with knowledge.
This is the solution that Sri Krishna gives to the dilemma of Arjuna, and that solution involves the possession of the secret of the union of Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga.