Beach 8: One's Nature vis-ŕ-vis One's Duty
Wave 2: The Secret of Secrets from the bhagavad-gItA
Drop 4: The Secret of Secrets - 1
The gItA is a unique and unusual book in the scriptural literature of the world. It is the one book where God Almighty in person speaks to Man, not just a few words, but a whole scripture. The context of the gItA in the mahA-bhArata is well-known. At the crucial moment, right at the start of the war, Arjuna collapses psychologically. It is the war for which plans have been under way for more than a month now. It is the war, the seeds for which were planted several years earlier. It is the war for which Arjuna had collected mystic armamental powers for himself by going to the very heavens where his natal father Indra ruled. It is the war which was anticipated and eagerly looked forward (by the four younger Pandavas) so that the public humiliation of Draupadi could be avenged. It is the war which was anticipated and feared (in the interests of peace) by Yudhishtira and which was sought to be prevented by him by an unending series of compromises all these thirteen years. It is the war which could not be prevented even by the ambassadorial intervention of the divine personality like Krishna. And Krishna is now confronted with the problem of bringing Arjuna back on the track. The problem is not just to make Arjuna fight; it is to bring him back to his normal senses where he would not be clouded by false compassion and self-pity. The problem for the Lord is to make him see what his own dharma is at this deciding moment of his life. The Lord first attempts to put some common sense into Arjuna but the latter is adamant. And that is when Krishna starts a whole philosophical sermon. He uses five arguments to convince Arjuna that his duty is not to withdraw from the war. And in the process of His repair of Arjuna's psyche, the Lord propounds five teachings to all humanity. He devotes full five chapters for the so-called karma yoga, the two-fold concept of efficient action with an attitude of detachment and of the yajna methodology of detachment and dedication. And then He devotes two chapters on Devotion and Dedication to the Divine, which now He identifies as Himself. And it is at this point (9th chapter of the gItA), in his discourse, that he announces His first Secret of Secrets . Having announced it as a Secret of Secrets. He creates an interest by eulogising it (gItA: 9 - 2):
rAja-vidyA rAja-guhyam pavitram idam-uttamam /
pratyakshAvagamaM dharmyaM susukhaM kartum-avyayaM //
This is the Queen of Wisdom, King of Secrets, most pure knowledge,
Can be confirmed by personal experience,
accessible by direct means, and it is imperishable.
And He also says in the next verse what will happen to people who do not place faith in this great declaration of His. They will never reach Me, says He; they will have to keep revolving in the transmigration cycle of birth and death. And, with such a dramatic introduction, He starts: 'By Me all this universe (= jagat, in Sanskrit) is pervaded, occupied'. Every Sanskrit word comes from some original verb. The word jagat comes from the verb jag, to vibrate, to change constantly, to undergo mutation. That is why the universe is called jagat. This universe is pervaded by Me, who has an unmanifest Form. What does it mean to say 'Form which is not manifest'? The absolute is not mutable, not manifest, not perceptible to the senses or intellect.. The secret of Secrets comes now..
In Verse No.4 2nd line the Lord says
mat-sthAni sarva-bhUtAni na cAhaM tesh-vavasthitaH //
meaning, Every being is located (or situated) in Me but I am not situated in them.
In Verse No.5 1st line, that is, almost in the same breath, He says:
na ca mat-sthAni bhUtAni paSya me yogam-aiSvaraM //
meaning, Yet, the beings are not situated in Me; see my divine magical power.
These contradictory wordings, one closely following the other, has puzzled almost every reader. In Vidyaranya's panca-daSI this point is discussed and clarified. Let us go to the standard analogy of the advaita school-- the rope appearing as a snake in the absence of proper lighting and turning out to be the rope when properly lighted. Now follow the conversation below between the guru and the disciple:
Guru: Where was the (appearance of the) snake?
Disciple: In the rope.
Guru: Was the snake in the rope?
Disciple: Never. There was only the rope.
This is exactly what is being said by the Lord.
To the inquisitive question: The universe and all the Beings in it, where are they located?, the Lord answers:
They are all (appearing) in Me.
To the question: Are they really in You, Oh Lord?, He answers:
Never. I am the only Reality all the time.
The fact that God pervades everything will be easily accepted by the aspirant to spirituality. But what he has to learn, on his way up the ladder of spirituality, is that this permeation causes the universe to be only an appearance. The universe is therefore unreal. But it is not illusory; that is, it is not non-existent. It exists as brahman. That is why all our seers say that we should see God in everything, in every being and everywhere.
In the same strain He continues: (gItA 9 - 5, 2nd line):
bhUtabRn-na-ca-bhUtastho mamAtmA bhUta-bhAvanaH /
My self is the bearer of all existences and it is not situated in existences.
Let us analyze now the statement that God pervades everything. The statement is not as innocuous as it appears. First of all there is the above secret message of the Lord that while he pervades everything, in reality there is nothing other than Himself. Secondly the ordinary meaning of pervasion has to be understood by us carefully. To explain this sometimes the 11th chapter of the gItA is cited where the Lord shows His cosmic transcendental Form (viSva-rUpa). Those who cite it for this purpose make us feel that the Cosmic God is having His hands and feet in all directions, extending over everything. The description in the gItA also seems to say this. But if you visualize such a gigantic form of God, it is only frightening as it did frighten Arjuna himself. It may not be a pleasant sight to see the Lord in that gorgeous form pervading everything and gobbling up every being. The visual media which tries to portray this makes it such a gorgeous show that only instils awe and fear in you but not respect and love. It is very difficult to love that Form. The fact of the matter is, we are overdoing the meaning and significance of the Cosmic Form. The purpose of God's Cosmic pervasion of everything is to tell us that the Lord is the ultimate substratum, the ultimate bundle of Consciousness, to which everything has to reduce. Everything arises from Consciousness and merges in Consciousness. There is no other way in which you can explain the physical pervasion of God in everything. It seems the Lord anticipates this erroneous comprehension of the all-pervasiveness of Himself; so He provides an analogy for us almost immediately in the next verse: (gItA: 9 - 6):
yathA-kASasthito nityam vAyus-sarvatrago mahAn /
tathA sarvANi bhUtAni mat-sthAnIty-upadhAraya //
Air is in Space. It is located in space. The substratum for air is space. So also every being is in the Lord. Without space being the base there can be no air. So also every being is located in the Lord. Without the Lord there is no being. This is the meaning of pervasion. The universal existence of Consciousness is all-pervading and infinite. It is one but not many. However it expresses itself as every existence. This does not mean that It (The Self) is contained by any one of them or even all of them. Space is not contained in air nor is it the sum of all that is air. Listen to Sri Aurobindo on this:
One is Being; the other is Power of Being which moves and creates and acts
in the existence of the fundamental, supporting, immutable Spiriit….
The One is a relation of self-existence to the universal movement; the other,
the immanence, is a relation of the universal existence to its own forms.
The one is a truth of being in its all-containing immutability, self-existent;
the other is a truth of Powerof the same being manifest in the government and
information of its own self-veiling and self-revealing movements.
Essays on the Gita, pp319,320
If this is difficult for you to understand I will give you Swami Dayananda's simple manner of presentation. The Vedas don't say that God is a man or a woman. They don't even say that there is a God! Nor do they say that there is One God. Nor that there are many Gods. The only final thing that they say is: Whatever there is, is God! sarvam khalvidam brahma. This is the meaning of pervasion. There is nothing else but God. We teach children that God is everywhere. Even that is not a precise statement. We should rather say: God is the only thing that is anywhere.
To put all this in practice is the teaching that goes on in this 9th chapter of the gItA. The Lord Himself summarises in these terms in the last verse of this chapter:
man-manA bhava mad-bhakto madyAjI mAM namaskuru /
mAmaiveshyasi uktvaivaM AtmAnaM mat-parAyaNaH //
Your mind seated in Me, totally devoted to me, working only for Me, prostrate to Me.
Having thus yoked yourself to none but Me as your Refuge you will certainly reach Me
Again and again the doubt arises in our minds: 'How can I do all that' and still live a productive useful life in this world? Ramakrishna, the Master of Masters comes to our help here with analogies. Here is one of his famous statements:
'Just as a dancing girl fixes her attention on the waterpot she bears on her head even when she is dancing to various tunes, so also the true devotee does not give up his attention to the blissful feet of the Supreme Lord
even when he attends to his many and varied concerns'
Here is another striking analogy from our every day life, so characteristic of Sri Ramakrishna's style of conveying high thoughts in familiar language:
What do you do when you are having a nagging stomach-ache? Do you take vacation from your office work just for a stomach-ache? You keep on doing your work, as diligently as possible, but all the time the stomach-ache never allows you to forget it. It is always telling you 'I am here, I am here!' So also keep the thought of God at the bottom of your mind, never allowing the awareness of the Divine to slip away from you, but carry on your day-to-duties as if you have nothing else in the world to think about!