Krishna has already given a great deal of information regarding the nature of Brahman. Now we are going to be shown how much an embodied human being can comprehend of God, and how he should respond to that knowledge.
Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahman, the Supreme Abode, the Supreme Purifier, the Divine Eternal Spirit, the First God, the Birthless and All-pervading. Thus do all the sages declare you: the Divine Sage Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa. And you yourself say it to me (10:12-13).
Nearly all religion tries to reduce God to an all-powerful human being, rather than elevate human beings to the status of divinity. (I include much of Hinduism in this, as well.) Whatever we may be thinking intellectually, we tend to respond to the thought of God according to how much we have been conditioned by ignorant religion. But beyond all whittled-down and adjusted religion there is the Eternal Dharma which proclaims the truth about God, human beings, and their common essence. This dharma is most perfectly presented to us in the Gita. It is what Vyasa tells us we can know about God.
Supreme Brahman. Often the Upanishads speak of there being a higher and a lower Brahman, referring to the unmanifest and manifest aspects of Brahman. The word param–supreme, or higher–is used here to declare that we can know right here and now the Absolute Reality in its pure Essence, not in any lesser sense.
Supreme Abode. Brahman is That in which all things exist–have their being–so it is the ultimate abode of the Self. Right now we experience living far below this, though in reality we are always dwelling in Brahman. The Gita is telling us that even the embodied person can have the experience of dwelling in Absolute Consciousness.
Supreme Purifier. “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:3). By baptizing–immersing–ourselves in God through yoga sadhana we become supremely purified. For pavitram paramam also can mean Supremely Pure.
Divine Eternal Spirit. Obviously Brahman is eternal, divine, and spirit, but these words have been put here as an indication that in the vision of God we will see that we, too, are eternal, and therefore always divine in nature. And that nature is pure spirit.
The First God. Not existing in time or space, there can be nothing prior to Brahman, or to us. Adidevam–literally the prime or first god–implies that there is a chain, a hierarchy of spiritual powers, of greatly evolved beings, devoted to the maintenance and evolution of the cosmos and those within it. These holy ones can rightly be called gods, but only Brahman is the primal God, the God of gods.
(Those who look upon the monotheism of the Bible in a simplistic and inflexible manner should consider these inspired statements of the prophet David: “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods” (Psalms 82:1). “For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Psalms 95:3). “O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalms 136:2).
Birthless and All-pervading. God never came into being, but has existed forever. Nor is God to be found in one place and not another, for he pervades all in eternal omnipresence.
All the sages. All the rishis, the seers, have known God–not just known about God–and they have said all the foregoing to be true. Arjuna says this because the worthy seeker-aspirant takes into serious account the words of those who have gone before him in the search for God. He will not be a slave of dogmatism or a blind believer, but he will provisionally accept the likelihood of the statements of Brahman-knowers until he comes to know for himself their truth and value.
You yourself. Not only have the sages told us the truth of Brahman, Brahman itself from deep within our consciousness has caused the intuition of these spiritual facts to arise into our minds and hearts. In this way, as Patanjali assures us, Brahman “is guru even of the ancients” (Yoga Sutras 1:26), and us, as well.
In a final declaration of faith Arjuna says:
All this which you say to me I believe is true. Truly, Lord God (Bhagavan), neither the gods nor the demons know your manifestation (10:14).
Even highly evolved intelligences, whether positive or negative, can never know the full truth of God. Only those who have risen far higher and beheld God in a profound knowing that surpasses all other knowledge can truly know.
For you alone know yourself by yourself, O you, the Purushottama: bestowing welfare on all beings, Lord of Beings, God of gods, Lord of the universe (10:15).
All these things, also, can be known by the persistent yogi, but the most significant thing is: “You alone know yourself by yourself.” It is important because it is the truth about us, as well. Unless we open our inner consciousness we will know nothing–either about ourselves or about God.
Appealing to God
Please describe completely your divine self-manifestations by which manifestations you pervade the worlds and abide in them. How may I know you, O Yogi, constantly meditating on you? And in what aspects of your Being are you to be thought of by me, O Bhagavan? Explain to me further in detail your powers and manifestations. I am never satiated with hearing your amrita-like words (10:16-18).
God is not just behind all things, he is dwelling in all things as their ultimate Self. Since we are not beholding God directly in his essential Being, Arjuna asks to know what things in relative existence reveal the many aspects of God’s Being.
The Holy Lord said: Listen! I shall recount to you my truly divine self-manifestations–only the most prominent because there is no end to my extent (10:19).
Then, in twenty-three verses he give a long list of those things in which the divine power is most clearly manifest. Many of them deal with things that are themselves symbols of divine powers rather than objective realities. (The Glossary defines the many names and terms, so I will not do so here.)
Krishna starts right at the top with the words:
I am the Self abiding in the heart of all beings; I am the beginning, the middle, and the end of all beings as well (10:20).
If he had stopped there he would have covered everything in those few words, words that by now I hope need no commentary or expansion.
For much of what follows you may need to consult the Glossary.
Of the Adityas I am Vishnu; of luminaries the radiant Sun; of the Maruts I am Marichi; among the stars I am the Moon (10:21).
The sun is the source of the energies that make evolution–physical, mental, and spiritual–possible. When liberated beings leave their bodies they rise into and through the sun, passing into realms of existence beyond any need for further birth in the material plane. The Chandogya Upanishad says: “Even as a great extending highway runs between two villages, this one and that yonder, even so the rays of the sun go to both these worlds, this one and that yonder. They start from the yonder sun and enter into the nadis. They start from the nadis and enter into the yonder sun.” (Chandogya Upanishad 8.6.2).
Of the Vedas I am the Sama Veda; of the gods I am Indra; of the senses I am the mind; in all beings, I am consciousness (10:22).
The path to God, then, lies in the mind and in the awareness (consciousness) that lies behind the mind. Through meditation we experience that consciousness more and more until it encompasses Divinity itself.
Of the Rudras, I am Shankara (Shiva); of the yakshas and rakshasas, I am Kubera; of the Vasus, I am Pavaka (Agni); and of mountains I am Meru. Of priests, know me to be the chief, Brihaspati; of commanders of armies I am Skanda; of bodies of water I am the ocean. Of the great Rishis I am Bhrigu; of words, I am Om [Ekakshara–the one-syllable]; of sacrifices, I am japa; of immovables, I am the Himalayas (10:23-25).
In this verse, “yakshas and rakshasas” refers to the benevolent, semidivine beings.
Of trees I am the ashwattha; of divine seers [deva-rishis], I am Narada; of the gandharvas I am Chitraratha; among the siddhas I am the sage Kapila (10:26).
Kapila was the formulator of the Sankhya philosophy on which the Yoga philosophy is based. The Gita itself is an exposition of Sankhya philosophy. Sankhya is mentioned specifically five times in the Gita, and the second chapter of the Gita is entitled “Sankhya Yoga.”
Of horses, know me to be Uchchaishravas who was produced from the amrita; of princely elephants, I am Airavata; and among men I am the king. Of weapons, I am the Thunderbolt of Indra; of cows I am Kamadhenu; of procreators, I am Kamadeva; of serpents I am Vasuki. Of Nagas, I am Ananta; of water beings, Varuna; of ancestors [pitris], I am Aryaman; of subduers I am Yama. Of Daityas, I am Prahlada; among measurers I am Time; of animals I am the lion; of birds I am Garuda. Of purifiers I am the wind; of warriors I am Rama; of sea creatures I am the dolphin; of rivers, I am the Ganges. Of creations I am the beginning, the middle and the end; of knowledge, the knowledge of the Self; of debaters I am logic (10:27-32).
Krishna says he is the knowledge of the Self, for to know the Supreme Self–Brahman–is to attain permanent union with It.
Of letters I am the letter A; of compounds I am the dual; I am infinite Time; I am the Sustainer, the Omniscient. I am all-devouring death and the origin of those events that are to be. Among feminine qualities I am fame, prosperity, speech, memory, mental vigor, courage and endurance. Of chants I am the Brihatsaman; of meters I am Gayatri; of months I am Margashirsha; of seasons I am Spring. I am the gambling skill of the fraudulent, the splendor of the splendorous; I am victory and effort; I am the sattwa of the sattwic. Of the Vrishnis I am Krishna; of the Pandavas I am Arjuna; of the sages I am Vyasa; of the poets I am Ushanas. I am the power of rulers, I am the strategy of the ambitious, of secrets, I am silence; the knowledge of knowers am I. Also I am that which is the seed of all beings. There is nothing that could exist without existing through me–neither animate nor inanimate. (10:33-39)
The Consciousness of God encompasses all.
There is no end to my divine manifestations. But this has been declared by me to exemplify the extent of my manifestations. Whatever is glorious or prosperous or powerful, in every instance understand that it springs from but a fraction of my radiant Power. But what is this extensive knowledge to you? I ever support this whole world by just one portion of myself (10:40-42).
Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: From Hearing To Seeing