Brahman in the persona of Krishna has already given a great deal of information regarding His/Its nature. (How well do I remember over fifty years ago being taught by a vacation Bible school teacher that anyone who referred to God as “It” had committed the “sin against the Holy Spirit” which would never be forgiven him. To learn that eternal damnation was so easy gave me a real shiver. And now see what I have written: the forbidden “It.”) 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 now says: “You are the supreme Brahman, the supreme abode, the supreme purifier, the eternal divine Spirit, the primal God, unborn and all-pervading. Thus they call You, all the seers, the divine seer Narada, also Asita Devala, and Vyasa, and You Yourself [now] tell me so” (10:12, 13).
Frankly, all religions try to reduce God to an all-powerful human being, rather than elevate human beings to the status of divinity. I include much of Indian religion in this, as well. Whatever we may be thinking intellectually, we tend to respond to the thought of God according to how conditioned we have been 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. Here 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 just 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 we become supremely purified. For pavitram paramam also can mean Supremely Pure.
Eternal divine 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 primal 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 Prime 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).
Unborn and all-pervading. God never came into being but has been forever. Nor is God found in one place and not another, for He pervades all in eternal omnipresence.
All the seers. 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 speak to me, Krishna, I believe to be true. Indeed, neither the gods nor the demons, O Bhagavan [Lord God], 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.
“You know Yourself through Yourself alone, highest of spirits, source of welfare of beings, Lord of beings, God of gods, O Lord of the universe” (10:15). All these things, also, can be known by the persistent yogi, but the most significant thing is: “You know Yourself through Yourself alone.” 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 without reserve the divine self-manifestations by which You pervade these worlds, and abide in them. How may I know You, O Yogi, constantly meditating on You? And in what various aspects of being are You to be thought of by me, O Bhagavan? Explain to me further in detail Your power and manifestation. I am never satiated with hearing your nectar-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.
In response, Krishna says: “Listen! I shall explain to you My divine self-manifestations; those only that are prominent, for 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. To avoid wearying both you and me, I will select only those that are most pertinent to the questing yogi.
Krishna starts right at the top with the words: “I am the Self, abiding in the heart of all beings. And I am the beginning and the middle of beings, and the end 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.
“Of lights, I am the radiant sun” (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 upanishads say that the sun is always vibrating with the subtle sound of Om, and that those who meditate unceasingly on Om will easily pass through the portal of the sun into higher life. (See Pranava Yoga regarding this.)
“I am the mind: I am consciousness of beings” (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 words, I am the single-syllable [Om]; of sacrifices, I am the sacrifice of japa” (10:25). The supreme Word, the Divine Word, is Om. Repetition of Om is the supreme offering (yajna–sacrifice), the highest form of worshipping God–offering God to Himself. Such an offering divinizes the offerer, as well.
“Of the perfected, 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 all knowledge, the knowledge of the supreme Self” (10:32). For to know the Supreme Self–Brahman–is to attain permanent union with It.
“I am the Establisher, facing in all directions,” (10:33) since the Consciousness of God encompasses all.
“There is no end to My divine manifestations. This has been declared by Me as an example of the extent of My manifestations. Whatever manifested being that is glorious and vigorous, indeed, understand that in every case he originates from a fraction of My splendor. But what is this extensive knowledge to you, Arjuna? I support this entire universe constantly with a single fraction of Myself” (10:40-42).
Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: From Hearing To Seeing
Bhagavad Gita for Awakening links:
- The Battlefield of the Mind
- On the Field of Dharma
- Taking Stock
- The Smile of Krishna
- Birth and Death–The Great Illusions
- Experiencing the Unreal
- The Unreal and the Real
- The Body and the Spirit
- Know the Atman!
- Practical Self-Knowledge
- Perspective on Birth and Death
- The Wonder of the Atman
- The Indestructible Self
- “Happy the Warrior”
- Buddhi Yoga
- Religiosity Versus Religion
- Perspective on Scriptures
- How Not To Act
- How To Act
- Right Perspective
- Wisdom About the Wise
- Wisdom About Both the Foolish and the Wise
- The Way of Peace
- Calming the Storm
- First Steps in Karma Yoga
- From the Beginning to the End
- The Real “Doers”
- Our Spiritual Marching Orders
- Freedom From Karma
- In the Grip of the Monster
- Devotee and Friend
- The Eternal Being
- The Path
- Caste and Karma
- Action–Divine and Human
- The Mystery of Action and Inaction
- The Wise in Action
- Sacrificial Offerings
- The Worship of Brahman
- Action–Renounced and Performed
- Freedom (Moksha)
- The Brahman-Knower
- The Goal of Karma Yoga
- Getting There
- The Yogi’s Retreat
- The Yogi’s Inner and Outer Life
- Union With Brahman
- The Yogi’s Future
- Success in Yoga
- The Net and Its Weaver
- Those Who Seek God
- Those Who Worship God and the Gods
- The Veil in the Mind
- The Big Picture
- The Sure Way To Realize God
- Day, Night, and the Two Paths
- The Supreme Knowledge
- Universal Being
- Maya–Its Dupes and Its Knowers
- Worshipping the One
- Going To God
- Wisdom and Knowing
- Going To The Source
- From Hearing To Seeing
- The Wisdom of Devotion
- Right Conduct
- The Field and Its Knower
- Interaction of Purusha and Prakriti
- Seeing the One Within the All
- The Three Gunas
- The Cosmic Tree
- The All-pervading Reality
- The Divine and the Demonic
- Faith and the Three Gunas
- Food and the Three Gunas
- Religion and the Three Gunas
- Tapasya and the Three Gunas
- Charity and the Three Gunas
- Sannyasa and Tyaga
- Deeper Insights On Action
- Knowledge, Action, Doer, and the Three Gunas
- The Three Gunas: Intellect and Firmness
- The Three Kinds of Happiness
- The Great Devotee
- The Final Words
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Read the Maharshi Gita, an arrangement of verses of the Bhagavad Gita made by Sri Ramana Maharshi that gives an overview of the essential message of the Gita.
Read The Bhagavad Gita (arranged in verses for singing) by Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri).
Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary