Maya does it all
“With Me as the overseer, material nature [prakriti] produces all things animate and inanimate. From this cause, the universe revolves” (9:10) .
Sankhya philosophy says that prakriti is inert by nature, but by the mere proximity of purusha–on both the cosmic and individual levels–prakriti moves and produces all that exist. So even though the spirit is the observer, and even in some ineffable way the controller, still the only creator is prakriti. Except for the spirits, prakriti is the sole source of all. Both the living and the dead are made from the same substance. In fact, the differentiation is only one of movement or non-movement. The entire drama of creation and dissolution is the play of prakriti. When we realize this division we can begin to get a perspective on ourselves within this world and the process we are experiencing as life.
The blind, helpless, and hopeless
“The deluded despise Me, dwelling in human form, not knowing My higher being as the great Lord of beings” (9:11).
The foolish daily encounter divinity in themselves and in all that is around them. But, being blind, they stumble on by unaware, knowing nothing at all about themselves or others–and ordinarily not caring, either–usually despising both themselves and others, and often denying the very existence of their true Self.
Cut off–at least in perception–from their own essential being, what can be their fate? “Those of vain hopes, vain actions, vain knowledge, unthinking, abide in a fiendish [rakshasic] and demoniacal [asuric] nature, which is deluding” (9:12). They are not just deluded–they are the source, the producer, of their delusion. Their hopes, actions, and “knowledge” are vain because they are based on delusions. They live instinctually and sensually, unthinking. Their nature manifests the qualities of rakshasas and asuras. Rakshasas are cannibal demons, and we continually encounter people who devour life rather than live it. Asuras are willful dwellers in darkness. As Jesus said: “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (John 3:19, 20).
But not all are like this. So Krishna says: “But those whose souls are great, dwelling in the divine [daivim: devic]] nature, worship Me single-mindedly, knowing Me as the origin of beings, the Imperishable [Eternal]” (9:13). It is necessary to be good, but the good must then progress on to become godlike, to be a deva, a “shining one” filled with the Divine Light. Fixing their mind on God they make themselves living offerings. That is why the Manu Smriti (Laws of Manu) says that the greatest sacrifice is the offering of ourselves (purushamedha), and Patanjali says that samadhi is attained by offering our lives to God (Ishwarapranidhana).
Such persons live in the awareness of God: “Perpetually glorifying Me and striving with firm vows, and honoring Me with devotion, ever steadfast, they worship Me” (9:14). This is a description of true devotion (bhakti) free from emotionalism and childish dependency.
Three views of God
But there is the approach of wisdom (jnana), which Krishna outlines thusly: “And others, sacrificing by the wisdom sacrifice [jnana yajna], worship Me as the One and as the Many, variously manifested, facing in all directions [omniscient]” (9:15).
This is very important because it has become the vogue to insist that only one way of viewing God is either right or the best. Krishna, however, states here that there are two legitimate ways the jnanis worship God: as absolute Unity and divine Diversity. Even those who prefer to look upon God as One will yet consider that the One has manifested in countless modes, omniscient and omnipresent in all. Both views are means to reach God. We must keep this in mind and not fall into the laziness of simplistic thinking in these matters.
God is all
“I am the ritual, I am the sacrifice, I am the offering, I am the medicinal herb, I am the sacred text [mantra], I am also the ghee [clarified butter], I am the fire, and I am the pouring out [of the oblation]” (9:16). Over and over in the Gita it is pointed out that ritual is greatly inferior to yoga and wisdom. Yet, Krishna states that God is embodied in all those things, that they are the presence of God. They may be gone beyond, but they are not to be despised.
“I am the father of the universe, the mother, the establisher, the grandfather [pitamaha: great father], the object of knowledge, the purifier, Om, the Rig, Sama, and Yajur Vedas” (9:17).
In relation to creation God has three aspects: one transcendent and two immanent. This is the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity as taught by Jesus, however far contemporary Christianity has drifted from the original understanding. God is immanent in creation as both the guiding intelligence and the creative energy–the divine Father and Mother. Transcending these two aspects is the Unmanifest Absolute which can symbolically be called the Great Father, Pitamaha. “Grandfather” is not really a very satisfactory equivalent since the connotations are just too human and folksy.
Perhaps the most important part of this verse for us as yogis is the declaration that Brahman is Om, that Om is the primal Incarnation of Divinity. No wonder, then, that in his commentary on the Yoga Sutras Shankara says: “Through Om the Lord is met face to face.”
“I am the goal, the supporter, the great Lord, the witness, the abode, the refuge, the friend, the origin, the dissolution and the foundation, the treasure house and the imperishable seed” (9:18). The Gita is absolutely perfect in expressing God through words.
“I radiate heat, I withhold and send forth the rain; and I am both immortality and death, being and non-being” (9:19). Poe wrote: “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream,” and that dream is the Dreamer as well.
Round trip ticket!
The eighteenth verse indicates that God is the ultimate Goal. Wanting to help us to attain that Goal, Krishna now speaks of the way that falls short of the Goal so we can avoid it and seek aright.
“Those who know the three Vedas, the soma drinkers, those whose evils are cleansed, worship Me with sacrifices and seek to go to heaven. They, attaining the meritorious world of Indra [the Lord of the gods], enjoy in heaven the gods’ celestial pleasures. Having enjoyed the vast world of heaven, they enter the world of mortals when their merit is exhausted. Thus conforming to the law of the three Vedas, desiring enjoyments, they obtain the state of going and returning” (9:20, 21).
Heaven is the bait, and the desire for heaven is the trap! For heaven keeps us from the only Goal: God. Those who go to heaven are the righteous, so Krishna says, but there is more for us than goodness, namely Godness. Since the Being of God transcends all relativity, so must we, and heaven is very much a matter of relative existence. As Krishna points out, heaven is desired only by those who hunger for sensory enjoyments, impelled by desire–and thereby hurled again and again into earthly rebirth. At the root of all is ego.
“Those men who worship, directing their thoughts to Me, whose minds do not go elsewhere; for them, who are constantly steadfast, I secure what they lack and preserve what they already possess” (9:22). This last clause is not about earthly–or heavenly–possessions, but about spiritual attainments.
Those yogis who steadfastly fix their minds on God without wavering or slacking off, will find all their lacks being filled up and their present attainments preserved. They will remain with God forever, even if they should take up a human body for some higher purpose.
Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: Worshipping the One
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.
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