The ineffable Self
Krishna has been telling Arjuna a great deal about the Self, and will continue to do so for several more verses. Yet he now explains that:
Unmanifest, unthinkable, this Self is called unchangeable. Therefore, knowing this to be such, you should not mourn (2:25).
“I only believe in what I can see” is one of the silliest things anyone can say. The “I” spoken about in this statement is never seen–not even by the speaker! Some years back I read in an Eastern Christian magazine about an incident that took place in Yugoslavia. A Communist indoctrinator was mocking the ideas of God and the soul, saying that they could not be seen or touched and so did not exist. When he stopped speaking a man stood up and said: “I have a question for everyone who has been listening to you.” Then he turned to the assembly and asked: “Can you see this man’s mind?” “No,” they responded. “Then it does not exist, and to think so is superstition. So forget everything he just said–it was only a combination of physical forces without any meaning at all.” Somehow the “wisdom” of materialism evaporated before good sense.
The truth is this: the more easily seen and dealt with by the body and the senses, the less real a thing is. And the less it is seen and dealt with by the body and the senses, the more real it is. The absolute realities of God and the spirit are, then, completely beyond the reach of the senses or the mind. Although many attempts are made in religion to infer or deduce their existence, they are vain and in time lead to annihilation of themselves. Every “proof” set forth by limited reason to establish the existence of God and the spirit can be turned right back around and used to disprove them–that is the nature of any intellectual proposition. This is why the most effective atheist-materialists usually have a strong religious background. Both Stalin and Lenin studied for the Eastern Orthodox priesthood. Intuition alone can give us a shadowy hint of the presence of the Divine Spirit. And we must progress beyond intuition to direct experience of these fundamental realities. That is what Yoga is all about. Without a viable sadhana, these things cannot be known, and in time the intuition of their existence will be eroded and even lost–either in this life or in a future birth.
God, the Paramatman, and the individual spirit, the jivatman, are beyond this world, beyond all experience or appearance. Yet they are “behind” the veil of external existence, immanent within it. It is their presence that causes all the forms of evolutionary change. It is true that we can see the effects of spirit, but there is no way reason can prove they really emanate from spirit and are not self-caused. Only those who are clear at the center–the core of their being which is spirit–can see God, as Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). The word translated “pure” is katharos, which means to be absolutely clear, free of all obstruction or extraneous matter or elements. Kardia, translated “heart,” means the core or center of something, and in Greek was a symbolic term for the spirit which is, of course, the absolute center of our being–is our being, actually.
We cannot see or think about our true Self, but we can enter into it and live in it–live as it. Then all change and uncertainty will cease. As Krishna says a little later on: “In tranquility the cessation of all sorrows is produced.” Knowing this, we should not grieve over present troubles but look forward in hope to their cessation forever.
Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: Perspective on Birth and Death