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Practical Self-Knowledge

Part 10 of the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

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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

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Introduction to The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

Preface to The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

Bhagavad Gita for Awakening links:

  1. The Battlefield of the Mind
  2. On the Field of Dharma
  3. Taking Stock
  4. The Smile of Krishna
  5. Birth and Death–The Great Illusions
  6. Experiencing the Unreal
  7. The Unreal and the Real
  8. The Body and the Spirit
  9. Know the Atman!
  10. Practical Self-Knowledge
  11. Perspective on Birth and Death
  12. The Wonder of the Atman
  13. The Indestructible Self
  14. “Happy the Warrior”
  15. Buddhi Yoga
  16. Religiosity Versus Religion
  17. Perspective on Scriptures
  18. How Not To Act
  19. How To Act
  20. Right Perspective
  21. Wisdom About the Wise
  22. Wisdom About Both the Foolish and the Wise
  23. The Way of Peace
  24. Calming the Storm
  25. First Steps in Karma Yoga
  26. From the Beginning to the End
  27. The Real “Doers”
  28. Our Spiritual Marching Orders
  29. Freedom From Karma
  30. “Nature”
  31. Swadharma
  32. In the Grip of the Monster
  33. Devotee and Friend
  34. The Eternal Being
  35. The Path
  36. Caste and Karma
  37. Action–Divine and Human
  38. The Mystery of Action and Inaction
  39. The Wise in Action
  40. Sacrificial Offerings
  41. The Worship of Brahman
  42. Action–Renounced and Performed
  43. Freedom (Moksha)
  44. The Brahman-Knower
  45. The Goal of Karma Yoga
  46. Getting There
  47. The Yogi’s Retreat
  48. The Yogi’s Inner and Outer Life
  49. Union With Brahman
  50. The Yogi’s Future
  51. Success in Yoga
  52. The Net and Its Weaver
  53. Those Who Seek God
  54. Those Who Worship God and the Gods
  55. The Veil in the Mind
  56. The Big Picture
  57. The Sure Way To Realize God
  58. Day, Night, and the Two Paths
  59. The Supreme Knowledge
  60. Universal Being
  61. Maya–Its Dupes and Its Knowers
  62. Worshipping the One
  63. Going To God
  64. Wisdom and Knowing
  65. Going To The Source
  66. From Hearing To Seeing
  67. The Wisdom of Devotion
  68. Right Conduct
  69. The Field and Its Knower
  70. Interaction of Purusha and Prakriti
  71. Seeing the One Within the All
  72. The Three Gunas
  73. The Cosmic Tree
  74. Freedom
  75. The All-pervading Reality
  76. The Divine and the Demonic
  77. Faith and the Three Gunas
  78. Food and the Three Gunas
  79. Religion and the Three Gunas
  80. Tapasya and the Three Gunas
  81. Charity and the Three Gunas
  82. Sannyasa and Tyaga
  83. Deeper Insights On Action
  84. Knowledge, Action, Doer, and the Three Gunas
  85. The Three Gunas: Intellect and Firmness
  86. The Three Kinds of Happiness
  87. Freedom
  88. The Great Devotee
  89. The Final Words
  90. Glossary

Visit our e-library page for Free Downloads of this and other ebooks in various formats.

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 Swami Nirmalananda Giri (Abbot George Burke).

Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary

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