Having been told that Krishna had taught Yoga to the most ancient of human beings, Arjuna asks: “Your birth was later, the birth of Vivasvat earlier; how should I understand this, that You declared it in the beginning?” (4:4) Krishna replies most directly and simply: “Many of My births have passed away, and also yours. I know them all; you do not know them” (4:5).
Buddha taught that remembrance of all our past lives occurs at the time of enlightenment. However, some believe that recall of all previous lives can occur even before that. (See Questions 304 to 308 in The Spirits’ Book by Allan Kardec, a book is a most valuable source of information.) Whichever it might be, the idea is that every moment of our previous lives remain embedded in our subtle bodies and can influence and even determine our present lives.
Coming into being
Yet, we are something more than a story–we are being itself, waves of the ocean of Infinite Being. Krishna, as the mouth of that Being, begins telling Arjuna of what he really is, and the truth of his relation to the world: “Although I am birthless, the imperishable Self, although I am the Lord of all beings: controlling [governing] My own prakriti, I manifest through My Maya” (4:6).
Being completely outside of time, space, and all relativity, God (Brahman) is beyond birth and death and any change whatsoever. The rest of us come and go, come and go, but Brahman abides forever; there is no coming or going for Him. Never must we consider God as being conditioned in any way by relativity. This is not easy for us in the West who have lived from birth in an assumption that God perpetually reacts to us–that it is we who determine the state of God far more than He determines our state–and that we can control God’s “moods.” We have thought that our words, thoughts, and deeds will determine God’s relation to us and how He thinks of us and cares or does not care about us. This is a tremendous error. However choppy the waves may be, the ocean remains stable and constant. It is the same with our tiny, tempestuous minds and lives in contrast to the utter changelessness of God.
Yet, He has the most intimate connection/relation with us as our Lord (Ishwara), our inmost Self (Antaratman) and Ruler (Antaryamin). How can this seeming contradiction be? By the illusive power known as Maya. Therefore Krishna continues:
“Indeed, whenever a decrease of dharma exists, and there is a rising up of adharma, then I manifest Myself. For the protection of the good and the destruction of evil doers, for the sake of establishing dharma, I manifest from age to age” (4:8).
Whenever dharma decreases and anti-dharma rises up, Ishwara manifests himself. Why? Paritranaya means “for giving refuge,” “for protecting,” “for preservation,” and “for the deliverance”–all that. And for whom? For the sadhus–those that seek the Real, the True: Brahman. Although in modern India the term sadhu is applied to monastics (sannyasis), or at least to full-time seekers of God even if they are not formal monastics, Krishna means this in the sense of anyone who pursues Brahmajnana. In other words, he means the yogis, those who seek union with Brahman. There is an implication here, then, that dharma is essentially–even exclusively–the seeking for God, the living of the yoga life.
But others are involved here: dushkritam, the doers of evil. His plan for them is vinashaya, “for the destruction,” of the evil-doers. When this is done, dharma is reestablished on a solid basis and the sadhus can pursue their aims in the right way in a harmonious and conducive environment. And this is done yuge yuge–from age to age. Whether Krishna is referring to the concept of ascending and descending ages as is current now, or whether he just means eras of human history cannot be known for sure. The important idea here is that whenever there is a need there is a manifestation of the Divine.
Because of the present-day obsession with gods and avatars, it is assumed in India that Krishna is speaking of yugavatars–avatars of the age–that appear rather like the figures in mechanical clocks, every hour on the hour. This, too, is indeterminable (though that does not keep people from trying to figure it out). Of course every other contemporary “guru” is The Avatar of the Age, whose coming has caused the world to leap from the Dark Age of Kali Yuga into the Satya Yuga, the Age of Truth, the highest age. Strange that there is no evidence of that! In fact, things are getting worse on many fronts.…
(How silly of me! Perhaps it is only Satya Yuga for those who “take refuge” in the Yugavatar. How could I be so obtuse? As one of the three reincarnated Jesus Christs I have met (the one that was a taxi driver in Blaine, Washington) told me when I refused to recognize him: I just do not have truth consciousness.)
However that may be, the idea is that God does something at times of spiritual crisis. It is commonly assumed that God is born on earth at those times, but sambhavani means “I come into being,” or “I originate Myself.” Now there is no place in the Gita for the idea that God comes into being at a point in time, or somehow creates Himself. Consequently, “I manifest” is the safest translation. Although there can be no argument against births of divinity in a human form, manifestations can take place in many ways to awaken straying humanity. I know of situations where the people of entire countries had profound spiritual awakening while the rest of the world snored away. Such an event was the Welsh Revival at the beginning of the twentieth century. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Ramakrishna Mission, inspired by Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, was the impetus for a powerful movement whose effect is felt throughout the world even now. Nearer our time, the arising of the Thai Forest Tradition was a miraculous, spontaneous awakening that is still bearing fruit.
We must not forget that Krishna says this happens “through My Maya.” So the creative power (prakriti) of God is not the deceiver it is always being claimed to be. Maya just means that the whole creation and what takes place therein is an illusion, like a motion picture. That only the consciousnesses, the spirits, that are witnessing the movie as though they were inside it and part of it, are real.
God is born in His creation, yet He is not born at all. Rather, through His power of Maya, He dreams creation and shows those dreams to us, enabling us to enter into His dream and dream along with Him the dreams that will culminate in our awakening into His own Consciousness and Being, nevermore to forget ourselves in a dream body in a dream world. We, too, are ever unborn, though dreaming innumerable births and deaths.
Why? Because each life we dream is an exercise in consciousness, a means of developing (evolving) our scope of consciousness and understanding (jnana). We suffer because the dreams get out of our control, but once we master our dreaming all confusion, doubt, weakness, and ignorance will cease and we will be “born again” into perfect spiritual awareness, into the ultimate liberation for which we were destined before we first entered into relative existence–or appeared to enter, for it was all a series of educational dream-movies in the cosmic school of God Consciousness.
From age to age, and in every age, we see the advent of Divine Consciousness in the world. Sometimes this takes place in the form of spiritual revelation to purified individuals who can perceive the divine revelation and convey it to others. But sometimes beings of such high consciousness and power come among us that they seem to be manifestations of God Himself. Whether these Great Ones are direct manifestations of God in mayic human form, or are perfect, liberated beings who have long ago transcended the human condition and evolved upward unto total unity/identity with God, really has no relevance to us. What matters is the light they shed into our darkness and their teachings which, backed by Infinite Will, are truly “spirit and life” (John 6:63). Our obligation is not to define these holy messengers, but to scrupulously follow their teachings. For “whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19; see Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46). For they lead unerringly to the kingdom of Infinite Life.
We also, through our personal prakriti, our own maya, come back in each life to purify and evolve ourselves, to reveal that which is holy and innate in us, and to dispel the sin and ignorance into which we have strayed, finally establishing our consciousness in the Consciousness with which it has ever been one. Here, too, it is a sleeping and a forgetting until we awaken, remember, and say with the Psalmist: “When I awake, I am still with thee” (Psalms 139:18). The dream of separation and limitation is over forever. The purpose of life is Liberation.
“He who knows in truth [or: knows the truth about] My divine birth and action, having left his body, he is not reborn; he comes to Me. Thinking solely of Me, resorting to Me, many whose desire [raga], fear [bhaya], and anger [krodha] have departed, purified by the austerity of knowledge [jnanatapasa], have attained My state of being” (4:9, 10).
Knowing that the advent or “birth” of Divine Light in the world–and in our own individual consciousness–has our enlightenment as its sole purpose, we can intelligently move toward freedom from rebirth. If we live accordingly we shall transcend the need for birth in any relative world and live in God fully. Rising above all passions rooted in the ego–and above the ego itself–we stand forth in the purity of being that is God.
Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: The Path
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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