“But this most secret thing I shall declare to you, who do not disbelieve: knowledge and realization combined, having learned which you shall be released from evil” (9:1). What words! Yet they are purely wisdom, free from exaggeration or emotionality. The qualities of this great knowledge should be scrutinized by us who seek for it.
Krishna calls this knowledge, not just secret (guhya), but most secret (guhyatamam). It is knowledge hidden from all but the knowers of Brahman, yet it can be spoken about to those who are approaching that knowledge. Essentially, Krishna is going to give us the knowledge that inevitably leads to that supreme knowledge. It is most secret because it is utterly incomprehensible–hidden–to a consciousness that is not awakened and already purified to a marked degree. For regarding those not awakened and not purified it can justly be said: “They seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matthew 13:13).
Fake religions–and fake gurus–demand faith in the sense of unquestioning acceptance of doctrines and dogmas. Or they require a person’s being convinced by accepting their intellectual arguments. Krishna is nowhere near this kind of fakery. When he says “disbelieve” he is using the word anasuyave, which means to be free of contradiction or contention in the sense of willful contrariness, what in the American south is meant by the word “cussedness.” Krishna is not blaming a sincere unacceptance of something, but rather a perversity and negativity of mind that causes a person to intentionally reject truth. It is a symptom of conscious evil, and a lot of people have it. That is why Saint Paul urged: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:12). This is not a matter of simple non-belief, as I have said. There is no wrong in not believing something, even if it comes from a limited understanding. It is the refusal to believe that is being spoken of here.
The same thing is found in the life of Jesus. We are told: “He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Even: “He marvelled because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58). It is evident that to Jesus unbelief was an actual psychic/spiritual force, not just a matter of ideas. The Greek work translated “unbelief” is apistia, which means to deliberately refuse to believe something from perversity of will, not sincerity of opinion. Such a crookedness of intention bars anyone from approaching the most secret knowledge.
Knowledge and realization
Krishna then tells us that this great knowledge is both intellectual knowledge (jnana) and the spiritual knowledge (vijnana) that comes from true spiritual experience. It is a knowing that is based on Being. In other words, it is the knowing of an adept yogi.
Some people dearly love to know things, even if what they know has no practical use for them. But Krishna is not interested in mere intellectual curiosity which eventually will be seen as triviality of mind and heart. He is setting forth to us “this most secret thing: knowledge and realization combined, having learned which you shall be released from evil.” Such knowledge has a very practical and perceptible effect: liberation of the spirit from the evil of compulsive rebirth. A liberated yogi may be born thousands of times after his liberation, but only through his liberated will. Nothing whatsoever constrains or compels him. This, and this alone, is freedom.
Krishna continues: “This is royal knowledge, a royal secret, a supreme purifier, plainly intelligible, righteous [dharmic], easy [or: pleasant] to practice, imperishable” (9:2).
Raja vidya, raja guhyam–royal knowledge and royal secret. This knowledge is royal because it enables those who possess it to become enthroned in the highest consciousness, giving them rulership over all that heretofore bound and compelled them. It is the supreme authority and power beyond and above which there is no authority or power, for it is a participation in the knowing and power of God.
Such knowledge purifies us by dispelling all the shadows of ignorance, causing our mind to shine forth with–and in–the Light of God. We often see people who have engaged themselves with only the external disciplines and beliefs of religion come to a very bad end–a fall indeed. Many who have for decades “followed in the ways of righteousness” sink into a degradation undreamed of by them or those who know them. I myself have seen this sad phenomenon several times. In each case it was because, however sincere they may have been, they busied themselves with the externals of religion and did not gain inner, spiritual experience and knowledge. Thus, their inner disposition had never really changed. But the knowledge Krishna offers us is a transformative force, going far beyond forgiveness of sins and “getting right with God.” It is a transmutation from the baseness of material, egoic consciousness into the gold of spirit-consciousness. And I do not mean consciousness of spirit as an object, but the Consciousness that IS Spirit. A religion that does not lead us to this supreme purifier is a cruel mockery that can end only in grief and shame.
This great knowledge has as a prime characteristic its perfect intelligibility. It is indeed subtle and deep and exalted. Yet it is clearly comprehensible to those who have evolved to the point needed to put it into practice.
Discontented with the simplistic beliefs of the religion I was born into, when I looked afield I was appalled at the turgid meanderings of the labyrinth called “philosophy” in the West. The writings of renowned “thinkers” convinced me that they might be able to think, but they certainly could not speak or write clearly and to the point. It was obvious to me that they were adored just for their incomprehensibility that was mistaken for profundity.
When after years of dissatisfaction I read the Gita I was awed by the clarity of its concepts and its mode of presentation. I was ready for more. Having read in Autobiography of a Yogi that Shankaracharya was the greatest of Indian philosophers I approached his books on the shelf in the Hollywood Vedanta Bookshop with caution. Surely such a sublime philosopher would be beyond my understanding. Nobody likes to risk being proved a dummy, but I took the chance and opened the first book to hand. Staggering revelation: it was beautifully comprehensible! More: it was gloriously simple–and equally profound. Happy amazement. (I must truthfully admit, though, that in some of his commentaries, when answering “objections,” things get a bit out of reach, but I console myself with the idea that the fault lies with the muddled thinking of those he wishes to refute.)
Although they should have come before, I next turned to the upanishads, the supreme heights of Indian thought. Just as clear–in the main, at least. So I learned by this that those who really know can also communicate the clarity and purity of their knowing. This is because their knowledge comes from experience–not intellectual jugglings. Which is why in the Sanskrit original of this verse Krishna uses the expression pratyakshavagamam–that which is clearly seen by the eyes. Of course in this case it is the inner eyes that are being spoken about.
This knowledge is also dharmyam–according to the principles of righteousness, of dharma. This is a crucial point, for it is not unknown or even rare to come across scoundrels who claim that their spiritual realization has elevated them beyond or above the law of dharma. Since they are “centered” (the favorite term of many) they can do anything without it producing any harm. For after all, the Self is untouched by action…. These criminals set themselves up as teachers of “non-duality,” often shamelessly invoking the sacred name of Sri Ramana Maharshi who never claimed to be “beyond it all” in the realm of morality and dharma. Those who either are or aspire to be as corrupt as they flock to them, money in hand and adulation in heart. But Krishna tells us that the highest knowledge affirms dharma–not violates it.
Easy to practice
Next Krishna tells us that this great knowledge cannot only be put into practical expression, it is actually susukham kartum–easy to practice. Now that is the fact. If we find that it is not easy to practice or agreeable to us–for sukha also means pleasant and agreeable, even to the extent of giving us happiness–then two things may be very wrong. Either our “knowledge” is false or corrupt or we are false and corrupt. Perhaps both. We need to figure out what is wrong and make it right. Frankly, in today’s yoga world both East and West, both the “dharma” and the “dharmis” are false and corrupt to a grievous extent. This can be seen just by reading the Gita and then looking at them. But those who inoculate themselves with the wisdom of the Gita will be right and true, secure from catching the diseases of adharma, of unrighteousness. And they will find that the way of dharma is for them a joyful and easy path.
The supreme truth is avyayam; it is imperishable in the sense that once attained it cannot be lost or eroded–it never fades away. Nor is it ever superseded or gotten beyond. It can never be lessened or changed. It is truly immortal. It is absolutely secure and abiding.
On the other hand: “Men who have no faith in this dharma, not attaining to Me, are born again in the path of death and samsara [transmigration: a succession of births]” (9:3).
Krishna uses an interesting word–ashraddadhanah, which means both not having faith and not giving faith. This second meaning refers to those who in their hearts know the truth but refuse to acknowledge and act upon it. This is a way of life for many people. But whichever it is–not having faith or refusing to act upon it (note the implication that faith and action are inseparable)–the result is failure to attain union with God and a return to earthly incarnation, “born again in the path of death and samsara.”
We must resolve to nevermore tread that sorrowful path again.
Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: Universal Being
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