Krishna has spoken of the strong net of Maya that is difficult to break through. Now he speaks of Maya as a veil that darkens and blinds the minds of those over whom it lies. We must keep in mind that in this section–as in most others–he is speaking both as the Supreme Self and the individual Self. So not only is God speaking to us, so is our own divine spirit.
Though I am unmanifest, the unintelligent think me entered into manifestation, not knowing my higher being which is imperishable and unsurpassed (7:24).
This verse tells us about traits of Brahman and the jiva (individual spirit) that are not perceived by the ignorant.
Unmanifest. Spirit is never manifest in the sense of becoming touched by material existence, or any form of relative existence at all. It is also unperceivable to the senses, the mind, and the intellect. Only that part of us which is forever beyond those three faculties can come into contact with Spirit and know it.
Entered into manifestation. Vyaktim apannam actually means “fallen into manifestation” or “changed into manifestation,” the meaning being that God has lessened and limited himself through manifestation. But that is not the reality. God does not become material or changeable by manifesting the cosmos. And we ourselves are not human beings although we are experiencing humanity in an objective manner in which illusion has become distorted into seemingly subjective experience. There is nothing but Brahman. To mistake ourselves for anything less is deadly to us.
Imperishable. Although God is the source of all things, manifesting as all things, seated in the heart of all and experiencing all things, He is not in any way changed or affected by that. Nor are we, mirroring the Divine Being on the limited and finite level.
Unsurpassed. Both we and God transcend all relative existence, including that of mortal bondage, which is the state of all humanity. It is our nature to be beyond all the dreams of illusion which we call Maya.
Those who mistakenly assume differently as to the nature of God and themselves are impelled into a multitude of delusions from which arise a myriad false and impossible hopes and fears. Misunderstanding both themselves and God, they stumble, and often crawl, through a wilderness of spiritual and material death. Only when they emerge from it, as they all shall in time, will they realize the enormity of their ignorance and suffering. Then they will rejoice at having emerged from unreality into reality, from darkness into light, from death into immortality. For they and God have ever been the Real, the Light, the Immortal.
The unseen seer
“If God exists, why can’t I see him?” is a sensible question. Krishna tells us exactly why:
Veiled by Yogamaya, I am not manifest to all. This deluded world perceives me not who am unborn and imperishable (7:25).
God is veiled by Maya; but Krishna uses the expression Yoga Maya. This is a key concept of Sankhya philosophy. Yoga Maya is, of course, the power of Maya, of divine illusion. Those who are deluded by it cannot perceive the Divine Presence within all. Some do perceive higher realities, at least in a kind of dim intuition, in contrast to the majority of people. They have evolved to such a point that the inner eyes and ears have become at least partially opened on their inner, higher levels. But those blinded by Yoga Maya identify with the human body and condition and experience nothing but change within and without. They cannot possibly perceive or even guess the realities that lie within themselves–including the Divine Presence.
But why does Krishna say Yoga Maya? What is yogic about it? Nothing. But yoga means union, and Krishna means that the mayic creation results when God “touches” or unites himself with Prakriti, the Universal Energy. Actually Sankhya says that God only approaches or becomes very near to Prakriti and it immediately seems to come to life, moves and begins to appear in many manifestations, all of which are Maya, Illusion, and not really Prakriti in its true nature any more than they are Spirit in manifestation.
I know the departed beings and the living, and those who are yet to be, but none whatsoever knows me (7:26).
Why is this? Because God is beyond relative being and can never be an object of intellectual knowledge. Since God is the Eternal Subject, he knows (perceives) all the waves that appear and disappear upon the ocean of being which he is. By his nature he knows all things, but “things” by their nature cannot know him. It is a matter of Who in contrast to What. We, being part of God, have the same capacity but in us the experience of “thingness” has swallowed up awareness of our true nature. This condition is not native to us, so in time it will melt away and we will once more know truly. Of course we have to work at that, which is what yoga is all about. We can once again be established in our Self, and from that center we can come to know God who is at that center. That is why Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure (catharos: clear) in heart (at the center: kardia): for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
Misery may not always love company, but it certainly has company, for Krishna now says:
By desire and aversion rising up through duality’s delusion, at birth all beings fall into delusion (7:27).
How could we not believe this world is real? Its pain and fear block out from our minds all other aspects of existence, draw our awareness totally outward into the material world, and imprison us there. Certainly that imprisonment is a delusion and not a reality, but we neither know that nor are capable of believing it when we first hear of it. But it is not the world that is at fault. Uncomfortable as it may be to face, the fault lies in us, in our continually veering back and forth between the two poles of desire and aversion. I Want and I Don’t Want push us back and forth and even morph into one another. Our minds become like a tennis ball, batted in opposite directions until they lose all perspective and orientation. As long as we are subject to these warring forces we can never know either peace or clarity of mind and heart.
The sole answer lies in changing ourselves, in establishing our consciousness in the right place. For Krishna tells Arjuna:
But those whose wrongdoing has come to an end, whose actions are righteous, freed from the delusions of the pairs of opposites–they worship me with firm resolve (7:28).
Now this is most interesting. Mere philosophizing or theologizing will not clear up our dilemma. “The truth” as verbal or intellectual formulations will avail nothing, either. Rather, it is what we actually do that will neutralize the forces that work against our progress. By right action we expunge the force of past negative actions.
The word vrata, here translated “resolve,” means a resolve in the sense of a resolution which manifests as a rule of conduct in right action. God-oriented thought and action is the only cure for the malady of bad karma and susceptibility to the forces of like and dislike, both of which spring from the ego alone. This is further underlined as Krishna continues:
Those who strive toward freedom from old age and dying, taking refuge in me, know Brahman totally, and know the Self and karma perfectly (7:29).
Old age (jara) and dying (marana) are inevitable processes of the material body, including the astral and causal bodies, but do not touch the spirit. The wise therefore strive toward the realization of Brahman, the Imperishable and Immortal Spirit of which they are a part.
Guru Nanak continually spoke of “the Godwards” in his hymns. Krishna here tells us that those who are totally Godward, whose every thought, word, and deed is directed toward God with the intention of knowing and uniting with God, will indeed come to know God and their Self and the true nature of this world and that which lies beyond it. The relative and the absolute will all be known to them.
This will be no temporary high or psychic flash that comes and goes, but:
Those who know me as the Primal Being [Adhibhuta] and the Primal God [Adhidaiva], as well as the Primal Sacrifice [Adhiyajna], they know me with steadfast thought also at the time of death (7:30).
These terms will be defined after the next verse. The idea here is that Brahman is all this in relation to relative existence and the evolution going on within it. Krishna is speaking here of the Ring of Return made perfect and complete.
Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: The Big Picture