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 of Me as having come 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.
Having come 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, although it is the perception of the ignorant (and this verse is speaking of the delusion.) God does not become material or changeable by manifesting the cosmos. And we are not human beings although we are experiencing humanity in an objective manner–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. What is not sensible is asking it as a challenge to those who believe in God, assuming that it will stymie and silence them. All right: why do we not see God? Krishna tells us exactly why: “I am not manifest to all, being enveloped in Yoga Maya. This deluded world does not recognize Me, the birthless 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. It is Maya in operation, the operation/movement rising from the presence (union–yoga) of God (Ishwara) within it, and therefore possessing delusive power. Those who are deluded by it cannot perceive the Divine Presence within all.
Egoic religion loves the idea of God’s chosen, or beloved few, and its dupes pride themselves on having some kind of special relationship or favor with God. This is, of course, nonsense, for all are absolutely the same in God’s eyes, for they are part of Him. Yet some do perceive higher realities–at least in a kind of dim intuition–in contrast to the majority of people. This is not a matter of being chosen or favored of God, but of having managed to evolve to such a point that the eyes to see and the ears to hear have become at least partially opened on their inner, higher levels. For those blinded by Yoga Maya who erroneously believe that they have been born–that is, who identify with the human body and condition–and who experience nothing but change within and without cannot possibly perceive or even guess the realities that lie within themselves–including the Divine Presence.
“I know the dead [or: departed] and the living, and those who are yet to be [born]. But no one 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 the What. We, being part of God, have the same capacity to know “things,” 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–and that 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 those who are clear (catharos) 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: “Because of the arising of desire and aversion, because of the deluding power of the dualities [dwandwas: pairs of opposites], all beings fall into delusion at birth” (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, 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 it loses 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 in whom evil has come to an end, those men whose actions are righteous: they, liberated from the deluding power of the opposites, worship Me with firm vows [observances]” (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 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 “vows,” means a vow in the sense of a resolution which manifests in 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 release from old age and death, resorting to Me, know Brahman perfectly [totally], as well as the Self [Adhyatman] and all action” (7:29). 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: “They who know Me as the Adhibhuta and the Adhidaiva, as well as the Adhiyajna, they truly know Me with steadfast thought even at the hour of death” (7:30). Some definitions are certainly needed, and here they are from A Brief Sanskrit Glossary:
Adhibhuta: Primal Being; Primal Element; Primordial Matter. Also: Supreme Being and Supreme Element.
Adhidaiva: Primal God; Supreme God.
Adhiyajna: Primal Sacrifice; Supreme Sacrifice.
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
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