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Universal Being

Part 60 of the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

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Finite minds cannot really comprehend the Infinite. Yet, even a dim idea will be of inestimable value to them in their spiritual seeking. Krishna is now about to explain the fundamentals of Infinite Being in relation to finite creation and the finite beings within it.

All-pervading Being

All this world is pervaded by me in my unmanifest aspect. All beings dwell within me, but I do not dwell within them (9:4).

It is a mistake to think of creation and Spirit as two layers or levels of reality like oil and water. Rather, Unmanifest Spirit (Avyakta) pervades everything. There is no point of existence where Spirit is not. On the other hand, there is the vast realm of Spirit in which there is nothing–or no thing–at all. Spirit pervades matter, but matter does not pervade Spirit. Nevertheless, there is an intimate connection between the two, for all relative existence exists within the Unmanifest.

The word translated “dwell” is sthani, meaning a place of residence. Krishna is saying that all beings abide in the Unmanifest, for It is the basis of their existence. Without the Unmanifest they would not exist. But the Unmanifest Spirit does not depend upon those beings–It would remain unchanged if they ceased to exist.

Krishna’s purpose is to give us an order of priority. Spirit is not only first, it is all-encompassing. If we attain Spirit we will attain mastery over relativity. But if we only possess relative matter we will be nothing in the ultimate sense.

And yet beings do not dwell within me: behold my Divine Yoga. Sustaining beings and yet not dwelling in them, I myself cause all beings to come into manifestation (9:5).

Krishna is giving a profound teaching here. Created things, including relative existence itself, never touch Spirit. In the same way, our energy bodies never touch our Self.

If that is so, then how does creation exist? For I have said that it not only exists, it exists within God (Brahman). Creation is also called Maya–Cosmic Illusion. Creation exists within Brahman as a mirage, an illusion. A mirage is real, but what is seen (water, buildings, etc.) is not. Maya is like a motion picture. The epic begins, unfolds, and ends, but really nothing has taken place. We were just watching images that were only light moving on a background. It was all an illusion. We could not see the motion picture if it was not projected onto a neutral background. We see the movie of Maya projected onto the background of Consciousness. Neither the background of the movie screen or that of Consciousness are in anyway really touched or affected by the images. But without the screens there would be no movie or creation.

Moving within the Unmoving

As mighty winds move everywhere, yet always dwell in the ether, know that even so do all beings dwell within me (9:6)

Incredible as the continual changes in creation are, and the untold numbers of life-dramas perpetually unfolding with it, it all takes place within God, the sense of independence and separation being totally illusory. The realization of this frees us from all fear.

Relativity cannot exist without an infinite chain of dualities. Creation takes place in a series of manifestations and dissolutions. Krishna described this in the previous chapter. Referring back to this, he says about all sentient beings:

At the end of a kalpa, all beings merge into my Prakriti: at the beginning of another kalpa, I myself send them forth (9:7).

At the end of a kalpa–Day of Brahma–all those remaining in relativity merge into the primordial matter, or prakriti, and enter a state of dreamless sleep. Then, when an equally long Night of Brahma has ended, they emerge from that sleep and continue on their evolutionary way.

Resting on my Prakriti, I send forth again and again this entire multitude of beings, helpless under Prakriti’s power (9:8).

This evokes the popular image of Shesh-Narayan (Vishnu) resting upon (sometimes rising from) the ocean of primal energy (prakriti) as the source of all worlds and the beings within them. All beings are “helpless” in this process because they have no will or choice in the matter, only the impetus of their karma from previous lives.

The divine actor

The Divine is at the root of all action, and without the Divine no action can take place. Yet Krishna says:

And these acts do not bind me, sitting as one apart, indifferent and unattached in these actions (9:9).

The same is true of our immortal Self. Spirit is never touched, but is the silent, actionless witness of all that goes on.

How, then, do we have karma? We do not. But within the dream of Maya we experience it as such. Consider how in a dream you do so many things and undergo the consequences, yet it is only images, unreal. I have heard of people actually experiencing pain or nausea after awakening from dreams in which pain or nausea occurred. God has given us these dreams to teach us the truth about our greater span of life on earth. As Prabhavananda’s very interpretive translation says: “Do not say: ‘God gave us this delusion.’ You dream you are the doer, you dream that action is done, you dream that action bears fruit. It is your ignorance, it is the world’s delusion that gives you these dreams” (5:14).

Let us awake!

Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: Maya–Its Dupes and Its Knowers

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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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