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Wisdom and Knowing

Part 64 of the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

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The Holy Lord said: Once more hear from me the supreme word which I speak to you, who are beloved, with the desire for your welfare (10:1).

These opening verses of the tenth chapter hold very important truths, truths that must be assimilated before the Divine Glory can be perceived. To undo the conditioning of millions of births in subhuman forms and many human births is no simple thing. Just to get the idea requires that we hear the basic truths of rebirth, karma, and spiritual evolution over and over and over again. We already know these things, but the knowledge is buried so deeply beneath mountains of debris accumulated in past lives that it might just as well not even be there at all. So we have to start by being told it again and again. We continually need refresher courses in fundamental truths. (Which is why we must continually read the Gita.) Of course this becomes much easier the moment we become yogis and start digging ourselves out of the prison.

People rarely scrutinize their–or others’–motives in religion, and nobody thinks about what God’s motives may be in communicating with humanity. But Krishna thinks this should be considered, so he tells us that God speaks to us not to express displeasure or pleasure, or to threaten or cajole us or to control us. God’s sole motive is our welfare. He is ever the benevolent friend who counsels us, but never shouts or tries to influence us. A prime factor in our welfare is our free will, and he never transgresses there.

The originless Origin

Neither the multitude of gods nor the great seers (rishis) know my origin. In truth I am the universal source of the gods and the great seers (10:2).

None of the highly-evolved beings who dwell in the higher astral and causal worlds, or the enlightened sages of earth, know the origin or beginning of God because he never had one. It is not just that such knowledge would be beyond the ken of the saints and angels, but rather that there is nothing to know. God is eternal. He is not just everlasting, he is without beginning. But we can know (not just believe) that God is our source or origin. Not in the sense that at some point of time we came into existence or were created by God, but in the sense that we have eternally existed within God, drawing our essential being from him. There never was a time when we did not exist, any more than there was a time when God did not exist. But God does not draw his being or existence from anyone, whereas we totally derive our being and existence from him. That is why in the second chapter of the Gita Krishna says to Arjuna: “Truly there never was a time when I was not, nor you, nor these lords of men–nor in the future will there be a time when we shall cease to be” (2:12). Whether the great beings in all the worlds look before or behind, they see only God–and themselves within God. This is the vision of immortality.

He who knows me as birthless and beginningless, the mighty Lord of the world–he among mortals is undeluded and freed from all evils (10:3).

If we can attain the direct knowing of God’s immortality and omnipotence, our sins and delusions will evaporate in that vision. For we will see God subjectively as one with our own Self. To see God is to become god.

The source of virtues

In the West we continually find the delusion that goodness can somehow be produced by thoughts and deeds, that virtue can be developed in us like seeds sown in a garden or steel can be tempered in a flame. But this is a great delusion. It is a matter of mystical experience, of union with God. For Krishna next says:

Intelligence, knowledge, non-delusion, forbearance, truthfulness, self-restraint, equanimity, happiness, suffering, birth, death, fear, and fearlessness, non-injury, impartiality, contentment, tapasya, almsgiving, both good repute and ill repute: these manifold conditions of beings arise from me alone (10:4-5).

This list is quite clear, but there are some nuances I think might be helpful to point out.

Intelligence=buddhi. Buddhi covers a great deal more than simple “intellect.” It is understanding, reason, and intelligence. It is the thinking mind. The word buddhi itself is derived from the root verb budh, which means both to know something and be able to communicate what is known. In its highest sense, the buddhi is the faculty of enlightenment, which is why we have the word Buddha for an enlightened individual.

Knowledge=jnana. Jnana means knowledge in the sense of wisdom, of truly understanding something. It can also mean good sense, but in spiritual texts it almost always means knowledge of Brahman, the Absolute.

Non-delusion=asammoha. Moha is delusive attachment or infatuation based on a completely false perception and evaluation of the object. Occasionally it has an almost magical connotation, as of a person being under a spell. The idea is that the person suffering from moha is bereft of reason and utterly overwhelmed by a passionate response to the object. Usually it is thought of as being directed to a person, but it can also be delusive obsession with a material object and even an aspiration or ambition for something or someone. Asammoha is complete absence of such obsession. So asammoha means levelheadedness and clearsightedness.

Forbearance=kshama. Forgiveness, patience, and forbearance–kshama is all of these.

Truthfulness=satyam. Satyam means truth, reality, truthfulness, and honesty.

Self-restraint=dama. Dama is self-control, self-restraint, and control of the senses.

Calmness [equanimity]=shama. Shama means calmness, tranquility, and control of the internal sense organs, including the mind. It can also mean being the same in all situations or in relation to others, being equal-minded at all times.

Happiness=sukham. Sukham is happiness and joy, also the state of being happy and joyful. It is the quality of being pleasant and agreeable, as also the mental condition of being pleasant or agreeable.

Suffering=dukham. Dukham is pain, suffering, misery, sorrow, grief, unhappiness, stress, or distress. Also that which is unsatisfactory or produces dukha.

Birth=bhava. Bhava is “becoming,” from the verb “bhu” or “bhavh” which means to become or to exist. So it also means birth.

Death=abhava. Abhava means either to never exist or to go out of existence, so death is an implied meaning.

Fear=bhayam. Bhayam means fear or even terror.

Fearlessness=abhayam. Abhayam is “without fear,” fearlessness, or a state of steadfastness in which one is not swayed by fear of any kind.

Non-injury=ahimsa. “Himsa” is injury, violence, or killing. Ahimsa, then, is non-injury in thought, word, and deed, non-violence, non-killing, and harmlessness.

Impartiality=samata. Samata is impartiality, equality; equanimity; and equalness. It is equanimity of outlook in the sense of making no distinction between friend and foe, pleasure and pain, etc.

Contentment=tushtis. Tushtis means contentment or satisfaction, especially satisfaction, contentment, or happiness with the status quo.

Tapasya=tapas. Tapas (tapasya) is austerity–practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline, or spiritual force. Literally it means the generation of heat or energy, but is always used in a symbolic manner, referring to spiritual practice and its effect, especially the roasting of karmic seeds, the burning up of karma.

Benevolence [almsgiving]=danam. Danam means giving, gift, charity, almsgiving, self-sacrifice, donation, or generosity.

Good repute=yashas. Yashas is fame, celebrity, and good repute.

Ill repute=ayashas. Ayashas is lack of fame, celebrity, or good repute, or actual disrepute or bad reputation.

All these things, and indeed all “the manifold conditions of beings [bhavanti bhava bhutanam]” are arising solely from the Supreme Being in response to their actions. The conditions are not imposed on those beings, but come as a result of their karmas created by their free will in the form of thoughts, words, and deeds.

The progenitors of humanity

In the past the ancient Seven Great Rishis and Four Manus, from whom have sprung these earthly beings, originated from me, born of my mind (10:6).

Krishna is telling us about the progenitors of the universe and the human race. First we have the Seven Rishis (Sapta Rishis), those seven great beings who exist at the top of creation and supervise it in all its aspects. For the production of humanity there were four great ones known as Manus, who produced and then guided humanity in its development both esoterically and through actual verbal instruction.

The Seven and the Four were “mind-born” sons of God. That is, when they awoke at the proper time in this creation cycle, they found themselves embodied in forms mentally created by Brahma. This is also true of the early humans. By the power of their creative thought these creators brought them into physical manifestation by merely willing them into embodiment.

Some believe that the Manus existed at the same time, and others consider that there was a succession of four extending over a huge span of time. Since there seems to be evidence that human beings appeared in different parts of the world at about the same time, the idea of them being contemporary with one another may be the right one, and may even explain racial differences. However that may be, all human beings are children of God, being children of the original sons of God.

I have concentrated on humanity, but Krishna makes it clear that all the forms of sentient beings ultimately come from these eleven co-creators. So there is one great family–not just of humans, but of all sentient beings.

The needful

He who knows in truth this my manifested glory and power, is united with me by unwavering yoga–of this there is no doubt (10:7).

The only way to know the power and glory of God is to directly perceive it through yoga and to even experience it within ourselves. Yoga enables us to see God, and the seeing establishes us in yoga–a perfect symbiosis. Krishna says this is beyond the possibility of any doubt.

The Brazilian healer, John of God, was asked how to meditate. He gave the cryptic answer: “Go back to before there was any creation.” It is unlikely that anyone who heard or have read these words understands them, but the Gita makes them clear:

I am the origin of all; from me everything proceeds–thinking thus, the wise, endowed with meditation, worship me (10:8).

In other words, John of God was telling them to erase all relative existence from their consciousness and “go back” to God alone. God himself is the bindu–the point–from which all beings began and extended into manifestation.

Here we see that when a yogi sees the truth of Brahman he does not become an impersonal, abstractionist intellectual, but rather becomes a worshipper of God.

With minds and lives intent on me, enlightening one another, and speaking of me constantly, they are content and rejoice in me. To them, the constantly steadfast, worshipping me with affection, I bestow the buddhi yoga by which they come to me (10:9-10).

This is an accurate description of a real jnani, a true knower of Brahman. Also notice that verse nine implies that when we completely orient our lives toward God we will attract to ourselves other devotees with whom we will speak of divine things, each encouraging and assisting one another in the path to God-realization.

The lamp

Out of compassion for them, I, abiding in their own Selves, destroy the darkness born of ignorance by the shining lamp of knowledge (10:11).

The Absolute in all its glory dwells as much in the heart of the ignorant as in the heart of the wise–it needs only to be perceived. In his mercy God shines, himself lighting the mind and heart, dispelling the darkness of ignorance.

Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: Going To The Source

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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 Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri).

Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary

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