The basic ingredient of any endeavor is right perspective, so in the Bhagavad Gita Krishna right away delineates two universal principles that must be kept in mind at all times, whether engaged in outer activity or inner meditation.
- “It is found that the unreal has no being; it is found that there is no non-being for the real. The certainty of both these propositions is indeed surely seen by the perceivers of truth” (Bhagavad Gita 2:16). Swami Prabhavananda’s interpretive translation is: “That which is non-existent can never come into being, and that which is can never cease to be. Those who have known the inmost Reality know also the nature of is and is not.”
- “Know that that by which all this universe is pervaded is indeed indestructible; no one is able to accomplish the destruction of the imperishable” (Bhagavad Gita 2:17). Prabhavananda: “That Reality which pervades the universe is indestructible. No one has power to change the Changeless.”
Unless we are constantly aware of these two truths, any kind of endeavor on our part will result in the perpetuation of ignorance and its result: bondage. Nor are these abstractions to be merely accepted intellectually. They must be lived; and until they can be fully demonstrated in our life we must at least keep striving to bring our conscious thoughts and deeds into conformity with them.
Jesus spoke of a man who wanted to build a house where there was sandy soil. Wisely he dug down until he found solid rock, and then only did he build the house so it would stand secure. (Matthew 7:24, 25) These two principles are the bedrock on which the structure of our entire life should be based.
What is not can never come to be
“That which is non-existent can never come into being.” A simple statement, but a profound realization about every aspect of “existence”–most particularly our own existence and status. We could restate the principle this way: That which has not always been can never be. If we analyze things we will come to realize that only two things have ever been: God and us. Everything else is literally incidental.
That is why the greatest monk of the Christian Church, Saint Arsenios the Great, when asked for spiritual counsel replied: “Unless you say, ‘God and I alone exist,’ you will not find God.” So when we really bear down on the issue we do come to realize this: Spirit alone exists, Spirit as the individual consciousness and Spirit as the Infinite Consciousness. All other things are passing appearances only.
“The fashion of this world passeth away,” said Saint Paul (I Corinthians 7:31). The word translated “fashion” in the sense of exterior appearance is schema, which means a figure or outline of something, either visual or ideational, a mere thought or “scheme” rather than a thing of actual substance. From this we see that Saint Paul considered the world to be a mere appearance, a temporary thought in the mind of God and man. And so did Krishna.
Seeing the Real in the unreal
Since the world and all that surrounds us, including the many layers of our present mode of existence as human beings, come from God, it would be foolish to consider them valueless and to simplistically try to disengage ourselves from them as though that would be the solution to everything. No. Krishna is telling Arjuna to fight–to act as though the world were real.
Why? Because all our experience is a training film in the school of consciousness. By watching it and interacting with it we come to experience its substantial reality, but we also come to understand its meaning. For every particle of matter has a purpose and is a message from the Eternal to us.
Krishna is instructing Arjuna in the attitude, the perspective, needed to live life meaningfully. Arjuna wants to turn away from the battlefield, to avoid doing what he considers to be a terrible wrong, but Krishna holds him and warns him against such a mistaken course of action, because to do so is to fail in learning the purpose of the situation. To leave the battle would be to deny the unreality of external appearance and to deny the reality of the inner spirit.
Freeing insight into universal principles
This verse carries great and freeing insight. We need not brood over our faults or be elated over our virtues since they have never really come into being! Neither should we be displeased at misfortune or pleased at good fortune, for they have never happened. Rather, the pictures of these things are being shown to us for our development and education leading to our mastery of them.
It is not without basis that one of the first steps in occult development is dream control; for this whole world is a dream, and although there is a great deal of talk about awakening from the dream, we cannot do so until we can control it at will. This is what Yoga is all about–awakening through mastery.
Further Reading on Universal Principles:
- Download a free PDF of The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening from our e-Library
- Get the paperback or ebook of The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening from Amazon.
- What Is the Mind?: A Meditator’s Guide, Part 1
- Karma and Reincarnation: Fundamental Spiritual Laws
- Faith in Jesus?
- Obstacles in Meditation and How to Overcome Them