Whatever is essential and uniquely great in this world is to be understood as a salient mark of Brahma’s power. Whatever quality endows a thing with usefulness and value belongs to the power of Brahma.
In addition to sattva, the guṇas of rajas and tamas are also necessary for the functioning of the world. The agitation amongst these three guṇas is vital for the constantly dynamic behaviour of the universe and therefore for its existence. Prakṛti has thrown man a competitive challenge a- "I have instituted this disparity among guṇas. Let man overcome it if he can."
Māyā is the appearance that manifests to our mind after concealing or distorting reality. It is the world-controlling power that causes the error due to avidyā that is seen by the mind’s eye to appear real.
The one who is free of avidyā, whose influence spans multiple births, is not affected by māyā. The cessation of avidyā is possible through the practice of the presence of Īśvara - with renewed effort towards gaining the knowledge of reality.
He who experiences Bhagavān’s presence everywhere considers all worldly relations, kith and kin as Īśvara’s blessing. As that blessed feeling grows, infatuation and delusions recede. The jīva is purified. The contemplation of reality becomes easier. The knower of reality understands what in his life is owed to the world and what is owed to his inner self. He then works towards the welfare of both and becomes free of worry. Such a state is tranquility.
Section 8 / Chapter 7
The Yoga of Jagat, Jīva and Īśvara
Though the seventh chapter has only thirty verses, its matter is complex and not easy to understand. The following nine main points are covered here:
- The world - insentient prakṛti
- The world - sentient prakṛti
- The essence of Brahma in Īśvara
- The marks (signs) of Brahma
- Crossing over māyā
- The worship of Īśvara
- The cessation of infatuation
This chapter covers these nine great topics in its small compass. The last chapter discussed meditation. Karma resulting in the purification of the mind is a negative attainment. Dhyāna (meditation) on the other hand is a positive attainment. Pāpa is destroyed by karma while new well-being is gained by dhyāna. This has already been stated in the sixth chapter. “Mental agitation is remedied by means such as "yuktāhāravihārasya" (of the one with propriety in food and enjoyment). A state of calm is then reached, one should sit in a clean place and meditate" - and such is stated there.
Now, the object to be meditated upon has to be ascertained. Dhyāna (meditation) has three aspects - dhyāna (the act of meditation), dhyātṛ (the meditator), and dhyeya (the object of meditation). Knowledge, similarly has three aspects - jñāna (knowledge), jñātṛ (the knower), and jñeya (the known). All those desirous of knowing reality are dhyātṛ. Bhagavān now tells us what the dhyeya should be.
asaṃśayaṃ samagraṃ māṃ yathā jñāsyasi tacchṛṇu
It is not sufficient to understand the nature of Brahma a little here and a little there. Brahma has to be understood samagram (completely) - from the beginning to the end.
Before proceeding to the next part of the work, it is important to understand a few words and their meanings. It appears that terminology used in this chapter was well known among people during Vyāsa’s time. The same words have been used in the Mokṣa-dharma-parva and the Sanatsujātīya. People probably understood terms such as Brahma without any explanation. But all these are new words for us.
The Meaning of the Word Sat
The Supreme Brahma is of the nature of sat (pure existence). Sat originally referred to existence. The meaning "good" came to sat only later. What exists for a long time is sat. The word sat stems from the root √as = bhuvi (in existence). Words such as satya, asti, come from the same √as. Whatever exists is sat. Existence here is existing as-is. Whatever exists unbothered and untainted by the past, present, or future, is unchanged at any time, and is of the same form throughout, is known as sat. That is satya (Truth). Sat is that which is unmodified by the distinctions of time, place, season, limitation, or external actions. We saw this at the beginning of the work itself.
acchedyo’yamadāhyo’yamakledyo’śoṣya eva ca,
nityaḥ sarvagataḥ sthāṇuracalo’yaṃ sanātanaḥ.
The substance of sat is great, very great; greater than anything we can imagine as the greatest; Infinite; Limitless. That is why we call It Omnipresent or Brahma (that stems from the root √bṛhi - vṛddhau (increase). Brahma is sat. This is all we can say about It - It exists. That is the only thing possible. It is foolhardy to venture to say anything beyond it. Our ancestors have added two other characteristics to sat - cit (consciousness) and ānanda (bliss). Both of these are considered taṭastha-lakṣaṇa rather than svarūpa-lakṣaṇa. Cit and Ānanda - the liṅgas (markers) of Brahma - are like those characteristics of a swimmer visible to one who is standing on the shore (taṭastha). The liṅga is a symbol or a marker used to denote the principle behind it. We notice a bit of both cit and ānanda in practice. But sat is something that is devoid of any markers and is without activity and thus unnoticeable in practice. That can only be experienced - buddhigrāhyam atīndriyam. It is not possible to establish its existence through reasoning. It is pure being and pure existence, known in Greek and Latin as ousia and esse respectively. In Saṃskṛta, it is known as sattā.
The Two States of Sat
We can contemplate upon two states of Brahma - 1. Vyakta (manifest). This is prakṛti. This is kārya-brahma (Brahma as effect) 2. Avyakta (unmanifest) that is also known as kāraṇa-braḥma (Brahma as cause). The latter is also known as Pure existence or Parabrahma. The manifest is known as vyakta and the unmanifest is known as avyakta in the eighth chapter of the Gītā.
avyaktād vyaktayaḥ sarvāḥ prabhavanty-aharāgame
rātry-āgame pralīyante tatraiv-āvyakta-saṃjñake
yaḥ sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu naśyatsu na vinaśyati
When does pure existence become manifest? When it becomes visible in the form of the world. The manifest aspect of Brahma is known as jagat (the world). What is the cause of the world? Supreme Brahma. Statements such as "janmādyasya yataḥ", "yato vā imāni bhūtāni jāyante", "sarvam khalvidam brahma tajjalānityupāsīta" convey the same purport. The world is subservient to Brahma and exists on the foundation of Brahma. Prakṛti is created from the cit aspect of Brahma.
Prakṛti is prakarṣā kṛtiḥ - an excellent and vast creation. Whose work is it? The limitless energies that are in Brahma are the matter under consideration now. How limitless is the consciousness of Brahma - Its cicchakti! It is beyond thought! What exists in it and does not exist in it cannot be said. Its capability exceeds imagination. Its expression itself is Prakṛti - a great action that is the entire Universe! Whatever can be experienced by our eyes, ears and other sense organs, whatever can be imagined or inferred by our intellect - all that is Prakṛti. All our systems of knowledge, thought, reasoning, and distinction belong to the realm of Prakṛti. The arena of our everyday life is pervaded by Prakṛti. The world is the place where we demonstrate the energies of our mind, intellect, and talent. This manifest world then is permeated by “unmanifest existence” within and without.
An iceberg floats in the great ocean of the unmanifest. The iceberg is water too; but with the form of an iceberg. The ocean is the unmanifest; the iceberg is the manifest. The manifest is something that can be recognised. This recognisable universe floats in the ocean of the unrecognisable unmanifest. The unmanifest aspect of Brahma is like air sustaining a floating balloon within and without. Is not that in which something floats greater than the thing itself? This is also what the śruti says - "pādo’sya viśvā bhūtāni । tripādasyāmṛtaṃ divi". Pāda refers to a quarter. The solar orb, the lunar orb, the earth, the visible universe - all together comprise just a quarter of Brahma. Thrice or many times as big as the manifest world is the unmanifest or the invisible.
Thus Brahma has two aspects - the manifest and unmanifest - or visible and invisible. That is why our ancients said - vyaktāvyakta-svarūpāya (of the nature of the manifest and unmanifest) whenever they remembered Brahma. In all things movable and immovable, whatever is seen and felt by us, whatever has movement, is all pervaded by Brahma. It is in this way that It is omnipresent and omniscient. That is the reason for It to be known as Viṣṇu which means all-pervading. As it exists in everybody as their own ātmā (self), It is known as paramātmā.
idaṃ sarvamasṛjata |
tatsṛṣṭvā tadevānuprāviśat ||
Having created the entire universe, the Supreme Brahma entered it. This was expressed by the Vedic seers as a story.
After being created, the creature required food and other things for sustenance. How is it possible to manage all this without an overseer? It was thus that Brahma became Īśvara - the controller. The aspect of omnipresence is referenced by the term paramātmā whereas parameśvara refers to the aspect of the omnipotent ruler of the universe. The same principle thus appears in two forms to our words and thoughts.
What is the ātmā?
Whatever a being refers to when he says ‘I’, ‘me’, is the ātmā (Self). (See the second chapter) The object referenced by the word aham (I) is the self. The self is consciousness in its essential state. When this consciousness assumes the body and other instruments of karma, it becomes known as the jīva or jīvātmā. Sometimes, the complete collection of the body, sense organs, mind, and other instruments is referred to as the ātmā. This is the normal practice of common people. Even the mind is referred to by the word ātmā. The jīva other than the mind and body is also known as the ātmā. An old saying goes:
yaccāpnoti yadādatte yaccātti viṣayāniha
yaccāsya santato bhāvaḥ tasmādātmeti kathyate
“Whatever obtains (what comes), whatever takes (what it wants), whatever experiences the objects of the universe, whatever endures without a gap, is known as the ātmā.”
The jīva is the gross form or at the centre of the individual in the happenings of the world. The inner seed of the jīva is the ātmā.
The State of the Jīva
When an upādhi (limiting adjunct) is applied to the ātmā, it becomes known as the jīva. An upādhi is something - ādhi - that can be said to be externally added. External events like suffering (vyādhi) and disease are also upādhis. The word upādhi is also used in the sense of a title or a designation. If a pink rose is kept next to a transparent glass marble, the marble appears pink in colour. The colour pink is an upādhi for the marble. A garland of flowers is strung using a thread. The fragrance of the flowers becomes an upādhi for the thread that is, the thread acquires a quality that did not belong to it. An aspect that does not belong to a thing but is attached to it externally is an upādhi. Once the universe is created, it has to be administered and hence the contact with the universe. Therefore, the Supreme Brahma assumes a few upādhis. When the ātmā appears with these upādhis, it is known as the jīva. When the actionless ātmā is seen as an effect, it becomes known as a jīva.
Let us clarify the meanings of a few repeatedly used terms such as jīvātmā, paramātmā and Īśvara.
We see growth and decline in every living being. Ingestion of food and its egestion are seen in all animals. All living beings - including plants - take in food and extrude something else. Growth comes from intake and decline comes when intake reduces. This is something that the jīva does. It fattens the body for its first twenty years and wears out the body for the rest of its life. Insentient objects work due to human contact. To humans, they are mere implements. Objects that cannot act by themselves and need something else for their movement are termed jaḍa (insentient). The Gītā refers to such objects as aparā. It is an inferior grade of creation.
The jīva holds its inner consciousness and external insentient objects together. The ātmā assumes various forms to accomplish a variety of tasks. Those forms are upādhis.
The world exists because of the jīva. It is because of the existence of the jīva that the mind and other organs are functional. We should understand that man comprises two parts - the jīva and the non-jīva. The insentient part is the non-jīva. But it should not be despised as inferior. We are familiar only with the inferior part while the superior part is beyond our senses. We can see the superior aspect only via the inferior part. We must strive to understand the unfamiliar through the familiar.
The seed of consciousness within a jīva is the ātmā or the jīvātmā. The layer outside it is the body. The jīva is a combination of the inner ātmā and the external body. Worldly actions are dependent on external appearances. When a person known to us is dressed in a khaki uniform with ribbons and wears red headgear, he is known as a soldier. If the same person appears to us with his head shaved and donning saffron robes, he is known as a saṃnyāsin. Similarly, the ātmā along with the organs of action and the organs of knowledge such as the body is known variously as a jīva, animal, being, and a living thing.
In the innumerable mass of living beings in this world, when each being is considered separately, that unique being is known as vyaṣṭi. When the entire set of jīvas is considered together, that group is referred to as samaṣṭi according to śāstric terminology. A hundred-rupee note is samaṣṭi. When each rupee coin is counted individually and separately, it is known as vyaṣṭi.
To be continued...
The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.
 Removing impurities is a negative attainment.
 Marginal characteristic
 Essential characteristic
 Brahma Sūtra 1.1.2
 Taittirīya Up Bhṛguvallī
 Chāndogya Up 3.14.1
 Taittirīya Up. Brahmānandavallī
 See chapter 2.