4. Now on to "na matsthāni bhūtāni". Was it not said earlier that matsthāni bhūtāni (all objects are in me)? But when we analyse reality, the objects do not exist in me; but only appear to be in me. Brahma is the substratum for that appearance. A traveller sees flowing water at a distance. But it is nothing other than a mirage. It is only a phenomenon; not an actual stream. That false appearance is created by a combination of sand, sunlight, and distance. The world, similarly, is a strange phantom that is indicated by Bhagavān as "pashya me yogamaiśvaram". The world-causing māyā is the effect of Īśvara's Yoga. In the second canto of the Bhāgavatam, Śuka says this to King Parīkṣita.
ātma-māyām ṛte rājan parasyānubhavātmanaḥ |
na ghaṭetārtha-sambandhaḥ svapna-draṣṭur ivāñjasā ||
Bhāgavatam - 2.9.1
bahu-rūpa ivābhāti māyayā bahu-rūpayā |
ramamāṇo guṇeṣv-asyā mamāham iti manyate ||
Bhāgavatam - 2.9.2
The objects seen in a dream do not really belong to the dreamer. The relationship between them is only because of the dream. Similarly, the world and man are related only because of māyā. Without māyā, the relationship does not exist. This māyā is multifarious and due to it, even the world appears so. Man relishes the tastes and refinements offered by māyā with the feelings of ‘me’ and ‘mine’. Māyā is that which shows unreal things as real and vice versa. In this three-fold world of the seer, seen and sight, māyā takes the form of natural movement. The seeing eye shudders; the illuminating light flickers; the object to be seen shakes. Sight is thus affected. This imbalance in sight is māyā’s effect. It is māyā that attracts and traps our attention thereby making Brahma imperceptible. We are reminded every moment of the world’s existence but forget Brahma that is the basis of it all. We offer to the glamour of the world that which should be offered to Brahma. This is a mistake. Knowledge or jñāna lies in understanding that the world is different from Brahma and that Brahma is not to be confused with the world.
yathā mahānti bhūtāni bhūteṣūccāvaceṣv-anu |
praviṣṭāny-apraviṣṭāni tathā teṣu na teṣv-aham ||
These are Bhagavān's words in the Bhāgavatam: "Just as Earth and other primordial elements simultaneously enter beings big and small and do not enter them, I am in them as well as outside of them."
A mango tree grows due to the combination of earth, water, heat, and other elements. But none recognise the elements of Earth, Water or Light while eating a mango. The five great elements are praviṣṭāny-apraviṣṭāni - that is - have entered the mango and have not entered the mango. Similar is Brahma with the objects of the world - It is in them and not in them.
The pārijāta tree is born and grows because of contact with these five great elements. Even then, we do not think of the pārijāta flower as belonging to any single element. The five great elements are praviṣṭāny-apraviṣṭāni - they have entered the pārijāta and have not entered it. Brahma has also simultaneously entered and not entered the beings of the world - "tathā teṣu na teṣu". Brahma’s relationship with these flora is similar. In a certain perspective, they are related and unrelated from another perspective.
Brahma's relationship with all beings from microorganisms and insects all the way to Hiraṇyagarbha (the divine creator) is to be viewed similarly.
Brahma exists in the world from the Absolute or Transcendental viewpoint. Not in the transactional or relative viewpoint.
The world exists in Brahman from a transactional viewpoint. Not the transcendental one.
The pampered child cries for an elephant. The grandfather buys her a toy elephant from the market. The satisfied child proudly exults in showing her elephant to everyone. The elephant is made of either wood or mud. But will anybody call it ‘mud’? If someone asks for some mud to scrub vessels, will the toy elephant be given to them? The toy appears outwardly as an elephant. But in reality, it is made of mud. Internally, it is earth but externally an elephant.
Let us look at another example of the great drama personality Varadacharya who strode the stage dressed as Hiraṇyakaśipu, the asura. The audience waiting with bated breath would watch it without batting an eyelid. Was that Hiraṇyakaśipu? No. It was Varadacharya. Was that Varadacharya? No, Hiraṇyakaśipu. Varadacharya was mild-mannered and of a gentle disposition. He who appeared to be a heartless rākṣasa to the audience was actually a compassionate soul to his friends and dependents. Varadacharya ("praviṣṭāny apraviṣṭāni") entered but did not enter Hiraṇyakaśipu, Sāraṅgadhara, Duṣyanta and other characters.
A thing or a person might have multiple qualities. None of those qualities by themselves can be the person or the thing. Likewise, Brahma-consciousness has an infinite variety of forms. None of those forms or behaviours by themselves, is Brahma. Form, behaviour, and state are apart from Brahma. They belong to māyā.
The same opinion is succinctly expressed by this verse.
All these you are, and each is partly you,
And none is false, and none is wholly true.
Stephen Vincent Benét
Is māyā different from Brahma? In one view, it is different and non-different from another view. An object is different from its shadow. But since the shadow cannot exist without the object, they are non-different. Is a wave different from the ocean? It is different in one aspect and in another, it is the same. The leaves of a tree flutter with the wind, but the trunk itself is unshaken. A still picture cannot capture the motion of the leaves, but it captures the trunk easily. Is the tree fluttering? Not from the view of the trunk. Is the tree immobile from the leaf’s perspective? No, because the leaf is shaking. Thus Brahma, that is one without a second, assumes a form like its shadow, its wave or like a leaf on the top of a tree. That form is māyā. Māyā is not Brahma, but it cannot exist without It. Hence māyā that does not fit the definitions of existence and non-existence, or truth and falsehood and cannot be known definitely in any way is traditionally designated anirvacanīya (indescribable). The world is different from Brahma to the eye shrouded by māyā. When the shroud is removed, however, the world is non-different from Brahma.
5. “(Mamātmā) bhūtabhṛt” - Brahma-consciousness bears or supports all beings; It nourishes and protects the world. All the powers of the Universe belong to Brahma. Man does not possess those in the least.
6. “(Mamātmā) na ca bhūtasthah” - Brahma-consciousness does not reside in beings. It is not possible to point at a specific being and say, "This is Brahma" as Brahma is omnipresent and all pervading. It cannot be mixed piecemeal with anything.
These above six sentences seem to indicate that Brahma is different from a being, where a ‘being’ could refer to an animal, insect, anything with a body, or a jīva. During our time, the word jīva is more in use than the word bhūta or being. Let us use that for now.
Our next question is about the relationship between jīva and Brahma. The jīva is something that all of us have experienced to a limited extent. Brahma is something that has not been experienced but something whose name has been just heard. How are they mutually related? Let us look at the seventh item in our list before trying to answer that.
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.