n-ajan-avyayan-aprameya-navaviliptaṃ meṇ ।
bhajanīyaṃ kāmyaneṃbudaṃ baṇṇisuvam ॥
Īśvara, the birthless, imperishable,
pervader of all the three worlds, and powerful,
describes his own glory and
shows how he can be praised and loved.
Our freedom to discern must be used to gain the knowledge of Bhagavān’s nature, his non-attachment and omnipotence. Bhagavān directs us to guiding lights and flagstaffs along the path to that knowledge. It becomes possible to achieve the blessings of Bhagavān by revering and worshipping all glorious things in the world as the marks of the Divine.
Section 11 / Chapter 10. Vibhūti-yoga or Īśvara-vaibhava-yoga
(The Yoga of Īśvara’s Glory)
In the preceding chapters, we have outlined the following important topics with their subtopics.
- Brahma-consciousness or Īśvara that is the origin of the universe.
- Īśvara as the basis for everything and as the inner controller of the jīvas.
- The jīva’s position as an enjoyer of different world objects
- The māyā of Prakṛti that prevents the jīva from experiencing the Divine
In this chapter we discuss the expressions of Divine glory.
These are the main topics discussed in this chapter –
- Bhagavān is beginningless and non-attached
- Prakṛti’s artifice of opposites
- Buddhi-yoga (the Yoga of intellectual understanding) that results from bhakti
- Guiding lights for the seeker of Bhagavān’s abode
Let’s remember one of the puzzling items from previous chapters. Īśvara is seen in three different ways from the vantage of the world –
- Īśvara is the inner controller of the world. “sarva-bhūtātma-bhūtātmā” (BG 5.7)
- But Īśvara is unmodified by the world. “na ca mat-sthāni bhūtāni” (BG 9.5)
- Though everything resides in Īśvara, he is unattached to anything. “na tvahaṃ teṣu… te mayi” (BG 7.12)
The world is the abode of the jīva. The basis of the existence and the activity of the jīva is Brahma-consciousness. Even so, the deeds of the jīva do not attach to Brahma. The jīvas are responsible for their own actions.
Brahma-caitanya or the consciousness of Brahma is like a money-lending bank. The jīva is like a customer of the bank. When a customer of the bank takes out a loan, it is the customer’s responsibility to ensure that the loan amount is profitably utilised rather than squandering the money and going to jail as a loan defaulter. The customer’s lack of judiciousness does not concern the bank. The principle here is that the jīva is responsible for his own action and that Īśvara is unattached. The jīva is an appointed employee of the enterprise of world-activity – representing the vyaṣṭi (individual) aspect. The chief executive officer of this enterprise is Īśvara – the samaṣṭi (collective) aspect of Brahma-consciousness. Thus it is essential for the jīva to understand the nature and omnipotence of Īśvara. Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa now bestows this teaching upon us.
aham-ādir-hi devānāṃ maharṣīṇāṃ ca sarvaśaḥ ||
bhavanti bhāvā bhūtānāṃ matta eva pṛthag-vidhāḥ ||
sukhaṃ duḥkhaṃ bhavo’bhāvo bhayaṃ cābhayam-eva ca ||
“Arjuna, I (Īśvara) am indeed the origin of all the Devas and the great Ṛṣis.” (Īśvara has no other origin. He is the origin of everything. He is not someone who was born in a remote moment of time. He is present everywhere at all times.) “These different mental states in all these beings stem from me. Pleasure, pain, birth, death, being, going, meeting, separating, fear, fearlessness – all of these arise from my power.”
ahaṃ sarvasya prabhavo mattaḥ sarvaṃ pravartate ||
“I, the Supreme Īśvara, am the origin of all creation. All of this proceeds from me (the Supreme Īśvara).”
The words ’sarvasya’ and ’sarvaṃ’ include both what we consider good and bad.
Opposites are a part of this creation. Rights and wrongs are mixed up in it as well as things desirable and despicable, wholesome and unwholesome, as well as facts and falsehoods. The Taittirīyopaniṣad states the same:
so.kāmayata | bahu syām prajāyeyeti |...idam sarvamasṛjata| ..sacca tyaccābhavat| niruktañ-cāniruktañ ca| nilayanañ-cānilayanañ-ca| vijñānañ-cāvijñānañ-ca| satyañ-cānṛtaṃ ca | satyamabhavat | yadidaṃ kiñca | tatsatyamityācakṣate||
How then can we get out of this tight spot? By the practice of remembering Īśvara-samakṣatā (the presence of Īśvara).
mac-cittā mad-gata-prāṇāḥ bodhayantaḥ parasparam |
kathayantaś-ca māṃ nityaṃ tuṣyanti ca ramanti ca ||
teṣāṃ satata-yuktānāṃ bhajatāṃ prīti-pūrvakam |
dadāmi buddhi-yogaṃ taṃ yena mām-upayānti te ||
“They whose minds and breaths are engaged in me, who talk with each other about me, who always remember me and are happily engaged in me, to them of continuous devotion, I give buddhi-yoga (Yoga of the Intellect) through which they attain me”.
Buddhi-yoga referenced here is what was described in the previous chapter (9.1) as “jñānaṃ vijñāna-sahitam” – an amalgam of knowledge and experience.
The take-away nugget here is about the benefit of Buddhi-yoga. Bhagavān gives the strength of Buddhi-yoga, the path of knowledge, to those to whom he wishes to reveal his true form. We have an age-old bickering. Is bhakti the result of jñāna? Or is it jñāna that results from bhakti? Sometimes we feel that this controversy is just hair-splitting. In reality though, the more the knowledge of an object, the greater is the love towards it. The reverse is true as well – the greater the love towards an object, the more one learns about it. Suppose that jñāna stems from bhakti. Will bhakti deteriorate or increase after the dawn of jñāna? Or if bhakti stems from jñāna, will jñāna be washed away in the flood of bhakti? Both of these views are extreme. It is possible for both jñāna and bhakti to co-exist and this is the common situation. Buddhi-yoga is a fruit of bhakti – in other words, the result of the bhakta’s own efforts. Once bhakti permeates the instrument-triad of the bhakta – his body, speech and thought, and is wholesome and pure, it becomes worthy of Bhagavān’s appreciation. Such an appreciation is not partiality but an acceptance of the bhakta’s eligibility or the recognition of the bhakta’s ability. This indeed is the Divine protection of the devotees and an indicator of Bhagavān’s love of dharma.
Given the nature of bhakti and jñāna, it would be incongruous to hold that they are mutually exclusive. Both perform the same activity just as both our eyes unite to see the same object.
Verses 9.12,13 informed us that Prakṛti has instituted two mutually opposite paths for the jīva – the daivī (Divine) and the āsurī (Demonic). As the previous chapter has taught us that the daivī path is conducive to welfare, it can be inferred that the jīvas have the freedom to distinguish between the daivī and āsurī paths and can choose to follow the former. This ability to discern between wholesome and unwholesome things is the crest-jewel of human free will. In the sixth chapter, the verse fragment
(One must better oneself through oneself)
conveys the same message. All right. Everyone has freedom of discernment. But do they put it into use? Many are those who forget it and lose it. The powers of the āsurī path tempt and delude the jīva to forget himself in a stupor. The stupefied jīva loses attention. His free will becomes of no use and can actually bring disaster. Freedom is for the attentive – to distinguish between the good and otherwise.
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.