Identity of the Soul

Arjuna: Who are the creatures dwelling in the upside-down tree?

7-8

Krishna: The living creatures in this living world are certainly eternal fragments of me. Situating themselves within material nature, they draw unto themselves six sensual capacities, headed by the mind.

Thus the soul develops and dissolves its bodies.  Like the wind carrying a scent, the soul carries the subtle elements of one body into the next.

Arjuna: Why does the soul change bodies?

9-11

Krishna: The soul changes bodies because it wishes to enjoy sense objects in various ways. Each body offers a different aural, visual, tactile, gustatory (taste), and olfactory (smell) array.

Sometimes staying in a body, sometimes giving it up, sometimes enjoying the wealth of the three qualities; those with informed vision can see what is really going on, but great fools cannot recognize it, even when shown.

Serious spiritualists can also see the soul doing all these things, but those who are serious to avoid the soul are basically unconscious, and thus blind to it.

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The World is an Upside-Down Tree!

 

1-4

 

Banyan Tree in Lahaina

Krishna: They say this world is a Banyan tree whose roots are above and branches below, and whose attractive leaves are promises of enjoyment. He who knows this tree well knows the methods of gaining such enjoyment.

 

Watered by the three qualities of nature, its branches expand in all directions, upwards and downwards, finally producing buds of enjoyable sense objects. From these branches, roots also fall downwards and find nourishment in the selfish deeds of the mortal world.

 

The real tree is elsewhere, and this is merely a reflection, with no end, no beginning, and no real substance. This Banyan cannot be uprooted, but it must be tenaciously cut down with the axe of indifference to it.

 

Once it is felled, you must search out what is beyond it; some place from which no one ever strays. There, finally, seek for that Original Person – the ancient one from whom the true tree grows – and give yourself to him.

 

Arjuna: How can I succeed in such an amazing quest?

 

5

 

Krishna: Be free from the intoxication of honor and cast off your faulty entourage. Dwell always in yourself, and curb down external lusts. Free yourself from dualities like pleasure and displeasure. Then you can attain that foolproof, eternal destination.

 

Arjuna: Can you say something more about this destination?

 

6

 

Krishna: The sun does not shine there, nor the moon, nor fire. In that place from which no one strays, I am the supreme illumination.

 

A Survey of the Three Qualities

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 14 of the first draft of the Bhagavad-Gita presentation I am working on.

5

Krishna: Prakṛti, “Nature” is the first thing produced from the singularity. It has three qualities: sattva, rajas, and tamas. My strong friend, these three are the ropes that bind the limitless living being to a body.

Arjuna: Can you explain more about each quality?

6-9

Krishna: Sattva is clear and undistorted and therefore allows the illumination of consciousness to shine brightly. Its rope, though, is the desire for happiness and comprehension.

Rajas is distorted by passion. Its ropes around the living being are ever-rising thirsts and endeavors.

Tamas is the strongest of all. It darkens with ignorance and thus bewilders every soul. It has many ropes, like foolishness, laziness and stagnation.

In summary: Sattva creates happiness. Rajas creates efforts. Tamas eclipses knowledge and creates foolishness.

Spiritual Equality

Excerpt from my forthcoming rendition of Bhagavad-Gita. Chapter 13, from text 28 till the end – a bit abridged.

Krishna: “The Supreme Master is equally situated in all entities. Things which appear to be destroyed are indestructible.” They see this, because they truly see.

Arjuna: There are so many different people and things – how is it possible to see oneness and equality?

Krishna: These differences are in the field only, not in the field-knower. All deeds and endeavors occur in, and by, the field. The field-knower, however, is not truly involved in any of it. That is real vision, try to see it.

Arjuna: Why should I give more preference to the field-knower, the “true self.” Why not focus on its identity as a participant in the field?

Krishna: Even if you focus upon the field, you will find it is all essentially one, despite the infinite variations in its appearance. All the very different external manifestations of things are simply expansions from the singularity of the field. Try to see the truth of this theory and you will have a spiritual vision of the world.

Arjuna: But why shouldn’t I focus upon the being the self becomes when it mixes with its field?

Krishna: Arjuna, the field-knower dwells within the body, but does not blend into it and does not truly do anything with it; because it is a causeless entity, beyond delimitations, inexhaustible, and superior to the field.

Arjuna: How can the soul be within the body, yet not blend into it and become implicated in it?

Krishna: Because it is a substratum, like space. Isn’t space everywhere, yet unblended and quite distinct from everything as well? Similarly, the soul is spread all throughout the body, yet remains distinct and unblended.

Arjuna: If it does not blend with the body, what is the point of spreading through it?

Krishna: To spread the illumination of consciousness! Just as one sun illuminates the entire world, the field-knower illuminate the entire body with consciousness.

The True Object of Knowledge

From Gita’s 13th chapter…

Arjuna: What truly is the object of knowledge?

13

Krishna: When you come to know the true object of knowledge, you will experience immortal bliss. It is the beginningless spiritual energy that descends from me, described as beyond both existence and non-existence.

Arjuna: To be beyond both existence and non-existence is inconceivable. How then will I be able to perceive the object of knowledge?

14-18

Krishna: Its hand and feet are everywhere. Its eyes, heads, and faces are everywhere. It hears through every ear. It surrounds and permeates everything.

It is the power of illumination in all your senses, yet it is far away from all your senses. It has no affections, yet it certainly cares for everyone. It is beyond qualification, yet completely qualified.

It is within all living beings, yet beyond all of them. It is immovable, yet it moves. It is beyond full comprehension, because it is so subtle. It is very far away, but also very close.

It is indivisible, yet divided within everything. That object of knowledge creates, maintains, and destroys all things.

It is certainly the luminosity within all luminous things, described as “beyond darkness.” It is knowledge. It is the object of knowledge. And, within the hearts of all beings, it is approached through knowledge.

Arjuna’s eyes were wide with wonder and no words came from his mouth.

19

Krishna: So far, I’ve answered your questions about the “field,” and have explained that the field-knower is the spirit. I explained that the supreme spirit is the ultimate object of knowledge; and I have described the process of attaining this knowledge.

Arjuna [still stunned]: Yes… but who can fully understand what you have said?

Krishna: Someone like you. Those who have true devotion to me can comprehend all this in their effort to attain my intimate association.

 

Knowledge and the Object of Knowledge

8

Krishna: Knowledge begins with humility and sincerity.

Arjuna: What comes next?

Krishna: Humility and sincerity make us patient and honest. This makes us good students who learn well.

Arjuna: What do good students learn from their teachers?

Krishna: First, we learn self-control, beginning with cleanliness and regularity.

Arjuna: What are other aspects of self-control?

9

Krishna: The essence of self-control is to diminish the ego and control its desire to exploit the sensual world.

Arjuna: How does the teacher help us do this?

Krishna: By teaching us to be aware of the miseries inherent in it: that birth leads to death, after dragging us through age and illness.

Arjuna: What happens when we diminish the ego and thus slacken our passion to enjoy the sensual world?

10

Krishna: It is like being freed from an all-consuming addiction. We then loosen our compulsive embrace on objects of pleasure, like children, spouses, and homes.

Arjuna: What is the experience like?

Krishna: You will feel your mind become ever-balanced, regardless of obtaining desired or undesired results.

Arjuna: Is this peace the goal, or is there something even more worthy beyond it?

11

Krishna: This peaceful detachment from the interaction of the fields is the beginning of the greatest joy: true love. At this stage you can turn to me and form an uninterrupted link of pure divine love, without any ulterior motive.

Arjuna: How does the person at this stage of knowledge begin to develop that connection with you?

Krishna: Losing all interest in common people and places, you will seek a quiet, solitary residence.

Arjuna: Why seek solitude?

12

Krishna: You will want to be free from interruptions to your contemplation of the true self. You will not want to see anything except the object of true knowledge.

Arjuna: Is this the culmination of knowledge and education?

Krishna: Yes. Beginning from humility and ending at uninterrupted intimacy with the object of true knowledge – these are the constituents of knowledge and education. Anything outside these principles is ignorance.

Know Your Field

Having heard Krishna express how attracted he is to those who are equipoised towards all things, Arjuna desired to gain better understanding of the knowledge that enables such a perception of the world.

1-3

Arjuna: Dear Krishna, I want to understand a few pairs of concepts: prakriti and puruṣa; kṣetra and kṣetra-jña; and jñāna and jñeya. Please explain these terms.

Krishna: Kṣetra means “field.” In philosophy the term refers to your body and its world, which is your “field of activity.”

Kṣetra-jña means “field-knower.” In philosophy this refers to the consciousness that acts within your body, the “field.” Kṣetra-jña refers not only to you, the individual consciousness aware of a single field, but also to me, the super-consciousness aware of all fields.

As for jñāna, that term means “knowledge.” In my opinion, “knowledge” consists of understanding the field and the field-knower.

Arjuna: Please explain more about the field and the field-knower, so that I might become wise with knowledge.

4-5

Krishna: Listen carefully to what I have to say about the field, how it works and what it does; and the powers of the field-knower. I will summarize the many different teachings of the sages, the scriptures, and the philosophical codes.

Arjuna: Certainly, I will listen very carefully.

6-7

Krishna: Your field-of-activity can be summarized as the interactions between various elements.

Arjuna: What elements?

Krishna: First the five tangible elements: solids, liquids, gasses, energies, and space. And then, the sense of ego, which makes one feel important enough to control and exploit these elements.

Arjuna: Are there more elements in the field-of-activity?

Krishna: Yes, many more. There is intellect, the immediate tool of the ego. And there is the unseen background nature, of which the ego is the immediate tool.

Arjuna: What is the tool of the intellect?

Krishna: It has eleven tools, the eleven senses. The most important is the mind. Then there are the five senses of input (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin) and the five senses of output (voice, hands, legs, genital, and anus).

Arjuna: What are the tools of these senses?

Krishna: The five sense-objects: form, sound, scent, taste, and touch.

Arjuna: Is there anything else in the field?

Krishna: No. These 24 items sufficiently summarize the ingredients on the field-of-activity.

Is God Awful and Terrible?

35-36

Arjuna: [With folded, trembling hands, fearfully bowing down, in a faltering voice addressing his now unseen friend, Krishna]

O Master of Senses hearing your kīrtana [glorification] makes the whole world joyful and delighted.

Krishna: But you have just seen my horrible, and fearsome aspect!

Arjuna: Yes, but this exists only for the sake of ghastly people – who flee from it in terror. The perfected souls do not flee, they offer you respect in all circumstances, fearsome or pleasant.

Krishna: Why should they respect something so horrible?

37

Arjuna: Because it is also a part of you, who are never truly destructive. You are the original creator of the creator. You are the limitless master of the benevolent gods. You are the shelter of the universe.

Krishna: But is this form I have just shown you not truly destructive?

Arjuna: It is. However, it is a reflection of our own destructive nature. You yourself are far beyond the relative good and bad of these temporary causes and effects.

Krishna: What do you mean? Am I beyond these horrific affairs, or am I within them?

38

Arjuna: This universe exists within you, but you are far beyond it, transcendent. You are the original, most ancient Divine Being. You are everything that we comprehend, and you are also comprehension itself, and you are also the state of being that is transcendentally beyond both. You are the unlimited being pervading everything that exists.

Krishna: I see. That is why the perfected souls always offer me respect, even amidst a horrific universe. But wouldn’t it be wiser to respect someone else?

39-40

Arjuna: But you are all such beings! You are Vāyu, god of air. You are Yama, god of death. You are Agni, god of fire. You are Varuṇa, god of space. You are the heavenly bodies, like the Moon. You are the original ancestor, Brahmā. So who should we respect more than you!?

Let there be respect after respect unto you, a thousand times over. And even that is not enough! Still more I should again offer respect after respect to you! I bow to you from the front, and from behind. You are everything, so let me bow to you always and everywhere!

Krishna: But am I not simply your friend in the chariot, in front of you?

Arjuna: Your limitless power and unstoppable force support everything. In that sense, you are everything.

Krishna: Am I your friend or not?

41-42

Arjuna: Full of self-importance, I took you as my friend. I spoke to you like that, “Hey Krishna! Hey cousin! Hey friend!” I was ignorant of your true greatness.

Krishna: But that was because of your love for me!

Arjuna: Maybe it was love, or maybe it was foolishness. I even criticized you in sarcastic jokes, while we relaxed together: lying or sitting around and eating together as if we were equals. O Inscrutable One, I ask your forgiveness for my countless transgressions.

Krishna: But this was all out of love!

43-44

Arjuna: Then please forgive me, as a loving father excuses the behavior of his children. You are indeed the father of everything, animate and inanimate, in the world. You are the most worshipable and glorious guru. How can there be anyone else like you? How can anyone equal your infinite power – amongst humans, demons, or gods?

Therefore please be kind to me, like a guru or a father. Or like a friend forgives a friend. Or like a lover forgives the beloved.

Krishna: All right, but what will become of the relationship we had?

45-46

Arjuna: Let us return to it! I am thrilled to have seen this never-before-seen sight – yet it has cast my mind into the waves of fear. Please return to your form as the compassionate master of gods, and shelter of the world.

O thousand-armed universal form, I hope to see you in your four-armed form, with a mace and disc in your hands, and a crown upon your head.

47-50

Krishna: [Transforming from the universal form into four-armed Viṣṇu] Happily, I used my mystic power to give you the vision of that unsurpassed form of mine: composed of power, universal, endless, and beginningless. No one but you has seen it before.

Arjuna, that form cannot be seen on the strength of sacrifice, philosophical study, charitable deeds, scrupulous duties, nor even by the most severe austerities. Comprehending that form allows one to see me even in the normal affairs of the everyday world. None but you have seen it.

But it has disturbed and confused you to see me in that terrifying universal form, and that was not my intention. So now be freed from this fear, and regain your affectionate, loving disposition towards me.

[Viṣṇu then transformed into his own original, gentle form, as Krishna]

51

Arjuna: [Breathing a sigh of relief and happiness] Krishna, seeing you in your gentle, human form calms my mind and allows me to return to my natural state.

52-53

Krishna: The form you see me in now is the rarest of all visions. Even the gods constantly aspire for a vision of this form.

By studying scriptures, by undergoing austerities, by giving everything away, by worship, by any of these means it is impossible to see me in the form you now see.

Arjuna: Then how am I seeing it?

54

Krishna: Because you have pure, undivided love for me! Arjuna, that is the only way I can be known in this form, as Krishna.

Arjuna: But everyone here on the battlefield can see you, too.

Krishna: They do not truly see me. Only by undivided love can one enter into comprehension of the full truth of what you now see before you.

Arjuna: How can a person gain this vision?

55

Krishna: If they work for my sake, make me their ultimate objective, give their love to me, casting off all other embraces, and never think of any creature as their enemy… Then, Arjuna, they will gain me.

Seeing the Singularity Expanded Infinitely Within God

This is from the 11th Chapter of Bhagavad Gita.

1-4

Arjuna:Out of love for me, you explained the most confidential secrets about yourself, and my confusions have disappeared. My dear friend, whose eyes are wide like the leaves of a lotus flower, I have heard of your endless grandeur, which encompasses everything seen and unseen. Now I would like to see what I have heard: the majestic form of the Ultimate Person. If you deem me able, O master of all mysteries please let me see your limitless form.

5-7

Krishna: My friend, look upon my form, with hundreds upon thousands of divine multifaceted colors and shapes.

Look upon the Āditya gods [who maintain the universe], the Vasu gods [who create the substances in the universe], the Rudra gods [who destroy] the Aśvini gods [who give health and beauty], the Marut gods [of storms] and so many other amazing things that have never been seen before!

See in me the singularity – the entire universe simultaneously situated in one place! In this form of mine you can behold anything you wish to see!

Arjuna: I cannot see!

8

Krishna: Of course you cannot literally see such things with your own eyes. So, I bestow to you divine eyes, by which you can see my mystic opulence.

9-14

Krishna then showed Arjuna his form of supreme majesty: Countless eyes and mouths, countless incredible sights, countless divine ornaments, countless divine weapons held aloft, dressed in divine clothing and flower necklaces, emitting divine fragrances, the brilliant divinity of absolutely astonishing wonder, the unlimited being whose face is everywhere.

If a thousand suns shone in the sky together, perhaps their glow might compare to the brilliance of that great being.

Arjuna could see within the body of that invisible god of gods, the universal singularity expanded infinitely.

Then, overcome by astonishment while his hair stood up on end, Arjuna folded his hands and bowed his head to that divinity, and began to speak.

Comprehending the Incomprehensible

10 ~

1

Krishna: Arjuna, you are so dear to me, and I only desire your well-being. So, I will again explain my supreme secrets.

Arjuna: I am sorry to make you repeat yourself.

2

Krishna [shaking his head while smiling kindly]: No, no. Everyone has a hard time comprehending what I am trying to explain. Even the gods and the greatest sages don’t understand my origin. After all, I am the origin of them.

Arjuna: You are the origin of everything, but what is your origin?

3

Krishna [putting his hand on his chest]: I am original, without any other origin. Thus I am the supreme master of everything. Anyone who can understand this, even if he or she is an ordinary mortal, is liberated from all confusions and misfortune.

Arjuna: It is very difficult for an emanation to comprehend its own origin, and even more difficult to comprehend the ultimate, self-originating origin.

Krishna: Yes. The origin is beyond the limits of its emanations. I am above and beyond every facility you might use to comprehend me.

Arjuna: What about the higher tools of knowledge and science?

4

Krishna: Intelligence, knowledge, certainty, forbearance, realism, restraint, equipoise… Existence and non-existence and their associated fear and fearlessness… I am above and beyond all these.

Arjuna: What about mystic and religious methods of understanding?

5

Krishna: Non-violence, non-discrimination, desirelessness, austerity, charity, fame or infamy… I am above and beyond all these as well. Every aspect of existence comes from me.

Arjuna: You say all the sages and gods come from you, but I have heard that they come from Brahmā, or Aditi.

Krishna: Aditi comes from Dakṣa, who comes from Brahmā. Where does Brahmā come from?

Arjuna: I know, but I would like to hear you say it.

6

Krishna: Brahmā is born from my thoughts. Then, from his thoughts come four, and then seven great sages, and then the forefathers, from whom everyone else in the world is eventually born.

Arjuna: If you are above and beyond any tool of comprehension, how can anyone ever comprehend you?

7-8

Krishna: Through devotion.

Arjuna: The other methods are useless?

Krishna: No. They are useful because they lead to devotion. When you finally start to comprehend my mystical nature, you will develop a devotional feeling of wanting to come closer and unite yourself to me. That is sure and certain.

“He is the cause of all causes. Everything comes from him.” If you understand this intelligently, you will start to feel very deep devotion towards me.

Arjuna: Then what?

9

Krishna: You will seek out those whose thoughts are enrapt in me, whose very hearts beat for me. Finding them, you will further enlighten one another by always discussing me with great satisfaction and pleasure!

Arjuna: And then?

10

Krishna: To those who are always on that loving path of adoration, I grant mystical intellect, capable of comprehending me.

Arjuna: Must they not also separately endeavor to overcome their ignorance?

11

Krishna: No. I personally care for them, ensuring that the dark shadows of ignorance are dispelled by the brilliant light of knowledge.

12-13

Arjuna [standing up out of enthusiasm]: “The supreme spirit, the supreme being, the supreme pure, the eternal divine person, the original divinity, unborn, and exceptional.” All the sages like divine Nārada, Asita, Devala, and Vyāsa describe you thus; and now you yourself have explained it to me.

Krishna: So, do you believe it?

14-16

Arjuna: Yes. I know that everything you say to me, my friend, is the truth.

Krishna: Are you not disturbed by others who hold a different opinion of me?

Arjuna: Certainly not! No one amongst the godly or ungodly can comprehend how you manifest all-attractive personality. Certainly only you are capable of understanding your own self – the Ultimate Person, the origin of everything, master of everything, divinity of divinity, and husband of the universe.

Krishna [impressed, smiles with gratitude].

Arjuna: Doubtlessly, no one but you are qualified to describe your infinite divine qualities. So please describe them now!

Krishna: If my qualities are infinite, how can I?

Arjuna: At least you can describe those that are relevant and easily comprehensible, the qualities by which you pervade everything that we experience.

Krishna: Why should I talk more about myself?

17

Arjuna: I need to know these things so I can always be enrapt in thoughts of you! You must explain, so that each and every thing I see will remind me of the All-Attractive.

Krishna: But I have already said too much about myself!

18

Arjuna: I want to know in more detail about your mystical power and opulence. You can speak again and again about these things, but I will never feel that I have tasted enough of that nectar!

19

Krishna [with deep affection]: Yes, my dear. I will certainly tell you about my divine opulences, but since they expand beyond limit I will only speak of those that very relevant.

Arjuna [sits down with wide, attentive eyes]

20-38

Krishna:

I am the soul within everyone’s heart.
I am the beginning, middle, and end of everything.

Among Aditi’s divine children, I am Viṣṇu.
Among lights, I am the radiant sun.
Among storms, I am the fiercest wind.
Among stars, I am the Moon.

Among Vedas [books], I am Sāma Veda [songs].
Among gods, I am Indra.

Among the senses, I am the mind.
Among living beings, I am the life-force.

Among Rudras, I am Śiva.
Among Yakṣas and Rākṣasas [powers of enjoyment], I am Kuvera [the treasurer].

Among Vasus [primordial elements], I am fire.
Among mountains, I am Meru.
Among the best priests, I am the god’s priest [Bṛhaspati].
Among generals, I am the god of war [Skanda].

Among pools, I am the ocean.
Among great sages, I am Bhṛgu.
Among sounds, I am the single syllable [“oṁ”].
Among sacrifices, I am the effort to chant mantras.

Among immovable things, I am the Himalayas.
Among trees, I am the banyan.
Among heavenly sages, I am Nārada.
Among celestial musicians, I am Citraratha.

Among the perfected, I am the scholar Kapila.
Among horses, I am Uccaiḥśravā [the divine horse], born from nectar.
Among the best of elephants, I am Airāvata [Indra’s elephant].
Among humans, I am the king.

Among weapons, I am lightning.
Among cows, I am the wish-fulfilling cow.
Among reasons to procreate, I am Cupid.
Among serpents, I am Vāsuki [king of dragons].

Among dragons, I am Ananta [Viṣṇu’s dragon].
Among aquatic beings, I am Varuṇa [god of the celestial ocean].
Among the spirits who assist the departed, I am the friendly Aryamā.
Among those who enforce punishment, I am the god of death [Yama].

Among demons, I am Prahlād.
Among restrictions, I am time.
Among animals, I am the lion.
Among birds, I am Garuḍa [the divine eagle].

Among purifiers, I am the wind.
Among warriors, I am Paraśurāma.
Among fish, I am the Capricorn.
Among rivers, I am the Ganges.

Among creations,
I am the beginning, the completion, and the process.
Among sciences, I am self-knowledge.
Among arguments, I am the conclusion.

Among letters, I am “A”.
Among compound words, I am the dual-compound.
Among things that last, I am persistence.
Among creators, I am the many-headed [Brahmā].

Among robbers, I am death.
Among changes, I am birth.
Among women, I am the goddesses of fame, beauty, speech, memory, intelligence, dedication, and forebearance.

Among the hymns of Sāma Veda, I am the Bṛhat-sāma.
Among poetic meters, I am gāyatrī.
Among months, I am the month of harvest [November].
Among seasons, I am the season of flowers [Spring].

Among cheaters, I am the gamble.
Among the winners, I am the power.
Among the efforts, I am the victory.
Among the strong, I am the strength.

Among the Vṛṣṇi dynasty, I am myself, Krishna.
Among the Pāṇḍavas, I am you, Arjuna.
Among scholars, I am Vyāsa.
Among poets, I am Venus.

Among deterrents, I am punishment.
Among ambitions, I am morality.
Among secrets, I am silence.
Among the knowledgeable, I am knowledge.

39

Krishna: Whatever else there might be, I am the very essence of it. There is nothing, living or non-living, that can exist independently of me.

Arjuna: Go on!

40-42

Krishna: I must stop here, otherwise there is no limit to these divine opulences. All these examples I gave are merely metaphors pointing you towards my expansive opulence.

Whatever you encounter that is sublime, beautiful, and powerful, you must understand that it is just a product of a fragment of my splendor. So what is the point of making this list longer and longer? Simply understand that I pervade everything in the entire universe with just a single fragment of myself.