KRSHNA AND HIS STUDENTS
Jnanam and Vijnanam (1-3)
Arjuna had consented to learn Yoga from Krshna. He wanted to get his nagging doubts cleared. Krshna asked him to practise yoga with his mind (manas) linked to his teacher in whom he had taken refuge (asraya) and without any expectation. While practising yoga, he would come to know Krshnas traits, his philosophy and thought in full (samagram) and without doubts (asamsaya). Krshna offered to unfold to him in full both jnanam and vijnanam without keeping back any point. After knowing these, there would be nothing more yet to be known. (1, 2)
By jnanam, Krshna meant all knowledge obtainable through formal study of the available works and through empirical methods of surveying the social and physical environment and also through personal experience and insight. It covered the knowledge of the past as well as of the present as presented by the different disciplines of study. This accumulated knowledge would be imparted to all the students of the academy. By vijnanam, he meant the knowledge unearthed by the application of the methods of logic and principles of dialectics, the methods of analysis and synthesis and resolution of contradictions for determining the latent trends behind manifest events and predicting scientifically the future possibilities and assessing the probabilities. Vijnanam is an extension of jnanam. It covered fresh knowledge that could be obtained through empirical methods as well as experimental methods.
Samkhya and Yoga
Among thousands of commoners, manushyas, who are engaged in economic activities to earn their livelihood, hardly one becomes a siddha. But even among these few siddhas, perfect scholars, hardly one strives to know his (Krishnas) reality, tattvata, essential personality, status and role, philosophy of life and school of thought, Krshna complains. (3) He seems to regret that Kapila and other siddhas for whom he had great respect did not approve his stand on samkhya and yoga. Krshna treated them as a single discipline. It was not strange that the commoners who were content with what they had and what they knew but were devoted to him did not understand his philosophy and mission.
Devotion does not necessarily imply that it follows comprehension of the meaning of the masters teachings. It is often irrational though the saint who is revered deserves respect and being emulated. Krshna then proceeds to explain the basic principles of samkhya and yoga. These two fields of study along with lokayata, social control, constituted Anvikshiki, the science of knowledge. Anvikshiki, according to Kautilya, merited more attention than the three Vedas (Trayi) that covered humanities, social ethics and cultural traditions. It was more important than Varta, economics, and Dandaniti, science of polity, the two main ingredients of Arthasastra. Krshna pays more attention to samkhya and yoga than to the other fields of study.
The segments of mans nature (4, 5)
Mans psycho-physical nature, prakrti, has eight segmentsthe five elements, earth, water, fire, wind and ether, bhumi, apa, agni, vayu and kham, and the three non-physical features, mind, intellect and ego, manas, buddhi and ahamkara. (Some identify kham with the hollow in the stratosphere. The physicians call it bile.) These eight pertain to the apara composition of mans individuality directing his physical and intellectual activities from within. (Apara is not-alien.) (4) Krshna offers to describe in the ensuing verses, the higher, external, (spiritual) para composition that keeps up (dharyata) all the living beings (jivabhuta) in this social universe (jagat). (5)
In other words, he would be describing the social laws based on altruism, which sustain all the living beings of the social universe, jagat, which is not organized as clans and settled communities. We may infer that Krshna offered to explain to Arjuna the principle behind governance of the social universe, jagat, comprising discrete individuals, bhutas who were at the level of mere existence and survival, jiva. These individuals belonged to the unorganised social periphery.
Para and Apara----Alter and Ego (6,7)
Krshna asks Arjuna to recognize, to support the stand (upadharaya) that all beings (sarva bhuta) (especially the discrete individuals of the unorganized social periphery) have their origin in (yoni) (are born of) this two-fold principle, para and apara, alter and ego, altruism and non-altruism. The apara orientation makes one follow the laws of nature, Rta, and struggle to survive against all odds and against threats from other beings and other species. The bhutas, individuals who belonged to the social periphery shared both traits, living for themselves and living for others. Those who are altruistic follow the social laws (dharma), which make one live for others. This is para orientation. The bhutas could not be ignored though they were not totally altruistic. The para principle that prevailed in the social universe, jagat, was what Krshna had upheld.
The para-apara principle that was less altruistic than the para principle was what Arjuna had to spread in the social periphery, making it less unsociable and less individualistic. [It may be noted that the note of religious mysticism in which the medieval commentators had wrapped this principle is scrupulously kept out of discussion here.] As far as the orientations that the members of the jagat, many of whom were at the bare subsistence level, were to imbibe, Krshna had given the direction. He declares, I (aham) am the origin of the creation (krtsna) of this social universe (jagat), of its coming into existence (prabhava) and of its getting dissolved (pralaya). (6) This declaration needs proper scrutiny. Krshna had designed a new social order that required the dissolution of the existing one.
Krshna as Arjunas Matpara, Alter ego
Krshna says that unlike a commoner who belongs to the prakrti and is covered by the eight-fold apara (ego) principle he is nothing other than the para (alter) principle matpara, matta parataram. There is none like him. No other principle is equal to his, that is, to his readiness to play the role of matpara the alter ego of his student. He is like the thread, sutra, passing through the cluster of beads, manigana. Only the beads shine. The thread is not visible. Krshna is one contributing to the bonding of the social universe comprising the discrete individuals, bhutas. His personality has to be appreciated in the context of this role. (Krshna was a charioteer, a suta. Suta is a corrupt form of sutra.) (7)
The latent Purusha talent of the free man, Nara (8, 9)
The role of this universal soul that runs through all beings and keeps them together is likened to the essence, rasa, of water that is tasteless but is vital for all beings and to light, prabha of the sun and the moon. This light reveals the traits of all objects that would otherwise remain hidden. Krshna says, I am the pranava (the basic syllable, Om) that represents all the Vedas and the sound, sabda, (that is ever reverberating) in the cosmos, in the vacuum, kha. He has identified himself with the universal soul that is not seen but is felt. This personality, he says, is paurusham, the purusha trait of nr or nara, the free man. (8) The enigma underlying this verse has stumped the modern commentators, as they have not had a correct appreciation of the sociological concepts behind the terms, purusha, nara and manushya.
The nobles (devas) and the commoners (manushyas) were the two major strata of the agro-pastoral core society of the Vedic times. The manushyas were engaged in economic activities and were organized in clans and communities, kulas and jatis. Devas were a leisure class and a liberal cultural aristocracy and the governing elite. The dynamic leaders were referred to as purushas and the manushyas were the commonalty, prakrti led by these purushas. The nrs or naras were free men from whose ranks the purushas emerged. Krshna claims to be such a purusha. He did not claim to be a god.
Krshna has amended the purusha-prakrti, prana-rayi, dichotomy highlighted by the dialecticians who belonged to the school of samkhya. He resorts to the latent-manifest dichotomy, with the latent force being more important than the manifest deed and the latter staying incomplete in the absence of the former. The leadership trait, paurusham, is respected and not the mere fact of being a free man, nara, one free from economic needs and social obligations. Krshna identified himself with the purushas, the social leaders who had risen from the ranks of the free men, naras. They exercised a sober influence over the commoners who were organized and were averse to adopt new methods. As a purusha Krshna exercised an unobtrusive but wholesome, latent influence as implicit in the terms, rasa of water and prabha of the sun (surya) and the moon (sasi). [Surya and Sasi (Soma) were the designations of the Vedic officials who represented the armed governing elite and the sober intelligentsia respectively.]
Krshna would visualize prthvi, the agro-pastoral commonalty as men noted for purity in thought and action and simplicity and pure social life, punya-gandha. This term had been generally associated with the Vedic cadres of gandharvas, vidyadharas, kinnaras, chakshus, charanas, tapasvis and siddhas. It has been interpreted by some as referring to those who had done noble deeds in their previous births and are hence now in positions superior to the masses. Krshna identifies himself with the splendid (vibha) group of Vasus who were a group of traditional nobles guiding the agro-pastoral economy and whose halo, tejas, had a wholesome influence over all men. Vibhas ranked lower than Prabhas. They were social leaders and petty rulers.
Krshna asserts that he is the life (jiva) of all beings, sarva bhuta. Krshna, a Vasu, identifies himself with all beings, especially the discrete individuals of the social periphery. He honours the meditators, tapasvis, and their tapas, ceaseless endeavour. Krshna identifies himself with all men whether they live only as discrete individuals (bhutas, beings) or exhibit talents (prabha or vibha or tejas) or have credits (punya-gandha or tapas). (9) Arjuna and other students of Krshnas academy were acquainted with the different cadres of the pre-varna Vedic times and with their specific traits and orientations. Krshnas discourse drew on these themes that eluded the medieval philosophers and their modern commentators.
The Ancient Seed----Sanatana Bijam (10-12)
The concept, jiva, life, calls attention to the intense charismatic association of the ideal Rajarshi with all beings, especially with the masses and those on the social periphery. Krshna claims to be the ancient (sanatana) seed (bijam) of all beings, sarva bhuta. The life, jiva, with which he identifies his self has to be traced to the first, the most ancient, sanatana, seed which through self-mutation caused the evolution of the different beings and different species of life. The ancient sages called it the golden womb, hiranya garbha. At the top of the social pyramid that has evolved as a result of this mutation, we notice the intellectuals, buddhimata, and the glorious inspirers, tejasvinis. Krshnaapplauds the traits (which stand to their credit), intellect (buddhi), and power of inspiration (tejas). (10) This verse is more than poetry and is certainly not a boast. Nor is it but a mystic enigma. The concept of a mass society with diversities and with the intellectuals and the cultural elite, tejasvinis, guiding it is an old one and has been adopted by Krshna.
The three traits of the seed----Sattva, Rajas, Tamas
Addressing Arjuna as Bharatarshabha, and recalling the stature of the powerful ruler, Bharata (son of Rshabha), a stoical ruler noted for his self-effacement as well, Krshna claims that he honours the might of those mighty persons who are devoid of lust and passion, kama and raga. Krshna does not deny the Rajarshi sexual pleasure but demands that it must be had within the framework of dharma, the code of duties and social laws based on morality and ethics, and not in violation of these. (11) Krshna recognizes that the desire for the company of the other sex is necessary for procreation and continuation of the species. He does not question the validity of kama as one of the four values of life, dharma, artha, kama and moksha. But the pursuit of sexual pleasure is not to be permitted to violate dharma even as pursuit of wealth, artha, has to be within the framework of the principles of equity, dharma. Raga and kama are marks of aggressiveness, rajas, and hence deplored.
Krshna posited that the seed that originated the diverse species runs through them all as jiva (life, in common parlance) and held it to be a very ancient one, sanatana, almost primordial. He then states that all the three traits bhavas, gunas, (sattvika, rajasa and tamasa), gentleness, aggressiveness and ineptitude and ignorance, are present in all and that they have originated in that seed with which he has identified himself. He upheld the samkhya school of thought. It held that one could know the future by extrapolating the present trends, but only up to a particular time clearly. Later it will be hazy. The same is true while looking back into the past. Samkhya dialectics called for an honest recognition of the limits of prospect and retrospect.
The soul, the essential I (aham) has to be distinguished from these traits, bhavas. These are however present in all beings, though in different proportions. In an enigmatic statement, Krshna claims, These bhavas are not in me, nor am I in them. I, the soul, am above these traits. Unlike others, I am not under their influence. Krshna seems to claim. (12) These three traits are associated with the soul, but the soul is different from and superior to them. The personality, individuality and identity of a man cannot be described only in terms of these traits that direct his deeds and thoughts. For, soul is not identical with life, jiva, or with senses or with mind or with intellect or with ego. Krshna identifies himself with that soul and seeks to identify it. The issue of nirguna, traitlessness, vis--vis saguna, association with all traits, has been debated along this line.
Disappointed with the social universe (13)
Krshna tells his students that the social universe, jagat, fails to recognize his real calibre, his being above the three gunas, traits, above the cadres excelling in these traits in varied proportions. For, it is under the spell (mohitam) of the three traits, bhavas. He claims to be above (para) them. He is imperishable, for he considers himself as the soul that has no traits. These traits are bound to wane, lose their efficacy in course of time. Gentleness and dynamism may be lost. But the soul does not perish. It is not describable in terms of gunas.
The social universe, jagat, with which he had established charismatic relationship, comprised all sections of the population that were constantly on the move. It too could be classified into intellectuals, rulers and warriors-cum-workers and commoners in whom sattva, rajas and tamas respectively were dominant. They could be classified, as Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vis. But the jagat did not appreciate the importance of Krshnas suggestion that there could be a cadre superior to these three. (13) The intricacies of the social theorems underlying social dynamics, lokayatra, have to be grasped to recognize the message and import of the Gita. Else, it will stay shrouded in and clouded by mysticism.
Deva Guna----Traits of a Noble (14)
Krshna says that it is hard to overcome (duratyaya) the illusion (maya) caused by his deva guna, his traits of a noble. (It is necessary to refrain from translating deva as god and to boldly acknowledge that devas were but aristocrats.) Krshna was different from the other nobles who were superior to the commoners, manushyas and were patrons of the latter and belonged to the rich leisure class. He was an active teacher, though as a Vasu, he belonged to the landed gentry. This deva guna has prevented many from recognizing his real role. Those who seek refuge in him and fall at his feet to learn from him, may cross (taranta) this (sea of) illusion (maya) (and recognize his role and mission). (14) Krshna belonged to the intellectual aristocracy that has to be distinguished from the socio-political aristocracy, devas.
Social origins of Krshna's students (15)
Krshna was a member of the aristocracy, a deva whose inborn trait, guna, was superior to sattva and rajas that were themselves superior to tamas, which characterized the masses. In other words, devas were respected as being superior to the Brahmans who were intellectuals and also to Rajanyas, rulers who were dynamic and aggressive. The masses are not well educated nor are they dynamic. They are marked by indolence and ineptitude but are not wicked.
Krshna says that evildoers (dushkrtina) who are also fools (mudha) and are rated low (adhama) do not seek refuge in him, that is do not seek to be taught by him. They belong to the cadres of free men, naras, (who are not under the wholesome influence of families, clans and communities). In them one may notice the presence both of rajas and tamas, a tendency to resort to blind violence. They lack, education, knowledge, jnanam. Similarly those who have the traits, bhava, of asuras, feudal warlords, do not fall at his feet. The orientations of these warlords were antithetical to those of the nobles (devas). They did not seek to be educated by him. (15)
Krshna hints that unlike Usanas, a teacher of political science and policy, dandaniti, who admitted all including asuras to his academy, he accepted only those who had a preponderance of both sattva and rajas. (His academy was meant to train social leaders.) The non-economic sections, punya-jana, and discrete individuals of the unorganized sections, bhutas, were the main applicants for admission to his academy. The naras who stayed apart from their families and organized groups could not adapt themselves to the discipline demanded by the academy where Krshna taught samkhya and yoga. But the bhutas, the discrete individuals of the social periphery were amenable to discipline and were eager to learn. Only the immoral elements among the free men were refused admission.
Four Categories of Krshnas Followers (16-18)
Krshna identifies four types of people (jana) among his followers and students. All of them were noted for their good deeds (sukrtina). Some of them were in distress (arta) and sought his help and protection. Some among his students sought only knowledge (were jijnasu). Some worshipped him as they sought material gains (were artharthi). The fourth group consisted of wise men (jnani). (16)
Obviously, scoundrels, fools and sadists could not be among his followers and students. They could not be among the petitioners at the gathering presided over by the ideal Rajarshi whose role Krshna commended to his students. The janapada was to be headed by a liberal aristocrat who was also an intellectual. It was not to be under a feudal warlord like Bali who patronized Usanas. (Krshna was surprised at the overwhelming support given to Bali by his subjects of Janasthana,) Was Usanass academy in Janasthana taken over by Krshna after Urukrama (Vamana) a disciple of Kashyapa eased the former out of his position?
Krshna treats the wise (jnani) who are constantly (nitya) united (yukta) in yoga (karmayoga), the activist intellectuals, as the best among his followers. They are devoted (bhakti) to him and like him treat samkhya and yoga as a single (eka) discipline. He is extremely dear to such a wise person (jnani) and that jnani is dear to him. (17) Krshna wanted Arjuna to belong to this group of intellectuals who were ideologically close to him. Krshnas academy had students from among the poor also. Not all were interested in pursuit of knowledge. Many were students of Arthasastra that taught them what wealth was and how it could be gained. (The term, eka, is not to be interpreted as calling for exclusive worship of Krishna.)
Krshna;s academy was dependent on the support of the people (jana). All the four groups who patronized it were generous and noble. But among these the wise, jnani, was dear to Krshnas soul (atma), for that wise man was perfectly harmonized and hence a fit person (yukta) and was established (sthita) in the best path (uttama gati). (18) The other three groups had limited and other goals. Some wanted their immediate distress to be relieved. Some sought training in vocations that would make them rich. Some others sought knowledge in specific fields of sciences. These too were admitted to his academy. But the wise man (jnani) had received training in yoga and was well on the road to higher goals.
Who were the Mahatmas, the Great Souls? (19)
The next verse requires close attention. Here Krshna seems to claim that only after several births (janma) one becomes wise, a jnanavan and resorts to him (prapadyata), holding that Vasudeva is all (sarvam) and that such a great person (mahatma) is rare to come by (durlabha). Some had become wise after going through several experiences, careers, each one being a new field of study, a new birth, as it were. Krshna does not count them as jnanis, who were the best among the four types of his followers.
These were of course intellectuals who had learnt their lessons through trial and error and become jnanavan. Becoming disappointed with other teachers and other schools of thought, they accepted the Vasudeva system of thought as the most holistic, comprehensive one (sarvam). But such scholars who had overcome their ego and accepted the superiority of the Vasudeva system, known also as the Pancharatra cult, were not many. Most of Krishnas devotees were trainees in his school of samkhya and yoga. They were not new converts to his school of thought unlike these great men, mahatmas. (Whom did Krshna refer to as 'mahatmas'? Was it a reference to the seven sages, maharshis, Marici and others who attended the Satvata sacrifice wearing hair like the Chitras, a wing of Gandharvas, as Chitrasikhandis?)
The Devotees of Devatas (20)
But not all intellectuals followed Vasudeva Krshna who belonged to the traditional group of nobles, the Vasus. He had no allurements to offer. The path of yoga that he had shown was not an easy one. It demanded non-attachment to desires and hatreds and non-expectation of rewards for duties performed. It demanded also impartiality and evenness. Hence those persons who lost their jnanam, wisdom, as they yielded to sexual and other desires, kama, resorted to other chieftains, devatas.
(The plutocrats, yakshas, who dominated the industrial economy of the frontier society, had the status of devatas that was marginally lower than that of the aristocrats (devas) of the core society. This arrangement had come to be accepted at the Kusasthali conclave convened by Samkarshana. Krshna, a deva, belonged to the Vasus who controlled the agro-pastoral economy of the core society. He did not agree to the proposal to give the plutocrats, yakshas, the status of devatas. Samkarshana too was a contributor to the Pancharatra cult.)
These worshippers of devatas had to observe (astaya) rules (niyamam) different from what Krshna, the teacher of yoga, had prescribed. They were constrained (niyata) to function in accordance with their own (svaya) nature (prakrti). Krshnas students, on the other hand, had to rise above their inborn traits. (20)
Krshna's academy might have upheld Satvata Dharma and been functioning under a charter given by Uparicara Vasu. Schools patronized by other chieftains had their own codes of conduct for their faculties and students. Krshna objects to their failure to place restrictions on hedonism. He had his reservations on the codes prescribed by these leaders who were materialistic in their orientations. There were such persons among Krshnas followers too. But he did not treat them to be the best among his devotees. (It is not correct to interpret that this verse reflects Krshnas displeasure at worship of other gods.)
Krshna offers to assist all in their faiths (21, 22)
Krshna clarifies that if any devotee (bhakta) wishes (icchati) to worship (archita) with faith (sraddha) such a frail form (tanu) (whatever form it may have), he renders that devotees faith in that form steady (acalam). (21) His devotee is free to select the form in which he likes to visualize his devata (deity, in common parlance). Krshna does not condemn either idol-worship or animism. He offers to help his devotee to have steady faith in that form and mode of worship that devotee had opted for. He does not find it necessary or even advantageous to disturb the faith of the superstitious in their objects of worship. Perhaps, the ignorant, the lowest in the tamas cadres, need such animistic (tanu) modes of worship, such catalysts.
Endowed (yukta) with such faith (sraddha), the devotee (bhakta) seeks (ihati) to worship and propitiate (aradhana) such form (of the devata) and from it, he obtains what he desires (kama). Krshna implies that his own code permits such worship by the ignorant masses and expectation of rewards. (22) Despite his emphasis on samkhya and yoga thatcan be availed of only by the higher echelons of the intelligentsia and the ruling cultural aristocracy, Krshna does not ignore the needs of the masses and the intellectually weaker sections of the society who are prone to pantheism, animism and polytheism. This verse covers only the relations between the masses and the leaders deified by them. The latter have to fulfill the expectations raised by them. Krshna offers to reward his devotees but it would not be as desired by them but it would be as he decided.
Krshna's Followers (23, 24)
The fruit (phalam) gained by these small minds (alpa-medha) who are not great intellectuals is temporary, having an end (antavat), Krshna points out. It is not one that would help them have a lasting spiritual, intellectual and cultural advantage. However Krshna does not interfere in the worshipping of devas and devatas. Such worshippers of great and powerful leaders seek only temporary and material gains and go to those who offer these. But those who are my devotees (madbhakta) come (yanti) to me only, Krshna says. The latter are different from those who seek temporary gains and are not many but they are superior to others (23).
Krshna points out The non-intellectuals (abuddhaya) think (manyanta) of me (mam) who am unmanifest (avyaktam) as having acquired (apannam) a manifest identity (vyakti), not knowing (ajnana) my higher, other (para) nature, trait (bhava) that is imperishable (avyaya) and is the best (uttama). (24) The status and traits of the uttama purusha, the best personage, are described in Ch. 15 of the Gita and are distinguished from the other levels of purusha.
Krshna asks Arjuna and other students not to evaluate his role only on the basis of his manifest deeds and functions, but to judge it on the basis of his contribution to a higher purpose that was then not yet made known to them. The intellectuals (buddhaya) had recognized him as one who had the traits and attitudes that could elevate his followers along with him to higher levels and enable them to enjoy lasting benefits, as their personalities would be moulded permanently in the desirable manner. But the non-intellectuals thought that Krshna had lowered his status and personality by consenting to be a teacher of yoga and becoming easily accessible to all. Krshna was aware of the confusion caused by his consenting to be with the commoners and meet their expectations too.
Techniques of Yoga Maya
Illusion and Samkhya Projection (25-28)
Krshna does not reveal himself to all. The power of the yogi is not to be revealed to all and sundry. It is veiled (avrta) by the technique of creating illusion (yogamaya), which is a part of the discipline of yoga. The light is focused (prakasa) on the truth, only for the benefit of the few suitable practitioners of this discipline. Only some and not all knew Krshnas mission. The foolish and bewildered (mudha) world of commoners (loka) does not know his real calibre, personality and thought. He is the soul (atma) that is unborn (aja) and is imperishable (avyaya). Krshna would like to identify with and be identified with the soul that has neither birth nor death rather than be identified by any of his roles. (25)
The soul is eternal, non-manifest and invisible, but it has its reminiscences of its past. This postulate leads Krshna to claim that he is not like Arjuna who has not identified himself with his immortal soul and who is hence ignorant of many events. He knows the beings and persons who have passed away (samatita) and also those who are still existing (vartamana) and those who will come to be in the future (bhavishya). But none knows this real nature, talent, of Krshna. (26) The verses dealing with Visvarupa, the revelation of Vishnus universal form and with the Vibhuti Yoga have their prologue in this postulate.
Krshna's school of samkhya and yoga seems to assert that it is the soul that knows and experiences everything rather than the intellect or the mind or the senses. These are but agencies subordinate to the soul and are at its service. The samkhya technique used by the socio-political thinkers like Krshna can be used to ascertain from an analysis of the present events what has happened in the past and to predict through projection of the constant factors in the current and continuing trends what will happen in the future. Krshna had mastered this technique but Arjuna was not yet acquainted with it. He too could master it and know the past and the future. This technique was taught only to a few. Krshna claims that none of his contemporaries know that he had mastered this technique as he compiled his treatise, Rajavidya, science of polity. He does not claim to be Omniscient.
Coming back to the basics of his school of thought, Krshna says that all beings (sarva bhutani), that is, all unattached individuals in particular, are overcome by attachment to the two (dvandva), pleasure and pain. They are allured (moha) to these. These arise from desire (iccha) and dislike (dvesha). They are infatuated (sammoham) (to worldly joys) and are carried down into the undifferentiated multitude (sarga) (where they lose their individuality and identity). They are no longer individuals capable of choosing correctly between the desirable and the undesirable. They are not able to withstand the current of passion and hatred. The unorganized masses are swayed by these two faults. (27)
But those people (janas) (the four groups of his followers referred to earlier) of virtuous deeds (punyakarmanam) in whom sin has come to an end (antagata) and who are freed (mukta) from the delusion of duality (dvandvamoha) worship me, steadfast (drdha) in their vows, Krshna claims. (28)
He contrasts the unattached individuals who have merged in the fluid masses (sarga) as they are under delusion and lost their individuality and identity in the anonymity of the multitude with the four identifiable groups among his followers. These groups stand firm in their vow to eschew desire and hatred and to be impartial and unselfish even while they pursue their limited personal goals, freedom from want (arta) or economic objectives (artharthi) or specific fields of knowledge or are already enlightened. These groups are noted for their virtuous deeds (sukrta). Those who do not have this training in samkhya and yoga as a single discipline tend to commit sins. When they are freed from delusion they acknowledge the merit in Krshnas methods and worship him.
Adhyatma----The Essential Soul (29)
The next two verses do not ring continuity with the above theme. Krshna is presented as claiming, Those who take refuge in me and strive for deliverance (moksha) from old age (jara) and death (maranam) may be said to know all about Brahma, Krtsnam, Adhyatmam and Karma. (29) Natural death does not lead to rebirth if it has been preceded by a life free from attachments and desires and full of good deeds, punyakarma, according to this version. Those who have not led such a life suffer in their old age and also in the next life. Krshna is said to promise protection against such calamity. This stand is untenable.
He calls upon his devotees to perform in full all the duties assigned to them. This helps one to realize how to become an ideal intellectual (Brahma). It also helps him to recognize the principle of creation, krtsnam, the theory of the evolution of different species and their survival and the design of the new social order envisaged by Brahma and introduced by Krshna. (This scheme would however be implemented by the school of Brahma with the amendments that he had introduced.) The trained scholar recognizes the essential soul, adhyatma that runs through all bodies and is latent. The duties to be performed on the recognition of these factors are regulated by Karmayoga. One who masters samkhya and yoga seeks death in action rather than of old age, this verse seems to suggest. (Has some later hand distorted Krshnas views?)
Adhibhuta----The Basic Individual (30)
Krshna clarifies that those who know (vidu) him to be adhibhuta (as the basic individual who is unattached to any clan or group but represents and dominates all beings), and adhidaivam (as the ideal noble, deva) know his real personality. He is adhiyajnam, the greatest personage to whom one offers all his talents and wealth (for being used for the promotion of the latters mission). He is a charismatic leader par excellence. Those who know this are said to have their thought (chetasa) properly harmonized (yukta) and as ready for instruction in yoga. (30) Yajna, sacrifice, brings the commoners and the nobles together as two sectors supporting each other. Krshna speaks for both and inspires both.
All human beings, whether organized in clans and communities or not are to be treated as individuals, bhutas. As they abandon their attachments to their groups and conduct themselves impartially they exhibit their essential individuality, adhibhutam. At the top of the social pyramid we notice the essential noble (adhidaivatam) who is gentleness and grace incarnate and follows the highest principle of sacrifice, giving back what one receives as sacrificial offerings. Krshnas students come to know of these traits of their teacher, if not early, at least late, just on the eve of their graduation and departure from his academy, prayanakala. Not all could recognize his mission early in their career as his students.
THE YOGI AND THE TWO PATHS
The Basic Concepts (1,2,3)
Arjuna requested Krshna to clarify what he meant by the terms, Brahma, adhyatma, karma, adhibhutam and adhidaivam. He was addressing Krshna as Purushottama, the best among social leaders, an ideal man. Which feature of the body, deha, did Krshna refer to as adhiyajnam, and why? How could one who had regulated his conduct, a niyata atma, recognize Krshna at the time of his final departure, prayanakala? (1, 2) These issues arose from Krshnas claim in the concluding verses of the previous chapter. Arjuna was afraid that he might be slain in the battle and that his death was near. Even if he were to win, he could not become a ruler and was destined to go away along with his brothers on his last journey, mahaprastanam. How could he recognize Krshna if death took him unawares? Krshna then defines the terms used often during his counsel.
Brahma and Omniscience----Adhyatma and Deep Soul
The indestructible (akshara) supreme (paramam) (God, in common parlance) is meant by the term, Brahma. In Krshnas scheme, it represents the highest level of knowledge, knowledge of the entire past, the present and the future as made possible by the application of samkhya methodology of its acquisition. He may visualise Brahma as Omniscience. He does not visualise it as being Omnipotent. It may be Omnipresent. The essential personal nature of an individual, svabhava is called adhyatma. It is the composite of the three traits, sattva, rajas and tamas. No two persons are alike and yet every one has these three traits in him. Svabhava varies from man to man and from species to species. It determines even at the very beginning every aspect of ones conduct, nature of his actions and reactions. Krshna, like other teachers, asks every one to recognise his own essential nature, his deep soul and adhyatma. This calls for introspection. This term is often used imprecisely as implying spiritualism.
Karma and Creative Action
Karma, the principle of creative action, udbhavakara, brings into view the traits of the varied fluid multitude, sarga, of individuals, bhutas. Krshna implies that the theory of creative action, karma, covers the course of evolution with svabhava, personal nature that covers sattva, rajas and tamas leading through its varied compositions to the emergence of different species and different cadres of men. This theory evades the issues of mutation of the species and struggle for survival, survival of the fittest, emergence of the first man and the first woman, and evolution of the higher orders from the lower. The student of Karmayoga has to bear in mind this definition and interpretation of the term karma. It covers an area far more than mans present deeds in pursuit of a livelihood and status. (3)
Brahma, the sovereign constitution (4-7)
While Brahma is supreme and is indestructible, akshara, the essential trait of the different beings, adhibhutam, is ksharam, decaying and finally ceasing to be. The two are antithetical. It needs to be noted that the expression, Akshara Brahma has been used to refer to the Vedas in general, to denote the indestructibility of their authority. The Manavas, followers of Pracetas Manu accepted the authority of only the three Vedas, Rg, Yajur and Sama. The authority of the Atharvaveda that was declared during the Vedic times to be Brahma, the socio-political constitution, thereafter came to be eroded. Krshna accepted all the four Vedas (though he had a word of praise for the lyrical Samaveda). The Rgveda presented the socio-cultural constitution of the Vedic times and the Atharvaveda, the socio-political. They were prototypes of Dharmasastra and Arthasastra. Brahma was the designation of the highest authority entitled to interpret the Vedas and the constitution.
Adhibhutam and Individual Will, Adhidaivam and Leadership
If the sovereignty of Brahma, the unified constitution, is indestructible, the will of the individual that enables him to survive against all odds, adhibhutam, is bound to get weakened and fade away, is ksharam. Krshna was expounding his thought and its bases to a group of students who were getting trained in Rajayoga and Rajavidya, the science of polity. He was drawing attention to the unorganized multitude (visarga) of beings, individuals (bhutas) who belonged to the social periphery and the fleeting nature of their wills. On the other hand, the basis of the trait of a noble (deva) adhidaivam, that gives him influence over the masses (prakrti) lies in his purusha character, the ability to withstand difficulties and lead others.
Krshna claimed to be the purusha to whom yajna, sacrifice was offered by the individuals, bhutas, who belonged to the unorganized multitude and also by the nobles, devas. That person is his personality denoted by the term, aham. This is different from ego, ahamkara. Here Krshna presents himself as a purusha, social leader, and not as a deva, a noble. (4)
Addressing Arjuna as the best of beings with a body (dehabhrtam), Krshna says that there need be no doubt about his claim that one who remembers him at the time of his departure, prayanakala, attains his (Krshna's) attitude (madbhavam) (that is, if he had been properly instructed in Krshnas academy). Krshna justifies his claim on the basis of the theorem that the nature of whomsoever one identifies with or remembers at the last moment is obtained by the devotee or the supplicant. Hence his claim is not to be dismissed as an extraordinary one or as an irrational one. Arjuna is advised not to cease to think of his guide and his guidance at any time.
He is asked to fight, always remembering Krshnas advice (for Arjuna might fall in the battle at any moment). One who with his mind (manas) and intellect (buddhi) placed himself at the command (arpita) of Krshna would surely reach him. (5,6,7) The issue of the time of departure, death, raised by Arjuna was a minor one. What Krshna called for was adherence to his school of thought till the end, after the student having consented to be taught by him.
Divya Purusha-----Aristocratic Leadership (8)
He who contemplates along my lines (anuchintya) with his thought (chetasa) attuned, harmonized (yukta) by constant practice (abhyasa) of the yoga steps (as recommended here) and does not wander (gamina) after other (anya) systems reaches (yati) the (level of the) supreme (parama), splendid, noble (divya) personage (paurusham). (8) Krshna would distinguish between the status of a leader, purusha, attained by an aristocrat, noble, a deva, and the level of purusha reached by a free man, nara. Training in Rajayoga and Karmayoga as recommended by Krshna would enable Arjuna to reach the former level, divya purusha, aristocratic leadership. Krshna claimed this trait.
The two concepts, daivam and paurusham are not to be treated either as antithetical or as identical. They are distinct from each other and Krshna tries to bring them together as he introduces the concept of a dynamic aristocracy. It would head and guide the four-fold society; the society based on four social classes, chaturvarna. He did not approve the concept of an aristocracy as a rich leisure class, a parasite living on the surplus produced by the commonalty. Arjuna would be a noble, deva, as well as a leader, a purusha, a distinct personality, even as Krshna was. Yoga was the only discipline that could raise an ordinary person to this high position, the highest level that he can reach. He did not question Krshnas insistence on constant practice of yoga steps but he had yet to be convinced that even a last minute switch to Krshnas system of yoga would be really beneficial.
Kavis on the subtle soul, Adhyatma (9)
Krshna explained that he was not advocating any view that was not in consonance with the traditional (purana) regulations (anusasitaram). One who follows the view of the Kavis would come to the following conclusion. The supporter (dhataram), (one who plays the role of a Dhata or Indra, a liberal donor and head of the house of nobles) of all (sarva) (beings) is subtler (aniyamsam) than the atom (anu) and that one cannot even conceive (achintyam) its form (rupa).
The Kavis were a group of scholars who belonged to the Bhrgus and were even in their youth getting trained to become siddhas, the perfect ones competent to legislate. They were scientists as well as philosophers. They were trying to unfold the laws of Nature and build a socio-political constitution based on these laws that dictated the view that might is right and demanded domination of the weak by the benevolent mighty and recommended voluntary and wise subordination of the former to the latter. On the other hand, the social laws, dharma, recommended by Manu Vaivasvata subordinated the state to the society, the mighty to the weak. The judiciary protected the weak.
It may be inferred that the Kavis were also proponents of the theory of the subtle soul, adhyatma. The atma is subtler than the atom and has more compressed energy than the atom has. (Usanas, the great political grammarian, was a Kavi. Kavi is not to be interpreted as a poet or visionary. Such proponents tend to visualize the possibility of a highly energetic individual seizing and holding power for the good of all.) Krshna claims that his school of samkhya and yoga is not in conflict with the metaphysics of the school of Kavis. (9) This subtle soul, atma, has the colour, varna, of the sun, aditya, which is beyond (parastat) darkness, tamas.
This cryptic statement needs further scrutiny. It would appear that Krshna posited the existence of a paramatma who had a status far above that of the ignorant masses and who belonged to the class of the nobles-cum-administrators known as Adityas.
Divya-purushas, Yogis and Yatis (10-13)
At the time of his death, prayanakala, one should be steady in mind (achala manas). With the strength (bala) gained from constant practice of yoga steps, he should set his life-breath (prana) well (samya) on the middle of his eyebrows. As he passes away at this stage, he will attain (upaiti) the status of the supreme (parama) splendid person, divya-purusha. (10) This advice is not to be construed as a claim that a yogi who passes away in his yogic posture gets united with God. He is honoured as a great personage and as one who had become eligible for the status of a saint.
The Vedic scholars described the status of this personage as the indestructible (aksharam). In other words, the membership of the cadre of nobles, devas, was open to great yogis who were recognized as divya purushas, at the last stage of their careers. The ascetics (yatis) who were free from lust (vitaraga) tried to enter (visanti) that stage. For that they practised celibacy (brahmacharya). The yogis and yatis were not assigned to the cadre of sages, rshis, who were essentially scholars and social counsellors. The sages, rshis were not all ascetics, samnyasis. The yatis were lifelong celibates and were a cadre parallel to but not identical with the yogis. The latter were men of action. Krshna offers to describe this last stage in the career of a yogi. (11) He had already attained the status of a divya-purusha, a dynamic aristocrat.
The trainee has to regulate (samyamya) all the entrances of the body by which the breath enters or leaves it and confine (nirudhya) the mind (manas) in the heart (hrda) and fix his life-breath (prana) in the head (murdha). Established in the position (asthita) prescribed for commencing yoga endeavour (yoga-dharanam), he must utter the single letter (Om, eka-aksharam) that is known as Brahma. As the practitioner of yoga departs (prayati), that is, as his soul leaves his body, remembering (anusmaram) (the goal to be reached) me (his teacher, his alter ego) whom he has been asked to emulate, he goes towards (yati) the highest destination (parama gati), giving up (tyajam) his body (deha). (12, 13) The note of Krshna monotheism is subdued.
Krshna's Academy and Aged Converts (14, 15)
One who constantly and continuously remembers me (mam) (the teacher) and thinks of none else (ananya cetasa) is always united (yukta) in yoga. He reaches my status easily, Krshna says. (14) He insists on following his teachings constantly for reaching the highest status (parama gati), that of a divya purusha. This is like that of the Purushottama, but not the same. The teachings of others do not take one so high, he implies.
Krshna honours the adherents who have come to him for guidance at the last moment as mahatmana, great souls. Having come to him, they do not recede to the stage of one liable to undergo fresh training, punarjanma (rebirth in other contexts), to the abode of sorrow, duhkalaya, to the penitentiary where the sinner has to repent for his errors and crimes. Some new trainees have to go through a temporary (asasvata) period (of probation). (15)
But the experienced that have left their old systems of yoga and adopted Krshnas system and sought his guidance are eligible for admission to the highest class in his academy. For, they have attained perfection in all disciplines and obtained every desirable experience. The highest stage, parama gati, attained by the siddhas is exempt from the rule of retraining, punarjanmam, going back to the same life to correct ones mistakes and relive it without fault.
Rebirth, Reorientation and the Seven Social Worlds (16)
Those who have not overcome the feelings of desire and wrath, love and hatred and those who seek material gains from their efforts cannot attain that highest stage.. The seven social worlds were arranged in a hierarchical order. Bhu, bhuva and sva signified the ago-pastoral commonalty, the frontier society and the urban patriciate respectively. The academicians and legislators were brought under mahaloka and janaloka and ranked above these three. The 'meditators' and those trying to find new and useful paths and means were covered by the tapaloka. The cadre of jurists who stood by truth, satya, was referred to as satyaloka, the highest of the seven.
According to the Upanishadic sages, the community of the highest intellectuals who manned the constitution bench of the judiciary was known as Brahmaloka. Even these intellectuals were not exempt from the rule of rebirth, the painful process of reliving the past to get the earlier sins and errors cleansed. Arjuna is briefed that all the cadres, Brahmaloka downward, are subject to return to the previous stage, from which they had been promoted, punar-avartina. They rise and fall in social grades. But Krshna had reached a stage from where there was no return to an earlier one, no punarjanma.
Brahmaloka of Intellectuals; Janaloka of Legislators (17-22)
Krshna clarifies that even the members of the Brahmaloka did experience day and night (good times and bad times) though these might be very long. How long a Yuga was, is not mentioned. The members of the Brahmaloka too were commoners, jana. Obviously the Brahmaloka referred to was not different from Janaloka, the cadre of legislators. These legislators of the Vedic times were known as Brahmavadis, experts in Atharvaveda and they planned for a long period. Legislation (dharma) is for all times to come, (is sasvata, permanent). These legislators, Brahmanas, too were men and were liable to be returned to their original position if they did not fulfill the expectations. The aphorism has to be read in this light.
The concept of day and night leads Krshna to more profound aphorisms. As the day dawns all the non-manifested things get manifest and as the night sets in, they merge in that same, called non-manifested. (18) The beings, bhutas, who are born and die and are reborn, have the same souls, many believe. The different generations who people the villages where the unattached individuals are directed to stay, bhutagrama, are born, live and die and are born again and again. (19) The community, the society, the multitude continue to exist while its individual members come and go, are born and die. Krshna does not concede the argument that a new soul is born along with the body when birth takes place and that the soul dies along with the body.
There are periods, days of activity and nights of inactivity. This soul has periods of manifestation (vyakta) and non-manifestation (avyakta). Beyond this period of non-manifestation (that is, pre-birth and post-death), there is another (anya) non-manifested (avyakta) eternal, primal (sanatana) (force). It does not perish (na vinasyati), even when all beings (sarveshu bhuteshu) (discrete individuals of the social periphery and other regions who have no patrons to take care of their interests) perish (nasyatsu), Krshna clarifies. (20)
He posits the existence of a soul that is external and non-manifest and imperishable and is different from and is beyond the souls of the individual beings. The latter are reborn and are involved in the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth of bodies and lose their identities for a short period when the social groups to which they respectively belong are dissolved and re-emerge when the social structure is rebuilt.
Krshna does not use the term, atma, to describe either soul, the eternal that is not involved in the process of life and death, of births and deaths and individual identities or the soul that is distinct from the body that it temporarily inhabits and is however related to social entities and aggregates of individuals. Krshna however seems to suggest that he is to be identified with the eternal soul that is not subject to rebirth. He is not a member of the Brahmaloka or of the Janaloka, for its members too had limited tenures.
Freedom from rebirth, punarjanma, from return to the earlier stage of ones career is obtained only by a person who is superior to the members of the community of intellectuals, Brahmaloka who too were part of the social polity. Some of them held their posts for a long time but were kept away too for equally long periods.
Krshna explains that the higher non-manifested (soul) is called akshara, the imperishable. They speak of it as the supreme status (parama gati). Those who attain that status do not return (to their earlier positions). This was Krshnas highest abode (parama dhamam). (21) All these unattached individuals, sarva bhuta, (especially of the social periphery) have established a charismatic relation with this other (para) personage (purusha). They reside in his heart (antasthana) and are pervaded by him. His status, abode, can be gained (labhya) by those who are devoted to him alone (ananyaya bhakti). (22)
It would appear that Krshna, the head of the academy, was a charismatic figure and influenced all teachers and students. He was accessible to all but they had to accept only him as their guide. Arjuna was exhorted to become such a devotee. Krshna did not claim to be God. He does not proceed to convert this statement into a preamble for the path of devotion, bhakti.
The Two Paths, Northern and Southern (23-28)
Instead he contrasts the two paths, the one that would take his disciple to a goal from which there is no return and the other that would bring him back to the present life, a second birth, after a brief acquaintance with an intermediate goal. Addressing Arjuna as Bharatarshabha, Krshna offered to tell him the time when the yogis, departing (for making their acquired talents to projects over wide areas), prayata, do not return and when they return. (23)
Krshna follows the conventional description of the two paths, northern and southern, uttarayana and dakshinayana, (as in Prasna Upanishad). He says that the days during uttarayana suklapaksha when Agni and jyoti are worshipped are the time recommended for travel to the Brahmaloka by the people who have studied and known the Vedas. The six months when the sun is seen to move northward from the tropic of Capricorn to the tropic of Cancer are known as the holy period of uttarayana. The other six months when the sun is seen to move southward are known as dakshinayana. The fortnight after new moon is suklapaksha and it is preferred to the other fortnight, krshnapaksha when the moon wanes. (24)
A note on the word, jana is necessary. The Sarasvati-Drshadvati basin was known as Brahmavarta or Brahmaloka. It was located to the north of the tropic of Cancer. Its chief, Prajapati, had the designation, Brahma. He was held to be the foremost authority on the Vedas and Dharma. Janasthana was a province on the banks of Narmada that marked the southern limit of Aryavarta and was almost on this tropic. It was under asura leaders, feudal warlords. Vamana, a disciple of Kashyapa, overthrew its ruler, Bali and exiled him to the southern peninsula.
The term, jana, implied the legislators who followed the political treatise, Dandaniti, propounded by Usanas who was Balis guide. With the discomfiture of Usanas at the hands of Vamana, the authority of the Brahmavadis, the ideologues who followed the socio-political constitution laid down by Atharvaveda, known as Brahma was restored. It is implied that the legislators of Janaloka began to accept this constitution, Brahma. Resort to the northern path implied that there would be no rebirth for the intellectuals who followed this code. Usanas and his school conceded that there would be no return to the autocratic ways of the feudal lords, after Vamana (Urukrama) routed them in debate.
The southern course represented by night and smoke was the path taken by the yogis who had taken the guidance of Chandra (Soma, moon). Agni represented the Brahman intellectuals and the agro-pastoral commonalty. Soma represented the frontier society of the forests and mountains and its intellectuals. These yogis had to return to their academies to receive proper training. (25)
For the people who are constantly on the move, the unorganized social universe, jagat, (who unlike the jana, were not settled native communities of the rural areas), light and darkness, sukla and krshna, are thought to be two permanent, sasvata, alternative paths. By the one, the northern path, one goes never to return and by the other, the southern, he comes back. (26) The yogi who knows the difference between the two paths is never deluded (na muhyati). Hence Krshna exhorts Arjuna to be always firmly attached to the discipline of yoga (yogayukta bhava). (27) The deluded have to be retrained while the one who recognizes the errors and goes along the right path does not need to return to the academy for such retraining.
The yogi who has realized all this (sarvam idam) goes beyond (atyeti) the fruits of meritorious deeds (punyaphalam) assigned to (pradishtam) the study of Vedas, the performance of sacrifices, yajnas, the observance of rigorous meditation (concentrated intellectual endeavour), tapas, and the offering of gifts, dana. He gains more than what the performers of these duties which the three educated higher classes or varnas were required to discharge. It may be noted that later social codes did not prescribe performance of tapas as an essential duty. By performing his duties, the yogi (Rajayogi, Brahmayogi and Karmayogi) attains (upaiti) the high status (paramam sthanam) of the foremost person (adyam) in order of protocol. He secures precedence. The Rajarshi who adheres to the codes laid down is recognized to be superior to the three respected cadres, Rajanyas (the power-elite), Brahmanas (the jurists) and the officials (executive). (28)