Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 7 verse 1-15
Communion through Knowledge & Realization
Summary of the Teaching
Now, the means —worship/meditation (upāsanā) for attaining Nārāyaṇa the Consort of Śrī is introduced:
The first group of six chapters dealt with the knowledge of the true nature of the Self, which is the pre-requisite for upāsanā, which is then accomplished through Right Action (Karma Yoga).
In this group of six chapters the nature of the Supreme Being (Para-Brahman) and His worship (upāsanā) designated by the term ‘Bhakti’, (loving devotion) are taught.
This same teaching will be summarised later on in chapter 18 verses 46 —54.
Rāmānuja’s Concept of Bhakti
It is established in the Vedanta texts that upāsanā (worship/meditation) done with bhakti (loving devotion) constitutes the only means for attaining the Supreme. What is referred to as knowledge (vedanā) in passages such as:—
“Knowing Him alone does one pass over death” (Sve. Up. 3;8),
“Knowing Him alone one becomes immortal here” (Tai. Arany., 3.12.7)
—has the same meaning as terms contained in the texts like;—
“Verily my dear the Self should be seen... should be meditated upon steadily” (Br. Up., 2.4.5),
“Let him worship the Self alone as the object to be attained” (Br. Up., 1.4.15),
“When the mind is pure, then the remembrance (i.e. loving meditation) is firm, when the memory is attained, there is release from all knots of the heart” (Cha. Up., 7.26.2),
“The fetter of the heart is broken, all doubts are solved, all his works (Karmas) perish, when He has been seen, who is high and low” (Mun.Up., 2.2.8).
These texts establish the conclusion that the terms; meditation (dhyāna) and worship (upāsanā) indicate mindfulness (vedanā) which is a sequence of thoughts about the Supreme Being.
The consequence of this thought flow is that one is chosen by the Supreme Being.
This upāsanā itself becomes delectable because the object of mindfulness (the Supreme Lord Himself) is so dear (to the practitioner).
This is made clear by the specification given in the text;—
“The Self cannot be obtained by instruction, or by worldly intelligence, or by much hearing. He whom this Self chooses, by him alone It can be attained, and to him the Self reveals Itself” (Ka. Up., 2.;23; Mun.Up., 3.2.3).
It is this thought flow which is called “Bhakti”, as defined by texts like:—
“Constant meditation accompanied with love is termed Bhakti” (Laingottara-Purāṇa).
The following two passages are therefore synonymous: —
“He who thus knows Him, becomes immortal here; there is no other path for liberation”. (Tai. Aran., 3.12.7),
“Neither by study of the Vedas, nor by austerities, nor by alms-giving, nor even by sacrifice, can I be seen as you have seen. But by exclusive devotion, O Arjuna, I can be thus truly known and seen and entered into”. (Gītā 11.53-54).
Here in the seventh chapter five principal topics are dealt with:
1. The real nature of the Supreme Being who is the object of worship,
2. His concealment by Prakṛti (Material Nature),
3. Removal of the veil of Māyā (delusion) through taking refuge in the Lord
4. The various types of devotees and
5. The superiority of the wise.
mayyāsakta manāḥpārtha yogaṃyuñjan madāśrayaḥ|
asaṃśayaṃsamagraṃmāṃyathājñāsyasi tacchṛṇu || 1 ||
The Blessed Lord said:
1. With your mind focused on Me, having Me for your support and practising Yoga —listen, O Arjuna, to how you can, without doubt, know Me fully.
“Listen attentively to this teaching which I am about to impart to you, by which you will understand Me conclusively and completely.
I am the object of the Yogic contemplation in which you are engaged with a mind so deeply attached to Me by virtue of your overwhelming love.
It would probably disintegrate instantaneously in the moment it lost contact with My essential Being, attributes, pastimes and glories, and with your very Self resting so completely on Me —it would break up when bereft of Me.”
yajjñātvāneha bhūyo’nyajjñātavyam avaśiṣyate || 2 ||
2. I will declare to you in full, this knowledge along with the differentiating insight (Vijñāna), knowing which nothing else remains to be known.
Vijñāna (differentiating insight) is that knowledge of the Godhead in which His nature is clearly distinguished from all other things.
The Supreme Being is distinguished from all things, animate and inanimate, as the only Being that is devoid of all negativity and is endowed with innumerable, infinitely varied, positive and unsurpassed attributes.
Śrī Krishna declares that this teaching is difficult to attain: —
manuṣyāṇāṃsahasreṣu kaścid yatati siddhaye |
yatatām-api siddhānāṃkaścin māṃvettitattvataḥ|| 3 ||
3. Among thousands of men, perhaps one strives for perfection; even among those who strive for perfection, one only may know Me; and among those who know Me, one alone perhaps, knows Me in reality.
‘Men’, —those Dvījas (Brāhmaṇs, Kṣatriyas and Vaiṣyas) who are qualified to observe the meditative techniques enjoined in the Shastras —among thousands of such qualified practitioners, only a few persist until the attainment of perfection (in yoga).
Among the thousands who strive till the attainment of perfection, a very few only, knowing Me, strive to attain success through Me [i.e., through My Grace].
Among thousands of those who might know Me, one alone may know Me in reality, as I am.
The point is: there is no one who is capable of knowing Me as I am. It will be declared later on:
—“It is very hard to find such a great person” (7.19), and “But no one knows Me” (7.26).
bhūmir-āpo’nalo vāyuḥkhaṃmano buddhir-eva ca |
ahaṅkāra itīyaṃme bhinnāprakṛtir-aṣṭadhā|| 4 ||
4. Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect and the principle of ego; thus My material nature [Prakṛti] is divided eightfold.
“Prakṛti is the material cause of this universe, consisting of endless varieties of objects and means of enjoyment and places of enjoyment, is divided into eightfold substance; —all pertain to Krishna.”
apareyamitastvanyāṃprakṛtiṃviddhi me parām |
jīvabhūtāṃmahābāho yayedaṃdhāryate jagat || 5 ||
5. This is My Inferior Nature [Prakṛti], but, O mighty-armed One, know that My Superior Nature is different. It is the life-principle [Jīva-bhūta], by which this universe is sustained.
The ‘Higher Nature’ is totally different from this inanimate material nature comprised of the objects of enjoyment for sentient beings. It is ‘higher’, because it is more preeminent compared to the insentient ‘lower’ nature.
This higher Nature is the individual Self (Puruṣa) by which the whole inanimate material universe is sustained.
etad-yonīni bhūtāni sarvāṇītyupadhāraya |
ahaṃkṛtsnasya jagataḥprabhavaḥpralayastathā|| 6 ||
6. Know that all beings originate from these two. Therefore, I am the origin and the dissolution of the whole universe.
All entities —from Brahma down to a tuft of grass, originate in these two Natures, which are consciousness (Puruṣa) and Matter (Prakṛti).
Irrespective of whether they are existing in an evolved or less evolved form, the [dual] principle of consciousness and inanimate matter are combined together in all entities.
It is proven on the basis of the Vedas and Smṛti that the Supreme Being is the cause of these two Principles, Prakṛti and Puruṣa (matter and consciousness), which form the totality of all sentient and insentient beings.
This is evident from texts like:—
“The Mahat resolves into Avyakta, Avyakta into Akṣara, Akṣara into Tamas, and Tamas merges with the Supreme Lord”. (Subala Up., 2);
“O sage, distinct from the form of Vishnu, the Supreme Lord, the two forms, Prakṛti and Puruṣa, arise” (V.P., 1 .2.;24) ;
“What was described by Me as Prakṛti in its dual form of the manifest and the unmanifest, and the Puruṣa merge in the Supreme Self, and the Supreme Self is the support of all. He is the Supreme Lord named Vishnu, exalted in the Vedas and Vedanta” (V.P., 6.4;39 & 40).
mattaḥparataraṃnānyat kiñcid-asti dhanañjayaḥ|
mayi sarvam idaṃprotaṃsūtre maṇi-gaṇāiva || 7 ||
7. There is nothing whatsoever higher than Me, O Arjuna. All this is strung on Me, as clusters of gems on a thread.
“I am absolutely superior to all things in two ways:
(1) I am the cause of both the Natures (Prakṛtis) and I am also their Proprietor (śeṣin).
The Jīvas exercise control over their bodies as they are the inner proprietors (śeṣin) and I am the Proprietor of all Jīvas.
(2) I am also the Supreme Being because I possess knowledge, untiring strength, sovereignty, immutability, creative power and splendour in an infinite degree.
The totality of all the sentient and insentient beings, whether in their [unmanifest] causal state or in their [manifest] state of effect, is strung on Me, who abide as their Self, as a cluster of gems on a thread —in other words they have their rest and support in Me.”
And it is established that the entire Universe [of sentient and insentient entities] and Brahman (the Supreme Being) exist in the [symbiotic] relationship of body and spirit as declared by the Antaryāmī-Brāhmaṇa and other texts: —
“He whose body is the earth” (Br. Up., 3.7-3),
“He whose body is the Self” (Br. U. Madh., 3.7.22),
“He is the Over-Self of all beings, immaculate, He is the Lord in the supreme heaven, He is the one Nārāyaṇa”. (Sub.Up., 7).
Everything constitutes the “corporeality” and is an “expression” of the Supreme Being who is their Over-Self, thus the Supreme Being alone exists, and all [existing] things are only His modes [of expression].
Therefore all terms used in common parlance for different things denote Him only.
Śrī Krishna illustrates this teaching by equating Himself with some important things.
raso’ham-apsu kaunteya prabhāsmi śaśi-sūryayo |
praṇavaḥsarva vedeṣu śabdaḥkhe pauruṣaṃnṛṣu || 8 ||
8. I am the sapidity in the water, O Arjuna! I am the radiance in the sun and the moon; the sacred syllable Om in all the Vedas; sound in the ether, and valour in men am I.
puṇyo gandhaḥpṛthivyāṃca tejaścāsmi vibhāvasau |
jīvanaṃsarva bhūteṣu tapaścāsmi tapasviṣu || 9 ||
9. I am the pure fragrance in the earth; I am the brilliance in the fire; I am the life-principle in all beings, and Inner Heat engendered by spiritual practitioners.
bījaṃmāṃsarva bhūtānāṃviddhi pārtha sanātanaṃ|
buddhir-buddhimatām asmi tejas-tejasvinām aham || 10 ||
10. Know Me, O Arjuna (son of Partha), to be the primeval seed of all beings. I am the intelligence of the discerning, and the brilliance of the brilliant.
balaṃbalavatāṃcāhaṃkāma-rāga vivarjitam |
dharmāviruddho bhūteṣu kāmo’smi bharatarṣabha || 11 ||
11. I am strength in the strong disassociated with craving and attachment. In all beings, I am that desire which is not contrary to Dharma, O Arjuna (Bull of the Bharatas),
ye caiva sāttvikābhāvārājasāstāmasāśca ye |
matta eveti tān-viddhi na tvahaṃteṣu te mayi || 12 ||
12. Know that all those states of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas have their origin in Me alone. But I am not in them; they are in Me.
Why indeed this should be declared with particular illustrations! The reason is as follows:
—“All existing entities in the universe possesses the properties of Sattva (harmony), Rajas (activity) and Tamas (inertia) in the forms of their bodies, senses, objects of enjoyment and their causes —
know them all to have originated from Me alone, and they abide in Me alone, as they constitute My ‘corporeality’.
I am not in them in so far as I do not depend on them for My existence at any time.
In the case of sentient beings, though, the physical body depends for its existence on the Self. The Self in turn depends on the physical body for its embodiment.
In My case, however, there is no need for any assistance in my “embodiment.” They [all entities] merely serve the purpose of My Līlā” [cosmic recreation] —this is the meaning.
tribhir-guṇa-mayair-bhāvair-ebhiḥsarvam idaṃjagat |
mohitaṃnābhijānāti māmebhyaḥparam-avyayam || 13 ||
13. The entire universe is deluded by these three conditions originating from the Guṇas, and fails to recognise Me, who am beyond them and immutable.
“Now, in this way, the entire universe, consisting of sentient and insentient entities belongs to Me. From time to time it is projected by Me, abides in Me and is re-absorbed into Me alone.
It constitutes My ‘corporeality’ and I am its Self, whether in the pre-manifestation state (causal) or in the state of manifestation (effect) all these entities are My various ‘expressions’.
I am superior to all these ‘modes’ or ‘expressions’, as I am their cause and proprietor. In every way I remain as the Supreme Being.”
“This world constituted of gods, humans, animals and immovables, are deluded by the three Guṇas and its evolutes, and are inferior and transient.
All the bodies, senses and objects of enjoyment comprising the world of beings exist in accordance with their individual past Karmas. No one in the world knows Me who am the highest and the immutable Being.”
How is it possible that all experiencing beings consider these inferior, transient objects made up of the Guṇas to be a source of delight, while Krishna exists —
He is of the nature of unbounded and abundant bliss, existing in an eternal unchanging form and is the [real] source of the agreeableness of even these material objects?
Śrī Krishna replies: —
māmeva ye prapadyante māyāmetāṃtaranti te || 14 ||
14. This divine Māyā of Mine consisting of the three Guṇas is hard to overcome. But those who take refuge in Me alone, shall be able to transcend this Māyā.
“This Māyā [deluding potency of the cosmos] originates from Me, for the purpose of recreation, it is by nature divine and therefore difficult to overcome.”
The word Māyā is used to describe the effects of the three Guṇas, because it has the power to generate amazing effects like the magical tricks of Āsuras and Rākṣasas.
Take for example the passage: —
“Then the excellent discus, the flaming Sudarśana, was despatched by the Lord to defend the boy [Prahlāda].
The thousand Māyās or wonderfully created weapons of the evil-minded Śambara were foiled one after another, by that quickly moving discus, for protecting the body of the boy.” (V.P., 1.19.19-20)
Here the term Māyā does not convey the sense of ‘false’:
Even in the case of magicians, who are called Māyāvin (those who possess Māyā), with the aid of certain incantations, drugs etc., they can produce illusory objects, but the perceptions of those objects are actually real.
The term ‘Māyā’ refers to the incantations, drugs etc. which have the power of creating real impressions.
Because [grammatically speaking] the meaning of a word, should be the same in all contexts –the term ‘Māyā’ can be applied to the illusory objects that are produced, only in a secondary sense. Its primary sense is in regard to the ‘real impressions’ created in the mind.
It is just like in the statement ‘The platform groans.’ (a figurative expression having reference to the sound that is produced).
The Māyā of the Lord consisting of the three Guṇas is existentially real and is specifically taught in texts like:—
“Know then Māyā to be the Prakṛti and the possessor of the Māyā to be the great Lord”. (Sve.Up., 4.10).
Māyā not only obscures the essential nature of the Lord but also creates the condition of the mind that sees the created objects as enjoyable. Therefore, the entire universe, deluded by the Lord’s Māyā, does not know the Lord of boundless bliss.
Śrī Krishna teaches the way of deliverance from Māyā is to take refuge in Him.
Why then, does everyone not take recourse to seeking refuge in the Lord which leads to devotion?
na māṃduṣkṛtino mūḍhāḥprapadyante narādhamāḥ|
Māyāyāpahṛta jñānā āsuraṃbhāvam āśritāḥ|| 15 ||
15. The malefactors, the foolish, the lowest of people, those persons deprived of wisdom by delusion (Māyā) and those who are dominated by demoniac nature they do not seek refuge in Me.
‘Malefactors’, (duṣkṛtina) those who act in a wrongful manner and do not seek refuge, they are of four types, according to the degree of their immoral deeds:—
‘The foolish’ (mūḍhah) are those who are confused:
Right Knowledge consists in understanding that the Self is dependent on the Lord and exists for Him. But ‘the foolish’ think they are independent and also that all enjoyable things of the world are their own and exist for their personal enjoyment.
‘The lowest of people’ (narādhamāḥ) are those who are incapable of turning towards Krishna, even though they have a general knowledge of His essential nature.
‘Persons who are deprived of insight by Māyā’ (Māyāyā’pahrta-jñāna) are those who know about Krishna and His manifestations, but due to deceitful reasoning they contend that such teachings are inconsistent and impossible.
‘Those of demoniac nature’ (āsuram) are those who have definitive knowledge about Krishna and His manifestations but hate Him.
The intensity of sinfulness increases in these types in the order in which they are successively placed.