chapter ix, part 2: krishna’s monistic characteristic in the gitaby Eileen Sembrot May 21, 2012
Our last article covered only the first ten lines in Chapter 9 of the Bhagavad Gita—the wisdom in this chapter is so great that the benefits of studying it piecemeal cannot be overstated. In this week’s discussion of the latter part of the chapter, emphasis is placed on the magnificence of Krishna in His entirety of Self.
Bhagavad Gita, Chapter IX Part 2:
Krishna’s Monistic Characteristic in the Gita
This pithy chapter answers many of Arjuna’s questions put forward since the beginning of the narrative. The substance of Arjuna’s queries centered on three main topics: How can I kill my family and teachers without suffering my own destruction for these heinous acts? (1.44-45), and regarding the two types of spiritual athletes, the athlete of action and the athlete of meditation, “Which one is the better of the two?”(5.1), and lastly, “What is that Brahman?” (8.1). Krishna’s pronouncement that, “He is at once the centre and the circumference of the wheel of existence and thereby the Lord of all” (Zaehner 278), should quell all of Arjuna’s concerns.
Earlier in the text, Krishna assured the warrior that the “unborn, eternal, [and] everlasting [self] […] is not slain when the body is slain” because the essence of the ever-present internal self is of Krishna’s nature, and therefore, cannot be destroyed (2.19). If Arjuna followed this statement to its logical conclusion, the warrior would realize that even as he killed his kin, because Krishna lived through them, no one would truly die, but only depart from this material world. In Chapter 9, we learn that, “evil is the result of bad actions performed in various lives” (Zaehner 277). Thus, this war between the families was preordained based on prior actions in past lives—karma is unconditional and must complete its cycle.
Concerning which is best, works of action or spiritual practice, e.g. meditation and prayer, if Arjuna recognized that everything is of God, in one or another of His forms, he would understand that whatever he does, God is the Source actuating the works, whether they are physical actions or mental activities. Additionally, God is the One receiving the fruits of the works. Renunciation in works is possible when one sacrifices or offers every minute action and thought to God—and considering that God is the actual doer, in sacrificing to God, one is simply returning to God what is rightly His in the first place. In other words, worshipping or loving God is worshipping or loving life because, in addition to His Highest status as the “Unmanifest beyond the Unmanifest,” (8.20), God is life in each of its manifest forms, including the breath that sustains physical existence (9.13).
In order to know God as He truly is, the practitioner must become fully conscious of maya because in its recognition, the aspirant realizes that maya is God’s illusion of changeability and unpredictability. Both fluxes are characterized of the three constituents of Nature as maya, including sattvic—stillness and tranquility; rajasic—active and passionate; and, tamasic—putrid, lazy, and stagnant. One transcends maya by focusing solely on God, whether while working or worshipping (Zaehner 287).
Krishna also responds to Arjuna’s persistent question about how he is to identify “The Man of Steady Wisdom,” the man whom Krishna regards as the most accomplished spiritual aspirant (2.54). In Chapter 9, Krishna informs the warrior that, “The signs of the man who ‘takes his stand in a nature that is divine’ are ‘tranquility, self-control, compassion, and faith’” (13 and Zaehner 279).
Nevertheless, although Krishna quelled Arjuna’s most worrisome concerns, this is only Chapter 9—and there are still nine chapters to the end! Hence, Arjuna still has doubts about the best path of Yoga and the truth of Krishna’s divinity.
While Arjuna’s doubts and confusion about Krishna’s identity of the original, eternal God—Who is the creator, sustainer, and destroyer of the world—are numerous and, at times, repetitive, ask yourself what proof you would demand of one who claims s/he is a God-incarnate who’s come to Earth to save humanity from destroying itself. When put in this context, eighteen chapters doesn’t sound like very much after all!
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