62. Manifesting God in the Mortal Body
Notes: I have translated the Bhagavadgita twice. The first one was a loose translation. The second one was a word to word translation with a detailed commentary. The commentary is however different from what you will find here. In this section I will share with you my thoughts about the knowledge, philosophy and wisdom of the Bhagavadgita as I understand it from my perspective. Jayaram V
Summary: This essay explains how according to the Bhagavadgita God, who is unknowable, becomes knowable in the mortal world and the mortal body as a reflection in the purity and impurity of Nature.
The Bhagavadgita proclaims that God or Self is beyond the mind and the senses. He cannot be known through the faculties of the mind. He is neither the mind nor the body, but they work for him and because of him. Since he is beyond the known and the unknown, even the gods have difficulty in knowing him, and possess little knowledge of him. As the absolute, transcendental, supreme Self, he is eternal, indefinable, indescribable, indivisible, indestructible, incomprehensible and one without a second. Thus, when we are in the realm of the mind or the senses or caught in the duality of subject and object, we have a serious problem knowing God.
Duality and objectification
God is not an object. Hence, he cannot be objectified into a definitive form. As long as we are subject to the duality of subject and object and see things in relation to ourselves, we cannot comprehend the true God. What we consider to be God is but an idea or a concept or a mental construct. At the most, it is a reflection of him, produced by our imagination. You may call him a God, some God but not the God as he truly is. That God remains unknown, even to the gods of the highest realm.
Try to imagine a person whom you never met, but about whom you heard through others. How accurate will your imagination be? How truly can you envision that absolute and eternal truth? The same problem exists with God whom we can never perceive with our senses or correctly visualize. We may build an image of him to worship him or speculate upon him. That may denote our faith, intelligence or the strength of our devotion, but not the truth of God.
However, it does not mean that God cannot be known at all. He can partially be known, to the extent he reveals himself as qualities and potentials in the diversity of creation. According to the Bhagavadgita (9.4), God pervades the whole universe in his unmanifested form (avyakta). All beings and things exist in his Nature, but he does not exist in them, except as a reflection. The scripture also states (12.5) that it is difficult for the embodied souls to worship this God.
Signs of God’s presence in creation
Although he is not directly visible or present in creation which arises as his projection, you may see the reflection of his qualities in the diversity of its worlds, objects and beings. For example, you can find him in the sweetness of a fruit, the brightness of a star, the serenity of the sky, the brilliance of the sun, the completeness of a circle, the silence of the night, the regularity of time, the purity and austerity of a seer, the virtue of a devout Brahmana, the courage of a warrior, the compassion of a monk, the intelligence of a scholar and so on.
These divine qualities manifest in creation, just as the rays of the Sun, when there are no impurities or hindrances. Just as the sun appears in the sky when it is not covered with dark clouds, God’s radiance manifests in creation when there are no hindrances and impurities. By nature, God’s creation is filled with the impurities of existence. Hence, although God is present in it, we cannot see him unless our minds are pure, and the objects in which we want to see him are also pure. Purity is therefore important.
God is more visible and self-evident when sattva is predominant. Hence, he is more discernible in gods and pure beings such as monks, spiritual masters, saints and seers. He is partially visible in those who possess a mixture of divine and demonic qualities. However, he remains hidden in evil people and sunless worlds of the lower realms where demonic qualities prevail in their full potency. Hence, you feel the presence of God in the proximity of pure and pious people but tend to experience negativity and darkness of feelings and emotions when you meet evil people or deal with them.
Thus, God plays hide and seek in his creation, shining his brightness in the pure worlds and hiding it in the darker and demonic spheres. In the state of duality, he is imperceptible. However, you can discern his footprints in the things and beings according to their purity and divinity. In people who have the predominance of sattva, you can discern his effulgence (tejas), but you may not find him at all in those who have the predominance of rajas and tamas and are filled with demonic darkness.
It is why self-purification is emphasized in the Bhagavadgita for liberation. Only a pure and stable mind can discern the presence of God beneath layers of impurities and dualities and qualify to experience the ultimate union with the pure consciousness of God. The scripture devotes many verses and even chapters to denote the importance of cultivating purity (Sattva) and suppressing the impurities of Rajas and Tamas. Desires are responsible for karma and the transmigration of the embodied souls and their bondage to the cycle of births and deaths. They are in turn induced by the triple gunas.
Unknowable Brahman and knowable Isvara
The Bhagavadgita also devotes many verses to extol the greatness and glory of Brahman, the Supreme Self. In his unmanifested form, as Nirguna Brahman, he is formless, invisible, unknowable and devoid of qualities, beingness and distinguishing features. Since none can determine the indeterminate, he cannot truly be objectified by anyone, except as an idea or concept. Even that does not truly correspond to the truth of him. It also states that this God cannot be worshipped without a great struggle.
However, the unknowable Brahman becomes known and venerable when he appears in creation as Isvara, the lord of the universe. He is the reflection of Brahman in the purity of Nature. You can discern him only in parts of creation, where Sattva prevails, as divine qualities (sampada) and states (bhava). The Bhagavadgita describes them as God’s manifestations (vibhutis).
Hence, although you cannot directly see Isvara in creation, you can see aspects of him in the purity and divinity of things and beings. They fully manifest in the highest gods such as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and partially in others in proportion to the predominance of Sattva. Hence, as one goes down the cosmic hierarchy, from the purest to the most impure, his effulgence becomes increasingly concealed by the impurities of Nature.
The Bhagavadgita lists the extent of his important divine manifestations and states (bhavas) in the tenth chapter. The sixteenth chapter is devoted to present a comprehensive list of divine and demonic properties, which help us discern the divine nature from the demonic nature and engage in righteous conduct and actions. These two chapters are of great importance to anyone who want to purify their bodies and stabilize their minds in the contemplation of the Self to achieve liberation.
According to the scripture, God is the source. Whatever is the seed of all beings, he is that. There is nothing that can exist without him. The positive qualities arise from his reflection in Sattva and the negative qualities from his reflection in Rajas and Tamas. The former manifest in us when we are pure, and the latter when we are impure. Hence, if you want to reflect God, you have to cultivate purity. When you become completely pure, you attain God’s divinity and become one with him.
What are the divine qualities? In the tenth chapter, we find an answer in the following statement by Lord Krishna, “Intelligence, knowledge, freedom from delusion, forgiveness, truthfulness, control of the senses, control of the mind, pleasure, pain, birth, death, and fear and fearlessness, nonviolence, equanimity, contentment, austerity, charity, fame, infamy, these different states arise in beings because of Me only.” He further adds, “Whatever object is endowed with beauty, prosperity and energy, know with certainty that it manifests as a part of my brilliance only.”
The sixteenth chapter lists 25 divine qualities namely fearlessness, predominance of sattva, mastery of the yoga of knowledge, charity, self-restraint, self-study of the scriptures, austerity and simplicity, Non-injury, truthfulness, freedom from anger, self-sacrificing attitude, serenity, non-slandering, compassion to all beings, non-covetousness, gentleness, modesty, unwaveringness, vigor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, freedom from treachery, and the absence of self-importance.
It also lists the demonic qualities which are responsible for evil nature. They are, vanity, arrogance, self-pride, anger, harshness and ignorance. It further explains how that nature manifests in behavior. For example, it says that demonic people do not know what should be done, or what should not be done. They do not know about cleanliness and customary behavior. There is no truthfulness in them. Holding the view that the world is unreal, has no foundation, and has no Lord, they engage in destructive actions for the ill of the world. Yielding to insatiable lust, filled with vanity, pride and arrogance, seeking illusory things because of delusion, they worship the unclean and the impure. Taking refuge in the enjoyment of desires and considering it to be the highest goal, they conclude that it is all. Caught in innumerable bonds of hope, given to the thoughts of lust and anger, they strive to amass wealth by unjust or unlawful means for the sake of lust and enjoyment.
Lord Krishna affirms that divine qualities lead to liberation and the demonic ones to suffering, delusion and bondage. Both qualities are latent in all the beings as potentials. In other words, you do not cultivate them but give expression to them. They reveal themselves according to the purity or impurity in them. As spiritual aspirants, our aim should be to engage in self-purification so that the divine qualities fully manifest in us and we become free from the triple gates of darkness namely lust, anger and greed.
How can this information be useful to you? You can use it to cultivate divine nature by practicing the various yogas which are listed in the scripture, and which lead to the predominance of purity. As you become pure, you radiate divine qualities and suppress the demonic ones, and thereby reflect God himself as your very nature. As you engage in righteous actions, gain the right knowledge to discern the truth from falsehood, renounces all desires and absorb your mind in the contemplation of God, you become the perfect devotee, who lives in God, reflects God and lives as God.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- The Wisdom of the Bhagavadgita, Main Page
- The Wisdom of the Upanishads, Main Page
- The Bhagavad-Gita Essays and Translations
- An Introduction To The Bhagavad-Gita And Its Three Secrets
- Why to Study the Bhagavadgita Parts 1 to 4
- The Abbreviated Bhagavadgita
- The Problem of Maya Or Illusion and How To Deal With It
- The Problem of Maya Or Illusion and How To Deal With It
- The Bhagavadgita, Philosophy and Concepts
- The Many Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism
- Divine Qualities Of A True Worshipper Of God
- The Bhagavadgita on Karma, the Law of Actions
- Maya, The Grand Illusion Or The Delusion Of The Mind
- Aspects, Emanations, Incarnations and Forms of God Vishnu
- Dvaita or Advaita What is the Truth?
- Symbolism in the Bhagavadgita
- The Truth About Karma
- Meaning and Definition of Bhagavan
- Brahman the Supreme Universal Lord of All
- What is Bhakti or Devotion?
- Bhakti Marg, the Path of Devotion
- History and information about Mathura and Vrindavan Temples
- True Devotion and Qualities of a True Devotee
- Essays On Sorrow And Its Spiritual Significance
- The Yoga of Knowledge or the Samkhya Yoga, Verses and Commentary by Jayaram V
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