What a name! Jñāna means acquired knowledge – by reading, listening etc. Vijñāna means experiential knowledge – what you experience by applying the acquired knowledge. This chapter onwards, the updēsha goes on to build the narrative for Arjuna to understand and experience THE supreme being/energy, in other words, the LORD! 

What is this supreme energy all about? How to know it, in its entirety?

Drawing some analogy with a science experiment, any experiment involves – 

  1. A premise that you have conviction in
  2. An experiment (process) that leads to proving the premise
  3. Ability to observe the process throughout, that helps in asserting or refuting the premise

Rewriting the same 3 points above:

  1. This positive conviction on the premise of Supreme being – Bhakthi.
  2. The process of engaging body and mind, by which you can learn and prove, is the practice of Karma Yoga (performing all actions dedicating to lord, and accepting the result as his blessings)
  3. The observations you make and continually refine the above process to make progress in acquiring the knowledge – Dhyāna (leads to Vijñāna)

In the first five chapters, lord has extensively spoken about the process – Karma Yoga. All throughout these chapters, the lord had also been sprinkling the importance of conviction in the premise – Bhakthi. One has to have keen observation capabilities and mental fortitude to seek with firm determination, because the subject of our research can be extremely elusive. It is elusive because our existence itself is a part of the subject – so learning to think ‘out of the box’ has to come out of practice alone. In Chapter 6, the lord explained the nuances of this process of observation itself. And now, in this chapter onwards, the lord explains the subject of our research! What are its characteristics, what is this supreme being made of, what is its role in our existence, how and why is it all pervasive, and so on.

The truth, to be experienced – Vijñāna

The lord states that it is such a concept that, if you truly understand, there’s nothing more to be known! 

What do you mean by that – it is like how learning about Periodic Table helps you understand how electron/proton configuration in an atom is responsible for the varied characteristic of each chemical element! Or, like how learning every aspect of an Operating System of computer, helps in knowing all about how it affects ANY program that can be run on it. Sure, there may be a bit more learning – but once the fundamentals are well known – rest is easy to grasp! Suddenly, everything else falls in place!

The continuous rigour required in perfecting the art of experimentation, the art of making observations, with unfailing conviction, makes it difficult to practice. The lord states only one in a thousand strives to achieve perfection in this process, and even of those only one in a thousand really are able to achieve the result. This is said not to discourage, but to give a practical insight about the rigour required in this quest. There are easier methods – Bhakthi – that is, you don’t really need to prove the assumption if you have complete conviction on it. Just use your conviction! Like, you don’t really need to know all about an Operating System – simply use the apps built on it! 

But if you are really curious about knowing all about that supreme energy, then listen to the Lord here. He makes this declaration –
Eight components make up the lower nature (Prakriti) of my existence – The pancha mahābhūthas (five basic elements) – Earth, water, fire, air, ether; the mind, intellect and ego (identification aspect).
Even beyond this is the raw, dynamic, pure energy, that sustains all of the lower nature (Prakriti) explained above! That is, ALL things of the universe!

This entire existence (universe), originates from me, and also dissolves in me. There is nothing beyond this energy – it is what that holds and sustains the entire existence, like how a string (unseen) holds together a pearl necklace!

How is LORD all pervasive – the ‘unseen string’ of the necklace – 

I am the taste in water, I am the radiance emanating from the Sun and moon, I am the essence of all vedas ( kara), I am the sound in ether, I am the energy in beings, I am the fragrance of earth, I am the brilliance in fire, I am the life in all beings, I am the penance in ascetics. I am the origin of all seeds that turns into beings, I am the intelligence of the intelligent, I am brilliance of all brilliant. I am the strength in the strong people – who are devoid of passion and desire; I am the desire as well, of those that are within the framework of dharma.

This, is something to ponder up on. Why and how, it is this supreme energy, the cause for all! The subject for your Dhyāna. Through all these enumerations, the lord is asserting that he is the essence of everything. That is, the unique quality of each thing or being, that makes it what it is – that quality arises from the presence of the supreme, divine being. It is like atoms in all beings, or electrons in all atoms! The basic fundamental truth that defines its very being or existence!

While we now understand the element of divine commonality in all beings, there’s also significant differences within similar or dissimilar beings. Why so! 

The Gunas, and it’s sphere of influence

There is one more aspect that plays in throughout the existence (Prakriti) – the Gunas. To give a brief introduction about these Gunas, they are like coloured lens – they influence our perspective, and ability to differentiate the right from the wrong and so on. There are 3 Gunas, Satva, Rajas and Tamas. Satva Guna tends towards purity/divinity. Rajo Guna tends towards desires/passion. Tamo Guna tends towards inactivity/ignorance. Even these Gunas exist, and influence ALL beings. Each being necessarily has all three Gunas, but in varied proportions (there can be rare exceptions, let’s not worry about it now). 

Although these Gunas also originates from the supreme being, or the supreme energy, he is beyond these Gunas. Like for example, fire emanates light, heat and smoke. Loosely viewed, we could say light represents Satva Guna, heat represents Rajo Guna and smoke represents Tamo Guna. But none of these influences the energy itself – the fire! Fire is independent of these.

These Gunas, inherent in us, makes our ability to perceive the supreme energy elusive and difficult. The only way to beat them is, to have complete conviction in the lord – Bhakthi. No matter how much smoke and heat exists, if you persist to stay put in your quest to ‘see’ the truth fire – you’ll eventually succeed! The example is only figurative – don’t try any monkey business with fire! 

People that are unaware or ignorant about these above stated aspects (nature of supreme being, the supreme energy, the play of Gunas), they will remain in delusion. They won’t ever make any progress in understanding the truth! Such people will gradually tend towards being Āsuri (demonic – Tamo Guna being predominant). Think of it – this is not talking about some imaginary Asurās/demons. Anyone that doesn’t respect nature/Prakriti for what it is, abuses it by means of over exploiting, they eventually lead to existential crisis. 

Now coming to people that are aware and respect the principles of supreme being, the lord states there are 4 types:

Ārta – One who seeks the lord at times of need
Arthārthi – One who seeks the lord always, to fulfil his needs
Jignāsu – One who seeks to understand the lord, in search of the truth
Jñāni – One who is firmly established in the awareness of the truth, the lord!

These are basically the 4 stages of evolution – so you know where you stand in your journey and the path ahead! The lord yet again emphasises here, that the real Jñānis are very rare, and it takes many lives to arrive at that stage! Just a caution – that just by reading many scriptures, or by doing some acts of kindness, and stead fast poojas, you don’t suddenly consider yourself as Jñāni! 

Next, the lord talks about people that are not aware of this supreme, all pervasive principle. They believe the lower or derived energies as supreme and do their worship. To those, they reap benefit corresponding to the energy they seek from. And that too, is by the grace of the supreme! What one gains from derived energies are also limited to the potency of that energy. For example, fire can only provide light and heat – it cannot tend for taste or fragrance. So try and understand what’s the source of all these energies, awaken your intelligence to seek for the supreme, changeless truth that is THE source! Go beyond the trivial desires of life, stand beyond the dualities of desire and hate, by acting with the spirit of Yajna (Karma Yoga); engage yourself in seeking the truth with conviction (Bhakthi), it will certainly lead you to experiencing the supreme within you!

May the lord grace us all, with the experience of the supreme!

DISCLAIMER: This our sincere attempt to summarise the Gitōpadesha, via a series of short blogs. This is NOT the whole translation, or commentary of the divine book. We seek forgiveness of reader and the lord, for omissions which is inevitable to keep the blog short. The write-ups include both, writer’s personal opinion and summarised version of many shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita. Intent of blog was never to be a commentary of Bhagavad Gita, but simply inspire the reader to read Bhagavad Gita in it’s entirety. The writer is neither a scholar, nor a bummer, somewhere in between, with a firm belief that the lord gets him to do all the things he does. Being human, he still keeps erring. Forgive him for all such mistakes.

Sarvam Krishnarpanamasthu!

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