Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Canto VIII : the Nature of Brahman

Adhataman, Adhibhuta, Adhidaiva, Adhiyajna : this quartet constitutes the quintessence of natural and supernatural knowledge which, intelligently filtered in a receptive mind, becomes wisdom.

Adhyatman (adhi-atman : pervader of atman). Adhibhuta (pervader of all creatures). Adhidaiva (pervader of the gods). Adhiyajna ( pervader of ritual deeds).

Behind the technical philosophical terminolory, the meaning is clear. The Supreme Ultimate Brahman is the energising principle behind the individual atman, the Fire, of which the atman is a spark. Brahman also energises the vast variety of physical life. Brahman charges the creative imagination of the morally noble and god-like. Brahman inspires the dedicated selflessness that goes into ritual acts such as sacred offering and sacrifices. The key shloka 15 of Canto VIII applies to a person who has this wisdom : 'For such a pure soul (mahatma) there is no more the sorrow of rebirth.'

No commentator has satisfactorily glossed the two sholokas that speak of Time that makes the yogis return to the world (by the dark path) and not return (by the bright path). Perhaps fire, brilliance, daytime, the bright fortnight and the six month course fo the northern sun refers to the mystic insights into one pole of the ambivalence of maya. The opposite pole of the dark path might refer to the insights of the occults, or tantric, 'wisdom' -- the dark side of ambivalence which ensures not salvation (moksha) but re-birth.

Arjuna asked :

Puroshattama, what is Brahman, and Adhyatman, and Karma ? What is Adhibhuta, and what is Adhidaiva ?

And what is Adhiyajna and how ? And how will the self-restrained realise you, at the time of death ?

Krishna replied :

Brahman is the Supreme Indestructible, and its existence is separate forms is Adhyatman. Karma is the momentum that commences the birth of beings.

The destructible is Adhibhuta, and the male principle is Adhidaiva, and I am Adhiyajna in the human body.

He attains my being abandoning his body, whose concentration at the time of death is on me. Do not doubt this.

Whatever his concentration is on, he achieves that at the time of death.

Therefore, think of me -- and fight ! Your mediation focused on me, you shall achieve me.

Absolutely unwavering, consistently absorbed in the male principle, the Purusha, the mind reaches him.

'The Purusha is all-knowing, lord of all, the ancient, smaller than an atom, incomprehensible of form, dazzling as the sun, and free of the veiling darkness of maya.'

He achieves Purusha who, at the time of death, is steady and devoted; has fixed his life-breath through the power of Yoga between his eyebrows, and who thinks thus.

I will now tell you of what the learned Vedas conceive as the Imperishable, which is achieved through the self control of brahmacharya.

With the senses all restrained, absorbed in yogic meditation,

He achieves the supreme goal, who forsakes his body with the syllable AUM on his lips, symbol of the Brahman.

The yogi who every day keeps me in mind, constant and steadfast, finds me easy of achievement.

He reaches the supreme perfection, and he achieves me; for such a pure soul there is no more the sorrow of rebirth.

Even the world of Brahma cannot escape rebirth; but there is no rebirth once I am achieved.

The man who understands day and night can also understand the thousand-yuga day of Brahma and his thousand-yuga night.

When the day of Brahma commences, all forms evolve from the unmanifested; when night commences, they dissolve into the unmanifested.

And this swarm of beings, successively reborn, dissolves as the night of Brahma commences, and emerges with the commencement of another day.

But beyond this unmanifested, there is another Unmanifested, the undying reality, which does not dissolve though all beings dissolve.

This Indestructible and Unmanifested is the Supreme Goal : this is Brahman; this is the state of perfection from which there is no rebirth.

Only complete worship of him in whom all things repose, of him who pervades all the worlds, can obtain this supreme perfection.

I will tell you of time which makes yogis return to the world and and return.

Fire, brilliance, daytime, the bright fortnight, and the six-month course of the northern sun -- this takes the knowers of Brahman to Brahman.

Smoke, night-time, the dark fortnight, and the six month course of the southern sun -- this takes the yogi to the lunar brilliance, but he returns.

Rightly are they thought absolute, there bright and dark paths : for one results in non-return; and the other causes return.

The yogi who understands the nature of these paths is not deceived; therefore, Arjuna, make yourself firm in Yoga.

For the yogi is above the rewards offered in the Vedas, above ritual, penance and charity -- he alone understands the nature of Reality, he alone finds the supreme goal.

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