Notes on the Bhagavad Gita by T. Subba Row
Theosophical University Press Online Edition

Section IV

The subject of these lectures is a very vast and complicated one. I have endeavoured to compress the substance of my lectures within the required limits, expecting to go through the whole discourse in three days, but my calculations have failed, and I have hardly finished even the introduction. These lectures must necessarily remain imperfect, and all I could do in them was to lay before you a few suggestions upon which you should meditate.

A good deal will depend on your own exertions. The subject is very difficult; it ramifies into various departments of science, and the truths I have been putting forward will not be easily grasped, and I might not even have succeeded in conveying my exact meaning to your minds. Moreover, as I have not given reasons for every one of my propositions, and have not cited authorities in support of my statements, some of them might appear strange.

I am afraid that before you can grasp my real ideas, you will have to study all the existing commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, as well as the original itself, according to your own lights, and see besides this to what conclusions the speculations of the Western scientists and philosophers are gradually leading. You will then have to judge for yourselves whether the hypothesis which I have attempted to place before you is a reasonable one or not.

In my last lecture I stopped at the eleventh chapter of the book.

In that lecture I pointed out the various passages relating to the Logos, which I thought would support and justify the assertions I made in my preliminary lecture about its nature and its relation to mankind. I shall now proceed to point out the passages to which it is desirable to call your attention in the succeeding chapters.

In chapter xii, to which I shall have to refer again in another connection, I have to ask your attention to the passages with which it commences. There Krishna points out the distinction between meditating and concentrating one's attention upon the Avyaktam of the Sankhyas and fixing the mind and relying upon the Logos.

I have already shown in what important respects the Sankhya philosophy differed from the Vedantic system of Krishna. Krishna has stated in various places that their Avyaktam was different from his Parabrahmam — that he was by no means to be considered a manifestation of that Avyaktam — and now he tells Arjuna in this chapter that those who try to follow the Sankhya philosophy and endeavour to reach that Avyaktam by their own methods, are placed in a far more difficult position than those whose object is to search for and find out the Logos.

This must naturally be so, and for this reason. This Avyaktam is nothing more than Mulaprakriti. The Sankhyas thought that their Avyaktam was the basis of the differentiated Prakriti with all its gunas, this differentiated Prakriti being represented by the three principles into which I have divided the solar system. In case you follow the Sankhyan doctrine, you have to rise from Upadhi to Upadhi in gradual succession, and when you try to rise from the last Upadhi to their Avyaktam, there is unfortunately no connection that is likely to enable your consciousness to bridge the interval. If the Sankhyan system of philosophy is the true one, your aim will be to trace Upadhi to its source, but not consciousness to its source. The consciousness manifested in every Upadhi is traceable to the Logos and not to the Avyaktam of the Sankhyas. It is very much easier for a man to follow his own consciousness farther and farther into the depths of his own inmost nature, and ultimately reach its source — the Logos, -- than to try to follow Upadhi to its source in this Mulaprakriti, this Avyaktam. Moreover, supposing you do succeed in reaching this Avyaktam, you can never fix your thoughts in it or preserve your individuality in it; for, it is incapable of retaining any of these permanently. It may be that to reach it means to take objective cognisance of it, but even that you cannot do from the standpoint of karana sarira. You have to rise to a still higher level before you can look upon Mulaprakriti as an object. Thus, considering Avyaktam as an object of perception, you cannot reach it until you reach the Logos. You cannot transfer your individuality to it, for the simple reason that this individuality derives its source from a quarter altogether different from the Mulaprakriti or the Avyaktam of the Sankhyas, and that as this Avyaktam in itself has no individuality, and does not generate by itself anything like an individuality, it is impossible that anybody's sense of ego can be transferred to and preserved permanently in it.

What, then, do the efforts of all those who try to follow the Sankhya doctrine end in? Krishna says, that after arriving at the plane of karana sarira, "they will come to him," finding it impossible otherwise to reach this Avyaktam for the reasons indicated above. So when Arjuna asks whether Avyaktam or the Logos is to be the goal, Krishna says that the latter must be looked upon as the ultimate destination, because those who try to follow the line indicated by the Sankhyas have tremendous difficulties to contend with. If anything is gained at all by following this latter course, it is that end which is also to be gained by following his path, by making him the object of meditation, and looking upon him as the ultimate goal.

Read chapter xii, verses 3, 4 and 5 in this connection: —

'Those who are kind and charitable towards all creatures, and who, with a properly balanced mind and with senses under control, meditate on the imperishable and undefinable Avyaktam, which is all-pervading, unthinkable, undifferentiated and unchangeable, reach me alone. But the difficulty of those who fix their minds on Avyaktam is great. The path towards Avyaktam is travelled by embodied souls under very great difficulties."

This description refers to the Avyaktam of the Sankhyas.

In chapter xiii we find the following in the first four verses: --

"O son of Kunti, this body is called Kshetra (Upadhi or vehicle). That which knows this (Kshetra) the wise call Kshetragna (the real self or Ego).
"Know also that I am the Kshetragna in all Kshetras; the knowledge of Kshetra and Kshetragna I consider to be real knowledge.
"Hear me. I shall state to you briefly what that Kshetram is, what its attributes are, what qualities it generates, its source and the reason of its existence; and further who that Kshetragna is, and what powers he possesses. Rishis have described them in various ways. Different accounts of them are to be found in different Vedas; and they are also spoken of by the Brahmasutras, which are logical and definite."

Here he speaks of Kshetram and Kshetragna. Kshetram means nothing more than Upadhi or vehicle, and Kshetragna is the Ego in all its forms and manifestations. Kshetram springs from this Avyaktam or Mulaprakriti. But he says that he himself is Kshetragna in the sense in which every manifested Ego is but a reflection of the Logos, while he himself is the real form of the Ego, the only true self in the cosmos. He takes care, however, to point out in several places that though he is Kshetragna, he is not subject to Karmabandham; he does not create Karma, simply because the self manifested in the Upadhi is not his own true self, but merely a reflection, which has an individual phenomenal existence for the time being, but is ultimately dissolved in himself.

In verse 4 (see above) he refers to Brahmasutras for the details of the three Upadhis in man, their relation to each other, and the various powers manifested by this Ego. Hence it is in that book — the Brahmasutras — that we have to look for a detailed examination of this subject.

Turn now to verse 22:

"The supreme Purusha in this body is called the Witness, the Director, the Supporter, the Enjoyer, the Great Lord and the Supreme Spirit (Paramatma)."

It must not be imagined that the word Paramatma here used refers to Parabrahmam. I have already said that it applies to Krishna himself. Though he is Kshetragna, he is not responsible for Karma, and this he explains in verses 30 and 32 of the same chapter: —

"He perceives the real truth who sees that Karma is the result of Prakriti, and that the Atma performs no Karma.
"This imperishable and supreme Atma, does no Karma and does not feel the effects of Karma even while existing in the body, as it is without beginning and without Gunam."

Throughout chapter xiv Krishna distinctly repudiates any responsibility for Karma, or any of the effects produced by the three Gunams which are the children of Mulaprakriti. Look at verse 19 for instance: —

"When the (discriminating) observer recognizes no other agent (of Karma) than the qualities (of Prakriti), and knows that which is beyond these qualities, he attains to my being."

And now turn to the closing verse in that chapter, a passage we have already referred to in another connection: —

"I am the image of Parabrahm, which is indestructible, unchangeable; and (I am) the abode of the Eternal Dharma (Law) and of absolute happiness."

Here he says he is the image of Parabrahmam which is eternal and has no Vikarmam, and he is the abode wherein resides the eternal Dharma of the cosmos, and he is also the abode of bliss, and it is for this reason that the Logos is often described as Sachchidanandam. It is Sat, because it is Parabrahmam; and Chit, because it contains within itself the eternal Dharma of the cosmos, the whole law of cosmic evolution; it is Anandam, because it is the abode of bliss, and the highest happiness possible for man is attained when the human soul reaches the Logos.

Now turn to chapter xv, verse 7, a passage which has unfortunately given rise to many sectarian disputes: —

"It is the amsa which emanates from me and which is manifested from the beginning of time that becomes the Jiva in the world of living beings, and attracts mind and the other five senses which have their basis in Prakriti."

The proposition herein made is a matter of necessary inference almost inevitable from the premises I have laid down: — if what constitutes the Jiva is the light of the Logos, which is Chaitanyam, and which, becoming differentiated, forms the individual Ego in combination with the Karanopadhi.

I need not now advert to all the controversies to which this passage has given rise. The verse is perhaps susceptible of more than one interpretation, and the different interpretations were necessitated by the different premises with which the interpreters started.

Read now verse 8: —

"When the lord, Jiva (human Ego), quits one body and enters another, he carries with him the mind and the senses as the wind carries the fragrance of flowers from their source."

Here Krishna refers to that human individuality which resides in the karana sarira. It is the human monad or karana sarira, that is the one connecting link between the various incarnations of man; when it leaves the body for Devachan, it takes with it all the germs of conscious existence, the essence of the five Tanmatras, the Manas and the Ahankaram. Strictly speaking, in every stage of conscious existence, there are seven elements which are always present, viz., the five senses, the mind (also recognised as a sense by some of our philosophers), and the Ego. These are the seven elements that constantly manifest themselves whenever consciousness manifests itself, or conscious existence makes its appearance. They exist in the sthula sarira, further also in the sukshma sarira, and they are latent in karana sarira. Not only are they latent in karana sarira, but even the impulses generated in connection with the seven elements of conscious existence reside in it, and form that latent energy which tries to spend itself, as it were, by bringing about the future incarnations, the environments being those determined by the past Karma of the man and the impulses already generated thereby.

In calling attention to verses 12-14: —

"Know that the splendour which belongs to the sun and illumines the whole world — which is in the moon and in fire — is from me.
"Entering into the earth, I sustain all things by my energy; and I am the cause of the moisture that nourishes the herbs.
"Becoming fire (of digestion) I enter into the bodies of all that breathe, and being united with Pranam and Apanam, I cause food of the four kinds to digest."

I have only to point out that what Krishna really means is, that it is his energy that gives to matter all its properties, and that all the properties that we now associate with matter, and all those tendencies of chemical action that we see in the chemical elements, did not belong to it or them originally.

When you examine Mulaprakriti none of these tendencies are found to be present in it. It is simply the stuff or substance which is endowed with these properties by the action on it of the current of life which emanates from the Logos. Consequently Krishna says that all the qualities exhibited in matter, as in fire, the sun, light, or any other object that you may take into consideration, originally emanate from him, because it was his life, his energy, that gives to matter all the qualities that enable it afterwards to form the various organisms that we now see in the manifested cosmos. In connection with this point you will find it interesting to refer to what is stated, I believe, in one of the ten Upanishads (Kenopanishad) with reference to the mysterious appearance of Parasakti (Daiviprakriti) in Swarga.

When Parasakti first appeared, Indra wanted to know what it was. He first sent Agni to enquire what it was that appeared in that peculiar form. Then Parasakti asked Agni what functions he fulfilled or what were his latent capacities. Agni replied that he could reduce almost everything to ashes. And in order to show that this attribute did not originally belong to Agni but was simply lent to him, Parasakti placed before him a little bit of grass and asked him to reduce that to ashes. He tried his best, but failed. Vayu was next sent; but he also failed in a similar manner. All this was done to show that Parasakti, or the light of the Logos, endows even the Panchatanmatras with qualities that did not originally belong to Mulaprakriti. Krishna is right in saying that he constitutes the real energy of the fire and of all those things he has enumerated.

Now turn to verse 16 of the same chapter, which has also given rise to a considerable number of interpretations: —

"These two Purushas — the perishable and the imperishable — exist in the world. The perishable is all the living beings, and the imperishable is called the Kutastha."

The meaning here is clear enough if you will only read it in the light of the explanations already given. Krishna first divides all existing entities into two classes, those not permanent — Asharam — by which he means the manifested cosmos, and Aksharam, or imperishable, which he calls Kuthastham, the undifferentiated Prakriti. He also uses the same word, in another passage, in connection with the Avyaktam of the Sankhyas; and it is but natural to conclude that he here uses the same word in the same sense.

In the succeeding verse he says that these two classes are inferior to himself. Although Aksharam is not destroyed at the time of cosmic Pralaya, as are all the things that come out of it, yet his own nature is superior to that of this Aksharam, and that is why he is called Uttama Purusha. For we read in verse 17: —

"But there is another, the supreme Uttama Purusha, called Paramatma, (the supreme Atma) who is the imperishable Lord, and who pervades and sustains the three worlds."

I have only to refer you, in this connection, to verse 66 of chapter xviii: —

"Renouncing all religious observances, come to me as the only refuge. I will deliver thee from all sins; grieve not."

To crown all, here is a distinct declaration that he is the one means and the most effectual means of obtaining salvation. These are all the passages to which I wish to call your attention in reference to the Logos. The passages read go far, I believe, to support every one of the propositions I have laid down in connection with it, as regards its own inherent nature and its relation to the cosmos and to man.

Now, as regards Mulaprakriti, I have already called attention to it in several places when speaking of Parabrahmam and of the Logos. There is one passage, however, which I did not cite. I believe I have clearly indicated the distinction between this Avyaktam or Mulaprakriti and the Logos, as well as that between Mulaprakriti and Daiviprakriti.

I have also said that Mulaprakriti should not be confounded with Parabrahmam. If it is anything at all, it is but a veil of Parabrahmam. In order to support my statements I now ask you to turn to chapter viii, verse 20: —

"But there is another Avyaktam superior to the Avyaktam above mentioned, which is without a beginning and which survives when all the bhutams perish."

The preceding verses should also be read: —

"At the approach of day all manifestations issue from Avyaktam: at the approach of night they are absorbed into Avyaktam.
"All these collective beings, produced again and again, are dissolved at the approach of night, O Partha (Arjuna), and are evolved involuntarily at the approach of day."

Here Krishna says that at the time when the cosmos wakes into a condition of activity, all the bhutams spring from this Avyaktam; when the time of Pralaya comes, they go back into Avyaktam. But lest this Avyaktam should be mistaken for Parabrahmam, he takes care to point out that there is an entity which is higher than this, which is also called Avyaktam, but which is different from the Avyaktam of the Sankhyas and even existing anterior to it. It is Parabrahmam in fact.

It is not an evolved entity, and it will not perish even at the time of cosmic Pralaya, because it is the one basis, not only of the whole cosmos, but even of this Mulaprakriti, which seems to be the foundation of the cosmos.

As regards Daiviprakriti, I have already called your attention to those passages in chapter vii which refer to it.

Thus the four main principles I have enumerated, and which I described as constituting the four principles of the infinite cosmos, are described and explained, precisely in the manner I have myself adopted, in the teachings of this book.

Krishna does not go into the details of the four principles that exist in the manifested solar system, because, so far as the ultimate object of his teaching is concerned, it is not absolutely necessary for him to go into the details of that question, and as regards the relation of the microcosmic Upadhis to the soul and their connection with each other, instead of giving all the details of the philosophy connected with them, he refers to the Brahmasutras, in which the question is fully discussed.

The so-called Prasthanathrayam, upon the authority of which our ancient philosophers relied, composed of the Bhagavad Gita, the ten Upanishads and Brahmasutras, must be thoroughly examined to find a complete explanation of the whole theory.

The main object of the Bhagavad Gita — which is one of the main sources of Hindu philosophy — is to explain the higher principles that operate in the cosmos, which are omnipresent and permanent and which are common to all the solar systems.

The main object of the Upanishads is to indicate the nature of this manifested cosmos, and the principles and energies therein present.

Lastly, in the Brahmasutras an attempt is made to give a clear and consistent theory about the composition of the entity that we call a human being, the connection of the soul with the three Upadhis, their nature and their connection with the soul on the one hand, and between themselves on the other. These books are not, however, devoted to these subjects only, but each book deals prominently with one of these subjects, and it is only when you take all the three into consideration, that you will have a consistent theory of the whole Vedantic philosophy.

And now, granting the truth of the premises we have laid down, what are the conclusions that will necessarily follow?

For this purpose the whole of the Bhagavad Gita may be divided into three parts. Of the first six chapters, the first is merely introductory, the remaining chapters deal with the five theories that have been suggested by various philosophers as pointing out to man the way to salvation; the succeeding six chapters explain the theory which Krishna advocates as pointing out the way which he recommends as the best one to follow, and give such explanations as are necessary. In the last six chapters, Krishna attempts by various arguments to point out that it is Prakriti which is mainly responsible for Karma, for even the various intellectual and moral qualities that are exhibited by human beings, for the varieties of the emotional nature, and for the various practices that are followed. It is impossible for me now to go into the whole of this argument in detail. In studying this book the last six chapters should be read first, because one of the main principles that will have to be taken into account in dealing with all the various measures that have been recommended, is therein enumerated and established; and our conclusions will have to be altered if the doctrine those six chapters are intended to inculcate is found to be false or untenable. Of course, in those six chapters, the illustrations are taken, not from matters with which we at the present day are familiar, but from matters which, at the time Krishna gave this discourse, were perfectly intelligible to his hearers, and to the public of that day, and with which they were thoroughly familiar. So it is possible that in the illustrations he gives we may not be able to find those arguments and those considerations, which, perhaps, a modern writer, trying to support the same conclusions, would present to the mind of the reader. Notwithstanding this, the nature of the argument is the same and the conclusion is true for all time to come. Illustrations will certainly be forthcoming, if necessary, from other departments of human knowledge with which we at the present day are familiar. It does not require any very lengthy argument to show, now that the works of Professor Bain and Herbert Spencer have been so widely read, that the human physical organism has a great deal to do with the mental structure of man; and, in fact, all modern psychology is trying to find a foundation for itself in physiology and is perhaps even going to extremes in this direction. The great French philosopher who originated what is called Positivism, would not, in his classification of sciences, assign a separate place to psychology. He wanted to give psychology a subordinate place, and include it, as a branch subject, under physiology.

This classification shows the extremes to which this tendency may lead. If all that is found in the body is nothing more than the material of which it is composed, true psychology is nothing more than physiology, and the mind is but an affection of matter. But there is something more than the mere physical organism; there is this invisible essence that we call the supreme Chaitanyam which constitutes the individuality of man, and which is further that energy which manifests itself as the consciousness behind the individuality.

It is not material, and it is not likely, that science will be able to get a glimpse of its real nature till it begins to adopt the methods of all the great occultists who have attempted to probe into this mystery. But at any rate this much must be conceded; whatever the real nature of this essence or life-force may be, the human constitution or the physical body has a good deal to do with the mental development and character of a human being.

Of course the force that operates in all these Upadhis is, as it were, colourless — it can by itself produce no result. But when acting in conjunction with Prakriti, it is the force that is the substratum of all the kingdoms, and almost every thing in the cosmos is, in a certain sense, traceable to this force. When, however, you begin to deal with particular forms of conscious existence, particular characteristics and developments, you will have to trace them, strictly speaking, to the Upadhis, or the material forms in which the force is acting, and not to the force itself. So Krishna says all Karma is traceable to Upadhi, and hence to Prakriti. Karma itself depends upon conscious existence. Conscious existence entirely depends upon the constitution of the man's mind, and this depends upon the nerve system of the body and the various elements existing therein, the nature of the astral elements and the energies stored up in the Karanopadhi.

In the case of even the astral body the same law holds good. To begin with, there is the aura, which is material in the strict sense of the word, and which composes its Upadhi. Behind this there is the energy, which is the basis of that feeling of self that even an astral man experiences.

Going on still higher, to Karana Sarira, there again you find this invisible, colourless force acting within its Upadhi, which contains within itself the characteristics of the individual Ego.

Go where you will, you will find that Karma and the gunams emanate from Prakriti: Upadhi is the cause of individual existence.

Existence itself, I mean living existence, is however traceable to this light. All conscious existence is traceable to it, and, furthermore, when spiritual intelligence is developed, it directly springs from it.

Now let us assume that this is the conclusion we are prepared to admit — and I need not enter into the details of the argument which you will find at length in the last six chapters. Let us now examine in order the various theories suggested by different philosophers. I shall take them as they are dealt with in the first six chapters of this book.

The first chapter is merely introductory. The second treats of Sankhya Yoga, the third of Karma Yoga, the fourth of Jnana Yoga, the fifth of Karmasanyasa Yoga, and the sixth deals with Atmasamyama Yoga.

These are the theories suggested by other philosophers, and in this list Krishna does not include that path of salvation pointed out by himself, which is set forth in the second group of six chapters. I believe that almost all the various suggestions made by different philosophers can be brought under one or the other of these headings. To complete the list there is the method suggested by Krishna himself as being of universal applicability, and, standing in the background, unknown and unseen, is that occult method, to facilitate which all the systems of initiation have been brought into existence. As this occult method is not of universal applicability, Krishna leaves it in the background and puts his doctrine in such a manner as to render it applicable to the whole of mankind. He points out the defects of each of the other systems, and takes, as it were, the best part of the five theories, and adds the one element, without which every one of these theories will become false. He thus constructs the theory which he recommends for the acceptance of mankind.

Take, for instance, the Sankhya philosophy. I have already explained the peculiar doctrine of the Sankhya philosophers that their Avyaktam itself was the one self-manifested everywhere in all Upadhis. That is more or less their Purusha. This Purusha is entirely passive. It is not the Eswara, not the active creative God, but simply a sort of passive substratum of the cosmos, and all that is done in the cosmos is done by Prakriti, which produces all the organisms or Upadhis that constitute the sum total of the cosmos. They accept the view that Karma and all the results that spring therefrom are traceable to this Maya or Prakriti, to this substratum that forms the basis of all manifestation. Now it is through the action of this Karma that individual existence makes its appearance. On account of this Karma individual existence is maintained, and it is on account of Karma that man suffers all the pains and sorrows of earthly existence. Birth, life and death, and all the innumerable ills to which human nature is subject, are endured by mankind owing to this Karma. Granting their premises, if the ambition of your life is to put an end to all earthly sorrows, then your object should be to put an end to the operation of this Karma.

But the question is, how can you do this? While Parabrahmam remains passive, Prakriti goes on creating the cosmos without its interference. It is not possible to get rid of Prakriti or its gunams altogether. You may as well try to rid fire or water of all its properties. Thus, Karma being the inevitable result of Prakriti, and Prakriti continuing to exist as long as you are a human being, it is useless to try to get rid of Karma. But, they say, you must try to get rid of the effects of Karma by reducing yourself to the passive state of existence in which Parabrahmam is, remaining simply a disinterested witness. Do Karma, not with a desire to do it, but from a sense of duty — because it must be done. The Sankhyas say: give up Sangam, that desire to do Karma, which alone seems to connect the soul with it, and renounce this connection, which alone renders the soul responsible for the Karma.

What will happen then? They say, when you renounce this desire, Karma will become weaker and weaker in its ability to affect you, till at last you arrive at a condition in which you are not affected by Karma at all, and that condition is the condition of Mukti. You will then become what you were originally. You yourself are but a delusive manifestation of Avyaktam, and when once this delusive appearance ceases to exist, you become Parabrahmam.

This is the theory suggested by the Sankhyas. Furthermore, as this Avyaktam, which exists everywhere, — which is eternal, and cannot be affected by anything else — forms the real soul of man, to hold it responsible for any Karma, is shown in the chapter before us, to be but a figment of Arjuna's fancy. Self cannot kill self. All that is done by the real self is in reality what is done by the various forms of Prakriti. The one substratum is immutable and can never be affected by any action of Prakriti. For some inexplicable reason or other the one self seems to have descended from the condition of passive existence, and to have assumed a delusive active individual existence in your own self. Try to get rid of this delusive appearance, then the result will be that you attain Nirvana.

Krishna examines this theory. He admits two of the premises. He says that all this Karma is due to Upadhi, and leads to conditioned existence, subject to all the pains and sorrows of life. But he denies that the supreme end of man's life is to reach this Avyaktam, and he further states that it is far more difficult to reach this Avyaktam than to reach himself; and that even if those who direct all their efforts towards the attainment of this Avyaktam meet with any success at all, it can only be by joining him, for otherwise it is impossible to reach Avyaktam. While accepting two of the conclusions of the Sankhyas, he points out that the real goal is not the one they postulated.

Now let us turn to the second system. This is mainly that kind of philosophy which is inculcated by the followers of Purva Mimansa. Every form of ritualism has its basis in the philosophy of Karmakanda. The arguments here used by Krishna in support of his own conclusions will not be quite intelligible to our minds, for the simple reason that times have changed during the last five thousand years. At the time this discourse was delivered, the Vedantic ritual was strictly followed, and the conclusions of the followers of Purva Mimansa were very well known and were a common topic of discussion. This philosophy was intended to provide a solution for all the difficulties that were common to the other systems of philosophy at that time evolved. But some of the arguments put forward by the Karma Yogis may be extended beyond the very limited form in which they are to be found stated in the books, and can be made applicable even to the life of modern times.

Karma Yogis say: True, this Karma may be due to Upadhi, but it is not due to Upadhi alone; it is due to the effects produced by the two elements Upadhi and Chaitanyam. Those philosophers who want to reject all Karma pretend to renounce it altogether. But that is an impossible task. No man, as long as he is a human being, can ever give up Karma altogether. He is at least bound to do that which the bare existence of his physical body requires, unless indeed he means to die of starvation, or otherwise put an untimely end to his life.

Supposing you do give up Karma — that is, abstain from it in action, how can you keep control over your own minds? It is useless to abstain from an act and yet be constantly thinking of it. If you come to the resolution that you ought to give up Karma, you must necessarily conclude that you ought not even to think about these things. That being so, let us see in what a condition you will then place yourselves. As almost all our mental states have some connection with the phenomenal world, and are somehow or other connected with Karma in its various phases, it is difficult to understand how it is possible for a man to give up all Karma, unless he can annihilate his mind, or get into an eternal state of Sushupti. Moreover, if you have to give up all Karma, you have to give up good Karma as well as bad, for Karma, in its widest sense, is not confined solely to bad actions. If all the people in the world give up Karma, how is the world to exist? Is it not likely that an end will then be put to all good impulses, to all patriotic and philanthropic deeds, that all the good people, who have been and are exerting themselves in doing unselfish deeds for the good of their fellowmen, will be prevented from working? If you call upon everybody to give up Karma, you will simply create a number of lazy drones and prevent good people from benefiting their fellow beings.

And, furthermore, it may be argued that this is not a rule of universal applicability. How few are there in the world who can give up their whole Karma and reduce themselves to a position of eternal inactivity. And if you ask these people to follow this course, they may, instead of giving up Karma, simply become lazy, idle persons, who have not really given up anything. What is the meaning of the expression "to give up Karma"? Krishna says that in abstaining from doing a thing there may be the effects of active Karma, and in active Karma there may be no real Karmic results. If you kill a man, it is murder, and you are held responsible for it; but suppose you refuse to feed your old parents and they die in consequence of your neglect, do you mean to say that you are not responsible for that Karma? You may talk in the most metaphysical manner you please, you cannot get rid of Karma altogether. These are the arguments put forward by an advocate of this second view.

The unfortunate mistake that these Karma Yogis make is this: in their system there is little or nothing said about the Logos. They accept all the thirty-three crores of gods mentioned in the Vedas and say that the Vedas represent the Logos or Verbum. They say "the Vedas have prescribed a certain course to be followed, and it is not for you to say whether such a course is or is not capable of producing the result to be attained. You ought to take what is stated in the Vedas as absolute truth, and by performing the various rituals therein prescribed, you will be able to reach Swargam. Devas will assist your efforts, and in the end you will attain supreme happiness. That being the course prescribed, we are not called upon to give up all Karma, and thereby throw all existing institutions into a state of inextricable confusion."

To these Karma-vadis Krishna says: "One of your conclusions I accept, the other I deny. I admit that an incalculable number of evil consequences will follow as the result of telling people to give up Karma, but I cannot admit that your worship of the Devas is at all a desirable thing."

Who and what are these Devas? "They are beings on the plane of Karana Sarira. They can never give you immortality, because they are not immortal themselves. Even if through worshipping them you are enabled to reach Swargam, you will have to return thence into objective existence in a new incarnation. The happiness that Swargam can give you is not eternal and permanent, but subject to this disturbance. And what is more, if you worship the Devas, concentrating your mind on them and making them the sole object of your attention, it is their bhavam that you will obtain, and not mine." Taking all these circumstances into consideration, and admitting the many mischievous consequences that in their view will follow as the result of recommending every human being to give up Karma, Krishna adds to this system all that is to be found in the teaching that makes the Logos the means of salvation, and recommends man — if he would seek to obtain immortality, a method by following which he is sure to reach it, and not one that may end in his having to go through another incarnation, or being absorbed into another spiritual being whose existence is not immortal. Furthermore, all these thirty-three crores of gods spring into existence with the beginning of every Manwantara and disappear at Pralaya. Thus, when the very existence of the Devas themselves is not permanent, you cannot expect that your existence will become permanent by merging it into their plane of being.

I now turn to the third theory — Karmasanyasa-Yogam. This Krishna at once rejects as being a most mischievous and even impossible course to follow. All the advantages offered by its pursuit may be obtained by doing Karma, not as a matter of human affection, passion or desire, but as a matter of duty.

The fourth system is that of Gnana Yogam. When people began to perceive that Ritualism was nothing more than a physical act, and that it was altogether unmeaning, unless accompanied by proper knowledge, they said it was not the Karma suggested by the followers of Purva Mimansa, or the followers of any other particular ritual, that would be of any use for man's salvation, but the knowledge of, or the intellectual elements underlying, the ritual that would be far more important than any physical act could be.

As Krishna says, their motto is, that all Karma is intended simply as a step to gain knowledge or Gnanam. These philosophers, while admitting that Karma should not be rejected, have prescribed other methods of their own, by means of which they thought salvation would be gained.

They said, "Consider Karma to be a kind of discipline, and try to understand what this Karma really means. It is in fact merely symbolical. There is a deep meaning underlying the whole ritual that deals with real entities, with the secrets of nature, and all the faculties imbedded in man's Pragna, and its meaning must not be taken to apply to physical acts alone, for they are nothing more than what their outward appearances signify." In addition to mere Karma-yogam, they adopted several other kinds of yogam, such as Japam. Strictly speaking, this Karma-yogam is not yogam at all, properly so called. They have added to it Antar-yogam, Pranagnihotram, and other things which may be more or less considered as refined substitutes for external ritual. Now as regards the theory of these philosophers. All that Krishna has to propose is that their Gnanam should be directed towards its proper source. They must have some definite aim before them in their search after truth, and they must not simply follow either Japam or Thapas, or any other method which is supposed to open the interior senses of man, without having also a complete view of the whole path to be traversed and the ultimate goal to be reached. Because, if the attainment of knowledge is all that you require, it may be you still stop short at a very great distance from the Logos and the spiritual knowledge that it can give you. Strictly speaking, all scientists, and all those who are enquiring into the secrets of nature, are also following the recommendations of this Gnana-yogam. But is that kind of investigation and knowledge sufficient for the purpose of enabling a man to attain immortality? It is not by itself sufficient to produce this effect. This course may indeed ultimately bring to the notice of man all those great truths belonging to the principles operating in the cosmos, which alone, when properly appreciated and followed, will be able to secure to man the highest happiness he can desire — that is, immortality or Moksham. While admitting the advantages of the spirit of enquiry recommended by this school, Krishna tries to direct it towards the accomplishment of this object.

Let us now examine the fifth system. The votaries of this sect, after having examined what was said by the Sankhyas as well as all the teachings of the other systems we have described, came to the conclusion that it would only be possible to give up Karma in truth and not merely in name, if you could somehow or other restrain the action of the mind. As long as you cannot concentrate the mind upon yourself, or turn self towards self, it is not possible for you to restrain your nature, and so long as you cannot do that, it is almost impossible to subdue Prakriti or rise superior to the effects of Karma.

These philosophers wanted men to act in accordance with certain recommendations they laid down as a more effectual and positive means of obtaining mastery over one's own mind, without which mastery they considered it impossible to carry out the programme of either the Sankhya or the Gnana-yoga schools. It was for this purpose that all the various systems of Hata-yoga with their different processes, by means of which man attempted to control the action of his own mind, were brought into existence. It was these people who recommended what might be called Abhiasa-yoga. Whatever may be the definite path pointed out, whether Hata-yoga, or that department of Raja-yoga that does not necessarily refer to secret initiations, the object is the same, and the final purpose is the attainment of perfect control over oneself.

This recommendation to practise and obtain self-mastery, Krishna accepts. But he would add to it more effectual means of obtaining the desired end, means sufficient in themselves to enable you to reach that end. He points out that this Abhiasa-yogam is not only useful for training in one birth, but is likely to leave permanent impulses on a man's soul which come to his rescue in future incarnations. As regards the real difficulties that are encountered in following this system, I need not speak at present, because all of you are aware of the difficulties generally encountered by Hata-yogis. Many of our own members have made some efforts in this direction, and they will know from personal experience what difficulties are in the way.

Krishna, in recommending his own method, combines all that is good in the five systems, and adds thereto all those necessary means of obtaining salvation that follow as inferences from the existence of the Logos, and its real relationship to man and to all the principles that operate in the cosmos. His is certainly more comprehensive than any of the theories from which these various schools of philosophy have started, and it is this theory that he is trying to inculcate in the succeeding six chapters.

As I have already referred to various passages in these six chapters to show in what light you ought to regard the Logos, I need not say anything more now, and if you will bear in mind the remarks I have already made, the meaning will not be very difficult to reach.

In this connection there is one point on which I have been asked to give some explanation.

Reference is made in this book to Uttarayanam and Dakshinayanam, or day and night, or light and darkness. These are symbolical of the two paths Pravrittimarga and Nivrittimarga. What he calls Uttarayanam is Nivrittimarga, represented as day or the path of light, the path he recommends, and the other Dakshinayanam is Pravrittimarga, or the way which leads to embodied existence in this world.

But there is one expression in the book that is significant. Krishna says that those who follow this second path attain to Chandramasamjyoti and return thence, while those who follow the first method reach Brahma. This Chandramasamjyoti is in reality a symbol of devachanic existence. The moon shines, not by its own light, but by the light derived from the sun. Similarly the Karana Sarira shines by the light emanating from the Logos, which is the only real source of light, and not by its own inherent light. That which goes to Devachan or Swargam is this Karana Sarira, and this it is that returns from Devachan. Krishna tries to indicate the nature of the Logos by comparing it to the sun or something that the sun symbolizes.

I may here draw your attention to one other contingency that may happen to man after death in addition to those I have already enumerated. Those who have read Mr. Sinnett's "Esoteric Buddhism" will, perhaps, recollect that he talks of the terrible fate that might befall the soul in what he calls the eighth sphere. This has given rise to a considerable amount of misunderstanding. The real state of things is that the Karana Sarira may, in very extreme circumstances, die, as the physical body or the astral body dies. Suppose that, in course of time, the Karana Sarira is reduced, by the persistence of bad Karma, into a condition of physical existence, which renders it impossible for it to reflect the light of the Logos; or suppose that that on which it feeds, as it were, — the good Karma of the man — loses all its energy, and that no tendencies of action are communicated to it, then the result may be that the Karana Sarira dies, or becomes merely a useless aggregation of particles, instead of being a living organism, just as the physical body decomposes and becomes a dead body when the life principle leaves it.

The Karana Sarira may become so contaminated and so unfit to reflect the light of the Logos as to render any future individual existence impossible; and then the result is annihilation, which is simply the most terrible fate that can befall a human being. Without proceeding further, I must stop here.

I beg that you will all kindly bear this in mind. We have merely commenced the study of Bhagavad Gita in these lectures. Try to examine, by the light of the statements found in our own books, and in modern books on Psychology and Science, whether the theory I have placed before you is at all tenable or not — decide for yourselves — whether that is the theory supported by the Bhagavad Gita itself. Do not rely on a host of commentaries which will only confuse you, but try to interpret the text for yourselves as far as your intelligence will allow; and if you think this is really a correct theory, try to follow it up and think out the whole philosophy for yourselves. I have found that a good deal more is to be gained by concentration of thought and meditation, than by reading any number of books or hearing any number of lectures. Lectures are utterly useless, unless you think out for yourself what they treat of. The Society cannot provide you with philosophical food already digested, as though you were in the ideal state of passivity aimed at by the advocates of the Sankhyan philosophy; but every one of you is expected to read and study the subject for himself. Read and gain knowledge, and then use what you have gained for the benefit of your own countrymen.

The philosophy contained in our old books is valuable, but it has been turned into superstition. We have lost almost all our knowledge. What we call religion is but the shell of a religion that once existed as a living faith. The sublime philosophy of Sankaracharya has assumed quite a hideous form at the present day. The philosophy of a good many Adwaitis does not lead to practical conduct. They have examined all their books, and they think with the Southern Buddhists of Ceylon, that Nirvana is the Nirvana promised by the Sankhya philosophers, and instead of following out their own philosophy to its legitimate conclusion, they have introduced by their Panchayatanapiya and other observances what seems to be a foolish and unnecessary compromise between the different views of the various sects that have existed in India. Visishthadwaita philosophy has degenerated, and is now little more than temple worship, and has not produced any good impression on men's minds. Madhwa philosophy has degenerated in the same manner, and has perhaps become more fanatical. For instance, Sankaracharya is represented in their Manimanjari as a Rakshasa of former times. In Northern India people generally recite Saptasati and many have adopted Sakti worship. Kali is worshipped in Calcutta more perhaps than any other deity. If you examine these customs by the light of Krishna's teachings, it must appear to you that, instead of having Hinduism, we have assimilated a whole collection of superstitious beliefs and practices which do not by any means tend to promote the welfare of the Hindu nation, but demoralize it and sap its spiritual strength, and have led to the present state of things, which, I believe, is not entirely due to political degeneration.

Our Society stands upon an altogether unsectarian basis; we sympathize with every religion, but not with every abuse that exists under the guise of religion; and while sympathizing with every religion and making the best efforts we can for the purpose of recovering the common foundations that underlie all religious beliefs, it ought to be the duty of every one of us to try to enlighten our own countrymen on the philosophy of religion, and endeavour to lead them back to a purer faith — a faith which, no doubt, did exist in former times, but which now lives but in name or in the pages of forgotten books.


[The following letter in reference to the forms of Vach explained on pages 92-3 herein, and T. Subba Row's reply, were originally published in The Theosophist, May 1887, pp. 522-3. — Pub.]

SIR, — With reference to Mr. Subba Row's lectures on Bhagavadgita, published in the Theosophist for April 1887, page 446, where he says, I would here call your attention to the 1st Anhika of Mahabhasya, where Patanjali speaks of three forms manifested, Pasyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari Vach: the way he classifies is different . I have to state that the 1st Anhika of Mahabhasya does not contain any such particular divisions. Patanjali quotes a verse from Rig Veda "Chatvarivak parimitapadam, &c.," and interprets "Chatvari vak" nama, akyata, upasarga, and nipata. The same verse of Rig Veda is interpreted by Yaska in his Nirukta, chapter 12, in the same way as by Patanjali, and he adds some other explanations than those quoted by Mr. Subba Row; nor does Kaita, the well-known commentator of Mahabhashya, give them in his Bhashyapradipa. But Nagesabhatta, a commentator of Bhashyapradipa, gives Mr. Subba Row's sub-divisions in detail, in his Bhashyapradipothyota, referring to Harikarika, or Vakyapadiya of Bhartrihari. This Nagesabhatta speaks of the same sub-divisions in the Spotavada of his Manjusha; and some modern grammarians give the same sub-divisions quoting from Mahabharata; Annambhatta, a commentator on Bhashyapradipa, who lived before Nagesabhatta, did not interpret the passage in question in the way that Nagesabhatta did.
I would therefore ask you to draw Mr. Subba Row's attention to the above facts, and to explain the thing in a more acceptable way. I have herewith enclosed extracts from Mahabhashya, Kaita, and Nirukta on this point.
Yours fraternally,
N. BHASHYACHARY.

SIR, — I have to thank Mr. Bhashyachary for having called my attention to the wrong reference given in my third lecture. Instead of referring to Nagesabhatta's Bhashyapradipodyota and Sphotavada, I referred to the Mahabhashyam itself through oversight. I had especially in my mind Nagesabhatta's remarks on the four forms of Vak in his Sphotavada when I made the statements adverted to in your learned correspondent's letter. Patanjali had to interpret the original rik of the Rig Veda from the standpoint of a grammarian in his Mahabhashya; but he certainly recognised the importance of the interpretation put upon it by Hatayogis and Rajayogis as might be easily seen by the symbols he introduced into the mystic arrangements of the Chidambaram temple. Apart from mystic symbology, Nagesabhatta had very high and ancient authorities to guide him in interpreting this rik. Nearly seven interpretations have been suggested for this rik by various classes of writers and philosophers. The four forms of Vak enumerated by me are common to the interpretation of Hatayogis and Mantrayogis on the one hand and Rajayogis on the other. I request your learned correspondent to refer to Vidyaranya's commentary on the 45th rik of the 164th Sukta of the 22nd Anuvaka of the first Mandala of Rig-veda. Most of these various interpretations are therein enumerated and explained. The learned commentator refers to para, pasyanti, madhyama and vaikhari and indicates the order of their development as stated by Mantrayogis and Hatavogis. It will be useful to refer to Yoga Sikha and other Upanishads in this connection. There is still higher authority for the views expressed in my lecture and the statements made by Nagesabhatta in Sankaracharya's commentary on Nrisimhottara Tapani (See page 118, Calcutta edition, from line 14 to the end of the para). These four forms of vak are therein explained from the stand-point of Tharaka Rajayoga. I would particularly invite the reader's attention to the explanation of Madhyama. Madhyama is so called, because it occupies an intermediate position between the objective form and the subjective image. On carefully perusing this portion of the commentary, it will be seen that the explanations therein given form, as it were, the foundation of the various statements made by me in my lectures regarding these four forms of vak. Whether this commentary is attributed to Sankaracharya as many have done, or to Goudapatha as some have stated, its authority is unimpeachable. I do not think it necessary to refer to any works on Mantra Sastra in this connection, as the authorities cited above are amply sufficient to justify my statements. I may perhaps have to refer to the mystic philosophy of vak at greater length in another connection.

T. S. R.


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