Who am I, What is my Role, Why?

Arjuna statue at an intersection just outside ...
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The Gita So Far

Chapter 1: Arjuna expresses that he wants to give up his normal duty.

Chapter 2: Kṛṣṇa stresses that we should never give up our duty, even when its immediate repercussions are painful and disturbing.

Arjuna contends that it is difficult to even know what one’s duty is, what to speak of carrying it out in the face of hardship. Kṛṣṇa will therefore spend the rest of the book elaborating on exactly what duty (dharma) really is, and how to stick to it regardless of the pleasure or pains it entails.

Chapter 3: (karma-yoga) It is my duty to play my natural role in the world, not to give up that role. All my desires become perfectly fulfilled when I carry out my obligation to properly play that role.

Chapter 4: (jñāna-miśra karma-yoga) Without deep self-knowledge it is impossible to know what my role is, and to properly play it when faced with temptation and despair. Self-knowledge comes as a blessing of the Superself, who ultimately is Kṛṣṇa, and most readily descends to us from him through a system of  “disciplic succession.”

Gaining true knowledge allows me to understand myself and the Superself, and thus find it possible to give up all selfish motivations and endeavors.

Chapter 5: (niṣkāma-karma-yoga) Arjuna wants to know if is it better to play an active role in the world (as Kṛṣṇa advised in Chapter 3) or to pursue the cultivation of philosophical knowledge (as Kṛṣṇa advised in Chapter 4)?

Kṛṣṇa answers that the best path is to combine both; I must apply self-knowledge to the way I play my role in the world. Thus I am able to carry out my natural responsibilities and duties without any personal agenda or motive, and without concern for the repercussions to my immediate pleasures or pains.

Chapter 6: (dhyāna-yoga) Playing my natural role in self-knowledge, as just described, eliminates the false-ego and thereby makes it feasible for me to cease my normal worldly duties and practice mystic meditation in seclusion. This meditation grants direct experience of the true self, as well as the Superself.

Chapter 7: (bhakti-yoga) Those who perceive the self and Superself realize their intimate relation to God and thereby develop deep feelings of devotion. Their duty is simply to share their loving feelings with Godhead. These devotional-spiritualists attain the highest goal.

Chapter 8: Arjuna wants to know, What is this “highest goal”? And what goals do other types of yogi-spiritualists attain?

Kṛṣṇa answers that others attain paradise, heavens, and relief from the burden of existence, but all these conditions are temporary. Only the devotional spiritualist attains the highest goal – eternal establishment in an intimate blissful relationship with Kṛṣṇa, the original soul of all souls, in his own eternal abode.

Chapter Nine So Far

Kṛṣṇa says, “Arjuna, I trust you entirely because you are my dear friend. So I will tell you all the most confidential secrets about how to be a devotional spiritualist and attain that supreme goal (1). What I am about to tell you is the knowledge of all knowledge! It is the secret of all secrets! These happy and imperishable secrets will purify you entirely and give you direct tangible experience of your true self and your duty in relation to me, the Superself! (2) Because I trust you and you trust me, you can understand these secrets. Others will have no idea what we are talking about. (3)”

Kṛṣṇa begins to reveal the secrets: “Everything in this world comes from me, and therefore I am a part of everything! But though I am a part of everything I am also beyond everything. (4) Everything you experience is my energy – but I am much more than just my energy! I am the source of all energy, a divine person beyond it all. (5) All of creation is effortlessly within me, like the blowing wind is in the firm and pure sky. (6)”

The Seventh Text of Chapter Nine

In this and the next few texts, Kṛṣṇa will explain how the universes unfold effortlessly within his energy.

सर्व-भ्ūत्āनि कौन्तेय प्रक्र्̣तिम्́ य्āन्ति म्āमिक्āम्
कल्प-क्स्̣अये पुनस् त्āनि कल्प्āदौ विस्र्̣ज्āम्य् अहम्

sarva-bhūtāni kaunteya
prakṛtiḿ yānti māmikām

kalpa-kṣaye punas tāni
kalpādau visr
̣jāmy aham

“O son of Kuntī [Arjuna], at the end of the millennium all material manifestations enter into My nature, and at the beginning of another millennium, by My potency, I create them again.”

How do the universes effortlessly exist within God’s energy? In a perpetually cyclic manner. All living beings in this world (sarva-bhūtāni) are God’s energy (prakṛti māmikām). At the beginning of a creative cycle (kalpa) all these beings effortlessly emerge (visṛjāmi) from God’s energy. At the end of that cycle, they re-enter it (yānti).

The great commentary of Viśvanātha Chakravarti explains that previously Kṛṣṇa said everything we can see in creation is within him like the wind is in the sky. Arjuna then asks, “What about when all these things we can see are destroyed? Are they still all within you – or have they vanished or gone outside you somehow?”

Kṛṣṇa replies in this text, saying, “When everything is destroyed it merely submerges into the matrix of my energy. I will later on recreate everything once again in exact detail. Thus no energy is lost and everything always remains within my energy.”

Our great teacher, A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swāmī  Prabhupāda gives the following commentary on this text:

The creation, maintenance and annihilation of this material cosmic manifestation are completely dependent on the supreme will of the Personality of Godhead. “At the end of the millennium” means at the death of Brahmā. Brahmā lives for one hundred years, and his one day is calculated at 4,300,000,000 of our earthly years. His night is of the same duration. His month consists of thirty such days and nights, and his year of twelve months. After one hundred such years, when Brahmā dies, the devastation or annihilation takes place; this means that the energy manifested by the Supreme Lord is again wound up in Himself. Then again, when there is a need to manifest the cosmic world, it is done by His will. Bahu syām: “Although I am one, I shall become many.” This is the Vedic aphorism (Chāndogya Upaniṣad 6.2.3). He expands Himself in this material energy, and the whole cosmic manifestation again takes place.

Our Prabhupāda makes two main points in this commentary: (1) The duration of the creative cycle Kṛṣṇa is referring to, and (2) The reason why all this creation and energy exists in the first place.

While discussing the Eighth Chapter we elaborately covered the first point – coming to understand the duration of the universe to be approximately the equivalent of 311 trillion earth years.

The second point is a huge favorite of mine!

Prabhupāda quotes the Chā ndogya Upaniṣad to explain a wonderful question – “Why are we here? What is the point of all this stuff in creation?” The Upaniṣad reveals God’s motive in creating us and creating everything, saying eko bahu syām. This means,

First of all there was One unified being (eko)

That one being thought, “This is a shame, There is potential for bliss within me
But I am alone, and thus cannot express this potential bliss…

Therefore, I should become many!” (bahu syām).

This is one of my favorite pieces of Vedic wisdom for it entirely explains the meaning and purpose of life. If you are interested to learn more on this topic, I have an article that addresses it: http://www.vicdicara.com/prep_creation.php


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