Arjuna, now listen. I will tell you how you can know me
(the Universal Being, repository of all power, strength, glory and other attributes)
beyond the mind, beyond any shadow of doubt,
by practicing nonattachment
and taking refuge in me. (1)
I shall reveal to you this wisdom in its entirety,
together with its realisation,
and when you master this,
there is nothing further that needs to be known. (2)
It is perhaps only one in thousands of beings
who strive for freedom.
And amongst those who strive for freedom,
and think they have succeeded,
hardly one knows the total Truth of my being. (3)
Krishna states the fact that how rare it is for someone to seek freedom and perfection, and how much rarer it is for someone to ultimately know the total Truth. At the end of the day, if it is a matter of divine will, the seeker must surrender to the divine in regards to the entire process of awakening. That one is a seeker is itself because of grace. Surrender to this grace and leave everything to that will.
Earth, water, fire, wind,
space, mind, intellect and the I-sense
are the eight aspects of my physical nature.
This is my lower nature,
but beyond this, and quite distinct from it,
I have another higher nature,
the perennial principle,
which is the source of life,
consciousness in all beings,
and the sustenance of the entire universe. (4-5)
This verse provides the distinction between the manifest, material universe and the perennial principle which, immanent within it, provides the life and the sustenance to this universe.
The manifest material universe is just a sudden, spontaneous, concurrent appearance in Consciousness, within Consciousness, brought about by Consciousness. Consciousness is all there really is. In the material manifestation, the human being is just one object. Basically there is no difference in the make-up of the human being and the inanimate object. The question, therefore of the individuality of the human being is really a myth.
In principle, therefore, the human being is merely a dreamed character in this dreamed manifestation - just another object - with senses, which enable him to perceive things, and cognise and interpret and discriminate between what he perceives. If he sees the impersonality in all this, that he is just another object in the manifestation with certain additional endowments, such as sentience and intellect, that would be the first step in perceiving the impersonality of the whole manifestation. In seeing the impersonality of the manifested universe, there is an inherent understanding that whatever has appeared as a mere appearance cannot possibly have any existence of its own, that Consciousness is the perennial principle which is the source of life and the sustenance of the universe.
Know this as the womb from which all beings have evolved.
The universe is born within me,
and within me will be destroyed.
I am the source of this and the entire creation,
which disappears again into me. (6)
There is nothing more fundamental than I, Arjuna.
Like clusters of thread-beads
formed by knots on a thread,
all this is strung upon me on a single thread. (7)
I am the taste in water,
the light in the moon and the sun,
the sacred syllable Om in the Vedas,
the sound in space,
and the manliness in men. (8)
I am the subtle principle of fragrance in the earth,
the brilliance in fire,
the life in all living beings
and the abstinence in ascetics. (9)
I am the primal, eternal seed within all beings,
the wisdom of those who know;
the splendour of the glorious. (10)
I am the might of the mighty man
who is free of attachment and desire;
I am desire itself
when desire is consistent with duty. (11)
You must realise that all states of being,
whether born of the quality of goodness (sattva),
or the principle of activity (rajas)
or the principle of inertia (tamas),
must proceed from Me alone.
They are contained in me, but I am not in them. (12)
It is by the moods and mental states (gunas),
the expression of these three states of being
that the entire world is deluded.
Thus the world fails to recognise me as I really am,
supreme and deathless,
I stand apart from them all. (13)
The individual human mind-body mechanism is really nothing but an individual pattern of dynamic energy. That is all an individual is: energy vibrating and pulsating at an incredible speed in a particular pattern. And that pattern has characteristics peculiar to that particular mind-body organism. No human being has natural characteristics quite like any other. The scriptures refer to this combination of characteristics as dharma, the original nature. Indeed, in another verse, Krishna tells Arjuna to act according to his original nature; to follow one's dharma even imperfectly done is better than following another's dharma more efficiently. He adds that following someone's else's dharma is spiritually dangerous.
But those men who turn to me
can penetrate beyond
this most wonderful veiling power (maya) of mine,
this magic created
by the three modes of nature (gunas). (14)
Others, deluded by my power,
do not attempt to find me.
Their wisdom is carried away
by the veil of illusion (maya),
and in their ignorance,
they sink into vile and demonic evil. (15)
Four types of virtuous devotees worship me:
the person in distress,
the person seeking power and worldly possession,
the person who seeks knowledge
and the sage. (16)
Of these, the devoted sage,
unattached and steadfast
is the most praiseworthy.
That man is extremely beloved by me,
as I am by him. (17)
Indeed, all these are noble,
but the sage is my very self.
he dwells in the ultimate goal:
in me. (18)
With his discrimination ripening
through many a long life,
the sage makes me his refuge,
realising that the divine is all there is.
How rare is such a great one! (19)
The sage Ashtavakra tells us what bondage and liberation are. He says "Bondage is when the mind desires something or grieves over something. Liberation is when then the mind does not desire or grieve, does not accept or reject, does not feel happy or unhappy." Non-desiring does not mean just not desiring some object but also includes non-desiring the knowledge of your true nature: the desire for freedom from bondage. Whenever there is desire there must be the individual 'me' doing the desiring and therefore 'bondage'.
Ashtavakra also says: "It is bondage when the mind is attached to any sense experience. It is liberation when the mind is detached from all sense experience." The mind is the 'me' who is attached to sensory experiences.
How does the 'me', the personal identification arise?
In the process of manifestation and its functioning, for the divine game, 'lila', to take place, for the love and hate relationships to arise, Consciousness identifies itself with each individual organism, and creates the 'me' who desires or grieves for something, and who attaches himself to the same experience. When there is the sudden realisation that this 'me' is only a concept which does not really exist, the identification with the organism as a separate entity, disappears.
Krishna says that this process of the creation of the 'me' and its destruction, which means liberation from the bondage of identification and attachment, takes many lifetimes.
Ultimately there is a sudden realisation that all there is, is Consciousness, and that all that has happened and is happening, and will happen, is because of the divine will and not because of the efforts of the fictitious 'me'. This sudden realisation, itself because of the divine will, as divine grace, is enlightenment or awakening.
Men whose wisdom has been carried away
by various desires,
being hemmed in by the limits of their own nature,
take refuge in other gods,
adopting rules relating to each,
in accord. (20)
However, whatever deity a devotee chooses,
whatever the form of reverence,
I grant him an unswerving faith. (21)
Endowed with such faith
he earnestly seeks the god's favour,
and obtains the things he desires,
because I have ordained it. (22)
But the reward
gained by people of such small understanding
They will go to the gods they worship;
whereas my devotees,
howsoever they worship me,
eventually come to me and me alone. (23)
Though I am unmanifest,
beyond the reach of mind and senses,
the ignorant assume I have a finite form,
unaware of my higher existence
which is permanent and supreme. (24)
Veiled by my divine power and mystery (yogamaya),
I am not manifest to all.
Their deluded minds cannot recognise me,
the unborn, undying, changeless supreme being. (25)
Arjuna, I know all beings,
past as well as present,
and even those that are yet to be;
but I am beyond all knowing. (26)
All beings are born to ignorance,
ruled by desire and aversion.
This is the primal infatuation-delusion,
the duality that all living creatures in this world
fall prey to, and what keeps them bound. (27)
But when a man is released from dualities,
he can act purely, without attachment,
and can serve me with all his heart. (28)
Those who having taken refuge in me,
striving for deliverance from old age and death
know absolute freedom,
and the Self,
and the nature of action,
as well as my integral being
dwelling in the heart of all beings as their witness,
the nature of being in the field of matter,
and of worship
are always steadfast with me in spirit,
even at the hour of their death. (29-30)