The Song of God, by Sri Swami Sivananda, (a summary by Pat Evert)
- Forward / Preface / Introduction
Divine wisdom addressed to mankind for all times, in order to help human beings face and solve the ever-present problems of birth and death, of pain, suffering, fear, bondage, love and hate. It enables man to liberate himself from all limiting factors and reach a state of perfect balance, inner stability and mental peace, complete freedom from grief, fear and anxiety. The drama of the ascent of man from a state of utter dejection, sorrow and total breakdown and hopelessness to a state of perfect understanding, clarity, renewed strength and triumph. The workings of your mind—the real problem to your welfare and happiness.
This Song Celestial to humanity for the guidance of their daily conduct of life, spiritual upliftment and Self-realisation. The Bhagavad Gita is a gospel for the whole world. It is meant for the generality of mankind. It was given over five thousand years ago by Lord Krishna to Arjuna. Lord Krishna speaks from different levels of consciousness. The central teaching of the Gita is the attainment of the final beatitude of life—perfection or eternal freedom. Arjuna is coached by Krishna for the attainment of knowledge of the Self in the spiritual university. You can become a liberated sage by annihilating the ego and the currents of likes and dislikes; by annihilating desires and cravings and destroying their residual potencies. Thus, you can rest in your true essential nature as Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute and still be active in the affairs of the world. Now you will not be bound by your actions since the idea of doership has been destroyed by the attainment of knowledge of the Self. This is the keynote of the Gita.
This self-luminous Self which is hidden in this body as fire is hidden in wood or as butter in milk. This Self is the inner ruler, the unseen governor or hidden proprietor of this house, the body. Real life is life in the eternal Soul. True life is identification with this Supreme Soul. All Deities are one; they are different aspects of the Lord. Each Yoga is as efficacious as the other.
The Gita again and again emphasises that one should cultivate an attitude of non-attachment or detachment. Attachment is born of ignorance, selfishness and passion and brings with it death; detachment is wisdom and brings with it freedom. Try to dwell always in your own Self. Abide in your centre. Think of the Self constantly. Then all attachments will die automatically. Attachment to the Lord is a potent antidote to annihilate all worldly attachments.
Krishna became the charioteer of Arjuna in the battle of the Mahabharata. After the ten days of continued war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, when the great warrior Bhishma was thrown down from his chariot by Arjuna. Here commences the Bhagavad Gita.
- 1) THE YOGA OF THE DESPONDENCY OF ARJUNA
The great Mahabharata war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas took place on the holy plain of Kurukshetra. The Pandavas were to engage in war for their rightful share of the kingdom. Arjuna was bewildered by the scene before him, for he beheld on both sides, fathers and grandfathers, teachers and uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, relatives and comrades. Confusion reigned in Arjuna’s mind. Should he participate in this terrible carnage? Was it proper to destroy one’s relatives for the sake of a kingdom and some pleasures?
And I see adverse omens, O Kesava! I do not see any good in killing my kinsmen in battle. How can we be happy by killing our own people, O Madhava (Krishna)? Alas! We are involved in a great sin in that we are prepared to kill our kinsmen through greed for the pleasures of a kingdom.
- 2) SANKHYA YOGA
Lord Krishna rebukes him for his dejection, which was due to Moha or attachment, and exhorts him to fight. The Lord takes pity on him and proceeds to enlighten him by various means. He explains to Arjuna the imperishable nature of the Atman, Therefore Arjuna should not grieve. Having taught Arjuna the immortal nature of the Atman, Lord Krishna turns to the performance of action without expectation of fruit. A man should not concern himself about the fruit of the action, like gain and loss, victory and defeat. Krishna advises Arjuna to fight, free from desire for acquisition of kingdom or preservation of it. A man who has a stable mind. Such a person, Krishna tells him, will have no desires at all. Since he is content within, having realised the Self, he is entirely free from desires. He will take things as they come, and will not have any likes and dislikes. He will neither hug the world nor hate it. One should therefore turn one’s gaze within and realise God who resides in the heart.
He that sees, hears and speaks of the Self is a wonderful man. Such a man is very rare. He is one among many thousands. All the pleasures of the world are worthless to an illumined sage who is ever content in the immortal Self. The ordinary man is unconscious of his real nature.
- 3) THE YOGA OF ACTION
In order to remove Moha or attachment, which was the sole cause of Arjuna’s delusion, Sri Krishna taught the imperishable nature of the Atman, the Realization of which would grant him the freedom of the Eternal. Perfection is attained not by ceasing to engage in action, but by doing all actions as a divine offering, imbued with a spirit of non-attachment and sacrifice. To perform action for the good of the world and for the education of the masses is no doubt superior. Therefore, action is necessary not only for one who has attained perfection but also for one who is striving for perfection, even after attaining God-Realization. Doing duty that is suited to one’s nature in the spirit of detachment will lead to perfection. Desire is the root cause of all evil actions. If desire is removed, then the divine power manifests in its full glory and one enjoys peace, bliss, light and freedom.
- 4) THE YOGA OF WISDOM
The liberated man is free from attachment and is always calm and serene though engaged in ceaseless action. He is unaffected by the pairs of opposites like joy and grief, success and failure. The Lord accepts the devotion of all, whatever path they may use to approach Him. The liberated aspirant directly beholds the Self in all beings and all beings in the Self. He cognises through internal experience or intuition that all beings, from the Creator down to a blade of grass, exist in his own Self and also in God. Mere intellectual knowledge does not lead to liberation. It cannot grant one supreme peace and freedom. When one has achieved complete self-mastery and self-control, when one has intense faith and devotion, then true knowledge dawns within and one attains liberation and freedom from all weaknesses and sins.
- 5) THE YOGA OF RENUNCIATION OF ACTION
The path of action or the path of renunciation of action – the Lord says that both the paths lead to the highest goal of God-realisation. In both cases the final realisation of the Atman is the aim. The Karma Yogi who is aware of the Atman knows that although the intellect, mind and senses are active, he does not do anything. He is a spectator of everything. The sage who has realised Brahman and is always absorbed in It. He sees the one Self in all beings and creatures—in a cow, an elephant, and even in a dog and an outcaste.
What is wanted is the renunciation of egoism and desires. The liberated sage always remains as a witness of the activities of the senses as he identifies himself with the Self.
- 6) THE YOGA OF MEDITATION
Only a purified mind, a mind free from desires, can engage itself in constant meditation on the Atman. The lower self must be controlled by the higher Self. All the lower impulses of the body, mind and senses must be controlled by the power of the higher Self. Then the higher Self becomes one’s friend. He who has perfect control of the body, mind and senses and is united with God, sees God in all objects and beings. He sees inwardly that there is no difference between gold and stone, between friends and enemies, between the righteous and the unrighteous. Fearlessness, too, is an essential quality on the Godward path. He finds that the bliss of the Atman is incomparable, that there is no gain greater than the Self. Arjuna, the mind steadily on the higher self. Krishna assures him that the practice can succeed through Vairagya (dispassion) and constant effort.
- 7) THE YOGA OF WISDOM AND REALISATION
Among many thousands of human beings, very few aspire for this union, and even among those who aspire for it, few ever reach the pinnacle of spiritual realisation. Krishna says that whatever exists is nothing but Himself. He is the essence, substance and substratum of everything, whether visible or invisible. Although everything is in Him.
- 8) THE YOGA OF THE IMPERISHABLE BRAHMAN
Lord Krishna explains how those who attain Him do not have to come again into this impermanent world of sorrow and pain. All beings, including even the gods, come again and again into this created universe from the state of unmanifest being wherein they remained at the end of an age-cycle. Beyond all things manifest and unmanifest, beyond these names and forms, there is the Supreme Being—Brahman. He indwells this body as the centre of all things, including even our own self (individual soul). We are a spiritual being residing in this body and supported by the Silent Witness within—the Supreme Antaryamin. The secret of reaching the Divine Being and thus freeing oneself forever from birth and death and the pains and sufferings of this earth-life, is to constantly practise unbroken remembrance of the Lord at all times.
- 9) THE YOGA OF THE KINGLY SCIENCE & THE KINGLY SECRET
Krishna declares to him the sovereign knowledge and sovereign secret that is to be known by direct experience. Ignorant beings are not able to recognise the Lord in one who has realised Him. Although these cruel beings assume a human form, their nature is that of demons. The God-realised Mahatma, on the other hand, is a man of knowledge, and perceives Him indwelling all beings and creatures. He beholds the underlying unity of existence in all names and forms. Even the most sinful and diabolical man, if he takes a radical turn towards the path of righteousness and truth, reaches the Lord.
The whole being of a man should be surrendered to the Lord without reservation. Then there will be a marvellous transformation. He will have the vision of God everywhere. All sorrows and pains will vanish.
- 10) THE YOGA OF THE DIVINE GLORIES
Krishna tells Arjuna that even the Devas and highly evolved souls fail to understand how He projects Himself as the universe and all its manifestations. He goes on to describe the various qualities that beings manifest according to their Karmas. The Lord describes His Divine glories, bringing within the range of Arjuna’s comprehension His limitless manifestations, and how He upholds everything.
I am the primeval seed from which all creation has come into existence. I am the seed of everything. I am the Self of everything. Nothing can exist without Me. Everything is of My nature. I am the soul of everything.
- 11) THE YOGA OF THE VISION OF THE COSMIC FORM
Krishna grants him the divine sight by means of which Arjuna beholds the Lord as the vast Cosmic Manifestation. The vision is at once all-comprehensive and simultaneous. In every direction Arjuna sees the Lord as the entire universe. All the created worlds, gods, beings, creatures and things stand revealed as the one gigantic body of the Lord.
Arjuna further sees that the great cosmic drama is set in motion and controlled by the all-mighty power of the Lord. His Will alone prevails in all things and actions, both good and bad. The Lord exhorts him to fight, he being only an apparent cause of the destruction of his enemies.
Arjuna is unable to bear the pressure of the sudden expansion of consciousness and is filled with fear. He begs the Lord to assume once more His usual form.
No fleshy eye can behold Me in My Cosmic Form. One can see Me only through the eye of intuition or the divine eye. It should not be confused with seeing through the physical eye or through the mind. It is an inner divine experience attained through intense devotion and concentration. Arjuna sees all the warriors, whom he did not wish to kill, rushing to death. He knows now that the Lord has already destroyed them, so why should he worry about the inevitable.
- 12) THE YOGA OF DEVOTION
The path of knowledge, whereby the aspirant meditates on the formless Brahman, is more difficult as he has to give up his attachment to the body from the very beginning. He has to have dispassion for the things of the world. The Lord goes on to describe the qualities that a true devotee possesses. He neither attaches himself to anything nor does he have any aversion to things. He is perfectly desireless and rejoices in the Lord within. He sees equality everywhere, being untouched by sorrow, fear, honor as also dishonor. He is perfectly content as he has surrendered his entire being to the Lord.
He does not rejoice when he attains desirable objects nor does he grieve when he parts with his cherished objects.
- 13) THE YOGA OF DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE FIELD AND THE KNOWER OF THE FIELD
This body is the Field. The Immortal Soul (yourself), dwelling in the body is the Knower of the Field. Verily, it is the Supreme Being who has projected Himself and assumed the form of this Knower of the Field within this body. This self is none other than That. Thus, Lord Krishna explains the mystery of the individual soul dwelling within this mortal body. That Supreme Reality is the one universal Essence present everywhere. It pervades all. It shines within the inmost chambers of our heart, it is everything, it is the one seer, the witness, the guide, sustainer, experiencer and Lord of all. When we perceive this supreme Presence dwelling in all beings we cannot injure anyone.
A man attains to unity with the Supreme when he knows or realises through intuition that all these manifold forms are rooted in the One. Like waves in water, like rays in the sun, so also all forms are rooted in the One.
- 14) THE YOGA OF THE DIVISION OF THE THREE GUNAS
The knowledge of these three Gunas (virtues), which hold the entire universe and all creatures under their sway, is of vital importance to each and everyone for their progress and happiness in life. The highest of the three qualities is Sattwa. It is pure. It brings about happiness, wisdom and also illumination. The second quality of Rajas gives rise to passion manifested by intense attachment and greed. It causes sorrow and suffering. The third, termed Tamas, is the worst of all. It arises due to ignorance and results in darkness, lethargy and delusion.
Krishna asks us to diligently endeavour to cast out Tamas from our nature. We should control and master Rajas, and by holding it in check, wisely divert its power towards good kinds of activities. Sattwa should be carefully cultivated, developed and conserved in order to enable us to attain immortality. The realised sage, of course, goes beyond all these qualities, for, although it is Sattwa that enables him to reach God, even this quality will bind him if he is attached to it. Lord Krishna declares that one who rises beyond all the three Gunas through spiritual practices, becomes free from birth, death, old age and sorrow, and enjoys immortality.
- 15) THE YOGA OF THE SUPREME SPIRIT
The surest way of transcending this Samsara or worldly life is by wielding the excellent weapon of dispassion and non-attachment. Lord Krishna also describes for us the wonderful mystery of His Presence in this universe and the supreme place He occupies in sustaining everything here. The Lord declares that it is a part of Himself that manifests here as the individual soul in each body. He Himself is the indwelling Oversoul beyond the self. He is the effulgence inherent in the sun, moon and fire. He is present as the nourishing element in the earth. He is the inner witness of all beings. He is the supreme Knower even beyond Vedic knowledge. He is the resplendent Person who is beyond both this perishable phenomenal creation as well as the imperishable individual soul which is a part of His eternal essence.
- 16) THE YOGA OF THE DIVISION BETWEEN THE DIVINE AND THE DEMONIACAL
Devoid of purity, good conduct and truth, and having no faith in God, man degenerates into a two-legged beast of ugly character and cruel actions, and sinks into darkness. Such a person becomes his own enemy and the destroyer of the happiness of others as well as his own. In this world three gates lead to hell—the gates of passion, anger and greed. Released from these three qualities one can succeed in attaining salvation and reaching the highest goal, namely God. Thus the sacred scriptures teach wisely the right path of pure, virtuous living.
- 17) THE YOGA OF THE DIVISION OF THE THREEFOLD FAITH
The Lord replies and states that the faith of such men who ignore the injunctions of the scriptures could be either Sattwic, Rajasic or Tamasic. This would be in accordance with the basic nature of the person himself. They produce results in accordance with the quality of the doer’s faith. These acts done with right faith lead to supreme blessedness. When done without any faith whatsoever, all these actions become barren and useless.
- 18) THE YOGA OF LIBERATION BY RENUNCIATION
The drama of Arjuna’s utter despondency and breakdown is finally resolved in triumphant self-mastery, strength and bold resoluteness. Its central message emerges as an assurance that in and through the performance of one’s respective duties in life one can qualify for the highest liberation, if one performs actions by renouncing egoism and attachment and surrendering all desire for selfish, personal gain. Real Sannyasa or renunciation lies in renunciation of selfish actions, actions conducive to the welfare of others. The true and proper renunciation is giving up of selfishness and attachment while performing one’s legitimate duties. We neither hate unpleasant action nor are we attached to pleasurable action. It is the renunciation of egoism, selfishness and attachment in your activity is declared as true renunciation. God must be made the sole object of one’s life. This is the heart of the Gita gospel. This is the central message in its teaching.
Thou wilt be forced to fight because of thy nature. It will compel thee to fight, much against thy will.