Daily Readings from the Works of Swami Venkatesananda

Song of God (Bhagavad Gita) Chapter VIII 1-2

June 12, 2024

arjuna uvāca
kiṁ tad brahma kim adhyātmaṁ kiṁ
karma puruṣottama
adhibhūtaṁ ca kiṁ proktam adhidaivaṁ
kim ucyate (VIII-1)

adhiyajñaḥ kathaṁ 
ko ’tra dehe ’smin madhusūdana
prayāṇakāle ca kathaṁ jñeyo ’si
niyatātmabhiḥ  (VIII-2)

VIII/1. Arjuna said: What is that Brahman? What is
adhyātmān? What is karmā? What is declared to be
the adhibhūta? And, what is adhidaiva said to be?

VIII/2. O Krishna, what is adhiyajña here in this body,
and how does it function? And, how art thou to be
known by the self-controlled at the time of death?

Swamiji's Commentary

The Indian approach to the reality is both analytic and synthetic. The sage or the yogi does not approve of or sanction a mere off-hand rejection of anything, even if he is assured that ultimately he will have to reject it. All the philosophical categories must be clearly analyzed, understood, and synthesized, ignoring the illusory differences.

      Take, for instance, the great declaration of the upaniṣad: “That (Brahman) thou (the soul) art”. The two must be clearly analyzed and understood in their own respective aspects. Brahman is the infinite, greater than the greatest and beyond all limitations. The ātman is the innermost self, the subtlest of the subtle, minuter than the minutest, and that which is left after all the personal. limiting adjuncts have been negated, by the process of: ‘I’ is not this body, ‘I’ is not this vital sheath, ‘I’ is not this mind, ‘I’ is not this intellect and ‘I’ is not this causal ignorance. It is not as though this is a negative practice whereby the seeker attempts to reject or nullify the body, mind and so on, but the practice involves seeing the body in its true nature as merely body, the mind as mind, etc., not involving or belonging to the ego, ‘I’. It generates in the seeker the understanding of the self as abstract, nameless and formless. Herein lies the genius of the Indian philosopher-sage. When this analytical-synthesis is pushed to its logical conclusion, the result is the immediate realization of the ‘identity’ of ‘that’ (Brahman) and ‘thou’ (ātman).

Even though God himself is all the characteristics mentioned in the last two verses, Arjuna, the good seeker, seeks to know them as they are.

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