Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha
The Self cannot be reached by mental or intellectual deliberations. As it is indistinct to the senses, it is equally so to the mind and intelligence. You have to dissolve the mental and intellectual functions to reach the Self. For, Self is the source of everything and all!
Dear and blessed souls:
Harih Om Tat Sat.
Potentials of ‘I’, the Soul
To dispel Arjuna’s fear and hesitation, Krishna describes the nature of ‘I’, the Soul, in three enthralling verses (slokas 23 to 25 of chapter 2). These stand out with distinction. There is untold inspiration in them. Their enlightening effect is indescribable. The studious seekers learn these by heart, and recite them whenever they wish to be invigorated and inspired.
Krishna asserts with ease and definiteness: “Weapons do not touch this Soul. Fire does not burn, nor water wets the ‘I’. Wind cannot dry it. It is uncuttable, unburnable, un-wettable and un-dryable”.
These sentences are supreme in every way. The entire creation is made up of five elements – solid earth, fluid water, gaseous air and hot, brilliant fire; the fifth is sky or space, which is pervasive and does not act on anything. Krishna categorically declares: “None of these four elements, nor whatever they do, can bring any effect on the ‘I’.”
By so stating, Krishna shows how much unaffected and transcendental the ‘I’, the Self, the Soul, is. True, it is the inner presence in the body. The body is made up of pancha-bhootas. Though present in the body, the inner presence does not get involved in or affected by whatever the body does, including birth and death.
Live with Himalayan confidence
What more do you want to understand the unaffected and non-active nature of the Soul? Being the Self that you are, live freely, peacefully, joyously, stably and stoically. By the glory of your human birth, the ‘I’, the Soul is totally unaffected, as is the vast deep sea by the roaring waves on its surface. The infinitely vast and deep Soul is never affected by anything transpiring in the world. Hence, live with Himalayan confidence and spatial stability.
Krishna uses five distinct words to describe the ‘I’s nature and unaffectedness: “nityah, eternal; sarvagatah, present everywhere, all-pervasive; sthaanuh, stable, unshakable; achalah, does not move or vibrate; sanaatanah, ever present as the same”. In fact, the ‘I’, the Soul, alone in the body, is like this. Everything else is just the opposite. So, to distinguish and realize it is very easy and natural.
Human life is meant for knowing, to gain knowledge. Of all knowledge, the ‘I’ knowledge, knowledge of the Soul, stands out with distinction. This alone is pleasing, delightful and fulfilling. It relieves all distresses of mind and fulfils the quests and needs of intelligence. The problems ego causes are also equally redressed by knowledge of the Self, true spiritual wisdom, the one goal of human life.
Absoluteness of Sanatana Dharma
Many people do not know that Hinduism, Sanatana Dharma, is absolute. It is logical, rational and hence compulsive in all it states or exhorts. See how beautifully Krishna explains the imperishable nature of ‘I’, the Self, that everyone is. He has already pointed that the Self is inaccessible to solid, fluid, gaseous and energial substances. What is now left to be said?
The four bhootas are gross and visible. What about the objects made of these? Can they touch or affect the Soul in any way?
Beyond distinctions, beyond thoughts
This is how we go to the next verse (2.25). Krishna continues: “The ‘I’, the Soul, Arjuna, is avyakta, unmanifest, indistinct.” Everything in the world around including our own body and senses are vyakta, distinct. That is why we are able to perceive these. We can see, hear, smell, taste or touch them all. In fact, the visible creation has only such contents and objects which are sensory, perceivable to senses.
But, mind you, existence as a whole is not covered by sensory organs. There is a Subject domain, within the body, containing the mind, intelligence and ego, together with all that these produce and preserve. Thus, thoughts, feelings, emotions, reasoning, assertions, etc. are all the Subject-part of existence as a whole.
What about them? Can any one of these reach or affect the Self? Krishna categorically says, the Self is achintya as it is avyakta. It means the ‘I’ is unthinkable. Mind and intelligence generally conceive only existences, the senses reveal. What about the existence beyond sensory range?
Yes, we generally perceive and think about space, aakasha. In fact, though it is a nothing and nowhere, we still are able to conceive space in between objects and around them. Space, objects and time are the tripod on which the entire creation thrives. Any one of them cannot be separated from the rest. These are conclusions and findings our mind and intelligence arrive at. Space is thus thinkable, ‘intellectable’.
Whereas the Self is not. It cannot be reached by mental or intellectual deliberations. As it is indistinct to the senses, it is equally so to the mind and intelligence. You have to dissolve the mental and intellectual functions to reach the Self. For, Self is the source of everything and all!
From where words and mind turn back
Our Vedas, the beginning-less words of revelation, sing gloriously about the Self: “From where words together with the mind turn back unable to reach or proceed!” How sharp and pronounced is this description! You may wonder as to what this means. When the mind and intelligence, their functions, are unable to reach the Self, what else has the power and potential to know the Self?
Every day we are awake only for about sixteen hours. Remaining eight hours we are enraptured by sleep. In sleep, the entire waking state gets dissolved. We are unconscious then of the world, including our body, mind, intelligence and ego. Yet, on waking, we experience without doubt the lack of perception of world during sleep. None needs anything during sleep. With nothing, the sleeper is contented in full. When he wakes up, he categorically says, ‘I slept comfortably’.
Hidden potential of sleep
Tell me now: Is not the eight hour sleep of every day an un-negatable experience which erases the entire waking state? All the agitation, anxiety, concern, quest, finding, knowledge, memory and the like are totally invalidated and dissolved by sleep. For every wakeful period of the day, you have sleep for almost half its duration. In fact, one wakes up only from sleep. If sleep were not, wakefulness also would not be. What more?
After every wakeful period, the waker goes into sleep again. This clearly shows that wakeful state is delivered by sleep and withdrawn by it. If wakeful state is one of multi-faceted experiences like gross sensory objects and internal subtle thoughts, feelings, emotions, reasoning, ego with its assertions, sleep is none of these. This does not mean sleep is not there, or that it has no content. It is Consciousness in its densest form. The sleeper cognizes only himself. Everything of wakefulness is dissolved in it. He alone shines with his sovereign lustre, in front of which all else sink into nonexistence and non-expression.
Think well: Is it not a state where mind, intelligence and words cannot reach? Instead they all go into dissolution. What an astounding truth, a revealing state! Mind you, Krishna is exposing all these to Arjuna, who sat in the chariot after laying his weapons down, unable to stand up and fight.
Imagine the crisis. As besought by such an Arjuna, Krishna speaks, imbuing knowledge, enlightenment, so that the fighter can redeem himself and be up with his Gandeeva and quiver. The occasion as well its compulsion should not be forgotten.
Why did Krishna smile when Arjuna was lamenting?
Krishna continues his enlightening effort (verse 2.25): Describing the ‘I’, the Self, as achintya, unthinkable, avyakta, indistinct, he highlights it as modification-less. It does not change like even the mind, intelligence and ego. Space in a way changes, for the other four elements have emerged from space. This means that space itself has become the elements. No such change or modification occurs in ‘I’, the Self. In fact, when one sleeps nothing else is present, existent. Where is the question of any affectation for the Self, ‘I’, then? Think well, like Arjuna.
“Knowing the Self, the ‘I’, to be like all this, dear Arjuna”, says Krishna, “you do not deserve to grieve at all.” See, how Krishna removes the very ground for grief! Grief is unfounded when the plight is properly enquired into and reflected upon. Can there be such a mental and intellectual process, which thus eliminates altogether all the occasion itself for grief and delusion?
This is how Krishna smiled when Arjuna questioned him with tearful eyes about the propriety of fighting his teacher and grandfather! Only such a smiling one will be able to redress the seeker’s grief and delusion, making eventually the victim also smile! If on seeing another cry and weep, you also begin to weep, how can you console him, giving strength and stability? Sorrow is generated by the mind. The plight can be redressed only by intelligence. How well Krishna’s dialogue in Kurukshetra evidences this great truth!
“Weapons do not touch this Soul. Fire does not burn, nor water wets the ‘I’. Wind cannot dry it. It is uncuttable, unburnable, un-wettable and un-dryable.”
“Though present in the body, the inner presence does not get involved in or affected by whatever the body does, including birth and death.”
“By the glory of your human birth, the ‘I’, the Soul is totally unaffected, as is the vast deep sea by the roaring waves on its surface. ”
“Our Vedas sing gloriously about the Self: “From where words together with the mind turn back unable to reach or proceed!” ”
“The knowledge of 'I' relieves all distresses of mind and fulfils the quests and needs of intelligence. The problems ego causes are also equally redressed by knowledge of the Self, by true spiritual wisdom - the one goal of human life.”
“Sleep is Consciousness in its densest form. The sleeper cognizes only himself. Everything of wakefulness is dissolved in it. He alone shines with his sovereign lustre, in front of which all else sink into nonexistence and non-expression.”