Experiencing Krishna while Living in the World
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Two of the top difficult things to understand—out of many—for new readers of Bhagavad gita are the personhood of Krishna, and his Universal Form. Of course they are related, since Krishna reveals that the Universal Form comes from him, and is a manifestation of his energy as the material world. In particular this display of the Universal Form (there are others), though inspiring to show the greatness and inconceivableness of God, is also at times ghastly and fearsome, and as a form of time, “the destroyer of the worlds,” all of which may be disconcerting. While Krishna is both the creation and annihilation of everything he is also the seed of all existence, the life of all that lives, and the soul of our souls, so we have to look at the whole picture before being able to evaluate who Krishna is.
Krishna could have demonstrated his nature as the creator and maintainer by showing baby animals, lovely human children, beautiful scenes in Nature, the universe being incredibly sustained and flourishing, but specifically to get Arjuna’s attention, he wanted to encourage Arjuna in his duty of fighting by showing him that the great warriors he had to fight were already killed by Krishna’s power--in fact we all must die, our bodies that is, at our allotted time. For conditioned living beings, the Universal Form teaches us that the material world is temporary, and not really suitable for eternal souls to live, since bodies, planets, and the entire Universe are constantly changing, and will ultimately be vanquished. The point is that Krishna is present in all things and, through his energy, is everything. His greatness is all-sided and unlimited, manifested in the subatomic dimension and as the whole universe—in the micro and macro-cosmic level. For us imperfect and limited souls, he can be experienced in what we can observe. Though we can’t perceive his spiritual form, or even our own souls, we can, by the grace of the Bhagavad Gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, and the mercy of the devotees who live by such revealed Vedic literature, “see” him, specifically in “…all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations…”[ Bg 10.41].
In what follows I will share some highlights of these manifestations of Krishna from the Bhagavad Gita, which is another version of the Universal Form, or Krishna’s material form.
You might print this out and become familiar with it, since this is a long post, as an aid to remembering Krishna throughout your life—then you will never feel alone again, and you can smile even in adversity, seeing that too as a manifestation of Krishna’s mercy—when my guru Shrila Prabhupada was experiencing the Japanese bombing of Calcutta in the second World War, he saw (and felt) the explosions as a manifestation of the Universal Form of Krishna, but one that didn’t appear on its face to be very loving—as Arjuna did in the 11th chapter, he preferred Krishna’s original human-like form!
Here is the introduction to seeing Krishna in all things, and in particular, the things he mentions, from which we can extrapolate other significant manifestations in our modern experience, or how nature manifests where we live—in other words, we are surrounded by Krishna if we just open our eyes, and these verse help us see:
“A true yogi observes Me [Krishna] in all beings and also sees every being in Me. Indeed, the self-realized person sees Me, the same Supreme Lord, everywhere./ For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” [ Bg 6.29-]
Beginning in the broadest sense of the material energies in four verses, Krishna then gets specific in the verses that follow them:
“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego -- all together these eight constitute My separated material energies./ Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.” [ Bg 7.4-5]
“All created beings have their source in these two natures. Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both the origin and the dissolution./ O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.” [Bg 7.6-7]
(I have decided to put the verses in the form of “you are” instead of “I am.” While Krishna is speaking and referring to himself, in the mood of our recital of these ways to remember Krishna, it seems more helpful to make it like prayer glorifying Krishna—as much as Arjuna prays that way to Krishna in the next chapter (Eleven) about the Universal Form):
“…You are the taste of water,
the light of the sun and the moon,
the syllable om in the Vedic mantras;
You are the sound in ether
the ability in man./
You are the original fragrance of the earth,
You are the heat in fire.
You are the life of all that lives,
You are the penances of all ascetics./
You are the original seed of all existences,
the intelligence of the intelligent,
the prowess of all powerful men./
You are the strength of the strong, (devoid of passion and desire).
You are sex life (passion) which is not contrary to religious principles…/
Know that all states of being –
be they of goodness, passion or ignorance –
are manifested by Your energy.
You are, in one sense, everything,
but You are independent.
You are not under the modes of material nature,
for they, on the contrary, are within You.” [Bg 7.8-12]
Thus while interacting with the world, we can remember Krishna, thinking of him when we drink water, appreciate ability or strength, see the sun or moon, etc. The following verses from the Gita, are not things, but processes and archetypical concepts and qualities. You can stop and think about each at different times as a type of meditation on Krishna:
The devotees worship Krishna’s personal form in his Deity and scripture and inspired, they chant his glories, bow down to honor him, and worship him with love. However, others,
“worship the Supreme Lord as the one without a second,
as diverse in many,
in the universal form.
You are the ritual,
the offering to the ancestors,
the healing herb,
the transcendental chant.
You are the butter
and the fire
and the offering./
You are the father of this universe,
You are the object of knowledge,
the syllable om.
You are also the Rg, the Sama
the Yajur Vedas./
You are the goal,
the most dear friend.
You are the creation,
the basis of everything,
the resting place,
the eternal seed./
You give heat,
and withhold and send forth the rain.
You are immortality,
and also death personified.
Both spirit and matter are in You.”[Bg 9.15-19]
The whole 10th chapter gives specific manifestations which represent Krishna, but those who are unfamiliar with the Vedic literature will find some of the persons or things named as foreign. Thus, I will only give those that are universal, or somewhat known in the West. He begins his outline by saying: “The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Yes, I will tell you of My splendorous manifestations, but only of those which are prominent, O Arjuna, for My opulence is limitless.” [ Bg 10.19]
You are the Supersoul, seated in the hearts of all living entities.
You are the beginning, middle, and the end of all beings;
Of lights You are the radiant sun;
Among the night luminaries You are the moon;
Of the senses You are the mind;
In living beings You are the living force [consciousness];
Of bodies of water You are the ocean;
Of vibrations You are the transcendental om;
Of sacrifices You are the chanting of the holy names [japa],
Of immovable things You are the Himalayas;
Of all trees You are the banyan tree;
Among human beings You are the monarch (or executive head);
Of weapons You are the thunderbolt;
Among subduers You are time,
among beasts You are the lion;
Of purifiers You are the wind,
Of the wielders of weapons You are Rama,
Of fishes You are the shark,
Of flowing rivers You are the Ganges;
Of all creations You are the beginning, the end, the middle.
Of all sciences You are the spiritual science of the self,
among logicians I am the conclusive truth;
Of letters You are the letter A,
among compound words You are the dual compound.
You are also inexhaustible time,
Of creators You are Brahma;
You are all-devouring death,
You are the generating principle of all that is yet to be;
Of months You are Margasirsa [November-December],
Of seasons You are flower-bearing spring;
You are also the gambling of cheats,
Of the splendid You are the splendor.
You are victory,
You are adventure,
You are the strength of the strong;
Of the Pandavas You are Arjuna;
Of sages You are Vyasa;
Among all means of suppressing lawlessness You are punishment,
Of those who seek victory You are morality.
Of secret things You are silence,
Of the wise You are the wisdom;
You are the generating seed of all existences.
There is no being -- moving or nonmoving -- that can exist without You.”[Bg 10.20-39]
And finally there are four verses in the 15th chapter:
“The splendor of the sun, which dissipates the darkness of this whole world, comes from You. And the splendor of the moon and the splendor of fire are also from You./ You enter into each planet, and by Your energy they stay in orbit. You become the moon and thereby supply the juice of life to all vegetables./ You are the fire of digestion in the bodies of all living entities, and You join with the air of life, outgoing and incoming, to digest the four kinds of foodstuff./ You are seated in everyone's heart, and from You come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, You are to be known. Indeed, You are the compiler of Vedanta, and You are the knower of the Vedas.” [Bg 15.12-15]
If we can remember Krishna, our lives will be successful, since the purpose of life is to understand, serve and love Krishna. At least from the bhakti perspective, this is what the Gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam teach. If you studying these books, you will understand why—at least the purpose of these books is to enlighten us about our nature as a soul and the glories of God, and specifically, Krishna. And in yoga psychology, Shri Krishna instructs us: “And whoever, at the end of his life, quits their body remembering Me alone at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt./ [the general principle is:] “Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state you will attain without fail.” [Bg 8.5-6]