“Those who know Me as the Supreme Lord, as the governing principle of the material manifestation, who know Me as the one underlying all the demigods and as the one sustaining all sacrifices, can, with steadfast mind, understand and know Me even at the time of death.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.30)
The advaita property of the Supreme Absolute Truth says that no matter what we do or where we go, we are not separated from our beloved spiritual counterpart, who happens to be the origin of all matter and spirit. In that position He offers unflinching kindness, support for returning to His eternal land. His hand is always outstretched for our rescue, but unless there is a sober decision made to accept that aid, the rocky waters of the material ocean will continue to toss us around. The Vedic scriptures, especially its Bhagavad-gita, are meant to help even those who are not consciously aware of their need for rescue. But when understood in the wrong light, when heard from an unqualified presenter, even the Gita can have little positive influence.
How can this happen? If the equivalent of the Bible in the Vedic tradition has such profound information, why wouldn’t its presentation be universally applicable?
Though the Gita is a song sung by Lord Krishna on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, in its written form it comes down to words. And words mean things, so when they are twisted and said to mean something else, the entire presentation changes. For the honest souls who know the true purpose of Krishna’s teachings there is the added benefit that many of the same truths are presented elsewhere in Vedic literature. Indeed, every famous scripture, including the many Puranas, take the form of question and answer between an inquisitive disciple and an authority figure who teaches.
The Bhagavad-gita is unique in that the teacher later reveals Himself to be the fountainhead of all knowledge. He is the origin of matter and spirit who can be realized in three different ways by the living entity, as He has expansions that are non-different from Him due to the advaita property. As Brahman, Krishna is understood to be an impersonal light. Brahman is the undivided nature that pervades space. It is very difficult to perceive because its outer covering is maya, which is illusion. Through maya’s influence alone we take ourselves to be superior to someone else or we think that we will never die. When maya’s influence is shed, when the cloud of nescience is removed, the true nature of the individual as Brahman is revealed. That same fragment of Brahman exists within all life forms; hence there is a oneness shared by all creatures.
The realization of Paramatma, or Supersoul, is next. In this understanding, the individual learns that there is a superior spiritual force within every living being that ensures that results to action can appear. The individual souls are all sparks of Brahman, and they take the impetus for action, but the rules of the game are not in their control. Think of the law of gravity. We know that gravity exists, and we can predict its influence, but we have no say so in the law itself. It operated before we were born and it will continue to function after we die. To say that we create or effect gravity is silly. That role is assigned to the Paramatma, which is the divine consciousness that directs the living beings, who are seated as on a machine.
“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.61)
The highest realization is of Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is both Brahman and Paramatma, and He retains a separate spiritual identity. He has identifiable features that are not limiting. Bhagavan has no eyes but He can see everything. He has no ears but He can hear every prayer. He has no mouth but He can accept every food item offered in loving devotion. Bhagavan is the very same God most of the world knows as an abstract concept, but His features are more clearly drawn out. Shri Krishna is Bhagavan, and so His speaking of the Bhagavad-gita represents one of the most notable events in history. In all other Vedic texts, one of Bhagavan’s representatives delivers the information, which is flawless in its own right. But only in the Gita is the fact revealed that the speaker is the same God, the object of worship in sanatana-dharma, or the eternal occupation of man.
That uniqueness is worth mentioning because the Bhagavad-gita today is the most popular and widely translated Vedic text. The fact that it is read by non-devotees is another indication of Krishna’s opulence, as He is the most famous. At the same time, the original presentation was intended for a specific audience, namely a devotee named Arjuna. That conversation was recorded by Vyasadeva, a literary incarnation of Bhagavan, in the Mahabharata, which is a much lengthier work commonly referred to as the fifth branch of the original Veda. The Mahabharata is intended for the ears of the pious souls, who are not jealous of God. The Bhagavad-gita can thus be thought of as a confidential letter from teacher to student, or friend to friend due to the relationship between Krishna and Arjuna at the time. That letter was made public but only for the right kind of recipient.
A person outside the mood of devotion would never be able to understand the essence of the Gita, as people who are not privy to our relationships with our friends and family would never understand the intimate communication we have with them. The unscrupulous cheaters and pseudo gurus of the modern age love to teach from the Bhagavad-gita, and because they don’t have the same level of devotion as Arjuna, the Gita’s original recipient, they fail to understand the essence of the work: that devotion to God, who is a separate entity who is always related to us because of His property of non-duality, is the highest occupation for man.
In their erroneous commentaries they will say that the living entities are all God, that the individual soul and the Supreme Soul, Paramatma, are one and the same. “Through enough renunciation and knowledge, vairagya and jnana, the individual can merge with the supreme and thus achieve oneness.” Some of the teachers claim to be God themselves, which is quite interesting. Krishna presented the Gita in such a way that many of the commonly known Vedic truths were first offered to Arjuna. This means that descriptions of the principles of detachment, duty, reincarnation, and modes of nature can be found elsewhere in Vedic literature.
“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa proclaim this of You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 10.12-13)
Yet in the other famous Vedic texts, why don’t the teachers claim to be God? Why don’t they show the universal form, the virat-rupa, to their students when offering instruction? Why don’t they claim to be the origin of life and matter, the essence of every object? Krishna says that He is the taste in water, the fragrance of the earth, the penance of the ascetic, and the life of all living beings. Why can’t we find other authority figures on the Vedas, like Lord Shiva, King Janaka, Prahlada Maharaja, and Lord Brahma, saying the same things? Indeed, we know that Brahma is the creator, that every creature can trace their ancestry back to him. If anyone has a right to claim a high standing, it would be Brahma, but he never does this. His son Narada Muni is likely the greatest reformer in history, a saint who teaches bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, so vigorously and fearlessly that sometimes parents are angered by his words, for they fear that their children will give up worldly life and take to devotion at a young age. Yet Narada never claims to be God, so how dare anyone else, especially someone who expounds on the Gita without being a devotee of Krishna?
The validity resulting from implementation of accepted principles establishes a teacher’s status as an authority figure. From the effectiveness of the foundational principle of the Bhagavad-gita, namely devotion to God, we can understand that Krishna is an authority figure, and through the bliss that repeatedly comes from connecting with Him in a mood of love, we know that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That kind chariot driver helped Arjuna dispel his doubts on that famous day on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, and He can remove all our doubts as to the position of God and our relationship to Him. Krishna’s instructions are all we need to find enlightenment in life, and His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, are all we need for happiness.
Ancient Vedic teachers there were many,
But claimed to be God there were not any.
Only Krishna this did say,
To Arjuna that fateful day.
Same truths in other texts found,
Of Vedanta philosophy, knowledge profound.
But Krishna is God and thus unique,
Teacher who gives knowledge we seek.
Non-devoted commentators others do cheat,
Know that devotion to Krishna their claims to defeat.