“Now hear, O son of Pritha [Arjuna], how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.1)
mayy āsakta-manāḥ pārtha
yogaṁ yuñjan mad-āśrayaḥ
asaṁśayaṁ samagraṁ māṁ
yathā jñāsyasi tac chṛṇu
“I believe in God. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an atheist. I’m not so crazy to think that everything just happened by accident. You had two reptiles swimming together and then bam, the new generation grew a pair of hands? That’s ridiculous. I don’t need a degree in science to see the folly in that logic. Though I know He exists, I have no idea what God looks like. Is He even a He? Where does He live? What does He want from us? If I were to see Him, how would I recognize Him? It seems like nobody has the answer for me.”
Indeed, the common theme in all religions is the existence of a higher power.
“From the one came many. Surrender to Him to escape the darkness; enter the light. See His potency within all creatures. Understand His compassion by being compassionate yourself. Live to make others happy; don’t be self-centered.”
These statements make a lot of sense, but often the details are lacking. Even in the scientific explanation that comes from the Vedas, the majority focus is on the difference between matter and spirit. The dividing line between material life and spiritual life is realization of the animating force, the spirit soul. From the Vedas, we learn that we are not our body. This is the first truth taught to aspiring students, presented to them through the Sanskrit aphorism “aham brahmasmi.”
“I am Brahman.” Brahman is the spiritual energy. Without Brahman nothing would move. Everything would be dead. All things that we see living now eventually have the spark of Brahman leave them. That event is known as death, and when the same spark enters into a collection of matter the event is known as birth. Birth and death continue in cycles, and the spark of Brahman persists.
Let’s say that I am fortunate enough to know Brahman. Despite every chance to remain in ignorance, I was able to learn the difference between matter and spirit. This doesn’t necessarily put me any further ahead than someone who only knows of a higher being. One individual understands that God exists and another knows that spirit is what identifies the individual.
Yet where is God in the equation? How are we to know Him? It seems everyone has their own idea. One person is dedicated to helping the poor. They speculate that God exists within the poor person. Or they’ll say that they know they are pleasing the Lord through their work. Another person is intent on earning a lot of money to take care of their family. From the love and support of family members, they get an idea of what God must be like.
Any person can speculate, which means that in a discussion you can’t establish authority. If I’m sitting in a dark room with other people, none of us knows for sure what is in the room. Each person has their chance to guess, but without light there is no means of validation. Without validation, no authority can be established.
Rather than try to know God through speculation, why not know Him from His own words? These are available in abundance in the Bhagavad-gita, which is contained in the larger work known as the Mahabharata. Often called the fifth Veda, the Mahabharata is an important branch of knowledge that presents its teachings through dialogues and conversations that are also part of a historical narrative. Thus even a person who is not interested in philosophy can have their knowledge expand vastly simply through hearing.
How do we know God from the Bhagavad-gita? The speaker tells us that we can know Him. The conversation is between Krishna and Arjuna. Arjuna is the leading fighter for the Pandava family, set to go to war with their rival cousins to defend dharma, or virtue. Krishna is Arjuna’s chariot driver and best friend. From the conversation between them we come to learn that Krishna is also the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan.
vibhūtiṁ ca janārdana
bhūyaḥ kathaya tṛptir hi
śṛṇvato nāsti me ‘mṛtam
“Tell me again in detail, O Janardana [Krishna], of Your mighty potencies and glories, for I never tire of hearing Your ambrosial words.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.18)
Krishna first explains the science of self-realization. Four important topics are covered: the material nature, the living entity, karma and time. The fifth topic deals with Krishna Himself, the supreme controller. Therefore Arjuna’s acceptance is not based on blind faith. The humble disciple is encouraged to use all their intelligence to deliberate on the teachings presented to them.
We can know God from the Bhagavad-gita because the work is spoken by God. There is no need to doubt. The process for removing doubt is explained as well. Simply have a mind attached to Krishna and hear from Him. The process is laid out, and the person who presents the Bhagavad-gita in the right way will be able to remove the doubts of their listeners. The cheater will never know Krishna, even after reading His words, but the devotee knows the Lord in full. They know Him because they have both heard and listened to what He has said.
Though of a religious bent,
Much time in speculation spent.
Not so much helpful to me,
Since still the Divine not to see.
From Bhagavad-gita get understanding clear,
Required only that with attachment to hear.
Then for doubt no more room,
To be with Shri Krishna again soon.