The midsection of the Bhagavad Gita, Chapters 7-11, are truly ones that give this long poem its name – The Song of God. Some of the most beautiful passages are here to describe the world and God and our relationship to that entity or idea, from the practical to the mystical. The 11th chapter is one that I could read over and over and in my opinion is best read aloud to feel the real power of the “cosmic image”.
I have mentioned before that yoga is a dualistic practice. It is a practice that assumes a higher power and there is a belief in a godhead. The Sutras seem to keep that godhead very general, which makes it a more universally approachable text. The Bhagavad Gita is specifically written within an Eastern Indian epic, so of course has the specificity to Krishna (an incarnation of Vishnu) and also refers to Brahma – the highest of the high.
I personally do not adhere to any specific religion and before yoga I actually professed to be a strict and stalwart atheist. My practice of yoga has now given me some view of a power much greater than myself and though I may not have a word or name or term for that power, the Gita has come the closest in my own life to describing what I believe the purpose of that higher power is – much more than the brief and very terse description in the Yoga Sutras.
Chapter 7 begins with the basic reminder of the dualism inherent in yoga – the relationship between purusa (our internal self, also referred to in the Gita as the Atman and the individual piece of God that exists in each of us) and Prakrti (Pretty much all of Nature other than the purusa). “My Prakrti is of eightfold composition: earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect, and ego. You must understand that behind this, and distinct from it, is That which is principles consciousness in all beings, and the source of life in all. It sustains the universe…Know me, eternal seed of everything that grows…” And then in Chapter 8 Krishna clarifies – “When we consider Brahman (purusa/Self) as lodged within the individual being, we call Him the Atman. The creative energy of Brahman is that which causes all existences to come to being.”
This ability to recognize our purusa is the goal of yoga. “There is another Existence, which is eternal and changeless….to reach it is said to be the greatest of all achievements, the highest state of being.” And to reach that end takes pure and focused devotion on the Atman, the self, and the divinity.
Chapter 9-11 you just truly have to read for yourself. All cover Krishna’s own description of his Divine Glory, best summed up by the quote “I am the Atman that dwells in the heart of every mortal creature: I am the beginning, the life-span, and the end of all.” But also he goes on to describe his highest form of every part of nature – beasts and mountains, trees and winds. This is not a “personhood” of God, but an all-life-giving power to the universe and everything that is in it.
Chapter 11 culminates with “The Vision of God in His Universal Form”. What I adore about this vision is how completely awesome it is….leaving nothing out…so much so, my search for an image to do it justice was pretty fruitless. It describes the utmost of beauties and the utmost of beasts…the vision sends Arjuna to his knees…even with the gift of “divine eyes” by Krishna before he reveals himself. Maybe if I can figure out how to post a video I will read this chapter (or at least parts of it) to you.
Anyway, like Arjuna, we must learn to look at the Divine with open eyes and open heart. To not shy away from its beauty that is spectacular and blazing, but also its “mouths agape and flame-eyes staring”, its “frightful tusks” and “mouths gnashing”. The divine within us is infinite and pure potential…yoga just has to teach us how to acknowledge and harness all that power and ultimately surrender to it entirely.