This is very long. It is from God talks with Arjuna – a commentary on Gita by Yogananda
But so beautiful. So perfect
My take in the shloka is different and to me reveals the technique of finding God but that is a different topic
God Talks With Arjuna — Bhagwad Gita,
by Paramhans Yogananda
Youtube audio of the Bhagwad Gita, shlokas, chapter 4, verses 7, 8) for reference.
Chapter IV, Verses 7–8
yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati bharat |
abhyutthaanam-adharmasya tadatmaanam srujamyaham ||7||
paritraanaaya sadhunaam vinashaay cha dushkrutaam !
dharmasansthapanaarthay sambhavaami yuge yuge ||8||
O Bharata (Arjuna)! whenever virtue (dharma) declines and vice (adharma) predominates, I incarnate as an Avatar. In visible form I appear from age to age to protect the virtuous and to destroy evildoing in order to reestablish righteousness.
This earth is a stage whereon a divine drama is being evolved. Whenever the majority of human actors misuse their God-given freedom, and by the creation of evil bring suffering and upset the divine plans concerning their fellow beings and their own destiny (plans intended to be carried out by man’s proper use of free choice), then God, the Cosmic Director, appears on the stage in a human form (an avatar) to instruct the amateur thespians in the proper art of living. God thus teaches man, made in His image, how to evolve by using free will, manifesting the divine nature inherent in the human nature.
The question is: Can God Himself ever incarnate as a human being? To say that God can not do a certain thing is to limit Him. But there are so many things that God can do, yet does not do—at least not as human beings expect of Him. God has never been known to have taken a human form called “God” and dwelt in it among men. (“Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God,” Jesus said,11 to distinguish himself, an avatar, from God the Father, the Absolute, the Formless.) The Lord has condescended many times, however, to manifest Himself through the incarnation of a fully liberated being who, once an ordinary human being, has become a true reflection or “son of God.” God, who is almighty and can do anything, thus operates His Omniscience through the human body of an avatar. Just as the ocean of Cosmic Consciousness is aware of a soul wave manifesting on its surface, so the soul wave of an avatar is aware of the ocean of Cosmic Consciousness manifesting through its form.
The Nature of an Avatar
Great prophets and minor saints differ only in degree—the former manifest God fully through wide-open windows of their consciousness; the latter manifest God through small crevices of certain divine realizations. It can be said that the full manifestation of divinity in an avatar is greater than is the partial manifestation in a saint who has not yet attained absolute liberation.
All human beings are potential gods; the wise man and the ignorant one both are true image-incarnations of God. The Divine Omnipresence fills each soul-image even as the mighty ocean is present in each wave. However, unless a wave dissolves itself and becomes one with the ocean, it remains inordinately limited. Until a devotee is fully liberated, he cannot truly assert: “I and my Father are one.”
There is no “special” avatar or a “unique” incarnation of God (except as regards form, time, and place); any liberated soul may descend to earth or to other spheres as a full avatar or savior.
Partial and full manifestations of God’s consciousness in saints and avatars
From the study of earthly chronology it is evident that, like a person, every nation undergoes the necessary evolutionary stages of development. For the earth, these four successive stages are the material, atomic, mental, and spiritual cycles, termed such according to the predominance of physical, electrical, psychical, or spiritual qualities in the majority of people. However, in every age tenacious wickedness is more or less active, even when virtue is prevalent.
So whenever ignorance, selfishness, war, and misery are prominent, the Supreme Lord manifests through masters who, through many incarnations, have had earthly experiences as partially or fully liberated beings. They may appear on earth as minor saints or as great masters according to their degree of realization, to serve as living examples of virtue and to inspire spiritual aspirants to destroy their inward and outward evils. In this way Spirit appears through many liberated and partially liberated souls, shining more or less through the various degrees of unbefogged —clear and partially clear— mentalities of yoga-purified beings. Divine ones who are not fully liberated, or who come to earth to aid in the redemption of souls but have no obvious world mission, are called khanda avatars (partial incarnations).
But whenever the specter of vice stalks unexorcised on the earth, in every such age God incarnates as a savior (in the form of a fully liberated being) to resurrect fading virtue, protect the spiritual, help in the removal of evil currents, and destroy the evil propensities of the wicked. Such manifestations are called purna-avatars (full incarnations).
As every wave, if it were conscious, could feel the ocean beneath it, so every liberated being feels the entire Sea of Spirit behind his perception. As the ocean appears in part, then in greater and greater vastness as a person views it first from the shore and then from an airplane, so saints of various intuitional powers have lesser or greater realizations of Spirit. But fully liberated souls such as Krishna, Jesus Christ, Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswarji, and many others, are themselves full manifestations of God.
That is what is meant by the Bible statement: “But as many as received him (that is, fully manifested God through the purity of their intuition), to them (all liberated beings of all ages before and after Jesus Christ was born) gave he power to become the sons of God (the power to appear as full manifestations of God).”12 A veritable “son of God” is a true image of omnipresent Spirit.
As verse iv:8 is often translated to refer to “the destruction of evildoers,” and as many legendary stories in the Puranas also cite the annihilation of the wicked by holy beings, certain theologians claim that a Hindu incarnation of God comes to protect the virtuous by destroying evildoers, in contradistinction to Jesus Christ who came on earth to liberate not only virtuous men but malefactors! However, the truth is that virtue always causes the destruction of evil.
Divine virtue manifested by an avatar destroys evil
We read in the Bible that even Elisha, Elijah, and Peter were instrumental in the destruction of evildoers who had resisted the powerful vibrations of virtue. Swami Shankara and various saints of India have had similar experiences. An insulated wire carrying a million volts of current is harmless when touched, but an exposed live wire is deadly. When a person, in spite of warning, deliberately ventures to contact that powerful live wire without its cover, he is electrocuted. Similarly, God’s potent energy, present everywhere, is insulated from man by a cover of delusive ignorance.
Thus an ignorant man blaspheming God is not immediately punished; but a wicked man who is a contemporary and acquaintance of an avatar or a great master is inviting instant retribution if, after warning, he continues to defy the Spirit flaming through the pure vehicle of the Great One. For instance, Peter was able to perceive God without any insulation of delusion. The Holy Spirit was fully manifest in him, and when the married couple13—in spite of Peter’s warning—lied before the live Spirit, they were destroyed. Their willful evil collided with the omnipotent harmony of the Divine.
God or His saints seldom deliberately hurt anyone, and then only to mitigate the effects of that person’s bad karma, or to give a direct lesson to hasten redemption. Neither God nor His avatars ever turn Their omnipotence against any evildoers out of wrath or vengeance. People hurt themselves by manifesting unnatural evils. The knuckles of a person are broken when he performs the stupid or unnatural act of striking them hard against a stone wall. The stone wall is innocent of all evil intention, just as virtue is innocent when vice foolishly hurls itself against it.
The same principle is at work empowering the divine man, with or without a conscious act on his part, to bestow blessings on those who are receptive. Devotees who approach Divinity with the harmony of a pure heart and mind, attract instant blessings from the sight or touch of a holy person (darshan). For example, in the press of a great crowd, Jesus suddenly said, “Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.” A woman had been healed instantly when with faith she came up behind Jesus and touched the border of his garment.14
Avatars such as Krishna and Christ have such power of the Almighty within them that they could open their spiritual eye and annihilate the wicked, even as God could destroy the universe in a second. Little does frail man realize the Power he pits himself against when he chooses to oppose Divinity! Yet he needn’t fear the wrath of a tyrannical God. Neither He nor His saints and avatars stoop to obvious human methods of either chastisement or compensation. God coaxes His children back to Him only by the attracting power of His love, incarnate in every atom of creation and in every soul. Similarly, His saints and avatars almost always use the mild method of spiritual persuasion to inspire the wicked to reform.
Man, made in the image of God with free will like His Creator, rewards or punishes himself by the results of his merits or demerits; he himself operates the exacting law of karma. Divine intervention, when on occasion it is warranted, expresses neither vengefulness nor favoritism, but is meted out for man’s highest good by a just and loving God, or through his equally compassionate incarnations.
Though fully manifest in an avatar, God is not limited to one form
Many thinkers posit God as infinite and impersonal, and that He cannot be finite and personal. This conception limits the almightiness of God. Just as invisible hydrogen-oxygen gas can be condensed into vapor, or water, or frozen into a solid as ice, so God the impersonal Spirit and invisible Cosmic Consciousness can and does materialize Itself into a Great Light, into an Intelligible Voice of any language, into any desired form, and into a finite personal body.
God, who has created all human beings and is secretly present in them, can be perceptibly manifest in saints, or can materialize a new human body that can be seen or touched or heard by an advanced devotee or by any number of persons. One can say with truth that the entire Absolute God is vibrating and manifesting in that newly materialized body, but it would be a metaphysical blunder to say that God is limited to that body.
The Infinite God can and does manifest in a three-dimensional form. He has appeared to many liberated souls in this way, in whatever concept they longed to see. But God is not confined to that form, nor has He adopted any such form as His sole personal image. The Infinite is infinite in His expressions; that is why God has never had a permanent definite form.
God prefers to employ His own Self-created law of limitation, the law of relativity, when He appears as a human being. He chooses to incarnate in the bodies of liberated masters. In this way, He appears in various costumes of flesh to suit the desires and needs of His devotees through the ages.
For example, as Jesus or Rama or Krishna or Babaji, and so on, He has been born in different forms to help the growth of virtue and the dissolution of vice in the world. God, being Infinite, can rematerialize any form, and does so at times. But He never allows a divinely manifested form such as Jesus or Krishna to be visibly present for a long period before the staring gaze of ignorant people. Therefore, the deathless Babaji, who has a human form at the present time, remains in utmost secrecy in the northern Himalayas near Badrinarayan. However, any liberated being can instantaneously materialize himself before an advanced saint or even (for special purposes) before a group of ordinary men, as did Jesus and Babaji.
Why does God prefer to manifest Himself through partially liberated and fully liberated beings whom He sends to reincarnate on earth (by “immaculate” or by ordinary sexual creation) to quicken the evolution of virtuous people and to dissolve the wickedness of vicious beings? Because such advanced souls were once ordinary human beings subject to all the temptations and delusions of Cosmic Nature. Such divine agents have sympathy, humor, and understanding; they can tell their fellow beings: “Behold, we were once bound by the flesh, just as you are now! By dint of self-control, discrimination, meditation, and spiritual labor, we have reaped the plenteous harvest of omnipresent Spirit. If we have done that, you too can overcome the weak, difficult flesh by a continuous expansion of consciousness and strengthening of the Spirit that is also within you!”
God could produce Jesus Christs and Babajis by the thousands by direct materialization or via the ordinary embryonic creation, and could have them act out their sacred lives as divine puppets. But could such beings, lacking past personal experience of the intricate compulsions of sense temptations, serve realistically as exemplars to teach human beings the art of conquering flesh allurements by natural human methods of self-control?
Devotees admire Christ because he came among men as one of them. He was humanly tempted, and he suffered at the hands of persecutors; but he overcame all human ordeals by will, effort, and love for God! A sacred puppet, acting out a divine drama of temptation and victory, would be only a spurious actor on the stage of life. But a human being who becomes a master is a spiritual artist who can show other fellow beings how to destroy evil and become divine.
The soul of an ignorant being and of a master are the same in essence, and are perfect, even as the one moon’s reflections appearing distorted in pots of agitated and muddy water, or undistorted in calm and clear water, are reflections of the same object—the moon.
When the water in the pot is muddy and agitated by a breeze, the moon reflected there appears distorted even though it is not so in reality; muddy minds agitated with the restlessness caused by the attributes of Nature similarly cause a seeming distortion of the soul. When, by yoga meditation, the muddied mind of ignorance settles, restlessness disappears; the clear soul is manifest.
As the moon’s reflection may be distorted beyond recognition in swirling water, so is the soul’s reflection grossly distorted in a materialistic man. As the moon is recognizably reflected in slightly agitated clear water, or perfectly reflected in completely calm clear water, so enlightened souls are either partial or full manifestations of God.
As calm clear water in various pots reflects perfectly the same shining moon, so all liberated souls manifest the same pure soul essence. When the pots are broken and the water released, the reflected images that had appeared to be confined in various pots become one with the moon whose light is spread all over the sky; similarly, all fully liberated masters who can separate their reflected souls from their bodies at will and yet live in bodily forms are perfect and equal soul-images of God. There is a delusive difference in the appearance, but when they dematerialize their bodily confinements they are the same One Omnipresent Spirit.
Belief that one liberated master is greater than another is dogmatic ignorance
Dogmatic disciples with their little minds strive to represent their own particular master as greater than other masters. Who may say with authority: “My master is a fully liberated incarnation of God”? Only he who has true intuition and is himself perfected in the wisdom of God-attunement.
Anyone who says, “My master is the greatest incarnation of God, or the only liberated master,” is unquestionably ignorant. The yardstick of judging fully liberated masters is possessed only by fully liberated disciples. A liberated disciple is completely loyal to his master, the guru who had shown him the way to liberation, but he always respects other avatars and masters. Masters and disciples who have achieved Self-realization after wandering through various bypaths of beliefs love all saints as one in God. Ignorant disciples, trying to glorify a certain avatar as supreme over other avatars, instead belittle that master through their bigotry, intolerance, hate, inquisitions, crusades, and religious wars.
In Omnipresence there is no labor foreman, no president, nor servant; no great, greater, and greatest. All are equal and one with the Spirit—a joyous conclave of Divine Amity.
How Spirit Incarnates in the Successive Strata of Creation
These stanzas of the Gita may also be interpreted as a reference to the history of creation. “Whenever there is a distortion of My Spirit (the protecting shelter or dharma of the universe) through the action of My delusory maya, then My Infinite Oneness is divided into finite waves of creation, colliding with one another in the evil of pain and disharmony. In order to bring back the harmonious goodness of My One United Being and to destroy the ominous evils of seeming relativities, My Spirit (limited when displayed as warring matter, minerals, plants, animals, and human beings) continuously incarnates Itself in repeated evolutionary influxes until, by dissolving the unsalutary clashing dualities, all recover the eternal blissful state of oneness.”
The above brings out two points:
(1) Spirit, by eclipsing Itself in cosmic delusion, appears as myriad ever-changing material phenomena. It is by this process, this malevolent delusive medium, that Spirit re-creates Itself from the macrocosmic Infinitude to infinitesimal, microcosmic, almost unendingly divisible ions of energy. “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”15 Cosmic energy flowing down from Spirit manifests the troublesome material nature (Apara-Prakriti; Maya, Satan).
(2) After outwardly projecting Itself as energy into atomic matter, the utmost density of delusion, Spirit sees the constant roil of the atomic forces of finite creation—colliding, uniting, warring, dividing according to laws of attraction and repulsion—as etheric, gaseous, fiery, liquid, solid forms emerging, dissolving, ever changing. Spirit, disappointed that delusive maya does not reflect Its perfection in creation, halts this outward repulsion and begins the process of reunification by incarnating Itself in progressively higher forms of life and expression. Asleep in the inert minerals of matter, Spirit begins to dream in the vegetative life of trees and flowers. Then Spirit partially awakens in the sentient mobility of the tiny amoeba and the mighty beast. Fully awake in man, Spirit’s discriminative intelligence reaches out as a conqueror of the delusive mysteries of life. And in the illumined man, Spirit’s incarnation is complete!16
At whatever period of eternity Spirit first created Itself into various forms of creation, including the first human beings, all Its manifested objects easily reflected Its spiritual quality during a Spiritual Age of 4,800 years. The original purity of creation evidenced its emergence from causal manifestation into astral and then material form.
Descent of humanity from original Golden Age
Adam and Eve, symbolic of the first human beings specially created by God, were fully conscious of their divinity until through the temptation of Nature they indulged in sex creation, causing their godly consciousness to descend from the higher cerebrospinal centers of spiritual perception to the lower channels of life identified with sensual mortal consciousness.17
After the Spiritual Age, reincarnating earthly beings and their cosmic environment, under the influence of the outgoing separative desire of Spirit to create (manifesting as Maya, or the Cosmic Delusive Force), began to descend to the Mental Age of 3,600 years, the Atomic Age of 2,400 years, and the Material Age of 1,200 years.
After the general populace on earth and the entire solar universe had manifested the vibrations of the Material Age, then Spirit—to stop Its creation from further devolution—created a magnetic upward pull so that the Material Age began to evolve into the Atomic, Mental, and Spiritual Ages again, covering 12,000 more years.
The Yugas, or evolutionary cycles of history
These downward and upward evolutionary cycles, each complete equinoctial cycle taking 24,000 years, have been gone through about 83,000 times during the two billion years that scientists estimate the earth has already existed.18 Whenever this earthly school has fulfilled its temporary purpose in God’s scheme according to cyclic timing, or whenever all the inhabitants have been fully educated in manifesting complete divinity, then, through a cosmic deluge, Spirit will not only release human beings but also the karma-tortured active atoms of the earth. In partial dissolutions, only certain areas of the earth are “dissolved,” such as the continent of Atlantis and the Land of Mu (Lemuria) in the Pacific. Plato recounts the legends of one such partial dissolution when (about 9000 b.c.) the land vibrated and trembled and great fissures appeared; Atlantis disappeared into the surrounding water with its multitudinous inhabitants.19
History could hardly record complete cosmic or earthly dissolutions! At such times a planet, for example, and all things on it are converted into diaphanous energy. Only liberated masters, through visions, have seen such cosmic dissolutions; and no one except God has kept a record of how many times the earthly school-building and its pupils have been entirely dematerialized into astral or causal form, or into mere seed-ideas in the mind of the Creator, and then brought forth again throughout the many “Days of Creation”—periods of manifestation, which are then followed by “Nights of Dissolution.”
With each reemergence of the cosmic schoolhouse, God begins anew to train its pupils—some who are newly arrived, and others who are repeaters (as Krishna explains in VIII:19). Advancing through the different grades of incarnations, they must ultimately pass the final examination of liberation. As the lifespan for a whole universe, according to ancient seers, is over 300 trillion years—an Age of Brahma—no doubt God (garbed as Krishna) declares: “Arjuna, I have attained all, I have nothing to attain, yet I go on working” (III:22).
The Infinite Spirit has been in ecstasy in vibrationless space, and active in vibratory space, for countless aeons of eternity. The Spirit thus divides Itself in creation by the declining-power of delusion, and then brings back to Itself all prodigal outgoing forms through upward evolution. At the end of the universal lifespan, the wandering organic and inorganic forces are transmuted as fluid energy into His Cosmic Consciousness. The storm of delusion is recalled; all waves of animate and inanimate creation become again the sea of Spirit. But that is not the end! After a time, the seeds of creation, carefully preserved in Spirit, are cast forth again to begin their productive cycle anew.
The Downward and Upward Evolution of the Soul
Lastly, these two stanzas of the Gita relate also to the evolution of the individualized soul. During an incarnation, whenever a devotee finds himself in delusion owing to sense identification, the Spirit manifests Itself in him by trying to foster his longing for soul bliss.
Man’s desire to seek salvation often arises out of the torturing power of affliction. However, many mortals suffer through a long period of incarnations without experiencing any awakening. A deluded man is finally roused through the indwelling divine aid that urges him continuously to attempt to regain the image of Spirit; he discovers Its presence re-created within him by each new effort.
Thus, as often as man’s body-identified or depraved nature (adharma) manifests, owing to the effects of the misuse of free choice, so often does the soul’s real nature (dharma) emerge through spiritual self-effort, stimulated by the inward manifestations of the ever awake, ever kind Spirit:
“I manifest Myself in the soul of man to rally his good qualities (the springs of good actions) to conquer his human demerits (the springs of evil activities). I infuse My power in the devotee who inspirits his noble qualities of discrimination and calm intuitive conscience, dispassion, life-force control, self-control, self-discipline to avoid unrighteous actions, and spiritual patience in adherence to meditation, renunciation, and austerity. With the advent of My Spirit and Its reinforcement, the stimulated virtuous qualities cause the dissolution of the human vicious demerits—desire, anger, greed, attachment, egoity, jealousy, hate, illusion and delusion.”
The final victory of the evolution of the soul—of “virtue” over “vice”—is the inner realization or experience of ascension into Spirit. The first two verses of this Gita chapter described the spiritual symbolical aspect of the various stages (Vivasvat, Manu, Ikshvaku, and the Rajarishis) through which the soul of the devotee has descended from the Infinite to the finite.
Emerging from Cosmic Consciousness, the soul enters the vibratory state of Cosmic Light, or Vivasvat. When it comes under the influence of the mind (manas) it becomes individualized, limited by identification with human consciousness in general, termed the Manu state of the descending soul. Thence it flows down into astral life and consciousness, or the Ikshvaku state. The soul then further descends into the Rajarishis, or sense-identified state.
During a long lapse of time, the soul remains identified with the body and forgets its union with the Spirit. The soul thus leaves the higher cosmic spatial palace of Omnipresence to descend the darkening stairway of limitations, and begins to wander on the low plains of materialism; “vice” (adharma) prevails.
It follows that every prodigal son, seeking to ascend by retracing his footsteps upward to Spirit, must attune himself to the inner urgings of Spirit—incarnate in his soul—and through proper yoga meditation leave behind him the identification with material habits and sense enjoyments (Rajarishis), intuitive perception of astral life and consciousness (Ikshvaku), the sum total of individualized human consciousness (Manu), and Cosmic Light (Vivasvat). Reaching the Spirit, the soul “breathes” a long sigh of joyous relief! Perfect “virtue” (dharma) is reestablished.
|| Hari Om ||
God bless us all, always