The Universal Form: Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita

In the Bhagavad Gita the pupil is taught in many ways that the mind cannot grasp the supreme being, ultimate reality, as the mind is a detail within that reality, and the supreme being transcends all the qualities that the mind can understand. And yet, it is taught further that it is possible to uncover the ultimate truth as the reality in one’s own nature, and be at one with it. The pupil comes to understand this in principle, as we all may, if we reflect. The pupil, and we, also receive practical teachings. We hear that the way to Self-knowledge is self-control, reflection, meditation and devotion, all with the aim of discovering the reality in one’s own being.

Wishing to know how to progress in meditation and devotion, the pupil asks the teacher, in chapter 10 of the Gita, how he should think of the supreme being underlying all phenomena. The teacher, who has realised the truth, replies that the highest should be thought of as the Self of all, the beginning, middle and end of all beings, as the essence of power and glory wherever they manifest. He also says that even this is only by way of example, it can only be said that God supports all beings with a fraction of himself.

Chapter 11 begins at this point. The pupil says that as a result of what he has just heard, his delusion has gone: the secret of the true Self has been revealed. And yet, apparently, his mind is not entirely satisfied, he wants more. He asks, respectfully, to be shown the form of ‘Ishvara’, a name for the supreme Being as the source and sustainer of the world.

This is an example of how the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita contains, among much else, astute practical psychology. A pupil says, yes, I have understood, the secret is revealed. And yet, can I please be shown a little more!

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This article is from the Spring 2021 issue of Self-Knowledge Journal.