This chapter explains how the Self – Atman – pervades the entire world. The wise seek the Self while the ignorant, disregarding the Self, lead an empty life with vain hopes and unfulfilled aspirations. They go through the endless cycle of birth and death. Confirming the truth behind the saying that whatever one strives for, be it material or spiritual, one attains that particular goal, the ignorant gain their limited, mundane ends but never find accomplishment in their lives, whereas, the wise pursue the ultimate goal of Realization and find absolute peace and bliss in their own Self. Sri Krishna, therefore, advises Arjuna to seek the Self, to subsume all worldly activities to the Self until Spiritual Enlightenment is reached. Krishna begins the chapter by offering to impart the knowledge of Reality that pervades the world and also as to the means of achieving this supreme knowledge and thereby free oneself from all agitations and sorrows. The previous Chapter of the Gita dealt with liberation by stages through the process of meditation. But this way is not the only means of emancipation. A direct way is described in this Chapter. This knowledge being unknown to the mankind at large, Krishna terms it as a supreme secret and hence this Chapter is called ‘Yoga of Royal Knowledge and Royal Secret’. All living beings and inert things arise from the supreme Reality, exist in the Reality and ultimately merge into the Reality. The periods of manifestation of the world and its dissolution run into billions of years. The supreme Reality acts as the disinterested Self, witnessing the entire creation and dissolution. Those who fail to pursue this knowledge remain bound to the world of mortality. Krishna, therefore, appeals to the seekers to free themselves from the manifest world and reach the unmanifest Reality and to discover the Divinity that supports the pluralistic phenomenal existence.
In this opening verse Sri Krishna assures Arjuna that He will reveal the theoretical knowledge of the Self combined with Its intuitive perception. Such knowledge is the direct means of attaining liberation. This knowledge about the Self dwelling in the body, and about the identity of the individual self and the Supreme Self, is considered most profound mystery because it has only to be realized through one’s own experience or spiritual intuition and cannot be expressed in any words. Arjuna is considered to be the most suitable candidate to know this deep mystery because he is free from jealousy and does not belong to the category of those who always find fault with whatever others do or say. Jealousy-free mind only can absorb deep knowledge, for jealousy is another form of ignorance. Sri Bhagavan says that the one who receives this knowledge (a realized person) shall be free from all irksome problems of life, can rule over circumstances and face adversities with a smile. Krishna assures that by understanding that knowledge one will be released from the evil i.e. bondage of the world.
It is really difficult for the ordinary intellect to comprehend the idea that a substance which exists everywhere, allowing everything to exist in it, but at the same time it in itself does not get conditioned by the things existing in it. Although the wind moves everywhere in the space, exists in the space and is supported by the space yet the wind does not put any limitation on the space. Space holds them all but is touched by none. This illustrates the relationship between the Self and the Not-Self. When the wind moves the space does not move. None of the qualities of the wind is the quality of the space. So also, the Real supports the unreal which seemingly lives in the Real and yet the unreal full of misery and sorrow can never condition the Real.
The whole process of creation, preservation and dissolution is due to the Lord’s maya, His lower prakriti or nature consisting of the three gunas in their undifferentiated state and yet He is unaffected by it. Vedanta while recognizing the fact of creation does not approve of the act of creation. The Lord does not create the universe from nothing or void, for nothing only can come out from nothing. Therefore Vedanta believes that the Lord, because of His power of lower nature, maya, projects out of Himself (manifests) all the names and forms at the time of creation. Consciousness or His higher nature endows them with life.
Observing that Arjuna was endowed with faith , free from fault finding nature and qualified to receive the sacred divine knowledge Sri Krishna says that He will disclose the Royal Knowledge and Royal Secret which will make him realize The Lord in him by direct experience. This knowledge is imperishable, knowing which one will become free from the evil of worldly existence. The Lord says that due to lack of faith in this knowledge, in its manifest and unmanifest aspects, people fail to realize Him and suffer in consequence. Sri Krishna says that all beings are pervaded by Him and dwell in His unmanifest form like the wind moving everywhere but always resting in space. Although The Lord is the creator, destroyer and sustainer of the world, He stands as a witness indifferent and unattached to these processes. The ignorant identify Him with nature or regard Him as a mortal during His incarnations for protecting Dharma. They do not see God in the Universe and have no knowledge of the Self which dwells within the body. They do not see the Unity in the Diversity. They fail to see the ocean beneath the waves. They run after the transient objects and miss the eternal. They have no discrimination or right understanding. The knowers of the Truth see the Reality in externality also. They feel a oneness with all. They chant God’s name always. They worship Him with wisdom sacrifice. They see the formless one as distinct and manifold. He explains to Arjuna His identity with the Universe. The Lord’s enumeration of His different manifestations has been tabulated below for easy reference.
In this Chapter Sri Krishna advises Arjuna to do every thing as an offering to The Lord. All actions thus become a symbol of devotion and help remembering God. Submission to the Divine is the essence of spiritual sadhana. The following verses tell us how to go about in that path