Ch 4 VERSE 38
न हि ज्ञानेन सदृशं पवित्रमिह विद्यते ।
तत्स्वयं योगसंसिद्धः कालेनात्मनि विन्दति ॥३८॥
na hi jñānena sadṛśaṁ
pavitram iha vidyate
tat svayaṁ yoga-saṁsiddhaḥ
na–never; hi–certainly; jnanena–with knowledge; sadrsam–in comparison; pavitram–sanctified; iha–in this world; vidyate–exists; tat–that; svayam–himself; yoga–in devotion; samsiddhah–matured; kalena–in course of time; atmani–in himself; vindati–enjoys.
In this world, there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism. And one who has achieved this enjoys the self with himself in due course of time.
na hi jñānena sadṛśaṁ
pavitram iha vidyate
tat svayaṁ yoga-saṁsiddhaḥ
“In this world, there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism. And one who has achieved this enjoys the self with himself in due course of time.”
So, I’ll just read something from a note that I have here, that transcendental knowledge means understanding the difference between the body and the self, and the relationship between ourselves and the Lord, as well as other living entities and the world around us. This is technically referred to as sambandha jnana.
In our lineage there was this appreciation that the three categories of knowledge, of actual spiritual knowledge are this sambandha jnana, abhidheya and prayojana jnana. This sambandha is what’s referenced here: knowledge of the reality of who I am, my spiritual identity; where I fit in the bigger picture; what is my connection to this world, the material energy; what is my connection with other living beings. Amongst all other living beings is there one higher than the rest? And if there is what is my connection to this Higher Being?
Nityo nityanam, cetanas cetananam. I used this before. The Katha Upanishad and Svetasvatara Upanishad, that, “Amongst all eternals there is one supreme eternal. Amongst all conscious beings…” Cetanas cetananam: Amongst this ocean of conscious beings there is one who is different and supreme to the others. So what is my connection with all of this.
As such, “there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge.”
Ignorance is the cause of our bondage. That is a frightening truth. Ignorance is the cause of our bondage, how a person can be utterly absorbed in bodily identity, identifying with the gross body or the mind, or a desire within the mind, and building an identity around that, and living an entire life fixated upon and focused upon that identity—only to have it all crushed at the moment of death, when one becomes separated from that temporary identity. And one then goes forward and takes on another identity, and lives another life, as they say. And all of the associated suffering that is part of this samsara, this repeated cycle of birth and death, this is the great ignorance. And as I’ve mentioned before, you’ll see in almost all dharmic traditions, it’s almost like a formula, “ignorance equals pain, or suffering.” All suffering that the living being experiences is always a product of ignorance, that ignorance of accepting something that is untrue, accepting it as being true. This is a profound idea.
So ignorance is the cause of our bondage, and knowledge is the cause of our liberation. This knowledge is the mature fruit of bhakti, or this service in a mood of profound devotion. And when one is situated in transcendental knowledge, he does not need to search for peace elsewhere, for he enjoys the peace within himself. In other words, this knowledge and peace are culminated in this state of consciousness, which we can refer to as Krishna consciousness. That is fundamentally the conclusion of the Bhagavad-gita.
This verse speaks about the great joy that comes from the spiritual realization of my actual spiritual identity. Even if one continues in an embodied state one can still experience limitless joy, the greatest of transcendental pleasure, as a result of this realization.
I will read a part from a commentary from the great Madhvacharya, one of our param gurus in this Brahma Sampradaya. He states:
“Lord Krishna praises the value of spiritual wisdom in this verse and the next two. In this process what is the role of the supreme Lord? Is He simply monitoring every activity from his position as paramatma or the supersoul within the living entities? To the contrary, it is the Supreme Lord who illuminates the consciousness of the living entities over and over again and gives them the opportunity to learn about the ultimate truth.”
So what I’m going to do is just read some of the verses surrounding this verse. And the last verse that we studied, the fourth chapter 34th sloka, where Arjuna was advised that one should approach a seer of the truth, “Just…learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him,” that verse, the one that follows that is:
“Having obtained real knowledge from a self-realized soul, you will never fall again into such illusion, for by this knowledge you will see that all living beings are but part of the Supreme, or in other words, that they are Mine.”
So where Krishna says here, that having obtained real knowledge from a self-realized soul, you will never fall again into such illusion, what is this illusion that’s been spoken of?
Well, we go back to the very beginning of our studies of the Bhagavad-gita, where Arjuna, as a warrior prince, had found himself at the doorstep of a huge battle, and had asked Krishna to drive his chariot down into the midst of the army so he could see these warring factions, and when he did that he suddenly became overwhelmed by what he saw, and by the fact that he was about to do battle with and potentially have to kill people that he considered worshipable, that he was very affectionately disposed towards. And he became so overwhelmed that he said he lost his complete composure, and proposed giving up his duty as a warrior to fight this war, and to run off to the mountains and try and become a renunciate.
And Krishna smiled at him, and saying, while you are speaking words of wisdom, the wise do not grieve for that which is not worthy of grief. And then he began to speak to Arjuna a succession of verses to explain the truth about the soul: the soul is not cut into pieces, can never be killed, is not withered or dried. And He spoke from a lot of different angles of vision about how Arjuna was simply being emotionally swept away by material considerations, and that was what was driving him to make this decision. It was not based on true compassion or understanding, but was based on an ignorant perception of things.
And so in this particular verse, where Krishna says that “you will never fall again into such illusion” that when one has this atma tattva, the realisation of the soul, the self, the atma, then one will not be living in this condition of ignorance and illusion. They would be enlightened.
Continuing to the next verse:
“Even if you are considered to be the most sinful of all sinners, when you are situated in the boat of transcendental knowledge you will be able to cross over the ocean of miseries.”
So the material existence is often referred to as a great ocean of misery, where everybody is struggling so hard. And if we think in terms of—this particular life is just like one small part of an infinitely long continuum of continuously taking birth and death, building attachments and then having them all ripped away, building relationships only to never meet up with again, after death, that person to—that I have such affection and fondness for. This is considered, from the spiritual perspective, to be like the ultimate ocean of misery, known as material life.
And saying that, “Even if you are considered the most sinful of sinners, when you are situated in the boat of transcendental knowledge you will be able to cross over the ocean of miseries,” it’s very significant, because to be situated in this boat there is no pre-qualification. One could have been the most fallen and sinful of persons, but if one is able to gain the mercy of a self-realised spiritual master, and in a mood of great submissiveness to be serving and making inquiry from them, then one is considered to be absolutely safe and secure, even in spite of whatever you may have done in the past.
In the Vedas there are many, many references to this boat that will cross the ocean of misery, and the spiritual master is always referenced as the helmsman, the one who is steering this boat that will carry one to the shore of tranquility on the other side of this ocean. And the fact that there is no pre-qualification or disqualification is quite extraordinary.
In the next verse:
“As a blazing fire turns firewood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge burn to ashes all reactions to material activities.”
So if one were, as in the previous verse, stated to have come from a situation where one was unlimitedly sinful and one would be carrying the great amount of karmic fruit that one will be forced to experience, this bad karma it might be referred to bad karmic fruit, that this spiritual knowledge, the process, and the knowledge itself is so powerful that it can render all of one’s past sinful activity, render it to being like ashes, a great fire rendering firewood to ashes. So this is quite an extraordinary thing to come to discover that the great power of this knowledge, the importance of this—the dedication of one’s life to the cultivation of this knowledge.
And now this verse that we’re reading this time around:
“In this world there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism. And one who has achieved this enjoys the self within himself in due course of time.”
One of the great experiences that one has from self-realisation is to come to the platform of being completely without anxiety, completely without any fear, being able to feel utterly at rest and at peace. But not just that, to positively experience the limitless joy from the discovery of my spiritual identity, which, when taken to the next level (if I can put it that way), where one begins to act on one’s real this identity, when one engages in what is their eternal and natural function, where there is awakening of this limitless and great transcendental, this ecstatic spiritual love that is experienced between the living being, you and I, and our eternal friend, the Supreme Soul. When that love awakens all previous spiritual blissfulness, or ananda, is considered insignificant when compared to this. But this idea of this discovery of my spiritual identity and the experience of the limitless joy is what has been addressed in this verse: “…one who has achieved this enjoys the self within himself and due course of time.”
And then the next verses, I’ll read what follow, just so that you have the complete context and picture.
“A faithful man who is dedicated to transcendental knowledge and who subdues his senses is eligible to achieve such knowledge, and having achieved that he quickly attains the supreme spiritual peace.”
This word sraddha, or transcendental faith, we should understand that it has no connection with blind faith. Blind faith is something of the material world. It is something of the material mind and the false ego, the ahankara. It is ignorance and produces unhappiness. The term sraddha, which is translated as faith, is a spiritual condition where one comes to acquire limitless trust for the great spiritual teachers who are actually representatives of God, and they develop limitless trust in the Supreme Lord, this Supreme Soul.
When a person experiences this faith, sraddha, one is utterly dedicated to this spiritual path, to this eternal relationship of love, of loving service; and one derives limitless joy from this. So reading this verse again:
“A faithful man who is dedicated to transcendental knowledge and who subdues his senses is eligible to achieve such knowledge, and having achieved it he quickly attains the supreme spiritual peace.”
“But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness, they fall down. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.”
So this actually is a significant verse that probably requires more time, but I’ll just touch on it briefly. I mentioned before that blind faith is founded on ignorance and, of course, will always produce unhappiness in the long term.
There was an understanding and appreciation that the actual authorities on that which is spiritual, or transcendental, were described as shastra, guru and sadhu. Shastra refers to the revealed spiritual teachings, for instance the Vedas, that these teachings were beyond the four human defects, and were considered always transcendentally pure and true. And so one was able to confidently take shelter in this advice and direction and faithfully apply it and experience the reality and fruit of it. But it was said that if one rejects these spiritual authorities, doubting their capability or potency to deliver truth, then what is one left with?
One is simply left with their mind, which is filled with material desires. One is left to struggle with the four human defects. The defects are: my senses have serious limitations, and acquiring knowledge through them is tremendously limited. They are inherently defective in that regard.
I have—or am easily subjected to illusion.
I have a tendency to commit mistakes. If I embrace this reality then I would have to almost doubt almost every conclusion that my mind comes to, because, am I making a mistake? I can be quite confident, “Oh no, no. This is all right. It’s right,” but you don’t know. And you may not discover that until quite some time later.
The fourth defect is to be—see, like see a mirage as a reality. Somebody wandering in the desert looking for water and sees the mirage of water, and running towards an oasis only to find out it’s actually just a continuation of the desert. It was an illusion that was created by the environment.
Because human existence means that we are going to be constantly dealing with these four realities, these four defects, knowing that my mind is so easily subject to illusion. It can become obsessively focused on desires, and I can become deeply convinced that to fulfill the desires I will find happiness or—none of which are true. I mean the great illusion is this illusion that the body is the self!
When a person does not accept spiritual guidance from perfect knowledge that is found in shastra, revealed knowledge which is heard from an enlightened teacher, guru, who is beyond these defects, who is not directed by the mind and senses, by sadhu… Sadhu means the great saintly teachers, the previous acharyas.
And then the fourth source of knowledge was the supreme Lord residing within my own heart as the Lord Paramatma, the Supreme Soul, that I have this opportunity in prayerfulness to turn to the Lord in my own heart, and ask a question. “Can I trust this person as being your representative?” and receive a form of confirmation that, “Yes, this person is My representative,” or, “No, this is not. Be careful,” this intuition, if you wish, which is actually arising from the Lord within our own heart.
If I reject all of these things then what is going to be my authority? It’s going to be my mind? It’s going to be my senses—as if they are all powerful and all perfect. I’m going to potentially make mistakes, be subject to illusion. I have a propensity to cheat, to cheat both myself and others.
And so how will I ever find happiness if this becomes my source of knowledge, this imperfect mind and senses?
And then the final verse in this chapter, which rounds out what we’re reading:
“One who acts in devotional service renouncing the fruits of his actions, and whose doubts have been destroyed by transcendental knowledge, is situated factually in the self, and thus he is not bound by the reactions of work, O conqueror of riches, (or Dhananjaya)”
This was a name that was given to Arjuna.
So I mean, one of the things, as I mentioned, Arjuna was caught up in this situation, this idea of having to kill people that he was affectionately disposed towards, that in doing it, it would be greatly sinful, and that he would suffer as a result of engagement in activity that is greatly sinful. And Arjuna is being assured here by Krishna that if one cultivates knowledge of the soul, if one cultivates this knowledge—
I spoke earlier, this sambandha jnana, the connection of the living being with others, with this world, with the Supreme Soul. The second category of that knowledge was abidheya. Abidheya means knowledge of the process of spiritual cultivation, the means and the process of reaching the goal. And prayojana is that actual transcendental goal, the knowledge concerning that.
So if one cultivates this knowledge, and lives and applies this knowledge, one will come to the platform of true spiritual realization, and will not be overwhelmed with the experiences of happiness and sorrow that arise from ignorance, from the material conception of life.
But the highest attainment of course, is not just becoming free of material misery but to positively experience the great transcendental happiness that comes from the discovery of my actual spiritual identity, and my eternal connection and relationship with the Supreme Soul, and living that.
Thank you very much.