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Gita - Gita Articles

ajo 'pi sann avyayatma
bhutanam isvaro 'pi san
prakrtim svam adhisthaya
sambhavamy atma-mayaya


I (Parmatma) am not destructible
I (Parmatma) am not to be born (ajanma)
(As physical body)
I am the master of it all
Yet, me by controlling the nature (prakriti)
Do make it possible
To manifest myself by
The mystical yogamaya
(yogamaya = Krishna still works
Within the constraints of maya
But under his control
And the control is by knowing the
Nature of the maya it self
Control = yogamaya) ||4:6||

Krishna talked about the fact that he knows of other lives of Arjun and himself in the past but Arjun is not aware of those. We know of this life that we are in and are unaware of any other births that we might have had. It is not a matter of believing in rebirths or not. It is a matter of knowing. Krishna knows it and Arjun does not. For now, Arjun and us have to just believe what Krishna has to say. We can later validate these by our own experiences. I was once in surgical training in Scotland. The consultant was going away for a vacation. He told me that I should not be looking for any trouble during surgical procedures. I did not understand this simple statement at the time. What did he mean? Am I looking for complications? Little did I know then that many complications do happen by overextending your abilities or simply not understanding the full implications of the step that we as surgeons undertake? It was a very simple and benign statement by the consultant surgeon at the time but the value can be understood by someone who is in the process of becoming a surgeon.

Krishna is making certain simple statements. But they are so profound and so real. As afr as Arjun knows, Krishna was born similar to his birth. Krishna had a father and he had a mother. Krishna’s appearance was the same as any other human being. So, where is the difference? What is the difference between an ordinary birth and an avatar? The difference is in the process and in the awareness.

The process is that of yogamaya. Before we get into the concept of yogamaya, let us understand the word ajanma (unbornable). Krishna qualifies himself as ajanma. He does not need to be born again and again. He has gone outside of the cycle of the journey from life to life. We are still in the cycle and our cycle is driven by desires. There is always something more to do. We have not completed every project that we wanted to do and death is here. We always die incomplete and we always die unconscious. And the cycle continues. Krishna has nothing more to do for himself. There is no personal reason for him to come back. If his physical body dies, he is fully awake at the time of death, and if he is born in a physical body, he is fully aware of his birth.

This awareness in birth makes it possible for Krishna to control his birth (yogamaya). Krishna makes it possible for himself to be born. He is fully aware of the whole process and he makes it happen through the normal channels of Maya. This total awareness is what makes Krishna, Buddha or a Zarathushtra an avatar.

Let us take it one step further. Yogamaya = yoga+maya. Yoga is awareness and maya is sammohan (hypnotized). A certain desire or willingness is needed for Krishna to be born as well. He has to want to come to help us or share his knowledge bank with us. This then leads to sankalp. This desire at the ultimate level of atma or parmatma makes the results to happen instantaneously. We have talked before. Any desire at the level of atma produces instantaneous results.

Krishna thinks that he needs to be born and things fall into place. This thought process is what I understand to be sankalp. This is his yogamaya because there are elements of awareness (part of yoga) and there is presence of subtle desire (part of maya). He is fully aware of the whole process and this is avatar. We go through a different process. We are born because of our desires for ourselves; Krishna makes his birth possible because of his compassion for others. We are born without any active role in the process; Krishna makes his birth possible by his own sankalp. We are unconscious of our birth; Krishna is aware of the whole process all the time. We are born as usual; Krishna is born as an avatar. We are stuck in the rut of journey from life to life; Krishna has transcended this cycle and is ajanma (unbornable).

In the next few shlokas Krishna talks about why and when he decides to take a birth. We shall explore those in our next column.

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