Any person who seeks the supernal radiance of the Invisible Sun, the ceaseless vibration of the Logos ensouling the Fraternity of Enlightened Seers, must abide at all times with heart fixed upon the object of his devotion. He must be worthy of that total devotion, continually practising meditation, returning his mind whenever possible to its favourite subject of contemplation, the one Guru that he has chosen, the embodiment of the Logos that is the noumenal force behind the whole of life. Only then can he truly say that he has found the Krishna-Christos within himself. Only then does he activate and arouse, by his realization of the Logos in the cosmos, the spirit which moves and animates every single atom and molecule, endowing each with that vortical motion which maintains it for a time in the world of manifestation, thereby enabling it to have life in a form under law. To do this he must take Krishna as his refuge. He must have total trust and faith in the chosen one, the Ishtaguru.
In every case he has chosen Krishna. Suppose he was a very sincere disciple, for example, like John, deeply devoted, when writing the Gospel, to the memory of Jesus, Christ will write for him. Everyone is provided for, everyone is protected, everyone is helped. But those alone who embody Krishna's precepts will know Him completely. They alone will be instructed fully in this knowledge and in this realization, having learned which, there remains nothing else to be known. Clearly, this is an unattainable ideal for the average person in our time and in our culture. He cannot possibly expect suddenly to achieve that continuity of consciousness, that ceaseless contemplation, that total devotion, and above all, that unwavering and absolute allegiance to the one shelter and source chosen. He will not attain to this knowledge in this lifetime. He will not hear the pure strains of the flute of Krishna.
Nonetheless, there is hope for every human being. Every human being does in some moments experience the simple joys of daily life known to the great masses of mankind. No wonder that Krishna, the eighth Avatar of Vishnu, is the favoured incarnation among the common folk in India. No wonder the Gita spoke so powerfully to Thoreau and Bellamy in America, to Wilkins and Warren Hastings among the early Englishmen in India, and to Schlegel and Goethe and many others in Germany. No wonder, then, all over the world men have sat at the lotus feet of the Teacher, in any form, for the sake of true help. Anyone who has ever leafed through the sacred pages of the Song of the Lord has benefited, whether he turns to the translation by William Quan Judge which is mantramic, or the translation by Christopher Isherwood which is poetic and beautiful, or the many other translations that have been composed over the last century. Even more richly blessed are those who have been privileged to study that magnificent, unexcelled and supremely illuminating commentary recorded by Shankaracharya for those who are ready for the deeper mysteries of the Gita.
Whoever ponders the Gita over a long period of time is deeply stirred. It is sadly significant that Mahatma Gandhi, as also his assassin, appealed to the same scripture. He who died by the bullet of Godse reverenced the Gita as his mother, and he who slew Gandhi had deluded himself into thinking that he was obeying the injunctions of the Gita. In general, there is a very real sense in which a dedicated few hear Krishna's flute in tones that are sublimely different from the modes in which many others hear it. As long as there are as many ways to God as the breaths of the children of men – in the words of the Koran – while at the same time each man is lit up by the same light, so long will each choose his own path according to his own state of consciousness, his wants, his intentions and his goals. Everyone is included in the benediction of Krishna, in accordance with the karma of his "line of life's meditation."
This is a difficult doctrine to understand. There are no distinctions in it between the saved and the damned. In this doctrine the only elect are those who are self-elected, in the manner of Krishna, by the profundity of their overwhelming concern and continual sacrifice. Those who comprehend Adhiyajna, the supreme sacrifice, share in its celebration. Everyone must, in his own way, find the Logos within and light up the lamp of true spiritual discernment. In this fundamental sense, all human beings are provided for and the important thing for anyone is not where he is but how he can do better.
All beginnings are seminal and are immensely significant. If a person really wishes to listen to the sound of the divine flute, he must understand the dialogue within his own consciousness which is like the interplay between flute and harp in the great concerto of Mozart. It occurs between the divine promptings within himself and the less rhythmic breathing of his lower self. Through it, he can become self-consciously capable of appreciating the flute. Among people who go to a concert there are those who are merely awed by what takes place. There are those who have some understanding of the music that is played. Others have some knowledge of the skill involved in using instruments and the immense deliberation and meditation behind masters of music in manifestation. Then there are those very few individuals who intensely love the music and, in Eliot's phrase, have heard it so deeply that it is not heard at all, who have become the music while the music lasts. They love the musicians so much that they are one with them, going beyond all the cacophony of inaudible sounds in the heads of the members of the audience. The function of the greatest music is in pointing to that which is unuttered on the physical plane, but which is a ceaseless utterance in eternity.
Any man who hears the rumbling of a thunder cloud, the roar of the ocean, or the rush of the winds above a holy place, is truly blessed, because of the sacred undertaking to which the whole of nature has been consecrated under Karma. Anyone who goes anywhere and is responsive to the F-note of nature – the keynote of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony – the one sound into which all sounds are resolved, even if he hears it only in the still hours of dawn, hears the song of the flute. Anyone who then consecrates himself to the service of the unity of all men and women, has chosen a great undertaking. He feels the pulse of light, the "core of the unuttered" – in the words of Shelley. With Wordsworth, he hears the "still, sad music of humanity." And, hearing these, he may also, in favoured moments, in the season of spring, hear the nightingale "warbling its native woodnotes wild." We might say that the message and meaning of the incarnation of Krishna, over five thousand and seventy-five years ago, was to bring into the lives of men the beauty, the vital relevance and the abundant hope of the eternal rhythm of the cosmos.
There is a critical sense in which our ability to hear the flute is a function of our receptivity, and receptivity requires spiritual knowledge. The Heart Doctrine springs from the heart and lights up the mind. It also involves all aspects of our lives. If, with our whole being, whether intermittently or continuously, we can sift within the stillness and solitude of our inmost calm, only then can we feel the presence, hear the sound, and share the divine joy of the dance of the Logos. A person is deeply fortunate to have earned the opportunity to make such a consecration and, through devotion, to move in the mighty current of meditation sustained by those who are the perpetual servants of the Logos.
Tragically, most men do not grasp the universal significance of the benediction of Krishna and mistake the great magnanimity of the cosmos for an endorsement of their personal misconceptions and partial insights. But even they are provided for. Those who worship the lesser gods choose terrestrial things. They chase after shadows. They pursue secondary emanations. Some worship money, which comes from the elementals who preside over money, compounded out of the thought-elementals of all human beings focused upon the precious metals. They obtain what they crave. Some extol the pleasures of the body and think they seek Venus Aphrodite. They cling to secondary emanations, evanescent pleasures, for the sake of forgetfulness and momentary extinction. They also secure the object of their quest. Some woo the promiscuous goddess of fame, who courts different men and women on diverse occasions. They gain their object one way or the other, if not in this life, then in some future incarnation. Everyone in the progress of time receives such objects of imperfect devotion.
Some are truly fortunate, under karma, to be prevented from securing the objects of their devotion in this life because in previous lives they took a decision that they do not want them again, however tempting they appeared. What comes to the personality as a setback is a bonus from the past, a current from the Higher Self which protects. Thereby they are saved from endless repetitions and compulsive re-enactments of the mistakes of previous lives.
There are also those who, with simplicity, propitiate by means of mantrams, chanting in the streets. They do not know what they really want. At some level they love Krishna. At another level, they wish to reach out to other human beings. Though all of this is sincerely meant, they often mistake the chanting, the dining together, and various monastic practices for some kind of short cut to Krishna. This mistake is only possible if one does not study the Bhagavad Gita. Alas, there are also teachers who are very earnest but who, because of their own limitations, underestimate other human beings and say that there can be a substitute for dhyana, meditation upon the living words of Krishna. There is none.
No man can fully comprehend the Bhagavad Gita the first time he reads it, nor indeed, even if he reads it every day for the whole of his life. There are Hindus who merely take one stanza and chant it endlessly. This helps, though it cannot substitute for a study of all eighteen chapters. People often turn to the Gita only in times of distress. They get solace, but it is transitory. There are others who learn the whole of the Bhagavad Gita by heart in Sanskrit and intone it repeatedly. This may help as well, depending upon their state of consciousness. If they are thinking only of themselves, they have thereby blocked the inner channel to the divine flame concealed within and they cannot light the lamp of the heart. They cannot erect the throne upon which alone Krishna can preside with regal glory. There are still others who invoke Krishna at festivals, for the sake of getting a child, or for the sake of the means of livelihood that will enable the family to go through another year in times of trouble. There are those who invoke Krishna for the sake of consecrating the simple little book children use in learning the alphabet. There are those who at certain times of the year exchange gifts for the sake of bringing a little joy into the hearts of each other. Innumerable are the ways in which human beings seek to become worthy of a relationship with Krishna, the Divine Lover, the eternal darling of every gopi, the supreme guardian of each devotee.
During the sad prelude to the Mahabharata war, every effort had been made by Krishna, by myriad devices, to avoid a carnage that became increasingly inevitable. This was due to the demonic will of one man – Duryodhana – and the weaknesses, compromises and corruptions of other men, coupled with the fear of taking decisions which could avoid what many knew would be a catastrophe. When all attempts failed, Krishna made a speech in the court of the blind King Dhritarashtra, father of all the sons who were now going to be arrayed on two sides in the arena of confrontation. Krishna was known as a child as a prankster and as a young man as a flute player who charmed the milkmaids. In his manhood he was first involved in the slaying of demons, but also advised the court of King Dhritarashtra. At the critical point, he came to the king and said, in one of the greatest speeches in the Mahabharata, "For the sake of a village, an individual may have to be sacrificed; for the sake of a nation, a village; for the sake of the world, a nation; for the sake of the universe, a world." The whole must prevail, not the part. Then he appealed to the king to avoid the horrors of war. He said, "Bind that man." For the sake of the demonic will, the insatiable insecurity, the endless egotism of one man who was sick, so many people could not suffer. It became clear to the whole court that this was not idle talk, but the king himself was too weak, too exhausted, to be able to take such a painful decision at that moment. A definite choice would have been impossible for him, given his habit of shilly-shallying.
Krishna, knowing that the battle was unavoidable, went to Duryodhana and asked him to choose between himself and his finely trained warriors. Duryodhana scowled and said, "I can use all these people, but what can I do with you, one person? What can you do that is crucial?" So he chose the armies. Krishna went to each and every person and said, "You can have one gift, but only one. Choose what you want and you shall have it." And, of course, many only chose some paltry and ephemeral object of sense-desire from the great marketplace of the world. Arjuna alone was left with the option of either choosing or not choosing, accepting or not accepting, Krishna as his sole companion.
Arjuna chose Krishna as his charioteer without really knowing why. Hence the questions raised by him in the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna was so filled with doubt that he simply could not understand the implications of his choice or the meaning of the war until, in the ninth chapter, Krishna addressed him, saying, "Unto thee who findeth no fault, I shall now make known this most mysterious wisdom." Krishna then gave to Arjuna a vision of the universal mystery because Arjuna had become unconditional in his devotion. Krishna does not do this for everyone, but because he excludes none and loves each and all, he can give each one something. Therefore, we are told, "Those who devote themselves to the gods go to the gods; the worshippers of the pitris go to the pitris; those who worship the evil spirits go to them, and my worshippers come to me." He says of those who worship him silently and secretly, as the Self of all creatures and manifested in any form and no form, as well as in the form of their chosen precepts, that they, "knowing me to be the Adhibhuta, the Adhidaivata and the Adhiyajna, know me also at the time of death."
So inexhaustible is the joy of the Gita, that any person, even late in life or after many tragic failures along the path, may turn to it and hear the regenerating rhythms and authentic accents of universal Wisdom. Even if a person were to see that his whole life was meaningless and without importance to a single living being, still, in making his obeisance to Krishna, he will find that he is not excluded from the boundless generosity of the Logos. Divine men, like Krishna and Buddha, and those of their tribe – the race of deathless kings, perfected beings, immortals from the Isle of the Blessed who move among men in many disguises – can help each and every man according to the manner of his devotion. "In whatever way," says Krishna, "men worship me, in that way shall I assist them." The flute of Krishna sings of unconditional love and infallible help. The limits are only set by those who ask in relation to what they are ready to receive. This is the priceless teaching, replete with boundless joy and timeless relevance for every honest and humble seeker, for each blessed devotee.
Hermes, February 1977