Srimad Bhagavad-gita Study Group
- Chapter 7 -
Knowledge and Realisation of the Supreme
The best of all yogis is he who worships the Lord with devotional love. Who follows the path of Bhakti with steadfast attachment to Krishna attains a thorough knowledge of the absolute truth in all its sweetness. Having reached the human form of life one should use this rare opportunity to search out the cause of all existence. In the pursuit of this knowledge hardly one realises the truth of Krishna Consciousness and comes to know the all-blissful form of Shyamsundar—the Beautiful Reality that transcends Brahman and Paramatma.
The Lord explains His threefold potencies of Yoga-maya (His internal bliss giving, enlightening energy), Maha-maya (His external deluding energy) and Tatastha or Jiva-shakti (His marginal energy consisting of the innumerable individual souls). The Jiva-shakti is superior to the mundane world of Maha-maya but being marginal and atomic has the tendency to be overcome by Maha-maya due to the misuse of his minute independence or free-will.
The Lord further says that there is nothing equal or superior to Him and nothing can exist independent of Him being the source and resting place of all that be. The Maya potency is His divine energy and so none can cross of her unless they surrender absolutely to Him and Him alone. Four kinds of impious people never surrender to the Lord and four kinds of pious souls come to take shelter in Him and realising His aspect of Vasudev, the all-pervading Supreme Lord within everything and everything being in Him the worship and serve Him forever. Such a person is indeed a Mahatma or great soul in the truest sense. Worshipping the Supreme Lord with exclusive devotion, free from all mundane desire they attain to pure Love. On the other hand, those who desire only transient and petty fruits worship the Devatas or demigods not understanding that even those petty fruits are in fact only received by Lord Krishna’s grace as the gods and goddesses are only the empowered agents of the Lord for universal management. Those who worship the minor gods go to them while those who worship the Lord of all gods, Lord Krishna go to Him for all eternity.
Ultimately the Supreme Absolute Truth cannot be comprehended by the limited faculty of human understanding as He remains forever concealed by His internal potency. As such the fallen souls think of Him as the unmanifest Brahman but He remains ever-existent as the gorgeous Shyamasundar, blackish like a new raincloud even when he descends in this mundane plane. Those who practice pure devotional service unto Him, free from the dualities of this world and purged of all sin, realise this wondrous transcendental form even at the time of death.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
Whether it’s your next holiday destination, the choice of university for your studies, or the restaurant for next week’s birthday party, most things in life require some research. While we may value our gut feelings, we simultaneously utilise our intelligence and exercise discrimination. The same goes for spirituality. It is not simply a sentimental impulse or practice; it requires intelligent research and information gathering. It is an affair of the head and the heart. Einstein once stated that religion without philosophy was simply sentiment, and in more acute situations, downright fanaticism. In Chapter Seven, entitled “Knowledge and Realisation of the Supreme”, Krishna delineates certain philosophical truths to instil confidence and conviction in the process of bhakti-yoga.
A Accept or Reject
H – Hearing (Verses 1-3) - Modern thinkers often posit a notion of proving everything empirically, rejecting anything which cannot be directly perceived by our senses. While this may seem a logical, objective and rational approach, it does have inherent limitations. How do you understand those things beyond your immediate perception? For example, if you wanted to find out what BBC1 was showing tonight,the most obvious approach would be to consult a TV guide. You could subsequently verify by actually watching the programmes. In other words, we can’t depend on our sensory experience to provide all the answers. Accepting a “higher authority” opens up new opportunities to experience the truth directly. Krishna begins this chapter by stressing the absolute necessity of hearing from spiritual sources, to understand universal realities. This is known as the descending path of knowledge.
E – Everywhere (Verses 4-12) - By hearing from authorised spiritual sources one can acquire profound knowledge of the divine. In answer to the common challenge “Can you show me God?” Krishna cites the analogy of pearls strung on a thread. The pearls are perfectly strung and arranged as a necklace, while the thread remains completely invisible. Similarly, God designs, creates and sustains the entire universe yet remains invisible to the immature observer. The extreme intricacy and sophistication of the creation, however, naturally indicates the presence of higher intelligence. Krishna further explains how He is the essence of everything within the creation – the taste of water, the light of the sun and the ability in man. In this way, through the eyes of knowledge,
one can learn to see God everywhere.
A – Accept or Reject (Verses 13-19) - If God can be perceived everywhere and His existence is so strikingly obvious, why is there still wholesale denial of Him? Resisting forceful compliance, Krishna endows each individual with the free will to “fly their own plane”and decide where to repose their faith. He describes the four types of people who reject God due to their preoccupation in worldly life, and the four types of people who do accept God, albeit with different degrees of selfish intent. In conclusion, it’s a rare soul in this world who is able to approach God free of ulterior motives, and enter into a selfless relationship of love. That level of spiritual purity, Krishna says, may take thousands of births!
D – Demigods (Verses 20-30) - Practically speaking, even a mere acceptance of God is a propitious achievement in this age. This acceptance, however, is not enough – one must gain an accurate and precise understanding. If you were to be operated on, you would insist the surgeon be well-versed in the details and intricacies of the process. It is, after all, a matter of life and death. Similarly, to simply believe in God is not enough; one must understand His nature and personality. Towards the end of the chapter, Krishna establishes monotheism and distinguishes ‘demigods’ as powerful entities in charge of universal affairs, who are in no way, shape or form equal to God. Such dangerous misconceptions are cleared up as they have the potential to impede the spirit of pure devotion.
Questions on Chapter 7
Chapter 6 slokas to learn:
raso ’ham apsu kaunteya prabhāsmi śaśi-sūryayoḥ
praṇavaḥ sarva-vedeṣu śabdaḥ khe pauruṣaṁ nṛṣu 
(he) kaunteya–O son of Kuntī; aham asmi–I am present; rasaḥ–by My power as the essential taste; apsu–of water. (aham asmi)–I am present; prabhā–by My power of radiance; śaśi-sūryayoḥ–in the moon and sun. (aham asmi)–I am present; sarva-vedeṣu–in all the Vedas; praṇavaḥ–as the origin of the Vedas, Oṁkār. (aham asmi)–I am present; śabdaḥ–as the element of sound; khe–in the ether. (aham asmi)–I am present; pauruṣaṁ–as masculinity; nṛṣu–in men. 
8 O son of Kuntī, I am the taste of water, I am the radiance of the sun and the moon. I am Om, the fundamental vibration in all the Vedas, I am the sound in the ether, and I am the masculinity in men.
daivī hy eṣā guṇamayī mama māyā duratyayā
mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te 
eṣā–This; daivī–supramundane (alluring); māyā–external potency; mama–of Mine; guṇa-mayī–composed of the three modes of material nature; hi–certainly; duratyayā–is difficult to cross. (tathāpi)–However; ye–those who; prapadyante–take shelter; mām eva–in Me alone; te–they; taranti–are able to cross; etām–this almost insurmountable; māyām–māyā, illusion. 
14 My alluring, ‘trimodal’, illusory potency is practically insurmountable. However, those who take shelter in Me can overcome this powerful obstacle.
bahūnāṁ janmanām ante jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti sa mahātmā sudurlabhaḥ 
ante–After; bahūnām–many; janmanām–births; jñānavān–the enlightened person (by the fortune of sādhu-saṅga, devotional association); iti–thus realising; sarvam–everything, the entire world of moving and stationary beings; vāsudevaḥ–is of the nature of Vāsudev, Śrī Kṛṣṇa; prapadyate–he surrenders; mām–unto Me. saḥ–Such; mahātmā–a great soul; su-durlabhaḥ–is very rare. 
19 After many births, the enlightened soul (blessed with devotional association) realises that everything is of the nature of (subordinate to) Vāsudev, and thus he surrenders unto Me. Such a great soul is very rare.
antavat tu phalaṁ teṣāṁ tad bhavaty alpa-medhasām
devān deva-yajo yānti mad-bhaktā yānti mām api 
tu–But; tat phalam–that fruit; teṣām alpa-medhasām–of those unwise worshippers of the demigods; bhavati–is; antavat–temporary. deva-yajaḥ–The worshippers of the demigods; yānti–reach; devān–the respective demigods; mat-bhaktāḥ api–and My devotees; yānti–reach; māṁ–Me. 
23 But the fruit obtained by those unwise worshippers of the demigods is temporary. They reach the gods they worship, but My devotees come to Me.