Lord Krishn is imperishable, birthless, and pervading the breath of all beings, but he is manifested when he restrains materialistic attachments by atm-maya.
Lord Krishn sings in Bhagavad Gita:
“Although imperishable, birthless, and God of all beings,
I manifest myself subduing the materialistic world of nature
by the mysterious power of atm-maya.”
One kind of maya is the moral ignorance that makes one accept the reality of the material world, and which is the cause of rebirth in low and inferior forms. The other maya is that which Lord Krishn calls yog-maya, of which we are unaware. This is the maya of Self that provides access to the Soul and leads to awareness of the Supreme Spirit. It is by the operation of this yog-maya that Lord Krishn subdues his three-propertied nature and manifests himself.
People usually say that they will have a vision of God when he manifests himself through an incarnation. According to Lord Krishn, however, there is no such incarnation as may be seen by others. God is not born in a corporal form. It is only by gradual stages that he controls his three-propertied nature by the exercise of yog-maya and manifests himself.
But what are the circumstances of such manifestation? We will find this in next verse.
“Whenever, O Bharat, righteousness (dharm) declines
and unrighteousness is rampant,
I manifest myself.”
Lord Krishn tells the devout Arjun that when hearts fall into inertia in regard to the Supreme Spirit, the most sublime dharm, and when the pious are unable to see how to cross safely to the other bank, he begins to shape his form in order to manifest himself.
Such a feeling of weariness had come to revered Sage Manu. Goswami Tulsidas has written of his grief-laden heart because his life had passed without contemplation of God.
When despairing tears flow from the eyes of loving worshippers because of their overpowering feeling of helplessness at their inability to steer across unrighteousness, God begins to mould his form into a manifest shape.
But that also implies that God manifests himself to only loving worshipers and only for their well-being.
God’s incarnation comes about only within the heart of a blessed worshiper.
But what does the manifest God do?We will see this in next verse.
“I manifest myself from age to age to defend the pious,
destroy the wicked, and strengthen dharm.”
God manifests himself as a saviour of saintly men. He, the adored, is the one God after attaining whom there is nothing else to contemplate. Lord Krishn assumes a manifest form from age to age to destroy impediments that obstruct the smooth flow of righteous impulses such as wisdom, renunciation and restraint, as also to annihilate the demoniacal forces of passion, anger, attachment and repugnance, and to reinforce dharm.
“Age”, as used by Lord Krishn here, does not refer to historical ages like the Golden Age (Satyug) or the Iron Age (Kaliyug). It rather alludes to the stages of rise and fall, of the waxing and waning, of dharm through which human nature has to pass. These are stages of dharm and the human heart has to progress through them.
Goswami Tulsidas has written about it in Ram Charit Manas (7. 10)-the devotional retelling and translation of the Indian epic, Ramayan from Sanskrit into the language of the people by the poet Tulsidas.
The stages of dharm undergo variation in every heart at all times, not because of ignorance but because of the operation of the divine power of maya.
This is what has been named atm-maya in this verse of the Bhagavad Gita. Inspired by God, this knowledge is the one which makes the heart a veritable dwelling of God.
But how can one know through which Stage one is passing at the moment?
When virtue and moral goodness (sattwa) alone are active in the heart, when passion and ignorance have subsided, when all fears are stilled, when there is no feeling of repulsion, when there is the necessary strength to rest firmly on the signals that are received from the desired goal, when the mind is overflowing with happiness-then alone is one enabled to enter into the Golden Age. On the other hand, when the forces of darkness (tamas), combined with passion and moral blindness (rajas), are sweeping through, when there are animosities and conflicts all around, the worshiper is passing through the Iron Age (Kaliyug).
When there is predominance of ignorance and abundance of lethargy, slumber and procrastination, that is the stage of the Kaliyug of dharm. The man passing through this stage does not do his duty even though he knows it. He knows what he is forbidden to do, and yet he does it.
These stages of dharm, of its ascent and descent, are determined by innate properties. These stages are the four ages (yug) according to some, the four classes (varn) according to others, and the four levels of spiritual seeking-excellent, good, medium, and low-according to yet others.
In all the stages God stands by the worshiper. Nevertheless, there is a plenty of divine favour at the highest stage, whereas the assistance appears to be meagre at the lower stages. So Lord Krishn tells Arjun that a worshiper who is earnestly devoted to his ultimate goal is a sage, but he can be saved only when the flow of divine impulses such as wisdom, renunciation, and self-restraint, which provide access to the object, is unimpeded. Similarly, doers of wicked deeds are not undone just by the destruction of their nonexistent mortal bodies, because they will be reborn with the same wicked impressions (sanskar) they had earned in the previous life, and do the same evil which they had done before. So Lord Krishn manifests himself in all ages to destroy moral perversions and to strengthen dharm.
Installation of the one changeless God alone is the final destruction of evil.
In brief, Lord Krishn has said that he manifests himself again and again, in all circumstances and categories, to destroy evil and foster good, and to strengthen faith in the Supreme Spirit. But he does this only if there is profound regret in the worshipers’ heart.
So long as the grace of the worshiped God is not with us, we cannot even know whether evil has been destroyed or how much of it still remains. From the beginning to the moment of final attainment, God stays by the worshiper at all stages. He manifests himself only in the devotee’s heart.
Doesn’t everyone see him when he manifests himself? According to Sri Krishn it is not.
Lord Krishn sings:
“He who has perceived
the essence of my radiant incarnations and works,
O Arjun, is never born again after discarding his body,
but dwells in me.”
God’s incarnation, his gradual manifestation through profound remorse, and his works-eradication of hindrances which generate evil, provision of the essentials of Self-realization, and reinstatement of dharm-are not like the birth and deeds of mortals.
Perceived only as abstractions, God’s incarnation and operations cannot be seen with physical eyes. He cannot be measured by mind and wisdom. God, so inscrutable and mysterious, is perceptible only to him who has known the reality. Only he can view God’s incarnation and works, and once he has made this direct perception, he is not born again but dwells in Lord Krishn.
When seers alone can see God’s incarnation and works, why do we have these crowds of hundreds of thousands of men awaiting the birth of God so that they can see him? Are we all seers?
Lord Krishn affirms that only men of perfection can see God. Now, who is this man we call a seer?
Giving his verdict on the real and the false, Lord Krishn told Arjun that the unreal has no being and that the real has never been nonexistent in all time-past, present and future. This has been the experience of seers rather than of linguists or wealthy men. Now he reiterates that although God manifests himself, only perceivers of essence can see him. He has been united with ultimate reality and become a seer.
We do not become seers by learning to count the five (or twenty-five) elements. Lord Krishn further says that the Soul alone is the ultimate reality.
When the Soul is united with this Universal Spirit, he too becomes God. So only a man who has realized the Self can see and comprehend God’s manifestation. It is evident therefore that God manifests himself in a worshipers’s heart.
At the outset the worshiper is not able to recognize the power which transmits signals to him. Who is showing him the way? But after he has perceived the truth of the Supreme Spirit, he begins to see and understand, and thereafter when he discards the body he is not reborn.
Lord Krishn has said that his manifestation is internal, obscure, and luminous, and that the one who sees his radiance becomes one with him.
Lord Krishn says that if men do the ordained task, they will find that they too are radiant. What others have the potential to be, Lord Krishn already is. He represents the possibilities of mankind-their future. The day we achieve perfection within ourselves, we will also be what Lord Krishn is; we will be identical with him.
Incarnation is never external. If a heart is brimming with love and adoration, there is a possibility of its experiencing the divine incarnation.
All the same Lord Krishn provides solace to the common people by telling them that many have realized him by treading on the ordained path.
Lord Krishn concludes:
“Free from passion and anger,
wholly dedicated to me,
finding shelter in me,
and purified by knowledge and penance,
many have realized my being.”
Many who have taken refuge in Lord Krishn-with single-mindedness and complete detachment, freed equally from passion and passionlessness, fear and fearlessness, anger and absence of anger, and purified by knowledge and penance, have attained to his state. It is not that only now it is so. This canon has always been in operation. Many have attained to his state before.
But what is the way?
Lord Krishn shapes himself and appears in a heart that is filled with profound sorrow at the predominance of unrighteousness. It is people with such hearts who realize him.
What Yogeshwar Krishn had previously called perception of reality he now calls knowledge (gyan).
God is the ultimate reality. To perceive him is wisdom. Men with this knowledge therefore realize him.
Wishing to all devotees
true lovers of Bhagavad Gita,
a blissful Krishnashtami.
Bow down in lotus feet of revered Gurudev
for such teachings to me
the metaphysical concepts
Bhagavad Gita verses
in the inner realms
my spiritual heart.