Question 240: The young Rama asks about Lord Vishnu, Krishna and Arjuna

Everything is BrahmanAlthough the true author and time of creation is unknown, many believe the “Yoga Vasistha” was composed between the 6th and 14th centuries. Here we have a conversation between the Sage Vasishtha and the young Rama, about Lord Vishnu taking birth as Krishna and Arjuna, centuries before that event occurred. Does time actually exist, or is everything happening now?


Atma-tattva: reality of the Spirit; the primordial element; the consciousness that is the primeval element of existence;

atmaswaroop: cf. atmaswarupa; Consciousness, the Self, original nature, our true essential nature. (embodiment, form of the Atma)

akash: San. m., n. (ambara) sky, space, an expanse; the element of ether, the subtlest form of matter. Space gives things form and keeps them discrete. Its quality is sound. ‘It is through space that sounds are transmitted and heard. Love and play are products of akasha and seeds sprout on account of akasha.’ ‘Akasha pervades the cosmos but remains unstained.’ (BG: 23:32)

tyāg: Hin. tyāga San. m. (from tyaj – to abandon, let go) renunciation; relinquishing, giving up, surrender. Renunciation of attachment to the world is the key to liberation; to renounce the fruit of action is tyāga.

Brahm-arpan: surrendering to Brahman

shunya: Hin., San. adj. var, sunya: void, empty m. null, void, nothingness, emptiness, non-existence; solitude.

Atma-satta The potency of Atma (the Soul).

asang: not attached; free from worldly ties; not identified with anything.

ishwara San. M. ‘the supreme master’ – the cosmic lord; the Almighty, God in time and space, Brahman in manifestation, all controlling, all powerful and by nature eternally pure, awakened and free – epithet of either Vishnu (V. 36, 74) or Shiva, but the term usually refers to Shiva. ‘When Reality was reflected in maya, it resulted in ishwara.’ ) ‘Wherever you find the three activities (shakti) of creation, preservation and dissolution, there you can recognise God (ishwara).’

saguna: San. adj. virtuous, with good qualities, possessing attributes or qualities; with form. The concept of God as bhagavān and īshwara are both considered to be saguna by the devotee

atma-gyan: direct knowledge of the Atma; self-realisation; knowledge of the Atmic state.


Question 240: Sir, when will the son of Pandu be bom and how will Lord Vishnu teach him detachment or non-identification?

Answer: Ramji, Lord Vishnu will assume one birth in the body of Krishna in the house of Vasudeva, and another in the body of Arjuna in the house of Pandu. Then there ensues a great war of Mahabharata in which Arjuna is involved. Due to attachment arising from ignorance, Arjuna becomes a coward, drops his arms and refuses to fight. At that time, Lord Vishnu in the body of Sri Krishna teaches the body of Arjuna.

He says to Arjuna, “Why have you assumed the idea of being a man and are involved in attachments? Such a weakness is not your dharma. You are Atma-tattva and not a body. Atma-tattva—that is indestructible, without a beginning and an end, all-pervasive and always pure—is your true nature. This Atmaswaroop is subject to neither birth nor death and is always even. The Atma-tattva is the real state of every person and it never dies. Therefore, do not conceive yourself and others as bodies. The universal Atma is indestructible and indivisible; therefore, abandon cowardice and fight. Those who consider Atma a destroyer and destructible, do not know Atma. Atma is more subtle than the formless akash. Who can destroy such Atma ?”

He further tells Arjuna, “O Arjuna, you are not the ego but are the egoless pure Atma. Abandon the faults of the ephemeral that are unreal, and fight. Do not be entangled in attachments. Do not conceive that I am this and that is mine. Be always established in your true state and enjoy bliss. Otherwise, you will unnecessarily be involved in the attractions of joy and sorrow and will wander in the cycle of rebirths. A person who has body and ego and says I see and I hear, earns unwanted miseries. Therefore, you should not have such ideas, but be egoless and remain established in your true state.

A yogi functions with his sense organs, but without ego and attachments. Such a person attains to the Atmic state. He who thus acts without attachments is not bound even when he is performing good or bad actions. Therefore, try to be the form of Brahman, act like Brahman so that very soon you may become the form of Brahman itself. Surrender all your actions to Brahman and you will be liberated.”

Here Arjuna asks Sri Krishna, “What is abandoning (tyag) of attachments, surrendering to Ishwara, surrendering to Brahman, renunciation (sanyas) and yoga ?” Sri Krishna says, “O Arjuna, first listen to what Brahman is. When there is quiescence of ideation (absolute non-modification, no arousal of feelings) and there is pure consciousness without modifications, that is the Brahman. Knowing Brahman as such you should endeavour to attain that. The thinking that leads to this attainment is wisdom, and to be established in that form of Brahman (Brahmaswaroop) is yoga. Believe firmly that there is nothing but Brahman, or that all objects are Brahman, I am Brahman, I am the entire universe, and have no idea within except of Brahman—this is called the surrendering to Brahman (Brahm-arpan).

O Arjuna, know that all that you are seeing, is non-existent (shunya) inert matter in all respects. You, that is the form of Brahman, are neither void (shunya) nor inert matter; rather you are consciousness. Knowing that as your true state, and being without ideation, you should interact in the universe. There is no idea of duality in Atma-satta that is homogeneous. It is due to ignorance that the ideational web of duality is cognised as a multiple diversity. To cognise one as many and many as one, or to see one Atma as a multitude of forms and to cognise distinct bodies, senses, prana, mind, intelligence, etc., with the feelings of ego or self, is ignorance, lacking wisdom. Ignorance is removed with the attainment of wisdom. O Arjuna, to abandon the web of ideations (sankalpa) is called detachment or non-identification (asang). The sense of duality vanishes with the realisation that the entire web of ideations is not independent of Ishwara.

This realisation is known as surrender to Ishwara (Ishwara-arpan). When this sense of non-duality arises, the knowledge of Atma is attained and the entire universe of names and attributes is cognised as Atma only. O Arjuna, I am everything and there is no potency besides Me. I am the entire universe, all directions, space, actions, time, the dual and the non-dual. Fix your mind in the ‘I’ that is the universal Atma, worship Me, adore Me and venerate Me. Be egoless and merge in Me, and you will be one with Me.”

Then Arjuna asks Sri Krishna, “My Lord, you have two forms; one is the manifest that I see with my eyes, and the other is the latent. To which of the two shall I surrender so that I may attain the state of supreme bliss ?” The Lord replies,”O Arjuna, I have an ordinary form and the other the Supreme form. My form with conch, chakra, club and lotus is the common or the manifest form with attributes. My Supreme or the latent form or the one without attributes, is without a beginning or an end and is of the nature of bliss; it has various names. O Arjuna, as long as you are in the state of ignorance and are attached to the unreal body and cognise it as real, you must surrender to my manifest form (saguna) and meditate on that. But when you have attained wisdom, you will realise my Supreme State. When meditation on the formless swaroop (the formless form) is stabilised, relief from birth and death is attained.”


The Spanish Dancer Spiral Galaxy
“Just as a universe is perceived manifestly because of practice and reinforcement of vasana for a long time, so when the true self (Atma swaroop) is practised firmly for a long time, the vasana is destroyed and the immortal state, called liberation (moksha), is attained. It is also called the state of detachment or non-identification.”

After this, Sri Krishna says, “O sinless Arjuna, I know that you have attained My knowledge and have become a wise one and are in peace in the Atmic state. This attitude is to be maintained not merely with regard to yourself only; it is only when you cognise the form of Atma pervading all bodies, all persons, and see all people existing in Atma and maintain non-dual cognition, then alone you are firmly established in the True Self. O Arjuna, he who cognises one in all and all in one, and meditates in this manner, and sees only Atma in everything, is liberated even when he is engaged in actions

The Atma-satta that is free from the distinctions of the real and the unreal is always real and permeates perennially in very subtle form through all objects of the universe. Knowing this as your true state, you should always be fixed in it and then you will attain liberation. O Arjuna, I am the only Atma-satta existing in all objects from an atom to Brahma; all that is perceived is My modified form. In reality, there is nothing but Me. He who cognises thus, understands rightly, and he who is engaged in the ephemeral pleasures of the senses, cannot merge in Atma.”

Then Arjuna asks, “My Lord, you say that Atma is the self in everybody, it is indestructible and not subject to death. But how the innumerable persons that are seen dying, are victims of death?”

The gracious Lord says, “O Arjuna, you speak rightly. In terms of the true self (swaroop), nothing is destroyed, but the ignorant persons (who are ignorant of the true self) conceive of themselves as born or dying. Therefore, you should be in direct awareness of the Atma (atma-jnani) and be established in your true self. Atma is one and non-dual.”

Arjuna asks, “Sir, you say that Atma is only one. If this be so, there is nothing like death; but people die and after death they go through heaven and hell and get the fruits of their good and bad deeds. How does this happen?”

The Lord says, “O Arjuna, neither anyone is born nor does anyone die. These illusory ideations are unreal like a dream. Just as birth and death are cognised in a dream, so are birth and death cognised in the world due to ignorance. Ideation is ignorance and it is due to this that there are concepts of heaven and hell; in reality, there is neither a hell nor a heaven. A person has the experience of heaven or hell according to the nature of his vasana (tendencies or desires). It shows that heaven and hell are aspects of vasana. It is due to vasana that objects with names and forms appear in existence. In reality, only Atma exists as it is, and nothing else has been created.”

Arjuna asks, “My Lord, how is the vasana in people that reinforces the illusion of the universe, destroyed?”

The Lord says, “Just as a universe is perceived manifestly because of practice and reinforcement of vasana for a long time, so when the true self (Atma swaroop) is practised firmly for a long time, the vasana is destroyed and the immortal state, called liberation (moksha), is attained. It is also called the state of detachment or non-identification.”

Then Sri Krishna will thus teach Arjuna, his (Arjuna’s) attachments and illusions will vanish and he will fight with detachment and non-identification. While destroying warriors, he will remain in the true state (Atma-tattva) and will not be distracted from the true self.

Ramji, you, too, should have such spirit and as a detached sanyasi, undertake all actions (karma). Do not aspire for the fruits of actions, and surrender all actions unto Brahman. A person certainly attains what he practises with firm faith. Never have a doubt about that.


To understand the meaning of the Gita, the reverential approach is necessary. You must take up its study in an attitude of submission and expectancy. For the Gita is the “milk” of the Upanishads, “drawn” by the cowherd Krishna with the help of Arjuna, “the calf”, for all the “dull-witted” to drink and draw sustenance from. There are some who argue that the Gita as a sacred poem was a creation later than the Mahabharatha, of which it is a part; but whatever may be said of the composition of the Gita, there is no doubt that the principles and teachings of the Gita are ancient, nay, dateless. In the first three slokas of the fourth chapter, reference is made to the Lord instructing the Gita to Surya first and later to Manu; and to the fact that from Manu it reached Ikshvaku and thence to others in succession! So, the Gita is beyond the category of time and it cannot be assigned to a particular point of time, past or present.

The Gita is a text for spiritual practitioners, for it emphasises sadhana, and spiritual attitudes, more than anything else. Every chapter lays down means and methods of reaching the goal of peace and harmony. Now sadhana is the product of keen and steady yearning for progress. The aspirant must aspire, not despair. He must persevere, not clamour for quick success. The Gita is as a boat, which takes man across from the self-imposed state of bondage to the freedom which is his nature. He is taken from darkness to light, from lustrelessness to splendour. The Gita ordains for man disciplines and duties which are free from the taints of Vasanas (tendencies and impulses) that tie him to the relentless wheel of birth and death.

Really speaking, man has come into this Karmakshetra (field of activity) only to engage himself in activity, not in order to earn the fruit of such activity. That is the teaching of the Gita, its fundamental lesson. The Gita is the quintessence of the meaning of all the Vedas. Yajnas and Yagas, the outward directed activities are mentioned in the preliminary portions of the Vedas; activities of the mind, like the Upasanas, which are directed inward are mentioned later; and Jnana Yoga too is expounded to minds thus clarified and purified.

Whoever the individual, however scholarly, he cannot escape delusion and so he is subjected to grief, which acts as a brake upon activity. Arjuna, the great hero, capable of great renunciation and of great wisdom, is deluded by the awful needs of war and this grief handicaps his activity too. He confuses the body and the self; he starts identifying the two. He imposes on the Atma (ever untouched by the characteristics of the moving, changing world) the unreal and ephemeral nature of the world and takes this delusion as true. He believes that his duties, as laid down by that false identification, are his Atmadharma! This is the tragedy not of Arjuna alone but of all humanity! Therefore, the Gita is of universal and eternal value. To study the Gita is to learn the art of swimming across the sea of delusion. The Gita is the very voice of lord Krishna. The fact that it has provided consolation and liberation to millions of men is evidence of its divine origin. A lesser person could not have given it that authenticity. Gita Vahini, Chapter 1


Arjuna and Krishna in the chariot


Hamsa Gayatri
Om Hamsaaya Vidmahe
Paramahamsaya Dheemahi
Tanno Hamsa Prachodayat

“May we realise Hamsa that is our own Self as the Swan. Let us meditate on that Paramahamsa, the Supreme Self. May Hamsa illumine us.”



Image Credit: Reg Pratt / APOD, Bishnu Sarangi / Pixabay