Gita Daily Readings

20th September
Chapter XIII: 16-17
He is undivided, yet he exists as if divided, in beings; he is to be known as the supporter of beings; he dissolves and generates all these.

That, the light of all lights, is said to be beyond darkness; knowledge, the knowable and the goal of knowledge, seated in the hearts of all.

Commentary

If the ultimate reality, the supreme subject or Brahman is dismissed as indescribable, teaching and consequently realization would be rendered extremely difficult, and people undergoing varied experiences in this world, even if they see that all life is afire with sorrow, will not turn to God, but seek to quench that burning by resorting to remedies worse than disease. Remember that half-knowledge has always been used as the ladder to ascend to full knowledge. The mathematics teacher in a primary school is sure that a point is a point and a straight line is a straight line. If he told his little students that a point is only a concept and cannot be described on paper and that a straight line will curve when drawn long enough, their confusion would make it impossible to teach them mathematics. As Sri K.M. Sen says in his book on Hinduism: “Statements about Brahman, to be intelligible, must be empirical forms. The wise recognize these forms to be necessities of concrete thought, but fools take them to be real truth.”

Thus definitions like creator, supporter, destroyer or redeemer, light, and “seated in the hearts of all” are to be taken figuratively. They are given to enable us to know that which is beyond the pale of rational knowledge. Krishna does not want to get lost in the maze of descriptions of the indescribable and reminds us that he is undivided, omnipresent. The previous verses (especially verse 12) might lead to a void; hence the hint here that God is beyond darkness, he is the light of lights. He is the soul of all - human, sub-human, super-human, animate and inanimate. He is the knower, known and knowledge. However, all these are mere pointers. Even so all teaching is a pointer; the guru's role, too, is to be a living pointer. They remind us that there is some kind of mist hiding the truth within. This truth is: God alone exists.

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