October 26th, 2011
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Levels of God realization


Understanding the levels of instruction in the Bhagavad-Gita can help us comprehend the overall unity of Lord Krishna’s message. The Bhagavad-Gita is no doubt a major spiritual treatise and one of the world’s greatest classics. Understanding that a hierarchical concept of reality characterizes the Gita can help us see the coherence of the Gita’s message.

The Bhagavad-Gita speaks on two major levels of reality and a third, intermediate one. We can use the Sanskrit words dharma and moksha to treat the two main levels, and the word yoga for the third. Dharma refers to a set of values representing duty, religion, morality, law, order, and justice, which together sustain civilized human life. Yoga refers to the attempt to detach oneself from worldly life while trying to yoke oneself to the liberated state. Moksha refers to the liberated state of perfection and eternal existence in pure devotional service to the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna.

The level of dharma represents the human or worldly condition, the level of moksha represents the real or absolute condition (liberation), and the level of yoga is intermediate. We can also define these three levels as the finite, the intermediate, and the infinite. We can distinguish each level in terms of values and “being.” For dharma, the general rule in terms of value is to prosper. At this level, one desires worldly happiness and prosperity, seeing these as good. In terms of being, one sees the living entity as the body, whether as a human being or as some other species.

On the second level (yoga), one rejects worldly prosperity, valuing instead detachment from the world and indifference to both worldly happiness and worldly distress. On this level, one also yokes oneself to a higher reality, that of moksha. In yoga, one values the superiority of being equal-minded towards both happiness and distress and seeking absorption in Brahman. In terms of being, one no longer perceives of oneself or others as the body but as eternal spirit souls bound by the laws of samsara.

On the third level (moksha), one replaces the indifference and detachment of the second level with deep love and attachment for the Supreme Person. As for being, the awakened spirit soul of the second level now becomes a pure servant and a lover of the Supreme Person. The three levels represent internal mental states or attitudes. Thus, one who sees the world from the point of view of the first level is convinced that he is a human being, and that his aim is to prosper. On the second level, one is convinced that he is an embodied spiritual self and that his aim is to get released from that condition. On the third level, one sees the Supreme Lord everywhere and tries to love and serve Him.

We can use a three-storey house as a metaphor for understanding this. Each storey contains unlimited opportunities and paths. Moreover, the residents of each floor have their own language, terms, and assumptions. In a sense, the Bhagavad-Gita speaks in three languages and constantly moves between the three levels. Once we recognize which level a particular text or section is on, that text or section becomes intelligible and we can see how it is consistent with the rest of the treatise.


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