Yoga of the Indestructible

The Bhagavad Gita is based on a dialogue between the student, Arjuna, and the teacher, Lord Krishna. The scripture unfolds in the form of questions and answers. Prince Arjuna is paralyzed by inaction while in the midst of the battlefield of action. His doubts appear as questions, and Lord Krishna responds with explanations of various aspects of yoga to help inspire Arjuna to action. The most well-known aspects of yoga expounded in the Gita is that of Karma Yoga (Yoga of action) in chapters 3, 4 and 5. Chapters 6 and 7 are focused on the Yoga of Self Control and the Yoga of Knowledge.

Arjuna’s Questions

It is in Chapter 8 of the Gita that Lord Krishna explains the Yoga of the Indestructible. This is in response to Arjuna’s opening questions:

What is that which is called Brahma (Absolute or तदब्रह्म)?

What is Adhyaatma (Spirit or अध्यात्मं)?

What is Karma (Action or कर्म)?

What is called Adhibhuta (Matter or अधिभूतं)?

What termed as Adhidaiva (Divine Intelligence or अाधिदैवं)?

किं तदब्रह्म किमध्यात्मं किं कर्म पुरुषोत्तम।
अधिभूतं च किं प्रोक्तमधिदैवं किमुच्यते।। ८-१

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Shri Krishna’s Answers

In response, Shri Krishna explains:

The supreme Indestructible is Brahma (also referred to in some texts as Brahman)

Our own self or the individual soul, is called Adhyaatma (spirit)

The emergence of individual souls from the supreme Indestructible (a process called visarga), which brings forth the existence of beings, is called Karma (action).

All perishable objects are Adhibhuta (matter)

The shining Purusha (Brahma) is Adhidaiva or Divine Intelligence

अक्षरं ब्रह्म परमं स्वभावो अध्यात्ममुच्यते।
भूतभावोद्भवकरो विसर्ग: कर्मसञ्ग्यित।। ८-३
अधिभूतं क्षरो भाव: पुरुषश्र्चाधिदैवतम्। ८-४ (१)

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Who is the Inner Witness?

Arjuna further asks the question:

Who is Adhiyajna (अधियग्य़:) here and how does he dwell in the body?

अधियग्य: कथं कोअ्त्र देहेअ्स्मिन्मधुसूदन। ८-२ (१)

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Shri Krishna replies:

It is in this physical body, that I Myself, dwelling as the inner witness, am Adhiyajna.

In modern spiritual practice, we are often encouraged to look within, know the true nature of our own inner selves. Practices and techniques like self-awareness, mindfulness, meditation and many more, have emerged to help us achieve this goal. Could it be possible that these practices – even that of Yoga – are connecting us to this “inner witness”? Maybe self-realization is simply about realizing the “inner witness” that has dwelled within us all along… What do you think?

अधियग्यो अहमेवात्र देहे देहभृतां वर।। ८-४ (२)

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Bhagavad Gita Sanskrit text source – Gita Press, Gorakhpur