In the sixth chapter, Shri Krishna elaborated upon the technique of meditation. But one question was left unanswered. What or whom do we meditate upon? Shri Krishna answers that question in this chapter. He urges us to meditate upon him and begins speaking to us as Ishvara.
Before he describes what Ishwara really is, he assures us that we shall know him completely through knowledge combined with wisdom. Just academic knowledge about Ishvara is not sufficient. He adds that those who seek wisdom, which is the vision of Ishvara in his essence, are rare.
Shri Krishna says that there are 2 aspects of Ishvara, the lower and the higher. The lower nature comprises the five elements plus the mind, ego and intellect. The higher nature comprises the life-giving force which is also the experiencer, the subject. Ishvara is the ultimate cause of the universe. As the origin and cause of the universe he pervades all things like a string pervades beads in a necklace. To illustrate, he gives examples of his manifestations or vibhootis – he is the fragrance in earth and brightness in fire and so on.
So then, what is it that veils Ishvara from us, prevents us from accessing Ishvara? It is his maaya, which is nothing but the three gunaas – sattva, rajas and tamas. Sattva represents harmony, rajas represents action and tamas represents inertia. These three forces or energies create the entire universe. Only by surrendering to Ishvara can we cross over this maaya, and only a certain kind of person is fit to do so.
According to Shri Krishna, there are two categories of people – those who perform evil actions and those who perform good actions. The performers of good actions who turn to something that is higher than them are called devotees. Those devotees are further divided into 4 types : the distressed, the inquisitive, the seeker of liberation and the wise. The wise devotee is the dearest to Ishvara because he seeks Ishvara as his own self, seeking nothing else.
But unlike the wise devotee, the other three types of devotees seek Ishvara for something finite. Ishvara is not against this because at the very least it strengthens their faith and weakens their ego, so that one day they can aim for the real deal – realization of the infinite Ishvara, not a deity that can only provide finite ends. Till that happens, Ishvara delivers the results through those finite deities.
Ishvara’s true nature is beyond maaya, which means he is beyond the three gunaas, beyond our mind and senses, unborn and unchanging. He is beyond space and time. But ever since the beginning of creation, most of us bound by maaya are under the sway of space, time and the three gunaas.
The conclusion is clear. Only those who aspire to realize Ishvara in his true infinite nature, and are ready to do so every moment of their life, will attain Ishvara. Karma yoga purifies our mind to prepare us for this task. But we need to learn the means by which we can gradually train ourselves to go beyond the finite notion of Ishvara. That is the topic of the eighth chapter, which first elaborates upon the technical terms introduced at the end of this chapter.