By Swami Viditātmānand Saraswati*
“O Arjun, you are right, my birth is not possible in any way.”
“I am immortal, my vyay (destruction) or kṣaya (perishability) cannot be possible, therefore, my death is not possible.
“Although I am birthless, avyaya (non- destructible), and Īśvara of all living beings, by taking shelter of my own nature, with my own māyā, I take birth.”
In the earlier part of the verse, Bhagavān accepts, “There is no reason for me to take birth. I am birthless, which means, it is not my nature to take birth.” If something does not exist now and it comes into existence later, then it is considered to be born. However, Bhagavān has always been there, it was not like he never existed and therefore, his birth is not possible. One who dies can be born. Bhagavān says, “I am avyaya, I do not get destroyed or perish and therefore, my death is not possible. I am avyaya, therefore my knowledge or strength also cannot deteriorate.” Also, the one who is dependent can be born. Bhagavān says, “I am Īśvara of all the living beings, I am the ruler and no one rules me. Therefore, no one can force me to take birth. I am independent in every way and therefore, I cannot have the bondage of karma or any other kind. Therefore, O Arjun, you are right, my birth is not possible in any way.”
“Then, how were you born to Vasudev? How could your body be generated with which you transact like all other human beings?”
“It can be possible only in one way and that is my birth is not realistic, my upādhi (superimposition) is also not realistic. That means, it is possible if it is as though I am taking birth, as though I am taking on a body. And, the reality is just that. O Arjun, my birth is not realistic like yours or any other living being’s birth. Moreover, I have taken up this upādhi, but the way your upādhi creates numerous limitations in you, blunts your knowledge and other strengths, my upādhi does not do that to me, meaning, although I take on upādhi, in reality, I am not taking on that upādhi.”
“How is this happening?”
In the latter part of the verse, Bhagavān says: “prakṛtiṁ svāmadhiṣṭhāya by taking refuge in my nature, by controlling my nature.”
This is the big difference between Īśvara and jīva that jīva is under the control of nature/māyā whereas Īśvara is the very basis of māyā. Māyā deludes the entire world and therefore, living beings do not know their real svarūpa, they are unknown to the fact that they and others are all Vāsudeva Himself. And therefore, they are under the control of numerous delusions. Therefore, they have pride in doer-ship because of which there is bondage to karma. However, Īśvara is the master of māyā and therefore He is independent and can do whatever He desires. Therefore, He can create an illusion of being born even when he does not take birth. Even when He does not have a transactional body, he creates an illusion of having one.
“Then, what type of body do you have?”
In response to this question, Bhagavān says: “sambhavāmi ātmamāyayā – as though I take birth with this māyā. That means this upādhi of mine is also a product of māyā only.” Bhagavān taking birth and Bhagavān taking on a body is an illusion created by māyā, and the body of Bhagavān is also a product of māyā. That means the body that seems to be made of bones and flesh, the body that seems to be passing through the different stages of life such as childhood, youth etc., the body that seems to be transacting like common people does not create limitations in Bhagavān because it is a product of māyā. And therefore, the power of Īśvara is uncovered and unhampered. In this manner, although taking on upādhi, the glory of Bhagavān is intact. Bhagavān is indeed omniscient, omnipotent and all-pervading. Only that is called Bhagavān who completely owns total and absolute overlord-ship, who has the strength to create, fame, wealth, dispassion and knowledge without any type of restrictions. Moreover, he is called Bhagavān who fully knows creation and resolution, the coming and going of living beings, and knowledge and ignorance. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa Bhagavān is called Vāsudeva. He is not called Vāsudeva because he was a son of Vasudev but being the substratum of the entire universe and being the conscience of all, he is importantly called Vāsudeva. Then only He could show the entire universe in his tiny mouth and could take the form of all cowherds and the calf.
*Swami Viditātmānand Saraswati has been teaching Vedānta Prasthānatrayī and Prakaraṇagranthas for the last 40 years in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Throughout the year, he conducts daily Vedānta discourses, accompanied by retreats, and Jñāna Yajñas on Vedānta in different cities in India and in foreign countries.