Behind all great achievements there are men or women of vision. All the great Saviours, such as Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, and many lesser incarnations in various spheres of life, have evinced unusual abilities which can only grow in the soil of experience whose fruit is Vision. A discoverer, an inventor, an engineer, a poet, a writer, a philosopher, if gifted with imaginative insight may be called "a man of vision." People who lack vision, therefore, are among the mediocre and the average of the race.
In chapter after chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita we see how Arjuna's insight unfolds, until, by the time we come to Chapter X, we see him experiencing a certain type of vision which The Secret Doctrine calls "initiation into perceptive mysteries." Arjuna, the disciple, comes to a point in the evolution of his soul when he is awakened from the long sleep of ignorance resulting from false beliefs, lower desires, materialistic thoughts, ambitions, etc., pursued through many lives. Krishna, the teacher, finding Arjuna in a more receptive and responsive condition, gently conveys to him further knowledge, which we may term the magical key, giving him a fuller understanding of the basic principle of all life. In the important statement, "I am the Ego which is seated in the hearts of all beings; I am the beginning, the middle, and the end of all existing things," Krishna lays before Arjuna the fact of the ever-present Deity residing in each evolving being.
Arjuna, like other souls in evolution, disciples and students on the path of life, was faced with difficulties arising out of false and materialistic conceptions of life and of Deity. When the conception begins to blaze within his consciousness that he is inwardly divine, the shackles and bars which had obstructed his vision life after life begin to fall away and in their place arise hope, wonder, amazement. His limitations, his ambitions, melt in the very heat of the wonderful living power of knowledge. The great purification has begun, and within the consciousness of the disciple Arjuna arise true perception, right judgement, self-mastery, patience, altruism, unselfishness.
This experience of Arjuna, symbolized by all religions but little understood, may be called the second birth, an awakening from aeons of ignorance, stupor, difficulty and suffering. At this particular stage, we find that there comes about a growing closeness of true soul understanding between the teacher, Krishna, representing the Higher Self, and the pupil, Arjuna. In Chapter IX, Krishna addresses Arjuna in these terms: "Unto thee who findeth no fault I will now make known this most mysterious knowledge, coupled with a realization of it, which having known thou shalt be delivered from evil."
In Chapter X, the growing closeness between the Higher and Lower Self, teacher and pupil, causes the teacher to enumerate the universal divine perfections, because, as he says to Arjuna, "I am anxious for thy welfare." Arjuna is showing now a burning desire for knowledge, is saturated with the feeling which comes only from a certain kind of heart unfoldment. It might be said in passing that the idea of vision is connected with the heart because it is only from the purified heart that there arises in due time, for any soul, the experience of vision.
It might be an interesting experience for students to go through the Gita and note the many, many references made to the heart. Modern psychology knows very little of the true mind, and practically nothing of the quality, purpose and use of the heart; it has no real knowledge, no textbooks, relating to this deep and scientific teaching of the heart. Eastern psychology, on the other hand, offers us a fund of information relating to the consciousness and the manifestations of the heart.
"I am the Ego seated in the hearts of all beings," states Krishna, and by Ego he means the Real Man, the Soul. Even physical life is based upon the action of the heart. When it stops, we say the man has died; when it beats, we say the man is alive. But there is much more than that. The Soul or Ego seated in the heart is the thinker, is the perceiver. Therefore, according to Eastern psychology, the heart thinks, and it is only through heart-thoughts that true wisdom of the soul can be gained.
Arjuna is now awake, burning with the desire to give all that he is to his Friend and Teacher, who is the Friend and Teacher of all Humanity. Krishna in other places indicates, however, that a mere emotional desire to help is not necessarily the higher desire. The goody-goody person, the altruistic sentimentalist, the one who prates of brotherhood and acts quite differently, has not unfolded the true quality of the heart. Mere emotionalism or sentimentalism is not the force or flow of the true heart but is simply a manifestation of the personal nature which may be all mixed up with pride, vanity, selfishness and other lower ebullitions. When the personal nature asserts itself, the heart cannot function—not according to the teaching of the Bhagavad-Gita. Just as the sensitized plate or film in a camera can be impressed with the image of an exterior object by a lens or lenses, when the opening permits light to enter, so with man himself. The whole objective world exists around him. He is receiving impressions constantly through the openings of his eyes, ears, etc. If a shadow falls across the lens we have a blurred picture, distorted, or no picture at all, and something like that takes place when in endeavouring to receive true impressions and translate or transmute them into real knowledge, the shadow of the personality falls across the lens of our mind and the impression is either lost or completely distorted and blurred.
Krishna, in the teaching which he is now directing to the heart of his disciple, calls attention to the problem of the contrasts of life: pleasure and pain, prosperity and adversity, birth and death, danger and security, fear and equanimity, glory and ignominy, etc. Arjuna begins to realize that all his difficulties and sufferings, his actions in this present life, his thinking, are the result of that which he committed in the past, that these contrasts are for the purpose of learning, and until man arrives at a certain point in evolution, he has not acquired the ability of using the intellect to reason, to evaluate different courses of action, objects, conditions, subjects and so on. If our premises are wrong and based on ignorance, and the conclusions correspondingly so, we suffer, so says the teacher, Krishna. If from that suffering we are inspired and stimulated to observe and experience and learn the lesson, the necessity for those experiences, for that suffering and for those difficulties entirely ceases.
Arjuna begins to see that the great pain and suffering of humanity are his pain and suffering. As Krishna so succinctly and so beautifully states, "Of those things which deceive I am the dice, and splendour itself among splendid things." Krishna then takes Arjuna still further along the path of knowledge, and shows him that nothing exists outside of himself. Arjuna thus reaches a point which Eastern mystical psychology sums up in one word—Yoga—a much abused and misused term. Yoga means union, oneness with all life. Arjuna begins to realize that inasmuch as Krishna is in all and everything, he, Arjuna, is also united to the Whole.
Arjuna, the courageous warrior, is now facing himself. In the evil or the good, he sees reflected but his own acting, thinking and feeling self. At this stage of evolution the soul realizes that the only knowledge is self-knowledge. Until we can face the self, how can we attain to knowledge? Arjuna, therefore, attains to a certain degree of Yoga, and he begins to see that this ancient and secret knowledge which comes from the heart has been the object of search of all true and great seekers. The "philosopher's stone," the "elixir of life," the "holy grail," are merely symbolic representations of the story of the soul's search for knowledge, its ever-growing ability to realize that self in the search.
Krishna proceeds in the chapter to state that "among the wise of secret knowledge I am their silence." Arjuna now comes to a stage in evolution which may be called the stage of meditation. Many ideas, objects, viewpoints have been presented to him by the teacher. He sees that all exists within himself. The next step in his evolution, or in the evolution of any soul at this particular point of awakening intelligence, is to retire within—to become silent. Meditation, study, thoughts of a higher kind, begin and end in silence. As each of us is a spark of the one great deific flame, there is within each that secret and holy place which Krishna speaks of as the unchanging Self, the mystic heart. Into that Arjuna retires, and he experiences the fuller realization which dwelling upon these ideas brings. There in the silenced and quietness within himself he meditates upon eternal, universal and exhaustless conceptions.
What transpires? His suffering falls away. His cares and anxieties evaporate in this clear, cleaner air and atmosphere. To higher levels he passes from plane to plane of consciousness and thought, of spiritual desires and aspirations; he communicates with a numerous throng of great gods, of wise sages, of living seers and rishis. He hears the ancient song of sacred texts, and the message that the living sun, its bright shadow, the moon, and the stars of the high Akasic atmosphere impart to him. He is cooled, quieted, by the breezes from all the forests. He is strengthened with the power of the great and mighty oceans; the peace and sublimity, the absolute immovable fastnesses of the Himalayan ranges now become his protecting friends. All true poets, mystics, all great thinkers, seers, have travelled, night after night, into these supernal regions, returning laden with the fruit of their quest, which they have inscribed for Humanity in immortal words of verse, song and philosophy.
Such is the beautiful and mystical experience of Arjuna, instructed by Krishna in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion called the Bhagavad-Gita.