The Indestructible, Eternal Reality of God

Krishna's Teachings

by Jayaram V


Chapter 2, Verse 17

17. Know that to be imperishable by which all this is pervaded; for none can bring about the destruction of this indestructible one.

Reality must be eternally real, fixed and eternal to be considered truly real. This is the most important criterion used in our speculative philosophies to determine the ultimate reality. By this criterion, you can conclude that our world is not real because it is destructible. So are our minds and bodies, which are subject to change and decay. Our names and individualities are also destructible.

If an object exists today and disappears the next day, can it be called real when it is no more existing? From a limited perspective, transient phenomena may appear real, but from an eternal perspective they are but temporary realities that appear and disappear and cannot be truly considered real in the eternal sense. The waves in the ocean raise and fall. They touch the shore one moment and recede in the next.  You can see that they appear on the ocean surface one moment and disappear the next.

Can you say that the wave which you see rising from the surface is real or just a modification of the ocean? Does the wave has an existence of its own, without the ocean? Can it ever be separated from the latter? This is true with every aspect of life upon earth and the earth itself. The earth is subject to constant change. According to scientists millions of years later it will be completely destroyed by an expanding sun. Even the Sun has a limited lifespan. Collectively, humanity may itself perish someday, leaving no traces of its civilized existence.

The material universe is perishable. Everything in it is made of perishable forms. Each object in our perceptual world has a beginning and an end. The physical universe is the stage on which objects participate in a temporary dance and disappear. Our consciousness is also perishable. All our accumulated memories and knowledge perish along with our bodies, when we depart from here. We also know that things do not simply disappear into a vacuum upon their destruction. What we consider destruction of objects is in reality their transformation from one form into another or from one state into another. Matter is indestructible but it can be subject to sublimation and transformation.

If everything eventually disappears, what remains in the end? This question no one can truly answer to our complete satisfaction because no one who is alive today is going to witness the dissolution of the universe. Some may witness the dissolution of a planet, star or a galaxy, but not the universe itself. The Upanishads declare that at the end of creation, the material universe recedes into primal Nature while the individual souls are withdrawn into the Supreme Self. Upon the death of a being, the body perishes but the Self survives since it is imperishable and travels either to the world of ancestors or that of Brahman, according to its deeds.

The existential reality which we experience upon earth contains several sub realities, levels and states. Each of them has its distinction and importance in the field of Nature. Together they make possible the diversity of life and the progression of beings and worlds through the triple phases of creation, preservation and dissolution, subjecting them to numerous transient phenomena, intermediate realities and transformative processes.

Some realities are momentary, like waves, lightening, thoughts, mental images, feelings and emotions.  Some are more enduring, like the life of a being, seasons, rivers, trees, mountains, books, our memory and so on. Still more enduring are the planets, stars and galaxies, the bondage of souls, etc. Whatever may be the span of their existence, all these have to perish someday and yield place to an alternate reality. They all have a beginning and an end and are subject to transformation and destruction.

The only reality, which outlasts everything and remains forever, without a beginning and an end, is the all-pervading, indestructible Self. According to the Bhagavadgita and the Upanishads, it only is qualified to be considered the eternal, indestructible reality. If you abide in that, you too will become indestructible and eternal.

Note : These commentaries are not part of the Bhagavadgita Complete Translation.

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