Superimposition

Updated: Feb 10

mayā tatam-idam sarvam jagad avyaktamūrtinā |

matsthāni sarvabhūtāni na cāham tesvavasthitah ||9.4||

This entire world is pervaded by Me whose form cannot be objectified. All beings have their being in Me and I am not based in them.


na ca matsthāni bhūtāni paśya me yogam aiśvaram |

bhūtabhrnna ca bhūtastho mamātmā bhūtabhāvanah ||9.5||

And the beings do not exist in Me; look at this aiśvara, connection of Mine to the jagat. My self is the creator of the beings, the sustainer of the beings and yet is not residing in the beings.


These two verses established clearly the real connection between brahman and this world as we usually known as the cause and effect. Lord Krsna says paśya me yogam aiśvaram - please look at this glory of mine (connection with this world). When it is said to be glory because it is something extra ordinary. This connection is not the real connection between two things just like we usually know of, for example:

  • support-supported relationship between two things like a book on the table. This is a relationship between two entities , but brahman is not a different entity to the world.

  • milk and curd relationship, where milk undergo changes become curd, but brahman doesn't go under any change to become the world.

  • gold and ring relationship, these two share the same degree of reality, but brahman and the world don't share the same degree of reality.

There is not possible to have real relationship between satyam brahman and mithyā world where they are not in the same degree of reality. Therefore this kind of relationship is based on superimposition. Just like in the case of rope-snake, the reality is the rope alone, but because of the ignorance of the true form of rope, the form of snake appears. Snake here is called mithyā, because:

  • it comes and goes.

  • it doesn't have independent reality (it's existence is the existence of satyam rope).

  • it can't be categorised as real or unreal - sat-asatbyam-anirvacaniyam (it appears / being experienced but it is not real).

Whereas the rope is called satyam, because:

  • always exists and pervades the entire snake.

  • having independent existence. Even though we see snake and rope in the same locust, but we can't say that rope is in the snake ("I am not in them" 9.4)

  • lending its existence to others ( it's existence is wrongly taken to be other's). Therefore we see the snake in the rope ("All beings have their being in Me" 9.4).

  • but in reality snake is not in the rope ("And the beings do not exist in Me" 9.5), because snake is not there at all, all along there is only rope.

Therefore relationship between brahman and the world is based on superimposition, where the entire creation exist because of brahman but he doesn't have the real connection with the entire world.


Thus bhūtabhrn - I am the sustainer of all, because brahman lending the existence to all.

bhūtabhāvanah - appears to be the creator of the world, because of this borrowed existence, all being are known as creation.

na ca bhūtastho - but I am contact free, without being involved, the entire world is as though created. This is being illustrated in the example in the next verse.


yathākāśasthito nityam vāyuh sarvatrago mahān |

tathā sarvāni bhūtani matsthānītyupadhāraya ||9.6||

Just as the vast air, which goes everywhere, always exists in space, similarly, may you understand that all beings exist in Me.


Just like vāyu - air, no matter where it goes it is never away from ākāśa - space, similarly for all beings - bhūta, whatever form they may assume, they are existence brahman alone. But there is no burden imposed upon brahman by all these beings exist in it as there is no imprint left in the space by air. The space is limitless, all pervasive, and it is asangah - unconnected to air, though air cannot exist without space. This example is used only to illustrate that brahman is asangah - unattached to anything yet nothing is ever away from brahman.


sarvabhūtāni kaunteya prakrtim yānti māmikam |

kalpaksaye punastāni kalpādau visrjāmyaham ||9.7||

All beings, Kaunteya (Arjuna)! go to my prakrti at the dissolution of the cycle of creation. Again, at the beginning of the cycle, I create them.


visrjāmyaham - I created each one as it was in the previous cycle. So the creation is the same as it was, just recycle based on the karma of the jīva. The created world has its being in me and the dissolved world goes into my prakrti. Why he didn't say that it goes back into me, instead of my prakrti? When the world has its being in brahman, means that the true nature of the world is brahman alone, but during the resolution the world goes back to prakrti / māyā because all the names and forms within the cycle of manifest-unmanifest are not intrinsic to brahman. Nature of brahman is sat-cit-ānanda satyam, but name, form, guna are māyā which is mithyā, in the realm of appearance alone.


When Lord Krsna says "my prakrti (māyā)", seems like brahman and māyā are two entities, but it is not. There is no other thing except brahman, just like all along there is only rope, and the snake which as though belong to the rope as the second entity, actually is just an appearance.

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