Half-Gods and Gods


This is from the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter IX, verse 23. Those who are devoted, bhakta, to other gods, who worship them, full of faith, they too are worshipping me alone. But not directly. They are in ignorance. It is I who receive and am the Lord of all sacrifices, but they do not recognise me as I am. Therefore they fall. The votaries of the gods go to the gods. The votaries of the ancestors go to them. Worshippers of elemental spirits go to them.

My worshippers go to me.

Our teacher referred to this verse by saying ‘The other gods referred to are ‘gods of power and pleasure’, and he called them ‘half-gods’, and he quoted Emerson’s line ‘When the half-gods go, the gods arrive.’

In verse 11 they are confused. They despise me who have taken on human form, not knowing my higher being, the great Lord of all. Futile are their hopes, futile their actions, futile their knowledge without any insight. Their nature is delusion and destruction.

Our teacher explained on this that if they fail, if we fail to see the atman, see the supreme self, to see the supreme Lord in our own selves and in others, then we are confused and vain are our actions. Futile our hopes, meaningless our knowledge, without any insight. And Shankara says then ‘The deluded people become destructive’, and he says their aim is to cut, break, devour and rob.

Teresa of Calcutta said, ‘The wound, even a deep one, by a knife or a sword will heal in time. But only the grace God can heal the wound made by a venomous tongue’. And on this point another great saint has said ‘Because the wound which is made by a knife is dressed and protected and left alone, and heals, but the wounds made by the tongue are constantly re-opened. People lick their spiritual and psychological wounds, and only the grace of God, says Teresa of Calcutta, can heal them.

Break, not only physically, but to break a tradition, to break the connection with the glacier, our warden said, when the connection with the glacier is broken, then the stream at first – nothing much seems to happen – gets slightly less, but gradually it becomes less and less, and then it becomes putrid and stagnant. Break, and rob, and again, a commentator has said, not only robbed of goods but robbed of reputation. The programme is to cut, to break, to rob.

And Shankara says, their actions are vain and futile, they have no spiritual fruit. They have a temporary fruit in this world sometimes, but no spiritual fruit at all, and even the temporary fruit in this world is passing almost immediately. And one illustration is given: it’s like trying to pile up water in the sea. You do succeed in heaping up the water just for a little bit, but not for very long. They do not see the Atman, the supreme self, so they are worshipping half-gods. There is a sort of radiance from the supreme Lord which the devotees of the other gods, the lesser gods, see, and so they serve them with faith and with devotion, and the Lord says they do attain a temporary fruit, and I give them that fruit, but it’s only temporary and it’s based on illusion.

And one comment on this is, atman, the self, is sold cheap. Putting it in Western terms, this is said to have actually happened as a bet at the beginning of the century when £5 was a lot of money, about a hundred pounds now, a man bet another that he couldn’t sell five-pound notes in the Strand for sixpence. So the other took the bet, and he took some five-pound notes, then very valuable, and held them in the Strand, saying ‘I’ll sell these, five-pound notes, for sixpence’. But nobody even bothered to look. They knew they were false. Must be false, surely. Well, in the same way that the five-pound note was offered for sixpence, he said, the atman is sold for trivialities. It’s sold sometimes for a tiny little success, it’s sold for a great success, but all those things are only pennies compared with the atman, with the true self. The self is sold cheap, and people, he said, think themselves to be as they are in the body and mind. They don’t recognise the atman, the supreme self within, and so they sell themselves cheap.

Well, our teacher said we should study, and the question arises, why study? The holy truth we’re told again and again is self-evident. Why seek release? We’re told again and again, nityamukta, ever free. Why seek release? Why seek atman and Brahman? We’re told they are ever present.

You have them already. Well, one answer is, that the study doesn’t add anything to the truth, but it’s necessary to remove the ideas of delusion which are held by the ordinary people, and one teacher said, people who don’t study the traditional truth start inventing truths of their own, and it’s to get rid of all those inventions, personal inventions, which have no value whatever, that we’re told to study the truth.

© Trevor Leggett

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: Half-Gods and Gods

Part 2: Worshipping lesser gods

Part 3: Remove illusions by study

Part 4: Yoga is described

Part 5: The yogi casts off good and bad deeds

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