Krishna tells Arjuna to make sure he keeps the divine as his single point of focus during the practice of meditation, and the practice of living yoga. If he depends on the divine completely, as the source and motivation of all action, then he will come to know and fully be united with god.
He tells Arjuna that he can offer him both jnana and vijnana -- jnana is the knowledge of the divine, and vijnana, is literally 'living' knowledge of the divine, or the ability to use it in the practice of everyday action. Though many seek vijnana, only a few reach it, because it requires such a wholehearted dedication to the divine through yoga and meditation.
Krishna suggests that there are eight divisions to his form -- earth, water, fire, air, akasha or sky, mind, intellect, and ego. But underlying these eight material forms is a larger power, an unseen power which dissolves all, and is the source of birth and death. This power is an 'eternal seed,' which spawns every creature, as well as all that creatures manifest. Though this unseen power is also at the
center of sattva, rajas, and tamas -- the three gunas which produce negative emotions -- they are not innate to God. Rather they are human creations, which are veiled by ignorance. Underneath these three gunas lies God's true form.
The truly wise see God in everything, says Krishna. They act at every moment aware of their relationship to the divine. The world is simply a form of 'maya,' or illusion, that conceals the limitless power and expanse of the divine. Those who become trapped in the illusions of the world end up suffering from either attraction or aversion -- two
feelings based in desire which end up preventing a person from achieving the divine and are distractions from inner peace.
Arjuna asks Krishna how the wise soul comes to be united with Krishna at the end of his life. Krishna, in an oddly esoteric stretch of the Gita, remarks that at the time of death Arjuna must keep his mind focused on the divine. If he does, then he can be united with Krishna, or else suffer rebirth in the karmic cycle of samsara.
Krishna tells Arjuna that the "secret" to life is the path of yoga, for it frees one from evil and pain. More importantly, it frees one from the material world. For as the divinity, Krishna says he sends creatures back to Earth again and again in the form of prakriti, or material form, born again and again to life, until the karmic cycle is
extinguished. He has created the laws of nature on Earth, the material world to essentially reset the collective karma.
The foolish, he says, do not look beyond physical appearances -- and do not see the divine behind all that is prakriti. But the great souls see that all is maya -- an illusion masking the truth of the world. But ritual and sacrifice to the divine is not enough, says Krishna. Those
who simply follow the Vedas, offer sacrifice, drink the prescribed drinks and worship at the altar, may free themselves from sin and attain heaven, but still they are chained by desire, and must return to earth. The truly wise worship and meditate on God constantly, without any other thought, and thus are given all that they need.
Hinduism is a religion with a multiplicity of deities, but in the Gita, Krishna makes it clear that he is the one and only divinity. A strict constructionist reading of the Gita then seems to put it in conflict with other Hindu texts, since Krishna repeatedly states that all things come from him, and that he bears every aspect of the earth through his manifested prakriti. Instead of a positing a god for each sphere of the spiritual and material realm, he is the Great Provider. But rather, what Krishna is really saying here, more metaphorically, is he is a metonym for the divine, simply one piece of the grander consciousness of the great 'uniter.'
Two key terms to take note of here. Prakriti is the material form of the divine, and he appears in eight basic material elements, including the 'four' elements of sky, water, air, fire, that are so familiar. It is interesting that ego, intellect, and the mind are included as prakriti forms, since tamaas, sattavat, and rajas are not -- none of these six are useful in the search for wisdom and indeed must be rendered null. The second term is maya, which refers to the illusion that can mask the divine. This mask is sometimes conjured by the divine himself, as when he takes a disguise or an avatar. Or it is conjured by man himself in an attempt to deny the true form of divinity in order to pursue selfish actions.
The eighth chapter does provide a rather odd exploration of how a wise soul must find the focus on the divine before succumbing to death, but it's better we take this section for its more figurative point. Namely, Krishna is telling Arjuna that if he by the time he dies is so focused on the divine that his thoughts naturally gravitate there, then he is ready for freedom at the time of death and will end his samsaric cycle.
At this point, the theme of the Gita may be starting to get a bit repetitive, but Arjuna is still introducing new and significant concepts. First, he notes that adherence to the Vedas through ritual and sacrifice is useful, but not nearly enough to gain wisdom. For these rituals and sacrifice are often based in desire -- the desire to trade rituals for selfish gains. Only through truly selfless action can one find divinity.
Secondly, Krishna notes that it is he who has the divine power to initiate people into the karmic cycle or free people from it. It is part of his lila, or play, to subject each soul to the natural laws of the universe which require living out one's karma until it is dissolved. He is the final judge of wisdom, and no one else, so unless through meditation one finds union with Krishna, one will continue through the cycle of birth and death.