Krishna again implores Arjuna to follow yoga and take refuge in him, which will lead Arjuna to know him completely. Krishna then declares that he will explain this complete knowledge and the means of accessing it to eradicate any doubts Arjuna may harbor; with this knowledge, there is nothing left on earth to know. Few mortals seek fulfillment, and among those who succeed, few come to know Krishna. Krishna’s prakriti, or “material nature,” comprises eight elements: “earth, water, / fire, wind, / space, mind, / insight and / ‘I’-making.” He has a higher nature, too, which is the life that holds up the world and from which all beings spring. Krishna also dissolves the world, and there is nothing higher than him.
Again, the self, Brahman, and Krishna are one and the same. The eight components that Krishna lists are also components of the material self, and curiously, this includes the opposed forces that lead one to purity and desire: insight and ‘I’-making (or ego and possessiveness). This affirms that action (including yoga) is actually a function of the lower self, which is also what dissolves in wisdom. Krishna is at once the creator, preserver, and destroyer, which suggests that he represents not just Vishnu (the preserver) but also Brahma and Shiva (the creator and destroyer). This is consistent with some forms of Hinduism that take Vishnu as encompassing all three.
Krishna explains that he comprises everything, including the waters’ taste and the sound of “Om,” the Earth’s smell and the discipline of yoga practitioners. He is the “ancient seed of all beings,” and beings’ desire to follow dharma. While Krishna is not in the gunas of sattva, rajas, and tamas, they are all in him, and they confuse those in the world who are not aware of Krishna’s higher presence. Their divine, creative power is difficult to overcome, and only refuge in Krishna can teach people to do so.
As the absolute, Krishna encompasses all that exists, although his essence does not include everything, which is why the gunas can be in him although he is not in them. It may seem paradoxical that the gunas are “divine” and “creative,” like Krishna, but this is likely because they are the fundamental forces composing and driving the action of material things. They come directly from the divine and create action.
Evil people are stuck on a demonic path and lack wisdom, which Krishna’s creative power revokes. Four kinds of good people—the afflicted, knowledge-seekers, those with a goal, and the wise—honor Krishna, but the one with wisdom is uniquely distinguished, and Krishna loves them as they love him, and is indeed joined to him. Observant ones whose desire usurps their wisdom follow other gods, but anyone who wants to honor Krishna by worshipping him with trust receives his trust in return and fulfills their desire to honor him.
Curiously, the divine itself punishes evil people by blocking them from wisdom. Krishna sees that not everyone who honors him does so for the right reasons: some do so out of moral desperation or a desire for knowledge, but the knowledgeable and morally fulfilled people who honor him for the sake of sacrifice are the only ones who go directly to heaven.
Many do not realize that Krishna is formless, and “the confused world” cannot see him, “unborn, / and imperishable” and aware of all beings, ones who have unified with him, those who exist now, and those yet to be. But no one knows him. Through hatred, desire, and the world’s apparent dualities, beings “end up in delusion” unless they act purely and devote themselves to Krishna, which allows them to reach a timeless freedom in “the highest being, / the highest god, / the highest sacrifice” and join Krishna.
Krishna reveals the most mysterious and unfathomable aspect of himself: he has no form at all, and he exceeds everything that exists and stands outside time itself. The opacity of his statements here sets up his revelations to Arjuna in the tenth and eleventh discourses.