Krishna promises to tell Arjuna a “most hidden secret” because he “does not sneer”: knowledge and wisdom, together, can purify him. This “kingly” secret encourages him to take pleasure in performing his dharma, which is necessary to supersede rebirth.
In this particular instance, Krishna appears to distinguish knowledge from wisdom: most likely, the former involves understanding the true nature of the self, and the latter involves applying that knowledge to proper living.
Krishna’s formless shape “is woven through” the world, and everything dwells in him, but not he in them. But then, Krishna immediately says that “neither do beings / dwell in me.” He affirms that he bears beings and causes their existence, but does not dwell in them. He compares this to a wind that always dwells in the sky. Every being enters Krishna’s substance as the cycle of an epoch ends, and he sends all beings back into the world as a new age is born. However, these beings are powerless, and Krishna does not cling to his acts of creation. He creates material things as still and moving, leading the world to evolve on its own terms. When he takes on a human form, many beings feel contemptuous, ignorant of his true nature “as the great lord / of beings.” Their “hopes, / actions / and wisdom / are all in vain,” for their nature is “fiendish, demonic / and deluded.”
Krishna sets up three further paradoxes: God’s shape is formless, he affects everything but is not affected by anything (he sets the universe in motion but does not continue to interfere with it), and, despite his removed stance as the prime mover, he nevertheless comes down to transmit wisdom in the form of Krishna. The first paradox is merely a linguistic trick, and Krishna explains the second through the analogy of wind: every leaf, animal, and particle in the sky dwells in the wind, but the wind does not exist in any of those individual things. To resolve the third, the reader might think of Krishna not as the literal voice of God, but rather as a being created by God with absolute sattvic wisdom and then allowed to run his course in the world. However, this might fail to explain the divine form Krishna takes on in the eleventh discourse.
Great, divine people honor Krishna “as the imperishable one, / the beginning of all beings” with continual praise, devotion, and yoga. Others sacrifice to him by gaining the wisdom to recognize his multifaceted oneness. Krishna declares himself the intention, the sacrifice, and the offerings one gives in sacrifice; the father, mother, and grandfather of the world; the purifier, the “Om,” and the Vedas; the way, the seer, home, “birth, death and sustenance,” and the “eternal seed;” heat and rain, one who holds back and sends out, immortality and death, “being and non-being.”
Krishna begins announcing that he subsumes different components of the same processes and even apparent opposites, which leads up to his insistence that he includes all being and non-being whatsoever, as well as that which surpasses the duality between being and non-being.
Krishna reminds Arjuna that wise, pure, and sacrificial people who follow the Vedas will reach heaven and its “divine pleasures.” But then, once they enjoy the warrior god Indra’s heaven and lose their merit, they return to the “mortal realm” and, following dharma, participate in the world of desire and things. Krishna brings yoga’s “secure peace” to those who honor and think of him, and those who sacrifice to other gods fail to sacrifice to Krishna in the right way, for he is the end of all sacrifices, their “enjoyer” and “ruler.” One can choose the other gods, the ancestors, or the ghosts, but only choosing Krishna and sacrificing to him in a state of purity can lead one to him. All Arjuna does, takes, offers, gives, and strives for should be for Krishna’s sake.
Although Krishna repeats his previous claim that the enlightened stay in heaven to enjoy “secure peace” and eternal pleasure, he also suggests that some who enter heaven can fall from dharma and return to the world. He is likely pointing to a difference between those who simply worship lesser gods according to the Vedas—which speak of a heaven different from the eternal unity with Brahman that Krishna promises—and those who fully and solely worship the Supreme Being. Krishna is not denying the existence of the Vedic heaven (which would likely prove controversial with early Hindu audiences) but rather merely suggesting that this lesser heaven exists as something of a rest-stop along the cycle of death and rebirth, which culminates in a truer, eternal, Brahmanic heaven.
Krishna does not love or hate beings, but those who honor him are within him, and vice versa. Even an evildoer who honors Krishna has begun on the right path and started to become good. This evildoer can quickly progress through dharma to “eternal peace.” No devotee of Krishna’s can be lost, and even women, vaishyas, and shudras can find this “highest path.” Brahmins and sages are nevertheless more devoted, and Arjuna’s devotion will lead him to Krishna, “the highest goal.”
Krishna affirms that he is speaking to all Hindus: unity with the absolute is possible for everyone, regardless of their caste or moral orientation in the present life. He offers a profound, if improbable, opportunity for salvation to those at the bottom of the world’s social and ethical totem poles, who still have a higher eternal self, even if that self is more polluted than those of brahmins and sages.