In the preceding Chapter Bhagavan explained about His integral Self and spoke of the deluded ones seeking finite fruit while the wise seek Brahman along with knowing Adhyatma, Karma, Adhibhuta, Adhidaiva and Adhiyajna. Arjuna could not grasp the intricacies of these terms and the secret of knowing God. Hence he puts seven questions to the Lord to know about these six terms and how to realize God. The ‘Akshara’ means indestructible or imperishable. As this Chapter deals with the imperishable and absolute nature of God and the Pranava Mantra ‘OM’, which symbolizes it, it is entitled Akshara Brahma Yoga.
In this chapter Bhagavan elucidates about the methodology to gain Brahman - how one can reach Brahman through concentrated yoga and single-pointed meditation. This is the path which leads one to the supreme abode wherefrom there is no return. The chapter also mentions the path of return, a realm of temporary bliss, to which one is transported, only to be brought back to the world of limitation.
The imperishable Brahman whose nature is transcendental and immanent pervades this perishable world of things and beings. Whatever one pursues in this world one gains that alone. By pursuing the Self one realizes the Self. Krishna advises mankind to surrender the mind and intellect to the Self while the body is engaged in action which will lead the seeker to the ultimate state of Brahman.
He further advices to turn the attention from the mundane world to the Supreme Self within and to control the senses and mind through spiritual practices and thereafter to let the intellect direct such controlled mind to single-pointed meditation upon the pranava mantra OM. By continuous and sustained meditation one will reach the supreme abode of Brahman.
kim tadbrahma kimadhyaatman kim karma purushottama
adhibhootam cha kim proktamadhidaivam kimuchyate // 8.1 //
What is Brahman? What is the individual soul? What is action, O the Supreme Person? What is it that is said to underlie all the elements?
adhiyajnah katham kotra dehesmin madhusoodhana
prayaanakaale cha katham jneyosi niyataatmabhih // 8.2 //
And what is it that is said to underlie all the Gods? And who sustains all the sacrifices here in the body, O Madhusudana? And in what way? And how, again, are You to be known at the time of death by those who have practiced self-control?
Arjuna seeks the explanation of certain terms used by the Lord at the end of the Seventh Chapter.
SRI KRISHNA ANSWERS
sri bhagavaan uvaacha
aksharam brahma paramam swabhaavodhyaatmamuchyate
bhootabhaavodbhavakaro visargah karma samjnitah // 8.3 //
Sri Bhagavan said
Brahman is the Imperishable, the Supreme. Dwelling in each body, Brahman is called the individual soul. The offering of the oblation, which, brings into existence all beings and supports them, is called action.
Imperishable is the Supreme Brahman:
Brahman indicates the one changeless and imperishable Essence behind the phenomenal world. It is the Self or the Principle of Consciousness which illumines the body, mind and intellect. Its presence in each individual body is called Adhyatma, the individual soul. “At the command of this Imperishable, O Gargi, heaven and earth are held in their proper places”. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (III.viii.9). The Supreme Brahman alone exists in every individual body as the pratyagatman, the ego, the inmost Self and is known as the Adhyatma. At the culmination of the spiritual discipline, the inmost Self is realized as one with Brahman. Though the Self is formless and subtle and therefore all pervading, its power is felt by every living embodiment. The Self expressing through a given embodiment, as though conditioned by it, is called the Adhyatma.
According to the Vedas, the offering of oblations to the gods brings about the birth of all creatures; the oblations cause rain and the rain causes food, and food causes created beings. The offering of oblations in sacrifice is called karma or action.
adhibhootam ksharo bhaavah purushashchaadhidaivatam
adhiyajno 'hamevaatra dehe dehabhritaam vara // 8.4 //
That which underlies all the elements is the perishable entity (Adhibhoota); and that which underlies all the Devatas is the Purusha, the Cosmic Spirit (Adhidaivata). And He who sustains all the sacrifices is Myself, here in the body (Adhiyajna), O the best of men.
Adhibhootha is the perishable existence. It comprises all material objects, everything that comes into existence.
Adhidaivata is that which underlies all the Devatas, the presiding deities of the sense organs, mind and intellect.
Adhiyajna: As oblations are poured in the Yajnas, the sense objects are offered into the act of perception, feeling and thought when the Devata or the particular faculty in it is invoked and as a blessing of this act we gain the fruit thereof viz. the knowledge of the perception.That which underlies the Devatas is Purusha, the Cosmic Spirit, Adhidaivata.
The implication of these definitions is that the Eternal Self alone is the Real and all the rest is delusory and super-impositions upon It. Thus to know the Self is to know everything and having known It as one's own real nature one is free to act or not to act in any of the fields of Not-Self.
As the Inner Controller of the body - antaryamin - Sri Krishna is the presiding Deity directing the various physical functions which are described as acts of sacrifice. Though He rests in the body, He is not attached to it and is completely different from the senses.
One who is aware of this play of the Self at all levels of his personality - physical, mental and intellectual - experiences himself as a Witness of the process of his relations with the Not-Self.