Perennial Psychology of the Bhagwad Geeta

  • By Swami Rama
  • January 2002

Knowledge of the Eternal                    

1.    What is Brahman with reference to the spiritual Self (adhyatman)? What is karma, O Highest of persons? What is it with reference to beings (adhibhuta), and what with reference to the deities (adhidaivata) is it said to be?

2.    What is it with reference to sacrificial observances within this body (adhiyajna), O Madhu-sudana, and how are You to be known at the hour of departure by those of controlled selves?
The Blessed Lord said

3.    The indestructible syllable, the supreme Brahman, the very transcendental nature is the inward spiritual Self. The emission, which is the cause of the production of the aspects of beings, is called karma.

4.    The perishable aspect is the one referred to concerning the being, and the conscious principle Purusha is of the deities. As sacrificial observances it is I in this body, O Best of the Body-bearers.

At the end of chapter seven, Sri Krishna tells Arjuna that one should know Brahman, adhyatma, karma, adhibhuta, adhidaivata, and adhiyajna, and that at the final hour of departure one should contemplate and meditate on the highest Lord alone. Arjuna does not comprehend the meaning of these words and wants to understand their profundity.

In the eighth chapter Sri Krishna answers all of Arjuna’s question. First he explains that Brahman is the highest of all principles. The supreme Brahman alone exists and is the source of manifestation. Brahman is eternal and immutable. It is not subject to change, death, or destruction. Brahman is not different from the innermost Self of every individual. Brahman is the liberated state of consciousness. It is the state in which Sri Krishna abides, and that state of consciousness can also attained by the aspirant. Those who have attained a state of tranquility and equanimity have the knowledge of Brahman.
The word adhyatma is used for the supreme Brahman as it exists in every individual soul. There are two aspect of Brahman: the unmanifest and the manifest. As Brahman begins the process of manifestation, It divides itself into the transcendent subject (adhyatma) and the unmanifest source of all objects (mula-prakriti). Adhyatma refers to Brahman as the transcendent subject in every being.

What is Karma? Whatever is done that results in beings coming into existence is called karma. Karma is the power that brings about the origination of all beings. It is the creative fire by which life is developed, elevated, and evolved. The existence of all living beings comes about because of the law of karma. The transcendent subject (adhyatma), the basis of all objectification (mula-prakriti), and the creative principle (karma) are all aspects of Brahman.

Sri Krishna says that he should be known in each of his aspects. All the objects that come into being are called bhuta. All the names and forms of the universe are perishable and subject to destruction. Whatever objects appear to exist in the material world are only forms of Prakriti, and the term adhibhuta refers to their perishable nature. In contrast to this, adhidaivata is the principle of pure consciousness, Purusha, which is everywhere and which is a above all divinities. The term adhiyajna means “myself as sacrifice.” Sri Krishna as the supreme Lord, the pure consciousness, rules over all sacrifice and is the recipient of all sacrifice. All sacrifices are directed toward the Self, and that is called adhiyajna. The sacrifice that is continually taking place in the body is also directed toward the Self. The Upanishads say that human life is a long series of sacrifices that should last for at least one hundred years.

5.    He who departs remembering Me at the last moment, after leaving the body, he comes to identify with Me; there is no doubt in this.
6.    Remembering whichever aspect of mine as he leaves the body at the end, he reaches that very aspect, O Son of kunti, identified and always nurtured by that aspect.
7.    Therefore remember Me at all times, and fight. With your mind and intelligence surrendered to Me, you will come to Me alone, without doubt.
8.    With a mind joined in the yoga of practice, and wandering nowhere else, contemplating the supreme, divine Person, one goes to Him, O Son of Pritha.

Verses 5 through 8 explain how the aspirant should prepare himself for life hereafter. He should not be haunted by thoughts, desires, and attachments to the mundane world. At the last hour of one’s departure from this world, he should remember the lord of life, for one’s last desire determines the course of his rebirth. If during that time the aspirant thinks only of the Lord, nothing of the world influences the course of his transition. How can one remember the Lord at that time? Every great tradition teaches a way to remember the Lord, either by remembering a mantra, a word, a syllable, or a set of words. When the pranas (inhalation and exhalation)-which create a bridge between the conscious and unconscious life, the mortal and immortal parts of life-abandon their dutie, the conscious mind, breath, senses, and body separate from the unconscious part of life. All the desires, merits, and demerits remain in the unconscious. One’s prominent desires prompt him to assume a new garment. That is called rebirth.

Many students wonder about life hereafter. After death one does not go to any hell or heaven but remains in his own habit patterns Hell and heaven are merely the creations of one’s own mind and habits. Those who understand the meaning of life know that the final hour is the deciding factor for whether one’s voyage to the unknown will be pleasant or unpleasant. They prepare themselves for that hour. They depart from this world with free mind and conscience, enjoying the eternal joy of the infinite. Whatever state an aspirant habitually remembers, the same he attains after leaving his body. One who has an auspicious state as his goal will reach it after death, and that who remembers worldly pleasures will continue to long for that pleasure after leaving his body. His desires, however, cannot be fulfilled in the state between death and birth, for then he has no senses and no objects with which to fulfill desires. Thus he suffers. Those who are meditators, however, attain the deep state of tranquility and are never affected by the desire for worldly pleasure. They attain the state of perfection by identifying themselves with the Lord, and they finally becomes one with the lord.

14.    He who, without turning his mind to any other, remembers Me incessantly-to that yogi, who is ever united in yoga, I am easily available, O Son of Pritha.
15.    Upon reaching me, the great-souled one, having attained the supreme fulfillment, no longer comes to rebirth, which is an impermanent abode of sorrows.
16.    All the way to the realm of Brahman, all the worlds revolve again and again, O Arjuna. Upon reaching Me, however, O Son of Kunti, there is no more rebirth.

When the aspirant analyzes his existence in this world, he realizes that there is nothing permanent here. He focuses his mind on the Lord alone and remembers Him all the time. That constant awareness gives him freedom from the dissipation of the mind, and then he established himself in the consciousness of the eternal Self. Such a yogi is not born again and again; he is not subject to the rounds of deaths and births. The accomplished yogi is not required to come back again, for he has already attained liberation. The law of death and rebirth is not applicable to him.

23.The time, departing in which the yogis return or do not return, I shall tell you of that time division, O Bull among the Bharatas.
24. Fire, light, the day, the moonlit fortnight, the six months of the northern solstice departing in that time, the people who know Brahman go to Brahman.
25.    Smoke, night, the dark lunar fortnight, the six months of the southern solstice-there the yogi attaining the lunar light returns.
26.    These white and dark directions of the world are said to be perennial By one he no longer returns, by the other he returns again.

Sri Krishna teaches Arjuna the knowledge of the two paths that deal with the art and science of death and dying. What is the right time to depart from this mortal world? Those who are Self-realized cast off their bodies in the daytime during the bright half of the month while the sun is in its northern course. They then attain Brahman. Those who follow the path of action drop their bodies at a nocturnal hour during the dark half of the month while the sun is in its southern course, and they are reborn again. The path of those who are Self-realized is called the path of light, whereas the path of those who die during the six months when the sun is in the southern course is called the path of smoke. Both paths exist eternally, but one leads to emancipation and the other to rebirth. The words agni, jyoti, shukla are applied to the bright half of a month and indicate the light that shows the path. The words dhuma, ratri, krishna are applied to the dark half of the month and indicate darkness or ignorance. These verses do not just refer to the external universe but to the internal processes occurring within each person.

There are two paths: the path of good (selfless service) and the path of evil (selfishness). By following the path of good and dedicating all the fruits of one’s actions, one remains liberated in the midst of performing his duty. But following the path of pleasure and living a selfish life leads to sorrow and pain. The path of good is the path of freedom, whereas the path of selfishness causes births and deaths.

According to yoga there are three paths. The path of pingala (the right breath) is the path of the sun, light, and day: the path of idea (the left breath) is that of night and darkness. The yogi who knows how to change from ida to pingala and from pingala to ida has complete control over the course of these two breaths. Such a yogi knows how to apply sushumna and thus attains a state of tranquility, of samadhi. That is the third path. Only two of these paths are mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita: the path of light and the path of darkness. The yogi who follows the path of the sunlight does not have to stumble through the dark path of ignorance. But one who does not have knowledge and does not practice yoga go through the dark path. In his desire for the mundane objects of the world, his vision is obscured and his eyes remain blindfolded. His life is controlled by the gunas, for he does not practice the path of self-control. But the great yogi has self-control, and following the path of light, he reaches the highest abode of Brahman. The ignorant man, however, is subject to rebirth and suffers as a result of his selfishness

Thus ends the eight chapter, in which the knowledge of the eternal is explained.

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