8. Attaining the Supreme
kiṁ tad brahma kim adhyātmaṁ
kiṁ karma puruṣottama
adhibhūtaṁ ca kiṁ proktam
adhidaivaṁ kim ucyate
arjunaḥ uvāca—Arjuna said; kim—what; tat—that; brahma—Brahman; kim—what; adhyātmam—the self; kim—what; karma—fruitive activities; puruṣottama—O Supreme Person; adhibhūtam—the material manifestation; ca—and; kim—what; proktam—is called; adhidaivam—the demigods; kim—what; ucyate—is called.
Arjuna inquired: O my Lord, O Supreme Person, what is Brahman? What is the self? What are fruitive activities? What is this material manifestation? And what are the demigods? Please explain this to me.
In this chapter Lord Kṛṣṇa answers these different questions of Arjuna beginning with, "What is Brahman?" The Lord also explains karma, fruitive activities, devotional service and yoga principles, and devotional service in its pure form. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam explains that the Supreme Absolute Truth is known as Brahman, Paramātmā, and Bhagavān. In addition, the living entity, individual soul, is also called Brahman. Arjuna also inquires about ātmā, which refers to body, soul and mind. According to the Vedic dictionary, ātmā refers to the mind, soul, body and senses also.
Arjuna has addressed the Supreme Lord as Puruṣottama, Supreme Person, which means that he was putting these questions not simply to a friend but to the Supreme Person, knowing Him to be the supreme authority able to give definitive answers.
adhiyajñaḥ kathaṁ ko 'tra
dehe 'smin madhusūdana
prayāṇa-kāle ca kathaṁ
jñeyo 'si niyatātmabhiḥ
adhiyajñaḥ—the Lord of sacrifice; katham—how; kaḥ—who; atra—here; dehe—in the body; asmin—in this; madhusūdana—O Madhusūdana; prayāṇa-kāle—at the time of death; ca—and; katham—how; jñeyaḥ—be known; asi—You can; niyata-ātmabhiḥ—by the self-controlled.
How does this Lord of sacrifice live in the body, and in which part does He live, O Madhusūdana? And how can those engaged in devotional service know You at the time of death?
The Lord of sacrifice accepts Indra and Viṣṇu. Viṣṇu is the chief of the primal demigods, including Brahmā and Śiva, and Indra is the chief of the administrative demigods. Both Indra and Viṣṇu are worshiped by yajña performances. But here Arjuna asks who is actually the Lord of yajña (sacrifice), and how is the Lord residing within the body of the living entity.
Arjuna addresses the Lord as Madhusūdana because Kṛṣṇa once killed a demon named Madhu. Actually these questions, which are of the nature of doubts, should not have arisen in the mind of Arjuna because Arjuna is a Kṛṣṇa conscious devotee. Therefore these doubts are like demons. Since Kṛṣṇa is so expert in killing demons, Arjuna here addresses Him as Madhusūdana so that Kṛṣṇa might kill the demonic doubts that arise in Arjuna's mind.
Now the word prayāṇa-kāle in this verse is very significant because whatever we do in life will be tested at the time of death. Arjuna fears that at the time of death, those who are in Kṛṣṇa consciousness will forget the Supreme Lord because at such a time body functions are disrupted and the mind may be in a panic-stricken state. Therefore Mahārāja Kulaśekhara, a great devotee, prays, "My dear Lord, may I die immediately now that I'm healthy so that the swan of my mind may enter into the stem of Thy lotus feet." This metaphor is used because the swan often takes pleasure in entering the stem of the lotus flower—similarly, the mind of the pure devotee is drawn to the lotus feet of the Lord. Mahārāja Kulaśekhara fears that at the moment of death his throat will be so choked up that he will not be able to chant the holy names, so it is better to "die immediately." Arjuna questions how one's mind can remain fixed on Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet at such times.
akṣaraṁ brahma paramaṁ
svabhāvo 'dhyātmam ucyate
śrī bhagavān uvāca—the Supreme Personality of Godhead said; akṣaram—indestructible; brahma—Brahman; paramam—transcendental; svabhāvaḥ—eternal nature; adhyātmam—the self; ucyate—is called; bhūta-bhāva-udbhava-karaḥ—action producing the material bodies of the living entities; visargaḥ—creation; karma—fruitive activities; saṁjñitaḥ—is called.
The Supreme Lord said, The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and his eternal nature is called the self. Action pertaining to the development of these material bodies is called karma, or fruitive activities.
Brahman is indestructible and eternally existing, and its constitution is not changed at any time. But beyond Brahman there is Parabrahman. Brahman refers to the living entity, and Parabrahman refers to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The constitutional position of the living entity is different from the position he takes in the material world. In material consciousness, his nature is to try to be the lord of matter, but in spiritual (Kṛṣṇa) consciousness, his position is to serve the Supreme. When the living entity is in material consciousness, he has to take on various bodies in the material world. That is called karma, or varied creation by the force of material consciousness.
In Vedic literature the living entity is called jīvātmā and Brahman, but he is never called Parabrahman. The living entity (jīvātmā) takes different positions—sometimes he merges into the dark material nature and identifies himself with matter, and sometimes he identifies himself with the superior spiritual nature. Therefore he is called the Supreme Lord's marginal energy. According to his identification with material or spiritual nature, he receives a material or spiritual body. In material nature he may take a body from any of the 8,400,000 species of life, but in spiritual nature he has only one body. In material nature he is sometimes manifested as a man, demigod, an animal, a beast, bird, etc., according to his karma. To attain material heavenly planets and enjoy their facilities, he sometimes performs sacrifices (yajña), but when his merit is exhausted, he returns to earth again in the form of a man.
In the process of sacrifice, the living entity makes specific sacrifices to attain specific heavenly planets and consequently reaches them. When the merit of sacrifice is exhausted, then the living entity descends to earth in the form of rain, then takes on the form of grains, and the grains are eaten by man and transformed into semen, which impregnates a woman, and thus the living entity once again attains the human form to perform sacrifice and so repeat the same cycle. In this way, the living entity perpetually comes and goes on the material path. The Kṛṣṇa conscious person, however, avoids such sacrifices. He takes directly to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and thereby prepares himself to return to Godhead.
Impersonalist commentators on the Gītā unreasonably assume that Brahman takes the form of jīva in the material world, and to substantiate this they refer to Chapter Fifteen, verse 7, of the Gītā. But this verse also speaks of the living entity as "an eternal fragment of Myself." The fragment of God, the living entity, may fall down into the material world, but the Supreme Lord (Acyuta) never falls down. Therefore this assumption that the Supreme Brahman assumes the form of jīva is not acceptable. It is important to remember that in Vedic literature Brahman (the living entity) is distinguished from Parabrahman (the Supreme Lord).
adhibhūtaṁ kṣaro bhāvaḥ
adhiyajño 'ham evātra
dehe deha-bhṛtāṁ vara
adhibhūtam—the physical manifestation; kṣaraḥ—constantly changing; bhāvaḥ—nature; puruṣaḥ—the universal form; ca—and; adhidaivatam—including all demigods like the sun and moon; adhiyajñaḥ—the Supersoul; aham—I (Kṛṣṇa); eva—certainly; atra—in this; dehe—body; deha-bhṛtām—of the embodied; vara—the Supreme.
Physical nature is known to be endlessly mutable. The universe is the cosmic form of the Supreme Lord, and I am that Lord represented as the Supersoul, dwelling in the heart of every embodied being.
The physical nature is constantly changing. Material bodies generally pass through six stages: they are born, they grow, they remain for some duration, they produce some by-products, they dwindle, and then they vanish. This physical nature is called adhibhūtam. Because it is created at a certain point and will be annihilated at a certain point, the conception of the universal form of the Supreme Lord that includes all the demigods and their different planets is called adhidaivatam. The individual soul (jīva) accompanies the body. The Supersoul, a plenary representation of Lord Kṛṣṇa, is called the Paramātmā or adhiyajña and is situated in the heart. The word eva is particularly important in the context of this verse because by this word the Lord stresses that the Paramātmā is not different from Him. The Supersoul, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, seated beside the individual soul, is the witness of the individual soul's activities and is the source of consciousness. The Supersoul gives the jīva an opportunity to act freely, and He witnesses his activities. The functions of all these different manifestations of the Supreme Lord automatically become clarified for the pure Kṛṣṇa conscious devotee engaged in transcendental service of the Lord. The gigantic universal form of the Lord called adhidaivatam is contemplated by the neophyte who cannot approach the Supreme Lord in His manifestation as Supersoul. The neophyte is advised to contemplate the universal form whose legs are considered the lowet planets and whose eyes are considered the sun and moon, and whose head is considered the upper planetary system.
anta-kāle ca mām eva
smaran muktvā kalevaram
yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaṁ
yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ
anta-kāle—at the end of life; ca—also; mām—unto Me; eva—certainly; smaran—remembering; muktvā—quitting; kalevaram—the body; yaḥ—he who; prayāti—goes; saḥ—he; mad-bhāvam—My nature; yati—achieves; na—not; asti—there is; atra—here; saṁśayaḥ—doubt.
And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.
In this verse the importance of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is stressed. Anyone who quits his body in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is at once transferred to the transcendental abode of the Supreme Lord. The word smaran (remembering) is important. Remembrance of Kṛṣṇa is not possible for the impure soul who has not practiced Kṛṣṇa consciousness in devotional service. To remember Kṛṣṇa one should chant the mahāmantra, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, incessantly, following in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya, being more tolerant than the tree, humbler than the grass and offering all respect to others without requiring respect in return. In such a way one will be able to depart from the body successfully remembering Kṛṣṇa and so attain the supreme goal.
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
yam yam—whatever; vā—either; api—also; smaran—remembering; bhāvam—nature; tyajati—give up; ante—at the end; kalevaram—this body; tam tam—similar; eva—certainly; eti—gets; kaunteya—O son of Kuntī; sadā—always; tat—that; bhāva—state of being; bhāvitaḥ—remembering.
Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.
The process of changing one's nature at the critical moment of death is here explained. How can one die in the proper state of mind? Mahārāja Bharata thought of a deer at the time of death and so was transferred to that form of life. However, as a deer, Mahārāja Bharata could remember his past activities. Of course the cumulative effect of the thoughts and actions of one's life influences one's thoughts at the moment of death; therefore the actions of this life determine one's future state of being. If one is transcendentally absorbed in Kṛṣṇa's service,then his next body will be transcendental (spiritual), not physical. Therefore the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa is the best process for successfully changing one's state of being to transcendental life.
tasmāt sarveṣu kāleṣu
mām anusmara yudhya ca
mām evaiṣyasy asaṁśayaḥ
tasmāt—therefore; sarveṣu—always; kāleṣu—time; mām—unto Me; anusmara—go on remembering; yudhya—fight; ca—also; mayi—unto Me; arpita—surrender; manaḥ—mind; buddhiḥ—intellect; mām—unto Me; eva—surely; eṣyasi—will attain; asaṁśayaḥ—beyond a doubt.
Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Kṛṣṇa and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.
This instruction to Arjuna is very important for all men engaged in material activities. The Lord does not say that one should give up his prescribed duties or engagements. One can continue them and at the same time think of Kṛṣṇa by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. This will free one from material contamination and engage the mind and intelligence in Kṛṣṇa. By chanting Kṛṣṇa's names, one will be transferred to the supreme planet, Kṛṣṇaloka, without a doubt.
paramaṁ puruṣaṁ divyaṁ
abhyāsa—practice; yoga-yuktena—being engaged in meditation; cetasā—by the mind and intelligence; na anya-gāminā—without being deviated; paramam—the Supreme; puruṣam—Personality of Godhead; divyam—transcendental; yāti—achieves; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; anucintayan—constantly thinking of.
He who meditates on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his mind constantly engaged in remembering Me, undeviated from the path, he, O Pārtha [Arjuna], is sure to reach Me.
In this verse Lord Kṛṣṇa stresses the importance of remembering Him. One's memory of Kṛṣṇa is revived by chanting the mahāmantra, Hare Kṛṣṇa. By this practice of chanting and hearing the sound vibration of the Supreme Lord, one's ear, tongue and mind are engaged. This mystic meditation is very easy to practice, and it helps one attain the Supreme Lord. Puruṣam means enjoyer. Although living entities belong to the marginal energy of the Supreme Lord, they are in material contamination. They think themselves enjoyers, but they are not the supreme enjoyer. Here it is clearly stated that the supreme enjoyer is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His different manifestations and plenary expansions as Nārāyaṇa, Vāsudeva, etc.
The devotees can constantly think of the object of worship, the Supreme Lord, in any of His features, Nārāyaṇa, Kṛṣṇa, Rāma, etc., by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. This practice will purify him, and at the end of his life, due to his constant chanting, he will be transferred to the kingdom of God. Yoga practice is meditation on the Supersoul within; similarly, by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa one fixes his mind always on the Supreme Lord. The mind is fickle, and therefore it is necessary to engage the mind by force to think of Kṛṣṇa. One example often given is that of the caterpillar that thinks of becoming a butterfly and so is transformed into a butterfly in the same life. Similarly, if we constantly think of Kṛṣṇa, it is certain that at the end of our lives we shall have the same bodily constitution as Kṛṣṇa.
kaviṁ purāṇam anuśāsitāram
aṇor aṇīyāṁsam anusmared yaḥ
sarvasya dhātāram acintya-rūpam
āditya-varṇaṁ tamasaḥ parastāt
kavim—one who knows everything; purāṇam—the oldest; anuśāsitāram—the controller; aṇoḥ—of the atom; aṇīyāṁsam—smaller than; anusmaret—always thinking; yaḥ—one who; sarvasya—of everything; dhātāram—maintainer; acintya—inconceivable; rūpam—form; āditya-varṇam—illuminated like the sun; tamasaḥ—of the darkness; parastāt—transcendental.
One should meditate upon the Supreme Person as the one who knows everything, as He who is the oldest, who is the controller, who is smaller than the smallest, who is the maintainer of everything, who is beyond all material conception, who is inconceivable, and who is always a person. He is luminous like the sun and, being transcendental, is beyond this material nature.
The process of thinking of the Supreme is mentioned in this verse. The foremost point is that He is not impersonal or void. One cannot meditate on something impersonal or void. That is very difficult. The process of thinking of Kṛṣṇa, however, is very easy and is factually stated herein. First of all, He is puruṣa, spiritual, Rāma and Kṛṣṇa, and is described herein as kavim; that is, He knows past, present and future and therefore knows everything. He is the oldest personality because He is the origin of everything; everything is born out of Him. He is also the supreme controller of the universe, maintainer and instructor of humanity. He is smaller than the smallest. The living entity is one 10,000th part of the tip of a hair, but the Lord is so inconceivably small that He enters into the heart of this particle. Therefore He is called smaller than the smallest. As the Supreme, He can enter into the atom and into the heart of the smallest and control him as the Supersoul. Although so small, He is still all-pervading and is maintaining everything. By Him all these planetary systems are sustained. We often wonder how these big planets are floating in the air. It is stated here that the Supreme Lord, by His inconceivable energy, is sustaining all these big planets and systems of galaxies. The word acintya (inconceivable) is very significant in this connection. God's energy is beyond our conception, beyond our thinking jurisdiction, and is therefore called inconceivable (acintya). Who can argue this point? He pervades this material world and yet is beyond it. We cannot even comprehend this material world, which is insignificant compared to the spiritual world—so how can we comprehend what is beyond? Acintya means that which is beyond this material world, that which our argument, logic and philosophical speculation cannot touch, that which is inconceivable. Therefore intelligent persons, avoiding useless argument and speculation, should accept what is stated in scriptures like the Vedas, Gītā, and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and follow the principles they set down. This will lead one to understanding.
bhaktyā yukto yoga-balena caiva
bhruvor madhye prāṇam āveśya samyak
sa taṁ paraṁ puruṣam upaiti divyam
prayāṇa-kāle—at the time of death; manasā—by the mind; acalena—without being deviated; bhaktyā—in full devotion; yuktaḥ—engaged; yoga-balena—by the power of mystic yoga; ca—also; eva—certainly; bhruvoḥ—between the two eyebrows; madhye—in; prāṇam—the life air; āveśya—establishing; samyak—completely; saḥ—he; tam—that; param—transcendental; puruṣam—Personality of Godhead; upaiti—achieves; divyam—in the spiritual kingdom.
One who, at the time of death, fixes his life air between the eyebrows and in full devotion engages himself in remembering the Supreme Lord, will certainly attain to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In this verse it is clearly stated that at the time of death the mind must be fixed in devotion on the Supreme Godhead. For those practiced in yoga, it is recommended that they raise the life force between the eyebrows, but for a pure devotee who does not practice such yoga, the mind should always be engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness so that at death he can remember the Supreme by His grace. This is explained in verse fourteen.
The particular use of the word yoga-balena is significant in this verse because without practice of yoga one cannot come to this transcendental state of being at the time of death. One cannot suddenly remember the Supreme Lord at death unless he is practiced in some yoga system, especially the system of bhakti-yoga. Since one's mind at death is very disturbed, one should practice transcendence through yoga during one's life.
yad akṣaraṁ veda-vido vadanti
viśanti yad yatayo vīta-rāgāḥ
yad icchanto brahmacaryaṁ caranti
tat te padaṁ saṅgraheṇa pravakṣye
yat—that which; akṣaram—inexhaustible; veda-vidaḥ—a person conversant with the Vedas; vadanti—say; viśanti—enters; yat—in which; yatayaḥ—great sages; vīta-rāgāh—in the renounced order of life; yat—that which; icchantaḥ—desiring; brahmacaryam—celibacy; caranti—practices; tat—that; te—unto you; padam—situation; saṅgraheṇa—in summary; pravakṣye—I shall explain.
Persons learned in the Vedas, who utter omkāra and who are great sages in the renounced order, enter into Brahman. Desiring such perfection, one practices celibacy. I shall now explain to you this process by which one may attain salvation.
Lord Kṛṣṇa explains that Brahman, although one without a second, has different manifestations and features. For the impersonalists, the syllable om is identical with Brahman. Kṛṣṇa here explains the impersonal Brahman in which the renounced order of sages enter.
In the Vedic system of knowledge, students, from the very beginning, are taught to vibrate om and learn of the ultimate impersonal Brahman by living with the spiritual master in complete celibacy. In this way they realize two of Brahman's features. This practice is very essential for the student's advancement in spiritual life, but at the moment such brahmacārī (unmarried celibate) life is not at all possible. The social construction of the world has changed so much that there is no possibility of one's practicing celibacy from the beginning of student life. Throughout the world there are many institutions for different departments of knowledge, but there is no recognized institution where students can be educated in the brahmacārī principles. Unless one practices celibacy, advancement in spiritual life is very difficult. Therefore Lord Caitanya has announced, according to the scriptural injunctions for this age of Kali, that no process of realizing the Supreme is possible except the chanting of the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare, Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
mano hṛdi nirudhya ca
mūrdhny ādhāyātmanaḥ prāṇam
sarva-dvārāṇi—all the doors of the body; saṁyamya—controlling; manaḥ—mind; hṛdi—in the heart; nirudhya—confined; ca—also; mūrdhni—on the head; ādhāya—fixed; ātmanaḥ—soul; prāṇam—the life air; āsthitaḥ—situated; yoga-dhāraṇām—the yogic situation.
The yogic situation is that of detachment from all sensual engagements. Closing all the doors of the senses and fixing the mind on the heart and the life air at the top of the head, one establishes himself in yoga.
To practice yoga, as suggested here, one first has to close the door of all sense enjoyment. This practice is called pratyāhāra, or withdrawing the senses from the sense objects. Sense organs for acquiring knowledge, such as the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and touch, should be fully controlled and should not be allowed to engage in self-gratification. In this way the mind focuses on the Supersoul in the heart and the life force is raised to the top of the head. In the Sixth Chapter this process is described in detail. But as mentioned before, this practice is not practical in this age. The best process is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If one is always able to fix his mind on Kṛṣṇa in devotional service, it is very easy for him to remain in an undisturbed transcendental trance, or in samādhi.
oṁ ity ekākṣaraṁ brahma
vyāharan mām anusmaran
yaḥ prayāti tyajan dehaṁ
sa yāti paramāṁ gatim
om—the combination of letters, omkāra; iti—thus; eka-akṣaram—supreme, indestructible; brahma—absolute; vyāharan—vibrating; mām—Me (Kṛṣṇa); anusmaran—remembering; yaḥ—anyone; prayāti—leaves; tyajan—quitting; deham—this body; saḥ—he; yāti—achieves; paramām—supreme; gatim—destination.
After being situated in this yoga practice and vibrating the sacred syllable om, the supreme combination of letters, if one thinks of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and quits his body, he will certainly reach the spiritual planets.
It is clearly stated here that om, Brahman, and Lord Kṛṣṇa are not different. The impersonal sound of Kṛṣṇa is om, but the sound Hare Kṛṣṇa contains om. It is clearly recommended in this age that if one quits his body at the end of this life chanting the mahāmantra, Hare Kṛṣṇa, he will reach the spiritual planets. Similarly, those who are devotees of Kṛṣṇa enter the Kṛṣṇa planet or Goloka Vṛndāvana, whereas the impersonalists remain in the brahmajyoti. The personalists also enter many innumerable planets in the spiritual sky known as Vaikuṇṭhas.
yo māṁ smarati nityaśaḥ
tasyāhaṁ sulabhaḥ pārtha
ananya-cetāḥ—without deviation; satatam—always; yaḥ—anyone; mām—Me (Kṛṣṇa); smarati—remembers; nityaśaḥ—regularly; tasya—to him; aham—I am; sulabhaḥ—very easy to achieve; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; nitya—regularly; yuktasya—engaged; yoginaḥ—of the devotee.
For one who remembers Me without deviation, I am easy to obtain, O son of Pṛthā, because of his constant engagement in devotional service.
In this verse the bhakti-yoga of the unalloyed devotees of the Supreme Godhead is described. The preceeding verses mention four different kinds of devotees—the distressed, the inquisitive, those who seek material gain, and the speculative philosophers. Different processes of liberation from material entanglement have also been described: karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, and haṭha-yoga. But here bhakti-yoga, without any mixture of these, is mentioned. In bhakti-yoga the devotees desire nothing but Kṛṣṇa. The pure bhakti devotee does not desire promotion to heavenly planets, nor does he seek salvation or liberation from material entanglement. A pure devotee does not desire anything. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta the pure devotee is called niṣkāma, which means he has no desire for self-interest. Perfect peace belongs to him alone, not to them who strive for personal gain. The pure devotee only wants to please the Supreme Lord, and so the Lord says that for anyone who is unflinchingly devoted to Him, He is easy to attain. The devotee can render service to any of the transcendental forms of the Supreme Lord, and he meets with none of the problems that plague the practitioners of other yogas. Bhakti-yoga is very simple and pure and easy to perform. One can begin by simply chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is very merciful to those who engage in His service, and He helps in various ways that devotee who is fully surrendered to Him so he can understand Him as He is. The Lord gives such a devotee sufficient intelligence so that ultimately the devotee can attain Him in His spiritual kingdom.
The special qualification of the pure devotee is that he is always thinking of Kṛṣṇa without considering the time or place. There should be no impediments. He should be able to carry out his service anywhere and at any time. Some say that the devotee should remain in holy places like Vṛndāvana or some holy town where the Lord lived, but a pure devotee can live anywhere and create the atmosphere of Vṛndāvana by his devotional service. It was Śrī Advaita who told Lord Caitanya, "Wherever You are, O Lord—there is Vṛndavana."
A pure devotee constantly remembers Kṛṣṇa and meditates upon Him. These are qualifications of the pure devotee for whom the Lord is most easily attainable. Bhakti-yoga is the system that the Gītā recommends above all others. Generally, the bhakti-yogīs are engaged in five different ways: 1) śānta-bhakta, engaged in devotional service in neutrality; 2) dāsya-bhakta, engaged in devotional service as servant; 3) sākhya-bhakta, engaged as friend; 4) vātsalya-bhakta, engaged as parent; and 5) mādhurya-bhakta, engaged as conjugal lover of the Supreme Lord. In any of these ways, the pure devotee is always constantly engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Supreme Lord and cannot forget the Supreme Lord, and so for him the Lord is easily attained. A pure devotee cannot forget the Supreme Lord for a moment, and similarly, the Supreme Lord cannot forget His pure devotee for a moment. This is the great blessing of the Kṛṣṇa conscious process of chanting the mahāmantra, Hare Kṛṣṇa.
mām upetya punar janma
saṁsiddhiṁ paramāṁ gatāḥ
mām—unto Me; upetya—achieving; punaḥ—again; janma—birth; duḥkha-ālayam—place of miseries; aśāśvatam—temporary; na—never; āpnuvanti—attain; mahātmānaḥ—the great souls; saṁsiddhim—perfection; paramām—ultimate; gatāḥ—achieved.
After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogīs in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.
Since this temporary material world is full of the miseries of birth, old age, disease and death, naturally he who achieves the highest perfection and attains the supreme planet, Kṛṣṇaloka, Goloka Vṛndāvana, does not wish to return. The supreme planet is described in Vedic literature as beyond our material vision, and it is considered the highest goal. The mahātmās (great souls) receive transcendental messages from the realized devotees and thus gradually develop devotional service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and become so absorbed in transcendental service that they no longer desire elevation to any of the material planets, nor do they even want to be transferred to any spiritual planet. They only want Kṛṣṇa's association and nothing else. Such great souls in Kṛṣṇa consciousness attain the highest perfection of life. In other words, they are the supreme souls.
punar āvartino 'rjuna
mām upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
ābrahma—up to the Brahmaloka planet; bhuvanāt—from the planetary systems; lokāḥ—planets; punaḥ—again; āvartinaḥ—returning; arjuna—O Arjuna; mām—unto Me; upetya—arriving; tu—but; kaunteya—O son of Kuntī; punaḥ janma—rebirth; na—never; vidyate—takes to.
From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kuntī, never takes birth again.
All kinds of yogīs—karma, jñāna, haṭha, etc.—eventually have to attain devotional perfection in bhakti-yoga, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, before they can go to Kṛṣṇa's transcendental abode and never return. Those who attain the highest material planets or the planets of the demigods are again subjected to repeated birth and death. As persons on earth are elevated to higher planets, people in higher planets such as Brahmaloka, Candraloka and Indraloka fall down to earth. The practice of sacrifice called pañcāgni-vidyā, recommended in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad, enables one to achieve Brahmaloka, but if, in Brahmaloka, one does not cultivate Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then he must return to earth. Those who progress in Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the higher planets are gradually elevated to higher and higher planets and at the time of universal devastation are transferred to the eternal spiritual kingdom. When there is devastation of this material universe, Brahmā and his devotees, who are constantly engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, are all transferred to the spiritual universe and to specific spiritual planets according to their desires.
ahar yad brahmaṇo viduḥ
te 'ho-rātra-vido janāḥ
sahasra—thousand; yuga—millenniums; prayantam—including; ahaḥ—day; yat—that; brahmaṇaḥ—of Brahmā; viduḥ—know it; rātrim—night; yuga—millenniums; sahasra-antām—similarly, at the end of one thousand; te—that; ahaḥ-rātra—day and night; vidaḥ—understand; janāḥ—people.
By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together is the duration of Brahmā's one day. And such also is the duration of his night.
The duration of the material universe is limited. It is manifested in cycles of kalpas. A kalpa is a day of Brahmā, and one day of Brahmā consists of a thousand cycles of four yugas or ages: Satya, Tretā, Dvāpara, and Kali. The cycle of Satya is characterized by virtue, wisdom and religion, there being practically no ignorance and vice, and the yuga lasts 1,728,000 years. In the Tretā-yuga vice is introduced, and this yuga lasts 1,296,000 years. In the Dvāpara-yuga there is an even greater decline in virtue and religion, vice increasing, and this yuga lasts 864,000 years. And finally in Kali-yuga (the yuga we have now been experiencing over the past 5,000 years) there is an abundance of strife, ignorance, irreligion and vice, true virtue being practically nonexistent, and this yuga lasts 432,000 years. In Kali-yuga vice increases to such a point that at the termination of the yuga the Supreme Lord Himself appears as the Kalki avatara, vanquishes the demons, saves His devotees, and commences another Satya-yuga. Then the process is set rolling again. These four yugas, rotating a thousand times, comprise one day of Brahmā, the creator god, and the same number comprise one night. Brahmā lives one hundred of such "years" and then dies. These "hundred years" by earth calculations total to 311 trillion and 40 million earth years. By these calculations the life of Brahmā seems fantastic and interminable, but from the viewpoint of eternity it is as brief as a lightning flash. In the causal ocean there are innumerable Brahmās rising and disappearing like bubbles in the Atlantic. Brahmā and his creation are all part of the material universe, and therefore they are in constant flux.
In the material universe not even Brahmā is free from the process of birth, old age, disease and death. Brahmā, however, is directly engaged in the service of the Supreme Lord in the management of this universe-therefore he at once attains liberation. Elevated sannyāsīs are promoted to Brahmā's particular planet, Brahmaloka, which is the highest planet in the material universe and which survives all the heavenly planets in the upper strata of the planetary system, but in due course Brahmā and all inhabitants of Brahmaloka are subject to death, according to the law of material nature.
avyaktād vyaktayaḥ sarvāḥ
avyaktāt—from the unmanifest; vyaktayaḥ—living entities; sarvāḥ—all; prabhavanti—come into being; ahaḥ-āgame—at the beginning of the day; rātri-āgame—at the fall of night; pralīyante—are annihilated; tatra—there; eva—certainly; avyakta—the unmanifest; saṁjñake—called.
When Brahmā's day is manifest, this multitude of living entities comes into being, and at the arrival of Brahmā's night they are all annihilated.
The less intelligent jīvas try to remain within this material world and are accordingly elevated and degraded in the various planetary systems. During the daytime of Brahmā they exhibit their activities, and at the coming of Brahmā's night they are annihilated. In the day they receive various bodies for material activities, and at night these bodies perish. The jīvas (individual souls) remain compact in the body of Viṣṇu and again and again are manifest at the arrival of Brahmā's day. When Brahmā's life is finally finished, they are all annihilated and remain unmanifest for millions and millions of years. Finally, when Brahmā is born again in another millennium, they are again manifest. In this way the jīvas are captivated by the material world. However, those intelligent beings who take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Rāma in devotional service transfer themselves, even in this life, to the spiritual planet of Kṛṣṇa and become eternally blissful there, not being subject to such rebirths.
bhūta-grāmaḥ sa evāyaṁ
bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate
rātry-āgame 'vaśaḥ pārtha
bhūta-grāmaḥ—the aggregate of all living entities; saḥ—they; eva—certainly; ayam—this; bhūtvā bhūtvā—taking birth; pralīyate—annihilate; rātri—night; āgame—on arrival; avaśaḥ—automatically; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; prabhavanti—manifest; ahaḥ—during daytime; āgame—on arrival.
Again and again the day comes, and this host of beings is active; and again the night falls, O Pārtha, and they are helplessly dissolved.
paras tasmāt tu bhāvo 'nyo
'vyakto 'vyaktāt sanātanaḥ
yaḥ sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu
naśyatsu na vinaśyati
paraḥ—transcendental; tasmāt—from that; tu—but; bhāvaḥ—nature; anyaḥ—another; avyaktaḥ—unmanifest; avyaktāt—from the unmanifest; sanātanaḥ—eternal; yaḥ—that; saḥ—which; sarveṣu—all; bhūteṣu—manifestation; naśyatsu—being annihilated; na—never; vinaśyati—annihilated.
Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is.
Kṛṣṇa's superior spiritual energy is transcendental and eternal. It is beyond all the changes of material nature, which is manifest and annihilated during the days and nights of Brahmā. Kṛṣṇa's superior energy is completely opposite in quality to material nature. Superior and inferior nature are explained in the Seventh Chapter.
avyakto 'kṣara ity uktas
tam āhuḥ paramāṁ gatim
yaṁ prāpya na nivartante
tad dhāma paramaṁ mama
avyaktaḥ—unmanifested; akṣaraḥ—infallible; iti—thus; uktaḥ—said; tam—that which; āhuḥ—is known; paramām—ultimate; gatim—destination; yam—that which; prāpya—gaining; na—never; nivartante—comes back; tat-dhāma—that abode; paramam—supreme; mama—Mine.
That supreme abode is called unmanifested and infallible, and it is the supreme destination. When one goes there, he never comes back. That is My supreme abode.
The supreme abode of the Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, is described in the Brahma-saṁhitā as cintāmaṇi-dhāma, a place where all desires are fulfilled. The supreme abode of Lord Kṛṣṇa known as Goloka Vṛndāvana is full of palaces made of touchstone. There are also trees which are called "desire trees" that supply any type of eatable upon demand, and there are cows known as surabhi cows which supply a limitless supply of milk. In this abode, the Lord is served by hundreds of thousands of goddesses of fortune (Lakṣmīs), and He is called Govinda, the primal Lord and the cause of all causes. The Lord is accustomed to blow His flute (venum kvanantam). His transcendental form is the most attractive in all the worlds—His eyes are like the lotus petals and the color of His body like clouds. He is so attractive that His beauty excels that of thousands of cupids. He wears saffron cloth, a garland around His neck and a peacock feather in His hair. In the Gītā Lord Krṣṇa gives only a small hint of His personal abode (Goloka Vṛndāvana) which is the supermost planet in the spiritual kingdom. A vivid description is given in the Brahma-saṁhitā. Vedic literature states that there is nothing superior to the abode of the Supreme Godhead, and that that abode is the ultimate destination. When one attains to it, he never returns to the material world. Kṛṣṇa's supreme abode and Kṛṣṇa Himself are nondifferent, being of the same quality. On this earth, Vṛndāvana, ninety miles southeast of Delhi, is a replica of that supreme Goloka Vṛndāvana located in the spiritual sky. When Kṛṣṇa descended on this earth, He sported on that particular tract of land known as Vṛndāvana in the district of Mathurā, India.
puruṣaḥ sa paraḥ pārtha
bhaktyā labhyas tv ananyayā
yena sarvam idaṁ tatam
puruṣaḥ—the Supreme Personality; saḥ—He; paraḥ—the Supreme, than whom no one is greater; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; bhaktyā—by devotional service; labhyaḥ—can be achieved; tu—but; ananyayā—unalloyed, undeviating devotion; yasya—His; antaḥsthāni—within; bhūtāni—all this material manifestation; yena—by whom; sarvam—all; idam—whatever we can see; tatam—distributed.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is greater than all, is attainable by unalloyed devotion. Although He is present in His abode, He is all-pervading, and everything is situated within Him.
It is here clearly stated that the supreme destination from which there is no return is the abode of Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Person. The Brahma-saṁhitā describes this supreme abode as ānanda-cinmaya-rasa, a place where everything is full of spiritual bliss. Whatever variegatedness is manifest there is all of the quality of spiritual bliss—there is nothing material. All variegatedness is expanded as the spiritual expansion of the Supreme Godhead Himself, for the manifestation there is totally of the spiritual energy, as explained in Chapter Seven. As far as this material world is concerned, although the Lord is always in His supreme abode, He is nonetheless all-pervading by His material energy. So by His spiritual and material energies He is present everywhere—both in the material and in the spiritual universes. Yasyāntaḥsthāni means that everything is sustained by Him, whether it be spiritual or material energy.
It is clearly stated here that only by bhakti, or devotional service, can one enter into the Vaikuṇṭha (spiritual) planetary system. In all the Vaikuṇṭhas there is only one Supreme Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, who has expanded Himself into millions and millions of plenary expansions. These plenary expansions are four-armed, and they preside over the innumerable spiritual planets. They are known by a variety of names-Puruṣottama, Trivikrama, Keśava, Mādhava, Aniruddha, Hṛṣīkeśa, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna, Śrīdhara, Vāsudeva, Dāmodara, Janārdana, Nārāyaṇa, Vāmana, Padmanābha, etc. These plenary expansions are likened unto the leaves of a tree, and the main tree is likened to Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa, dwelling in Goloka Vṛndāvana, His supreme abode, systematically conducts all affairs of both universes (material and spiritual) without a flaw by power of His all-pervasiveness.
yatra kāle tv anāvṛttim
āvṛttiṁ caiva yoginaḥ
prayātā yānti taṁ kālaṁ
yatra—in that; kāle—time; tu—but; anāvṛttim—no return; āvṛttim—return; ca—also; eva—certainly; yoginaḥ—of different kinds of mystics; prayātāḥ—one who goes; yānti—departs; tam—that; kālam—time; vakṣyāmi—describing; bharatarṣabha—O best of the Bhāratas.
O best of the Bhāratas, I shall now explain to you the different times at which, passing away from this world, one does or does not come back.
The unalloyed devotees of the Supreme Lord who are totally surrendered souls do not care when they leave their bodies or by what method. They leave everything in Kṛṣṇa's hands and so easily and happily return to Godhead. But those who are not unalloyed devotees and who depend instead on such methods of spiritual realization as karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, haṭha-yoga, etc., must leave the body at a suitable time and thereby be assured whether or not they will return to the world of birth and death.
If the yogī is perfect, he can select the time and place for leaving this material world, but if he is not so perfect, then he has to leave at nature's will. The most suitable time to leave the body and not return is being explained by the Lord in these verses. According to Ācārya Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, the Sanskrit word kāla used herein refers to the presiding deity of time.
agnir jyotir ahaḥ śuklaḥ
tatra prayātā gacchanti
brahma brahma-vido janāḥ
agniḥ—fire; jyotiḥ—light; ahaḥ—day; śuklaḥ—white; ṣaṭ-māsāḥ—six months; uttarāyaṇam—when the sun passes on the northern side; tatra—there; prayātāḥ—one who goes; gacchanti—passes away; brahma—the Absolute; brahma-vidaḥ—one who knows the Absolute; janāḥ—person.
Those who know the Supreme Brahman pass away from the world during the influence of the fiery god, in the light, at an auspicious moment, during the fortnight of the moon and the six months when the sun travels in the north.
When fire, light, day and moon are mentioned, it is to be understood that over all of them there are various presiding deities who make arrangements for the passage of the soul. At the time of death, the jīva sets forth on the path to a new life. If one leaves the body at the time designated above, either accidently or by arrangement, it is possible for him to attain the impersonal brahmajyoti. Mystics who are advanced in yoga practice can arrange the time and place to leave the body. Others have no control—if by accident they leave at an auspicious moment, then they will not return to the cycle of birth and death, but if not, then there is every possibility that they will have to return. However, for the pure devotee in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, there is no fear of returning, whether he leaves the body at an auspicious or inauspicious moment, by accident or arrangement.
dhūmo rātris tathā kṛṣṇaḥ
tatra cāndramasaṁ jyotir
yogī prāpya nivartate
dhūmaḥ—smoke; rātriḥ—night; tathā—also; kṛṣṇaḥ—the fortnight of the dark moon; ṣaṭ-māsāḥ—the six months; dakṣiṇa-ayanam—when the sun passes on the southern side; tatra—there; cāndramasam—the moon planet; jyotiḥ—light, yogī—the mystic; prāpya—achieves; nivartate—comes back.
The mystic who passes away from this world during the smoke, the night, the moonlight fortnight, or in the six months when the sun passes to the south, or who reaches the moon planet, again comes back.
In the Third Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam we are informed that those who are expert in fruitive activities and sacrificial methods on earth attain to the moon at death. These elevated souls live on the moon for about 10,000 years (by demigod calculations) and enjoy life by drinking soma-rasa. They eventually return to earth. This means that on the moon there are higher classes of living beings, though they may not be perceived by the gross senses.
śukla-kṛṣṇe gatī hy ete
jagataḥ śāśvate mate
ekayā yāty anāvṛttim
śukla—light; kṛṣṇe—darkness; gatī—passing away; hi—certainly; ete—all these; jagataḥ—of the material world; śāśvate—the Vedas; mate—in the opinion; ekayā—by one; yāti—goes; anāvṛttim—no return; anyayā—by the other; āvartate—comes back; punaḥ—again.
According to the Vedas, there are two ways of passing from this world—one in light and one in darkness. When one passes in light, he does not come back; but when one passes in darkness, he returns.
The same description of departure and return is quoted by Ācārya Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa from the Chandogya Upaniṣad. In such a way, those who are fruitive laborers and philosophical speculators from time immemorial are constantly going and coming. Actually they do not attain ultimate salvation, for they do not surrender to Kṛṣṇa.
naite sṛtī pārtha jānan
yogī muhyati kaścana
tasmāt sarveṣu kāleṣu
na—never; ete—all these; sṛtī—different paths; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; jānan—even if they know; yogī—the devotees of the Lord; muhyati—bewildered; kaścana—anyone; tasmāt—therefore; sarveṣu kāleṣu—always; yoga-yuktaḥ—being engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness; bhava—just become; arjuna—O Arjuna.
The devotees who know these two paths, O Arjuna, are never bewildered. Therefore be always fixed in devotion.
Kṛṣṇa is here advising Arjuna that he should not be disturbed by the different paths the soul can take when leaving the material world. A devotee of the Supreme Lord should not worry whether he will depart either by arrangement or by accident. The devotee should be firmly established in Krṣṇa consciousness and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. He should know that concern over either of these two paths is troublesome. The best way to be absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is to be always dovetailed in His service, and this will make one's path to the spiritual kingdom safe, certain, and direct. The word yoga-yukta is especially significant in this verse. One who is firm in yoga is constantly engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness in all his activities. Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī advises that one should be unattached in the material world and that all affairs should be steeped in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In this way one attains perfection. Therefore the devotee is not disturbed by these descriptions because he knows that his passage to the supreme abode is guaranteed by devotional service.
vedeṣu yajñeṣu tapaḥsu caiva
dāneṣu yat puṇya-phalaṁ pradiṣṭam
atyeti tat sarvam idaṁ viditvā
yogī paraṁ sthānam upaiti cādyam
vedeṣu—in the study of the Vedas; yajñeṣu—in the performances of yajña, sacrifice; tapaḥsu—undergoing different types of austerities; ca—also; eva—certainly; dāneṣu—in giving charities; yat—that which; puṇya-phalam—the result of pious work; pradiṣṭam—directed; atyeti—surpasses; tat—all those; sarvam idam—all those described above; viditvā—knowing; yogī—the devotee; param—supreme; sthānam—abode; upaiti—achieved peace; ca—also; ādyam—original.
A person who accepts the path of devotional service is not bereft of the results derived from studying the Vedas, performing austere sacrifices, giving charity or pursuing philosophical and fruitive activities. At the end he reaches the supreme abode.
This verse is the summation of the Seventh and Eighth Chapters, particularly as the chapters deal with Kṛṣṇa consciousness and devotional service. One has to study the Vedas under the guidance of the spiritual master and undergo many austerities and penances while living under his care. A brahmacārī has to live in the home of the spiritual master just like a servant, and he must beg alms from door to door and bring them to the spiritual master. He takes food only under the master's order, and if the master neglects to call the student for food that day, the student fasts. These are some of the Vedic principles for observing brahmacarya.
After the student studies the Vedas under the master for a period from five to twenty years, he may become a man of perfect character. Study of the Vedas is not meant for the recreation of armchair speculators, but for the formation of character. After this training, the brahmacārī is allowed to enter into household life and marry. When he is a householder, he also has to perform many sacrifices and strive for further enlightenment. Then after retiring from household life, upon accepting the order of vānaprastha, he undergoes severe penances, such as living in forests, dressing with tree bark, not shaving, etc. By carrying out the orders of brahmacārī, householder, vānaprastha and finally sannyāsa, one becomes elevated to the perfectional stage of life. Some are then elevated to the heavenly kingdoms, and when they become even more advanced they are liberated in the spiritual sky, either in the impersonal brahmajyoti or in the Vaikuṇṭha planets or Kṛṣṇaloka. This is the path outlined by Vedic literatures.
The beauty of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, however, is that by one stroke, by engaging in devotional service, one can surpass all rituals of the different orders of life.
One should try to understand the Seventh and Eighth Chapters of the Gītā not by scholarship or mental speculation, but by hearing them in association with pure devotees. Chapters Six through Twelve are the essence of the Gītā. If one is fortunate to understand the Gītā-especially these middle six chapters-in the association of devotees, then his life at once becomes glorified beyond all penances, sacrifices, charities, speculations, etc. One should hear the Gītā from the devotee because at the beginning of the Fourth Chapter it is stated that the Gīta can only be perfectly understood by devotees. Hearing the Gītā from devotees, not from mental speculators, is called faith. Through association of devotees, one is placed in devotional service, and by this service Kṛṣṇa's activities, form, pastimes, name, etc., become clear, and all misgivings are dispelled. Then once doubts are removed, the study of the Gītā becomes extremely pleasurable, and one develops a taste and feeling for Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In the advanced stage, one falls completely in love with Kṛṣṇa, and that is the beginning of the highest perfectional stage of life which prepares the devotee's transferral to Kṛṣṇa's abode in the spiritual sky, Goloka Vṛndāvana, where the devotee enters into eternal happiness.
Thus end the Bhaktivedanta Purports to the Eighth Chapter of the Śrīmad-Bhagavad-gītā in the matter of Attaining the Supreme.
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