THE ETERNAL SPIRIT
Arjuna said: O Krishna, who is the Eternal Being or the Spirit? What is the nature of the Eternal Being? What is Karma? Who are the mortal beings? And who are Divine Beings? Who is the Supreme Being and how does He dwell in the body? How can You, the Supreme Being, be remembered at the time of death by those who have control over their minds, O Krishna? (8.01-02)
DEFINITION OF SUPREME SPIRIT, SPIRIT, INDIVIDUAL SOUL, AND KARMA
Lord Krishna said: The eternal and immutable Spirit of the Supreme Being is called Eternal Being or the Spirit. The inherent power of cognition and desire of Eternal Being is called the nature of Eternal Being. The creative power of Eternal Being that causes manifestation of the living entity is called Karma. (8.03)
Spirit is also called Eternal Spirit, Spiritual Being, Eternal Being, and God in English; and Brahm, or Eternal Brahm (Note: Brahm is also spelled as Brahma and Brahman) in Sanskrit. Spirit is the cause of all causes. The word ‘God’ is generally used for both Spirit, and the Supreme Spirit (or the Supreme Being), the basis of Spirit. We have used the word ‘Eternal Being’ for Spirit; and ‘Supreme Being’, ‘Absolute’, and ‘Krishna’ for the Supreme Spirit in this rendering.
The subtle body consists of six sensory faculties, intellect, ego, and five vital forces called bioimpulses (Life forces, Prana). The individual soul is defined as the subtle body sustained by Spirit. The individual soul is enshrined in the physical body. The subtle body keeps the physical body active and alive by operating the organs of perception and action.
Various expansions of the Supreme Being are also called Divine Beings. The Supreme Being also resides inside the physical bodies as the Divine Controller (Ishvara). (8.04)
THEORY OF REINCARNATION AND KARMA
One who remembers the Supreme Being exclusively, even while leaving the body at the time of death, attains the Supreme Abode; there is no doubt about it. (8.05)
Whatever object one remembers as one leaves the body at the end of life, one attains that object. Thought of whatever object prevails during one’s lifetime, one remembers only that object at the end of life and achieves it. (8.06)
One’s destiny is determined by the predominant thought at the time of death. Even if one has practiced devotion and God-consciousness during one’s lifetime, the thought of God may or may not come at the hour of death. Therefore, God-consciousness should be continued till death (BS 1.1.12). Sages continue their efforts in their successive lives, yet at the moment of death they may fail to remember God. One cannot expect to have good thoughts at the time of death if one has kept bad company. Keeping the association of perfect devotees and avoiding the company of worldly-minded people is the criterion for success in spiritual life. Whatever thought one nurtures during life, the same thought comes at the time of death and determines the future destiny. Therefore, life should be molded in such a way that one should be able to remember God at the time of death. People should practice God-consciousness in everyday life from very childhood by forming a habit of remembering God before taking any food, before going to bed, and before starting any work or study.
A SIMPLE METHOD OF GOD-REALIZATION
Therefore, always remember Me and do your duty. You shall certainly attain Me if your mind and intellect are ever focused on Me. (8.07)
The supreme purpose of life is to remember all the time a personal God one believes in so that one can remember God at the time of death. To remember the absolute and impersonal God may not be possible for most human beings. A pure devotee is able to experience the ecstasy of Lord’s personal presence within and reach His Supreme Abode by always remembering Him. Live in a state of constant spiritual awareness.
By contemplating Me with an unwavering mind that is disciplined by the practice of meditation, one attains the Supreme Being, O Arjuna. (8.08)
One gets spiritual awakening and the vision of God by constantly thinking of God in meditation, silent repetition of the holy names of God, and contemplation. The endeavor of our whole life shapes our destiny. Spiritual practices are meant to keep the mind absorbed in His thoughts and fixed at His lotus feet. Ramakrishna said that when you desire anything, pray to the Mother aspect of God in a lonely place, with tears of sincerity in your eyes, and your wishes shall be fulfilled. He also said that it might be possible to attain Self-realization within three days. The more intensely one practices spiritual disciplines, the more quickly one attains perfection. The intensity of conviction and belief, combined with deep yearning, restlessness, intense longing, and persistence, determine the speed of spiritual progress. The real practice of HathaYoga is not only the yogic exercises taught in modern yoga centers, but also the consistence, persistence, and insistence in one’s search for the Supreme Truth.
Self-realization is not a simple act but a process of gradual spiritual growth, starting with resolve, proceeding gradually to vow, divine grace, faith, and finally realization of Truth (YV 19.30). The Supreme Being is not realized through discourses, intellect, or learning. It is realized only when one sincerely longs for it with vigorous effort. Sincere craving brings divine grace that unveils the Supreme Being (MuU 3.02.03).
One who meditates at the time of death with steadfast mind and devotion on the Supreme Being as the omniscient, the oldest, the controller, smaller than the smallest and bigger than the biggest, the sustainer of everything, the inconceivable, self-luminous like the sun, and transcendental (or beyond the material reality) by making the flow of bioimpulses (life forces, Prana) rise up to the middle of the eye brows by the power of yogic practices and holding there, attains Me, the Supreme Being. (See also verses 4.29, 5.27, 6.13) (8.09-10)
Now I shall briefly explain the process to attain the Supreme Abode that the knowers of the Veda call immutable; into which the ascetics, freed from attachment, enter; and desiring which people lead a life of celibacy. (8.11)
ATTAIN SALVATION BY MEDITATING ON GOD AT THE TIME OF DEATH
When one leaves the physical body by controlling all the senses, focusing the mind on God and the bioimpulses (Life forces, Prana) in the cerebrum, engaged in yogic practice, meditating on Me, and uttering AUM ¾ the sacred monosyllable sound power of the Spirit ¾ one attains the Supreme Abode. (8.12-13)
Scriptural knowledge has its place, but it is through direct realization that the inner core can be reached and the outer shell discarded. Meditation is the way to inner realization and should be learnt, personally, from a competent teacher. Realization of the true nature of mind leads to meditation.
A simple technique of meditation is described here: (1) Wash your face, eyes, hands, and feet and sit in a clean, quiet, dark place, using any comfortable posture, with head, neck, and spine straight and vertical. No music or incense during meditation is recommended. The time and place of meditation should be fixed. Follow the good principles of living by thoughts, words, and deeds. Some yogic exercises are necessary. Midnight, morning, and evening are the best times to meditate for 15 to 25 minutes every day, (2) Remember any name or form of the personal god you believe in and ask His or Her blessings, (3) Close your eyes, tilt head slightly upward, and take 5 to 10 very slow and deep breaths, (4) Fix your gaze, mind, and feelings inside the chest center, the seat of the causal heart, and breathe slowly. Mentally chant “So” as you breathe in and “Hum” as you breathe out. Think as if breath itself is making these sounds “So” and “Hum” (I am That Spirit). Mentally visualize and follow the route of breath going in through the nostrils, up towards the mid-brows, and down to the chest center, or lungs. Be alert, and feel the sensation created by the breath in the body as you follow the breath. Do not try to control or lead your breathing; just follow the natural breathing, (5) Direct the will towards the thought of merging yourself into the infinite space of the air you are breathing. If your mind wanders away from following the breaths, start from step (4). Be regular, and persist without procrastination.
The sound of “OM” or “AUM” is a combination of three primary sounds: A, U, and M. It is the source of all sounds one can utter. Therefore, it is the fittest sound symbol of Spirit. It is also the primeval impulse that moves our five nerve centers that control bodily functions. The sound produced due to the fast-moving earth, planets and galaxies is AUM. Yogananda calls “OM” the sound of the vibration of the cosmic motor. The Bible says: In the beginning was the word (OM, Amen, Allah) and the word was with God, and the word was God (John 1.01). This cosmic sound vibration is heard by yogis as a sound, or a mixture of sounds, of various frequencies.
The Omnic meditation, mentioned here by Lord Krishna, is a very powerful, sacred technique used by saints and sages of all religions. Briefly, the Omnic method entails getting the mind permeated by a continuous, reverberating sound of AUM. When the mind gets absorbed in repeating this divine sound, the individual consciousness merges into the Cosmic Consciousness.
A simpler method of contemplation is given below by Lord Krishna for those who cannot follow the conventional path of meditation discussed above.
I am easily attainable, O Arjuna, by that ever steadfast devotee who always thinks of Me and whose mind does not go elsewhere. (8.14)
It is not an easy task to always remember God. One must have a basis to remember God all the time. This basis could be an intense love of God or a passion to serve Him through the service of humanity.
After attaining Me, the great souls do not incur rebirth in this miserable transitory world because they have attained the highest perfection. (8.15)
Human birth is full of suffering. Even the saints, sages, and God in human form cannot escape the sufferings of the human body and mind. One has to learn to endure and work towards salvation.
The dwellers of all the worlds ¾ up to and including the world of the creator ¾ are subject to the miseries of repeated birth and death. But after attaining Me, O Arjuna, one does not take birth again. (See also 9.25) (8.16)
EVERYTHING IN THE CREATION IS CYCLIC
Those who know that the duration of creation lasts 4.32 billion years and that the duration of destruction also lasts 4.32 billion years, they are the knowers of the cycles of creation and destruction. (8.17)
Thus, one complete creative cycle lasts 8.64 billion solar years. The duration of partial dissolution, during which all heavenly planets, the earth, and the lower planets are annihilated and rest within the abdomen of Brahmaa, is 4.32 billion years. Complete dissolution takes place at the end of Brahmaa’s (or creative cycle’s) full life-span of 100 solar years, or 8.64 billion years x 30 x 12 x 100 = just over 311 trillion solar years called Kalpa (See verse 9.07), according to Vedic astrology. At this time, the complete material creation, including the modes of material Nature, enters into one of the three main, partial manifestations of the Absolute ¾ called MahaaVishnu (or the source and sink of the total material energy) ¾ and is annihilated. During the complete dissolution, everything is said to take rest in the abdomen of Lord (MahaaVishnu) until the beginning of the next cycle of creation. In the second manifestation, Lord’s energies enter into all the universes to create and support diversities. And in the third manifestation, the Absolute is diffused as the all-pervading supersoul in the universes and remains present within the atoms and every cell of everything ¾ visible or invisible.
All manifestations come out of the primary material Nature during the creative cycle, and they merge into the primary material Nature during the destructive cycle. (8.18)
The same multitude of beings comes into existence again and again at the arrival of the creative cycle and are annihilated, inevitably, at the arrival of the destructive cycle. (8.19)
According to the Vedas, creation is a beginningless and endless cycle, and there is no such thing as the first creation.
There is another eternal transcendental existence ¾ higher than the changeable material Nature ¾ called Eternal Being or Spirit that does not perish when all created beings perish. This is also called the Supreme Abode. Those who attain the Supreme Abode do not take birth again. (8.20-21)
TWO BASIC PATHS OF DEPARTURE FROM THE WORLD
This Supreme Abode, O Arjuna, is attainable by unswerving devotion to Me within which all beings exist, and by which the entire universe is pervaded. (See also 9.04 and 11.55) (8.22)
O Arjuna, now I shall describe different paths departing by which, during death, the yogis do or do not come back. (8.23)
Fire, light, daytime, the bright lunar fortnight, and the six months of the northern solstice of the sun — departing by the path of these celestial controllers, yogis who know the Self attain the Supreme. (8.24)
This verse is considered to be one of the most mysterious and misunderstood verses in the Gita, according to Yogananda. There are thousands of gross and subtle nerves (Nadis) in the human body. Only one of them ¾ the Sushumna Nadi ¾ goes towards the cerebral opening in the seventh energy center (Chakra). If the vital life force (Prana) passes out of the body through Sushumna Nadi during death by virtue of meditation on the energy centers (Chakras), the living entity reaches the Supreme and attains salvation. (ChU 8.6.06, KaU 6.16, BS 4.2.17).
Anyone who knows how to meditate on the energy centers (Chakras) becomes virtuous and pure and does not become besmeared with sin like a lotus leaf does not get wet by water (ChU 5.10.10). This is known as gradual emancipation of the soul from the lower centers in the body via the path leading to celestial controllers. What appears to refer to the auspicious times of departure of the living entity in this verse refers only to the presiding deities of various energy centers in the astral plane of the body. The kingdom of heaven is within all of us. All spheres of the macrocosm are represented in our body in microcosmic form as the seven Chakras or astral energy centers. Celestial controllers ¾ different aspects of the cosmic intellect ¾ that govern the forces of nature also reside in these astral centers of the body and control the forces that work upon the body.
The Upanishad (ChU 5.10.01) also refers to a superhuman person or celestial ruler. According to the gurus of KriyaYoga, this superbeing is the Kundalini power. This interpretation is thus supported by the Upanishad. Ramakrishna also said that spiritual consciousness is not possible without the awakening of Kundalini. When the mind force rises upward by the power of Kundalini and reaches the seventh Chakra (Energy center), it merges with the Universal Spirit in the eighth astral cosmic plane. Yogic scriptures say: As long as the Kundalini power remains dormant in the lower center, one cannot get success through spiritual practices, such as meditation and worship.
Smoke, night, the dark lunar fortnight, and the six months of southern solstice of the sun — departing by these paths, the righteous person attain heaven and come back to earth. (8.25)
The destination of righteous persons who work to enjoy the fruits of their labor, is described in the above verse. Those who attain heaven reincarnate when the fruits of their virtuous deeds are exhausted (MuU 1.02.09). If the soul goes out by any path other than Sushumna Nadi, one does not attain emancipation and undergoes repeated births and deaths.
The path of light of spiritual practice and Self-knowledge and the path of darkness of materialism and ignorance are thought to be the world’s two eternal paths. The former leads to salvation and the latter leads to rebirth as human beings. (8.26)
The path of transmigration may be included in the path of reincarnation, or it may be called the third path. The Upanishads describe this third path as the path of lower creatures, such as animals and insects. Unrighteous ones, who do not qualify for either path, transmigrate into lower wombs, such as animals, birds, and insects (BrU 6.02.15-16). The immortal soul wanders endlessly through the ocean of transmigration made up of 8.4 million different species of life on this planet. The good Lord, out of His sweet will or mercy and without any reason, bestows the precious gift of the human body that is like a raft to carry one across the ocean of transmigration (TR 7.43.02-04). Consider what we are is God’s gift to us, and what we become is our gift to God. It is also said that human birth, faith in God, and the help of a real guru come only by His grace. Our present life provides the opportunity for preparation for the next life. According to the activities in this life, one can either get a promotion or salvation, a demotion or transmigration, or another chance for salvation by reincarnating as a human being.
TRANSCENDENTAL KNOWLEDGE LEADS TO SALVATION
Knowing these two paths, O Arjuna, a yogi is not bewildered at all. Therefore, one should be resolute in attaining salvation — the goal of human birth — at all times. (8.27)
One who knows all this goes beyond getting the benefits of the study of the Vedas, performance of sacrifices, austerities, and charities; and attains salvation. (8.28)