Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā – chapter 8 (akṣara-brahma-yoga)

Post By: Published on: December 16, 2016 Reading time: 30 minutes


School of Yoga is profoundly grateful to Saṃskṛta scholars and academics Pijus Kanti Pal (pal.pijuskanti@gmail.com) and Dolon Chanpa Mondal for their support in Saṃskṛta transliteration and quality control.

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 8, akṣara-brahma-yoga (yoga of the imperishable Brahman).


What is akara-brahma-yoga? akara means alphabet, which is indestructible. Brahman is the source of creation, sustenance and dissolution. Hence, this chapter covers the qualities of Brahman. ŚKṛṣṇa also elaborates on his relationship with Brahman.

Arjuna asked – What is that Brahman? What is adhyātman?  What is karma, adhibhūta and adhidaiva?  Who and how does ādiyajña exist in this body? Finally, how is it cognised by self-restrained soul at time of death? (verse1-2).

ŚKṛṣṇa replied – Imperishable Brahman is supreme and indestructible. In fact, its nature is transcendental and it causes creation as an expression of itself. Also, this creation and this transformation is called karma. Next, ādibhūta (primordial creation) is any perishable state. Also, purua is adhyātman (primordial soul). I (ŚKṛṣṇa) alone represent ādiyajña (primordial sacrifice / transformation or change) in existence (in the body or embodied) (verse 3-4).

Notes: ādi or primordial means anything that existed since the beginning of time and transcendental is anything that goes beyond material, sensory or conceptual.

It is important to understand that daiva or deity is not God. In fact, deity is entity that acts as a representative of a particular task, role or concept. For example, savitā is a deity that represents the qualities/ energy of the Sun. Also, it is important to realise that, there is no concept of God in Yoga, there is only brahman. The individual is considered to be brahman wrapped in māyā (illusion) due to ignorance (avidyā). Yoga is the process of removing this veil of ignorance and merging the Individual with Truth (brahman).

What is Brahman?

The best explanation of Brahman is based in Physics.

oṃ pūrṇamadaḥ pūrṇamidaṃ pūrṇātpūrṇamudacyate

pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya pūrṇamevāvaśiṣyate

oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ

ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पूर्णमुदच्यते।

पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते॥

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः।

(Credit: Thanks to: https://www.templepurohit.com/mantras-slokas-stotras/shanti-mantra/om-purnamadah-purnamidam)

Which means,
  • That is infinite, this is infinite, from infinity proceeds infinity,
  • From infinity, when infinity is subtracted, truly, infinity is left as a remnant.

Let us understand Brahman on the basis of mahāvākyas (major aphorisms), which are four in number,

  • prajñānaṃ brahma (प्रज्ञानं ब्रह्म) – all awareness is Brahman
  • ayam ātmā brahma (अयम् आत्मा ब्रह्म) – this soul is the Brahman
  • tat tvam asi (तत् त्वम् असि) – that thou art or you are Brahman
  • ahaṃ brahmāsmi (अहं ब्रह्मास्मि) – I am Brahman
Brahman is a cognitive state of awareness.

The above state corresponds to everything that ŚKṛṣṇa describes brahman to be – an indestructible, unchanging, eternal and infinite state which is the source of everything and nothing as well. That can only be called an experience of peace which can be found in the state of null or infinity!

  • First, Brahman is a state, and the yogi must experience THAT state, and he must become THAT.
  • Second, Brahman is infinite, which means one must overcome (transcend) time, space and matter.
  • Third, Brahman is changeless which means that the yogi must transcend physical form and impact of stimuli on the Self because, when stimuli is annulled, there is no change.
  • Fourth, Brahman is tranquillity, which means that this is a state of “no agitation”.
  • Last, everything proceeds from Brahman. Brahman is the source and motility of materiality.

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 8, akṣara-brahma-yoga (verse 3-4, 8-13).

Concept of Brahman.

The above state corresponds to everything that ŚKṛṣṇa describes Brahman to be – an indestructible, unchanging, eternal and infinite state which is the source of everything and nothing as well. That can only be called an experience of peace which can be found in the state of null or infinity!

  • First, Brahman is a state, and the yogī must experience THAT state, and he must become THAT.
  • Second, Brahman is infinite, which means one must overcome (transcend) time, space and matter.
  • Third, Brahman is changeless which means that the yogi must transcend physical form and impact of stimuli on the Self because, when stimuli is annulled, there is no change.
  • Fourth, Brahman is tranquillity, which means that this is a state of “no agitation”.
  • Last, everything proceeds from Brahman. Brahman is the source and motility of materiality.

How does Brahman evolve.

First, imperishable Brahman is adhyātman (primordial Self) within the body. Next, it is the cause of creation and transformation, this is called karma. Brahman causes motility in creation and this is called adhibhūta (primordial creation). Also, purua is adhidaivata or primordial deity and he (ŚKṛṣṇa) as ādiyajña (primordial sacrifice, transformation or change) within the body. So, let us see how these entities integrate (verse 3-4).

  • First, everything comes from the Source/ Truth/ Origin or Brahman. This is a state of infinite changelessness, eternal peace and nothingness. Then, how does the Brahman manifest if it is a state of nothing but eternal, changeless peace?
  • What happens is that, Brahman experiences existential anxiety (do I exist?) and desires self-expression (What am I? What is this? Do I exist? I want to see myself).
  • How does this anxiety manifest? Brahman experiences an atemporal vibration or creative pulse called spandana. For example – When we say that we have a eureka moment, that insight comes to us from nowhere (Brahman) and we experience a creative outpouring (spandana). We know of two great scientists who had eureka moments, Newton (gravity) and Archimedes (buoyancy).
  • So, from a state of nothingness, it suddenly becomes curious about itself and seeks to express itself. 
  • Hence, Brahman sacrifices itself to express its Self (adhyātman).
  • This sacrifice of Brahman is called primordial sacrifice (ādiyajña), which is what ŚKṛṣṇa says he is.
  • As a result of the sacrifice, it manifests as purua (experiencer) and prakti (manifestation). The primordial expression of this manifestation is called praava.
  • Then, purua and prakti weave with each other to create manifested (sagua-Brahman) and unmanifested (nirgua-Brahman) In fact, that aspect of Brahman which can be cognised is called sagua-Brahman (manifested) and the rest is nirgua-Brahman (unmanifested).
  • So, when prakti and purua weave and there is engagement with the environment, this is called (saguaBrahman). However, prakti does not always manifest or when it does, it does not always get a response, in which case purua experiences only itself. This is called (nirguaBrahman).
  • Importantly, nirgua does not mean lack of existence, it means lack of manifestation. 
  • From purua, citta (consciousness) emerges. However, citta is inert and takes on the quality (bhāva) of the entity that it is interacting with. Hence, it is the carrier of experiences.
  • Also, purua is continuously experiencing itself (jñāna) or stimulus coming from outside (vijñāna).
  • Furthermore, from prakti (action), gua (attributes) emerge. In fact, guas are a mix of purua and prakti.
  • Firstly, when purua is ascendant over prakti, it is called tamas (delusion). Similarly, when prakti is ascendant over purua, the attribute is called rajas (passion or flow). Finally, when purua and prakti are in balance, this is called sattva (harmony or balance). 
  • Since, purua and prakti have to work in order to create, maintain or destroy the universe, this is called action or Hence, karma emerges from the weave of purua and prakti.

Importantly, one must recognise that Brahman is permanence or Truth, but starting with primordial sacrifice (ādiyajña), the state of ŚKṛṣṇa, everything is impermanent, can decay and die!

  • So, everything that is impermanent is a veil of ignorance (ajñāna) covering of the Brahman and hence it is māyā (illusion).

The progression of Brahman is from imperishable, changeless peace to manifestation. In fact, the Brahman is no different from us.

  • First, we are in a state of nothing (Brahman). Then, we get an idea!
  • If the idea is strong enough, then we make the sacrifice to make the idea work (ādiyajña).
  • When the idea manifests, this is called saguaBrahman (manifested Brahman). Next, we experience anxiety that the idea should succeed.
  • If we were to consider the idea to be an entity then, for the idea, we are Brahman (adhyātman), we are in the idea, but the idea is not in us!
  • Similarly, there are many ideas within us that never manifest, but remain within us. They are not dead, just unmanifested. These are called nirguaBrahman (unmanifested Brahman).

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 8, akṣara-brahma-yoga.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa is ādiyajña.

  • First, motility for karma comes from Brahman.
  • Also, karma results in creation of transactions and bonds, these in turn result in creation of multiple identities/ Souls or ātman of varying complexities.
  • As a result of the creation of multiple and complex transactions, bonds and entities, the universe is created and this is called golden egg (hiraṇyagarbha).
  • Also, the centre of Identity of the Universe (hiraṇyagarbha) is called viṣṇu.
  • Additionally, all karma occurs within the hiraṇyagarbha, which is the manifested aspect of the Brahman (saguaBrahman).
  • Since Brahman underwrites the motility of karma, Brahman exists everywhere.
  • Also, since all karma require a sacrifice (yajña) for manifestation, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, as ādi, is everywhere and is the starting point of materiality.
  • Each housing society is defined by a boundary wall and has its own Identity. Similarly, each city, state, region, country or planet have their own centre of Identity.
  • The Sun has a unique Identity which comes from its qualities, such as its name, colour, size as well as its capability to produce light and heat and its position as the centre of the Solar system.
  • Similarly, other planets such as Mars, Jupiter, Saturn or Moon have their own identities. The biggest extant entity is the Universe, and Śrī Kṛṣṇa says that he is beyond even that.
  • Since, he claims the position of ādiyajña, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is a state that has transcended material existence and merged with the source (Brahman). This allows him to participate and become the underwriting qualities of all the various entities (ātman-s) without becoming involved in their experience of existence.

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 8, akṣara-brahma-yoga.

Dynamics of death.

According to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, in Chapter 2, body perishes but the Soul (ātman) moves to another body to repay its debts, based on its past karma.  How does this happen?

  • To understand this, we need to understand rebirth. Why does rebirth occur?
  • The answer to this lies in karma. We are born on account of debt (ṛṇa) and throughout, we are either debtors or creditors. This is called prārabdha-karma (karma that has come up for repayment). Here, karma actually means debt (ṛṇa). Consequently, this loose use of karma terminology can be confusing.
  • All main events, people and situations we encounter in our lives occur because of prārabdha-karma. 
  • Throughout life, in the process of reconciling prārabdha-karma, we act. So, during the process of reconciliation, in addition to reconciling old karma accounts, we are also creating new ones through our ongoing actions and these go into our overall book of debt. This is called āgāmi-karma (present state karma).
  • This overall register of debt is called sañcita-karma (overall karma). This karma is the reason for rebirth, because all debt cannot be squared -off in one life. Remember, when it comes to karma, one may either be a creditor or a debtor and reconciliation spares no one.
  • At death a person becomes a sentiment (bhāva), a residue of unfulfilled desires, regrets or vāsanās, which will become a part of the template for subsequent life (sasāra).
  • In fact, they will manifest as motivation (vāsanā) which will be exhibited as personality (bhāva) when the person is reborn. 
Then, is there any way for an individual to break this cycle of sasāra (birth and death) through karma?
  • All debts are carried by our Self or ātman. Therefore, if the Self were to cease to exist, then there would be no one for clearance of karma (debt or credit).
  • The soul (ātman), is after all a manifestation of the unmanifest (Brahman).
  • Karma is accrued to that aspect which considers itself the doer (ahakāra). Karma here means debt (ṛṇa) as opposed to action (karma). Consequently, this loose interpretation of terminology could be confusing.
  • Karma occurs on account of duality (like-dislike, good-bad, truth-lies, God-Devil, merit-sin, love-hate) etc. When we like something, we bring it closer (rāga) and when we dislike something, we push it away (dveśa). This act of pushing and pulling results in and the imbalance causes debt (ṛṇa) which needs to be repaid.
  • So, this means that no karma is accrued when there is no doer or Soul (ātman). So, when the Self (ātman) is indifferent to duality (like-dislike, good-bad etc.), there is no karma.
  • This state also occurs when the person acts without the sentiment of being the doer (ahakāra), when activity is performed as sacrifice (selflessness, not selfishness). Also, sacrifice may be defined as work done without expectation of return, this can also be called duty!
  • Another way is when action is dedicated to another entity that cannot return the debt, like Śrī Kṛṣṇa, a deity, Guru, Country or society.
  • So, when Śrī Kṛṣṇa says “dedicate your activity to Me (Śrī Kṛṣṇa)”, he means that when one dedicates any activity as sacrifice, there is no karma because there is no experience of being a doer (ahakāra). Consequently, this breaks the cycle of rebirth (sasāra) and enables one to transcend existence.
  • Another interesting aspect in the explanation of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is his position as the owner of yajña or sacrifice, the state which occurs before there is expression of the Soul (ātman). So, when sacrifice is offered to sacrifice, there is no This situation is hypothetical and difficult to achieve.
  • All the above methods are overt or gross (sthūla) methods of controlling debt (ṛṇa or karma).
  • However, even when it’s not acting, the Self (ātman) still exists and this has to be neutered. The Self has to be brought to a point where it’s individual Identity or Soul (ātman) ceases to exist. This is the subtle (sūkma)
  • When this completely neutered state is reached, the Self (ātman) experiences no change or karma (nirvikalpa), it does not react to stimulus (citta-vṛtti-nirodha).
  • This place of no-change is also a state of infinite peace or nothingness. It is the state of permanence (brahman).
  • The yoking of the Self (ātman) with the Brahman is yoga, and in this state, there is no rebirth.

Example: All of us have faced exams and anyone who has worked in a corporate environment has faced the stress of annual appraisals. In fact, indignity of any appraisal is that it seeks to force diverse achievements into a “bell” curve, often compelling managers to compare apples with oranges. 

Applying Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s concept here – perform your task diligently (with śraddhā). Communicate without fear or favour, with the sole intent of successful completion of the assigned task. Next, when appraisal comes, prepare well and state your achievements.

Finally, when the result is out, accept it without allowing any exultation or depression. Do not resist the outcome. When there is no resistance, the cycle of karma is broken.

Obviously, this is difficult, which is why transcending rebirth is not for the faint hearted.

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 8, akṣara-brahma-yoga.

Death and rebirth.

If a person had unsuccessfully wished to complete a PhD, see a child, sibling or person before dying, go to a particular place or had some bucket list, then that overriding sentiment is carried away at death as karma. 

  • We have seen how karma creates debt which has to be reconciled. So, when a person dies with any sentiment of want, desire or regret, he or she holds on to that sentiment as the greatest unfulfilled desire in life.
  • This becomes the defining aspect of the individual at rebirth and when the person is reborn, they become fixations in the personality, called embedded memory (vāsanā) on account of prārabdha-karma.
  • The first suggestion of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is that a yogī who wishes to avoid rebirth, should focus his consciousness (citta) on the purua (adhidaiva). While Śrī Kṛṣṇa explains the qualities of purua, but these are abstract and not of much use. This suggestion is not easy to implement.
  • Instead, it would be simpler for the yogī to follow Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s instruction and anchor (yukta) his consciousness (citta) on his prāa at the centre of eyebrows and reach immortality at death.
  • Also, one could practice thinking of Śrī Kṛṣṇa all the time, so that at death, the person merges in Śrī Kṛṣṇa and does not return because Śrī Kṛṣṇa is ādiyajña. Instead, the person goes to the place where great souls (mahātman) have reached and does not return. This suggestion is not just valid for Śrī Kṛṣṇa but one could apply this to any favourite deity (iṣṭa-daivata).
  • A good practice which Śrī Kṛṣṇa explains that can be used at death is:
    • Control all the gates (eyes, ears, tongue, olfactory, nasal, legs, hands, sexual organs, anus, urination organs), Control means that these organs should be without stress or tension and there should be a feeling of peace, there should be no input or output.
    • Next, centre the cognition (manas) in the heart region.
    • After this, place the Self (Identity) in the frontal lobe of the brain (mūladhi).
    • To achieve this, the yogi must stop his or her consciousness or cognition (citta) from flowing out and steady it in the frontal lobe area without movement. There will be slight compression, tightness or pressure in the frontal lobe and the yogī must slowly make the sensation placid, peaceful, calm or without pressure. 
    • Lastly, let the prāṇa be in harmonic meditation (this means that the prāṇa should move unstressed within the body).
    • Finally, when leaving the body, utter OM, or any bījakara (Śrī Kṛṣṇa says any akara or single syllables). This stops other regrets and desires from becoming karma.
    • A bījakara (bīja = root+ akara = syllable) is any single alphabet. In Sanskrit, all akara-s have certain frequency control. So, what happens is that when a person focuses on an alphabet, then there is loss of Identity into the Self. This results in stoppage of rebirth.
    • Remember brahman or Śrī Kṛṣṇa or any favourite deity (iṣṭa-daivata).

The above practices are very practical and doable, if one were to practice this kind of meditation regularly, then it will be easy to fall into that state at the time of death.

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 8, akṣara-brahma-yoga.

How yajña weaves with Bhārat’s culture.

  • Firstly, every activity is started with a sakalpa (vow to complete).
  • Secondly, activity is conducted in accordance with the Laws of ta.
  • Finally, after work is completed, the fruits are offered to a form of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, also called Narayana and this is called kāyena-vacā.

Ordinarily, people finish any activity by chanting, “sarva kṛārpaṇam (sarva = everything + Kṛṣṇa = Śrī Kṛṣṇa + arpaa = offering). In this way, practitioners sacrifice their activity and results to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Thus, the Self is negated and everything is sacrificed to śrī Kṛṣṇa.

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 8, akṣara-brahma-yoga (verse 5-7).

Śrī Kṛṣṇa explains himself. 

Śrī Kṛṣṇa says that he is that point in the supra-system where there is no Identity. So, anyone who focusses his or her cognition and intelligence on him (Śrī Kṛṣṇa) shall reach that point and not be born again.

  • This argument may seem counter-intuitive. If there is a Śrī Kṛṣṇa who is cognised, there must be a Self (ātman) that cognises Śrī Kṛṣṇa, which means that yoga is not complete because the Self still exists and has not been neutralised.
  • However, this is possible if the yogī were to adopt a technique that requires one to lose his or her identity (ātman) completely in Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In this condition, the Self ceases to exist.
  • It does not matter whether Śrī Kṛṣṇa exists or not, nor in what state. What matters is that the Self should cease to exist.
  • This yoga is called bhakti-yoga (refer Chapter-12).
  • Additionally, this method is not confined to Śrī Kṛṣṇa but can be used with other deities as well.

Conclusion: Śrī Kṛṣṇa is a yogī who has reached an extremely high level of “sthita-prajñā or “situational awareness”. Hence, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is able to explain the nuances of his position with respect to Brahman.

School of Yoga explains Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 8, akṣara-brahma-yoga (verse 23-28).


Those who know that brahma’s day lasts a thousand yugas, also know that his nights last a thousand yugas. At beginning of his day, manifestation occurs from the Brahman (source) and at night, all that is perishable merges back into him. Beyond this, is the region of the imperishable. I reside in this abode. Only through unwavering focus can one reach me and thence this abode of the Imperishable.

Those who die when sun is moving north (uttarāyaṇa) for 6 months, during waxing moon (śukla-paka) and in day go to Brahman. Those who die when the sun is moving South (dakiṇāyaa), during the waning moon (kṛṣṇa-paka) and at night, return. Any yogī who understands this yoga needs no other knowledge.

How does the math of creation work? What is a kalpa?

  • Firstly, the Universe or hiraṇyagarbha is an identity called Viṣṇu.
  • Next, Brahmā emerges from Viṣṇu. Brahmā‘s lifespan is calculated as follows:
    • 1 human day = 8 yāma
    • 1 day of the pits (ancestors) = 1 month/ 30 days
    • Lifespan of pits = 100 years or 3000 human years.
    • 1 day of daivas (deities or divinities) = 1 human year
    • Lifespan of daivas = 12000 years = 4320000 human years.
    • 1 mahāyuga = 12000 years = 4320000 human years
    • 1 day of Brahmā = 1 kalpa = 1000 mahāyuga = 4.32 billion human years
    • 1 day and night of Brahmā = 2 kalpa = 8.64 billion human years
    • Lifespan of Brahmā (mahā-kalpa) = 100 Years = 311.04 trillion human years.

Note: it is important to distinguish Brahmā (the creator) from brahman (the source) and brāhmin (a human being whose sole purpose is to realise the Brahman and disseminate that knowledge (brahma-vidya) to the world.

Some contradictions to accepted positions – conclusion on verse 23-26.

  • There is a problem with Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s assertion (verse 23-26) that the time of death determines rebirth or escape from it. The reason for this conflict is his assertion in verses 5-16 where he states that a person would be reborn according to his sentiment (bhāva) at death. 
  • In fact, the advice in verses 5-16 are in conformance with the rest of Śrīmad-bhagavadgītā and also to Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s own laws of karma while verses 23-26 run are out of conformance to the rest of the text.
  • Next, in verses 11-16, Śrī Kṛṣṇa also advises Arjuna on how a person should die to avoid rebirth, and it is independent of time of death.
  • Lastly, if a person gets the merit of his or her own actions, then his rebirth cannot be governed by the time of death. Instead, if we were to accept the law of karma, a person would die when his karma required his departure.

Hence, verses 23-26 are out of congruence from the rest of Śrīmad-bhagavadgītā. The practitioner may draw his or her own conclusions.

Śrimad-bhāgavad-purāa explains this process of confronting death.

When a person has completed the duties as specified by the āśrama, the person should then begin to realise that he or she must confront death.

The key to dispassion is to draw down on use of energy and become minimalist. This is done by minimising consumption of cooked food and slowly migrating to natural foods such as nuts, milk and other simple foods /cereals. The person should keep minimum stock of food. The person should also maintain a simple wardrobe, giving away clothes as soon as fresh ones are procured. He is expected to minimise living space and reduce travel. Also, the person is encouraged to stop spending too much time in personal appearance as well as stop being fussy about his surroundings.

When the person slowly becomes infirm, that person is encouraged to reduce intake, harmonise his or her prāṇa and give up identification with the body in the following manner.

  • Control of the senses is done by merging the apertures of the body, viz, the two eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth and organs of urination and defecation in ether (ākāṣa or space).
  • Next the internal heat of the body is controlled by not allowing it to emanate from the body. This will also merge the five vāyu (prāṇa, apāna, vyāna, udāna, samāna) into the cosmic airflow (vāyu).
  • Then the person should merge the various parts of the body into their primordial elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether (space). For instance, speech should be bestowed to fire, hands and craftsmanship to Indra, locomotion to Viṣṇu, sensual pleasures to Prajapati etc.
  • Then asmitā (I am this/ sense of identity or self-worth) and ahaṅkāra should be merged with Rudra.
  • When this is steady, then the soul (ātma) slowly merges with the source (Brahman).
  • After this the person should cease functioning like a fire that has run out of resources.

Clearly, dying in a conscious state, fully merged with the Brahman is the preferred method of dying.

Lessons learned in Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 8, akṣara-brahma-yoga.

  • The process of creation has never been detailed properly in any ancient text due to differences in interpretations. The delineation that are detailed in this version of Śrīmad-bhagavadgītā are a distillation of the myriad proposals in Śrīmad-bhagavadgītā, Śrimad-bhāgavad-purāa and Manu-smti. However, since there is no clear linkage between the myriad terms, some assumptions have been made, resulting in the process detailed above and in the various chapters.
  • One aspect which the living often miss, is the dying. How do we die, what happens to the Soul, where does it go, how does the debt get reconciled and programmed into another Soul for reinsertion on Earth, etc.?
    • Again, while ancient texts do shed some light on the journey of the Soul, that is not always clear and subject to interpretation.
    • However, for the living, one clear direction is provided by Śrī Kṛṣṇa. You can prepare for death by practicing how your consciousness (citta) will exit the body. While one’s state at death may vary, with practice we can condition our consciousness, which means that we have a fighting chance at controlling the movement of the Soul after it exits from the body.
    • But Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s tool of controlling the consciousness requires discipline (abhyāsa) and sacrifice (yajña).

The transliteration and translation of Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā, chapter 8, akṣara-brahma-yoga follows.

The Sanskrit words are in red italics.

अर्जुन उवाच ।

किं तद् ब्रह्म किमध्यात्मं किं कर्म पुरुषोत्तम ।

अधिभूतं च किं प्रोक्तमधिदैवं किमुच्यते ॥ ८-१॥

अधियज्ञः कथं कोऽत्र देहेऽस्मिन्मधुसूदन ।

प्रयाणकाले च कथं ज्ञेयोऽसि नियतात्मभिः ॥ ८-२॥

Arjuna asked (1-2) What is that brahman? what is adhyātman? what is karma? adhibhuta and adhidaiva? what is that which is called adidaiva? (kiṃ tad brahma kimadhyātmaṃ kiṃ karma puruṣottama । adhibhūtaṃ ca kiṃ proktamadhidaivaṃ kimucyate ॥ 8-1॥)? Who and how does ādiyajña exist in this body? How is it cognised by self-restrained soul at time of death (adhiyajñaḥ kathaṃ ko’tra dehe’sminmadhusūdana । prayāṇakāle ca kathaṃ jñeyo’si niyatātmabhiḥ ॥ 8-2॥)?

श्रीभगवानुवाच ।

अक्षरं ब्रह्म परमं स्वभावोऽध्यात्ममुच्यते ।

भूतभावोद्भवकरो विसर्गः कर्मसंज्ञितः ॥ ८-३॥

अधिभूतं क्षरो भावः पुरुषश्चाधिदैवतम् ।

अधियज्ञोऽहमेवात्र देहे देहभृतां वर ॥ ८-४॥

Śrī Kṛṣṇa said (3-4) The imperishable brahman is supreme, they say that its nature is transcendental (akṣaraṃ brahma paramaṃ svabhāvo’dhyātmamucyate ।), it causes self-expression in creation which is called karma (bhūtabhāvodbhavakaro visargaḥ karmasaṃjñitaḥ ॥ 8-3॥). Primordial creation is any perishable situation/ state purua is the primordial deity, I alone am primordial sacrifice in the body or the embodied (adhibhūtaṃ kṣaro bhāvaḥ puruṣaścādhidaivatam । adhiyajño’hamevātra dehe dehabhṛtāṃ vara ॥ 8-4॥).

अन्तकाले च मामेव स्मरन्मुक्त्वा कलेवरम् ।

यः प्रयाति स मद्भावं याति नास्त्यत्र संशयः ॥ ८-५॥

यं यं वापि स्मरन्भावं त्यजत्यन्ते कलेवरम् ।

तं तमेवैति कौन्तेय सदा तद्भावभावितः ॥ ८-६॥

(5-6) When dying and leaving the body remember me only (antakāle ca māmeva smaranmuktvā kalevaram ।), he who makes effort goes to my being (yaḥ prayāti sa madbhāvaṃ), here is no doubt (yāti nāstyatra saṃśayaḥ ॥ 8-5॥). Whatever intuition or memory even, one leaves the body at the end, to that steady state the spirit is transformed (yaṃ yaṃ vāpi smaranbhāvaṃ tyajatyante kalevaram । taṃ tamevaiti kaunteya sadā tadbhāvabhāvitaḥ ॥ 8-6॥).

तस्मात्सर्वेषु कालेषु मामनुस्मर युध्य च ।

मय्यर्पितमनोबुद्धिर्मामेवैष्यस्यसंशयः ॥ ८-७॥

अभ्यासयोगयुक्तेन चेतसा नान्यगामिना ।

परमं पुरुषं दिव्यं याति पार्थानुचिन्तयन् ॥ ८-८॥

(7-8) Therefore, at all times think of me, and fight (tasmātsarveṣu kāleṣu māmanusmara yudhya ca।). Transfer your cognition and intelligence upon me, to me alone will you come, without doubt (mayyarpitamanobuddhirmāmevaiṣyasyasaṃśayaḥ ॥ 8-7॥). Practice yoga with focussed consciousness which is not wandering (abhyāsayogayuktena cetasā nānyagāminā ।), reach by constantly thinking, the divine supreme purua (paramaṃ puruṣaṃ divyaṃ yāti pārthānucintayan ॥ 8-8॥).

कविं पुराणमनुशासितार-

        मणोरणीयंसमनुस्मरेद्यः ।

सर्वस्य धातारमचिन्त्यरूप-

         मादित्यवर्णं तमसः परस्तात् ॥ ८-९॥

प्रयाणकाले मनसाऽचलेन

        भक्त्या युक्तो योगबलेन चैव ।

भ्रुवोर्मध्ये प्राणमावेश्य सम्यक्

        स तं परं पुरुषमुपैति दिव्यम् ॥ ८-१०॥

(9-10) Ancient Seer lawful Ruler, more minute than the atom or memory, who supports everything and is of incomprehensible form with the colour of the Sun (kaviṃ purāṇamanuśāsitāra-  maṇoraṇīyaṃsamanusmaredyaḥ । sarvasya dhātāramacintyarūpa- mādityavarṇaṃ tamasaḥ parastāt ॥ 8-9॥). At the time of departure, with unwavering cognition, devotion united by strength of Yoga and only by bringing the prāṇa exactly between the eyebrows, he merges with the supreme divine purua (prayāṇakāle manasā’calena-  bhaktyā yukto yogabalena caiva । bhruvormadhye prāṇamāveśya samyak- sa taṃ paraṃ puruṣamupaiti divyam ॥ 8-10॥).

यदक्षरं वेदविदो वदन्ति

        विशन्ति यद्यतयो वीतरागाः ।

यदिच्छन्तो ब्रह्मचर्यं चरन्ति

        तत्ते पदं सङ्ग्रहेण प्रवक्ष्ये ॥ ८-११॥

सर्वद्वाराणि संयम्य मनो हृदि निरुध्य च ।

मूर्ध्न्याधायात्मनः प्राणमास्थितो योगधारणाम् ॥ ८-१२॥

ओमित्येकाक्षरं ब्रह्म व्याहरन्मामनुस्मरन् ।

यः प्रयाति त्यजन्देहं स याति परमां गतिम् ॥ ८-१३॥

(11-13) That which knowers of the Vedas proclaim as imperishable, which ascetics freed from attachment and those desires by practicing brahmacharyam enter the goal that I will explain to you (yadakṣaraṃ vedavido vadanti-  viśanti yadyatayo vītarāgāḥ । yadicchanto brahmacaryaṃ caranti- tatte padaṃ saṅgraheṇa pravakṣye ॥ 8-11॥). Having controlled all the gates controlling cognition and the heart and having placed the Soul in the forehead, anchor the prāṇa for continuous harmony in meditation (sarvadvārāṇi saṃyamya mano hṛdi nirudhya ca । mūrdhnyādhāyātmanaḥ prāṇamāsthito yogadhāraṇām ॥ 8-12॥). Thus, he who departs and leaves the body uttering OM, any single- syllable, remembering brahman or me, he attains the supreme goal (omityekākṣaraṃ brahma vyāharanmāmanusmaran । yaḥ prayāti tyajandehaṃ sa yāti paramāṃ gatim ॥ 8-13॥).

अनन्यचेताः सततं यो मां स्मरति नित्यशः ।

तस्याहं सुलभः पार्थ नित्ययुक्तस्य योगिनः ॥ ८-१४॥

मामुपेत्य पुनर्जन्म दुःखालयमशाश्वतम् ।

नाप्नुवन्ति महात्मानः संसिद्धिं परमां गताः ॥ ८-१५॥

आब्रह्मभुवनाल्लोकाः पुनरावर्तिनोऽर्जुन ।

मामुपेत्य तु कौन्तेय पुनर्जन्म न विद्यते ॥ ८-१६॥

(14-16) Who has a consciousness that is not fragmented constantly remembers me always, to him constant harmonisation in Yoga is easy (ananyacetāḥ satataṃ yo māṃ smarati nityaśaḥ । tasyāhaṃ sulabhaḥ pārtha nityayuktasya yoginaḥ ॥ 8-14॥).  He who has reached me does not get to any place of pain in another birth but goes to an eternal, exalted place which great Souls that have attained perfection reach (māmupetya punarjanma duḥkhālayamaśāśvatam । nāpnuvanti mahātmānaḥ saṃsiddhiṃ paramāṃ gatāḥ ॥ 8-15॥). Upto the world of Brahma one may return again, but having attained me, previous births do not occur (ābrahmabhuvanāllokāḥ punarāvartino’rjuna । māmupetya tu kaunteya punarjanma na vidyate ॥ 8-16॥).

सहस्रयुगपर्यन्तमहर्यद् ब्रह्मणो विदुः ।

रात्रिं युगसहस्रान्तां तेऽहोरात्रविदो जनाः ॥ ८-१७॥

अव्यक्ताद् व्यक्तयः सर्वाः प्रभवन्त्यहरागमे ।

रात्र्यागमे प्रलीयन्ते तत्रैवाव्यक्तसंज्ञके ॥ ८-१८॥

भूतग्रामः स एवायं भूत्वा भूत्वा प्रलीयते ।

रात्र्यागमेऽवशः पार्थ प्रभवत्यहरागमे ॥ ८-१९॥

(17-19) The people that know night and day know that the day of Brahma ends after a thousand years, the night end after a thousand years (sahasrayugaparyantamaharyad brahmaṇo viduḥ । rātriṃ yugasahasrāntāṃ te’horātravido janāḥ ॥ 8-17॥). From the unmanifested proceed all manifestations at the coming of day (avyaktād vyaktayaḥ sarvāḥ prabhavantyaharāgame ।). Next, at the coming of night, dissolution truly happens and becomes unmanifested (rātryāgame pralīyante tatraivāvyaktasaṃjñake ॥ 8-18॥). Multitude of beings that are born again and again and are dissolved at the coming of night are truly helpless at this occurrence when day ends (bhūtagrāmaḥ sa evāyaṃ bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate । rātryāgame’vaśaḥ pārtha prabhavatyaharāgame ॥ 8-19॥).

परस्तस्मात्तु भावोऽन्योऽव्यक्तोऽव्यक्तात्सनातनः ।

यः स सर्वेषु भूतेषु नश्यत्सु न विनश्यति ॥ ८-२०॥

अव्यक्तोऽक्षर इत्युक्तस्तमाहुः परमां गतिम् ।

यं प्राप्य न निवर्तन्ते तद्धाम परमं मम ॥ ८-२१॥

पुरुषः स परः पार्थ भक्त्या लभ्यस्त्वनन्यया ।

यस्यान्तःस्थानि भूतानि येन सर्वमिदं ततम् ॥ ८-२२॥

(20-22) Higher than that but existing is another unmanifested other than the unmanifested which is eternal who is in all beings which on perishing does not get destroyed (parastasmāttu bhāvo’nyo’vyakto’vyaktātsanātanaḥ । yaḥ sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu naśyatsu na vinaśyati ॥ 8-20॥). Unmanifested and imperishable, this is called That, they say it is the supreme goal, which having attained, there is no return and that supreme home is mine (avyakto’kṣara ityuktastamāhuḥ paramāṃ gatim । yaṃ prāpya na nivartante taddhāma paramaṃ mama ॥ 8-21॥). Purua is supreme undoubtedly, attainable by devotion, when nothing else is there in being, then all this is That (puruṣaḥ sa paraḥ pārtha bhaktyā labhyastvananyayā । yasyāntaḥsthāni bhūtāni yena sarvamidaṃ tatam ॥ 8-22॥).

यत्र काले त्वनावृत्तिमावृत्तिं चैव योगिनः ।

प्रयाता यान्ति तं कालं वक्ष्यामि भरतर्षभ ॥ ८-२३॥

अग्निर्ज्योतिरहः शुक्लः षण्मासा उत्तरायणम् ।

तत्र प्रयाता गच्छन्ति ब्रह्म ब्रह्मविदो जनाः ॥ ८-२४॥

धूमो रात्रिस्तथा कृष्णः षण्मासा दक्षिणायनम् ।

तत्र चान्द्रमसं ज्योतिर्योगी प्राप्य निवर्तते ॥ ८-२५॥

शुक्लकृष्णे गती ह्येते जगतः शाश्वते मते ।

एकया यात्यनावृत्तिमन्ययावर्तते पुनः ॥ ८-२६॥

(23-26) Also, I will tell you what happens at death about non-return or return and even about where yogīs go after death (yatra kāle tvanāvṛttimāvṛttiṃ caiva yoginaḥ । prayātā yānti taṃ kālaṃ vakṣyāmi bharatarṣabha ॥ 8-23॥). First, fire, light, day, ascending lunar fortnight six-months of the northern movement of Sun, those departing will go to Brahma and cognise Brahma (agnirjyotirahaḥ śuklaḥ ṣaṇmāsā uttarāyaṇam । tatra prayātā gacchanti brahma brahmavido janāḥ ॥ 8-24॥). Smoke, night and descending lunar fortnight six months of the southern movement of the Sun, by the lunar light, the yogi will get to return (dhūmo rātristathā kṛṣṇaḥ ṣaṇmāsā dakṣiṇāyanam । tatra cāndramasaṃ jyotiryogī prāpya nivartate ॥ 8-25॥). Ascending and descending lunar cycles paths, these are genuinely thought to be eternal in the world, by one a person goes without return, by the other, returns again (śuklakṛṣṇe gatī hyete jagataḥ śāśvate mate । ekayā yātyanāvṛttimanyayāvartate punaḥ ॥ 8-26॥).

नैते सृती पार्थ जानन्योगी मुह्यति कश्चन ।

तस्मात्सर्वेषु कालेषु योगयुक्तो भवार्जुन ॥ ८-२७॥

वेदेषु यज्ञेषु तपःसु चैव

        दानेषु यत्पुण्यफलं प्रदिष्टम् ।

अत्येति तत्सर्वमिदं विदित्वा

        योगी परं स्थानमुपैति चाद्यम् ॥ ८-२८॥

(27-28) Neither of these paths deludes anyone who has reached the state of sublime merger (naite sṛtī pārtha jānanyogī muhyati kaścana ।) therefore at all times be steadfast in yoga (tasmātsarveṣu kāleṣu yogayukto bhavārjuna ॥ 8-27॥). Whether the person is a vedāntin, practitioner of sacrifices, an ascetic and also giver of alms (vedeṣu yajñeṣu tapaḥsu caiva dāneṣu), whatever merit is decreed, surpassing that is this, which having known, the yogī attains supreme and primeval abode (yatpuṇyaphalaṃ pradiṣṭam । atyeti tatsarvamidaṃ viditvā  yogī paraṃ sthānamupaiti cādyam ॥ 8-28॥).


3 Replies to “Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā – chapter 8 (akṣara-brahma-yoga)”

  1. C S VENKATARAMU says:

    One of the best articles I have come across. Scientifically explains, interprets and enlightens the concept of Aksharabramha and how to attain freedom from Birth-death cycle effectively. The article also enables to pursue the path of Karma to attain moksha. Hearty Congratulations for the contributors.

    1. Thank you for your encouragement. Everything in this website is Original, there is no plagiarism. Please do read and comment on the other articles also.

    2. Sorry for the delayed response. Thank you for your feedback. We are also in the process of rewriting and adding more examples to make Srimad Bhagavad-gita more relevant to daily use and would welcome your suggestions. Vishwanath, School of Yoga

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