by Swami Krishnananda
As we noticed yesterday, several questions were raised by Arjuna regarding certain technical terms that the Lord used at the end of the Seventh Chapter. Every one of us is required to present ourselves before the Supreme Godhead in a total fashion – not partially; and in that connection, questions were raised as to what is Brahma, what is adhyatma, what is karma in the cosmic sense, what is adhibhuta, what is adhidaiva, and what is adhiyajna. Yesterday these were all explained as representing the different facets of the Supreme Being, all of which have to be taken into consideration at the same time in the final meditation in which we have to engage ourselves daily, and especially at the time of leaving this world. The last question of Arjuna is: “How are You to be contemplated upon at the time of passing? Prayanakale ca katham jneyo’si niyatatmabhih: How are we to know You at the time of quitting this body? What sort of awareness are we to entertain? What is the consciousness that has to envelop us at that time?”
Bhagavan has already described what akshara is, what Brahma is, etc. Now he takes up a very important subject of the departure of the soul from this body, and the art of meditation that has to be our principle occupation at that time. You may ask me, “How do I know when I will pass away? Should I think that I will pass away just now, and collect myself in tremendous earnestness? Or should I be at ease with myself because I may not die so quickly, because I have a long tenure of life – ten, twenty, thirty or forty years, as the case may be? So are you telling me that I can postpone this meditation to later, for consideration, and now I can be merry in this world?” Not so is the case. We cannot expect to have that blessing of concentration at the time of passing from this body unless we have cultivated that habit even earlier throughout our life. If we have lived a dissipated, indulgent life during our normal tenure here, our span of life, do we think some butter will come by churning water? Butter comes only by churning milk.
So it is necessary to expect that certain other factors also may prevent us from thinking of God at the time of death. We do not know what kind of physical ailment we may have at that time. Not everybody has physical illness at the time of death. Many pass away suddenly after a good meal; they sit on a chair and just go. But one cannot say that it is always the case. Many are bedridden for months together and suffer; and at that time, what are they going to think in the mind? What is the use of postponing the concentration on God until the time of death? At that time, we may not be able to speak. Our minds may be disturbed, or we may be delirious. We may be in a coma. Anything is possible, although we need not expect all those unfortunate situations. So let our minds enter God’s lotus feet now itself, and not later on when it is possible that we may be afflicted with physical illness and mental delusion. The whole of life is a preparation for death. The whole of the time process is a preparation for eternity. All our activities are a worship of God, and every step that we take in this world is a movement in the direction of the final liberation of the spirit. So there is no question of postponing this great duty on everyone’s part to a future date, which may not come at all.
Antakale cha mameva smaran muktva kalevaram, yah prayati sa madbhavam yati nasty atra samsayah (8.5): “Whoever contemplates My Glorious Being while leaving this body will be inundated with that Being after death.” This is because the shape that the mind takes at the time of death will be the shape into which it will enter after death. Thus, the pattern of our future life in the other world is laid at the time of our passing from this body, depending on the state of thinking in which the mind is lodged. “Whoever contemplates on Me only” – you may ask what this ‘Me’ is. Yesterday we had occasion to note this total vision that we have of God. The Supreme Being is a total blend of all the aspects of possible concepts – the adhyatma, adhibhuta, adhidaiva, etc. It is a timeless conceptualisation of an eternal possibility, whose details were briefly stated in the last two verses of the Seventh Chapter; and that is the kind of ‘Me’ on which we have to concentrate.
The Universal Being is telling us: Concentrate on Me. The Universal Being shall reveal itself completely in the Eleventh Chapter. Now it is preparing the way for it. It is gaining momentum; the tempo of the teaching is gradually rising. There is a heat rising, as it were, in the very manner of the exposition, until it reaches the culmination in the Visvarupa Darsana. Therefore, it is this Universal Visvarupa, the Total Existence, that is the object of our concentration. “That is Me, and on Me (that type of ‘Me’) you concentrate yourself.” We should attempt to bring our mind to that point of meditation when we depart from this body. That is the antakala, or the end period of our life. If we think that any moment is the end period of our life, it will be good on our part to be meditating like this always. There is no loss in getting engaged in this meditation day in and day out. We will not lose anything by thinking of God.
Antakale cha mameva smaran mukta kalevaram, yah prayati: “That person who departs while deeply brooding over Me in the essential nature attains to the blessed abode, reaching which there is no return. There is no doubt about this.” God says: “No doubt about it. You will certainly reach it.” Do not be under the misapprehension that perhaps it is not possible. It is certainly possible. Nastyatra samsayah: no doubt.
Yam yam vapi smaran bhavam tyajaty ante kalevaram, tam tam evaiti kaunteya sada tad-bhava-bhavitah (8.6): We will become after death whatever we have been thinking in our life now – at the time of death. This is the way we can know what we will become after death. We need not consult astrologers and palmists. Our conscience will tell us what kind of person we are. If we are a good person, to what extent are we good? Otherwise, to what extent are we something else? What is the percentage of our involvement in God-thought? What is the extent of our wanting God in our life? Is it an absolute necessity, or a need that we may consider sometime later? What sort of attitude do we have towards God? This concept of God will determine our future. Those who meditate on a particular deity by doing mantra purascharanas and daily ritualistic worship, etc., are supposed to reach only that particular deity. We will reach the world of Ganesha or Devi or Siva or Vishnu, or whatever it is; but there is a return. Even if we go to the abode of the Creator, we are likely to come back even from that stage, inasmuch as creation is involved in space and time: abrahma-bhuvanallokah punar avartinah (8.16).
Whatever we brood upon, whatever is our interest, whatever it is that we are attracted to, the life and death matter of our existence, whatever we brood on the whole day, day in and day out – the basic fundamental background of our thinking – that is what we are actually thinking. It is not that we are thinking only one thought every day. There are varieties of thoughts. We have work-a-day thoughts of the business of life; but behind that, there is a background of thought which we cannot forget, and it is that background of thought that will determine our future life. Whatever be our business, whatever be our office-going, whatever be our secular occupation, that is not important. What is important is what we are, basically, when we are absolutely alone to ourselves. In our kitchen, bathroom and bedroom – when nobody sees us – what are we thinking? Are we thinking only of the office? Or do we have a little time to brood and go deep into our own aloneness? Religion is supposed to be that which one does when one is alone. That is religion. It is the aloneness into which we enter. Religion is a kind of aloneness of spirit where we are isolated from all relationships which are secular, mortal, and relative.
Whatever be the thought that we have been entertaining in our life, that will be the pattern of our life in the next world. Hence, everyone can know to some extent what they will become in the next world. How much greed, how much anger, how much desire for wealth, property and position, how much prejudice, how cut-throat, how much competitiveness do we have? If these worldly things are inundating us, and our very fibre of existence and our very flesh and blood are made up of these prejudices alone, we can well imagine what we will be in the next birth.
The Chhandogya Upanishad tells us what our fate will be if that is the way we live in this world. However, here is a brief theorem laid down before us for a further elucidation through its corollaries: Whatever we think in our mind, whatever we brood upon, whatever our interest is, whatever our deepest love and longing is, that shall materialise into a shape in the next realm of being which we enter. But if our pattern of thinking has always been Universal and never relatively construed, and we have been judging all things from the Universal point of view, we will enter into the Universal when we leave this body. Inasmuch as the Universal is not here and there, it is not now and afterwards, it is not in space and time, the question of rebirth does not arise – because the Universal cannot be reborn. Eternity is our blessedness.
Tasmat sarveshu kaleshu mam anusmara yudhya cha, mayy arpita-mano buddhir mam evaishyasy asamsayam (8.7): “Therefore, I tell you: be constantly devoted to Me day in and day out, and engage yourself in your prescribed duty.” The word yudhya is used here, which means ‘fight’. In that particular historical context of the Mahabharata war, the instruction was: “Resort yourself to Me, surrender yourself to Me, completely rely on Me, and then fight.” It may apply to any kind of fight. The confrontation that we feel in our life, the opposition that we have to face, the duties that we have to perform, the obligations which are incumbent upon us are actually the yuddha, which is the war in which we are engaged in this big battlefield of God’s creation. “Resorting to Me completely, engage yourself in this duty that is incumbent upon you.”
Sarveshu kaleshu. Lord Krishna said, “Think of Me at the time of death.” Now He says, “You must think of Me always.” This is because He was conscious that if He said to think of Him after many, many years, we will not worry about Him at all and go on postponing until it is too late to do anything. Therefore, a proviso is added by the Great Master: “It is not enough if you think that you will meditate on Me at the time of passing. Every moment you must be with Me, in Me, and in a state of total surrender to Me. I shall protect you and take care of you”: sarveshu kaleshu mam anusmara yudhya cha.
Mayyarpita mano buddhih: “If your mind, intellect and reason are totally dedicated to Me, you shall certainly reach me. There is no doubt.” Asamsayam: Here also it is declared that there is no doubt about it.