by Swami Krishnananda
In the beginning of the Seventh Chapter, we are given a brief statement on what true religion can be, and ought to be. In the Eighth Chapter, we are taken further into the necessity to know the relevance of our present life in the future life. Religion is lived in this world for the sake of transporting us into a new realm of being, which is called after-death. The Eighth Chapter discusses what philosophers generally call eschatology, or the question of life after death. The kind of religion that we live in this world, of course, is a matter of this life; and it has been well described in the Seventh Chapter how we have to be truly religious, truly spiritual, in an unbiased and impersonal manner.
Now, what will happen to us after leaving the body? That question is very important to us because we will not be living in this world for an indefinite period of time. If a very good man – very religious, highly spiritual, practicing yoga – quits this world, what happens to him? The manner of conducting oneself inwardly at the time of passing has been described with poetic beauty, in a touching style, in the verses that I recited yesterday. It was pointed out that intense concentration has to be practised on a point which is a blend of the understanding and the feeling, wherein we enter into an insight of reality which will take us to that integral vision after death. We must chant Om while leaving the body, and that will create a vibration of cosmic impetus: Om ity ekaksharam brahma vyaharan mam anusmaran,yah prayati tyajan deham sa yati paramam gatim (8.13).
Ananya-chetah satatam yo mam smarati nityasah, tasyaham sulabhah partha nitya-yuktasya yoginah (8.14): “I am very easy of attainment. Don’t be under the impression that I am unapproachable, that it is difficult to reach me. I am very easy of approach.” But the Lord puts several conditions in order that He may be easy of approach. What are the conditions? Ananya-chetah: “One who is undividedly absorbed with his whole mind and soul in Me.” Satatam: “And this absorption is not only for a minute. He must be constantly absorbed in Me, always, and he must be engaged in this meditation on Me daily. Such a person who is eternally and permanently united with Me in his mind and soul, to such a person I am very easy of approach.” Whether He is really easy of approach or not, we can find out from this condition that He has laid. Under so many conditions, everything will be available to us. It is a moot sloka. Devotees chant it something like a mantra: ananya-chetah satatam yo mam smarati nityasah, tasyaham sulabhah partha nitya-yuktasya yoginah. We can go on chanting this.
How kind God is, provided we are kind to Him! How can we expect Him to be so concerned with us if we are not equally concerned with Him? The whole point is that. He is not putting unnecessary conditions, like a lawyer. That is not what is intended here. It is a necessary equilibration of consciousness that we have to establish between our soul and the universal soul. The universal soul can respond only to an element of universality in us. Dissimilars cannot act and react with each other. There must be a content in us which is equal in kind to the universality that God is. Hence, these conditions are nothing but an instruction on the necessity to remodel ourselves into an element of universality – a little universality and not a particularity. It is the whole of God that we are aspiring for; and in that case, He also wants the whole of us – not our possessions, assets and legacies. These things we cannot offer to God. We have to offer that which is dearest and nearest to us. The most dear thing in us is ourselves. If we can offer that, then we shall be flooded with that great joy that we are expecting as God-realisation.
Mam upetya punar janma duhkhalayam asasvatam, napnuvanti mahatmanah (8.15): We shall not return from God. Is it worthwhile to go there if we cannot come back? Ninety percent of devotees have a question of this kind: “What good is there in reaching God if I cannot come back?” Sometimes they galvanise this desire to come back after plunging into God by saying that they will be able to do better social work in this world and be endowed with a greater capacity to transform the world. “Now I am a feeble man with little understanding and a frail body, but when I plunge into God-experience and then return, I shall be a master in this world for the benefit of all people.” But the Lord says we will not come back. Then, what good is there? If we are not going to come back to see our own brothers and sisters here, and see this great world which has supported us, educated us, taken care of us, fed us, are we going to desert this world?
This question, this doubt, is not a foolish question. It is a question and doubt that will arise even in the most intelligent of persons. Most learned philosophers, Ph.D. holders, will have this question: “Am I deserting this world in my desire to plunge into God? And what good is this desire of mine to plunge into God when many other people are suffering in deep ignorance here in this world? Should I not work for their welfare?” Have we not heard people saying that they shall not attain God until the last man leaves this world and attains God? These are very touching sentences which stimulate our emotions: “It would be good to postpone the idea of going to God until the time when the world is transmuted completely into the gold of God-consciousness. Until heaven descends to this earth, until the physical body itself becomes immortal, until every ant and crawling insect also is transformed into a divine superman, until the last individual reaches God, I shall not.” This would be a so-called unselfish declaration of a great saint and sage in a charitable mood, but it is at once repudiated by the statement that we shall not come back after reaching God.
No impure mind can understand what this means. The impurities of the mind are social, physical, sentimental and biological. They are limited to family and community – limited to the human species. Are we not thinking only of mankind, as if that is the only thing that God has created? When we say “work for the world”, we mean work for only the human species. We are not interested in lions, tigers, snakes, scorpions and mosquitoes. We behave as if they do not exist at all, and do not care if they perish. “My species,” the frog says. “My species,” the snake says. “My species,” man says. Thus, there perhaps is a little bit of idiocy at the back of this so-called pious aspiration of people to come back from God and work for the welfare of humanity, as if humanity is the only thing that God has created.
The Almighty Himself has told us that if we go to Him, we will not come back; and if we want to come back, we need not go to Him at all. He is not compelling us to go to Him. But we have a double-edged sword-like attitude. On one side we say, “I’ll reach God.” On the other side we say, “I’ll come back to work for my fellow humans.” We decide which is good for us without thinking deeply.
Mam upetya punar janma duhkhalayam asasvatam (8.15): “After reaching Me, you shall not enter this impure, perishable abode of sorrow because I shall absorb you into the timeless state of eternity, and not send you back to the time-ridden, space-limited world of sorrow and death.” Napnuvanti mahatmanah samsiddhim paramam gatah: They have reached utter perfection. Having attained supreme perfection in the Almighty Universal, the question of coming back does not arise. It is as if we want to go back to the dream world after having woken up. In the world of dream we had friends, relatives, large assets, money, and the goodwill of people. When we woke up, what happened to all those people? Have we not committed a deeply treacherous, selfish act by waking up and leaving all our relations in the condition of dream? If we think that we have done a treacherous, selfish act in waking up from dream, we will do the same thing when we reach God. Remember this.
Abrahma-bhuvanallokah punar avartino’rjuna, mam upetya tu kaunteya punar janma na vidyate (8.16): Even if we reach Brahmaloka, there are certain conditions in which we may have to come back; but after reaching the Absolute, we will not come back. Many a thing is said regarding Brahmaloka in the Brahmasutras and certain commentaries on the Bhagavadgita. It is said in the Upanishads that after having reached Brahmaloka, there is no coming back; and na sa punar avartate is the last verse of the Brahmasutra. But the Gita says that we will come back.
Madhusudana Saraswati is the only person who has clarified this point in his commentary. Mostly people go glibly over this sloka and repeat what the original says: “Even after going to Brahmaloka, we will have to come back; but after reaching the Almighty, we need not come back.” They do not try to reconcile the so-called conflict, as it were, that seems to be there between the Upanishads saying that there is no coming back after reaching Brahmaloka and the Gita is saying that we do come back.
There are no contradictions. Both the statements are correct. The Brahmaloka concept is to be clarified first. What do we mean by Brahmaloka? The concept of Brahmaloka that is in our minds is what will decide whether we will come back from there or we will not come back from there. Generally, Brahmaloka is something like our idea of the Universal Being only: it is spread out everywhere as an all-pervading, brilliant, divine existence into which we enter, where we stay and abide in the glory, beauty and grandeur of that kingdom.
There is a kind of mukti, or salvation, called salokya mukti. We are liberated when we enter the kingdom of God. That kingdom of God seems to be something like a huge, expanded dimension where God rules like a president or an emperor; and a person living in a country need not necessarily have the privilege of an audience with the king or the president. Nevertheless, we have the contentment and satisfaction of being a citizen of the kingdom of that particular emperor. This is one kind of Vaishnava devotion, or even Saiva and Sakta devotion. Among many other types of liberation which people imagine, one lower kind of devotion giving us a passport to a lower kind of experience is the permission to stay in the kingdom of God – a kingdom being conceived as a vast world, as this world is, but scintillating with beauty, grandeur and deathless immortality.
There is another kind of mukti, which is called nearness to God. We live near Rashtrapati Bhavan or near the White House, etc. – just next door. Even then, there is a satisfaction that our president is next door. Even though we may not see him at all, there is a satisfaction that he is next door. Nearness to God, though we may not see him at all, is samipya.
Higher still is sarupya. We assume the same power, same glory, same authority, and same dignity as God Himself, but we are not God. That is, we are empowered with the ability to do all the actions that the president can do – just as during a war the field marshal is sometimes given all the powers of the president of that country, and he can use his discrimination. With all the powers of the president of the country or the king himself, the field marshal is veritably, for all practical purposes, the be-all and the end-all of all things. He can do anything he likes at that time; yet he is not the king, and not the president. That is the kind of mukti, or liberation, that people sometimes expect – where they assume the same form of God and have the same authority, but are not God Himself.
Sayujya is entry. We become the king himself, the very president himself, and we are not merely a deputy who has been appointed for a particular purpose. Sayujya is entry into God. If we enter into God, we cannot come back. Because God is not at a distance, and God is not in time, the question of returning back should not arise. What do we mean by coming back from God? Is God an object, a place, a location? Is God somewhere in space and time? Spaceless and timeless existence is such that the coming back from it would be like coming from eternity to time – as the entry from waking into dream. Hence, there is a great point in the enunciation that we cannot return from God, and that we will not be a loser by merging in God.