by Swami Krishnananda
These things raise doubts in our mind. Arjuna had difficulties; he was startled by these enunciations. (I mentioned to you, I'm passing through these chapters very very briefly, partly because we have very little time, partly because already I have gone through these chapters in greater detail, in a different session whose themes you can study in a printed form.) These mentions made in the seventh chapter raise questions of a cosmological nature: What is the universe? What is the world? What is the soul? What is God? What is creation? When we are told that we are there, the cosmos, the universe is there, we are related to it some way, organically, and the universe is created by God, many cosmological questions arise in the mind – Kim tadbrahma kim adhyatman kim karma purshottama; adhibhutam cha kim proktam adhidaivam kimuchyate – and so on and so forth. Adhiyajnah katham ko'tra – Questions of this type are raised.
There is an indubitable existence of ourselves; there is the individual existence of ours:
And, number 7, number 8. Many other involved questions arise concerning the mutual relations of these categories mentioned: the Supreme Creator, the universe created, the individual, including human society, and the mutual relationship among them.
This is the commencement of the eighth chapter, which concludes with a short enunciation, a narration of the life beyond this world, studies which are comprehended in what is called eschatology – life after death. The world is involved in a cosmical relationship, as you and I are. These terms are differently explained by different interpreters and students of the Bhagavadgita. There is no uniformity among the understanders of these terms. Brahma, karma, adhiyajna, adhibhuta, adhidaiva, adhyatma are intriguing terms into which we can read any meaning from our philosophical, predilection point of view. And if we read different commentators, they will tell different things to us – all of which may be right in their own way, and yet there are more things to be said about them than perhaps are available in existing commentaries. There is an interrelationship of everything. The world is a structure of interrelated constituents. Everything is connected to everything else. In this sense we may say that everything is everywhere.
A very homely and easily intelligible analogy that I may place before you to understand this interconnectedness is the organism of our own personality, the sarira, which is the illustration given by such theologists and philosophers like Sri Ramanuja. God is sariri, and the whole creation is sarira. The relationship between the universe and God is Sarira-sariri-sambandha. What is the relationship between the body and the soul? There is some sort of a very clear, intelligible relationship between the body and the soul, though we may not identify one with the other. The body is not the soul, but we cannot keep the body here and the soul there; they are so much related that even the word 'relation' is a poor word to describe what sort of association is there between the soul and the body. They are one, as it were, yet they are not one. A kind of non-separate existence is enjoyed by the soul and the body, notwithstanding the fact that we cannot say that the one is the other. This is, perhaps, the viewpoint of Ramanuja – the theologians who hold that the universe is organically related to the Supreme Being, call Him Vishnu, Narayana, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva or the Supreme Being, or any name we would like. I do not wish to stretch this point too much to the breaking apotheosis of it, and for all practical purposes it will be enough for us to know that there is a non-separate relation of the whole of creation with God, which includes our relationship also. The words adhidaiva, adhyatma and adhibhuta are interpreted, as I mentioned, in many ways. In a subtle way, the Bhagavadgita itself gives the definition of these principles.
Aksharam brahma paramam – the Imperishable Eternal is the Supreme Brahman, the Absolute, Creator Supreme, the Infinite Eternal. This is Brahman, in Sanskrit language. Brahman is the total, all-comprehensive Absolute-Being, aksharam, and it is imperishable – svabhavo'dhyaatmanuchyate. Here, interpreters differ from one another in what they mean by the terms 'svabhava' and 'adhyatma'. Adhyatma is the pryatyakchetana or the internal consciousness, the subjective awareness we may say, literally understood. Svabhava is natural disposition. The natural disposition of a being is the adhyatma or the subjectivity of that being. I am giving you a non-committal definition without going into the details of it because you can read any meaning into them according to your theological standpoints, or rather, philosophical predispositions. Or more properly, to make it more clear to you as novitiates in this study, we may say that adhyatma is the individualised consciousness - consciousness locked up in the individuality of the person, which is the determinant of our svabhava, and which decides our svadharma also. Our duty as svadharma will be decided by our svabhava, or our essential nature as adhyatma, the individual principle in a particular location in the scheme or stage of evolution, a point to be underlined.
Bhutabhavodbhavarko visarga karmasamjnitah – karma is understood to be action, Everybody knows what this word means – action. Karma, karma, karma – it is understood in a thousand ways. "Oh, it is my karma," people say when they wail, weep over something, by which they mean their fate, or rather, more properly, the effect of what they did in the past, or what they do, what they have done, and so on. But more profound thinkers have understood by this word 'karma' here in this context – visarga, or the very process of the emanation of things from the Supreme Being. Visarga karmasamjnitah – the cosmic action, the original, universal impulse to diversify and project itself into this multiplicity of creation, this original creative will, as it were, may be said to be the visarga, the coming out of beings that is the karma, the original yajna, the first action. This is one interpretation, and I am not trying to go into the other interpretations which may not be necessary for us. Bhutabhavodbhavarko visarga karmasamjnitah, adhibhutam ksharo bhavah: All the perishable forms in creation are the kshara. Kshara means perishable, transient, passing. Adhibhutam ksharo bhavah purushaschadhidaivatam – Here again there are varieties of understanding of the meaning of this statement. Adhidaiva is the superintending principle, the divinity transcending the subject-object relationship, the consciousness that is the connecting link between us and the world outside, the seer and the seen. These are all very difficult things to understand and will not be grasped merely by a single utterance of them. However, let them be told at least once so that a vibration may be produced for further studies. This is perhaps the most knotty point in the Bhagavadgita as far as the cosmology of it is concerned.
Bhutabhavodbhavarko visarga karmasamjnitah, adhibhutam ksharo bhava, purushaschadhidaivatam adhiyajnohamevatra – Here again we have a difficulty in understanding what adhiyajna is. Sometimes it is held that the whole field of performance in any manner whatsoever is adhiyajna - the divinity presiding over, superintending over, transcending, controlling, deciding, determining and judging. All activity in the universe is God as adhiyajna, the Supreme Being who receives the fruits of all our actions. This whole world is the field of activity. It is dharmakshetra-kurukshetra, and this field of action is the field of the performance of duty – svadharma. It is, therefore, a field of performance of sacrifice, yajna, and therefore it is holy land, the whole creation, this cosmos, this universe, this world, this society, this area which we are occupying is a sacred, sanctified dharmakshetra cosmically, where we perform our devout worship to the Almighty in the form of our duties, functions – whatever they be, whatever the shape they take. These are very difficult things to understand, but very essential, so that a correct understanding of the mutual relationship of these principles among themselves will give us a strength to face the world and provide us with that internal inner energy by which we can direct our soul-consciousness in the direction of the object of our meditation. We are thrilled, enthused, stirred and stimulated by these descriptions because we know we are a cosmical citizen. We are not a man or woman living in a corner somewhere, in some state of India – we are a citizen of the whole of creation. We have, therefore, the support of the angels in heaven and the gods everywhere and the Supreme Being Himself. Thus, meditation becomes a cosmic activity. Yoga is a universal performance on our part, and this is the message of solace that the Bhagavadgita gives us.
Now, the Bhagavadgita still keeps God away from us a little bit, and does not want us to jump into God immediately, though much has been said about our relationship to creation and the existence of God as the Supreme Creator. There is a necessity felt by us to understand what happens to us after we quit this body. "Well, I understand what you say. Here I am, here in this vast world, this universe, and the Great God is there as the Creator. Yes, perfectly okay; but when I leave this world, what happens to me?" This is the subject of eschatology – the life after death subject. "When a person dies, what happens?" This was the question of Nachiketas as we have it recorded there in the Kathopanishad. What happens when we quit this world? When the soul leaves this body, where does it go?
Yam yam vapi smaran bhaavam tyajatyante kalevaram tam tamevaiti – Here is a psychology of the transition of the soul from this body to another realm. Whatever be the determining force behind the psychic operation in us, especially at the time of the passing, that would decide our future. Precisely stated, whatever we deeply think at the time of passing will decide where we go and what we will be. Now, this may raise a question in our minds. "I must think some noble thoughts at the time of death so that I may go to some higher region, if not God Himself. So, I must have a holy thought in my mind, but I am not going to die today – everybody knows this. I will not die today, maybe after many, many years – so, there is time enough." Here is a terrible delusion in our minds. Nobody will ever believe that today is the last day – it cannot be for obvious reasons. There are forms of logic which substantiate this view that it is not today definitely; it is not tomorrow either, and not the day after tomorrow. "These are frightening things, don't tell me all these things. Oh! The day after tomorrow, horror! It is after many, many years, thirty, forty, fifty years. So the last thought, if it is going to determine my future, I shall look after it afterwards; now, let me live any kind of life." This is a delusion. The last thought is not an isolated link, but the fruit of the tree of the whole life that we have led in this world. We cannot have apples from thistles, so if we have sown seeds of thistles, we know what will come out of it. Therefore do not be under the impression that the holy God-thought will come at the end when we have lived a life of abandon, distraction, deceit, and so on.
The last thought is the cumulative outcome of the total force exerted by us throughout our life upon our mind. So it is not the last thought in a chronological sense; it is only a 'logical last', not the 'historical last' – we have to understand this very clearly. So, do not be under the impression that death is very far, and the last thought shall be taken care of after some time. It is not so. Whatever we have sown will decide what we will reap, and therefore the thoughts, the feelings, the preponderating impulses in us throughout our life will be the determining conditions of our last feeling, last thought. This last thought is not merely a psychological operation; it is a surge of our total being. The nerves will crack, the muscles will melt, as it were, we will feel as if the bones are breaking and the whole of us will rush out of this body. It is not merely shallow thinking as we think that the tree is outside us. This kind of thought is not the thought that will be there at the time of death. It is a shattering of the whole structure of the individuality and a wrenching of oneself with such force that the last thought is not a thought at all in the ordinary psychological sense; it is a surge of whatever we are, and an inundation of our whole being with the cumulative completed form of our whole accumulated ascent throughout our life. We cannot imagine what will happen to us at the time of passing, when the whole of us quits this body. They say, sometimes, it is like 72,000 scorpions stinging at one stroke. This is a frightening illustration given by old grandmothers, touching upon the fact that there are so many nerve currents in our body – not 72,000, even much more. Every one will crack, and if we break one nerve we know what happens to us – we feel it and then know the pain of it – and when 72,000 nerves break, we will know what it means. Such a pain will be felt by the departing spirit because of the attachment which we have to the body, through every cell of our body. We are wholly involved in this body, we have become the body; we are the body itself. Don't be afraid of this! Perhaps we are all more blessed – Swami Sivananda's grace is there! And God will be more merciful, such a cracking of the nerves will not take place. We will happily go to the Supreme Being. Be happy!
So, now, the question of the predicament of the soul after death is taken up towards the end of the eighth chapter, briefly. I will touch upon it in another session.