by Swami Krishnananda
The Lord made a reference to certain items which stimulated the mind of Arjuna, on account of which he raised certain questions. The concluding verses of the Seventh Chapter are as follows: jarāmaraṇamokṣāya mām āśritya yatanti ye, te brahma tad viduḥ kṛtsnam adhyātmaṁ karma cākhilam (Gita 7.29); sādhibhūtādhidaivaṁ māṁ sādhiyajñaṁ ca ye viduḥ, prayāṇakālepi ca māṁ te vidur yuktacetasaḥ (Gita 7.30).
The words are jarāmaraṇamokṣāya: for freedom from old age and death; mām āśritya yatanti ye: whoever puts forth effort depending on Me as their final refuge; te brahma tad viduḥ kṛtsnam: they know the Absolute's real nature; adhyātmaṁ karma cākhilam: they also know what adhyatma is, and what karma is; sādhibhūtādhidaivaṁ māṁ sādhiyajñaṁ ca ye viduḥ: they know Me as adhibhuta, adhiyajna, and then they remember Me at the time of passing.
Seven items were mentioned here, but they were only words without any explanation. Immediately Arjuna raised questions: "What are these things that you are talking about: Brahma, adhyatma, adhibhuta, adhiyajna, karma? What are all these things?"
The answers to these questions which occur at the beginning of the Eighth Chapter comprise the whole of the chapter. Arjuna asks: Kiṁ tad brahma (Gita 8.1): What do you mean by Brahma? Kim adhyātmaṁ: What is Atman? Kiṁ karma: What is karma? Adhibhūtaṁ ca kiṁ proktam: What do you mean by adhibhuta? Adhidaivaṁ kim ucyate: What is the meaning of adhideva? Adhiyajñaḥ kathaṁ kotra (Gita 8.2): Adhiyajna is also to be explained. What is the meaning of it? Prayāṇakāle ca: At the time of passing from this world; kathaṁ jñeyosi: how are we to remember You? There are seven questions. Mostly the answers are brief, though the answer to the last point as to the process of departure from this world is a little detailed.
"What is Brahma?" was one question of Arjuna. Akṣaraṁ brahma paramaṁ (Gita 8.3): The Imperishable Reality is called Brahman. By a study of the chapters of the Gita from the First until the Seventh, we have gathered some idea as to what this imperishably is: the spaceless and timeless Absolute Being is called Imperishable Brahman. Svabhāvodhyātmam ucyate: Adhyatma is individual nature. Your own basic characteristic of personality may be regarded as adhyatma in its total signification.
Bhūtabhāvodbhavakaro visargaḥ karmasaṁjñitaḥ: What is karma? Generally we understand karma to be some action that we perform, any action that produces some result, fruit, or reaction. The energy that is the cause of the manifestation of beings is called karma, according to this definition in the half verse. Bhūta bhāva udbhava: that which causes the emanation of all beings right from the time the Creative Will started operating in the direction of the manifestation of categories. Ishvara willed, Hiranyagarbha willed, Virat willed. All these wills of the cosmic manifestation engender further evolution in the process of creation, and individuals of various species are born. Every living being, everything that can be called organic or inorganic is a manifestation of this original will which is the first karma, the primary act of God Himself. Therefore, karma in the sense of action or an act has a cosmical significance, as well as an individual purport. Cosmically it is the will of God Himself. Individually it is whatever one does. So briefly, karma means 'that which produces effects' – either in the form of beings in the case of cosmic evolution, or in the form of a result of an action, or even a reaction of an action, as in the case of ordinary individuals.
Adhibhūtaṁ kṣaro bhāvaḥ (Gita 8.4): Anything that is perishable and does not last for long can be regarded as adhibhuta prapancha, the objective world. The world of objects is adhibhuta, and it is characterised as perishable because everything is changing in this world. All things constituted of matter, and anything that is an embodiment, is perishable in its nature. Nothing lasts if it is physically, materially embodied.
Puruṣaś cādhidaivatam: Adhideva is the transcendent divinity. I need not go into detail of explaining what adhideva is because you have already studied the cosmological doctrine of the Sankhya. In this context we came across this term adhideva, the transcendent Purusha, we may say: consciousness which is divinity that is present immanently both in the subjective side and also in the objective side, and yet remains transcendent to both the subject and the object.
Adhiyajñoham evātra: God pervading all things is the adhiyajna. That which motivates any kind of performance whatsoever is actually the action of God which is cast in the mould of individual sense of agency. Your doership, which is the cause of the performance of anything in this world, is actually a motivation come from the Supreme Being, as is told in great hymns such as the Purusha Sukta of the Veda. All events of history, all processes of nature, and all actions of individuals are motivated by the Cosmic Being, and in that sense you may say that God does everything. Yet, it looks as if many people do many things on account of the fact the original will of the Cosmic Being passes through the individual egoism or the personality structure of people, who wrongly consider this universal motivation as their own individual initiative. Therefore, we feel that we are doing something while actually we are used as an instrument by the Universal Force.
Antakāle ca mām eva smaran muktvā kalevaram, yaḥ prayāti sa madbhāvaṁ yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ (Gita 8.5). This last question is taken up for detailed explanation in the whole of the Eighth Chapter, while the other questions were briefly answered in a few words. Whenever the time comes for a human being to depart from this world, that particular context of the time of passing decides the nature of rebirth, the kind of embodiment into which the soul will enter in the region to which it will gravitate on account of its own present karmas.
The karma theory is very complex. The Lord Himself tells us the nature of karma is hidden so secretly that its operations are not easy to understand because on the one hand, action seems to be connected with the individual initiative because it passes through the egoism of personality, but on the other hand, it is actually not entirely confined to the structure of human individuality; it is cosmically oriented.
The difficulty that you feel in your personal life is regarding the understanding of the nature of the relation that seems to obtain between the cosmical impulsion behind all things and your individual initiative. Where does the demarcating line come between your assertion of personality and the operation of God's will? This is why it is said it is very hard. However, it is decided that the karmas of individuals will decide their future. Whatever you think intensely produces a vibration within as well as without. Outwardly it affects people in the world, in your vicinity, in everything outside. Inwardly, potencies or intangible layers of impulsion get piled up one over the other on account of your continuously thinking varieties of things throughout the day. As every click of a camera creates the impression of a particular picture on the film that is inside, every thought which is connected with an object of perception through the sense organs creates a sensation, a kind of picture of the object with emotion attached to it of like or dislike, or neutrality, as the case may be. Somehow or other, some impression is formed by the perception of any object through the sense organs. How many times do you perceive things during the day, and what are the thoughts that occur to your mind during the perception of things in the world? There are hundreds and hundreds of thoughts. Some thoughts are of an impersonal nature, and some are personal.
The personal thoughts which are connected with feelings, emotions and evaluations of any kind have a very strong effect upon you, and they will not leave you so easily. These impressions, which are stored in the psyche continuously for days, months and years throughout your life, appear like a thick, dark cloud, as it were, covering the consciousness of the Self inside. This cloud becomes the causative factor for the future embodiment of the soul, because whatever you desire has to find an expression sometime or the other. You cannot stifle your desires. The thought which is charged with an emotion or a feeling of desire is certainly to be allowed a channel of expression today or tomorrow. As you know very well, there are many desires in human individuals, and all of them cannot be fulfilled in this world due to various restrictions – personal, as well as social.
There are difficulties of your own. For example, you have debility of the physical body, weakness of the sense organs, and other hindrances which are psychological in nature. Due to the personal lacunae of the instrumentality for the purpose of fulfilling a desire, you cannot fulfil all your desires. The desires will remain, and are simply like building castles in the sky. Yet these castles will be there, and they cannot vanish into thin air. On the other hand, there are social restrictions. The world of people will not permit you to fulfil every kind of desire that emanates from your mind.
So what do you do at that time? You repress the desires, and keep them inside: "Go back. Withdraw." Well, the desires will tell you, "Yes, we will withdraw." Afterwards, they will ask you, "What happens to us?" You will say, "Keep quiet. Don't say anything," because you are afraid of telling them anything of a positive nature.
Suppose you die in this condition with unfulfilled desires buried inside like a thick cloud. They will germinate into action under different conditions altogether, and that would be your future fate. As seeds in barren ground look dead because there is no water and manure but can suddenly come alive, become tendrils and plants when rain falls on them, so these karmas germinate into action. Not a single desire of yours will go unfulfilled – if not today, then tomorrow, or after any amount of time. Time is endless, space is vast; therefore, there is infinite possibility and opportunity for the individual potencies to fulfil themselves, so it is dangerous to entertain desires in a haphazard manner. They will bind you, like cocoons enclosing the silkworm, which is its own doom. Every desire is a cocoon that you spin for yourself, and then you die with that.
So the Gita tells us, whatever is your last thought at the time of passing from this physical body will decide your future. What is the last thought? Nobody knows when their last day will be. Even if the end is only a few minutes away, you will not have any indication that it will come. There are people who take their lunch or dinner normally, and five minutes afterwards they breathe their last, not knowing that this will happen. So how will you prepare yourself for this adventure of a new kind of life that you have to achieve? Can you wait for the last moment? "I will think of God at that time. Now I will think rubbish." Is it possible? Who knows when the last moment will be?
Therefore, the advice is that throughout the day you have to entertain noble thoughts. You do not know when the demand will come and an order will be issued to you. When the order to quit comes, you cannot say, "Please wait! Come tomorrow." It is not possible. There is no 'tomorrow' for that order. It is just now, immediately. And then you will repent: "I never knew this. I never expected this. I have so many commitments. I have unfulfilled wishes, and relatives." Who cares? Your cry will be in the wilderness. Nobody will bother about you.
So right from the beginning of your life, throughout the tenure of your existence in this world, entertain divine thoughts. Let unselfish motives be in your mind. Never be greedy. Never be possessive. Never harm others. Never talk ill of others, and cause not any kind of inconvenience to other people, as far as it is possible. As the Gita will tell you, sarvabhūtahite ratāḥ (Gita 12.4): Be a well-wisher of all people. Treat others as you would treat yourself. Be a good person. What is goodness? Are you not good to your own self? Are you harsh and hard upon your own self at any time? How kindly you treat your own self! Why not be kind to others, because what is the difference between you and another person? The embodiment, the desires, the structure of personality, and the aspiration are the same; birth and death are the same.
Therefore, throughout life one should live as if the last day is today. And many saints have said that when you go to bed at night, do not expect to get up tomorrow morning. Consider today to be the last. It may be. Then if you really get up in the morning, it is a tenure that is further granted by God. Be grateful to Him that this tenure, this lease of life has come to you. But it may not come, as there is no guarantee of it coming to you. So whenever you go to bed, think "Okay, this is the last day. Tomorrow morning I may not get up. Even if I don't get up, I lose nothing because I have cleared all my debts." All your material debts, psychological debts, emotional debts and also debts you owe to your own desires must be completed. As it is not possible to pay off every kind of debt in one instant, it is better not to have debts at all. Neither a lender nor a borrower be. Do not be a borrower or a lender. Have no transaction of this kind in your life. Be a simple, contented person. Be contented with whatever you have.
Divine thoughts, God-thoughts, should be at the back of your life even in ordinary routine activities. It is not that you have noble thoughts only in your puja room, in temples, and during satsangas, and at other times such as in the marketplace, you are foolish. You can die in a marketplace rather than in a temple or during satsanga. How is it that you go carefree, thinking everything is fine? You do your meditation during meditation time, but before the meditation time comes, you may not be in this world. So why entertain this foolhardy imagination that you shall meditate afterwards, in the evening when the sun sets? The sun may not set for you.
Therefore, great caution is to be exercised. Throughout your life you must maintain this consciousness of it being perhaps the last moment for you; and the last thought, as it is said, which will be your asset when you pass from this world, is the fructification of all the thoughts that you entertain throughout your life. The tree will decide the fruit; your life in this world will decide what kind of thought you entertain at the time of passing. It does not mean God-thought will come at the last moment while throughout life you have forgotten it. The last thought, so called, is the maturity of the essence culled, as it were, from all the thoughts, feelings and emotions that you entertained throughout your existence. The kind of life that you have lived in this world from birth until death will decide what kind of thought will come to you in the end, so be very cautious.
When one actually passes away, the soul departs. It catches hold of a thin, threadlike support of whatever it has done, whatever it has felt. Its knowledge, its imagination, its desire, its actions will decide the course or path that it will pursue. Towards the end of the Eighth Chapter, mention is made of two kinds of courses for the movement of the soul – the Northern Path and the Southern Path, as they are called. A very detailed explanation of it is found in the Upanishads. The Sun and the Moon decide many things about your own personal life. The solar influence, as the Upanishads and the Gita tell us, is greater during the northward movement of the Sun, during the waxing period of the Moon, and during the daytime rather than during the night; and whoever passes during this period will move through a subtle divine ray which is the path of the soul, and the Sun is where this soul will be received. You will be wondering, "How will I reach the Sun? It will burn me." It will not burn you because at that time you will have no physical body. The soul is in its astral form, and an astral being from the Sun comes to meet it and take it forward. Then you go to the Absolute. Otherwise, if your mind has been tarnished by lower desires and you are not fit to pass through the Sun to the Absolute, you will be reborn in this world itself, or something else will happen to you which is not liberation.