In Chapter 8, Lord Krishna begins by telling Arjuna, “I am the Supreme Lord and the governing deity of all Yajnas – whether they are material or spiritual in nature. I am the One who everyone wishes to know and attain in the last moments of their life. And I am the One into whom they all dissolve at the time of death”.
The moment Lord Krishna says this, Arjuna becomes even more thirsty to know. Arjuna then asks, “O Lord, what really is Brahman? What is Spirituality?” We all have also heard these words quite often – Brahman, Karma, Purusha (referring to the Cosmic all-pervading Being), Adhyatma (Spirituality), and Devta (demigods). What are all these, really?
When present in the battlefield, one remembers and thinks about his last moments of life. In the battlefield a person thinks, “Will I overcome Kaal (death) or will death overpower me?” This fear arises in the mind, and one suddenly becomes aware of the impermanence of life. So in such a situation it is natural for such questions to arise in the mind. In the same way, Arjuna too began to have these questions. So this intense curiosity arose in Arjuna to know what is Karma; what is Spirituality; what is Adidaivik, etc. Hearing this, Lord Krishna says:
"Aksharam brahma paramam svabhavo 'dhyatmam uchyate. Bhuta-bhavodbhava-karo visargah karma-samjnitah".
That which is the highest, the supreme, the ultimate; beyond which there is nothing. It is that which is indestructible and can never be destroyed or diminished; that which is constant and unchanging; that all-pervading One Consciousness which is Satchidananda (the all-blissful one) from which everything in creation has come forth and into which everything ultimately dissolves – that is the Brahman.
What is Adhyatma (spirituality)?
Spirituality is about being established in one’s true nature. It is returning to one’s very nature.What is your nature? Your nature is to run towards joy and happiness. The pace and the intensity with which we run towards the Brahman, towards happiness is what spirituality is, and that is your very nature. Being spiritual is in everyone’s nature.
What is Karma?
Many kinds of feelings arise within us. All these feelings propel or cause some action. So that feeling is also called Karma, and the (resultant) action is also called Karma. For example, when a desire to create arises from within you, then that desire or feeling is also Karma. The action has already begun. The moment there arises a desire in your mind, say, to build a new building, then that’s it – the work or the action has happened. It is called Sukshma Karma (action or karma at the subtle level). And then there is the Sthula Karma (action at the gross or material level), i.e., actually building .
You all have heard this so many times that one must remain detached and dispassionate while doing Karma. What does it mean? It means that definitely you must act, but do not attach yourself to it, and get stuck to it because whatever impression gets imprinted on the mind becomes Karma (that one must go through).
"Adhibhutam ksharo bhavah purushas-chadhidaivatam. Adhiyajno aham evaatra dehe deha-bhrtam vara".
What is referred to as Adibhuta?
That which is perishable and ultimately gets destroyed or comes to an end is called as Adibhuta. It may exist today and not exist tomorrow.
What are the Devtas (divine deities or gods and goddesses)?
See, there is some humidity in the atmosphere. It means that there is some (proportion of) water element present in the air. We also see the water element in the form of ice. Then we also see the water element in the form of clouds.
When water evaporates from the oceans to form the clouds, then you cannot see it. But once the vapor accumulates to form the clouds, then you are able to see it. In the same way, there are special powers or spirits which you may call as angels or Devtas. Special manifestations (of the all-powerful one consciousness) having special attributes or qualities are given the title of Devtas.
(Here water represents God, and vapor, ice, clouds which have their specific qualities, even though they are all just water, represent the Devtas).
So what is the Adidhaiva?
It is the Purusha, the powerful One Consciousness that is present within us all. Even the Brahman is nothing but consciousness only, but it is present everywhere. In the realm and space of this omnipresent consciousness (Brahman), the special forms that can be seen or realized as a unique and concentrated manifestation of the same consciousness is called the Purusha.
When it (Purusha) gets even more concentrated just as when water as vapor gets even more concentrated; then it becomes Prakriti.
You can understand it this way: (water as) ice is Prakriti, and (liquid) water is the Purusha; and (water as) vapor is the Brahman. The Brahman is Space. Everything exists in Space.
What does Yajna mean?
Lord Krishna says, “It is I who experiences all these in the physical body. I am the Adiyajna also”.
Yajna is that which unites and brings everything together, the one that sees and understands everything – the Seer. So Adiyajna is that which understand and brings all these three together - Adibhuta, Adidaiva and Adhyatma. The intention to unite and bring everything together arises only when one is able to see these as distinct and separate.
Lord Krishna says, “I am that divine principle that emerges and becomes visible when these three unite”. This is why Lord Krishna says that “All the demigods and goddesses reside within Me”.
It means that the One Consciousness contains and holds both the Purusha and the Prakriti.
Lord Krishna says, “By this perspective, I reside within all beings and I sustain and run everything in this Creation. I uphold and bring everything together, and I am also the one who experiences everything. Everything in Creation is My divine play, a game created by Me. I am the ball, the player, the playground on which the game happens and I am also the audience, and I am also the umpire who stands and judges the game”.
This is Yajna. Yajna is a sacred process of honoring all these three.
We remain entangled in cravings and aversions for others. But when we have the essence of the Yajna - meaning when there is total unity and harmony within us, when everything within us comes together in a perfect balance; then the entire world feels like our own, and we feel everyone belongs to us.
"Anta-kale cha mam eva smaran muktva kalevaram. Yah prayati sa mad-bhavam yati nasti atra samshayah".
Lord Krishna further says, “It is alright to go about your life as you like, but in the last moments of life, you should remember Me and establish your mind and intellect totally in Me. There is no doubt that when you remember me with devotion, you will surely unite with Me”.
But the truth is that whatever we do throughout our lives is what we actually remember in the last moments of our life as well. In those dying moments too, the same things disturb the mind. That is why Lord Krishna, after having given so much knowledge, also says, “In your final moments, remember Me”.
"Yam yam vapi smaran bhaavam tyajaty ante kalevaram. Tam tam evaiti kaunteya sada tad-bhava-bhavitah".
It is an irrefutable truth of life that whatever we think of at the time of death, that is exactly how we become (in the next life). The impressions in the mind with which one leaves the physical body at the time of death, will need to be washed off, for which one then needs to take on another physical body.
With whatever desires or state of mind you leave your present physical body, the same (desires or state of mind) determine the kind of physical body and state of mind you attain to in the next birth. That is why Lord Krishna says, “Always keep remembering Me”.
"Tasmat sarveshu kaleshu mam anusmara yudhya cha. Mayy-arpita-mano-buddhir mam evaishyasy asamshayah".
In the next verse Lord Krishna says, “Think of Me even as you struggle or battle in life".
When you give your 100% in anything that you do, then that is a battle. A battle does not always imply killing someone. A battle means, wherever you put all your efforts and everything at stake. So if life appears to be a struggle, then put in your 100%. But Lord Krishna says, “Do so by keeping Me in your mind at all times as you struggle. Surrender both your mind and your intellect to Me when you do this”.
It means to surrender totally – both by feeling and by understanding (logic).
Some people do not apply any understanding but are driven greatly by feelings only. Some people are able to understand and interpret things correctly but there are no feelings or emotions in them. That is why Lord Krishna has said many times in the Bhagavad Gita, “Be connected to Me both by your feelings and by your intellect”.
Krishna says, “Surrender unto Me and accept Me totally – both at the level of emotions and the intellect. By doing so you will surely attain Me and there is no doubt about this. You will attain that steadiness and equanimity; you will awaken into that true Self that is Me. I do not reside somewhere distant away from you. I reside within you".
"Abhyasa-yoga-yuktena chetasa nanya-gamina. Paramam purusham divyam yati parthanuchintayan".
Now how can one achieve this? To this, Lord Krishna replies, “You must do Abhyasa (regular practice)".
What is the nature of the mind? The tendency of the mind is to run off in different directions. Steady and regular practice (Abhyasa) prevents the mind from straying into different directions.
In any person in whom the Divinity is kindled and awakened, you will find that they have so much depth in them. When a person’s mind is scattered and strays in different directions, then you cannot see the Divinity in them. Such people are not able to achieve anything in life, even though they may be great scientists or great artists, you do not find something solid and admirable in their personality.
How can one nurture that steadiness and depth in one’s personality? It can happen when one’s Consciousness is one-pointed and fixed on one single goal, or in a single direction. Only then is a person able to do something, only then can one see the Divine qualities or the Divinity in a person.
Do you know what is the nature of Consciousness that gets distracted in different directions? Such a person always thinks of getting something or the other; something from here, or something from there and so on. This is a sign of lack and feeling like a beggar. When you become steady and established within yourself, then that is a sign of prosperity and abundance. It is a sign of being graceful and beautiful. When someone is very graceful and dignified, it means that their spirit or consciousness does not stray here and there, rather it is collected and firmly established in the Self. It means that there is a deep sense of contentment. Contentment is what makes you divine; happiness makes you divine; skillfulness makes you divine.
For all these divine qualities to blossom and manifest in you, Lord Krishna advises – You must engage in Abhyasa Yoga (regular practice).
Often people associate regular practice (Abhyasa) with something that is very boring, dull and lifeless. It is not so at all. Abhyasa here means to go towards the source of all joy. The moment one understands this fact, all the Abhyasa becomes very easy and joyful.
Now if you find this understanding too abstract and difficult to bring into practice as Arjuna claims also, then Lord Krishna says, “My dear, I am here before you. Just remember Me”. This is where the importance of the Guru lies.
The above talk is a translation from Hindi to English. The original talk was given by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in Hindi. The above is only a summary of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's commentary on the 8th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. If you would like to listen to the full talk, you can register to listen to the video.
To register Click Here