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Attaining the Supreme


VERSE 1 

Arjuna inquired: O my Lord, O Supreme Person, what is Brahman? What is the self? What are fruitive activities? What is this material manifestation? And what are the demigods? Please explain this to me.

PURPORT

In this chapter Lord Krsna answers different questions from Arjuna, beginning with "What is Brahman?" The Lord also explains karma (fruitive activities), devotional service and yoga principles, and devotional service in its pure form. The Srimad-Bhagavatam explains that the Supreme Absolute Truth is known as Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. In addition, the living entity, the individual soul, is also called Brahman. Arjuna also inquires about atma, which refers to body, soul and mind. According to the Vedic dictionary, atma refers to the mind, soul, body and senses also.

Arjuna has addressed the Supreme Lord as Purusottama, Supreme Person, which means that he was putting these questions not simply to a friend but to the Supreme Person, knowing Him to be the supreme authority able to give definitive answers.

 

VERSE 2 

Who is the Lord of sacrifice, and how does He live in the body, O Madhusudana? And how can those engaged in devotional service know You at the time of death?

PURPORT

"Lord of sacrifice" may refer to either Indra or Visnu. Visnu is the chief of the primal demigods, including Brahma and Siva, and Indra is the chief of the administrative demigods. Both Indra and Visnu are worshiped by yajna performances. But here Arjuna asks who is actually the Lord of yajna (sacrifice) and how the Lord is residing within the body of the living entity.

Arjuna addresses the Lord as Madhusudana because Krsna once killed a demon named Madhu. Actually these questions, which are of the nature of doubts, should not have arisen in the mind of Arjuna, because Arjuna is a Krsna conscious devotee. Therefore these doubts are like demons. Since Krsna is so expert in killing demons, Arjuna here addresses Him as Madhusudana so that Krsna might kill the demonic doubts that arise in Arjuna’s mind.

Now the word prayana-kale in this verse is very significant because whatever we do in life will be tested at the time of death. Arjuna is very anxious to know of those who are constantly engaged in Krsna consciousness. What should be their position at that final moment? At the time of death all the bodily functions are disrupted, and the mind is not in a proper condition. Thus disturbed by the bodily situation, one may not be able to remember the Supreme Lord. Maharaja Kulasekhara, a great devotee, prays, "My dear Lord, just now I am quite healthy, and it is better that I die immediately so that the swan of my mind can seek entrance at the stem of Your lotus feet." The metaphor is used because the swan, a bird of the water, takes pleasure in digging into the lotus flowers; its sporting proclivity is to enter the lotus flower. Maharaja Kulasekhara says to the Lord, "Now my mind is undisturbed, and I am quite healthy. If I die immediately, thinking of Your lotus feet, then I am sure that my performance of Your devotional service will become perfect. But if I have to wait for my natural death, then I do not know what will happen, because at that time the bodily functions will be disrupted, my throat will be choked up, and I do not know whether I shall be able to chant Your name. Better let me die immediately." Arjuna questions how a person can fix his mind on Krsna’s lotus feet at such a time.

 

VERSE 3 

The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and his eternal nature is called adhyatma, the self. Action pertaining to the development of the material bodies of the living entities is called karma, or fruitive activities.

PURPORT

Brahman is indestructible and eternally existing, and its constitution is not changed at any time. But beyond Brahman there is Parabrahman. Brahman refers to the living entity, and Parabrahman refers to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The constitutional position of the living entity is different from the position he takes in the material world. In material consciousness his nature is to try to be the lord of matter, but in spiritual consciousness, Krsna consciousness, his position is to serve the Supreme. When the living entity is in material consciousness, he has to take on various bodies in the material world. That is called karma, or varied creation by the force of material consciousness.

In Vedic literature the living entity is called jivatma and Brahman, but he is never called Parabrahman. The living entity (jivatma) takes different positions—sometimes he merges into the dark material nature and identifies himself with matter, and sometimes he identifies himself with the superior, spiritual nature. Therefore he is called the Supreme Lord’s marginal energy. According to his identification with material or spiritual nature, he receives a material or spiritual body. In material nature he may take a body from any of the 8,400,000 species of life, but in spiritual nature he has only one body. In material nature he is manifested sometimes as a man, demigod, animal, beast, bird, etc., according to his karma. To attain material heavenly planets and enjoy their facilities, he sometimes performs sacrifices (yajna), but when his merit is exhausted he returns to earth again in the form of a man. This process is called karma.

The Chandogya Upanisad describes the Vedic sacrificial process. On the sacrificial altar, five kinds of offerings are made into five kinds of fire. The five kinds of fire are conceived of as the heavenly planets, clouds, the earth, man and woman, and the five kinds of sacrificial offerings are faith, the enjoyer on the moon, rain, grains and semen.

In the process of sacrifice, the living entity makes specific sacrifices to attain specific heavenly planets and consequently reaches them. When the merit of sacrifice is exhausted, the living entity descends to earth in the form of rain, then takes on the form of grains, and the grains are eaten by man and transformed into semen, which impregnates a woman, and thus the living entity once again attains the human form to perform sacrifice and so repeat the same cycle. In this way, the living entity perpetually comes and goes on the material path. The Krsna conscious person, however, avoids such sacrifices. He takes directly to Krsna consciousness and thereby prepares himself to return to Godhead.

Impersonalist commentators on the Bhagavad-gita unreasonably assume that Brahman takes the form of jiva in the material world, and to substantiate this they refer to Chapter Fifteen, verse 7, of the Gita. But in this verse the Lord also speaks of the living entity as "an eternal fragment of Myself." The fragment of God, the living entity, may fall down into the material world, but the Supreme Lord (Acyuta) never falls down. Therefore this assumption that the Supreme Brahman assumes the form of jiva is not acceptable. It is important to remember that in Vedic literature Brahman (the living entity) is distinguished from Parabrahman (the Supreme Lord).

 

VERSE 4 

O best of the embodied beings, the physical nature, which is constantly changing, is called adhibhuta [the material manifestation]. The universal form of the Lord, which includes all the demigods, like those of the sun and moon, is called adhidaiva. And I, the Supreme Lord, represented as the Supersoul in the heart of every embodied being, am called adhiyajna [the Lord of sacrifice].

PURPORT

The physical nature is constantly changing. Material bodies generally pass through six stages: they are born, they grow, they remain for some duration, they produce some by-products, they dwindle, and then they vanish. This physical nature is called adhibhuta. It is created at a certain point and will be annihilated at a certain point. The conception of the universal form of the Supreme Lord, which includes all the demigods and their different planets, is called adhidaivata. And present in the body along with the individual soul is the Supersoul, a plenary representation of Lord Krsna. The Supersoul is called the Paramatma or adhiyajna and is situated in the heart. The word eva is particularly important in the context of this verse because by this word the Lord stresses that the Paramatma is not different from Him. The Supersoul, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, seated beside the individual soul, is the witness of the individual soul’s activities and is the source of the soul’s various types of consciousness. The Supersoul gives the individual soul an opportunity to act freely and witnesses his activities. The functions of all these different manifestations of the Supreme Lord automatically become clarified for the pure Krsna conscious devotee engaged in transcendental service to the Lord. The gigantic universal form of the Lord called adhidaivata is contemplated by the neophyte who cannot approach the Supreme Lord in His manifestation as Supersoul. The neophyte is advised to contemplate the universal form, or virat-purusa, whose legs are considered the lower planets, whose eyes are considered the sun and moon, and whose head is considered the upper planetary system.

 

VERSE 5 

And whoever, at the end of his life, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.

PURPORT

In this verse the importance of Krsna consciousness is stressed. Anyone who quits his body in Krsna consciousness is at once transferred to the transcendental nature of the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord is the purest of the pure. Therefore anyone who is constantly Krsna conscious is also the purest of the pure. The word smaran ("remembering") is important. Remembrance of Krsna is not possible for the impure soul who has not practiced Krsna consciousness in devotional service. Therefore one should practice Krsna consciousness from the very beginning of life. If one wants to achieve success at the end of his life, the process of remembering Krsna is essential. Therefore one should constantly, incessantly chant the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Lord Caitanya has advised that one be as tolerant as a tree (taror iva sahisnuna). There may be so many impediments for a person who is chanting Hare Krsna. Nonetheless, tolerating all these impediments, one should continue to chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, so that at the end of one’s life one can have the full benefit of Krsna consciousness.

 

VERSE 6 

Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail.

PURPORT

The process of changing one’s nature at the critical moment of death is here explained. A person who at the end of his life quits his body thinking of Krsna attains the transcendental nature of the Supreme Lord, but it is not true that a person who thinks of something other than Krsna attains the same transcendental state. This is a point we should note very carefully. How can one die in the proper state of mind? Maharaja Bharata, although a great personality, thought of a deer at the end of his life, and so in his next life he was transferred into the body of a deer. Although as a deer he remembered his past activities, he had to accept that animal body. Of course, one’s thoughts during the course of one’s life accumulate to influence one’s thoughts at the moment of death, so this life creates one’s next life. If in one’s present life one lives in the mode of goodness and always thinks of Krsna, it is possible for one to remember Krsna at the end of one’s life. That will help one be transferred to the transcendental nature of Krsna. If one is transcendentally absorbed in Krsna’s service, then his next body will be transcendental (spiritual), not material. Therefore the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is the best process for successfully changing one’s state of being at the end of one’s life.

 

VERSE 7 

Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Krsna and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.

PURPORT

This instruction to Arjuna is very important for all men engaged in material activities. The Lord does not say that one should give up his prescribed duties or engagements. One can continue them and at the same time think of Krsna by chanting Hare Krsna. This will free one from material contamination and engage the mind and intelligence in Krsna. By chanting Krsna’s names, one will be transferred to the supreme planet, Krsnaloka, without a doubt.

 

VERSE 8 

He who meditates on Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his mind constantly engaged in remembering Me, undeviated from the path, he, O Partha, is sure to reach Me.

PURPORT

In this verse Lord Krsna stresses the importance of remembering Him. One’s memory of Krsna is revived by chanting the maha-mantra, Hare Krsna. By this practice of chanting and hearing the sound vibration of the Supreme Lord, one’s ear, tongue and mind are engaged. This mystic meditation is very easy to practice, and it helps one attain the Supreme Lord. Purusam means enjoyer. Although living entities belong to the marginal energy of the Supreme Lord, they are in material contamination. They think themselves enjoyers, but they are not the supreme enjoyer. Here it is clearly stated that the supreme enjoyer is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His different manifestations and plenary expansions as Narayana, Vasudeva, etc.

The devotee can constantly think of the object of worship, the Supreme Lord, in any of His features—Narayana, Krsna, Rama, etc.—by chanting Hare Krsna. This practice will purify him, and at the end of his life, due to his constant chanting, he will be transferred to the kingdom of God. Yoga practice is meditation on the Supersoul within; similarly, by chanting Hare Krsna one fixes his mind always on the Supreme Lord. The mind is fickle, and therefore it is necessary to engage the mind by force to think of Krsna. One example often given is that of the caterpillar that thinks of becoming a butterfly and so is transformed into a butterfly in the same life. Similarly, if we constantly think of Krsna, it is certain that at the end of our lives we shall have the same bodily constitution as Krsna.

 

VERSE 9 

One should meditate upon the Supreme Person as the one who knows everything, as He who is the oldest, who is the controller, who is smaller than the smallest, who is the maintainer of everything, who is beyond all material conception, who is inconceivable, and who is always a person. He is luminous like the sun, and He is transcendental, beyond this material nature.

PURPORT

The process of thinking of the Supreme is mentioned in this verse. The foremost point is that He is not impersonal or void. One cannot meditate on something impersonal or void. That is very difficult. The process of thinking of Krsna, however, is very easy and is factually stated herein. First of all, the Lord is purusa, a person—we think of the person Rama and the person Krsna. And whether one thinks of Rama or of Krsna, what He is like is described in this verse of Bhagavad-gita. The Lord is kavi; that is, He knows past, present and future and therefore knows everything. He is the oldest personality because He is the origin of everything; everything is born out of Him. He is also the supreme controller of the universe, and He is the maintainer and instructor of humanity. He is smaller than the smallest. The living entity is one ten-thousandth part of the tip of a hair, but the Lord is so inconceivably small that He enters into the heart of this particle. Therefore He is called smaller than the smallest. As the Supreme, He can enter into the atom and into the heart of the smallest and control him as the Supersoul. Although so small, He is still all-pervading and is maintaining everything. By Him all these planetary systems are sustained. We often wonder how these big planets are floating in the air. It is stated here that the Supreme Lord, by His inconceivable energy, is sustaining all these big planets and systems of galaxies. The word acintya ("inconceivable") is very significant in this connection. God’s energy is beyond our conception, beyond our thinking jurisdiction, and is therefore called inconceivable (acintya). Who can argue this point? He pervades this material world and yet is beyond it. We cannot comprehend even this material world, which is insignificant compared to the spiritual world—so how can we comprehend what is beyond? Acintya means that which is beyond this material world, that which our argument, logic and philosophical speculation cannot touch, that which is inconceivable. Therefore intelligent persons, avoiding useless argument and speculation, should accept what is stated in scriptures like the Vedas, Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam and follow the principles they set down. This will lead one to understanding.

 

VERSE 10 

One who, at the time of death, fixes his life air between the eyebrows and, by the strength of yoga, with an undeviating mind, engages himself in remembering the Supreme Lord in full devotion, will certainly attain to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

PURPORT

In this verse it is clearly stated that at the time of death the mind must be fixed in devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. For those practiced in yoga, it is recommended that they raise the life force between the eyebrows (to the ajna-cakra). The practice of sat-cakra-yoga, involving meditation on the six cakras, is suggested here. A pure devotee does not practice such yoga, but because he is always engaged in Krsna consciousness, at death he can remember the Supreme Personality of Godhead by His grace. This is explained in verse fourteen.

The particular use of the word yoga-balena is significant in this verse because without practice of yoga—whether sat-cakra-yoga or bhakti-yoga—one cannot come to this transcendental state of being at the time of death. One cannot suddenly remember the Supreme Lord at death; one must have practiced some yoga system, especially the system of bhakti-yoga. Since one’s mind at death is very disturbed, one should practice transcendence through yoga during one’s life.

 

VERSE 11 

Persons who are learned in the Vedas, who utter omkara and who are great sages in the renounced order enter into Brahman. Desiring such perfection, one practices celibacy. I shall now briefly explain to you this process by which one may attain salvation.

PURPORT

Lord Sri Krsna has recommended to Arjuna the practice of sat-cakra-yoga, in which one places the air of life between the eyebrows. Taking it for granted that Arjuna might not know how to practice sat-cakra-yoga, the Lord explains the process in the following verses. The Lord says that Brahman, although one without a second, has various manifestations and features. Especially for the impersonalists, the aksara, or omkara—the syllable om—is identical with Brahman. Krsna here explains the impersonal Brahman, in which the renounced order of sages enter.

In the Vedic system of knowledge, students, from the very beginning, are taught to vibrate om and learn of the ultimate impersonal Brahman by living with the spiritual master in complete celibacy. In this way they realize two of Brahman’s features. This practice is very essential for the student’s advancement in spiritual life, but at the moment such brahmacari (unmarried celibate) life is not at all possible. The social construction of the world has changed so much that there is no possibility of one’s practicing celibacy from the beginning of student life. Throughout the world there are many institutions for different departments of knowledge, but there is no recognized institution where students can be educated in the brahmacari principles. Unless one practices celibacy, advancement in spiritual life is very difficult. Therefore Lord Caitanya has announced, according to the scriptural injunctions for this Age of Kali, that in this age no process of realizing the Supreme is possible except the chanting of the holy names of Lord Krsna: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

 

VERSE 12 

The yogic situation is that of detachment from all sensual engagements. Closing all the doors of the senses and fixing the mind on the heart and the life air at the top of the head, one establishes himself in yoga.

PURPORT

To practice yoga as suggested here, one first has to close the doors of all sense enjoyment. This practice is called pratyahara, or withdrawing the senses from the sense objects. The sense organs for acquiring knowledge—the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and touch—should be fully controlled and should not be allowed to engage in self-gratification. In this way the mind focuses on the Supersoul in the heart, and the life force is raised to the top of the head. In the Sixth Chapter this process is described in detail. But as mentioned before, this practice is not practical in this age. The best process is Krsna consciousness. If one is always able to fix his mind on Krsna in devotional service, it is very easy for him to remain in an undisturbed transcendental trance, or in samadhi.

 

VERSE 13 

After being situated in this yoga practice and vibrating the sacred syllable om, the supreme combination of letters, if one thinks of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and quits his body, he will certainly reach the spiritual planets.

PURPORT

It is clearly stated here that om, Brahman and Lord Krsna are not different. The impersonal sound of Krsna is om, but the sound Hare Krsna contains om. The chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is clearly recommended for this age. So if one quits his body at the end of life chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, he certainly reaches one of the spiritual planets, according to the mode of his practice. The devotees of Krsna enter the Krsna planet, Goloka Vrndavana. For the personalists there are also innumerable other planets, known as Vaikuntha planets, in the spiritual sky, whereas the impersonalists remain in the brahmajyoti.

 

VERSE 14 

For one who always remembers Me without deviation, I am easy to obtain, O son of Prtha, because of his constant engagement in devotional service.

PURPORT

This verse especially describes the final destination attained by the unalloyed devotees who serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead in bhakti-yoga. Previous verses have mentioned four different kinds of devotees—the distressed, the inquisitive, those who seek material gain, and the speculative philosophers. Different processes of liberation have also been described: karma-yoga, jnana-yoga and hatha-yoga. The principles of these yoga systems have some bhakti added, but this verse particularly mentions pure bhakti-yoga, without any mixture of jnana, karma or hatha. As indicated by the word ananya-cetah, in pure bhakti-yoga the devotee desires nothing but Krsna. A pure devotee does not desire promotion to heavenly planets, nor does he seek oneness with the brahmajyoti or salvation or liberation from material entanglement. A pure devotee does not desire anything. In the Caitanya-caritamrta the pure devotee is called niskama, which means he has no desire for self-interest. Perfect peace belongs to him alone, not to them who strive for personal gain. Whereas a jnana-yogi, karma-yogi or hatha-yogi has his own selfish interests, a perfect devotee has no desire other than to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore the Lord says that for anyone who is unflinchingly devoted to Him, He is easy to attain.

A pure devotee always engages in devotional service to Krsna in one of His various personal features. Krsna has various plenary expansions and incarnations, such as Rama and Nrsimha, and a devotee can choose to fix his mind in loving service to any of these transcendental forms of the Supreme Lord. Such a devotee meets with none of the problems that plague the practitioners of other yogas. Bhakti-yoga is very simple and pure and easy to perform. One can begin simply by chanting Hare Krsna. The Lord is merciful to all, but as we have already explained, He is especially inclined toward those who always serve Him without deviation. The Lord helps such devotees in various ways. As stated in the Vedas (Katha Upanisad 1.2.23), yam evaisa vrnute tena labhyas/ tasyaisa atma vivrnute tanum svam: one who is fully surrendered and engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Lord can understand the Supreme Lord as He is. And as stated in Bhagavad-gita (10.10), dadami buddhi-yogam tam: the Lord gives such a devotee sufficient intelligence so that ultimately the devotee can attain Him in His spiritual kingdom.

The special qualification of the pure devotee is that he is always thinking of Krsna without deviation and without considering the time or place. There should be no impediments. He should be able to carry out his service anywhere and at any time. Some say that the devotee should remain in holy places like Vrndavana or some holy town where the Lord lived, but a pure devotee can live anywhere and create the atmosphere of Vrndavana by his devotional service. It was Sri Advaita who told Lord Caitanya, "Wherever You are, O Lord—there is Vrndavana."

As indicated by the words satatam and nityasah, which mean "always," "regularly," or "every day," a pure devotee constantly remembers Krsna and meditates upon Him. These are qualifications of the pure devotee for whom the Lord is most easily attainable. Bhakti-yoga is the system that the Gita recommends above all others. Generally, the bhakti-yogis are engaged in five different ways: (1) santa-bhakta, engaged in devotional service in neutrality; (2) dasya-bhakta, engaged in devotional service as servant; (3) sakhya-bhakta, engaged as friend; (4) vatsalya-bhakta, engaged as parent; and (5) madhurya-bhakta, engaged as conjugal lover of the Supreme Lord. In any of these ways, the pure devotee is always constantly engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Supreme Lord and cannot forget the Supreme Lord, and so for him the Lord is easily attained. A pure devotee cannot forget the Supreme Lord for a moment, and similarly the Supreme Lord cannot forget His pure devotee for a moment. This is the great blessing of the Krsna conscious process of chanting the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

 

VERSE 15 

After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.

PURPORT

Since this temporary material world is full of the miseries of birth, old age, disease and death, naturally he who achieves the highest perfection and attains the supreme planet, Krsnaloka, Goloka Vrndavana, does not wish to return. The supreme planet is described in Vedic literature as avyakta and aksara and parama gati; in other words, that planet is beyond our material vision, and it is inexplicable, but it is the highest goal, the destination for the mahatmas (great souls). The mahatmas receive transcendental messages from the realized devotees and thus gradually develop devotional service in Krsna consciousness and become so absorbed in transcendental service that they no longer desire elevation to any of the material planets, nor do they even want to be transferred to any spiritual planet. They only want Krsna and Krsna’s association, and nothing else. That is the highest perfection of life. This verse specifically mentions the personalist devotees of the Supreme Lord, Krsna. These devotees in Krsna consciousness achieve the highest perfection of life. In other words, they are the supreme souls.

 

VERSE 16 

From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.

PURPORT

All kinds of yogis—karma, jnana, hatha, etc.—eventually have to attain devotional perfection in bhakti-yoga, or Krsna consciousness, before they can go to Krsna’s transcendental abode and never return. Those who attain the highest material planets, the planets of the demigods, are again subjected to repeated birth and death. As persons on earth are elevated to higher planets, people on higher planets such as Brahmaloka, Candraloka and Indraloka fall down to earth. The practice of sacrifice called pancagni-vidya, recommended in the Chandogya Upanisad, enables one to achieve Brahmaloka, but if, on Brahmaloka, one does not cultivate Krsna consciousness, then he must return to earth. Those who progress in Krsna consciousness on the higher planets are gradually elevated to higher and higher planets and at the time of universal devastation are transferred to the eternal spiritual kingdom. Sridhara Svami, in his commentary on Bhagavad-gita, quotes this verse:

brahmana saha te sarve
samprapte pratisancare
parasyante krtatmanah
pravisanti param padam

"When there is devastation of this material universe, Brahma and his devotees, who are constantly engaged in Krsna consciousness, are all transferred to the spiritual universe and to specific spiritual planets according to their desires."

 

VERSE 17 

By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together form the duration of Brahma’s one day. And such also is the duration of his night.

PURPORT

The duration of the material universe is limited. It is manifested in cycles of kalpas. A kalpa is a day of Brahma, and one day of Brahma consists of a thousand cycles of four yugas, or ages: Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali. The cycle of Satya is characterized by virtue, wisdom and religion, there being practically no ignorance and vice, and the yuga lasts 1,728,000 years. In the Treta-yuga vice is introduced, and this yuga lasts 1,296,000 years. In the Dvapara-yuga there is an even greater decline in virtue and religion, vice increasing, and this yuga lasts 864,000 years. And finally in Kali-yuga (the yuga we have now been experiencing over the past 5,000 years) there is an abundance of strife, ignorance, irreligion and vice, true virtue being practically nonexistent, and this yuga lasts 432,000 years. In Kali-yuga vice increases to such a point that at the termination of the yuga the Supreme Lord Himself appears as the Kalki avatara, vanquishes the demons, saves His devotees, and commences another Satya-yuga. Then the process is set rolling again. These four yugas, rotating a thousand times, comprise one day of Brahma, and the same number comprise one night. Brahma lives one hundred of such "years" and then dies. These "hundred years" by earth calculations total to 311 trillion and 40 billion earth years. By these calculations the life of Brahma seems fantastic and interminable, but from the viewpoint of eternity it is as brief as a lightning flash. In the Causal Ocean there are innumerable Brahmas rising and disappearing like bubbles in the Atlantic. Brahma and his creation are all part of the material universe, and therefore they are in constant flux.

In the material universe not even Brahma is free from the process of birth, old age, disease and death. Brahma, however, is directly engaged in the service of the Supreme Lord in the management of this universe—therefore he at once attains liberation. Elevated sannyasis are promoted to Brahma’s particular planet, Brahmaloka, which is the highest planet in the material universe and which survives all the heavenly planets in the upper strata of the planetary system, but in due course Brahma and all the inhabitants of Brahmaloka are subject to death, according to the law of material nature.

 

VERSE 19 

Again and again, when Brahma’s day arrives, all living entities come into being, and with the arrival of Brahma’s night they are helplessly annihilated.

PURPORT

The less intelligent, who try to remain within this material world, may be elevated to higher planets and then again must come down to this planet earth. During the daytime of Brahma they can exhibit their activities on higher and lower planets within this material world, but at the coming of Brahma’s night they are all annihilated. In the day they receive various bodies for material activities, and at night they no longer have bodies but remain compact in the body of Visnu. Then again they are manifest at the arrival of Brahma’s day. Bhutva bhutva praliyate: during the day they become manifest, and at night they are annihilated again. Ultimately, when Brahma’s life is finished, they are all annihilated and remain unmanifest for millions and millions of years. And when Brahma is born again in another millennium they are again manifest. In this way they are captivated by the spell of the material world. But those intelligent persons who take to Krsna consciousness use the human life fully in the devotional service of the Lord, chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Thus they transfer themselves, even in this life, to the spiritual planet of Krsna and become eternally blissful there, not being subject to such rebirths.

 

VERSE 20 

Yet there is another unmanifest nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is.

PURPORT

Krsna’s superior, spiritual energy is transcendental and eternal. It is beyond all the changes of material nature, which is manifest and annihilated during the days and nights of Brahma. Krsna’s superior energy is completely opposite in quality to material nature. Superior and inferior nature are explained in the Seventh Chapter.

 

VERSE 21 

That which the Vedantists describe as unmanifest and infallible, that which is known as the supreme destination, that place from which, having attained it, one never returns—that is My supreme abode.

PURPORT

The supreme abode of the Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is described in the Brahma-samhita as cintamani-dhama, a place where all desires are fulfilled. The supreme abode of Lord Krsna, known as Goloka Vrndavana, is full of palaces made of touchstone. There are also trees, called "desire trees," that supply any type of eatable upon demand, and there are cows, known as surabhi cows, which supply a limitless supply of milk. In this abode, the Lord is served by hundreds of thousands of goddesses of fortune (Laksmis), and He is called Govinda, the primal Lord and the cause of all causes. The Lord is accustomed to blow His flute (venum kvanantam). His transcendental form is the most attractive in all the worlds—His eyes are like lotus petals, and the color of His body is like the color of clouds. He is so attractive that His beauty excels that of thousands of Cupids. He wears saffron cloth, a garland around His neck and a peacock feather in His hair. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna gives only a small hint of His personal abode, Goloka Vrndavana, which is the supermost planet in the spiritual kingdom. A vivid description is given in the Brahma-samhita. Vedic literatures (Katha Upanisad 1.3.11) state that there is nothing superior to the abode of the Supreme Godhead, and that that abode is the ultimate destination (purusan na param kincit sa kastha parama gatih). When one attains to it, he never returns to the material world. Krsna’s supreme abode and Krsna Himself are nondifferent, being of the same quality. On this earth, Vrndavana, ninety miles southeast of Delhi, is a replica of that supreme Goloka Vrndavana located in the spiritual sky. When Krsna descended on this earth, He sported on that particular tract of land known as Vrndavana, comprising about eighty-four square miles in the district of Mathura, India.

 

VERSE 22 

The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is greater than all, is attainable by unalloyed devotion. Although He is present in His abode, He is all-pervading, and everything is situated within Him.

PURPORT

It is here clearly stated that the supreme destination, from which there is no return, is the abode of Krsna, the Supreme Person. The Brahma-samhita describes this supreme abode as ananda-cinmaya-rasa, a place where everything is full of spiritual bliss. All the variegatedness manifest there is of the quality of spiritual bliss—nothing there is material. That variegatedness is expanded as the spiritual expansion of the Supreme Godhead Himself, for the manifestation there is totally of the spiritual energy, as explained in Chapter Seven. As far as this material world is concerned, although the Lord is always in His supreme abode, He is nonetheless all-pervading by His material energy. So by His spiritual and material energies He is present everywhere—both in the material and in the spiritual universes. Yasyantah-sthani means that everything is sustained within Him, within either His spiritual or material energy. The Lord is all-pervading by these two energies.

To enter Krsna’s supreme abode or the innumerable Vaikuntha planets is possible only by bhakti, devotional service, as clearly indicated here by the word bhaktya. No other process can help one attain that supreme abode. The Vedas (Gopala-tapani Upanisad 3.2) also describe the supreme abode and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Eko vasi sarva-gah krsnah. In that abode there is only one Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose name is Krsna. He is the supreme merciful Deity, and although situated there as one He has expanded Himself into millions and millions of plenary expansions. The Vedas compare the Lord to a tree standing still yet bearing many varieties of fruits, flowers and changing leaves. The plenary expansions of the Lord who preside over the Vaikuntha planets are four-armed, and they are known by a variety of names—Purusottama, Trivikrama, Kesava, Madhava, Aniruddha, Hrsikesa, Sankarsana, Pradyumna, Sridhara, Vasudeva, Damodara, Janardana, Narayana, Vamana, Padmanabha, etc.

The Brahma-samhita (5.37) also confirms that although the Lord is always in the supreme abode, Goloka Vrndavana, He is all-pervading, so that everything is going on nicely (goloka eva nivasaty akhilatma-bhutah). As stated in the Vedas (Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.8), parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate/ svabhaviki jnana-bala-kriya ca: His energies are so expansive that they systematically conduct everything in the cosmic manifestation without a flaw, although the Supreme Lord is far, far away.

VERSE 23 

O best of the Bharatas, I shall now explain to you the different times at which, passing away from this world, the yogi does or does not come back.

PURPORT

The unalloyed devotees of the Supreme Lord, who are totally surrendered souls, do not care when they leave their bodies or by what method. They leave everything in Krsna’s hands and so easily and happily return to Godhead. But those who are not unalloyed devotees and who depend instead on such methods of spiritual realization as karma-yoga, jnana-yoga and hatha-yoga must leave the body at a suitable time and thereby be assured whether or not they will return to the world of birth and death.

If the yogi is perfect he can select the time and situation for leaving this material world. But if he is not so expert his success depends on his accidentally passing away at a certain suitable time. The suitable times at which one passes away and does not come back are explained by the Lord in the next verse. According to Acarya Baladeva Vidyabhusana, the Sanskrit word kala used herein refers to the presiding deity of time.

 

VERSE 24 

Those who know the Supreme Brahman attain that Supreme by passing away from the world during the influence of the fiery god, in the light, at an auspicious moment of the day, during the fortnight of the waxing moon, or during the six months when the sun travels in the north.

PURPORT

When fire, light, day and the fortnight of the moon are mentioned, it is to be understood that over all of them there are various presiding deities who make arrangements for the passage of the soul. At the time of death, the mind carries one on the path to a new life. If one leaves the body at the time designated above, either accidentally or by arrangement, it is possible for him to attain the impersonal brahmajyoti. Mystics who are advanced in yoga practice can arrange the time and place to leave the body. Others have no control—if by accident they leave at an auspicious moment, then they will not return to the cycle of birth and death, but otherwise there is every possibility that they will have to return. However, for the pure devotee in Krsna consciousness, there is no fear of returning, whether he leaves the body at an auspicious or inauspicious moment, by accident or arrangement.

 

VERSE 25 

The mystic who passes away from this world during the smoke, the night, the fortnight of the waning moon, or the six months when the sun passes to the south reaches the moon planet but again comes back.

PURPORT

In the Third Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam Kapila Muni mentions that those who are expert in fruitive activities and sacrificial methods on earth attain to the moon at death. These elevated souls live on the moon for about 10,000 years (by demigod calculations) and enjoy life by drinking soma-rasa. They eventually return to earth. This means that on the moon there are higher classes of living beings, though they may not be perceived by the gross senses.

 

VERSE 26 

According to Vedic opinion, there are two ways of passing from this world—one in light and one in darkness. When one passes in light, he does not come back; but when one passes in darkness, he returns.

PURPORT

The same description of departure and return is quoted by Acarya Baladeva Vidyabhusana from the Chandogya Upanisad (5.10.3–5). Those who are fruitive laborers and philosophical speculators from time immemorial are constantly going and coming. Actually they do not attain ultimate salvation, for they do not surrender to Krsna.

 

VERSE 27 

Although the devotees know these two paths, O Arjuna, they are never bewildered. Therefore be always fixed in devotion.

PURPORT

Krsna is here advising Arjuna that he should not be disturbed by the different paths the soul can take when leaving the material world. A devotee of the Supreme Lord should not worry whether he will depart by arrangement or by accident. The devotee should be firmly established in Krsna consciousness and chant Hare Krsna. He should know that concern over either of these two paths is troublesome. The best way to be absorbed in Krsna consciousness is to be always dovetailed in His service, and this will make one’s path to the spiritual kingdom safe, certain and direct. The word yoga-yukta is especially significant in this verse. One who is firm in yoga is constantly engaged in Krsna consciousness in all his activities. Sri Rupa Gosvami advises, anasaktasya visayan yatharham upayunjatah: one should be unattached in material affairs and do everything in Krsna consciousness. By this system, which is called yukta-vairagya, one attains perfection. Therefore the devotee is not disturbed by these descriptions, because he knows that his passage to the supreme abode is guaranteed by devotional service.

 

VERSE 28 

A person who accepts the path of devotional service is not bereft of the results derived from studying the Vedas, performing austere sacrifices, giving charity or pursuing philosophical and fruitive activities. Simply by performing devotional service, he attains all these, and at the end he reaches the supreme eternal abode.

PURPORT

This verse is the summation of the Seventh and Eighth chapters, which particularly deal with Krsna consciousness and devotional service. One has to study the Vedas under the guidance of the spiritual master and undergo many austerities and penances while living under his care. A brahmacari has to live in the home of the spiritual master just like a servant, and he must beg alms from door to door and bring them to the spiritual master. He takes food only under the master’s order, and if the master neglects to call the student for food that day, the student fasts. These are some of the Vedic principles for observing brahmacarya.

After the student studies the Vedas under the master for a period from five to twenty years, he may become a man of perfect character. Study of the Vedas is not meant for the recreation of armchair speculators, but for the formation of character. After this training, the brahmacari is allowed to enter into household life and marry. When he is a householder, he has to perform many sacrifices so that he may achieve further enlightenment. He must also give charity according to the country, time and candidate, discriminating among charity in goodness, in passion and in ignorance, as described in Bhagavad-gita. Then after retiring from household life, upon accepting the order of vanaprastha, he undergoes severe penances—living in forests, dressing with tree bark, not shaving, etc. By carrying out the orders of brahmacarya, householder life, vanaprastha and finally sannyasa, one becomes elevated to the perfectional stage of life. Some are then elevated to the heavenly kingdoms, and when they become even more advanced they are liberated in the spiritual sky, either in the impersonal brahmajyoti or in the Vaikuntha planets or Krsnaloka. This is the path outlined by Vedic literatures.

The beauty of Krsna consciousness, however, is that by one stroke, by engaging in devotional service, one can surpass all the rituals of the different orders of life.

The words idam viditva indicate that one should understand the instructions given by Sri Krsna in this chapter and the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita. One should try to understand these chapters not by scholarship or mental speculation but by hearing them in association with devotees. Chapters Seven through Twelve are the essence of Bhagavad-gita. The first six and the last six chapters are like coverings for the middle six chapters, which are especially protected by the Lord. If one is fortunate enough to understand Bhagavad-gita—especially these middle six chapters—in the association of devotees, then his life at once becomes glorified beyond all penances, sacrifices, charities, speculations, etc., for one can achieve all the results of these activities simply by Krsna consciousness.

One who has a little faith in Bhagavad-gita should learn Bhagavad-gita from a devotee, because in the beginning of the Fourth Chapter it is stated clearly that Bhagavad-gita can be understood only by devotees; no one else can perfectly understand the purpose of Bhagavad-gita. One should therefore learn Bhagavad-gita from a devotee of Krsna, not from mental speculators. This is a sign of faith. When one searches for a devotee and finally gets a devotee’s association one actually begins to study and understand Bhagavad-gita. By advancement in the association of the devotee one is placed in devotional service, and this service dispels all one’s misgivings about Krsna, or God, and Krsna’s activities, form, pastimes, name and other features. After these misgivings have been perfectly cleared away, one becomes fixed in one’s study. Then one relishes the study of Bhagavad-gita and attains the state of feeling always Krsna conscious. In the advanced stage, one falls completely in love with Krsna. This highest perfectional stage of life enables the devotee to be transferred to Krsna’s abode in the spiritual sky, Goloka Vrndavana, where the devotee becomes eternally happy.

Thus end the Bhaktivedanta Purports to the Eighth Chapter of the Srimad Bhagavad-gita in the matter of Attaining the Supreme.

 


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