Chapter 8 – Akshara Parabrahma Yoga

Liberation from the cycle of birth and death is the core subject of this chapter. The lord explains in detail about how to embrace death, so that we can reach HIS abode, thus cutting off from cycle of life and death! It is like ensuring the arrow is pointed at the right direction before leaving the bow, so it reaches its target! Read on.
In the closing verses of previous chapter, the lord states – one who surrenders unto me and strives for liberation from the cycle of life and death, the lord will bless them with the eternal knowledge and thus liberation. Here, the lord speaks of eternal knowledge in terms of Brahman, Karma, Adhyathma, Adhibhutha, Adhidaiva, Adhiyajna. These terms represent different dimensions of THE truth. So the lord is suggesting that one can gain the knowledge in its entirety, only when he surrenders to the lord with complete conviction. Why does lord keep talking about surrendering? Here, the ask for surrendering is not to overrule or enforce anything, but rather to enable the seeker to grasp the subtle nuances that would otherwise be difficult to understand.

What is Akshara? What is Parabrahma?

In the opening verse of this chapter, Arjuna asks the lord to elaborate on these terms – Brahman, Karma, Adhyathma, Adhibutha, Adhidaiva and Adhiyajna.
While reading about these terms below, remember these are not just terms and definitions. These are different dimensions of that eternal knowledge. Or, different approaches to understand the core of that knowledge.

Brahman – The imperishable (akshara) and the supreme (parabrahman) – . The ‘unseen’ energy that is the cause of everything, that holds everything together. Refer to the supreme knowledge in previous chapter.
Adhyathma – understanding of our true nature. Understanding about representation of that supreme energy within all beings.
Karma – the cyclical nature of actions, that caused past, present and future. There is no stopping of this cycle of actions, that are governed by the supreme.
Adhibhutha – the perishable, constantly changing material existence. This material existence too, is a manifestation or an acquired form of the same supreme being. So in an abstract sense, Adhibhutha can be said to be comprised of all living, non-living physical entities; which are in a flux of creation and destruction – thus acquiring ever changing forms; that play a part in the cycle of karma.
Adhidaiva – the subtle forms of energy, that provides each being, its innate capability. For example, to ears the ability to hear, to eyes the ability to see, to fire the the light, to water the fluidity and so on.
Adhiyajna – the source of blessing of all Yajnas. Blessing here is, that which transforms actions into its fruits. Think of it like cashier in the bank – you present a cheque, he will present you with the equivalent cash. If there’s no sufficient balance in your account, the cheque will bounce. Similarly, your actions/effort is directly proportional to the result you get. If your actions are inadequate, the ability of actions to fructify will reduce. The guiding force that maintains the balance between actions and their results – the ‘controller’ that maintains this balance – he is Adhiyajna. 

These dimensions, pretty much cover every aspect of our existence! Doesn’t that help us understand what ‘all-pervasive’ means, and how the charm/effect of the lord is ‘all-pervasive’?
Also, note that apart from Brahman – the imperishable and supreme form of energy, all other dimensions are subject to the constant cycle of change. So liberation is about attaining the ‘Akshara Parabrahma’ (Brahman), by means of all other dimensions explained.

Death – how to deal with it, to attain liberation?

In the closing verses of previous chapter, the lord also stated that, those that understand my true nature in entirety, can certainly remember me at the time of death. Arjuna wants to know more about this aspect as well – how to remember the lord even at the time of death! We don’t even know when death will strike us, and we have no idea what we’d be doing then! But hold on, WHY should we remember the lord during death? What do we achieve by that?

Death, as we have discussed earlier, is inevitable to all beings. Technically, it is only a process where change in form occurs. Emotionally, we have grown to think of it as a significant event, often seen as an end, or a loss. Keeping aside emotion, if we look at death as a change in form, then isn’t it good to be prepared for the change? So let’s look at how to be prepared for this change. 

In our professional career, we often change jobs or change roles, looking for improved roles/responsibilities. When we thus change jobs, it is essentially end of previous role, and beginning of new role. And when we do plan at getting a new role, we start preparing ourselves by acquiring relevant skills to fit into the new role. The thought of the new role, will give you ideas, followed by action plan, to achieve the new role. What you think, is what you do, and what you become. 

Same concept is applicable even while you change the body – the thought that your mind is engaged in, is what takes shape and form, for the next phase beyond death of current body! If you think of the lord, that is where you will reach – it is a way of liberation, from the cycle of birth and death!  

Is it possible to get the thought of the lord, during death, when we don’t even know when that will happen? NO!! Not unless you are constantly engaged in the thought or lord all throughout your life. There is no other way around! The lord clearly states, whatever thought your mind is engaged in at the point of death, that will turn to be the seed of your existence in next phase! So beware of what you keep yourself engaged in! Take charge of your destiny – consciously encouraging only good thought, always. Better off, constantly live a life engaged in service of lord (Adhyathma).

How to leave this body?

The lord gives specific instructions on how to leave the body, to reach him – or in other words, attain liberation. Of course, that assumes you are well aware when your death is imminent! Only a blessed few have this awareness. Who are these ‘blessed’ ones? Read Adhiyajna above, to know what blessing is! It is the return gift for our actions! So if you learn to tune all your actions towards divinity, you can also be that blessed one! And when you are aware and consciously ready to embrace the change – the lord states, withdraw the mind from all sense organs, fix the mind in your heart, bring the awareness of Prana Shakthi between your eye brows, uttering the syllable AUM kara. The great souls that are able to achieve this during death – they are certainly liberated, and are established in me forever! 

When to leave the body?

The lord explains here that there are different ‘lokas’ (worlds) where life exists. Some better, some worse than here. Brahma Loka is considered most superior compared to the life on earth. (Note, Brahma loka here is only a higher/superior plane of existence, and nothing related to concept of Brahman discussed earlier). It is interesting to note that the lord talks about these ‘lokas’ (worlds) having different measures of time. He talks about Brahma Loka – where a day is equivalent to a thousand yugas of earth, and a night another thousand yugas on earth. The day time of Brahma Loka is when entire existence manifests and night time the entire being ceases existence. So however superior Brahma Loka is, it is still subject to the cycle of life and death. The only place that’s beyond life and death is, the abode of the lord! In other words, giving up the body to transform to be that raw form of divinity, always! Being one with that supreme being! To get there, the lord indicates one has to leave the body during ‘Utharāyana’ period of year (the period when Sun appears moving northwards), during the full moon cycle. Such a period is filled with ‘light’, a representation of knowledge.

The ones who are constantly engaged in the service of lord, be it by practicing karma yoga, or performing austerities, or being in service of community – embracing divinity every sphere of your existence, they certainly reach his abode. 

DISCLAIMER: This our sincere attempt to summarise the Gitōpadesha, via a series of short blogs. This is NOT the whole translation, or commentary of the divine book. We seek forgiveness of reader and the lord, for omissions which is inevitable to keep the blog short. The write-ups include both, writer’s personal opinion and summarised version of many shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita. Intent of blog was never to be a commentary of Bhagavad Gita, but simply inspire the reader to read Bhagavad Gita in it’s entirety. The writer is neither a scholar, nor a bummer, somewhere in between, with a firm belief that the lord gets him to do all the things he does. Being human, he still keeps erring. Forgive him for all such mistakes.

Sarvam Krishnarpanamasthu!

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