CHAPTER 8

Akshara - brahma - yoga 

            Akshara means imperishable. Brahma is unmanifest God. Yoga means to obtain. So, this chapter tells us about attaining the imperisable, ever existing God

            Arjuna asks Krishna to explain the three terms spoken of in the last verse of 7th chapter. He says to Krishna, "What is Brahma, what is Adhyatma, What is called Karma, what do you call Adhibuta and Adhidaiva"? Also who is this Adhiyagnya in the body and how can the people, who have controlled their minds, remember you at the time of death?

Brahma, Adhibhuta, Adhidaiva, Adhidnyana

            In the next four verses  nos. 3 to 6 Krishna answers above questions.

Brahma, Adhibhuta, Adhidaiva, Adhidnyana

            "That which is Akshara, means ever existing, imperishable something, is known as Brahma. His eternal nature is called Adhyatma. Action which creates the Universe with all living and non living entities, as well as action which develops them, is Karma. The physical nature of all bodies which is constantly changing is known as Adhibhuta, while the Universal form of God is the Adhidaivay, and Adhiyagnya means superior Lord to whom all sacrifices are offered in the body. He is none other than Myself. It is also true that he who remembers Me at the time of death, comes to Me, and becomes one with Me. Not only that but whatever state of being one remembers at the time of death, one gets that state in the next life".

            In general, many people think that God is some being who lives in heaven. But it is not so. The Sanskrit word denoting God is Brahma, which is different from the Universe. The original, everexhisting Brahma, also called Akshars because it is not perishable, is an energy. Nobody has been able to trace its origin. Therefore, it is called ever existing. It manifested itself into the five great elements and formed three forms viz.. Brahmadev, the creator, Vishnu the preserver and custodian; Shankara, the destroyer. These three deities were formed by that energy which is superior to all of them. This energy is everywhere. In fact, the Ishavasya Upanishad tells us that this energy is everything. That's all the explanation we can give about Brahma, the God. Because, as said before, God is beyond the scope of understanding of senses, the mind or the intellect. What they know is called knowledge. Thus we can have full knowledge of this Universe and what it contains including other galaxies, stars which are thousands of millions light years away from earth. Yet we cannot know who is behind this. At the most, a dedicated and devoted person can reach the three, Bramhadev, Vishnu and Shankar, but one cannot know who created them. That who is God.

Adhyatma

            The word Adhyatma means Adhi and Atma. Adhi means superior, Atma is that part of imperishable energy which lives in the living beings and gives them life. The study of science leading to the understanding of this superior energy, or God is called Adhyatma.

Karma

            Karma means movement which is called action. This action takes place on physical, mental and intellectual levels. The work of creation of Universe was the original Karma. The Akshara or Brahma had a desire for it. In Vedas, it is maintained that in the beginning there was a voice (coming from the energy) which said, "I am one, I want to be many." That was the desire. It started  physical action. We can assume, that before the process of creation started, then was great thought given to it by the Universal mind and the final decision was taken by the Universal Intellect. This was put into action and Universal Ego was happy that the Universe was created. Since that time, everything that is thought of, spoken or actioned is labelled as Karma. That is the reason a human being cannot stay even for a second without doing some Karma or other.

            Karma means movement, in any form. Movement means change. The word Adhibhuta means Adhi and bhuta. Bhuta means being. The nature of changing of every being is called Adhibuta because that is the main characteristic of every being.

            While there is a change in the bodies of all beings, there is something in each of them which does not change. That superior, unchangeable entity of the entire Universe is called Adhidaivat.

Yagnya

            Yagnya means sacrifice. To perform Yagnyas was a routine work in the past Yugas. A fire was lit and sacred mantras were chanted. With each mantra chanting, something was thrown in the sacred fire. Kings performed these Yagnyas to please demigods, But the chief of all these demigods is Brahma, the God Himself. In Kaliyuga, when we have to eat to live, the process of taking food is called Yagnya and the one to whom this sacrifice of food goes, is Brahma the God.

Karma and rebirth

            The rebirth of Atma in another body is governed by Laws of Karma, one of which says that the fruit of every Karma will go to him who has performed it, be it mentally, physically or intellectually or by any of the senses. Each Karma is recorded in the mind which is attached to the Atma. This Karma includes unfulfilled desires, stored Vasana, likes, dislikes, hatred, debts of any kind and killings, intentional injuries etc. The Atma is already having so many of these bondage items creating Karma (Sanchita Karma). It now gets these additional ones (Kriyamana Karma) from this life. After death, all these are merged and become Sanchita Karma. From this, some portion goes with the Atma when He takes new body, to suffer it there. He cannot escape anything. Every action taken before, has to be received back as reward or punishment, with the exception of non attached Karma.

            The thought which is prevalent in the mind at the time of death takes form. If any living soul, at the time of death, has his or her mind permanently fixed on God, with the exclusion of any other thought, then that soul goes to Him. Once you are with Him, all your remaining Karmas disappear and you  remain with Him, a free soul. But it is not easy at all. The mind is so deeply attached to material things that even while chanting the name of God or listening to his Psalms, Bhajans praises, prayers, it slips away to some other thought. But if you have been mentally attached to Him for a better part of your life, if you have acquired the skill of performing a Karma in non attached way, with strong determination you can keep your mind free of all attachments except God, when you breathe your last.

            Therefore, make it a habit to surrender all your Karma to Him and lead your life. Realize that you are Him. You are doing your Karma, given to you by Him. He is the Master and your "father in heaven". You must not let Him down. So do the Karma, as per rules mentioned before and keep your thoughts centered on Him, Find some time during the day to either go to any of the Houses of God - Mandir, Mosque, Church, Synagog, Gurudwara or any other holy place, or sit at home and get yourself engaged in such work which will centre your thoughts on Him. e.g. worship, pray, sing holy songs and God's praises, listen to them, meditate, read His story books etc.

            If you do not believe in doing any of these Karmas, because you are an atheist, do such Karmas which will uplift poor, downtrodden individuals, by rendering them unselfish service. You are a child of God, they are also His children. When you serve them and give them what they need, your "father in heaven" is pleased. You may not realize it, but you go nearer to Him. When you pray God, what do you expect. You want Him to give you that which you need but don't have, because you know that He has what you need. If you give to some poor person what he needs but does not have, and you have it, your are doing His work. Moreover you give without being asked to do so. This Karma is of a great quality.

Remembering God at the time of death

            People, in general, have misunderstood the real meaning of the words of Krishna in verse no. 5, where He says, "He who remembers me at the time of death, comes to Me, liberated from bondage." In India, parents used to name their sons with any one of the thousands of names by which God is called and remembered. The idea is to call your son's name, which will come automatically on your lips, when you are about to die, and thus you call God's name. So you will be free. It is not so. The word 'remember' has a deep meaning. I will give you an example.

            One person had seven sons. Each one of them was given God's name like Krishna, Govinda, Rama etc. The man was on his deathbed. All his sons were near him. Doctor had said, that their father was sinking; pulse was dropping. He would pass away any moment. The man also knew it. As he was looking at his sons, he thought of their names. He was not able to utter clear words. He looked around and was satisfied that all his children were near him. He noticed his cat in a corner. He tried to speak to one of his son's by calling his name, and died at that very moment. His last word was "Govinda", which is a name of Krishna. But his thought was "I hope the cat has been fed". He did not remember God. His cat was more near and dear to him than God. Remembering God is not at all easy. Just think for a while, how many times during your wakeful hours do you REMEMBER God? You may pray, sing his Bhajans, recite psalms, offer worship, but where is your mind at that time? Does it think of Him to the exclusion of all other thoughts? If you do not know, then make an experiment. While you worship or pray Him, check where your mind runs and you will know. When we do not remember Him during a life time, it is not possible that we will ever remember Him in our death. Hence develop a practice now.

            A Karmayogi has capability of steadying his mind, due to the Karma perfection and non attachment to Karma that he has practised over several years. He can, whether he sits or is in bed lying down, concentrate his mind easily in between his two eyebrows and lose his conscious mind in thinking of Him. When he dies in that condition, he reaches God. Therefore one should try to be a Karmayogi first. Of course, to achieve that state, one must practise doing each of his Karmas in the right manner and in a non attached way.

First manifestation of God in sound form-\-AUM

            People who are Masters, in the understanding of Vedas, understand what is "Akshara". We have seen above, that the meaning of this word is imperishable. But it also means, what we understand by the English word, "alphabet". A single alphabet "a" or "b" or "c" etc. is called a "letter" or an Akshara. More than one Aksharas combine to form a word. Yet the original meaning of "Akshara" is that something from which the first alphabet in all languages was formed. This is the original sound which cannot be explained by any letter or word. This sound is AUM generally pronounced AUM and written as OM. This sound does not form any alphabet. It represents Him, the imperishable God. This sound is ever existent, everywhere. It is not perceptible to the sense of hearing because it is God. This is the first manifestation of God in sound energy. This is the origin of speech. You may speak any language in the world, the sound that your voice produces has its origin in this Akshara.

Akshara-Brahma

            Students of Vedic Shastras who observe celibacy throughout their life, both in body and mind, try to live a totally detached life, concentrate their energy on this Akshara. Such a student with a severe practice tries to concentrate his breath in between the two eyebrows. He shuts all the nine doors of the body i.e. he does not allow the breath to go out from any of the nine doors. This is possible, but has to be practised under the directions and guidance of a Master who is an expert Yogi. Such a person, then thinks and pronounces this Akshara- \-AUM continuously, simultaneously thinking of the supreme Brahma. When he dies in that state he reaches God, the Akshara-Brahma.

            The principle underlying this technique or lesson, is that one should be continuously thinking of God and remembering Him all the time, in wakeful, dream or sleep state. The mind must not think of anything else even for a billionth of a second. This means cutting of sense from their objects and directing the mind to be away from its servants, the senses all the time. Whether you do it by a severe penance, removing yourself away from public life and sitting in seclusion practising this method; or learn to live a life, doing all your Karmas, in a detached way, it is all the same. The Dnyana is, that He has manifested Himself in sound energy as this Akshara. That is Brahman. You can go into a Samadhi state, by above hard practice and you will hear the Akshara Brahma yourself, originating from the incoming breath. God is accessible to those who practise this Yoga. These are the real Mahatmas. They are not born again. They attain Moksha.

The time concept - one day of Brahmadev

            All the different worlds in the Universe are perishable, because they are His creation. The worlds are born so they must die. We do not know how many galaxies are there up in space. We cannot measure its expanse because it has no limiting boundaries, neigther in length, breadth or height. It is without dimensions. As centuries after centuries go, we humans can make progress and progress only to find new worlds, undiscovered before. Means can be invented to reach some of these because they all are parts of His creation. They all will perish one day, may be after billions of years, but He, the Creator, the energy behind and within all of them will always exist. Whatever perishes will again come to form. That is how His laws work. We humans will also perish, so far as our physical forms are concerned. We call it death. New form will be taken by the same being. It will be a new birth. In this way, humans are caught up in this unending cycle of birth-death-birth. The Atma, a tiniest portion of His measureless energy gets tied up and chained to the Karma, only because He is attached to it in body, mind, intellect and ego. But once a human succeeds in crossing all the hurdles, by whatever means he uses, and reaches God, he is freed from this cycle. He is not reborn. The time of our world, as given in Vedas is interesting to read. Krishna tells Arjuna in verse nos. 17,18,19, that four Yugas when pass in succession for one thousand times, it becomes one day in the life of Brahmadev, that part of God responsible for creation of the Universe. Then the same period is counted for his one night. Those who understand this, really know what is a day and what is a night.

            For us, one day and one night means 24 hours. Our time concept is thus based on the rotation of earth around Sun. On this unit, we have hours, minutes, seconds on the downward scale and weeks, months, years, decades, centuries on upward scale. But a real Dnyani looks to one day or one night as that of Brahmadeva's life, and understands that he will have many opportunities in this one day to be reborn and continue his studies of God realization. Because what a human being achieves mentally and intellectually does not die. It stays with him in the earthly life. He gets ample opportunities to uplift himself or herself from, however low one may be placed, lowest to the highest position which crosses the boundaries of creation.

            To get an idea of what a day in the life of Bramhadev is to us let us do some calculations. He says passing of the four Yugas one thousand times in succession is one day for Bramhadev. Alright! There are 4 Yugas, called Krita, Treta, Dwapara and Kali. The period in number of years of each Yuga is in descending order, the lowest is of Kaliyuga; and it is 4.32.000 years on earth . So imagine what would be the total number of years on earth would be when the total of four Yugas is added. It would be more than a few millions. Multiply this total by 1000 and you run into billions. This is one day for Bramhadeva. In this time period on earth, imagine how many lives one can have. Restrict yourself to be born again and again in this Kaliyuga, which has completed about 5000 years of its total period of 4.32.000 years so far, and see how many more times you would be born. Mind you, it is not necessary that each of these lives would be of a human being. The law say you will reap what you will sow. If your Karmas are good, you stand a chance of being again born a human quickly. If by far they are bad or worse, you may get the bodies of any other creature or creatures till you complete your punishment of fixed number of years and are then given a chance to be human again. Do not, therefore, regard this present life of yours as be all and end all. No, Sir and Madam, your are here to live many lives. You decide now, what next life you wish to have and do some good Karma, before it is too late. Because death may strike its blow any time. Understand this principle of one day and one night of Bramhadev and what it means to you. The significance of this great day and great night is, that when is day ends and is night comes, all beings in this world perish. They go in unmanifested form, each one with one's own Karma, desires, Vasanas etc. They lie dormant, as if stored in cryogenic atmosphere, frozen at temperatures, hundreds of degrees below zero. They are not reborn. It is only when Brahmadev finishes his night of so many Billions of years on earth, that his day dawns. When that happens, all these frozen embryos come back to life. You, the Atma, in your present body, will spring up again at that time if you have not been successful in getting out of this dreaded cycle. Because, come what may, as the years on earth pass by, in the remaining  4.27.000 years of this earth, there will be more and more chaos, anarchy, treachery, immorality; and all bad things will thrive because this  is Kaliyuga. The purpose of Gita in Kaliyuga must therefore, be understood.

            The great satisfaction we can have, in this web of time and life that we are caught in, is we do have a chance to get out of this. And this chance is during this life time. Because all this applies to the manifested form. Our manifested form the physical body, will no doubt die. Let it go. But the unmanifested Atma, the energy, the real you can be free. Even if the whole Universe perishes, once you are free now, you remain free forever. You can really enjoy everything. You would be permanently in that blissful state which is beyond any happiness and sensual pleasures. This unmanifested being, the one who created the Universe and the one in your own body, the real you is called "Akshara". That is the beginning of the beginning. That is God's abode. There is nothing greater or beyond it. Once you reach there, by knowing Yourself as Akshara in your own body, you never are reborn in any physical form.

            I think, now is the time to talk about a few facts of time, the period of each Yuga and get to know where we stand. The four Yugas together are called one Kalpa. Period of these four Yugas is as follows. Krita or Satya Yuga is 1.728.000 years; Tretayuga is 1.296.000 years, Dwaparayuga is 864.000 years and Kaliyuga is 432.000 years. Dwapara is twice as big as Kali. Treta is three times and Satya is four times larger than our age, the Kaliyuga. The total period comes to 4.320.000 years. Multiplied by 1000, it comes to 4.320.000.000 years. More than 4 billion years. this is just one day in the life of Bramhadev in whose form God created Universe. In that one day, the individual Atmas, souls of living beings have innumerable lives to get free from the bondage and return to Paramatma, the God. The energy contained in physical bodies can get free and merge into its original state.

Countless living beings, countless birth for one Atma

            But, as said before, all different physical bodies of an Atma will not necessarily be human. you know how many types of animals, birds, reptiles, fish, worms, other creatures are  there in this world. Add to them plants, shrubs, trees. They also have life. It is said there are 8.400.000 different kinds of beings. You, the Atma, could be born in any one of them.

            All of them except, human life, are just to pay for bad Karma. It is only this life, as a human being, that you will pay for bad Karma of the past, get reward for the good one; and also have the opportunity to use your intellect and perform Karmas in non detached way and throw away the chain which binds you to the species of this world, once for all. Because, once you reach God, all the Karmas, good and bad die away, the seeds of Vasanas are burnt and there remains nothing to put you in chains again. His abode, the residence of God is the highest goal to be achieved, the highets peak to be conquered. He is attainable only by undiluted purest love and devotion to Him.

Two paths for a Yogi after death

            In verses nos. 23 to 27, Krishna tells Arjuna the two ways open for a Karmayogi to go to higher worlds, when his human body dies. After the death of physical body, the Atma with its chains around, is carried away by some presiding deity such as Agni (fire), light, day and night, as well as, the two fortnights of the four weeks of moon phases. Krishna says, A Yogi knows these periods. He can arrange the passage of himself (the Atma)when either Agni, light, day, the first fortnight of the moon and a day in the six months when the sun travels to the north prevails. In these conditions a Yogi's death takes him straight to God. As against this, his death in smoke, the night, the second fortnight of the moon (declining phases) or the six months when the sun passes to the south, takes him to higher worlds from where he has to come back. He does not reach God then. A Yogi who, (the Atma) thus goes up, is said to reach the moon, in luminous form, for several years before his time comes to be born on earth.

            According to the Vedas, there are two ways of passing from this world, one in light and the other in darkness. He who travels in light does not return. He who travels in light must come back. But a Yogi is fully aware of these two paths and therefore he does not get bewildered. Hence, Krishna emphasise son Arjuna the need of becoming a Yogi, i.e. to do his Karma (fighting in the war) in a non detached manner.

The best reward

            In the last verse no. 28 of this chapter, Krishna says, a Yogi knows that the reward one gets by performing good Karma when he is attached to it is nothing compared to his reaching God's eternal abode. Rewards received by following Vedic practices, performing austere sacrifices, giveng charity, pursuing philosophical and attached Karma which ends in fruition, are all meaningless in comparison with the riches he obtains when he enters his father's home. Thus ends the chapter on Akshara-Brahma-Yoga

Summary

            From the preceding chapters we realise that as human beings we are bound by Laws of Karma which are very clear. This life of ours is not the only existence we have. We were on this earth many times before and will be reborn many times. This rebirth depends upon our Karmas. This cycle of death and rebirth will go on endlessly till one day of Bramahadev is over. Even if we limit our thinking to this present Kaliyuga, we still have 427.000 years to live, in this Yuga. This Yuga is a Yuga of misery, which, as the years go by, will increase. There will be a rule of treachery, cheating, dishonesty, breach of trust and so on. Do you want to be born again and again endlessly, deluded by what sensual pleasures you enjoy at present? Think it over. Take some time and think seriously. Because whether you like it or not, whether you believe in this or not, you will undergo the cycle and pay for your bad Karmas, receive rewards for good ones, be hounded and harassed by bad people in every life till you come out of this cycle.

            We know now what is a good Karma, how to train ourselves to be detached from our Karma, how to try and keep the senses away from their objects etc. etc. Krishna's message in these 8 chapters is very clear. So, let us make good use of our intellect and get away from the many delusions of the mind. Let us work hard in the right manner to be successful in life, to earn wealth and fame. At the same time, let us learn to be detached to our Karmas, so that when the time comes to leave this world, we are ready for higher goal.

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