When a deadly enemy is at your doorstep, destiny requires that you make a choice. How can lessons from the Bhagavad Gita offer us a new perspective and guidance today? The Bhagavad Gita is a part of a huge epic the Mahabharata, about life, death, and ascension, that is over 5,000 years old. A classic root of Hindu philosophy, everything is symbolic. So, if we open our eyes and ears, we just might discover that it’s directly relevant to our lives today.
The Gita outlines how to live in balance with the eternal laws of Nature and how to attain higher levels of being.With each chapter, the Gita lessons are more refined and specific. Just enjoy and listen with an open mind, as you would hear a story.
Once upon a time, in a faraway land, Gods ruled the Earth, and all learning took place in the form of stories and sacred verses, that people remembered and passed down with each generation.
The warrior prince Arjuna and his chariot driver the God Krishna, gaze over a vast battlefield, where Arjuna and his brothers must kill half of his family lineage. He is horrified and refuses to fight. Krishna explains the secrets of higher knowledge, and tells him how to fight a righteous battle from a higher awareness in which he is assured to win, he’ll bring benefit to his family, and incur no sin or Karma for himself. Ultimately Arjuna accepts his destiny to fight this war. He and his brothers win, and finally ascend to the heavenly realms.
Arjuna is asking God Krishna some very tough questions. He asks what is the highest reality? What is the Soul? What is Karma? What is God? Who rules physical realm? Who rules the celestial realm? And most importantly he asks, how can one be assured to go to the Supreme God at the time of death? Krishna answers all these questions, revealing the secrets to the most direct path to freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth.
He says “The Supreme Indestructible God” just is. And that Supreme God has an ever-changing form that can seen in physical manifestation. One’s own Self is the individual Soul. Karma is the actions we do in the physical world and their effects.
Hinduism has lots of Gods, and they have a hierarchy. Krishna says don’t worry too much about the celestial gods, because they are not the Supreme god. They are subject to life and death. He says just go to the top God. If you are thinking about the Supreme God at the moment of death you’ll go right to THAT. Therefore during your life, and every day, it’s a very good idea to develop a habit of thinking about God all the time. Because God is the omniscient controller, more subtle than the smallest atom, who supports all, yet is inconceivable to the mind. God shines brighter than the sun and dissolves all ignorance.
Krishna repeats the meditation lesson from the past chapter, saying you should practice Yoga, learn to control all the body functions, draw the life breath into the center of your head and remember the divine. So when you die you’re ready. You think about God and chant the syllable OM to merge with God. Once you attain this goal you’ll never again be born into the physical world of impermanence and pain.
Krishna describes universal time, measured in Yugas in what NASA calls the precession cycle of 25,000 years. Even beyond that in Vedic astrology the universe has larger days and nights in an eternal cycle of billions of years. During the day of Brahma, living beings exist. Then they dissolve at the night of equal length. And when the next day comes, they all miraculously reappear in physical form. That’s why he encourages you to focus on loving God, because then you can be free of all this physical suffering and Karmic complexity.
The God Krishna also describes how to die. He say if you live in the light, you’ll die in the light and you’ll be free. If you live in darkness, ignorance, or attachment to the world that you see and hear, then you’ll live and die in the dark, which means you’ll be reborn again and again. These two paths of light and dark always exist. But the Yogis who know the secret are lucky in life and lucky in death. They don’t worry about rituals, elaborate mantras, books, austerities, or expensive offerings. They just go straight to the top and send love to the Supreme God all the time. This is the direct path. So, for Arjuna who is now pondering whether or not he should kill his family in a terrible war, Krishna says, do your duty as a warrior, fight the righteous battle with your mind surrendered to me. Then you will win a glorious victory with no bad Karma.
As you listen to the verses in Chapter 8, I invite you to ponder these questions:
- What does Krishna say is the secret path to freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth?
- What is the Yogic meditation practice that leads to freedom?
- What do you do at the moment of death to merge directly into God?
- How can you practice this during your life so you remember at the moment of death?
- What are your favorite quotes from this chapter to remember for life lessons?
- What parallel events in the modern world illustrate these concepts?
Now I will try to read the verses to Chapter 8.
Bhagavad Gita 8.1
Arjun said: O Supreme Lord, what is Absolute Reality, Brahman? What is the individual soul, adhyātma, what is Karma? What is your Supreme Divine Personality?
Bhagavad Gita 8.2
Who is the law of material manifestation (adhibhūta), , and who is called ruler of the celestial gods (adhidaiva)? Who is ruler of all sacrifice offerings (adhiyajña)? O Krishna, killer of the demon Madhu, how are You to be known at the time of death by those of steadfast mind?
Bhagavad Gita 8.3
The Blessed Lord said: The Supreme Indestructible God is called Brahman; one’s own Self is the individual Soul, adhyātma. Actions pertaining to the material personality of living beings, and its development are called Karma, or actions that bear fruit.
Bhagavad Gita 8.4
O best of the embodied souls, the physical manifestation that is constantly changing is called the universal form of God (adhibhūta). That which presides over the celestial gods in this realm is called adhidaiva. I, who dwell in the heart of every living being, am called the Lord of all sacrifices, or Adhiyajña.
Bhagavad Gita 8.5
Those who relinquish the body while remembering Me at the moment of death will come to Me. There is certainly no doubt about this.
Bhagavad Gita 8.6
Whatever one remembers upon giving up the body at the time of death, O son of Kunti, one attains that state, being always absorbed in such contemplation.
Bhagavad Gita 8.7
Therefore, always remember Me while you do your duty of fighting the war. With mind and intellect surrendered to Me, you will definitely attain Me. Of this, there is no doubt.
Bhagavad Gita 8.8
With practice, O Parth, when you constantly engage the mind in remembering Me, the Supreme Divine Personality, without deviating, you will certainly attain Me.
Bhagavad Gita 8.9
Ancient poet controller, God is more subtle than the smallest atom, God is Omniscient the Support of all, yet inconceivable in divine form. God shines brighter than the sun. and far beyond the darkness of ignorance.
Bhagavad Gita 8.10
One who at the time of death, remembers with great devotion united through the practice of Yoga, who fixes the life force between the eyebrows, and steadily remembers the Divine One, certainly attains Him.
Bhagavad Gita 8.11
Vedic scholars call Him imperishable. Great ascetics practice non-attachment and celibacy and renounce worldly pleasures to enter into Him. I shall now explain to you briefly the path to that goal.
Bhagavad Gita 8.12
Restraining all the gates of the body and fixing the mind in the heart region, and then drawing the life-breath into the head, one should establish steadfast Yogic concentration.
Bhagavad Gita 8.13
One who departs from the body while remembering Me, the Supreme God, and chanting the syllable Om, will attain the supreme goal.
Bhagavad Gita 8.14
O Parth, for those Yogis who always think of Me with exclusive devotion, I am easily attainable because of their constant absorption in Me.
Bhagavad Gita 8.15
Having attained Me, the great souls are no more subject to rebirth in this world, which is impermanent, ever-changing, and full of misery, because they have attained the highest perfection.
Bhagavad Gita 8.16
Up to the highest abode of God, Brahma, all the world’s beings are subject to rebirth, O Arjun. But on attaining My Abode, O son of Kunti, there is never again rebirth.
Bhagavad Gita 8.17
One great day of Brahma (kalp) measures a thousand cycles of the four ages (mahā yuga). And one night also lasts the same span of time. Wise people who know this understand the reality of day and night.
Bhagavad Gita 8.18
At the beginning of the great day of Brahma, all living beings emanate from the eternal source. And at the fall of the same night, all embodied beings merge again back into their unmanifest source.
Bhagavad Gita 8.19
The multitude of beings repeatedly take birth with the advent of Brahma’s cosmic day, and are helplessly dissolved into the cosmic night, to manifest again automatically on the following cosmic day.
Bhagavad Gita 8.20
Above this creation of being and dissolving, exists yet another eternal dimension. That realm does not cease. It is never annihilated even when all others cease to be.
Bhagavad Gita 8.21
That highest unmanifest dimension is the Supreme goal, and upon reaching it, one never returns to this mortal world. That is My Supreme Abode.
Bhagavad Gita 8.22
The Supreme Divine God is greater than all that exists. Although He is all-pervading and all living beings live within Him, yet He can be known only through devotion.
Bhagavad Gita 8.23
I shall now describe to you the different paths of passing away from this world, O best of the Bharatas, one of which leads to liberation and the other leads to rebirth.
Bhagavad Gita 8.24
Those who know the Supreme Brahman, and who depart from this world, during the time of light attain the supreme destination, This is during the six months of the sun’s northern course (21 December- 21 June, called Uttraayan), the bright fortnight of the waxing moon (Shuki Paksh), and the bright daylight, attain the supreme destination.
Bhagavad Gita 8.25
The practitioners of Vedic rituals, who leave the body during the dark times attain the celestial abodes. After enjoying heavenly pleasures, they again return to the earth. They are those who depart in the six months of the sun’s southern course (June 22 – December 20), the dark fortnight of the waning moon, the time of smoke, or the nighttime.
Bhagavad Gita 8.26
These two paths of light and dark always exist in this world. The way of light and fire leads to liberation and the way of darkness leads to rebirth.
Bhagavad Gita 8.27
Yogis who know the secret of these two paths, O Parth, are never bewildered. Therefore, at all times be established in Yogic union with God.
Bhagavad Gita 8.28
The Yogis, who know this secret, gain benefits far greater than the fruits of Vedic rituals, the study of the scriptures, offering of sacrifices, renouncing austerities, and giving charities. Such Yogis reach the Supreme Abode.