Chapter 8

Arjuna asks Krishna a volley of most significant questions, ?What is Brahman? What is the Self, and what is action, O Krishna? What is said to be the basis of the elements? What is called the basis of the gods? What is the basis of sacrifice in this body, and how, art Thou to be known at the time of departure by the self-controlled? (8.1-2)

Krishna answers, ?The Imperishable Absolute is Brahman. Adhyatma is the self-revealing Knowledge of Brahman’s primeval Nature. Karma is the creative force that brings beings into existence. Adhibhuta or the mutable nature is the basis of all created things; Adhidaiva is the cosmic spirit that is the basis of the divine elements. Adhiyajna is the sacrifice made by Me in order to unite the manifestation of finite forms with My infinite Life.? (8.3-4)

Krishna tells Arjuna that whatever state a person thinks of at the time of death, to that state he reaches. Therefore Krishna instructs Arjuna thus, ?At all times remember Me and fight. When thy mind and understanding are set on Me, to Me alone shalt thou come without doubt.? (8.7)

Krishna makes it clear to Arjuna that self-realisation must be achieved during life in the body and nowhere else. ?He who does so, at the time of his departure, with a steady mind, devotion, and strength of yoga, and setting well his life force in the center of the eyebrows – he attains to this Supreme Divine Person.? (8.10) Krishna explains how a yogi enters into the Ultimate or the highest perfection, after leaving his body, ?His senses are under control. His mind is placed in the heart. Absorbed in Me, he utters the syllable AUM while leaving the body, enters into the ultimate realisation in Me.? (8.12-13)

Krishna says that there are a thousand ages in one day of Brahman and another thousand ages in one night of Brahman. During the day all manifested things come forth from the Brahman and at night they merge back into the Brahman. Krishna goes on to explain that the Brahman is also not the highest state. He says, ?there is yet another Unmanifested Eternal Being who does not perish even when all existences perish. This Supreme Status is My Truth absolute. Only through unswerving devotion can one reach this state.? (8.17-22) Sri Chinmoy says:

“The easiest and the most effective way to go up high, higher, highest is to surcharge oneself with pure love and genuine devotion. Doubt, fear, frustration, limitation and imperfection are bound to surrender to devoted love and surrendered devotion. Love and devotion have the power unparalleled to own the world and be owned by the world. Love God’s manifestation; you will find that the cosmic creation is yours. Devote yourself to the cause of the cosmic manifestation; you will see that it loves you and claims you as its very own.?


(The following English translation is taken from ‘A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy’ Edited by S. Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore. 1957 Princeton University Press)

Chapter 8: The Course of Cosmic Evolution

Arjuna questions

Arjuna said:
1. What is Brahman [or the Absolute] ? What is the Self, and what is action, 0 the Best of persons? What is said to be the basis of the elements? What is called the basis of the gods?

2. What is the basis of sacrifice in this body, and how, 0 Madhusudana (Krsna)? How, again, art Thou to be known at the time of departure by the self-controlled?

Krsna answers

The Blessed Lord said:
3. Brahman [or the Absolute] is the indestructible, the Supreme [higher than all else], essential nature is called the Self. Karma is the name given to the creative force that brings beings into existence.

4. The basis of all created things is the mutable nature; the basis of the divine elements is the cosmic spirit. And the basis of all sacrifices, here in the body, is Myself, 0 Best of embodied beings (Arjuna).

The soul goes to that on which it is set at the moment of dissolution

5. And whoever, at the time of death, gives up his body and departs, thinking of Me alone, he comes to My status of being; of that there is no doubt.

6. Thinking of whatever state (of being) he at the end gives up his body, to that being does he attain, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), being ever absorbed in the thought thereof.

7. Therefore, at all times remember Me and fight. When thy mind and understanding are set on Me, to Me alone shalt thou come without doubt.

8. He who meditates on the Supreme Person with his thought attuned by constant practice and not wandering after anything else he, 0 Partha (Arjuna), reaches the Person, Supreme and Divine.

9. He who meditates on the Seer, the ancient, the ruler, subtler than the subtle, the supporter of all, whose form is beyond conception, who is sun-coloured beyond the darkness.

10. He who does so, at the time of his departure, with a steady mind, devotion, and strength of yoga, and setting well his life force in the centre of the eyebrows-he attains to this Supreme Divine Person.

11. 1 shall briefly describe to thee that state which the knowers of the Veda call the Imperishable, which ascetics freed from passion enter and desiring which they lead a life of self-control.

12. All the gates of the body restrained, the mind confined within the heart, one’s lifeforce fixed in the head, established in concentration by yoga,

13. He who utters the single syllable Aum2 which is Brahman, remembering Me as he departs, giving up his body-he goes to the highest goal.

14. He who constantly meditates on Me, thinking of none else-by him who is a yogin ever disciplined [or united with the Supreme], I am easily reached.

15. Having come to Me, these great souls do not get back to rebirth, the place of sorrow, impermanent, for they have reached the highest perfection.

16. From the realm of Brahma downwards, all worlds are subject to return to rebirth, but on reaching Me, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), there is no return to birth again.

17. Those who know that the day of Brahma is of the duration of a thousand ages and that the night of Brahma is a thousand ages long—they are the knowers of day and night.

18. At the coming of day, all manifested things come forth from the unmanifested, and at the coming of night they merge in that same, called the unmanifested.

19. This very same multitude of existences arising again and again merges helplessly at the coming of night, 0 Partha (Arjuna), and streams forth into being at the coming of day.

20. But beyond this unmanifested, there is yet another Unmanifested Eternal Being who does not perish even when all existences perish.

21. This Unmanifested is called the Imperishable. Him they speak of as the Supreme Status. Those who attain to Him return not. That is My supreme abode.

22. This is the Supreme Person, 0 Partha (Arjuna), in whom all existences abide and by whom all this is pervaded, who can, however, be gained by unswerving devotion.

The two ways

23. Now I shall declare to thee, 0 Best of Bharatas (Arjuna), the time in which yogins, departing, never return, and also that wherein, departing, they return.

24. Fire, light, day, the bright half of the month, the six months of the northern path of the sun, then going forth the men who know the Absolute go to the Absolute.

25. Smoke, night, so also the dark half of the month, the six months of the southern path of the sun, then going forth the yogi obtains the lunar light and returns.*

26. Light and darkness, these paths are thought to be the world’s everlasting paths. By the one he goes not to return, by the other he returns again.

27. The yogin who knows these paths, 0 Partha (Arjuna), is never deluded. Therefore, at all times, 0 Arjuna, be thou firm in yoga.

28. The yogin, having known all this, goes beyond the fruits of meritorious deeds assigned to the study of the Vedas, sacrifices, austerities, and gifts, and attains to the supreme and primal status.

This is the eighth chapter, entitled ?The Yoga of the Imperishable Absolute.?


*Our dead ancestors (pitrs) are said to live in the world of the moon and remain there till the time of their return to earth.