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(Chapter-wise Summary)


This chapter opens with some questions of theoretical nature from Arjuna. But the discussion later leads again to  Brahman and how to attain it.


Arjuna requests Shri Krishna to clarify the meaning of the terms Brahman, Karma, and Adhyatma, and also to explain what Adhibhuta, Adhidaivat and Adhiyajna are. Shri Krishna explains as follows:

Brahman (Parabrahman)

Brahman is that which does not leak out in spite of being contained in the porous body,  that which is subtle but not non-existent, and which pervades the sky and the material world.

Adhyatma (Supreme Soul)

Adhyatma is the natural state of the principle of the Brahman which is not created but takes form;  and even after losing the form does not get destroyed.


Different elements or principles like Prakriti, Mahat (cosmic intelligence), Ego, the five principles etc., are created from that formless Brahman.  These give rise to birth, sustenance and death of countless different life species.  The limitless Brahman pervades them all.  But who created the world and why it was created is something that one cannot find.  The act of creation without the creator, attributed to the Brahman, is called Karma.

[NOTE:  Creation is attributed to the Brahman, but it is not the creator because it does not create it directly. It makes use of its creative aspect Prakriti for the creation. Thus, though the Brahman is responsible for the act or Karma of creation, it is not the creator and  therefore is a non-doer or without Karma].

Adhibhuta (Supreme Spirit)

Adhibhuta is that impermanent entity which is formed from one-fifth part of each of the five principles (Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Sky or Space), becomes apparent because of them but is destroyed as soon as it is separated from them.

Adhidaivata (Supreme Being)

Adhidaivata is the living individual.  He is actually the ultimate Self but due to ego, he gets trapped in the struggle in life and experiences happiness, sorrow etc. He enjoys whatever is created by Prakriti. He is the one that activates the life force (consciousness), is the master of the organs and one by whose association, the thoughts, desires etc. continue to exist even after the body dies. Ordinarily understood as the living being, he may be called Adhidaivata of the body, which is made of the five principles.

(NOTE: The material body is the visible body made of the five principles. Associated with the material body is the subtle body called  lingadeha. It is really the atman (soul) veiled by avidya i.e. ignorance. All our desires, impressions, memories of our actions (karmas) are associated with the lingadeha.  Lingadeha continues to exist after death and along with all the impressions, desires etc, travels to other planes, from where the person to whom it belongs is ultimately reborn on  earth. Thus we see that the Adhidaivata is the lingadeha).

Adhiyajnya (Principal Sacrifice)

One who eradicates the I-am-the-body feeling in the body is the Adhiyajnya that is Me.  I, the Supreme Brahman, am both Adhibhuta  (Supreme Spirit) and Adhidaivata (Supreme Being), but both are veiled in normal persons by I-am-the-body ignorance,.  Therefore, they think that both are different from Me. The true realisation that both are same as Me comes when this I-am-the-body ignorance is burnt in the fire of the Adhiyajnya i.e. Principal Sacrifice. When the I-am-the-body feeling vanishes, the original unity with the Brahman becomes evident. Where this happens, that Adhiyajnya is Me. This leads to liberation, the state where all living things ultimately come to rest. As told earlier in Ch 4, all yajnas are performed through actions.


Shri Krishna suggests the following steps for attaining liberation.

A person who knows Me as Adhiyajnya, dwells in the Self. For him the body is a mere cover.  Such a (Self-realised) person does not have awareness about external matters.  By becoming one with Me, he automatically sheds the cover of the five principles from his body.  He becomes the Brahman living in the Brahman.  Even while living he is not aware of his body and he does not feel grief for its loss by death.
The intellect of a Self-realised person becomes one with the Brahman, therefore it does not get destroyed at death.  I pervade the intellect of a person who remembers me at the time of death, therefore he becomes one with Me on death.

[NOTE: Dnyaneshwar Maharaj gives a beautiful simile for explaining the last   mentioned point. He says, “A vessel immersed in water has water inside as well as outside. Does water break if the vessel breaks? Similarly, even if the body gets destroyed, Brahman continues to be everywhere.  Therefore, how can the intellect, which has become one with it, get destroyed?  Therefore, those who remember me at the time of death, become one with me.”]


The Brahman has been called Akshar i.e. immutable or indestructible by men of Knowledge.  On the other hand, Kshar or mutable is that which can be sensed and assessed by the senses.  Akshar is the same as the highest Soul and is above Prakriti.


[NOTE: Common man is afraid of death for many reasons.  He is attached to his body, to his material possessions, to friends, relatives etc. and is unsure about what is going to happen about them after his death.  There is also a fear, the fear of the repercussions of bad deeds he has done in his lifetime.  There is distress about pending and unfulfilled obligations to others and from others.  There is also the fear of the unknown, for, he has no knowledge of what lies beyond death.  The desires and fears remain as long as he has not experienced Self.  On the other hand, a Self-realised person has experienced Brahman and has become one with it.  For him the body is a temporary cage in which he is trapped by rebirth.  Being dispassionate, his actions are more as a duty not related to the sense pleasures.  Such a person is not aware of his body and is liberated even while living.  He does not fear his death.

Yogis like Shri Dnyaneshwar Maharaj,  Shri Shankar Maharaj and Shri Tailanga Swami etc. have the freedom and capability to decide when to leave their body and take Sanjeevan Samadhi by letting go of the life-force (Prana) via the prescribed route in the body.  Some yogis like Shri Swami Samarth,  Shri Saibaba, Shri Gajanan  Maharaj of Shegaon etc.  prefer to leave their body through some worldly causes like an illness, for every event must have a cause.

These points have been expressed earlier by Shri Krishna.  Now he tells some important things about what happens when a yogi leaves his body, and what a seeker, who is not a yogi, should do at the time of death].

Importance of thoughts at the time of death

Shri Krishna tells Arjuna,  “Understand that for every person,

Uniting With Brahman  by Yoga

The above does not apply to a yogi who is in complete control of his mind and is completely desireless and dispassionate.  At the time of death, a yogi or person of Self-realisation sits in the appropriate position (in lotus position, facing north), while internally concentrating with steady mind on Brahman, enjoying the eternal bliss gained by the practice of desireless actions.  He is completely aware:

- that the faultless Brahman is formless and without birth   and death,

- that It witnesses all, is older than the sky and subtler than the atom,

- that It gives birth to the entire visible world and the world lives by It,

- that It is beyond logic and beyond imagination,

- that even in broad daylight the eyes cannot see It,

- that It always appears lustrous like a sunbeam to men of Knowledge, but

- that It never sets,

Using the yogic techniques mastered for attaining It quickly, he brings the life-force (Prana) from the Manipur Chakra (near the navel), through the Sushumna (central nerve) route, to the Brahmarandhra (aperture on the crown).  Here, the life-force merges with the sky-principle.  The steady mind and the life-force appear outwardly to have merged.  But using the strength of the yogic power, the stable mind and the steady devotion, the life force eliminates the worldly considerations, enters the centre of the eyebrows and vanishes there.  Just as the sound of a bell vanishes in the bell itself, the devotee leaves his body and merges into pure Brahman, which is my lustrous form.

Concentrating on Aum at Death-Time

AUM is my monosyllable form.  He who dies while meditating on it, undoubtedly reaches Me.  There is nothing more for him to be attained beyond that.


[NOTE: Reader will naturally wonder how, with all the load of material worries, fear of the unknown etc., a dying person would be able to positively remember God.  But Shri Krishna (as almighty Bhagwan) explains how this is possible for devotees and that explanation will bring tears of devotional love to reader’s eyes.  I have not condensed this part].

Shri Krishna says, “Arjuna, you may perhaps doubt as to how anyone can remember Me at the time of death when the senses are under its shadow and the joy of living is lost.  You may also wonder as to how, in the state of mind likely to occur when a person knows that his death is imminent, he can sit up, control the senses and recite Aum.  But do not let such doubts trouble you because, for one who serves Me constantly, I become his servant at the time of his death.

Such persons give up sense-pleasures, control their active life; keeping Me in the heart, they experience the joy of the Self and thus worship Me by being constantly engrossed in Me and close to Me.  What use is this worship if I were to come to my devotees only if they remember me at the time of their death? Do I not rush, purely out of compassion, to any person or even a creature that prays for my help at the time of distress? (Reference is made here to the well-known story of Gajendramoksha i.e. saving the elephant devotee from the jaws of the crocodile).  If I were to wait  for devotees’  prayers before I go to help them, then who would like to be a devotee?  I must rush to them the moment they remember Me.  Otherwise I shall not be able to bear the burden of their devotion.

It is for this reason,, that is, to pay the debt of their devotion, that I go to the devotees to serve them at the time of death.  In order that the weakness of their bodies does not cause them distress, I keep them bound to the state of Self-realisation, make their mind calm and steady and thus bring those dear ones to Me.

The devotees too are not sorry to leave their body, because they do not have attachment for it.  Also, they do not feel that I need come to them to take them to Me at the time of death because, they have already become one with Me while they are still alive.  Those who have attained this infinite Me are not reborn.


Brahmaloka is the abode of Brahmadeo the creator.  Those fortunate persons who, by virtue of their spiritual progress, reach this loka (plane), never come back.  But even Brahmadeo  has to suffer the life and death cycles.  Brahmadeo’s life span is 100 Brahma years where one Brahma year equals 311,040 crores of earth years.  Brahmadeo’s one day and night are equivalent to 864 crore earth years.  Even the life of Indra, the king of gods, is less than this, because 14 Indras come and go in just half of Brahmadeo’s daytime.

When the day dawns in Brahmaloka, the formless Brahman gives birth to the material Universe, which vanishes when Brahmadeo's night starts. The cycle again starts at the next dawn.  But even this Brahmaloka, so vast as to contain the seed of this universe, is caught in the cycle of life and death.  During the death stage at night, the manifestable universe merges with the Brahman and is not different from It.  This state of oneness with the unmanifestable is called the state of equality.

[NOTE: The time scales mentioned above should not be taken literally in the light of today’s scientific findings. What the above two paragraphs imply is that, even deities like Brahma, Vishnu etc., are  not imperishable, though they may have a much longer life span than other creatures.  Readers interested in further details about time scales may please see the comments at the end of the chapter].


Shri Krishna further elaborates on the topic of the state of equality:


[NOTE:  Recall the last two paragraphs of Ch 6 on what happens if a yogi dies  before attaining Self-realisation]

Archira Path

This is the best set of conditions and is called Archira Marg.  Yogis who leave their body under these favourable conditions become the Supreme Brahman themselves.  Herein lies the greatness of the yoga path, which is the straightforward path to liberation.

Because the fire principle (heat) is active in the body when death is near, the yogi’s intellect, memory and mind function properly; and because of the protection by the experience of the Brahman, all organs remain bright, this brightness lasting until death.

Smoky Path

However, conditions may not always be favourable for various reasons, and that may prevent or delay the liberation.  E.g.,

A yogi who dies under these conditions, because he is a yogi goes to Chandraloka, (Moon plane) and is reborn after some time.  This is the smoky path to rebirth in contrast with the easy, pleasant and liberating Archira Path.


In practice however, whatever falls to a yogi’s fate is his real path.  But, to those who attained Brahman while still in the body, that is not relevant because they do not bother about the body or its death.  Therefore, one should be equipped with Yoga to attain Brahman.  Then, irrespective of when and where you shed your body, the unification with Brahman will be eternal.

[NOTE:  The statement about yogi’s fate being his real path may raise a question “What use are the yogic efforts if, after all, one has to depend upon fate?”  Actually yogic path is also a kind of Karma yoga.  The lesson therefore is to continue its practice without getting concerned with the fruits thereof.  If you succeed in attaining the Archira path, well and good. If not, then the failure may be ascribed to earlier Karmas, and you have to suffer one more birth.  Your efforts have not fully gone waste, because you start from where you left off in the earlier birth. See also the note on Archira path above.  Note that the yogi mentioned therein had to take one more birth, that of a girl, before his final liberation].


1. Comments on the Archira path etc.: The path the yogis and other persons take after death towards higher planes and towards rebirth on the earth plane have been similarly described in different Upanishads. E.g., Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads state:

“Having dwelt there as long as there is residue (of good karmas), they return by that course by which they come to space, from space into air; after becoming the air, they become the smoke; then they become mist; then they become cloud and after having become cloud he rains down.  They are born here as rice and barley, herbs and trees, as sesame plants and beans.  From thence the release becomes extremely difficult.  For, whoever eats the food and sows the seed, becomes like unto him.

Persons with good karmas will quickly attain a good birth of a Brahmin or a Kshatriya, or a Vaishya.  But those whose conduct has been evil, will quickly attain an evil birth, the birth of a dog, the birth of a hog or the birth of a Chandala.”

These accounts, which differ from Upanishad to Upanishad, are obscure and will appear imaginary to a modern reader.  The lokas or planes are given planetary names like Moon, Sun etc. In the age when man has landed and walked over the moon and knows that the Sun is not a planet but a hot inhabitable star, these names appear to be only symbolic.  The description of the return path of an individual soul to earth can only be termed as ridiculous in the light of scientific knowledge of today.  It is apparent that in the Upanishadic days, there was hardly any scientific culture, much less any information and recourse was taken to imaginative hypothesis in order to for explain and describe natural phenomena.

Also note that many great yogis, including Shri Saibaba of Shirdi and Shri Gajanan Maharaj of Shegaon left their physical bodies during Dakshinayana period.  Shripad Shrivallabh, the first avatar of Shri Dattatreya also took samadhi during the dark half of the month of Ashwin that falls in Dakshinayana.

2. Rebirth - Swami Krishnanand’s experiences: Readers may contrast the above with some true information given by (late) Swami Krishnanand of  Bhadran, near Anand in Gujarat in his book “True Experiences”.  Swamiji travelled more than 90,000 miles by rail, road and on foot, in jungles and desert, met and lived with many saints, yogis and yoginis, good persons, frauds and crooks and even met and talked to a spirit (see later).  His experiences vividly describe the various facets of common man’s nature in the worldly domain and that of the yogis and yoginis in the spiritual domain.

In the context of  the phenomenon of rebirth, he gives the following true information on the processes involved in reincarnation, told to him by a yogi at Jagannathpuri a couple of days before leaving his body. The yogi said that he would be reborn two months later (on 25-2-1954) in his final birth cycle, as a girl in a blacksmith family that lived in Behala, Calcutta and also that the girl would live only up to age of sixteen.  Further, in this new lifetime his spiritual powers and activities would be suspended and the girl would live a simple life.  Swamiji’s understanding was that it should take at least nine months to be reborn as another person.  But the Yogi explained that the soul to be reborn attaches to the foetus between seventh and eighth month.  Until then, the foetus is merely a blank body of blood, bone and flesh, nourished through the mother’s soul-force and fed by the building essences through the umbilical chord.  It is only after the merger of the astral body with it that the unborn baby begins to experience pain and pleasures and remembers its past lives. After birth, the baby’s umbilical cord is cut off and from then onwards it derives the sustaining energy and the life current from the subtle body that has taken over.  This is made possible through the silver cord, which joins the subtle body to its physical one.  Para-psychological studies support this information. There is another power, which determines, taking into consideration  his  karmas, as to which foetus he is supposed to be attached to.  Swamiji did go to Calcutta, met the blacksmith found that his wife was expecting a baby but not until late March according to the doctors. But the girl was born on the exact date (25-2-1954) as stated by the yogi.  What he had told about the girl’s life also came true. The girl, named Rekha, was a simple, calm, quiet child and used to spend her time in a nearby temple.  One day she was found to be playing fearlessly with a snake. Swamiji met her last when she was 14, but could not bring himself to reveal to her parents about her short life.
Swami Krishnanand has narrated details about his own two previous births told to him in 1946 by a Mahatma in Central Provinces i.e. today’s Madhya Pradesh.

Two births earlier, Swami Krishnanand was born in a (Muslim) family of basket weavers in Egypt. His parents died when he was about 8. A Muslim saint took him to Basra (in Iraq) and looked after him. The boy died 4-5 years later and was reborn in the same region i.e. near Basra, in a Muslim family of farmhands. When he was four months old, a businessman from Burma who had come on a visit to Mecca-Medina bought his parents as slaves.  The businessman took the parents and the child to Burma and the boy grew there. There he used to go and play in a Buddhist monastery situated near his master’s bungalow. The monks treated him with affection. His mother died when he was 8 years of age.  His father became mad, went away and died too.  The master suffered losses and left the place leaving the boy in the monastery.  But he was soon driven away due to his mischievous nature. At nine years of age he began earning livelihood working as a coolie and doing other domestic jobs. He died at the age of 14.

He was reborn (his present lifetime) in 1920 to very rich Hindu parents in Burma itself. His mother in this life was actually his Egyptian father. He graduated in 1940 and was a Gold Medallist in English Literature. Due to political events the family repatriated to India from Burma and settled in Nagpur. His parents were not religious but his maternal uncle was, and because of him he came in contact with many saints.  He left his house at the age of 23 and roamed all over India until he met his Guru Mastharamji at Sukker in Sindh, now in Pakistan. He left Sukker on the instructions of his Guru and after a lot of wanderings, settled as Swami Krishnanand at Bhadran near Baroda in Gujarat where he has a large following.

The story of his rebirth does not stop here.  A devotee friend of Swamiji had seen a certain temple in Bhubaneshwar in a dream. Swamiji had promised him that he would search for that temple in Bhubaneshwar during his visit to Jagannathpuri in December 1960. One morning during this visit,  as Swamiji was descending the Jagannath temple steps, a man came to him and asked to be given eleven and half annas. (An anna was a coin with a value of one sixteenth of a Rupee). He explained that he was living in Jagannathpuri and was practicing yoga meditation.  Previous night he had a dream in which he was instructed to meet the sadhu (ascetic) who would be descending the steps and would be at that particular step at that particular time; that in his earlier birth he was born a Muslim in Burma and was his partner in the coolie trade.  In that birth,  had owed him eleven and half annas and he should not only collect that amount from the sadhu but also help him in finding the temple that the sadhu was searching. Instructions as to how to find it were also given.

It is evident that the Divine arranged to clear Swamiji’s debts of earlier life.  It is also clear that many, if not all events are predestined.
In his book, Swamiji also narrates about his conversation with a spirit. The spirit was that of Chidambar Kulkarni,  a hotel owner in the state of Maharashtra, who had died eight years earlier.  Two births earlier he was a Frenchman.  Swamiji had detailed discussions with him on the nature of the spirit world and their behaviour.

After giving guidance and solace to people for 37 years Swamiji left his physical body in August 1989.  His experiences go to show that there is no restriction of geographical boundaries, religion or gender as to where a person should be reborn. These parameters are man-made for satisfying his ego and ambitions. Only governing parameter in rebirth seems to be the karmas.  It is also seen that company of saints in both the previous births made the Swami himself a saint.  Such is the power of the company of saints as described in Ch 4.

There are many more instances of rebirth mentioned in literature e.g.Gurucharitra mentions a washerman reborn as a Muslim king by the grace of Shri Shripad Shrivallabh.  Saicharitra mentions Shri Saibaba telling about his devotee Mrs Khaparde that “In former birth the lady was a merchant's fat cow yielding much milk.  Then she disappeared and took birth in a gardener's family, then in a Kshatriya family and married a merchant.  Then she was born in a Brahmin family.  I saw her after a very long time, let Me take some sweet morsels of love from her dish."  Saicharitra gives two more  instances of humans taking rebirth as animals: in one case two brothers reborn as goats after killing each other out of enmity and the other, two greedy persons, enemies of each other, reborn as a frog and a snake. Reader should read these from the original ].

3. Comments on Puranic time scales: Reader should be aware of the irrationality of the Puranic time scales in the light of modern scientific knowledge.  The Puranic time scales mentioned above are not supported by scientific findings.  Scientific studies put the age of the entire universe at about 1300 crore years and that of the Sun and earth at only 460 crore years.  According to anthropology, the first life forms on earth were of simplest microbial type.  These appeared on earth about 250-300 crore years ago. Man evolved from these only about 30-50 thousand years ago.  On the other hand, Puranic version assumes the creation of man and all other life forms simultaneously, right in the beginning of the creation of the universe.  Thus the Puranic picture of creation of the universe and of man differs substantially from the scientific findings and the principle of evolution, which are based on observations.

Actually, there is no clear-cut definition in Puranas of what constitutes the universe. Sometimes it is used to mean only the earth and  the living and nonliving things on it and sometimes it includes the stars and planets, but not as a part of solar system.  Otherwise, one cannot explain the Puranic description of flooding by water (confined only to earth) that is supposed to destroy the entire universe.  According to modern findings, the earth itself is a negligible part of the whole universe that consists of limitless space, containing innumerable galaxies of innumerable stars in various states of evolution.
We must ascribe this imaginary Puranic description to a tendency to look for a regularity in the phenomena which makes the Brahman, the cause  of  the universe,  as without a beginning and end. Techniques of scientific investigations as well as the technology required for it were not yet developed in Puranic days.  What is not excusable is to swear by that description in the modern age.

Some Puranas mention a deluge at the end of each Manvantar, in which all living creatures are destroyed.  This deluge is supposed to last for a period of length of one Kritayuga.  Manvantar is the end of a Manu’s rule.  There are 14 Manus in one day of Brahmadeo.  The creatures are then again created.   But scientific findings give a different picture.  Man has depleted the earth of natural resources so much, that there is no chance of any life cycle, except the primitive one,  repeating on earth.  We must consider the Puranic version as an unsubstantiated imaginative but failed hypothesis.

4. Shri Yukteshwar’s yugas:  Not all believe the Puranic description.  For example, Shri Yukteshwar, Guru of Swami Paramhansa Yogananda, has proposed a different system of yugas.  He gives the same names to the yugas, but proposes much shorter lengths for them and a somewhat modified cycle.  His propositions are based on the shift in the timings of the occurrences of equinoxes.  Currently, equinoxes occur on 23 March and 21 September.  But these dates shift continuously and repeat after a cycle time of 24000 years.  According to his hypothesis this occurs because the sun revolves around another similar star.  He names the mystic centre of this revolution as Vishnunabhi.  The revolution brings the sun progressively closer, and then progressively further away from Vishnunabhi.  The cycle of yugas takes place twice in each 24,000 year revolution.  As the sun recedes from Vishnunabhi, the ages pass in the usual order: Satya 4800 y, Treta 3600y, Dwapara 2400y, Kali 1200y.  As the sun approaches Vishnunabhi, the yugas pass in the opposite order: Kali, Dwapara, Treta, Satya.  He calls the yugas during the approach to Vishnunabhi 'as ascending' yugas; and those during the retreat from Vishnunabhi as 'descending' yugas.  According to him, the most recent ascending Kali Yuga began in 499 AD and we are presently in the ascending Dwapara Yuga since 1599 AD, with consequent advances in human culture and knowledge.  According to Shri Yukteshwar, the error was made in the Puranas and this occurred during the dark years of Kali Yuga when scholars misinterpreted the scriptures. Thus, by Shri Yukteshwar’s hypothesis, we are right now not in Kaliyuga at all but in Dwapara Yuga

However, from astronomical considerations, his premise that sun revolves around another similar star is not correct.  The nearest star for us, Alpha Centauri,  is about 260,000 times farther from the earth than the sun is, or 3,868,800 crore kilometers.  It is too far to have this effect.

Actually, the cycle time is not 24,000 years but 25,920 years and occurs because the earth axis precesses on account of  its not having a perfect spherical shape and also because the Moon and other planets exert a pull on it.  This effect was discovered by a Yugoslav scientist, Milutin Milankovitch (1879-1958).  Shri Yukteshwar obviously could not know about this in his time.  There are two more periods too, one of 41,000 years and the second of 93,408 years.  But all these periods are far removed from the Puranic length of 432,000 years for Kaliyuga and 4,320,000 years for a Mahayuga.

The concept of the yugas itself is inconsistent with the theory of evolution, which has no cyclicity but goes in one direction only.
This information further confirms that Bhagvadgita was composed by man, not told by God.  For, how can God tell untruths? But be aware that all this exposition does not invalidate the basic philosophical premise of the Bhagvadgita and Upanishads, that all worldly things are perishable and only Brahman is not. One should look at Bhagvadgita as a guide for choosing one’s attitude to life and an appropriate spiritual path to liberation.].




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