The Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 8

The Bhagavad Gita translated by Antonio T. De Nicolas

The Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 8

The Yoga of the Imperishable Brahman


Arjuna said:
1. What is that Brahman?
What is the original self? 
What is action (karma), O Best of Men? 
What is said to be the higher and what the lower domain?

2. How and what is the sacrifice here in this body, O Slayer of Madhu? 
And how are you to be cognized by those of disciplined self 
At the time of death?

The Blessed One said:
3. The imperishable is Brahman, the supreme; 
The higher self is called its very essence (svabhāuah): 
And karman is the creative force that causes creatures to exist.

4. A perishable condition is the basis of the lower domain; 
The purusa (vision) is the basis of the higher domain; 
I am the ground of all sacrifice here in the body, O best of the embodied ones.

5. And at the time of death, 
Whoever, leaving the body remembers me alone, 
He attains my being: of this there is no doubt.

6. Whatever is in his mind at the time of death, O Son of Kuntī, 
Only that he becomes; embodied in that state.

7. Therefore, think on me at all times and fight; 
With mind and understanding joined to me, 
Without doubt you will come to me alone.

8. He who is disciplined by the effort of yoga, not wandering elsewhere, 
And concentrates on the supreme shining vision (purusa), 
He goes to him, O Son of Prthā.

9. He who meditates on the ancient seer, the ruler, 
Who is more minute than minute, the supporter of all, 
Incomprehensible in form, sun-colored and beyond darkness:

10. He, engaged in devotion with an immovable mind 
And having succeeded by virtue of this disciplined effort (yoga
In making his life-breath go to the mid-point between his eyebrows, 
He, at the time of death, attains shining fullness of vision (purusa).

11. That which the Veda-knowers designate as the imperishable, 
Which the restrained ones free of passion enter, 
And desiring which they undertake a life of chastity: 
That abode, I will declare to you briefly.

12. He who controls all the gates of the body 
And confines the mind to the heart, 
Has set his breath in the head 
And established himself in concentration by yoga,

13. He who utters Om, which is Brahman, 
Meditates on me as he goes forth and abandons his body, 
He reaches the highest goal.

14. He whose thought is never on anything but me, 
Who constantly remembers me: 
For that man of disciplined effort ever disciplined, 
I am easily reached, O Son of Prthā.

15. Having come to me, 
Those men of great self do not go to rebirth 
The place of pain and impermanence, 
But have reached the supreme fullness.

16. The worlds from the realm of Brahma down, 
Are subject to rebirth, O Arjuna; 
But having come to me, O Son of Kuntī, 
There is no rebirth.

17. The men who know the day of Brahma, long as a thousand ages, 
And the night of Brahma, equally as long, 
Are knowers of what day and night are.

18. All apparent things arise from the non-apparent at the coming of day, 
And at the coming of night they are dissolved there, 
In this so-called nonapparent.

19. This very same multitude of beings, 
Coming forth repeatedly, 
Dissolve helplessly at the coming of night, O Son of Prthā, 
And arises at the coming of day.

20. Higher than this nonapparent state is another nonapparent state, 
Which does not perish even with the perishing of all beings.

21. It is called the imperishable, and the supreme destination, 
Those who reach it do not return. 
This is my supreme dwelling place.

22. This is the fullness of vision, 
By whom all this is pervaded, In whom all beings stand. 
It is to be gained by unswerving dedication.

23. O Best of the Bhāratas,
I will declare that time at which men of discipline, |
Depart, go and do not return,
And when they depart, but do return.

24. Fire, light, day, the bright half of the lunar cycle, 
The six months of the sun’s northerly course: 
Departing then, men who are knowers of Brahman 
Go to Brahman.

25. Smoke, night, the dark half of the lunar period,
The six months of the sun’s southerly course: 
Departing then, the man of discipline 
Reaches the light of the moon and returns.

26. These bright and dark paths of the world 
Are thought to be everlasting: 
By one, man goes and does not return, 
By the other, man returns.

27. The man of discipline who knows these paths, O Son of Prthā, Is not deluded. 
Therefore, at all times be engaged in disciplined effort, O Arjuna.

28. The yogin who knows all this, 
Transcends the fruit of deeds assigned in the Veda, 
In sacrifices, austerities and alms-giving, 
And goes to the supreme and primal place.

This is the end of the eighth chapter, entitled “The Yoga of the Imperishable Brahman” akṣara-brahma-yoga.

About Sunday morning

Sunday Morning Contemplation is informed by Eastern and Western contemplative traditions. The first, lectio divina has its origins in 6th century Europe. It unfolds in four steps or stages: reading (lectio), reflecting (meditatio), responding (oratio), and silent abiding (contemplatio). Our Eastern inspiration come from the Indian Upanishads (800-200 BCE), where contemplative practice consists of three steps or stages: listening (śravana), reflecting (manana), and meditating (nididhyāsana or dhyāna). Our contemplative practice on Sundays embraces both approaches, and each contemplation will be based on a reading from either tradition.

The texts and teachers I have chosen played a significant role in my life and I believe have much to offer. I will read presellected texts, slowly, with pauses between verses or quotes. The readings will be accompanied by soothing background music. To lessen distraction, I suggest participants close their eyes and listen. However, the screen will display the text so that people can choose to read along or mute the sound and read on their own. If there is time remaining after the contemplative period, participants can choose to either leave or stay for a short discussion.

As a preface to the reading, I will provide a 10-15 minute introduction to the text. When relevant, I’ll review facts about the author/teacher’s life. I will also present a brief explanation of the terms and language encountered in the reading.

Finally, when the contemplation is over, all texts read will be available online to read and/or download at any time on the website.

What I mean by
The Symbolic Life

This website makes liberal use of classical Indian visual art and refers mostly to traditional Indian texts (for example, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras) in the courses, seminars, and discussions on offer. However, I am not presenting lessons in Hinduism; in fact, teaching mainstream Hinduism is neither my area of interest nor expertise. Rather, my interest in Yoga and Tantra is grounded in the concrete situation in which we find ourselves, in the places where we arrive and from which we depart. Beginning in the here and now, we will explore the underlying meaning of the symbols, stories, images, philosophies, and techniques found in Indian philosophical texts and practice, in light of our world and our current circumstance. We will excavate the meaning of the aphorisms and teaching stories; the symbolic figures of gods, people, and nature; and the sometimes terse, sometimes poetic, philosophy of the texts. Thus, in referring to the Symbolic Life of Yoga and Tantra, I mean not just the symbols themselves, but the rich explication of life that the symbols represent.

Our lived, concrete situation is wonderfully captured in the Sanskrit word loka, whose ancient meaning is “the world.”  The root meaning of both the Sanskrit loka and the English locate (and local, locale, and location) is identical. In the ancient Indian mind, the world is where we are located, in our current circumstance. Thus, the meaning of the symbols of Yoga and Tantra can occur only in the now, in the places where we find ourselves, and not in any imagined ancient and/or foreign world.

To emphasize our place of origin and return, I use the terms “archetypal” and “symbolic” quite frequently. Archetypal meaning is associated with the universal and collective aspects of human experience—what we intimately share with all others regardless of culture or era or epoch—while symbolic language forms a bridge between the realms of the universal with the culturally specific and local. Symbols are the scaffolding upon which human beings build a world and imbue it with meaning.

Think for a moment of pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy, hatred and love, and greed and generosity—universal experiences that ancient Indian thinkers called the dvandva-s. This Sanskrit term is a combination of two words, or rather, one word spoken twice: the word dva (meaning the same as the English “two”) duplicated. Dvandva is commonly translated as “the pair of opposites” or literally “the two-twos” (dvadva). The ancients who coined this compact symbol gave voice to an archetypal human experience that can be further unpacked to reveal deep insights into the human condition. Once we gain an understanding of the various symbols of Yoga and Tantra, we can further excavate their meaning and the archetypes they convey, and thus gain access to, in a practical and meaningful way, the vision of life experienced by the sages. These insights are available to us and are still relevant today, as are the resilient and adaptable techniques and forms of practice that can help us lead richer and more fulfilling lives