Bhagavad Gita- Chapter 8 (Part-1) Akshara Brahma Yogah- Yoga of Imperishable Brahman


In the preceding Chapter Bhagavan  explained about His integral Self and spoke of the deluded ones seeking finite fruit  while the wise seek Brahman along with knowing Adhyatma, Karma,  Adhibhuta, Adhidaiva and Adhiyajna. Arjuna could not grasp the intricacies  of these terms and the secret of knowing God. Hence he puts seven questions to  the Lord to know about these six terms and how to realize God. The ‘Akshara’  means indestructible or imperishable. As this Chapter deals with the  imperishable and absolute nature of God and the Pranava Mantra ‘OM’, which  symbolizes it, it is entitled Akshara  Brahma Yoga.
  In this chapter Bhagavan elucidates about the methodology  to gain Brahman - how one can reach Brahman through concentrated yoga and  single-pointed meditation. This is the path which leads one to the supreme  abode wherefrom there is no return. The chapter also mentions the path of  return, a realm of temporary bliss, to which one is transported, only to be brought  back to the world of limitation.

The imperishable Brahman whose nature is transcendental  and immanent pervades this perishable world of things and beings. Whatever one pursues  in this world one gains that alone. By pursuing the Self one realizes the Self.  Krishna advises mankind to surrender the mind and intellect to the Self while  the body is engaged in action which will lead the seeker to the ultimate state  of Brahman.

He further advices to turn the attention from the mundane  world to the Supreme Self within and to control the senses and mind through  spiritual practices and thereafter to let the intellect direct such controlled  mind to single-pointed meditation upon the pranava mantra OM. By continuous and sustained meditation one will  reach the supreme abode of Brahman.

The Text

arjuna uvaacha
    kim tadbrahma kimadhyaatman kim karma purushottama
    adhibhootam cha kim proktamadhidaivam kimuchyate // 8.1 //

Arjuna said
    What is Brahman? What is the  individual soul? What is action, O the Supreme Person? What is it that is said  to underlie all the elements?

adhiyajnah katham kotra dehesmin madhusoodhana
    prayaanakaale cha katham jneyosi niyataatmabhih  // 8.2 //

And what is it that is said to  underlie all the Gods? And who sustains all the sacrifices here in the body, O  Madhusudana? And in what way? And how, again, are You to be known at the time  of death by those who have practiced self-control?

Arjuna seeks the explanation of  certain terms used by the Lord at the end of the Seventh Chapter.


sri bhagavaan uvaacha
    aksharam brahma paramam swabhaavodhyaatmamuchyate
    bhootabhaavodbhavakaro visargah karma samjnitah // 8.3 //

Sri Bhagavan said
    Brahman is the Imperishable,  the Supreme. Dwelling in each body, Brahman is called the individual soul. The  offering of the oblation, which, brings into existence all beings and supports  them, is called action.

Imperishable is the Supreme Brahman:

Brahman indicates the one  changeless and imperishable Essence behind the phenomenal world. It is the Self  or the Principle of Consciousness which illumines the body, mind and intellect.  Its presence in each individual body is called Adhyatma, the individual  soul. “At the command of this Imperishable, O Gargi, heaven and earth are held  in their proper places”. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (III.viii.9). The Supreme  Brahman alone exists in every individual body as the pratyagatman, the  ego, the inmost Self and is known as the Adhyatma. At the culmination of the  spiritual discipline, the inmost Self is realized as one with Brahman. Though  the Self is formless and subtle and therefore all pervading, its power is felt  by every living embodiment. The Self expressing through a given embodiment, as  though conditioned by it, is called the Adhyatma.

Action (Karma):

According to the Vedas, the  offering of oblations to the gods brings about the birth of all creatures; the  oblations cause rain and the rain causes food, and food causes created beings.  The offering of oblations in sacrifice is called karma or action.

adhibhootam ksharo bhaavah purushashchaadhidaivatam
    adhiyajno 'hamevaatra dehe dehabhritaam vara // 8.4 //

That which underlies all the  elements is the perishable entity (Adhibhoota); and that which underlies all  the Devatas is the Purusha, the Cosmic Spirit (Adhidaivata). And He who  sustains all the sacrifices is Myself, here in the body (Adhiyajna), O the best  of men.

Adhibhootha is the  perishable existence. It comprises all material objects, everything that comes  into existence.
    Adhidaivata is that which  underlies all the Devatas, the presiding deities of the sense organs, mind and  intellect.
    Adhiyajna: As oblations  are poured in the Yajnas, the sense objects are offered into the act of  perception, feeling and thought when the Devata or the particular faculty in it  is invoked and as a blessing of this act we gain the fruit thereof viz. the  knowledge of the perception.That which underlies the Devatas is  Purusha, the Cosmic Spirit, Adhidaivata.

The implication of these  definitions is that the Eternal Self alone is the Real and all the rest is  delusory and super-impositions upon It. Thus to know the Self is to know  everything and having known It  as one's  own real nature one is free to act or not to act in any of the fields of  Not-Self.

As the Inner Controller of the  body - antaryamin - Sri Krishna is the presiding Deity directing the  various physical functions which are described as acts of sacrifice. Though He  rests in the body, He is not attached to it and is completely different from  the senses.

One who is aware of this play of  the Self at all levels of his personality - physical, mental and intellectual -  experiences  himself as a Witness of the  process of his relations with the Not-Self.

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