Thursday, 19 October 2017

Remembering Lord at the time of death

Gita essays – 13

While concluding His teaching on Jnana Vijnana yoga (ch.7) Lord Krishna stated that when a jijnasu bhaktha acquiring Jnanam and Vijnanam surrenders to the Lord he blossoms into a Jnani bhaktha knowing all about the Para prakrithi and Apara prakrithi of the Lord and he does not lose sight of the Lord even at the time of death.   But this the Lord conveys with a twist employing six technical terms which put together stand for Para plus Apara Prakrithi.  So at the start of 8th chapter Arjuna, a keen student that he is, asks seven questions with a desire to understand properly the six terms and the secret of remembering the Lord at the time of death.
What is that Brahman? What is adhyatmam? What is karma? What is said to be adhibhutha? What is said to be adhidaiva, O Krishna! (8–1)
Who is adhiyajnaḥ? How does (he remain) here in the body? And how are you to be remembered at the time of death by those who have practiced self-control? Oh Madusudana. (8-2)

Lord answers the first six questions in verses 3 & 4 and answers the seventh question from verse 5. We shall first see the answer to the first six questions.
1)    The imperishable Supreme is the Brahman.
2)    The imperishable Brahman when seemingly functioning through a Jiva is called Adhyatmam. Consciousness looked at from the universal level is called Brahman and the same Consciousness looked at from individual level is called Adhyatmam.
3)    Karma refers to all actions which is the cause for the birth of all beings.
4)    Adhibhutha is the entire inert perishable universe
5)    Adhidaiva is the Hiraṇyagarbha who blesses all the organs of all beings.
6)    Adhiyajna is the Lord as the presiding deity of all the actions of the individual

After answering questions 1 to 6 briefly, Lord Krishna starts answering elaborately how the Lord can be remembered at the time of death. The dominant thought-pattern at the time of death determines the place of rebirth as well as the type of rebirth.  But the thought pattern at the time of the death is determined by the predominant thought pattern throughout one’s life. Hence, Lord Krishna asks Arjuna to remember the Lord at all times, whether at work or play, so that even at the time of death also his thoughts will centre on the Lord only.  He assures Arjuna that thinking of Lord at all times with his mind and intellect fixed on Lord, he will without doubt attain the lotus feet of the Lord after death. Though it may appear difficult, one can succeed with constant effort and sincere practice. For when one cultivates such spiritual thoughts as strong habits and thereby creates good vasanas when the will is stronger, at deathbed when will is weaker these good vasanas will propel his thoughts towards Lord only.  This is achieved by a nishkama saguna Brahma upaska whose thoughts are always on Lord and Liberation and he will attain krama mukthi, as Lord promises.   

Saguna Brahma upasana is meditation on Lord on any one of His forms, as Ishta devata or on a symbol to represent the Lord.  This upasana can be done seeking material benefit here or in the next world, when it is called sakama upasana.  When upasana is done for spiritual benefit alone then it is called nishkama upasana. When saguna Brahma upasana is done as a nishkama upasana seeking Liberation only, the upasaka remembering the Lord at the time of death travels to Brahma loka after death and in Brahma loka receives Brahma Jnanam at the feet of Lord Brahma and gets Liberation at the time of next pralaya without taking birth in earth again, in the meantime.  This type of mukthi is called krama mukthi.   In this upasana, form or symbol that is used to fix the mind on the Lord during upasana is called alampanam.  This alampanam is called prathima alampanam when it is of form like Rama, Krishna, Devi etc., and it is called pratheeka alampanam when it is a symbol like Om, saligramam etc.   Lord first talks about nishkama upasana with a prathima alampanam in verses 9 &10:
Whosoever meditates upon the Omniscient, the most ancient, the ruler (of all), who is subtler than the subtle, the sustainer of all, whose form is inconceivable, effulgent like the sun and beyond the darkness (of ignorance), (8-9) (continued in 8-10)
At the time of death, with unshaken mind, endowed with devotion and by the power of Yoga, fixing the whole life-breath in the middle of the two eyebrows, he reaches that resplendent Supreme Person. (8-10)

In the above two verses we have a beautiful description of the Divine Lord.  He is ‘Omniscient’ because He knows everything as He is everything. It is from His inscrutable power of Maya that the Universe including time and space emerged and so He is ‘most ancient’. As ‘ruler of all’ through His law He regulates all actions of the Universe including the movements of stars and galaxies. As there is nothing bigger than Him, so also there is also nothing smaller than Him and so ‘subtler than subtle’. As He is the very life in all beings He is the ‘sustainer of all’.  He is the very subject, the Consciousness behind all feelings and thoughts and so He is ‘of inconceivable form’. He is self-luminous and in his light everything else shines including sun and the moon and stars and so He is ‘effulgent like the sun’.  He is the master and controller of Maya and so ‘beyond the darkness of ignorance’. These can also be taken as pointers for meditation on Supreme. The upasaka should control the karmendriyas and jnendriyas and through Yoga withdraw Prana through the Susumna nadi to the top of the head between the eyebrows at the time of death.  In that condition, he should meditate on the Supreme Lord with single minded devotion and he goes to that Supreme Lord after death i.e. attains krama mukthi.

In verses 12 & 13 Lord Krishna talks about nishkama upasana with a pratheeka alampanam. 'Om' being the symbol representing Ishta devata here, this is called Omkara upasana.
Having restrained all the sense organs, having confined the mind to the heart, and having fixed one’s Praṇa on the top of the head, engaged in the practice of Yogic concentration, (8-12) ( continued in 8-13)
Uttering the monosyllable ‘Om’ which is (the name of) Brahman and remembering Me, one who departs, leaving the body, attains the supreme goal (8-13)
Here Lord Krishna outlines steps to be taken to achieve control over thoughts at the time of death to remember the Lord:
1)    Practicing control over sense-organs
2)    Confining mind in the ‘heart’
3)    Drawing Prana to the head
4)    Staying occupied in Yogic concentration
5)    Keep on uttering the single syllable ‘OM’
6)    Remembering the Lord constantly

A Nishkama upaska, has control over sense-organs even in normal times, when interacting with the world.  Now they  stand totally withdrawn into mind as in sleep.  The mind like the bird taking refuge in the nest in the evening rests in the heart, the seat of the Lord in the body. Prana also travels to the head, leaving each organ one by one.  Silently chanting ‘Om’ with the Lord alone in his thoughts, he leaves the world casting off his body never again to return i.e. attains krama mukthi. A person who is sincerely committed to the practice of meditation of Lord, with single minded devotion, can realise Him easily, again affirms Lord Krishna.

1 comment:

  1. Problem is only we do not know when and how! A nice write up.