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The Sure Way To Realize God

Part 57 of the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

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The easy way out

The attainment of liberation (moksha) is very simple in principle, and in practice, as well. Perhaps it is its simplicity that keeps people from attaining it. However it may be, Krishna explains the whole matter in a very simple manner:

At the time of death he who remembers me while giving up the body attains my Being–of this there is no doubt (8:5).

This is quite straightforward and easy to understand. The moment of death is perhaps the most important moment in our life, equalled only by the moment of birth. Dr. Morris Netherton, formulator of the Netherton Method of Past Life Recall, has found that the most significant factors in our life can be either birth or death trauma. The same would be true of positive experience during birth or death, which is why in India sacred mantras are recited during both times–at least by the spiritually intelligent. In this way the individual both comes into incarnation and leaves it accompanied by the remembrance of God.

The principle

Sanatana Dharma is never a matter of Shut Up And Accept What I Tell You. So Krishna explains to us how it is that if we are intent on the remembrance of God at the time of death we will go to God.

Moreover, whatever he fixes his mind on when he gives up the body at the end, to that he goes. Always he becomes that (8:6).

All translators I know of have translated this verse to mean that whatever we think of at death, we will go to that thing, to whatever world in which it exists. The conclusion is then that if we remember God in life we will go to God at the time of death. Sounds, simple, easy, and certainly noble. But it is not true, as no simplistic formula is ever true. Sargeant alone, as far as I know, translates this verse correctly.

It is not “who” or “what” we merely think of intellectually that determines our after-death state, but the state of mind and being, the bhava, that we are in at the time of death. A Brief Sanskrit Glossary defines bhava in this way: “Subjective state of being (existence); attitude of mind; mental attitude or feeling; state of realization in the heart or mind.” In short, it is our state of consciousness, and that is a matter of evolution, of buddhi yoga. Religiosity and holy thinking fail utterly; it is the level of consciousness that alone means anything.

When we die, we gather up all the subtle energies that comprise our astral and causal bodies–energies that ultimately are seen to be intelligent thought-force. Then we leave the body through the gate (chakra) that corresponds to the dominant vibration of our life and thought. If our awareness has been on lower things we will depart through a lower gate and go to a low astral world. If we have been spiritually mediocre we will go to a middling world. But those who have made their minds and bodies vibrate to Divinity through authentic spiritual practice (tapasya) will leave through the higher centers. Those who have been united with God even in life will go forth to merge into Brahman forever.

Some people pay attention to the first part of this verse only, and think that they will cheat the law of karma which operates mentally as well as physically. They think that if at the moment of their death they will say a few mantras, then off they go to liberation (or at least heaven) no matter how they have lived their lives. Others, not quite so crass, decide that after having lived in a materialistic and spiritually heedless manner they will get religious during the last few years of their life and then be sure to be in the right state of mind and being as they die. But there is no cheating or cutting corners. What we sow that we reap–nothing else.

The outspoken Ajahn Chah, a meditation master of the Thai Buddhist forest tradition, said that many people pester their grandmother at the moment of death, calling out: “Say ‘Buddho [Buddha],’ grandma, say ‘Buddho’!” “Let grandma alone and let her die in peace!” said Ajahn Chah. “She did not say ‘Buddho’ during life, so she will not say ‘Buddho’ during death.” Sri Ramakrishna said that even at the moment of death a miser will say: “O! look how much oil you are wasting in the lamp! Turn it down.” He also said that you can teach a parrot to constantly say “Radha-Krishna!,” but if you pull its tail feathers it will only squawk. In the same way, when death pulls our “tail feathers” we revert to our swabhava, our real state of mind and consciousness.

Although not of the spiritual sophistication of the Gita, the American country singer, Roy Acuff, wrote about the same idea in his song “Wreck on the Highway.”

Who did you say it was, brother?
Who was it fell by the way?
When whiskey and blood run together,
Did you hear anyone pray?

I didn’t hear nobody pray, dear brother,
I didn’t hear nobody pray.
I heard the crash on the highway,
But I didn’t hear nobody pray.

When I heard the crash on the highway
I knew what it was from the start.
I went to the scene of destruction
And a picture was stamped on my heart.

There was whiskey and blood all together
Mixed with glass where they lay
Death played her hand in destruction,
But I didn’t hear nobody pray.

I wish I could change this sad story
That I am now telling you,
But there is no way I can change it,
For somebody’s life is now through.

Their soul has been called by the Master.
They died in a crash on the way.
And I heard the groans of the dying,
But I didn’t hear nobody pray.

I didn’t hear nobody pray, dear brother,
I didn’t hear nobody pray.
I heard the crash on the highway,
But I didn’t hear nobody pray.

Yogiraj Shyama Charan Lahiri often said: “If you don’t invite God to be your summer Guest, he won’t come in the winter of your life.”

In the area where I was born there was intense, virulent prejudice against the Roman Catholic Church and its members. One of my aunts confided to another aunt: “I go to a Protestant church, but I believe the Catholic religion is the right one. And when I realize that I am dying I will call for a priest and become a Catholic.” After many years, without any warning she passed into a coma, remained in that condition for six months and died without ever regaining consciousness. Her deathbed conversion plan never had a chance.

What we do not sow, we do not reap.

The lesson we must learn

There is a lesson here for all of us. As Jesus said: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” in the realms of higher consciousness, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:20, 21), even at the time of death.

Therefore at all times remember me, and fight with your mind and intellect fixed on me. Thus without doubt you shall come to me. With mind made steadfast by yoga, which turns not to anything else, to the Divine Supreme Spirit he goes, meditating on him (8:7-8).

This is the necessary bhava we must cultivate at all times, fighting the battle of life in the conditions and situations dictated by our karma.

The Lord

We are not going to heaven–we are going to God! And we do not just believe in God, we intend to unite with God. So Krishna further says:

He who meditates on the Seer, the Ancient, the Ruler, subtler than the atom, Support of all, whose form is inconceivable and radiant like the sun and beyond darkness, at the time of death with mind unmoving, endowed with devotion and yoga power, having made the prana enter between the eyebrows, he goes to the Divine Supreme Spirit (8:9-10).

One of the gates to higher worlds is the “third eye” between the eyebrows. During meditation the yogi sometimes finds his awareness drawn spontaneously to that point. It is the same at the time of death. The purified and divinely-oriented life force (prana) automatically exits through that gate and goes to God, bearing us upward, even as the Egyptians pictured the freed soul flying in a spirit-boat to the sun.

There is more:

That which the knowers of the Veda call the Eternal, which the ascetics free from passion enter, desiring which they live the life of brahmacharya, that path I shall explain unto you briefly (8:11).

To die right takes a lifetime of purification and preparation. Only those can enter into God whose bonds of desire are broken. To this end they constantly practice brahmacharya–control of the senses and mind, which includes chastity/celibacy.

Going forth

Closing all the doors of the body, confining the mind in the heart, drawing his prana into the head, established in yoga concentration, uttering Om, the single-syllabled Brahman, meditating on me, departing thus from his body, he attains the Goal Supreme (8:12-13).

It is important to remember here that “heart” means the core of our consciousness, and not the physical heart or heart chakra. Even more important, Krishna is not referring to some kind of strenuous breathing exercise, but rather, the natural and automatic rising of the life-force into the higher centers of the brain.

A resume

Krishna then recaps all he has said in this section with these words:

He who thinks of me constantly, whose mind never goes elsewhere, for him, the constantly-united yogi, I am easy to attain. Coming to me, those great souls who have reached the highest perfection do not incur rebirth in this world, which is the impermanent home of suffering. The worlds up to Brahma’s realm are subject to rebirth’s return, but for him who attains to me there is no more rebirth (8:14-16).

Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: Day, Night, and the Two Paths

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Introduction to The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

Preface to The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

Bhagavad Gita for Awakening links:

  1. The Battlefield of the Mind
  2. On the Field of Dharma
  3. Taking Stock
  4. The Smile of Krishna
  5. Birth and Death–The Great Illusions
  6. Experiencing the Unreal
  7. The Unreal and the Real
  8. The Body and the Spirit
  9. Know the Atman!
  10. Practical Self-Knowledge
  11. Perspective on Birth and Death
  12. The Wonder of the Atman
  13. The Indestructible Self
  14. “Happy the Warrior”
  15. Buddhi Yoga
  16. Religiosity Versus Religion
  17. Perspective on Scriptures
  18. How Not To Act
  19. How To Act
  20. Right Perspective
  21. Wisdom About the Wise
  22. Wisdom About Both the Foolish and the Wise
  23. The Way of Peace
  24. Calming the Storm
  25. First Steps in Karma Yoga
  26. From the Beginning to the End
  27. The Real “Doers”
  28. Our Spiritual Marching Orders
  29. Freedom From Karma
  30. “Nature”
  31. Swadharma
  32. In the Grip of the Monster
  33. Devotee and Friend
  34. The Eternal Being
  35. The Path
  36. Caste and Karma
  37. Action–Divine and Human
  38. The Mystery of Action and Inaction
  39. The Wise in Action
  40. Sacrificial Offerings
  41. The Worship of Brahman
  42. Action–Renounced and Performed
  43. Freedom (Moksha)
  44. The Brahman-Knower
  45. The Goal of Karma Yoga
  46. Getting There
  47. The Yogi’s Retreat
  48. The Yogi’s Inner and Outer Life
  49. Union With Brahman
  50. The Yogi’s Future
  51. Success in Yoga
  52. The Net and Its Weaver
  53. Those Who Seek God
  54. Those Who Worship God and the Gods
  55. The Veil in the Mind
  56. The Big Picture
  57. The Sure Way To Realize God
  58. Day, Night, and the Two Paths
  59. The Supreme Knowledge
  60. Universal Being
  61. Maya–Its Dupes and Its Knowers
  62. Worshipping the One
  63. Going To God
  64. Wisdom and Knowing
  65. Going To The Source
  66. From Hearing To Seeing
  67. The Wisdom of Devotion
  68. Right Conduct
  69. The Field and Its Knower
  70. Interaction of Purusha and Prakriti
  71. Seeing the One Within the All
  72. The Three Gunas
  73. The Cosmic Tree
  74. Freedom
  75. The All-pervading Reality
  76. The Divine and the Demonic
  77. Faith and the Three Gunas
  78. Food and the Three Gunas
  79. Religion and the Three Gunas
  80. Tapasya and the Three Gunas
  81. Charity and the Three Gunas
  82. Sannyasa and Tyaga
  83. Deeper Insights On Action
  84. Knowledge, Action, Doer, and the Three Gunas
  85. The Three Gunas: Intellect and Firmness
  86. The Three Kinds of Happiness
  87. Freedom
  88. The Great Devotee
  89. The Final Words
  90. Glossary

Visit our e-library page for Free Downloads of this and other ebooks in various formats.

Read the Maharshi Gita, an arrangement of verses of the Bhagavad Gita made by Sri Ramana Maharshi that gives an overview of the essential message of the Gita.

Read The Bhagavad Gita (arranged in verses for singing) by Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri).

Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary

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