“The wise do not mourn for the dead or for the living,” (Bhagavad Gita 2:11) says Krishna to Arjuna. Why? Because there are no “living” or “dead” in the sense that those with bodies are alive and those divested of a body are dead. Nor is there such a duality of life/death. These are only the illusions produced by the distorting veils of ignorance.
“Lead me from death to immortality” is not a petition to gain a state where we will nevermore experience bodily death, but a plea to be led from the outward-turned consciousness that produces death to the in-turned consciousness that produces life. It is spirit itself that is immortality–nothing else. “Change and decay all around I see. O Thou Who changest not: abide with me.” What we are praying for is consciousness itself.
The truth about us
Yes, the plain fact is this: There are no dead. For Krishna continues: “Truly there was never a time when I was not, nor you, nor these lords of men. And neither will there be a time when we shall cease to be from this time onward” (2:12).
We are as eternal as God Himself because we derive our very being from God. Just as there was never a time when God did not exist, nor can there be a time when He will not exist–especially since He is utterly outside of time–so there can never come a time when we shall not exist, for we, too, exist outside of time however enmeshed we are in the experience of time through the temporal instruments of the body and mind.
Krishna is also making it clear that our distinction as individuals–both from other finite beings and from God–is also eternal. There is absolutely no place in the Gita for the teaching that in time we melt into the infinite and exist no more as a distinct entity, only God remaining, our having never really existed at all. Yet Krishna does not say we exist separately from God and from one another at any time, for that is also impossible. There is absolute unity, yet within that unity is an eternal diversity. Advaita is the true view–Not Two, which is in no way the same as One, or Monism.
Our spirits transcend time
Although Krishna declares that he, Arjuna, and all those present on the battlefield exist eternally, he does not mean that their present conditioned personalities are eternal and unchangeable. Just as our spirits transcend time, so our personalities, which are nothing more than masks shaped by our past and present lives, exist only within time and are ever-changing until they are dissolved in the light of spiritual knowledge (jnana).
Our personalities are indeed separate from God, and as long as we identify with them we will feel separated from Him and engage in the delusional “search” and “reaching out” for God. I say delusional because our true selves (atmas) are never separate from God. “He is not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; for we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:27, 28). Our personalities can never find or touch God because they simply do not exist as actual–much less eternal–realities. It is those who identify with the personality and think it is their true self that fall into the trap of either Dualism or Monism.
Available as a paperback and as a Kindle ebook
The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: A Practical Commentary for Leading a Successful Spiritual Life, by Abbot George Burke, is available as a paperback, ebook, free pdf, and for online reading.
Review from Publisher’s Weekly: “[Abbot George] Burke enthusiastically explores the story as a means for knowing oneself, the cosmos, and one’s calling within it. His plainspoken insights often distill complex lessons with simplicity and sagacity. Those with a deep interest in the Gita will find much wisdom here.”