Sunday, 3 March 2013

Themes in the Bhagavad Gita: On Life and Death

There are several major themes in the Bhagavad Gita that provide guidelines for living our lives and a perspective on the relationship between life and death. Unlike the pattern in our modern secular world, the topic of death is not avoided, relegated to that list of subjects not to be mentioned in conversations and to quickly dismiss should it cross our minds.

The greatest transition we make is from life to death.  In this post, I am examining what this particular spiritual text offers us in the way of knowledge of this most crucial passage.

Chapter 2 The Yoga of Knowledge (P. 44)

Death is certain for the born.  Rebirth is certain for the dead.  You should not grieve for what is unavoidable.
Before birth, beings are not manifest to our human senses.  In the interim between birth and death, they are manifest.  At death they return to the unmanifest again.  What is there in all this to grieve over?

Chapter 7 Knowledge and Experience (P. 85)

Men take refuge in me, to escape from the fear of old age and death.  Thus they come to know Brahman, and the entire nature of the Atman, and the creative energy which is Brahman. Knowing me, they understand the nature of the relative world and the individual man, and of God who presides over all action.  Even at the hour of death, they continue to know me thus.  In that hour, their whole consciousness is made one with mine.

Chapter 8 The Way to Eternal Brahman

At the hour of death, when a man leaves his body, he must depart with his consciousness absorbed in me.  Then he will be united with me.  Be certain of that.  Whatever a man remembers at the last, when he is leaving the body will be realized by him in the hereafter; because that will be what his mind has most constantly dwelt on, during this life.

(P. 89)
When man leaves his body and departs, he must close all the doors of the senses.  Let him hold the mind firmly within the shrine of the heart, and fix the life-force between the eye-brows.  Then let him take refuge in steady concentration, uttering the sacred syllable OM and meditating upon me.  Such a man reaches the highest goal.  When a yogi has meditated upon me unceasingly for many years, with an undistracted mind, I am easy access to him, because he is always absorbed in me. Great souls who find me have found the highest perfection.  They are no longer reborn into this condition of transience and pain. All the worlds, and even the heavenly realm of Brahma, are subject to the laws of rebirth.  But, for the man who comes to me, there is no returning.

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