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December 05, 2006

Bhagavad-gita Ch. 8

CHAPTER 8
ATAINING THE SUPREME

Krsna answers Arjuna's eight questions (8.1-4)
In the last two verses of Chapter Seven, Sri Krsna mentions six highly technical terms. Chapter Eight starts out with Arjuna asking for clarification of those terms. The remainder of the Chapter concerns Arjuna's eighth question: "How can those engaged in devotional service know Krsna at the time of death?'

Main theme:
Understanding Krsna through proper inquiry.


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Sub Points:
A. Arjuna asks Krsna eight questions.
1. What is brahman?
2. What is adhyatma?
3. What is karma?
4. What is adhibhuta?
5. Who is adhidaiva? (Does adhidaiva refer to the demigods or the universal form?)
6. Who is adhiyajna, the Lord of sacrifices? (Is adhiyajna Krsna or the demigods?)
7. Where does adhiyajna preside?
8. How can those engaged in devotional service know Krsna at the time of death?
B. Krsna briefly answers Arjuna's first seven questions.
1. Brahman is the indestructible living entity.
2. Adhyatma is the living entity's nature.
3. Karma is the reactions that force the living entity to take a material body in this
world.
4. Adhibhuta is the ever-changing material nature.
5. He who presides over all the demigods and their planets is the adhidaiva, the
Universal Form of the Lord.
6. Krsna, as the Supersoul, is adhiyajna, the Lord of all sacrifices.
7. Ahiyajna presides within everyone's heart.
C. The living entity is qualified as Brahman, eternal and indestructible. This shows that the
living entity is of the same nature as the Supreme. The Lord and the living entity are distinguished, however, by the Lord's being described as Parabrahman.

Remembering Krsna (8.5-8)
Having answered the first seven questions, Krsna now addresses the eighth. From this point until the end of the chapter, Krsna will discuss the critical point of death, and how one can remember Him at this time.

Main theme:
By being fixed in remembrance of Him, one may attain Krsna at the time of death.
Sub points:
A. To attain Krsna, one must remember Him at the time of death. This remembrance is more
than a mental trick. The word used by Krsna is bhava, which means mood. At death, one
will automatically remember the mood he cultivated throughout his life.
1. This stresses the importance of sadhana-bhakti the practice of fixing the mind on
Krsna throughout life.
2. Because one naturally remembers that what he is attached to, it is important to
develop attachment for Krsna in this life (8.5-6, 8).
B. Cultivating krsna-smaranam does not require inactivity. Rather, it is something that may
be done side by side with one's prescribed duties.
C. The most effective means for fixing the mind on Krsna is hari-nama sarkirtana (8.5-8).

Going back to Godhead by remembering Krsna (8.9-13)
Having established that one who constantly mediates on Krsna is sure to reach Him, Krsna now explains how to meditate on Him. In so doing, he mentions yogamisra-bhakti (practice of devotional service mixed with astanga-yoga).

Main theme:
By strict yoga practice, one can fix the mind on Krsna's transcendental qualities, and go to Him at death.

Sub points:
A. Remembrance of Krsna means to meditate on His qualities. This is an important point
because it reiterates the supremacy of Krsna's personality. Qualities arise from personality,
not from a void (8.9).
B. One will not be able to focus the mind on Krsna at death unless he practices remembrance
during his life. Steady yoga practice gives strength for one to focus his mind on Krsna
(yoga-balena), preparing for the critical moment of death (8.10-11).
C. In comparison with processes of yoga like sat-cakra yoga, pure bhakt-iyoga is a better path,
as it is more accessible to all classes of people.
1. Because the rigid yoga practices of the Vedic times are not possible for the people
of this age, bhakti (especially chanting the holy names of Krsna) is the most
effective means of purification.
2. The practices of jnana-yoga and astanga-yoga require a great deal of material
qualifications, but the chanting of the holy names can be done by anyone,
anywhere.

Pure devotional service (8.14-16)
Having discussed yoga-misra-bhakti, Krsna now describes pure devotional service, and the nature of the
spiritual world that one attains by practicing pure devotional service.

Main Theme:
The practice of pure devotional service is the qualification for one to attain the Lord's favor. By the Lord's mercy the pure devotee is promoted to the spiritual realm.

Sub Points:
A. Of all people, only the pure devotee is truly desireless.
1. The karmi desires sense gratification.
2. The yogi desires mystic abilities.
3. The jnani desires release from material misery.
4. The pure devotee desires only to please Krsna. To this end, he is willing to even go
to the hellish planets. This is the perfection of selflessness (8.14).
B. There are no material impediments for the practitioner of bhakti-yoga
1. In jnana-yoga or astanga-yoga, one's ability to advance is directly dependent on
qualifications like knowledge and renunciation, as well as favorable situations for practice. In bhakti, the only qualification is one's sincere desire for advancement. There are no material impediments.
2. Bbakti-yoga is essentially a mood of loving devotion to Krsna, which links the
devotee to Him. When one is fixed in that connection, no material situation can
disrupt it. Rather, the devotee can use any situation, "good" or "bad" to increase
his surrender and service.
C. The pure devotee is undeviating in his remembrance of the Lord and because of this he
wins the Lord's attention and care (8.14).
D. The Lord's abode is the destination for the pure devotees mentioned above. It alone is an
eternal abode. It is the only place where one may go to end the repetition of birth and
death. As long as one is not situated within his essential position, he must continue the
process of repeated birth and death (8.15-16).

Comparing the material and spiritual world (8.17-22)
In the previous section, Sri Krsna describes the result of pure devotion (the spiritual world), and contrasts it with the result of material consciousness (repeated birth and death). This description can be seen as another means to evoke surrender to Krsna, because He liberates his pure devotees from the painful conditions of material bondage by bringing them to His abode.

Main theme:
The only refuge from the ocean of birth and death is the Lord's supreme abode. This abode is only attainable by one who makes himself qualified to associate with the Lord. This qualification is pure devotional service.

Sub points:
A. Analyzing the temporary nature of material existence leads to detachment.
1. Lord Krsna uses the example of Lord Brahma to emphasize the temporality of
material existence.
2. The description of repeated birth and annihilation of all creatures within Brahma's
day evokes further detachment by showing the futility of material existence. This
understanding especially refutes the practice of demigod worship to elevate
oneself to the higher planetary systems, as heavenly residence is no real shelter against the
onslaught of birth and death.
B. Relief from the cycle of birth and death comes when one attains the abode of Krsna (8.20-22).
1. Krsna's description of material futility beautifully sets the stage for Him to present
knowledge of His eternal abode. Hearing the description of Krsna's abode brings
hope after hearing the discouraging account of Brahma's day and night.
2. The Lord's abode never changes, as does the material world. This is because it is
composed of cit-sakti the Lord's superior energy.
3. The Lord's abode is attainable only by bhakti, devotional service.

The supremacy of devotion in attaining the supreme (8.23-28)
The theme emerging in this Chapter, and further stressed in this section, is that in pure devotional service the devotee depends fully on Krsna's will. He does not feel that he has to take matters into his own hands by perfecting a mechanical process for the attainment of salvation.

Main Theme:
A devotee is confident about Krsna's protection. He need not make any special endeavor for his ultimate salvation.

Sub points:
A. One who adopts the path of devotional service surpasses all Vedic forms of purification (8.28).