Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 8 verse 9-19

kaviṃpurāṇam anuśāsitāram aṇoraṇīyāṃsam anusmared yaḥ|
sarvasya dhātāram acintya-rūpam āditya varṇaṃtamasaḥparastāt || 9 ||

9. One who meditates upon the Omniscient, Primeval One, Ruler and Creator of all, who is more subtle than an atom, whose nature is inconceivable, who is as refulgent as the sun, and who is beyond Tamas (primordial state of undifferentiated matter) —

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna begins with the word kaviṃ meaning omniscient. Sarvasya meaning of everything refers to He who is omniscient of everything. Purāṇam means primeval or beginningless. Anuśāsitāram means the establisher of the rules of creation.

Dhātāram means the maintainer and sustainer of all. Acintya-rūpam means possessing an inconceivable form means not conceivable by comparing it with anything in the material existence.

Āditya-varnam means possessing a self-luminous resplendent and glorious divine glow far beyond our limited material conceptions.

prayāṇa-kāle manasācalena bhaktyāyukto yoga-balena caiva |
bhāvor-madhye prāṇam-āveśya samyak sa taṃparaṃpuruṣam upaiti divyam || 10 ||

10. —at the time of death, with a mind unwavering by the power of Yoga, being possessed of devotion, having focused the Vital Force (Prāṇa) between the eyebrows —reaches that same Divine Supreme Being.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Whosoever has their mind situated in equanimity, made steady and firm by daily practicing devotional mediation unto the Supreme Lord,

at the time of death is able to direct the life force through the Sushumna channel and fix it at the ajñā cakra between the eyebrows,

and focuses upon the Supreme Lord Krishna intently without deviation or diversion by the power of their meditation –

they achieve communion with the Supreme Lord Himself and attain His association in the eternal spiritual worlds.

The next verse will describe the mode of meditation most suitable for the aspirant of mokṣa or liberation from material bondage.

yad-akṣaraṃdeva-vido vadanti viśanti yad-yatayo vītarāgāḥ|
yad-icchanto brahmacaryaṃcarantitat-te padaṃsaṅgraheṇa pravakṣye || 11 ||

11. I shall declare to you briefly that goal, which the knowers of the Veda call the Imperishable, which ascetics, free from desire enter, and for attaining which, they practice the vow of continence (Brahmacharya).

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Now Lord Krishna explains the other padaṃ or state which is for those aspirants who wish for ātma-tattva or realisation of the soul and the secure and permanent destination of mokṣa or liberation from material existence. This state is akṣaram or imperishable.

In the Brihadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad V.VIII.VIII beginning sahovacha-itad vai tad explains that this state is not material. It is that which the ascetics of the world attempt to gain access to. It is that ardent longing for which men strictly follow the vow of brahmacharya or voluntary celibacy.

Padam is that which one mentally proceeds to achieve the goal of their endeavours. Padyate is non- different from gamyate meaning that which is followed being the method adopted by the mind.

The purport is that Lord Krishna is giving a brief description of the methodology by which an aspirant for ātma-tattva and mokṣa must meditate on Him to achieve the ultimate goal they have envisioned.

Meditation upon Lord Krishna in His aspect of akṣaram or imperishable is described in the Brihadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad V.VIII.VIII-XI.

sarva-dvārāṇi saṃyamya mano hṛdi nirudhya ca |
mūrdhny-ādhāyātmanaḥprāṇam-āsthito yoga-dhāraṇam || 12 ||

12. Having restrained all the gates [of the senses], focusing the mind within the heart, fixing the vital force within the head, engaged in the practice of steady concentration;

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna uses the words sarva-dvārāṇi saṃyamya means controlling the passages which enter into the body. This denotes withdrawing the senses from external cognition or restricting the senses from their normal outgoing tendencies.

The words hṛdi nirudhya means locking the mind in the heart. It denotes directing devotional feelings from the mind to the ātma or soul in the heart and offering them to the akṣaram or imperishable Supreme Lord enthroned there.

The words yoga- dhāraṇam denotes concerted concentration perfectly meditating upon the Supreme Lord with complete attention.

om-ity-ekākṣaraṃbrahma vyāharan mām-anusmaran |
yaḥprayāti tyajan-dehaṃsa yāti paramāṃgatim || 13 ||

13. uttering the sacred syllable ‘Om’ which denotes the Absolute (Brahman), thinking of Me constantly —one who abandons the body and departs thus, reaches the supreme goal.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Systematically vibrating the singular syllable OM vibrated as A-U-M. It is the personal sign, symbol and sound of the akṣaram or imperishable. OM is the indicator and Lord Krishna is the indicated, who is to be to be profoundly and humbly meditated upon.

Whomsoever departs from this life at the moment of death fixing the prāṇa or life force in the crown of their head in the manner so indicated goes to the exalted, eternal spiritual worlds.

The words paramam gatim mean the supreme destination from where there is no return, granting mokṣa or liberation and includes ātma tattva or realisation of the soul,

which is in essence comparable to the Supreme Lord and contra distinguished from matter and everything material. More evidence of this will be given later in this chapter in verses 20 and 21:

 “They describe that as the highest goal of the ātman, which is not destroyed when all things are destroyed, which is unmanifest and imperishable.” (8.20-21).

So the method of meditation for those who are atharthi or seekers of fortune and for those who are jijnansur or those aspiring realisation of the soul has been duly given being similar.

Next the method of divine meditation suited for the jñāni or the aspirant for the Supreme Lord and the nature of their goal will be revealed.

ananya-cetāḥsatataṃyo māṃsmarati nityaśaḥ|
tasyāhaṃsulabhaḥpārtha nitya-yuktasya yoginaḥ|| 14 ||

14. I am easily attainable by that ever steadfast Yogi, O Pārtha, who constantly and daily is mindful of Me, not thinking of anything else.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word nityaśaḥ or always means always since the aspirant consciously devoted themselves to Lord Krishna as the exclusive goal.

The word satataṃ or continuously means at all times.

The word smarati or remembering implies that the Supreme Lord has become the sole object of intense love and devotion so much so that the instant one is bereft from thought of Him, one's very life feels it is in jeopardy, so one incessantly meditates upon Him.

The words nitya-yuktasya yoginaḥ is the enlightened one who yearns for eternal relationship with Lord Krishna. This is the jñāni or knower and lover of god to whom the Supreme Lord is very easily accessible.

What the Jñānī seeks for his goal is the Supreme Lord only and nothing else.

This means that it is not the elevated state of consciousness of the Supreme Lord that the jijnansur seek or the state of unlimited fortune like the Supreme Lord that the arthathis or seekers of fortune desire.

The goal of the Jñānī is to obtain eternal relationship with the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorized avatars or incarnations and expansions as revealed specifically in the Vedic scriptures.

The Supreme Lord is sulabhaḥ or easy to achieve. This means Lord Krishna is happily available and accessible to all those who are devoted to Him in love

and furthermore He, Himself is unable to bear any separation from His devotees at any time. Therefore it is He who chooses to be associated with them and this is the confidential tattva or truth.

By so doing the Supreme Lord Himself quickly carries to perfection by inspiration and intuition the very method that His votary is performing for attaining Him.

The Supreme Lord Himself removes all obstacles which may hamper His chosen votary from swiftly progressing to Him simultaneously while generating an increase in His devotees love for Him to propel Him onwards.

The Katha Upaniṣad states:

“He whom this (Self) chooses, by him alone He can be obtained” (Mun.Up., 3.2.3 and Ka.Up., 2.22).  

This will be explained further in chapter X, verses X and XI:

To  those,  who  desire  eternal  union  with  Me  and  who  worship  Me,  I  bestow  that discernment by which they come to Me. Out of compassion for them, I, abiding in their heart, dispel the darkness born of ignorance, by the brilliant lamp of knowledge.” (10;10 —11).

but now the remaining verses in this chapter will be focused on showing that there is no return to samsāra or the perpetual cycle of birth and death

for the Jñānī who is the knower and lover of the Supreme Lord nor is there any return for the jijnansur who has achieved ātma tattva or soul realisation;

but there is a return to samsāra for the arthathi or seeker of wealth for they have not qualified for mokṣa or liberation from material existence.

mām-upetya punar-janma duḥkh-ālayam aśāśvatam|
nāpnuvanti mahātmanaḥsaṃsiddhiṃparamāṃgatāḥ|| 15 ||

15. Having attained Me, great ones are never again subject to rebirth in this world which is transient and the abode of sorrow —they have found the highest perfection.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Those who attain Lord Krishna do not return to the impermanent material existence and temporary condition of samsāra, the perpetual cycle of birth and death, the abode of misery and suffering.

The devotees of Lord Krishna are mahātmas or great, noble souls who have enlightened themselves as to the real nature of His nama or name, rūpa or form, guṇa or attributes, Dhāma or abode and līlā or divine pastimes.

Such exalted beings feel such fervid love for Him in separation that their very life becomes unsupportable.

Those whose minds are focused on Him and whose heart is only for Him in bhakti or loving devotion, those who incessantly meditate upon Him will attain the highest perfection which is the Supreme Lord Krishna.

Next will be discussed why the arthathi or seeker of wealth return to material existence and the bhaktas or the devotees of Lord Krishna are liberated from material existence.

ābrahma bhuvanāllokāḥpunar-āvartino’rjuna |
mām-upetya tu kaunteya punar-janma na vidyate || 16 ||

16. All the worlds, from the realm of Brahma down, are subject to return, O Arjuna, but after attaining Me, O Son of Kuntī, there is no rebirth.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

All the worlds throughout the Brahmāṇḍa or the levels of material creation from the topmost Brahmaloka down to lowest Pātāla are appointed realms where beings may taste as much as they are able material happiness in the form of wealth, power, dominion, etc.

But these material realms are impermanent and perishable.

Inasmuch as the very realms where such activities of enjoyment are unstable and transitory then it can be understood that the happiness and pleasures experienced there are fleeting and temporary and at some point come to an end. This is inevitable.

To the contrary those who perform bhakti or loving devotion to Lord Krishna who is omniscient and omnipotent and whom the complete cosmic manifestation of creation and dissolution is emanating from Him as mere sport.

He who is the most compassionate, the most merciful, the most enduring being eternal; once His devotees attain Him there is no question of rebirth being reincarnated again in a womb in the material existence.

By Lord Krishna's grace they directly attain the eternal spiritual worlds in His association.

The next three verses will be a dissertation on the great cycles of created beings as willed by the Supreme Lord which periodically regulates the appearance and disappearance of all regions in the material existence, beginning with the realm of Brahma the designer and architect of creation.

sahasra-yuga-paryantam aharyad brahmaṇo viduḥ|
rātriṃyuga sahasrāntāṃte’horātra-vido janāḥ|| 17 ||

17. Those who know the duration of the [Cosmic] day and night understand a day of Brahma to last for a thousand Yugas and a night of Brahma to last for another thousand Yugas.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Those who know the Divinely established order of Cosmic Time which affects all beings from humankind to Lord Brahma, understand that Lord Brahma’s day is comprised of a unit period of one thousand four Yuga cycles and a night is a unit of equal duration.

Catur Yuga —Tetrad of Ages

Kali Yuga —432,000 human years

Dvāpara Yuga —864,000

Treta Yuga —1,296,000

Kṛta Yuga —1,728,000

1 tetrad of Yugas = 1 Mahā Yuga = 4,320,000 human years.

71 Mahā Yugas = 1 Manvantara = 308,448,000 human years

14 Manvantaras = 1 Kalpa = 4,320,000,000 human years

2 Kalpas = one day and night of Brahma = 8,640,000,000 human years

360 Brahma days = 1 Brahma year = 3,110,400,000,000 human years

100 such years = 1 lifetime of Brahma = 311,040,000,000,000 human years

avyaktād-vyaktayaḥsarvāḥprabhavanty-ahar-āgame |
ratry-āgame pralīyante tatraivāvyakta saṃjñake || 18 ||

18. All the manifested entities come forth from the unmanifest (Avyakta) at the coming of the day of Brahma, at the coming of the night they are dissolved into that alone which is known as the Unmanifest.

bhūta-grāmaḥsa evāyaṃbhūtvābhūtvāpralīyate |
ratry-āgame’vaśaḥpārtha prabhavaty-ahar-āgame || 19 ||

19. The same multitude of beings comes forth again and again irresistibly, and is withdrawn at the coming of the night. Once again it comes forth at the coming of the day.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Those who understand the succession of Brahma's day and night as established by the Supreme Lord Krishna applicable for all created beings, from human up to the highest material being, know that the duration of Brahma's day is 4 billion 320 million years and an equal duration is his night.

At the dawning of Brahma's day all beings and things in the threefold regions of material existence along with their bodies and senses, objects of enjoyment and locations of enjoyment all in a subtle form issue out of an avyakta or unmanifest state emanating Brahma's subtle body.

When Brahma's night draws nigh all that issued out are all once again reabsorbed into that avyakta state of his subtle body.

The exact same groups and species of variegated beings adhere to the stringent law of karma or the reactions to previous actions are bound in the material existence and come and go. Appearing in Brahma's day and vanishing in his night again and again perpetually.

One year of Brahma equals 26 trillion, 438 billion and 400 million years.

When the duration of Brahma's life which is 100 of such years ends, then immediately all systems of all material worlds in existence, operating in tandem or at random up to Brahma's own planet and even Brahma himself are ended and dissolve into the infinite.

This dissolution has an order as confirmed in the Subala Upaniṣad:

“The earth is dissolved into the waters, the waters are dissolved into light” etc., (Su. Up., 2).

meaning Earth is devolved into water, water is devolved into fire.

Fire is devolved into air etc. air is devolved into ether, ether is devolved into the cosmos, the cosmos devolves into avyakta the unmanifest, the unmanifest devolves into the akṣara the imperishable, the imperishable devolves into tamas or darkness and the darkness merges finally back into the Supreme Being.

Thus all things except the Supreme Lord are regulated and controlled by time.

All things without exception owe their existence to the Supreme Lord Krishna, deriving their inception from Him and concluding their absorption in Him.

In the material worlds there is absolutely no alternative to the cycle of birth and death. Thus at the end of life the forced relinquishing of material wealth and opulence for those who wasted their lives to obtain it is inevitable.

But for those who instead used their precious human life to attain the Supreme Lord Krishna, having Him as their sole refuge and goal; for them rebirth is not even to be considered as they are automatically liberated from samsāra the perpetual cycle of birth and death.

Next will be shown that there is also no rebirth for those who have achieved ātma tattva or realisation of the soul.