The Importance of Feeling
During dhyāna, it is not syllables that are important, neither are sound or meaning. Feeling is paramount. The syllable is a means to bring the right feeling to the mind. Mūrtis and pictures of deities, worship with incense sticks and lamps are also the means to bring to mind the emotion associated with the divine. Therefore, the mind should be made to focus on the meaning of the syllable — the feeling associated with the icon. This is dhyāna-yoga.
Is it not easier for dhyāna if the syllable of a mantra has only one meaning, rather than a multitude of them? We saw earlier that praṇava can have many meanings; will not the mind get scattered here and there by that? The answer is thus: a mantra that has a single meaning is suitable in the beginning. However, should not the meaning expand gradually? Initially, let it be "Om Namaḥ Śivāya" or "Om Namo Nārāyaṇāya". Steadily, let the focus increasingly move towards Om. It is fine if any one among the various meanings of the praṇava strikes the mind. It could be the triad of Brahma, Viṣṇu and Maheśvara — or Earth, space and sky — or sattva, rajas and tamas — or energy, water and food — whichever triad of these strikes the mind first, it gradually expands and covers all other triads, and transcends them all. This is the power of practice. As already conveyed, the secret has to be learnt from adepts; I am not one. Let us now move to the next topic.
ananyacetāḥ satataṃ yo māṃ bhajati nityaśaḥ ।
tasyāhaṃ sulabhaḥ pārtha nityayuktasya yoginaḥ ॥ (BG 8.14)
“A yogi is one who does not let his mind wander, but follows me always. I (Bhagavān) am easily obtained by him, who is always one with me”
ābrahma-bhuvanāl-lokāḥ punar-āvartino’rjuna ।
māmupetya tu kaunteya punarjanma na vidyate ॥ (BG 8.16)
The entire universe — starting from the world of Brahmā is born again and again, and perishes each time. "Punarapi jananaṃ punarapi maraṇam" is true for everything and everyone, until the jīvatma becomes one with Parabrahma. The liberated, pure ātmā always abides in the presence of the Supreme Brahma — that is, in the best of lokas. The Svāmi now explains this exalted state.
In the previous chapter, it is said that Brahma exists in two states — vyakta or manifest and avyakta or unimanifest. Vyakta is the visible or tangible universe. Avyakta is invisible or something that transcends the visible universe. The single fundamental substratum for both of these is sanātana (eternal); that is Brahma. Mokṣa is the constant experience of Brahma. Achieving Mokṣa is the fulfillment of Yoga.
parastasmāttu bhāvo’nyo’vyakto’vyaktāt sanātanaḥ ।
yaḥ sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu naśyatsu na vinaśyati ॥ (BG 8.20)
“Parabrahma is that which is beyond the manifest and unmanifest. It is the eternal element in transient bodies”.
avyakto’kṣara ityuktastamāhuḥ paramāṃ gatiṃ ।
yaṃ prāpya na nivartante taddhāma paramaṃ mama ॥ (BG 8.21)
After reaching the abode of Brahma which is beyond the universe, intangible and imperishable, there is no returning. That is the supreme abode, the presence of the divine. That is the state of mokṣa. A sādhaka might achieve it in his lifetime on earth, in this world. Such mokṣa is jīvanmukti. Our śrutis and purāṇas mention that ṛṣis like Śuka and Vāmadeva were jīvanmuktas.
Even if that does not happen, if a sādhaka is free of kāma and krodha and is engrossed only in Brahma, he may attain mokṣa when he departs from his body and leaves this world. That is videhamukti. Thus, mokṣa is of two types.
There is no calculation of tithi, vāra and nakṣatra required for the attainment of mokṣa. It happens by itself. No outward force can speed it up or slow it down. It is an experience that happens deep within one’s heart. It does not have external dos and don’ts.
The liberation that is achieved by a jīva after experiencing the fruits of its past actions and finally giving up his body is of two kinds — sadyomukti and kramamukti.
Sadyomukti is that which is achieved when a sādhaka leaves this world and becomes one with Brahma without stopping at any intervening stations. This path is called Devayāna. When a jīva on the way to mukti pauses at other, gradually better lokas, it is kramamukti or pitṛyāna. The Svāmi describes it thus —
agnirjyotirahaḥ śuklaḥ ṣaṇmāsā uttarāyaṇam । (BG 8.24)
The characteristics of the path to the Brahma are fire, light, day, purity, and the half of the year that is called uttarāyaṇa.
dhūmo rātristathā kṛṣṇaḥ ṣaṇmāsā dakṣiṇāyanaṃ ॥ (BG 8.25)
The characteristics of the path to the other puṇyalokas are smoke, night, darkness, the six months of the year that are known as dakṣiṇāyana.
śuklakṛṣṇe gatī hyete jagataḥ śāśvate mate ।
ekayā yātyanāvṛttim anyayā’’avartate punaḥ ॥ (BG 8.26)
Through devayāna is achieved the state of Brahma and the cessation of births. Through pitṛyāna, one goes through multiple births — gains puṇya again and again, spends it, and gains it again — thus continues the circle of births.
Pitṛyāna is the way of gradually better lives — good family, justly acquired wealth, good karma, good children, good pastimes — these are indicative of puṇya. Even if a man established in Brahma is not able to achieve mokṣa immediately, even if he has to take a few more births because of various reasons, he sometimes attains better worlds and is again born on the earth in suitable families and leads a life established in Brahma.
prāpya puṇyakṛtān lokān uṣitvā śāśvatīḥ samāḥ ।
śucīnāṃ śrīmatāṃ gehe yogabhraṣṭo’bhijāyate ॥ (BG 6.41)
Thus, he ascends in steps. This is the mukti of Pitṛyāna. It is not to be understood as inferior or fearsome. Good progeny and good family are gained by the blessings of Pitṛdevatas; it is training to the jīva. Should we be scared of training and tests? One who refuses such training is not eligible to experience Brahma.
The belief that death during the uttarāyaṇa brings mokṣa and death during the dakṣiṇāyana brings about rebirth is older than the time of Śrīkṛṣṇa. It is in the Vedas [Ya evaṃ vidvānudagayane pramīyate devānāmeva mahimānaṃ gatvā''dityasya sāyujyaṃ gacchatyatha yo dakṣiṇe pramīyate pitṛṇāmeva mahimānaṃ gatvā candramasassāyujyaṃ salokatāmāpnoti (Taittirīyopaniṣad 4)]. Bhīṣma would have believed in it — which is why he bore the severe pain of lying on a bed of arrows and waited for the arrival of uttarāyaṇa.
Should we now believe in it or not? This belief is not troublesome; there is no reason to stop believing it. Just lack of direct evidence is not enough to erase this ancient belief. There should be a concrete reason to disbelieve in it. In any case, what do we lose by believing in it?
We can have three kinds of attitudes towards any concept — 1. Belief 2. Disbelief 3. Suspension of belief.
All of us believe in our own existence. We say that eight elephants carrying the world is reality but is a mere story. But in the matter of pañcāṅga and jātaka, we do not argue. If someone condemns it as untrue, we cannot prove it to be true. If someone obstinately argues that it is true, we cannot argue and prove him wrong. When many people have been believing in something for a very long time and it is not really troubling to us, it is better to follow it as much as possible. If someone says that the attack by China [in 1962] was because of the confluence of eight planets, we cannot say that it was not so. If someone says that the two are not related, we cannot argue with them either. Our consideration should only be this — on the pretext of the aṣṭagrahas, the minds of at least a few people turned towards the divine. Even that is beneficial. Some people found courage and satisfaction because of those pūjas and homas. That is beneficial too.
The concept of uttarāyaṇa-devayāna and dakṣiṇāyana-pitṛyāna should be viewed similarly. It is about something that happens after death — something that cannot be seen by us here with our physical eyes. Actually, ordinary people like us cannot clearly discern the difference between uttarāyaṇa and dakṣiṇāyana. Physicists or meteorologists may explain the physical difference to us. However, who can explain the passage of a jīva?
The matter in the minds of those who harbour questions about this topic is actually a doubt about the superiority of devayāna and the inferiority of pitṛyāna. At the bottom of this is the question — why should we say that those who die in dakṣiṇāyana are inferior? They fear that their end might arrive in dakṣiṇāyana. There are two things here.
- Pitṛyāna is not base or vile. If someone thinks that they are eligible for more, they are deluded. That sense of entitlement itself shows their ineligibility.
- Pitṛyāna paves the way to obtain worldly wealth, pleasure, prosperity and progeny. How many of us can say no to these?
Those with the firmness and greatness of Bhīṣma do not have to raise this question at all. He was a svecchāmaraṇi — he could give up his body whenever he wanted. There is no remedy for the delusion that that just dying in uttarāyaṇa can bestow mukti. The goal of this chapter is mainly to inculcate ennobling emotion in people. It is certainly not the supreme truth. Like in other places, this is an instructive means of drawing attention to differences in the eligibility of aspirants to achieve mukti. The most important principle to take away from this chapter is -
tasmāt sarveṣu kāleṣu māmanusmara yuddhya ca ॥ (BG 8.7)
(Therefore, at all times, fight while remembering me)
pathaveraḍu paradi sukṛtige
sita-sauraṃ deva-yānam-adu mokṣārthaṃ ।
Two ways there are to reach the divine for the righteous.
Bright and sunny is Devayāna, the way to mokṣa.
Pitṛyāna, the way to a better birth and training
To the jīva, and brings about gradual progress.
sṛṣṭi-layāvṛtti jīva-jani-mṛti-katheyaṃ ।
naṣṭama-gīteyali puṇya-yātreya pariyaṃ ॥
With answers to questions eight
Achyuta explained in chapter eight.
the generation and destruction of the universe,
the birth and death of a jīva, the passing of a man righteous.
bhava-ratha-gati-kīlaṃ sarva-jīvānukūlaṃ ।
prakṛti-puruṣa-khelaṃ nitya-dharmādi-mūlaṃ ॥
The maker of the world-pot, the web of wonder and marvel,
The peg of the wheel of saṃsāra, beneficial to all jīvas
One who made Kuchela prosperous, Yama who destroys evil
One who plays the game of prakṛti and Puruṣa and the source of all dharma.