Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Shankara | Discourse 8 verse 1-13



The seven things to be realised by meditation.

In vii 29, 30 such things have been mentioned by the Lord as have given occasion to Arjuna to put a question. Accordingly Arjuna proceeds to ask thus:

Arjuna said:
1—2. What is that Brahman? What about the Individual Self (Adhyātma)? What is action (Karma), O Puruṣottama?

And what is declared to be the physical region (Adhibhuta)? And what is the divine region (Adhidaiva) said to be? And how and who is Adhiyajna (the Entity concerned with Sacrifice) here in this body,

O Madhusudana, and how at the time of death art Thou to be known by the self-controlled?

Shankara's commentary:

The Lord proceeds to answer these questions in their order:

The Blessed Lord said:
3. Brahman is the Imperishable (Akṣara), the Supreme. The Ego is said to be the Individual Self (Adhyātma, He who dwells in the body). The offering which causes the origin of physical beings is called action (Karma).

Shankara's commentary:

Brahman is the Akṣara, the Imperishable, the Supreme Self (Paramatman); the śruti says “O Gārgī, it is at the command of this Akṣara, the Imperishable Paramātman, that heaven and earth remain, held in their places.” (Bri. Upanishad, 3-8-9).

‘Akṣara’ does not here mean the syllable “Om”; for, the latter is subsequently specified thus:—“Uttering the syllable ‘Om,’ the Brahman” (viii. 13). And the epithet ‘supreme’ applies better to Brahman, the Imperishable, who transcends all, (than to the syllable ‘Om’).

The same Supreme Brahman existing as the Ego, as the Innermost Self, as the Pratyagātman, in every individual body, is said to be Adhyātma:

that which first shows itself as the Innermost Self in the body and turns out in the end to be identical with the Supreme Reality, the Brahman, is known by the term ‘Adhyātma ’.

The sacrificial act which consists in offering cooked rice, cakes and the like to the Gods (Devatās), and which causes the origin of all creatures, is known by the term ‘Karma’;

for, it forms the seed as it were of all beings; it is in virtue of this act that all beings, animate and inanimate, come into existence, after passing through rain and other regions of life.

4. The physical region (Adhibhuta) is the perish­able existence, and Purusha or the Soul is the di­vine region (Adhidaivata). The Adhiyajna (Entity concerned with Sacrifice) is Myself, here in the body, O best of the embodied.

Shankara's commentary:

The Adhibhuta is that which gathers itself round the whole animated creation and is composed of the whole perishable existence, i. e., of everything that has birth.

Purusha is, literally, that by which everything is filled, (prī=to fill) or that which lies in the body (pur), i. e., the Hiraṇyagarbha, the Universal Soul abiding in the Sun (Āditya), the Sustainer and the Stimulator of the sense - organs of all living beings.

The Adhiyajna is He who identifies himself with all acts of sacrifice, the Deity named Vishṇu; the śruti says: “Yajña (Sacrifice) is verily Vishu.” (Taittirīya-Saṁhitā, 1-7-4) He is verily Myself. I am the Deity concerned with all acts of sacrifice in the body.

—As an act of sacrifice (yajña) has to be performed by the body, it is said to be inherent in it, and as such it may be said to rest in the body.

5. And whoso, at the time of death, thinking of Me alone, leaves the body and goes forth, he reaches My being; there is no doubt in this.

Shankara's commentary:

Me: Vishṇu, the Supreme Lord. My being: My real being as Vishṇu. In this: as to whether he reaches or not.

Constant meditation of the Divine is necessary.

Not to Me alone does this rule apply; but also:

6. Of whatever Being thinking at the end a man leaves the body, Him alone, O son of Kuntī, reaches he by whom the thought of that Being has been constantly dwelt upon.

Shankara's commentary:

Being: a particular Devatā or Deity. At the end: at the time of life’s departure. Him alone: Only the Being thought of, and no other. Dwelt upon: constantly meditated.

Because thus the final thought determines the character of the body to be attained next,

7. Therefore at all times do thou meditate on Me and fight: with mind and reason fixed on Me thou shalt doubtless come to Me alone.

Shankara's commentary:

Meditate: According to the Teaching (śāstra). Fight : do thou perform thy proper duty of fighting. Me: Vāsudeva. Come to Me: as meditated upon by thee.

The Divine Being to be meditated upon.


8. Meditating with the mind engaged in the Yoga of constant practice, not passing over to anything else, one goes to the Supreme Purusha, the Resplendent, O son of Pritha.

Shankara's commentary:

Practice consists in the repetition of one and the same idea, uninterrupted by any other thought, with reference to Me, the sole object of your thought. Such a practice is itself said to be Yoga.

With the mind thus solely engaged in Yoga, not passing over to any other object, the Yogin who meditates according to the teaching of the scripture and of the teacher—of the śāstra and āchārya—reaches the Purusha, the Transcendental Being in the Solar Orb.

What sort of Purusha does he reach?


9—10. Whoso meditates on the Sage, the Ancient, the Ruler, smaller than an atom, the Dis­penser of all, of unthinkable nature, glorious like the Sun, beyond the darkness,

(whoso meditates on such a Being) at the time of death, with a steady mind endued with devotion and strength of Yoga, well fixing the life-breath between the eye-brows, he reaches that Supreme Purusha Resplendent.

Shankara's commentary:

Sage: the Omniscient. The Ruler: of the whole world. Dispenser: who allots to all living beings actions and their results in all their variety.

It is very difficult for anybody to conceive of His form though it exists.

Like the Sun, He is glorious with the splendour of His Eternal Intelligence (Nitya-Chaitanya) which is beyond the darkness of delusion or nescience (Ajñāna).

The strength of Yoga consists in the steadiness of mind which results from the after-effects of the (constant practice of) samādhi.

At first the mind (chitta) is subdued in the lotus of the heart (hṛdaya-puṇḍarīka);

then, by means of the up-going nādi (sushumnā), after gradually obtaining control over the several stages of matter (earth and the other four rudimental elements), the life-breath of the heart is drawn up and carefully fixed between the eye-brows.

By this means the wise man, the Yogin, reaches the Supreme Purusha, who is resplendent.

Meditation of the Divine in the Prāṇavā.

The Lord now assigns a name to that Brahman whom the Yogin wishes to reach by means to be pointed out again in the sequel, and who will be now described in such terms as ‘being declared by the knowers of the Veda,’ etc.:

11. That Imperishable Goal which the know­ers of the Veda declare, which the self-controlled and the passion-free enter, which desiring they lead the godly life, —That Goal will I declare to thee with brevity.

Shankara's commentary:

Those who understand the teaching of the Veda declare the Imperishable as devoid of any attribute whatsoever. The śruti says:

This verily is that (which you wished to know of), the Imperishable, O Gārgī, as the brāhmaas (the knowers of the Brahman) declare, “not gross, not subtle’” etc. (Bri. Upa. 3-8-8.)

The sannyāsins, ever con­trolling themselves, free from passion, enter the Imperishable, on attaining to right knowledge.

And desiring to know the Imperishable they enter on godly life (Brahma­charya) with a Guru. Of That Goal which is called Akṣara, the Imperishable, I shall tell thee with brevity.

Having started with the words “ He who verily among men meditates on the syllable ‘Om’ till death, what region will he thereby attain to? ”

he (Pippalāda) said to him (Satyakāma):

“O Satyakāma, this, the Brahman, the Higher and the Lower, is the syllable ‘Om’.” (Praśna-Upanishad, 5—1, 2);

and it was subsequently said:

He who will meditate on the Supreme Purusha by the three-lettered syllable ‘Om’—he is borne up by the Sāma-hymns to the Brahma-loka, to the region of Brahman.” (Ibid, 5-5).

Again, having started with the words “Elsewhere than in dharma and elsewhere than in a-dharma, tell me what thou seest;” (Katha-Upanishad, 2-13), the śruti says,

that goal which all the Vedas speak of (i.e., are intended for), which all the austerities speak of, desiring which they lead the life of Brahmacharya (celibacy), that goal I tell thee in brevity: It is this, the syllable ‘Om.’(Ibid 2-14).

In such passages as these, the syllable ‘Om’ regarded either as an expression of the Para-Brahman or as a symbol of Him like an idol, is intended for persons of dull and mid­dling intellects as a means of knowing the Para-Brahman; and the contemplation of the ‘Om’ is said to produce moksha at a subsequent period.

Now, the same contemplation (conjoined with firmness in Yoga) of the syllable ‘Om’, productive of mukti at a subsequent period

—the ‘ Om ’ forming, as shown above, a means of knowing the Para- Brahman described here (viii. 9, n)

—has to be taught here as well as some minor matters connected with the main subject.

With this view, the Lord proceeds with the sequel:

12-13. Having closed all the gates, having con­fined mind in the heart, having fixed his life-breath in the head, engaged in firm Yoga, uttering Brah­man, the one-syllabled ‘Om,’ thinking of He, who­so departs, leaving the body, he reaches the Supreme Goal.

Shankara's commentary:

Having closed all the avenues of knowledge and having concentrated thought in the lotus of the heart, and with thought thus controlled, he ascends by the Nādi which passes upwards from the heart,

and then fixing life-breath in the head, he utters the syllable ‘Om’, the appellation of the Brahman, and meditates on Me.

-‘Leaving the body’, shows the mode of departure. The departure takes place by the Self leaving the body, not by the Self being destroyed.