Importance of Thoughts, How to Die, Ishvara Upasana & Krama Mukti in Bhagavad Gita (66)


Lesson 66 answers what is significance of remembering the highest reality at time of death and what difference it makes. We also analyze TWO different paths a spiritual aspirant takes depending on purity of his/her mind, and consequences of each. We also see how thoughts TODAY are shaping our DESTINY tomorrow.

Source: Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 8 – verse 5, 6, 7, 8.

Introduction to Verse 5:

  • Verse 5-28, Krishna will be answering 7th Question (significance of remembering God time of death and how-to).
  • As way of answering 7th Q, Krishna introduces an important spiritual sādhana called: Īśvara upāsanam. (Meditation/contemplation on Īśvara)
    • In CH8 context, putting focus on a personal God (with attributes / form / personality / features).
      • Called: saguṇa īśvara
      • EG: Rāma upāsanam. Jesus upāsanam. Śiva upāsanam. Krishna upāsanam.
    • Therefore, “Īśvara upāsanam” is: saguṇa Īśvara upāsanam (Meditation upon Lord with attributes).
    • Meditating when? Throughout life and time of death. How? CH8 shows.
  • Saguṇa Īśvara upāsanam is classified into 2 types, depending on motive/attitude/qualification of person (upāsaka).
    • sakāma upāsanam (pertains to dharma/artha/kāma. All worldly goals EXCEPT spiritual) AND niṣkāma upāsanam (pertains to mokṣa).
    1. sakāma upāsanam: (WORLD)
      • Upāsana (meditation/contemplation) practiced for material benefits. EG: Health. Wealth. Status.
      • Can accomplish siddhis. Gain miraculous powers. Predict future. Read minds. Modify body heat.
        • Reason why many upāsakās are siddhās. Seduced by potential.
      • Common man is fascinated with such yogi siddhās.
        • EG: When see deity entering the yogi. (Bashar).
        • Can ask any question about business, family, disease, your past, present, future.
    1. niṣkāma upāsanam: (GOD ALONE)
      • Upāsana practiced for spiritual benefit (freedom from rebirth/mokṣa).
      • EG of thinking of this upāsaka: “Oh Lord, I understand everything is perishable in this world. For that reason, my only goal is to attain oneness with You (mokṣa)”.
        • Īśvara aikyam prāpti (Attaining sameness/oneness/identity with Īśvara).
      • Requires lifelong vairāgyam (dispassion towards worldly gains/losses).
        • LOGIC: Long as have kāmās, one’s bhakti will be used to fulfill desires.
      • Niṣkāma upāsaka can take 2 different directions in life: (niṣkāma upāsanam divided into 2 types)
        1. Practice niṣkāma upāsana long time.
          • Meaning meditate/contemplate on Īśvara with attributes for long time. (saguṇa Īśvara)
            • Purpose: Prepares/purifies the mind.
          • After sufficiently pure (calm yet alert), DROP the practice (sādhana).
            • Why DROP? Because saguṇa īśvara is empirical vyāvahārika satyam. Mithyā.
            • Only nirguṇa īśvara (called parā-prakṛti in CH7) is the ULTIMATE satyam (paramam akṣara brahman).
          • Upāsaka gets qualified for: jñāna-yoga / nirguṇa īśvara jñānam / parā-prakṛti jñānam – in this birth (janma).
          • Attains mokṣa.
          • Called: jīvan muktiḥ (liberated while living)
          • SUMMARY: Saguṇa īśvara upāsana > CONVERTS TO > jñāna-yoga (śravaṇam / mananam / nididhyāsanam) > mokṣa.
        2. Upāsaka continues saguṇa Īśvara upāsanam until death.
          • Reason: Not confident / allergic to nirguṇa. Because nirguṇa is attributeless Brahman.
            • Doesn’t understand. Mind too gross to grasp the most subtle.
            • “How can I visualize think of God beyond my 5 senses/imagination/feeling?”.
            • Even Krishna admits CH12.5: Appreciation of and enquiry into nirguṇa īśvara requires a VERY SUBTLE (sūkṣma) intellect (buddhi).
          • Then what should this person do? Because he/she also desires mokṣa.
            • Has no material interests.
            • Eye exclusively on oneness with God.
            • Is a mumukṣu puruṣaḥ (willing to be free from decaying matter.)
          • However mind is NOT capable of contemplating on formless (nirguṇa vicāra)
          • Krishna says there is a SOLUTION:
            • FIRST keep fire of enthusiasm or desire for liberation GOING.
            • Maintain vairāgyam.
            • Continue saguṇa Īśvara upāsana throughout life.
            • Continue to be attached to your personal God with features. EG: Rāma, Gaṇapati, Krishna, etc.
            • Because at time of death, one WILL remember what VALUES MOST on daily bases. EG of near death thinking is: “Oh Lord, I want mokṣa, nothing else.”
            • After body dies, jīvātma (transmigrating soul; subtle body) travels to Brahma loka.
              • How do we know? Can we prove? No. Some things are unverifiable. Can only take on faith.
          • What happens in Brahma loka?
            • Self-knowledge (nirguṇa jñānam) imparted by Brahmāji (creator of universe).
            • Śāstric words:
              • So brahmaṇa te sarve samprapthe prati sancāre
                parasyanthe kritamanaḥ pravishanti param padam
                Meaning: Niṣkāma upāsaka goes to brahma loka, attains nirguṇa īśvara jñānam there, attain liberation (called krama mukti).
            • Mokṣa attained.
            • Called: krama muktiḥ (liberated after death)
          • SUMMARY: saguṇa īśvara upāsanam > remember God time of death > brahma loka > mokṣa.
  • CH8 specializes on krama mukti. Backup plan in case don’t attain mokṣa while living. While CH9, 10, etc – specialize on liberation while living.
  • Krishna pointing out: DO NOT postpone liberation. Because don’t know HOW will die.
    • EG: Car accident > no time to prepare. Fear before death, etc.
    • Primary advice: Follow niṣkāma upāsana (God priority 24/7) to gain ātma-jñānam, and be FREE while living.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 8 – Verse 5:

antakāle ca māmeva smaran muktvā kalevaram |
yaḥ prayāti sa madbhāvaṃ yāti nāstyatra saṃśayaḥ ||

Dropping the body at the time of death, one who departs remembering Me alone attains My nature. There is no doubt in this regard.


  • Muktvā kalevaram yaḥ prayāti: (dropping the subtle body, niṣkāma upāsaka departs)
    • yaḥ refers to niṣkāma upāsaka (person who admired/meditated upon iṣṭa-devata [personal deity]), and who practiced meditation on God with attributes (saguṇa īśvara upāsana), as priority in life… such niṣkāma upāsaka, departs (prayāti).
      • Meaning jīvātma leaves this gross body (sthūla śarīra)and travels.
      • How come we don’t see them leaving? Sūkṣma-śarīram.
  • What will happen to this niṣkāma upāsaka at time of death? Mām eva smaran, he/she is remembering Me alone.
    • Then what happens? madbhāvaṃ yāti, attain my nature. Goes to brahma loka, attains self-knowledge, gets liberation (krama mukti).
  • Krishna makes promise, nāstyatra saṃśayaḥ, no doubt about krama mukti. He/she will come to Me.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 8 – Verse 6:

yaṃ yaṃ vā'pi smaran bhāvaṃ tyajatyante kalevaram |
taṃ tamevaiti kaunteya sadā tadbhāvabhāvitaḥ ||

Oh ! Arjuna, Thinking of whatever object one gives up the body at the time of death, that very object one attains, being always steeped in that thought.

  • QUESTION: Suppose person don’t remember God. Remembers something else. What will happen after death?
  • Krishna replies: Person’s next birth, will be SHAPED depending upon, what was remembered at time of death.
    • Just like last thought entertained before sleep influences tomorrows morning.
      • Takes hours to flush out yesterday’s strong last thought, out of system, the next day.
  • Powerful law: “As a person thinks, so the person becomes”. Also applicable in life.
    • Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad: yo yat sraddhā, sa eva saḥ, saḥ yathā kāmo bhavati, tad kṛtur bhavati, yat kṛtur bhavati, tat karma kurute, yat karma kurute, tad abhisampadyate
      Watch your thoughts; they become the words.
      Watch your words, they become your actions.
      Watch your action, they become your habit.
      Watch your habit, they become your character.
      Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
      Thoughts > Words > Actions > Habit > Character > Destiny
    • Meaning: Your (destiny OR future condition) is ALREADY begin MOLDED by types of thoughts entertaining TODAY.
    • Also in Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad: kāmanya kāmayathe manyamāna, sa kāmabir jāyathe tatra tatra
      • With whatever desire of objects or environment, a person dies, he will find himself in such a set up, and WITH such an object.
    • For example, in Bhāgavatham, there is story of Jaḍa Bharata.
      • Noble intentions to pursue spirituality in quiet forest.
      • Attracted to small deer.
      • Deer become dear.
      • Protected.
      • Could’ve released when grew up. Didn’t because attached.
      • Time of death, worried “Who will take care of it”.
        • Universal human psychology: Whatever we are attached to MOST (knowingly/unknowingly), we think about when we are MOST vulnerable.
      • Born as deer.
    • Now in Bhagavad Gītā language…
  • Tyajatyante kalevarm: When person gives up body at time of death…
    • Yam yam vāpi smarna bhāvam, and remembers various worldly objects/goals, then…
    • Tam tamevaiti kaunteya: he/she will attain birth – corresponding to the thought process.
      • Such condition the person attains.
    • Remember this Arjuna. Most important law.
  • CAUTION TO POSSIBLE CHEATING: Can I cheat the system by thinking lower desires all life, and think Godly-thoughts before death? Bhagavān replies that won’t work. 2 Main reasons:
    1. Don’t know exact day/hour/min/sec of death. Thus no opportunity to prepare. Even if knew day, can’t hold thought more then 5 sec. Because mind rājasic.
      • Don’t know which circumstance decide your death. No chance to prepare.
        • EG: Sudden car crash, heart attack, burst artery in brain (instant coma > subconscious).
        • EG India: Auto rickshaw. Crazy water lorries.
    1. Subconscious habitual thoughts always WIN OVER Conscious deliberate thoughts:
      • Thoughts are invoked either by (1) conscious WILL, or (2) vāsana / samskāra.
      • Sometimes WILL successful. Sometimes vāsana successful. Constant clash.
        • EG: Sit for meditation.
          • Conscious will = saguṇa Īśvara / vedānta.
          • Vāsana = sleep / rest / hobby.
      • Also vāsana becomes MORE powerful with age, and WILL becomes weaker.
        • EG: 30 years momentum = stronger then 5 years momentum.
        • Meaning subconscious PLAYS BACK whatever it recorded in 30 years.
      • SUMMARY: Realistically, impossible to control thoughts, especially when vulnerable/ill.
      • Krishna SOLUTION: Vāsanās must be Godly-vāsanās. Never stop saturating mind with Vedāntic thoughts.
        • Then even in COMA, despite absence of will-power… subconscious plays-back Vedāntic-thoughts.
        • Therefore start your death rehearsal NOW. How?….
  • sadā tadbhāva bhāvitaḥ:
    • Soak the mind, saturate the mind, influence the mind by thoughts of Īśvara.
      • EG: Read śāstra.
      • Reason for ongoing classes.
    • Result: turns subconscious into Godly oriented sub-conscious.
    • How to see what’s inside our sub-conscious? How to verify it is Godly-oriented?
        • Write them down. Pen/paper next to bed.
        • To induce, wake up once at night. Go to sleep again.
      • Other people in dreams? Never about them. They REFLECT your subconscious thoughts.
      • If conversations and glories of God are in your dreams, then it’s Godly-oriented sub-conscious.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 8 – Verse 7:

tasmāt sarveṣu kāleṣu māmanusmara yudhya ca |
mayyarpitamanobuddhirmāmevaiṣyasyasaṃśayaḥ ||

Therefore remember Me all the time and fight. With your mind and intellect fixed upon Me you will attain Me alone doubtlessly.


  • sarveṣu kāleṣu mām anusmara: Arjuna, may you always remember Me, then sub-conscious will be saturated with thoughts of Me, at time of death.
    • OBJECTION: If I remember Īśvara all time, how can I do my family, work, office duties? Drop everything, become sanyāsī?
      • Krishna replies: I never asked you to drop your duty, responsibilities, worldly activities… at any time. You HAVE TO continue them ALSO.
        • Krishna knows Arjuna trying to escape war (svadharma), so he immediately says: yudhya ca, you have to FIGHT also.
          • Fight is symbolic of svadharma / anuṣṭhānam (undertaking / carrying out).
        • May you follow/fulfil your duties.
      • So how can I do TWO jobs simultaneously?
        • METAPHOR: Traveling on bus-tour. Bus stops for 2 hours. Gives time to explore nearby.
          • We eat. Socialize. Go to temple. Entertainment.
          • But throughout each activity, what is in background of mind? BUS.
          • Every ring, well, whistle, horn, person looking at us… reminds us of? Get back to the bus!
        • In same way, do your daily duties, like earn money, play role of spouse, raise children, express hobbies…
          • But IN and THROUGH all of that, remember the PRIMARY goal, oneness with Bhagavān.
            • This kind of thinking conditions sub-conscious to… continually prioritize Bhagavān. Thus Godly-thoughts are natural at time of death.
          • IN SHORT: While amidst the world, refuse to forget the self-knowledge bus.
        • SUMMARY: May you remember Me, the HIGHEST goal, and also perform your duty.
  • mayi arpita mano buddhiḥ:
    • Learn to emotionally depend-on and be attached-to your saguṇa Īśvara.
      • Better then solely depending on mortals, whose availability is unpredictable.
      • How to depend on God?
        • Talk to your iṣṭa-devata, personal deity. Silently/loudly.
        • Establish a conversation. A lifelong friendship.
    • Develop intellectual conviction unto your saguṇa Īśvara.
      • EG: While Krishna picture is facing you… rationalize how Krishna symbolizes truth, immortality, compassion, steadiness. Also understand that physical form is NOT ultimate truth… but REPRESENTS it. Purpose of this is to establish an inquiry regarding saguṇa Īśvara.
    • SUMMARY: When we are able to appreciate abstract/formless truth, then Īśvara with form = optional.
      • Until then, need Īśvara with form, because gross mind can only relates with gross form.
  • mām eva eṣyasi: if follow this lifestyle, will attain Me definitely. Bhagavān’s promise.
    • Need to have faith in Bhagavān’s word:
      • Because everyone at some point, was disappointed by broken promise.
        • EG: Politicians shake hands before election. But shake your confidence after election.
      • Fact is, no human being is 100% reliable. So we’re trained to be skeptical.
      • DO NOT extend this habit onto Īśvara (all knowledge), nor śāstra (words of Īśvara).
      • Don’t put Lord in container of humans.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 8 – Verse 8:

abhyāsayogayuktena cetasā nānyagāminā |
parāmaṃ puruṣaṃ divyaṃ yāti pārthānucintayan ||

Oh Arjuna! Constantly thinking of the Lord with a mind that is undistracted due to the practice of Meditation, one attains the divine supreme (Lord).


  • At the time of death, saguṇa upāsaka, remembers Īśvara.
    • What type of Īśvara? paramam puruṣam divyam. Lord which is the highest reality. Lord who is known as puruṣaḥ.
    • Puruṣa has 2 meanings:
      1. One who resides in heart (body) of everyone. Indweller of all.
        • Just like how vyaṣṭi-puruṣa is indweller of every role played.
      2. One who populates, fills up the jagat (whole world) with all knowledge, power.
        • Thus all-pervading indweller who is paramam (absolute reality/greatest).
  • Divyam: caitanya svarūpam
  • paramam puruṣam divyam: Absolute puruṣa whose nature is consciousness.
  • What type of mind remembers Bhagavān at time of death? abhyāsa yoga yuktena
    • Mind endowed with strength from practice, regular exercise, rehearsal.
    • And which is nānyagāminā, undistracted.
    • With such mind, the saguṇa upāsaka remembers/attains Me, naturally (yāti).
    • Example:
      • Rāmanujam, one of greatest mathematicians, was visited in hospital, by professor Hardy.
      • Hardy told him of taxi number plate 1729.
      • Rāmanujan even while sick in bed, uttered “It is the smallest number expressible as sum of 2 cubes, in 2 different ways”.
      • How did he do this, despite body-mind ill & weak in hospital?
        • abhyāsa yoga yuktena: Constant PRIOR practice/meditation upon mathematics.
        • Therefore mind automatically goes to whatever it loves, even when sick or before death.
  • Therefore he/she who is in love with Īśvara (saguṇa īśvara),
    • will automatically take refuge in Bhagavān at most critical time,
    • thus attain/merge with the TOTAL.
  • TAKE AWAY: “As a man thinks, so he becomes”.
    • Think limited world objects, become limited body AGAIN.
    • Think infinite Īśvara, regain our forgotten limitless glory.


Keywords: abhyasa, anusthana, anusthanam, bhagavan, Bhagavata, Bhagavatham, Brhadaranyaka, Brihadaranyaka, ganapati, ishta, ishvara, ista-devata, isvara, jada bharata, jivan mukta, jnana, kama, madbhavam yati, mithya, moksha, mukti, muktih, mundaka, nanyagamina, nastyatra samshaya, nididhyasana, nirguna, nishkama, niskama, para-prakriti, prapti, purusa, purusha, rama, sadhana, saguna, samsaya, samskara, sannyasi, sanyasi, sarira, sastra, sharira, shastra, shastric, shiva, shravana, siddhas, siva, sravana, sthula, sukshma, suksma, svarupam, upanishad, upasaka, upasana, upasanam, vairagyam, vasana, vedanta, vedantic, vhashti, vicara, vyasti, vyavaharika

Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Chinmaya Int. Foundation & Swami Paramarthananda

Recorded 17 Sept, 2019


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