Diving into the Bhagavad Gita: Separating the Real from the Unreal (Chapter 8)

by Rolandjan Van Mulligen

Chapter 8, Verse 315
Krishna talking to Arjuna:

"At the time of leaving the body if anyone thinks of Me, definitely, he attains Me." (Chapter 8, Verse 315)


The story of the Bhagavad Gita takes place on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, where two sides of a family are preparing for battle. The conversation involves two characters: Krishna and Arjuna. Krishna represents our True Self and Arjuna represents the human identification with body and mind (ego).  The battlefield is symbolic and stands for the struggle that goes on in our own minds that can be full of worries and judgments when it comes down to how to live a life in truth and purpose. Somehow I never deeply studied the Gita but while reading the verses of chapter 8 of the Bhagavad Gita one verse, in particular, inspires me: Krishna talking to Arjuna: "At the time of leaving the body if anyone thinks of Me, definitely, he attains Me." (Chapter 8, Verse 315).

What struck me is that every now and then I find myself in this spontaneous contemplation: What if this is my last day in this body? It is a revealing reality check; it shows me what I am giving my attention to, what is truly important to me, what would fall away if this would be my last day? And also; during the event of death, who or what is exactly dying? And what perhaps remains untouched by death?

This question about having one more day to live exposes a lot to me. It shows immediately what I'm holding onto, giving my attention. Would I still worry about tomorrow and regret yesterday? Will I still check my social media accounts 20 times a day? Would I continue comparing myself with another 'more successful' yoga teacher according to my mind? Would I want to hold on to a judgment towards a family member or friend?

This contemplative question separates the real from the unreal, shows the difference between Universal inclusive Love and the mind's dualistic nature that results in judgments and apparent separation. Am I living today, in this very Moment, my deepest realization or am I under the hypnosis of limiting thought patterns? Am I following my heart and living my purpose, abiding in my true nature or am I holding back because of fear for so-called failure and the unknown? What do you see when you ask yourself this question?

Another contemplation arises with this question: who or what dies at the time of death? If we look around us or within us in this very moment is there any experience that is not under the influence of life and death? Every experience takes birth, exists for a while and perishes. Look at a flower, a cloud, a relationship, your bike... We can see clearly that all life experiences are within the cycle of birth and death, therefore they cannot give us any security for everlasting happiness or unfading peace at all. It forces us to look deeper within.

When I sense into death, even literally holding my breath for a little while, letting everything drop; my ideas about myself and the world, letting go of the effort of controlling or resisting any experience, softening my body as a willingness to give it back to the elements...Then it becomes so clear that something is still Here. Eternity is our real nature; that Principle is not under the influence of birth and death. It doesn't come or go, it is not affected by the changing conditions of the body. That Unborn Principle, the Brahman, the Absolute, is imperishable. We are that which is beyond birth and death. The body dies but we don't die. So if you deeply know that you do not die, then how would you live?

We can be aware of the Absolute while being in a body and abiding in it and recognize it as our True Nature. But when the body is gradually ageing, perhaps intense discomforts and pains are manifesting, or there is a sudden disease or crisis in our life, can we still discern between the form and the Formless? How strong our attachment and our identification with form is, becomes clear when something threatening happens to our body or our life circumstances; money, work, relationship... Or let's take it to the yoga mat or our meditation cushion; when the body is in a challenging asana or emotions arise in our meditation and the mind's habit is to react with resistance, can you still remember your true unborn Nature or do you forget?

In some scriptures it is said that your last thought will determine whether and how you will incarnate after this body drops.. some revealing words from Papaji (Guru of Mooji):

''At the last moment of being in this body all dormant tendencies, fears, and anxieties of the dream (perishable existence) will manifest before you. The one that you are most interested in, the dearest thought that you see in this stream of mental events, will be your next birth! Any footprints in your memory will be your next birth. At this moment remember only Self (Krishna).''

Yoga and meditation help us to practice this spiritual muscle of discernment. When strong discomforts and emotions in our practice are arising can we still see clearly what we truly are, or are we getting lost in duality? So at the time of physical death, it will be likely that you will be in the recognition of Krishna, the Divine within, instead of deeply identified with the body and mind. Now you can peacefully and happily surrender into the Unknown. 

Continue Reading: Diving into the Bhagavad Gita: Yoga of Hidden Treasure (Chapter 9) >

About Rolandjan Van Mulligen

Toen Rolandjan in 2001 deelname aan zijn eerste Vipassana retraite, beïnvloedde dat zijn leven enorm. Zelfonderzoek en de zoektocht naar wat echt is kwamen centraal te staan.