In this final talk in the series, we continue the exploration of the famous mantra:
asato mā sad gamaya
tamaso mā jyotir gamaya
mṛtyor māmṛtaṁ gamaya
Oh Lord, lead me from illusion into the eternal reality. Lead me from darkness into the light. Lead me from the realm of death into the nectar of immortality. – Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad 1.3.28
We have previously examined the two sets of opposites; sat/asat (ultimate reality or truth/untruth or illusion) and tamas/jyotis (darkness/light). Now we examine mṛtyu/amṛta or death/immortality.
In this world the only thing you can guarantee – death. Yet people don’t like to discuss or consider death and naturally there is little or no preparation for our own death.
The authoritative and enlightening Vedic texts I quoted:
Yudhiṣṭhira Questioned by Dharmaraja – What is the most wonderful thing? The most wonderful thing is that although every day innumerable creatures go to the abode of death, still a man thinks he is immortal. – Mahābhārata
Only one who can learn the process of nescience and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessings of immortality. – Śrī Īśopaniṣad mantra 11
From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kuntī, never takes birth again. Bhagavad-gītā 8.16
When they have thus enjoyed vast heavenly sense pleasure and the results of their pious activities are exhausted, they return to this mortal planet again. Thus those who seek sense enjoyment by adhering to the principles of the three Vedas achieve only repeated birth and death. Bhagavad-gītā 9.21
In a dream one can see his own head being cut off and thus understand that his actual self is standing apart from the dream experience. Similarly, while awake one can see that his body is a product of the five material elements. Therefore it is to be understood that the actual self, the soul, is distinct from the body it observes and is unborn and immortal. Bhāgavata Purāṇa 12.5.4
A person does not actually take birth out of the seed of past activities, nor, being immortal, does he die. By illusion the living being appears to be born and to die, just as fire in connection with firewood appears to begin and then cease to exist. Bhāgavata Purāṇa 11.22.46
One’s riches, beautiful wife and female friends, one’s sons and daughters, one’s residence, one’s domestic animals like cows, elephants and horses, one’s treasury, economic development and sense gratification — indeed, even the lifetime in which one can enjoy all these material opulences — are certainly temporary and flickering. Since the opportunity of human life is temporary, what benefit can these material opulences give to a sensible man who has understood himself to be eternal? Bhāgavata Purāṇa 7.7.39
A wise person, knowing that although the material body is subject to death it can still award the perfection of one’s life, should not foolishly neglect to take advantage of this opportunity before death arrives. Bhāgavata Purāṇa 11.20.14
Because the conditioned soul is always disturbed by the bodily necessities such as hunger and thirst, he has very little time to cultivate attachment to hearing the nectarean words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Bhāgavata Purāṇa 4.29.41
Even a moment’s association with a pure transcendentalist (devotee) cannot be compared to being transferred to heavenly planets or even merging into the Brahman effulgence in complete liberation. For living entities who are destined to give up the body and die, association with a pure transcendentalist is the highest benediction. Bhāgavata Purāṇa 4.30.34
O ultimate truth, one without a second, You are realized as Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān and are therefore the reservoir of all knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto You. Bhāgavata Purāṇa 6.16.19
There are three kinds of spiritual processes for understanding the Absolute Truth—the processes of speculative knowledge (jñāna), mystic yoga (yoga) and bhakti-yoga (bhakti). According to these three processes, the Absolute Truth is manifested as Brahman, Paramātmā or Bhagavān. Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya 20.157
Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself is the one undivided Absolute Truth, the ultimate reality. He manifests Himself in three features—as Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān. Caitanya-caritāmṛta Ādi 2.65
The great sage Maitreya said: O warrior, the inquiry made by you is just befitting a saintly person because it concerns the incarnation of the Personality of Godhead. He is the source of liberation from the chain of birth and death for all those who are otherwise destined to die. Bhāgavata Purāṇa 3.14.5
…. By expertly worshiping the Supreme Lord, a mortal can attain immortality. Bhāgavata Purāṇa 12.11.3
A person who gives up all fruitive activities and offers himself entirely unto Me, eagerly desiring to render service unto Me, achieves liberation from birth and death and is promoted to the status of sharing My own opulences. Bhāgavata Purāṇa 11.29.34
My dear Lord, for one who is being tormented on the terrible path of birth and death and is constantly overwhelmed by the threefold miseries, I do not see any possible shelter other than Your two lotus feet, which are just like a refreshing umbrella that pours down showers of delicious nectar. Bhāgavata Purāṇa 11.19.9
Rendering loving service to Me qualifies any living being for eternal life. But by your good fortune you have developed a special loving attitude toward Me, by which you have obtained Me. Bhāgavata Purāṇa 10.82.44
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
So, tonight will be the third and final part of the series that we’re doing, From Darkness to Light; and we’ve been studying this Upanisadic mantra from the Brihad-aranyaka Upanisad, which is pretty widely known in yoga circles. The mantra goes:
asato mā sad gamaya
tamaso mā jyotir gamaya
mṛtyor māmṛtaṁ gamaya
“Oh Lord, lead me from illusion into the eternal reality. Lead me from darkness into the light. Lead me from the realm of death into the nectar of immortality.”
So when we look at this final line here—and you can see that in this mantra each one of these lines deals with opposites. One is sat and asat, or the ultimate reality, or absolute truth, and asat meaning that which is untrue or illusory. Tamas deals with ignorance and jyotir is the light. So now tonight the two opposites are mrtyor is the actual word and amrta.
So when we look at the this line mṛtyor māmṛtaṁ gamaya: so in Sanskrit, as I mentioned, in the rules of grammar, when two words touch each other these rules of sandi make it so that sometimes the end sound, and possibly the beginning sound of the next letter, may be altered or changed for ease of pronunciation. So in the mantra, mṛtyor, the root there is mrtyu. Mrtyor means death. Ma, as I mentioned, means do not. Do not be there. Then you’ve got amrta. So because of the rules of sandi, you have a long “a” sound, “ah” when ma—and when you join amrta, or amrtam, here, then it merges into just one longer sound. So they say in the mantra, mamrtam.
So amrta means immortality, can also mean the final spiritual emancipation, but interestingly it can also mean nectar, some divine sweetness, ambrosia. And so it’s sort of like, from an English speaking point of view it’s kind of like, well, immortality and nectar. But because of the spiritual view of things these two words actually have a very close affinity.
And then you have the final word gamaya meaning go to, or going to, or leading to.
So: Lead me from the realm of death to the nectar of immortality.
One of the hard truths and unfortunate realities of material existence is that the only thing that you can actually guarantee that you will experience in this life is death. Nothing else is sure. They sometimes say in English, two things that you cannot avoid in life, death and taxes. Well, some people can escape taxes but death you cannot escape no matter what. In this world people really don’t like to discuss or consider death, particularly, their own. And because there is this monumental aversion to it, which is natural and understandable, but because there is this monumental aversion, in the majority of people’s life there is no preparation for it.
The natural aversion is because the spiritual being, you and I, the actual spiritual being, we are eternal. that is our spiritual nature, to be eternal, but when we identify closely with the body as being the self, and we witness the death of a body, that really scares the crap out of people. It really does! And you see the way people react to it, even though it is inevitable.
When somebody goes for a medical checkup, and they have some tests, and they–say it’s a guy, and he’s there with the doctor, and the doctor says, “I’ve got some—the results back from the test…” I’ve had this experience myself with people. He says, “Unfortunately I have to tell you, you have stage four cancer, and there is no chance actually of surviving this, and we are not—it’s inoperable. And so you need to now prepare yourself.” And the patient is generally—it’s shocking to hear this. We’re absolutely shocked. And the big shock often comes when the patient goes home, and the wife may ask the husband, “So dear, how did it go at the doctor’s?” And he’s looking all serious. And he’s like—he doesn’t want to break the news because he knows the effect that it’s going to have. And when he tells his wife that, “I have stage 4 cancer. I probably only have four to six months left in this world,” there’s often crying and lamenting and people—a loss of balance in life, due to hearing this.
And it’s the most incredible thing, because the reality is it’s the only thing that I can guarantee is going to happen. Nothing else is for sure. This is for sure. And yet when it finally comes it’s shocking, and it’s sort of like, “Well, why should we not be expecting this? Why should we be in shock?” And it’s because we are in this condition–In the last series I did I talked about the great illusion (maya in Sanskrit), this illusion that we will not die. We are overwhelmed by that illusion, and when it’s suddenly shattered it’s utterly shocking, I mean utterly shocking.
There’s a very wonderful portion of the great spiritual epic, the Mahabharata: In the Mahabharata there are four princes who are sent into exile, and while they’re living in exile in the forest they encounter many precarious and dangerous situations (and I’ve relayed this story before.) The eldest brother Yudhisthira, who was a great noble and saintly person, and a powerful warrior as well. He had sent the brothers off one by one to the local water source in the forest to bring back water, and one by one they disappeared. And he finally goes looking for them after they’ve all disappeared and encounters this mystical beast in the form of a quite large crane, who speaks to him. And Yudhisthira asked him if he was responsible for the disappearance of his brothers, which he was. He said that he would return them, or at least one of them and eventually all of them, if Yudhisthira could answer some of his questions.
And so he was asked a whole series of really amazing questions; but one of them was, “What is the most wonderful thing?” And I think when I mentioned this in the last while ago in these talks, most of us if we were asked that question, “What is the most wonderful thing?” if you had to answer that question what would you say? How would you answer it? What do you think is the most wonderful thing?
Yudhisthira, when he was asked this question, his response is,
“The most wonderful thing is that although every day innumerable creatures go to the abode of death, still a man thinks he is immortal.”
And of course, he was congratulated for his answer, because it is truly a most wonderful thing. In the big picture, given that how much it impacts everyone’s life, it is truly a wonderful thing that people can—I mean I can remember the experiences of attending, in earlier years, attending funerals, and how everybody is utterly shattered.
There’s kind of like I think three—at least three or four kind of events that normally accompany death that really shake people. The first is the news that a person close to you has died. The second one is when you go to a wake, or you go to the church, and there is some ceremony, either viewing the body in the coffin, or when they pick up the coffin, and the family members carry it out of the church to put it in the hearse. It really affects people because there’s this feeling of the finality of things. And then of course, the final one is to see the body in the coffin lowered into the ground, or, if you’re in India, to observe a cremation. If you go to the burning ghats in, particularly in some of the holy places, where it’s open to the public, and you can see all through the day dead bodies being placed upon piles of wood, and wood piled on the body, oil drenching the wood, then setting fire to it, and watching a body being consumed by fire, it’s a really an amazing thing to see. It really has a profound effect on people.
So the Vedas, they deal in a very realistic way with life. Most of us don’t deal with life in a realistic way, and this is becoming more apparent now: the whole social media thing and this idea of these false and illusory states of so-called perfection. This is why plastic surgery is becoming such a massive industry: the idea that I can build my face or my body to some sort of perfection, that I can attain this, and I can do all the things needed for the perfect selfie. These are not realistic views of life.
Then you have all of these influencers exaggerating about how wonderful their life is, and people are sucked into it, and by the narrative. And so it’s kind of shocking with this recent invasion of Russia into the Ukraine. And so Facebook and Instagram, they shut down their services in Russia, and they gave notice, and you had Russian influencers weeping in their final broadcasts, not knowing what they’re going to be able to do now. They’re going to be cut off from all of their fans and all the people that follow them. They don’t know what they’re going to do with their life, and they’re just traumatized by the fact that Facebook or Instagram is going to be shut down. So it’s kind of like, well, that’s not a very perfect life, that you get cut off from the audience that you’re pretending to that your life is so perfect and wonderful, and when you lose that now you’re traumatized and weeping. It’s kind of like, oh my God! It’s so sad that things are so utterly screwed up.
The Vedas present the reality that there are four great miseries in life. The first is categorized as birth; and most people would think, “Why is birth a misery? Why would it be considered a misery? Isn’t it a great celebration?” Well, on one hand, to receive a human birth is actually worth celebrating because now it is an opportunity to escape the great wheel of birth and death. But the event per se of birth means once again the eternal, the glorious, spiritual being who is meant to be existing in a state of limitless happiness and perfection and love has adopted a false identity, a false covering to be themself, and now will develop desires and attachments, and engage in activities that will simply perpetuate their material entanglement and keep them away from the spiritual truth of their real identity. So it’s considered tragic.
So after birth comes disease, the unavoidable experience of disease. Old age: I mean you cannot imagine it when your body is young and vigorous and healthy. You cannot imagine what advanced stage of old age (it’s called jara in Sanskrit), what that experience is like, how humiliating it is, how difficult it is. And then the fourth great misery of death. So birth, disease, old age and death, these are characteristics, unavoidable characteristics of having a material body, life in the material world.
Many—and I don’t mean this as a criticism, I’m trying to stress the importance—many modern yogic or so-called yoga practitioners don’t really want to deal with these things. Their idea of perfection is a glorious sunny day, wind in my hair, my body being extremely healthy and beautiful, and me being out in nature smelling the aromas and experiencing the beauty of nature and thinking that this is some form of perfection and yoga has helped me to experience this wonderful experience. But from the actual yogic point of view this is illusory. This is a temporary experience that will quickly pass; and seeking my happiness, my shelter, in that which is transitory, that which is impermanent, that which is constantly changing, is going to be bad for me. I’m going to have bad experiences because of that.
So these things, while people nowadays don’t want to deal with them, were actually, these four things: birth, disease, old age and death, they were very central, particularly death, very central to the traditional practice of yoga. And learning to see things with clarity was of utmost importance, and seeing things with clarity means to learn the actual nature of the material world, material energy, alongside the cultivation of spiritual knowledge. So we read one sloka, one verse from the Isopanisad, the 11th mantra in the first talk in the series, and I’ll just read it once again:
“Only one who can learn the process of nescience [nescience here meaning ignorance] and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessings of immortality.”
…“the full blessings of immortality” and “enjoy.” So while we are speaking about a topic that is kind of like spazzes people out a bit and upsets people, and they may think you’re a downer, we don’t want you to focus on the bummer aspect of the reality of death, but what we’re trying to do is show you where you can find true enjoyment, real happiness; and it has to do with the nature of the soul. The picture that I’m using on the front of this particular talk, there’s a picture of a couple of skulls, and if you look at it now, and just look at it for a moment, people don’t like to see these things. It freaks them out. I mean you imagine if you went into your bedroom to get into bed, and you flipped on the light, and there was one of these skulls sitting on your pillow, it’s a big freak out. And you may think that this is a weird example, but yeah!
Or somebody is going to serve you food, and you’re all excited, and they come out, these spiffy chef trips with a koche on top (Is that what it’s called? No. Cloche! Thank you very much) and they’ve sit it down in front of you, and you’re full of anticipation and excitement, just visualizing, not knowing what the mystery dish is. And they remove it, and that skull is sitting there on the plate! People would think that that’s a sick joke. And would be a little bit sick, but what is it about that image that we find so disturbing? It has to do with this great illusion of seeing the body as the self and looking at something that reminds us of death. We find it completely disorienting and upsetting.
In the Vedas they speak about the material creation having three principal divisions and further subdivided into 14 divisions. They speak about subtle dimensions also. And so they do have these, what they call tri loka, the three worlds, that—those places that are considered absolutely heavenly, those places that are what I would reference as being earthly, and those dimensions that are considered hellish. Some people aspire for a heavenly experience. Many religions are sort of focused on this. From the Vedic perspective the transcendental realm, or dimension, is considered different than the heavenly dimension, which they say is a physical, or a material, rather, destination.
So in the Bhagavad-gita, the 8th chapter, the 16th sloka there is a verse that states:
“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But [says Lord Krishna] one who attains to My abode, O son of Kuntī, will never take birth again.”
So that’s a bit of a harsh reality, that the entire material creation, even if one attains a heavenly situation, is still considered unfortunate because ultimately they’re all places of misery.
Then another verse from the Bhagavad-gita, when—and in this verse Arjuna had asked what happens to those who are endeavoring on the yogic path but are unsuccessful, they give up their practice, are they completely lost forever because of that? And Krishna explains to Arjuna that as a reward they will often be promoted in their next life to enjoy heavenly pleasures, nice experience, and after that though, they will have to return to take birth again in the earthly sphere and will have the opportunity to continue their spiritual journey. But speaking about that so-called reward of experiencing something very heavenly:
“When they have thus enjoyed vast heavenly sense pleasure and the results of their pious activities are exhausted, they return to this mortal planet again. Thus, those who seek sense enjoyment by adhering to the principles of the three Vedas achieve only repeated birth and death.”
So this is actually speaking—and I’ll correct myself: It wasn’t about those who were great yogis that then failed but rather (although that also does apply to them, or at least some of them), it is for those that become focused on what’s called the karma kanda section of the Vedas, where one can engage in activities where they can enter these heavenly realms and enjoy almost unlimitedly for vast periods of time. And here the statement is, it’s kind of like, why would you do that, when that comes to an end, and then you’re back to where you started again, so you haven’t actually achieved anything?
And in the Sanskrit the term used for this earthly planet or earthly planets is called martya loka Martya loka means the mortal earth or the—it literally means the planet of death. And so this earthly planet that we reside on is referenced in the Vedas as the planet of death because that is the most common feature or experience.
So what is the cause of this great ignorance that we are covered by and the fear that arises out of it? I mentioned earlier, with somebody who’s suddenly surprised with an actual human skull, and they become really disturbed by that, what is it that strikes at their heart? And why do people fear death? And I’ve explained that it’s because by nature we are eternal, and when we encounter death and identify with the body as the self then that becomes, that’s fear, and it is actually considered to be the foundation of all fearfulness in the world.
So the great illusion, of course, is that the body is me, the material body is me, and that’s not true. So from the Bhagavat Purana we have a verse, and some people may find this one kind of like a little bit startling:
“In a dream one can see his own head being cut off…”
So it’s also like these experiences of falling or being killed in a dream,
“…one can see their own head being cut off and thus understand that his actual self is standing apart from the dream experience.”
Of course, standing apart means you’re obviously watching the dream, and you can now have the experience that you are actually watching this.
“Similarly, while awake one can see that his body is a product of the five material elements. Therefore it is to be understood that the actual self, the soul, is distinct from the body [which] it observes and is unborn and immortal.”
So in this next verse I’ll read, it begins with. “A person,” and when we say a person we’re talking–don’t be confused that the body is the person. The person is the resident within, the actual spiritual being. And so they’re going to talk about birth and death, and people mistakenly think that I take birth and I die. Neither of these things are true.
“A person does not actually take birth out of the seed of past activities, nor, being immortal, does he die. By illusion the living being appears to be born and to die, just as fire in connection with firewood appears to begin and then cease to exist. “
So people might have a little struggle with that. The great Vedic rishis had an amazing way of seeing things, like they understand that fire is one of the five gross material elements (they call them the mahabhutas) and fire may manifest sometimes and then cease to manifest. They say for instance that all wood or flammable material actually has fire residing within it, and when that wood is subjected to the right circumstance—like you ask somebody who’s lit a fire, “Where did that fire come from?” and they’ll hold up a box of matches or a lighter and say, “It came from here.” And the answer is, no! This is a massive fire on this bonfire. It didn’t come from that match, and it didn’t come from that lighter. That was the catalyst to release the fire that was actually within the wood. So this is the way that they looked at things. And so the great rishis—this example of fire, yes it may sometimes appear out of wood, and then just seem to disappear, but actually fire continues to exist as an element, sometimes appearing and sometimes disappearing.
There was an amazing verse spoken by a young prince who was a great transcendentalist. He was just like, at an incredibly young age, and he was speaking to his classmates in school and talking about the reality of material existence. And he is, in speaking to them, and speaking to his friends in school, who were all princes or from great aristocratic families, he says
“One’s riches, their beautiful wife and female friends, one’s sons and daughters, one’s residence, one’s domestic animals like cows or elephants and horses [and of course, this is in ancient times when elephants were the equivalent of today’s Mercedes Benz and horses, you either rode them or they pulled chariots, and they were considered signs of wealth] one’s treasury, economic development and sense gratification—indeed even the lifetime in which one can enjoy all these material opulences—are certainly temporary and flickering. Since the opportunity of human life is temporary what benefit can these material opulences give to a sensible man who has understood himself to be eternal?”
That’s a very profound way of looking at things. So…trapped in this situation—you know this verse we’re reading, this line, “mṛtyor māmṛtaṁ,” this movement from death to the experience of the nectar of immortality, we are speaking about spiritual emancipation, self-realization and God realization. So in that regard another verse I have here:
“A wise person, knowing that although the material body is subject to death it can still award the perfection of one’s life, [they] should not foolishly neglect to take advantage of this opportunity before death arises.”
So we are admonished not to be foolish. We should take advantage. And this speaks to the question of what is the actual purpose of my life. If I am simply absorbed in this idea of living moment to moment, then I’m not going to be living a balanced life. I’ve become utterly absorbed in that which is temporary, and I have turned away from that which is eternal. If we do this, it means we get caught up living moment to moment chasing dreams but ignoring the consequences of our life’s choices, and this means living in an illusion.
I have this recollection of, at high school, and people—you know, we’d just got our license, driving license and things, and people would borrow their dad’s car, and we’d go out on Friday nights and drink copious amounts of alcohol and try and find some chicks to hook up with. I mean that was the mentality. But in doing that we’d also seek to “have a good time,” and it was always this extreme thing. We were trying to do more and more extreme stuff, looking for the big rush.
And one night people decided to discover and experience what it is to spin your car, 360s on the road. And so we’re out on a country road, and people are racing down the road and pulling on the handbrake, spinning the wheel and spinning around in circles doing donut. And everybody’s kind of like counting it and drinking beer and laughing, and it’s like, “Oh, wonderful time!” And this is what I mean by being caught up, this living moment to moment without considering the consequences. And so, what eventually happens is somebody doesn’t get it right, and they go off the road, and the car goes upside down or on its side. It flipped over and then landed on its side in a deep ditch. And one of the people in the car is seriously hurt. People have to then climb out through the window on the other side of the car. Then everybody’s in panic. What are we gonna do? Somebody needs medical attention. The guy who’s borrowed his dad’s car is now absolutely in anxiety thinking. “How am I going to tell this to my dad?”
And to me that was just like a powerful experience, because here you are, you get caught up in these moments without any consideration of the potential consequence, not to just what could happen, what is going to happen. And that’s sort of like an analogy for material life, where we get so much caught up in things we lose sight of a bigger picture. And what’s driving it? There is this hunger for happiness. There is this hunger for some form of fulfillment.
So in another verse it states:
“Because the conditioned soul is always disturbed by the bodily necessities such as hunger and thirst, he has very little time to cultivate attachment to hearing the nectarean words of [the Supreme Soul or] the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
So the reason I pull this verse out is because in the Sanskrit the same word for immortality, amrita, also means that which is transcendentally sweet or nectarean, and that same term has been used to describe the message, that transcendental message of the Lord.
So what is this essential ingredient that’s going to make it so I can move from the world of death to the experience of immortality? In the Bhagavat Purana, a beautiful verse:
“Even a moment’s association with a pure transcendentalist (a devotee) cannot be compared to being transferred to heavenly planets or even merging into the Brahman effulgence in complete liberation. For living entities who are destined to give up the body and die, association with a pure transcendentalist is the highest benediction.”
So we had this term, this mrytor, here speaking about those who must experience death, but we are told that a topmost transcendentalist (and the topmost transcendentalist is described in the Sanskrit term bhagavat sangi, which means, the Bhagavat means the personality of Godhead, and sangi means one who associates, an associate of the transcendental Lord. A moment’s association with such a transcendentalist who is an associate of the Lord can utterly transform one’s life.
So what is it that these transcendentalists will teach? They are going to let us know that there are actually three types of self—or, self-realisation and God realization can both be experienced in three ways, or to three different degrees. The three experiences are called Brahman realization, Paramatma realization and Bhagavan realization. So in the Bhagavat Purana it states:
“O ultimate truth, one without a second, You are realized as Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān and are therefore the reservoir of all knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto You.”
So exploring that principle further, in the Caitanya Caritamrita:
“There are three kinds of spiritual processes for understanding the Absolute Truth—the process of speculative knowledge (meaning jnana), the process of mystic yoga, (this is astanga yoga,) and bhakti yoga. According to these three processes the absolute truth is manifested as Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan.”
And then further from the same book or treatise, it states that:
“Lord Kṛiṣhṇa Himself is the one undivided Absolute Truth, the ultimate reality. He manifests Himself in three features—as Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān.”
So the corresponding self-realization experience with Brahman realization is the experience that, the realization that I am spiritual, aham brahmasmi. I am a spiritual being.
With the mystic yoga process the realization of Bhagavan means that I realize my position; that amongst all living beings, all except one are considered equal in all respects, but amongst all living beings there is one that is special and unique, who is rewarding—or awarding rather, not rewarding— awarding the desires of all the others. This is the feature of Paramatma, the Supreme Soul the Lord within our heart.
Then the fourth, the third rather, realization of my natural function is tied to the realization of Bhagavan, the personal feature of Godhead, which is the foundation of the other realizations, meaning that the other realizations emanate from this. And when one experiences proximity with this feature, the personal feature of God, one’s heart becomes—it’s drowning in love.
Speaking to this, there was a great ancient sage whose name was Maitreya, Maitreya Rishi. And he was speaking to a topmost saintly personality that was born in a royal family. His name was Vidura.
“The great sage Maitreya said: O warrior, the inquiry made by you is just befitting a saintly person because it concerns the incarnation of the Personality of Godhead. He is the source of liberation from the chain of birth and death for all those who are otherwise destined to die.”
So this is establishing the reality that if one wants to move from the realm of death to the experience of the nectar of immortality one needs the special grace of this divine personality.
Another part of a verse from the Bhagavata Purana states:
“…. By expertly worshiping the Supreme Lord, a mortal can attain immortality.”
“A person who gives up all fruitive activities ….”
(So fruitive activities means when I engage in activity in this world, trying to satisfy my mind and my senses by different sensory experience.)
“A person who gives up all fruitive activities and offers himself entirely unto Me, eagerly desiring to render service unto Me, achieves liberation from birth and death and is promoted to the status of sharing My own opulences.”
We really don’t have enough time. I’m watching the clock and we are running out of time. I would have liked to explore some of these ideas with you. But let me just try to firmly establish that for us to move from the state of the experience of death to the condition of enjoying the nectar of immortality one needs a spiritual guide, and they need to reconnect with the actual Lord of our heart, and when one does that one will experience this.
So another verse: It states,
“My dear Lord, for one who is being tormented on the terrible path of birth and death and is constantly overwhelmed by the threefold miseries, I do not see any possible shelter other than Your two lotus feet, which are just like a refreshing umbrella that pours down showers of delicious nectar.”
So to become absorbed in this transcendental realm, to reconnect with this divine personality, the personality of Godhead means one will experience, what’s described here, showers of delicious nectar. And in Sanskrit, once again, the term amrita, which applies both to the term nectar, spiritual nectar, and also immortality, has both meanings.
And then the final verse that I’ll read, the Supreme Lord speaking:
“Rendering loving service to Me qualifies any living being for eternal life. But by your good fortune you have developed a special loving attitude toward Me, by which you have obtained Me.”
So, very significant and important verse where the Lord is speaking to a topmost saintly transcendentalist.
So with that we have concluded this series. We took a little bit of a deep dive on this amazing mantra from the Upanishads, and we have explored and tried to unpack a deeper and more appropriate understanding, that can actually guide us towards that which we all actually desire within our heart of hearts.
So in closing we’ll just read the mantra once again:
asato mā sad gamaya
tamaso mā jyotir gamaya
mṛtyor māmṛtaṁ gamaya
And as is often added at the end:
Auṁ śānti śānti śāntiḥ
“Oh Lord, lead me from illusion into the eternal reality. Lead me from darkness into the light. Lead me from the realm of death into the nectar of immortality.”
That is the prayer, that is the desire and should actually be the focus of our life. Leading a balanced life means adopting a spiritual perspective, having a higher purpose and accepting the reality of my being embodied and utilizing the body as an extension of the soul itself. And in this condition one does not have to deny the material experience, relationships. No. One can live in a way that may seem to others to be no different than anybody else, but actually they are living a different life. It’s like they are living in a different world. They are having an entirely different experience.
So in closing I’d like to chant. And maybe we will begin by chanting this mantra because it is very beautiful, and then we’ll maybe go on and use the Haribol Nitai-Gaur mantra and maybe the maha mantra. Thank you very much. Haribol