Akshara Brahma Yoga (Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7) speaks of the imperishable Godhead. The atma (soul), too, is imperishable. What is not imperishable is the round of birth-death-and-birth again. One day we tire of these experiences and seek the return to our eternal source. How to do this? Most are afraid to speak of dying, and even, afraid to speak in the presence of the dying. Perhaps this selection from the Bhagavad Gita will explain why one or another guru tells those who surround the dying to chant the Om, the manifestation of Source and its creation.
Akshara Brahma Yoga
5-6. “Regarding your final question, which is very important, know this : whoever remembers Me at the time of death will no doubt come to Me. That person’s consciousness will merge into My cosmic consciousness.
“This is the universal law, Arjuna. The sum total of all thoughts and feelings during the whole span of your life condense into a single state of mind at the time of your departure from the body. You assume a particular mental makeup at the instant of death. Whatever occupies your attention throughout life will inevitably be your consciousness at the moment you die – and to that realm of consciousness you will go. Then, some time later, that same mental structure is manifested back into the world. This is called the next birth.
7. “So what should you do? Throughout life, prepare for the death moment. Actually, the moment of death does not mean some future instant in time, it means this very moment! Any moment may be your last, so treat each as the last because your thought at that instant is the foundation on which your next birth is assembled.
“Live in a state of constant spiritual awareness. Do everything for God. Think of the Divine every minute. Like the street musician who artfully plucks the guitar and at the same time plays the pipes fastened to it, do your earthly duties well, but simultaneously be aware at every moment of the Godhead. Do your duty, Arjuna, fight, but do it with your mind and heart fixed on Me. Then you will surely come to Me.
8. “The well-picked mind does not wander after anything else. Through constant practice (abhyasa yoga) living becomes a lifelong meditation on the Divine. Then, no matter what you may be doing, you are imbibing godly tendencies. This becomes a habit of the mind. Educate your mind to this habit. This is how one finds God and goes to God.
9. “The Divine knows everything. The Divine is the intelligence behind the functioning of the entire cosmos, the Sovereign Ruler who designates the structure and working of the universe. The Divine is subtler than the subtle and yet the support of all; It is inconceivable, incomprehensible, as bright and unchanging as the sun, beyond the darkness of ignorance, above illusion. The Divine is the First Cause. Before Divinity there was nothing.
10. “Remember the Divine this way at the time of death. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of this. When it comes time to depart your body, still your mind completely; draw your life force utterly into the centre of your spiritual awareness (between the eyebrows). In this way you will reach Divinity.
11. “I will now tell you of the supreme goal, the eternal state that is deathless, the imperishable, indestructible state that all scriptures point to, which is beyond death and rebirth. This state can be entered only by self-controlled people untainted by worldly desires.
12-13. “At the time of death, one should close down the gates of the senses, place the mind in the shrine of the (spiritual) heart, focus all life-force energy upwards to the centre of consciousness between the eyebrows, and repeat the syllable Om, which represents Me, Brahman, the Supreme Godhead.
“It is not just the outer sound of Om that is beneficial; it is what happens inside. The act of vocalising this sound helps focus your thoughts single-pointedly on the One, on God. When you are absorbed in repeating this syllable, which is in essence the Divine name, you are concentrating on the Divine – and then you will achieve the supreme goal, Divinity. As the river enters the ocean, your individual consciousness (Atma) flows into the Cosmic Consciousness, Brahman.
14. “Arjuna, in a sense this is the very essence of My teachings. The easy way to merge with Me, Brahman, is to constantly, steadfastly, relentlessly remember Me always, at every moment of your life! In this way you are ever prepared for your end. One’s next birth depends on how one’s death takes place. The point is not to hope for a good birth but to aim for a good death.
15. “This world is transitory and full of suffering. Those great souls who have perfected their lives and come to Me are no longer subject to rebirth into yet another lifetime. Avoid birth and you avoid death.”