6-1-1: Preparatory Knowledge
6-1-1-4: Brahma-Loka, Krama-Mukti 8(16,23 to 28)
8(16) says that a seeker who knows Brahm reaches Brahm and is liberated in the current life. He is a Jivanmukta. After death, he merges with Brahm and is Videhamukta. His karmic balance is nil and there is no travel of the subtle body to any other loka and he does not return to human loka. Ignorant jivas, however pious and virtuous, after death, travel to other lokas including the highest Brahma-loka and after exhausting punyas there is a return to human or even lower loka as per karmic dictates.
8(23) onwards discuss Brahma-loka and Swarga-Loka and corresponding paths (margs), namely, brighter shukla-marg and darker krishna-marg. Deities guide a jiva on the paths. Fire, light, daytime, the bright fortnight, the six months of the northern solstice is the shukla-marg. Smoke, night, dark fortnight, and the six months of the southern solstice is krishna-Marg. A jiva traveling on the brighter path reaches Brahma-loka and does not return which means the jiva gets liberation. Contrary to this, 8(16) says that there is a return from Brahma-loka. It seems that on reaching Brahma- loka, a jiva has two options. He can enjoy the pleasures of Brahma-loka or he can gain Brahm-knowledge and get liberation. In the first case, after exhausting punyas, he returns to human loka or even a lower loka in accordance with karmic flow. In the second case, he gets Self-knowledge from Brahma-ji and attains moksha called krama-mukti.
Travelers of the two paths are not ordinary jivas. A jiva who performs rituals, austerities, and sacrifices in accordance with scriptures, and earns sufficient punyas is entitled to krishna-marg to reach swarga-loka. He has only performed physical actions. If physical actions are combined or followed by upasana and he remembers God at the time of death, he reaches Brahma-loka through shukla-marg. More on this at 6-1-1-5.
Sri Krishna has talked about two lokas with a purpose. A discerning jiva would know the limitations of two lokas for they do not provide a complete solution of samsara. A true seeker of liberation in due course crosses Vedic rituals and sacrifices and strives to gain Brahm-knowledge in the current life without postponing till Brahma-loka or the next human life. The present human life earned by a jiva because of lot of punyas in previous lives is precious and should be used for the highest goal.
6-1-1-5: Mind at the time of death 8(5 to 13)
7(30) has mentioned about remembering God. Arjuna wants to know how God can be remembered at the time of death. Implied in this is to know the importance of remembering God at the time of death. There are three stages for Brahm-knowledge. Karma yoga, upasana yoga, and jnana yoga. The first two stages make a seeker fit for jnana yoga. On successful completion of jnana yoga, one attains moksha. Upasana yoga is meditation on Sagun Brahm and jnana yoga is about Nirguna Brahm. The best course is to attain moksha in the current life.
A person may not undertake jnana yoga for some reasons, e.g., he is not interested, or if interested, there are no opportunities. If he remembers God at the time of death, he reaches God after death. Whatever the mind thinks at the time of death, he gets it. Sri Krishna advises Arjuna to think about Him and fight, then Arjuna will reach Him. The question is how a seeker can remember God at the time of death. It is not easy. The most important requirement is that a seeker must have successfully completed karma yoga and purified his mind. Then he takes up upasana yoga. It is a mediation on Saguna Brahm, i.e., a personal deity or God’s cosmic form. He continues meditation throughout his life thereby God-thought stays in the subconscious as vasana. As a man advances in age, willpower reduces. However, due to God-thought vasana, he remembers God. Remembering God throughout life does not mean a seeker gives up his duties. One way to do both is to dedicate all actions to God.
Remembering God at the time of death is one requirement. Another requirement is related to raja yoga. A seeker should practice breath control regularly so that he can hold the life breath between his eyebrows at the time of death. Vital forces are brought from all parts of the body to the heart and from there via sushma nadi, they are brought between eyebrows and then they go to the crown of the head and leave the body through an aperture. The subtle body travels through a special path called shukla gati, the brighter path, and goes to Brahma-loka under the guidance of celestial deities. In Brahma-loka, he gains Self-knowledge under the guidance Brahmaji and is liberated. It is called Krama-Mukti. As an aside, 8(12,13) mentions meditation on OM to remember God at the time of death. Remembering God with a focused mind and control of vital forces at the time of death are the key requirements. Needless to mention they are possible only by sustained practice throughout life. It is a tall order. Sri Krishna’s recommendation is moksha in this life. It is easier and worth trying.
6-1-1-6: OM TAT SAT 17(23 to 28)
Om, Tat, and Sat are three appellations of Brahm. Brahmaji has used this mantra at the time of creation. The creation is wonderful and orderly. To sustain creation, Vedas, Brahmins, and sacrifices are created. Vedas are the guide. Brahmins explain the Vedas. Sacrifice is not limited to Vedic rituals. It includes an intelligent way of living in the form of five great sacrifices to sustain the creation. Brahmins sustain Vedas by teaching and practice, Vedas sustain sacrifice and sacrifice sustains creation. Since the beginning of creation, there is a tradition to utter OM to begin sacrifice, charity, and austerity, Tat is uttered to denote that everything belongs to God and the performer of sacrifice, charity, and austerity does not expect anything in return. Sat denotes the reality and auspiciousness aspect of God and Sat stands for steadfastness in sacrifice, charity, and austerity. By uttering OM or Tat or Sat, sacrifices, charities, austerities become spiritual, and deficiencies, if any, stand removed.
6-1-1-7: Varnashrama 4(13)
God has created a four-fold division of society called the varna-system based upon guna and karma. He is its author, active creator, sustainer, and destroyer of the creation but activities do not bind Him. Jati (birth-based) is not mentioned because, at that time, jati and karma were the same. A brahmin jati took up only brahmin karma. It is necessary to dispel misconceptions regarding the system.
A society is divided into four: brahmin, kshatriya, vaisya, and sudra. The categorization can be from three different angles, namely, guna-based, occupation-based, and birth-based. Birth-based is called jati. Guna-wise is based on the configuration of three basic modes: sattva (S), rajas (R), and tamas (T). In a guna Brahmin, sattva is dominant, rajas is next dominant, and tamas is the least. Thus, a guna-brahmin is SRT. A guna-kshatriya is RST, guna- vaisya is RTS and guna-sudra is TRS.
Occupation-based classification means karma-brahmin, karma-kṣhatriya, karma- vaisya and karma-sudra. Karma-brahmin relates to intellectual activities, such as, education, teaching, and research. Karma-kshatriya relates to a socially active field, viz., administration, law, and order. Karma-vaisya relates to trade and commerce. Karma-sudra is unskilled work to help other three. A person who is a karma-brahmin need not or may not be a guna- brahmin. A person in a teaching profession to make money is not a guna-brahmin but a guna-vaisya.
Birth based classification is solely based on birth. A person born to a karma-brahmin is a jati-brahmin irrespective of his guna and the profession he undertakes. A jati-brahmin may become a guna-kshatriya or a karma-vaisya or karma-sudra.
As regards gradation among the four varnas, there is no gradation based on jati. All are equal. Any gradation based on jati is adharmic and causes disharmony in society. From occupation also angle all are equal. There is no inferior or superior work. All are organs of a society-like body, an organic whole. There is gradation based on guna. A person of noble character is superior. A guna-brahmin is superior to guna- kshatriya who is superior to guna-vaisya and guna-vaisya is superior to guna-sudra. Guna- brahmin is sattvic and is close to self-knowledge and liberation. Guna- kshatriya performs selfless action on way to become a guna- brahmin. Guna-vaisya is engaged in selfish action. He needs to move up to the selfless action of guna -kshatriya and then to guna-brahmin. Guna- sudra is at the bottom. He should move from tamas to rajas and then to sattva.
As regards choice among three categories, there is no choice regarding jati. There is a choice regarding guna. A person can move from inborn qualities and acquire other qualities by practice though it is a slow process. The choice of the profession is based on two norms- birth and guna. There are advantages and disadvantages in both. If a person chooses a profession based on birth, the advantage is that he need not choose, but the disadvantage is that if he does not like the profession, it becomes a burden. If he goes by guna, i.e., according to his inclination, the advantage is that there is no strain on the personality. The disadvantage is that he misses early training because he is not sure about his inclination until he turns teenage. Therefore, a person has the option to choose between the two with a caution that money is not the primary criterion, otherwise, everyone will run for a profession where money pours. It will be a disaster.