Life and Death and Neither, Bhagavad Gita, Ch 14, Vs 14-20

Leaving the Body at Death

How the Gunas of Nature Influence What Happens at Death

What we do in this life not only determines our state of being while living, but also the prevalent guna at death, as well as where we will go after death, and what circumstances we will encounter in the next life.

Death and Rebirth

14 – 15 
When sattva prevails at death, the embodied one (You) reaches the shining world of the Highest Knowers. Meeting death in rajas one is born among those attached to action. Those who die with tamas prevailing are born adrift. 

At Death

16 – 18
It is said that the result of righteous action is sattvic and without sin, but the result of rajasic action is misfortune, and the result of tamasic action is ignorance. From sattva knowledge arises, from rajas, desire, and from tamas, ignorance. Those situated in sattva at death attain the higher realms, those abiding in rajas stay in the middle, and those abiding in tamas go to the lower planes.

Sattva.  Action that is sattvic is righteous action and without error. Such action produces correct knowledge. Sattvic action is meritorious action, so those situated in sattva at death attain the higher realms and are born among the Highest Knowers.

Rajas.  Action that is rajasic results in misery and produces desires, thereby promoting more rajasic action and more misery. Those situated in rajas at death stay in the middle and are born among those attached to fruit-bearing action.

Tamas:  Action that is tamasic is heavy and dark and provides no motivation to overcome ignorance, thus keeping one weighted down by illusion and delusion. Those situated in tamas at death go to the lower planes and are reborn adrift (off course).

Life After DeathYour predominant guna state while living has everything to do with how things will turn out when you die, and will also influence your next life. The guna state predominant while living is likely to be the guna state at death. One’s next life then, is linked to the guṇa that predominated the personality and actions of a person in his life.

The Great Escape

When one sees that all actions are nothing more than the gunas, and knows Me as beyond these gunas, he attains My state. 

In the state called trigunatita (‘beyond the three gunas’), which is arrived at by the realization that all actions are really just the gunas interacting, one transends the gunas and attains the same state as Lord Krishna.

Nature is always active, moving and changing due to the interactions of the gunas. They are the cause of all action. No ’embodied one’, no Divine Individual, ever does anything. Realizing this is the highest enlightenment. This is what the Highest Knowers know with complete certainty. It is Lord Krishna’s state, which we seek to attain.  


When the embodied one transcends the three gunas of the body, he attains immortality and is released from birth, death, old age and misery.

Note that the gunas are “of the body,” reminding us once again that the journey to our natural state of eternal happiness is not some etheric notion, but includes the body.

Life After Death

Alternate translation:
Getting beyond the influence of the three gunas of the body, amrita, the nectar of immortality, is ingested by the body, and one becomes immortal and free of birth, death, old age and misery. 

There has been speculation on when exactly the transition from a mortal body to an immortal form takes place: before, during, or after the death of the physical body. Appearing where it does among verses on what happens at death, this transition appears to take place at or after the death of the body.

It is not that once one gets to the point of ‘tasting the nectar of immortality (amrita)’ that old age and misery go away. But once the embodied one leaves the body at death, this transition will take place and he will never again experience death, old age or misery … because he is freed from rebirth. He is liberated, free, no longer in bondage.

I have encountered people who have known yogis to have made this transition in the middle of the road, so to speak, and from this, they have come to the conclusion that this transition is made while living. However, these appearances, sometimes called ascensions, were made by individuals who had already achieved Divine Form, and the observers were unaware of this. This state is sometimes referred to as “Divine Body”.

Namaste (I bow to the divine one that you really are),
Durga Ma

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The Whole World Is One Family

Prelude to Chapter 10, The Big Picture

During the last solar eclipse, which was also Maha Shivaratri and my birthday, my meditation was long and truly wonderous. When I came out after a full night’s meditation, I sat down to write the next installment of the Gita, and begin this chapter. I started with my usual pranams to the Board and before I knew it, the following script was on the computer. The Big Picture had emerged:

The Big Picture

Last night, my meditation was an odyssey, a Grand Tour of hundreds of worlds. It went on throughout the night, a long, complex journey too long to relate in any detail here. I don’t think I could do it even if I tried, even if I had the time and the space. Writing about these worlds would fail in any case. You would have to have been there and seen for yourself.

Beginning this chapter with an Odyssey has given me a perspective that would otherwise have sent me on an entirely different path in writing the translations and commentaries on these verses. But now I have a Big Picture. I think it was not a coincidence that this took place just before beginning this chapter.

We established in previous chapters that there are many worlds. We also learned that these worlds exist at different levels in both directions from our own world, some better and some worse. I thought I had some idea of a few worlds at each of these levels, but there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands. The residents of the worlds I visited on my tour carried the same characteristics mentioned in the fourth and fifth verses of this chapter, and in each world, one of these characteristics seemed to be more prevalent.

These worlds and their denizens varied greatly. They looked different, they thought differently, they did things differently and they lived differently. Some we would not recognize as human, though most did look human. I went through a number of plights on these worlds with a degree of equanimity I didn’t know I had. Then, near the end of the tour, I met someone on one of these worlds and asked where one went after this (i.e., after death). “They go to the the un-world,” she said.

In one short sentence this person revealed a different way of thinking about life after death as the absence of “world”, as if it is the world that goes away, not us.

This leaves us with a new way of considering the meanings of statements from avataras such as Lord Krishna when they say that all this creation arises from them, rather than saying that they actively make it happen.

As we move along in this chapter, I will be seeing what is being said in terms of a much bigger picture. I invite you to bring your imagination (you’ll need it) and try to see what is being taught on a much larger scale: The Big Picture. It all begins next week, and I am as curious as you may be, to see what unfolds.

Namaste (I bow to the divine one you really are),
Durga Ma

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