Here Lord Krsna bring up the topic of saguna-brahma-upāsana - meditation upon Īśvara with attributes. There are two kinds of goal in mind for one who practises saguna-brahma-upāsana, one is to gain material benefits here or hereafter (including heaven), and another one is for spiritual growth as a qualification to gain self-knowledge. The meditator who only wishes for spiritual growth, is also divided into two kinds, one is doing meditation on Īśvara with attributes then enter into meditation on Īśvara without attributes - nirguna-brahma-upāsana, and another one holds on to meditation on Īśvara with attributes till the end of his/her life. For certain reason the last kind of meditator mentioned couldn't accept Īśvara without form or couldn't assimilate the teaching of self-knowledge, therefore one takes up the saguna-brahma-upāsana till the end of one's life and reach brahma-loka (the highest sphere of experience), gain self-knowledge there and be free. From next verse till the end of chapter 8, Lord Krsna talked about this saguna-brahma-upāsana.
7. How does one with steady mind remember Īśvara at the time of death?
antakāle ca māmeva smaranmuktvā kalevaram |
yah prayāti sa madbhāvam yāti nāstyatra samśayah ||8.5||
And at the time of death, the one departs giving up the body, remembering me alone, he reaches my nature. Regarding this, there is no doubt.
yam yam vāpi smaran bhāvam tyajatyante kalevaram |
tam tamevaiti kaunteya sadā tadbhāvabhāvitah ||8.6||
And also, at the time of death, giving up the body, whatever he remembers, that alone he reaches, Oh the son of Kunti (Arjuna), being always in that state.
Whatever thought one has at the time of death, that alone he reaches. This seems to be a very good arrangement. But the problem is, whatever has dominated our thought in our life, that thought will come to our mind during the time of death. Because the thought pattern, what we are attached to or have aversion with, has created the deepest impressions in our subconscious mind, therefore it is not in our control. From what we are desiring, we do action in keeping with it, then our action which giving unseen result is another important factor here. It is the accumulation of unseen result of our karma along with samskāra (impression) that produces the body for the next life.
Moreover, in the context of saguna-brahma-upāsana, the entity that one remembers at the time of death is in the form of particular devatā - deity, one will attain that world of that particular devatā, as one meditates upon. In the purāna, certain concept of moksa is described as one reaches Īśvara, he/she will become one with Īśvara which is called brahman-sāyujyam. One will travel to another world where one merges with the Lord there, and experiences whatever the Lord is experiencing. Travel and experience can be there only if one still holds on to the individuality. If the individuality is retained, total moksa is not possible. There are few more concepts of moksa likes brahman-sāmipyam, where one can go very near to the Lord, and brahman-sārūpyam - where one looks exactly like the Lord. There is no real moksa if one doesn't dissolve the individuality to see the fact that there is no difference between me and brahman. Therefore for a saguna-brahma-upāsaka, he/she can gain brahma-loka, where self-knowledge is imparted by brahmaji (catur-mukha-brahma) himself, then moksa is gained there alone. This kind of moksa is called krama-mukti - freedom by stages.
tasmāt sarvesu kālesu māmanusmara yudhya ca |
mayyarpita manobuddhih māmevaisyasyasamśayah ||8.7||
Therefore, remember me at all times and fight. Being one whose mind and intellect are offered to me, you will reach me without a doubt.
mām anusmara - think of me in keeping with śāstra, means getting the knowledge of Īśvara is only through śāstra which is unfolded by a teacher. yudhya ca - and fight, for Arjuna fighting the war of dharma is his duty, and for each of us, we have our own duty to be done in order for us to gain punya fructified as conducive situation for our moksa pursuit, and also through karma-yoga attitude mind is purified as qualification for self-knowledge to take place.
abhyāsayoga yuktena cetasā nānyagāminā |
paramam purusam divyam yati pārthānucintayan ||8.8||
Reflecting as he was taught, with a mind endowed with the practice of yoga that does not stray to anything else, he goes to the limitless self-effulgent person, O Partha.
abhyāsayoga yuktena cetasā - with a mind endowed with the practice of yoga, in the form of repetition of similar thought regarding the Lord alone as object of meditation (fixing the mind) and shouldn't be intervened by dissimilar thought.
Next is the description of Īśvara which an upāsaka meditates upon.
kavim purānamanuśāsitāram anoranīyāmsamanusmaredyah |
sarvasya dhātāramacintya rūpam ādityavarnam tamasah parastāt ||8.9||
The one who contemplates upon the one who is omniscient, the most ancient, who rules, subtler than the subtlest, ordainer of all, whose form cannot be conceived of, who is effulgent like the sun, beyond ignorance (and knowledge).
kavim - all knowing, purānam - ancient (the cause which is without cause), anuśāsitāram - ruler of all, anoranīyām - subtler then the subtlest, sarvasya dhātāram - one who distributes all result of karma, acintya rūpam - one whose form can't be perceived, ādityavarnam - one whose light is like the light of the sun (consciousness which is self effulgent), tamasah parastāt - that which is beyond ignorance. One who remember/meditate upon the Lord in this manner, one attains that Īśvara.
How does an upāsaka prepare oneself, condition for one to successfully go to brahma-loka?
prayānakālemanasā'calena bhaktyā yuko yoga balena caiva |
bhruvormadhye prānamāveśya samyak sa tam param purusamupaiti divyam ||8.10||
At the time of death with a steady mind, endowed with devotion and the strength gathered by yoga, indeed, placing the breath properly between the brows, he reaches that limitless effulgent person.
At the time of death, the meditator who is endowed with devotion, where his/her only goal is Īśvara alone - bhaktyā yukah and manasā'calena - with the steady mind unmoved by any attachment or aversion, applying his/her yogic power - yoga balena, withdrawn all the prāna (vital energy), bringing them retained in the heart, and with the help of susumna-nādi, bringing the prāna to between the eyebrows, then breaking out through the crown of head, the meditator travel to brahma-loka.