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Sacrifice, Death, and 'I am' || Acharya Prashant, on Bhagavad Gita and Nisargadatta Maharaj (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
12 min
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साधिभूताधिदैवं मां साधियज्ञं च ये विदुः।

प्रयाणकालेऽपि च मां ते विदुर्युक्तचेतसः।। 7.30 ।।

sādhibhūtādhidaivaṁ māṁ sādhiyajñaṁ cha ye viduḥ

prayāṇa-kāle ’pi cha māṁ te vidur yukta-chetasaḥ

Those who know me as existing in the physical and the divine planes, and also in the context of the sacrifice, they of concentrated minds know Me even at the time of death.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7, Verse 30

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Questioner (Q): What does it mean to know Shri Krishna as existing in the physical and divine planes, and also in the context of the sacrifice?

Acharya Prashant (AP): What it means is that you should be able to see the Truth of the material and the mental world, if you are to disappear forever. What he is saying is, “They know Me even at the time of death.”

If you are to fully die, if you have to ultimately remember Krishna, then you have to remember Krishna continuously.

What is remarkable here is that Krishna is not saying that remembering him only at the time of physical death will suffice. He’s not saying that. He’s not saying that “If you want to be liberated from the cycle of birth and death, then just remember Me once when you are at the moment of your physical death.” No, he’s not saying that. He’s attaching conditions. Those conditions are all-important. What are the conditions?

He’s saying, “Remember Me in the physical realm, remember Me in the divine realm.” By ‘divine realm’ he means basically the realm of mental desire. We all are desirous of something. That which we are desirous of—Shri Krishna has already explained in other chapters—comes in front of us as the particular god we want to worship.

In fact, it is our desires that take the shape of our favourite god. By ‘god’ here is not meant Brahma; by ‘god’ here is meant devī or devatā. Right? And that is the reason why in the Hindu pantheon there are so many gods and goddesses, because we have so many flavours of our desires. Every single desire takes the shape of a god or goddess. So, here is Lakṣmī Devī, here is... etc. All of them actually represent our desires. Right?

So, Shri Krishna is saying, “You should be able to see that in all your desires, you are actually and ultimately desiring for Me only. Just as you should be able to see that the entire expanse of the universe, which is nothing but the expanse of consciousness, has Me as the seed, similarly you should be able to see that in whatever you desire, you are actually desiring Me only. Then you will be assured of your final and ultimate liberation.” Right?

The conditions are quite stringent. They demand your entire life. They are saying that all the movement of your sensory apparatus should be in the light of Krishna.

When the eyes see, they should be able to see through what they are seeing. They should not merely look at the object; they should be able to penetrate the object. When the mind thinks, when there is desire, when there is the arrival of the various deities, then you should be able to penetrate the mechanism of the mind. That is when you will meet the ultimate death, which is liberation from life and death itself.

And then, he also says, “In the context of the sacrifice.” What he means here is, you should know what the reality of yagya is. When you are indulging in a practice like yagya, you should know what is being offered and to whom; who is the recipient.

In one of the previous chapters, Krishna dwells quite at length on the importance of yagya. There is a great danger that all the practices that have a hidden message or truth underlying them can become just perfunctory movements, right? You say, “I know what the sacrifice is like. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10—it’s a ten-point procedure. Do this, do this, do this, do this, do this, do this…”

Shri Krishna is saying, “I am for the ones who know the essence beneath the process; those who understand the reality of yagya. I am for them, because they alone will benefit from the practice of yagya.” Right?

In all these three ways: knowing the reality of the physical plane, knowing the reality of the mental plane, and knowing the reality of the actions that we undertake. Actions like? Yagya, he’s saying, "You have to be very vigilant. You have to be very conscious. You have to know what really you are doing. When you know what you are really doing, irrespective of what you are doing, then you meet Krishna." That’s what the entire message is.

Anything more on this?

Q2: Pranaam Acharya Ji. Recently I have started again reading Nisargadatta Maharaj. So, I just wanted to confirm, because these three days we’ve been talking about Kṣetragya, and now you have again talked of that.

So, I wanted to know if the ‘I Am’ that Nisargadatta Maharaj constantly talks about, is that the Kṣetragya only?

AP: It corresponds with the Kṣetragya.

All that which comes after the ‘Am’—‘I Am’—all that which comes after the ‘Am’ belongs to the realm of the eight: I am the ego, I am the intellect, I am water, I’m soil, I’m a combination of the elements, I am the body. So, all that which is an object to the subject that ‘I Am’ is, belongs to Aparā Prakriti. Parā Prakriti, the subject is ‘I Am’. And Truth or Ātmān, if you want to give it a name, you could probably call it as pure ‘I’-ness.

Q3: So, what we need to sacrifice is the ‘Am’, ahaṃkāra?

AP: The ‘I Am’ needs to find the One above it more attractive than the eight below it.

There are eight available to you on one side. And then there is the One available to you…?

Q3: Above.

AP: Above yourself. So, you have to choose the One rather than the eight. This is called sacrifice.

Now, what is being sacrificed?

Q3: The eight.

AP: The eight. The eight are being sacrificed for the sake of...?

Q3: The One.

AP: The One. So, the ‘I Am’ will make a decision to not to say, “I am fire, water, body, ego, intellect.” The ‘I Am’ makes a decision to say, “I am (points upwards) That. I am That.” And this is sacrifice.

Q3: Eliminating what?

AP: No, it’s not that.

Do you see how the sacrificial procedure is? The eight are put into the fire, and the fire carries them upwards. How does it carry them upwards? By firstly destroying them. So, the eight are gone; rather, sublimated. You have said, "These eight are of very little value compared to the One."

There’s a better question you could ask.

We usually denote the ego by ‘I’. If the ‘I’ belongs to Aparā Prakriti, how is ‘I Am’ belonging to Parā Prakriti?

When Krishna is saying that along with the five earthly elements, mana, buddhi and ahaṃkāra also belong to Aparā Prakriti, and equally we said that Parā Prakriti is ‘I Am’, then how is it possible that ahaṃkāra belongs to the lower level, whereas ‘I Am’ belongs to higher level? It’s a bit tricky to understand. Pay attention.

There is the ego that can be watched, and there is the ego that watches. If the ego can be watched, then the ego belongs to the lower level. And if the ego raises itself a little higher than its normal position in order to watch its normal functioning, then the same ego is to be called Parā Prakriti.


So, that’s what the Upanishads mean when they say, “Illuminate yourself through yourself.” They say, “Let the mind illuminate the mind.” It’s a beautiful quote. "Let the mind illuminate the mind."

So, that’s the thing with the mind. It can either belong to the object level, or it can belong to the subject level. When, for example, we say, “Watch yourself,” you are being watched. And who is the watcher? You are also the watcher. That’s the thing. Be your own watcher. Watch yourself. That’s the kind of thing the ego is capable of. The story does not stop here.

So, there is the ‘I’ at the lowermost level, at the Aparā-level. Then there is the ‘I’ at the Parā-level, which you referred to as ‘I Am’. Who is the one who meets Krishna? ‘I’ itself meets the Krishna. When the ‘I’ meets the Krishna, Krishna and ‘I’ are one and inseparable.

So, the ‘I’ can occupy all the three levels. Aparā Prakriti, Parā Prakriti, and the Beyond. That’s the great potential and possibility of the ‘I’. Do you see this?

That’s how capable we are and that’s how unfortunate we are. Look at our potential in terms of uplifting ourselves, as well as destroying ourselves. We can either reduce ourselves to the very object level, which is called objectification of the self. Don’t we often objectify ourselves? When you, for example, treat yourself just as the body and flaunt your body, don’t you say that you are objectifying yourself? Right? Then at what level of existence does ‘I’ belong? One, two and three? Three, the lowermost. You have turned yourself into the object.

Or the ‘I’ could be a subject. Right? At the Parā Prakriti level, as the seer level, at the Kṣetragya level, right? Then you are doing some good to yourself. Now you are the watcher. You are observing. You’re a spiritual practitioner, you observe life.

And if your practice is rigorous enough, then you ascend to the transcendental heights. Beyond, beyond and gone. Now the ‘I’ is one with Truth.

So, all these three possibilities are available to the ‘I’.

Q4: You were talking about desire and attachment, no? What I’ve led to know is, every action, everyday when I take it, every action has an attachment. So, until I have a singleness and firmness of purpose, the knowledge of why I’m taking this kind of action, whether it leads to liberation or self-deception, I need to analyse myself, and why these actions actually happen.

AP: That’s what is meant by being reflective.

Q4: Attachment, desire, it is there in every action. When I act, I try to know what is the intention of the action. If the intention is purity, it will just happen. Because for me, from the beginning, 16 years ago until age of 61, a lot has happened, but I have always kept these things in mind. I just try to see what is happening. So, I feel that it’s good. I never converted back from it. Was it right for me?

AP: That I cannot say with certainty, but definitely if you are of a reflective temperament, then it is commendable. If you pause, if you take stock, if you want to ask, "Where is this attachment, or emotion, or urge, or impulse coming from? What do I really want to achieve?"—if these questions remain present to you, if such questions remain pertinent, then it bodes well for your well-being.

Q4: Yes. I was reading a lot of articles in the website, whether it’s you talking about the object, the subject and everything. I’ve totally enjoyed it. I think I’ve read about twenty, thirty articles in English. I started benefitting from it immensely. So, now I’m just here, because still I have to go a long way, but I’m spending more time on the reading, writing, understanding, reflecting and trying to work on this area. Because such a powerful forum is there, I want to get a lot of people to work on this area. That’s my real intention, my heart pouring for it.

AP: You are welcome. You are welcome.

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