Bhishma Ekadashi: A Door to the Brahman during Uttarayan

Bhishma Ekadashi: A Door to the Brahman during Uttarayan

Moksha or liberation is not some achievement but a state of complete ownership and awareness.  When neither Life nor death hinders your ability to engage with life completely and you need no crutches to be present to every moment, then it is the moment of complete liberation.  That is what every Yogi – which every individual who was on Dharmic path really was – aspired for.  Not for riches, not for health and wealth or fame.  But complete awareness and ability to be alive to life forces no matter what the physical state.  For, they realized that beyond the physical, there is a dimension that is stronger and more powerful and which drives our existential processes.  Those who are willing to see even when not with much Yogic attainment can know from the experiences of those who have had Near Death Experiences.  A Yogi’s endeavor is that the Truth which is empirically being alluded to by scientists today is not a matter of equations but actual experience.

In that journey to complete awareness, how and when one died played a large role.  Krishna has explained the time and state of death and one’s ability to be in awareness.  In Gita, Krishna explains the importance of this time of the year and why Uttarayan is an important time to pass on.  He explains how those who have embodied the divine or the Brahman and become one with it, strive to use this period to leave the body as it takes them completely away from all the cycles of life and death.

यत्र काले त्वनावृत्तिमावृत्तिं चैव योगिन: |
प्रयाता यान्ति तं कालं वक्ष्यामि भरतर्षभ || 23||
अग्निर्ज्योतिरह: शुक्ल: षण्मासा उत्तरायणम् |
तत्र प्रयाता गच्छन्ति ब्रह्म ब्रह्मविदो जना: || 24||
धूमो रात्रिस्तथा कृष्ण: षण्मासा दक्षिणायनम् |
तत्र चान्द्रमसं ज्योतिर्योगी प्राप्य निवर्तते || 25||
शुक्लकृष्णे गती ह्येते जगत: शाश्वते मते |
एकया यात्यनावृत्तिमन्ययावर्तते पुन: || 26||

yatra kāle tvanāvṛittim āvṛittiṁ chaiva yoginaḥ
prayātā yānti taṁ kālaṁ vakṣhyāmi bharatarṣhabha
agnir jyotir ahaḥ śhuklaḥ ṣhaṇ-māsā uttarāyaṇam
tatra prayātā gachchhanti brahma brahma-vido janāḥ
dhūmo rātris tathā kṛiṣhṇaḥ ṣhaṇ-māsā dakṣhiṇāyanam
tatra chāndramasaṁ jyotir yogī prāpya nivartate
śhukla-kṛiṣhṇe gatī hyete jagataḥ śhāśhvate mate
ekayā yātyanāvṛittim anyayāvartate punaḥ

I shall now describe to you the different paths of passing away from this world, O best of the Bharatas, one of which leads to liberation and the other leads to rebirth. Those who know the Supreme Brahman, and who depart from this world, during the six months of the sun’s northern course, the bright fortnight of the moon, and the bright part of the day, attain the supreme destination. The practitioners of Vedic rituals, who pass away during the six months of the sun’s southern course, the dark fortnight of the moon, the time of smoke, the night, attain the celestial abodes. After enjoying celestial pleasures, they again return to the earth. These two, bright and dark paths, always exist in this world. The way of light leads to liberation and the way of darkness leads to rebirth.

What is of great significance here in this set of shlokas is the difference Krishna makes between those who do the Vedic rituals and those who know the Brahman.  Here knowing is not intellectual but experiential.  Knowing the mechanics of Joy in the body is not the same as BEING joyful!  And, that’s the difference that one needs to be aware of when trying to understand Krishna’s import in “knowing the Brahman”.


For the traditionalists amongst the Hindus, this is something that one needs to understand well. No amount of punditry of the Vedas or scriptures and no amount of wizardry with memorizing of the scriptures or intellectualizing them will do anything with respect to what Krishna holds supreme.  What will get you where Krishna’s entire Bhagwad Gita strives to get Arjun to is knowing and being with the Brahman.  And, there no ritual can take you.  Many of the most accomplished of yogis have left their body during Uttrayan.  Sadhguru explains how after the period of Dakshinayan – where one was preparing, comes the time for harvest of flowering of the consciousness.  And, this is the time that most of those who attained to their supreme self left their physical form.

These past six months have also been a time of intense sadhana for all Ishas, and now we are at the threshold of Uttarayan, which is a period of harvest. The sun’s run in relation to planet earth will shift from the southern run to the northern run – from Dakshinayana to Uttarayan. People who have been spiritually aware have always identified this transition as a possibility for human consciousness to blossom. One of the most famous stories is of Bhishma waiting on his deathbed of arrows for many weeks. Though he was severely injured, he held onto his life until Uttarayan came because he wanted to make use of this transition in nature, to make his own transition possible. Gautama also attained on the third full moon day after Uttarayan. And in South India, there are examples of innumerable saints, sages, siddhas and yogis who have made the transition during this period.

It is important to be aware of this important advantage that one has in the first half of the year.

Bhishma Ekadashi is the Door

If Uttarayan is the time for one to go past Life and Death, then Bhishma Ekadashi – the first in Uttarayan, is the door to that destination.  Every Ekadashi, the forces on the planet are such that the ability to turn inwards and get to “know Brahman” is the highest.  It becomes even higher during the period of Uttarayan.  One who is on the Spiritual journey – Ekadashi, specifically Bhishma Ekadashi assumes greater importance.  Sadhguru explains the importance of Ekadashi thus:

The reason is because the planet itself is in a certain state on that day, so if we keep our body light and available, our awareness will turn inward. The possibility of opening the door within is more on that day.

So, if knowing the Brahman has the best possible result in Uttarayan for one, then Ekadashi provides one with the door to that possibility.  For a sadhak therefore, it is very important to make full use of this time.

Know Brahman, Don’t intellectualize

Intellectualizing and following traditions and scriptural ways without the adequate awareness is like being on a treadmill.  You are trying to run very fast, probably getting a sense of achievement as well in some way but not getting anywhere in real terms.  Krishna says it very clearly.  How those who follow the Vedic rituals enjoy the fruits of their pleasant deeds and then return to the rigmarole of the ordinary beings and have to strive through the grilling of their Sanchit and Prarabdha.  There is no escape from Karma on the back of rituals and intellectualizing.

The only way out for a Yogi is being fully In.  Being inwards in a way that you know yourself fully!  When one is at a point where one fully and completely embodies the entire Brahman, one is where Krishna wanted everyone to be.

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