punar āvartino ’rjuna
mām upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 8.16
From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
All kinds of yogis—karma, jnana, hatha, etc.—eventually have to attain devotional perfection in bhakti-yoga, or Krishna consciousness, before they can go to Krishna’s transcendental abode and never return. Those who attain the highest material planets, the planets of the demigods, are again subjected to repeated birth and death. As persons on earth are elevated to higher planets, people on higher planets such as Brahmaloka, Candraloka and Indraloka fall down to earth. The practice of sacrifice called pancagni-vidya, recommended in the Chandogya Upanishad, enables one to achieve Brahmaloka, but if, on Brahmaloka, one does not cultivate Krishna consciousness, then he must return to earth. Those who progress in Krishna consciousness on the higher planets are gradually elevated to higher and higher planets and at the time of universal devastation are transferred to the eternal spiritual kingdom. Sridhara Svami, in his commentary on Bhagavad-gita, quotes this verse:
brahmana saha te sarve
pravishanti param padam
“When there is devastation of this material universe, Brahma and his devotees, who are constantly engaged in Krishna consciousness, are all transferred to the spiritual universe and to specific spiritual planets according to their desires.”
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
All jivas take rebirth even if they have great punyas. But my devotees do not take such rebirth. Even the inhabitants of the planet of Brahma (a brahma bhuvanam lokah) take rebirth.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
8.16 All the worlds, from the realm of Brahma included in the Brahmanda (cosmic sphere), are spheres in which experiences conferring Aisvarya (prosperity and power) can be obtained. But they are destructible and those who attain them are subject to return. Therefore destruction, i.e., return is unavoidable for the aspirants for Aisvarya, as the regions where it is attained perish. On the contrary there is no rebirth to those who attain Me, the Omniscient, who has true resolves, whose sport is creation, sustentation and dissolution of the entire universe, who is supremely compassionate and who is always of the same form. For these reasons there is no destruction in the case of those who attain Me. He now elucidates the time-period settled by the Supreme Person’s will in regard to the evolution and dissolution of the worlds upto the cosmic sphere of Brahma and of those who are within them.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
The proof that there is no more returning to the material existence is confirmed by Lord Krishna by the evidence that all the denizens of all the material worlds from the highest being the abode of Brahma the architect of creation in Brahmaloka down to the lowest in the subterranean planetary system in Pataloka; all are subjected to samsara the perpetual cycle of birth and death. Thus all the material worlds are subject to destruction and rebirth is inevitable to those who have taken birth in any planetary system and have not achieved atma tattva or realisation of the soul. Brahma who designed and constructed material creation certainly achieves moksa or liberation during his lifetime and those souls who have achieved Brahmaloka through meditation by which gradual emancipation is the result and who have gained spiritual knowledge and realised atma tattva then they attain moksa along with Brahma at the time of universal dissolution. But the devotees of Lord Krishna have no need to go to Brahmaloka after attaining Him because wherever they may be there is never any rebirth for they go directly to the eternal spiritual worlds is association with Him.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Starting with Brahma the designer and architect of creation who resides on the crest of Mt. Meru in Brahmaloka which is the highest material planet all living entities are subjected to samsara or the perpetual cycle of birth and death. Therefore it is stated in the Narayana Kalpa that: In all cases concerning the material worlds from the highest Brahmaloka down through the heavenly planets to the worlds of humans there is no possibility of attaining the Supreme Lord without moksa or liberation.
Now begins the summation.
Liberation from samsara and attaining the Supreme Lord Krishna is only possible through bhakti or exclusive loving devotion to Him exclusively. Those whose goal is to enjoy in the heavenly planets which is free from disease, decrepitude and old age will reach those worlds and enjoy; but they will take birth in a womb again for attainment of the Supreme Lord was not their goal; but the devotees of Lord Krishna whose only goal is Him attain moksa.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Those who are not endowed with bhakti or loving devotion to the Supreme Lord Krishna if they manage to reach the heavenly worlds of the highest material planet of Brahmaloka and others, because they have to reap the reactions of their various actions they are reborn again into the world of mortals. Lord Krishna specifically mentions the highest material realm of Brahmaloka emphasising that the denizens and residents of these regions enjoy the pleasures and delights found there and thus from there downwards through the 14 levels of material creation all are subjected to reincarnation and samsara the perpetual cycle of birth and death. Yet one whose goal is the Supreme Lord Krishna who is the source of the entire cosmic manifestation, upon attaining Him automatically are awarded moksa or liberation for ever more and never again subjected to samsara. The use of the particle tu meaning but emphasises the fact that there is a great difference between the devotees of the Supreme Lord Krishna and the votaries of other gods.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
8.16 O Arjuna, all the lokah, worlds; abrahma-bhuvanat, together with the world of Brahma-bhuvana is that (place) in which creatures are born, and brahma-bhuvana means the world of Brahma; punah avartinah, are subject to return, are by nature liable to come again; Tu, but; kaunteya, O son of Kunti, na vidyate, there is no; punarjanma, rebirth; upetya, after reaching; mam, Me alone. Why are all the worlds together with the realm of Brahma subject to return? Becuase they are limited by time. How?
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
8.16 A Brhma etc. [This verse] has been interpreted by all as ‘There is rebirth even for those who have reached the world of Brhma (the personal god).’ If this interpretation is accepted, then it would amount to the proposition that going to the worlds that are higher than that [of Brahma], is emancipation [from rebirth]. However according to us, with our inner sight blurred by the powerful darkness of doubt, this interpretation does not seem to touch the heart [of the text]. Hence, the following is the wick of the lamp brought from the Agama literature : Till Brahman : Till the status of the Supreme Brahman is attained. Till then all are subject to return (to rebirth) from each and every world, whether it lies adjacently, or above or below [the world of Brahman]; men run round like a wheel wandering without stop from one place to another. But who knows in this manner viz., ‘from all the world there is return’ ? For, it is heard [in the Puranas] that [the personal gods like] Brahma etc., themselves exist indeed for a very long period. How is it that they too are subject to return again ? If they are subject to return, will they not be of the nature of having birth and death ? Expecting this objection, [the Lord] says :
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
punar avartino ’rjuna
mam upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
ā-brahma-bhuvanāt — up to the Brahmaloka planet; lokāḥ — the planetary systems; punaḥ — again; āvartinaḥ — returning; arjuna — O Arjuna; mām — unto Me; upetya — arriving; tu — but; kaunteya — O son of Kuntī; punaḥ janma — rebirth; na — never; vidyate — takes place.