avyakto ’kṣara ity uktas
tam āhuḥ paramāḿ gatim
yaḿ prāpya na nivartante
tad dhāma paramaḿ mama
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 8.21
That which the Vedantists describe as unmanifest and infallible, that which is known as the supreme destination, that place from which, having attained it, one never returns—that is My supreme abode.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
The supreme abode of the Personality of Godhead, Krishna, is described in the Brahma-samhita as cintamani-dhama, a place where all desires are fulfilled. The supreme abode of Lord Krishna, known as Goloka Vrindavana, is full of palaces made of touchstone. There are also trees, called “desire trees,” that supply any type of eatable upon demand, and there are cows, known as surabhi cows, which supply a limitless supply of milk. In this abode, the Lord is served by hundreds of thousands of goddesses of fortune (Lakshmis), and He is called Govinda, the primal Lord and the cause of all causes. The Lord is accustomed to blow His flute (venum kvanantam). His transcendental form is the most attractive in all the worlds—His eyes are like lotus petals, and the color of His body is like the color of clouds. He is so attractive that His beauty excels that of thousands of Cupids. He wears saffron cloth, a garland around His neck and a peacock feather in His hair. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna gives only a small hint of His personal abode, Goloka Vrindavana, which is the supermost planet in the spiritual kingdom. A vivid description is given in the Brahma-samhita. Vedic literatures (Katha Upanishad 1.3.11) state that there is nothing superior to the abode of the Supreme Godhead, and that that abode is the ultimate destination (purushan na param kincit sa kastha parama gatih). When one attains to it, he never returns to the material world. Krishna’s supreme abode and Krishna Himself are nondifferent, being of the same quality. On this earth, Vrindavana, ninety miles southeast of Delhi, is a replica of that supreme Goloka Vrindavana located in the spiritual sky. When Krishna descended on this earth, He sported on that particular tract of land known as Vrindavana, comprising about eighty-four square miles in the district of Mathura, India.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
The word avyakta of the previous verse is explained. That which is avyakta is without destruction: Narayana. As the sruti says, eko narayana asin na brahma na ca sankarah: one Narayana existed, and not Brahma or Siva. Attaining my eternal form (mama paramam dhama), they do not return.
The word aksara may also be interpreted as the impersonal brahman, in which case dhama paramam mama means “my form of light,” since dhama also means “light.”
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
8.20 – 8.21 Superior, as an object of human end, to this unmanifest (Avyakta), which is inanimate Prakrti, there is another state of being, of a kind different from this, but also called Avyakta. It has only knowledge-form and is also unmanifest. It is the self, Atman. It is unmanifest because It cannot be apprehended by any means of knowledge (Pramanas). The meaning is that Its nature is unique and that It can be known only to Itself. That is, It can be understood only vaguely in the ordinary ways of knowing. It is eternal, namely, ever-enduring, because It is not subject to origination and annihilation. In texts like ‘For those who meditate on the imperishable, undefinable, the unmanifest’ (12.3) and ‘The imperishable is called the unchanging’ (15.16) — that being the self. It has been called the unmanifest (Avyakta) and imperishable (Aksara); when all material elements like ether, etc., with their causes and effects are annihilated, the self is not annihilated in spite of It being found alone with all the elements. [The elements are what constitute the bodies of beings.] The knowers of the Vedas declare It as the highest end. The meaning is that the imperishable entity which has been denoted by the term ‘highest goal’ in the passage, ‘Whosoever abandons the body and departs (in the manner described) reaches the highest state (Dhama)’ (8.13), is the self (Atman) abiding in Its essential nature free from the contact with the Prakrti. This self, which abides thus in Its essential nature, by attaining which It does not return, — this is My ‘highest abode,’ i.e., is the highest object of My control. The inanimate Prakrti is one object of My control. The animate Prakrti associated with this inanimate Prakrti is the second object of My control. The pristine nature of the freed self, free from contact with inanimate matter, is the highest object of My rule. Such is the meaning. This state is also one of non-return to Samsara. Or the term ‘dhama’ may signify ‘luminosity’. And luminosity connotes knowledge. The essential nature of the freed self is boundless knowledge, or supreme light, which stands in contrast to the shrunken knowledge of the self, when involved in Prakrti. [The description given above is that of Kaivalya, the state of self-luminous existence as the pure self]. Sri Krsna now teaches that the object of attainment for the Jnanin, is totally different from this:
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna now gives the evidence for His avyakta or unmanifest being aksara or imperishable having neither birth or destruction and impossible to be perceived by the mind and senses. The Mundaka Upanisad I.I.VII states: Similarly from the aksara this creation comes into being. The aksara is declared to be paramam gatim the supreme goal of human existence and the ultimate destination. The Katha Upanisad III.XI states: There is nothing higher than the Purusha. He is the ultimate reality and the paramam gatim. The proof of it being the supreme goal is verified by the words na nivarttante meaning one never returns again to the material worldsonce they attain Lord Krishna’s supreme dhama or abode. The six causative case by the word mama meaning my is used in the sense of identity as when one states Rahu’s head which is all that remains of Rahu, it means only that. Therefore Lord Krishna, Himself is the paramam gatim and no other. This is the purport.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
The avyakta the unmanifest and aksara the indestructible is the resplendent Supreme Lord, Krishna Himself, upon whom attaining there is no more returning to samsara the perpetual cycle of birth and death. The Garuda Purana states: The avyakta is the Supreme Lord Himself. It shows the use of the word dhama or abode as also denoting the resplendent form of the Supreme Lord. Showing that the resplendent Supreme Lord’s form and abode are both indicated such are the confidential meanings understood by those of spiritual wisdom.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
This avyakta or unmanifest is beyond the perception of the mind and senses and is aksara or indestructible and contains the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence. In the second chapter it was revealed that the atma or soul is indestructible as well. But aksara is known by those knowledgeable of the Vedic scriptures to be paramount, higher than the atma, the goal of the atma as verified in the Katha Upanisad I.II.XXIII: That the realised eternal soul is the Supreme Lords abode. The unrealised soul tainted by association with prakriti or the material substratum pervading physical existence. But His presence as the witness in the hearts of all living beings is to keep them always connected to Him, for the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad III:VII,XXII states: The Supreme Being has established Himself in the heart of all living entities. The same scripture in III.III.VII states: That paramatma the supreme soul which resides in the heart of all living entities is different from the individual atma or soul; yet the atma knows Hin not, He whose abode is the atma. It is the Supreme Lord who is installed in the hearts of all beings as the witness of all thoughts and actions. Attaining Him the individual atma is permanently divested of prakriti and they never return to the worlds of mortals as the cycle of birth and death is terminated. The purport is that atma tattva or realisation of the soul is very exalted but the paramam gatim or supreme goal is to attain the Supreme Lord Krishna in His dhama or abode and associate eternally with Him.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
8.21 He Himself who has been uktah, meantioned; as avyaktah, Unmanifest; the aksarah, Immutable; ahuh, they call; tam, Him-that very unmanifest Reality which is termed as the Immutable; the paramam, supreme; gatim, Goal. Tat, That; is the paramam, supreme; dhama, abode, i.e. the supreme State; mama, of Mine, of Visnu; yam prapya, reaching which Reality; na nivartante, they do not return to the worldly state. The means for gaining That is being stated:
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
8.21 See Comment under 8.22
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
avyakto ’ksara ity uktas
tam ahuh paramam gatim
yam prapya na nivartante
tad dhama paramam mama
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
avyaktaḥ — unmanifested; akṣaraḥ — infallible; iti — thus; uktaḥ — is said; tam — that; āhuḥ — is known; paramām — the ultimate; gatim — destination; yam — which; prāpya — gaining; na — never; nivartante — come back; tat — that; dhāma — abode; paramam — supreme; mama — My.