agnir jyotir ahaḥ śuklaḥ
tatra prayātā gacchanti
brahma brahma-vido janāḥ
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 8.24
Those who know the Supreme Brahman attain that Supreme by passing away from the world during the influence of the fiery god, in the light, at an auspicious moment of the day, during the fortnight of the waxing moon, or during the six months when the sun travels in the north.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
When fire, light, day and the fortnight of the moon are mentioned, it is to be understood that over all of them there are various presiding deities who make arrangements for the passage of the soul. At the time of death, the mind carries one on the path to a new life. If one leaves the body at the time designated above, either accidentally or by arrangement, it is possible for him to attain the impersonal brahmajyoti. Mystics who are advanced in yoga practice can arrange the time and place to leave the body. Others have no control—if by accident they leave at an auspicious moment, then they will not return to the cycle of birth and death, but otherwise there is every possibility that they will have to return. However, for the pure devotee in Krishna consciousness, there is no fear of returning, whether he leaves the body at an auspicious or inauspicious moment, by accident or arrangement.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
He speaks in this verse about the path of no return. The words agnir jyotir (fire and light) indicate the presiding deity of the sun according to the sruti statement te ‘rcisam abhisambhavanti: theft go to the sun planet. Aha indicates the deity of the day, and sukla indicates the deity of the fortnight of the waxing moon. The six months of uttarayana means the deity who presides over the uttarayana. The jnanis (brahma vidah) who go on the path of these devatas, attain brahman. As the sruti says:
te ‘rcisam abhi sambhavanti arciso ‘rahna apuryamana-paksam apuryamana-paksad yan san-masanudannaditya eti malebhyo deva-lokam
They reach the deity of fire. From there they go to the deity of the day, from there to the deity of the waxing fortnight, and from there to the uttarayana deity. Chandogsya Upanisad 5.10.2
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
8.23 – 8.24 Here, the term ‘time’ denotes a path, having many deities beginning with day and ending with year. The deities preside over divisions of time. The meaning is — I declare to you the path departing in which Yogins do not return and also the path departing in which the doers of good actions return. By the clause, ‘Light in the form of fire, the day, bright fortnight, six months of the northern course,’ year also is denoted.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna is now stating the path of no return to material existence. The words agnir jyotir meaning fire and illumination respectively is indicative of the presiding demigod identified with such as written in the Vedic scriptures. In the Chandogya Upanisad V.X.I it states: Those who know the science of the five fires and those in the wilderness who meditate with faith and penance reach the demigod Jyotih identified with illumination. Day refers to the demigod identified with it, the bright half of the month refers to the demigod identified with it as well and the same for the six months the sun is in its northern waxing course etc. This also includes by implication the demigods identified with the year, the realm of the celestials etc. mentioned in the Vedic scriptures. Departing by the paths of the aforementioned demigods, the devotees of the Supreme Lord attain the realisation of the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence and are knowers of the brahman. The Brihadaranyaka Upanisad VI.II.XV states: From the demigod identified with fire one reaches the demigod identified with illumination and from there one goes to the demigod identified with the day, then from him to the demigod identified with the waxing moon, from him to the demigod identified with the six months which the waxing sun goes on its northern course. From there one reaches the demigod identified with the year and so on.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
The word jyoti indicates illumination and is identified with the demigod known as Archi. This is confirmed in the Narada Purana which states: After reaching Agni the demigod of fire and then Archi the demigod of illumination and thereafter Ahah the demigod of day etc. It should be understood that Agni, Archi, Ahah and others are the presiding demigods of the respective time periods. Otherwise it would not be in accordance with the Vedic scriptures to say that during the daytime one reaches the bright waxing time of the month. The Brahma Purana states: Since in essence there only exists days which also includes nights, how can one situated in equanimity be said to have achieved the brahman only in the day during the bright waxing time of the month. So it is clear to the lucid that the presiding demigods in tandem with their corresponding time periods is the only logical interpretation in accordance with Vedic scriptures. The Garuda Purana states: The knowers of spiritual knowledge honor the presiding demigods of the respective time periods. Along with honouring the demigods such as Agni the fire god, Archi of illumination, Ahah of the day, Sukla of the waxing moon, Satmasah of the suns northern course and others, the presiding demigods of the Vishu or the passages travelled should also be honoured. The Brahma Vaivarta Purana states: Honouring the presiding demigods of the day, the night, the waxing and waning moons, the sun on its northern and southern course as well as the Vishu; one who has realised the brahman attains the Supreme Lord.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
First Lord Krishna presents the path by which there is no return for rebirth with the words agnir-jyotir which identify the presiding demigods respectively of fire and illumination. The Brihadaranyaka Upanisad VI.II.XII states: By this way they reach the all effulgent. So on this path of no return are stationed the demigods identified with fire, illumination, day, the moons 15 day bright fortnight and the six months of the suns northern waxing course. The yogis or those perfecting the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness, who have realised the brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence, they proceed on the path of no return after death guided by the aforementioned presiding demigods of the time divisions until they finally reach the very brahman they have realised. All terms stating time periods denote the respective demigods of those time periods as declared in the Chandogya Upanisad V.X.I-II as follows: Those who have realised the brahman as well as those who meditating in the wilderness with faith and austerity at death are guided by a demigod for each time period, first through the fire, from the fire to the illumination, from the illumination to the day, from the day to the moons bright fortnight, from the bright fortnight into the six months of the suns northern waxing, from the six months they are guided into the year, from the year into the sun, from the sun they are guided to the moon, from the moon they are guided into the lightning. From the lightning they are no longer guided by a material demigod; but are then guided by a being who is more than a material being and this being escorts them unto Brahma. This is the way which leads to the celestials.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
8.24 Agnih, fire-is a deity presiding over a period of time; similarly, jyotih, light-also is a deity presiding over a period of time. Or fire and light are the well-known Vedic deities. As the expression ‘mango grove’ is used with regard to a place where mango trees are more numerous, similarly, the expressions ‘at which time’ and ‘that time’ (in the earlier verse) are used in view of the predominance (of the deities presiding over time). [If the first two (fire and light) are taken as Vedic deities, then the remaining three are the only deities of time. Still, the latter being numerically greater, all the five deities are referred to as deities of time. The deities of both the Paths-of gods and manes, or of the Northern and the Southern Paths as they are called-who are gods of time, are referred to here as ‘time’ by such words as day, fortnight, six months, etc.] So also, ahah, daytime, means the deity of daytime. Suklah, the bright fortnight, implies the deity presiding over the bright fortnight. Sanmasah uttarayanam, the six months of the Northern solstice-here, too, is understood the deity presiding over the Path. This is the principle (of interpretation followed elsewhere (in the Upanisads also). Tatra, following this Path; janah, persons; who are brahma-vidah, knowers of Brahman, those engaged in meditation on (the qualified) Brahman; gacchanti, attain; brahma, Brahman; prayatah, when they die. It is understood that they attain Brahman through stages. Indeed, according to the Upanisadic text, ‘His vital forces do not depart’ (Br. 4.4.46), there is neither going nor coming back for those established in full realization, who are fit for immediate Liberation. Having their organs merged in Brahman, they are suffused with Brahman, they are verily identified with Brahman.
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
8.24-25 Agnih etc. Dhumah etc. Northern : upper (or upward). Course : the one taken [by the sun] during the period of six months. This course, on account of its illuminating nature, is figuratively described by the words denoting fire etc., and the course, contrary to this, by opposite terms. This course is intercepted with the lunar parts of enjoyment. Hence [it leads to] the return for enjoyment.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
agnir jyotir ahah suklah
tatra prayata gacchanti
brahma brahma-vido janah
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
agniḥ — ﬁre; jyotiḥ — light; ahaḥ — day; śuklaḥ — the white fortnight; ṣaṭ-māsāḥ — the six months; uttara-ayanam — when the sun passes on the northern side; tatra — there; prayātāḥ — those who pass away; gacchanti — go; brahma — to the Absolute; brahma-vidaḥ — who know the Absolute; janāḥ — persons.