yaḿ yaḿ vāpi smaran bhāvaḿ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taḿ tam evaiti kaunteya
sadā tad-bhāva-bhāvitaḥ

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 8.6

Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail.

Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

The process of changing one’s nature at the critical moment of death is here explained. A person who at the end of his life quits his body thinking of Krishna attains the transcendental nature of the Supreme Lord, but it is not true that a person who thinks of something other than Krishna attains the same transcendental state. This is a point we should note very carefully. How can one die in the proper state of mind? Maharaja Bharata, although a great personality, thought of a deer at the end of his life, and so in his next life he was transferred into the body of a deer. Although as a deer he remembered his past activities, he had to accept that animal body. Of course, one’s thoughts during the course of one’s life accumulate to influence one’s thoughts at the moment of death, so this life creates one’s next life. If in one’s present life one lives in the mode of goodness and always thinks of Krishna, it is possible for one to remember Krishna at the end of one’s life. That will help one be transferred to the transcendental nature of Krishna. If one is transcendentally absorbed in Krishna’s service, then his next body will be transcendental (spiritual), not material. Therefore the chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is the best process for successfully changing one’s state of being at the end of one’s life.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

This verse explains that just as, by remembering me, one attains me (stated in the previous verse), so by remembering something else, one attains something else, being completely absorbed in, or being similar to the object (bhavitah) by constant thoughts (bhava) of that object.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

8.6 O Son of Kunti, smaran, thinking of; bhavam, any entity, any particular deity; yam yam va api, which ever it may be; tyajati, one gives up; the kalevaram, body; ante, at the end, at the time of the departure of life; eti, he attains; tam tam eva, that very one, that very entity which is remembered-none else; having been sada, always; tadbhava-bhavitah, engrossed in its thought. Engrossment in it is tad-bhavah; one by whom that is remembered as a matter of habitual recollection is tadbhava-bhavitah. Since the last thought is thus the cause of acquiring the next body-

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

It is not that this rule is only applicable regarding remembering the Supreme Lord Krishna and attaining His nature. What then is it applicable too, one may wonder? This rule applies to whatever object or being one might envision as the last thought before leaving the physical body at the moment of death. Without fail one will become the very thing which one was envisioning when they died. The cause of smaran or remembering something specific at the time of death is due to constantly thinking about or meditating upon something with the mind fully absorbed in it.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

Lord Krishna states smaran bhavam tyajaty ante kalevaram meaning leaves the body at the final moment remembering. To insure that there is no confusion or contradiction in the minds of the ignorant, the adjective ante meaning at the final moment is spoken. It is not that the Supreme Lord should be meditated on only at the moment of death. To the contrary He should be remembered, recollected and contemplated upon at every moment. The spiritually developed have no such confusion as their remembrance of the Supreme Lord is the focal point of their lives and constant. To think that such remembrance is to be utilized only as a one time proposition at the moment of death is an unwise consideration.

The Skanda Purana states that: There is no doubt that at the time of death it is not easy to remember the Supreme Lord due to the difficulties of dying. At the time of departure from the body one must be attuned to the inner nature. The word bhava means internal consciousness. The internal consciousness is that which abides internally thus it is said it is the nature which abides within. Only if one contemplates something continuously does it become fixed as internal consciousness and manifest as a part of one’s nature. Otherwise what one will think at the moment of death will be mere ego related ideas derived from one’s own mundane empirical experiences.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

Not only by thinking of Lord Krishna alone does one attain His eternal nature; but whatever one thinks at the moment of death one becomes without fail. This is being stated with the words yam yam meaning whatever. Whatever one is thinking at the last moment of death will transport one to become the very object or conception one contemplated while dying. The reason Lord Krishna also gives with the words sada tad-bhava- bhavitah meaning due to being completely absorbed in such contemplation the powerful prominence of the final thought and image infuses itself upon the consciousness determining their next birth.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

8.6 O Son of Kunti, smaran, thinking of; bhavam, any entity, any particular deity; yam yam va api, which ever it may be; tyajati, one gives up; the kalevaram, body; ante, at the end, at the time of the departure of life; eti, he attains; tam tam eva, that very one, that very entity which is remembered-none else; having been sada, always; tadbhava-bhavitah, engrossed in its thought. Engrossment in it is tad-bhavah; one by whom that is remembered as a matter of habitual recollection is tadbhava-bhavitah. Since the last thought is thus the cause of acquiring the next body-

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

8.5-7 Antakale etc., upto asamsayam. At the time of departure also : i.e., not only as longs as [one is] in the healthy and unmolested condition. Me alone : Me, with all attributes undistinguished. But at the time of unhealthy state (at the time of death) of a person, how cloud the Bhagavat enter the path of his memory, when all the activities of the senses of that person have totally ended ? Hence [to achieve this result the Lord] teaches also the means or device by ‘Therefore’ etc.: The Bhagavat surely, on His own accord, becomes [even at the time of death] the object of memory of that person from whose heart (mind) the Bhagavat has never gone away in any cirucumstance connected with the mundane life also; who has [thus] renounced all his actions to the Bhagavat alone; and who is full of (fully absorbed in) the Bhagavat. For this end, the means is to remain constantly absorbed in the thought of the Bhagavat. That is why He Says : ‘With whatever object the internal organ of a person is filled up always, that object alone is remembered by him at the time of death, and the state of that being alone is attained [by him]. Hence, let a person, by all means, have Me alone as his goal and be desirous of attaining Me’. This is the idea here. The idea [intended here] is certainly not ‘What is remembered, without fail, at the last moment that being alone is attained by him’. Because in that case the attainment of the man of wisdom would also be just like that of an ignorant man. For, the former too [at the time of death] gets [complete] dulness of mind that is benumbed by the disorder (or defect) of he elements existing in his entire body. Certainly it is not proper to accept this here. For, it would go agains the authority of the scriptures. For, the fact is- ‘He who has attained liberation simultaneously with realisation [of the Self], and whose sorrows [therefore] have been destroyed – he attains completely unity [with the Absolute] even though [at the time of death] he has lost his memory and abandons his body in a sacred place or in the house of a dog-cooker (i.e., man of a low tribe)’. (PS, 83). Therefore the matter-of-fact statement (or explanation) and injunction [that are meant here] are the following : If a person’s internal organ is absorbed incessantly in the thought of a particular being, the same being is attained by him at end after departure. It is immaterial whether [at the time of departure] that being is remembered or not. This secondary importance [of the remembrance] is indicated by the word api ‘also’. The word va ‘or’ makes it clear that the rememberance does not exist in each and every case. The Sage (Vyasa) himself clarifies his idea ‘Let a man always remain by all means keeping Me (the Absolute Lord) as his supreme goal’. Since the Sage says : ‘Therefore at all times keep Me (the Absolute) in your mind’. Therefore, the following is the combination of words [of the verse intended here] : If a person, remembering always, or at the last moment – the use of or denotes ‘or not remembering [at the last moment]’ – a particular being, leaves his body, he attains that particular being alone. For, he is always absorbed in the thought of that being. But others [interpret the verses as follows] : When one leaves his body as the end, just at the moment of leaving the body i.e., at that moment which is not cognizable to the perceivers like relatives, sons etc. [standing nearby]; at that moment that comes last after the limb-movements, like [heavy] breathing, exertion, hiccup, convulsive utterance etc., [have endred]; at that fraction of time when the bondage of pleasure, pain and bewilderment is weakened as a result of the weakening of the control of the bodily strength; at that time that goes by the term dehatyajana ‘the moment of casting the body off’; at that moment whatsoever being a person remembers, his nature becomes entriely identical with that being, favoured (taken as an object) by the First Consiousness. the cause for remembering [the Lord] at that moment is to remanin ever absorbed in the thought of Him. The word tyajati [of verse 6] is to be construed as the seventh case [meaning ‘at the time of abandoning’]. Hence, the purport [of the passage] is only what has been said above. What is the use of such a remembrance of Him at the last moment ? But, who told that [there] is a use [for it] ? But, the remembrance is certainly brought about as a natural course at the last moment. But this [proposition] would lead to an undersirable consequence. For, it has been observed that a person [usually] remberances at the last moment either the maintenance of his children, wife and relatives, or drinking of cold water and so on. So, he would become identical with those things. It is not so. The moment, you speak of, is not the last moment. For, at that moment the existence of body is being clearly felt. Really that last moment, which we would like to speak of, can’t be perceived by persons like you. In what form alone the remembrance should be there at the last moment is decided by [its cause], a potential mental impression certainly arising at that time – even though it is far off – according to the general principle : ‘The remembrance and the potential mental impression [that causes it] being identical in form, there should be a sequential immediacy [between them], even though they are removed [from one another] by many births, by long distance and by long passage of time’. (YS, IV, 9). Thus, depending on the potential mental impression, there arises remembrance of a particular being, and becuase of its remembrance one attains the identity of that being. However in the case of certain body the same [process] is accidentally indicated even at the stage of healthy body-condition. See for example, the remembrance of a deer etc., [both in the healthy conditions and in the dying moment] and the consequential attainment of the deerhood, as described in the Puranic literature. That is why api ca ‘and also’ is employed in [the statement] like ‘and also at the time of journey.’ Therefore, those who constantly think of the Bhagavat with intention ‘Let us become this Being’; they attain [in the following order] the identity with Absolute Lord, of the exclusive nature of Consciousness : [First] there arises the thought (smarana) of the Lord at the moment when the bodily existence is felt; then at that unperceivable last moment the potential mental impression, born of the said thought, gives rise to the remembrance of the Lord by striking down all the other potential mental impressions, according to the principle : ‘The potential mental impression, born therefrom , make all other potential mental impressions powerless (YS., I, 50). Then only at the moment of the fall of the body, because at that time the mental impression created by [the sense of] time has come to an end and because the differences of the objects like ‘this’, ‘that’ etc., are not felt-at that moment he attains identity with the Lord. This much of discussion is enough. Without doubt (verse 7) : one should not entertain any doubt in this regard.

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

yam yam vapi smaran bhavam
tyajaty ante kalevaram
tam tam evaiti kaunteya
sada tad-bhava-bhavitah

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

yam yam — whatever; vā api — at all; smaran — remembering; bhāvam — nature; tyajati — gives up; ante — at the end; kalevaram — this body; tam tam — similar; eva — certainly; eti — gets; kaunteya — O son of Kuntī; sadā — always; tat — that; bhāva — state of being; bhāvitaḥ — remembering.