Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 8, Verse 23-26

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

yatrawhere; kāletime; tucertainly; anāvṛittimno return; āvṛittimreturn; chaand; evacertainly; yoginaḥa yogi; prayātāḥhaving departed; yāntiattain; tamthat; kālamtime; vakṣhyāmiI shall describe; bharata-ṛiṣhabhaArjun, the best of the Bharatas; agniḥfire; jyotiḥlight; ahaḥday; śhuklaḥthe bright fortnight of the moon; ṣhaṭ-māsāḥsix months; uttara-ayanamthe sun’s northern course; tatrathere; prayātāḥdeparted; gachchhantigo; brahmaBrahman; brahma-vidaḥthose who know the Brahman; janāḥpersons; dhūmaḥsmoke; rātriḥnight; tathāand; kṛiṣhṇaḥthe dark fortnight of the moon; ṣhaṭ-māsāḥsix months; dakṣhiṇa-ayanamthe sun’s southern course; tatrathere; chāndra-masamlunar; jyotiḥlight; yogīa yogi; prāpyaattain; nivartatecomes back; śhuklabright; kṛiṣhṇedark; gatīpaths; hicertainly; etethese; jagataḥof the material world; śhāśhvateeternal; mateopinion; ekayāby one; yātigoes; anāvṛittimto non return; anyayāby the other; āvartatecomes back; punaḥagain

Translation

BG 8.23–8.26: 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.

Commentary

Shree Krishna’s statement in these verses still pertains to the question Arjun asked in verse 8.2, “How can we be united with you at the time of death?” Shree Krishna says that there are two paths—the path of light and the path of darkness. Here, in these somewhat cryptic statements, we may discern a wonderful allegory for expressing spiritual concepts around the themes of light and darkness.

The six months of the northern solstice, the bright fortnight of the moon, the bright part of the day, are all characterized by light. Light is symbolic for knowledge, while darkness is symbolic for ignorance. The six months of the southern solstice, the dark fortnight of the moon, the night, all these have the commonality of darkness. Those, whose consciousness is established in God and detached from sensual pursuits, depart by the path of light (discrimination and knowledge). Being situated in God-consciousness, they attain the Supreme abode of God, and are released from the wheel of samsara. But those, whose consciousness is attached to the world, depart by the path of darkness (ignorance). Being entangled in the bodily concept of life and the illusion of separation from God, they continue rotating in the cycle of life and death. If they had performed Vedic ritualistic activities, they are temporarily promoted to the celestial abodes, and then have to return to the earth planet. In this way, all human beings have to take one of the two paths after death. It now depends upon them, according to their karmas, whether they pass along the bright path or the dark path.