SRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA – PART 4 – Chapter 2 (Verses 1-10) – Sankhya Yoga

Introduction to Chapter 2

At the end of Chapter 1, we saw Arjuna was disillusioned and miserable.  Bhagavan did not even utter a word in the entire Chapter 1 while Arjuna was lamenting, thereby underlining the importance of listening without interrupting or getting judgmental. Something for the TV News anchors to take note!

The first Chapter was the preparatory for the actual teachings of Gita to begin.  The Second Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is called “Sankhya Yoga”. Sankhya means number and Yoga means Union, hence Sankhya Yoga means the Union of Numbers. The numbers are with regard to the number of realities (tattvas) that are present in existence.  Samkhya Yoga deals with the union or the combination of a number of hidden realities, which manifest the existential reality.

It is important to note the difference between the Sankhya Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita and the Sankhya philosophy of Sage Kapila.  Sage Kapila attempted to classify the world into different categories such as matter, the sense organs, the mind, the intellect etc. It states that the Universe is a combination of: Prakriti (Matter) and Purusha (Spirit). There is no reference to a God in the Sankhya school of philosophy.  Thus, the Sankhya school of Kapila is quite similar to the modern theories of evolution, which consider the world and life as products of chance. Their theory is based on the premise that live manifested when right conditions presented themselves.

Sankhya in the Bhagavad Gita has blended the key elements of the classical Sankhya Yoga while retaining the existence of a Supreme Being.

The 2nd Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita covers the following aspects:

  • The first ten verses describe the disturbed state of Arjuna’s mind and his emotional state. Finally, Arjuna surrenders to the Lord and seeks his guidance (Arjuna Saranagati – Verse 2.7)
  • Verses 11 to 38 cover Jnana Yoga, also called Sankhya Yoga
  • Verses 39 to 53 covers Karma Yoga
  • Verses 54 to 72 explains the quality of Stithapragna (one who is equipoise, steady and single pointed)

Shri Krishna makes Arjuna to recognise the reasons for his unsteady mind, and explains how he can cultivate equanimity using his intellect.

From a philosophical perspective, the Sankhya Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita lists Ishvara Tattva (God), Atma tattvas (Soul), Body, Senses, Mind, Ego, and intellect. Of them, the first two are pure (Shuddha) and eternal realities (Nitya tattvas), and the rest are impure (Ashuddha) and finite (Anitya). The chapter also briefly mentions the Gunas or modes of Nature which governs the behaviour, attitudes and actions of beings.

Let us now examine the teaching in the Second Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.

2.1       Shloka 2.1

सञ्जय उवाच
तं तथा कृपयाऽविष्टमश्रुपूर्णाकुलेक्षणम्।
विषीदन्तमिदं वाक्यमुवाच मधुसूदनः।।2.1।।

Sanjaya Uvaca
Tam tatha krpayavistam asru-purnakuleksanam      |
Visidantam idam vakyam uvaca Madhusudanah ||2.1||
Meaning:  Sanjaya said: Seeing Arjuna full of compassion and grief-stricken, his eyes brimming with tears, Madhusudana, spoke:

 Arjuna is a mighty warrior and tears in the eyes of a mighty warrior was unsightly. The philosophical way of looking at this is, when one’s eyes are full of tears the vision is blurred and obstructed and thus it refers here to Arjuna’s inability to see the situation with a clear perspective. As a Kshatriya he was duty bound to fight and desisting from the battle was due to his ignorance.

The use of Madhusudhana in this verse to address the Lord is significant.  This shows that Arjuna is seeking help from the Lord to destroy the demon of his ignorance and misunderstanding, just like the Lord destroyed Demon Madhu.

Having heard Arjuna’s justifications for desisting from the battle, due to the fear of receiving sin for the slaying of relatives, Dhritarashtra was relieved of the fear for his sons and he desired to know what happened next.

2.2       Shloka 2.2

श्री भगवानुवाच
कुतस्त्वा कश्मलमिदं विषमे समुपस्थितम्।
अनार्यजुष्टमस्वर्ग्यमकीर्तिकरमर्जुन  ।।2.2।।

Shri Bhagavan Uvaca
Kutas tva kasmalam idam visame samupasthitam |
Anarya-justam asvargyam akirti-karam Arjuna  ||2.2||
Meaning: Bhagavan said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They do not lead to higher planes, but to infamy.

The meaning of the term ‘Bhagavan’ is explained by Parasara Muni, the father of Veda Vyasa, as the Supreme Personality who possesses all the six Kalyana Gunas namely, Jnana (Knowledge), Balam (Strength), Aishwaryam (Sovereignty or Opulence), Shakti (Infinite Power), Veeryam (Courage), and Tejas (Splendour). Besides these six auspicious qualities, Bhagavan also possesses infinite compassion (Sausheelya) and is easy to access (Saulabhya).

The Vishnu Purana in 6.5.74 states:
ऐश्वर्यस्य समग्रस्य धर्मस्य यशसरिश्रयः।
ज्ञानवैराग्ययोश्चैव षण्णां भग इतीरणा ।। VP 6.5.74
Meaning: Complete Splendour, Virtue, Glory, Opulence, Knowledge and Dispassion – these six are known as ‘Bhaga’. One who possess these Bhaga is known as Bhagavan.

He is the primeval Lord, or Bhagavan, known as Govinda, and He is the supreme cause of all causes. Srimad-Bhagavatam explains the Absolute Truth as:
Vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam yaj jnanam advayam  |
Brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate         ||1.2.11||
Meaning: Learned souls who know the Absolute Truth call this non-dual substance as Brahman, Paramatma, or Bhagavan.

In the presence of the Supreme Being, Arjuna’s lamentation for his kinsmen is ungainly, and therefore Shri Krishna expressed His surprise with the word ‘Kutas’ meaning ‘wherefrom’? Shri Krishna desiring enquires Arjuna the source for delusion in the hour of action. Although Arjuna was a Kshatriya, he was deviating from his prescribed duties by declining to fight.

2.3       Shloka 2.3

क्लैब्यं मा स्म गमः पार्थ नैतत्त्वय्युपपद्यते।
क्षुद्रं हृदयदौर्बल्यं त्यक्त्वोत्तिष्ठ परन्तप ।।2.3।।

Klaibyam ma sma gamah partha naitat tvayy upapadyate   |
Ksudram hrdaya-daurbalyam tyaktvottistha parantapa  ||2.3||
Meaning: O son of Prtha, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy.

By addressing Arjuna as Partha (son of Prtha), Shri Krishna reminds Arjuna by referring to his mother Kunti who by worshipping Indra, was endowed with Arjuna, a warrior with extraordinary might and valour just like Indra.

Shri Krishna instructs Arjuna not to yield to this impotence as it does not befit him and that he should discard this weakness of heart.  By using the vocative ‘Parantapa’ meaning chastiser of enemies Shri Krishna is reinforcing the thought in Arjuna’s mind that he was destined to conquer all enemies.  While Arjuna wanted to give up the fight due to his magnanimity for the respected elders like Bhishma and his relatives, Shri Krishna advises that such magnanimity is misplaced and not in accordance with Kshatriya Dharma.

2.4       Shloka 2.4

अर्जुन उवाच
कथं भीष्ममहं संख्ये द्रोणं च मधुसूदन  ।
इषुभिः प्रतियोत्स्यामि पूजार्हावरिसूदन ।।2.4।।

Arjuna Uvaca
Katham Bhismam aham sankhye Dronam ca Madhusudana    |
Isubhih pratiyotsyami pujarhav ari-sudana                                  ||2.4||
Meaning: Arjuna said: O’ killer of Madhu, how can I counterattack with arrows in battle men like Bhishma and Drona, who are worthy of my worship?

Respectable superiors like Bhishma, the grandfather and Dronacharya, the Guru are always worthy of worship. Even if they attack, Arjuna feels that they should not be counterattacked.

It is general etiquette that one should not engage even in a verbal duel with elders. Then, how is it possible to counterattack them, asks Arjuna?

Arjuna is asking why they should engage themselves in this battle being aware of the great sins accruing from disregarding superiors and showing aggression against the preceptor which results in the perpetrator becoming a ghostly demon known as a Brahma-Rakshasa, as declared in the Vedic scriptures.

2.5       Shloka 2.5

गुरूनहत्वा हि महानुभावान् श्रेयो भोक्तुं भैक्ष्यमपीह लोके ।
हत्वार्थकामांस्तु गुरूनिहैव भुञ्जीय भोगान् रुधिरप्रदिग्धान् ।।2.5।।

Gurun ahatva hi mahanubhavan sreyo bhoktum bhaiksyam apiha loke           |
Hatvartha-kamams tu gurun ihaiva bhunjiya bhogan rudhira-pradigdhan ||2.5||
Meaning: It is better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of great souls who are my teachers. Even though they are avaricious, they are nonetheless superiors. If they are killed, our spoils will be tainted with blood.

According to scriptural codes, a teacher who engages in an abominable action and has lost his sense of discrimination is fit to be abandoned. Bhishma and Drona were obliged to take the side of Duryodhana because of their bounden duty to Kind Dhritarashtra, although they should not have accepted such a position of power under a King who is unrighteous. Under the circumstances, they have lost their dignity. But Arjuna nevertheless thinks they remain his superiors who are to be respected, and therefore to enjoy material gains earned by killing them would mean to enjoy spoils tainted with blood.

Arjuna says that it is better to live in this world by begging alms as no sin will be incurred by this than to kill the respected elders. But Bhishma’s statement that, due to accepting wealth and position offered by Dhritarashtra, he was controlled by the Kauravas.

So when one who is controlled by wealth and not righteousness, slaying such a person does not incur any sin. But Arjuna states enjoying pleasures would be tainted with blood as they are derived from the sin of slaying the elders.

2.6       Shloka 2.6

न चैतद्विद्मः कतरन्नो गरीयो यद्वा जयेम यदि वा नो जयेयुः
यानेव हत्वा न जिजीविषाम स्तेऽवस्थिताः प्रमुखे धार्तराष्ट्राः ।।2.6।।

Na caitad vidmah kataran no gariyo yad va jayema yadi va no jayeyuh     |
Yan eva hatva na jijivisamas te ‘vasthitah pramukhe Dhartarastrah       ||2.6||
Meaning: We do not know what is better for us – whether we conquer them or they conquer us. Those sons of Dhritarashtra, whom if we killed, we would not desire to live, are now standing before us on this battlefield.

All these considerations by Arjuna definitely prove that he was not only a great devotee of the Lord but was very compassionate. His desire to live by begging, although he was born in the Royal lineage, is another sign of detachment, compassion and humility. He was truly virtuous, as these qualities, combined with his faith in Shri Krishna (his spiritual master) confirm this. We can see that Arjuna had all the necessary qualities for surrender and quite fit for liberation.

It can be questioned that as a Kshatriya how can Arjuna abandon his duty to fight as is prescribed in the Vedic scriptures. How  could he decide that begging was better? Finally, in his state of confusion he says that he does not know which one is better, whether to be victorious or be vanquished. In either situation he sees sorrow and did not see a clear path to deal with this paradox.

2.7       Shloka 2.7


कार्पण्यदोषोपहतस्वभावः पृच्छामि त्वां धर्मसंमूढचेताः।
यच्छ्रेयः स्यान्निश्िचतं ब्रूहि तन्मे शिष्यस्तेऽहं शाधि मां त्वां प्रपन्नम्।।2.7।।

Karpanya-dosopahata-svabhavah prcchami tvam dharma-sammudha-cetah                             |
Yac chreyah syan niscitam bruhi tan me Shisyas te ‘ham shaadhi mam tvam prapannam ||2.7||
Meaning: My natural attributes are besieged by weakness and am bewildered about what is my righteous duty and am unable to think clearly. I am asking You to tell me definitively what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, surrendered unto You, please instruct me.

This is a very important Shloka in this Chapter where  Arjuna unconditionally surrenders unto the Lord as a disciple and seeks his clear and definitive guidance.

In the previous verse Arjuna had determined that life would not be worth living even if he won the battle.  As he is unable to deal with this paradox he determines that the best course of action for him was to unconditionally surrender to Shri Krishna.  In his mind, this was the greatest panacea than any other means prescribed in Vedic scriptures.

Those who seek shelter of the Supreme Lord Krishna are never deluded. Lord Krishna is known as Janardhana meaning He who always removes the ignorance of His devotees. Arjuna has lost the power of discrimination and so realising this he surrenders to Shri Krishna who is an ocean of qualities.

According to Vedic scriptures one who dies in this world without becoming self-realized is a miser (Karpanya). One is called a miser, who is destitute of knowledge of the nature and qualities of their immortal soul. In worldly parlance one is known as a miser who is extremely stingy. Miserliness in this context is the affliction of weakness regarding ones spiritual identity and integrity. Discriminatory power weakened by delusion which bewilders the intelligence. Arjuna unconditionally surrenders to Shri Krishna with the words ‘tvam prapannam’ meaning ‘surrender unto You’ and asks the Lord for spiritual guidance as confirmed by the words ‘shaadhi mam’ meaning ‘instruct me’. Arjuna also expresses his readiness to receive these instructions from Shri Krishna by saying the words ‘Shishyah te aham’ meaning ‘I am your disciple’.

One should not, therefore, remain in material perplexities but should approach a spiritual master. This is the purport of this verse.  Who is the man in material perplexities? It is he who does not understand the problems of life. In the Garga Upanisad the perplexed man is described as follows:

‘yo va etad aksaram gargy aviditvasmal lokat praiti sa krpanah’

He is a miserly man who does not solve the problems of life as a human and who thus quits this world like the cats and dogs, without understanding the science of self-realization.

This human form of life is a most valuable asset for the living entity who can utilise it for solving the problems of life; therefore, one who does not utilise this opportunity properly is a miser.  The krpanas, or miserly persons, waste their time in being overly affectionate and are bonded by attachments in the material conception of life.

Although Arjuna could understand that his duty to fight was awaiting him, still, on account of miserly weakness, he could not discharge his duties. He is therefore asking Shri Krishna to give him a definite answer.

2.8       Shloka 2.8

न हि प्रपश्यामि ममापनुद्या द्यच्छोकमुच्छोषणमिन्द्रियाणाम्   ।
अवाप्य भूमावसपत्नमृद्धम् राज्यं सुराणामपि चाधिपत्यम्  ।।2.8।।

Na hi prapasyami mamapanudyad yac chokam ucchosanam indriyanam    |
Avapya bhumav asapatnam rddham rajyam suranam api cadhipatyam   ||2.8||
Meaning: I can find no means to drive away this grief which is drying up my senses. I will not be able to destroy it even if I win an unrivalled kingdom on the earth with sovereignty like that of the Devas.

Although Arjuna was putting forward so many arguments based on knowledge of the principles of religion and moral codes, it appears that he was unable to solve his real problem without the help of the spiritual master, Lord Shri Krishna.

He could understand that his knowledge was not helping him to drive away his problems and it was impossible for him to solve such perplexities without the help of a spiritual master like Shri Krishna.  

The problems of material existence—birth, old age, disease and death—cannot be counteracted by accumulation of wealth and economic development. In many parts of the world which are economically developed and wealthy are not without the problems of material existence.  If economic development and material comforts could drive away one’s lamentations for family, social, national or international inebrieties, then Arjuna would not have said that even an unrivalled kingdom on earth or supremacy like that of the Devas would not be able to drive away his lamentations.

He therefore sought refuge in Shri Krishna for right path for peace and harmony. Even elevation into a higher planes is impermanent. The Bhagavad-Gita states: ‘ksine punye martyalokam visanti’ (BG9.21) – When the results of pious activities are finished, one falls down again from the peak of happiness to the lowest status of life.

Therefore, if we want to curb lamentation for good, then we have to take shelter of the Lord, as Arjuna is seeking to do. So Arjuna asked Shri Krishna to solve his problem definitely.

Arjuna’s understanding is that even if he was to win the kingdom of unrivalled prosperity free from enemies, he still could not see any means of alleviating the grief that was drying up his senses. By the use of the word ‘hi’ meaning ‘certainly’, the conviction that he could not see any solution to his grief is reinforced, indicating that only the Lord is fit to instruct him and guide him on the right path.

2.9       Shloka 2.9

सञ्जय उवाच
एवमुक्त्वा हृषीकेशं गुडाकेशः परन्तप।
न योत्स्य इति गोविन्दमुक्त्वा तूष्णीं बभूव ह।।2.9।।

Sanjaya Uvaca
Evam uktva Hrsikesam Gudakesah parantapah            |
Na yotsya iti Govindam uktva tusnim babhuva ha ||2.9||
Meaning: Sanjaya said: Having spoken thus, Arjuna, the chastiser of enemies, told Shri Krishna, ‘Govinda, I shall not fight’, and fell silent.

Dhritarashtra’s expectancy to know what happenned next was answered by Sanjaya which would have been music to Dhritarashtra’s ears as Arjuna was not going to fight and was instead contemplating leave the battlefield and preferred to live by seeking alms.

By addressing Lord Shri Krishna as Govinda, Arjuna is seeking His protection as Govinda protects His herd and He who controls everyone’s senses.

2.10     Shloka 2.10

तमुवाच हृषीकेशः प्रहसन्निव भारत।
सेनयोरुभयोर्मध्ये विषीदन्तमिदं वचः।।2.10।।

Tam uvaca Hrsikesah prahasann iva Bharata                 |
Senayor ubhayor madhye visidantam idam vacah ||2.10||
Meaning: O’ descendant of Bharata, thereafter situated between both the armies, Shri Krishna, as if smiling,  spoke the following words to the grief-stricken Arjuna.

Arjuna and Krishna, being cousins were intimate friends and both of them were at the same level, but one of them voluntarily became a student of the other.  Shri Krishna was smiling because His friend had chosen to become His disciple.

As Lord of all, He is always in a superior position as the master of everyone, and yet He accepts one who wishes to be a friend, a son, a lover or a devotee, or who wants Him in such a role. But when He was accepted as the master, He at once assumed the role and talked with the disciple like the master—with gravity, as is required.

Lord Krishna with a subtle smile on his face then spoke to Arjuna. The word ‘prahasan’ meaning ‘smiling’ is used to subtly indicate sarcasm due to the nature of the situation where the two armies were face to face ready for the battle while Arjuna, a mighty warrior, was reluctant. This subtle smile is used to remove any lingering vestiges of pride that Arjuna might have had about his knowledge, intelligence and prowess.

The first ten verses covered Arjuna’s delusion and lamentation culminating with his surrender unto Lord Shri Krishna.  We will now see Lord Shri Krishna’s response to Arjuna’s request for giving him definitive instructions and guidance and he offers himself as a disciple to Shri Krishna.

जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!

Hari Om Tat Sat

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