SRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA – PART 6 – Chapter 2, Verses 21 to 30 – SANKHYA YOGA

Bhagavan continues with his explanation on the immortality and immutability of the Soul.  He explains that the Soul is sub-atomic, subtler than the subtlest, that which cannot be cut or burnt nor destroyed.  It is incomprehensible, unimaginable, immeasurable, eternal and a wonder.  For a knower of this, there is no cause for lamentation and hence Bhagavan says ‘na tvam socitam arhasi’ meaning there Arjuna should not despair over the physical body and do his duty as a Kshatriya, as the physical body will decay and cease to exist one way or another.  Bhagavan Krishna says, even if he thought the soul will perish with the body, the universal law is that anything born will die and will be reborn again.  So even if it perished, it will come back again and hence, even with this (mis)understanding there was no cause for lamentation.

The Lord now concludes His instruction on the immutability of the Soul.

2.21     Shloka 2.21

वेदाविनाशिनं नित्यं य एनमजमव्ययम्।
कथं स पुरुषः पार्थ कं घातयति हन्ति कम्।।2.21।।
Vedavinasinam nityam ya enam ajam avyayam   |
Katham sa purusah partha kam ghatayati hanti kam ||2.21||
Meaning: O’ Partha, how can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, unborn, eternal and immutable, kill anyone or cause anyone to kill?

A person who is situated in complete knowledge develops a wisdom to know when and where to apply apply that knowledge. For e.g. a punishment to hang a terrorist is in the larger interest of the society. Similarly, when Bhagavan Shri Krishna orders Arjuna to fight, it must be concluded that the violence is justified as it is to restore Dharma.

One who understands that the eternal soul is incapable of being destroyed, knows that it cannot be slain. The word ‘avinasinam’ means indestructible, ‘nityam’ means eternal and therefore by its own inherent nature the soul is imperishable and immortal. Therefore, it is ignorance of the eternal nature of the soul is the cause of all grief.

2.22     Shloka 2.22

वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय नवानि गृह्णाति नरोऽपराणि।
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णा न्यन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही।।2.22।।
Vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya navani grhnati naro ‘parani       |
Tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany anyani samyati navani dehi ||2.22||
Meaning: As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.

Transference of the atomic individual soul to another body is made possible by the grace of the Supersoul. The scriptures, like the Mundaka Upanishad and the Svetasvatara Upanishad, compare the soul and the Supersoul to two friendly birds perched on the same tree. One of the birds (the individual soul – JivAtma) is eating the fruit of the tree, and the other bird (Supersoul – ParamAtma) is simply observing His friend. Of these two birds—although they are the same in quality—one is captivated by the fruits of the material tree, while the other is simply witnessing the activities of His friend.

The JivAtma is struggling very hard on the tree (metaphor for the material body). But as soon as the Jiva surrenders to the other bird as the Supreme spiritual master—as Arjuna agreed to voluntary surrender unto Bhagavan Shri Krishna for instruction—the subordinate bird immediately becomes free from all lamentations.

Both the Katha Upanisad and Svetasvatara Upanisad confirm this:
Samane vrkse puruso nimagno ‘nisaya socati muhyamanah
Justam yada pasyaty anyam isam asya mahimanam iti vita-sokah
Meaning: Although the two birds are in the same tree, the eating bird is fully engrossed with anxiety and moroseness as the enjoyer of the fruits of the tree. But through some way or the other if it turns its attention to his friend (the ParamAtma), even for a fraction of time, and knows His glories—at once the suffering bird becomes free from all anxieties.

Arjuna has now turned his attention towards his eternal friend, Bhagavan Shri Krishna, and is gaining knowledge from Him. One who lays down his life in the line of one’s duty, is at once cleansed of bodily reactions and promoted to a higher planes of life. So, there was no cause for Arjuna to lament.

While it can be understood that the soul is indestructible and not to be lamented for; the physical body is destructible and any attachment to it leads to despair. With the termination in battle of the physical body of a very dear one such as preceptor or the loved ones, the separation will undoubtedly cause deep lamentation. To clarify this Bhagavan Shri Krishna explains that just as there is no grief when one discards old worn out garments and there is joy in accepting new garments, in the same way the embodied soul discarding old worn out bodies joyfully accepts new ones.

2.23     Shloka 2.23

नैनं छिन्दन्ति शस्त्राणि नैनं दहति पावकः।
न चैनं क्लेदयन्त्यापो न शोषयति मारुतः।।2.23।।
Nainam chindanti sastrani nainam dahati pavakah      |
Na cainam kledayanty apo na sosayati marutah      ||2.23||
Meaning: The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.

All kinds of weapons, swords, flames, rains, tornadoes, etc., cannot to destroy the Atma. Nor was it ever possible to cut the individual souls from the original Soul.

Although only one use of the word ‘na’ meaning ‘never’ would have been sufficient to establish the premise of utter futility in trying to destroy the soul, it is used four times to emphasise that there is not even the slightest iota of doubt about this indestructability of the Soul (Atma).

2.24     Shloka 2.24

अच्छेद्योऽ यमदाह्योऽ यमक्लेद्योऽ शोष्य एव च।
नित्यः सर्वगतः स्थाणुरचलोऽयं सनातनः।।2.24।।
Acchedyo ‘yam adahyo ‘yam akledyo ‘sosya eva ca     |
Nityah sarva-gatah sthanur acalo ‘yam sanatanah ||2.24||
Meaning: This individual soul is unbreakable, insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.

Weapons are powerless to inflict any injury by cutting or piercing, fire is powerless to burn, water is powerless to wet and air is powerless to dry the eternal soul. The soul having the propensity of pervading everything being capable by its nature of interpenetrating all substances. It is subtler than any substance and no substance can penetrate it. The effects of cutting, burning, soaking, drying and others which takes place by weapons, fire, water, air and the rest penetrate the object which is the focus of their direction; but due to its impregnable nature the soul is uninfluenced being beyond the scope of the material substratum. Hence the eternal soul is unchangeable, immovable and everlasting.

The word ‘Sarva-gatah’ meaning ‘all-pervading’ is significant because there is no doubt that living entities are God’s creation. They live on the land, in water, in the air, within the earth and even within fire. The belief that they are sterilized in fire is not acceptable, because it is clearly stated here that the soul cannot be burned by fire. Therefore, there is no doubt that there are living entities also in the Sun with suitable bodies that can live there. If the Sun is uninhabited, then the word ‘Sarva-gatah’ becomes meaningless.

Being all pervasive the soul is extremely subtle, tinier than atoms. Being the subtlest of the subtle it is ‘sthanuh’ or unchangeable as it is incapable of being modified in any way. As it is ‘acalah’ or permanent it is devoid of any change and is constant. As it is constant, it is ‘sananatah’ or ancient and eternally existing.

The Supreme Lord Krishna is stating that just as He is indestructible, so is the eternal soul within the living entities born from the womb of a female that was born from the womb of a female.

This existence never ceasing to exist is known as immovable and because He is identified by the primal sound Om He is eternally resonating and perennial. The Vishnu Purana states that the immortal soul is eternally existing under the control of the Bhagavan. Therefore, Bhagavan Shri Krishna is saying to Arjuna that he need not lament because He always redeems them.

2.25     Shloka 2.25

अव्यक्तोऽ यमचिन्त्योऽ यमविकार्योऽ यमुच्यते।
तस्मादेवं विदित्वैनं नानुशोचितुमर्हसि।।2.25।।
Avyakto ‘yam acintyo ‘yam avikaryo ‘yam ucyate    |
Tasmad evam viditvainam nanusocitum arhasi   ||2.25||
Meaning:  It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.

The word ‘avyaktah’ means invisible or imperceptible this is because the eternal soul being totally transcendental to the material existence cannot be practically examined as can objects which possess qualities of a physical nature.

The word ‘acintyah’ means inconceivable because the eternal soul is impossible to perceive by the mind and the senses being in every way transcendental to the material substratum which is what the consciousness of the living entities base their understanding on. The eternal soul differs from all other existences and levels of existence is in transcendence. Therefore it is ‘avikaryah’ or unchangeable and immutable. The Supreme Lord Krishna instructs that by knowing the eternal soul to be immortal there is no cause for grief (nanu’socitum arhasi).

It might be questioned that if the Supreme Lord is all pervading, then why is He not visible? The reason for this is that because He is inconceivable and invisible with the five senses that we have been endowed with. Whatever form He exhibits, He alone manifests in them fully. The words like ‘enam’ and ‘ayam’ indicate the eternal soul in living entities has the same qualitative attributes as the Supreme Lord but is infinitesimal quantitatively.

The Supreme Being is known to be both possessing a body and devoid of body. This is because He possesses a spiritual transcendental body and not a physical body. Because His body is not constituted of the elements of material nature, it is said to be a-dehah. The head, the feet, the arms and other parts of this spiritual, transcendental body are made up of the Supreme Lord Himself. There exists nothing which is distinctive from this spiritual, transcendental nature which can be called His body, therefore He is called a-dehah without body. He Himself is His form and this spiritual, transcendental form is eternally existing beyond the scope of material existence.

2.26     Shloka 2.26

अथ चैनं नित्यजातं नित्यं वा मन्यसे मृतम्।
तथापि त्वं महाबाहो नैवं शोचितुमर्हसि।।2.26।।
Atha cainam nitya-jatam nityam va manyase mrtam       |
Tathapi tvam maha-baho nainam socitum arhasi        ||2.26||
Meaning: If, however, you think that the soul is perpetually born and always dies, still you have no reason to lament, O mighty-armed.

There is always a class of philosophers who do not believe in the separate existence of the soul beyond the body. So, even if Arjuna did not believe in the existence of the soul there would still have been no cause for lamentation as it will be born again.

2.27     Shloka 2.27

जातस्य हि ध्रुवो मृत्युर्ध्रुवं जन्म मृतस्य च।
तस्मादपरिहार्येऽर्थे न त्वं शोचितुमर्हसि।।2.27।।
Jatasya hi dhruvo mrtyur dhruvam janma mrtasya ca     |
Tasmad apariharye ‘rthe na tvam socitum arhasi        ||2.27||
Meaning: For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.

For one who is born death is certain. This is because of the reality of a fixed time limit of the existence of the physical body. The fact that this reality is inevitable.  Rebirth is due to the nature of activities performed in one’s previous existence which causes one to be continuously connected to the cycle of birth and death. Therefore, it does not befit someone like Arjuna to grieve over the unavoidable cycle of birth, death and rebirth which is dependent on prior actions. 

One has to take birth according to one’s activities of life. And, after finishing one term of activities, one has to die to take birth for the next. In this way the cycle of birth and death is revolving, one after the other without liberation. This cycle of birth and death does not, however, support unnecessary murder, slaughter and war. But at the same time, violence and war are inevitable factors in human society for keeping law and order.

The Battle of Kuruksetra, being the will of the Supreme, was an inevitable event, and to fight for the right cause is the duty of a kshatriya. Why should Arjuna be afraid of or aggrieved at the death of his relatives since he was discharging his proper duty? By avoiding the discharge of his proper duty, he would not be able to stop the death of his relatives, and he would be degraded due to his selection of the wrong path of action.

Therefore understanding the reality of the existence of birth and death there should be no delusion.

2.28     Shloka 2.28

अव्यक्तादीनि भूतानि व्यक्तमध्यानि भारत।
अव्यक्तनिधनान्येव तत्र का परिदेवना।।2.28।।
Avyaktadini bhutani vyakta-madhyani bharata        |
Avyakta-nidhanany eva tatra ka paridevana       ||2.28||
Meaning: All created beings are unmanifest in their beginning, manifest in their interim state, and unmanifest again when they are annihilated. So what need is there for lamentation?

In this verse the Bhagavan Shri Krishna explains the fact that here on Earth whatever happened before birth is unknown by the use of the word ‘avyaktadini’. Living entities like human beings though eternally existing due to the auspices of each one’s eternal soul have an unknown origin before birth, a manifest condition from birth to death and proceed again to an unknown existence at the termination of the physical body. Such alternations constitute material existence and are a natural law. This then gives no cause to grieve. Having just shown that even if one erroneously was under the misapprehension that the physical body itself and the eternal soul are the same; there is still no reason to grieve.

If we were to accept our origin as being non-existent, because it is subatomic it is imperceptible, it is still existing then we can accept that all things appear from the five material elements for e.g. a giant tree emerging from a tiny seedling. Therefore in the matter of the existence of living entities, the unmanifest that is imperceptibly subtle, transforms itself into the manifest by modification which is known as birth and after some time again transforms itself into the unmanifest which is known as death. So when the correct understanding of birth and death is realised then what possibly is the necessity for lamentation? This is not befitting for one who is situated in spiritual intelligence.

It should not under any circumstances be erroneously assumed or mistakenly believed that from a non-existent condition the existent was produced and that because of the cause being non-existent then the effect is non- existent and thus the world is also non-existent. How can it be reconciled that the something can be produced from nothing?  That is a preposterous hypothesis that existence can manifest from the non-existent.

2.29     Shloka 2.29

आश्चर्यवत्पश्यति कश्िचदेन माश्चर्यवद्वदति तथैव चान्यः।
आश्चर्यवच्चैनमन्यः श्रृणोति श्रुत्वाप्येनं वेद न चैव कश्िचत्।।2.29।।
Ascarya-vat pasyati kascid enam ascarya-vad vadati tathaiva canyah       |
Aascarya-vac cainam anyah srnoti srutvapy enam veda na caiva kascit ||2.29||
Meaning: Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.

The soul is always referred to as being eternal. This is because it is immutable by nature. The soul is extremely difficult to realise due to its supra-subtlety but it does not become perceptible simply because it is different from the physical body. So the soul is referred to in this verse as being amazing. It is those beings out of millions of beings who by devotion to Lord Krishna have received the mercy to be free from physical attachment and purify their hearts in order to perceive their soul, they see the soul as amazing. In what way is the soul amazing? The soul is more amazing than anything experienced previously because it is transcendent to everything experienced in the material existence.

It is not only amazing to the one who perceives the soul as amazing but also to the preceptor who describes the soul as amazing and to the disciple who learns from the preceptor that the soul is amazing as well. There is nothing in material existence that the soul can be compared with. So some others although hearing about the soul are still unable to comprehend it. The understanding is that the perceiver of the soul, the preceptor who describes the soul and the disciple who learns about the soul are all exceedingly difficult to gain association with in life.

In the Katha Upanishad, it states:
sravanayapi bahubhir yo na labhyah srnvanto ‘pi bahavo yah na vidyuh |
ascaryo vakta kusalo ‘sya labdha ascaryo jnata kusalanusistah ||
Meaning:  The fact that the soul that is sub-atomic is within the body of a gigantic animal, in the body of a gigantic banyan tree, and also in the microbe sized germs, millions and billions of which occupy only an inch of space, is certainly very amazing. Men with poor knowledge and men who are not austere cannot understand the wonders of the individual atomic spark of spirit, even though it is explained by the greatest authority of knowledge.

Owing to a gross material conception of things, most cannot imagine how such a small particle can become both so great and so small. So men look at the soul proper as wonderful either by constitution or by description.

In the Vishnu Sahasranamam, Bhagavan is described in extreme contrasts in Shloka 90:
Anur Brihat Krishas Sthulo Gunabhrin Nirguno Mahaan |
Meaning:  He is Atomic, Gigantic, Thin, lightweight, Oversized and heavy, having all contrasting attributes making Him Incomprehensible to the human faculties.

Quite similarly, the Atma is all of the above (though a tiny part of the Supersoul) and cannot be comprehended with the five senses that humans possess.

In the Brahma Tarka it is stated thus:
Amazing indeed is the Supreme Lord and it is not possible to find any other comparable form to Him. Therefore wisdom about Him is very similar to perceiving Him. 

2.30     Shloka 2.30

देही नित्यमवध्योऽयं देहे सर्वस्य भारत।
तस्मात्सर्वाणि भूतानि न त्वं शोचितुमर्हसि।।2.30।।
Dehi nityam avadhyo ‘yam dehe sarvasya bharata     |
Tasmat sarvani bhutani na tvam socitum arhasi    ||2.30||
Meaning: O’ descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body is eternal and can never be slain. Therefore, you need not grieve for any creature.

The Lord now concludes His instruction on the immutability of the Soul. In describing the immortal soul in various ways, Lord Bhagavan Shri Krishna establishes that the soul is immortal and the body is temporary. Therefore Arjuna as a khsatriya should not abandon his duty out of fear that his grandfather and teacher—Bhishma and Drona—will die in the battle.

In the Padma Purana it states:
Establishing Himself within the heart of every living entity the Supreme Lord protects each and every living entity eternally. Permanent objects like the immortal soul are protected eternally and impermanent objects such as the physical body are protected temporarily. In His manifested form or in His unmanifest presence, appearing or not appearing, throughout the material existence the Bhagavan Shri Krishna maintains and sustains all living entities for their highest good.

The eternal soul embodied within the physical body regardless whether it is a human earthly body or the physical bodies possessed by the demigods in the heavenly spheres; the immortal soul is eternally invulnerable even though the body perishes. Hence, understanding this principle as fundamental and the existence of Soul in all diverse forms of bodies ranging from humans to the animal species and the fish species and even the immovable plants and trees is important.

The soul is all pervasive and is abiding therein whatever the bodily form and is eternal, whereas the physical body is transient. The soul is immortal and hence Arjuna need not lament as it is always entering into various external forms until liberation is finally achieved.

जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!

Hari Om Tat Sat

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