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


SRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA – PART 5 – Chapter 2 (Verses 11-20) – Sankhya Yoga

Now the teaching begins as Bhagavan starts to explain to Arjuna about ‘Atma Jnana’ or Knowledge of the Self.  Bhagavan explains to Arjuna that the ‘Soul or Atma’ is eternal, it always existed and never dies.  The body is just an encasement that is subject to decay over time and hence a perishable for which he need not grieve, as it will perish sooner or later.

2.11     Shloka 2.11

श्री भगवानुवाच
अशोच्यानन्वशोचस्त्वं प्रज्ञावादांश्च भाषसे  
गतासूनगतासूंश्च नानुशोचन्ति पण्डिताः  ।।2.11।।

Sri Bhagavan Uvaca
Asocyan anvasocas tvam prajna-vadams ca bhasase |
Gatasun agatasums ca nanusocanti panditah  ||2.11||
Meaning: Bhagavan Shri Krishna said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.

Bhagavan at once took the position of the teacher and chastised the student, calling him, indirectly, a fool. Bhagavan said, you are talking like a learned man, but you do not know that one who is learned—one who knows about the body and the soul— does not lament for the body at any stage, neither in the living nor dead.

In order to evoke the power of discrimination between the physical body and the soul, Shri Krishna rejecting Arjuna’s contention and replied that he was grieving for those who should not be grieved for. Shri Krishna responds to Arjuna’s statement in chapter 1, verse 32 where he says: Of what use is the kingdom, this fabulous wealth and enjoyments or even living if it is to obtained by killing one’ kins.

The body is born and is destined decay and vanish sometime in the future, lamenting for something known to be a perishable is foolish.  One who knows that the Atma is ‘Nitya’ or eternal is actually the learned man, and for him there is no cause for lamentation, regardless of the condition of the gross body.

Those who are illumined due to realization are ‘prajnah’ or wise and knowledgeable. ‘Avadah’ means they who are opposed to the Vedic injunctions. Whatever the wise and knowledgeable proclaim is always in conformity with the Vedic injunctions. Whatever is contrary to the Vedic injunctions on any level of consciousness is not worthy of contemplation.

The Mundaka Upanishad states that one who has realised the Ultimate Truth, whose heart is calm and whose senses are under control, such a person who is enlightened should compulsorily impart the knowledge of the Ultimate Truth to others by which they can also become self-realised.

Those with spiritual intelligence do not grieve for the dead or the living. The root word of ‘panditah’ is ‘panda’ meaning ‘learned’ or one endowed with the power of discriminative intellect. Those who possess such discrimination are considered wise. The wise never lament for the physical body.

Encompassing all that exists, internal and external is the Supreme. Everything existing is manifested from Him. One who is peaceful and tranquil should propitiate and worship under all circumstances. Under the control of the Supreme the whole cosmic manifestation functions.

In the Katha Upanishad, it says:
Bhayaad asya agnis tapati bhayaat Tapati Suryah |
Bhayaat Indrashcha Vaayushcha Mrityur Dhaavati Panchamah || K.U. 2.6.3
Meaning: Out of Fear for Him the fire burns, for fear of Him shines the Sun, for the fear of Him do Indra, the wind (Vaayu) and Death (Yama), the fifth proceed with their respective functions’. In other words the Nature obeys His laws unquestioningly and with total commitment as though out of fear of him.

We have a similar Mantra in the Taittriya Upanishad (2.8.1):
Bhisha asmad vatah pavate bhishodeti Suryah
Bhisha asmad agnish cha indresh cha Mrutyurdhavati panchama iti |
Meaning: Out of fear of Him the wind blows; Out of fear of Him the Sun rises; Out of fear of Him burns the Fire, as also Indra and Death, the fifth proceeds to their respective duties.

The all-pervading, omnipresent, soul of all being and of the nature of being eternally, simultaneously one and distinctly different.

2.12     Shloka 2.12

न त्वेवाहं जातु नासं न त्वं नेमे जनाधिपाः
न चैव न भविष्यामः सर्वे वयमतः परम् ।।2.12।।

Na tvevaham jatu nasam Na tvam neme janadhipah |
Na caiva na bhavisyamah sarve vayam atah param ||2.12||
Meaning: Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.

Bhagavan is explaining that the Atma is eternal and always existed and it is the body that takes different forms.

In the Katha Upanishad it says:
Nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati Kaamaan   |
Tam atmastham ye ‘nupasyanti dhiras tesam santih sasvati netaresam ||K.U. 2.2.13||
Meaning: The Eternal among the non-eternals, the Intelligence among the intelligent, who, though one, fulfils the desires of many—those dhiras (persistent, brave and calm) who perceive Him as existing within their own self, to them belong eternal peace and to none else.

Atman is described in a few significant phrases:
एको वशी सर्वभूतान्तरात्मा, नित्योऽनित्यानां चेतनश्चेतनानाम् |
eko vashi sarvabhutAntarAtma, nityo’nityaanaaṃ cetanas cetananaam |

एको बहूनां यो विदधाति कामान्                |
Eko bahunaaṃ yo vidadhaati kaamaan |

The Supreme One who is the Controller of all, who is Antaryami – the inner Self of all beings, the Eternal among the non-eternals, the Intelligent among the intelligent, and who, though One, fulfils the desires of the many. 

The same Vedic truth given to Arjuna is given to all persons in the world who pose themselves as very learned but they actually have very poor knowledge. It is not that they did not exist as individuals in the past, and it is not that they will not remain eternal persons. Their individuality existed in the past, and their individuality will continue in the future without interruption. Therefore, there is no cause for lamentation for anyone.

Bhagavan does not deal with the liberation the individual soul here and says that it existed in the past and will do so in the future as well, as confirmed in this Upanishad.

When we begin learning we move from a basic level to intermediate level and finally to the advanced level.  Hence the concept of salvation or Moksha will be introduced in the later Chapters.

The Skanda Purana contains the following:

There is no possibility of any destruction of the Ultimate Consciousness of the Supreme.  The same applies to the individual consciousness of all living entities as the Lord is the Antaryami (inner self). The connection and disconnection from the physical body is known as birth and death. This is the reality for all living entities.

So this explains and puts into the proper perspective the dissolution of the material manifestation at the time of universal destruction. By negating the origin and destruction of the soul, its very existence is proven in all three stages of Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution. All souls are immortal and hence should never be grieved for.

2.13     Shloka 2.13

देहिनोऽस्मिन्यथा देहे कौमारं यौवनं जरा 
तथा देहान्तरप्राप्तिर्धीरस्तत्र न मुह्यति  ।।2.13।।

Dehino ‘smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara      |
Tatha dehantara-praptir dhiras tatra na muhyati      ||2.13||
Meaning: As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realised soul is not bewildered by such a change.

Since every living entity is an individual soul, each is changing every moment, manifesting sometimes as a child, sometimes as a youth, and sometimes as an old man. Yet the same spirit soul is there and does not undergo any change. This individual soul finally changes the body at death and transmigrates to another body; and since it is sure to have another body in the next birth—either material or spiritual—there was no cause for lamentation by Arjuna on account of death, neither for Bhisma nor for Drona, for whom he was so much concerned.

As Bhishma and Drona, being noble souls, were surely going to have either spiritual bodies in the next life, or at least life in heavenly bodies for superior enjoyment of material existence. So, in either case, there was no cause for lamentation.

Any man who has perfect knowledge of the constitution of the individual soul, the Supersoul, and nature—both material and spiritual—is called a dhira or a most sober man. Such a man is never deluded by the change of bodies.

The body is just the container and when the soul departs, the body has no further identification with the soul and returns to its elements. While the soul remains within the physical body in all three states of waking, dream and deep sleep, it is possible to perceive the existence of the soul as an independent consciousness.

The soul cannot be destroyed. Hence the statement ‘dehinah’ meaning the soul being the occupier of the deha. With the deterioration and demise of the body comes the acceptance of a new body.  Therefore if perceived as a further modification of the body after old age, there is no justification for sorrow.

2.14     Shloka 2.14

मात्रास्पर्शास्तु कौन्तेय शीतोष्णसुखदुःखदाः
आगमापायिनोऽनित्यास्तांस्तितिक्षस्व भारत  ।।2.14।।

Matra-sparsas tu kaunteya sitosna-sukha-duhkha-dah      |
Agamapayino ‘nityas tams titiksasva bharata                 ||2.14||
Meaning: O’ Son of Kunti, the interaction of the senses and the sense objects give cold, heat, pleasure and pain. These are temporary, appearing and disappearing from time to time, therefore O’ Bharata, learn to tolerate them.

The two different names to address Arjuna are also significant. To address him as Kaunteya signifies his proximity of blood relations from his mother’s side; and to address him as Bharata signifies his greatness from his father’s side. He has a great heritage from both sides and that brings with it responsibility to properly discharge duties; therefore, he cannot avoid fighting.

‘Matra’ (Tanmatras – Touch, Sound, Speech, Taste and Smell) means sensuous experience and ‘sparsas’ means contact with them thus matra-sparsas is the interaction of the senses with the sense objects. Although it is the body that actually experiences these things, anyone with lack of sufficient knowledge who considers that they are their body automatically classifies the soul as the body as well and this misconception is the cause of all sorrow.

Since it is evident that contact with the senses is experienced only in the waking state and not in any other state; it is clear that only when there is contact with the physical body which includes the mind, is there an effect and this proves that the individual consciousness itself is not affected.

Consequently when the individual consciousness is deluded into relating to itself as the body, pleasure and pain is experienced; but when the individual consciousness sees itself as separate from the physical body then the sorrow arising from the death of friends and relatives would not arise.

Therefore one should just tolerate them with discrimination, patience and fortitude for they will disappear in due course of time. So the one who attain this spiritual intelligence that the soul is eternal they neither lament nor are they deluded.

2.15     Shloka 2.15

यं हि न व्यथयन्त्येते पुरुषं पुरुषर्षभ 
समदुःखसुखं धीरं सोऽमृतत्वाय कल्पते  ।।2.15।।

Yam hi na vyathayanty ete purusam purusarsabha           |
Sama-duhkha-sukham dhiram so ‘mrtatvaya kalpate ||2.15||
Meaning: O best among men [Arjuna], that person who is of wise judgment is equipoised in happiness and distress, who is steady and not be disturbed by these is certainly eligible for liberation.

Anyone who is steady in his determination for the advanced stage of spiritual realisation and is equipoised in distress and happiness is certainly a person eligible for liberation. In the varna ashrama institution, the fourth stage of life, namely the sannyasa (renounced life) is a painstaking stage. But one who is serious about making his life perfect adopts the sannyasa order of life in spite of all difficulties.

The difficulties usually arise from having to sever family relationships, to give up the connection of wife and children. But if anyone is able to tolerate such difficulties, surely his path to spiritual realisation is complete. Similarly, in Arjuna’s discharge of duties as a khsatriya, he is advised to persevere, even if it is difficult, to fight with his family members or similarly beloved persons.

When one has relinquished all conceptions of being the physical body one becomes naturally filled with the spiritual attributes that are inherent of the soul. Fixed in this awareness one is known as a Purusha, and the word ‘pura’ in purusha signifies full or complete, so complete with noble attributes and full in wisdom, the meaning of the word Purusha is ‘illuminated’.

2.16     Shloka 2.16

नासतो विद्यते भावो नाभावो विद्यते सतः  |
उभयोरपि दृष्टोऽन्तस्त्वनयोस्तत्त्वदर्शिभिः  ।।2.16।।

Nasato vidyate bhavo nabhavo vidyate satah                 |
Ubhayor api drsto ‘ntas tv anayos tattva-darsibhih ||2.16||
Meaning:  In the unreal there is no duration and in the real there is no cessation; indeed the distinction between both of these have been analysed by the knowers’ of the truth and established conclusively by them.

The body undergoes physical changes but is not enduring. But the spirit or the soul exists permanently, remaining the same despite all the changes to the body and the mind. That is the difference between matter and spirit.

In the Vishnu Purana it is stated that Sri MahaVishnu and His abodes all have self-illuminated spiritual existence – ‘Jyotimsi Vishnur bhavanani Vishnuh’. 

The statement ‘nasato vidyate bhavo’ is specifically used to emphasise a spiritual truth. For e.g. a flower to be offered to the Lord which blossomed today, did not exist last week and will perish by next week but is utilised while available. While the existence of the flowers is real appearing as real it’s not durable and hence ‘asat’ or ‘mithya’.

Sri RamanujAcharya states that which is known to be asat or material cannot be made to be sat or spiritual and that which is sat or spiritual cannot be made to be asat or material. To those established in truth, the ultimate nature of both are matters discerned by the direct perception of observation.

The literal meaning of ‘anta’ means end and in this verse it means the summation or conclusion of the essential natures of sat and asat. The authoritative conclusion arrived by great sages in this matter is that the nature of the physical body is asat being temporary and that the nature of the spiritual soul is sat being eternal.

That which is asat is therefore known by its perishable nature and that which is sat is known by its imperishable nature. Hence it is clear that what is indicated by satva and asatva are the soul and the body.

The Vishnu Purana states: knowledge of the ‘atma or soul’ is indeed satyam or truth and everything else is ‘not truth’. That which is imperishable is the highest truth and that which is derived by means of perishable things is undoubtedly perishable as well.

The nature of the duration and cessation of things in this world cannot be learnt by one lacking spiritual intelligence.  Bhagavan Shri Krishna emphasises the point that the reality of the duration and cessation in the material existence has been perceived by those elevated souls who have attained the Ultimate Truth. The eternal reality of the immortality of the soul is revealed in the Vedic scriptures and this has been realised by those who have achieved this understanding.  Bhagavan Shri Krishna tells Arjuna that due to his improper understanding of the difference between the perishable nature of the Body and the imperishable nature of the Soul, he is needlessly grief-stricken.

2.17     Shloka 2.17

अविनाशि तु तद्विद्धि येन सर्वमिदं ततम्  
विनाशमव्ययस्यास्य न कश्िचत् कर्तुमर्हति  ।।2.17।।

Avinasi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idam tatam        |
Vinasam avyayasya na kascit kartum arhati   ||2.17||
Meaning: Know that which pervades the entire body (Consciousness or Soul) is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.

This verse more clearly explains the real nature of the soul, which is spread all over the body in the form of consciousness. Everyone is conscious of the pains and pleasures of the body and hence this spreading of consciousness is limited within one’s own body. Therefore, each and every body is the embodiment of an individual soul, and the symptom of the soul’s presence is perceived as individual consciousness. This soul is described as one ten-thousandth part of the upper portion of the hair point in size. The Svetasvatara Upanishad confirms this:
balagra-sata-bhagasya satadha kalpitasya ca     |
bhago jivah sa vijneyah sa canantyaya kalpate ||5.9||
Meaning: That individual soul is as subtle as a hair-point divided and sub-divided hundreds of times. Yet He is potentially infinite and has to be known.

Therefore, the individual particle of spirit soul is a spiritual atom smaller than the material atoms, and such atoms are innumerable. This very small spiritual spark is the basic principle of the material body, and the influence of such a spiritual spark is spread all over the body as the influence of the active principle of some medicine spreads throughout the body. This current of the spirit soul is felt all over the body as consciousness, and that is the proof of the presence of the soul. Any layman can understand that the material body minus consciousness is a dead body, and this consciousness cannot be revived in the body by any means of material administration. Therefore, consciousness is not due to any amount of material combination, but to the spirit soul.

In the Mundaka Upanisad the nature of the atomic spirit soul is further explained:
eso ‘nuratma cetasa veditavyo yasmin pranah pancadha samvivesa |
pranais cittam sarvam otam prajanam yasmin visuddhe vibhavaty esa atma ||3.1.9||
Meaning:  The soul is atomic in size and can be perceived by perfect intelligence. This atomic soul is floating in the five kinds of air (prana, apana, vyana, samana and udana), is situated within the heart, and spreads its influence all over the body of the embodied living entities. When the soul is purified from the contamination of the five kinds of material air, its spiritual influence is exhibited.”

The hatha-yoga system is meant for controlling the five kinds of air encircling the pure soul by different kinds of sitting postures—not for any material gain, but for liberation of the minute soul from the entanglement of the material atmosphere.

When a hammer strikes an object with excessive force an extreme vibration produces a molecular disruption which causes the destruction of the object. But in the case of the soul there is no potential for destruction. For e.g. when light penetrates a glass jar, the light is not destroyed when the glass is broken; similarly the soul is like light in relation to the body, thus imperishable.

Bhagavan Shri Krishna emphasises the definitive position of the soul with the word ‘avyayasya’ meaning indestructible. The pervasiveness of the Soul is so extremely subtle that it is impossible for anything to cause the destruction because whatever would be attempting to destroy it is also completely pervaded by it as well.

2.18     Shloka 2.18

अन्तवन्त इमे देहा नित्यस्योक्ताः शरीरिणः 
अनाशिनोऽप्रमेयस्य तस्माद्युध्यस्व भारत  ।।2.18।।

antavanta ime deha nityasyoktah saririnah                  |
anasino ‘prameyasya tasmad yudhyasva bharata ||2.18||
Meaning: The embodied soul is eternal in existence, indestructible, immeasurable and infinite. Only the material body is subject to destruction; therefore, fight, O’ descendant of Bharata.

The material body is perishable by nature. It may perish immediately, or it may do so after a hundred years. It is a matter of time. But the spirit soul is indestructible and is so minute that that no one has any idea of how to measure it. So from both viewpoints there is no cause for lamentation because the living entity (Soul) cannot be destroyed and the material body cannot be protected forever.

In the Vedanta-sutras the living entity is qualified as light because he is part and parcel of the Supreme light. As Sunlight maintains the entire universe, so does the light of the soul which maintains this material body. As soon as the spirit soul is out of this material body, the body begins to decompose; therefore it is the spirit soul that maintains the body. The body itself is unimportant, hence, Arjuna was advised to fight.

In the Taittiriya Upanisad it is stated :

One who knows the Supreme Lord as the Ultimate Truth, as what is real, as what is knowledge and as what is infinite; simultaneously existing within the heart of all living entities as well as in the eternal spiritual world has realised all there is that needs to be known.

Transcending to that state of awareness which consists of total bliss, descending and ascending in various worlds, assuming the form one desires, all actions manifesting according to one’s desires, one sings and chants the holy names of the Supreme Lord Krishna in sublime ecstasy. Attaining this transcendental state of affinity to the Supreme Lord, being completely protected in this state, the individual soul resides blissfully in full consciousness.

In the BrihadAranyaka Upanisad it is stated:

In that state of liberation there is no seeing although everything is seen. Because of attaining the transcendental state, becoming imperishable in consciousness, there is nothing perceived other than the transcendental state which permeates everything and which the Self is. Thus there is nothing separate from the Self which can be differentiated and in this way everything can be seen as transcendental, as Brahman.

If by liberation the individual consciousness ceases to exist then what is the purpose of deliverance? The reverend sage Yajnavalkya eradicated this doubt by clarifying that in this transcendental state all the mundane academic perceptions of empirical knowledge cease to exist being replaced by the transcendental perception and realisation of the Ultimate Truth. How could it ever be possible that cessation of mundane perceptions of empirical knowledge could simultaneously cause cessation of the Soul? It is not possible nor can it ever be possible. The eternal Soul being independent from the mind and body is not subject to cessation.

Essentially the Bhagavan is different from the creation of the material manifestation. Because the Universe is dependent upon creation it is said to be different as it is. In regard to enjoyment of the senses of smell, sight etc. they are known to be perceived only due to the potency generated by the presence of the Soul. Thus the empirical experience of the Self is similar to the realisation of the Supreme Lord. There is nothing else is to be known when one realises one’s Soul one as he/she realises the Supreme Brahman.

When the soul does not see anything as different from its own Self then there is no perception of separateness from anything and there is oneness with everything, in the same way the Supreme Lord does not see anything as separate from Himself.  When one attains this state of perception there is no separateness between the individual consciousness and the Ultimate Consciousness and there is no delusion ever regarding knowledge of the Supreme.

Neither liberated souls nor the material substratum can be superior to Bhagavan. But by knowledge of Him, by knowledge of His name and form, by having knowledge of His sagacious instructions, by the knowledge of His pastimes, qualities and associates all living entities can experience the essence of the Supreme Lord according to their abilities. When one attains communion with the Supreme Lord how can there be any difficulties? How can there be any ignorance? How can there be any bewilderment? It is not possible for one to be liberated without the grace of the Supreme Lord.

From ‘aheya’ the word ‘aham’ has been derived which symbolises the immutable Supreme Lord Krishna. Because He possesses all attributes He is known as ‘Para Brahman’. He is known as ‘asmi’ because he destroys all evil and is existing eternally. Being resplendent He is known as ‘tvam’. All these words intimating activity, intimating elements and intimating attributes refer solely to the Supreme Lord. Because He is the foremost among all performers of activities He is known as yushmat. Because He abides in the heart of all living entities with His potencies He is known by the word asmat and because He is imperceivable He is known by the word tat. On attaining self- realisation one will understand that all these indications represent only His predominant role.

The Story of Svetaketu

The greatest of the great mahavakyas ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ (‘That Thou Art’ or ‘You Are That’) originally occurs in the Chandogya Upanishad (c.600 BCE) in the dialogue between Sage Uddalaka Aruni, the father and his son Svetaketu where the father explains the relationship between the individual and the Absolute.  Svetaketu is more like a disciple than a son, and Uddalaka more like a Guru than a father.

‘Tat’ is the Brahman and ‘tvam’ the divine self, the Atman that resides in all beings. ‘Asi’ is an affirmation that harmonises the Brahman and Atman.  The statement is frequently repeated in the sixth chapter as the father who is also the teacher instructs his son regarding the nature of Brahman, the supreme reality. 

Sage Uddalaka was deeply concerned about his young son Svetaketu. His son had just returned home full of pride in his Vedic learning after 12 years from an eminent guru. Having studied all the Vedas the Sage Svetaketu becoming extremely conceited, arrogantly assumed because he was so knowledgeable that he was not human but a partial manifestation of the Supreme Lord Himself. Thinking thus, he became disrespectful to his own father.

His father said to him: ‘Svetaketu, I know you have learned a lot, can you tell me by which we hear the unhearable, perceive the unperceivable, know the unknowable?’

‘Sir, I am not aware of that knowledge,’ said Svetaketu. ‘I request you to please teach me that essential thing by which everything else becomes known?’

Uddhakala Aruni answered the question himself.

‘That is Brahman, the truth, the subtle essence of all and the Self. Son, you are aware of the fact that there are many products made out of clay, but the clay is the real thing. Likewise there are also different forms of gold ornaments but the real thing is the gold.

Even if the forms and names are lost, the essence of the article is revealed as clay or gold. That essential nature is the ultimate truth. Forms and names are immaterial to know the Reality, which is the Supreme Being’.

‘Son, by knowing the material cause (gold/clay) all its effects (ornaments/pots) are known. This universe with all its myriad forms and features was earlier with the One and the real Brahman.   That Brahman is the material and intelligent cause of this Jagat or this World.

 It is the ultimate reality, but it did not create anything, everything is projected out of its own being– but not as a separate entity, for, son, Brahman is within everything as its own Reality, as its Self, as its subtle essence, and that, my dear Svetaketu, That Art Thou’. 

Svetaketu says, “My Gurus did not appear to have understood all these things. They never taught me these things,” says the boy to the father. “If they had known this, why should they have not told this to me? I have never heard these things up to this time. I have studied the four Vedas, I have studied the Shastras, but nothing of this kind was heard from any quarter. What is this? Please, sir, I want to know more about this Self.’ 

Uddlaka Aruni began to explain to his son, “My dear boy, there was only a single Reality existing in the beginning. There was no variety of life forms. It was one, without a second. There was nothing outside it; nothing external to it, to compete with it, to equal it or to be different from it. There is no conceivable reality in this world of this nature. Whatever be the stretch of your imagination, you cannot conceive of something outside which nothing is. At least space would be there, time would be there, something would be there. But even space and time are objects, externals, effects that came afterwards in the process of creation. And, therefore, they too are negated in the case of this reality. That alone was.”

Uddalaka went on further, “there are some people who think that, originally, Non-Being as an origin of things under peculiar conditions. But how can Being come from Non-Being? Has anyone seen such a phenomenon? But how can something out of nothing? We have never heard of such a possibility.

So Uddalaka says: “My dear boy, though it is true that there are people who hold the doctrine that Being proceeded out of Non-Being as an effect, but this is not a practicability. It is inconceivable. Non-Being cannot be the cause of Being. Nor can we say that Being is the cause of Being. It is a tautology of expression. ‘A is the cause of A’—you cannot say that. It is a meaningless way of speaking. If Being is also not the cause of Being, then what is the cause of Being?

No cause. There cannot be a cause for Being. So it must be a causeless Being. If it has a cause, we must explain what that cause could be, and the cause should be either Being or Non-Being. There cannot be a third thing. Being cannot be the cause of Being; Non-Being also cannot be the cause of Being, so there is No cause for Being. It is causeless existence.

If there is no cause then you have to say that there is no such thing as an effect. But if there is no such thing as an effect, how comes the creation? If creation has to be explained, the nature of an effect has to be explained; but you cannot understand what an effect is. And therefore you cannot understand what creation is.

But there was creation. So, there must be a Creator. How can there be creation without a Creator? The Creator was the Absolute Being. This is what I posit as the Ultimate Reality. And what would be the process of creation and the cause for creation? The intention of the Creator is the cause of creation. The will of the artist is the cause of the manufacture of the effect or the product in the form of sculpture, architectural piece, painting, etc. The intention, the will, the original meditation or tapas, as sometimes it is called, of the Supreme Being is the cause of creation. IT WILLED.

Uddalaka said, “In the beginning of creation, O child, the Sat or True Being alone existed. It had neither an equal nor a second. It thought, ‘Let me multiply myself and create beings.’ He first created Tejas or fire god. The fire god wanted to multiply himself. He created the water god. That is why whenever anybody weeps or perspires, water comes out. The water god wanted to multiply himself and created the food god. Then the True Being thought, ‘I have now created these three gods. Now I shall enter them as Jivatma and assume name and form!’ 

‘Later on, the True Being thought, ‘I shall now make each of them enter into the other.’ “Having thus entered them with His living spirit, It assumed names and forms like Agni, Indra etc. The True Being made them enter into one another, again. 0 child, now learn what each became thereafter. Whatever was fire showed as red. Whatever was water showed as white and whatever was food showed as black. Thus you will see the word Agni vanishes in fire. This change has only been in name. The three primary forms Tejas, Apas or water and Annam or food are the only true forms. 

The red colour of the Sun is Tejas; its white colour is water; its black colour is the food or the earth. Thus the name Aditya for Sun should vanish. It is only a conventional name. “You have now learnt from me, child, how every deity and element is descended from the three primary forms of the True Being.”

“He or the Sat alone is all-name, because every name is His name. He alone is all-power, because every power is His. All the forms that belong to others are reflections of His form. He is the only one without an equal or second. He is the best of all. He being the Chief, He is called Sat or the True Being. Knowing Him we know everything else.

When a man sleeps soundly, he comes into contact with the Sat. When man dies, his speech merges in the mind, the mind in his breath, his breath in the fire and the fire in the Highest God, the True Being. Thus the soul or Jiva-Atman is deathless. All the universe is controlled by the Sat. He pervades it all. He is the destroyer of all. He is full of perfect qualities. O Svetaketu, you are not that God. 

The whole universe has That as its soul. That is Reality, That is the Self, and That is you, Svetaketu.

 ‘Please, sir, tell me more about that subtle essence which is the supreme reality’ said the son.

Uddalaka said, “The bees, my child, collect the honey from different flowers and mix them in the hive. Now, honeys of different flowers cannot know one from the other. 

“My child, the rivers that run in the different directions rise from the sea and go back to the sea. Yet the sea remains the same. The rivers, while in the sea, cannot identify themselves as one particular river or another. So also creatures that have come from Sat know not that they have come from that Sat, although they become one or the other again and again.” 

‘O.k’, said the father, ‘Bring a fruit of that Nyagrodha [Banyan] tree’.

Uddalaka then asked his son to bring a fig fruit. When he did so, Uddalaka asked him to break it. He broke it. 

Uddalaka: “What do you see in it?” 

Svetaketu “I see small seeds.” 

Uddalaka “Break one of the seeds and say what you see.” 

Svetaketu “Nothing Sir.” 

Uddalaka: “You are unable to see the minute particles of the seed after breaking it. Now, the big fig tree is born out of that essence of that particle. Like that, the True Being is the essence of all creation.”

Uddalaka asked his son to bring some salt and put it into a cup of water and bring the cup next morning.  Svetaketu did so. 

Uddalaka: “You put the salt into the water in this cup. Can you take the salt out? 

Svetaketu “I am unable to find the salt; for it has dissolved.” 

Uddalaka “Taste a drop from the surface of this water.”

Svetaketu “It is saltish.” 

Uddalaka “Now taste a drop from the middle of the cup.” 

Svetaketu “It tastes the same, saltish.” 

Uddalaka: “Now taste a drop from the bottom.” 

Svetaketu “It is saltish all the same.” 

Uddalaka “Now child, you do not see the salt, although it is certainly in the water. Even so, the True Being is present everywhere in this universe, although you do not see Him. He is the essence of all, and the desired of all. He is known to the subtlest intellect.” 

Svetaketu became humble thereafter, and became a great rishi himself in course of time. Then the father said, “Here likewise in this body of yours, my son, you do not perceive the True; but there, in fact, it is. In that which is the subtle essence, all that exists has its self.

That is the Truth, that is the Self, and thou, Svetaketu, art That – Tat Tvam Asi.”

Therefore Arjuna is being instructed to unsnare himself from his delusion and do his duty.

2.19     Shloka 2.19

य एनं वेत्ति हन्तारं यश्चैनं मन्यते हतम्  
उभौ तौ न विजानीतो नायं हन्ति न हन्यते  ।।2.19।।

Ya enam vetti hantaram yas cainam manyate hatam      |
Ubhau tau na vijanito nayam hanti na hanyate           ||2.19|| 

Meaning: He who thinks that the Soul is the slayer and he who thinks that the Soul is slain; both of them are ignorant and wrong; the Soul neither slays nor is slain.

When an embodied living entity is hurt by fatal weapons, it is to be known that the living entity within the body is not killed. The spirit soul is so small that it is impossible to kill that by any material weapon. Nor is the living entity killable because of its spiritual constitution. What is killed, or is supposed to be killed, is the body only. This, however, does not at all encourage killing of the body. The Vedic injunction is, “mahimsyat sarva-bhutani” never commit violence to anyone. Nor does the understanding that the living entity is not killed encourage animal slaughter. Killing the body of any being without authority is abominable. Arjuna, however, is being engaged in killing for the principle of Dharma, and not whimsically.

The soul being of an eternal nature can never be destroyed by anything nor can the soul ever destroy anything. Not being able to fathom the intrinsic nature of the soul they cannot realize that the soul is never the instigator of any action nor is the soul ever the recipient of any action.

2.20     Shloka 2.20

न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचि न्नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः 
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतोऽयं पुराणो न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे  ।।2.20।।

Na jayate mriyate va kadacin nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah     |
Ajo nityah sasvato ‘yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sarire      ||2.20||
For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.

Qualitatively, the small atomic fragmental part of the Supreme Spirit is one with the Supreme. He undergoes no changes like the body. Sometimes the soul is called the steady, or kutastha. 

The body is subject to six kinds of transformations. It takes its form in the womb of the mother’s body, is born, grows, produces some effects, gradually dwindles, and at last vanishes into the oblivion. The soul, however, does not go through such changes. The soul is not born, but, because it takes on a material body, the body takes its birth. The soul does not take birth, and the soul does not die. Because the soul has no birth, it therefore has no past, present or future. It is eternal, ever-existing, and primeval—that is, there is no trace in history of it coming into being.

In the Katha Upanishad we find a similar passage which reads:
na jayate mriyate va vipascin nayam kutascin na vibhuva kascit
ajo nityah sasvato ‘yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sarire ||1.2.18||

The meaning and purport of this verse is the same as in the Bhagavad-gita, but here in this verse there is a special word, ‘vipascit’, which means learned or with knowledge.  The soul is full of knowledge, or full always with consciousness. Therefore, consciousness is the symptom of the soul. Even if one does not find the soul within the heart, where he is situated, one can still understand the presence of the soul simply by the presence of consciousness. Sometimes we may not find the Sun in the sky due to the presence of clouds, but the light from the Sun is always there, and we are, therefore, convinced it is daytime. Similarly, since there is some consciousness in all bodies—whether man or animal—we can understand the presence of the Soul. This consciousness of the Soul is, however, different from the consciousness of the Supreme because the Supreme Consciousness is all-knowledge—past, present and future. However, the consciousness of the individual Soul is prone to be forgetful.

There are two kinds of souls—namely the minute particle soul (anu-atma) and the Supersoul (the vibhu-atma). This is also confirmed in the Katha Upanishad in this way:
anor aniyan mahato mahiyan atmasya jantor nihito guhayam  |
tam akratuh pasyati vita-soko dhatuh prasadan mahimanam atmanah ||1.2.20||
Meaning: The Atman that is subtler than the sublest, and greater than the greatest, is seated in the cavity of the heart of each living being. He, who is free from willing and wishing, with his mind and senses composed, beholds the majesty of the Self and becomes free from sorrow.

Both the Supersoul [Paramatma] and the atomic soul [jivatma] are situated on the same tress of the body within the same heart of the living being, and only one who has become free from all material desires as well as lamentations can, by the grace of the Supreme, understand the glories of the soul.

In the Mundaka Upanishad, it says:

द्वा सुपर्णा सयुजा सखाया समानं वृक्षं परिषस्वजाते । 
तयोरन्यः पिप्पलं स्वाद्वत्त्यनश्नन्नन्यो अभिचाकशीति ॥

dva suparṇa sayuja sakhaayaa samaanaṃ vṛkṣaṃ pariṣasvajaate | 
tayoranyaḥ pippalaṃ svaadvattyanashnannanyo abhicaakashiti || 3.1.1 ||
Meaning: Two inseparable companions of fine plumage perch on the self-same tree. One of the two feeds on the delicious fruit. The other not tasting of it looks on.

The two birds are the Jiva and Isvara, both existing in an individual compared to a tree. They exist together as the reflection and the original. They both manifest themselves in different ways in every individual. The body is compared to a tree because it can be cut down like a tree. This tree is also called the Kshetra or the field of manifestation and action of the Kshetrajna (the Knower of the field). The body is the field of action and experience and it is the fruit of actions done already. The fruits enjoyed by the Jiva are of the nature of pleasure and pain, i.e., they are all relative experiences born of non-discrimination. The experience of Isvara is eternal and is of the nature of purity, knowledge and freedom.

The eternal soul is also permanent but the eternal soul never exists independently; it has limited power, limited knowledge, incomplete in itself, dependent upon the transcendental energy of the Supreme Lord. In juxtaposition to that are the sublime attributes of the Supreme Lord who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. Therefore the holy sages and rishis designated them both as ‘sasvatah’ or permanent. Thus in the Visnu Purana because the living entity is embodied in countless bodies from the beginning of time it is known as puranah meaning ancient. The word purana means ancient. Etymologically it stems from purapi navah meaning old yet new illustrating that the eternal soul although ancient is experienced with every birth as ever new. Thus it has been clarified that the physical body only perishes but never can the eternal soul perish.

The imperishable soul which pervades the physical body of all living entities is aja or unborn and thus it is known to be eternal and constant only changing its external embodied form. The two characteristics of being eternal and constant denote that like the material substratum known as prakriti even the most subtle and infinitesimal modifications in the stage preceding manifestation has no ability in any way to affect the eternal soul.

The living entity and the Supreme Lord are both irrevocably established as unborn, eternal and indestructible. The Supreme Lord possessing a spiritual body does not come into existence by being associated with the material manifestation; but is eternally existing independently. Death correctly comprehended is merely the separation of the embodied soul from the physical body leaving it lifeless.

The soul is never born and never dies at any time. How can this be? The soul exists eternally but opting the experiences of the material existence accepts a physical body. What did not exist in the past but is manifested only in the present is called conceived and that which exists now but will cease to exist eventually is called dead. But the soul is not conceived as it eternally exists and it will never die because it is immortal.

With the two words ‘ajah’ meaning ‘unborn’ and ‘nityah’ meaning eternal, it is made clear that the modifications of birth and death are not applicable with regards to the soul. The modification of any growth of the soul is neutralised by the word ‘puranah’ meaning ancient, that it always existed as it is. The soul is bereft of any of the six modifications of the physical body and hence can never be destroyed and it is only the physical body that is destroyed.

जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!

Hari Om Tat Sat

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

SRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA – PART 3 – Chapter 1 (Verses 21-46) – Arjuna Vishada Yoga

In the first part of Chapter 1, we saw the vivid description of the battlefield by Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana insinuating Drona to fight with vigour and offer no concessions to his favourite disciples.  In this part, we will see the state of Arjuna’s mind as he prepares for this Maha-Bharata war and this sets the prelude to the conversation between him and Bhagavan Shri Krishna. 

1.21     Shloka 1.21

अर्जुन उवाच
हृषीकेशं तदा वाक्यमिदमाह महीपते।
सेनयोरुभयोर्मध्ये रथं स्थापय मेऽच्युत ।।1.21।।

Arjuna Uvaca
Senayor ubhayor madhye ratham sthapaya me ‘cyuta ||1.21||

Meaning:  Arjuna said: O’ Achyuta, please draw my chariot between the two armies. 

Arjuna instructs the Shri Krishna to take his chariot between the two armies. He addresses Bhagavan as “Achyuta” meaning “the infallible one”.  Though Shri Krishna is the Supreme Being, because of His “Sausheelyam” (affection) for His devotees, He readily acts on the instructions of Arjuna, without showing any hesitation.

1.22     Shloka 1.22

यावदेतान्निरीक्षेऽहं योद्धुकामानवस्थितान् ।
कैर्मया सह योद्धव्यमस्मिन्रणसमुद्यमे ।।1.22।।

Yavad etan nirikse ‘ham yoddhu-kaman avasthitan             |
Kair maya saha yoddhavyam asmin rana-samudyame ||1.22||
Meaning: Arjuna says, So I may see who is present here, who is desirous of fighting, and with whom I must contend in this great battle.

Arjuna was anxious to see who the leading persons in the battlefield to assess who he had to contend in this battle.

1.23     Shloka 1.23

योत्स्यमानानवेक्षेऽहं य एतेऽत्र समागताः।
धार्तराष्ट्रस्य दुर्बुद्धेर्युद्धे प्रियचिकीर्षवः।।1.23।।

Yotsyamanan avekse ‘ham ya ete ‘tra samagatah               |
Dhartarastrasya durbuddher yuddhe priya-cikirsavah ||1.23||
Meaning: Arjuna said, let me see those who have come here to fight, wishing to please the evil-minded son of Dhritarashtra.

Though Arjuna had full confidence in Himself, more so with Shri Krishna on his side, he wanted to see the enemy army closely to see evil Duryodhana’s allies.

1.24     Shloka 1.24

सञ्जय उवाच
एवमुक्तो हृषीकेशो गुडाकेशेन भारत।
सेनयोरुभयोर्मध्ये स्थापयित्वा रथोत्तमम्।।1.24।।

Sanjaya Uvaca
Evam ukto hrsikeso gudakesena bharata   |
Senayor ubhayor madhye sthapayitva rathottamam ||1.24||
Meaning: Sanjaya said: O’ descendant of Bharata, as instructed by Gudakesa (Arjuna), Hrisikesha (the controller of all senses) drew up the fine chariot in the midst of both the armies.

Dhritarashtra is addressed here by Sanjaya as O’ descendant of Bharata, thus subtly stressing that Dhritarashtra is born in the exalted lineage of the righteous and noble King Bharata.  It appears that Sanjaya is attempting to appeal to the conscience of Dhritarashtra to make a last ditch effort to review his foolish and ill thought out decision of forcing this conflict.

In this verse Arjuna is referred as Gudakesa. ‘Gudaka’ means sleep, and one who conquers sleep is called Gudakesa.  So Arjuna had conquered both sleep (also means ignorance) because of his association with Bhagavan Shri Krishna.  A devotee of Shri Krishna can conquer ignorance simply by constantly meditating on Him.

1.25     Shloka 1.25

भीष्मद्रोणप्रमुखतः सर्वेषां च महीक्षिताम्।
उवाच पार्थ पश्यैतान्समवेतान्कुरूनिति।।1.25।।

Bhishma-Drona-Pramukhatah Sarvesam ca mahi-ksitam  |
Uvaca Partha pasyaitan samavetan Kurun iti              ||1.25||
Meaning: In the presence of Bhishma, Drona and all other Kings of the world, the Bhagavan Shri, said, behold Partha (Arjuna), all the Kurus who are assembled here.

And the word Partha, or the son of Kunti or Prtha, is to emphasise the closeness between Shri Krishna and Arjuna. He wanted to comfort Arjuna that as he was the son of Prtha, the sister of Shri Krishna’s father Vasudeva. What did Shri Krishna mean when He told Arjuna to ‘behold the Kurus’?

Placing the chariot in front of Bhishma and Drona between the two opposing armies, Bhagavan Shri Krishna said: O Partha observe all these Kauravas and see those who are favoring them. Bhagavan Shri Krishna could understand what was going on in the mind of Arjuna. The use of the word Partha was to emphasise the affection for Arjuna, as he was the son of Kunti who was the sister of Vasudev (Shri Krishna’s father).  This was to give confidence to Arjuna that He will engage Himself by accepting the position of Arjuna’s charioteer.

1.26     Shloka 1.26

तत्रापश्यत्स्थितान्पार्थः पितृ़नथ पितामहान्।
श्वशुरान्सुहृदश्चैव सेनयोरुभयोरपि ।।1.26।।

Tatrapasyat sthitan parthah pitrn atha pitamahan
Acaryan matulan bhratrn putran pautran sakhims tatha      |
Svasuran suhrdas caiva senayor ubhayor api                     ||1.26||
Meaning: There Arjuna saw, within the midst of the armies of both parties, his fathers, grandfathers, teachers, maternal uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, friends, and also his father-in-law and well-wishers-all present there.

He could see Bhurisrava and grandfathers from the same generation as his grandfather Bhishma. The teachers like Drona and Kripa, maternal uncles like Salya, brothers like Bhima and Duryodhana, sons are like the age of his own son Abhimanyu, grandsons like Lakhsmana and friends like Asvatthama and others.

1.27     Shloka 1.27

तान्समीक्ष्य स कौन्तेयः सर्वान्बन्धूनवस्थितान्
कृपया परयाऽऽविष्टो विषीदन्निदमब्रवीत्। ।।1.27।।

Tan samiksya sa kaunteyah sarvan bandhun avasthitan        |
Krpaya parayavisto visidann idam abravit                            ||1.27||
Meaning: When the son of Kunti, Arjuna, saw all these different friends and relatives, he became overwhelmed with compassion and struck with grief, he spoke thus:

The reference to Arjuna as Kaunteyah, the son of Kunti, is to denote his natural afflictions of the mundane world. He is struck by grief and compassion that accompanies the attachments one develops in this Samsara.  The word ‘Krpaya’ signifies Arjuna’s nature of being compassionate and the word ‘paraya’ denotes that this compassion is only for his own soldiers but also for the enemy soldiers.  The word ‘visidan’ connotes all the symptoms of being grief stricken, like shedding of tears, shuddering, choking, etc. and Arjuna exhibited these as he began to speak (showing all signs of ‘Vishada’).

1.28     Shloka 1.28

अर्जुन उवाच
दृष्ट्वेमं स्वजनं कृष्ण युयुत्सुं समुपस्थितम्।
सीदन्ति मम गात्राणि मुखं च परिशुष्यति ।1.28।।

Arjuna Uvaca
Drstvemam sva-janam Krishna yuyutsum samupasthitam  |
Sidanti mama gatrani mukham ca parisusyati                     ||1.28||
Arjuna said: ‘My dear Krishna, seeing all my friends and relatives present before me in such a fighting spirit, the limbs of my body are quivering and my mouth is completely parched’. Arjuna, after seeing his kinsmen, friends and relatives on the battlefield, was at once overwhelmed by compassion for them foreseeing their imminent death. That thought made his limbs quiver, and his mouth dry.

Such symptoms in Arjuna were not due to fear or weakness but because of his kindness, a quintessential characteristic of a pure devotee of the Bhagavan Shri.

In Srimad Bhagavatam (5.18.12) it says:
yasyasti bhaktir bhagavaty akincana sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah     |
harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna mano-rathenasati dhavato bahih   ||5.8.12||
Meaning: One who has unflinching faith in the Supreme and has utmost devotion, that person is blessed by God with all the good qualities that make it endearing to Him. But one who merely engages in seeking knowledge without Bhakti such knowledge is of little value. Knowledge without Bhakti is useless tinsel.

1.29     Shloka 1.29

वेपथुश्च शरीरे मे रोमहर्षश्च जायते
गाण्डीवं स्रंसते हस्तात्त्वक्चैव परिदह्यते। ।।1.29।।

Vepathus ca sarire me roma-harsas ca jayate                |
Gandivam sramsate hastat tvak caiva paridahyate ||1.29||
Meaning: My whole body is trembling, and my hair is standing on end. My bow Gandiva is slipping from my hand, and my skin is burning. 

Arjuna is losing his composure as he feels his hair standing on its end, his heart racing, his skin burning and his famous bow Gandiva slipping out of his hand.  All of this is happening to him not because of the fear of the battle but out of his compassion for all those assembled and their kins.

1.30     Shloka 1.30

न च शक्नोम्यवस्थातुं भ्रमतीव च मे मनः
निमित्तानि च पश्यामि विपरीतानि केशव। ।।1.30।।

Na ca saknomy avasthatum bhramativa ca me manah    |
Nimittani ca pasyami viparitani kesava                             ||1.30||
Meaning: I am now unable to keep my composure. I am forgetting myself, and my mind is reeling. I foresee only evil, O killer of the Kesi demon.

Arjuna was unable to stay focussed and was losing control of senses as he was overwhelmed with grief. Bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatah: such fearfulness and loss of mental equilibrium takes place in persons who are too attached to the material world. Arjuna envisioned only unhappiness in the battlefield—he would not be happy even by gaining victory over his foes as he saw his cousins, uncles, gurus and grandfathers among them.

The use of the word ‘nimitta’ is significant.  Nimittani is used to mean inauspicious omens but not as an indication or sign of what might happen but as the result.

1.31     Shloka 1.31

न च श्रेयोऽनुपश्यामि हत्वा स्वजनमाहवे
न काङ्क्षे विजयं कृष्ण न च राज्यं सुखानि च।  ।।1.31।।

Na ca sreyo ‘nupasyami hatva sva-janam ahave           |
Na kankse vijayam Krishna na ca rajyam sukhani ca ||1.31||
Meaning: I do not see how any good can come from killing my own kinsmen in this battle, nor do I, my dear Krishna, desire any subsequent victory, kingdom, or happiness.

Arjuna thought that his victory in the battle would only be a cause of lamentation for him and says he does not desire the Kingdom that is obtained by killing his kinsmen. He sees the consequences of war presenting conflicting results. Arjuna says that even if he were victorious in the battle and obtains the Kingdom he would not feel any satisfaction or happiness, on the contrary he would be remorseful.

1.32     Shloka 1.32

किं नो राज्येन गोविन्द किं भोगैर्जीवितेन वा।
येषामर्थे काङ्क्षितं नो राज्यं भोगाः सुखानि च। ।1.32।।

Kim no rajyena Govinda kim bhogair jivitena va                   |
Yesam arthe kanksitam no rajyam bhogah sukhani ca ||1.32||
Meaning: O’Govinda! What need do we have for a Kingdom or what need of enjoyments and livelihood, if for those whom we desire the Kingdom and happiness for are all here?

By addressing Shri Krishna as Govinda, Arjuna is appealing to the compassionate virtues of the Lord. Arjuna explains that he does not desire the Kingdom that is to be won in a battle in which the destruction of one’s kins’ is certain. Hence, he says, it is a fruitless desire to engage in a battle where all kinsmen will perish.

1.33     Shloka 1.33

त इमेऽवस्थिता युद्धे प्राणांस्त्यक्त्वा धनानि च।
आचार्याः पितरः पुत्रास्तथैव च पितामहाः  ।1.33।।

Ta ime ‘vasthita yuddhe pranams tyaktva dhanani ca       |
Acharyah pitarah putras tathaiva ca pitamahah             ||1.33||
Meaning: All of these men in this battlefield will be giving up their lives and riches. Amongst them are Acharyas, Fathers, Sons, as well as grandfathers.

Arjuna appears to have even forgotten the moral codes for a kshatriya. It is said that two kinds of men, namely the Kshatriya who dies directly in the battlefield under Shri Krishna’s personal command and Sanyasi, a person in the renounced order of life who is absolutely devoted to spirituality, are eligible to enter into the Surya mandala, which is so powerful and dazzling.

Arjuna is reluctant to kill even his enemies, let alone his relatives. He was not willing to fight as he was overcome by grief at the thought of killing so many of them.

1.34     Shloka 1.34

मातुलाः श्चशुराः पौत्राः श्यालाः सम्बन्धिनस्तथा।
एतान्न हन्तुमिच्छामि घ्नतोऽपि मधुसूदन। ।1.34।।

Matulah svasurah pautrah syalah sambandhinas tatha      |
Etan na hantum icchami ghnato ‘pi madhusudana        ||1.34||
Meaning: O’ Madhusudana, even if I am killed, I do not wish to kill my maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law and all relatives for the sake of a Kingdom.

1.35     Shloka 1.35

अपि त्रैलोक्यराज्यस्य हेतोः किं नु महीकृते।
निहत्य धार्तराष्ट्रान्नः का प्रीतिः स्याज्जनार्दन 1.35।।

Api trailokya-rajyasya hetoh kim nu mahi-krte                    |
Nihatya dhartarastran nah ka pritih syaj Janardhana ||1.35||
Meaning: I am not prepared to fight with them even if I get all three worlds in exchange, let alone this world. O’ Janardhana, the maintainer of all living entities, what happiness shall we derive by killing the sons of Dhritarashtra?

Arjuna’s deep affection and compassion for the community and his family members comes to the fore. Arjuna is addressing Shri Krishna by his various names as Govinda, Madhusudhana and Janardhana and is appealing to compassionate virtues of the Lord to relieve Him of his agony.

Janardhana means ‘One Who destroys the ignorance of His devotees’. Thus, Arjuna is appealing to Bhagavan Shri Krishna to destroy his ignorance as well in this verse.

1.36     Shloka 1.36

तस्मान्नार्हा वयं हन्तुं धार्तराष्ट्रान्स्वबान्धवान्
स्वजनं हि कथं हत्वा सुखिनः स्याम माधव  ।।1.36।।

papam evasrayed asman hatvaitan atatayinah
tasman narha vayam hantum dhartarastran sa-bandhavan
sva-janam hi katham hatva sukhinah syama Madhava        ||1.36||
Meaning: Sin will accrue if we slay such aggressors. Therefore, it is not proper for us to kill the sons of Dhritarashtra and our friends. What would we gain, O’ Madhava, the consort of Maha Lakshmi, and how could we be happy by killing our own kinsmen?

According to Vedic injunctions there are six kinds of aggressors:

  • a who poisons
  • one who commits arson
  • one who attacks with deadly weapons without just cause
  • one who plunders riches
  • one who occupies another’s property, and
  • one who kidnaps someone’s wife.

Such aggressors can be slain without instantly without accruing any sin and as mentioned in Vedic injunctions – ‘Atatayinam ayantam hanyad’ meaning ‘Without hesitation such aggressors may be slain as there is no sin in killing them’. The sons of Dhritarashtra have committed these heinous acts of aggression against the Pandavas.

Although there is no reward in this world or the next for such an action, a responsible King of a State is required to be righteous and should not be cowardly. However, one should consider in the case of Arjuna, the aggressors were his own relatives viz. grandfathers, Gurus, friends, sons, grandsons, etc.

Arjuna considered that rather than kill his kinsmen for political gains, it would be better to forgive them. So, he reasoned that such killing is not worthwhile or legitimate for acquiring temporary enjoyments. After all, Kingdoms and pleasures derived therefrom are not permanent, so why should he risk salvation by killing his own kinsmen?

Arjuna’s reasoning is based on Dharma Shastra which states ‘Ahimsa Paramo Dharma’ meaning ‘Non-violence is the ultimate obligation’ while the moral codes of Niti Shastra states one can rightfully kill his aggressors. Since Dharma Shastra is superior to Niti Shastra, Arjuna reasoned that killing of revered elders such as Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and others can only accrue sin.

Arjuna addresses Shri Krishna as Madhava, reinforcing the aspect that He is the consort of Maha Lakshmi who is the controller of all wealth and opulence, to stress his point that why is the Lord who is the consort of the Goddess of fortune asking him to fight a battle in which there will be blood, gore, death, and devoid of wealth and opulence.


1.37     Shloka 1.37

यद्यप्येते न पश्यन्ति लोभोपहतचेतसः
कुलक्षयकृतं दोषं मित्रद्रोहे च पातकम्।।1.37।।

Yadi api ete na pasyanti lobhopahata-cetasah             |
Kula-ksaya-krtam dosam mitra-drohe ca patakam ||1.37||
Meaning: These men, overtaken by greed in their heart, do not see any fault in killing one’s family or quarreling with friends.

Arjuna begins with ‘yadi api ete na pasyanti’ to underscore the reason for the Kauravas to be engaged in this war was out of greed. As we don’t have this greed there is no need for a battle.

1.38     Shloka 1.38

कथं न ज्ञेयमस्माभिः पापादस्मान्निवर्तितुम्।
कुलक्षयकृतं दोषं प्रपश्यद्भिर्जनार्दन ।।1.38।।

Katham na jneyam asmabhih papad asman nivartitum  |
Kula-ksaya-krtam dosam prapasyadbhir Janardana ||1.38||
Meaning: O’ Janardana, although these men are unaware, why should we engage in the destruction of a dynasty with full knowledge of the sin? 

Being a devotee of the Bhagavan Shri Krishna, who is the propounder of dharma or righteousness, Arjuna addresses Him as Janardhana meaning ‘the remover of ignorance’ and asks Why should they not refrain themselves from such ignorance being aware of the implications of unrighteous acts?

1.39     Shloka 1.39

कुलक्षये प्रणश्यन्ति कुलधर्माः सनातनाः।
धर्मे नष्टे कुलं कृत्स्नमधर्मोऽभिभवत्युत ।।1.39।।

kula-ksaye pranasyanti kula-dharmah sanatanah                   |
dharme naste kulam krtsnam adharmo ‘bhibhavaty uta ||1.39||
Meaning:  With the destruction of dynasty, the spiritual family tradition is destroyed forever, and when spiritual practices are destroyed, unrighteous acts predominate the entire society. 

There are many principles of religious traditions to help members of the family to attain spiritual values. The elder members are responsible for such purifying processes in the family, beginning from birth to death. But on the death of the elder members, such family traditions may stop, and the remaining younger family members may develop unrighteous habits and thereby lose their chance for spiritual salvation. Therefore, for no purpose should the elder members of the family be slain.

Arjuna now describes the evil consequences of war in detail with this verse beginning kula-ksaye pranasyanti. The compound word ‘kula-dharmah’ means ‘the righteous family traditions prescribed in Vedic rites such as the agnihotra (yagna)’. Arjuna argues that due to the destruction of the dynasty there will be lack of qualified family members knowledgeable enough to guide the younger members on the path of dharma. When dharma or righteousness is absent then adharma or unrighteousness takes hold and the remaining dependants along with the whole family will destroy the foundations of society.

1.40     Shloka 1.40

अधर्माभिभवात्कृष्ण प्रदुष्यन्ति कुलस्त्रियः।
स्त्रीषु दुष्टासु वार्ष्णेय जायते वर्णसङ्करः।।1.40।।

Adharma abhibhavat Shri Krishna pradusyanti kula-striyah       |
Strisu dustasu varsneya jayate varna-sankarah        ||1.40||
Meaning: When unrighteousness is prominent in the family, O Shri Krishna, the women in the family are sullied, and from the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vrsni, comes unwanted progeny.

As the society degenerates without proper spiritual guidance, Arjuna opines that the female of the family become easily accessible and are placed in conditions of compromise. From this polluted and degraded position arises undesirable progeny. The purpose of Arjuna addressing Bhagavan Shri Krishna by the vocative Varsneya is to remind Him that He took birth in the exalted royal Vrsni dynasty and as such should be fully aware of these things.

1.41     Shloka 1.41

सङ्करो नरकायैव कुलघ्नानां कुलस्य च।
पतन्ति पितरो ह्येषां लुप्तपिण्डोदकक्रियाः।।1.41।।

Sankaro narakayaiva kula-ghnanam kulasya ca        |
Patanti pitaro hy esam lupta-pindodaka-kriyah ||1.41||
Meaning:  When there is an increase of unwanted population, a hellish situation is created both for the family and for those who destroy the family tradition. In such corrupt families, there is no offering of oblations of food and water to the ancestors. 

According to the traditions, there is a need to offer periodic oblations of food and water to the departed forefathers of the family. This offering is performed by worship of Vishnu, because eating the remnants of food offered to Vishnu can deliver one from all kinds of sinful actions.

However, one who is engaged in the devotional life is not required to perform such actions. Simply by performing devotional service, one can deliver hundreds and thousands of forefathers from all kinds of misery. It is stated in Srimad Bhagavatam (11.5.41):
Devarsi-bhutapta-nrnam pitrnam na kinkaro nayamrni ca rajan  |
Sarvatmana yah saranam saranyam gato mukundam parihrtya kartam ||
Meaning: Anyone who has taken shelter of the Lotus feet of Mukunda, the bestower of salvation, giving up all kinds of obligation, and has taken to the path in all seriousness, owes neither duties nor obligations to the Devas, Sages, general living entities, family members, humankind or forefathers. Such obligations are automatically fulfilled by engaging in devotional service of God.

1.42     Shloka 1.42

दोषैरेतैः कुलघ्नानां वर्णसङ्करकारकैः।
उत्साद्यन्ते जातिधर्माः कुलधर्माश्च शाश्वताः।।1.42।।

Dosair etaih kula-ghnanam varna-sankara-karakaih        |
Utsadyante jati-dharmah kula-dharmas ca sasvatah ||1.42||
Meaning: Due to the evil deeds of the destroyers of family tradition, all kinds of spiritual traditions are eradicated and the nobility of the family devastated.

Arjuna describes the misery experienced for those who are responsible for causing this destruction of the family traditions. Due to these evils, the essential duties prescribed in the Vedic scriptures that are faithfully instructed by holy sages and spiritual gurus are all forsaken.

1.43     Shloka 1.43

उत्सन्नकुलधर्माणां मनुष्याणां जनार्दन।
नरकेऽनियतं वासो भवतीत्यनुशुश्रुम।।1.43।।

Utsanna-kula-dharmanam manusyanam Janardhana  |
Narake niyatam vaso bhavatity anususruma                 ||1.43||
Meaning: O Janardhana, maintainer of the people, I have heard from the learned that those people whose family traditions have been destroyed always reside in hell.

Arjuna is supporting his argument by affirming that he has heard from respectable sources in Guru Parampara, that those who are responsible for destroying righteousness reside permanently in hellish existence. Therefore this decision to fight is not the wisest of choices.

1.44     Shloka 1.44

अहो बत महत्पापं कर्तुं व्यवसिता वयम्।
यद्राज्यसुखलोभेन हन्तुं स्वजनमुद्यताः।।1.44।।

Aho bata mahat papam kartum vyavasita vayam    |
Yad rajya-sukha-lobhena hantum sva-janam udyatah ||1.44||
Meaning: Alas, how strange it is that we are preparing to commit greatly sinful acts, driven by the desire to enjoy royal happiness. 

It is a sinful act even to think about the killing of friends and relatives. As Arjuna has surmised in the previous verse that it is not in his best interest to fight according to his understanding. Now he is seen repenting that as such an act would bring only evil consequences. Thinking that his intelligence must be marred by delusion he sorrowfully speaks the words: ‘aho bata’ – alas how ironic it is. It is ironic to him that he has committed himself to great sin by his intention to slay friends and kinsman in the pursuit of royal pleasures and enjoyments.

1.45     Shloka 1.45

यदि मामप्रतीकारमशस्त्रं शस्त्रपाणयः।
धार्तराष्ट्रा रणे हन्युस्तन्मे क्षेमतरं भवेत्।।1.45।।

Yadi mam apratikaram asastram sahastra-panayah            |
Dhartarastra rane hanyus tan me ksemataram bhavet ||1.45||
Meaning: I would consider it better for me for the sons of Dhritarashtra to slay me in the battlefield unarmed and unresisting, rather than fight with them.

It is the custom—according to Kshatriya fighting principles—that an unarmed and unwilling foe should not be attacked. Arjuna, however, in such an enigmatic position, decided he would not fight if he were attacked by the enemy. All these symptoms are due to kind-heartedness resulting from him being a great devotee of the Bhagavan Shri Krishna.

Bhishma and the Kauravas will certainly attempt to kill Arjuna as they are eager to engage in this war. To answer this, Arjuna is speaking this verse beginning ‘yadi mam apratikaram’ – being not resistant is my atonement.  Ksemataram means much better, since the atonement will wash away all sins. Bhishma and the others fighting on the Kaurava side will not be able be able to escape the result of that sin.

Arjuna states that even if the sons of Dhritarashtra being devoid of wisdom and obsessed by greed would slay him unarmed and unresisting, this would still be more preferable than perpetuating sin by slaying friends and kinsman and permanently going to hell as a result. Arjuna feels that if he refrains from fighting, then after the death of his physical body there would be no feelings of guilt or repentance from committing such a sin.

1.46     Shloka 1.46

सञ्जय उवाच
एवमुक्त्वाऽर्जुनः संख्ये रथोपस्थ उपाविशत्।
विसृज्य सशरं चापं शोकसंविग्नमानसः।।1.46।।

Sanjaya Uvaca
Evam uktvarjunah sankhye rathopastha upavisat         |
Visrjya sa-saram capam soka-samvigna-manasah ||1.46||
Meaning: Sanjaya said, Arjuna, having thus spoken on the battlefield, cast aside his bow and arrows and sat down on the chariot, his mind overwhelmed with grief.

Sanjaya spoke that Arjuna whose mind was agitated by grief cast aside his bow and arrows and sank down despondently in the back of the chariot.

Summary of Chapter 1

Chapter 1 explains the problems of this Samsaara. They arise from attachment (Raga), grief (Soka) and delusion (Moha). When one is not happy with oneself, one seeks happiness from external sources. This leads to dependence and attachment to those external sources. Since the conditions of the external factors are unpredictable, therefore happiness from such sources is unsustainable leading to losing of one’s peace of mind.  A disturbed mind can only make erroneous judgments which would complicate things further. This, in short, is the problem of Samsaara.

The main topics of this chapter are:

  • Verses 1 to 20 – These verses contains a vivid description of the armies and their formations. After a brief inspection followed by instruction by Duryodhana to his commander Drona, Bhishma blows the conch to please Duryodhana.  This is followed by blowing of conch by Shri Krishna, Arjuna, and others, signaling the commencement of the battle.
  • Verses 21 to 25 – Arjuna instructs Shri Krishna to place his chariot in the middle of the armies to scrutinize the enemy-forces. The Lord brings the chariot in front of Bhisma and Drona and asks Arjuna to survey the army.
  • Verses 26 to 27 – Arjuna, looking at the army sees his grandfather Bhishma, his Guru Dona, his uncles, cousins and relatives and has a change of mind arising from his attachment (Raga). In a moment of weakness, Arjuna slips down from reason to relation. Instead of seeing the violators of dharma, he sees his beloved kith and kin. Arjuna is overpowered by attachment which is followed by its twin offshoots grief and delusion.
  • Verses 28 to 34 – Arjuna’s expresses his intense grief (Soka) which shakes him completely. This indicates the extent of his attachment.
  • Verses 35 to 45 – Arjuna’s veiled by attachment loses his discriminative power and he commits a series of false judgments from his delusion (Moha). Interestingly, Arjuna quotes the scriptures to bolster his unjustifiable stand.

Arjuna finds himself in the deep sea of attachment, sorrow, and delusion.  He sincerely wants to get out of this predicament where he is overcome by grief due to his attachment and compassion. In his mind, it is better to die without fighting than kill his kinsmen for the sake of Kingdom and enjoyment that comes with it. At the same time, he has not realized that the problem is so deep for him to solve independently with an unclear head.

In a confused state of mind, Arjuna casts his bow and arrow aside and drops down on the chariot in grief.


Om Tat Sat iti Srimad Bhagavad Gitasu Upanishatsu Brahma Vidyayam Yoga Shastre
Shri Krishna Arjuna Samvade Arjuna Vishaada Yogo Naama Prathamo dhyaayah||

Meaning: Om Tat Sat. This Srimad Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishad, is for gaining knowledge of the Brahman, the Yoga Shastra, is a conversation between Shri Krishna and Arjuna.  The first chapter is called Arjuna Vishada Yoga (Arjuna’s despondency).

जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!

Hari Om Tat Sat

SRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA – PART 2 Chapter 1 (Verses 1 -20) – Arjuna Vishada Yoga

Chapter 1 of the Bhagavad Gita is called the “Arjuna Vishada Yoga” meaning Arjuna’s despondency which is interestingly called a “Yoga”. It is paradoxical to call an expression of sorrow or despondency as a “Yoga”.

Yoga means “union” but the question arises as to union with what? Why should Arjuna become despondent having come to the battle field to wage a war and why is this even a Yoga?

As Arjuna requested Krishna to take the chariot to the center of the battlefield to survey the ranks of his enemies—he saw his own kith and kin including his grand-father Bhishma and his Gurus Dronacharya, Krupacharya and many other elders. He was overcome by grief and shuddered at the thought of killing his relatives and his preceptors for the throne.

Arjuna not wanting to fight, expresses words of wisdom by saying – “Ahimsa paramo Dharmaha” – Non-violence is the best policy or prime duty. It is important to note that Arjuna was not a coward to run away from the battlefield.

His despondency arose from a sudden realisation which made him introspect and question what will be the use of a Kingdom that is gained by killing one’s cousins, elders and Gurus.  What is the value of such success? This pain and sorrow, when it arises not for personal well-being but for the larger good, is transformed into what we may call as “VISHADA YOGA”.

The ‘VISHADA’ or sorrow leads to a state of Sanyasa Yoga, which is the bedrock of detachment. We have read this in the lives of the great Nayanmars and Azhwars where this type of sorrow and suffering for the larger good is described.  Similarly, Arjuna’s grief is slowly turning into that of a grief for larger good and he is on the verge of doing a total Surrender or “Saranagati” to Lord Shri Krishna. Thus VISHADA, true and sincere, is a first step for union with GOD!

Swami Krishnananda explains this scenario with an analogy of a person taking a vaccine to protect against a severe disease.  While the vaccine is to prevent a severe ailment, the after-effects of a vaccine typically causes a temporary period of illness. He compares Arjuna’s despondency as this temporary state of illness before Arjuna makes himself ready to receive the wisdom and knowledge from Lord Shri Krishna. In this sense, the state of Arjuna’s despondency is seen as Vishada Yoga.

The Bhagavad Gita begins with the verse, “Dharmakshetra, Kurushetra”, indicating a conflict between one’s righteous duties and one’s heart’s desire….there is constant battle between wisdom and ignorance that is present in the mind of each being. This battle to overcome ignorance to gain wisdom, and become detached from what is impermanent and perishable leads to eternal bliss.

Having set the context, let’s begin with Chapter 1 which mainly is a description of the battlefield and the state of Arjuna’s mind and his despondency.

1.1          SHLOKA 1.1

धृतराष्ट्र उवाच |

धर्मक्षेत्रे कुरुक्षेत्रे समवेता युयुत्सवः |
मामकाः पाण्डवाश्चैव किमकुर्वत सञ्जय ||1.1||

Dhṛitarashtra Uvaca

Dharma-kṣhetre kuru-kṣhetre samaveta yuyutsavaḥ      |
Mamakaḥ Paṇḍavashchaiva kimakurvata Sanjaya      ||1.1||
Meaning:  Dhritarashtra said: O’ Sanjaya, What are my sons and Pandava’s sons doing after assembling for the battle on the virtuous land of Kurukshetra?

King Dhritarashtra, apart from being blind from birth, was also bereft of spiritual wisdom.  His attachment to his own sons made him deviate from the path of virtue and usurp the rightful kingdom of the Pandavas.  He was conscious of the injustice he meted out to his nephews, the sons of Pandu.  His guilt worried him about the outcome of the battle, and he inquires Sanjaya about the events on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, where the war was about to commence.

Dhritarashtra’s question was superfluous as it was obvious that they had assembled in the Kurukshetra battlefield with the sole purpose of waging a war.  His doubt can be discerned from the words he used—dharma kṣhetre, the land of dharma (virtuous conduct).  Kurukshetra was a sacred land.  Dhritarashtra apprehended that the influence of the holy land of Kurukshetra may have an impact on the result which could lead to victory of the Pandavas, though he had great faith in the army of the Kauravas led by Bhishma. At the same time, he was uncertain of the consequences of the war, and wished to ascertain the fate of his sons.  As a result, he asked Sanjaya about the goings-on at the battleground of Kurukshetra, where the two armies had assembled.

1.2          SHLOKA 1.2

सञ्जय उवाच

दृष्ट्वा तु पाण्डवानीकं व्यूढं दुर्योधनस्तदा
आचार्यमुपसङ्गम्य राजा वचनमब्रवीत् २॥

Sanjaya Uvaca:

Drstva tu Pandavanikam vyudham Duryodhanas tada    |
Acaryam upasangamya Raja vacanam abravit              ||1.2||
Meaning: Sanjaya said: O King, after looking over the army gathered by the sons of Pandu, King Duryodhana went to his teacher and began to speak the following words (next Shloka).

Sanjaya informed King Dhritarashtra that his son, Duryodhana, after seeing the military forces of the Pandavas, at once went to the commander-in-chief, Dronacharya, to take stock of the situation on the ground. Duryodhana’s egoistic veneer could not disguise the fear he felt when he saw the military arrangement of the Pandavas.

1.3          SHLOKA 1.3

पश्यैतां पाण्डुपुत्राणामाचार्य महतीं चमूम्
व्यूढां द्रुपदपुत्रेण तव शिष्येण धीमता ३॥

Pasyaitam Pandu-putranam acarya mahatim camum    |
Vyudham Drupada-putrena tava sisyena dhimata      ||1.3||
Meaning: O my teacher, behold the great army of the sons of Pandu, so expertly arranged by your intelligent disciple, the son of Drupada.

Duryodhana, wanted to point out the flaws of Dronacharya and very subtly brings up the rivalry of Dronacarya with King Drupada by referring to the son of Drupada.

As a result of a clash with Dronacharya, in which Drupada was humbled, Drupada performed a great sacrifice, by which he received the benediction of having a son who would be able to kill Dronacharya. Even though Dhristadyumna, son of Drupada, was the prophesied killer of Drona, he was accepted as a student by the benevolent Drona, and he learned advanced military arts. Now, on the battlefield of Kuruksetra, Dhrstadyumna took the side of the Pandavas, and he has arranged their military phalanx, after having learned the art from his Guru Dronacharya.

Duryodhana pointed out this blunder of Dronacharya’s so that he might be alert and uncompromising in the battle. By mentioning this he also wanted to point out that he should not be similarly lenient in the battle against the Pandavas, who were also Dronacharya’s affectionate students. Arjuna, especially, was his most affectionate and hence, Duryodhana warned Dronacharya that any leniency in the battle could lead to defeat.

1.4          SHLOKA 1.4

अत्र शूरा महेष्वासा भीमार्जुनसमा युधि
युयुधानो विराटश्च द्रुपदश्च महारथः ४॥ 

Atra sura Mahesv-asa BhimArjuna-sama yudhi           |
Yuyudhano viratas ca Drupadas ca Maha-rathah  ||1.4||
Meaning: Here in this army there are many heroic bowmen equal to the might of Bhima and Arjuna, such as Satyaki, King Virata, Drupada  and other great fighters.

Duryodhana’s use of the words ‘atra surah’ in addressing Drona is an insinuation and he says to Dronacharya that If you are thinking that because the Pandavas army commanded by Dhristadyumna are less than ours and they can be easily defeated, and there is nothing to worry about, then you are mistaken. These warriors are all mighty bowmen just like Bhima and Arjuna, and the arrows from whose bows are as vicious as they come. The warriors such as Yuyudhana (who is also known as Satyaki), Virata and Drupada are distinguished as ‘maha-rathi’ meaning ‘the mightiest of chariot warriors’.

1.5          SHLOKA 1.5

धृष्टकेतुश्चेकितानः काशिराजश्च वीर्यवान्
पुरुजित्कुन्तिभोजश्च शैब्यश्च नरपुङ्गवः ५॥

Dhrstaketus cekitanah kasirajas ca viryavan                |
Purujit Kuntibhojas ca saibyas ca nara-pungavah ||1.5||
Meaning: There are also great, heroic, powerful fighters like Dhrstaketu, Cekitana, Kasiraja, Purujit, Kuntibhoja and Saibya.

Duryodhana continues to enlist the warriors in the enemy camp to ensure that Dronacharya does not get complacent and that he prepares for the battle in the right earnest.

1.6          SHLOKA 1.6

युधामन्युश्च विक्रान्त उत्तमौजाश्च वीर्यवान्
सौभद्रो द्रौपदेयाश्च सर्व एव महारथाः ६॥

Yudhamanyus ca vikranta uttamaujas ca viryavan        |
Saubhadro draupadeyas ca sarva eva maha-rathah ||1.6||
Meaning: There are the mighty Yudhamanyu, the very powerful Uttamauja, the son of Subhadra and the sons of Draupadi. All these warriors are great chariot fighters.

Duryodhana goes on further with his list of other warriors so that Dronacharya feels offended enough to prove him wrong by showing his full might in the battlefield.

1.7          SHLOKA 1.7

अस्माकं तु विशिष्टा ये तान्निबोध द्विजोत्तम
नायका मम सैन्यस्य संज्ञार्थं तान्ब्रवीमि ते ७॥

Asmakam tu visista ye tan nibodha dvijottama                  |
Nayaka mama sainyasya samjnartham tan bravimi te ||1.7||

Meaning: O’ the best of the dvijas (Brahmanas), for your information, let me tell you about the captains who are especially qualified to lead my military force.

Receiving not much of a response from Dronacharya to his long speech and to make amends for his censuring him, Duryodhana changes tack and begins to enumerate the names of the warriors on his side, also exaggerating their qualities, in order to look self-confident and hide his nervousness.

1.8          SHLOKA 1.8

भवान्भीष्मश्च कर्णश्च कृपश्च समितिञ्जयः
अश्वत्थामा विकर्णश्च सौमदत्तिस्तथैव ८॥

Bhavan Bhishmas ca Karnas ca Krpas ca samitim-jayah     |
Asvatthama Vikarnas ca Saumadattis tathaiva ca        ||1.8||
Meaning: There are personalities like yourself, Bhishma, Karna, Kripacharya, Asvatthama, Vikarna and the son of Somadatta called Bhurisrava, who are always victorious in battle.

Duryodhana mentioned the exceptional heroes all of whom were ever-victorious. He lists Bhishma, Karna, Kripacharya, Ashvatthama (son of Dronacharya), Vikarna (brother of Duryodhana), and Saumadatti, or Bhurisrava (son of the King of the Bahlikas).

1.9          SHLOKA 1.9

अन्ये बहवः शूरा मदर्थे त्यक्तजीविताः
नानाशस्त्रप्रहरणाः सर्वे युद्धविशारदाः ९॥

Anye ca bahavah sura mad-arthe tyakta-jivitah          |
Nana-sastra-praharanah sarve yuddha-visaradah ||1.9||
Meaning: There are many other heroes who are prepared to lay down their lives for my cause. All of them are well equipped with different kinds of weapons, and all are experienced in military science.

Duryodharana goes on further to assert that there are many others – like Jayadratha, Krtavarma, Salya, etc.— who are all determined to lay down their lives in support of his cause.

1.10        SHLOKA 1.10

अपर्याप्तं तदस्माकं बलं भीष्माभिरक्षितम्
पर्याप्तं त्विदमेतेषां बलं भीमाभिरक्षितम् १०॥

Aparyaptam tad asmakam balam Bhishmabhiraksitam        |
Paryaptam tv idam etesam balam Bhimabhiraksitam ||1.10||
Meaning:  Our strength is immeasurable, and we are perfectly protected by Grandfather Bhishma, whereas the strength of the Pandavas, carefully protected by Bhima, is limited.

In his estimation of comparative strength Duryodhana thinks that the strength of his armed forces is immeasurable, being specifically protected by the most experienced general, Grandfather Bhishma. On the other hand, the forces of the Pandavas were limited being protected by a less experienced general Bhima when compared with that of Bhishma.  Duryodhana was always envious of Bhima but at the same time, he was confident of his victory on account of the presence of Bhishma, who was a far superior general.

1.11        SHLOKA 1.11

अयनेषु सर्वेषु यथाभागमवस्थिताः
भीष्ममेवाभिरक्षन्तु भवन्तः सर्व एव हि ११॥ 

Ayanesu ca sarvesu yatha-bhagam avasthitah              |
Bhishmam evabhiraksantu bhavantah sarva eva hi ||1.11||
Meaning: Now all of you must give full support to Grandfather Bhishma, standing at your respective strategic points in the phalanx of the army.

Duryodhana, after praising the prowess of Bhishma, went on to praise others so that they do not think that he considered them less important, and hence chose to add to the list of warriors on his side. He emphasized that Bhishma was undoubtedly the greatest hero, but he was old.  So everyone must hold their positions and offer cover to him from all sides as he gets engaged in the fight. It was important that other warriors should not leave their strategic positions and not allow the enemy to break through the phalanx.

Duryodhana clearly felt that the victory of the Kurus depended on the presence of Bhishma. He was confident of the full support of Bhishma Pitamaha and Dronacharya in the battle because he knew well that they were bound by a sense of duty to the King, although they had some affinity for the Pandavas.

1.12     SHLOKA 1.12

तस्य सञ्जनयन्हर्षं कुरुवृद्धः पितामहः
सिंहनादं विनद्योच्चैः शङ्खं दध्मौ प्रतापवान् १२॥

Tasya Sanjanayan harsam Kuru-vrddhah Pitamahah  |
Simha-nadam vinadyoccaih sankham dadhmau pratapavan ||1.12||
Meaning: Then Bhishma, the great valiant grandsire of the Kuru dynasty, the grandfather of the fighters, blew his conchshell very loudly, like the roar of a lion, giving Duryodhana joy.

The legend of the Kuru dynasty, Bhishma, could understand the anxiety of his grandson Duryodhana, and out of his natural compassion for him, tried to cheer him up by blowing his conch-shell very loudly, befitting his position as their leader.

1.13        SHLOKA 1.13

ततः शङ्खाश्च भेर्यश्च पणवानकगोमुखाः
सहसैवाभ्यहन्यन्त शब्दस्तुमुलोऽभवत् १३॥ 

Tatah sankhas ca bheryas ca panavanaka-gomukhah
Sahasaivabhyahanyanta sa sabdas tumulo ‘bhavat    ||1.13||
Meaning: After that, the conch-shells, bugles, trumpets, drums and horns were all suddenly sounded, and the combined sound was tumultuous.

1.14     SHLOKA 1.14

ततः श्वेतैर्हयैर्युक्ते महति स्यन्दने स्थितौ
माधवः पाण्डवश्चैव दिव्यौ शङ्खौ प्रदध्मतुः १४॥

Tatah svetair hayair yukte mahati syandane sthitau |
Madhavah Pandavas caiva divyau sankhau pradadhmatuh ||1.14||
Meaning: On the other side, both Lord Shri Krishna and Arjuna, stationed on their divine chariot drawn by white horses, sounded their transcendental conch-shells.

In contrast with the conch shell blown by Bhishma, the conchshells in the hands of Shri Krishna (Panchajanyam) and Arjuna (Devadattam) are described as transcendental.

The impact of the sound of these transcendental conch shells indicated that there was no hope of victory for the other side – “Jayas tu pandu-putranam yesam pakse Janardanah” – Victory is always with persons like the sons of Pandu because Shri Krishna was on their side.

And whenever and wherever the Lord is present, the Goddess of fortune is also there because the She is inseparable from the Lord – I refer to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (6.10.10) – “Agalagillen iraiyum en alarmel mangai  urai marba” meaning “O Lord, you bear the inseparable Lotus-dame Lakshmi on your chest!”

Therefore, victory and fortune were awaiting Arjuna, as indicated by the transcendental sound produced by the conch-shell of Shri Krishna. Besides that, the chariot on which both of them were  seated was donated by Agni (the fire-god) to Arjuna.  This indicated that this chariot was capable of conquering all sides, wherever it was drawn over the three worlds.

1.15        SHLOKA 1.15

पाञ्चजन्यं हृषीकेशो देवदत्तं धनञ्जयः
पौण्ड्रं दध्मौ महाशङ्खं भीमकर्मा वृकोदरः १५॥ 

Pancajanyam Hrshikesho Devadattam Dhananjayah     |
Paundram dadhmau maha-sankham Bhima-karma Vrkodarah ||1.15||
Meaning: Then, Shri Krishna blew His conch-shell, called Pancajanyam; Arjuna blew his conch, the Devadattam; and Bhima, the voracious eater and performer of Herculean tasks, blew his terrific conch shell called Paundram.

Shri Krishna is referred as Hrshikesha in this verse because He is the owner and controller of all senses. All the living entities are part and parcel of Him, and, therefore, the senses of these living entities are also part and parcel of His senses.  The Lord, situated in the hearts of all living entities, directs their senses. But in the case of a pure devotee He directly controls the senses.

On the battlefield of Kurukshetra, the Lord directly controls the transcendental senses of Arjuna, and thus the use of His particular name of Hrshikesha. The use of Hrshikesha assumes significance as He gives directions to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

Arjuna is referred to as ‘Dhananjaya’ in this verse because he helped King Yudhistra in fetching wealth by conqueiring kingdoms when it was required for the Rajasuya Yagna. Arjuna blew his conch called Devadattam.

Bhima is also known as Vrkodara because he could eat as voraciously as he could perform Herculean tasks such as killing the demon Hidimba.  Vrkodara also means wolf waisted or wolf-bellied, referring to Bhima’s six pack abs.  Bhima blew his conch called Paundram.

1.16     SHLOKA 1.16

अनन्तविजयं राजा कुन्तीपुत्रो युधिष्ठिरः
नकुलः सहदेवश्च सुघोषमणिपुष्पकौ १६॥

Anantavijayam raja Kunti-putro Yudhisthirah         |
Nakulah Sahadevas ca sughosa-manipuspakau ||1.16||
Meaning: King Yudhisthira, the son of Kunti, blew his conch shell, the Anantavijaya, and Nakula and Sahadeva blew the Sughosa and Manipuspaka.

1.17     SHLOKA 1.17

काश्यश्च परमेष्वासः शिखण्डी महारथः
धृष्टद्युम्नो विराटश्च सात्यकिश्चापराजितः १७॥

Kasyas ca paramesv-asah sikhandi ca maha-rathah       |
Dhrstadyumno viratas ca satyakis caparajitah          ||1.17||
Meaning: That great archer the King of Kasi, the great fighter Sikhandi, Dhrstadyumna, Virata and the unconquerable Satyaki,

1.18        SHLOKA 1.18

द्रुपदो द्रौपदेयाश्च सर्वशः पृथिवीपते
सौभद्रश्च महाबाहुः शङ्खान्दध्मुः पृथक्पृथक् १८॥

Drupado Draupadeyas ca sarvasah prthivi-pate |
Saubhadras ca maha-bahuh sankhan dadhmuh prthak prthak ||1.18||
Meaning: Drupada, the sons of Draupadi, and the others, O King, such as the son of Subhadra, greatly armed, all blew their respective conch-shells.

So, the different types of conch-shells blown by the different personalities from the Pandavas camp, beginning with the Lord’s Panchajanyam, were all very encouraging to the fighting soldiers.

1.19        SHLOKA 1.19

घोषो धार्तराष्ट्राणां हृदयानि व्यदारयत्   
नभश्च पृथिवीं चैव तुमुलोऽभ्यनुनादयन् १९॥

Sa ghoso Dhartarastranam hrdayani vyadarayat            |
Nabhas ca Prthivim caiva tumulo ‘bhyanunadayan ||1.19||
Meaning: The tumultuous sound of these different conch-shells vibrating both in the sky and on the earth, pierced the hearts of the sons of Dhritarashtra shattering their confidence.

When Bhishma and the others on Duryodhana’s camp blew their respective conch-shells, there was no heart-break on the part of Pandavas or their army. But in this particular verse, it is mentioned that the hearts of the sons of Dhrtarashtra were shattered by the sounds vibrating from the Pandava camps conch-shells.

Sanjaya informed King Dhrtarashtra very tactfully that his policy of deceiving the sons of Pandu to enthrone his own sons on the seat of the kingdom was neither wise nor righteous. These were ominous signs of destruction of the whole Kuru dynasty beginning with the grandsire, Bhishma, down to the grandsons and others—including Kings from many states—who were all present there, were doomed. The great catastrophe was about to unfold which was as a result of King Dhrtarashtra’s prejudice, envy, sense of entitlement and greed.

1.20        SHLOKA 1.20

अथ व्यवस्थितान्दृष्ट्वा धार्तराष्ट्रान् कपिध्वजः
प्रवृत्ते शस्त्रसम्पाते धनुरुद्यम्य पाण्डवः २०॥

atha vyavasthitan drstva dhartarastran kapi-dhvajah      |
pravrtte sastra-sampate dhanur udyamya pandavah ||1.20||

Hrshikesham tada vakyam idam aha mahi-pate

Meaning: O King, at that time Arjuna, the son of Pandu, who was seated in his chariot, his flag marked with Hanuman, stood up raising his bow and spoke to Hrshikesha these words (to be covered in next part).

The stage has been set and the battle is just about to begin. The sons of Dhrtarashtra were more or less disheartened by the unassailable arrangement of the military force of the Pandavas, who were guided by Lord Shri Krishna on the battlefield.

As Arjuna stood up in his chariot and picked up his bow, he spoke to Shri Krishna the following words;  which turned out to be the beginning of a long dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna (the Krishna-Arjuna Samvada), that gave us the great Srimad Bhagavad Gita.

जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!

Hari Om Tat Sat



Invoking the blessings of Sri Swami Desikan and Shri Krishna, I embark on this journey of gaining a deeper understanding of this great source of knowledge for the human kind – “Srimad Bhagavad Gita”!

As I began with this introduction, a friend came in to deliver me “Prasadam (Laddoo)” from Tirupati, signifying a divine blessing to begin this journey! With that, I begin my quest for gaining a deeper meaning of the purpose of our life.

The word “Gita” means song and Bhagavad Gita means the God’s song. The Bhagavad Gita is a spiritual text composed by Maharishi Veda Vyasa as revealed to him by Shri Krishna,  It comprises of a 700-verses and forms part of the great epic ‘Mahabharata’.

Gita is a quintessential part of the Prasthana Trayam, the holy books of Sanatana Dharma,. Prasthana trayam, literally, three sources (or axioms), or texts of Hindu philosophy, especially of the Vedanta schools:

  1. The Upanishads, known as Upadesha prasthana (injunctive texts), and the Shruti Prasthana (the starting point or axiom of revelation), especially the Principal Upanishads.
  2. The Brahma Sutras, known as Nyaya Prasthana or Yukti Prasthana (logical text or axiom of logic)
  3. The Bhagavad Gita, known as Sadhana Prasthana (practical text), and the Smriti Prasthana (the starting point or axiom of remembered tradition)

Srimad Bhagavad Gita speaks about “the way of living, the nature of things and provides many paths to attain self-realisation.” It speaks about humanity, Reality and our place in that Reality, as well as the actions we are to take to find inner peace. It emphasizes the various forms of Yogas — ways in which humans can deal with the challenges of the ever-changing world and the constant vacillation of emotions of the mind. It deals with the path to wisdom and the relationship of self (Atma) with that of the ultimate Reality (ParamAtma).

The essence of the Gita is that it establishes a person’s right to question every aspect of life.  Sanatana Dharma (ancient wisdom) thrives on “tarka” or debate to explore and find “truth”.  There are many paths that lead to the Absolute truth and each path, followed with utmost faith and devotion, leads to Self-realisation and Salvation.

The Bhagavad Gita is set as a dialogue between a human, namely, Arjuna, and the God Reality, Shri Krishna. The dialogue between the two establishes the principle to question life and gain a true understanding.  Shri Krishna answers Arjuna’s many questions that clarify the confusions and doubts clouding Arjuna’s mind.

The core principles of Srimad Bhagavad Gita are:

  • The consciousness that exists in the macrocosm and the consciousness that exists in each one of us is one and the same. If one understand what upholds one’s being, one can understand the consciousness that sustains and upholds the Cosmos.
  • Everything is composed of matter (that which forms matter) called “Prakriti”, and Spirit or Consciousness called “Purusha”.
  • The life on Earth has only one purpose – to know the spiritual foundation that sustains and upholds the cosmos and all that is there.
  • Humans are capable of this self-realisation, which is knowing the Absolute.

The knowledge found within the Bhagavad-Gita is incomparable as it gives specific information regarding the purpose of human existence, the immortality of the soul and our eternal relationship with God. This information applies to each and every one of us without exception. Without realization of our divine relationship with the God it is impossible to establish our eternal relationship with Him.

There are three paths which lead directly to establishing a relationship with God. According to the Bhagavad-Gita these paths have been designated as the yoga of perfect actions, the yoga of perfect devotion and the yoga of perfect knowledge. These three paths have been fully explained in the Bhagavad-Gita, within chapter 23 to 40 in the Bhishma-Parva of Mahabharata.

The Bhagavad-Gita consists of 18 chapters and each chapter is called a Yoga. Yoga is the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the Ultimate Consciousness. So each chapter is a specialized yoga revealing the path of attaining realization of the Ultimate Truth.

The first six chapters have been classified as the Karma Yoga section as they deal with the realisation of the Ultimate Consciousness through actions.

The middle six chapters are known as the Bhakti Yoga as they principally pertain to the path of devotion to attain communion with the Ultimate Consciousness.

The final six chapters are regarded as the Jnana Yoga as they explain the science of the attaining communion with the Ultimate Consciousness through the intellect.

Aum ajnana-timirandhasya jnananjana-salakaya |
caksur unmilitam yena tasmai sri-gurave namah ||
Meaning: I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him.

जय श्री कृष्णाJai Shri Krishna!

Hari Om Tat Sat

Bhakta Kavi Jayadeva Goswami

Bhakta Kavi Jayadeva Goswami, was a Sanksrit poet during the 12th century. He is most known for his epic composition Gita Govinda which vividly describes Shri Krishna’s love for Gopikas in general and Radha in particular.

The Gita Govinda is organized into twelve chapters. Each chapter is further sub-divided into twenty-four divisions called Prabandhas. The Prabandhas contain couplets grouped into eights, called Ashtapadis. The poem presents the view that Radha is greater than Shri Krishna, is considered an important part of the Bhakti movement, in which Jayadeva describes Lord Shri Krishna’s yearning for Radha!

The poems also elaborates the eight moods of the Heroine, the Ashta Nayika, which has been an inspiration for many compositions and choreographic works in Indian classical dances.

Sri Jayadeva – Ashtapadi reveals the  True Essence of Love between Radha and Shri Krishna.  Sri Gita Govinda Mahakavyam declares the beautiful blend and unison of JivAtma with ParamAtma.

The twelve chapters of Gita Govinda vividly describes the different facet of Shri Krishna:

  1. Samoda Damodaram (Exuberant Krishna)
  2. Aklesha Keshavam (Blithesome Krishna)
  3. Mugdha Madhusudanam (Winsome Krishna)
  4. Snigdha Madhusudanam (Tender Krishna)
  5. Sakankṣa Puṇdarikakṣham (Passionate Krishna)
  6. Dhrṣta Vaikuṇṭa (Audacious Krishna)
  7. Nagara Narayanah (Dexterous Krishna)
  8. Vilakṣya Lakṣmipatih (Apologetic Krishna)
  9. Mugdhada Mukunda (Unpretentious Krishna)
  10. Chatura Chaturbhujah (Tactful Krishna)
  11. Sananda Damodaram (Joyful Krishna)
  12. Suprita Pitambaraj (Exultant Krishna)

Jayadeva’s birth

jayadevaJayadeva was born to Kamalabai and Narayana Sastri, a very pious Brahmin couple. Kamalabai was very devout and longed for a child. She prayed to the Lord to be blessed with a child.  One night, Lord Krishna appeared in his dream and told him that his wife’s prayer would be fulfilled and they would soon be blessed with an illustrious son. Soon, Kamalabai gave birth to Jaya Deva.

Jaya Deva was very devoted to Shri Krishna from his childhood and his Upanayanam ceremony was performed when he was only five years old.  He learnt the scriptures at a very young age and was incessantly lost in prayers of Shri Krishna.  His parents left for Vanaprastha after sometime and Jayadeva led a nomadic life with no fixed abode.

One day, he had a divine visualization and went into an ecstatic state. In his divine vision, he saw the Yamuna River flowing through four Blue Mountains. Beside the river bank, under a tree, Lord Shri Krishna was playing his flute delightfully. The vision of Krishna and His music enthralled Jayadeva so much that he composed a Shloka extempore. This gave birth to the famous epic, ‘Gita Govinda’, validating the words ‘Poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings and emotions’.

Jayadeva described Sriman Narayana’s Dasha Avataar in his first Astapadi ‘Jaya Jagadeesha Hare! He had a visualisation of these ten avatars and was in a trance as he witnessed the vast ocean which depicted the presence of God in His vast creation. He prayed to the Lord and sought his blessing.  Later, he went to Jagannath Puri Temple with his friend Parasara and spent all his time in prayer, meditation and chanting the name of the Lord.

Deva Sharma, a Brahmin in Puri, had a daughter by the name Padmavathi.  As he was keen to get his daughter married, he prayed to Lord Jagannath for His blessings. The Lord appeared in Deva Sharma’s dream and advised him to perform her marriage with His ardent devotee Jayadeva.

Accordingly, Deva Sharma and his wife went in search of Jayadeva.  When they found him they told him of Lord’s wish. Jayadeva refused to marry as he was leading the life of Sanyasi and said he was unfit for Grihastadharma. But Deva Sharma refused to accept that and since it was Lord Jagannath’s order, he could not go against it.  Jayadeva was forced to oblige as he too wouldn’t oppose the Lord’s wishes. He married Padmavathi and came back to his village Kendybilva and they lived happily there and prayed to Radha Madhav in their house regularly.

After sometime Jayadeva went on a pilgrimage. On his way he met King Lakshmana Sena who was very much impressed with Jayadeva and forced him to stay with him and accepted him as his Guru. Later, Padmavathi joined Jayadeva, and the King was surprised to learn that his Guru was a Grihasta.

Jayadeva explained to the King that one can be a Sanyasin even as a Grihasta if one is performs one’s duties without attachment to the fruits. He explained that renunciation meant gaining control over the mind and all the senses. Jayadeva’s life is an example to the world that God-realisation can be had even as a Grihasta. Several other Saints such as Swamy Desikan, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa have gained self realisation while leading the life of a Grihasta.

Padmavathi was a perfect match for Jayadeva as she too was a pious lady and was inspired by her husband’s faith, treated him like a God. She spent her hours in spiritual discourses to other ladies in the court. The Queen too was one of her disciples but unknowingly had the pride of a royal family that propped up every now and then.

Once Padmavathi was discussing Sati Sahagamanam with the Queen. She opined that ‘whoever dies on her husband’s funeral pyre is not a great lady. A true wife is one who breathes her last, the minute she hears of her husband’s demise.’  The Queen wanted to test Padmavathi on her assertion, so she decided to play a practical trick on her.

The next day she informed Padmavathi, with tears in her eyes, that Jayadeva was killed by a lion while accompanying the King in the forest. As soon as she completed her statement, Padmavathi fell unconscious and upon close examination the Queen discovered that Padmavathi had breathed her last! The Queen was shocked and remorseful of her action and was worried how Jayadeva and the King would react to her foolish behaviour. While the King got furious, Jayadeva was not perturbed and he picked her up and prayed to God.  Within no time Padmavathi woke up as if from sleep and she too joined their prayer. The Queen was relieved and humbly acknowledged the Bhakti of Jayadeva and the pious nature of Padmavathi.

After some time Jayadeva came back to his village and while residing here, he composed his famous  “Gita Govinda”.

Gita Govinda

jayadevas_gitagovindaJayadeva wrote poem Gita Govinda which celebrates the glorious divine love of Radha and Krishna. The Gita Govinda comprising of Sanskrit songs describes Shri Krishna’s courtship of Radha. With lucid and tender lyrics, the Gita Govinda explored many aspects of love and passion.

At a mundane level, it narrates the love of Radha and Krishna as simple cowherds, but at a spiritual level the poem describes the union of JivAtma with ParamAtma.


One day while Jayadeva was composing the Ashtapadi, he got the inspiration to write the beautiful lines ’Smara Garala  Kandanam Mama Shirsi Mandanam Dhehi Padha Pallavam Udharam ….’

O’ love, place the tender-leafy foot of yours on my head as it is an antidote to the venom of Love God…

But as soon as he penned these lines, he rubbed it off immediately and felt extremely guilty. He threw away his pen and with a wavering mind got up from his seat.  His eyes welled with tears as he lamented, ‘What sin have I committed… Apacharam…Apacharam.  How could I write these lines? How can a devotee (Radha) place her feet on Lord Krishna’s head?

Jayadeva felt very restless and could not stop thinking of the sin he had committed.  He walked out of the house towards the river bank.  After seeing her husband’s restlessness Padmavathi prayed to Lord to help her husband complete the compositions of Ashtapadi without any break.

Padmavathi expressed her surprise and went to get the shlokas and the stylus.  Jayadev said ‘I was struck with the poem but got flash with wonderful lines to complete the poem and so I came back.’

He completed the poem as below:
Smara-Garala-Khandanam Mama Shirasi Mandanam
Dehi Pada-Pallavam Udaaram
Jvalati Mayi Daruno Madana-Kadanaruno
Haratu Tad-upahita-vikaram ||19.8||

O’ Dear Radha, your tender-leafy foot is an antidote to the venom of Love God. Please place it on my head, and make it my motif and my glory… for that scorching fire of Love God is burning me intolerably… hence, tread my body to tread on that Love God, to tread out his fire and its abnormalities.

After that he asked Padmavathi to arrange water for his bath and his bath, he offered nivedanam to God and had food and dozed off comfortably on his bed.

A little while later, Padmavathi began to eat, but there was a knock on the door again.  She was shocked and confused to see Jayadeva standing before her. Jayadeva was even more than surprised and questioned her ‘What’s wrong with you today? Have you ever dined before offering food to the Lord or before I had my food? I have never seen such a thing before!’

Padmavathi was even more shocked and stammered, “but you came back from a little while ago, took the poem, and completed it. After that had your bath, did prayers, had food and were resting. Jayadeva immediately knew what might have transpired and rushed into the room. But nobody was there in the room. He asked Padma to bring the Shloka to see how it was completed. He had guessed it right! The Lord Himself came to complete the poem and had written the same words as Jayadeva had originally composed it.

Jayadeva was ecstatic at one level that his composition was accepted by the Lord but at another level felt sad that he missed Lord’s Darshan.  He thought, how lucky Padmavathi was as she saw the Lord and served Him personally. He cried unto the Lord. O’ Prabhu, O’ Krishna! What wrong have I done that you did not grace me your Darshan? You left me out and blessed Padmavathi alone.’ He grabbed the food from Padvamathi’s leaf since it was the food enjoyed by the Lord Himself! He did not care for Padmavathi’s protest that he was eating from her half-eaten leaf.

After this incident, Jayadeva completed his Gita Govindam with renewed vigour. He was deeply involved in his songs and sang them wholeheartedly. The Lord followed him, invisibly and wholeheartedly, to listen to his rendition.

The Ashtakas are sung before Lord Jagannath during the annual festival. People were struck with the splendid music and poetry of Gita Govinda and praised it highly. The fame of Jaya Deva reached far and wide.

ggOnce a woman was singing the Gita Govinda beautifully in the forests as she was collecting fruits for her daily trade. Lord Jagannath was very pleased with her singing and He began to wander in the forest after her to hear her rendition. The Lord’s garment was torn to pieces while He was running all over the forest, as it was caught in the thorny bushes of the forest.  Next morning, the priest of the temple and the King saw the Pitambara of the Lord in rags. They were not able to find the reason for the torn condition of the Pitambara. They prayed to the Lord to make them know the reason.

The Lord appeared in their dream and said, ‘A woman was singing Gita Govinda in the forest. I ran in the forest to hear her song. When I ran, the Pitambara was torn to pieces by the thorns.’

The Lord becomes a slave of His devotees and will do anything for the sake of His devotees.  The King honoured the Lady for her devotion.

Jayadeva’s last days

Jayadeva had taken a vow that he would take bath in the Ganga till the end of his life. As he became old he became indisposed. The King offered a palanquin to Jayadeva but he declined to accept it. Due to his tapas, Ganga herself appeared with lotus flowers in the well of Jayadeva’s house.  Finally, Jayadeva attained the Lotus feet of Lord Shri Krishna.

Every year on Sankranthi day, a big event is organised in memory of Jayadeva in his village Kendubilva and devotees chant Gita Govinda.

Such was the glorious life of Jayadeva, one of the greatest devotees of Lord Shri Krishna.  He led a simple, humble, unpretentious life with no possessions, and always found joy and happiness in meditating on Lord Shri Krishna, and was a perfect embodiment of forgiveness.

Glory to Jayadeva Goswami whose life inspires us all!