This is the part 11 of Bhagavad Gita Weekly series.
We stopped at the following verse (26) in the last part;
atha cainaṁ nitya-jātaṁ
nityaṁ vā manyase mṛtam
tathāpi tvaṁ mahā-bāho
nainaṁ śocitum arhasi
“if, however, you think that the soul will always be born and die forever, you still have no reason to lament, O mighty-armed.”
Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that, even after explaining the nature of atma – that it is eternal, indestructible and unmodifiable by any forces including the Supreme God himself – if he still thinks that it is the atma that dies and is born forever, he still has no reason to grieve.
There are many verses in the Gita that show how beautiful Sanatana Dharma / Hinduism is, this is one of it. Unlike what we see in other religions in this modern day and age, here, the Supreme God is not dictating what his disciple must do, rather the God ensures that the right knowledge is provided to the disciple so that the disciple himself would make the choice that he finds is best.
In this part of the series, let us look at why Lord Krishna says that, even if Arjuna thinks that it is the soul that is born and dies forever, he still has no reason to worry.
Chapter 2, Verse 27
जातस्य हि ध्रुवो मृत्युर्ध्रुवं जन्म मृतस्य च।
तस्मादपरिहार्येऽर्थे न त्वं शोचितुमर्हसि।।
jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyur
dhruvaṁ janma mṛtasya ca
tasmād aparihārye ’rthe
na tvaṁ śocitum arhasi
One who has taken his birth is sure to die, and after death one is sure to take birth again. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.
Chapter 2, Verse 28
अव्यक्तादीनि भूतानि व्यक्तमध्यानि भारत।
अव्यक्तनिधनान्येव तत्र का परिदेवना।।
tatra kā paridevanā
All created beings are unmanifest in their beginning, manifest in their interim state, and unmanifest again when annihilated. So what need is there for lamentation?
Chapter 2, Verse 29
माश्चर्यवद्वदति तथैव चान्यः।
श्रुत्वाप्येनं वेद न चैव कश्िचत्।।
āścarya-vat paśyati kaścid enam
āścarya-vad vadati tathaiva cānyaḥ
āścarya-vac cainam anyaḥ śṛṇoti
śrutvāpy enaṁ veda na caiva kaścit
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.
Chapter 2, Verse 30
देही नित्यमवध्योऽयं देहे सर्वस्य भारत।
तस्मात्सर्वाणि भूतानि न त्वं शोचितुमर्हसि।।
dehī nityam avadhyo ’yaṁ
dehe sarvasya bhārata
tasmāt sarvāṇi bhūtāni
na tvaṁ śocitum arhasi
O descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any living being.
Commentary for Chapter 2, verses 27 to 30
Let us now see why Lord Krishna told Arjuna that he should not be worrying, even if he believes that it is the atma that is born and dies forever.
In the next verse (27), Lord Krishna gives the reason; “death is certain for one who has been born, and rebirth is inevitable for one who has died. Therefore, you should not lament over the inevitable.”
Lord Krishna says that, whoever is born will die, it is just about time, but death is inevitable. So, there is no reason for Arjuna to lament thinking about something that is beyond his control and is an inevitable fact of life.
As we know, the only thing that is certain in life is death. Everyone of us know that one day we will die, however much we wish to deny that!
death is certain for one who has been born, and rebirth is inevitable for one who has died.
The following lines from a beautiful poem written in Malayalam by Thunchathu Ezhuthachan, beautifully describe how fragile life is;
നദ്യാമൊഴുകുന്ന കാഷ്ടങ്ങൾ പോലെയും
എത്രയും ചഞ്ചലം ആലയ സംഗമം…
Nadhyamozhugunna kashtangal poleyum,
Yethrayum chanchalam alaya sangamam…
Like the floating wooden logs in the river, utterly direction-less, our meeting with family and friends in this world is purely temporary. The logs floating in the river could depart from each other in current or even sink or get stuck in the mud or anything else could happen, similarly, our union with family and friends are so fragile on this earth.
Another few lines from the same poem says,
ചക്ഷുശ്രവണ ഗളസ്തമാം ദ്ർധുരം
കലാഹിനാ പരിഗ്രസ്തമാം ലോകവും
ആലോല ചേതസാ ഭോഗങ്ങൾ തേടുന്നു
Chakshu shravana galasthamam darduram
kalaahinaa parigrasthamam lokavum
aalola chethasa bhogangal thedunnu
Like the frog that is trapped in the mouth of a snake seeking for food, so does we, humans, caught by the serpent of time, unrelentingly seek for pleasure due to our weak heart. We know we would die anytime, like that frog trapped in the mouth of a snake, yet our greed has no end!
It is one of the most amazing phenomenons in this world that we see people dying right in front of our eyes, yet, none of us seems to believe that our day too would come.
കണ്ടു കണ്ടങ്ങിരിക്കും ജനങ്ങളെ
കണ്ടില്ലെന്നു വരുത്തുന്നതും ഭവാൻ
Kandu kandangirikkum janangale,
Kandilennu varuthunnathum Bhavan
It means that, if God wishes, those we see on a daily basis, disappears all of a sudden (die)…
Such is life. Everyone dies eventually, there is no way we can stop death, it is inevitable.
Arjuna is at Kurukshetra battlefield to protect Dharma. He is bewildered seeing his grandfather and gurus assembled at the battlefield to fight against him, which caused all dilemma, preventing him from performing his duties as a Kshatriya.
After explaining the indestructible and eternal nature of the soul and the transient nature of physical body, Lord Krishna is reminding him that death is inevitable. However, the only thing that dies is their physical body. Nobody, including Lord Krishna himself can destroy their atma.
So, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that there is nothing to worry about having to kill anyone assembled here in this battlefield.
Lord Krishna continues in the next verse (28), addressing Arjuna as Bharata, “all created beings are unmanifest before birth, manifest in life, and again unmanifest on death. So why grieve?”
In this material world, each individual atma are bound by three things – the gross body, the subtle body and the causal body. The gross body is our physical body, the subtle body consists of eighteen elements such as five life-airs, ten senses, mind, intellect and our ego. The causal body is our karmas through all our past lives.
When the atma discards the gross body, it carries the subtle body and the causal body with it, moving on to other realm according to our karma. Sometimes, the atma gets another gross body and continues to live on this planet, in various forms, either human body, or trees, or animals, or even microbes, etc.
each individual atma are bound by three things – the gross body, the subtle body and the causal body.
Lord Krishna says that, before our birth, we are unseen and cannot be perceived. The same is the case after our death, both unseen and unable to be perceived. However, in the middle of birth and death, having a gross physical body, we can be perceived as son, brother, sister, trees, animals, etc.
We have no idea of someone before their birth, same is the case when someone dies. We have no clue what happens to someone after their death. However, all our association with people is between their birth and death. The only thing that doesn’t die is our atma. Atma stays unchanged throughout many births and deaths until it gets eventually freed from samsara – the cycle of birth and death – through our karmas.
Arjuna’s duty as a Kshatriya is to protect Dharma at any cost. This association he has with his grandfather and gurus between their births and deaths is temporary in their current life form. All of them would eventually pass on while their Atma is indestructible, not just by Arjuna, but, even by the Supreme God. Thus, Krishna tells him that, there is no reason for him to worry, but to perform his duty.
In the next verse (29), Lord Krishna says, “some see the soul as amazing, some describe it as amazing, and some hear of the soul as amazing, while others, even on hearing, cannot understand it at all.”
There are some people who see the atma as amazing, some others speak about the atma in wonder while some others hears about atma in wonder. However, none of them seems to understand what atma truly is. Recognizing and realizing that “I” am atma is enlightenment.
That is the true knowledge that set us all free from this bondage and samsara – the never ending cycle of birth and death.
It is the atma, the minuscule particle of that Supreme Brahman, that lives in every living beings, including the gigantic creatures to the trees to the microbes.
As explained by Lord Krishna earlier, that atma can never be seen or touched and it is beyond our perception. It’s beyond our capability to conceive what atma truly is, in the material sense. However, knowing that “I” am atma and that it is the atma that lives eternally through all living beings, is true knowledge. That is the only knowledge that would bring true happiness and would set you free from bondage and miseries.
Lord Krishna says in the following verse (30), “O Arjuna, the eternal soul that dwells within every living entity is immortal; therefore, you should not mourn for anyone.”
With this verse, Lord Krishna summarizes and concludes what was explained before in many verses about the soul – that it is indestructible, eternal, unchangeable and it cannot be destroyed even by the Supreme God – and because of that, there is no reason for Arjuna to grieve, as the only thing that dies is the physical body.
As we have seen earlier, even God cannot save anyone from dying. Anything that has taken birth is ought to die someday as death is imminent, inevitable, unavoidable phenomena in everyone’s life, including the plants, animals, microbes and whatever else.
Since atma does not take birth and does not die, it is eternal. It is the gross physical body which is transient and goes through the cycle of birth and death.
Let us conclude here for now. In the next verse, Lord Krishna reminds Arjuna of his duties as a Kshatriya warrior which we will see in the next part.
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Om Puurnnam-Adah Puurnnam-Idam Puurnnaat-Purnnam-Udacyate
Puurnnasya Puurnnam-Aadaaya Puurnnam-Eva-Avashissyate ||
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||
My Pranams to you!