This is part 8 of Bhagavad Gita Weekly series. We will continue with chapter 2, verses from 11 to 15. You can read the last part here and the earlier parts here…
In the last part in this series, we looked at verses 6 to 10 where Arjuna finally decided to surrender to Lord Krishna, seeking to be his disciple. Arjuna tells Lord Krishna that he finds all his knowledge to be inadequate in helping him drive away the grief that he is experiencing and that he is utterly confused about what his duties are. Arjuna said, “thus, I am your disciple, a soul surrendered unto you, please instruct me…and until my confusion is cleared, I shall not fight…”
Let us now continue from verses 11 in this part…
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Jump to the Commentary for Chapter 2, verses 11 to 15
Chapter 2 – Verse 11
aśocyān anvaśocas tvaṁ
prajñā-vādāṁś ca bhāṣase
gatāsūn agatāsūṁś ca
Lord 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 for the dead.
Chapter 2 – Verse 12
न त्वेवाहं जातु नासं
न त्वं नेमे जनाधिपाः।
न चैव न भविष्यामः
सर्वे वयमतः परम्।।
na tv evāhaṁ jātu nāsaṁ
na tvaṁ neme janādhipāḥ
na caiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ
sarve vayam ataḥ param
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.
Chapter 2 – Verse 13
देहिनोऽस्मिन्यथा देहे कौमारं यौवनं जरा।
तथा देहान्तरप्राप्तिर्धीरस्तत्र न मुह्यति।।
dehino ’smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from childhood to youth and to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The wise is not bewildered by such a change.
Chapter 2 – Verse 14
मात्रास्पर्शास्तु कौन्तेय शीतोष्णसुखदुःखदाः।
mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya
tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata
O son of Kunti [Arjuna], the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.
Chapter 2 – Verse 15
यं हि न व्यथयन्त्येते पुरुषं पुरुषर्षभ।
समदुःखसुखं धीरं सोऽमृतत्वाय कल्पते।।
yaṁ hi na vyathayanty ete
so ’mṛtatvāya kalpate
O best among men [Arjuna], the person who is not disturbed by happiness and distress and is steady in both is certainly eligible for liberation.
Commentary for Chapter 2, verses 11 to 15
In the previous part, we looked at verses 6 to 10 where Arjuna said to Lord Krishna that his knowledge is not adequate enough to help him through the immense sorrow and confusion he is experiencing after seeing his grandfather, gurus, kith and kin at the battlefield ready to fight him. Arjuna said to Lord Krishna that until the clouds of bewilderments are cleared from his mind, he shall not fight and became absolutely silent, waiting for Lord Krishna to speak.
It is believed that, prayer is when we speak to the God. Meditation is when we stay absolutely silent and let God speaks to us. Most often times, we never give a chance for God to speak to us as we never stop talking. Only in our silence God would know that we are ready to hear Him. Thus it is important to stay silent, in meditation, after offering our prayers so that we can listen to the message from God.
Thus, Arjuna, after explaining all his reasons, went into a completely meditative state so that Lord Krishna would teach him the eternal knowledge that would liberate him.
Lord Krishna, with a smile on his face, starts to answer Arjuna from verse 11 of chapter 2. They were still in the middle of both armies while Lord Krishna delivered the sacred Gita to Arjuna. It was not just Arjuna who listened to the Gita from Krishna, but everyone at the battlefield had the same opportunity, even though Krishna spoke directly to Arjuna.
It is also interesting to note that, Shri Adi Shankaracharya’s commentary on Bhagavad Gita begins only from verse 11 of chapter 2. He explains that, chapter 1 to verse 10 of chapter 2 was all about giving an introduction on how our illusion clouds our intellect from discriminating between what is right and wrong or what is dharmic and adharmic.
Unlike most other devotees, Arjuna didn’t ask Lord Krishna to provide wealth or any other material benefits, instead, he asks to be taught the knowledge of the Self that would help him understand and save him from his current suffering and realize his duties and discover his true self. God is ever compassionate and loving towards those who seek knowledge since that’s the only tool that could help us attain moksha from the samsara – the cycle of birth and death.
Bhagavad Gita is the most condensed version of all the knowledge from the Upanishads. There is no one better than Lord Krishna who himself is the source of all knowledge to summarise the beautiful and vast knowledge of Upanishads in a rather short form like the Bhagavad Gita which is accessible and intelligible to any devotees. Thus, the Gita contains deepest spiritual knowledge. Anyone who studies the Gita with devotion experiences their life in the most beautiful way ever possible.
Let us now get back to the GIta again…
Lord Krishna said in verse 11, “While you speak words of wisdom, you are mourning for that which is not worthy of grief. The wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead.”
Arjuna’s grief was due to his attachment towards his people and his gurus – the notion that, “I am theirs and they are mine…” The “I” is the ego self that brings sufferings due to our attachments to various things and people. The only thing that would help us save from this illusion – maya – is the right knowledge which is the knowledge of the self.
In this verse, Lord Krishna makes an interesting statement while replying to Arjuna that, though Arjuna sounds wise with all his reasoning and arguments as to why he would not want to fight this battle, in reality, he is not being wise by thinking of not performing his duty. Krishna says, “wise people would never lament for the living or for the dead.”
Pause here for a moment and ponder upon this – Arjuna was not an ordinary man, he had immense knowledge and wisdom. His reasoning were just, valid and were quoted from the Dharma Shastra, etc. to support his arguments as to why he is in a pitiful state after seeing his gurus, Bhishma and the loved ones at the battlefield. Even with that much knowledge and wisdom, Arjuna does not possess the most important knowledge that would help him be free of his mind and makes decisions based on the power of his intellect. Now, think about the mortals like us if that was the case of Arjuna..?
Lord Krishna says that Arjuna sounds like a wise man, but wise men neither grief for the living nor the dead. Here, Lord points to the fact as to why the right knowledge is so important.
One of the most important characteristics of a wise man is his power of discrimination between the physical body and the soul. In the grand scheme of things in the Gita, Grandsire Bhishma is a classic example of a Pandit that Lord Krishna refers to here.
A pandit is someone who has Panda, meaning, “the collector of knowledge”. Thus, Pandit is someone who is wise, knowledgeable and the learned one in deepest spiritual matters.
Bhishma is someone who has risen above the mysteries of life, death and all dualities of life. To him, everything was an opportunity to serve God’s grand plans, including having to take the side of the wicked Kauravas in this great battle, knowing very well that he would be killed, having Lord Krishna on the other side of the army. Wherever there is Lord Krishna, there is victory. Bhishma knew that, still he decides to simply perform his duties as a great warrior who has taken a vow to protect the throne whatever be the consequences.
Thus, Lord Krishna hints that Arjuna does not need to grieve for someone like Bhishma or Drona who have lived a life full of righteousness, are eternal in their own real nature and is destined to attain moksha.
Lord Krishna further clarifies as to why Arjuna shouldn’t grief. He says in verse 12, “there was never a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings, nor in the future shall any of us cease to be…”
Lord Krishna now makes a clear distinction between the physical body and the soul – the atman. He says that just like how Gods are eternal, so are you and all the kings and everyone else. All of them existed before in their own individuality and they will continue to exist in the future, for a soul cannot be destroyed. The soul is forever immortal.
Lord Krishna continues in verse 13, “Just like an embodied soul continuously passes into childhood, youth and old age, so does the soul passes into another body at death. A wise man is not bewildered by such a change.”
As we know through modern science, our body is constantly changing. All the cells in our body regenerates itself, and in every 7 years, all the cells in our body completely change. On a molecular level, the change is even rapid. Each breath we take has an effect on our body on a molecular level. With such an ever evolving body, how do we ever claim to be the “same”..? Our body is evolving from childhood to youth and to old age and eventually to death. The only thing that remains unchanged is the atman – our soul – which is eternal and passes on from one body to another at the time of death of the physical body.
According to Lord Krishna, the one who knows this truth is a Pandit and such a wise man would never grieve at the death of a person since the only thing that dies is their physical existence in this physical realm.
One obvious question that would come up to anyone at this point is, if it is true that there is no reason for one to grieve at the passing of a physical body, what about the fact that happiness and sadness are experienced by all of us on a daily basis?
Lord Krishna, the all knowing and the compassionate One addresses that in the next verse, “O son of Kunti [Arjuna], only the interaction of the senses and sense objects give cold, heat, pleasure and pain. These things are temporary, appearing and disappearing; therefore try to tolerate them without being disturbed by it.”
As we know, our body houses pancha indriyas – the five senses – namely, Shrotra Indriya (sense of sound), Chakshu Indriya (sense of sight), Ghraana Indriya (sense of smell), Rasana Indriya (sense of taste) and Sparshana Indriya (sense of touch). Happiness or sadness is the result of these senses coming in contact with the objects of perception. Just like how cool water would be soothing in the summer but makes you shiver in the winter, these sensations are transitory. They are like the changing seasons which are never permanent and thus, allowing ourselves to be affected by these senses would only make us sway like a pendulum from one side to another, without ever being able to focus on anything.
“O best among men (Arjuna), the person who is not disturbed by happiness and distress and is steady in both is certainly eligible for liberation”, continued Lord Krishna in the 15th verse.
Lord says, those who are unaffected and unmoved in both happiness and distress are certainly eligible for liberation – moksha. However, why is it important that we should not be affected by neither happiness nor sorrows?
As we know, we are all tiny particles of the infinite divine, the Brahman. God is infinite, timeless, endless, formless, vast ocean of pure bliss – sat-chit-ananda. We are all part and parcel of that infinite bliss and it is our natural tendency to be drawn towards that infinite source of bliss. Just like how a child is drawn towards his mother, we are drawn towards the source where we all come from – the God.
Everything we do in this life is with a purpose to ultimately merge with that One where we came from. Since our soul is innately “happiness”, being originated from the source of pure bliss, seeking for happiness is a natural tendency of the soul. However, in our limited awareness of the Self, we get entangled in the mundane chores of life and the limitations of the body and tend to find illusory happiness in the material rather than the spiritual.
Since our soul is essentially part and parcel of pure bliss and have experienced such a bliss, whatever else that we may think as happiness is never satisfying to the soul, nor it is everlasting, thus we constantly get ourselves lost in the pursuit of happiness, only to find ourselves in miserable situations.
Here, Lord Krishna says that those who are unaffected by either happiness or sadness remain stable and are ready for moksha. To realise that true happiness is achieved only when we are engaged in the pursuit of the discovery of our true self is called enlightenment – moksha. Only such a happiness is everlasting.
Realizing that we are neither the body, nor the mind but the eternal soul is the true knowledge. Our soul keeps moving from one body to another. Just like how changing clothes do not change us, the soul, the true YOU, remains the same though it keeps moving from one body to another. That soul, the real YOU, have existed before and will continue to exist in the future.
Soul is the energy. According to science, energy can neither be created nor destroyed but can only be changed from one form to another. Similarly, the soul can transform from one to another, but it remains as it is, in its true form, unchanged, unmoved, unaffected by anything that happens around it.
Realizing this distinction between our physical body and soul is true knowledge. According to Upanishads, Knowledge itself is life; knowledge is our being, knowledge is our existence; knowledge is what we truly are. If we become that knowledge itself, not merely as an intellectual concept, but as a substance that we are made of, then we become free from the bondage of actions and move towards moksha.
Let us conclude for now. We will continue with verse 16 onward 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!