He said, “You are starting with that which ‘is’ and which will ‘not be’! But the wise people start their argument with the right statement: that which ‘is’ and which can never ‘go away’. Start with that statement; those who are wise, you are speaking the language of the wise, but you are not taking the premise of the wise; I am supplying you the premise of the wise.”
That is why the importance of this statement which is very simple; and intellectually it is supposed to be invincible, you cannot conquer it. As I told you, Plato is supposed to be the greatest thinker of the world and he came to the conclusion that, “That which is, “is”; that which “is not”, can never be. Therefore, that which manifest, and that which “is and is not”, you cannot know, you can only have an opinion about it. But which you can know is only that which is.” It is supposed to be as it were, a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, this statement of Plato, and this was a statement which was written long ago and therefore it is supposed to be the real starting point of thought.
No thought can even be sustained without a positive statement. If you put in logical terms: logic is concerned with the structure of the sentences; and structures of the sentences capture the reality: this is the meaning of logic. Whatever is real, if it is captured properly in your sentence, then your sentence is right. Whether the reality is captured or not, how do you determine? By looking at the way in which the sentence is structured.
You will find that every statement is a statement referring to what “is”: you take any amount of sentences in the world, ultimately by implication or by directly, even when you say, “Lion!”, you have not used the word “is”, but the very fact that you point out, “Lion!” is a demonstration of something that “exists”; even when you say, “it is not!”. Then the question is: what is it that it is not? The word “is not” can be understood only in the context of “is.” Therefore, logically it is impossible to escape one word and that is, “is.” Thought cannot have any birth even, if there is no “is” in the world, and that which “is”, is what Sri Krishna says: “that which is, ‘is’; that which is not, ‘is not’.”
It looks very simple, but the entire philosophical structure depends upon this statement. And in fact, the whole argument of the Gita is based upon this. If you want to know the Truth, the Right and the wisest, which Arjuna was claiming to start with, Sri Krishna says that, “If you really want to be delivered from moha, from depression, then you must go to the very first major premise and that premise is called: “the premise of knowledge.” That premise of knowledge is arrived at by Buddhi, by intelligent-will, applied to the process of Knowledge. That is simply called, sāṅkhya. Sankhya is nothing but a process of discrimination. The word Sankhya comes from the word “sāṅkhya”: Sankhya is “enumeration”. And the basic enumeration is: that which “is” and that which “is not”. That is the basic enumeration in the world.
Comment: Do you mean Plato is inspired by this?
That is my personal belief. After studying both Indian thought and western thought, I have come to the conclusion that Socrates was the teacher of Plato, and Socrates used to teach and converse with a number of Indians who used to come to Greece. There is no doubt that there was a kind of intellectual commerce between India and Greece; not only commerce of goods, but also commerce of thought. That is why it is said that the teaching of the Gita, which is based upon Upanishads was responsible for the highest thoughts that you find in Greek thought, and that is why it is possible to synthesise the East and the West.
Today we speak of the great divergence between East and West. But if you go to the depths you will find that it is very easy to bring East and West together. If you really know the Indian thought in its highest and western thought at its highest. Wherever there is a great opposition it is because we are not going to the depths of the matter; therefore there is a lot of opposition. When you go to the depths of the matter you find a real synthesis. This is the starting point.
I am not yet discussing the question of ‘manifestation’: “That which is and which is not.” “That which is” in manifestation is not “non-existent”, because that which is “non-existent” does not come even into existence. There is a distinction between “that which is”, “that which is not”, and “that which is ─ which is not”. And the battlefield is a strong example of “that which is ─ which-is-not.” It is something in which things happen so fast; the order of things immediately begins to change as soon as the battle starts. What is the status of that is also a very important subject matter of the Bhagavad Gita. But “that which is-which-is-not” can be understood properly only when you first establish yourself on “that which is” eternally present; then everything else will be understood properly.
Karma is action; and action is something, which is fleeting all the time. Therefore, action is always ‘phenomenal’: it is concerned with “that which is ─which is not.” “That which is ─which is not” can never be grasped, can never be conquered, can never be mastered unless you go to Sankhya. That is why Karmayoga can never be perfect unless there is Jnana yoga. Sankhya and Yoga must be always together; that is why the chapter itself is called Sankhya Yoga.