Renunciation is Sannyasa; san–nyāsa; nyāsa, means ‘setting aside’. When action is ‘set aside’, it is sannyāsa. A sannyāsin is one who ‘sets aside’ everything: action, relationship, responsibilities, everything. That is called renunciation. In sacrifice, you put yourself as a kind of an oblation. In every sacrifice there is a receiver of sacrifice. A sacrifice has three elements: the sacrificer, the process of sacrifice and the receiver of the sacrifice. There is an object to whom you sacrifice. In renunciation, you simply set aside. In a sacrifice whatever you are doing, whatever you are offering, you are offering to an object, you offer it to, either to X, or Y, or Z.
Question: Is sacrifice always to something greater?
Answer: It may not be even greater. Sometimes many people sacrifice things for lower things; but there is always an offering to something. When a man becomes subject to some great passion, a desire, he does not offer himself to something very great. The object of desire may be much lower than himself. When a person becomes very greedy and wants to eat a lot, he offers himself to the food; it is much lower than himself. Or he offers himself to one who can prepare food for him, and prays to that one, “Prepare food for me.” He makes all kinds of offerings to the person who prepares food for him. But there is always in a sacrifice an object to whom sacrifice is done.
Sri Krishna’s answer is that, “You should sacrifice not to the gods, because they only can only satisfy your desires, and if your purpose is only to satisfy desires, alright, you can do it, but you should sacrifice yourself to the supreme Lord, because then you become His instrument and you become free.” Therefore the idea of sacrifice is a much greater idea: you offer yourself to the supreme Lord, and when action is performed even while you are acting you become free from action. In Sannyasa, you just give up all action, it is all renunciation, renounce everything.
Question: Swadharma is the identification of one’s life with action?
Answer: Swadharma is the law of action, proceeding from your Swabhava. Take for example: my own Swabhava is to proceed on the lines of knowledge. If somebody says, “Do this”, normally my Swadharma will be: I will not obey immediately. There are people who simply are told, “Do this”, they will do; there are some people, you tell them, “Do this”, he will consider whether any great benefit will come out of it or not. There are others who will ask, “Is it right for me to do, wrong for me to do? And accordingly I will do.” There are some who will try to understand the whole world, and then see what the place of this action is, and see whether in that whole world, that action has a meaning, “Then I will do it.”
Depending upon your natural inclination is determined your Dharma. My basic nature is a Brahminic nature, my personal nature is a Brahminic nature; if anything is to be done, I always take time to consider whether it is part of the totality of Knowledge, in which what is the place for it: my Swadharma is to take time. It does not matter if I take time in deciding whether I should do or not. Although once it is known, then the action will be very rapid, that will be also part of Dharma. It takes time at a length.
For example, India is supposed to be slow. If you are the Swadharma of India, it is of Brahminic nature. You know England has a commercial nature, Vaishya nature, but India has a Brahminic nature. See, if anything is given to India from outside, it takes a long time to understand what has come, and reacts to it very slowly, and then, undergoes a great process of churning to understand quite thoroughly what is being thrown. Once India finds it out, then it’s rapid. When western civilisation came to India, it was like that, to absorb first of all: it took a long time for India to absorb, and then suddenly it produces a ‘Sri Aurobindo’: a huge mountain of Knowledge, which combined both east and west in one embrace: that is the Swadharma of India; from outside people might think that India is very slow.
Many children also are condemned, “Oh! This child is very slow”, but you don’t understand that that child may be actually absorbing like a good Brahmin, gradually he tries to understand, and if you disturb him and give a lot of work at that time, it will be a very dangerous thing. Many people pump the children, “Do this, do this, do this, do this.”, when the child is taking his own time to understand, and we are not patient enough, we do not move according to his Dharma. Swadharma is the law of development, determined in each case according to his Swabhava.
Question: Does ‘paritajaye’ also mean transcending Swadharma?
Answer: Yes, all that, everything, there is only one law: it is the Divine law that’s all.
Question: I wanted to ask about Sattwa and how much of the Divine nature intermingling in the Sattwa? She is saying that there is a movement from Tamas to Rajas, and Rajas to Sattwa. Now Sattwa is to be transcended no doubt sooner or later; but she feels that still the Divine’s will, there is still a lot of intermingling in the Sattwa level. Is there or is there not?
Answer: Oh! Yes, infiltration is constant at every level, even in Tamas, even in Rajas, even in Sattwa.
Question: Equally? Or more so in sattwa?
Answer: No, it depends upon all elements put together; in each and every case it will be different.
Question: On what element does it depend? How receptive you are, or on your openness?
Answer: It depends upon, first of all, the circumstances in which you are born, the kind of body that is given to you by circumstances, the actions that you have done in the past, where you have reached in your evolution, and thirdly what is your present effort, and then how much near you are to the Divine. It all depends, there are so many factors. You cannot mathematically determine and say this is how it is, but you have to see quite a lot within yourself, and see how much is in you: what is Tamasic, what is Rajasic, what is Sattwic, what is your real Swabhava, and how much is manifested in the outside nature?
We have done the first four chapters and I thought it is time that we once again revise these four chapters because these four chapters are very important. And you can enter into the Bhagavad Gita when you have proper grounding in these first four chapters. Even if there is some repetition, it is good to have some kind of repetition to be sure of the ground.
The first chapter is more or less a description of the Kurukshetra, which has its own significance, and it describes the two armies setting themselves against each other, and the preparations of the war by the sounding of the conch shells from different parts, and then the entry of Arjuna, and he is asking Sri Krishna to put him in a position from where he can view the armies. And then suddenly, he gets a sensational and an emotional attack.
And the important part of the first chapter is, the argument he puts forward for withdrawing, sitting down in his chariot, throwing down his gāṇḍīva. We have sufficiently discussed the argument, which he advances. In brief, just to repeat once again, the argument is: “How can I kill?” This was not the question, when all the time there has been a preparation, and the preparation was for killing, because war meant killing. But this argument comes up in a very sharp way. Separately, we shall discuss this question of killing, and there we shall make a distinction between the principle of destruction in the world, and our human being in the act of killing: the place of killing in human life, its justification if at all, and this question has become very important in the present age.
In the age in which the Mahabharata war was planned, whether human beings should kill each other was not such a great issue as it is now, how we read today, the question assumes different proportions. But even in the time of Arjuna, when he raises the question, it means that this question was sufficiently prominent, and that a theory of inaction was also quite prominent, because the offshoot of the argument of Arjuna was: “I shall not fight!” The implication was that renunciation is far more justified than action, and that too, action of this kind in which massacre had to take place. That he should kill, as a matter of duty for setting injustice to its destructive end, was known to him. He had come to fight because of that Dharma.
But suddenly, the question of massacre becomes prominent. And then, apart from the question of Dharma of killing and Adharma of killing, there was already this conflict, and this is further reinforced (this conflict), by the argument that even if killing is undertaken, the result will be the kṣaya, the destruction of kuladharma. There will be a vast massacre and thousands of young soldiers will be killed, and the women will therefore go astray, and the entire fabric of Dharma will vanish.
‘if I fight for the sake of Dharma, even if I incur Adharma of killing, the result will be a vast scale of the destruction of Dharma’. This is a ‘triangular’ argument. Therefore, suddenly, there is recourse to the theory that inaction, renunciation is far superior, and therefore he sits down: this is the basic point in the first chapter.
There are three issues: first is the issue of Dharma, by which he is inspired to come to the battlefield, in which killing is a part of Dharma, because in the time the Mahabharata was being fought, it was the creed of the Aryan fighter, that every Aryan fighter has both a right and a duty to prevent injustice, to establish justice, and for that purpose even if killing is necessary, killing is a part of Dharma.
Secondly, suddenly, Arjuna feels that killing is wrong, and we shall see in the second chapter, where he enunciates further, the same argument. We shall read again the second chapter and the argument of Arjuna: “How can I kill Bhishma, how can I kill Drona, and even if I win, how shall I enjoy the blood splattered enjoyment? This is the Adharma, how can this Adharma be done.”
And then Arjuna asks, “Even if, for the sake of justice I have to fight, ultimately there will be vast scale destruction, and there will be a complete destruction of Dharma itself.”
As I said later on, we shall have one full session on the question of killing: the principle of killing and the whole argument about the place of destruction in the world; and unless we discuss this question in depth, we won’t get the true thread of the argument of the Gita.
In the second chapter, we have to see how Sri Krishna deals with the situation. The sovereignty and the mastery of Sri Krishna while dealing with this question in which He penetrates into the threads of the argument of Arjuna thoroughly, and masterfully, so let us see how the very first words of Sri Krishna…this is 2nd chapter, 1st & 2nd verses. Even if you don’t have the book, I shall read quite slowly, so that it’s transmitted properly:
“O Arjuna! How did you develop this kind of dejection during the crisis of war?” (2.2)
We can see the whole summary of whatever Arjuna has said. Sri Krishna does not argue, He simply says, “Why this mood of dejection has overcome you?” He does not discuss Dharma–Adharma, or any kind of deeper questions. The whole point is dejection. He says: “You have been overpowered by this dejection.” So, according to Sri Krishna, all his arguments are fundamentally expressions, not of a philosophical mind, but of a mood of dejection.
Sometimes we argue because our arguments are valid, and intellectually very sound. But sometimes, we know that we are arguing because we are troubled: we have received a blow somewhere, and then we are reacting vitally, emotionally, as a result of emotions. Sri Krishna’s answers…the first reaction of Sri Krishna is: ‘All that you are talking about is nothing but a state of dejection, and how can a warrior, the hero warrior, ‘the hero of the war’, how can he be overpowered by dejection?’
“…It is not followed by great persons, it does not lead to heaven, and it is disgraceful.” (2.2)
This is the basic answer Sri Krishna gives, in which Sri Krishna actually rebukes; it is a kind of a rebuke: that is called the mastery of the man. Sri Krishna is a sovereign Lord who knows the psychology and the arguments and the Truth so thoroughly, that He sums up in two lines the real answer that has to be given to Arjuna: ‘You are a hero, and therefore, you should not be overpowered by sentiments and emotions.’ That means Sri Krishna does not give value to the arguments that are being made. He knows that these arguments are basically arguments of dejection; and dejection is disgraceful to the hero, to the warrior. So, this is the basic point that Sri Krishna makes in answer to all the arguments that Arjuna has given.
And then He says, “O son of Partha!” in the 3rd verse, “…Do not yield to cowardice...”
This is a much worse rebuke than the first, when a hero of heroes is told that he has succumbed to cowardice: klaibyaṁ mā sma gamaḥ. This is “klaibyaṁ”: it is a terrible rebuke that ‘you have succumbed yourself to cowardice’.
“…This does not behove you. O Destroyer of the Enemies! Give up this feebleness of the mind, stand up and fight.” (2.3)
This is the sum and substance of Sri Krishna’s devastating answer: there is no argument at all here, what is Dharma–Adharma, nothing!
In the exposition of the Gita, it is very important to see the action of a teacher, of a master, who uses varieties of means, of filling the student or the pupil with the necessary strength, strength of character, strength of heroism, strength of knowledge, and strength of argumentation when necessary. But the first thing that was necessary was that in sum and substance there is nothing but cowardice in the arguments, they are not arguments, and they are only a state of cowardice: ‘I want to run away from here, I cannot bear this.’ And therefore, the only argument that Sri Krishna makes is not an argument, it’s simply exhortation, and the sum and substance is, ‘Fight. Stand up and fight.’ The entire emphasis is upon action: ‘Fight this whole tendency to withdraw and to go away.’ There is only one smashing point: ‘You fight!’
All that is the end of the Bhagavad Gita’s teaching is told in the very first answer, first outburst of Sri Krishna. Afterward the 18 chapters are only arguments and the exposition, but ultimately the message of the Gita is simply this: “Do not become a coward, do not be overpowered by dejection, do not become disgraceful. Stand up and fight!” This is all sum and substance in the very first two sentences. You can also see the mastery of Vyasa, the author of the whole Mahabharata. What a craft of his exposition!
Arjuna reiterates his argument, and let us see this argument once again. This is already given in the first chapter, but now there is a reiteration of the argument:
“O Madhusudana! Tell me how shall I attack with arrows the most venerable Bhishma, the grandfather, the Guru Dronacharya in the battlefield?” (2.4)
‘How shall I attack?’ This is a new argument in his own consciousness, as a result of the desire to run away, because all these years he has been preparing for the war. It is not as if for the first time he is thinking; he knew that they will stand before him in the war. But now this argument has come up and seized him rather powerfully and he says, “…How shall I attack with arrows the most venerable Bhishma…”
kathaṁ bhīṣmam ahaṁ saṅkhye droṇaṁ ca madhusūdana |
iṣubhiḥ pratiyotsyāmi pūjārhāv arisūdana ||4|| (||)
They are actually pūjārhās: those who are worthy of worship. ‘O, Sri Krishna! How can I, iṣubhiḥ, by arrows, pratiyotsyāmi, how shall I wound them, how shall I shoot them with arrows?’ Then he continues:
“It is better to live in this world by begging rather than killing the most venerable elders. Even if I kill these elders for worldly gains, all my enjoyments will be smeared with their blood.” (2.5)
You can see three arguments in this statement. There is already a tradition of begging by Sannyasa, and Sannyasa is the path of inaction. He says, ‘It is better to live by begging rather than to live a life of action in which I have to kill’: so, there is an argument against action. It is a repetition of this which Arjuna has already said when he started his argument in the first chapter: na kāṅṣke rājyaṁ na kāṅṣke sukhāṁ, ‘I do not wish to have kingdom, I do not wish to have happiness.’ It is an echoing of the whole argument that is: ‘In action, why do you do action for? Enjoyment, or possession and enjoyment of happiness.’
Therefore the argument for renunciation is already granted, is involved and this is repeated by saying: “It is better to live in this world by begging rather than by killing the most venerable elders.” He says: ‘Even if it is my Dharma, and even if I kill these elders for worldly gains,’ this is the word for ‘worldly gains’ that is, now he does not say, ‘killing for the sake of justice’, but it is as if, ‘even if I fight, it will be only for worldly gains that I fight, it is for enjoyment I will fight.’ He says, “Even if I kill these elders for worldly gains, all my enjoyments will be smeared with their blood.” ‘This massacre is something that is wrong, it is Adharma.’
Then he continues with the argument:
“We are not sure who is stronger amongst us and who will win the war. Moreover the sons of Dhritarashtra are arrayed against us, after killing whom we ourselves would not like to live any longer.” (2.6)
It is an argument of blood relationship. It is a repetition of the earlier argument that enjoyment is enjoyment when we can share it with the people of our own ātmajanāḥ.
But now he has an admission, which he has not done in the first chapter:
“I am confused about my duty and owing to my low spirits,…” (2.7)
Because Sri Krishna has already blown to his heart that, ‘All your arguments are nothing but dejection.’ He now admits, “I am confused about my duty...” Actually, the word ‘duty’ is a very wrong word: ‘about Dharma’ is a higher term. He says, “dharma–saṁmūḍha cetāḥ” (2.7), he says, “I am absolutely confused about Dharma”, what is Dharma, what is Adharma, “I am confused about my duty and owing to my low spirits, I have lost my grain. Therefore…” this, he had not done in the first chapter.
He says, “Therefore, I ask You to tell me what is certainly the best for me. I am Your disciple, I have taken refuge in You. Please do instruct me.” (2.7) This is the saving Grace that he has now turned to the teacher:
yacchreyaḥ syānniścitaṁ brūhi tanme śiṣyaste’haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam*|| 7 || (||)
“yac chreyaḥ, what is the best; niścitaṁ brūhi, that you tell me (niścitaṁ, with definiteness); śiṣyas te ’haṁ, I am your pupil; śādhi māṁ, rule me; tvāṁ prapannam, I am here surrendered to you”. This in brief is the argument that he has presented.
“Even if I were to attain undisputed sovereignty over the whole world and conquer even the gods, I do not see how I could remedy this grief which is consuming my senses.” (2.8)
evam uktvā, “Having said this…”, hṛṣīkeśaṁ guḍākeśaḥ parantapaḥ* |
na yotsya iti govindam uktvā tūṣṇīṁ babhūva ha ||2.9||
“Having said this to Hrishikesha, (to Sri Krishna; Gudakesha is Arjuna), Arjuna parantapaḥ, he spoke these words to Hrishikesha and then finally said:
na yotsya, I will not fight; iti govindam uktvā tūṣṇīṁ, (tūṣṇīṁ, is quiet), tūṣṇīṁ babhūva ha, he became quiet and silent.”
Since Arjuna wants a reply, the first “dong” of the reply is very important. It is as if it was shattering the basic argument, on which he based himself. And what is this argument?
aśocyān anvaśocas tvaṁ prajñāvādāṁś ca bhāṣase |
gatāsūn agatāsūṁś ca nānuśocanti paṇḍitāḥ ||2.11||
“What you should not worry about, you are worried about, what you should worry about, you are not worried about; and you are speaking the words of the wise…” you are taking recourse to the language, na kāṅṣke rājyaṁ (1.32)na kāṅṣke sukhāṁ, and ultimately your argument was down to this that, ‘I will not enjoy after blood splattering’. Therefore, whether he does this or not it is for kāṅṣke, sukhāṁ, because it will give him pain afterwards, ‘Therefore I don’t want to do it.’ This contradiction is involved in the argument: he uses the word of the wise but really the wise think otherwise.
‘Those who speak of renunciation…if you have really to speak the language of renunciation you should have gone to the basic premise of renunciation. Why should you renounce? On what basis should you renounce?’
Those who renounce…, Sri Krishna says… There is justification for renunciation. The whole theory of inaction, as Sri Krishna will explain later on, is not wrong. Inaction is a path, and the path can be achieved, and having gone on that path, certainly one can get rid of grief. But this is not the only path; there is another path also.
‘But even if you want to take the path of renunciation, I would have say fine, wonderful, but there are no signs in your state of consciousness, no sign in your argument which show that you are aware of the basic premise of renunciation. Why should you renounce? You want to renounce because you want to give up action. Fine! But what is the basis of renunciation of action. The basis is, that there is an inactive Reality, and you want to achieve the inactive Reality, and for that purpose ‘I want to renounce’, if you had make this statement in the very beginning, that if may be my Dharma–Adharma, anything, but I have suddenly realised that Reality is inactive and I want to achieve the supreme Reality which is inactive, which will be very fine! That would be the real paṇḍita, who says ‘I have discovered the Reality is inactive and I want to go into the state of inaction and therefore all actions whether right, wrong, everything, is to be renounced’, he does not speak all these arguments that you have given: ‘if I kill, this will happen, if I don’t kill, this will happen’, this is not the language of the one who knows the Reality and speak on the basis of the Reality.’
Therefore Sri Krishna, He says that, ‘If you had, really had your real premise, you would have said that, ‘there is a reality which is inactive and which is indestructible’. Start with that statement that there is a Reality which is inactive, but which is indestructible, and if this is the only Reality and if this Reality is indestructible, where is the question of killing or not killing. If Reality is something that cannot be killed, what are you talking about? Killing Drona, or killing Bhishma…keep your premise first, ‘Reality is inactive and indestructible’. That is what wise say, those who renounce the world, they want to attain to what?…to that which is never killed, which is indestructible.’
This is the “dong” that He gives, that is to say: if you examine the argument of Arjuna, he has not referred for one moment to the ultimate Reality. In his question, there is only the question of Dharma, Adharma, Bhishma, Drona, brothers, enjoyment and whether, ‘I shall have real enjoyment or not.’ But the one thing on which his own argument of ‘not doing, not fighting’ is in one sentence, ‘I do not wish to have happiness, I do not wish to have the kingdom.’ And behind that statement, there is hidden one premise that ‘you want to renounce, renounce for what? For attaining inactive Reality; but that inactive Reality is indestructible your whole language of killing and not killing does not arise!’
Sri Krishna introduces into the whole argument the real premise, on the basis of which Arjuna’s argument may be somewhat valid, but that the conclusion will not be valid: ‘If Reality is indestructible, then even if you destroy Drona and Bhishma, that Reality remains indestructible, so where is the question of destroying anything, it is indestructible.’ On this basis, this is the first “dong” of the argument. This is as if, crossing through all the ideas of killing, not killing, enjoyment, Dharma, Adharma, straight there is an arrow going of Sri Krishna’s argument, an opens up, a vision of a Reality which is transcendental, and which is indestructible.
He lifts up the whole argument, He introduces in the whole argument what we may called “God”.
He introduces the conception of God, and that is a concept, which is the subject matter of the whole of the Gita. You cannot resolve the problems of man without bringing into man “God”. As long as you try to avoid God, and try to go round and round, the human problems cannot be resolved. And this is what Arjuna was doing, in his argument there is no reference to God at all, you can see the whole argument.
Sri Krishna introduces the idea of God; there is no argument of Dharma–Adharma. He introduces the concept of God and if you read the whole of the Gita, it is nothing but a discussion on what is God, and God in its entirety: God in his inactive, indestructible aspect; God in his mobile and dynamic aspect; God in his omnipresence; God in man; God in creatures; God as an Avatar; God specially manifested in Vibhutis; and God in all his aspects of creation and maintenance and destruction; God as a destroyer; God having His own design and relationship between God and man, and the necessity of man to rise to that consciousness, so that he becomes that vision of God Himself, and then, seeing the root of action, so that the action of God is directly allowed to manifest in the world.
This is the real argument of Sri Krishna, in which therefore the question of Dharma–Adharma, all these are subsidiary questions, it is only by lifting yourself up to the concept of God, and saying that there is nothing else than God in the world. Therefore, all that counts in the world is God’s design, and God is omnipotent and full of mercy, there is complete compassion, He is Satchitananda, Delight! In His will there is no destruction, there is no cruelty, there is nothing but compassion, and he has to be the instrument of that consciousness, and see that God and see what He is doing. And you simply have to be so irresistible to that will, you don’t need to act, neither Dharma–Adharma, nothing, just allow that action to pass through you and that is all. That is the real answer to your question.
All the Eighteen chapters are given therefore, to the perception of God, and how to achieve that perception of God, that is the whole burden of the Gita. But this is the first “dong” as I said. He lifts up the whole argument by saying that, “You are going round and round, see first of all the basis even of your argument. If you want to have inaction, inaction can be justified only on the ground that you want to attain to the Reality, which is inactive. But that Reality is indestructible, and it is the only Reality, therefore the conclusion is that there is nothing which is destroyed, and your whole argument is on destruction.” This is the contradiction on which Sri Krishna first of all shakes the argument of Arjuna. And then of course He will go further.
Let us go quickly over this argument and see the description of the indestructible Reality. He says:
“Never did I not exist, nor did you, nor these kings, nor shall we ever cease to exist in the future.” (2.12)
So, where is the question of destruction?
“Just as an embodied soul attains childhood, youth and old age through the body, so it attains another body after death. Wise man does not grieve at this.” (2.13)
Because the Reality is indestructible!
“O Son of Kunti! The objects that are seen by the senses give rise to pleasure and pain, to heat and cold, they are transient. Therefore, O Bharata! Endure them heroically.” (2.14)
You want to achieve the inactive and indestructible Reality, these are only transitory things, bear them and attain to the indestructible Reality.
“O The Best Among Men! Anyone who is balanced in pleasure and pain and who is not agitated by the senses and the contacts with objects, only such a wise person is fit to attain liberation.” (2.15)
Now the word ‘liberation’ comes here for the first time in the Bhagavad Gita, and that is very important: saḥ amṛtatvāya kalpate, you attain to immortality, or indestructibility, or to liberation.
What is this point? Why is this, the answer to what question? Arjuna says that, (in the 10th verse of this chapter 2) “O Bharata! Hrishikesh smilingly spoke these words to grief stricken Arjuna…” grief stricken, he was now stricken with grief. Even if you have to do this or that, what was troubling Arjuna was the grief, he wanted to do something niścitaṁ, in which whatever he does there should be no grief at all. Sri Krishna says that, “There is a state in which there is no grief at all: that comes about only when you know the Reality, which is indestructible.” This is the basic statement of the Bhagavad Gita: that you can be free from all grief only if you attain to a Reality, which is amṛtam, which is indestructible. This is the concept of Moksha, which is the starting point in the whole of the Gita; we shall come back again and again to this concept of Moksha.
“There is no existence for the unreal, and the Real never cease to be.”
nāsato vidyate bhāvo nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ |
ubhayorapi dṛṣṭo ’ntas tv anayos tattvadarśibhiḥ ||2.16||
“There is no existence for the unreal, and the Real never cease to be. Thus, the knowers of Reality have ascertained the nature of what is Real and what is unreal.”
Sri Krishna again elucidates the nature of this indestructible Reality.
“That alone by which all this is pervaded is imperishable…” this ‘imperishable’ is not something over there, all that is pervading this world, everything in the world.
“That alone by which all this is pervaded is imperishable, because no one can destroy that immutable Reality.” (2.17)
“O Bharata! That indestructible Reality is imperishable, immeasurable, but the bodies which are inhabited by the Self are perishable. Therefore, prepare to fight! ” (2.18)
‘Imperishable will never be destroyed, and you are afraid that you are going to destroy! Fight, destroy, Reality will remain indestructible! This is all that you are caring for, you want indestructibility. Fight, destroy, destroy these bodies! These bodies are going to be destroyed in any case, if not today then tomorrow, they are transient. You are caring for the indestructible, fine! Be sure, it is not being destroyed, you are not going to destroy anybody, anything really that which is to be, the Reality.’
“Those who consider the Self as the killer, and those who think that it is killed, both are ignorant, for the Self neither kills, nor is killed.”
ya enaṁ vetti hantāraṁ yaścainaṁ manyate hatam |
ubhau tau na vijānīto nāyaṁ hanti na nanyate ||2.19||
āyaṁ na hanti, he does not kill, na nanyate, he is not killed either.
“The Self is never born, nor does it ever die; having once born before, will It not be born in the future. The Self is unborn, eternal, imperishable and ageless. Though the body is slain, the Self is not killed.” (2.20)
“O Son of Pritha! If one knows that the Self is indestructible, immutable, unborn, eternal, how can a person kill anyone or cause any one to be killed?” (2.21)
“Just as a person discards old clothes to put on the new ones, in the same way the embodied Self having discarded the worn out bodies, goes into new ones.”
This is one of the most famous sentences of the Bhagavad Gita.
vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya navāni gṛhṇāti naro ’parāṇi |
tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī ||2.22||
“Just as the old clothes are discarded by man, and wears the new ones, even so the old bodies are given up and the soul which is indestructible wears the new bodies.”
And then is the famous two verses where the Imperishable is described:
nainaṁ chindanti śastrāṇi nainaṁ dahati pāvakaḥ |
na cainaṁ kledayanty āpo na śoṣayati mārutaḥ ||2.23||
acchedyo ’yam adāhyo ’yam akledyo ’śoṣya eva ca |
nityaḥ sarvagataḥ sthāṇur acalo ’yaṁ sanātanaḥ ||2.24||
“The weapons cannot cut the Self, the fire cannot burn it, the water cannot drench it, nor can the wind dry it.” (2.23)
“The Self is eternal, all pervading, immutable, stable, and everlasting. Therefore, it cannot be cut, or burnt, or drenched, or dried up.” (2.24)
“The Self is said to be unmanifest, unimaginable, and unchangeable. Therefore knowing this to be so, you should not grieve.” (2.25)
‘The grief is because you feel the destruction, but if the Reality is indestructible which can never be killed, then you should be free from grief.’ The whole argument is not expounded; there is only emphasis upon one aspect.
“O Mighty–Armed Arjuna! Even if you think that the Self is born due to the birth of the body, and consider it dead, due to the death of the body, you still have no reason to grieve.” (2.26)
‘If you think that there is no Indestructible Reality at all, that there is only the movement, in which birth takes place followed by death and another birth takes place, if this is your argument, then also you should not worry, because what is born will die, and then there is again another birth! On that ground also you should not grieve, this is the nature of the world!’
“Death is certain for the one who is born, and birth is certain for one who dies. For this inevitable fact you should not grieve.” (2.27)
“O Bharata! All the created beings are unmanifest in their beginning, manifest in the middle and un–manifest again after the death. So, what need is there for lamentation!” (2.28)
This is one of the very powerful arguments: we, human beings are in the middle; we do not know what is before; we do not know what is here after. We are caught in the manifest. Before manifestation there is un–manifestation, after the manifestation there is un–manifestation. Therefore, we do not know the beginning or the end, we are only caught in the middle, and all our arguments are in the middle path. Sri Krishna says, ‘All your problems, all the grief arises, because we do not go to the root. Your arguments are because you are not going to the root of the matter; in your arguments there is no place for the Indestructible.’
āścaryavat paśyati kaścid enam āścaryavad vadati tathaiva cānyaḥ |
āścaryavac caiman anyaḥ śṛṇoti śrutvāpy enaṁ veda na caiva kaścit ||2.29||
“Some see Him as wonderful, some speak of Him as wonderful, some hear of Him as wonderful. Even after hearing, one does not know what is that wonderful” ‘That which is in the beginning and that which is in the end, that is really the wonderful, and you have not yet spoken of Him, you have not known Him. Unless you know Him, how can you come out of grief?’
“Some look upon this Self as a wonder, some talk about Him as a wonder, and some hear about Him as a wonder and yet having heard of Him, none are able to understand at all.” (2.29)
“O Bharata! The eternal Self that dwells in the bodies of all beings cannot be slain. Therefore, you should not grieve for any living being.” (2.30)
This is the end of one argument by lifting Arjuna to a perception of the Indestructible. In other words, in the entire argument, a new element is introduced by Sri Krishna, that changes the whole complexion of the situation. And yet, it is only one aspect that God is still brought into the picture: in His aspect of the immobile, indestructible Reality. The connection between the indestructible and the destructible is not yet brought out, excepting that that Reality pervades all that is here. This is all that he has been given so far.
Later on, we shall have a greater knowledge of that Reality. And as we go to the greater knowledge, the greater and greater is the clarity, and the nearer to the solution. But in the meantime, having argued this, Sri Krishna comes as it were on the earth, having greeted the Indestructible, knowing that Arjuna is lifted up certainly to a new perception, which he cannot bear immediately. He is still on the earth, he comes back again on the earth, and speaks the language which is appropriate to a warrior who has come to war with certain ideas, and refers to those ideas.
(2.31) Starts with a new argument:
svadharmam api cāvekṣya na vikampitum arhasi |
dharmyād dhi yuddhāc chreyo ’nyat kṣatriyasya na vidyate ||31||
Arjuna is a man in the battlefield. Arjuna belongs to the clan of Kshatriya, and Kshatriyas are ruled by certain Dharma. Therefore, Sri Krishna brings him to a statement, which is known to Arjuna. But while he has been lifted up, and since Arjuna is not able to lift up himself to that perception, and still he is on the earth here, He reminds him that ‘You are Kshatriya, for a Kshatriya to get this kind of war is regarded as a boon, and therefore, in the Kshatriya you have to see what is your Dharma, and having seen your Dharma, even by seeing your Dharma, I have shown you what is indestructible and seeing the indestructible, you should not grieve about destruction. But even from the point of view of your Dharma this kind of war, which has come to you is a war which comes to Kshatriyas as a boon, and in that war you must fight and do your Dharma.’
“O Son of Pritha! Fortunate are the Kshatriyas, who come upon such an opportunity as this great battle which has come to you of its own accord as an open gate to heaven.” (2.32)
This is also a kind of an answer to Arjuna. Arjuna was saying that, ‘If I kill, I will be destroying the Dharma, and one who goes to destroy the Dharma’, he says, ‘It is śuśruma; we have heard they only go to hell.’ (1.44) And against that Sri Krishna says that, ‘Such a war comes to you, to Kshatriyas only rarely, and if you fight we assure, you might have heard you go to hell, but you know that very well that the real truth is that when you fight according to your Dharma, there is only one consequence of it, namely heaven.’
This is contrasting what he has heard and what Sri Krishna has heard; because he says, ‘We have heard that if you create an Adharma then you will go to hell.’ Sri Krishna says that, ‘You are only going to fight according to your Swadharma, and if you do so you will only go to heaven.’
“If, however, you do not fight this righteous battle…” (2.33), now he says the consequence, ‘Supposing you withdraw from your fight, what will happen? Because you have been seeing the consequences all the time: results of my action; whether my result will be right or wrong, it will produce Dharma or Adharma, it will produce hell or heaven, this is what you are considering isn’t it? Alright, consider, if you fight you will go to heaven but suppose if you don’t fight what will happen to you?”
“If, however, you do not fight this righteous battle, you will be deprived of both your own duties, (Swadharma), and your fame and then you will certainly incur sin.”
atha cet tvam imaṁ dharmyaṁ saṁgrāmaṁ na kariṣyasi |
tataḥ svadharmaṁ kīrtiṁ ca hitvā pāpam avāpsyasi ||2.33||
‘The sin will come then, if you do not fight.’
Remember, these arguments are on the plane on which Arjuna is arguing. This is not Sri Krishna final arguments; but He equates those arguments with His arguments that, ‘if you believe in doing the right action for gaining the right fruits of action, then this is what you will get; your consequences are not implied; the consequences I speak of, are the real consequences that will happen.’
“People will speak of your infamy, down to the ages. For a respectable person, evil fame is worse than death.” (2.34)
“The great chariot warriors will think that you have turned away from this battle out of fear. Those who highly esteem you will thus look down upon you.” (2.35)
“Your enemies will speak unkind words against you. They will doubt your heroism. What will be more painful than this?” (2.36)
You can see that this interlude of the argument is quite different from the earlier argument where Sri Krishna was speaking of the indestructible Reality. He introduces the new premise but like a good teacher who looms between different planes seeing the mood of his student, of the pupil, He lifts Arjuna on a higher plane but finds that he is still here, he is still worrying about his argument, about actions and the consequences. He argues on that plane, this is the interlude in the argument.
In the Bhagavad Gita, what is very important is to see the thread of the argument, and this thread is not a straight thread. It is very important that the Gita’s teaching is in a winding manner. That is because it is a living experience, in which the mind of the pupil runs on different planes, and you have to lift up ultimately the individual from lifting from one plane to the other, sometimes going up and sometimes going down. The teacher also undulates with the pupil’s consciousness, and then ultimately fixes him up.
In the first six chapters we will find this great winding movement. Afterwards you will find straightforward arguments, and this is a very important point to be noted with regard to the composition of the Gita’s argument. You will suddenly find shifts in the argument because Arjuna is not yet fixed, he is overwhelmed, he is in a state of dejection, he has put forward some arguments, which he has heard about which himself he is not sure, he is in a state of confusion, he is moving from one plane to the other. And even when Sri Krishna lifts him up on the basic argument of Reality, once again seeing that Arjuna is still here, He comes down and argues on the plane on which his argument is based.
This is another shift in the argument from ||, 39. This was only interlude, between the first part of the argument, and now the new argument starts. This was only the interlude. Sri Krishna says, “I have told you of Buddhi yoga”, that is to say, “When I spoke to you of the indestructible Reality, that indestructible Reality can be seen only by Buddhi: Buddhi which is clear and pure, not Buddhi which is confused and in a state of dejection. Therefore, you were speaking the language of the pure Buddhi, when you said, ‘I do not wish to have sukhā, I do not wish to have rājya’, you were speaking the language of the wise, but that language of the wise is appropriate to those who are doing the Buddhiyoga and in the Buddhiyoga I showed you what is Truth, the indestructible Reality, and seeing the indestructible Reality you have no ground to grieve for death and birth, and you agreed about it”, but that is one part of the argument.
“If you really want to withdraw from this battle on the clear understanding that you want to attain to the indestructible Reality, then that is certainly a right thing to do, but be clear that you are going out of this war for that, not because of the question of Dharma–Adharma and the consequences. On that ground if you are leaving then, you are not on the right premises.”
Sri Krishna says that, “That is the path by which you withdraw and go to the indestructible Reality. But by the same Buddhiyoga I will tell you that even if you act you will be free from grief. That is a path of going out of grief if you go to the indestructible Reality by withdrawal. But I shall tell you another aspect of the Truth, that even it you act you will be free from grief.”
And that is the starting point of the real teaching of the Gita. Because ultimately Sri Krishna’s teaching is that ‘You should act’, that even if it is possible to come out of action He says, “It is not to be preferred”. Sri Krishna’s final answer in the whole of the Gita is that, “Although you can come out of the grief by attaining to the inactive indestructible Reality that is not preferable. What is preferable is to find a solution where there will be no grief even when you act.”
And this is the new argument from ||, 39 it starts.
eṣā te ’bhihitā sāṅkhye buddhir yoge tv imāṁ śṛṇu |
buddhyā yukto yayā pārtha karmabandhaṁ prahāsyasi ||2.39||
“O Son of Pritha! This is the wisdom of the Sankhya which I have given you. Now listen to the wisdom of Yoga endowed with which, you will be free from the bondage of Karma.”
And then He says that, ‘I am giving you that path, even small effort in that path will reverse you from fear’.
“In this endeavour no effort is ever rendered void and no obstacle ever prevails. Even a small measure of this Dharma (righteousness) protects a person from a great fear (of the world cycle).” (2.40)
He expounds this new path: ‘so that, even if you are in action, you will not have grief, you will be mukta’. From here to the end is basically one argument. There are again certain sub–paths in the argument, but basically from here to the end, is a one straight argument, and the whole burden of the argument is that ‘If you can make you buddhi sthira, then even if you act, but if your buddhi is sthira, then there will be no grief, whatever action. Here, there is no question of Dharma–Adharma, ‘whatever action’, but if you can keep your buddhi sthira, in other words, if you become equal minded under every circumstances, if you see oneness everywhere, then whatever action you do, you will be free, there will be no grief.’
This is the secret. Combine two elements: perception of oneness and keeping the equilibrium, complete equality, samatvaṁ, and act! And that is better than not acting. Act, but with these two propositions put forward. Now this ‘perception of oneness’ and ‘maintenance of equality’ are interdependent. You cannot have real equality unless you have the perception of oneness; this perception of oneness is connected with the earlier proposition of the Indestructible: oneness is indestructible. That perception of oneness is the basis of equality, of samatvaṁ.
Action which is based upon the perception of oneness and the maintenance of equality: ‘If you do this, if you achieve this then there will be no grief: you were grief stricken and you wanted to come out of the grief?’ Sri Krishna answers immediately that, ‘If you want no grief at all, then attain to the perception that there is the indestructible Reality, which is One, as the result of which everything is equal; if you can keep equal in your consciousness, and act! Then, there will be no grief in your consciousness.’ What is the cause of the grief? The cause of the grief is: unsteadiness of buddhi. If buddhi becomes fixed, steady, on oneness, on equality, then there is no grief; all grief is because of unsteadiness.
The first sentence of this, itself is very important:
vyavasāyātmikā buddhi rekeha kurunandana |
vyavasāyātmikā, the buddhi which is vyavasāyātmikā, which is concentrated, the buddhi which is concentrated is eka, it is simply one, there is no duality.
bahuśākhā hy anantāś ca buddhayo ’vyavasāyinām ||2.41||
“But those who are unsteady, they are multiple branches, and then there is nothing but grief”. Even if you have pleasure now, there is nothing, it is a wildness, or wilderness, or a forest, or a foliage, in which there is a plethora, where grief will be constantly pursuing you. This is the basing point of Buddhi yoga applied to Action. Let the buddhi be concentrated.
Having given this basic proposition, the argument takes a turn immediately. Because whenever you speak of Karma, there is the ordinary notion of Karma, particularly in the time when Arjuna was facing this problem, whenever anybody spoke of Karma, people understood Karma in a certain context. Therefore Sri Krishna refers to that psychology, because He immediately senses. A good teacher is that who does not need to be told as to what is going on in the mind of the pupil, he looks at him, or he feels automatically at what is happening in the mind of the pupil, and answers to the question of the unasked questions. He has spoken of Karma, and He understands immediately, although He has said very clearly that, ‘Having seen oneness and if you can keep equality, steadiness of your intellect, then you will be free from grief…’, but immediately the word ‘Karma’ implies for Arjuna, what is called ‘Vedic Karma’.
In the time in which this teaching is given, by Karma was meant the ‘Vedic Karma’. Therefore, immediately the argument shifts to that: many people who do not understand the thread of the argument of Sri Krishna, they feel jerks in the argument. And that is because it is not realised that Sri Krishna stands in the battlefield as a teacher, not as an expounder of a theory. If you are giving an argument in a class of philosophy, argument will be straight, but if you are arguing in a field of action, then you should constantly measure up, and see how the pupil’s mind is working, and then you become wavy, undulating, you move your argument according to the turns of the mind of the pupil. The moment he speaks of Karma, Sri Krishna realises that Arjuna is thinking of ‘Vedic Karma’.
Vedic Karma is meant for what? At that time, the theory of Vedic Karma is, that you should desire, and you should get results by actions appropriate to desires, and for that you should do the Vedic Karma: Vedic Karma are prescribed works, not all the Karmas but prescribed works, so now Sri Krishna takes up this question.
“O Son of Pritha! Unwise man speak flowery words and are supposedly followers of the Vedas, and are devoted to the various fruitive activities for devotion to heavenly planes saying that apart from the ritualistic sacrifice there is nothing else.” (2.42)
The moment ‘Karma’ is spoken of, the idea that is given is ‘ritualistic sacrifice’, and Sri Krishna says, “I am not going to tell you of the ritualistic sacrifice, I am going to talk to you about all Karma, sarvakarmāṇi, and I am not speaking to you of the Karmas, which are undertaken for the sake of desire and for the sake of the fruits of action; and people say that Vedas are connected with Karmas, and that there can be is no Karma without desire, and that there is no Karma without enjoyment of fruits of action. This is all that you have heard, and people speak in the name of the Veda.’
“Indulged in desires, considering heaven the highest goal, they engage themselves in Karmas only for the sake of prosperity and enjoyment. Thus they create a Karmic basis for future embodiments.” (2.43)
‘That is not the way of coming out of the grief. I am not going to expound to you this theory. My theory is not this. I am speaking to you of Karma but I am speaking to you of Karma, which will free you from grief, but this is not the path.’ So He distinguishes it from that Karma.
“Attached to sense enjoyment and material opulence, with intellect deprived of discriminative power, they are bewildered by such things and are unable to develop that one–pointed intellect which leads to Samadhi (the super–consciousness).” (2.44)
Sri Krishna says that so long that you are engaged in that kind of action, you can’t have Buddhi yoga: buddhi cannot be concentrated; it will not be vyavasāyātmikā buddhi, it will be avyavasāyātmikā, it will be that which is not ‘engaged’: this is fleeting like a butterfly going from one place to the other; it cannot be steady.
This is the path of Vedic Karma as known at that time, not Vedic Karma as understood by Vedic Rishis earlier.
Therefore, Sri Krishna says that this Veda, as understood, is:
“O Arjuna! The Karma portion of the Vedas deals only with the three Gunas. Therefore you become transcendental to these three Gunas. Be free from all dualities. Abide in the eternal Sattwa, and having established yourself in the Self rise above Yoga and Ksema.” (2.45)
These three Gunas are the field of fleeting experiences. The three Gunas can never remain stable; they are constantly fluctuating: ‘So long as your intellect is fixed in these three Gunas, your intellect can never become stable, therefore rise above the three Gunas. Establish in the Indestructible Reality of which I have spoken earlier and act.’
“For the knower of Brahman, the Karma portion of the Vedas serves the same purpose as a small reservoir of water in a place where there is a flood from all sides.” (2.46)
Once you know, by steady will, steady buddhi, that Reality, then there is flood everywhere. In that flood what is the value of a small well of water? Whatever you get by Karma which is motivated by desire, we will give you that water but that water will be like water of a well, a well, which to the brahmavādin is located in a flood of water, because he possesses the flood of water. What is the point of having the small well of water, which the Vedic Karma full of desires gives you? Therefore come out of that Karma.
This is the argument to dispel from Arjuna’s mind that when he speaks of Karma, he does not speak of Vedic Karma, which is motivated by desire.