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2.4: Bhagavad Gita

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    Reading Four: Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 2, Verses 4-30)

    In this section near the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita, we enter into the conversation between Arjuna and Krishna. Arjuna, a soldier, feels hesitation before a battle in the civil war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. He does not want to have to kill people he knows, even though he knows that they are in the wrong for starting this war. He tells Krishna that he will not fight that day.

    What follows is Krishna’s response. Krishna is a god who has disguised himself as Arjuna’s driver in order to help save humanity from the disastrous consequences of this war. He encourages Arjuna to fight because it is important that the war come to a resolution so that the fighting will stop. It is Arjuna’s duty (or Dharma) to fight because that is his role in society, and the violet Kaurvas must be stopped so that the country can be at peace again.

    But he also justifies fighting in the war by teaching Arjuna about the difference between the soul (atman) and the physical body. They are different and separate from each other. The soul is eternal while the body is temporary. He says that this is important for a warrior to understand because he’s not really killing his enemies on the battlefield – he is only killing their bodies and their souls will live on, reincarnating back into the world. (In this story, Arjuna is the good guy and those he will fight are the bad guys). Krishna says that we have always existed and will always exist, because our souls are eternal – our physical bodies and lives are just temporary.

    So we should do what is right, what our society needs of us, focusing on our soul and not our physical body.

    Bhagavad Gita Excerpt

    Arjuna said: How shall I strike my grandfather, my guru, and all other relatives, who are worthy of my respect, with arrows in battle, O Krishna?

    It would be better, indeed, to live on alms in this world than to slay these noble personalities, because by killing them I would enjoy wealth and pleasures stained with their blood.

    We do not know which alternative, to fight or to quit, is better for us. Further, we do not know whether we shall conquer them or they will conquer us. We should not even wish to live after killing our cousin brothers, who are standing in front of us.

    My senses are overcome by the weakness of pity, and my mind is confused about duty (Dharma). Please tell me what is better for me. I am Your disciple, and I take refuge in You.

    I do not perceive that gaining an unrivaled and prosperous kingdom on this earth, or even lordship over all the celestial controllers will remove the sorrow that is drying up my senses.

    After speaking like this to Lord Krishna, the mighty Arjuna said to Krishna: I shall not fight, and became silent.

    O King, Lord Krishna, as if smiling, spoke these words to the distressed Arjuna in the midst of the two armies.

    Lord Krishna said: You grieve for those who are not worthy of grief, and yet speak words of wisdom. The wise grieves neither for the living nor for the dead.

    There was never a time when these monarchs, you, or I did not exist; nor shall we ever cease to exist in the future.

    Just as the soul acquires a childhood body, a youth body, and an old age body during this life; similarly, the soul acquires another body after death. This should not delude the wise.

    The contacts of the senses with the sense objects give rise to the feelings of heat and cold, and pain and pleasure. They are transitory and impermanent. Therefore, one should learn to endure them. Because a calm person who is not afflicted by these sense objects, and is steady in pain and pleasure becomes fit for salvation.

    The invisible Spirit (Atma, Atman) is eternal, and the visible physical body, is transitory. The reality of these two is indeed certainly seen by the seers of truth.

    The Spirit by whom this entire universe is pervaded is indestructible. No one can destroy the imperishable Spirit.

    The physical bodies of the eternal, immutable, and incomprehensible Spirit are perishable. Therefore fight, O Arjuna.

    The one who thinks that the Spirit is a killer, and the one who thinks the Spirit is killed, both are ignorant. Because the Spirit neither kills nor is killed.

    The Spirit is neither born nor does it die at any time. It does not come into being, or cease to exist. It is unborn, eternal, permanent, and primeval. The Spirit is not destroyed when the body is destroyed.

    O Arjuna, how can a person who knows that the Spirit is indestructible, eternal, unborn, and immutable, kill anyone or causes anyone to be killed?

    Just as a person puts on new garments after discarding the old ones; similarly, the living entity or the individual soul acquires new bodies after casting away the old bodies.

    Weapons do not cut this Spirit, fire does not burn it, water does not make it wet, and the wind does not make it dry. The Spirit cannot be cut, burned, wetted, or dried. It is eternal, all pervading, unchanging, immovable, and primeval.

    The Spirit is said to be unexplainable, incomprehensible, and unchanging. Knowing the Spirit as such you should not grieve.

    Even if you think that the physical body takes birth and dies perpetually, even then, O Arjuna, you should not grieve like this. Because death is certain for the one who is born, and birth is certain for the one who dies. Therefore, you should not lament over the inevitable.

    All beings are unmanifest, or invisible to our physical eyes before birth and after death. They manifest between the birth and the death only. What is there to grieve about?

    Some look upon this Spirit as a wonder, another describes it as wonderful, and others hear of it as a wonder. Even after hearing about it very few people know what the Spirit is.

    O Arjuna, the Spirit that dwells in the body of all beings is eternally indestructible. Therefore, you should not mourn for anybody.

    Access the reading here:

    https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/gita/agsgita.htm


    This page titled 2.4: Bhagavad Gita is shared under a Public Domain license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Elisabeth Burke.

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