13: As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth, and then to old age; similarly, the soul also passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.
SINCE EVERY LIVING entity is an individual soul, each is changing his body at every moment, manifesting sometimes as a child, sometimes as a youth, and sometimes as an old man—although the same spirit soul is there and does not undergo any change. This individual soul finally changes the body itself, in transmigrating from one to another; and since it is sure to have another body in the next birth—either material or spiritual—there was no cause for lamentation by Arjuna on account of death, either over Bhisma or over Drona, for whom he was so concerned. Rather, he should rejoice at their changing bodies from old to new ones, thereby rejuvenating their energy. Such changes of body are meant for varieties of enjoyment or suffering by the living entiy, according to one’s own work in this Iife. So Bhisma and Drona, being noble souls, were surely going to have either spiritual bodies in the next life, or at least life in godly bodies for superior enjoyment of material existence. In either case, there was no cause for lamentation.
Any man who has perfect knowledge of the constitution of the individual soul, the Supersoul, and Nature—both material and spiritual—is called a Dheera, or a most sober man. Such a man is never deluded by the change of bodies by the living entities.
14: O son of Kunti, the non-permanent appearance of heat and cold, 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.
15: 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.
16: Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that, of the non-existent, there is no endurance, and of the eternal there is no cessation. Seers have concluded this by studying the nature of both.
THERE IS NO ENDURANCE of the changing body. That the body is changing every moment by the actions and reactions of different cells is admitted by modern medical science, and thus growth and old age are taking place. But the spiritual soul exists permanently, remaining the same in all the changing circumstances of the body and the mind. That is the difference between matter and spirit. By nature the body is ever changing, and the soul is eternal. This conclusion is established by all classes of seers of the truth, impersonalist and personalist. In The Vishnu Puranam also this truth has been established. It is stated there that Vishnu and His Abodes all have self-illuminated spiritual existence. The words existent and non-existent refer only to spirit and matter. That is the version of all seers of truth.
This is the beginning of the instruction by the Lord to the living entities who are bewildered by the influence of ignorance. Removal of this ignorance means re-establishment of the eternal relationship between the worshiper and the worshipable, and the consequent understanding of the difference between part and parcel living entities and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One can understand the nature of the Supreme by thorough study of oneself, the difference between oneself and the Supreme being understood as the relationship between the part and the whole. In the Vedanta Sutras, as well as in The Srimad Bhagwatam, the Supreme has been accepted as the origin of all emanations. Such emanations are experienced by superior and inferior natural sequences. The living entities belong to the superior Nature, as will be revealed in the Seventh Chapter. Although there is no difference between the energy and the energetic, the energetic is accepted as the Supreme, and energy or Nature is accepted as the subordinate. The relationship of the living entities, therefore, is to be always subordinate to the Supreme Lord, as with the Master and the servant, or the Teacher and the taught. Such clear knowledge is impossible to grasp under the spell of ignorance, and to drive away such ignorance the Lord teaches The Bhagavad Gita for the enlightenment of all beings for all time.
17: That which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.
THIS VERSE more clearly explains the real nature of the soul, which is spread all over the body. Anyone can understand what is spread all over the body: it is consciousness. Everyone is conscious about the pains and pleasures of the body in part or as a whole. This spreading of consciousness is limited within one’s own body. The pains and pleasures of one body are unknown to another. Therefore, each and every body contains an individual soul, and the symptom of the soul’s presence is perceived as individual consciousness.
18: Only the material body of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity is subject to destruction; therefore, fight, O descendant of Bharata.
19: He who thinks that the living entity is the slayer, or that the entity is slain, does not understand. One who is in knowledge knows that the self slays not nor is slain.
WHEN AN EMBODIED BEING is hurt by fatal weapons, it is to be known that the living entity within the body is not killed. The spirit soul is so small that it is impossible to kill him by any material weapon. Nor is the living entity killable in any case, because of his spiritual constitution. What is killed or is supposed to be killed is the body only. This, however, does not at all encourage killing of the body. The Vedic injunction is "Mahimsyat sarva bhutani," never commit violence to anyone. The understanding that a living entity is not killed does not encourage animal slaughter. Killing the body of anyone without authority is abominable, and is punishable by the law of the state as well as by the law of the Lord. Arjuna, however, is being engaged in killing for the principle of religion, and not whimsically.
20: For the soul there is never birth or death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.
21: O Partha, how can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, unborn, eternal, and immutable kill anyone, or cause anyone to kill?
EVERYTHING HAS its utility, and a man who is situated in complete knowledge knows how and where to apply a thing for its proper utility. Similarly, violence also has its use, and how to apply violence rests with the person in knowledge. Although the Justice of the Peace awards capital punishment to a person condemned for murder, the Justice of the Peace cannot be blamed, because he orders violence to another according to the codes of justice. In The Manusamhita, the lawbook for Mankind, it is supported that a murderer should be condemned to death so that in his next life he will not have to suffer for the great sin he has committed. Therefore, the king’s punishment of hanging a murderer is actually beneficial. Similarly, when Krishna orders fighting, it must be concluded that violence is for Supreme Justice; and, as such, Arjuna should follow the instruction, knowing well that such violence, committed in the act of fighting for justice, is not at all violence; because at any rate, the man—or rather, the soul—cannot be killed. For the administration of justice, so-called violence is permitted. A surgical operation is not meant to kill the patient, but is for his cure. Therefore, the fighting to be executed by Arjuna, under the instruction of Krishna, is with full knowledge; and so there is no possibility of sinful reaction.
22: As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones; similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.
CHANGE OF BODY by the atomic individual soul is an accepted fact. Even some of the modern scientists who do not believe in the existence of the soul, but at the same time cannot explain the source of energy from the heart, have to accept continuous changes of body which appear from childhood to boyhood, and from boyhood to youth, and again from youth to old age. From old age, the change is transferred to another body. This has already been explained in the previous verse.
Transference of the atomic individual soul to another body is also made possible by the Grace of the Supersoul. The Supersoul fulfills the desire of the soul as one friend fulfills the desire of another. The Vedas, such as The Mundaka Upanishad, as well as The Svetasvataro Upanishad, confirm this concept of two kinds of souls by comparing them to two friendly birds sitting on the same tree. One of the birds (the individual atomic soul) is eating the fruit of the tree, and the other bird is simply watching his friend. Of these two birds—although they are the same in quality—one is captivated by the fruits of the material tree, while the other is simply witnessing his activities. Krishna is the witnessing bird, and Arjuna is the eating bird. Although they are friends, one is still the master and the other is the servant. Forgetfulness of this relationship by the atomic soul is the cause of one’s changing his position from one tree to another, or from one body to another. The Jiva soul is struggling very hard on the tree of the material body, but as soon as he agrees to accept the other bird as the Supreme Spiritual Master—as Arjuna has agreed to do by voluntary surrender unto Krishna for instruction—the subordinate bird immediately becomes free from all lamentations. Both The Katha Upanishad and The Svetasvataro Upanishad confirm this statement.
23: The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.
24: This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable, and eternally the same.
25: It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.
As DESCRIBED ABOVE, the magnitude of the soul is such that, for our material calculation, he cannot be detected even by the most powerful microscope; therefore, he is invisible. As far as his existence is concerned, nobody can establish his experimental stability beyond the proof of Sruti, or Vedic wisdom. We have to accept this truth because there is no other source for understanding the existence of the soul, although it is a fact by perception. There are many things we have to accept solely on grounds of superior authority. No one can deny the existence of his father, based upon the authority of his mother; there is no other source of understanding the identity of the father, except on the authority of the mother. Similarly, there is no other source of understanding the soul except by studying the Vedas. In other words, the soul is inconceivable to human experimental knowledge. The soul is consciousness and conscious—that also is the statement of the Vedas, and we have to accept that. Unlike the bodily changes, there is no change for the soul. As eternally unchangeable, he remains atomic always in comparison to the infinite Supreme Soul. The Supreme Soul is infinite and the atomic soul is infinitesimal. Therefore, the infinitesimal soul, being unchangeable, can never become equal to the infinite Soul, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This concept is repeated in the Vedas in different ways, just to confirm the stability of the conception of the soul. Repetition of something is necessary in order that we understand the matter thoroughly, without error.
26: If, however, you think the soul is perpetually born and always dies, still you have no reason to lament, O Mighty-armed.
THERE IS ALWAYS a class of philosophers, akin to the Buddhists, who do not believe in the existence of the soul beyond the body. When Lord Krishna spoke The Bhagavad Gita, it appears that such philosophers existed, and were known as the Lokayatik and Baibhasikas. These philosophers maintained that life symptoms take place at a certain mature condition of the material combination. The modern material scientist and materialist philosophers think similarly. According to them, the body is a combination of physical elements, and at a certain stage the life symptoms develop by interaction of these elements. The science of anthropology is largely based on this philosophy. Currently, many pseudo-religions—now becoming fashionable in America—are also adhering to this concept, as well as to the nihilistic, nondevotional Buddhist sects.
Even if Arjuna did not believe in the existence of the soul—as in the Baibhasika philosophy—there would still have been no cause for lamentation. Nobody would lament the loss of a certain bulk of chemicals and stop discharging his prescribed duties. On the other hand, in modern science and scientific warfare, so many tons of chemicals are wasted in achieving victory over the enemy. According to the Baibhasika philosophy, the so-called soul or Atma vanishes along with the deterioration of the body. So, in any case, whether Arjuna accepted the Vedic conclusion that there is an atomic soul, or whether he did not believe in the existence of the soul, he had no reason for lamenting. According to this theory, since there are so many entities generating out of matter every moment, and so many of them are being vanquished at every moment, there is no need to grieve for such an incidence. However, since he was not risking rebirth of the soul, Arjuna had no reason to be afraid of being affected with sinful activities due to killing his grandfather and teacher. But, at the same time, Krishna sarcastically addressed Arjuna as Mahavaho, Mighty-armed, because He, at least, did not accept the theory of the Baibhasikas, which leaves aside the Vedic wisdom. As a Kshatriya, Arjuna belonged to the Vedic culture, and it behooved him that he continue to follow its principles.
27: For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.
ACCORDING TO LOGICIANS, one has to take birth according to one’s activities of life. And, after finishing one term of activities, one has to die to take birth for the next. In this way the cycle of birth and death is revolving, one after the other, without liberation. This cycle of birth and death does not, however, support murder, slaughter, and war unnecessarily. But, at the same time, violence and war are inevitable factors in human society for keeping law and order. The Battle of Kurukshetra, being the will of the Supreme, was an inevitable event, and to fight for the right cause is the duty of a Kshatriya. Why should he be afraid of, or aggrieved at, the death of his relatives, since he was discharging his proper duty? He did not deserve to break the law, thereby becoming subjected to the reactions of sinful acts, of which he was so afraid. By ceasing from the discharge of his proper duty, he would not be able to stop the death of his relatives, and he would be degraded on account of his selection of the wrong path of action.
28: All created beings are unmanifest in their beginnings, manifest in their interim state, and unmanifest again when they are annihilated. So what need is there for lamentation?
29: 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.
30: O descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body is eternal and can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any creature.
31: Considering your specific duty as a Kshatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation.
32: O Partha, happy are the Kshatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets.
33: If, however, you do not fight this religious war, then you will certainly incur sin for neglecting your duties, and thus lose your reputation as a fighter.
34: People will always speak of your infamy, and for one who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death.
35: The great generals who have highly esteemed your name and fame will think that you have left the battlefield out of fear only, and thus they will consider you a coward.
36: Your enemies will describe you in many unkind words, and scorn your ability. What could be more painful for you?
37: O son of Kunti, either you will be killed on the battlefield and attain the heavenly planets, or you will conquer and enjoy the earthly kingdom. Therefore, get up and fight with determination.
38: Do thou fight for the sake of fighting, without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat—and, by so doing, you shall never incur sin.
LORD KRISHNA NOW directly says that Arjuna should fight for the sake of fighting, because Krishna desires the battle. There is no consideration of happiness or distress, profit or gain, victory or defeat in the activities of Krishna consciousness. That everything should be performed for the sake of Krishna is transcendental consciousness; so there is no reaction from material activities. Anyone who acts for his sense gratification, either in goodness or in passion, is liable to the reaction—good or bad. Anyone who has completely surrendered himself in the activities of Krishna consciousness is no longer obliged to anyone, nor is he a debtor to anyone, as we are in the ordinary course of activities. It is said: "Anyone who has completely surrendered unto Krishna, Mukunda, giving up all other duties, is no longer a debtor, nor is he obliged to anyone—not the demigods, nor the sages, nor the people in general; nor kinsmen, nor humanity nor forefathers." That is the indirect hint given by Krishna to Arjuna in this verse, and the matter will be more clearly explained in the following verses.
39: Thus far I have declared to you the analytical knowledge of Samkhya philosophy. Now listen to the knowledge of Yoga, whereby one works without fruitive result. O son of Pritha, when you act by such intelligence, you can free yourself from the bondage of works.
40: In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.
ACTIVITY IN KRISHNA consciousness, or acting for the benefit of Krishna without expectation of sense gratification, is the highest transcendental quality of work. Even a small beginning of such activity finds no impediment, nor can that small beginning be lost at any stage. Any work begun on the material plane has to be done nicely till the end, otherwise the whole attempt becomes a failure. But any work begun in Krishna consciousness has a permanent effect, even though not finished. The performer of such work is therefore not at a loss even if his work in Krishna consciousness is incomplete. One per cent done in Krishna consciousness bears permanent results, so that the next beginning is from the point of 2 per cent. Whereas, in material activity, without 100 per cent success there is no profit. There is a nice verse in this connection in The Srimad Bhagwatam. It says: "If someone gives up his occupational duties and works in Krishna consciousness, and then again falls down on account of not being complete in such activities; still, what loss is there on his part? And, what can one gain if one performs his material activities very perfectly?" Or, as the Christians say: "What profiteth a man if he gain the whole world yet suffers the loss of his eternal soul?"
Material activities, and the results of such actions, will end with the body. But work in Krishna consciousness will carry the person again to Krishna consciousness, even after the loss of this body. At least one is sure to have a chance in the next life of being born into human society, either in the family of a great cultured Brahmin, or else in a rich aristocratic family that will give the man a further chance for elevation. That is the unique quality of work done in Krishna consciousness.
41: Those who are on this path are resolute in purpose, and their aim is one. O beloved child of the Kurus, the intelligence of those who are irresolute is many-branched.
42–43: Men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various fruitive activities for elevation to heavenly planets, resultant good birth, power, and so forth. Being desirous of sense gratification and opulent life, they say that there is nothing more than this.
44: In the minds of those who are too attached to sense enjoyment and material opulence, and who are bewildered by such things, the resolute determination for devotional service to the Lord does not take place.
SAMADHI means "fixed mind." The Vedic dictionary, the Niruktih, says, "When the mind is fixed for understanding the self, this is called Samadhi." Samadhi is never possible for persons interested in material sense enjoyment, nor for those who are bewildered by such temporary things. They are more or less condemned by the process of material energy.
45: The Vedas mainly deal with the subject of the three modes of material Nature. Rise above these modes, O Arjuna. Be transcendental to all of them. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the self.
46: All purposes that are served by the small pond can at once be served by the great reservoirs of water. Similarly, all the purposes of the Vedas can be served to one who knows the purpose behind them.
47: You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Neither consider yourself the cause of action, nor should you be attached to inaction.
THERE ARE THREE considerations here: prescribed duties, capricious work, and inaction. Prescribed duties mean activities in terms of one’s position in the modes of material Nature. Capricious work means actions without the sanction of authority; and inaction means not performing one’s prescribed duties. The Lord advised that Arjuna not be inactive, but that he be active in his duty without being attached to the result. One who is attached to the result of his work is also the cause of the action. Thus he is the enjoyer or sufferer of the result of such actions.
As far as prescribed duties are concerned, they can be fitted into three subdivisions: routine work, emergency work, and desired activities. Routine work, in terms of the scriptural injunctions, is done without desire for results. As one has to do it, obligatory work is action in the modes of goodness. Work with results becomes the cause of bondage, and so such work is not auspicious. Everyone has his proprietary right in regard to his duties, but should act without attachment to the result; thus such disinterested obligatory duties doubtlessly lead one to the path of liberation.
Arjuna was advised by the Lord to fight as a matter of duty, without attachment to the result. His non-participation in the battle is another side of attachment. Such attachment never leads one to the path of salvation. Any attachment, positive or negative, is cause for bondage. Inaction is sinful. Therefore, fighting as a matter of duty was the only auspicious path to salvation for Arjuna.