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Adhyăya 2 : SănkhyaYoga


The first Adhyăya was a reflection of Arjuna’s simplicity of heart and god-fearing pious character and searching mind. As a troubled humanist he is in search of something higher than mere victory and killing. How painfully and honestly Arjuna justifies his mood of revulsion and plays a role of a pacifist is also seen in the opening part of the second Adhyăya. He is prepared to throw away the warrior’s conventions that do not recognise the respectability of the elderly persons like Bhishma and Drona. Arjuna’s magnanimity reaches its height when he declares his preference to begging than to killing them.

Rest of the second Adhyăya is solely devoted to Lord Krishna’s reply to Arjuna’s objections. The Gită’s real teaching starts now onwards and Lord Krishna initiates some of the very fundamental and lofty doctrines of India’s perennial philosophy so well established and developed throughout the ages.

The Atman, the indwelling Supreme Divinity, called Brahman has an eternal existence and the body is simply a passing phase. Man’s every action is to be judged in this absolute sense. Human Being possesses a double nature, a bodily existence and an Eternal Self, the Spirit, the Soul. The first is transitory. Immortality of the soul and the mortality of the body and nonbinding character of one’s natural duty called Swadharma are the basic postulates established in this Adhyăya .

Verses 1 to 9

Lord Krishna was not happy with Arjuna’s depressed mood. His untimely compassion evoked a sharp reaction from the Lord. Calling it unmanly, disgraceful, unworthy of a man of enlightenment, Lord Krishna said, "Oh foe-consumer, shake off this cowardice and arise, such petty weakness and impurities of heart are unbecoming of a warrior like you!" Lord Krishna’s direct reference to Arjuna losing heaven and fame due to his cowardice did not appeal him much. For him these things were not greater than the respectful superiors like Bhishma, the grand father and Drona, the veteran teacher who were worthy of veneration. Any wealth or pleasure would be cursed with blood guilt if earned by killing elderly persons. " Better to live by begging than to commit such a sin!"

Although Arjuna said this, his resolution dwindled and he started suspecting his own position, "What is better: we defeating Kauravas or they defeating us" He asks desperately:

"I am confused about my duty, I wish to know what is good for me. I am your disciple. Please show me the right path. Till then neither the supreme and the unchallenged world’s kingdom nor the throne of heavenly gods will be able to remove my sense - killing sorrow. I will not fight!" Saying this Arjuna became silent.

Verses 10 to 25

Lord Krishna begins his reply by striking at the very root of Arjuna’s dilemma over the act of killing. The dweller in the body, the Ătman is the sole reality and the body is merely a passing phase, simply an appearance. Life and death are the stages attached to the body alone. The dweller ( dehěn /sharěrěn ) in the body i.e. the Ătman has no birth, no death.

Though outwardly people seem to die, there never was a time when they including Lord Krishna, Arjuna and the kings at the war did not exist in the past nor they shall cease to be in future. Lord Krishna emphasises on the immortality of the soul, the Ătman. The immortal soul dwelling in the body passes through the stages of childhood, youth and old age, likewise at the death he merely passes in to another kind of body. The soul merely changes bodies after bodies in a manner similar to a person discarding his old clothes and donning new ones.

At the very outset Lord Krishna has thus lifted the discourse to such a philosophical height where superior intellect and objective analysis reign supreme over Arjuna’s emotional and subjective thinking. A spiritual framework is provided in the beginning itself and in the later Adhyăyas these fundamental doctrines are fully exposed in minutest details with logical explanations.

Lord Krishna wants Arjuna to imbibe discriminatory wisdom whereby he can distinguish between permanent and transient. " The truly wise mourn neither for the living nor for the dead, therefore your sorrow is for nothing, " Thus advising Arjuna Lord Krishna starts defining the transient and ephemeral nature of this phenomenal world.

"Feelings of heat and cold, pleasure and pain are caused by the contact of the senses with their objects. They come and they go, never lasting long. You must bear with them." Existence of the world is nothing but experiencing the pairs of opposites (Dvandva) that keep on changing every moment. Reality stands beyond this.

Pointing out the ever-changing and destructible nature of both the phenomenal world of matter and individualised consciousness Lord Krishna draws our attention to the real, permanent and infinite principle that pervades the entire universe. Whatever the man experiences and reacts through his body, mind and intellect is of transient nature and therefore finite but that Reality which pervades all things, animate and inanimate is indestructible and no one has power to destroy it or change it. The same Eternal Principle, Brahman when dwells in the body is called Ătman which is birthless, deathless and changeless, whereas the bodies it possesses are said to be perishable.

The Ătman is incapable of slaying or being slain. It is neither born nor can it die. "It is immutable, illimitable and imperishable!" Declares the Lord. Arjuna’s anxiety about committing a sin of killing becomes meaningless since the " Soul can not be cut to pieces by any weapon, can not be burnt by fire, can not be wetted by water and can not be dried by wind." In modem terms it can be said to be extending beyond all dimensions of time and space. Thus It being beyond the comprehension of time and space limited senses, these senses can not perceive it at all. Hence described as Avyakta, without concrete manifestation. It is also beyond one’s mental capacity to grasp, Achintya. It is also changeless, Avyaya, as it has no manifested form or shape or period of existence that are the characteristics normally capable of being changed.

Here the implied meaning is very important. The Ătman, the Self, being the Knower, the Seer or Doer in the body, a sense - mind - intellect combination which function under Its power is incapable of external observation or experimentation. It is not an outside object with name and form so that weapons, fire, water, wind and similar instruments, can experiment on it to know its nature.

Immortality and various other descriptions of Ătman forming this section of the second Adhyăya, become the core of Gita’s perennial philosophy and with its power of logic and rationality it dispels Arjuna’s delusion arising out of mundane thoughts.

Verses 26 to 31

After teaching the highest of the metaphysical truth ever spoken, Lord Krishna comes down to worldly plane to remove Arjuna’s doubts that led to his despondency. If according to Arjuna’s own conception, this Ătman is subject to constant birth and death even then he should not mourn since all beings who are born had to die and rebirth is certain for the dead. So it is unwise to grieve for what is unavoidable. Lord Krishna has skilfully touched upon the great truth propounded by sănkhya philosophy. "None knows where we come from and where we would go to, but in the middle for a brief spell, interim between birth and death, we become manifest in our bodies. Death is merely a preordained passage of the soul from the limited body into limitless Unmanifest. Once this truth is realised, there remains no cause for any grief."

Lord Krishna, then praises the wondrous experience of those who have realised the Ătman in its true nature. But there are many ignorant ones who are told about It and still do not understand a word about It. The Lord wanted Arjuna to be one amongst the enlightened souls who have realised the eternal nature of the dweller in the body so that he has no reason to mourn for anyone’s death.

The question then arises what one should do in his bodily existence? The Lord now brings the discourse to practical level without breaking its link with the metaphysical foundation so wisely laid down so far. It was also necessary to dispel the doubt whether all types of killings were permitted under the pretext of the immortality of the Soul.

Verses 32 to 38

The Lord glorifies the warrior’s profession. The battle opens a door to heaven and therefore Arjuna should feel happy to get such a rare opportunity. He was expected to maintain his reputation as a formidable warrior whereas if he turns aside from his lawful war-duty he would be disloyal to his innate nature, would lose his fame and would be called a sinner. The arguments came down to a very human level when the Lord talks about Arjuna’s colleagues misunderstanding his reluctance to fight, as arising out of fear and to a man of self-respect "that is surely worse than death. Your admirers will despise you and your enemies will slander your courage. What would be harder to bear than to hear such words of infamy and insults." In such touching, emotional words Lord exhorts Arjuna to rise and fight. After enumerating negative effects of Arjuna’s inaction the Lord, then starts painting a bright picture of his getting earthly pleasures if he emerges victorious and he would attain the heaven if he dies a hero’s death in the battle.

Thus urging Arjuna to rise and fight Lord Krishna strikes a vital chord by telling him the secret of nonbinding actions. Action by itself is not good or bad, neither sinful nor meritorious. The mental attitude that puts opposites like victory and defeat, gain and loss, pleasure and pain and so forth on the same plane makes one’s actions non binding and therefore Arjuna was encouraged to do Kshatriya’s prescribed duty while being non-attached to results thereof. In such mental equipoise when war is fought as a part of lawful duty, it is not a sin.

Verses 39 to 46

Arjuna was urged to perform his ‘Swadharma’ with a mind illuminated by the knowledge of the Eternal Reality. It was not merely doing a duty for duty’s sake. It was really a duty for God’s sake. The unitive knowledge of the Divine Reality through self realisation can be attained by practising DnyănYoga, here refer to as Sănkhya Buddhi the path of knowledge by observing metaphysical discipline of discrimination between real and apparent. Thus the metaphysical discipline was the focal point of the earlier part of the second Adhyăya referred to as Sănkhya, by the Lord.

But this discriminatory knowledge can lead to renouncing all actions including that of a Kshatriya, the warrior. Arjuna too, had to some extent suggested the same by his reluctance. Lord Krishna now begins explaining the method of KarmaYoga, here referred to as Yoga-Buddhi the path of action. Every action born out of desire has a binding effect that remains in the form of Văsanas, the subtle impressions of one’s past experiences and actions. These effects have to be carried by the doer in this life or subsequent ones for atonement. Affected ones are those who perform actions with attachment to fruits thereof, and not those who consider the actions their sacred duty, cast on them by their innate nature called Swadharma. They perform it as their offerings to God, and thus keep no Văsanas behind.

One’s little efforts in acquiring this attitude of non attached action is never wasted and it has no contrary results. " Even a little practice of this Yoga can save you from the terrible wheel of rebirth and death." Arjuna is thus reassured by the Lord to make a humble beginning.

But then what are the means to reach that state of mind? The Lord discloses the secret by telling the importance of discriminatory intellect that makes one’s will concentrated upon Divine ideal. The will of the person lacking the power of discrimination, and as a result lacking concentration, is confused. Such irresolute mind wanders in all directions, being attached to material pleasures. Most of the people fall in this category. Their confused minds drove them towards the letter of scriptures. And overlooking the inner truth they desire earthly happiness and heavenly rewards. Involving themselves in elaborate rituals they grow deeply attached to pleasure and power. As a result they are caught in the cycle of rebirth and death.

Vedas are sacred scriptures of Hindus and Lord Krishna refers to their ritualistic portion that invariably comes under the influence of three Gunas, sattwa, rajas and tamas, which are three natural but material forces. Living and non-living beings have their own characteristics born of the Gunas combining in a vast variety of ways. Matter and mind get their differentiating tendencies and traits due to Guna-influence. These forces keep a human being chained to pairs of opposites like pleasure and pain, gain and loss, heat and cold, etc.

Arjuna is persuaded not to become involved in the play of these Gunas. To become free from the pairs of opposites, his mind has to be absorbed in Ătman without caring even for his personal livelihood. Unlike the well in the flooded country the Vedas become useless to a person who is enlightened by the unitive knowledge of Brahman. What is important is selfless detached action. Vedic rituals and sacrifices when performed for purification of mind and for the wellbeing of the common people also become selfless activity that leads to spiritual freedom.

Verses 47 to 53

Lord Krishna summarises the KarmaYoga in a very beautiful couplet. "You have the right to work, but for work’s sake only. You have no right whatsoever to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits must never be your motive. Never get attached to laziness either."

These well-known principles stand as four cornerstones of KarmaYoga. The result of any act does not solely depend on its doer, but also on various other known-unknown factors. Therefore one’s actions should be free from the anxiety about the fruits. To achieve this goal, every action needs to be performed fixing one’s heart on the Supreme Reality. By renouncing attachment to fruits one becomes indifferent to success and failure and as a result becomes calm and peaceful. That evenness or steadfastness of mind is called "Yoga," That is the state of unity with Ătman.

Work done with anxiety about results is inferior to work done without such anxiety. Surrendering oneself to Supreme Lord is rewarded by achieving equanimity of mind. Selfish ones who run after fruits of their actions are miserable. Lord Krishna asks Arjuna to devote fully to gain unitive experience of Brahman to enable him to detach himself from the bondage of good and evil. Skill of doing work without attachment keeping mind fully absorbed in Ătman is Yoga. He who maintains the mental equilibrium can easily renounce the fruits of actions. He is bound to reach enlightenment and braking the cycle of birth and death becomes a perfect human being.

Arjuna’s intellect was clouded by delusion and Lord Krishna wanted to clear it so as to make him indifferent to fruits of his actions. Arjuna’s arguments were indicative of his intellect being bewildered by conflicting interpretations of the scriptures. Lord tells him to make his confused mind steady and undistracted and poise it in the contemplation of the Ătman. That was the sure way to self realisation.

Verses 54 to 63

Lord Krishna impressed upon Arjuna’s mind the necessity of acquiring mental equanimity to enable him to overcome his grief and delusion. Arjuna had wilfully and with full confidence accepted the discipleship of the Lord. His receptive mind was so much alive to the inspiring thoughts that breaking his silence he asked the Lord very basic and intelligent question:-

"Krishna, How can one identify a man who is firmly established and absorbed in the Ătman, the Divine self and therefore whose intellect has become steady ? In what manner does the illuminated soul speak? How does he sit? How does he walk ?

Arjuna’s eagerness to see the perfect human being, the personified wisdom in the surrounding world is clearly reflected in these short questions. It is noteworthy that the Lord does not prescribe ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of human conduct as arbitrary commandments, but brings out beautifully the virtues of the Realised Man who lives amidst us and sets an ideal before others.

Man of steady wisdom;

-Abandons all desires of the mind.

-is blissfully absorbed in the Ătman itself.

-Remains unshaken in the adversity and does not hanker after pleasures.

-Is free from attachment, fear and anger.

-His worldly bonds are broken.

-Neither rejoices on good luck nor hates bad luck.

-Withdraws his senses from sense -objects like a tortoise withdrawing his limbs from all sides.

-The abstinent outwardly runs away from the objects of enjoyment by negative restrictions but really carries his desires with him, but in the case of the man of steady wisdom, having once tasted the joy of Ătman, his desires also disappear.

-Senses are so strong and impetuous that they forcibly drag the mind even of a wise man who is trying to control them. But the man with the steadfast mind restrains the senses keeping them under full control. Thus recollecting the mind he fixes it on ‘Me’ the Lord.

Lord Krishna demonstrated the qualities of the man of steady wisdom by stressing indirectly the need of the mind-control. He now draws our attention to the very fundamental pitfalls of human mind. Lord describes the process:-

Thinking about sense-objects develops attachment to sense-objects. From the attachment grows the addiction. Addiction thwarted produces anger. Anger leads to mental confusion which in turn kills the power of memory. Once memory is lost discriminatory intellect is lost and when power of discrimination is lost the man is doomed.

What a realistic picture of our worldly affairs!

Verses 64 to 70

In contrast to the human failures, the man of steady wisdom exhibits extra ordinary qualities while living in the pairs of opposites.

A person who is obedient to Ătman, walks safely among the objects of lust and hatred. His peace of mind is not disturbed. In this peace all sorrows melt. Once his mind is peaceful his intellect becomes steady.

Whereas one who has no knowledge of the Ătman, can have neither a steady mind nor a steady intellect. Without steadiness there is no peace and where there is no peace, from where can there be happiness?

As the strong wind sweeps away a ship from its course upon the waters a mind engaged in wandering senses drag away the intelligence which is the main instrument of gaining wisdom; ...................... But in the case of man with steady wisdom senses get detached from their objects.

Lord Krishna in a famous couplet brings out the contrast between the illuminated soul and the common people.

"The man of restraints is awake in his enlightenment which is a dark night to all other beings, and the beings are awake in sensual fife which is a daylight to them; but to a seer it is a dark night."

Water flows continually into the ocean but the ocean remains undisturbed, likewise when desires are flowing in to the mind of the seer his peace is not disturbed. This is not possible with a passionate one.

Verses 71 to 72

After profusely praising the man of steady wisdom by presenting his shining virtues, Lord Krishna now concludes by glorifying the state of enlightenment in Brahman, called Brăhmi sthiti.

A person who has deserted all his desires of sense gratification and who is passionless and devoid of sense of possession and ego takes the seat of peace in the heart of Brahman.

This is, Lord Krishna reiterates, the state of enlightenment in Brahman. Once attained there is no chance of becoming a victim of any delusion. Even at the time of death the man thus situated, gets freed and enters into Brahman.

Since the second Adhyăya stresses the importance of knowledge as a precondition to self realisation, it is rightfully called sănkhyaYoga.

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