Bhagavad Gita Chapter II – Verse 1 & Verse 2

1. Sanjaya speaks as Arjuna is not aware of his state. Only an objective person is capable of seeing things as they are. He portrays Arjuna’s complete breakdown: Physical – Arjuna was in tears. Emotional – He was overwhelmed with pity. Intellectual – He was dejected and had lost hope. A well fortified person does not allow the tears to flow. He feels emotion but is never emotional. And he does not lose hope. He is always positive in his approach to life. A warrior must be fully charged for battle. Arjuna’s low morale would have affected the entire army if Krsna had not intervened. The war would have been lost even before the first arrow was shot! Krsna spoke to Arjuna in this condition and completely rehabilitated him by the end of the 18th Chapter, a matter of three hours. The Bhagavad Gita steps down from the pristine heights of the Upanisads to the level of the common person. It is far more down to earth than the Upanisads and caters to a different segment of humanity. The theme of the Gita is the need to control the mind in order to conquer the world. Here Arjuna, has no concept of self-conquest and sets out to conquer the world! The mind plays tricks on you. It creates havoc in your personality. You need intellectual strength to hold the mind in place.   2. Krsna asks Arjuna how he has fallen into this dejection. His question implies that depression [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter II – Verse 3 & Verse 4

3. Weakness and virtue do not go together. The world provokes you. If you are weak you succumb to the challenges. Stand up to them and they recede. Krsna asks Arjuna to shed this weakness and rise. This is not Arjuna’s nature. He is a mighty warrior and has vanquished many formidable enemies. Learn the science of living. Learn to overcome challenges of life which are inherent in the world. Waiting for challenges to vanish is like waiting for waves to subside before seabathing! It is selfishness that weakens you. Espouse a higher cause and you gain strength.   4. Arjuna cannot understand how Krsna can advise him to fight Bhisma and Drona who are worthy of worship. He addresses Him as Madhusudana (killer of Madhu) and Arisudana (destroyer of enemies). The quality of action is gauged by the intention behind it, not the action per se. The same action could be sacrificial or bestial depending on the motive driving it. Besides, Arjuna knew he would have to fight Bhisma and Drona. When his intellect was clear he accepted it. He has now allowed emotion to cloud his judgement hence the problem. In fact, just before the battle began Yudhisthira had appealed to Bhisma and Drona to come over to their side or, at least, remain neutral. They said they were mere subjects beholden to the Kauravas and had no choice but to fight for them. Arjuna believes his problem stems from an external cause. It is Arjuna’s passivity [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter II – Verse 5 & Verse 6

5. This verse indicates Arjuna’s turmoil. He concludes he would rather beg for a living than kill his respected elders Bhisma and Drona. This is rajasika or false renunciation where you give up a thing because of the associated pain. When the agony is removed the desire comes back. Arjuna is afraid his enjoyment would be marred by the blood of Bhisma and Drona. Arjuna is a warrior. A warrior’s nature is not one of submission and beggary! Yet he speaks of begging as a viable alternative because of utter confusion. Before the war began Yuddhisthira had appealed to Bhisma and Drona to either come over to the Pandava camp or remain neutral. They had both said they had no choice but to fight for the Kauravas as they were their subjects and it was their duty to remain with Duryodhana. It was now time for Arjuna to fulfil his responsibility as a prince and warrior to uphold righteousness and restore order in the state. A leader cannot allow personal relationships to come in the way of dharma duty.   6. Arjuna is now in doubt. Earlier he seemed to be decided on not fighting. Impulsive people who function on the whims and fancies of the mind are indecisive. They constantly change their opinions. Arjuna is flitting to the past, his relationship with Bhisma and Drona. And he thinks of future enjoyments. He is not concerned with the present action. He needs to focus on his present obligation and [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter II – Verse 7 & Verse 8

7. Verses 2 and 3 have had their intended impact. Now Arjuna is ready for the knowledge. He understands he is confused. He looks within for the first time and finds he needs improvement. He asks for help. The surrender is total. He says: I am Your disciple, I surrender to You, teach me. Surrender calms the mind. Vedanta prescribes assertive goodness. If you do not have the courage to fight evil when necessary you become party to the crime! Arjuna has been passive so far. He needs knowledge to gain the power to uphold righteousness.   8. Arjuna feels free to open his heart out to Krsna. Krsna has a mother’s love, a father’s care, a guru’s knowledge, a king’s protection and God’s grace. When you are in grief it feels like it is the end of the world. Yet a phone call can dispel it. This is why they have helplines that prevent suicides. If you do not have someone to speak to you sink into an abyss never to rise again. Arjuna overcame his grief because he had the timely guidance of Krsna. Vedanta gives strength to meet the challenges of life. The future is in your hands, however hopeless the situation may appear. The problem lies in wrong identification and involvement. When your emotions are playing up and you are confused defer decisions. Wait for the cloud to pass. Maintain status quo until you regain your balance.       Previous Next

Bhagavad Gita Chapter II – Verse 9 & Verse 10

9. Arjuna is not even aware of his condition so Sanjaya steps in and reports his total collapse. Arjuna lays down his bow and arrow and refuses to fight. All selfish, extroverted activity ends in depression. You lose your cheer and enthusiasm. Fatigue and bitterness take over. In the end you are unable to act. Selfish activity leads to burnout. You feel drained of energy. When you are unselfish you feel rejuvenated, invigorated and vitalised. With selfishness come boredom, monotony and drudgery. When you are unselfish you are excited, enthusiastic and exhilarated. Selfishness leads to stress and unhappiness. Unselfishness makes you calm, leading to phenomenal success and happiness. Most importantly, desires increase with selfish activity. Unselfish, dedicated activity reduces desires. Krsna’s message lifts Arjuna out of depression and empowers him to act in a spirit of yajna – service and sacrifice. In the end Arjuna fights the battle and wins. Similarly the Gita helps us fight the challenges of life and emerge victorious.   10. Krsna smiles. He understands Arjuna’s condition and has a clear solution to the problem. Arjuna is involved and is functioning on emotion. Krsna is objective and is viewing the situation with the intellect. The cloud of emotion passes. Intellectual wisdom prevails. This is only a temporary aberration of the mind that can be corrected. Krsna and Arjuna are located between the two armies. Stand between good and bad actions. Be free of the influence of desires and perform your obligatory duties. Surrender to the [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter II – Verse 11 & Verse 12

11. Krsna’s sermon begins with this verse. Great orators begin dramatically to grab the attention of the listeners. They usually give a compelling truth, stunning contradiction or startling declaration. Here Krsna says the wise do not mourn either for the living or for the dead. You speak words of wisdom. Yet you grieve. This is because you have not integrated the knowledge into your system. You are not living it. You have ego and egocentric desires which give you a myopic vision. When you understand the totality there is no grief. Grief comes from a narrow, self-centred view that ‘I’ have lost. In this case Arjuna is grieving for the Kauravas who have been totally unrighteous and unethical and are now finally getting what they deserve. Change is an inherent aspect of life. Everything in the world changes. Nothing remains. This movement cannot be stopped. Why do you get involved with the passage of time? The earth is constantly rotating around an axis and revolving around the sun. The Milky Way galaxy is hurtling through space. Yet you believe things remain static. You are experiencing a false world. Wake up to Reality. Then you will be free from sorrow.   12. In verse 11 Krsna says everything passes. In this verse He speaks of Atman which remains the same in all periods of time. This is the test of reality. That which exists now, but does not exist in the past or future cannot be real. Only Atman passes [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter II – Verse 13 & Verse 14

13. In this verse he says even the indweller or inner personality remains after death. Only the physical body is dropped. The mind, intellect and vasanas (unmanifest desires) shift from one body to another. This is called death of the former body and birth of the latter. Birth and death take place in the medium of Atman. Atman is all-pervading and cannot move. There is no place it does not exist. Atman is the ‘I’ in you. Just as the ‘I’ continues through childhood, youth and old age, It continues into another body. It is like moving from Mumbai to New York. It feels the same. Knowing this, the wise are not affected by either the changes that occur either during a lifetime or at death. Gain knowledge. Understand the changing nature of things and beings in the world. Do not get involved and suffer. Stand apart and observe the changes. Then they will entertain you and not crush you.   14. Now Krsna comes down to Arjuna’s level. He understands that Arjuna is at the body level and cannot relate to Atman. He advises him at that level. Sense contact causes heat and cold, pleasure and pain. They come and go. They are impermanent. They change constantly. Bear with them. Titiksa is the capacity to bear with difficulty cheerfully. When guests come over you may be troubled physically but are overjoyed emotionally. The physical inconvenience is eclipsed by the emotional delight. The joy is in the sacrifice. The [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter II – Verse 15 & Verse 16

15. Krsna addresses Arjuna as ‘Purusarsabha’ – Bull among men. The cow and bull are worshipped in India as they epitomise the principle, ‘Maximum Work Minimum Profit’. Focus on work only, never on profit. As long as you develop merit the result will come to you, whether you seek it or not. The best of achievers have only concentrated on contributing to society. They are then amply rewarded. The test of spiritual evolution is serenity of mind. The world cannot cater to the demands of just one person. Even if you are brilliant, organised and have all the resources of the world you cannot have what you like all the time. Hence endure the fluctuations. In verse 14 Krsna says bear with them. Here He goes a step further and says do not be affected by them. Be Samam, dhiram - balanced, steadfast – in pleasure and pain. Understand that the inherent value of sense objects is zero. As a thinker said – ‘Alas the joys that fortune brings Are trifling, and decay. And those who prize the trifling things More trifling still than they.’ You harbour likes and dislikes, create pairs of opposites, identify with them and suffer. This is the absurdity going on. Rise above likes and dislikes. Do not ride on them. Be guided by the intellect. Learn to do what you ought to do, whether you like it or not. Understand that joy and sorrow, pleasure ad pain are a part of life. Endure them. [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter II – Verse 17 & Verse 18

17. ‘That’ means Brahman, that which is far away, unknown. Brahman is the substratum of the universe. The universes come and go. Brahman remains. ‘This’ is Atman, that which is closest to you, the most intimate part of you. Brahman and Atman are one, inseparable entity. When you dream the entire dream world seems very real to you. Yet when you wake up you understand it was a mere fancy, a projection of the mind. Nothing that happens in the dream world can impact on the waking state. A devastating fire in the dream cannot change the calm demeanour of the waker’s mind. Arjuna is disturbed about death. Krsna appeases him by saying the real You never dies. You are the imperishable substratum of the universe. The waking, dream and deep sleep worlds are born out of Brahman, exist in Brahman and dissolve back into Brahman. They are perishable. Brahman is imperishable. You are imperishable. Nobody can destroy you. Yet you are crushed, affected, disturbed by the world because of ignorance. You do not know your strength. You do not know yourself. Wake up to your real identity. Understand your own power. Nothing in the world will disturb you. Arjuna is too agitated to understand this yet the powerful assertion of the truth from an enlightened Soul calms Arjuna.   18. Then what is it that perishes at death? The bodies are born and they die. Atman does not die when the bodies die. The sun above is imperishable. [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter II – Verse 19 & Verse 20

19. This verse is taken from the Kathopanisad Chapter I, Section ii, Mantra 19. This was also a favourite of R. W. Emerson who put the idea in a poem. Atman neither acts nor is affected by the action. Krsna uses the word slayer and slain in the context of Arjuna’s dilemma. Atman is like fuel in your car. The fuel has no desire to go anywhere, is not responsible for the performance of the car or the quality of driving. It merely empowers the car to move. Similarly, Atman merely enables all activities to take place. Atman is the force that enables all sense organs to perceive but cannot be perceived with the senses. Atman energises all organs of action but cannot be embraced by them. Atman enlivens the mind to feel various thoughts but cannot be felt by the mind. Atman facilitates the understanding of the intellect but cannot be captured by the intellect. So Arjuna is not killing nor are the Kauravas getting killed. Only the ignorant think so and suffer. Just perform your karyam karma, obligatory duty, without attachment. Do not get involved in the action.   20. This verse is taken from Kathopanisad Chapter I, Section ii, Mantra 18. Krsna is trying to get us to shift the focus from the world to Atman. As long as your attention is on the world you will get attached and suffer. In this verse He gives pointers to Atman. It is impossible to define Atman in [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter II – Verse 21 & Verse 22

21. Atman is indestructible, eternal, unborn and undecaying. Hence you cannot kill or induce another to be killed. A dreamer cannot kill the waker’s mind. Clay cannot be destroyed by breaking clay pots. A product cannot destroy the producer. Only ignorance causes this misconception. All grief stems from wrong identification and irrational concepts. We relate unintelligently to objects and beings in the world. They have a birth and death, a beginning and an end. How can you expect to have them with you forever? Even when you have them your mind changes. That which gave you happiness earlier now gives pain. Atman is indestructible. Various names and forms are projected upon Atman. They come and go. They are born and they die. Atman is there forever.   22. In this verse Krsna defines birth and death. The movement of the subtle body, mind and intellect, and causal body, vasanas, from one gross body to another is called the death of the former body and birth of the latter. Atman cannot move as it is all-pervading. Movement is possible only from a place where a thing exists to a place where it does not exist. Since Atman is present everywhere It cannot move. The sun above is one. Wherever there is a reflecting medium a reflected sun appears. The reflected sun acquires the traits of the reflecting medium and loses the original qualities of the sun. When the mirror moves from one frame to another it is called the death [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter II – Verse 23 & Verse 24

23. The mind and intellect cannot function without the vitalising force of Atman. So in this verse Krsna discusses Atman. The world consists of the five great elements – space, air, fire, water and earth. These elements affect the body, mind and intellect which are matter. They do not have the power to influence, control or affect Atman as Atman is the subtlest. The gross cannot affect the subtle. As the famous saying goes - "Stone walls do not a prison make nor iron bars a cage Minds innocent and quiet take that for a hermitage." However modern and sophisticated a weapon may be, it cannot destroy Atman. In fact even space remains untouched by a nuclear explosion. The air gets polluted, not space. Fire cannot burn Atman as there has to be something other than fire to burn. Only Atman exists. The rest is a mere projection of the mind. Water cannot wet Atman. Water can only wet porous substances. Again, there is nothing other than Atman so It cannot be wet. Water molecules need to be present for wind to dry a thing. There is no water in Atman so wind cannot dry It. Say to yourself, ‘weapons cannot cut me.’ But weapons kill your body! Then who are you? If you believe yourself to be the body, mind and intellect you get affected by the world. You become a victim, tossed around by the fluctuations in the world. Shift your focus to Atman. The world will [...]

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