Verse 11 of Chapter 2 is essentially the beginning of “Bhagavad Gita”. Chapter 1 and first 10 verses of Chapter 2 are used to build the background for the Gita. Verse 11 is the introduction and gives the essence of things that follows. It says ‘sorrow arises out of misunderstanding and self-realisation is the only way to overcome sorrow.
asocyan anvasocas tvam
prajna-vadams ca bhasase
gatasun agatasums ca
Arjuna, you grieve for those who should not be grieved at, yet speak as if a man of wisdom. The wise grieve, neither for the living, nor for the dead.
Here Lord Krishna responds to Arjuna’s statement in chapter 1, verse 32 which states, ‘What use is kingdom, fabulous wealth, enjoyments or even living’. It is only Arjuna’s delusion that he grieves thinking that without relatives there is no purpose of ruling the kingdom or in living.
Discrimination between the real and the unreal is called Panda (wisdom), and one who has developed discrimination, is known as ‘Pandita’ (wise). Such wise men do not grieve, because they can discriminate between the real and the unreal, the imperishable self (soul) and the perishable body. The body ever perishes, therefore it is not to be grieved, while the self never perishes, and therefore it is also not to be grieved. One is grieved only because of lack of wisdom and discrimination. Whatever be the circumstances, in the form of birth or death, profit or loss etc., a man finds himself in, are the result of his karma, his previous actions. It is sheer ignorance to feel happy or sad in those, favourable or unfavourable circumstances, because these are transient.
The theory of reincarnation is not a Hindu concept alone. Most religions and people across the world do believe in rebirth or reincarnation. There are many research papers and books written by eminent doctors of the west to scientifically prove the theory of reincarnation. A book by Dr Ian Stevenson called ‘Twenty Cases suggestive of reincarnation’ written after 40 years of research and the book titled ‘many lives many masters’ by Dr Brian Weiss are some of the most prominent ones.
Speaking like wise and behaving like ignorant is not a problem with Arjuna alone; we all suffer from that disease. We all know that drinking alcohol, smoking, overeating and not exercising are all not good for health. Yet how many of us follow the good practices even though we all care about our health? Dedication and hard work is essential for our success in any sphere of life, whether it is in our personal life or professional life, yet how many of us go that extra mile to guarantee success? Most of us look for a chance to skip work and relax or gossip in our offices!
na tv evaham jatu nasam
na tvam neme janadhipah
na caiva na bhavisyamah
sarve vayam atah param
In fact, there was never a time when I or you or these kings, were non-existent. Nor is it, right that we shall cease to be in future.
Lord Krishna has talked about the past and the future, by saying that there was never a time, when they were non-existent, nor they will cease to be. But, He has not talked about the present, because they are clearly seen at present through the bodies. In their present existence, there is no trace of doubt. But if we think seriously, we come to know that we (the soul) exist at present, but the bodies are kaleidoscopic. Therefore we should realize that the soul is different from the bodies, because we have our existence, at present as we had in the past and we will have, in future, while the bodies are perishable. The anxiety about living and dying comes only through identifying yourself with the body. Death is not the end of you but it is only a change of circumstance.
dehino ‘smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
Just as boyhood, youth and old age, changes in this physical body do not affect the soul likewise is the change to another body. Wise man never gets disturbed about this.
Since every living entity is an individual soul, each is changing his body every moment, manifesting sometimes as a child, sometimes as a youth, and sometimes as an old man. Yet the same spirit soul is there and does not undergo any change. This verse confirms that the soul is distinct from the body but by it being distinct does not make it independent. Only when the physical body is seen changing through infancy, childhood, youth etc. can this separate distinctness be perceived and thus confirmed until the soul giving up its present body acquires a new body and in some rare cases a living entity can recollect their past lives.
As, one does not grieve for the body when it passes through babyhood, youth and old age; similarly one should not grieve, when the soul passes on, to another body. As babyhood, youth and old age are different stages of physical body, so attaining another body after death, is a stage, for the subtle and causal body. The body neither existed before birth nor will exist after death and at present also it is dying every moment. In fact the process of its death begins as soon as it comes to the womb. At the death of boyhood, youth ensues, at the death of youth, old age ensues and at the death of the old age, the embodied self passes on to another body. The body undergoes all these states.
matra-sparsas tu kaunteya
tams titiksasva bharata
O son of Kunti, bodily sense-objects, which give rise to the feelings of heat and cold, pleasure and pain etc., are transitory and fleeting, therefore, Arjuna bear these patiently viz., remain unaffected by them or ignore them
The qualities of sound, feeling, colour, taste and smell with their corresponding faculties known as the senses are called ‘matras’ because they manifest from the basic fundamental elements of water, fire, earth, air and ether. And ‘sparsas’ means contact with them. Thus ‘matra-sparsas’ is the interaction of the senses with sense objects that produces the feelings and sensation of cold and hot, hard and soft, bitter and sweet, pleasure or pain, etc. Lord Krishna instructs Arjuna to tolerate them with courage while fulfilling ones duties to completion. As these external experiences come and go they should not be regarded as impediments to discharging one’s responsibilities by men of courage. In the proper discharge of duty, one has to learn to tolerate temporary appearances and disappearances of happiness and distress. According to Vedic injunction, one has to take his bath early in the morning even during winter. It is very cold at that time, but in spite of that a man who abides by the religious principles does not hesitate to take his bath. Similarly, a woman does not hesitate to cook in the kitchen in the months of May and June, the hottest part of the summer season. One has to execute his duty in spite of climatic inconveniences. Similarly, to fight is the religious principle of the Kshatriyas, and although one has to fight with some friend or relative, one should not deviate from his prescribed duty.
As an individual, we have different functions and responsibilities in this society. We are son/daughter, father/mother, brother/sister, friend, colleague, subordinate/boss, citizen, etc. and must fulfil each and every functional responsibilities irrespective of the situation or circumstances.
yam hi na vyathayanty ete
so ‘mrtatvaya kalpate
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.
Anyone who is steady in his determination for the advanced stage of spiritual realization and can equally tolerate the onslaughts of distress and happiness is certainly a person eligible for liberation. Similarly, in Arjuna’s discharge of duties as a Kshatriya, he is advised to persevere, even if it is difficult to fight with his family members or similarly beloved persons
A resolute person remains alike in pleasure and pain. To a man of steady wisdom, the sense-objects do not give pain. Pleasure, ensuing from the contact of sense-objects, is perturbing. Similarly, pain arising from their separation is also disconcerting. He who has an eye for equanimity cannot be happy or sad by these objects. Such a person knows what favourable and unfavourable circumstances are, but he remains unaffected by them. They do not leave any impression, on his mind.
Generally we do not ignore the pleasures and pains in our life. However when we are fired by a sentiment of love or hatred, or an idea or ideology, we readily ignore the comforts and pleasures of our life or body. Martyrs and revolutionaries of this world would face physical persecution, even death, with pleasure for the fulfilment of their ideology.