ya enam ajam avyayam
katham sa purusah partha
kam ghatayati hanti kam
O Partha, how can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, unborn, eternal and immutable, kill anyone or cause anyone to kill?
Possessing spiritual intelligence, knowing the soul to be eternal, understanding it to be birth-less and deathless and being of an inexhaustible nature, how is it possible for anyone to commit any act of destruction against the immortal soul. Thus it can be seen that ignorance of the eternal nature of the soul is the cause of all grief by not understanding that the soul is immortal and thinking that the eternal soul perishes when the physical body perishes. Comprehending that what happens to the immortal soul when the physical body ceases to function is factually the withdrawal from an old physical body to enter into a new physical body.
Even from a common man’s perspective, Krishna’s call to fight can be justified as follows. Although the Judge in a court of Law awards capital punishment to a person condemned for murder, he cannot be blamed because he orders violence to another person according to the codes of justice. In Manu-samhita, the law book 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 Krishna, is not violence at all because, at any rate, the man, or rather the soul, cannot be killed; so for the administration of justice, so-called violence is permitted. A surgical operation is not meant to kill the patient, but to cure him. Therefore the fighting to be executed by Arjuna at the instruction of Krishna is with full knowledge, so there is no possibility of sinful reaction.
vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya
navani grhnati naro ‘parani
tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany
anyani samyati navani dehi
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.
Lord Krishna explains that just as there is no grief when one discards old worn out garments and there is joy at accepting new garments in the same way the embodied soul discarding old worn out bodies joyfully accepts new ones. So if preceptors like Bhishma were to lose their body in this war of righteousness then they would receive a new and better physical body in their next life and it would be beneficial for them and not unfavourable.
Another question that arises is that a man is happy by discarding old clothes and putting on new ones, whereas he feels grieved, while casting off an old body and getting into a new one. The reason is that a man by identifying himself with a body wants to live long and thinks of the death of the body, as his own death. Thus, he gets sad. The grief (sadness) is the result of the desire to live, not because of death. Also death is erroneously associated with a state of suffering. The fact is death is an ecstasy, for it removes the physical torture of disease and state of suffering and frees the soul of all pain springing from body identification. From joy people are born, for joy they live and in joy they melt at death.
God has granted liberty to living beings, to make proper use of their lives, but they misuse it and so they have to go through a cycle of birth and death. They can be free from this cycle, by making proper use of this liberty. It means that if they start working for the welfare of others, by renouncing their selfishness, they will be free from this cycle. A body is acquired for the purpose of exhausting a particular karma and when the result of that karma has been experienced, that body has served its purpose and becomes jirna. The residue of karma cannot be exhausted in that body and hence it is shed to acquire a different one suited for the purpose. So death is not something to be feared or grieved about at any age.
nainam chindanti sastrani
nainam dahati pavakah
na cainam kledayanty apo
na sosayati marutah
Weapons cannot cut the soul, nor can fire burn it, water cannot drench it, nor can wind make it dry.
Anything that is created by the four elements can be destroyed or modified. The four elements, earth, water, fire and air cannot destroy the self (Atma). ‘Sastra’ denotes the earth element, meaning the weapons, which is the grossest form of destruction. Anything that has a body has earth as its component and can be cut by the weapons. But the Atma has no body, it being subtler than the earth! Similarly the fire cannot burn anything subtler than it like air or space. Atman is subtler than both air and space. Water can wet only a thing which has space in between so that the water can enter into it. But the self being all pervading and without parts as the Upanishad says, water cannot wet it. For the same reason air cannot dry it. These four elements have no effect on the space which is subtler than them and hence the self which is subtler even than the ‘Akasa’, is not affected by the elements.
The basic principle is that no instrument can hit or destroy an element subtler than itself. Atma being subtler than the subtlest it cannot be changed by any other elements such as air, waters, fire or earth.
acchedyo ‘yam adahyo ‘yam
akledyo ‘sosya eva ca
nityah sarva-gatah sthanur
acalo ‘yam sanatanah
This soul is un-cleavable, incombustible and neither can be wetted nor dried. It is eternal, all-pervading, stable, constant and everlasting.
The soul is all pervading. There is no spot in space or period in time where it is not already and therefore the soul is also “achala’, immovable.
The world is transitory, while the soul is eternal. Matter is kaleidoscopic, while the soul is stable. All things and persons etc., of the world are movable, while the soul is immovable and all worldly objects, are subject to birth and decay, while the soul is everlasting. Weapons are powerless to inflict any injury by cutting or piercing, fire is powerless to burn, water is powerless to wet and air is powerless to dry the eternal soul. The soul is subtler than any substance and no substance can penetrate it.
avyakto ‘yam acintyo ‘yam
avikaryo ‘yam ucyate
tasmad evam viditvainam
It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.
As described previously, the magnitude of the soul is so small for our material calculation that he cannot be seen even by the most powerful microscope; therefore, he is invisible. As far as the soul’s existence is concerned, no one can establish his existence experimentally beyond the proof of ‘sruti’, or Vedic wisdom. We have to accept this truth, because there is no other source of understanding the existence of the soul, although it is a fact by perception. There is no other source of understanding the identity of the father except by 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 by 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 in the soul. As eternally unchangeable, the soul remains atomic in comparison to the infinite Supreme Soul.
Verses 11 to 25 can be taken as a theme. These 15 verses explain the ways and means of overcoming sorrow. Sorrow comes due to ignorance and the only way to overcome the same is through knowledge and self-realization.