Gita 2.46

yavan artha udapane

sarvatah samplutodake

tavan sarvesu vedesu

brahmanasya vijanatah


As on obtaining a reservoir of water flooded on all sides there is no use for a small reservoir of water. So a Brahmin, who obtains enlightenment, has the same use for all the Vedas, or says no use at all.


A small reservoir of water is useful, in a place where there is no other source of water. But nobody ever, pays any attention to such a reservoir of water where there is a big reservoir of pure water. Moreover that such a small reservoir of water becomes dirty and impure and cannot be used for drinking purpose, after washing and bathing in it. But water from a large stream remains clean and pure, even after washing and bathing in it. Likewise oblations, charities, penances and pilgrimages etc., mentioned in the Vedas, are of use to those who are ignorant. But these become meaningless to the illumined souls who have realized God. The great soul after realizing God transcends the three attributes (modes), rises above the pairs of opposite viz., becomes free from attachment and aversion, gets established in the self and remains unconcerned about provision and preservation. He always remains devoted to God.

There is no end of worldly pleasures. There are endless universes and there are endless pleasures in them. But if they are renounced and one becomes detached from them, they come to an end. Similarly there are endless desires. But if they are renounced, they come to an end and the man becomes desire less. To one who has the ‘brahmajnana’, there is nothing to be gained by any action either spiritual or secular as he has no desires to be fulfilled. Hence the Vedas are not of any use for him as there is no happiness to be gained by the fruits of actions prescribed by the Vedas either in this world or the next. He is filled with the bliss absolute and all the other joys are like bubbles when compared with that. Hence Krishna compares the Vedas, meaning the fruits accruing from them to the water in a small reservoir like a well or pond when the whole area was flooded with water.

Gita 2.47

karmany evadhikaras te

ma phalesu kadacana

ma karma-phala-hetur bhur

ma te sango ‘stv akarmani


You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.


There are three considerations here: prescribed duties, capricious work, and inaction. Prescribed duties refer to activities performed while one is 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 performs his prescribed 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, namely 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 mode of goodness. Work with results becomes the cause of bondage; therefore such work is not auspicious. Everyone has his proprietary right in regard to prescribed duties, but should act without attachment to the result; such disinterested obligatory duties doubtlessly lead one to the path of liberation.

Arjuna was therefore advised by the Lord to fight as a matter of duty without attachment to the result. His nonparticipation 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 of salvation for Arjuna.

God has bestowed this human birth, the very last of all births so that by performing actions in the form of selfless service to others, a person may achieve salvation and be freed from the bondage of the cycle of birth and death. If he remains engaged in selfish actions, these will result in bondage. In case he is given to indolence and heedlessness, he will follow a cycle of birth and death. Therefore, the Lord advises human beings, to render selfless services for common good. Favourable or unfavourable circumstances cannot make a man happy or sad. It is merely his ignorance, which makes him happy or sad as he identifies himself with those circumstances and becomes the ‘experiencer’ of happiness or sadness. If he gives a serious thought, he will come to know that the external circumstances cannot make his internal self, either happy or sad. He should make proper use of the favourable circumstances by serving others and of the undesirable ones, by renouncing the desire to enjoy pleasure. You cannot claim the fruit of action, because you are not free in getting it, which is dispensed by the Lord. If you perform actions with a desire for fruits, you will get into bondage. Secondly, all actions are performed with the help of worldly objects and persons. So it is dishonest, to desire the fruit of those actions, for only one’s own self.

The means to be free, from the desire for fruits of actions are as follows-(i) Desire cause a feeling of lacking something. Its fulfilment makes one a slave. Its non-fulfilment causes suffering. The pleasure derived out of fulfilment of desire, gives birth to new desires and a man goes on getting interested in performing new actions, in order to reap their fruit. By understanding this fact in the right perspective, a man becomes free from the desire for the fruit of action. (ii) Actions have a beginning and an end, these are not eternal. So, how can their fruits be eternal? But the self is eternal. How can the eternal get any benefit from the perishable? By understanding this fact, one becomes detached from the world and attains God-realization. In order to be free from the desire for fruits of actions, an aspirant should have discrimination as well as feelings to serve others. Discrimination will be helpful to an aspirant in renouncing his comforts, while the feelings of service to others, will enable him to do ‘good’ to others. By doing so, a devotee can follow the discipline of ‘Detached Action’ in the right sense. Let your attachment not be to inaction, because by leaning towards inaction, you will become lazy and idle, and like the desire for fruit it will also mislead you to bondage.

In this verse there are four points which need attention-(i) your right is to perform your duty (action) only. (ii) Never lay claim to its fruit. (iii) Do not be the cause of the fruit of action. (iv) Let your attachment be not to inaction. Out of these four points, the first and the fourth, have the same theme as both of these lay emphasis on the performance of duty or action. Similarly, the second and the third points have the same theme, as in both of these it is mentioned, that you should not desire or be the cause of the fruit of action. Actions done with an expectation of results cause bondage because they are done with desire. But the same act done as an offering to God releases one from bondage.

The important fact about Karmayoga is-protection of the rights of others by performing one’s duty and renouncing the fruit of action viz., renouncing one’s right. By protecting the right of others, old attachment is wiped out and by renouncing one’s own right, new attachment is not born. Thus when old attachment is wiped out and new attachment is not born, a man becomes ‘vitaraga’ (free from attachment).By becoming ‘vitaraga’ one realizes the self. The reason is in attaining Self-realization, attachment to the unreal things is the only obstacle.

Swami Vivekananda said “work for work’s sake; duty for duty’s sake” meaning that one should do work for its own sake and not out of desire to get the result. But the question is will anyone do anything unless he wants the result? Certainly not! There is nothing wrong in starting a work with a specific result in mind but Karma yoga consists in not getting attached to the result. This is not as pessimistic as it seems to be but sheer common sense. When we begin a work we cannot help fixing a goal to achieve as otherwise we would not have started at all. But once started we should concentrate on the action only without worrying about the result constantly as the anxiety will reduce our efficiency. On the other hand, if we put our heart and soul into the work we are doing, the result will automatically follow, and even if it does not, due to some factor on which we have no control, we will not feel frustrated as we have already had the satisfaction from the work itself.

This is the most misinterpreted and misused verse in the whole of Bhagavad Gita. People give unbelievable meaning and quote this verse to suit their actions or inactions.

  1. This clearly exploits the working class as they have no right to their fruits of actions and they must keep on working without rest irrespective of! – Union leaders.
  2. Why work when we cannot look for results? – Common man
  3. If I do not get credit for the order why I should I work for the case? – Salesman.
  4. In spite of all my hard work, I never get the results. This is my destiny! – Pessimist.

If you send an important mail for instance, you have the power only to send it and not over its being replied. It may never reach the recipient or he may never answer it but that is not in your control. If you worry about the possibility of not getting a reply the chances are that you will never send it.

Gita 2.48

yoga-sthah kuru karmani

sangam tyaktva dhananjaya

siddhy-asiddhyoh samo bhutva

samatvam yoga ucyate


O Dhananjaya (the conqueror of wealth), perform actions (duties) being steadfast in the path of Yoga, renouncing attachment, having become even-minded in success and failure; and that equanimity (equilibrium) is called Yoga.


The fundamental question which might be raised is what then is factually to be done? This is now being answered in this verse. Established in the science of yoga perform all activities. Yoga is the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the Ultimate Consciousness. Being established by this yoga, perform actions relinquishing attachment, motivation for rewards and depend solely upon the mercy of the Supreme Lord in all one’s activities. Totally unconcerned about success or failure, attainment or non-attainment resultant surrender in righteousness all actions as an offering unto the Supreme Lord. This is the eternal path called yoga by the wise as it consists of fixed concentration of the mind.

Renunciation of attachment will result in evenness of mind. A man should be even-minded, in favourable and unfavourable circumstances, in honour and dishonour, and in praise and reproach. A follower of the Discipline of Detached Action, should be so even-minded while performing actions, that he should not bother about their accomplishment or non-accomplishment, for getting the fruit or not, for getting salvation or not. He should remain devoted to his duty. If an aspirant has not realized detachment and equanimity, he should aim at evenness of mind. By having this approach, he will attain equanimity finally, which will lead to God-realization or Self-realization.

To give up attachment one should be free from desire and aversion. Then success and failure do not affect him. Whatever comes is accepted with equanimity. Then he concentrates only on the work at hand. We all live with memories of the past and hopes, expectations and fears of the future. And forget to live the present! Only present is available to us to think and work for better future, so why waste these precious moments in worries?

Gita 2.49

durena hy avaram karma

buddhi-yogad dhananjaya

buddhau saranam anviccha

krpanah phala-hetavah


O Dhananjaya, action with a selfish motive is far inferior to that performed with equanimity of mind. Seek refuge in this evenness of mind, for low are those, who crave for fruit of action.


Action without equanimity, mislead to pain, as well as to the cycle of birth and death, because they have no power to lead one to salvation. Equanimity is the ability to neutralize actions. If there is no equanimity, one will develop one’s egoism and attachment, to the body. This egoism and attachment are beastly. An action performed with equanimity leads to God-realization, while motivated actions mislead to the wheel of birth and death.

Gita 2.50

buddhi-yukto jahatiha

ubhe sukrta-duskrte

tasmad yogaya yujyasva

yogah karmasu kausalam


A man engaged in devotional service rids himself of both good and bad actions even in this life. Therefore strive for yoga, O Arjuna, which is the art of all work.


Lord Krishna speaks of directing one’s consciousness by spiritual intelligence. The merits one gains in the course of human existence such as fame, relations, power and wealth though pleasant should not be deemed important or be attached to. But those superior merits one has acquired by surrender and meditation to the Supreme Lord such as righteousness, compassion for all living entities, devotion and love of God should be most attached to. But one who is engaged in actions performed in spiritual intelligence is superior. By the grace of the Supreme Lord one acting in this way is relieved of both good actions which lead to heaven and evil actions which lead to hell even in this very life.

In the state of equanimity, a man while living in the world detaches himself from the world, and remains untouched by virtues and sins, as a lotus leaf by water. When one does all actions as karma yoga, without attachment to the result, it means that his mind is free from desires and his actions are not desire motivated. Thus he attains the evenness of mind. Then he does not accumulate fresh karma by his actions. His past karma which has not yet started giving result is demolished by his shedding off his ego as a result of evenness of mind.

Gita 2.41

vyavasayatmika buddhir

ekeha kuru-nandana

bahu-sakha hy anantas ca

buddhayo ‘vyavasayinam


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.


There is a huge difference between the mentality of those who are involved in actions with their intelligence seeking fruits of reward and the mentality of those spiritually evolved engaged in selfless actions not seeking rewards and totally devoted to the Lord Krishna. In the case of those enacting actions with desires of rewards, their thoughts are endless due to their desires being endless. To a seeker of God-realization, the intellect is determinate and single-pointed viz., he has only one decision and that is to attain equanimity in the form of God-realization. Attachment to the world is the main obstacle to this attainment of equanimity, and that can be removed, through determinate intellect. The infirm in mind being desire-ridden, clings to pleasure and prosperity.

The real aim is only one. Unless a man has a singular aim, he has endless aims and desires and the means for the fulfilment of each desire are also many.

Gita 2 (42-43)

yam imam puspitam vacam

pravadanty avipascitah

veda-vada-ratah partha

nanyad astiti vadinah


kamatmanah svarga-para



bhogaisvarya-gatim prati


Arjuna, those who are obsessed by desires, who look upon heaven as the supreme goal and argue that there is nothing beyond heaven and pleasures and who are devoted to the letter of the Vedas are unwise. They make this type of flowery speeches recommending many acts of various kinds, for the attainment of pleasure and prosperity, and with rebirth as their fruit.


Desire-ridden are those, whose sole aim in life is to hunt after enjoyment. They think that it is nothing but desire, which inspires a man to action and without it, a man is stone-dead. Moreover, they identify themselves with desires. But the fact is that a man himself is a fragment of God and thus, is eternal while desires are fleeting and these increase and decrease. They look upon heaven and its pleasure, as their supreme goal and all their efforts are directed towards that base end. They are interested in the Vedas, only for the sake of the ritualistic contents, which deal with earthly and heavenly pleasure. The aim of their life is to enjoy celestial pleasure here, and hereafter, rather than to attain God-realization, or emancipation. They cannot discriminate between, the real and the unreal, the perishable and the imperishable. Such unwise persons utter flowery words of the Vedas, which describe and recommend various acts, for the attainment of pleasure and prosperity. That flowery way instead of giving any permanent and eternal fruit, gives fruit which prolongs the wheel of birth.

Why is it that the scholars who have studied the Vedas so fastidiously fail to possess the resolute intelligence? It is because they could not comprehend the essence of the Vedic scriptures and subsequently they missed understanding the true purport of the Vedas. This Lord Krishna emphasises with the word ‘avipascitah’ meaning the ignorant who are not knowledgeable are attracted to flowery descriptions in the Vedas even as a beautiful flowery creeper may be attractive although it is poisonous. But these living entities are ignorant and not actual scholars of Vedanta because they are only devoted to those parts of the Vedas which help them secure material opulence in this life and the next. Such statements like by performing some ritual one can obtain imperishable merit or by drinking Soma nectar one can become immortal, etc. Their conception of devotion is being devoted to pursuing heavenly delights and they even foolishly argue that there is nothing more beyond the rewards of heavenly pleasures to attain. Why is this so for them? It is because their minds are obsessed by desires due to addiction to material pleasures experienced by contact with the senses of taste, touch, seeing, hearing and smelling. So they look upon heaven although heaven is still in the material existence as being the supreme goal. This is because in heaven there is neither old age nor sickness, everything is beautiful and a wonder to behold and the facility to enjoy fully is increased a thousand fold. So all their activities in this life are enacted solely for the sake of accruing benefits in order to reside in the heavenly spheres where they can enjoy and enjoy for a seemingly unlimited time span. But when their merit has expired after enjoying the delights of heaven in various wonderful ways to their hearts content they will again take birth on earth in a rich and learned family who also are following the flowery phrases of the Vedas and they will again follow this path and at life’s end transmigrate to the heavenly planets once again to enact the process.

Gita 2.44



vyavasayatmika buddhih

samadhau na vidhiyate


Those, whose minds are carried away by such flowery words (who are attracted towards pleasures and who are deeply attached to pleasure and prosperity), cannot attain the determinate intellect, concentrated in God.


Pleasures of five senses – sound, touch, colour, taste, smell, comfort to the body, and desire for respect and praise are ‘bhoga’, (the worldly enjoyments). Accumulation of money and material to enjoy those worldly pleasures is called ‘aisvarya’ (prosperity). Those who cling to pleasure and prosperity are called ‘Bhogaisvaryaprasaktanam.’ Such people are called demoniacal (asura). Such people, who instinctively cling to pleasure and prosperity, cannot attain the determinate intellect to realize God, because their intellect has become impure. Similarly, the people who have pride for their being learned, by acquiring the worldly arts or science or knowledge etc., cannot attain the determinate intellect, (decision), to realize God.

We forget that enjoyment of pleasure is not the goal of human life, but its supreme object is the attainment of perfection and God realization, and all the circumstances, whether favourable or unfavourable, they are placed in, are means to attain perfection. The fact is that worldly pleasures and objects are not real obstacles to God-realization, but attachment to these, is the main hindrance. So long as, this attachment continues, not to talk of God-realization the people cannot even make up their minds to attain God, because their minds are drawn away, by worldly pleasure and prosperity etc.

Gita 2.45

trai-gunya-visaya veda

nistraigunyo bhavarjuna

nirdvandvo nitya-sattva-stho

niryoga-ksema atmavan


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.


If the rewards like heaven are of such an impermanent nature then why do the Vedas which are eternally perfect and beneficial for all beings enjoin practices aimed at achieving heavenly spheres? To answer this Lord Krishna states that the Vedic scriptures deals with the three modes of material nature which are goodness, passion and ignorance and all beings are born into these three modes of material nature. Some beings have preponderance for goodness, others for passion and others for ignorance while some are mixed. These modes are conditioned within the mind and they typify the three types of created beings. With exception of the Upanishads the Vedic scriptures dealing with the three modes gives prescribed activities and their results. Whatsoever one desires to obtain in heaven the prescription is enjoined for them to achieve it and the description of the various rewards are eulogised as well as the rituals for their fulfilment.

One should always be tempered by patience for one without patience is easily overpowered by passion and ignorance and becomes uncontrolled and fearful in situations involving the three modes of material nature. So we should overcome the hindrances of passion and ignorance and maintain a balanced state of equilibrium.

The Vedas do not only deal with means to satisfy desires of the worldly minded people, but they also contain sublime and elevating ideas on God and the means to realize Him.

Gita 2.36

avacya-vadams ca bahun

vadisyanti tavahitah

nindantas tava samarthyam

tato duhkhataram nu kim


Your enemies will describe you in many unkind words and scorn your ability. What could be more painful for you?


Your sworn enemies, such as Duryodhana, and Kama etc., in spite of knowing your deeds of valour, will belittle your strength and will laugh at you and call you a coward and impotent. How will you bear those insolent jokes and irreparable ignominy?

Gita 2.37

hato va prapsyasi svargam

jitva va bhoksyase mahim

tasmad uttistha kaunteya

yuddhaya krta-niscayah


Slain in battle you will gain heaven, victorious you will enjoy the sovereignty of earth; therefore, arise, O son of Kunti, determined to fight.


If slain in battle while fighting bravely a Kshatriya will certainly attain the heavenly spheres. It is also stated in the Vedic scriptures that if a Kshatriya is victorious in battle what will be gained is dominion of the Earth and at the end of the life the heavenly spheres are guaranteed as well. Thus those who fight bravely in battle and are undefeated acquire more merit than those who are defeated.

“If you are killed by Karna etc., you will attain heaven and if you gain victory, you will gain the kingdom. Thus righteous warfare would result in good, both here and hereafter. So you should be prepared to wage war, otherwise you risk to lose both.” Krishna by addressing Arjuna as Kaunteya wants to remind him of the message to wage the war, sent by his mother when He went to the Kauravas, with a proposal for a treaty. Therefore, he should rise to the occasion with full determination.

Krishna’s call to war can be understood to be a general call to each and every one of us to shed our inhibitions, negative attitude and lethargy and go forward to work hard for any righteous cause including our duty as a good son/daughter, parent, citizen or employee. By discharging one’s duty, one makes advancement in this world and other world. It means that by discharging one’s duty and by abstaining from what ought not to be done; one attains perfection here as well as hereafter.

Gita 2.38

sukha-duhkhe same krtva

labhalabhau jayajayau

tato yuddhaya yujyasva

naivam papam avapsyasi


Treating alike victory and defeat, gain and loss, pleasure and pain and engage yourself in battle. Fighting thus you will incur no sin.


Now Lord Krishna refutes Arjuna previous worry about accruing sin by killing his heinous enemies with the words sukha and dukha meaning happiness and unhappiness. Although the pleasure of happiness and the pain of unhappiness in fighting this righteous war are inevitable; still this must be considered as pertaining to the body only and not to the soul which is distinctly different from the physical body. Profit and gain, victory and defeat even without considering the goal of heaven Arjuna should prepare to fight for the sole purpose of exclusively fulfilling his duty. Thus fixed in this determination with proper understanding if he slays anyone he will not incur sin. To the contrary Arjuna will be free from the sin incurred by refraining from the battle and not executing his duty.

Everyone should discharge his duty earnestly and efficiently, whether he has a desire or not for its fruit. By refusing to be affected by favourable and unfavourable circumstances, the mind becomes steady. So treating the two equally, one should discharge one’s duty. Moreover, one should not perform an action for the sake of pleasure, and refrain from another, for fear of its pain. But your aim is not to think of victory and defeat, gain and loss, and pleasure and pain, but your goal is to discharge your duty by treating the agreeable and the disagreeable, alike.

Major decisions in life should be taken only after evaluating the situation spiritually, mentally, intellectually and physically. Reasoning should be done intellectually, evaluate ethics and morality emotionally and customs and traditions physically. There are some who will do a thing only when they are guaranteed a profit, victory or pleasure even if it is their duty and moral responsibility to do it. Such persons are unfit to hold any responsible position in society including that of a manager in any organization.

Gita 2.39

esa te ‘bhihita sankhye

buddhir yoge tv imam srnu

buddhya yukto yaya partha

karma-bandham prahasyasi


O Partha (Arjuna), this attitude of mind has been presented to you from the point of view of ‘Jnanayoga’ (Discipline of Knowledge); now hear of the same, from the point of view of ‘Karmayoga’ (the Discipline of Selfless-Action). Equipped with this state of mind, you will be able to completely shake off the shackles of Karma (Action).


Having instructed the true knowledge of the soul as being distinctly different from the physical body and seeing that this knowledge has still not been firmly embedded in Arjuna’s heart, Lord Krishna reiterates this truth again in order to illustrate that this knowledge never becomes firmly embedded without practice of the means which is yoga. To do this He introduces the yoga path of selfless actions as the means to this end. Thus the reality is to perform all actions under the direction of one’s mind well cultivated by the aid of spiritual knowledge from the Vedic scriptures exclusively. Although this spiritual knowledge is scientific Arjuna is still unsteady in its application due to lack of practice in assimilation. So Lord Krishna explains that by practice in the performance of actions by the renunciation of their rewards Arjuna will be completely freed from transmigration in the material existence.

Not to do what ought to be done is ‘non-discharge of duty’ and to do what ought not to be done is also ‘non-discharge of duty’. Duty is that in which a person having renounced his desire for pleasure, pleases others and which involves his own welfare as well as the welfare of others. By discharging one’s duty, ‘Yoga’ (equanimity) is naturally attained. Without discharging one’s duty a man can’t attain equanimity. Having attained equanimity, knowledge of Truth is naturally attained-which is the result of both-‘Karmayoga’ (the Discipline of Action) and ‘Jnanayoga’ (the Discipline of Knowledge).

Gita 2.40

nehabhikrama-naso ‘sti

pratyavayo na vidyate

svalpam apy asya dharmasya

trayate mahato bhayat


In this path (of selfless action), there is neither loss of effort, nor any adverse result. Even a little practice of this discipline (dharma) protects one from great danger (of birth and death),


In the normal course of events actions and merits have a finish at the end of one’s lifetime. The actions have a conclusion in this world and the merits have a conclusion in the next world. It is likened as to a farmer tilling his crops; by industrious action the merits of an abundant harvest are assured. But if he is to omit any of the steps such as watering or pruning within the process the harvest is put into jeopardy. Similarly the demerit of non-comittance by Arjuna is also possible if any action of his duty is not performed. But here Lord Krishna explains in bhakti-yoga which is His exclusive loving devotional service there is an exemption to the aforementioned rule and that there is never any loss or diminution to those who are fortunate enough to perform bhakti-yoga in this lifetime or any lifetime. Unlike the cultivation of farming which is always beset by problems of weather, drought, blight and numerous unexpected difficulties. In bhakti-yoga there is no chance of contrary results or fear of demerits when carrying out devotional service for the ultimate satisfaction of the Supreme Lord.

Actions which are performed with a desire for fruits, can give adverse result, if there is any error in the pronunciation of incantations, or in performing sacrifice, etc. Suppose, a man performs sacrifice, for the birth of a son, but if it is not performed according to scriptures, it might result in the death, of a member of the family, instead of blessing him with a son. Sometime, if the result is not quite contrary, it may be less harmful, as the son may be born crippled. But, one who performs actions, without having any desire for fruits, becomes equanimous and so there is no adverse result from his effort.

Gita 2.31

sva-dharmam api caveksya

na vikampitum arhasi

dharmyad dhi yuddhac chreyo ‘nyat

ksatriyasya na vidyate


Considering your specific duty as a Kshatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on principles; hence no need for hesitation.


There are two kinds of ‘swa-dharmas’, specific duties. As long as one is not liberated, one has to perform the duties of that particular body in accordance with religious principles in order to achieve liberation. When one is liberated, one’s swa-dharma-specific duty-becomes spiritual and is not in the material bodily concept. In the bodily concept of life there are specific duties for the Brahmans and Kshatriyas respectively, and such duties are unavoidable.

Kshatriya is the one who protects us from harm. That is, it is the dharma of a Kshatriya to fight for the right cause. There is nothing more welcome to a man of the warrior class than a righteous war viz., which is his main duty. Similar is the case with the people of other classes-the priest, the business and the labour classes.

We all must perform our duties and responsibilities to the best of our abilities. Doing someone else job, however nicely, and not doing yours will result in the failure of the individual as well as the team.

Gita 2.32

yadrcchaya copapannam

svarga-dvaram apavrtam

sukhinah ksatriyah partha

labhante yuddham idrsam


O Partha, happy are the Kshatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come


Duryodhana imposed a condition on the Pandavas, “If you lose while gambling, you will be exiled for twelve years and will reside in an unknown place for one year. Then after thirteen years you will regain your empire. But, if you are identified during that one year period, you will again be exiled for twelve years.” The Pandavas accepted the condition and suffered twelve years in exile, and one year’s incognito existence. After expiration of the period, when the Pandavas demanded their empire, Duryodhana refused to give them, even as much land as could be covered by the point of a needle, without waging war. The Pandavas made several efforts for a compromise, but Duryodhana bluntly refused. Therefore, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna, “You have got this unsought and unsolicited opportunity, for waging a war. Such a righteous war is an open gateway to heaven.” Only those who are greatly fortunate get the opportunity to fight such a battle which has manifested unsought of its own accord which is verily a direct gateway to the heavenly spheres.

Here ‘Kshatriya’ only indicates your duty in a given profession and should never hesitate to perform your duty to your best of abilities. If you are a police officer, you must fire at a robber to protect the innocent. A soldier must kill the enemy to protect his country and so on.

Gita 2.33

atha cet tvam imam dharmyam

sangramam na karisyasi

tatah sva-dharmam kirtim ca

hitva papam avapsyasi


If, however, you do not fight this religious war, then you will certainly incur sins for neglecting your duties and thus lose your reputation as a fighter.


Arjuna was a famous fighter, and he attained fame by fighting many great demigods, including even Lord Siva. After fighting and defeating Lord Siva in the dress of a hunter, Arjuna pleased the lord and received as a reward a weapon called ‘pasupata-astra’. Everyone knew that he was a great warrior. Even Dronacharya gave him benedictions and awarded him the special weapon by which he could kill even his teacher. So he was credited with so many military certificates from many authorities, including his adopted father Indra, the heavenly king. But if he abandoned the battle, he would not only neglect his specific duty as a Kshatriya, but he would lose all his fame and good name and thus prepare his royal road to hell. In other words, he would go to hell, not by fighting, but by withdrawing from battle.

Essentially not doing ones duty is as bad as doing someone else’s.

Gita 2.34

akirtim capi bhutani

kathayisyanti te ‘vyayam

sambhavitasya cakirtir

maranad atiricyate


People will always speak of your infamy, and for one who has been honoured, dishonour is worse than death.


For a respectable man like you, ill fame is worse than death. So, you should not flee for fear of your life; better to die in the battle. Nothing is lost, if wealth is lost; something is lost if health is lost, everything is lost if character is lost. Character is like a tree and reputation is like its shadow.

Not only will happiness and fame elude Arjuna if he disregards his duty as a Kshatriya but the whole world will chastise him and speak of his act of disgrace in public as well as in private. They will say Arjuna was a coward for when the battle was about to begin he gave only excuses and retreated hastily from the battlefield. Lord Krishna is telling him that forever history will brand him for cowardice. If Arjuna was to reply that what the public think is of no consequence to him, Sri Krishna neutralises that by stating that for a person of honour possessing the qualities of heroism, determination, strength, courage etc. which are all contrary to cowardice to have to accept infamy is worse than death.

Gita 2.35

bhayad ranad uparatam

mamsyante tvam maha-rathah

yesam ca tvam bahu-mato

bhutva yasyasi laghavam


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.


Do not think that the great generals like Duryodhana, Karna, and other contemporaries will think that you have left the battlefield out of compassion for your brothers and grandfather. They will think that you have left out of fear for your life. Arjuna is generally known as a mighty warrior and a renowned hero, a worthy opponent for any of the valiant warriors of the Kauravas such as Karna, Duryodhana etc. If Arjuna were to retire from the fight on the eve of battle they would all consider him a coward and they immediately would assume that Arjuna had abstained from battle due to feeling dread at their prowess. Therefore, if you desist from the war, all the living beings will think that you have done so out of fear, not out of a sense of duty and righteousness, as it is the first and foremost duty of a Kshatriya to fight.


Gita 2.26

atha cainam nitya-jatam

nityam va manyase mrtam

tathapi tvam maha-baho

nainam socitum arhasi


O mighty-armed, even if you suppose this soul as constantly undergoing birth and death, even then, you should not grieve over it.


By addressing Arjuna as ‘Mahabaho’ Krishna hints that you are physically very strong but also have to be mentally strong to overcome sorrow and confusion.

There is always a class of philosophers, who do not believe in the separate existence of the soul beyond the body. According to them, the body is a combination of physical elements, and at a certain stage the life symptoms develop by interaction of the physical and chemical elements. The science of anthropology is based on this philosophy. Even if Arjuna did not believe in the existence of the soul there would still have been no cause for lamentation because one who is born is bound to die, and one who dies, is bound to be reborn. None can escape this eternal rule.

Gita 2.27

jatasya hi dhruvo mrtyur

dhruvam janma mrtasya ca

tasmad apariharye ‘rthe

na tvam socitum arhasi


Death is sure of him who is born, and rebirth is assured of him who is dead. You should not, therefore, grieve over the inevitable.


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 unnecessary murder, slaughter and war. 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 avoiding the discharge of his proper duty, he would not be able to stop the death of his relatives, and he would be degraded due to his selection of the wrong path of action.

Ignorance is the cause of all worries. And change is the only constant in this world and without change there would be no evolution and progress!  A man is grieved if a dear one dies or there is loss of money. Similarly we are grieved when we think about the future- what will happen? Changes in the world and in circumstances are inevitable. If circumstances don’t change, how will a person grow from boyhood to youth? How will an uneducated person become a scholar? How will a patient become healthy? How will a seed turn into a tree?

Gita 2.28

avyaktadini bhutani

vyakta-madhyani bharata

avyakta-nidhanany eva

tatra ka paridevana


O Bharata (Arjuna), all beings were imperceptible before they were born and will become so again when they are dead; they are perceptible only in the intermediate stage. Why then the lamentation?


What we perceive as life existed even before we took this particular form of human body. When a baby is born, for instance, we do not know what it was before its birth and how many births it has gone through and similarly when a man dies we do not know where he goes and how many more births he had to undergo. So what is visible to us of the whole universe and all beings in the universe is only a small portion compared to the whole existence as such. So Krishna says why should there be any grief over the loss of lives or entities in this world. No one knows when the creation started and when it is going to end. It is like a flowing stream in the dark out of which we see only a small portion that comes to light which again goes back to darkness. We do not know the beginning or the end

Our bodies were non-existent before birth and will remain non-existent after death, just like in a dream. During life they seem to exist but actually they are going into non-existence every moment. It is the principle that the thing which does not exist either before or after has no real existence in its mid-state also. Therefore, these bodies which were unmanifest in their origin and will be unmanifest in their end are unmanifest even now, though they seem visible. But the soul existed in the past, exists now and will also exist in future. So there is no point in lamenting for both these situation.

Gita 2.29

ascarya-vat pasyati kascid enam

ascarya-vad vadati tathaiva canyah

ascarya-vac cainam anyah srnoti

srutvapy enam veda na caiva kascit


Some look at 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.


Krishna explains that the self is incomprehensible. Some see it as something of a wonder; some speak of it as a wonder, others hear about it as something wonderful, but even after hearing about it no one understands. The rare ones who have experienced Atman or Brahman view it as a great wonder in the sense that it is something beyond perception, being beyond the comprehension of the sense organs.

The knowledge of the ‘self’ is not achieved through the senses and can only be known by the self itself. Therefore, the knowledge of self is said to be a marvel. When one sees with one’s eyes, there are three things necessary – the onlooker, the object to be seen and sight i.e., the power to see. But while knowing the self these three are not necessary. When we want to search for a thing in a dark room, we need eye-sight as well as light. But if there is light-lamp, there is no need for another lamp to see the lamp which is lit. Similarly, there is no need for other means to perceive the self. The self has its own light by which it can be lit and known.

Gita 2.30

dehi nityam avadhyo ‘yam

dehe sarvasya bharata

tasmat sarvani bhutani

na tvam socitum arhasi


O Bharata, this soul residing in the bodies of all, can never be slain. Therefore, you should not grieve, for any being.


In describing the immortal soul in various ways, Lord Krishna establishes that the soul is immortal and the body is temporary. Therefore Arjuna as a Kshatriya should not abandon his duty out of fear that his grandfather and teacher–Bhishma and Drona–will die in the battle. Therefore, you should not grieve for all beings because the soul is indestructible, while the perishable body cannot remain the same even for a moment. This is everyone’s own experience also, that a body changes from boyhood to youth and then to old age. But, there is an unchangeable one that knows this change. That one is the soul.

Most managers are uncomfortable in terminating employees who are underperformers. While doing so, the manager is helping both the organization as well as the employee. The organization can replace the open position by a more suitable person; the terminated employee can look for another job where he has the opportunity to perform better. Generally no person is useless; it is just that he has been in a job that is not ideally suited for him to excel due to knowledge or skill deficit. However he may excel in a new job that meets his temperaments and skill sets and propels him to career growth which otherwise would have stunted if he continues in his previous job. Similarly the soul will find a better body that takes him to the path of salvation and ultimate realization only after leaving the current one. Hence we should not lament death.

Gita 2.21

vedavinasinam nityam

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.

Gita 2.22

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.

Gita 2.23

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.

Gita 2.24

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.

Gita 2.25

avyakto ‘yam acintyo ‘yam

avikaryo ‘yam ucyate

tasmad evam viditvainam

nanusocitum arhasi


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.


Once we understand the meaning of ‘Sathya’ and ‘Mithya’, the ‘real’ and the ‘unreal’, it becomes easy for us to understand the difference between body and the soul. That which was not in the past and which will not be in the future, but seemingly exists in the present is called ‘mithya’, the unreal. And the ‘real’ the ‘sathya’ is that which defies all changes and remains the same in all the periods of time: past, present and future.

Gita 2.16

nasato vidyate bhavo

nabhavo vidyate satah

ubhayor api drsto ‘ntas

tv anayos tattva-darsibhih


The unreal has no existence and the real, never ceases to be; the truth of both these has been perceived by seers of truth.


This body, neither existed in the past, before birth, nor will exist in the future after death, and is also perishing, at present. The ‘Atma’ (spirit or soul) remains constant. It existed, before the birth of the body, exists now, when the body is undergoing change and will exist, after the death of the body. Similarly, God also ever remains the same, while the world undergoes a change, every moment.

Most of our problems arise because we imagine something to be real when it is not. We identify ourselves with our body, mind, and intellect while the real ‘I’ is different from all these. This can be verified through a simple exercise by trying to answer the question ‘who am I’? The obvious answer would be ‘I am so and so’. But that is only your name. You may say that I am father of so and so or husband of so and so. But it is only your relationship. Even when you say I am a professor or I am an intellectual, it only denotes your professional and intellectual status. So, who are you in reality? We commonly speak about our body as when we say “My body aches all over”. This proves that you are not your body. Similarly when we use expressions like “My mind is upset” or “My intellect has failed to grasp this” it is obvious that we are separate from our mind and intellect. That the real self must be something different from our body, mind, and intellect we are able to perceive with no difficulty at all. But there is another ‘I’ which we have to reckon with, and that is our ego, which is the consciousness that I am. Even this is absent when we are in deep sleep because we are not aware of ourselves then. But there is some entity that is aware of our existence even at that stage which makes us say that we had a sound sleep. This is the real ‘I’ which is even different from our ego.

The rule in the material existence is that every action has its corresponding and equal reaction, thus it is seen that by unrighteous actions there is no happiness and by righteous actions there can be no unhappiness. The words referring to ‘sat bhavah’ are all connected to happiness and the words connected to ‘asat bhava’ are those which are connected to sorrow. For the change to take place, a changeless substratum is necessary. For the motion picture to be seen a stationary screen is a must.

Gita 2.17

avinasi tu tad viddhi

yena sarvam idam tatam

vinasam avyayasyasya

na kascit kartum arhati


Know 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 of 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 is the embodiment of an individual soul, and the symptom of the soul’s presence is perceived as individual consciousness. Any layman can understand that our body minus consciousness is a dead body, and this consciousness cannot be revived in the body by any means of material administration. Therefore, consciousness is not due to any amount of material combination, but to the spirit soul. This atomic soul is floating in the five kinds of air [prana, apana, vyana, samana and udana], is situated within the heart, and spreads its influence all over the body of the embodied living entities.

Gita 2.18

antavanta ime deha

nityasyoktah saririnah

anasino ‘prameyasya

tasmad yudhyasva bharata


These bodies acquired by the imperishable, indefinable and eternal soul, are perishable. Therefore, O Arjuna, fight


The physical body is subject to pleasure and pain, old age and disease. Although the eternal soul is embodied within the physical body; its position is not compromised or affected by the modifications of the physical body. It is therefore ‘aprameyasya’ or immeasurable, existing always in the same condition, complete within itself.

The material body is perishable by nature. It may perish immediately, or it may do so after a hundred years. It is a question of time only. There is no chance of maintaining it indefinitely. As mentioned in the previous verse, the Atma is so small that no one can have any idea how to measure its dimension. So from both viewpoints there is no cause of lamentation because the living entity can neither be killed as he is, nor can the material body, which cannot be saved for any length of time, be permanently protected.

It might be questioned that if the soul is eternal due to the impossibility of ever being destroyed then why is it that feelings of remorse arise at the demise of family members and loved ones. To clarify this Lord Krishna states that only the physical body is subject to destruction.

It shows that every human being, without any distinction of caste, creed, colour or stage of life, can freely follow either the Discipline of Action, or Discipline of Knowledge, for his salvation. But, in practical life, a duty should be ‘discharged, according to one’s Varna (caste) and ashrama (stage of life), by following the ordinance of scriptures. Therefore, here while discussing the real and the unreal according to the discipline of Knowledge Lord Krishna, orders Arjuna to fight or in other words he advises Arjuna to discharge his duty even if he follows discipline of knowledge. The words “fight, O son of India” means that it is a religious call to every Indian to discard his defeatist mentality and face wholeheartedly and sincerely the situation in every field of his life and activities at every given moment of existence. This is certainly not a call for war or violence.

Gita 2.19

ya enam vetti hantaram

yas cainam manyate hatam

ubhau tau na vijanito

nayam hanti na hanyate


Both of them are ignorant, one who holds the soul as the slayer and the other who considers it, as slain; for the soul, neither slays, nor is slain.


One who considers the soul as slayer is ignorant because the soul does not act. But by identifying’ with the body, it accepts itself as a doer. As an artisan, however clever he may be, cannot work without tools, similarly, the soul without body cannot do anything. One, who holds the soul as slain, is also ignorant. As the soul is never the slayer, so it is never killed, because the soul always remains unaffected and unchanged. Only the perishable and changeable can be slain.

Continuing with the idea of the previous sloka, Krishna here says that being immortal and indestructible, the self can neither be killed nor kill anyone and those who think so are ignorant. What is killed and gets killed are only the body and not the self. It is said that the self cannot kill anyone because there is no action for the self and all actions pertain to the body, mind and intellect. This truth will be elaborated later in the Gita.

Just as the dying hero in a movie has not really been dead, so the soul of a man playing a role in the cosmic motion picture of life is ever living.

Gita 2.20

na jayate mriyate va kadacin

nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah

ajo nityah sasvato ‘yam purano

na hanyate hanyamane sarire


The self is never born and never dies. Having been in existence it never ceases to be. It is unborn, eternal, ever existing and ancient and it is not killed when the body gets killed.


Here in these verses Lord Krishna has made such a distinction between the body and the soul, as is rarely found anywhere else in the Gita.

The body constituted of elements, undergoes six kinds of modifications – to be born, to exist, to change, to grow, to decay and to perish. But, the soul remains unaffected by, these changes. The soul, unlike a body is never born, it is eternal. The soul never dies. Only that which is born dies. The soul remains unaffected by all kinds of changes.

The understanding that the eternal soul is never slain is being confirmed by its freedom from the six changes of material existence being: birth, existence, growth, modification, decay and death which are controlling all living entities high and low in the material existence. The Supreme Lord by declaring the eternal soul is not born confirms the absence of any birth and by declaring the eternal soul does not die confirms the absence of any destruction. With the 2 words ‘ajah’ meaning unborn and ‘nityah’ meaning eternal, it is made clear that the 2 modifications of birth and death are not applicable in regards to the soul.


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.

Gita 2.11

sri-bhagavan uvaca

asocyan anvasocas tvam

prajna-vadams ca bhasase

gatasun agatasums ca

nanusocanti panditah


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

tatha dehantara-praptir

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


agamapayino ‘nityas

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. 

Gita 2.15

yam hi na vyathayanty ete

purusam purusarsabha

sama-duhkha-sukham dhiram

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.


Gita 2.6

na caitad vidmah kataran no gariyo

yad va jayema yadi va no jayeyuh

yan eva hatva na jijivisamas

te ‘vasthitah pramukhe dhartarastrah


We don’t know which is meritorious for us, to fight or not to fight, nor do we know, whether we shall win or they will conquer us. The sons of Dhritarashtra, by killing whom we do not even wish to live, are arrayed against us


Arjuna did not know whether he should fight and risk unnecessary violence, although fighting is the duty of the Kshatriyas, or whether he should refrain and live by begging. If he did not conquer the enemy, begging would be his only means of subsistence. Nor was there certainty of victory, because either side might emerge victorious. Even if victory awaited them (and their cause was justified), still, if the sons of Dhritarashtra died in battle, it would be very difficult to live in their absence. Under the circumstances, that would be another kind of defeat for them.

Arjuna’s desire to live by begging, although he was born in the royal household, could be seen either a sign of detachment or sense of desperation and defeat. This is what happens to most of us when confronted by unimaginable problems in our day to day life. When hysteria attacks, intellectual composure is destroyed, resulting confusion leads to inefficiency and ultimately to failure in life.

Gita 2.7


prcchami tvam dharma-sammudha-cetah

yac chreyah syan niscitam bruhi tan me

sisyas te ‘ham sadhi mam tvam prapannam


Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me clearly what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.


According to Vedic scriptures one who dies in this world without becoming ‘self-realized’, who is destitute of knowledge of the nature and qualities of their immortal soul, is called a miser. In common parlance a miser is one who is extremely stingy with their money. Miserliness here is the affliction of weakness regarding ones spiritual identity and integrity. Discriminatory power weakened by vices forms the delusion which bewilders the intelligence. Arjuna realized this and unconditionally surrendered to Lord Krishna with the words ‘tvam prapannam’ meaning ‘surrendered unto you’ and asks the Lord for spiritual guidance as confirmed by the words ‘sadhi mam’ instruct me. Arjuna qualifies himself to receive instructions from Lord Krishna by the words ‘sisyah te aham’ meaning I am your disciple.

Arjuna exhausted himself and seemed to be at crossroads and said “I am utterly confused please tell me what is good for me.” He uses the word ‘Sreyas’. So long he had been talking about what was ‘preyas’ to him, what he wanted to do or what is enjoyable. Now he was asking what is good to do. Then and then only the Lord started talking. Drinking alcohol may be ‘preyas’ or enjoyable to you, but it will not give you ‘sreyas’.

In our life we go on telling the Lord what to do, give us wealth, health and happiness and never ask Him what we should do to achieve the same thinking that we are already doing what is to be done and just waiting for the GOD to do his duty. When we do ask, He starts telling us what to do. Similarly when Arjuna said ‘sishyaste aham Sadhimam tvam prapannam’, I am your disciple I surrender to you, only then Krishna starts giving him the advice because advice given unasked will not be taken well!

Gita 2.8

na hi prapasyami mamapanudyad

yac chokam ucchosanam indriyanam

avapya bhumav asapatnam rddham

rajyam suranam api cadhipatyam


Even on obtaining undisputed sovereignty and an affluent kingdom on this earth as well as lordship over the gods in heaven, I do not see any remedy that can remove my grief, which withers my senses


Arjuna continues to lament and says “Not to talk of worldly pleasure, even lordship over heaven (position of Indra) cannot remove my worry and grief. If I grieved over the loss of a kingdom, it might be overcome by gaining it. But I am now grieved at thinking of the massacre of my kinsmen. Who could enjoy the kingdom, after the death of my kinsmen? Therefore, undisputed sovereignty and an affluent kingdom on this earth and lordship over the gods cannot remove the grief that is parching my senses.

Although Arjuna was quoting scriptures and principles of religion and moral codes, it appears that he was unable to solve his real problem all by himself. He could understand that academic knowledge, scholarship, high position, money etc., are all useless in solving the problems of life; only a qualified spiritual master can help. Thus Arjuna completely surrenders to Lord Krishna as a student and requests for instructions.

Gita 2.9

sanjaya uvaca

evam uktva hrsikesam

gudakesah parantapah

na yotsya iti govindam

uktva tusnim babhuva ha


Sanjaya said: Having spoken thus, Arjuna, chastiser of enemies, told Krishna, “Govinda, I shall not fight,” and fell silent.


Arjuna honoured the Lord’s word and wanted to obey it. But after thinking seriously, over what Lord Krishna had said and applying his own mind to his thoughts, came to the conclusion that war could result in providing him with an affluent kingdom, honour and fame. But it would not wipe out his grief, worry and misery. Therefore, it was not befitting for him to wage war. So Arjuna speaks his mind in clear words “I’ll not fight.” Having declared his decision not to fight, and having nothing more to say, Arjuna became quiet. Here the terms used to denote Arjuna and Krishna are significant. The one who asked was ‘gudakesa’, meaning one who conquered sleep, that is, he is capable of controlling his senses and this weakness is only temporary. Arjuna is also called ‘parantapa’ meaning scorcher of enemy who will not show any mercy towards them. Arjuna’s current enemy is his mental imbalance and he is ready to fight that with the help of the Jagatguru who is the lord himself.  The names ‘hrshikesa and Govinda’, both denote that the one who is going to advise is the master of the senses.

The greatest fear in life is of death. If we are able to overcome the fear of death of self and others, life becomes much more peaceful and enjoyable. Gita teaches you that we all are eternal and only our body keep changing with time.

Gita 2.10

tam uvaca hrsikesah

prahasann iva bharata

senayor ubhayor madhye

visidantam, idam vacah


O descendant of Bharata, at that time Krishna, smiling, in the midst of both the armies, spoke the following words to the grief-stricken Arjuna.


Lord Krishna with a subtle smile upon his face then spoke to Arjuna who was lamenting at a most inappropriate time between the two opposing armies. The word ‘prahasan’ meaning smiling is used to subtly indicate sarcasm and evoke anger at the impropriety of such limpid sensitivity by Arjuna who in his own right is a mighty warrior respected by all the mightiest warriors of his time. Hrsikesa’, means that the Lord is the in-dweller viz., He knows feelings of beings.

Krishna was a friend of Arjuna. Yet when Arjuna requested Krishna to be his ‘Guru’ at once He takes up the task with all its seriousness and began the great discourse called Gita. Since the Gita was told not in the confines of a room or in the isolation of the forest but in the midst of two armies, we can assume that Gita is not only for Arjuna but also for the entire world, you and me included.

Chapter 2 – Sankhya Yoga (Yoga of Knowledge)

In Chapter 2 we can study an exhaustive summary of the entire Gita philosophy. Sankhya means knowledge and particularly knowledge of GOD.

In Gita we address Lord Sri Krishna as “Bhagavan”. In fact this term is used generally to address God and for goddess the term used is “Bhagavati”. Bhagavan means He who possesses All Aisvarya (Lordship), dharma (righteousness), Yashas (renown/fame), Sri (splendour), jnana (knowledge) and vairagya (detachment). You may find many who claims to have or seems to have most of these ‘gunas’, yet it is only limited and not ‘All’. But the most important ‘Guna’ is that God also possess vairagya (detachment) which is always lacking in people with power or money.

Arjuna advises Lord Krishna to place his chariot in between the two armies, so that he may behold the war-minded warriors who dared to risk their lives, by fighting against such a valiant warrior, as he. But the same heroic and zealous Arjuna, at the sight of his kinsmen, becomes overwhelmed with grief, his limbs give way, his mouth is parched, his body shivers, his hairs stand on end, his bow slips, from his hand, his skin burns all over and his mind reels. His bravery turns into faint-heartedness and he slips into the seat of the chariot. Sanjaya conveys the same feelings of Arjuna, who was drowned in distress and despondency.

Gita 2.1

sanjaya uvaca

tam tatha krpayavistam


visidantam idam vakyam

uvaca madhusudanah


Sanjaya said: Seeing Arjuna full of compassion and very sorrowful, his eyes brimming with tears, Madhusudana, Krishna, spoke the following words.


Sanjaya gives a complete picture of Arjuna’s mental state to Dhritarashtra which is overwhelmed with sorrow for his near and dear ones.   Sanjaya by using the word ‘Madhusudana’, means to say that Lord Krishna is the killer of demon, Madhu i.e., He is the destroyer of people having a villainous nature, and so He will certainly destroy wicked natured Duryodhana, and his group.

If the situation controls you and you are not in a position to take control of the situation, failure is imminent.

Gita 2.2

sri-bhagavan uvaca

kutas tva kasmalam idam

visame samupasthitam

anarya-justam asvargyam

akirti-karam arjuna


The Bhagavan said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They do not lead to higher planets, but to infamy.


All the lofty arguments of Arjuna have been summarily dismissed by Krishna as being ‘kasmalam’, rubbish or ignominious, more so because this attitude has come to him, at the most inappropriate moment. Here, the Lord by giving these three expressions ‘Anaryajustam’, ‘Asvargyam’ and ‘Akirtikaram’, in a sequence has explained that there are three types of persons (i) Thoughtful-whose aim is to attain benediction, (ii) Virtuous-who by doing virtuous actions want to attain heaven, (iii) and Ordinary-who want name and fame in the world. So, by giving the above-mentioned three kinds, Lord Krishna wants to warn Arjuna that, his affliction would bring him neither benediction, nor heaven nor fame, but would degrade and defame him, and lead him to hell. Such unmanly sentiments are never expected from a person belonging to the civilized class of men known as Aryans. The word Aryan is applicable to persons who know the value of life and have a civilization based on spiritual realization. Persons who have no knowledge of liberation from material bondage are called non-Aryans. Although Arjuna was a Kshatriya, he was deviating from his prescribed duties by declining to fight. Such deviation from duty does not help one in the progress of spiritual life, nor does it even give one the opportunity to become famous in this world. Lord Krishna did not approve of the so-called compassion of Arjuna for his kinsmen.

Great men who want to achieve success do so with fixed objectives, during activity as well as non-activity. They do not shirk their duty. According to prevailing circumstances, they perform their duty thoroughly, with zeal and enthusiasm, to achieve their objectives. If we leave aside the goal of success and consider the matter from a worldly point of view, the attainment of heaven, is the highest achievement. With timidity one can never attain the heaven. Even without having the aim of attainment of heaven, a noble person performs those deeds which bring him name and fame in the world.

Gita 2.3

klaibyam ma sma gamah partha

naitat tvayy upapadyate

ksudram hrdaya-daurbalyam

tyaktvottistha parantapa


O son of Pritha, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy.


By addressing Arjuna as the son of Pritha it refers to his mother Kunti who by worshipping Indra, the ruler of the demi-gods received Arjuna as her son endowed with extraordinary might and valour like Indra. “Pritha” is also a symbol of renunciation as she left her own house and became the adopted daughter of Kuntibhoja who was a friend of her father. Lord Krishna reminds Arjuna of this to instruct him not to yield to this impotence for it does not befit him and that he should discard this weakness of heart. By using the vocative ‘parantapa’ meaning chastiser of enemies Lord Krishna is reminding Arjuna that at the time of his birth a heavenly voice proclaimed that he would conquer all enemies.

Krishna could see that the pity that has come over Arjuna was not due to mercy towards his relatives in general, especially towards Kauravas but it was prompted by his reluctance to fight against Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, etc. who were his respected elders. That was why Krishna calls it ‘hrdaya daurbalyam’.

Gita 2.4

arjuna uvaca

katham bhismam aham sankhye

dronam ca madhusudana

isubhih pratiyotsyami

pujarhav ari-sudana


Arjuna said: O killer of Madhu, how can I counterattack with arrows in battle men like Bhishma and Drona, who are worthy of my worship?


Arjuna addresses the Lord as ‘Madhusudana’ and ‘Arisudana’, because he had killed unrighteous, villainous and cruel demons, such as Madhu etc., and foes also who always are jealous of others, without rhyme or reason. But how can he kill his great well-wisher, the respected grandfather Bhishma, and adorable preceptor Drona, who have great affection for him? Arjuna is not turning away from war because of faint-heartedness, but because it is unrighteous for him to fight, with the revered grandsire Bhishma and venerable teacher Drona. Arjuna said “I am not afraid of dying but I do not want to kill my venerable elders, who have always been very affectionate to me”. Duryodhana by placing Bhishma and Drona directly in the forefront caused the ever righteous Pandavas discomfort at the thought of having to fight against them as it was opposed to the time honoured noble traditions of their family lineage. Arjuna is asking how he can engage in battle with respectable elders, when even to argue against them is improper.

Most problems in life are due to the fact that we identify ourselves with a big “I”. The moment we expand beyond the “I” ness and identify with a larger cause, movement, organization or country, we become really insignificant and reaches an egoless state. We become humble and willing to do anything to achieve our larger cause and objectives.

Gita 2.5

gurun ahatva hi mahanubhavan

sreyo bhoktum bhaiksyam apiha loke

hatvartha-kamams tu gurun ihaiva

bhunjiya bhogan rudhira-pradigdhan


It is better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of great souls who are my teachers. Even though they are avaricious, they are nonetheless superiors. If they are killed, our spoils will be tainted with blood.


Why should Bhishma and Drona fight for the unlawful kingdom of the Kauravas on the side of the wicked Duryodhana? Bhishma’s statement that a man is slave to wealth but wealth is slave to no man; therefore due to accepting wealth he was controlled by the Kauravas. So this proves that controlled by wealth and not righteousness and thus slaying them incurs no sin. Bhishma himself has stated that a superior who is degraded by these qualities deserves to be abandoned. But to this Arjuna states that by slaying elders we may undoubtedly enjoy some pleasures in this world but these pleasures would be tainted with blood as they are derived from the sin of slaying superiors.

To treat any disease or problems in life, the first step is correct diagnosis of the problem. If the diagnosis is wrong, the treatment will be wrong. And once we misread the situation our emotions and sentiments could further cloud our understanding and judgements that leads to deterioration of the situation.