Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2.
The essence of the Bhagavad Gita unfolds in the second chapter called Sankhya Yoga (Yoga of Knowledge). The chapter begins with the grief of Arjuna and concludes with the description of a Man of Perfection. The lesson here is that, it is only when we are prepared to abandon our ego and give ourselves up totally to the Lord that He will come to our aid.
Sanjaya gives a complete picture of Arjuna’s mental state to Dhritarashtra which is overwhelmed with sorrow for his near and dear ones. All the lofty arguments of Arjuna have been summarily dismissed by Krishna as being rubbish or ignominious, more so because this attitude has come to him, at the most inappropriate moment. Lord Krishna warns Arjuna that his affliction would bring him neither benediction, nor heaven nor fame, but would degrade and defame him, and lead him to hell. 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.
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. Arjuna’s desire to live by begging, although he was born in the royal household, could be due to a 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.
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. Arjuna qualifies himself to receive instructions from Lord Krishna by the words ‘sisyah te aham’ meaning I am your disciple.
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.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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.
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.