This is an attempt to awaken your curiosity to read the holy Gita. I am sharing a few nuggets verbatim from each of the chapters of the book, with the hope that this gets you started at your own pace. There are many commentaries on The Gita. This version is based on “The Scripture of Mankind” Translation by Swami Tapasyananda.
This is an overview of the second chapter titled “Sankhya Yoga” (Communion Through Knowledge). One of the most important chapters in the Gita, Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna that the true Self is not the Body but the immortal Spirit. You can call it Soul, Spirit, Ultimate Truth, Pure Consciousness, Atman, Brahman, God. Its all the same. This is the essence that pervades amongst one and all. The succeeding chapters throw light on the paths and steps to recognise this divinity within you and march ahead on the Spiritual path towards liberation. A Sadhak should read this chapter multiple times to internalise the learnings.
This chapter covers the following topics
Arjuna Seeking refuge – As Arjuna continues his lamentation and self pity Sri Krishna administers a strong dose of reprimand, saying that his attitude benefits only an eunuch and not a hero. But Arjuna’s sorrow is so deep rooted that the reprimand has no effect. He continues in his attitude of self pity and finally takes refuge in Lord Krishna as a disciple. From here almost all the verses are from Lord Krishna.
The Immortal Atman – Sri Krishna recognises that Arjuna’s ignorance makes him equate man with his visible body, which in turn makes him think of death as total destruction. At the very start of his discourse Krishna expounds the high philosophy of Atman.
“You pretend to be a wise man in speech, but your behaviour is like that of the most ignorant. A wise man takes death as a trifle. For he knows that the essence in man is the Atman, the birth-less. The deathless, the eternal Spirit whom weapons cannot cleave, fire burn or air dry. Birth and death are only of the body and not of the Atman. The body in relation to the Atman is like clothes one puts on and throws away. Or like the passing phases of life like childhood, boyhood, youth, and old age. Pleasant and painful experiences of life are passing episodes. A man who knows this and is never moved by pleasure and pain, by life or death, is alone wise and fit for spiritual freedom.
Death from a worldly point of view – Death is natural to all beings, and there is no use in sorrowing for this unavoidable occurrence. Life comes from the Unknown, for a short time it remains in the field of the known, and to the Unknown it goes back again. Of what use is man’s wailing over this eternal process.
He then starts the correlation and works on the mind of a valiant brave soldier. If you avoid your responsibilities in this righteous war, a veritable portal to heaven for a valiant Kshatriya, every one will say that you have tucked tail for fear of death and fled away for life like a coward. To survive with this stigma of cowardice is worse than a hundred deaths. Dead in the battle field you will attain heaven, victorious you will enjoy the earth. So arise and fight! And if you can practise even mindedness in pain and pleasure, in success and failure, you shall not incur any sin by slaughter in battle.
The Gospel of dedicated work – Having reminded Arjuna of the real nature of man as the eternal Spirit, Lord Krishna now proceeds to declare how one could gradually realise this divinity inherent in oneself. Sri Krishna further teaches as follows ” I taught you till now about the philosophy of the Atman. Now hear from me about the doctrine of communion through work. This path is free from danger and easy to perform. It seeks to secure the one pointedness of the mind through detachment in work”.
He then criticises the man who performs Vedic rituals for worldly enjoyments and fulfilment of his ambitions.
Man is after many worldly enjoyments and ambitions. Hearing that they could be obtained through Vedic rituals he performs them one after the other, hoping for success. Though they may look like acts of piety, they are only expression of pure worldliness. They make the mind restless and scattered. The more we are motivated by selfish gains in our work, the more we get steeped in worldliness.
The more we work in a spirit of duty, without caring for gains, the more shall we get spiritually oriented. But lack of interest in worldly gains should not make you lethargic or slipshod in your work.
For Karma Yoga (Communion through work) consists in maximum efficiency combined with detachment. It is for this reason that Karma Yoga is called ” Skill in Action“
He explains that when one is free from longings for worldly enjoyments one gains spiritual conviction and ones intelligence is established in steadiness.
This concept is elaborated in detail in Chapter 3 – Karma Yoga or Communion through Action.
The Man of Steady Wisdom
Arjuna then asks how to recognise an individual who has attained a state of “Steadiness of Intelligence” .
Lord Krishna explains – Such a person who has abandoned all desires from his heart, is every satisfied with the bliss in his higher self. Nothing external attracts him. he is unperturbed in misery and happiness. . He is free from attachments, fear & anger. He has immense control over his senses.
The hold of the senses on an ordinary man is very powerful. Like a ship on the high seas is at the mercy of the winds so is the intelligence of a man at the mercy of sense objects. One who things longingly of sense objects develops attachment. Attachment in turn grows into strong desires and infatuation. Infatuation effaces man’s sense of distinction between proper and improper. He becomes a slave of his animal instinct- he loses rationality.
So the control of the senses is the pathway to spiritual advancement. This is what is meant by being Brahman consciousness. Attaining to it a man is never reborn.
A few important Verses
Know that reality by which everything is pervaded, to be indestructible. No one can cause the destruction of this Being.
What is said to perish are these bodies, in which the imperishable and unlimited Spirit is embodied. therefore fight , O Scion of the Bharata race.
He (This Self) has neither birth nor death. Nor does he cease to be, having been in existence before; unborn, eternal, permanent and primeval, he is never killed when the body is killed.
O Arjuna , know this Self to be eternal, undecaying, birth-less and indestructible.
Some have a glimpse of Him as a marvel, some speak of Him as a marvel, and yet others hear of Him as a marvel. Yet none undertands him in Truth, in spite of (seeing, speaking and) hearing about him.
O Arjuna! What has been declared to you is the Truth according to the Sankhya ( path of knowledge). Listen now to the teachings of Yoga ( path of selfless action with devotion) by practising which the bondage of Karma is overcome.
O Arjuna! There are people who delight in the eulogistic statements of the Vedas and argue that the purport of the Vedas consists in these and nothing else. They are full of worldly desires. Paradise is their highest goal. And they are totally blind in a spiritual sense. O Arjuna! The Vedas deal with material ends. But you be established in the Spirit.
When your intellect , fed up with the bewildering scriptural doctrines and their interpretations , finally settles in steady and unwavering introspection in the Spirit, then you will attain to real Yoga.
A man of uncontrolled senses has no spiritual comprehension. he has no capacity for meditation either. For the unmeditative there is no peace. And where is happiness for one without peace of mind.
Additional Notes & Commentary
Sat & Asat – The constantly changing forms are called “Asat”. They are non existent in the sense that they have no ultimacy in themselves. They come and go. Once all the forms cease they leave no residue, except “Sat” or the Essence, the changeless being, the substratum on which all forms appear. It is Awareness , Witness of change.
Sukshma & Sthula sharira – The gross body is the one that changes from birth to birth (Sthula Sharira). Its compared to the changing of dress. It perishes and disintegrates with time. The subtle body or the (Sukshma Sharira) in which the Pranas (vital energies), mind, intellect and the ego are integrated survives death carrying all the Karma’s created in ones life to the next. When enlightenment comes and the Jiva realises his real identity as the Atman then the Sukshma Sharira also perishes. This marks the real death and opens the door to immortality. This emancipation or Mukti.
Concept of 5 Koshas or Sheaths
The human personality according to Vedanta has 3 Bodies and 5 Sheaths or Koshas.
- Annamaya Kosha – Gross Body
- Pranayama Kosha – Vitalistic sheath
- Manomaya Kosha – Mental sheath
- Vijnanamaya Kosha – Intellectual sheath and
- Anandmaya Kosha or the sheath of Bliss.
The Atman is clothed in these sheaths. The Atman endows the sheath with the light of consciousness. These 5 sheaths are organised into two bodies. All the sheaths except the Anandmaya Kosha ensouled by the Atman comprise the Sukshma Sharira or the gross physical body. They part from the gross body at death carrying with it all the tendencies, merits & demerits acquired in life. It then hunts for another embodiment in this earth sphere or in any of the higher or lower spheres according to the Karma of the Jiva
Sankhya & Yoga – In Indian philosophy are known as two allied systems having the same metaphysics but different methods of practise.
Sankhya is the intellectual analysis of the material characteristics and the separating of Prakriti from Purusha – The Spiritual monad. The system does not accept a God , a universal being, who is the master of all spiritual monads and material categories. Salvation consists in the Purusha getting isolation from the material categories with which it is integrated in the state of bondage.
Yoga is the systematic practise of concentration by which the realisation of that metaphysical truth is realised
Many life times – Spiritual practise may take a whole life time or several lives to fructify as realisation. Aspirant should never feel that efforts are lost. the bank balance is preserved and carried on to the next life. The competence one has acquired remains in the subtle body and in the next life one begins from where one left in the previous life.
Work as an offering to the divine – In the path of salvation work as duty has a place. All work has to be done as an offering to the Divine and not for attainment of heavenly felicities or any other type of enjoyment.
To be continued ……..
Reference for previous chapters