Summary of Chapter 2 of the Bhagawad Geeta
The second chapter of the Bhagawad Geeta is when Lord Krishna addresses the concerns of Arjuna on fighting the war. In the process Lord Krishna shares the vast knowledge of the Upanishads in a crisp and effective manner.
Arjuna is anxious and is not in peace. He has doubts on fighting the war with people who are his relatively. Lord Krishna in the second chapter is asking him to get up and fight. Arjuna has doubts of killing his own people. Krishna counters this argument saying, “self cannot be born and can’t die and hence there’s no point in grieving”. It is Arjuna’s duty to fight. If he does not do his duty, he’ll incur sin. However he has to do his duty without attachment to the results of this action nor to attachment to inaction. This is one of the main messages of the Bhagawad Geeta.
The second chapter of the Bhagawad Geeta has 72 verses. You’ll find English translations of it in this article. Following are 10 key points on the second chapter of the Bhagawad Geeta that’ll summarize the 2nd chapter.
- The 2nd Chapter begins with Lord Krishna telling Arjuna to not be weak and to go fight the war. Arjuna questions Lord Krishna and says how can he kill venerable people who are also his relatives and desserve to be worshipped
- Lord Krishna in the 13th verse of the second chapter of the Bhagawad says, “Just as in this body the embodied (soul) passes into childhood, youth and old age, so also does he pass into another body; the firm man does not grieve at it.“
- Lord Krishna says that the soul, the self cannot be killed. The Self is Eternal, Indestructible, Incomprehensible. Lord Krishna in the 27th verse of the 2nd chapter of the Bhagawad Geeta adds, “certain is death for the born, and certain is birth for the dead; therefore, over the inevitable, you should not grieve”
- Lord Krishna emphasizes to Arjuna to do his duty. If he does not do his duty as a warrior, he will incur sin. He says in verse 33 “But, if you will not fight this righteous war, then, having abandoned your own duty and fame, you shall incur sin.“
- One of the main messages of Geeta is given here i.e. to detach from the fruits of action. In verse 38 of the second chapter of the Geeta, Krishna says “Having made — pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat — the same, engage in battle for the sake of battle; thus you shall not incur sin.”
- The same message is re-iterated in the 47th verse – “Thy right is to work only, but never to its fruits; let not the fruit-of-action be thy motive, nor let thy attachment be to inaction.” Lord Krishna asks Arjuna to Perform action, abandoning attachment, being steadfast in YOGA, and be balanced in success and failure. Lord Krisha adds in verse 55, “When a man completely casts off, O Partha, all the desires of the mind, and is satisfied in the Self by the Self, then is he said to be one of steady Wisdom“.
- Arjuna now curious asks Lord Krishna the description of him who has steady Wisdom and who is merged in the Superconscious state? How does one of steady Wisdom speak, how does he sit, how does he walk?“
- Krishns answers “Whose mind is not shaken by adversity, and who in prosperity does not hanker after pleasures, who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a Sage-of-Steady-Wisdom.” (verse 58). Krishna adds, “Whose mind is not shaken by adversity, and who in prosperity does not hanker after pleasures, who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a Sage-of-Steady-Wisdom.”
- Krishna explains between verses 66 – 68 that Not restraining from Sense Objects leads to Unsteady Mind which cannot Meditate that leads to a lack of peace and subsequently a lack of Happiness.
- Krishna adds, “That individual attains peace who, abandoning all desires, moves about without longing, without the sense of ‘l-ness’ and ‘my-ness.” (verse 71)
Detailed Chapter 2 of the Bhagawad Geeta with Explanation and Translation
This chapter is named as ‘Sankhya Yoga’ not in the sense that it is the Sankhyan philosophy here summarised or borrowed by Krishna. Here the word Sankhya is used only in its etymological sense as “the sequence of logic in any line of correct thinking and the logical enumeration of the arguments based on which a certain intellectual conclusion has been arrived at.” You will see as you read the verses of the second chapter of the Bhagawad Geeta.
Sanjaya said: 1. To him who was thus overcome with pity and despondency, with eyes full of tears and agitated, Madhusudana spoke these words.
The second chapter opens with an announcement from Sanjaya which, with a few rightly chosen words, gives a complete picture of Arjuna’s sad mental state of desperation. His mind had become overwhelmed with pity and sorrow. The very expression clearly indicates that Arjuna was not the master of the situation at that time, but on the contrary, the situation had Arjuna as its victim!
To get ourselves over-ridden by life’s circumstances is to ensure disastrous failures on all occasions. Only a weakling, who allows himself to be overpowered by circumstances, can be victimised by the outer happenings. Arjuna, in his present neurotic condition, has become a slave to the outer challenges.
The estimate of Sanjaya not only describes to us the mental condition of Arjuna but also pointedly gives us a hint that the cracking of the inner personality of Arjuna has made deep fissures into the character of the great hero. The greatest archer of his time, Arjuna, has been so totally impoverished within that he has come to weep.
To Arjuna, thus overwhelmed by an emotion of misplaced pity and tearless weeping, Madhusudana (slayer of the demon, Madhu), Lord Krishna, spoke the following words.
The Blessed Lord said: 2. Whence is this perilous condition come upon thee, this dejection, un-Aryan-like, heaven-excluding, disgraceful, O Arjuna?
The Lord of the Hindus is surprised to see that a king, claiming to be an Aryan, is feeling so flabbergasted on the battlefield. The instinct of a true Aryan is to be balanced and equipoised in all conditions of life and to face situations diligently, compelling them to change their threatening attitude and make them favourable to himself.
When life is courted properly, even the ugliest situation can be transformed into a charming smile of success. Everything depends upon the intelligent man’s dexterity in steering himself upon the bumping roads of life. Thus, Lord Krishna characterises Arjuna’s behaviour as unAryan. The Aryans are extremely sensitive to the higher calls of life, righteousness and nobility, both in thought and action.
The Divine Charioteer is quite surprised at discovering such an attitude in his friend, whom he had known for years through thick and thin. The mood of dejection was, in fact, quite alien to the mental make-up and intellectual nature of Arjuna. Thus, we have here an expression of wonder and the Lord asks, “Whence comes upon thee this dejection, etc…” It is believed by the Hindus that to die fighting for righteousness is the duty of one born in a family of kings and by so sacrificing his life on the battle-field for a noble cause, he reaches and enjoys the Heaven of the Heroes (Veera-Swarga).
3. Yield not to impotence, O Partha! It does not befit thee, Cast off this mean weakness of heart! Stand up, O Parantapa (O scorcher of foes) !
So far Krishna was silent and the silence had a deep meaning. Arjuna, overwhelmed with compassion, had taken the decision not to fight and was all along mustering arguments in support of it. As a diplomat, Krishna knew that it would have been useless to contradict his friend earlier when he was inspired to argue eloquently in support of his own wrong estimate of things. But the tears in the eyes of Arjuna indicated that his inward confusion had reached a climax.
Arjuna said: 4. How, O Madhusudana, shall I, in battle, fight with arrows against Bhishma and Drona, who are fit to be worshipped, O destroyer of enemies!
5. Better indeed, in this world, is to eat even the bread of ‘beggary’ than to slay the most noble of teachers. But, if I kill
them, even in this world, all my enjoyments of wealth and desires will be stained with blood.
Continuing his high sounding but futile arguments, due to his false estimate of himself and his problem, Arjuna poses here as a martyr of his own morality and ethical goodness. His gurus, meaning both Drona and Bhishma, are characterised here as Mahanubhavah — men who were the ideals of their age, symbolising the best in our culture, who, in their broad-mindedness and courage of conviction, had themselves offered many a sacrifice at the altars of the Sanatana Dharma, the Hindu science of perfect living. Such noble men, who formed the very touch-stones of our culture in that era, were not to be eliminated from life, merely for the fulfilment of an individual’s appetite for power and position. Not only in their own age, but for millenarian, the world would be impoverished by the
heartless squandering of such precious lives.
Thus, Arjuna says that it would be nobler for himself and the Pandava-brothers to live upon the bread of beggary than to gain kingship after destroying all the glorious flowers in the garden of our culture.
6. I can scarcely say which will be better, that we should conquer them or that they should conquer us. Even the sons of Dhritarashtra, after slaying whom we do not wish to live, stand facing us.
7. My heart is overpowered by the taint of pity; my mind is confused as to duty. I ask Thee. Tell me decisively what is good
for me. I am Thy disciple. Instruct me, who have taken refuge in Thee.
Arjuna confesses that his intellect (Chetas) has gone behind a cloud of confusions regarding what Dharma and Adharma are at that moment for him. The problem — whether to fight and conquer the enemies or not to fight and allow the enemies to conquer him — which needed an urgent solution, could not be rationally judged with the depleted mental capacities of Arjuna.
8. I do not see that it would remove this sorrow that burns up my senses, even if I should attain prosperous and unrivalled
dominion on earth, or even Lordship over the gods.
Sanjaya said: 9. Having spoken thus to Hrishikesha, Gudakesha, the destroyer of foes, said to Govinda: “I will not fight” ; and became silent.
This stanza and the following, together constitute the running commentary of Sanjaya the faithful reporter of the Geeta. He says that, after surrendering himself to Krishna, seeking the Lord’s guidance, Arjuna, the great CONQUEROR OF SLEEP and the SCORCHER OF HIS FOES, declared to Krishna, the Lord of the senses, that he would not fight, and became silent.
10. To him who was despondent in the midst of the two armies, Hrishikesha, as if smiling, O Bharata, spoke these words.
Thus standing between the two forces, the good and the bad, arrayed for a battle to death, Arjuna (the jeeva) surrenders completely, to the Lord (the subtler discriminative intellect), his charioteer, who holds the five horses (the five senses) yoked to his chariot (body), under perfect control. When the stunned and confused ego — Arjuna — totally surrenders to Krishna, the Lord, with a smile, reassures the Jeeva of its final victory, and declares the entire message of spiritual redemption, the Geeta. In this sense we analyze the picture painted in Sanjaya’s words, borrowing our sanction from the Upanishads.
The Blessed Lord said: 11. You have grieved for those that should not be grieved for; yet, you speak words of wisdom. The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead.
12. It is not that at any time (in the past) , indeed, was I not, nor were you, nor these rulers of men. Nor, verily, shall we all ever cease to be hereafter.
Krishna here declares, in unequivocal terms, that the embodied Self in every one is set on a great pilgrimage in which It comes to identify itself with varied forms, temporarily to gain a limited but determined, set of experiences. He says that neither He Himself nor Arjuna nor the great kings of the age that have assembled in both the armies, are mere accidental happenings. They do not
come from nowhere and, at their death, do not become mere non-existent nothingness.
13. Just as in this body the embodied (soul) passes into childhood, youth and old age, so also does he pass into another body; the firm man does not grieve at it.
This stanza is asserting, in unequivocal terms, the Reincarnation Theory. And thus viewed, death can no more be a threat to a wise individual. We do not moan at the death of childhood following which alone can we come to experience youth; we are confident in our
knowledge that though youth is entered into and childhood has ended, there is a continuity of existence of the same one only, so, a child has now become a youth.
So too, at the moment of death, there is no extinction of the individuality, but the embodied-ego of the dead-body leaves its previous structure, and according to the vasanas (mental impressions) that it had gathered during its embodiment, it gets identified with a physical equipment, where it can express itself completely, and seek its perfect fulfilment.
The contacts of senses with objects, O son of Kunti, which cause heat and cold, pleasure and pain, have a beginning and an end; they are impermanent; endure them bravely, O descendant of Bharata.
According to the accepted theory of perception in Vedanta, an object is perceived not BY the sense-organs but THROUGH them. The Indriyas are instruments through which the perceiving-ego gathers the knowledge of the various objects. If the perceiver is not actually contacting the objects through the sense-organs, the objects, as such, cannot bring any perception to him.
That the same objects can give two different types of experiences to two different individuals is very well-known. The object remaining the same, if it can give different experiences, it is evident that it is because of the difference in the mental composition of the individuals.
It is also observed that, objects of one’s intense fancy during a certain stage in one’s life, become a nuisance to the same individual after a time; for, as time passes on, the mental constitution of the individual also changes. In short, it is very clear that the external objects can convey their stimuli and give us an experience only when our minds come in contact with the objects through the sense-organs.
He who can understand that the objects of the world are in a state of flux, are constantly coming into existence and perishing — he will not allow himself to be tossed about by the existence or non-existence of the finite things of the world.
15. That firm man whom, surely, these afflict not, O chief among men, to whom pleasure and pain are the same, is fit for realising the Immortality of the Self
Calm endurance, both in pleasure and pain, is a condition necessary for right knowledge of the true Self; this is the technique of Self-realisation, as explained in the Upanishadic lore.
Based upon that fact, here Lord Krishna explains that one who has found in himself a mental equipoise, wherein he is not afflicted or disturbed by circumstances of pain and pleasure, he alone “IS FIT FOR ATTAINING IMMORTALITY.”
When the TRANSCENDENTAL TRUTH or the ETERNAL PERFECTION has been indicated by the term Immortality, the term is not used in its limited sense of ‘deathlessness’ of the body. Here the term ‘death’ not only indicates the destruction of the physical embodiment but also includes and incorporates within its significance, the entire range of finite experiences, where, in each one of
them, there is an extinction-experience. No experience gained through either the body, or the mind, or the intellect is permanent.
16. The unreal has no being; there is no non-being of the Real; the truth about both these has been seen by the Knowers of the Truth (or the Seers of the Essence) .
In Vedantic literature, the Real and the Un-real are very scientifically distinguished. These two categories are not considered as indefinables in our ancient scriptures; though they do not declare these to be definables. The Rishis have clearly indicated what constitutes the REAL and what are the features of the UN-REAL.
“That which was not in the past and which will not be in the future, but, that which seemingly exists only in the present is called the un-Real.” In the language of the Karika, “That which is non-existent in the beginning and in the end, is necessarily non-existent in the intermediate stages also; objects, we see, are illusory, still they are regarded as real.”
17. Know That to be Indestructible by which all this is pervaded. None can cause the destruction of That — the Imperishable.
The REAL is that which envelops everything that exists, and which is the very stuff and substance of all the worlds of perceptions, which we experience. Though each of them has thus a different name, yet, all of them are, we may say, enveloped by — or permeated with one and the same stuff, the mud, without which none of the pots can exist.
18. They have an end, it is said, these bodies of the embodied-Self. The Self is Eternal, Indestructible, Incomprehensible.
Therefore, fight, O Bharata.
The physical forms, constituted of matter envelopments, are all perishable equipments for the indwelling-Self, which is the Eternal Factor, ever in Its nature, changeless, indestructible, and incomprehensible. By the term EVER CHANGELESS, the Supreme is indicated as Eternal because the non-eternals, by their nature, must be ever-changing, change being the insignia of the finite. Here, by
using the two terms: Eternal (Nityah) and Indestructible (Anashinah), the Lord is indicating that neither a total nor a partial destruction is possible in the Supreme.
19. He who takes the Self to be the slayer and he who thinks He is slain, neither of these knows. He slays not, nor in He slain.
The Self, being Immutable, It is neither slain nor can It be the slayer. Those who think that they have been slain when the body is slain and those who feel that they are the slayers, both of them know not the Real Nature of the Self and hence they but prattle meaningless assertions.
That which is killed is the perishable body and the delusory arrogation, “I am slain” belongs to the ego-centre. The Self is that which is beyond the body and the ego, since the Pure Consciousness is the Illuminator of both, the body and the ego. In short, being Immutable, the Self can neither be the agent nor the object of the action-of-slaying
20. He is not born, nor does He ever die; after having been, He again ceases not to be; Unborn, Eternal, Changeless and
Ancient, He is not killed when the body is killed.
This stanza labours to deny in the Self all the symptoms of mutability that are recognised and experienced by the body. The body is prone to different changes and these modifications are the sources of all sorrows in every embodiment.
These six changes are common to all, and they may be enumerated as: birth, existence, growth, decay, disease and death. These changes are the common womb of all pains in a mortal’s life. All these are denied in the Self, in this stanza, to prove the immutability of the Self.
21. Whosoever knows Him to be Indestructible, Eternal, Unborn, and Inexhaustible, how can that man slay, O Partha, or cause others to be slain?
Summarising what is said so far, as the Law of Being (Dharma) of the Self, which indicated rather than defined the Eternal, Immutable Reality, in this stanza, we have, in the form of an interrogation, an assertion that those who know this shall have thereafter, no dejection or sorrow in facing life’s realities.
22. Just as a man casts off his worn out clothes and puts on new ones, so also the embodied-Self casts off its worn out bodies and enters others which are new.
Just as an individual changes his clothes to suit the convenience of the occasion, so too the ego-centre discards one physical form and takes to another, which will be most suited for it to gain the next required type of experiences. No one will plan to go to his office in his night-gown, nor will he, in his stiff-collar, feel happy while playing tennis in the evening.
WHY IS THE SELF CHANGELESS? THE LORD SAYS:
23. Weapons cleave It not, fire burns It not, water moistens It not, wind dries It not.
It is very well-known that with an axe one can cut down a thing, and with a bullet one can shoot some other object, but neither can one
wound water, fire, air or space with a sword, however sharp it might be. The principle is that no instrument can hit or destroy an element subtler than itself. Naturally, therefore, Atman, the Self, the very cause of the subtlest element, space, and necessarily therefore, subtler than space, cannot be cut asunder by the gross instruments.
24. This Self cannot be cut, nor burnt, nor moistened, nor dried up. It is eternal, all-pervading, stable immovable and ancient.
It is amply clear that if a thing cannot be annihilated by any of the known methods of destruction of nature, or those invented and perfected by man, then that given object must be everlasting.
25. This (Self) is said to be Unmanifest, Unthinkable and Unchangeable. Therefore, knowing This to be such, you should not grieve.
Truth is declared as Immutable, Unmanifest, Unthinkable and Unchangeable. Krishna thus advises Arjuna to end his grief. He who understands the Eternal nature of the Self can have neither the occasion to perceive himself as the slayer nor recognise others as the slain.
26. But even if you think of Him as being constantly born and constantly dying, even then, O mighty-armed, you should not grieve.
This whirl-of-birth-and-death is constant. And “this constant change” is life to them. Krishna argues that, if life is but a constant repetition of births and deaths, then also,the hero that you are, you do not deserve to grieve on this occasion.
27. Indeed, certain is death for the born, and certain is birth for the dead; therefore, over the inevitable, you should not grieve
That which is born must die and after death things are born again. Here, Krishna continues to view the whole situation from the materialist angle.
Thus, if life, be, in its very nature, a stream of births and deaths, against this inevitable arrangement, no intelligent individual should moan.
On this score also, to weep is to admit one’s own ignorance. Krishna’s life, is, on the whole, a message of cheer and joy. His doctrine of life is an insistence upon, “to weep is folly and to smile is wisdom.” “Keep smiling” seems to be Krishna’s philosophy put in two words, and that is why, seeing his dear friend weeping in life, the Lord gets whipped up, as it were, to an enthusiasm to save Arjuna from his delusions, and bring him back to the true purpose of life.
28. Beings unmanifest in the beginning, and unmanifest again in their end seem to be manifest in the middle, O Bharata. What then is there to grieve about?
The manifest-world of today was unmanifest before its creation; and now for the time being, it is available for cognition as fully manifest, only to fade away soon into the unmanifest again. It amounts to saying that the present came from the UNKNOWN and shall return to
Even if viewed thus, why should one moan; for, the spokes of a wheel that turns eternally must COME DOWN only to RISE UP again.
29. One sees This as a wonder; another speaks of This as a wonder; another hears of This as a wonder; yet, having heard none understands This at all!
The Eternal Absolute is explained to us as Infinite, All-knowing and All-blissful. Our experience of ourselves is that we are finite, ignorant and miserable. Thus, between the Reality, which is our Self, and what we experience ourselves to be, there seems to be as much difference as between heat and cold, light and darkness. Why is it that we are not able to recognise the Self, which is our Real Nature?
Man awakened to the Self’s Glory is God; God forgetful of His own glory is the deluded individual!
30. This, the Indweller in the body of everyone is ever indestructible, O Bharata; and, therefore, you should not grieve for any creature.
The subtle Reality in each body, the indwelling Spirit in every creature is Eternal and Indestructible. All that is destroyed is only the container, the finite matter envelopment. Therefore, Arjuna has been advised that he should not grieve at facing his enemies and in the great battle, even killing them, if need be.
31. Further, looking at thine own duty thou oughtest not to waver, for there is nothing higher for a KSHATRIYA than a righteous war
Arjuna’s personal call-of-character (Swadharma) is that of a leader of his generation (Kshatriya) and as such, when his generation is called upon to answer a challenge of an organised un-Aryan force (Adharma), it is his duty not to waver but to fight and defend his sacred national culture. To the leaders of people, there can be nothing nobler than to get a glorious chance to fight for a righteous cause. Here Arjuna has been called upon to fight a righteous war wherein his enemies are the true aggressors. Therefore, it is said that such a chance comes, indeed, only to a lucky few. That a king must fight on such an occasion is vividly brought out in the Mahabharata.
32. Happy indeed are the KSHATRIYAS, O Partha, who are called to fight in such a battle, that comes of itself as an open-door to heaven.
As used here, Kshatriya is not the name of a caste. It merely indicates a certain quality of the mental vasanas in the individual. Those who have an ever-bubbling enthusiasm to defend the weak and the poor, besides their own national culture from all threats of aggression, are called Kshatriyas. Such leaders are not allowed to be tyrants and aggressors themselves, according to the
code of morality of the Hindus. But, at the same time, a cold, cowardly non-resistance is not the spirit of the tradition.
33. But, if you will not fight this righteous war, then, having abandoned your own duty and fame, you shall incur sin.
In case you refuse to engage yourself in this glorious war, then not only will you be renouncing your own “personal call-of-character” (Swadharma) and honour, in not having fulfilled your noble duty, but also incur sin.
Dharma, we have already explained, is the ‘law of being.’ Every living creature has taken up its form and has come into the world of objects for one great purpose, which is to gain an exhaustion of its existing mental impressions.
34. People too, will recount your everlasting dishonour; and to one who has been honoured, dishonour is more than death.
To a famous hero, dishonour is worse than death. This is another argument that Krishna brings forth, to persuade his friend to give up his hesitation in fighting the great war.
35. The great battalion commanders will think that you have withdrawn from the battle through fear; and you will be looked down upon by them who had thought much of you and your heroism in the past.
Continuing the common-man’s-point-of-view arguments, Krishna says here that not only will the world blame him and history recount his infamy, but immediately also, the great warriors and battalion commanders (Maharathas) in the enemy lines will start ridiculing him. They will laugh and say that the great archer Arjuna ran away from the battle-front because of sheer cowardice.
36. And many unspeakable words will your enemies speak cavilling about your powers. What can be more painful than this?
Lord Krishna building on his argument adds that it will be intolerable when his enemies scandalize his glorious name and his chivalry in foul language, too indecent even for words. Not only will history record for all times his cowardly retreat but even while he lives, he will be pointed out and laughed at as a ‘hero’ who ran away from the battle-field.
37. Slain, you will obtain heaven; victorious you will enjoy the earth; therefore, stand up, O son of Kunti, determined to fight.
meaning, for all the reasons so far enumerated, “Arise, resolved to fight.” Earlier, Arjuna, after expressing his feelings of grief and despair had sat inert and motionless throwing down his weapons. Krishna asks his friend to come out of this moodiness and dejection, “determined to fight” the noble war
38. Having made — pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat — the same, engage in battle for the sake of battle; thus you shall not incur sin.
In this stanza we have Krishna’s first direct statement on the technique of Self-Perfection and, as such, a very careful study of it is extremely fruitful to all students of the Geeta. Lord Krishna is re-iterating that Equanimity in all mental challenges is a factor that ensures true success in life. Arjuna was stricken with grief and in great doubt on fitting the battle, which would’ve meant fighting against ones own relatives. Lord Krishna while sharing the knowledge of the Upanishads is clarifying the doubt of Arjuna, with a clear message – to get up and fight without any attachment.
39. This, which has been taught to thee, is wisdom concerning SANKHYA. Now listen to the wisdom concerning YOGA, having known which, O Partha, you shall cast off the bonds-of-action.
What is so far taught consists of the “Sankhya,” meaning, “the logic of reasoning by which the true nature of the Absolute Reality is comprehended,” which can end for you all sorrows arising from grief, attachment and the like.
Krishna promises that hereafter he will try to explain the technique of attaining the wisdom (Buddhi), which is otherwise called Buddhi yoga — “devotion through work.”
40. In this there is no loss of effort, nor is there any harm (production of contrary results) . Even a little of this knowledge, even a little practice of the YOGA, protects one from the great fear.
41. Here, O Joy of the Kurus, Kurunandana, there is but a single-pointed determination; many-branched and endless are
the thoughts of the irresolute.
In Karma Yoga, which the Lord is now explaining, even the highest achievement of Self-realisation is possible because, there, the individual works with one resolute determination, with a single-pointed mind. Those who perform actions, labouring under endless desires for results, get their inner personality disintegrated, and with a shattered, thousand-pronged mind, they are not able, consistently, to apply themselves to any line of action; therefore, their endeavours invariably end in disastrous failure.
With a single-pointed mind, if an individual can entertain any single resolute determination and act consistently towards its success, achievement must certainly result. But invariably, the individual, victimized by his ego, entertains hundreds of desires, often mutually contradictory, and therefore, comes to play upon these fields with an impoverished and exhausted mental strength.
42. Flowery speech is uttered by the unwise, taking pleasure in the eulogising words of VEDAS, O Partha, saying, “There is nothing else. “
43. Full of desires, having heaven as their goal, they utter flowery words, which promise new birth as the reward of their
actions, and prescribe various specific actions for the attainment of pleasure and Lordship.
44. For, those who cling to joy and Lordship, whose minds are drawn away by such teaching, are neither determinate and
resolute nor are they fit for steady meditation and SAMADHI.
The ritualistic sections of the Vedas address those who are deeply attached to pleasure and power, whose discriminative power — the capacity to distinguish the Real from the Unreal — is stolen away from them, for they are concerned about the results and rewards of Karma.
Thus, as an expounder of the TRANSCENDENTAL and the INFINITE, Krishna is here laughing at those who mistake the means for the end; the ritualistic portion is the means and the Vedantic portion dealing with realisation through meditation is the end.
The Karma Kanda prepares the mind to a single-pointedness, when it is pursued without specific desires (Nishkama), and such a prepared mind alone is fit for steady contemplation over the Upanishadic declarations.
45. The VEDAS deal with the three attributes; be you above these three attributes (GUNAS) , O Arjuna, free yourself from the pairs-of-opposites, and ever remain in the SATTWA (goodness) , freed from all thoughts of acquisition and preservation, and be established in the Self.
The three inseparable gunas always remain in the inner constitution of every living creature, in varying proportions.
The purity, Sattwa, the subtlest of the three gunas, often becomes impure by its contact with attachments and the consequent agitations (Rajas) that attack the intellect with delusion and grief, and veil it from the right cognition of the Real Nature of things (Tamas). To be established in purity (Sattwa) would, therefore, mean keeping ourselves least agitated, and so, least deluded in our perceptions of
things and beings, and in our estimation of their true nature.
46. To the BRAHMANA who has known the Self, all the VEDAS are of so much use, as is a reservoir of water in a place
where there is flood everywhere.
Lord krishna in Geeta says, to a sincere student and seeker (Brahmana) who has “come to experience the Self” (Vijanatah) these ritualistic portions of the Vedas become useless inasmuch as the benefits that they can give are comprehended in the perfection that he
has come to live.
47. Thy right is to work only, but never to its fruits; let not the fruit-of-action be thy motive, nor let thy attachment be to inaction.
The traditional belief of Hinduism has not at all been shaken in the Geeta-theory that single-pointed, divine dedicated Karma, without desire for the fruits, shall bring about inner purification, which is a condition precedent to spiritual awakening. The Geeta only gives an exhaustive exposition of this idea to incorporate in it ALL activities in the social and personal life.
Earlier it has been indicated by Lord Krishna in the Geeta, through his Karma Yoga, was showing “the art of living and acting” in a
spirit of Divine inspiration. Here also we shall find, as we tussle with this idea in our attempt to digest it, that Krishna is advising Arjuna on the secret-art of living an inspired life.
In effect, therefore, Arjuna is advised: “All that is given to you now is to act and, having known the cause of action to be a noble one, to bring into the activity all that is best in you and forget yourself in the activity. Such inspired action is sure to bear fruit, and again, it has its own reward-spiritual.“
48. Perform action, O Dhananjaya, abandoning attachment, being steadfast in YOGA, and balanced in success and failure. Evenness of mind is called YOGA.
Note – Arjuna is referred to as Dhananjaya.
From this stanza onwards we have an exhaustive discussion of the technique of Karma Yoga as conceived by Krishna in his Doctrine of Action and expounded in Vyasa’s Geeta. A complete technique of how one can live the life of a truly inspired worker is explained here.
In this stanza, for the first time, the term Yoga has been used in the sense of the “evenness of mind” through work.
“Established thus in equanimity, renouncing all egocentric-attachments, forgetting to worry over the results of success or failure in the activities, act on,” — says, in effect, Krishna to Arjuna; and he adds that the great Yoga is to work thus with equipoise in all situations.
49. Far lower than the YOGA -of-wisdom is action, O Dhananjaya. Seek thou refuge in wisdom; wretched are they whose motive is the “fruit. “
Work done with a mind undisturbed by anxieties for the results is indeed superior to the work done by a dissipasted mind, ever worrying over the results.
50. Endowed with the Wisdom of evenness-of-mind, one casts off in this life both good deeds and evil deeds; therefore, devote yourself to YOGA, Skill in action is YOGA.
“Therefore, apply yourself,” advises Krishna, “to the devotion of action, Yoga.” In this context, again, Vyasa is giving a definition of Yoga, as he means it here. Earlier, he had already explained that “Evenness of mind is Yoga.” Now he re-writes the same definition more comprehensively and says, “Yoga is dexterity in action.”
51. The wise, possessed of knowledge, having abandoned the fruits of their actions, freed from the fetters of birth, go to the State which is beyond all evil.
Being a person of action, extremely intelligent, and having not yet developed any blind faith in Lord Krishna’s divine potentialities, Arjuna still questions mentally, and the Lord, anticipating his doubt, Krishna explains here why a person of true devotion to work should act, and with perfect evenness of mind strive to achieve. The wise, meaning those who know the art of true living, undertake all work, maintaining in themselves the full evenness of mind, and thus abandon all anxieties for the fruits of their actions.
By identifying with the agitations of the mind, the ego is born, and, the ego so born gets riddled with desires as it gets anxious for the fruits-of-its actions. When one works with neither ego nor desires, one achieves vasana-purgation; this is possible only when one always has the Higher Goal in view.
52. When your intellect crosses beyond the mire of delusion, then you shall attain to indifference as to what has been heard and what is yet to be heard.
When the intellect crosses over the morass of delusion, when it sloughs off its delusions, the stanza here assures Arjuna, that it will develop a disgust, “FOR ALL THAT IS ACTUALLY HEARD AND THAT IS YET TO BE HEARD.”
Here the term “WHAT IS YET TO BE HEARD” must be understood as a representative term standing for all “sense experiences that are yet to be experienced.”
In this stanza it is said that, once the intellect in us is purified through the art of steady-work, called ‘Devotion through Work,’ it becomes possible for it to peep over the veil of ignorance that separates it from the splendour of the Spiritual Entity.
53. When your intellect, though perplexed by what you have heard, shall stand immovable and steady in the Self, then you shall attain Self-realisation.
The mind gets agitated mainly due to the flooding-in of the ever-new rush of stimuli from the outer world. One is considered as having attained Yoga only when one, even in the midst of enjoying sensuous pleasures, and even while the sense-organs are letting in a flood of stimuli, does not get at all disturbed in one’s inner serenity and equipoise.
Now Arjuna is curious…
Arjuna said: 54. What, O Keshava, is the description of him who has steady Wisdom and who is merged in the Superconscious state? How does one of steady Wisdom speak, how does he sit, how does he walk?
The Blessed Lord said: 55. When a man completely casts off, O Partha, all the desires of the mind, and is satisfied in the Self by the Self, then is he said to be one of steady Wisdom.
An intellect, contaminated by ignorance becomes the breeding-ground of desires, and he who has relieved himself of this ‘Ignorance’ through ‘Right-Knowledge’ gained in Perception, naturally, becomes ‘desireless.’ By explaining here the absence of the EFFECT, the Lord is negating the existence of the CAUSE: where desires are not, there “ignorance” has ended, and “Knowledge” has already come to shine forth.
Desire means a capacity of the mind to see ahead of itself, a scheme or a pattern, in which he/she who desires will probably be more happy. “The wise-individual seems to lose even this capacity, as he goes beyond his/her intellect and experiences the Self,” — this is a criticism that is generally heard from the materialists.
This stanza cannot thus be condemned since it adds in its second line that the Perfect-One is “blissful” in his/her own experience of the Self. A Perfect man is defined here, therefore, not only as one who has no desires, but also as one who has positively come to enjoy the Bliss of the Self!
56. Whose mind is not shaken by adversity, and who in prosperity does not hanker after pleasures, who is free from
attachment, fear and anger, is called a Sage-of-Steady-Wisdom.
In describing the attributes of a Perfect Sage, having explained that he/she is one who has come to sacrifice all his petty desires, in his/her self-discovered self-satisfaction in the Self, Krishna explains that, another characteristic by which we can recognize a sage, is his/her EQUANIMITY IN PLEASURE AND PAIN.
57. Who is everywhere without attachment, on meeting with anything good or bad, who neither rejoices nor hates, his Wisdom is fixed.
58. When, like the tortoise which withdraws its limbs from all sides, he withdraws his senses from the sense-objects then his
Wisdom becomes steady.
After explaining that a Perfect-One is: (a) ever satisfied in the Self, (b) that he lives in perfect equanimity in pleasure and pain, and (c) that there is, in him, a complete absence of attachment to rejoicing or any aversion, it is here mentioned that an individual-of-Steady-Wisdom has the special knack of withdrawing his senses from all the disturbing ‘fields of objects.’ The simile used here is very appropriate.
Just as a tortoise can, even at the most distant suggestions of danger, instinctively withdraw all its limbs into itself, and feel safe within, a man-of-Perfection can consciously withdraw all his antennae that peep out through his five arches-of-knowledge, called the sense-organs.
This capacity in an individual to withdraw his senses at will from the fields-of-objects is called in Yoga Shastra as Pratyahara, which the Yogin accomplishes through the control-of-breath (Pranayama).
59. The objects of the senses turn away from the abstinent man leaving the longing (behind) ; but his longing also leaves him on seeing the Supreme.
But even though the sense-objects may, temporarily, seem to turn away from him who is abstinent, the deep taste for them, ingrained in his mind, is very difficult to erase completely. Here Krishna, in his Supreme Wisdom, assures the seeker that these mental impressions of
sensuous lives, lived in the past by the ego, from the beginning of creation to date, will all be totally erased, or at least made ineffective –when seeker transcends the ego and comes to experience the Self.
60. The turbulent senses, O son of Kunti, do violently carry away the mind of a wise-man, though he be striving (to control
61. Having restrained them all, he should sit steadfast, intent on Me; his Wisdom is steady, whose senses are under control.
Since the sense-organs are thus the saboteurs in the Kingdom of the Spirit that bring the disastrous downfall of the Empire of the Soul, Arjuna is warned here that, as a seeker of Self-perfection, he should constantly struggle to control his sense-organs and their mad lustful wanderings in their respective fields.
62. When a man thinks of objects, “attachment” for them arises; from attachment “desire” is born; from desire arises “anger” . . .
63. From anger comes “delusion” ; from delusion “loss of memory” ; from loss of memory the “destruction of discrimination” ; from destruction of discrimination, he “perishes. “
From this verse onwards, Lord Krishna explains in five noble stanzas, the Hindu psychological theory of the fall of man from Godhood. This is only to bring home to Arjuna that he, the mighty-armed, must try to conquer all his Indriyas from all sides. Such a man, concludes Krishna, is a-man-of-Perfection as conceived in and contemplated upon, as explained in and glorified by the scriptural books of the Hindus.
64. But the self-controlled man, moving among objects, with his senses under restraint, and free from both attraction and
repulsion, attains peace.
A Master-of-Wisdom, with perfect self-control, moves among the objects of the world with neither any special love, nor any particular aversion, for them.
65. In that peace all pains are destroyed; for, the intellect of the tranquil-minded soon becomes steady.
the Lord explains why he should develop and maintain tranquillity of the mind in himself. “IN TRANQUILLITY ALL SORROWS ARE DESTROYED.” This sentence is obviously commented upon as a definition of happiness. A peaceful mind is significant of happiness. PEACE IS HAPPINESS; HAPPINESS IS PEACE.
66. There is no knowledge (of the Self) to the unsteady; and to the unsteady no meditation; and to the unmeditative no peace; to the peaceless, how can there be happiness?
67. For, the mind, which follows in the wake of the wandering senses, carries away his discrimination, as the wind carries away a boat on the waters.
68. Therefore, O Mighty-armed, his knowledge is steady whose senses are completely restrained from sense-objects.
These are fairly self explanatory verses. Lord Krishna here again re-iterates the importance of restraining the mind from sense-objects and logically explains it in the above three verses.
Not restraining from Sense Objects -> Unsteady Mind -> Can’t Meditate -> No peace -> No Happiness
69 .That which is night to all beings, in that the self-controlled man keeps awake; where all beings are awake, that is the night for the Sage (MUNI) who sees.
70. He attains Peace into whom all desires enter as waters enter the ocean, which, filled from all sides, remains unmoved; but not the “desirer of desires.”
71. That individual attains peace who, abandoning all desires, moves about without longing, without the sense of ‘l-ness’ and ‘myness. ‘
72. This is the BRAHMIC -state, O Son of Pritha. Attaining this, none is deluded. Being established therein, even at the end of life, one attains to oneness with BRAHMAN
Lord Krishna in these verses only gives a more elaborate and complete commentary upon the opening line of this section where He started the description of an Indiviudal-of-Steady-Wisdom. There He explained that, “When an individual completely casts off all the desires in his mind, then he/she is said to be one of Steady-Knowledge.”