Śrī-bhagavān uvāca means “The Supreme Personality of Godhead said”.
Bhagavān is how Lord Krishna is addressed by Srimad Bhagavad Gita. It means one who has the six opulences, namely Wealth, Strength, Fame, Beauty, Knowledge and Renunciation, unlimitedly. If you read the list carefully, you will see that almost all so-called celebrities of this world are known for having the opulences stated above, one or more at any time. But even they do not compare to Bhagavān, who is the Lord of everything that is and has all the opulence in unlimited quantity.
In my last article, we saw how Arjuna is overcome by grief and refuses to take up arms against his kinsmen. Being such a ‘nice person’, one would have thought that Lord Krishna, as God, would have been very happy and said “Arjuna, I am so proud of you! You are non-violent! That’s just great!”
Did he? NO. Krishna, in fact, scolds Arjuna in the strongest of words. Here it is, Bhagavad Gita Chapter 02, verse 2-3:
kutas tvā kaśmalam idaḿ
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the value of life. They lead not to higher planets but to infamy.
klaibyaḿ mā sma gamaḥ pārtha
naitat tvayy upapadyate
O son of Pṛthā, 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.
I do not think that Krishna’s words need any explanation here.
Arjuna is shocked! He asks Krishna how can he encourage slaying men worthy of worship, being his teachers. He declares it’s better to live of begging than to live at the cost of these great souls. Then he accepts that he is confused with miserly weakness and that he is now Krishna’s disciple and then requests Krishna to dispel his grief. Then he says “Govinda, I shall not fight” and became silent.
What comes next is a very, very important section of Bhagavad Gita. The Supreme Lord begins his instruction to his surrendered devotee. Since his instructions carry the essence of the entire Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 02 is termed as a summary of the contents of the Bhagavad Gita. This will be quite a long article if I were to address all the instructions, so I will summarize on the main topics that are being addressed.
Lord Krishna begins with the explanation of the soul or atma by reprimanding Arjuna and calling him unwise for speaking like a learned man (because he made so many emotional arguments) but grieving for things that don’t deserve grief and also that the wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead. The very next statement he makes to Arjuna on this topic is this:
na tv evāhaḿ jātu nāsaḿ
na tvaḿ neme janādhipāḥ
na caiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ
sarve vayam ataḥ param
“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” – BG2.12
This statement is a damning rebuttal of the theory which states that all souls merge in to the brahma-jyoti, losing their identity, and also of the theory where individuality is said to be an effect of illusion or Maya. In a way, it also is a statement that refutes the theory of evolution, where life is proclaimed to come from matter and has no purpose or prior or future existence. The next statement explains the core principle of Transmigration of the Soul:
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraḿ yauvanaḿ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” – BG2.13
So, what are the characteristics of this spirit soul? In Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, verses 16-25, this is described clearly. A spirit soul is eternal, indestructible, cannot be cut in to pieces, cannot be burnt by fire, cannot be moistened by water or withered by wind, immutable, invisible and inconceivable.
And so, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna that he shouldn’t lament for the person who dies, since it’s only the body that is slain. After that, Krishna explains why Arjuna must fight, by telling how people would speak ill of Arjuna if he didn’t do his duty, and how the generals would think him to be weak. Krishna also begins talking about how Arjuna should do his duty for the sake of doing it, without considering the result. This, Lord Krishna says, would let Arjuna avoid sin.
He also conveys to Arjuna that what he has heard till now was only from the analytical point of view. So, Krishna begins explaining the same principles in terms of working without fruitive results. It is in this section he speaks the famous verse 47 in Chapter 02 (made popular, thanks to the Mahabharata serial on TV and countless pseudo-philosophers who claim this as the essence of Bhagavad Gita)
karmaṇy evādhikāras te
mā phaleṣu kadācana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr
mā te sańgo ‘stv akarmaṇi
“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.”
The Acharyas explain that the Lord is talking about prescribed duties here, but we normally, wrongly, take this to mean that Krishna is talking about day to day mundane activities. So, one must do his prescribed duty, without attachment to success or failure. Allow me to deal in this a bit more. Lord Krishna does not say here that results are to be ignored or that we should carry out our duties carelessly. Since the Supreme Lord is the proprietor of everything, he owns the results too. We must understand that our self is just one of the five factors that influence action. This is from Chapter 18, verse 14.
adhiṣṭhānaḿ tathā kartā
karaṇaḿ ca pṛthag-vidham
vividhāś ca pṛthak ceṣṭā
daivaḿ caivātra pañcamam
“The place of action [the body], the performer, the various senses, the many different kinds of endeavor, and ultimately the Supersoul — these are the five factors of action.”
So, unless the results are dedicated to the Supreme Lord, Krishna, then that work causes bondage and suffering. How we should understand this is simply that as a spirit soul, we have to be engaged in activity. We have capacity for work and are intermediate causes, but material nature creates result and it is controlled by Lord Krishna. This is mentioned in Chapter 09, verse 10.
“This material nature, which is one of My energies, is working under My direction, O son of Kuntī, producing all moving and nonmoving beings. Under its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.”
So, we don’t really have a claim over results which are actually created by something which is not under our control. If we align our freewill through actions based on the Lord’s instructions, it does not cause any bondage.
One other important point to be noted from Krishna’s response is how he explains the root cause of all problems. Let’s hear it from him directly, shall we?
Lord Krishna says in Chapter 02, verses 62-64:
“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises. From anger, complete delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost one falls down again into the material pool. But a person free from all attachment and aversion and able to control his senses through regulative principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Lord.”
So, Lord Krishna declares that attachment and the lust that arises from it to be the real problem. The senses must be engaged in some real activity, and if they are not used in the service of the Supreme Lord, then they will be engaged in service of materialism. But for a person who is devoid of attachment or aversion and follows the regulative principles properly, he can achieve the highest state of becoming conscious of the Supreme Lord. Artificial renunciation won’t help when the desire to enjoy is still present in the mind and even the slightest agitation of the mind will pull down a person who is even on the verge of the ‘liberation’ often spoken about as the goal of life.
I will end this article with one of the verses which has influenced me in my personal life very much. Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 02, verse 66:
nāsti buddhir ayuktasya
na cāyuktasya bhāvanā
na cābhāvayataḥ śāntir
aśāntasya kutaḥ sukham
“One who is not connected with the Supreme [in Kṛṣṇa consciousness] can have neither transcendental intelligence nor a steady mind, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?”
This relates directly to how I started writing this sequence of articles, on request from our very own Lakshmi Rajan. I started off by saying everyone wants to be happy, forever. And above is the clear solution to that! Without the mind being peaceful, there can be no happiness. And for the mind to be peaceful, one must be on the devotional platform.
So, how does Arjuna respond to Lord Krishna and what question he put forth to the Lord? What does Lord Krishna say about Karma Yoga? These I will address in the next article, which should be ready by early next week.
This completes the brief summary of Chapter 02 of Srimad Bhagavad Gita. I have tried to compress the whole chapter of 72 verses in to less than 1800 words. So if I have missed out on any important aspects or given incomplete explanations, it is only due to my fault and oversight, for which I pray forgiveness and understanding from my teachers as well as the readers. Please do not hesitate to ask for any clarification as required and I will try to clarify to the best of my ability.