Gita Study: Class 23


Topics for today:

  1. Opening prayers and Gita Dhyanam
  2. Chapter 2 verses 19 and 20

 Highlights of today’s class:

Introduction to verses 19 and 20

  • Verses 19 and 20 of this chapter are restatements of two mantras of Kathopanishad.
  • The purpose of Krishna restating these mantras could be to demonstrate that the his teaching is in keeping with the teaching of the Vedas. Sruti (Veda) has greater authority and authenticity than Smruti (Gita).

Verse 2.19:

ya enam vetti hantaram yascainam manyate hatam | ubhau tau na vijanito nayam hanti na hanyate ||

  • In the prior verse we saw that atma is one, non-dual existence, when we were discussing that one atma dwells in all bodies. We noted that this point would be elaborated further in the course of Gita.
  • An extension of this point is that there is no subject-object division in atma. The notion of doership or kartrutva is an erroneous superimposition upon atma which is not really the doer.
  • Swamiji introduces “sarva-karma-sannyasa” and “karma-sannyasa” here which we will study in the 4th and 5th chapters in more detail. Briefly stated, “karma-sannyasa” means giving up of certain actions such as the vedic rituals prescribed for house-holders, which one does when taking up sannyasa asrama. In this life-style, certain actions are given up but not necessarily the notion of doership. By contrast, in “sarva-karma-sannyasa“, the notion of doership is entirely given up through proper assimilation of the knowledge of oneself being non-doing atma. Actions may still be performed through the body-mind-sense complex but doership is not attributed to one’s self, the atma.
  • In this verse, Kathopanishad and Lord Krishna say that one who considers oneself to be the doer of an action as well as the one who considers oneself as the object of another’s action – both of them do not know the truth. The truth is that one is neither the actor nor an object of another’s action. As an example the action of killing is mentioned here. One who thinks that he or she can kill does not know one’s true identity. Similarly one who thinks that he or she is subject to being killed also does not know one’s true identify. Killing or being killed is not there in atma. More generally, acting and being acted upon are not there in atma. If they are attributed to atma it is only due to ignorance.
  • The reason for picking the action of killing as an example is two-fold. Firstly, the context in Gita being a battle, the action that Arjuna was faced with was killing people. Secondly, killing is a specific action that is considered the most unbecoming. By taking it as an illustration and understanding the nature of doership involved in killing, the nature of doership with regard to all other actions becomes easy to appreciate. This is called prathama-malla-nyaya, a type of logic which says that in order to become the world champion in wrestling, all one has to do is to fight with and defeat the prevailing world champion. One need not fight and defeat all other people of the world. Similarly by taking the most extreme example and addressing it, all lesser examples get addressed.

Verse 2.20:

na jayate mriyate va kadachinnayam bhutvabhavita va na bhuyah | ajo nityah sasvato’yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sarire ||

  • In this verse Krishna shows that atma does not undergo any vikriyas or changes. The idea of doership or being an object of an action, implies undergoing a change. Without undergoing an iota of change, no actor can perform an action. Similarly one cannot be said to be an object of an action if one does not undergo even an iota of change. Physical changes or changes in energy are involved in actions. Atma undergoes no change whatsoever.
  • First, atma na jayate. Atma is not born at any point of time.
  • Next, atma na mriyate. Atma does not die at any point of time.
  • Then, atma bhutva na punah abhavita bhavati. It is also not that having been in existence it would come to an end again.
  • Atma is ajah, having no birth.
  • Atma is nityah, eternal, not limited by time.
  • Atma is sasvatah, always the same. [When both nitya and sasvata are used, the distinction between them is that, nitya could be unlimited by time but still be undergoing changes – for example, jagat has a type of nityatvam called pravaha nityatvam, it is always there but also always changing. Whereas sasvata reveals that atma does not undergo any change]
  • Atma is puranah, ever-fresh. [purana means that which is ancient, yet fresh to this day. “pura api navah iti puranah”]
  • Hanyamane sarire atma na hanyate. When the body is destroyed, atma does not get destroyed.
  • Birth and death are two changes mentioned in this verse as representatives for all types of changes. There are 6 types of changes or vikaras or vikriyas in objects of the world such as the human body. They are – jayate (takes birth), asti (exists), vardhate (grows), viparinamate (undergoes certain modifications), apakshiyate (declines) and vinasyati (dies). Atma has none of these vikriyas.

om tat sat


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