Gita Study: Class 29


Topics for today:

  1. Opening prayers and Gita Dhyanam
  2. Chapter 2 verses 42 to 46

 Highlights of today’s class:

Verse 2.42

yamimam puspitam vacam pravadantyavipascitah | vedavadaratah partha nanyadastiti vadinah ||

  • In this verse as well as the coming few verses, Krishna talks about those who do not have clarity with regard to the end to be accomplished in life. Such people are called avipascits meaning, those who do not see clearly. These are not people who are ignorant of sastra; rather they have studied Vedas and believe in their veracity. However they missed the most important teaching of the Vedas namely atmajnana, self-knowledge.
  • They are vedavadaratahs, that is, they argue about the supremacy of karmas enjoined in the Vedas. Even though jnana-kanda is part of the Vedas, for them karma-kanda is the main focus and therefore the word vedavadaratahs here stands for karma-kanda-vadaratahs.
  • The karma-kanda portion of the Vedas deals with numerous means and ends which help a seeker of those ends to accomplish them. The ends being going to heaven, acquiring wealth, progeny, etc. The vedavadaratahs mentioned in this verse claim that this subject of means and ends is all there is, there is nothing other than karma.
  • Further they speak flowery words, puspitam vacham, that are pleasing to hear, in support of their argument.
  • Such people and their motivations are described in the next verse.

Verse 2.43

kamatmanah svargaparah janmakarmaphalapradam | kriyavisesabahulam bhogaisvaryagatim prati ||

  • Continuing from prior verse, such avipascits are kamatmanah, meaning they are full of desires. They are svargaparah, meaning they are committed to svarga or heaven being the most desirable end.
  • Such people speak words promoting many and varied karmaskriyaviseshabahulam, aimed at attaining pleasure and power – bhogaisvaryagatim prati.
  • Another important characteristic of such karmas is given here. Karmas (those not done as Karma Yoga) are janmakarmaphalapradam, that is, they are givers of results in the form of rebirths. Karma-phala is in the form of a rebirth in superior or inferior plane of existence to experience appropriate karma-phala. Therefore seeking karma-phala is nothing but seeking rebirths. punarapi jananam, punarapi maranam.

Verse 2.44

bhogaisvaryaprasaktanam tayapahrtacetasam | vyavasayatmika buddhi samadhau na vidhiyate ||

  • In people whose minds are robbed away (apahrtacetasam) by the above-mentioned flowery words (pushpitam vacham), whose pursuit is exclusively for pleasure and power (bhogaisvaryaprasaktanam), there will be no dawn of clear understanding (vyavasayatmika buddhi na vidhiyate).
  • The word ‘samadhi‘ has several meanings in Sanskrit. Depending on the context the correct meaning has to be understood. In this verse samadhi means antah karana or mind. ‘In samadhi‘ is ‘samadhau‘ 7th case first person.

Verse 2.45

traigunyavisaya veda nistraigunyo bhavarjuna | nirdvandvo nityasattvastho niryogaksema atmavan ||

  • Continuing from prior verse, for those people who do not have vyavasayatmika buddhi, or clear understanding of the purpose of life being moksha through atmajnana, the Vedas appear to be the subject dealing with the three gunas of samsara.
  • All means and ends stem from desires and the need to fulfill them. These desires and their fulfillment are nothing but mental modifications, which are driven by the three gunas of prakriti namely, sattva, rajas and tamas.
  • All transactions in the world are prompted by these three gunas of prakriti. They create, support and perpetuate samsara. The goal of atmajnana is to be free from the bondage of samsara. But people without clear understanding of this purpose take the Vedas to be nothing more than dealing with samsara alone.
  • Contrasting with such people, Krishna then tells Arjuna what he wants Arjuna to be like. He says, “Arjuna, you be a nistraigunyah, nirdvandvah, nityasattvasthah, niryogakshemah and an atmavan.”
  • Nistraigunyah means one who is free from the three gunas of samsara. atmajnana frees one from the gunas of samsara. Sankara translates nistraigunyah to nishkamah, meaning one who is free from desires.
  • Nirdvandvah means one who is free from the dualities. Dualities are in the form of sukha-duhkha, pleasure-pain, labha-alabha, gain-loss, jaya-ajaya, victory-defeat, etc. By not being dependent on situations that cause these dualities, one becomes free from their clutches.
  • Nityasattvasthah means one whose mind is ever established in sattva guna. When sattva guna is predominant, there is composure, discrimination, enquiry and knowledge.
  • Niryogakshemah means one who is free from the urges of acquisition and protection. Yoga is apraptasya praptih, acquisition of something that is not yet acquired. Kshema is praptasya rakshanam, protection of what has been acquired. A person’s problems are always related to either yoga or kshema. As long as one is engrossed in such yoga and kshema, there will be no space to pursue moksha.
  • Atmavan means one who is an alert, together person, whose body, mind and senses are within one’s control.

Verse 2.46

yavanartha udapane sarvatah samplutodake | tavan sarvesu vedesu brahmanasya vijanatah ||

  • Introducing this verse, Sankara presents a potential question that may arise in Arjuna’s mind after listening to Krishna’s instruction to him to be “nistraigunyah, nirdvandvah, nityasattvasthah, niryogakshemah, atmavan“. The doubt may be, “Krishna, if you want me to not expect results that accrue due to doing karma, then why must I do any karma at all?”
  • As though in reply to this anticipatory question, Krishna gives this verse, wherein he shows  that the benefit of jnana doesn’t deny him the benefit of karma; rather jnana gives limitless benefit whereas karma only gives limited benefit. And in order to gain qualification necessary to acquire jnana, doing karma as karma yoga is necessary.
  • Krishna encourages Arjuna to go beyond those parts of the Vedas that deal only with samsara. He does so by comparing and contrasting the results attained by jnana to the results attained by karma using a beautiful simile.
  • When there is a flood of water all around then what is the purpose served by the water in a well, Krishna asks? There are two important take-aways from this illustration:
    1. There is no purpose served by the limited amount of water in a limited well when there is limitless water everywhere. For a jnani who knows the self to be limitless ananda, ever secure and happy, there is no purpose served in pursuing karmas which yield limited ananda, limited security and happiness.
    2. Whatever purpose could be served by the limited amount of water in a limited well is also encompassed in the limitless water available everywhere. In the limitless ananda enjoyed by a jnani, all the limited ananda, limited security and happiness which are results of pursuing karma are already encompassed.
  • Sankara here concludes saying, even though karmas give results that are limited like the water in a well when there is water everywhere around, yet until you are fit to be established in jnana nishta, you must perform karmas as an offering unto Ishwara.

om tat sat


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