Saankhya Yogah: The Yoga of Knowledge
We have seen the dejection of Arjuna and his determination not to wage the war. Since Bhagavan Krishna has discovered that the deep-rooted delusion and grief of Arjuna cannot be removed without the knowledge of reality, He immediately starts His discourse on the immortality of the Soul with a virtual smile on His face,
In that moment of depression, the sinking heart of Arjuna heard the Divine voice of Krishna. Krishna’s virtual smile indicates that he saw through Arjuna’s attempt at rationalization of what is now known as wishful thinking.
Krishna starts the sermon of the Gita by stating that
The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead.
The Self within is eternal, indestructible.
The bodies enveloping the Self are ephemeral. They have a beginning and an end.
Death is certain for the born and birth for the dead.
Beings constantly pass through the repeated stages of unmanifest, manifest and again unmanifest. So why grieve over the inevitable?
The indwelling Self remains eternally the same.
The 2nd Chapter is considered as the epitome of all that stands for in the Gita.
THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE SELF AND THE BODY:
WE SHOULD NOT GRIEVE FOR WHAT IS IMPERISHABLE.
sri bhagavaan uvaacha
ashochyaan anvashochastwam prajnaavaadaamshcha bhaashase
gataasoon agataasoomshcha naanushochanti panditaah // 2.11 //
Sri Bhagavan said
You grieve for those who are not to be grieved for; and yet you speak words of wisdom! The learned do not grieve for the departed and those who have not departed.
There are four propositions in this verse. 1.Arjuna is grieving 2. He is grieving for those not to be grieved for. 3. He speaks the words of the wise though he is not so, and 4. The wise do not grieve for the living or for the dead.
Let us have a closer look at these statements.
1. The cause for Arjuna’s suffering and distress is because when he looked at his relatives, friends and teachers lined up on the opposite side, the feeling of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ became very strong in him, the central point being the sense of ‘I.’ A man is grieved when he categorizes some objects or persons as his own and some others as not his own. This sense of mine and not-mine – attachment for things considered as one’s own and indifference for things considered as not one’s own – is called ego which is the source of all grief, worry, fear and confusion. Rediscovering oneself to be really higher than one’s ego is the end of all sorrows arising out of false identification or relationship.
So Krishna went to the bottom of this grief, sorrow, misery and suffering and explained that a wise man does not have the sense of ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’. Such a man is not bound by any tie or attachment of any kind.
2. Here the phrase ‘those not to be grieved for’ refers to Bhishma and Drona.Why they are not to be grieved for? It is because they are beyond the sense of attachment and the feeling of “I’ ‘my’ and ‘mine’. That is the reason why they are on the side of the Kaurava army despite the Pandavas being equally dear to them. They are aware of the difference between the real and the unreal, the soul and the body respectively. They are wise because they have realized the eternal reality behind the phenomenal changes and therefore do not grieve at the decay and death of the finite and the mortal in the form of the physical bodies.
When we go to the sea shore we do not grieve over each wave that rises and dissolves for we know that they are unreal and the real thing is the water in the waves. Waves are like the physical bodies which appear and disappear while the indweller of the body, the self or soul is like the water. Those who have realized this eternal truth have no sorrow for the change they perceive in the world of happenings.
Thus both real and unreal are not to be grieved at as the real is imperishable and therefore should not be grieved for. The unreal is bound to perish, as it is perishing at every moment, so it should not also be grieved at. It follows that Arjuna’s grief over the bodies of his relatives getting perished is misplaced and is the consequence of his ignorance, lack of right knowledge, avidya although his words apparently look wise which in fact they are not. Hence Krishna says that he is grieving for those who should not be grieved for.
What Krishna means is “Arjuna, Look at those standing before you not as human beings; look at them as the souls (atman) and the soul is immortal; you cannot kill the soul if you have the real knowledge”. The idea is, “You are sorrowing for those who are eternal in the real sense, and therefore who are not to be grieved for. Hence you are a fool”.
“The wise do not mourn for the dead or for the living,” says Krishna to Arjuna. Why? Because there are no “living” or “dead” in the sense that those with bodies are alive and those divested of a body are dead. Nor is there such a duality called life and death. These are only the illusions produced by the distorting veils of ignorance. “Lead me from death to immortality” is not a petition to gain a state where we will nevermore experience bodily death, but a plea to be led from the outward-turned consciousness that produces death to the inward-turned consciousness that produces life. It is spirit itself that is immortality–nothing else.
In order to remedy this myopic view of Arjuna, Krishna administered the strongest medicine of the Knowledge of the Self to him at the very first stroke from the 11th verse of this chapter which is considered as the key verse of the Gita. All the subsequent teachings are an elaboration of the principle laid down in this verse.
He advised Arjuna to renounce his physical, emotional and intellectual estimate of his grand-sire and teacher and to re-evaluate the situation from his spiritual understanding whereby his problem at the battlefield would vanish.
na twevaaham jaatu naasam na twam neme janaadhipaah
na chaiva na bhavishyaamah sarve vayam atah param // 2.12 //
It is not that I did not exist before, nor you nor these kings. Nor is it that we shall cease to exist in future.
There are two things in the world, the soul which is real and the body which is unreal. Both of these are not to be grieved for because the soul never ceases to be and the body is ever perishable. Thus Sri Krishna speaks here of the immortality of the Self or the soul. The Self exists in the three periods of time – past, present and future.
He declares that the embodied soul in every one identifies itself with varied forms temporarily to gain preordained experiences. Neither Krishna himself nor Arjuna nor the other kings who have assembled in the battlefield are mere accidental happenings nor shall they cease to exist in future. It is not that they came from nowhere nor at their death they become nothing or non-existent. The soul remaining the same, it gets apparently conditioned by different body equipments and comes to live through its self-ordained environments.
All the living creatures existed before their birth; they exist now and would exist even after the disappearance of their present bodies. A man experiences his existence before sleep, after sleep and during sleep. While his existence is continuous, his body is changing every moment and ultimately perishes one day. Thus existence is beyond time while biological body is bound by time and space. Waves arise, they play and die away. But the ocean ever remains the same.
Prior to the pot, in the pot and after the pot it was only the mud or clay which has continuous existence. Just as the destruction of a pot does not lead to the destruction of clay, so also destruction of the physical body does not lead to destruction of the Soul. Therefore, Arjuna should not grieve for his relatives out of fear of their destruction.
IMMUTABLE CHARACTER OF THE SOUL
dehino’smin yathaa dehe kaumaaram yauvanam jaraa
tathaa dehaantara praaptir dheeras tatra na mhuhyati // 2.13 //
Just as in this body the embodied self passes into childhood, youth and old age, so also does he pass into another body; calm man does not grieve at it.
Embodied self means the soul assuming a physical body. Calm man means he who has Self-Knowledge and does not grieve at it means that he does not grieve at death.
In the progress of growth of the body, childhood dies when youth is born and youthhood dies when the old age sets in. Even when childhood or youthhood no longer remains at the old age, man remembers his early days fairly well. Thus `something’ is common throughout the various stages of growth which could remember the past experiences and none feels unhappy about these changes.
For the SELF in this body, as is obtaining the change in the experiences of childhood, youth and old age, so also is the change in the experiences on obtaining another body. A wise person is not confused or overpowered by such change in experiences.
Let us understand this statement properly. The Indweller – The self in one’s body is the same in one’s childhood, youth and old age; similarly, on obtaining another body, the Indweller in that new body also is the same self or atman.
Childhood, youth and old age are only with respect to one’s physical body. The SELF, without undergoing any change, remains the same in all the three stages of bodily experiences. It is the same atman which is the Indweller in any new body one may assume later, after the present body falls. There can never be a time when atman is not there. Thus at all times, “I am” does not change, but “what I am” may change. A wise person is not confused or overpowered by such changes. If one thinks that “I” changes from “childhood I” to “youth I” to “old-age I” and to another “I” in another body, one must simply ask oneself the question who is “That I” who recognizes all these changes in “I”s. That “I” – That Recognizer I – That Seer I – “That Knower – I” is indeed atman, The SELF which is Eternal – All-pervading, and is never subject to change.
The Self does not die at the cessation of the childhood stage nor is it born again at the commencement of the youth stage and so also with the next stage of the old age. As the Self passes unchanged from one stage of the physical body into another stage so it passes unchanged from one body into another. As one does not grieve for the body when it passes through childhood, youth and old age, similarly one should not worry or get himself deluded over when the soul passes over to another body at physical death. Thus birth and death are spoken of with regard to the physical body and not the soul.
At the moment of death, there is no extinction of the individual. The embodied ego of the dead body (the subtle and causal bodies) leaves its previous structure and according to vasanas or mental impressions gained during its embodiment it gets itself identified with another physical body where it can express itself completely and seek its perfect fulfillment.
Now Arjuna may say: Well Krishna, all this talk about atman is interesting. It is nice to know that all of us are in fact eternal, and atman is ananda svarupa, Atma is All-Happiness. I have not experienced That Atma yet. Our scriptures say so; you say so; I accept all that to be true. But that does not help me much just now. The ups and downs of daily life do create pain and sorrow. This is common experience. Whether it is justified or not, it is still a fact that I am suffering from sorrow and distress at this time. Please tell me how I must handle this situation. Anticipating such a request from Arjuna, Bhagavan says:
maatraa sparshaastu kaunteya sheetoshna sukha dukhadaah
agamaapaayinonityaas taamstitikshaswa bhaarata //2.14 //
The contacts of the 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 descendent of Bharata (Arjuna).
Objects are perceived not by the sense organs viz. skin, ear, eye, nose and tongue but through them. The sense organs are the channels through which the perceiving-ego gathers the knowledge of the objects such as touch, sound, form, smell and taste. If this process of perceiver contacting the objects through sense organs does not take place the objects as such can not bring any response or reaction in any individual.
The object remaining the same it can give different experiences to the same individual at different times or at the same time to different individuals. Cold is pleasant at one time and unpleasant at another. Heat is pleasant in winter and not in summer. Food is welcome to a hungry person but not to the one who just finished his lunch. So the sense contacts that give rise to feelings of heat and cold, pleasure and pain, favorable and unfavorable experiences come and go. They are therefore impermanent in nature, giving pleasure at one moment and pain at another. One should bear all the pairs of opposites patiently and thus develop a balanced state of mind. Do not give yourself to joy or grief on their account.
Joys and sorrows are all responses of the mind to the conducive and non-conducive world around us. They are but mental reactions – thoughts. Learn to be observer of these emotions rather than get identified with them. Do not react but reflect. Stand apart – be aloof in yourself – be just an uninterested witness to the tumults of the mind. This attitude gives poise and balance.
The pairs of opposites like heat and cold are impermanent as distinguished from the Permanent Self, the Indweller. Actually there is no affinity between the Self and the unreal pairs of opposites. But it assumed this affinity which can be rooted out only when we cease to accept it. A woman bereaved of her husband say fifty years ago, and if anyone called her as the wife of her husband Mr. so and so she becomes alert and feels sad even today. It shows that the assumed affinity has not yet broken off which means that though the objects are lost, yet the assumed affinity persists which continues to cause anguish. The more one is able to distance oneself with this assumed affinity and identifies himself with the permanent Self, the less one is affected by the agreeable and disagreeable conditions of life.
Mere knowledge of agreeable and disagreeable senses is not bad. But attachment with and aversion to them is a fault. Not to be affected by such an evil is expressed by the term ‘endure them’. Moreover, body, the sense organs and their actions have a beginning and an end. But the perceiver, the ‘I” never changes and therefore we should remain unaffected by such transitory and fleeting experiences which is called ‘endurance’.
WHAT GOOD COMES TO HIM WHO ENDURES THESE DESIRABLE AND UNDESIRABLE SITUATIONS?
yam hi na vyathayantyete purusham purusharshabha
samaduhkha sukham dheeram so’mritatwaaya kalpate // 2.15 //
That calm man who remains unchanged in pain and pleasure, whom these cannot disturb, alone is able, O greatest amongst men, to attain immortality.
Titiksha or the power of endurance of the pairs of opposites advocated here does not mean a meek submission to sorrows in life (Stoic philosophy) but signifies the equipoise of mind in both pleasure and pain entertained by a wise man based on the knowledge of the Soul’s immortality.
Endurance, coupled with the discrimination between the real and the unreal and detachment from the worldly objects and pleasures, prepares the aspirant for right knowledge, which alone leads to liberation.
Vedanta defines endurance as the bearing of all afflictions without wishing to redress them, while being free from all anxiety or regret on their account.
This perfect sameness or equanimity amidst the ills of life means full and unbroken consciousness of our oneness with the immortal Self. At that stage a person becomes fit for attaining immortality or knowledge of Self – the ultimate goal of life. Immortality means the infinite experience of the Eternal and the Permanent. Eternal life does not mean survival of death, but it is the transcendence of life and death.
HOW THE SOUL IS ETERNAL AND HOW THE CONTACTS WITH SENSORY OBJECTS ARE TRANSITORY? THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE REAL AND THE UNREAL. ADDITIONAL EXPLANATIONS.
naasato vidyate bhaavo naabhaavo vidyate satah
ubhayorapi drishto’ntastwanayos tattwadarshibhih // 2.16 //
The unreal has no existence. The Real never ceases to be (never ceases to exist). Men possessed of the knowledge of the Truth fully know both these.
This verse indicates that the mental tranquility can accrue only through right interpretation of life. Right interpretation of life involves knowing what is Real and what is un-Real. The distinction between these two is dealt with here.
The Real is that which has no change and remains the same in all periods of time – past, present and future. It always is. The unreal is that which does not remain the same for two successive moments. Whatever did not exist in the past or will not exist in the future cannot really exist in the present. That which is not in the beginning and which will not be in the end, but which seemingly exists in the present is called un-Real. Any object conditioned by the law pf cause and effect is not absolutely real because every effect is a change brought about by a cause and every cause is temporary.
The life is finite. The body changes every moment, mind evolves and intellect grows with the passage of time. Each change in the body for example from childhood to youth and from youth to old age results in the constant death to its previous state. Body, mind and intellect constitute the continuous succession of the changes and all of them cannot be real. A thing which never remains the same for any given period is un-Real. The whole of the phenomenal world must be unreal because no one state in it endures even for a fraction of the time.
But there must be some real entity behind these changes. For the changes to take place there must be some changeless substratum just as a river bed is necessary for the rivers to flow. In order to hold together innumerable experiences at the levels of body, mind and intellect and to give them a cohesive whole which is called life, a changeless substratum is required for all.
That something which remains unchanged all through the changes is The Real and it is nothing other than the Self in all, the Pure Awareness, and Consciousness. What is changing must be unreal and what is constant must be real. When the soul is overpowered by ignorance, the un-Real which is the names and forms of the phenomenal world, veils the unchanging reality – the Atman, Consciousness – which is for ever manifest and which is not conditioned by causality. This Self is the unchanging Witness of the changes in the relative world as in the case of the river bed and a flowing river.
This Awareness by which one becomes conscious of things in one’s life – because of which one is considered alive, but for which one will have no existence in the given embodiment – That Spiritual Entity, Eternal, All Pervading, Unborn and Undying, the One Changeless factor is the Infinite in him. And this is the Atman, Consciousness which is the Real.
Therefore the men of knowledge and wisdom have known the implications of these – the Real and the Un-Real, the Self and the Non-Self, which in combination is called the world.
Embedding this exposition into the practical world, we notice that Arjuna is grieved by thinking that the warriors will die. So, the Lord explains that the real never dies and the unreal never exists as it is continuously dying (changing). Therefore it is not wise to grieve.
WHAT THEN IS THAT WHICH IS ALWAYS REAL ?
avinaashi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idam tatam
vinaasham avyayasyaasya na kaschit kartum arhati // 2.17 //
Know `That’ to be indestructible, by whom all this is pervaded. None can cause the destruction of That, the Imperishable.
‘That’ is Brahman or the unchangeable Consciousness. It is the self of all. It is The Real that envelops everything that exists. It is the very substance of all the world of perceptions, the world of names and forms, which we experience. Brahman is the Witness and the innermost essence of the changeable world.
Different mud pots have different names and shapes depending upon the things they contain or the purposes for which they are made use of. Yet all of them are permeated with the same stuff i.e. mud without which no pot can exist. All the pots come from mud exist in mud and when they are destroyed all their forms and names merge back in mud. So the mud is The Reality holding all pots together.
So too, the world of finite objects and changes is enveloped by The Real, the Changeless Brahman. Sri Krishna says that there is no possibility of this Real ever getting destroyed at all. Destruction of an object is caused by the loss of its parts as in the case of the body or by the loss of something belonging to it. As Brahman is without parts and is One without a second, there is no question of its destruction.
The immutable Consciousness or Atman in the individual is the same as the all pervading Consciousness or Brahman in the universe.
The idea here is that while the soul is imperishable, the body is perishable and is perishing every day. Nobody can check the process of such destruction. Whether Arjuna wages the war or withdraws from it, the imperishable cannot be destroyed and the perishable cannot be saved from destruction.
WHAT IS THE UNREAL WHOSE NATURE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE?
antavanta ime dehaa nityasyoktaah shareerinah
anaashino’prameyasya tasmaad yudhyaswa bhaarata // 2.18 //
Only the bodies, of which this eternal, imperishable, and incomprehensible Self is the indweller, are said to have an end. Therefore, O descendent of Bharata (Arjuna) fight.
Arjuna’s grief which deters him from his duty is born of ignorance as to the true nature of the soul. Hence Sri Bhagavan’s persisted attempts to illumine him on the subject.
The physical body may be injured or destroyed by illness or death. The Self is subject to neither of these. The Self is said to be incomprehensible because it is not comprehended by the senses, by the mind, or by any other instrument of knowledge. The self is svatah-siddha, determined by Itself. Being the knowing Consciousness, It cannot be known by any other instrument. Everything is known by the Self just as no other light is required the see the light of the Sun which is self-effulgent.
Here the earlier advice about the Permanent and Non-Permanent is repeated with an added call to Arjuna to fight. Krishna is not really commanding Arjuna to fight as it is commonly understood. Arjuna, following his Dharma, had come to the battlefield to fight. He refused to fight on account of his erroneous perception of the true nature of the soul and the body. The efforts of the Lord are towards removing this unawareness and leave him to do what he (Arjuna) considers to be right.
This is really not a command to fight but a call to Arjuna and through him to all of us to discard the defeatist mentality and face whole heartedly and sincerely all the situations in every field of activity at any given moment of existence in life.
IT IS IGNORANCE TO THINK THAT THE SOUL IS CAPABLE OF KILLING OR CAN BE KILLED.
ya enam vetti hantaaram yashchainam manyate hatam
ubhau tau na vijaaneeto naayam hanti na hanyate // 2.19 //
He who looks on the Self to be the slayer and he who looks on the Self as the slain – neither of them apprehends correctly. The Self neither slays nor is slain.
The Self is a non-doer and as it is immutable; it is neither the agent nor the object of the act of slaying. He who thinks `I slay’ or `I am slain’ really does not comprehend the true nature of the Self. The Self is indestructible. It exists in all periods of time – past, present and future. It is The Existence itself i.e.`Sat’. The physical body undergoes inevitable changes every moment but the Self is not affected in the least by such changes. When the body is destroyed, the Self is not. Both of them who think that they have been slain when their bodies have been slain and those who feel that they are the slayers of the bodies of others do not know the real nature of the Self.
The agent of slaying is the ego (aham) and the object of slaying is the body. Therefore the Self which is different both from the ego and the body is neither the slayer nor the slain. But by identifying with the body It assumes itself as the doer of actions performed by the body. If the man does not identify himself with the body he is not at all doer of any activity. One who holds the soul as slain is also ignorant because the soul remains unaffected and unchanged. Only that which is perishable and changeable can be slain. How could the imperishable and unchangeable be slain?
HOW IS THE SELF IMMUTABLE AND IMMORTAL?
na jaayate mriyate vaa kadaachin
naayam bhootwaa bhavitaa vaa na bhooyah
ajo nityah shaashwato’yam puraano
na hanyate hanyamaane shareere //2.20//
He is never born nor does He ever die; after having been, He again does not cease to be. Unborn, eternal, changeless and ancient. He is not killed when the body is killed.
This verse describes the absence of the six kinds of modification inherent in every living thing viz., birth, subsistence, growth, transformation, decay and death. The Self is altogether changeless. These changes are the source of all sorrows and miseries in every mortal’s life. All these are denied to the Self to prove Its changelessness. Birth and death are for the physical bodies only and they cannot touch the immortal Self just as the waves are born and die in the ocean but the ocean itself is not born with the waves nor does it die when the waves disappear.
Arjuna was grieved about the death of his kinsmen in the war. So the Lord explains that the soul is not killed when the body is slain and hence he should not grieve.
WHY THE SOUL DOES NOT KILL ANYBODY?
vedaavinaashinam nityam ya enam ajam avyayam
katham sa purushah paartha kam ghaatayati hanti kam // 2.21 //
Whosoever knows Him to be indestructible, eternal, unborn and immutable, how can that man slay O Arjuna, or cause another to slay?
An enlightened person who knows the changelessness and the indestructibility of the Self cannot perform the function of slaying or cause another to slay. When we know the Self to be invulnerable, how can anyone slay it? The words ‘how can he slay’ refer to Arjuna and `cause another to slay’ refer to Krishna’s own role.
Summarizing what has been said so far Krishna emphasizes that those who know the nature of the Self shall have no dejection or sorrow in the face of the realities of life. Therefore, one while discharging duty should not grieve, while slaying anyone or causing anyone to be slain, but should discharge one’s duty, in accordance with the ordinance of scriptures.
ILLUSTRATION REGARDING INDESTRUCTIBILITY OF THE SOUL.
vaasaamsi jeernaani yathaa vihaaya
navaani grihnaati naro’paraani
tathaa shareeraani vihaaya jeernaa
nyanyaani samyaati navaani dehee // 2.22 //
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 that are new.
Here ‘dehi’ means the jiva – the individual person, who is made up of the perceptible gross physical body, the imperceptible subtle and causal bodies, together with the atman.
The verse says: Just as an individual person gives up worn out or old clothing and takes up new ones, similarly, the same jiva, on giving up the worn out or old gross physical body, naturally takes up an appropriate new gross physical body. By giving up the old clothes and putting on new ones, the person does not change. Similarly, by giving up the old body and assuming a new one, the atman in the jiva – the individual person – does not change. The `worn out condition of the body’ does not refer to its biological condition but to the capacity of the body, mind and intellect equipments to earn the required experiences from the available environment for facilitating their evolutionary journey. This evolution and change is for the physical bodies and not for the Self.
The verse also tells something more about every individual person. By virtue of one’s own ‘karma’ the jiva already becomes ready to assume a new body, prior to casting out the old worn-out body which has served its purpose. In other words, the mental make-up of a person does not die along with the death of the gross body. The mental make-up of the person, along with its karma-born tendencies and dispositions is called the subtle-body which is the core of every jiva and it survives the death of the physical frame. In its next step of evolution, the jiva assumes a new physical frame more suited to the fulfillment of its natural tendencies and dispositions. In all these changes, the self or soul or the Atman remains unchanged. In reality, the soul being immobile and non-active does not migrate from one body to another; it is ever fixed and steady and does not undergo any change whatsoever.
But just as when a pot is carried from one place to another, the space within the pot also appears be carried, even so when the subtle body leaves a gross body and enters another, it appears that the soul also has moved from one body to another. Therefore, the acts of leaving one body and entering into another are attributed to the soul in order to explain the phenomenon of death to the lay people. The word ‘dehi’ is indicative of the soul identifying itself with gross body it appears to be leaving and entering into another. In this sense it is said that the soul leaves a worn-out body and enters into a new one.
Now a question arises why this cycle of birth and death has been going on from times immemorial. While this question can be answered from the Jnana, Bhakti and Karma points of view, the basic factor behind this never-ending cycle is that God has granted the choice to the living beings to make proper use of their lives and to rediscover ultimately their own transcendental nature. Through innumerable births in the relative world they gain experience, through experience knowledge and through knowledge attain freedom or liberation or moksha from this cycle.
Concepts and Issues
Krishna started the sermon of the Gita by stating that
The Self within is eternal, indestructible.
The bodies enveloping the Self are ephemeral and have a beginning and an end.
Death is certain for the born and birth for the dead.
Beings pass through this cycle of birth and death repeatedly but the indwelling Self remains eternally the same.
The one who understands these concepts is said to possess true knowledge which postulates that the soul or self or the atman alone is real and all things other than that are unreal.
The entire existence with respect to an individual is divided into two categories: 1. ‘I’ or aham and 2. ‘This’ or idam. Atman is ‘I’ and the rest is ‘This’ idam. But due to the ignorance of my real nature, I am always identified with my body, mind and intellect and thus developed a false notion about myself. This false notion is ego.
If I can differentiate what is different from me, I can apprehend my own nature. Thus the enquiry is to know first what is not I and then to assert what is I. In other words it is about knowing what is not I (the body, mind and intellect) and knowing my real nature i.e. Atman (I). This is the study of the nature of the atman and the body which is called Sarira Traya Prakriya.
The personality of an individual is considered to consist of three bodies or ‘sarira’ viz. gross body (sthula sarira), subtle body (sukshma sarira) and causal body (karana sarira).
Gross body (Sthula Sarira): It is that which is composed of the five great elements viz. space, air, fire, water and earth. The volume of the body occupies ‘space’, the breathing and respiratory system is due to ‘air’, the warmth in the body is due to ‘fire’ and the body is made up of ‘water’ and the ‘minerals’(earth). This physical body is considered to have been acquired as a result of past good deeds. This body is the locus or the hutment or the counter for experiencing pain and pleasure and such other pairs of opposites. It is subject to six modifications (shad vikaras) viz. existence, birth, growth, change, decay and death.
Subtle body (Sukshma Sarira or Linga Sarira): It is the counterpart of the gross body that keeps the latter alive, performs all the physiological functions and operates the organs of action and perception. The physical body dies when the subtle body departs. The subtle body consists of seventeen components. They are the five organs of perception, the five organs of action, the five vital airs (Pancha Pranas), the mind and the intellect.
The five organs of perception are 1. Ear (sense of hearing), 2. Skin (sense of touch), 3. Eyes (sense of vision), 4. Tongue (sense of taste) and 5. Nose (sense of smell). The five organs of action are 6. Mouth, 7. Hands, 8. Legs, 9. Anus and 10. Genitals. The five vital airs are: 11. Prana – its function being respiration – located in Nose 12. Apana – Evacation or Excretion – Anus & Genitals 13. Vyana – Circulation – Entire Body 14. Udana – Reaction or Throwing out upwards – Throat 15. Samana-Assimilation or Digestion – Central Region of the Body. 16. The Mind – Receives Stimuli through organs of perception from external sources and 17. The Intellect – Analyses situations or stimuli received and determines – Cognition faculty.
According to some the mind and intellect only are treated as the causal body and the other fifteen components mentioned above form part of the gross body. The subtle body is the instrument of experience while the gross body is the hutment or the place of the experience.
Causal body (Karana Sarira): It is inexplicable, beginingless and in the form of ignorance of the Reality and the cause for the other two bodies, ignorant of one’s own real nature, free from duality or division. According to some our inborn tendencies or vasanas are treated as causal body.
Atman (Self, Soul): It is not any of the three bodies mentioned above. It is the “awareness” or “consciousness” by which we are aware of the three bodies. It is called ‘chit’. The Atman does not undergo any change during the three states of consciousness viz. waking, dream and deep sleep (avastha traya) or during the passage of time because it is beyond time. It is therefore called Sat or ever-existent. The atman is also beyond the limitations of body, mind and intellect. It is also beyond space and time because space and time also are creations of the mind.
It is in a constant state of bliss or ananda. Atman is therefore sat-chit-ananda or Existence-Knowledge-Bliss. It is the principle that is self-effulgent, that pervades everything including space and which is complete (Purna). The Sat-Chit-Ananda Svaurpa is the natural state of every living being but it is not experienced because we are struggling in a wrong direction and squandering our energies on inconsequential matters.
Thus the purport of Krishna’s advice to Arjuna is that the latter should change the direction of his mindset from the unreal to the real.
Live as the Gita Teaches You to Live
Don’t be carried away by emotional attachment but be guided by rational analysis.
Distinguish between the real and the unreal, appearance and reality, shadow and the substance, grain and the chaff.
Discard the defeatist mentality and face whole heartedly and sincerely all the situations in every field of activity at any given moment of existence in life.
Points to Ponder
Krishna’s virtual smile.
Grieving for those who are not to be grieved.
Real and Unreal.
Pairs of opposites and why to endure them?
Three kinds of bodies.
Immutability of the Self.
Next time we will proceed from the Verse 2.23
More posts by this author:
- Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2 (Part 3)
- Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 5 (Part-2) Karma Sannyaasa Yogah: Yoga of Renunciation of Action
- Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2 (Part 1)
- Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 5 (Part-1) Karma Sannyaasa Yogah: Yoga of Renunciation of Action
- Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2 (Part- 4)