The Mahabharata Home
(Bhagavad Gita Chapter II)
Sanjaya said,--"Unto him thus possessed with pity, his eyes filled and oppressed with tears, and desponding, the slayer of Madhu said these words."
The Holy One said,--"Whence, O Arjuna, hath come upon thee, at such a crisis, this despondency that is unbecoming a person of noble birth, that shuts one out from heaven, and that is productive of infamy? Let no effeminacy be thine, O son of Kunti. This suits thee not. Shaking off this vile weakness of hearts, arise, O chastiser of foes.--"
Arjuna said,--"How, O slayer of Madhu, can I with arrows contend in battle against Bhishma and Drona, deserving as they are. O slayer of
foes, of worship? 1 Without slaying (one's) preceptors of great glory, it is well (for one), to live on even alms in this world. By slaying preceptors, even if they are avaricious of wealth, I should only enjoy pleasures that are bloodstained! 2 We know not which of the two is of greater moment to us, viz., whether we should conquer them or they should conquer us. By slaying whom we would not like to live,--even they, the sons of Dhritarashtra, stand before (us). My nature affected by the taint of compassion, my mind unsettled about (my) duty, I ask thee. Tell me what is assuredly good (for me). I am thy disciple. O, instruct me, I seek thy aid. 3 I do not see (that) which would dispel that grief of mine blasting my very senses, even if I obtain a prosperous kingdom on earth without a foe or the very sovereignty of the gods. 4'"
Sanjaya said,--Having said this unto Hrishikesa, that chastiser of foes-Gudakesa--(once more) addressed Govinda, saying,--'I will not fight,'--and then remained silent. 5 Unto him overcome by despondency, Hrishikesa, in the midst of the two armies, said.
"The Holy One said,--'Thou mournest those that deserve not to be mourned. Thou speakest also the words of the (so-called) wise. Those, however, that are (really) wise, grieve neither for the dead nor for the living. It is not that, I or you or those rulers of men never were, or that all of us shall not hereafter be. Of an Embodied being, as childhood, youth, and, decrepitude are in this body, so (also) is the acquisition of another body. The man, who is wise, is never deluded in this. 6 The contacts of the senses with their (respective) objects producing (sensations of) heat and cold,
pleasure and pain, are not permanent, having (as they do) a beginning and an end. Do thou. O Bharata, endure them. For the man whom these afflict not, O bull among men, who is the same in pain and pleasure and who is firm in mind, is fit for emancipation. 1 There is no (objective) existence of anything that is distinct from the soul; nor non-existence of anything possessing the virtues of the soul. This conclusion in respect of both these hath been arrived at by those that know the truths (of things). 2 Know that [the soul] to be immortal by which all this [universe] is pervaded. No one can compass the destruction of that which is imperishable. It hath been said that those bodies of the Embodied (soul) which is eternal, indestructible and infinite, have an end. Do thou, therefore, fight, O Bharata. He who thinks it (the soul) to be the slayer and he who thinks it to be the slain, both of them know nothing; for it neither slays nor is slain. It is never born, nor doth it ever die; nor, having existed, will it exist no more. Unborn, unchangeable, eternal, and ancient, it is not slain upon the body being perished. That man who knoweth it to be indestructible, unchangeable, without decay, how and whom can he slay or cause to be slain? As a man, casting off robes that are worn out, putteth on others that are new, so the Embodied (soul), casting off bodies that are worn out, entereth other bodies that are new. Weapons cleave it not, fire consumeth it not; the waters do not drench it, nor doth the wind waste it. It is incapable of being cut, burnt, drenched, or dried up. It is unchangeable, all-pervading, stable, firm, and eternal. It is said to be imperceivable, inconceivable and unchangeable. Therefore, knowing it to be such, it behoveth thee not to mourn (for it). Then again even if thou regardest it as constantly born and constantly dead, it behoveth thee not yet, O mighty-armed one, to mourn (for it) thus. For, of one that is born, death is certain; and of one that is dead, birth is certain. Therefore. it behoveth thee not to mourn in a matter that is unavoidable. All beings (before birth) were unmanifest. Only during an interval (between birth and death), O Bharata, are they manifest; and then again, when death comes, they become (once more) unmanifest. What grief then is there in this? One looks upon it as a marvel; another speaks of it as a marvel. Yet even after having heard of it, no one apprehends it truly. The Embodied (soul), O Bharata, is ever indestructible in everyone's body. Therefore, it behoveth thee not to grieve for all (those) creatures. Casting thy eyes on the (prescribed) duties of thy order, it behoveth thee not to waver, for there is nothing else that is better for a Kshatriya than a battle fought fairly. Arrived of itself and (like unto) an open gate of heaven,
happy are those Kshatriyas, O Partha, that obtain such a fight. But if thou dost not fight such a just battle, thou shalt then incur sin by abandoning the duties of thy order and thy fame. People will then proclaim thy eternal infamy, and to one that is held in respect, infamy is greater (as an evil) than death itself. All great car-warriors will regard thee as abstaining from battle from fear, and thou wilt be thought lightly by those that had (hitherto) esteemed thee highly. Thy enemies, decrying thy prowess, will say many words which should not be said. What can be more painful than that? Slain, thou wilt attain to heaven; or victorious, thou wilt enjoy the Earth. Therefore, arise, O son of Kunti, resolved for battle. Regarding pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat, as equal, do battle for battle's sake and sin will not be thine. 1 This knowledge, that hath been communicated to thee is (taught) in the Sankhya (system). Listen now to that (inculcated) in Yoga (system). Possessed of that knowledge, thou, O Partha, wilt cast off the bonds of action. In this (the Yoga system) there is no waste of even the first attempt. There are no impediments. Even a little of this (form of) piety delivers from great fear. 2 Here in this path, O son of Kuru, there is only one state of mind, consisting in firm devotion (to one object, viz., securing emancipation). The minds of those, however, that are not firmly devoted (to this), are many-branched (un-settled) and attached to endless pursuits. That flowery talk which, they that are ignorant, they that delight in the words of the Vedas, they, O Partha, that say that there is nothing else, they whose minds are attached to worldly pleasures, they that regard (a) heaven (of pleasures and enjoyments) as the highest object of acquisition,--utter and promises birth as the fruit of action and concerns itself with multifarious rites of specific characters for the attainment of pleasures and power,--delude their hearts and the minds of these men who are attached to pleasures and power cannot be directed to contemplation (of the divine being) regarding it as the sole means of emancipation. 3 The Vedas are concerned with three qualities, (viz., religion, profit, and pleasure). Be thou, O Arjuna, free from them, unaffected by pairs of contraries (such as pleasure and pain, heat and cold, etc.), ever adhering to patience without anxiety for new acquisitions or protection of those already acquired, and self-possessed, whatever objects are served by a tank or well, may all
be served by a vast sheet of water extending all around; so whatever objects may be served by all the Vedas, may all be had by a Brahmana having knowledge (of self or Brahma). 1 Thy concern is with work only, but not with the fruit (of work). Let not the fruit be thy motive for work; nor let thy inclination be for inaction. Staying in devotion, apply thyself to work, casting off attachment (to it), O Dhananjaya, and being the same in success or unsuccess. This equanimity is called Yoga (devotion). Work (with desire of fruit) is far inferior to devotion, O Dhananjaya. Seek thou the protection of devotion. They that work for the sake of fruit are miserable. He also that hath devotion throws off, even in this world, both good actions and bad actions. Therefore, apply thyself to devotion. Devotion is only cleverness in action. The wise, possessed of devotion, cast off the fruit born of action, and freed from the obligation of (repeated) birth, attain to that region where there is no unhappiness. When thy mind shall have crossed the maze of delusion, then shalt thou attain to an indifference as regards the hearable and the heard. 2 When thy mind, distracted (now) by what thou hast heard (about the means of acquiring the diverse objects of life), will be firmly and immovably fixed on contemplation, then wilt thou attain to devotion.'
"Arjuna said,--What, O Kesava, are the indications of one whose mind is fixed on contemplation? How should one of steady mind speak, how sit, how move?"
"The Holy One said,--'When one casts off all the desires of his heart and is pleased within (his) self with self, then is one said to be of steady mind. He whose mind is not agitated amid calamities, whose craving for pleasure is gone, who is freed from attachment (to worldly objects), fear and wrath, is said to be a Muni of steady mind. His is steadiness of mind who is without affection everywhere, and who feeleth no exultation and no aversion on obtaining diverse objects that are agreeable and disagreeable. When one withdraws his senses from the objects of (those) senses as the tortoise its limbs from all sides, even his is steadiness of mind. Objects of senses fall back from an abstinent person, but not so the passion (for those objects). Even the passion recedes from one who has beheld the
[paragraph continues] Supreme (being). 1 The agitating senses, O son of Kunti, forcibly draw away the mind of even a wise man striving hard to keep himself aloof from them. Restraining them all, one should stay in contemplation, making me his sole refuge. For his is steadiness of mind whose senses are under control. Thinking of the objects of sense, a person's attachment is begotten towards them. From attachment springeth wrath; from wrath ariseth want of discrimination; from want of discrimination, loss of memory; from loss of memory, loss of understanding; and from loss of understanding (he) is utterly ruined. But the self-restrained man, enjoying objects (of sense) with senses freed from attachment and aversion under his own control, attaineth to peace (of mind). On peace (of mind) being attained, the annihilation of all his miseries taketh place, since the mind of him whose heart is peaceful soon becometh steady. 2 He who is not self-restrained hath no contemplation (of self). He who hath no contemplation hath no peace (of mind). 3 Whence can there be happiness for him who hath no peace (of mind)? For the heart that follows in the wake of the sense moving (among their objects) destroys his understanding like the wind destroying a boat in the waters. 4 Therefore, O thou of mighty arms, his is steadiness of mind whose senses are restrained on all sides from the objects of sense. The restrained man is awake when it is night for all creatures; and when other creatures are awake that is night to a discerning Muni. 5 He into whom all objects of desire enter, even as the waters enter the ocean which (though) constantly replenished still maintains its water-mark unchanged--(he) obtains peace (of mind) and not one that longeth for objects of desire. That man who moveth about, giving up all objects of desire, who is free from craving (for enjoyments) and who hath no affection and no pride, attaineth to peace (of mind). This,
[paragraph continues] O Partha, is the divine state. Attaining to it, one is never deluded. Abiding in it one obtains, on death, absorption into the Supreme Self.'
54:1 The commentators betray their ingenuity by emphasizing the word ishubhis (with arrows), explaining, "how can I encounter them with arrows whom I cannot encounter with even harsh words?"
54:2 Arthakaman is an adjective qualifying Gurun. Some commentators particularly Sreedhara, suggest that it may, instead, qualify bhogan. The meaning, however, in that case would be far-fetched.
54:3 Sreedhara explains that Karpanya is compassion (for kinsmen), and dosha is the fear of sin (for destroying a race). The first compound, therefore, according to him, means,--"My nature affected by both compassion and fear of sin, etc. It is better, however, to take Karpanya itself as a dosha (taint or fault). K. T. Telang understands it in this way. Upahata, however, is affected and not contaminated.
54:4 What Arjuna says here is that "Even if I obtain such a kingdom on Earth, even if I obtain the very kingship of the gods, I do not yet see that will dispel that grief which will overtake me if I slay my preceptor and kinsmen." Telang's version is slightly ambiguous.
54:5 The Bengal texts have Parantapa with a Visarga, thus implying that it refers to Gudakesa. The Bombay edition prints it without the Visarga, implying that it is in the vocative case, referring to Dhritarashtra, the listener.
54:6 One of the most useful rules in translating from one language into another is to use identical words for identical expressions in the original. In translating, however, from a language like Sanskrit which abounds in synonyms, this is not always practicable without ambiguity. As an example, the word used in 13 is Dhira; that used in 11 is Pandita. There can be little doubt, however, that Pandita and Dhira have exactly the same meaning.
55:1 Amritatwa is really emancipation or non-liability to repeated death or repeated rebirth. To render it as "immortality" is, perhaps, a little slovenly, for every soul is immortal, and this particular section inculcates it.
55:2 Sat and asat are the two words which must be distinctly understood as they occur often in Hindu philosophy. Sat is explained as the real, i.e., the soul, or anything as real and permanent as the soul. Asat is the reverse of this, i.e., the unreal or the Non-soul. What is said here by Krishna is that the unreal has no existence; the real, again can have no non-existence. Is not this a sort of cosmothetic idealism?
56:1 Most texts read Yudhaya Yujyaswa. A manuscript belonging to a friend of mine has the correction in red-ink, Yudhaya Yudhaya Yudhaywa. It accords so well with the spirit of the lesson sought to be inculcated here that I make no scruple to adopt it.
56:2 A life in this world that is subject to decay and death. So say all the commentators.
56:3 What Krishna seeks to inculcate here is the simple truth that persons who believe in the Vedas and their ordinances laying down specific acts for the attainment of a heaven of pleasure and power, cannot have the devotion without which there cannot be final emancipation which only is the highest bliss. The performance of Vedic rites may lead to heaven of pleasure and power, but what is that heaven worth? True emancipation is something else which must be obtained by devotion, by pure contemplation. In rendering Janma-Karma-phalapradam I have followed Sankara. Sreedhara and other commentators explain it differently.
57:1 This sloka has been variously rendered by various translators. It is the same that occurs in the Sanat-Sujata Parva of the Udyoga. (Vide Udyoga Parva, Section XLV). Both Sreedhara and Sankara (and I may mention Anandagiri also) explain it in this way. Shortly stated, the meaning is that to an instructed Brahmana (Brahma-knowing person and not a Brahmana by birth), his knowledge (of self or Brahma) teaches him that which is obtainable from all the Vedas, just as a man wanting to bathe or drink may find a tank or well as useful to him as a large reservoir of water occupying an extensive area. Nilakantha explains it in a different way.
57:2 Srotavyasya Srutasyacha is literally 'of the hearable and the heard', i.e., "what you may or will hear, and what you have heard." European translators of the Gita view in these words a rejection of the Vedas by the author. It is amusing to see how confidently they dogmatise upon this point, rejecting the authority of Sankara, Sreedhara, Anandagiri, and the whole host of Indian commentators. As K. T. Telang, however, has answered the point elaborately, nothing more need be said here.
58:1 One may abstain, either from choice or inability to procure them, from the objects of enjoyment. Until, however, the very desire to enjoy is suppressed, one cannot be said to have attained to steadiness of mind. Of Aristotle's saying that he is a voluptuary who pines at his own abstinence, and the Christian doctrine of sin being in the wish, mere abstinence from the act constitutes no merit.
58:2 The particle 'he' in the second line is explained by both Sankara and Anandagiri as equivalent to Yasmat. The meaning becomes certainly clearer by taking the word in this sense. The 'he', however, may also be taken as implying the sense of "indeed."
58:3 Buddhi in the first line is explained by Sreedhara as Aintavishayak buddhi. Bhavanta Sreedhara explains, is Dhyanam; and Sankara as Atmajnanabhinivesas. K. T. Telang renders Bhavana as perseverance. I do not think this is correct.
58:4 Sankara, Anandagiri, and Nilakantha explain this sloka thus. Sreedhara explains it otherwise. The latter supposes the pronouns yat and tat to mean a particular sense among the Charatam indriyanam. If Sreedhara's interpretation be correct, the meaning would be--"That (one sense) amongst the senses moving (among their objects) which the mind follows, (that one sense) tosseth the mind's (or the man's) understanding about like the wind tossing a (drunken boatman's) boat on the waters." The parenthetical words are introduced by Sreedhara himself. It may not be out of place to mention here that so far as Bengal, Mithila and Benares are concerned, the authority of Sreedhara is regarded as supreme.
58:5 The vulgar, being spiritually dark, are engaged in worldly pursuits. The sage in spiritual light is dead to the latter.
Next: Section XXVII (Bhagavad Gita Chapter III)