Ch. 2 Yoga of Discernment of Reality (Part 3)

This article is part 19 of 43 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga

The Beginning of the Instruction

The second chapter of the Gītā has four main aspects.

  1. The remainder of the first chapter’s topic, i.e. Arjuna’s words of abandoning battle.
  2. Propounding the eternal nature of the Self (ātmā)
  3. The necessity of performing one’s own dharma
  4. The nature of the knower of reality

Let us look at this one by one.

Arjuna’s Wish to Give Up

The story of Arjuna’s depression continues in the first nine verses. When Arjuna dropped his bow and arrows and sat immersed in sorrow, Śrīkṛṣṇa objected. He said, “Arjuna, how did this mental impurity come upon you? This does not befit an ārya. This is not conducive to attain higher realms. This causes infamy. Discard this cowardice. Cast off this lowly weakness of the heart and rise for battle!”

Arjuna replied, “O Kṛṣṇa, how can I bring myself shoot the worshipful Bhīṣma and Droṇa with my arrows? If we, by not killing preceptors, have to subsist on alms, even then, such food obtained from begging is far better than food mixed with their blood. Should we win over our enemies or be won over by them? Which path is better for us? Kṛṣṇa, who are our enemies? Those upon killing whom we do not wish to live! My nature has been overcome by the taint of selfish pity that is the nature of compassion for “me and mine” (kārpaṇya-dōṣōpahata-svabhāvaḥ). I have become confused about what dharma is owing to this self-love. What of a kingdom on earth or the position of Indra in svarga? I do not see anything that can cure me of my sorrow that is drying up all my senses.” He then said,  

na yotsye! (BG 2.9)
“I will not fight!”

and sat silently. The first part of the second chapter ends here.

Now, Bhagavān again set forth to give instruction.

aśōcyān-anvaśōcas-tvam (BG 2.11)
“You grieve for those who should not be grieved for!”

What does this mean? Should one not grieve for his preceptors and relatives? Should one become stony-hearted?

It is natural for the heart to melt with compassion. However, in some instances, one should harden his heart. The battle for dharma is such an instance.

War is an occasion that involves several groups of people. Floods, fire accidents, earthquakes, and epidemics are disasters that the Divine imposes to punish groups of people. A single person’s action also affects people other than the doer when it yields results.

kaṛtā kārayitā caiva prerakaś-cānumodakaḥ
(Nitya-nīti 30)

The performer of the action,
one who causes the action to be performer,
the one who urges it, and
the one who approves of it,
[all share equal responsibility
in good and bad deeds]

Individual karma (actions) bear individual fruit; group actions yield group results. Though Duryodhana and his brothers were the main actors in the war, Bhīṣma, Droṇa, Karṇa, Śalya, and others joined forces with them regardless of whether they liked it. The same happened in their rival camp. While a few joined for the cause of dharma, there were others who joined either side for revenge, glory, or other reasons. Death was perilously close to both sides. In this episode of dharma, who were the śocyas (ones to grieve for)? Who were the aśocyas (those who should not be grieved for)? Who? None were to be grieved for. Those who died there were not to be grieved for. Why? Death comes for a few as deliverance from their demerits. For others death results in a better path. Duryodhana, Duśśāsana and others would have continued to commit sinful actions as long as they lived. The seed of impurity had existed in them across lives. They had to be divested of their armour (body) to help them get rid of their pāpa. Death became a means for this. Death in battle was the only way for them to redeem themselves from this situation of pāpa.

Thus death redeems the evil from the clutches of evilness. Therefore it is not necessary to grieve for it.

Even for those who are virtuous, death is helpful. Bhīṣma and Droṇa were great souls and deserved higher worlds. But they had to inhabit earth due to a residue of their karma of previous lives. Once they had exhausted their karma, they would once again become eligible for those higher worlds. Hence for those righteous, death obtained in a war of dharma helps attain heaven and better worlds. Hence sorrow is not proper even in this situation.

When is grieving appropriate, when is it proper? The answer is: Never. It is of course another matter that it cannot be avoided. It cannot be argued that all things that are natural are correct as well. There are so many bodily actions that are natural but undesirable. It is the same with mental actions too. All things natural cannot be accepted. Sorrow upon bereavement is natural. But it is wise to mitigate one’s sorrow after considering the progression of a jīva and the law of nature. Bhagavān now teaches this wisdom through a description of the ātmā that is the essence of the jīva.

The Eternality of the Ātmā

The instruction now begins. Arjuna asks four important questions:

  1. Isn’t violence or killing beings a misdeed?
  2. Isn’t compassion our dharma?
  3. Shouldn’t selfish desires be discarded?
  4. Isn’t dharma the biggest value?

Śrī-kṛṣṇa had to answer these questions.

Arjuna had all the following mental qualities: fear of doing evil, compassion towards beings, selflessness, and faith in dharma, which are accepted by all to be the best of qualities. Did such a man, endowed with such admirable qualities, need instruction? Yes. Because Arjuna possessed those qualities not as results of his own deliberations but because he was impelled by his own natural condition and also by imitating others. All of us are mostly like that. There are a few naturally friendly tendencies within us. We normally refer to that as a “tug at one’s heartstrings.” While that behaviour is devoid of any pretense, we should not consider that feeling to be completely pure. There is quite likely an iota of selfishness or a particle of pride or a piece of egotism that is non-obvious and latent in such behaviour. Friendship becomes pure and wholesome only after this aspect of self-interest is removed after a thorough examination. We learn several behaviours from those around us. We form our opinions through others. Any action or habit or opinion or belief should not be construed as pure or as being conducive to welfare just because it follows popular convention. We should have independently analysed it and understood its good aspects. Thus our behaviours and opinions must be a result of a proper examination.

To be continued...

The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.



Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.



Engineer. Lapsed blogger. Abiding interest in Sanskrit, religion, and philosophy. A wannabe jack-of-all.


Mother of two. Engineer. Worshiper of Indian music, poetry, and art.

Prekshaa Publications

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...