Ch. 2 Yoga of Discernment of Reality (Part 5)

This article is part 21 of 22 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga

The Self Cannot be Destroyed

Arjuna, there are two substances in this world – the body and the embodied. The body is a thing that is known directly to everyone. It comprises not only physical organs but also inner organs such as the mind and intellect and also the remnants of karma and vāsanas (latent impressions) that have been accumulated over several lives. These are the characteristics of a jīva. All subtle ingredients other than the Self are aspects of the body. The embodied is the consciousness within the body. That is the Pure Self. The body belongs to the Self. The Self is the Master of the body. The thing to be noted here is that while the body is subject to change, the Self is not. The body can be destroyed but the Self cannot be.

“Arjuna, isn’t your sorrow because you have to kill in battle? What is it that is destroyed when killed? The body or the Self? It is not the embodied Self.”

nāyaṃ hanti na hanyate॥ (BG 2.19)
(He neither kills nor is he killed)

dehī nityam-avadhyo’yam॥ (BG 2.30)
(The embodied one is Eternal and cannot be killed)

“Then whatever is left is the body. Do you weep for that? The body will not survive just because you weep for that. That is bound to die regardless of whatever anyone does.”

jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyuḥ॥ (BG 2.27)br>(Death is certain for the one who is born)

“Just as we cast off old clothes and don new ones, the Self that is in jīva-hood discards a body to inhabit another one. Just as man cannot escape the stages of childhood, youth and old age, obtaining a new body through death is an inescapable occurrence.”

tasmād-aparihārye’rthe na tvaṃ śocitum-arhasi॥ (BG 2.27)
(Therefore these two (birth and death) are inevitable. You should not grieve)

“What will result from pining over something that is inevitable? Death will definitely visit all one day without fail. It cannot be avoided through lamentation”.

Bhagavān uses the simile of old garments for the body – ‘vāsāṃsi jīrṇāni.’ This comparison is interesting. The fabric of wearing out garments cannot be strengthened by any means. Discarding them is the only way of dealing with them. Similarly, it is impossible for anybody to clean and purify a decadent body associated with evil qualities, immense greed, and despicable habits. Just as malodour cannot be removed without getting rid of smelly clothes, just as a head with lice-infested hair cannot be cleaned without shaving the head completely, the embodied jīva cannot hope for purity without death freeing it from the body that has been an abode of iniquity for a long time. Therefore, for a jīva inhabiting a body given long to vice, death might be a blessing. For the bearer of a sinful body, demise is release. Hence, death occurring during battle need not be considered wrongful. A diseased person might, out of laziness or lack of strength, insist on remaining in dirty unwashed clothes. His caretakers would compel such a person to get up, clean him, and get him to put on new clothes. Similarly, War releases people from their bodies. Those slain get better vestments upon departure.

Arjuna could ask another question. Let death come when it is inevitable. Why should I be the reason for it? Why should I bear the sin of killing another? The solution is as follows.

Performing One’s Dharma

Every being has a body and a spirit. The ātmā in that state is known as jīva. The jīva has two sides to it. One is the inert body. The other is the conscious Self. Due to its embodied nature, the jīva suffers many hardships in the mundane world. Amidst the push and pull of Nature, karma, and Destiny, the jīva forgets its Self and suffers. When it goes beyond its jīva-hood and experiences its own Self, it experiences true bliss. That is mokṣa. If the jīva has to experience its own Self, it has to equip itself with some instructive means. The Self (ātmā) is:

nityaḥ sarvagataḥ sthāṇuḥ acalo’yaṃ sanātanaḥ। (BG 2.24)

avyakto’yamacintyo’yaṃ avikāryo’yamucyate॥ (BG 2.25)

Thus the ātmā is beyond the universe, different from the universe, beyond comparison and impossible to describe. To see and experience it, the layers of the body and the world have to be stripped and thrown away. Dharma is the means for that. 

What is Dharma?

Let us now understand the meaning of the word ‘dharma’ to some extent – this should be helpful in our further study. We have seen this word used several times and this word will be used again in this work. The Gītā-treatise (Gītā-śāstra) has been described as ‘Jīvana-dharma-śāstra’ (The science of the dharma of life) already. Bhagavān himself has clarified that dharma is the topic of the Gītā.

ya imaṃ dharmyaṃ saṃvādam-āvayoḥ|| (BG 18.20)

All interpretations of the Gītā are dependent on the meaning of the word dharma. Therefore it is essential to reflect on the meaning of dharma.

First, the meaning of the word. Dharma is something that sustains. ‘Dhāraṇāt dharma ityāhuḥ.’ The discipline that protects everything suitably is dharma. ‘Dharmo rakṣati rakṣitaḥ’ – the set of rules that protects us upon following it is dharma.

In practice, dharma is of three kinds: 1. Characteristic 2. Systemic 3. Compassionate.

1. By characteristic dharma is meant a thing’s natural state of being. Whatever quality makes a thing itself, the expansion of that quality is dharma. Burning is the dharma of fire. To blow is the dharma of the wind. To fly is the dharma of the bird. The dharma of water is to dissipate heat and cool anything it comes in contact with. The dharma of the body is to grow old and decrepit. Likewise are age related rules (vayo-dharma) and seasonal practices (ṛtu-dharma). Whatever ability or quality of a person is useful to society at large, that group of qualities and abilities is that person’s dharma. This can be termed a “value” in English. Whatever quality or characteristic brings value to a certain thing is that thing’s dharma. Thus preserving a thing’s characteristic is dharma.

2. Systemic dharma is that set of rules by following which the natural expression of a being does not hinder another being’s existence or natural expression. The law of mutual non-detriment is justice. It is dharma.

3. Compassionate dharma is love towards other beings. The flowering of the self is developing one’s own life to help all. Affection towards the world is a means towards this. This is what is termed ‘ātmaupamya’ (self-identification) later in the Gītā. That is dharma.

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.

Author(s)

About:

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.

Translator(s)

About:

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

About:

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

Prekshaa Publications

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...

Yaugandharam

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

Vanitakavitotsavah

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

Vaiphalyaphalam

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

Nipunapraghunakam

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

Bharavatarastavah

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...

Bharatilochana

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...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“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...