Chapter 2 – The Nature of the Soul

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Seeing that Arjuna was overwhelmed with grief and his eyes were brimming with tears, Lord Krishna said,

Arjuna, how has this illusion overcome you at such a crucial moment? This attitude is inappropriate for a nobleman who understands the civilised ideals of life. You will not achieve honour by behaving in this way, it will only bring you disgrace.

Do not surrender to this demeaning cowardice. It will injure your courageous reputation. O great hero, abandon this miserly weakness and arise for battle!  

Arjuna said, Krishna, these men deserve my worship, how can I attack them with arrows? I would rather survive as a beggar, than gain a kingdom by killing honourable men who are my superiors.

If we kill them, we will enjoy royal pleasures stained with their blood. I do not know which is worse – victory or defeat, because if we kill our relatives and friends, we would no longer wish to live.

I am confused about my real duty and I am distraught over the destruction of our dynasty, so I am turning to you for guidance. Would you tell me which course of action is best? Please advise me.

Even if I win unchallenged sovereignty over the entire earth and dominion over the gods in heaven, I will not be able to overcome this debilitating grief. After speaking in this way, Arjuna declared, “Krishna, I will not fight” and then he was silent.

Lord Krishna was smiling as he said to the despondent Arjuna, You are speaking with such wise words while mourning for things undeserving of sorrow. The wise do not mourn for the living or the dead.

There has never been a time when you, or I, or any of us, did not exist; and there will never be a time in the future when we will cease to exist.

The soul remains unchanged while the body transforms from childhood, to youth, to old age. Similarly, the soul travels into another body at death. These bodily changes do not confuse the wise.

The body and the senses produce feelings of heat and cold, pleasure and pain. These sensations are temporary, they come and go, and you must endure them.

If you can remain undisturbed by the experiences of the senses and equal in both joy and sorrow, you will be qualified for immortality.

Those who seek the truth have analysed the nature of the eternal and the temporary. They have concluded that a changeable object has no eternal existence, and an eternal object is not subject to destruction or change.

The soul pervading the entire body cannot be destroyed. The soul is eternal, indestructible and immeasurable. It is only the physical body that can be destroyed. So arise Arjuna, and fight.

Anyone who thinks the soul can kill or be killed does not understand the true nature of the soul. The soul is never born and it never dies. Having once existed, the soul never ceases to exist.

The soul is immortal and indestructible and is not destroyed when the body is destroyed.

As a person puts on new clothes, giving up the old and useless garments, the soul continues to accept new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.

Weapons cannot cut the soul. Fire cannot burn it. The soul cannot be dampened with water or withered by the wind. The eternal soul is immovable, all pervading, imperceptible, unchangeable and inconceivable.

Knowing the true nature of the soul, how can there be any cause for sorrow? You should not mourn for the transient body.

Even if you believe the soul is perpetually subject to birth and death, you still have no reason for grief. One who is born is sure to die, and one who dies is sure to be born. This is inevitable, so why should you mourn?

The soul is imperceptible before birth and after death. In between the two, the soul can be perceived. Where is the sorrow in this Arjuna?

The soul is astonishing and wonderful to contemplate; mystical and exotic to hear about and extraordinary and marvellous to describe. The soul dwelling within the body is eternal and cannot die. Therefore, you do not need to mourn for anyone.

There is no action more favourable for a nobleman than fighting on honourable principles. So there is no reason for you to hesitate. Happy are the noblemen who receive such an opportunity for battle, which arrives unsought, like an open gate to heaven.

If you reject your duty and your task and choose not to fight this honourable war, you will certainly suffer misfortune. People will always speak of your infamy, and for those of noble blood, dishonour is worse than death.

The kings who now respect you, will assume fear has caused you to leave the battlefield, and they will consider you a coward. Your enemies will mock you and deride your prowess and your courage. What could be more painful?

Arjuna, if you die on the battlefield you will reach the celestial sphere. If you are victorious in battle, you will enjoy a kingdom on earth. So arise and resolve yourself to fight.

You should regard joy and sorrow, profit and loss, victory and defeat as equal. Fight only for the sake of fighting. If you fight with this attitude, you will never suffer misfortune.

So far, I have revealed knowledge of the soul to you. Now listen and I will tell you how acting with this knowledge will ensure that your actions will free you from the bondage of karma.

On this path, there is no loss or harm. Even the slightest practice of such a spiritual ideal will save you from the greatest fear.

Those on this path are resolute in purpose and I am their only objective. But endless desires for mundane enjoyment divert and disperse the intelligence of the irresolute.

Ignorant people are fond of the ornate language of the Vedic scriptures. They are unaware that the primary directive of the scriptures is the attainment of the supreme truth.

So they recommend sacrifices and activities yielding wealth, worldly pleasures and a high material birth. Deluded by the enchanting language of the scriptures they say these things are the ultimate, and nothing else is needed.

Their hearts are full of desires and they are attached to material enjoyment and opulence. Deluded by their attachment to opulence and sensual enjoyment, they do not attain the resolute determination to dedicate themselves to the Supreme Lord.

The Vedic scriptures deal mainly with the subject of the three modes of material nature. Transcend these modes, Arjuna. Remain unaffected by duality and all efforts for profit and maintenance and remain situated in the truth.

All the objectives that are achieved by a small pool of water can also be achieved by a large expanse of water. In the same way, all the benefits that are obtained from worshipping the demigods with the Vedic rituals can be achieved by worship of the Supreme Lord.

You are entitled to work, but you are not entitled to the profits. Do not be motivated by the results of your actions and do not be inclined to give up action. Carry out your duty and be unattached to success or failure. Such equipoised action is known as yoga.

Action with a desire for the profit is inferior to this yoga of wisdom. It is miserly to be motivated by the profits of your actions. The wise abstain from both good and evil actions in this world. Therefore Arjuna, make yoga your goal, because it is the art of all action.

The wise free themselves from the bondage of repeated birth and death by renouncing the results of their actions. Thus, they achieve that situation which is beyond all suffering.

When you emerge from the impenetrable illusion of accepting the body as the self you will be indifferent to everything that has been said and everything that is yet to be said. When you are no longer confused by the apparent contradictions of the scriptures then you will have achieved spiritual consciousness.

Arjuna said, What are the qualities of those who are fully absorbed in spiritual consciousness? How do they speak? How do they walk and how do they act?

Lord Krishna said, A person in spiritual consciousness rejects all desires that enter the mind and finds satisfaction in the soul within.

They are unaffected by sorrow, their yearning for mundane pleasure is gone, and they are devoid of fear and anger. They are not attached to anything in this material world and they do not rejoice on obtaining good, or grieve on obtaining evil. 

They are able to control their senses and withdraw them from sense objects just as the tortoise draws his limbs within his shell.

Those in material consciousness may renounce sensual pleasures, but they still have a taste for such things. However, even the desire vanishes for people with spiritual knowledge because they have experienced the superior nature of the spiritual.

The senses can forcibly agitate the mind of people who are actively striving to control their senses. Anyone who controls their senses and focuses their consciousness on Me achieves steadiness of mind.

But a person whose thoughts dwell on the objects of the senses, develops attachment for them. From attachment, lust arises, and from lust, anger is born. Anger causes delusion, and delusion gives rise to forgetfulness of spiritual principles.

From such forgetfulness, intelligence is lost. When intelligence is gone, one descends into the cycle of birth and death in the material world.

Anyone who controls their senses with their mind and is free from attraction and repulsion, achieves tranquility. From tranquility comes a peaceful heart and all their miseries disappear. The tranquil person’s intelligence soon becomes steady.

Those without self-control do not have a controlled mind or steady intelligence. Without these, peace of mind is impossible to achieve. And without peace of mind, there can be no happiness.

As an unfavourable wind blows a boat on the ocean off course, any of the senses the mind focuses on carries away the intelligence of those lacking self-control. Therefore, anyone who restrains their senses has steady intelligence.

The time of awakening for the enlightened soul, is the darkness of night for the unenlightened. What seems like wakeful day for the unenlightened, is the dark night of ignorance for the enlightened sage.

The ocean is always being filled by rivers that enter into it, yet it remains calm. Those who are undisturbed by the incessant flow of desires entering the mind can achieve peace, and not those who try to satisfy those desires.

Only those who abandon all desire, ego and possessiveness can know real peace. That is the path of spiritual realisation.

If you can attain this realisation even for a moment, you will be freed from the delusion of material existence and it will lead you to the spiritual realm.

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