Eternity Of The Soul
Having discussed the qualification to learn the Gita, we will now begin the topics of the second chapter. In the second chapter, Shree Krishna begins to answer Arjun. Although Arjun is a Divine personality, he is playing the part of a confused soul. Arjun is acting like an agyani – one who does not have correct spiritual knowledge – so that Krishna can reveal the correct knowledge for the benefit of the souls of the world. Arjun’s fundamental confusion is the same confusion we all have: we believe we are the physical body, and we have forgotten that we are the Divine soul.
Shree Krishna begins by telling Arjun that he is speaking like a learned pandit – because he gave Krishna a whole lecture on why he was not going to fight the war – and yet he is grieving for his relatives in the way an unlearned man would. He tells him that the learned do not grieve for the dead or for the living (chapter 2, verse 11). Why not? Because whatever exists today has always existed and will always continue to exist (chapter 2, verse 12).
Whatever Exists Now Has Always Existed And Will Always Exist
The Ved states that there are three things that exist eternally. There is no fourth existence, or tattva. The three eternal tattva are: brahm (God), jeev (souls) and maya (the material energy that produces the world). All three have no beginning and will never end. All three have existed forever and will continue to exist for all eternity, because an existing thing cannot cease to exist, and a non-existent thing cannot be brought into being (chapter 2, verse 16).
It means that even God does not create something out of nothing. Although we call God the creator, yet He has never created any souls, nor has He created maya. The souls have existed forever and are as old as God – eternal. Maya is also an eternally existing energy, because energy cannot be created or destroyed. So God did not create maya either. God merely activates maya when He wants the universe to be created, and he de-activates maya when He wants the universe to dissolve. But maya does not cease to exist when the universe is dissolved. Nor do souls cease to exist at that time. During the dissolution of the universe, both maya and the souls stay within God in a dormant form. When God re-activates the mayic energy, then the universe is created, and the souls are sent forth to be born. This cycle of creation (srishti) and dissolution (pralaya) of the universe is eternal – it never began. So souls have always existed, and have been taking birth after birth since eternity in this endless cycle of srishti and pralaya of the material universe.
Who Dies And Who Is Born?
So who actually dies or is born? If something has always existed, then it cannot be born; and if something will always continue to exist, then it never dies. That means that all three – God, the souls and maya – were never born and can never die. The only thing that can be born is a physical form made out of mayic energy. That form is temporary: it was created, and it can be destroyed.
If you go to the beach and use the sand there to make a sand castle, then you created a form out of something that was already there. You created the castle, not the sand. When a wave washes away your sand castle, then the castle is destroyed, but not the sand. Similarly, mayic energy manifests in various forms in this universe – as planets, stars, galaxies, etc., as well as the bodies inhabited by the living souls. The mayic energy is eternal, but the physical forms created by it are temporary – they are born and they die, just like your sand castle.
Our physical body was born and will one day die, but not the soul. The physical body passes through the phases of birth, growth, maturation, decline and death (chapter 2, verse 13), but not the soul, because the soul is eternal and unchanging. The soul is indestructible (chapter 2, verse 23) and is not killed by the death of the physical body (chapter 2, verse 20). When the body dies, the soul moves on to another body, just like we cast off old, worn out clothes and take new ones (chapter 2, verse 22). Therefore, only the physical body can die, and that was a certainty at the time of its birth, because whatever is born must one day die (chapter 2, verse 27).
For Whom Should We Grieve?
Then for whom should we grieve? For the physical body whose existence was always known to be short-lived and whose death was guaranteed the moment it was born? Or for the soul which can never be killed and will go on to take another body? Neither is worth grieving for. So it is only the unwise, or those who do not realize their Divine identity as the soul, who grieve for the death of anyone’s physical body.
In this way, Shree Krishna instructed Arjun on the philosophy of sankhya, which tells that our true identity is as eternal Divine souls – our identity is not the temporary physical body. One who knows and accepts this does not grieve for the death of anyone, because he knows it is not they who have died, but only their physical body. Thus, Shree Krishna advised Arjun to perform his duty by fighting the war, and to fear neither his own death nor the death of the relatives against whom he would fight, because he cannot kill their soul, and they cannot kill his. Therefore, he should simply do what is right and do not worry about who will kill and who will be killed in the war.
After this, Shree Krishna explained to Arjun about the law of karm and from that point of view as well, he should fight the war. Read about the law of karm in the next post.