Chapter 2-Sankhya yoga (discipline of knowledge, technique & discipline)
Chapter 2 is perhaps the most important chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, as it introduces most of the key themes of the Gita as a practical and spiritual guide, to living life correctly.
In the first chapter, Arjuna was shown to be completely immersed in grief, caused by attachment & delusion. In his panic state, he decides that withdrawing from the war was the only solution.
What is the second chapter of Bhagavad Gita?
Sanjaya opens this chapter, painting a vivid portrait of Arjuna’s state: the world’s mightiest warrior stuck by confusion, grief, and actually crying. Krishna uses tough words to shake Arjuna out of his deluded mind. He tells Arjuna that this is not the time for sorrow. He had a lot of time to think about the battle, and this behavior now is not appropriate. He tells him to lift his mind to higher planes of intelligence. Arjuna slowly calms down & opens up to logic & reasoning. Arjuna is confused, “should I fight or not?” This is the fundamental question that led to the message in the Gita. Arjuna finally gained enough of his reasoning capacity back to realize that his mind had been thrown off balance by attachment, & needed guidance from Krishna. Thus, Arjuna becomes a siṣya by surrendering to Lord Kṛiṣhṇa, the guru. Now that the guru-śiṣya relationship has been struck, the teaching can begin. Here, Shri Krishna smiled, because the time to deliver the sermon of the Gita had arrived.
What is Krishna’s message to Arjuna?
Arjuna was displaying grief on one hand & trying to display logic. Logic and grief cannot go together. Shri Krishna’s wanted to correct Arjuna’s logic. He pointed to Arjuna that there was no need to grieve neither for the living nor for the dead. Death is inevitable. We should enjoy and appreciate the living. Therefore Shri Krishna instructs Arjuna, and us, to assess any life situation with logic and reason, and not to get swayed by emotion.
How is Bhagavad Gita a science, giving a few examples?
Krishna says “All of us are timeless and eternal. We always existed in the past, and we will always exist in the future”. Now, according to physics, the matter can never be created or destroyed, it can only undergo a change from one state to another. So, therefore, this shloka reiterates this physical law by saying that the atoms and molecules that comprise us always existed in the universe in some shape or form. The body is born, goes through childhood, youth, and old age. The body undergoes changes and eventually perishes. But the “body dweller” remains constant through these changes. When the old body has become unfit to dwell in, the body dweller discards it and obtains a new body. So, this means that the body dweller is something that is separate, distinct, and different from the body. The body dweller is the eternal essence. And how should we acquire the wisdom to see this eternal essence? Our sense organs and our ego can get affected by external stimuli. Krishna says life is a series of experiences that arise, exist temporarily and perish. The person who knows the “trick” of staying balanced through these experiences is called “Dheera”. The eternal essence is imperishable. It cannot be destroyed, nor is it created. Krishna says, “Arjuna, you should not think that you are this human body. Associate yourself with that body-dweller, that eternal essence, the Atma. It will never get destroyed, so there is no need for grief.”
The Atma does not kill, nor does it die from someone else trying to kill it.
So four points have been made:
- Shri Krishna told Arjuna: “You are thinking that it is evil, wrong, and unlawful to fight against your kinsmen. Your logic is incorrect. You are missing the big picture.” Informing Arjuna that his logic and reasoning was incorrect
- “I will tell you the correct logic. You shouldn’t grieve for them. The eternal essence, body dweller, is imperishable and real, whereas human bodies and material objects are perishable, and are unreal, as it were.” Explaining the correct logic and reasoning to Arjuna
- “I will also give you some practical advice. Do not get agitated by joy and sorrow caused by contact with people, objects, and situations. These are temporary conditions so bear them patiently. Once you learn to remain stable through joy and sorrow, you will begin to realize the eternal essence”. Providing practical guidance to implement this correct logic and reasoning
- “Now that you know that you can never destroy the imperishable eternal essence and that you should not grieve for the perishable, get up and fight, O Arjuna”. Describing the attributes of a person who follows this teaching.
What is the main message of Bhagavad Gita?
Any material object, including the human body, goes through six types of modifications: birth, exist, change, grow, decay, and perish. The eternal essence is beyond all these modifications, hence it is changeless. This message is repeated throughout the Gita. Krishna tells Arjuna not to grieve for the opposing army’s warriors on their imminent death. Their bodies will perish anyway, as will his. Therefore you have no reason to grieve at all. After having used logic in his teaching, Shri Krishna uses a call to emotion as a tool of persuasion, Shri Krishna then persuades Arjuna to carry out his duty, or svadharma. Shri Krishna pointed this out to Arjuna by reminding him that a true warrior would look forward to the challenge of fighting the Kaurava army, which was filled with world-renowned warriors. If someone does not perform their duty, it is equivalent to sin under the cosmic law. Krishna reminds him that everyone will speak about your infamy forever, condemn him & shame him. What could be a greater sorrow than this? Krishna says if you are killed, you will obtain heaven; and if you win, you will enjoy this earth. Therefore, take action & engage in war. Under no circumstances is inaction permissible. Treat joy or sorrow, gain or loss, victory or defeat with equanimity, and then engage in war. By doing so, you will not incur sin. This concludes the first part of the teachings. He calls this “sankhya yoga”, which was the relationship of the “body” with the “Atma”. Krishna tells Arjuna that the “discipline of knowledge” has been stated, & now he will show him the “discipline of action”.
Hereafter, the Lord enters into karma-yoga, the practical tool kit. The first lesson is to keep your mind focused to maintain equanimity, or “budhi-yoga” by:
- Reducing the quantity of unnecessary thoughts of materialism.
- Slowly improving the quality of our thoughts is mindful of what we are thinking.
- Reducing any thought that demonstrates extreme attachment or hatred towards an object e.g. love/hate, joyful/sorrowful, pleasurable/painful
- Stop worrying about acquisition and preservation
- Perform actions focusing on the present moment, without attachment to the result of an action Shri Krishna says that once our thoughts become high quality, we can contemplate spirituality. Then automatically we will begin to feel less need for any external entertainment and enjoyment.
Do your duty don’t expect results?
Shree Krishna says, “One can choose one’s action but never the result. The result is dependent on the laws of action.” The other factors of the world, known and unknown may bring a totally unexpected result. One can hope for the best but should be prepared for the worst. When one acts with the above understanding, success and failure lose their capacity to shake him. One does not react, because he is not caught unawares. But action must be taken. This is a skill in action. If one maintains equanimity of mind at all times, one’s actions become perfect since they will be performed with total attention and dexterity, without any distractions. Therefore, there is no need to worry about the result. The result will, without question, be beneficial. A tranquil mind will soon shed its false value attributed to the outer world and turn inwards to the Atma. When, through Self-knowledge, one gets established in the peaceful Atma, he attains liberation from the entanglements of birth and attains the immaculate state. The final stage of yoga is the “state of equanimity”, or “steady wisdom”, which is the state of ultimate indifference to the material world, or “param vairagya”. Arjuna then asks Krishna, what this person who has attained self-knowledge, “sthitaprajna” look like? Being a warrior, he wanted a practical answer, so he can emulate. Shree Krishna says: “When an individual gives up all desires that enter the mind and is self-satisfied in his own self, that individual is called a person of steady wisdom.”
- He is independent of the world to be happy.
- He is free from attachment, hatred, desire, anger, fear, elation, depression etc. Though living in the same world, he enjoys freedom and contentment which is unknown to others
- If the ignorant man can be said to be in darkness with regards to the Atma, the wise man is in broad daylight of the Atma.
Arjuna asks how he can remain steadfast if he sees dangerous thoughts. Krishna answers, whenever a tortoise senses danger, he withdraws his limbs into his shell, and once that situation passes, he brings his limbs back into the world. Similarly, if we detect that an object, person, or situation is about to disturb our equanimity, Krishna advises us to bring our intellect into the picture, and completely withdraw our attention from that object, person, or situation. The one whose mind and senses are under control is devoid of attraction or revulsion. He moves around objects and gains a state of tranquillity. Having gained tranquillity, all of his sorrows are destroyed. His mind is joyful and his intellect soon becomes steady. An individual whose mind and senses are not controlled cannot have a focused intellect, without a focused intellect he cannot meditate, and without meditation, there is no peace. How can there be happiness without peace? The best comparison for the wise man’s mind is the ocean. The ocean is independently full and is unaffected by the rivers, entering or not entering, dirty or clean. Similarly, the wise man’s mind is independently full. It is undisturbed by the favorable and unfavorable experiences, entering or not entering. Krishnaconcludes this topic by glorifying this state as the Brahmi-state, reaching which one does not get deluded again. He lives life as a jivan-mukta (liberated while living). After death, he becomes one with Brahman (nirvanam).