Chapter II, Verse 4
Sri Nerode’s Translation:
How, O Krishna, can I, in battle, attack with shafts Bhishma and Drona who are rather worthy of reverence. (In the spiritual path at times, one has to ignore the many worthy desires and ties to attain the Ultimate Reality. At first it is hard to reconcile it in one’s mind.)
The little ego of Arjuna wishes to make excuses and avoid the responsibility for his personal duty. The worldly devotee claims that he can’t turn against his ego that has created the personality he calls “me”. He also refuses to confront those habits that have supported and defined the individuality of this human incarnation. Bad habits must be transmuted and good habits must be surrendered through non-attachment.
On the surface this verse addresses the devotee’s excuse known as “respect”. The devotee says “I respect (have benefited in past experiences) from the people, relatives, habits, incorrect ways of thinking and acting.” The argument is “How can I kill someone/something who/that has helped me in the past?”
The bucket of this surface argument is full of holes and can’t hold water. First, the egotistical human often hurts the one s/he loves. There are many excuses for hurting another in the name of goodness, but the impetus is always selfishness and ignorance. Second, change is a given. Nothing in creation stays the same for long. When the devotee refuses to embrace the challenges presented to him (or her), he ensures that the change will be negative. Improvement comes with effort. The one who appears to benefit from laziness is drawing on a limited savings of goodness.
The Bhagavad Gita uses the symbolism of war because it “feels like” an internal war when the devotee reclaims stewardship of his experiences from the false ego. However, attachments to feelings loosen when he learns to live in the present. It is attachment to past memories that create emotions. When living in the eternal now, it becomes easier to step back from the idea of injuring, maiming or killing the opponent. Instead, realize that any “battle” (or change) transmutes the energy into another form. The goal is to improve the outcome through effort.
A layer below the surface, this verse sets the tone for the next few verses. Intuitive wisdom combined with the goal of understanding one’s own, personal and unique role in the world reveal this group of verses should be considered together. Essentially, these verses address the false reasoning of the blind intellect associated with past experiences.
In a future commentary to be focused upon the Bhagavad Gita as a Sanskrit primer, this verse indicates which nadis, nerves, physical sounds and subtle sounds should be used to separate the noble traits (here, respect) from the false traits (here, attachment to past benefits).
Easter Eggs (hidden references to deeper meanings) in the original version of this this verse include:
“Madhusudana” – indicates Krishna the charioteer as the destroyer of the Madhu demon of ignorance, specifically one who destroys the illusions of past and future. Time is a creation of the intellect. Attachment is a creation of the selfish ego. Madhusudana destroys the concept of time.
“Bhishma” – the individual ego
“Drona” – automatic habits perpetuated by the physical design of the nervous system. These habits can be either good or bad for the devotee.
Destroy the demon of the ego and all supportive habits by using specific techniques. The hidden references here indicate which family of techniques addresses these issues. Considered in conjunction with Lahiri Mahasaya’s diagram of subtle vibrations and their corresponding areas of body manifestation, allows the adept yogi to craft appropriate Sanskrit mantras to heal this aspect of the nervous system in oneself as well as in others.
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