Chapter II, Verse 5
Sri Nerode’s Translation:
Better it would be to live on beggar’s bread than to slay these high-souled masters! Slaying these, even in this world, all my enjoyment of wealth and desires will be sprinkled with blood. (In spiritual pursuit many noble desires are slain, indeed, for the sake of more noble ones.)
The worldly devotee Arjuna argues that begging is more desirable than slaying his habits and sensual experiences. From an ignorant perspective, any desire can be defined as noble or good. Beggars focused on picking trash overlook the wealth that could be had with a little effort.
The devotee Arjuna continues his arguments against enlightenment from the limited worldly perspective of his blind intellect. Because he is attached to his senses, he is unable to imagine a desirable human existence where he controls the senses and uses the senses to express the highest Truth in material terms. Killing both the good and the bad aspects of the senses appears evil because the devotee incorrectly believes sensual attachments are the only form of human experiences.
Religions establish communities and build empires by declaring the “right” and “wrong” actions of a “moral” and “righteous” human. The new student on a systematic spiritual path easily understands the need to avoid harmful actions and thoughts. When the aspirant realizes that that helpful actions are also limiting, s/he thinks “This is too much. It cannot be right.”
However, when the devotee gets beyond these first two steps in Patanjali’s eight steps, then the unity of good and evil becomes more apparent. Just like a coin has two sides, every activity has a positive and a negative impact. Wisdom is knowing when and how to apply any action for the best outcome. Patanjali’s eight steps include: 1) Yama (morals), 2) Niyama (prescripts), 3) Asana (postures and movement), 4) Pranayama (energy mastery), 5) Pratyahara (sense self-control), 6) Dharana (techniques of concentration), 7) Dhyana (attainment of one-pointed concentration) and 8) Samadhi (non-attachment or meditation).
What Arjuna fails to consider at this moment is the potential in transmuting the senses. When the positive and negative aspects of the senses are transformed into a harmonious state, the power and experience behind each sense is increased infinitely. The blood-stain Arjuna fears is actually the empty shell of delusion being cast off.
Like the previous verse, this one is concerned with attachment to the past. Faced with change he has labeled as unpleasant, Arjuna argues against progress.
Easter Eggs (hidden references to deeper meanings) in the original version of this this verse include:
Gurun – The use of “gurun” in the Sanskrit text indicates that the devotee has learned “helpful” lessons from these elders and sense experiences. Helpful means that the devotee successfully progressed in some manner without injury versus harmful lessons that caused some form of self-destruction in pursuit of progress.
Verses 5, 6, 7, and 8 switch meter in the Sanskrit poem. Each line contains eleven syllables verses the usual eight. Significant when using the Gita as a Sanskrit primer but also notable superficially for slowing the pace of the thoughts expressed – highlighting the importance of these lines.
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