Chapter II, Verse 6
Sri Nerode’s Translation:
Ah! Who knows! Which will be better, that they should conquer us or that we should conquer them? (At times, doubt arises in the mind as to what is better – whether it is better to follow the spiritual instinct of life which brings higher enjoyment of the spirit or not.) The very sons of Dhritarashtra confront us in the ranks – even slaying them we shall not care to live. (If all earthly desires are demolished, one may not desire to live.)
The blind mind, or the intellect, applying all its accumulated sensory based knowledge and deductive reasoning concludes that any life without physical sensual experience and limited expression is worthless. The promised nirvana of the soul expressing through form in a pure way seems pointless from the ego’s perspective.
Doubt is destructive. Doubt delays decision making. Delayed decisions lead to negative results. When confronted with a choice, consider the factors at hand and then choose. “Big” decisions may take research and contemplation, but indefinite delay leads to poor results.
“I’m so glad I waited,” one might say when a planned decision was delayed and proven to be incorrect. However, the lesson that a seemingly poor decision would have taught to the devotee has also been delayed.
Experience is the greatest teacher. Contemplate the day’s experiences each night before sleep and note which have helped progress and which have delayed progress. Until the devotee is able to transcend both “good” and “bad” experiences, s/he needs to choose those actions that result in daily progress. Contemplation and meditation are as essential to life as daily exercise and nutritious food.
One day, the meditating devotee discovers that the material resistances and the physical elements are creations of conscious energy from within and distorted by the selfish ego. At this moment most devotees initially choose to side with the external elements, with the ego. The realization of the degree of one’s own power is overwhelming. Power comes with personal responsibility. Humans are experts in blaming others for their own faults.
When the devotee chooses to lead a life that might best be described as a “responsible life” at that moment sincere spiritual progress begins. Barriers to understanding fall when one accepts the power of their own choices. Love and joy begin to ooze from every particle of creation at the moment that the devotee decides that “very sons of Dhritarashtra” are his/her responsibility.
Easter Eggs (hidden references to deeper meanings) in the original version of this this verse include:
“Dhritarashtra’s children” – literally the five material resistances and the five material elements created by senses.
FIVE MANIFESTATIONS OF MATERIAL RESISTANCE
- sound from the cervical center;
- touch from the dorsal center;
- form and color from the lumbar center;
- taste and fluidity from the sacral center; and
- odor from the coccygeal center.
FIVE MANIFESTATIONS OF PHYSICAL ELEMENTS
- ether from the cervical center;
- air from the dorsal center;
- fire from the lumbar center;
- water from the sacral center; and
- earth from the coccygeal center.
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.
Contemplation regarding the nature of the senses is stressed in this verse. One needs to accept one’s duty and learn to express through the senses rather than be an irresponsible victim of past sensual experiences. When a driver of a car drives drunk or is significantly distracted and causes an accident, the driver is responsible for the crash. Similarly, when one allows the senses to run wild, ruining the body and personal relationships, this sense-slave is also responsible for the personal calamities. Learn to operate the body properly and it will serve the devotee well.
Download a PDF of this post.