A Shadow Existence

Chapter II, Verse 19


Sri Nerode’s Translation:


He who thinketh that spirit can slay or he who regardeth that spirit can be slain – neither of these knows (the truth). Spirit can never slay, neither can it be slain. (To bring this focal idea, the Bhagavad Gita starts with the concept of the battle in a literal and symbolic sense as has been explained ere this.)


Helpful Translation:

As the individualized consciousness cannot be killed, nor can it kill. All aspects of gross materialism live on within the absolute Universal Consciousness.



The physical manifestation is like a shadow. If one stands in bright sunlight, he may see the shadow his body casts. If one stands in a darkened room, he has no shadow to be seen. This person both with shadow and without one doesn’t feel pain or remorse at the loss of his shadow. Children in a playground might jump on each other’s shadows and claim “I killed your shadow.” Then they laugh and continue to play.

An aspect of this arrangement between consciousness and the illusion of a limited body is similar to a shadow cast by a body. The shadow is flat, dark, with little detail compared to the body. Likewise, the human body is dark, flat and with little detail compared to the individualized consciousness (or soul).

Attachment to the shadow is what causes forgetfulness of the soul. Imagine if a society placed a great value on a person’s shadow and stepping on a shadow was made into a crime. In no time, ignorant people would find ways to protect their shadows and even worship them. The “shadow” society might exist for eons, until one day an invader brings the scientific truth of the relationship of the shadow to the body. Armed with knowledge, the society progresses from valuing their shadows to valuing their bodies.

Expansion of consciousness through scientific meditation techniques allows every individual to discover the shadow nature of the physical form. With effort each person can be like Arjuna and replace their ignorance with wisdom. Understanding does not destroy the shadow, rather it transmutes one’s personal experience.


Easter Eggs:

Easter Eggs (hidden references to deeper meanings) in the original version of this this verse include:

Vetti versus Manyate – Each of these Sanskrit words are translated as “he who thinks” or “he who believes” but the author Vyasa chose different words for a reason. In this verse Vetti has the added connotation of one who is intuitively wise (partially enlightened) while Manyate includes a meaning of one who is ignorant of his own eternal nature and thus suffers.

Compare Sanskrit phrasing of “the Self” in this verse to other verses where it is mentioned.

Download a PDF copy of this post.


Tags: ,

Ancient History

%d bloggers like this: