Chapter II, Verse 21
Sri Nerode’s Translation:
How can thou who knowest that Spirit is indestructible, perpetual, immortal, and immutable, affirm that he can slay or cause to slay spirit (that cannot be slain).
Knowing the individualized consciousness (the soul) is without substance, without form, beyond time and beyond duality, how could one’s consciousness be killed or cause the destruction of another? Even a limited, ego-imprisoned human can comprehend that “nothing” is not able to kill “anything”.
“Give me some proof,” the man yelled at the philosopher. “At least give me something that is of practical use.”
Like an average child, Arjuna is aware of his human body. In this verse Arjuna is referred to as Partha, the son of Pritha. Partha indicates the state of human consciousness that is unaware of spiritual matters. Partha is receptive to ideas but naïve about how ideals may apply in practical matters.
When Krishna makes a grand statement about indestructibility in this verse, his words essentially fall on deaf ears. So, why does Krishna make the statement at all?
Arjuna was given a choice at the beginning of this battle. He could have the counsel of Krishna or he could have Krishna’s army. Arjuna wisely chose Krishna. By consenting to be Arjuna’s counsel, Krishna assumed the responsibility of imparting his highest wisdom. Krishna has an obligation to tell Arjuna that time, space and the physical life are unreal. In the next verse, Krisha gives Arjuna’s receptive consciousness an example that he can understand.
When body-limited devotees approach this verse, and others like it, they should ask, “How does this apply to my life?”
The dream state is a good analogy to the experiences of the body. In a dream, all sorts of life and death can take place and none of it matters once the dreamer awakes. While ignorant and incarnated, humans are essentially stuck in a dream-like state. In a nightmare, one might yell “wake up” or think “this is just a dream.” Likewise, in waking life everyone has moments of clarity and passing glimpses of attunement with a greater purpose. Krishna’s statement of truth is the statement of a goal. Achieve this perspective and none of the ethics and morality surrounding a battle will bother you because none of it is real.
Fear can provide a moment of caution for the careless or a warning of possible negative outcomes for the thoughtful person. However, a practical side to this verse is to encourage the devotee to set fear aside, especially when duty calls.
When the ancient tool of Sanskrit is revived, this verse affirms the need for conscious attunement to truth even when confronted with the doubts of the son of Pritha.
The proof that the man seeks from the philosopher at the beginning of this commentary can only be found in his own experience. Consciousness is prime. Consciousness registers experiences. Science creates a language to categorize experiences, but science can never measure anything experienced by consciousness. Scientific proof is the measurement of the by-products of experience.
In other words, two people share a meal. One person finds it delicious and the other has a list of criticisms. Material science can prove that the two people shared the same meal, but science cannot prove the sum of the conscious experiences that led one to enjoy and one to dislike the same meal. A scientific approach is necessary for many to develop their consciousness and understanding, but it is not essential for all.
To experience the proof of this verse, meditate. To adopt one practical application, become fearless.
Easter Eggs (hidden references to deeper meanings) in the original version of this this verse include:
Vedavinasinam – I am not concerned with the specific translation of this term but rather with the deeper meaning. Behind the surface meaning of this compound Sanskrit phrase is a description of the soul as “nothing” and thus as “unlimited”.
Partha – Son of Pritha
Pritha is the birth name of Arjuna’s mother Kunti. [His “father” is Indra, the lord of heaven (Svargaloka), who has a thunderbolt (Vajra), in his hand.] Partha indicates the state of human consciousness that is innocent or naïve. Contrast with Kaunteya. The feminine origin of this moniker indicates it is related to the ida nadi.
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