April 24, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Scared Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar
Commentary and Chapter 2, God Answers Arjun
The message of the Gita begins to take shape Chapter 2 as we are introduced to several of the themes that make up this scripture. We begin to see that while each chapter is discrete, it is not independent and that together they represent the philosophy and values that are the heart of Hinduism.
The language of the Gita in Sanskrit is pure, transparent, and beautiful. The goal of my translation was to keep these qualities in the English version. To this end, instead of translating each Sanskrit verse separately, I altered the construction to let complete thoughts flow smoothly and accurately in English. In the print version of my work, the English text faces the Sanskrit manuscript handwritten and illuminated by Navin J. Gajjar, my husband.
An additional goal in my work was to let the text speak for itself. I believe that, since it is crystal clear, no explanation is required. Each reader or listener can understand the Gita’s message without interpretation. Moreover, as this scripture is believed to be a revelation from God, it should be presented without bias. Ambiguities are deliberate and attempt to resolve them are misleading. For example, the Gita discusses different ways to achieve oneness with God. When Arjun asks which is best, Lord Krishna’s answers are inconsistent. Yet they connect and lead to a consistent conclusion.
So, Chapter 2, God Answers Arjun, begins with an exhortation by God [Bhagvan in Sanskrit and Indian vernaculars] to a dejected Arjun whose eyes are filled with tears. Lord Krishna tells him that he is silly, that if he does not fight he will be laughed at, will not go to heaven, will not be famous but will be weak and unmanly. He urges Arjun to be brave and to conquer his enemies. Yet Arjun continues to resist though he admits his confusion, saying, “We do not know what to do, to fight or not to fight.” He asks for guidance and for a clear answer to his doubts. Then again he repeats, “I will not fight” and keeps silent.
In the remainder of this chapter Lord Krishna further explains why Arjun should take on the battle. His first reason is that Arjun pities those whom he should not because the souls of the Kings who are his enemies are everlasting. The soul, Lord Krishna says, is eternal. It does not change. It cannot be killed. It simply moves on to another body. Just like a man changes clothes, the soul changes bodies. It is formless between lives, but takes on a form between birth and death. This concept introduces the principles of reincarnation and karma which future chapters explore in greater detail. Orthodox Hinduism does not debate either principle but takes them for granted as premises.
Next, the Lord tells Arjun that it is his duty to fight a war for a good reason. He is a Kshatriya, a member of the warrior class, and engaging in battle will lead him to God, whereas failure to do so will be viewed as cowardice. Krishna Bhagvan or Lord Krishna further explains that the way to fight without committing a sin is to be detached. This means Arjun should make up his mind to wage battle without considering how the fight will turn out. He should not be concerned about winning or losing but only about doing his duty. Thus, Arjun’s mind will be clear, focused, and concentrated on God. Doing his duty well will make Arjun wise.
Lord Krishna’s comments lead to the next focus of Chapter 2. Now Arjun asks how he can recognize a wise man, how a wise man behaves, how he sits and walks and talks. God answers that a wise man wants nothing. He is satisfied and content within his soul. He is without hatred, envy, anger, or fear. He controls his mind and is calm and focused on God. The Lord adds that this is difficult but not impossible. In contrast, a person who keeps wanting things gets disappointed, angry, and confused. She has no peace. Her mind wanders like a boat lost on the water and carried here and thereby the wind.
Chapter 2 concludes with God’s answer to Arjun’s question about recognizing a wise person. He explains that a wise person can be recognized because she is one with God and stays calm like the ocean when rivers flow into it. She is at peace, she understands the truth, and she is forever happy.
The subjects of wisdom and truth arise in other contexts in future chapters. These are fundamental questions. Understanding them is essential to an understanding of the Gita. They are two of the many threads that weave into the rich fabric of Hinduism. While the answers may not be absolute, the questions are.
Now, please enjoy Chapter 2 of the Gita.
Chapter 2: God Answers Arjun
Sanjay said: The Lord Krishna talked to Arjun, who was sad and full of pity. Arjun’s eyes were filled with tears.
Bhagvan said: Arjun, how can you be so silly now? You will be laughed at by everyone. You will not go to heaven and you will not be famous. Do not be unmanly. It does not suit you. Don’t be weak. Be brave. Rise and conquer your enemies!
Arjun said: How, Krishna, can I fight Bhishma and Drona with arrows on the battlefield? I respect them. It is better to live as a beggar, but without killing, because after killing them our hands will be stained with their red blood.
We do not know what to do. To fight or not to fight. We do not know if it would be better for us to win or to lose and be conquered. The sons of Dritarashtra, the Kauravas, are lined up against us and we do not want to stay alive by killing them.
I am confused. I do not know what to do. I do not know what my duty is. I pray to you, tell me clearly what is right and good for me. Sadness is drying up my mouth.
Sanjay spoke to Dritarashtra: Oh King, after saying this Arjun told Lord Krishna a second time, “I will not fight” and then he kept quiet.
So Lord Krishna, smiling, spoke to sad Arjun who was still standing in the middle of two armies.
Bhagvan said: You pity those whom you should not pity. Wise men do not pity those who are dead nor those who are alive. The reason is simple.
I, God, have always lived. You and those Kings you pity have always lived too. And all of us will never stop living.
The soul of the little boy, the young man, and the old man does not change even though the body changes. And even if the soul moves on to another body after the body dies, the soul stays the same.
So you see, you do not have to feel sad at all. You cannot kill someone else’s soul and someone else’s soul cannot kill you. And the body doesn’t matter. Do not worry about killing the body.
Oh Arjun, do not worry about the body at all. A wise person does not care about heat and cold or about pleasure and pain. These things belong to the body. They come and go. They are not permanent and so they are not real.
Only the soul is real. And the soul can never be killed. A wise person understands this. For this reason, Arjun, go and fight!
The soul is never born. It never dies. It does not have a beginning and so it has no end. It is everlasting and immovable.
As a man takes off old clothes and changes them for new ones, so the soul removes its old body and replaces it by a new one.
The soul cannot be cut by knives or burned by fire, or wet by water, or dried by the wind.
The soul cannot be seen nor described nor imagined. The soul never changes. It has no form, but it is everywhere. So do not worry about the soul.
Oh Arjun, birth leads to death and death leads to birth, so do not grieve over something that cannot be helped. Everyone died before he was born and was born before he died. So what is there to be sad about?
All creatures are formless before birth and formless after death. They only have form during life which is between birth and death.
Some see that the soul is wonderful; some people say that the soul is wonderful, and some hear that the soul is wonderful. Yet some, even hearing, do not know the soul.
The soul which lives in the body cannot be hurt or destroyed, so do not worry about it.
Besides, you have to think of your duty. You are a Kshatriya, a warrior, and to fight a war for a good reason is your duty.
You are lucky to have the chance to fight in this war for your duty will take you to God. And if you do not fight, you will be giving up your duty. Giving up a duty is a sin.
People will laugh at you. You will be ashamed. The shame will be worse than death. People will think you were afraid to fight. Your enemies will say shameful things about you.
But if you fight, you will either go to heaven or win victory. SO, Arjun, arise. Make up your mind to fight. Fight and do not worry about how the war turns out. Do not care if you win or lose. Do not care if your fighting brings pleasure or pain, victory or defeat. Just do your duty. In this way you will be free.
If you are not worried about winning or losing, about killing or being killed, you will be able to do your duty very well because you will not be afraid. Your mind will be on your duty and not scattered her and there.
Oh Arjun, do not care about opposites like pleasure and pain. Just work. Do not care how your work turns out. Do your work well. This is being wise and being wise takes you to God. Being wise, you will not be confused. Your mind will concentrate on God.
Then Arjun asked: Oh Krishna, how can we recognize a wise man whose mind is concentrating steadily on God? How does a wise man speak, and sit and walk?
Bhagvan answered: A wise man is he who is always satisfied because he wants nothing. He is happy by himself, inside himself within his soul.
Because he is always satisfied, the wise man neither feels joyful when he gets something good, nor sad when he gets something bad. He has no hate or envy. He is not afraid. He is not angry. His mind is always calm.
A wise man is he who tries to control his mind and senses. This means he tries to separate himself from outside objects, even though this is very difficult. Yet wise man controls his mind and concentrates on Me.
By thinking of objects, a person starts to want them. And a person who always wants things cannot have them all. Then she gets disappointed. Her disappointment makes her angry. Her anger confuses her. She loses her mind and is ruined. She has no peace.
But a person who stops wanting things is free from attachment. She is free from loving things and free from hate. Such a person is on the path that leads to peace.
How can a person without self-control have peace? And without peace, How can she have happiness?
A person whose mind wanders is like a lost boat on the water carried here and there by the wind.
But a person who has self-control is calm and happy. She is never sad. She goes right inside God. The wise woman who is part of God sees beyond night and day.
Like the ocean stays calm when rivers flow into it, so a person with self-control stays calm no matter what flows into her mind.
Oh Arjun, You can easily recognize the wise man who is one with God. He is at peace. He understands truth. He is calm and he is forever happy.
We look forward to discussing and presenting Chapter three to you next Friday, May 1st.
Please note that for those interested, I will occasionally be writing blogs regarding general matters in between the presentations of the Gita. These will not appear Fridays or regularly but from time to time as certain events or recollections strike me as relevant. Hopefully, they will not distract from the Gita but rather offer a change of pace. Recently I discussed the state of the world as we cope with Covid-19. Since the Gita represents a way of life, it is valuable to seek ways to integrate it into our responses to daily challenges and incorporate into our thoughts regarding personal and public events.
You can purchase The Gita using this link.