Ch 2 Verse 13
देहिनोऽस्मिन्यथा देहे कौमारं यौवनं जरा ।
तथा देहान्तरप्राप्तिर्धीरस्तत्र न मुह्यति ॥१३॥
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
dehinaḥ—of the embodied; asmin—in this; yathā—as; dehe—in the body; kaumāram—boyhood; yauvanam—youth; jarā—old age; tathā—similarly; dehāntara—transference of the body; prāptiḥ—achievement; dhīraḥ—the sober; tatra—thereupon; na—never; muhyati—deluded.
As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continuously passes in this body from boyhood to youth to old age the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.”
So this is the—what we’ve chosen as the starting point for this presentation, the Bhagavad-gita Chalisa, or 40 essential verses from the Bhagavad-gita that lay out the actual essential message. This particular verse presents a foundational truth, or understanding to almost everything that will follow, and it is the existence of an eternal spiritual being which in Sanskrit was referred to as the atma, or the self, who I actually am.
This—up to this point Arjuna had asked Krishna to bring his chariot down between the two warring armies and to look at the people that had assembled to fight. And, riding through the lines, and looking at the people that were about to face each other, he became completely overwhelmed, considering that dear friends and relatives were facing each other on the battlefield. In the opposing army to the one that he was in there were personalities that he considered even worshipable, due enormous respect, and now he was about to fight. And he suddenly became overwhelmed with this idea, that perhaps this is something very wrong and very sinful that we are about to do.
He described how his cousins were avaricious, desiring the kingdom and the wealth, but even if they were that way why should, he said, why should we fight with them and potentially kill them over this thing? And he said that, with the death of all these people I don’t think I would be able to live happily in any circumstance. And becoming increasingly overwhelmed with these thoughts and what he was expressing, he described that, “I can find no means to drive away this grief,” the grief that he was experiencing. And so this was kind of like the starting point of the Bhagavad-gita, this expression of his that of being completely grief stricken. And he lowered his bow, he sat down on the end of the chariot and he was even shedding tears with this whole experience.
And Krishna said to him,
“While speaking learned words you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead.”
And that’s an astonishing statement. What makes it astonishing is our own state of consciousness, because we will tend to interpret these words as perhaps being lacking in compassion, lacking in gentleness, whereas in reality the opposite is true, that these are words of infinite compassion. The desire of Sri Krishna was to see that, not just Arjuna, but all people are lifted out of the state of great suffering and unhappiness.
There is a fundamental dharmic truth—dharmic meaning, you know, with all of the religions or the paths connected with what’s referred to broadly as dharma. So this includes Buddhism and all forms of Hinduism and Sikhism etc. There’s perhaps a third of the world’s population lives connected to the principles in some way or other, of these dharmic traditions. And there is this underlying or fundamental principle, and it’s like a little formula that “ignorance equals pain or suffering.”
So it means that when in our life we experience tremendous pain or suffering it is invariably going to be because I have somehow or other, somewhere along the line embraced something that is untrue. I have embraced untruth as being true. And having embraced that, now I’ve run into the reality that it is not; and it is causing me great pain. This is actually a really, really deep idea and one needs to spend a considerable amount of time contemplating this, particularly under the guidance of a spiritual teacher, to understand its importance and what it really means.
So Krishna is telling Arjuna that you are grieving—he himself said, I can find no means to drive away this grief that he’s feeling. He was overwhelmed by it. And Krishna is telling him that, “One who is wise laments neither for the living nor for the dead.” And I want to draw a distinction between feeling some sadness, and lamentation and grief which are more extreme conditions that bring about a loss of composure and steadiness.
So then after speaking that verse Krishna went on to explain a most extraordinary idea. And now, this is the first point in the Bhagavad-gita that we’re really hearing about the nature of the soul, or the topic of the spiritual being, of the soul. The atma actually becomes part of the conversation.
And so He says, in the verse that precedes this one that we’re studying now:
“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.”
So again, a pretty extraordinary idea. Then it leads into this verse which I will just now read again:
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.”
So when we look at this verse we have this term in Sanskrit, dehinah, which is actually an adjective that describes the eternal living being as being embodied. So this is the introduction of this extraordinary idea. You see in this world mostly people live in the consciousness that the body which they have on is who they are: this is me! And now we have an idea that’s diametrically opposed to that. No. That’s not you. That is a body that you are using; that the soul, the person is actually embodied.
So in the last few words in this sloka it states, “dhiras tatra na muhyati.” This word dhirah is an interesting word. It refers to one who is sober or not bewildered. It actually has other meanings, and it’s used in different ways. It’s sometimes even used to describe a quality of the ocean, like the fact that so many vast rivers are pouring into the ocean, and there are so many external forces and winds and different things disturbing the ocean, yet the ocean always remains steady in spite of all of these forces exerted upon it. And this is the idea of this word dhirah. Dhirah doesn’t mean simply a person who is not intoxicated, and that meaning of sober, although that does apply. The understanding was that a person in material consciousness actually exists in an intoxicated state, not fully aware of what is actually going on, and this idea is now being introduced. And a person, it is stated, that is completely sober, very grave and deep, deep understanding, such a person would be in effect a self-realized soul.
The next word tatra which means thereupon, or under those circumstances is never, na, muhyati, deluded. So wow! This is a profoundly—wow! This statement, a person who is unaware of—I mean, and we’re talking about permanently unaware—of the reality that the person, a person is an eternal spiritual being. The person is not the body that they are temporarily inhabiting. When a person thinks that the body is the self, and we identify each other only as being that external garment, such a person is said to be living in a deluded condition.
So this is quite an extraordinary idea, that the foundation of spiritual life is really the understanding that I am an eternal spiritual being, not the body that I am inhabiting. Some people may think that it is an appreciation of a higher spiritual principle, or an acceptance of God, that is the foundation of spiritual life, but I would I both agree and disagree. If a person accepts the idea of a higher spiritual reality, or God, but yet they are in the deluded condition that the body is the self, then the way in which they would relate to this Deity or higher spiritual being or truth would be on the basis of a delusion that the body is me. And so now I’m going to be asking for things, perhaps, if I consider that this entity is a greater and powerful source of everything, that I’m going to seek relief for my body. I’m going to seek things for my body. I’m going to see seek things in relation to those that are connected to my body or part of my bodily relationships. And one is not free from the delusion here, even though they may have embraced a higher spiritual principle.
So the real understanding and real spiritual life actually begins when a person understands that I am an eternal spiritual being and not the material body. That then, it requires a monumental shift in consciousness, a monumental shift in how I look, of course, at myself, how I’m looking at others, how I look at the world, how I look at what is the purpose of this life. If I understand this spiritual truth everything changes.
We see in the world today this tremendous pressure that people are increasingly living under. The worries about climate change, and destruction of species, and gradual destruction of the planet, and all the suffering and horrible things that are going to be reportedly coming about because of that; and there is not really an acceptance of the fact that we need to radically change the way that we are living. We have been fed this message for the past hundred years, that you are the body; that the purpose of life is the instant gratification of the desires of the body and the mind; that consumerism is really what is the purpose; that’s where you will find happiness; that’s where you will find everything that you are looking for; and it is resulting in what we are currently experiencing. And the rise in technology, of course, has not given rise to any wisdom.
When people have low standards, when people are avaricious and greedy and envious, when they possess qualities that are not, and I’ll just describe them broadly as saintly, or in the mode of goodness, then what technology does is actually amplify and magnify these qualities. So if a person’s consciousness is not in the right place, it’s not in a good condition, and now it’s amplified a hundred times, a thousand times, a million times, it just leads to a more rapid degradation of things.
The changes that people want and seek actually begin with our self and a change in consciousness, and that change in consciousness is really only going to come about when we accept this foundational truth that we are all eternal spiritual beings. The purpose of life is not to just endlessly try to satisfy the longings and desires and the whims of the body and the mind. That doesn’t lead to a good place.
And so we see that this teaching, the foundational teaching in the Bhagavad-gita, is incredibly timely. While this is an eternal truth and will bring about an end of suffering for everyone in all situations, it’s probably never been more timely than it is right now.
So the other point that’s sort of raised in this verse, while talking about the embodied state, it introduces the subject of the transmigration of the soul, or what people refer to as reincarnation. I mean the term reincarnation is a really interesting word: to “incarnate,” from the Latin, to the Spanish “carne,” that which is flesh, to inhabit the flesh. That term actually points to an understanding of myself as being different from the body, from the flesh as it were, that one wears.
And so this truth. I mean, in the time of Arjuna this was widely known. Everybody accepted the principle of reincarnation or transmigration of the soul.
I heard a Western scientist and philosopher were referring to it in an interesting way. He didn’t want to get into speaking about and recognizing whether there was such a thing as a soul or a spiritual being or whatever, but he—in the field that they were studying, he completely embraced what he called a continuum of consciousness, meaning that even at the point of the death of a body that the consciousness actually continues outside of that body, that same consciousness continues. And they felt that they had a lot of scientific evidence to support that.
The description that we have in this verse where it says, “Just as the embodied soul continually passes in this body from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death.” So this point—many great spiritual teachers will often refer to the body as being like a garment, and as one can put on a garment and discard it and put on another garment, in a similar manner they say this is what happens after the death of a particular body.
But the point that was raised is actually quite interesting and scientifically verifiable, how you can at one time have a baby’s body, and then give that up for a young child’s body. And if I look back at a photograph of my baby body, and you ask most people, “Okay, if that was your baby body, where is that body now?” Most people will think, “Oh, I’ve still got it on. I’m still—it’s just grown,” and it’s not actually scientifically true. Within about five years every single atomic particle in the body has been changed. It’s been replaced and it’s undergoing transformation and change.
And yet through this journey from infancy, to childhood, to being a youth, to an adult, to middle age, to old age there is only one conscious being that is experiencing these transformations; but it is experiencing these transformations in a deluded way, saying, “Now I’m a child. Now I’m a youth. Now I am an adult.” No. You are not an adult. You are occupying a body that has now transformed into an adult body, but you are not changing. You are not transforming. You remain the constant spiritual principle through all of these changes.
And so they used this example that if I take off one set of old and worn garments and discard them and put on a new set that’s not something to lament. It might be something that people even celebrate or feel happy about.
And one of the great spiritual preceptors in our lineage, Vishvanath Chakravati Thakur, he pointed out that the transformation of the body from childhood to youth is often celebrated. They think it’s a wonderful thing. And then from youth to adulthood, people will normally celebrate that and think it’s a wonderful thing. It’s not until a person’s body reaches full maturity, and it begins to decline, that one doesn’t celebrate this change. But if all these other changes were worthy of celebration, he postulates, well, why wouldn’t one celebrate the idea of giving up an old and tired and dilapidated body and gaining a new and youthful one? Isn’t that something that’s also worth celebrating? he asks, just to sort of give people food for thought. It’s a very interesting idea.
The great spiritual luminary, Sri Ramanuja Acharya, he, in the 11th century—so that’s a very long time ago, over a thousand years ago—in the 11th century he was the founder, or one of the founding gurus, not the actual founder, but one of the prominent personalities in what is called the Shri sampradaya, or also called the Ramanuja sampradaya, which is a very prominent spiritual lineage, particularly in the central and southern part of India. In commenting on this verse so long ago, almost a thousand years ago, he wrote:
“As the self is eternal, one does not grieve thinking the self is lost, when an embodied self, living in a body gives up the state of childhood and attains youth and other states.”
So he is also making this same point as Vishvanath Chakravati.
“Similarly, the wise men, knowing that the self is eternal, do not grieve when the self attains a body different from the present body. Hence the selves, being eternal, are not fit objects for grief.”
So this is kind of like, well, this is one of those moments when a person is just like almost hysterical in some deluded state, and somebody has to sort of grab hold them and say, “Hey, hey, hey, hey, stop it,” and then explain what’s the situation. So this point that is being made is a profound spiritual point, and now it will underpin everything that we are going to hear and everything that we are going to discuss from this point forward. And it is not only foundational it’s, what’s the word for it? It’s almost like earth shaking transformation, because it’s considered incredibly sad, incredibly sad, how all of the human beings on this planet, practically all with very few exceptions, are utterly lost in this delusion that the body is the self; and this becomes the foundational cause for unlimited amounts of suffering and unhappiness. But we’ll speak more to this point as we go forward.
Thank you very much.