Ch 2 VERSE 20

जायते म्रियते वा कदाचिन् नायं भूत्वा भविता वा भूयः

अजो नित्यः शाश्वतोऽयं पुराणो  हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे ॥२०॥


na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin

nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ

ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo

na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre

na—never; jāyate—takes birth; mriyate—never dies; —either; kadācit—at any time (past, present or future); na—never; ayam—this; bhūtvā—came into being; bhavitā—will come to be; —or; na—not; bhūyaḥ—or has come to be; ajaḥ—unborn; nityaḥ—eternal; śāśvataḥ—permanent; ayam—this; purāṇaḥ—the oldest; na—never; hanyate—is killed; hanyamāne—being killed; śarīre—by the body.


For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.

na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.”

So, in this verse we are addressing the topic of the eternality of the soul, or the self. In the very first verse that we had read in the beginning of the series, 2:13, in chapter 2, sloka 13, we learned that there is no death for the soul. The self is not slain when the body is slain. And now speaking further on the subject, we are addressing the nature of the self, or the soul, this characteristic of eternality.

For the body there are six transformations that the body goes through. It takes birth. It grows, it attains maturity, and maintains itself for some time. It produces by-products, or reproduces, and then it goes through a period of deterioration, and finally destruction known as death. So this is the characteristic of all bodies. And in this world, everybody has become so caught up in those constant transformations, these six different kinds of transformation, and tend to heavily identify with themself as being—going through those transformations, when in reality it is only occurring to the body. For the body there is death, but for the soul, or the self, the atma, there is no death, there is no birth.

When the atma assumes, as was addressed in that previous verse I mentioned, that at the time of death one takes another body—There is often this reference to my birth, but in reality, in actuality, the soul never is born, as it never dies. This fact is stated repeatedly throughout the Vedas, and it’s confirmed in the one verse I’ve just chosen, the Katha Upanishad, where it states:

“The conscious jiva is not born and does not die. He did not come from anywhere and was not born. He is without birth, eternal, continual and ancient by his nature. He is not killed when the body is killed.”

So, confirmation of the same principle. And this is actually a little bit of a startling idea to many people that were raised in the Western world where the predominant theology is Christianity, because within, at least parts of, Christianity, there is the idea that the soul, or the self, you, are created, and then having come into being one now becomes what is called eternal, meaning that there is no end to the life.

But in the Vedas they speak about things quite differently. They speak about the eternal nature of the soul, or the self, the atma, that there was never a time that it came into being, nor is there a time that it will ever end. There is this—this is the deepest appreciation of the meaning of eternality. But of course, many people will often struggle to sort of deal with that concept or idea.

If we look at the development of the theology of Christianity, you’ll see that in the first perhaps 400 years, or 300 years, there were quite a few changes in what was commonly held. I mean there were points when there were different groups of Christians who understood the teachings of Jesus Christ in different ways, and there was sometimes a clash of ideas. But within the ancient Vedic teachings this appreciation of the eternality of the soul is embraced in the deepest possible way.

The discussions surrounding the nature of the soul are also understood, from the Vedas, to be challenging for some people and easy to embrace for others, that different people in different states of consciousness are going to look at this quite differently.

I remember when my siksha guru—diksha guru (sorry) went to Russia for the first—his first visit, and he had a discourse with some professors at the University of Moscow, and spoke at length about the nature of the soul. And he marveled—and “marveled” is the right word, it’s not “astonishing.” It’s marveling at how, even in spite of solid argument and what is considered proof within the Vedas, some people cannot even accept the existence of the idea of a soul or some spiritual existence. And he quoted the following verse:

“Some look on the soul is amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.”

So, this is a recognition that the capacity to appreciate transcendental truth, it’s not simply an intellectual exercise. There is the question of one’s state of consciousness, and the effect that that state of consciousness has on your reasoning, on your perception of things, on your ability to embrace or understand things.

So, this verse firmly establishes the reality of the eternality of the soul. If you recall, when we looked at the first verse that we studied here, in chapter 2, verse 13, we quoted the verse,

“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 this verse that was quoted was the one preceding 2:13, it was 2:12. And it is addressing—Krishna is addressing—Lord Sri Krishna, He is addressing Arjuna’s concern about the imminent death of family members and people that he holds to be very dear, and Krishna is speaking to him from this transcendental platform. And so He assured him that, look, you, and I, and all of the kings here, there was never a time that we did not—oh, I’ll read it again:

“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, for some people then it may arise, this question: So are we saying that there is no actual difference between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, since the eternal nature of all of us has been expressed here, so there is no distinction? We are all equally eternal living beings equal in status? And the answer to that is, no, that what we will discover as we proceed further, is that there is a distinction between atmas.

The living being is more fully described as the jiva atma, but there is also the status of a unique individual as being the param atma. This word param means the supreme, so Paramatma refers to the Supreme Self. So this distinction is important to appreciate, and is actually pivotal to understanding the message of the Bhagavad-gita and being able to apply this message in the path of self-realization and God realization.

While Krishna—Lord Krishna stated that:

“…many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!”

The following verse is of actually crucial importance, where He states,

“Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all living beings, or living entities, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.”

So I will just draw your attention to the synonyms, the Sanskrit to English synonyms, where I’ve highlighted this word Isvara. Isvara means the Supreme Lord, or the Supreme Controller. And so here we are introduced to Lord Sri Krishna as being unique, or completely different to Arjuna. While there is some commonality in terms of the eternal nature of both, there is a significant difference. This difference is understood throughout the Vedas.

There are a certain category of people, or a philosophical idea that promotes a misunderstanding, that there is no distinction between the atma and the Paramatma, that they are in fact just one and the same. One is specifically empowered but they are fundamentally the same. This idea is not accepted in the larger body of the Vedic teachings, nor was it accepted by Patanjali, who is considered the great rishi and proponent of the yoga system, meaning the ashtanga yoga system.

Patanjali speaks about Isvara in the first pada, the first chapter of his work the Yoga Sutra, where he specifies, in the verse, sloka 24, in the first pada, that

“Isvara is a special Purusa, unlike other purusas, being untouched by afflictions, by actions, (meaning material activity) and the fruit of actions (or the karmic fruit), and latent impressions or material desires.”

So in this particular sloka Patanjali uses this term purusa vishesha. This word purusa is applied to both the individual soul and to the Supreme Soul, but you will often see it used, like the atma: you have atma and Paramatma, you will also have purusa and the Parampurusha, or the supreme amongst the purushas. This term purusha refers to the—it literally can mean person, but it should be understood in the deeper sense, that your personhood doesn’t arise from your body. Your personhood manifests because of the transcendental person residing within the body, and it imparts personhood to the body, or seeming personhood. But actually that is the characteristic. The word purusha actually connotes one who is the enjoyer, one who has this enjoying tendency and capacity. And using this term purusha vishesha means that—as an adjective to describe Ishvara—that He is a purusha vishesha, that He is a unique and special purusha, unlike other purushas. He is untouched by all forms of material afflictions, and karma, and the fruits of karma, latent impressions, or material desires. And it goes on:

“In Him the seed of omniscience is unsurpassed or infinite. He is also the teacher of all ancient teachers or sages, being not limited by time. The transcendental sound personifying him is AUM [or as is stated there, the pranava this transcendental—this original transcendental sound.]”

So this concept is important to understand and appreciate.

And we are seeing in this verse, that while Krishna is speaking of the eternality of the soul, and this applies to both the Supreme Soul and the individual soul. Neither experiences actual birth or death. This is an occurrence of the body, and when one identifies with the body then one experiences these things as if they are happening to me.

Thank you very much.

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