Ch 2 VERSE 22
वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय नवानि गृह्णाति नरोऽपराणि ।
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णान्यन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही ॥२२॥
vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya
navāni gṛhṇāti naro ‘parāṇi
tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny
anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī
vāsāṁsi—garments; jīrṇāni—old and worn out; yathā—as it is; vihāya—giving up; navāni—new garments; gṛhṇāti—does accept; naraḥ—a man; aparāṇi—other; tathā—in the same way; śarīrāṇi—bodies; vihāya—giving up; jīrṇāni—old and useless; anyāni—different; saṁyāti—verily accepts; navāni—new sets; dehī—the embodied.
As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya
navāni gṛhṇāti naro ‘parāṇi
tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny
anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.”
So, this is a reinforcing. Actually, there’s quite a number of verses in this particular chapter dealing with the nature of the soul itself, the atma, or the self.
And of course, Arjuna was in this dilemma that arose from a material conception of life, seeing others as being related to me because of bodily relationship, and being overwhelmed with the idea of the death of relatives. And of course, this was—led him into this situation where he did not want to continue with this battle that was at hand. He did not want to participate in it. He had turned to Krishna and asked, please clarify, enlighten me, teach me, show me what I should actually do here, but he was still refusing to participate in this battle. So, as part of the reinforcement to help him understand how he should look at things in this rather horrible situation, Krishna is comparing bodies to being simply like garments. And it’s a really interesting idea.
We’ve entered a period in time where there is a promotion of a political idea that, by an enhanced focus upon bodily identities, we can overcome the effects of racism, for instance—which is a pretty ridiculous proposal, when the foundation of racism is to be fully immersed in the idea that the body, this external garment, is who I am. I mean it would be as ridiculous as people—somebody wearing a red shirt, and then getting a hate on for someone who’s wearing a blue shirt; and all of the blue shirts get together and say, “Well, we’re all the blue shirts,” and all the red shirts start massing together, “Yeah, we’re the red shirts,” and they’re going to engage in fighting, and argument, and violence, even, just on the basis of the shirt that they are wearing.
This was the Vedic perspective: that it is that ridiculous, and one needs to cultivate a deeper spiritual vision and understanding, and if we fail to do this then it will be really a source of tremendous unhappiness and misery for us. The foundational principle of spiritual life is to, not just understand, but begin to act upon, the platform of appreciating, or understanding, that we are not the material bodies that we are currently inhabiting. And this idea of now referring to the body as being like a garment is actually something that is food for deep thought and meditation.
The examples are also given, by some great spiritual teachers, that just as when a person is going to take a shower or a bath, and they disrobe, they take off their clothes and put them—leave them on the floor and step into the shower or step into the bath. And in that situation, they’re not in anxiety about their clothing being just lying there on the floor, that they have walked away from them, that they are—have abandoned them or left them there. There’s no anxiety. They say, in the same manner, an actual transcendentalist views his body in exactly the same way.
The body is utilized by the transcendentalist in the service of God, in the service of others, and when that body has used—or it comes to the end of its useful life, then the transcendentalist willingly and easily steps away from it, without any anxiety, without any fear, without any apprehension. I have had the personal experience of sitting with people on their deathbeds, and speaking with them and assisting them in this transition. For one who is deeply attached to the body as being the self this is a very frightful and very painful situation, but for one who has embraced the principle, the understanding that the body is like a garment, leaving it aside is not an issue at all.
In this example that Lord Krishna is using, He has previously mentioned—or in the commentary of Madhvacharya that I mentioned, if I remember, it was Madhvacharya, where he said that when one gives up their child body and attains a youthful body one celebrates that, when one gives up their youthful body and attains maturity, an adult body, that is considered a celebration, even to attain a middle-aged body can be considered somewhat of a celebration, but all of a sudden when we start heading the other way, when the body is in decline, this kind of like, all of a sudden it’s lamentable. And to attain the state of extreme old age (it’s called jara) it’s not just a question of the age of the body, but the condition of very old age that’s considered entirely lamentable.
And so, Krishna’s basically proposing to Arjuna, why are you going to get upset if, for instance, your grandfather (who was a great personality that Arjuna considered worshipable), He said if he is to give up his old body in this fight, and to attain a new and young body, why wouldn’t that be a celebration? Why should that be a cause of great lamentation? And of course, this type of argument is to throw a whole different perspective on things.
Madhvacharya, who was a great luminary in our lineage, made the following statement in a commentary on this verse,
“Just as there is no grief when one discards old worn-out garments and there is joy at accepting new garments in the same way the embodied soul discarding old worn-out bodies joyfully accepts new ones.”
Of course, in the transition known as death, it is not considered a celebration. But babies are instantly gleeful at the idea of just being there, looking around, and you know how they hang things over the crib, bouncy things, and the baby’s watching, [mimes happy baby face] and it’s like just full of excitement, and everything is new, and everything fresh; and it is like a celebration to have this new body, and to be going through all these experiences again.
So, in making this argument Lord Krishna was encouraging Arjuna that he should not be abandoning his duty just because he is in this mental state; and this mental state that you are experiencing is due to a lack of knowledge. It’s actually because of ignorance, and illusion that the body is the self and if the body is destroyed then the person is also destroyed. So, in order to try and help Arjuna deal with this illusion, and to speak this transcendental message for all of our benefits, these things have been stated.
Of course, it gives rise to the question: So, how exactly does the transference from one body to another occur? Okay, if I accept the body as a garment, if I accept that in this lifetime I’ve already gone through so many bodies, from being a baby, to a youth, to an adult, to old age, what is the mechanism by which this transference is going on? So, I’ll just address that, because it is an important point.
In—later in the Bhagavad-gita, in the eighth chapter, the sixth sloka, or verse, Krishna states:
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail.”
So, this addresses the transmigration of the soul, that this transference occurs and is largely guided by the nature of the desires and attachments that one has developed in this lifetime, the attachment, the remembrance, and the focus on these things, particularly when one is about to quit the body. One will be fearful of having to give up all of these things that I am attached to, and that will be a great part of how and why one will transfer into a particular type of body.
There is also the other supporting role that karmic fruit will play: that in this lifetime I’ve engaged in limitless amounts of activity, and all action has a reaction. There is a fruit to all action that I must experience, like it or not, and there will be many karmic fruits that I must taste or experience which will also play a role in the nature of the body that I will attain after this.
There is also something—now that we’ve brought up this issue, we’ll tie in the—what I spoke about in the previous verse the—of Isvara, or the Paramatma—because the final agent that facilitates this transference is the Paramatma, or the Supreme Soul. So, in the latter part of the Bhagavad-gita, in the 18th chapter, the 61st sloka there is a quite amazing verse that directly refers to the body as being a machine, and that there is the living being, and this Isvara, or Paramatma, both sitting within this machine. So, the verse goes:
“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine made of material energy.”
So, I just bring your attention to this word yantra. This word literally means a machine.
So, in speaking to this point I would like to quote something that Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has stated on this subject.
“Transference of the atomic individual soul to another body is made possible by the grace of the Supreme Soul. The Supreme Soul fulfills the desire of the atomic soul as one friend fulfills the desire of another. The Vedas, like the Mundaka Upanishad, as well as the Svetasvatara Upanishad, compare the soul and the Supersoul to two friendly birds sitting on the same tree. One of the birds (the individual atomic soul) is eating the fruit of the tree, and the other bird (that is, Lord Krishna) is simply watching His friend. Of these two birds — although they are the same in quality — one is captivated by the fruits of the material tree, while the other one is simply witnessing the activities of His friend. Krishna is the witnessing bird, and Arjuna is the eating bird. Although they are friends, one is still the master and the other is the servant. Forgetfulness of this relationship by the atomic soul is the cause of one’s changing his position from one tree to another, or from one body to another. The jiva soul is struggling very hard on the tree of the material body, but as soon as he agrees to accept the other bird as the supreme spiritual master — as Arjuna agreed to do by voluntary surrender unto Krishna for instruction — the subordinate bird immediately becomes free from all lamentations. Both the Mundaka Upanishad (3.1.2) and Svetasvatara Upanishad (4.7) confirm this:
“Although the two birds are in the same tree, the eating bird is fully engrossed with anxiety and moroseness as the enjoyer of the fruits of the tree. But if in some way or other he turns his face to his friend who is the Lord and knows His glories — at once the suffering bird becomes free from all anxieties.” Arjuna has now turned his face towards his eternal friend, Krishna, and is understanding the Bhagavad-gita from Him. And thus, hearing from Krishna, he can understand the supreme glories of the Lord and be free from lamentation.”
So, this will be the final verse where we deal in such a focused way on the existence of the atma, the self, or the soul, apart from the body. And this is really, not only foundational but so fundamentally important to approaching the spiritual journey, the quest for understanding the nature of this world; why am I here; what’s going on; what’s this all for; is there anything higher than me; what is my purpose?
In order to come to understand one’s actual higher purpose, my natural function, it is of undeniable importance that one really cultivates this understanding of the nature of the soul, or the self, or the atma.
Thank you very much.