Sānkhya Yoga – Part 1


Throughout the first chapter, Lord Krishna doesn’t utter a word. As a good friend, he just lets Arjuna vent out his heart.

In this chapter, Arjuna is finally done ranting and tells Krishna – ‘you tell me decisively, I’m your disciple and I’ll follow what you say’. This is where the real Upadésha starts. Even the Lord, knowing Arjuna’s state of mind very well, he still lets Arjuna talk though without interrupting. By this, he demonstrates the importance of listening out, and advising only when the other person is ready to accept it.


Just so we have right mindset while reading about killing – the lord in no way promoting any violence here. If a murderer is punished with capital punishment, the hangman or the system of justice isn’t at wrong, for ordering the execution! But the act of murderer is certainly wrong. As discussed in the first chapter, the setting of this upadésha is that of battle field – the fight to uphold dharma. Killing in such a battlefield is only an eventuality.


So, what is Arjuna’s problem – having to kill his ‘own’ people. The lord presents different viewpoints comprehensively. To keep this blog short enough to sustain reader’s interest span, we will cover this chapter in 2 blogs.


The lord starts by setting the context of who you are. What is killed, who kills – what is really destroyed.


Right in the beginning Lord makes it clear to Arjuna that he’s misquoting ‘dharma’. As the main problem that Arjuna is portraying is about having to kill his own people, the Lord starts explaining about the concept of birth, death – with a mystical declaration –

There wasn’t any point in time when you or these people did not exist, nor will there be a time when you or all these people will cease to exist.


What? How so?

How the soul (āthman) remains untouched while form of body keeps changing, from being in infancy to youth to old age – similarly, during ‘death’ the āthman only moves to another body. Thus, the concept of death where āthman moves to another body, should not be hard to understand. Body keeps changing, not āthman. Body stops existing, not āthman.


So who are you – body or āthman?

Right from birth, mind is habituated to identify itself with body, as body keeps giving it a variety of experiences from external world. But should that really be how we identify one self? Lord Krishna explains:

Similar to how sensory perceptions like heat/cold are only temporary, even perception of pleasure and pain are short lived. Identifying oneself with body, makes us attached and vulnerable to these experiences.

When you understand this and treat both pleasure and pain evenly, you are ready for higher knowledge.

‘Truth’ be defined, it is that which never changes. Hence, what changes does not last (body); what doesn’t change never ceases existing (āthman).

The āthman that pervades the entire body, is indestructible, imperishable. Only the body, where this āthman dwells, is perishable. Even experiences accumulated in mind via body is temporary. So identifying with body, limits the identity only till the time the body exists. Then isn’t it only right, to identify with āthman that never ceases to exist?

Thus when one identifies self with āthman, there’s no question of slaying or being slain. Those actions only pertain to the body.

The lord reasserts, the āthman is never born, nor destroyed, he’s eternal, constant, permanent, ever existing.


So what is this āthman?

The first law of Thermodynamics states – Energy can neither be created, nor destroyed; but can only be changed from one form to another.

Sounds similar!! No, we’re not discussing thermodynamics. Just the energy part of it. Right, āthman has all qualities of energy, and Lord Krishna had declared this fact much long before the law of thermodynamics was being articulated.

The āthman however is the raw, dynamic energy – much more sophisticated; as against the various forms of controlled energy produced/used in physics laboratories or the machines derived from there. Like how we don’t yet know how solar energy can be harnessed efficiently, western science hardly know anything about how to measure/experience this āthman! Sorry, no machines invented yet to measure this āthman.

Actually there is a machine that can help experience āthman, but no one wants to use it – your mind! Lord explains many techniques on how mind can be used in subsequent chapters, so more on this later.


The lord goes on further to explain about āthman.

As you would give up old clothes, get new ones to wear, similarly āthman gives up the old body and finds a new one.

The āthman cannot be cut by a weapon, nor be burnt by fire, nor drenched by water, nor withered by wind. This āthman is everlasting, all pervading, unchangeable, invisible, inconceivable, never with any imperfections. Thus your action of killing is limited only to the body, get rid of this false identification with body and get ready to fight (perform his duty), says Lord Krishna to Arjuna!

If all these adjectives used for āthman sounds rhetoric, try the same adjectives on sunlight – most of these are applicable, aren’t they! But no, āthman isn’t sunlight – that’s just an example to show how most energy forms have these qualities.

Āthman is an energy, but none of these known forms of energy. It’s within each one of us, and the energy that’s vital for the body to be alive! Remember, we’re not talking about just human body here, but all living beings – thus it’s far more potent than all the other known forms of energy.


So let’s get back to the question about how would you like to identify yourself – with your body or with your āthman? Answer is up to you!

The lord, being lord, is always comprehensive. Although he explained the imperishable nature of āthman, he now presents the other side. That is, assume āthman has limited existence – thus goes through cycle of birth and death along with the body. Even then, the truth is, death is the only certainty for those that are born, and birth a similar certainty for those that are dead.

The planet earth where we live, having only limited resources, if the nature is as dynamic as it is – it only goes to show how each element keeps recycling into various forms and factors. For those that thought only plastic is recycled, given its recent popularity – for your awareness, recycling is the eternal law of nature. Fun aside, the point Lord makes here is, even if we consider āthman to be in a flux of birth and death, even then, given the unavoidable nature of this cycle, there’s nothing Arjuna can do to stop this cycle. These forms did not exist at a certain point (before it was formed), is manifest now, then again will be non existent after a point in time – so why weep over this!


Krishna himself states, this concept of āthman is amazing – agreed by many, but understood by very few. The imperishable āthman that resides in the perishable body, cannot be destroyed. So there isn’t a reason for you to grieve, he tells Arjuna.

The lord thus beautifully explains, how the mind always identifies with body, and other bodies at emotional level. Hence, when it comes to performing one’s duty, such emotions should not stray us away from ‘dharma’, urging Arjuna to perform his duty! Let’s look at how the lord explains why duty is to be performed, and how to perform in the next blog!


DISCLAIMER: This our sincere attempt to summarise the Gitōpadesha, via a series of short blogs. This is NOT the whole translation, or commentary of the divine book. We seek forgiveness of reader and the lord, for omissions which is inevitable to keep the blog short. The write-ups include both, writer’s personal opinion and summarised version of many shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita. Intent of blog was never to be a commentary of Bhagavad Gita, but simply inspire the reader to read Bhagavad Gita in its’ entirety. The writer is neither a scholar, nor a bummer, somewhere in between, with a firm belief that the lord gets him to do all the things he does. Being human, he still keeps erring. Forgive him for all such mistakes.

Sarvam Krishnārpanamasthu!