Dispelling Death, Living Life

January 5, 2022 | Global Gita | Blog

In this thought-provoking segment, Swami Bhoomananda Tirthaji discusses Bhagavad Gita’s enlightened views on death, and life.

Sri Krishna removes Arjuna’s misconception of death in verse 2:12:

त्वेवाहं जातु नासं त्वं नेमे जनाधिपाः
चैव न भविष्यामः सर्वे वयमतः परम् १२

na tvevāhaṁ jātu nāsaṁ na tvaṁ neme janādhipāḥ
na caiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ sarve vayam-ataḥ param

The “I” in every one of us is always present. The existent can never become non-existent or different, and will continue to exist. That means, I can never cease to exist. In reality, we are “existence”.

Change only occurs in the body level. Our personality is not the object body, but the Subject “I” which is nothing other than the unchanging substratum of all that exists as the changeful world. 

Swamiji’s talk is all the more relevant in these trying times of Covid 19. We are limited in what we can do to counter it physically, but there is plenty we can do with our heart, mind, wish and will. Nature has given our body immunity to fight the virus, but even more so it has given us the mind and intelligence.  Swamiji exhorts us to surround this virus with the power of our inner personality. 

Krishna effectively imparts to Arjuna the understanding that death is but a transition, not an extinction. With this right perspective, Arjuna drops all considerations of death. He then starts enquiring about life itself, with all its undulations. Krishna’s answer to Arjuna’s enquiry is one that Swamiji has been exposing tirelessly for the past 65 years from innumerable platforms across the world. 

Before going into Krishna’s analysis, Swamiji challenges us with a question, “What is your life?” –  something most have never thought about. Considering the amount of time and energy we spend studying and analyzing the subjects we require for our professional life, it is unthinkable that we spend no time at all probing and analyzing our life itself!

Swamiji then launches into Sri Krishna’s summary of the whole life with verse 2.14 –

मात्रास्पर्शास्तु कौन्तेय शीतोष्णसुखदुःखदाः
आगमापायिनोऽनित्यास्तांस्तितिक्षस्व भारत १४

mātrā-sparśās-tu kaunteya śītoṣṇa-sukha-duḥkhadāḥ
āgamāpāyino’nityās-tāṁs-titikṣasva bhārata

Our life is constantly an interaction between our senses and the objects around us. Interactions are taking place because of the senses, not the objects. Senses initiate the interaction, objects are merely present. When the interactions take place, the outcome is either one of two – sukha (happiness) or duhkha (unhappiness).

In other words, as long as we are living, repeated interactions will take place, and repeated sukha-duhkhas too. Sukha-duhkhas are not our creation. Swamiji urges us to “borrow intelligence” and understand that we do not have to work or strive for sukha or duhkha, they are a natural outcome of all interactions. Therefore, we do not need to worry about their coming and going. We simply have to go on doing whatever we are doing, knowing that the inevitable impacts will come in the way of either a sukha or a duhkha.

We are generally not bothered about sukha, only displeased about duhkha. So, what does Sri Krishna ask us to do?

āgamāpāyino ’nityās – these sukhas and dukhas are all transitory, they have no power to last at all. What need have we for anything that does not last? Therefore all we have to do is, tāṁs-titikṣasva – simply forebear them. Forebear them by evaluating them with an enlightened intelligence. 

Duhkha is necessary to experience sukha and vice versa. The one naturally follows the other, and by that same token brings the other. Duhkha brings sukha, and therefore is a friend, not foe. Sukha on the other hand drives us to duhkha, and therefore is not to be sought. That is why Krishna exhorts Arjuna to develop an attitude of indifference towards both. 

The question then naturally arises – HOW do we forebear these sukha-duhkhas? The answer is in verse 2.15 –

यं हि व्यथयन्त्येते पुरुषं पुरुषर्षभ
समदुःखसुखं धीरं सोऽमृतत्वाय कल्पते १५

yaṁ hi na vyathayanty-ete puruṣaṁ puruṣarṣabha
sama-duḥkha-sukhaṁ dhīraṁ  so’mṛtatvāya kalpate

sama-duḥkha-sukhaṁ dhīraṁ so’mṛtatvāya kalpate – without unduly exalting over sukha, and being aggrieved over duhkha, develop an attitude of indifference towards them.

In our mind, sukha and duhkha rise and fall like waves. In between the two is a space where there is no sukha or duhkha. The more we contemplate on this in-between space, the impact of the sukha-duhkhas progressively diminish. Therefore the sukha-duhkhas are necessary for us to understand the in-between presence, which is called the Self. He who is able to pass through sukha-duhkhas with a mind that is not afflicted or tormented, is fit for liberation.

Ultimately, Swamiji says, this is the key that Krishna provides for our life – the whole world with its infinite variety bestow only sukha-duhkhas in our mind. When we are equanimous to them in our mind, we have won over the entire world.