SankarAcArya's bhagavad gItA bhAshya: 2. 21

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 11 03:15:07 CDT 1999

Commentary -

Having asserted in 2. 19 (ya enaM vetti hantAraM etc.) that the Self is not
the agent or the object of the action of killing, and having given the
reason behind the immutability of the Self in 2. 20 (na jAyate etc.),
(Krishna) sums up the argument.

Verse -

veda avinASinaM nityaM ya enam ajam avyayam |
kathaM sa purushaH pArtha kaM ghAtayati hanti kam || 2. 21 ||

Prose order - pArtha, yaH veda enam avinASinaM nityam ajam avyayam,
kathaM sa purushaH kaM ghAtayati? kam hanti?

yaH - who
veda - knows
enam - this (the Atman)
avinASinam - indestructible
nityam - eternal
ajam - unborn
avyayam - undecaying,
kathaM - how does
sa purushaH - that person
kaM - (and) whom
ghAtayati - cause to kill
hanti - kill

Commentary -

The word avinASinam means "free from destruction," while the word nityam
means "free from all change." From the previous verse, we know the
characteristics aja, "free from birth," and avyaya, "free from decay." How
does, i.e. in what way can, one who knows this perform the action of
killing? Or how does he cause a killer to kill? These are not meant as
questions to be answered, but to show that such a person does not kill and
does not cause to kill. [1] This refutation of killing is given mainly as
an example. The reason behind this refutation, namely the fact that the
Knower (the Self) is unchanging, is common to all action, so that the
opinion of the Lord (Krishna) is the negation of all action. [2]

Notes -

1. In other words, these are rhetorical questions. There must be a term for
this in the later alankAra SAstra. Any pointers?

2. SankarAcArya proceeds to substantiate his interpretation, that the gItA
teaches the renunciation of all action for the Knower. This is not the
opinion of many other thinkers. Therefore, the rest of the commentary on 2.
21 is a fairly long discussion on action and renunciation, couched in the
form of objections raised by an opponent, and answered by the author as and
when they arise. The bhAshyakAra ends this discussion with a comment that
essentially means, "let us return to the topic at hand."

Consequently, I will post the translation of the rest of the commentary on
2. 21 in parallel with that on the further verses 2. 22-24.


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