SankarAcArya's bhagavad gItA bhAshya: 2. 17-18

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed May 26 21:41:58 CDT 1999

This post resumes the ongoing translation of the bhagavad-gItA with
SankarAcArya's bhAshya. The following verses continue in the context of the
important distinction between real and unreal (nAsato vidyate bhAvo nAbhAvo
vidyate sataH - 2. 16). The translation of the commentary on verse 2. 16 was
posted on November 14 and 16, 1998. This post takes up verses 2. 17 and 2.

Verses -

avinASi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idam tatam |
vinASam avyayasya asya na kaScit kartum arhati || 2. 17 ||

avinASi - indestructible
tu - added for contrast
tad - that
viddhi - know, realize
yena - by which
sarvam idam - all this (the universe)
tatam - literally strung, here pervaded
vinASam - destruction
avyayasya asya - of this, the unchangeable,
na kaScit - no one
kartum - to do
arhati - is possible.

(O Arjuna), Know that that by which the entire universe is pervaded is
indestructible. None can destroy that which is immutable.

Commentary -

What cannot be destroyed is the indestructible, with the word 'tu'
added to contrast it from the unreal. Know that. What (is the
indestructible?) - Brahman, by which the entire universe, including
space, is pervaded, just as space pervades all objects, e.g. pots.
Destruction is non-perception or non-being. The unchangeable is that
which never increases or decreases. This Brahman, which is called sat
(Pure Existence), never changes of its own accord, as it is partless,
unlike the body and the like. Nor does it change due to its properties, for
there are no properties whatsoever. 'Devadatta' loses by loss of his wealth,
but not so with Brahman. Therefore, none could possibly destroy it, as it is
unchangeable. (The reason is that) no one, not even God (ISvara) can destroy
himself (AtmAnam). The Self is Brahman, and the Self cannot act upon Itself.
(2. 17)

Notes -

The last sentence is a brilliant play on the word Atman. It also brings to
the fore the basic vedAntic teaching that Brahman is the real Self of all.
It would also do well to remember the basic description of the Real as that
which can never be sublated (abAdhyatva). All that can be sublated is then,
in essence, unreal.

What then is that unreal, which changes its own nature? It is said,

antavanta ime dehA nityasaya uktAS SarIriNaH |
anASino 'prameyasya tasmAt yudhyasva bhArata || 2. 18 ||

antavanta(H) - things that come to an end, those that can be destroyed
ime dehA(H) - these bodies
nityasya - of the eternal
uktAH - are said to be
SarIriNaH - of the embodied (Self)
anASinaH - of the indestructible
aprameyasya - of the indeterminable
tasmAt - therefore
yudhyasva - fight
bhArata - descendent of Bharata (Arjuna).

Prose order - nityasya anASinaH aprameyasya SarIriNah dehAH antavantaH
(ity) uktAH. tasmAt yudhyasva bhArata.

(Only) the bodies of the embodied Self are said to be destroyed. The
Self itself is eternal, indestructible and indeterminable. Therefore
fight, scion of Bharata (Arjuna).

Translation of commentary to follow in the next posting.


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There is a difference between saying that Swami Vivekananda was *not* a
scholar and saying that *you* look upon him as being an apologist to the
Christians and the West. While almost everyone will disagree with you on
this issue, as Swamiji was only expounding the ancient ideas of Bharat and
hoping that the life-force of our sages and seers would rekindle the divine
spark in each of us who were suffering culturally and physically in his
time, you are well within your right to disagree with Swamiji's approach.
But it is whole different thing to say that Swamiji was not a scholar. I
think you jump the gun too quickly on the V word on this list. Is it
possible that you can restrain yourself, a little bit perhaps ?


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