[Advaita-l] GITA - 2.18

Amuthan Arunkumar R aparyap at yahoo.co.in
Mon Jan 16 12:20:32 CST 2006

namo nArAyaNAya!

having taught the nature of the self and also that of
the world, kR^iShNa now advises arjuna to do his duty,

antavanta ime dehA nityasoktAH sharIriNaH.
anAshino.aprameyasya tasmAdyuddhyasva bhArata.. 2.18

fight, O bhArata, for these bodies are perishable.
they are said to belong to the eternal, indestructible
and incomprehensible self, which is (thought as being)

anything that has an end is said to be 'antavanta' -
destructible. here, 'anta' - end - can either mean
destruction or the knowledge of the unreality of an
object. for instance, the moment we realize that there
is no water in a mirage, it is the 'end' of 'water'
though we may continue to perceive it. since the body
has an end, it is said to be antavanta. or, since when
inspected properly it is seen that the body is as
perishable as a body seen during a dream, it has an

'ime dehaH' - 'these bodies' - can be interpreted in
two different ways. from an individualistic point of
view, they refer to the sthUla (gross), sUkShma
(subtle) and kAraNa (causal) sharIra-s (bodies). from
a universal viewpoint, the corresponding analogies are
virAt (the gross 'cosmic' comprising of all the
bodies), sUtra (the subtle 'cosmic' body, identical to
hiraNyagarbha) and avyakta (the unmanifest from which
the manifest world springs). in the language of the
taittirIya upaniShad, virAt is the annamaya kosha.
sUtra (hiraNyagarbha) consists of the prANamaya kosha
(signifying action), manomaya kosha and vij~nAnamaya
kosha (signifying names and forms). this is in
accordance with the bR^ihadAraNyaka shruti '...trayaM
vA idaM nAma rUpa karma' - 'all these are name, form
and action...'(1.6.1). hiraNyagarbha is the cause of
virAt. avyakta is the Anandamaya kosha, which is
brahman with the mAyA as it's upAdhi. avyakta is in
turn the cause of hiraNyagarbha. avyakta has brahman
as it's basis ('brahma puchChaM pratishThA'). all
these five kosha-s are spoken of as belonging to the
self ('tasyaiSha eva shArIra AtmA yaH pUrvasya'). 

a simpler way to understand this is that all the
bodies in all the three worlds have only one self
(brahman), in accordance with shruti-s like 'eko devo
sarvabhUteShu gUDhaH...' (shve. up.)     

due to beginningless avidyA, we identify ourselves
with these deha-s. the body (sharIra) is thought of as
an object of perception and enjoyment and the self
(AtmA) is thought of as a sharIri (embodied being) and
as a kartA (doer) by identifying it with a particular
modification of the mind. 

the self is spoken of, by the shAstra-s and
brahmavAdin-s, as being nityam, aprameyam and having
no nAsham: 

the self is said to be nityam - eternal - since it
exists and since there is no cause for it's
destruction. here, nityatva is used in the sense that
the self is not limited by time and not in the sense
that it is coexistent with time. since it is not
limited by time, it does not undergo any change and
hence does not have any nAsham. it is to emphasize
this fact that two similar qualifications - nitya and
anAshi - are used for the self. 

anything that is known by a pramANa (valid source of
knowledge) is said to be a prameya (the object of that
knowledge). the self is said to be 'aprameya' -
incomprehensible - since it is not knowable by any of
the pramANa-s. it is only due to the presence of the
self that everything else is known. it cannot be said
that the shAstra-s are a cause of self knowledge since
the shAstra-s only help us to know what the self is
not (adhyAropa-apavAda [1]), but not what it is. all
of us have some notion of the self (though it is
almost always the case that it is wrong). the (true)
self is svataH siddham (self evident) and hence is
aprameya - not knowable by any pramANa.

thus, by teaching the real nature of the world and the
self, kR^iShNa removes the ignorance that prevented
arjuna from doing his duty and advises arjuna to
perform his duty - 'tasmAdyuddyasva bhArata'. this
does not mean that some action (like performance of
one's duties) will lead to self knowledge. kR^iShNa
does not impose a vidhi on arjuna, but only advises
him to continue doing what he had earlier resolved to
do - fighting the battle. self knowledge is not the
result of any karma and this will be taught by
kR^iShNa later on in the gItA itself. 

proper performance of vihita karma-s will lead to
chitta shuddhi. the major obstacle to the proper
performance of vihita karma-s is false attachment to
the non-self. the purpose of this shloka is to help us
gain the necessary mental strength to do our vihita
karma-s, as per our varNa and Ashrama and avoid all
niShiddha karma-s.


[1] BP's bhAShyam here is clearly in favour of the
adhyAropa-apavAda view held by some vedAntin-s. for
instance, '...shAstraM tvantyaM pramANaM
ataddharmAdhyAropeNamAtranivartakatvena prAmANyam
AtmanaH pratipadyate...". MS says that the shAstra-s
create a particular modification of the mind which
will help us understand the illusory nature of the
mind! the self is immediate and self efflugent and
thus, reveals itself.  

vAsudevaH sarvaM,

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