[Advaita-l] GITA - 2.20

Amuthan Arunkumar R aparyap at yahoo.co.in
Sat Jan 21 06:19:24 CST 2006

namo nArAyaNAya!

having described the nature of the self as being
devoid of any sense of agency, kR^iShNa describes the
imperishable nature of the self with the help of
another mantra from the kaThopaniShad,

na jAyate mriyate vA kadAchit
nAyaM bhUtvA bhavitA vA na bhUyaH. (**) 
ajo nityaH shAshvato'yaM purANaH
na hanyate hanyamAne sharIre.. 2.20

it (the self) is neither born nor does it die. nor is
it ever(the case) that having been non-existent, it
becomes existent again. this unborn, eternal,
imperishable (and) ancient (self) is not slain when
the body is slain.

(**) some versions read 'nAyaM bhUtvA.abhavitA vA na
bhUyaH'. in this case, the translation would be 'nor
is it ever (the case) that having been existent, it
becomes non-existent again'. 

by negating birth and death for the self, all the
remaining four transformations which an 'asat' entity
undergoes is also negated. anything that is asat has
the following six-fold modifications : jAyate (it is
born), asti (it continues to exist), vardhate (it
grows), vipariNamate (it undergoes changes),
apakShIyate (it decays) and vinashyati (it gets

the second quarter of the shloka 'nAyaM
bhUtvA(.a)bhavitA vA na bhUyaH' is an explanation of
the first. anything that was existent earlier and
becomes non-existent at a later point in time is said
to die. this (death) is negated for the self by
stating 'nAyaM bhUtvA.abhavitA vA na bhUyaH' and thus
explains 'na mriyate'. anything that was non-existent
earlier and becomes existent at some point of time is
said to be born. this (birth) is negated for the self
by stating 'nAyaM bhUtvA bhavitA vA na bhUyaH' and
thus explains 'na jAyate'. (the corresponding kaTha
shruti is 'nAyaM kutashchin na babhUva kashchit' - 'it
is neither produced nor is something produced from
it'. thus, both the readings are consistent with the

since it is not born, it is 'ajam' - 'unborn' and
since it does not die, it is 'nityam' - 'eternal'.
since it does not undergo any transformation, it is
'shAshvatam' - 'imperishable'. as explained in an
earlier verse, an entity can undergo a change only if
it has some parts which change or if it has some
qualities that change. since the self is both
niravayava (partless) and nirguNa (without any
distinct qualities), it has no apakShaya (decay). the
self is called 'purANaH' - 'the ancient one' - in
order to negate any growth for the self. it does not
grow for the same reason that it does not decay (i.e.
nirguNatvAn niravayavatvAchcha).

by calling the self as 'ajaH' and 'nityaH', birth and
death are negated and by calling it 'shAshvataH' and
'purANaH', the remaining four transformations are
negated. thus, the self is devoid of any of the
sixfold tranformations of asat. because of this fact,
'na hanyate' - 'the self is not slain' - 'hanyamAne
sharIre' - 'when the body is slain'. in other words,
the self is unaffected by the various changes that the
body undergoes. 

vAsudevaH sarvaM,

Amuthan Arunkumar R,
Final year, B.Tech/M.Tech Dual Degree,
Dept. of Aerospace Engg., IIT Madras.

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