SRI RAGHAVENDRA TÎRTHA ON BHAGAVAD GITA II-13
There truly is no unimportant verse in all of the Bhagavad Gita. Even so, it is not incorrect to say that verse II-13 of that text is an important one -- for it clears doubts that beginning seekers such as oneself are very likely to carry. One such fundamental doubt is, of course, whether there really is such a thing as a soul; if there is not, then materialism and the dictum of carpe diem should be considered the right path, and there is no purpose to any spiritual quest that assumes that one has any existence beyond the present lifetime. Many schools of thought do not clearly address this doubt, thus rendering their further postulations questionable, but the Bhagavad Gita does so at the outset.
One common story concerning the school of materialism is that there was once a man who went to Brhaspati, the preceptor of the gods, seeking spiritual counsel. The latter, apparently believing the former to be an unworthy student, instructed him falsely (as in Prajapati's false instruction to Virochana in the eighth chapter of the chhAndogya) that the body is all there is, and there is no meaning to spiritual quests: the well-known verse
yAvajjIvet.h sukhaM jIvet.h R^iNaM kR^itvA ghR^itaM pibet.h | bhasmIbhUtasya dehasya punarAgamanaM kutaH || As long as you live, live merrily; [even by] taking loans, drink ghee (i.e., enjoy yourself); for how can the body, subject to cremation, ever return?-- is commonly attributed to Brhaspati, and is supposed to describe the doctrine of materialism, which is named `chArvAka' after the student. While it is doubtful if materialists would bother to study Brhaspati's teachings and claim it as their own, it is without doubt that this line of thinking is most common in the world (hence its other name, `lokAyata'), and thus in an important pUrva-paxa that needs to be refuted at the outset of one's spiritual quest. At the outset of His discourse, Krishna tells Arjuna that his grief is uncalled for as the wise do not grieve either for the living or the dead (II-11); He then adds that He, Krishna, he, Arjuna, and the kings present whose destruction Arjuna feared, are all without beginning or end (so there was no reason to fear their destruction). Now, we pick up from the tail end of Sri Raghavendra Tîrtha's commentary on verse II-12:
evaM chaivamanAdinityA jIvAH kathaM nAma shochyAH, anAdinityajIvAnAM nAshabhItyA `na yotsya' ityAditvadIyA vAdAH kathaM prAj~namataviruddhA na bhaveyuriti bhAvaH || 12 || Thus, too, since all jIva-s are beginningless and eternal, how are they to be grieved upon; would statements such as `na yotsye' (I shall not fight the war) on account of the fear of destruction of the beginningless and eternal jIva-s not be contrary to the opinion of the wise? -- thus is the purport. dehanAshabhayAditi dvitIyapaxaM nirAha -- That it (the fear) is on account of bodily destruction, thus a second objection is refuted thus: dehino.asmin.h yathA dehe kaumAraM yauvanaM jarA | tathA dehAntaraprAptirdhIrastatra na muhyati || 13 || Just as the embodied experiences the infancy, the youth, and the old age of the body; so also the obtaining of another body, and in this matter the intelligent one is not deluded.Commentary continued:
dehinaH dehavato jIvasya asminnidAnIM vartamAne sthUladehe kaumAraM yauvanaM jarA cha yathA prApnoti tathA dehAntaraprAptiH | ayaM bhAvaH | kaumArAvasthAvishishhTadehahAne yauvanAvasthAvishishhTa- dehahAne cha shokastAvannAstIti prasiddham.h | tatkuta iti vAchyam.h | jarAdivishishhTadehAntaralAbhAt.h | samAnalAbhena hAnirhi samAdhIyata iti chet.h | mR^itAvapi shoko na kAryaH dehAntaralAbhAdeva | yadA tu jIrNadehalAbhena samIchInayauvana- dehahAneH pratinidhiH, tadA sutarAM samIchInadehAntaralAbhena jIrNadehahAneriti | ato dhIraH buddhimAn.h tatra dehanAshavishhaye na muhyati na mohaM prApnoti | `eteshhAM dehAH nashyanti' iti shokaM na prApnoti, iti arthaH | Just as the `dehina', i.e., the embodied soul, obtains the infancy, the youth, and the agedness of its gross body, so also with its obtaining of a different body. Thus is the purport -- it is well known that upon losing the body of infancy, or the body of youth, there is no grief. So why is that? -- because the body of old age, etc., is obtained. But given the identical loss and gain, there is a balance (and hence no cause of grief), so say you? Even in case of death, grief is likewise completely inappropriate, on account of the obtaining of another body. Just as upon the gain of a worn body and the loss of a youthful one [there is no grief], so also for the loss of a worn body to enable the gain of a new, different body -- thus [is the purport]. Therefore, `dhIraH', i.e., the intelligent, `na muhyati', i.e., do not get deluded in the matter of bodily destruction. "These bodies will get destroyed," thus they do not grieve, so is the purport. tatrAvasthAmAtrahAniH, atrAvasthAvato.apIti vaishhamyamanupayuktam.h | nishhkadAnena paTagrahaNadR^ishhTeriti | atra dehina ityuktyA dehavato jIvasyaiva na tu dehadehinabhedahInasya harerjarAdyavasthA dehAntarAvAptirveti sUchitam.h | There, only the [bodily] state (i.e., youth, etc.) is lost, whereas here, even the body [that undergoes a change of state] is -- on this account, sorrow is not called for. For it is just like the acquiring of clothes upon payment of money. By saying `dehina', that it is the embodied jIva alone, not Sri Hari who is the same as His body, who undergoes old age, etc., and the change of bodies, is indicated.At this point, the chArvAka objects:
dehAnya jIva eva nAsti | evaM cha tvadAdayo janAdhipA nityAH anAdinityatvAditi prAguktaprayoge dehapaxIkAre asiddhibAdhau jIvapaxIkAre chAshrayAsiddhiriti tR^itIyapaxamAshaN^kya pariharati -- `dehina', iti |
There is no jIva apart from the body. Thus, too, in the earlier stated (verse II-12), "the kings are eternal, for being without beginning or end," (i) if the body is referred to, then this is contradicted by present hypothesis (since it is accepted here that the body undergoes change and destruction); and (ii) if the soul is referred to, then there is acceptance of an unproven hypothesis (to wit, that a soul apart from the body does exist) -- to remove such a third doubt, it is stated, `dehina', thus.By this, Sri Raghavendra Tîrtha illustrates a case where a doubt arising out of a verse of the Bhagavad Gita is answered by another interpretation of the same verse:
atra kaumArAdivishhayeNa tadanubhavo vishhayI laxyate | dehina ityasya dehAdanyasyetyarthaH | deho.asyAstItyarthe matubarthe nipratyayavidhAnAt.h | ekavachanAdekasyetyapi labhyate | dehAntarashabdo.atrAnekadehaparaH |
Here, the experiencer who undergoes the experiences of infancy, etc., is indicated. By saying "the embodied," that which is different from the body is the [intended] meaning (as it would make no sense to describe the body itself as "the embodied"). Because the `ni' pratyaya (in `dehina') is intended, as per the rules of grammatical usage, to indicate the referent's present ownership of the body (deha). By use of the singular, that this happens to one (i.e., that the infant, the youth, etc., are all one person) is indicated. By use of the word `dehAntara', [the occupancy] by the single individual of many other bodies is indicated.
tathA chAyamarthaH | asmindehe kaumAraM kaumArAnusandhAnaM, yauvanaM yauvanAnusandhAnaM, jarA jarAnusandhAnaM, yo.ahaM kaumArasharIravAnabhUvaM sa idAnIM jIrNasharIravAnvarte ityevaM rUpeNa tAvadasti | tachcha dehino dehavato dehAnyasyeti yAvat.h | dehashabdo.atra dehendriya antaHkaraNasaN^ghAtparaH | dehendriya antaHkaraNebhyo.anyasya chetanasya bhavati | dehAderjaDatvena anusandhAnakartR^itvAyogAt.h | evaM cha dehendriyAdito.atirikta jIvasiddhiH | This too is meant -- in this body, infancy, or the infant experience; youth, or the youthful experience; old age, or the aged experience, in respect of this it is only said, "I had an infant body previously, and now I have a youthful one," "I had a youthful body previously," and now I have an aged one," thus. This shows that the `dehina', the embodied, is different from the body. Here, `deha' signifies the union of the material body, the sense organs, and the psyche. The sentient entity ["I"] is different from the body, the sense organs, and the psyche. Because, since the body, etc., are insentient, they cannot be credited with action by volition. Thus, too, the existence of a jIva apart from the body, sense organs, etc., is proved.As seen, Krishna swiftly turns the tables on the chArvAka with an argument based on spiritual relativity: it is seen that the body's infancy, youth, etc., and its change, are experienced -- so who's the experiencer? Not the body itself, surely, for without a fixed point or frame of reference, change cannot be observed. So it is impossible to explain changes in the material body, the sense organs, and the psyche, without accepting the existence of another, unchanging entity back of all of them.
Continuing with the commentary:
tathA chaikavachanabalAdekasyaiva dehAdanyasya kaumArAdyaneka- dehAnusandhAnaM yathA tathA dehAntaraprAptiranekadehaprAptirdehino dehAdanyasyaikasyaiva bhavatIti pUrvArdhena dehAdanyasiddhiH | tripAdyA choktavidhayA.anekadehaprAptimAnsiddha iti dehAdanyajIva- paxIkArenAshrayAsiddhiH | pratyagrajAtasya shishorAhArAdya- bhilAshheNa pUrvapUrvataradehAnusandhAnena siddhAnekadehAnugatyA anAditvasiddherna hetoH svarUpAsiddhiriti bhAvaH | Also, if as shown, the existence of a separate entity from the three bodily states, on that obtains different bodies, is accepted, then there is no acceptance of an unproven hypothesis [as alleged by the chArvAka]. The behavior of a new-born desirous of food, in a manner similar to that shown by it in many previous bodies proves the beginningless-ness of the entity which inhabits these many bodies, so it is not to be claimed that the nature of the referent (the jIva) is unproven.Our commentator deals with a further objection as follows:
nanu dehAdyanyatamasyaivAstvanusandhAnam.h | chArvAkAdyuktatarka- balAdityata Aha -- `dhIra' iti | buddhimA.nstatra dehAdanyAtma- vishhaye na muhyati | dehAdInAM jaDatvakaraNatvAdinA kartR^itvAyoga ityAdirUpeNa te tarkA nirasyA iti bhAvaH || 13 || But there may be behavior *as if* there were something very different from the body, and this is explainable by the chArAka's logic (that consciousness arises out of a living body spontaneously, as does alcohol out of fermenting juice). For that, it is stated, `dhIra', thus. The intelligent one is not deceived in the matter of the soul that is different from the body. Given the insentience of the body, it cannot be an actor -- based on suchlike objections, your (the chArvAka's) arguments are implausible, thus is the purport.
N.B. The derivation of the need for dharma, etc., and the prAmANya of Shruti are also discussed in detail in the 'tattva-nirNaya. Scholars well-versed in that text may be consulted in this regard.
Srimad Ananda Tîrtha's commentary may be of interest in this connection.
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This article is due to Shrisha Rao.
Created February 19, 1999.