Chapter 2

This chapter is entitled ?Samkhya Yoga? – ?The Yoga of Knowledge.? Krishna read Arjuna’s heart. Arjuna’s mind was confused. The unmanly sentiment in his Kshatriya blood he took as his love for mankind. Seeing Arjuna thus confused and depressed, Krishna says, ?yield not to this unmanliness, O Arjuna, for it does not become thee. Cast off this petty faintheartedness and arise, O Arjuna.? On hearing this, Arjuna for the first time came to learn that his human belief concerning life and death was not founded on truth. He felt that he was distracted by illusions. He prayed to Sri Krishna for enlightenment: ?I am your humble disciple. Teach me. Tell me what is best for me.? (2.7) For the first time, Arjuna uses the word ‘disciple’. Till then, Sri Krishna had been his friend and comrade.

When Arjuna appeals with utter sincerity and humility to Krishna to illumine him, Krishna says, ?O Arjuna, in speech, you are a philosopher; in action, you are not. A true philosopher mourns neither for the living nor for the dead. But Arjuna, you are sorrowing and grieving. Tell me, why do you mourn the prospective death of these men? Never was there a time when I was not, nor thou, nor these men, nor will there ever be a time hereafter when we shall cease to be. As the soul passes in this body through childhood, youth and age, even so is its taking on of another body. O Arjuna, a man who remains the same in pain and pleasure, who is wise, makes himself fit for eternal life.? (2.11-15)

Arjuna further learns from Sri Krishna: ?The Reality that pervades the universe is the Life immortal. The body is perishable, therefore fight O Arjuna; the soul, the real in man, or the real man, is deathless, and immortal. The soul neither kills nor is killed. Beyond birth and death, constant and eternal is the soul. The knower of this truth neither slays nor causes slaughter. Just as a person casts off worn-out garments and puts on new ones, even so does the embodied soul casts off worn-out bodies and takes on new bodies. Weapons do not cleave the soul, fire does not burn him; water does not wet him; nor does the wind make him dry.? (2.17-25)

Krishna further goes on to explain to Arjuna the duty of a worrier. Krishna says: ?Do your duty. Do not waver. Be not faint-hearted. You are a Kshatriya. There can be no greater invitation than that of a righteous war for a Kshatriya. If you do not fight this battle then you will be failing in your duty and will incure sin. Great warriors will think that you have abstained from battle through fear, and the enemies will utter many unseemly words slandering your strength. If you are slain you shall go to heaven; if you are victorious you shall enjoy the earth. Arjuna, take them as one, victory and defeat, joy and sorrow, gain and loss. Care not for them. Fight! Fighting thus, no sin will you incur.? (2.31-38) Thus Sri Krishna unveiled the path of samkhya (knowledge) to Arjuna.

Now Krishna wanted to teach Arjuna karma yoga (the path of action). According to Sri Krishna, Yoga is ?Equanimity (unaffected by success or failure, pain or pleasure)? , Yoga is ?skilful wisdom in action? . Krishna tells Arjuna, ?Action is your birth right, not the outcome, not the fruits thereof. Let not the fruits of action be your object, and be not attached to inaction. Be active and dynamic; seek not any reward.”

Arjuna now feels the necessity to free himself from the desire-life. Sri Krishna teaches him how he can totally detach himself from the bondage-life of the senses as a tortoise successfully withdraws its limbs from all directions. Krishna further explains that mere sense-withdrawal, or withdrawal from the sense objects, by no means indicates the end of the journey as the taste or the desire for these sense objects still remains. ?Mere withdrawal from the sense objects cannot put an end to desire’s birth. Desire disappears only when the Supreme appears. In his Presence the desire-life loses its existence, not before.? (2.59)

Sri Krishna, also explains what happens when one is attached to the desire life, ?Dwelling on the sense-objects gives birth to attachment; attachment gives birth to desire. Desire (unfulfilled) brings into existence the life of anger. From anger delusion springs up, from delusion the confusion of memory. In the confusion of memory the reasoning wisdom is lost. When wisdom is nowhere, there is destruction.? (2.62-63)

Sri Chinmoy says:

?This second chapter throws considerable light on samkhya (knowledge) and yoga (action). Samkhya and yoga are never at daggers drawn. One is detached meditative knowledge, and the other is dedicated and selfless action. They have the self-same goal.They just follow two different paths to arrive at the goal.

Sense-life is not to be discontinued. Sense-life is to be lived in the Divine for the Divine. It is the inner withdrawal, not the outer withdrawal, that is imperative. The animal in man has to surrender to the Divine in man for its total transformation. The life of animal pleasure must lose its living and burning breath in the all-fulfilling life of divine bliss.?


(The following English translation is taken from ‘A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy’ Edited by S. Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore. 1957 Princeton University Press)

Chapter 2: Samkhya Theory* and Yoga Practice

Krsna’s rebuke and exhortation to be brave

Samjaya said:

1. To him who was thus overcome by pity, whose eyes were filled with tears and troubled and who was much depressed in mind, Madhusudana (Krsna) spoke this word.

The Blessed Lord said:
2. Whence has come to thee this stain (this dejection) of spirit in this hour of crisis? It is unknown to men of noble mind [not cherished by the Aryans]; it does not lead to heaven; on earth it causes disgrace, 0 Arjuna.

3. Yield not to this unmanliness, 0 Partha (Arjuna), for it does not become thee. Cast off this petty faintheartedness and arise, 0 Oppressor of the foes (Arjuna).

Arjuna said:
4. How shall I strike Bhisma and Drona, who are worthy of worship, 0 Madhusudana (Krsna), with arrows in battle, 0 Slayer of foes (Krsna) ?

5. It is better to live in this world by begging than to slay these honoured teachers. Though they are mindful of their gains, they are my teachers, and by slaying them, I would enjoy in this world delights which are smeared with blood.

6. Nor do we know which for us is better, whether we conquer them or they conquer us. The sons of Dhrtarastra, whom if we slew we should not care to live, are standing before us in battle array.

7. My very being is stricken with the weakness of sentimental pity. With my mind bewildered about my duty, I ask Thee. Tell ma, for certain, which is better. I am Thy pupil; teach me, who am seeking refuge in Thee.

8. 1 do not see what will drive away this sorrow which dries up my senses even if I should attain rich and unrivalled kingdom on earth or even the sovereignty of the gods.

Samjaya said:
9. Having thus addressed Hrsikesa (Krsna), the mighty Gudakesa (Arjuna) said to Govinda (Krsna), ?I will not fight,? and became silent.

10. To him thus depressed in the midst of the two armies, 0 Bharata (Dhrtarastra), Hrsikesa (Krsna), smiling as it were, spoke this word.

The distinction between self and body: we should not grieve for
what is imperishable

The Blessed Lord said:
11. Thou grievest for those whom thou shouldst not grieve for, and yet thou speakest words about wisdom. Wise men do not grieve for the dead or for the living.

12. Never was there a time when I was not, nor thou, nor these lords of men, nor will there ever be a time hereafter when we shall cease to be.**

13. As the soul passes in this body through childhood, youth and age, even so is its taking on of another body. The sage is not perplexed by this.

14. Contacts with their objects, 0 son of Kunti (Arjuna), give rise to cold and heat, pleasure and pain. They come and go and do not last forever; these learn to endure, 0 Bharata (Arjuna).

15. The man who is not troubled by these, 0 Chief of men (Arjuna), who remains the same in pain and pleasure, who is wise, makes himself fit for eternal life.

16. Of the non-existent there is no coming to be; of the existent there is no ceasing to be. The conclusion about these two has been perceived by the seers of truth.

17. Know thou that that by which all this is pervaded is indestructible. Of this immutable being, no one can bring about the destruction.

18. It is said that these bodies of the eternal embodied soul, which is indestructible and incomprehensible, come to an end. Therefore fight, 0 Bharata (Aruna).

19. He who thinks that this slays and he who thinks that this is slain; both of them fail to perceive the truth; this one neither slays nor is slain.

20. He is never born, nor does he die at any time, nor having once come to be does he again cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, permanent, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.

21. He who knows that it is indestructible and eternal, uncreate and unchanging–how can such a person slay any one, 0 Partha (Arjuna), or cause any one to slay?

22. Just as a person casts off worn-out garments and puts on others that are new, even so does the embodied soul cast off worn-out bodies and take on others that are new.

23. Weapons do not cleave this self; fire does not burn him; waters do not make him wet; nor does the wind make him dry.

24. He is uncleavable. He cannot be burnt. He can be neither wetted nor dried. He is eternal, all-pervading, unchanging, and immovable. He is the same forever.

25. He is said to be unmanifest, unthinkable, and unchanging. Therefore, knowing him as such, thou shouldst not grieve.

We should not grieve over what is perishable

26. Even if thou thinkest that the self is perpetually born and perpetually dies, even then, 0 Mighty-armed (Arjuna), thou shouldst not grieve,

27. For to the one that is born death is certain, and certain is birth for the one that has died. Therefore, for what is unavoidable thou shouldst not grieve.

28. Beings are unmanifest in their beginnings, manifest in the middles, and unmanifest again in their ends, 0 Bharata (Arjuna). What is there in this for lamentation?

29. One looks upon Him as a marvel; another likewise speaks of Him as a marvel; another hears of Him as a marvel; and even after hearing, no one whatsoever has known Him.

30. The dweller in the body of every one, 0 Bharata (Arjuna), is eternal and can never be slain. Therefore, thou shouldst not grieve for any creature.

Appeal to a sense of duty

31. Further, having regard for thine own duty, thou shouldst not falter; there exists no greater good for a ksatriya [warrior] than a war enjoined by duty.

32. Happy are the ksatriyas, 0 Partha (Arjuna), for whom such a war comes of its own accord as an open door to heaven.

33. But if thou doest not this lawful battle, then thou wilt fail thy duty and glory and will incur sin.

34. Besides, men will ever recount thy ill-fame, and for one who has been honoured ill-fame is worse than death.

35. The great warriors will think that thou hast abstained from battle through fear, and they by whom thou wast highly esteemed will make light of thee.

36. Many unseemly words will be uttered by thine enemies, slandering thy strength. Could anything be sadder than that?

37. Either slain thou shalt go to heaven; or victorious thou shalt enjoy the earth; therefore arise, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), resolve on battle.

38. Treating alike pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat, then get ready for battle. Thus thou shalt not incur sin.

The insight of Yoga

39. This is the wisdom of the Samkhya given to thee, 0 Partha (Arjuna). Listen now to the Yoga. If your intelligence accepts it, thou shalt cast away the bondage of works.

40. In this path, no effort is ever lost and no obstacle prevails; even a little of this righteousness (dharma) saves from great fear.

41. In this, O joy of the Kurus (Arjuna), the resolute understanding is single; but the thoughts of the irresolute are many-branched and endless.

No wisdom for the worldly-minded

42-43. The undiscerning, who rejoice in the letter of the Veda, who contend that there is nothing else, whose nature is desire, and who are intent on heaven, proclaim these flowery words that result in rebirth as the fruit of actions and lay down various specialized rites for the attainment of enjoyment and power.

44. The intelligence which is to be trained, of those who are devoted to enjoyment and power and whose minds are carried away by these words [of the Veda], is not well-established in the Self [or concentration].

45. The action of the threefold modes*** is the subject matter of the Veda; but do thou become free, 0 Arjuna, from this threefold nature; be free from the dualities [the pairs of opposites]; be firmly fixed in purity, not caring for acquisition and preservation; and be possessed of the Self.

46. As is the use of a pond in a place flooded with water everywhere, so is that of all the Vedas for the brahmin who understands+.

Work without concern for the results

47. To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruit; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction.

48. Fixed in yoga, do thy work, 0 winner of wealth (Arjuna), abandoning attachment, with an even mind in success and failure, for evenness of mind is called yoga.

49. Far inferior indeed is mere action to the discipline of intelligence, 0 winner of wealth (Arjuna); seek refuge in intelligence. Pitiful are those who seek for the fruits of their action.

50. One who has yoked his intelligence [with the Divine] (or is established in his intelligence) casts away even here both good and evil. Therefore strive for yoga; yoga is skill in action.

5 1. The wise who have united their intelligence [with the Divine], renouncing the fruits which their action yields and freed from the bonds of birth, reach the sorrowless state.

52. When thine intelligence shall cross the whirl of delusion, then shalt thou become indifferent to what has been heard and what is yet to be heard++.

53. When thine intelligence, which is bewildered by the Vedic texts, shall stand unshaken and stable in spirit (samadhi), then shalt thou attain to insight (yoga).

The characteristics of the perfect sage

Arjuna said:

54. What is the description of the man who has this firmly founded wisdom, whose being is steadfast in spirit, 0 Kesava (Krsna)? How does the man of settled intelligence speak; how does he sit; how does he walk?

The Blessed Lord said:
55. When a man puts away all the desires of his mind, 0 Partha (Arjuna), and when his spirit is content in itself, then is he called stable in intelligence.

56. He whose mind is untroubled in the midst of sorrows and is free from eager desire amid pleasures, he from whom passion, fear, and rage have passed away-he is called a sage of settled intelligence.

57. He who is without affection on any side, who does not rejoice or loathe as he obtains good or evil-his intelligence is firmly set [in wisdom].

58. He who draws away the senses from the objects of sense on every side as a tortoise draws in his limbs into the shell-his intelligence is firmly set [in wisdom].

59. The objects of sense turn away from the embodied soul who abstains from feeding on them, but the taste for them remains. Even the taste turns away when the Supreme is seen.

60. Even though a man may ever strive [for perfection] and be ever so discerning, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), his impetuous senses will carry off his mind by force.

61. Having brought all the senses under control, he should remain firm in yoga, intent on Me; for he, whose senses are under control, his intelligence is firmly set.

62. When a man dwells in his mind on the objects of sense, attachment to them is produced. From attachment springs desire, and from desire comes anger.

63. From anger arises bewilderment, from bewilderment loss of memory, and from loss of memory the destruction of intelligence; and from the destruction of intelligence he perishes.

64. But a man of disciplined mind, who moves among the objects of sense, with the senses under control and free from attachment and aversion-he attains purity of spirit.

65. And in that purity of spirit, there is produced for him an end of all sorrow; the intelligence of such a man of pure spirit is soon established [in the peace of the self].

66. For the uncontrolled, there is no intelligence; nor for the uncontrolled is there the power of concentration; and for him without concentration, there is no peace; and for the unpeaceful, how can there be happiness?

67. When the mind runs after the roving senses, it carries away the understanding, even as a wind carries away a ship on the waters.

68. Therefore, 0 Mighty-armed (Arjuna), he whose senses are all withdrawn from their objects-his intelligence is firmly set.

69. What is night for all beings is the time of waking for the disciplined soul; and what is the time of waking for all beings is night for the sage who sees (or the sage of vision)+++.

70. He unto whom all desires enter as waters into the sea, which, though ever being filled, is ever motionless, attains to peace, and not he who hugs his desires.

7 1. He who abandons all desires and acts free from longing, without any sense of mineness or egotism-he attains to peace.

72. This is the divine state, 0 Partha (Arjuna); having attained thereto, one is not again bewildered; fixed in that state at the end [at the hour of death] one can attain to the bliss of God.


This is the second chapter, entitled ?The Yoga of Knowledge.”?

*The teacher explains in brief in verses 11 -38 the wisdom of the Samkhya philosophy. The Samkhya does not refer to Kapila’s system but to the teaching of the Upanisads.
Samkhya and Yoga are not in the Gita discordant systems. They have the same aim but differ in their methods.

**While the Samkhya system postulates a plurality of souls, the Gita reconciles this with unity.

***The three modes (gunas) are goodness (sattva), passion (rajas), and dullness or inertia (tamas). These are the primary constituents of nature and are the bases of all substances.

+ That is, for those of illumined consciousness or spiritual insight ritual observances are of little value.

++ Scriptures are unnecessary for the man who has attained insight.

+++ When all beings are attracted by the glitter of sense-objects, the sage is intent on understanding reality. He is wakeful to the nature of reality to which the unwise is asleep or indifferent.