[Advaita-l] GITA - 2.13

Amuthan Arunkumar R aparyap at yahoo.co.in
Mon Dec 5 13:26:07 CST 2005

namo nArAyaNAya!

we saw that in the previous verse, kR^iShNa taught the
eternal nature of the self. in this verse (2.13),
kR^iShNa reinforces the necessity to get over sorrow
by showing the temporary nature of all things
(especially one's own body) and also the unchanging
and all-pervasive nature of the self. 

dehino'smin yathA dehe kaumAraM yauvanaM jarA.
tathA dehAntaraprAptiH dhIrastatra na muhyati.. 2.13

just as the embodied self (remains unchanged) as the
body undergoes (changes like) childhood, youth and old
age, similar is the case when it takes up another
body. (knowing this,) an intelligent man does not

here, 'dehi' refers to the self that is a witness to
all the changes of the body. even though the body
undergoes various phases marked by widely varying
characteristics like youth and old age, the self
remains the same. this can be understood (in a very
simplistic way) by self-apparent notions like 'i was
young, but now, i am old now' etc. this verse also
shows that the self is neither destroyed as one phase
of the body ends nor produced when a new phase of the
body begins. in other words, the 'i' thought exists
unchanged from birth to death. (this 'i' represents
the vij~nAnAtmA or the vij~nAnamaya kosha) 

in order to prevent any misinterpretation that the
body remains the substratum to all changes like youth
etc. and hence the body is the self, kR^iShNa mentions
rebirth where a new body is taken by the self. one
need not go that far. MS mentions that during dream or
some special states of yoga, one does get 'out' of the
present body, but the 'i' thought remains the same
even there. this is clear from recollections like 'i
dreamt', 'i experienced this' etc. the self apparent
notion of 'i' remains unchanged whether in dream or in
the waking state or when in some special state of

(the notion of 'i' is taken up just to help us
understand the unchanging nature of the self. that
this itself is not the self is apparent from the deep
sleep state state where it is absent.)

just as the self remains unchanging as the body
undergoes modifications, so also is the case when a
new body is taken up. the transition from one body to
another is not perceived. hence, kR^iShNa gives the
analogy of the unchanging nature of the 'i' thought as
the body undergoes changes in the present life to
understand the unchanging nature of the self as the
self takes up a new body.  

the fact that the self remains unchanged during
rebirth can also be explained otherwise. if the same
self is not accepted, natural instincts that are seen
in new borns cannot be explained. it will also not
explain the loss of acquired puNya or pApa without
experiencing them (kR^itanAsha) or the fruition of
unearned puNya or pApa with apparently no reason
(akR^ita abhyAgama). (this is an argument based on the
'theory of karma') 

the unchanging nature of the self also shows it's
all-pervasiveness with respect to the various bodies
(including those in dreams and those acquired with
some powers of yoga). the all-pervasive nature of the
self is also established by the inherent nature of the
self as a witness to all the various bodies it takes. 

knowing this, the intelligent do not grieve since
there can be no possible damage done to the self due
to any modification of the body.

this verse thus refutes other schools of thought like
'the self is impermanent, and exists only as long as
the body exists', 'the self is only momentary
consciousness', 'the self is of the same dimension as
that of the body' etc. 

for us, this verse helps to strengthen the mind and
turn it away from concerns for the body and objects /
people related to the body and concentrate it on our
own self. it helps us to face the vicissitudes of life
with greater strength and calmness. explicit reference
will be made to this in the next shloka. 

vAsudevaH sarvaM,

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

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