Bhagavad-gita Chapter 2

In this post, Syamananda deliberates on chapter two of the Bhagavad-gita.

In the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna gives up his attempt at figuring out the right path by his own limited grasp of reality alone. He agrees to fully consider Sri Krishna’s opinion before coming to his own conclusion. In the previous chapter, Arjuna argued on many levels of ethics as to why he should not engage in the battle he had found himself in the middle of. Krishna will show him that while all of Arjuna’s arguments are relatively valid there is an underlying issue of egocentrism that has taken the form of the Kuruksetra war. Avoiding the war, Arjuna would avoid dealing with his mistaken sense of identity.

Krishna uplifts Arjuna by his discourse and gives him a bird’s eye view of the entire situation. He introduces Arjuna to the knowledge of the difference between spirit and matter, soul and body, essence and form, principle and detail. He then puts him back down on Earth, on the battlefield, and teaches him how he can deal with the immediate physical circumstances that are so challenging and do it in a way that at the same time makes for spiritual progress. In this way, he does not let Arjuna get away with excuses and spiritual bypassing.

In the course of explaining the difference between soul and body, Krishna offers for the sake of argument that even if the materialists are right and there is no lasting soul, still, that is not an excuse to avoid the battle. In fact, this whole setting of the Bhagavad Gita, the battlefield, is so extreme with Arjuna having to fight his own relatives, just so that no one can say that they are in a worse situation and therefore think they have an excuse not to commit to their own inner spiritual practice. Family attachment is the number one thing we have to deal with on the spiritual path. This does not in any way mean that we are not to love our family, but we need to understand who we are as a soul, and that knowledge is covered over by what we imagine ourselves to be in relation to our family.

Our parents pass on so many ideas onto us in our childhood that we are not even aware of. These ideas strongly inform our sense of self. Some of those ideas may be helpful for our spiritual practice while other ideas may not be. We need to sort all of that out along with practicing our given traditional yoga techniques, be it silent meditation or mantra chanting. Our spiritual practice is a lifelong project and will perhaps even take a few lifetimes to perfect.

The second chapter not only gives Arjuna an overview of his situation but also gives the reader an overview of what Krishna is going to cover in the entire Bhagavad Gita which will continue for another 16 chapters dealing with different forms of yoga.