By Smita Agrawala
(CHAKRA) There are two things in the world, the Atma or the Self which is real, and the body which is unreal (though as we will eventually see, the AtmA alone is the substratum upon which the entire world is based, and there is no duality on the absolute level). Both of these are not to be grieved for because the AtmA never ceases to be and the body is ever perishable. Thus Sri Krishna speaks here of the immortality of the Self or the AtmA. The Self exists in the three periods of time – past, present and future.
It is the ego which identifies itself with the mind, body and senses. KRSNa and arjuNa, as individuals, do cease to exist, as their reality is purely mithyA (even Ishvara is mithyA), but the AtmA- that in the presence of which everything comes alive- alone remains unchanged…
A man experiences his existence before sleep, after sleep and during sleep. While his existence is continuous, his body is changing every moment and ultimately perishes one day. Thus existence is beyond time while biological body is bound by time and space. Waves arise, they play and die away, but the ocean remains ever the same. (waves are akin to jIvas, the ocean is akin to Ishvara. Even the role of Ishvara dissolves into brahman when pralayam takes place, so water remains the same, the states of water- viz waves and ocean- undergo change, the content of both wave and ocean is the water, which is comparable to the AtmA). Existence is AtmA itself (sat)
Prior to the pot’s creation, during the existence of the pot, and after the pot perishes, it was only the mud or clay which has continuous existence. Just as the destruction of a pot does not lead to the destruction of clay, so also destruction of the physical body does not lead to destruction of the AtmA. Therefore, arjuNa should not grieve for his relatives out of fear of their destruction.
A calm man is one who has Self-Knowledge and does not grieve at it. In other words, he does not grieve at death.
In the progress of growth of the body, childhood dies when youth takes over, and youth dies when the old age sets in. Even when childhood or youth no longer remain at the old age. A wise person is not confused or overpowered by such change in experiences, as it is only the mind and body subject to such transformations, not the Self.
Childhood, youth and old age are only with respect to one’s physical body. The SELF, without undergoing any change, remains the same in all the three stages of bodily experiences. There can never be a time when atman is not there. Thus at all times, “I am” does not change, but “what I am” may change only with respect to the mind and body, not the Self. A wise person is not confused or overpowered by such changes. If one thinks that “I” changes from “childhood I” to “youth I” to “old-age I” and to another “I” in another body, one must simply ask oneself the question who is “That I” that is constant in all these changes in “I”s. That “I” – That Recognizer I – That Seer I – “That Knower – I” is indeed AtmA- The SELF which is Eternal – All-pervading, and is never subject to change.
As one does not grieve for the body when it passes through childhood, youth and old age, similarly one should not worry or get himself deluded over when the mind passes over to another body at physical death. Thus birth and death are spoken of with regard to the physical body and mind, not the AtmA.
At the moment of death, there is no extinction of the individual. The embodied ego (sukshma sharira) leaves its previous structure and according to vasanAs or mental impressions gained during its embodiment it gets itself identified with another physical body where it can express itself completely and seek its perfect fulfillment. What is important to note through all this, is that the AtmA is not only the Self of one being, but the Self of ALL beings, and this AtmA is the non-dual/singular “I”.
Smita is a student of traditional Vedanta from Arsha Vidya Gurukulam