Ancient India
Krishna's Answer

Sanjaya

   To him, who was thus overcome with pity, and dejected, and whose eyes were full of tears and clouded over, the destroyer of Madhu spoke these words.


Krishna

   How does it happen that this delusion, 1 Arjuna, which is discarded by the good, which excludes from heaven, and occasions infamy, has overtaken you in this place of grave danger? Do not be weak, Arjuna, it is not worthy of you. Cast off this base weakness of heart, and arise, O terror of your foes!


Arjuna

   How, O destroyer of Madhu, shall I in battle encounter with arrows Bhishma and Drona—both, O destroyer of enemies, entitled to reverence? It is better to live even on alms in this world than to kill my teachers, men of great glory. But killing them, though they are avaricious of worldly goods, I should only enjoy blood-tainted enjoyments. Nor do we know which of the two is better for us—whether that we should vanquish them, or that they should vanquish us.

   Even those, whom having killed, we do not wish to live—even those sons of Dhritarashtra stand arrayed against us. With a heart contaminated by the taint of helplessness, with a mind confounded about my duty, 2 I ask you. Tell me what is good for me. I am your disciple; instruct me, who have thrown myself on your mercy. For I do not perceive how to dispel that grief which will dry up my spirit after I have obtained a prosperous kingdom on earth without a foe, or even the sovereignty of the gods.


Sanjaya

   Having spoken thus to Krishna, O terror of your foes, Arjuna said to Krishna, "I shall not engage in battle," and fell silent. To him thus grieving between the two armies, O descendant of Bharata, Krishna spoke these words with a slight smile.


Krishna

   You have grieved for those who deserve no grief, and you talk words of wisdom. Learned men grieve not for the living nor the dead. Never did I not exist, nor you, nor these rulers of men; nor will any one of us ever hereafter cease to be. As in this body, infancy and youth and old age come to the embodied self, 3 so does the acquisition of another body; a sensible man is not deceived about that. The contacts of the senses, Arjuna, which produce cold and heat, pleasure and pain, are not permanent, they are ever coming and going. Bear them, O descendant of Bharata! For, chief of men, that sensible man who is not afflicted by pain or heat, he merits immortality.

   There is no existence for that which is unreal; there is no non-existence for that which is real. And the correct conclusion about both is perceived by those who perceive the truth. Know that to be indestructible which pervades all this; the destruction of that inexhaustible principle none can bring about. These bodies that pertain to the embodied self which is eternal, indestructible, and indefinable, are said to be perishable; therefore do engage in battle, O descendant of Bharata! He who thinks it to be the killer and he who thinks it to be killed, both know nothing. The self kills not, and the self is not killed. It is not born, nor does it ever die, nor, having existed, does it exist no more. Unborn, everlasting, unchangeable, and primeval, the self is not killed when the body is killed.

   O son of Pritha, how can that man who knows the self to be indestructible, everlasting, unborn, and inexhaustible, how and whom can he kill, whom can he cause to be killed? As a man, casting off old clothes, puts on others and new ones, so the embodied self, casting off old bodies, goes to others and new ones. Weapons do not divide the self into pieces; fire does not burn it; waters do not moisten it; the wind does not dry it up. It is not divisible; it is not combustible; it is not to be moistened; it is not to be dried up. It is everlasting, all-pervading, stable, firm, and eternal. It is said to be unperceived, to be unthinkable, to be unchangeable. Therefore, knowing it to be such, you ought not to grieve.

   But even if you think that the self is constantly born, and constantly dies, still, Arjuna, you ought not to grieve like this. For to one that is born, death is certain; and to one that dies, birth is certain. 4 Therefore, you should not grieve about things that are unavoidable.

   The source of things, Arjuna, is unperceived; their middle state is perceived; and their end again is unperceived. Why lament over them? One looks upon it as a wonder; another similarly speaks of it as a wonder; another, too, hears of it as a wonder; and even after having heard of it, no one does really know it .

   This embodied self, Arjuna, within every one's body is always indestructible. Therefore you ought not to grieve for any being.

   Having regard to your own duty also, you ought not to falter, for there is nothing better for a Kshatriya 5 than a righteous battle. Happy those Kshatriyas, O son of Pritha, who can find such a battle to fight—an open door to heaven! But if you will not fight this righteous battle, then you will have abandoned your own duty and your fame, and you will incur sin. All beings, too, will tell of your everlasting infamy; and to one who has been honored, infamy is a greater evil than death. Warriors who are masters of great chariots will think that you abstained from the battle through fear, and having been highly thought of by them, you will fall down to littleness. Your enemies, too, decrying your power, will speak much about you that should not be spoken. And what, indeed, is more lamentable than that? 6 Killed, you will obtain heaven; victorious, you will enjoy the earth. Therefore arise, O son of Kunti, resolved to engage in battle. Looking alike on pleasure and pain, on gain and loss, on victory and defeat, then prepare for battle, and thus you will not incur sin.

   The knowledge here declared to you is that relating to the Sankhya. 7 Now hear that relating to the Yoga. 8 Possessed of this knowledge, O son of Pritha, you will cast off the bonds of action.

   In this path to final emancipation, 9 nothing that is commenced becomes wasted effort; no obstacles exist; and even a little of this form of sacred duty protects one from great danger.

   There is here, Arjuna, but one state of mind consisting in firm understanding. 10 But the states of mind of those who have no firm understanding are many-branched and endless. The state of mind consisting in firm understanding regarding steady contemplation does not belong to those, Arjuna, who are strongly attached to worldly pleasures and power, and whose minds are drawn away by that flowery talk which is full of specific acts for the attainment of pleasures and power, and which promises birth as the fruit of acts—that flowery talk which those unwise ones utter, who are enamored of Vedic words, 11 who say there is nothing else, who are full of desires, 12 and whose goal is heaven.

   The Vedas merely relate to the effects of the three qualities; 13 do you, Arjuna, rise above those effects of the three qualities, and be free from the pairs of opposites and always preserve courage; be free from anxiety for new acquisitions or protection of old acquisitions, and be self-controlled.

   To the instructed Brahmana, there is in all the Vedas as much utility as in a reservoir of water into which waters flow from all sides.

   Your business is with action alone; not by any means with the fruit of action. 14 Let not the fruit of action be your motive to action. Let not your attachment be fixed on inaction. 15

    Having recourse to devotion, 16 Arjuna, perform actions, casting off all attachment, and being equally calm in success or failure; such equability is called devotion.

   Action, Arjuna, is far inferior to the devotion of the mind. In that devotion seek shelter. Wretched are those whose motive to action is the fruit of action. He who has obtained devotion in this world casts off both merit and sin. Therefore apply yourself to devotion; devotion in all actions is wisdom. The wise who have obtained devotion cast off the fruit of action; and released from the shackles of repeated births, repair to that seat where there is no unhappiness.

   When your mind shall have crossed beyond the taint of delusion, then will you become indifferent to all that you have heard or will hear . When your mind, confounded by what you have heard, will stand firm and steady in contemplation, then you will acquire devotion.


Arjuna

   What are the characteristics, Krishna, of one whose mind is steady, and who is intent on contemplation ? How should one of steady mind speak, or sit, or move?


Krishna

   When a man, Arjuna, abandons all the desires of his heart, and is pleased in his self only and by his self, he is then called one of steady mind. He whose heart is not agitated in the midst of calamities, who has no longing for pleasures, and from whom the feelings of affection, fear, and wrath have departed, is called a sage of steady mind. His mind is steady, who, being without attachments anywhere, feels no exultation and no aversion on encountering the various agreeable and disagreeable things of this world. A man's mind is steady, when he withdraws his senses from all objects of sense, as the tortoise withdraws its limbs from all sides. Objects of sense draw back from a person who is abstinent; not so the taste for those objects. But even the taste departs from him, when he has seen the Supreme. 17

   The boisterous senses, Arjuna, carry away by force the mind even of a wise man who exerts himself for final emancipation. Restraining them all, a man should remain engaged in devotion, making me his only resort. For his mind is steady whose senses are under his control.

   The man who ponders over objects of sense forms an attachment to them; from that attachment is produced desire; and from desire anger is produced; from anger results want of discrimination; from want of discrimination, confusion of the memory; 18 from confusion of the memory, loss of reason; and in consequence of the loss of reason he is utterly ruined.

   But the self-restrained man who moves among objects with senses under the control of his own self, and free from affection and aversion, obtains tranquillity. 19 When there is tranquillity, all his miseries are destroyed, for the mind of him whose heart is tranquil soon becomes steady.

   He who is not self-restrained has no steadiness of mind; nor does the unrestrained man have perseverance in the pursuit of self-knowledge; there is no tranquillity for him who does not persevere in the pursuit of self-knowledge; and how can there be happiness for one who is not tranquil? For the heart which follows the rambling senses leads away his judgement, as the wind leads a boat astray upon the waters.

   Therefore, Arjuna, his mind is steady whose senses are restrained on all sides from objects of sense. The self-restrained man is awake, when it is night for all beings; and when all beings are awake, that is the night of the right-seeing sage .

   He into whom all objects of desire enter, as waters enter the ocean, which, though replenished, still keeps its position unrnoved—he only obtains tranquillity; not he who desires those objects of desire.

   The man who, casting off all desires, lives free from attachments, who is free from egoism, 20 and free from possessions, obtains tranquillity. This, O son of Pritha, is the Brahmic state; attaining to this, one is never deluded; and remaining in it to the end of your life, one attains brahma-nirvana, the Brahmic bliss.

Translated by Kashinath Trimbak Telano, 1882
Edited and annotated by Richard Hooker



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