The Distinction Between The Body and the Soul

Krishna's Teachings

by Jayaram V


Chapterr 2, Verse 18

18. It is said these bodies of the eternal (soul) which is indestructible and immeasurable come to an end. Therefore fight, O Bharata (Arjuna)

The knowledge of reality should help us know which aspects of creation are perishable and which are not. However, such knowledge does not arise on its own, and unless it arises from experience we cannot be free from doubt and confusion. We know that upon death, the body and mind perish, but we are not sure what remains after that. The scriptures, and verses such as this, state that upon death the soul survives because it is imperishable and infinite and free from modifications.

A proper understanding of death is essential to know the true nature of our existence. Without it, we remain ignorant and cannot remain focused upon the spiritual path. Very likely, we will become selfish and fail to look beyond the limited aims of of mortal life, without caring much about liberation or our spiritual transformation. Our thinking and attitude also remain constricted, and we fail to elevate our thinking beyond worldly life.

If death is the end of all, there is no justification for people to practice dharma and live virtuous lives. Without any spiritual purpose that transcends life, God and a Dharma would not make much sense. Life itself will appear as a meaningless process or a blind activity, without any inspiring moral and spiritual ideal. There would not be any justification for the egoistic, worldly people to renounce the rewards and promise of material pursuits. Death may even become the means to end suffering when it becomes unbearable or incurable.

Arjuna was in a similar state of confusion when he looked at people who stood in the battlefield as mere, physical beings. He thought that his actions would lead to their destruction and he would be responsible for their death. He forgot the people who he thought would die in the battle had eternal souls, which were indestructible. In that brief moment of doubt and despair, he failed to comprehend the full implications of death and the possibility of life beyond it.

Therefore, Lord Krishna decided to remind him that death would result in the destruction of the body, but not the soul, which was imperishable and eternal. He suggested that it was necessary to engage in actions for the sake of the Self rather than the perishable body. We must consider ourselves as spiritual beings and live our lives accordingly. This change in our thinking and perspective can profoundly impact our lives and elevate our consciousness. Body centric thinking makes us materialistic and strengthens our animal instincts, whereas soul centric thinking and attitude strengthens our divine qualities and spiritual nature.

Note : These commentaries are not part of the Bhagavadgita Complete Translation.

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