The Bhagavadgītā is a Hindu sacred text, a part of the Mahabharata, the Hindu epic poem. It is a dialogue between the prince of the Pandava, Arjuna, a hero son of the god Indra, and his charioteer Krishna, an incarnation of the divine principle.
The war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas is imminent and the dialogue takes place in the centre of the battlefield, right before the beginning of the Kuruksetra’s battle: Arjuna is confused and torn by moral dilemmas after noticing that among the enemy army there are his relatives, teachers and friends: he seeks advice from Krishna, which reminds him his duties as a kshatriya (i.e. as a warrior) through the exposition of philosophical and religious concepts.
Krishna assists Arjuna:
In this first part I quote verses that reveal mainly the doctrine concerning the immortality of the spirit, but also concepts in relation with Stoicism and the thught of Parmenides.
12.”In truth, there has never been a time when I was not, nor you, nor these chiefs of peoples; and, in the future, will not come that in which we will not be”.
13.”The soul incarnated in the body experiments childhood, youth and the old age; then it takes another body. The man that knows this doesn’t suffer [any] bewilderment”.
The verses 12./13. begin to expose the doctrine concerning the immortality of the individual spirit and its eternal rebirth through the piṭryāna (“way of the fathers”).
14.”Son of Kunti, the impressions of the senses [born] from contact with material things produces hot and cold, pain and pleasure, they come and go and are impermanent. Endure them, Bhārata”.
Krishna calls Arjuna with many epithets in the Bhagavadgītā: Bhārata, Mahabahu, Pārtha, Kaunteya and Paramtāpa in the verses that I quote here.
15.”Best of men, one who from them [impressions] is not disturbed, [that remains] equanimous and firm in pleasure and pain is worthy of immortality”.
The verses 14./15. express a concept that we find in Stoicism: men must understand that the things that doesn’t depend on us (like the sensations of hot and cold, pain and pleasure) must be endured firmly/indifferently, without being disturbed or fascinated by them.
16.”What doesn’t exist can’t come into being, of the being there is no cessation of existence. This ultimate truth has been unveiled by those who have seen the essence of things”.
This verse expresses a knowledge identical to that of Parmenides: nothing is created from nothing and nothing can be destroyed into nothing.
18.”These bodies of the eternal ātman, indestructible, immeasurable, are called perishable. Fight, then, Bhārata”.
The ātman is the intimate essence of every being, the principle of life (i.e. the individual spirit).
19.”The one who believes to be killed and the one who thinks of killing are both in error. That one [the ātman] can’t kill nor be killed”.
20.”It is never born and never dies. Having always been, it can’t cease to be. Unborn, permanent, imperishable, ancient, it is not killed even when the body is killed”.
22.”Like a man deposing the old clothes takes new ones, so the embodied soul (dehi) deposes the worn-out bodies and enters in other new”.
23.”The weapons doesn’t pierce [the ātman], nor fire burns it, nor is bathed by waters, nor wind dries it”.
26.”If you believe that it is born and dies continuously, likewise, Mahabahu, you must not afflict yourself,”
27.”because, in truth, sure is death for he that is born and sure is rebirth for he that is dead. Therefore, for an inescapable fact, you should not feel pity”.
The verses 19./20./22./23./26./27. continue to expose the doctrine concerning the immortality of the individual spirit and its eternal rebirth, in very explicit terms.
38.”Equally impartial in pleasure and pain, in gain and loss, in victory and defeat, prepare therefore to fight; in this way you will not be able to commit error”.
55.”When, Pārtha, a man eradicates from his mind all desires and finds his satisfaction in the ātman and for the ātman, he is said to have a stable intelligence”.
57.”The one who has given up all attachment, that is not flattered by praises nor offended by reprimand: that person owns a stable intelligence”.
The verses 38./55./57. continue to praise the man who treats the things that doesn’t depend on him as they must be treated: in a detached way and without subjective reactions.
34.”The attraction and the repulsion for the objects are inherent to the corresponding sense: nobody should submit to these two for they represent the two enemies”.
39.”Knowledge is [so] wrapped by this constant enemy, Kaunteya, insatiable fire that takes the form of desire”.
The verses 34./39. express an explicit critique of materialism, seen as opposed to the pursuit of knowledge.
5.”Numerous are my past lives and yours too, Arjuna. Just that I know them all, while you don’t know them, Paramtāpa”.
Also this verse refers to the eternal rebirth of the individual spirit.
40.”Pārtha, nor in this nor in the other world such a man is lost, because there is no author of beautiful and good deeds that incurs in a bad destiny”.
The content of this verse can be compared to that expressed by this maxim: “there is no death for the honourable, only an eternal rebirth”.
Part 2: Bhagavadgita (Part 2 of 2)