The Bhagavadgītā is a Hindu sacred text consisting of a dialogue between Arjuna, a hero son of the god Indra, and his charioteer Krishna, an incarnation of the divine principle. The war between the Pandavas and Kauravas is imminent and the dialogue takes place in the middle of the battlefield, right before the beginning of the Kurukshetra’s battle; Arjuna is confused and torn by moral dilemmas after noticing that among the enemy army there are some of his relatives, teachers and friends: he then seeks advice from Krishna, which reminds him his duties as a kshatriya, i.e. as a warrior, through the exposition of spiritual and philosophical concepts.
Krishna assists Arjuna:
The verses quoted in this first part mainly describe the doctrine concerning the immortality and cyclic reincarnation of the individual spirit, but also some concepts in relation with stoicism.
12.”In truth, there was never a time when I was not, nor you, nor these rulers of peoples; and, in the future, will not come a time in which we will not be”.
13.”The soul incarnated in the body experiences childhood, youth and the old age; then it takes another body. The man that knows this doesn’t experience [any] bewilderment”.
The verses 12./13. begin to expose the doctrine concerning the immortality of the individual spirit and its cyclic reincarnation governed by karma, a necessary and inescapable metaphysical law according to which what we are now on the one hand is the result consequent to what we have been in our previous existences, on the other hand will contribute to determine what we will be in our future existences.
14.”Son of Kunti, the impressions of the senses [born] from contact with material things produce hot and cold, pain and pleasure, they come and go and are impermanent. Bear them, Bhārata”.
15.”Best among men, he who by them [impressions] is not troubled, [that remains] equanimous and firm in pleasure and pain is worthy of immortality”.
The verses 14./15. express a concept that we also find in the stoic doctrine: it is of fundamental importance to realize that all that doesn’t depend on us, like, indicatively, the sensations of hot and cold or pain and pleasure, must be experienced with firmness and imperturbability, without getting internally involved in a positive or negative way.
Bhārata, Mahabahu, Pārtha, Kaunteya and Paramtāpa are some of the epithets with which Krishna refers to Arjuna in the Bhagavadgītā.
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”.
In this verse is expressed the archaic sapiential concept according to which nothing is created from nothingness and nothing is destroyed into nothingness.
18.”These bodies of the eternal ātman, indestructible, immeasurable, are called perishable. Fight, then, Bhārata”.
In this verse the ātman, i.e. the individual spirit, is described as the metaphysical principle of life that resides in every being.
19.”He who believes to be killed and he who thinks of killing are both in error. That one [the ātman] can’t kill nor be killed”.
20.”It was never born and will never die. Having always been, it can’t cease to be. Unbegotten, permanent, imperishable, ancient, it is not killed even when the body is killed”.
22.”Like a man that lays the old clothes and takes new ones, so the embodied soul (dehi) lays the worn-out bodies and enters in others new”.
23.”The weapons don’t pierce [the ātman], nor fire burns it, nor waters bathe it, nor wind dries it”.
26.”If you believe that it is born and dies continuously, likewise, Mahabahu, you don’t have to grieve,”
27.”because, in truth, certain is death for he who is born and certain is rebirth for he who is dead. Therefore, for an ineluctable fact, you should not feel pity”.
The verses 19./20./22./23./26./27. proceed to expose in explicit terms the doctrine concerning the immortality of the individual spirit and its cyclic reincarnation.
38.”Equally impartial in pleasure and pain, in gain and loss, in victory and defeat, be ready then to fight; thus you will not be able to commit error”.
55.”When, Pārtha, a man eradicates all desires from his mind and finds his satisfaction in the ātman and for the ātman, he is said to have a stable intelligence”.
57.”He who has abandoned every attachment, who is not flattered by praises nor offended by reproach: that person possesses a stable intelligence”.
The verses 38./55./57. further praise the man who reacts to what doesn’t depend on him in a detached and impersonal way.
34.”The attraction and repulsion to objects are inherent to the corresponding sense: no one should submit to these two because 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. proceed to exalt active impersonality as a means to achieve higher cognitive ways.
5.”Numerous are my past lives and yours too, Arjuna. Except I know them all, whereas you don’t know them, Paramtāpa”.
In this verse there is a further reference to the cyclic and therefore eternal reincarnation 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 fine and good deeds that incurs in a bad destiny”.
In this verse is reiterated that there is no permanent death for the honourable: an eternal rebirth awaits him.