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8 | On Bhagavad Gita | Body to the Soul is like dress to the body

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

28 October 2022

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Arjuna, understand well that the Soul is all-pervading, hence present in all bodies. By dropping a body, it does not become bodyless. As is the air present in all bodies, so is the presence of ‘I’, the Self, the Soul, in all bodies.

Dear and blessed souls:

Harih Om Tat Sat

Arjuna is hearing Krishna with full attention. He also in a way grasps the exposure. Yet he is not able to realize the import sufficiently well, so as to cast aside the delusion and be enlightened.

Grasping the subtle knowledge is rare

It is true that the exposure to the ‘Inner Presence’, its nature and characteristics, is not something like a sensory observation. You open your eyes and readily see objects around. A sound also is likewise heard by the ear. But to listen to one expose the ‘I’, the Soul in the way Krishna does, is not obviously like that. The words are heard, all right. Electrical pulses the senses generate reach the brain centre. The process of understanding begins. Thereafter it is all inner, invisible.

Body is a gross sensory object. But the ‘I’ is not so. One cannot perceive it sensorily at all. It is conveyed as an idea. This knowledge should enlighten the listener to such an extent that he experiences and realizes the message. And he must be able to say, “Yes, I have understood. The knowledge is clear and full. I am the ‘I’, and as that, I am not acting, nor getting affected, even by killing.’’

However, most of the time, this much of mento-intellectual effect, transformation, does not readily transpire. May be some effort on the part of the intelligence is necessary to convert what is heard into one’s own compulsive understanding and realization.

The body is like the dress one puts on

Sensing the difficulty, Krishna continues to talk. His exposure of the Soul is vigorous, forceful and dominant. Thus, we go to the next verse (2.22): “Arjuna”, says Krishna, “as I already said, every one is the all-pervading Soul.” What is meant by ‘all-pervasiveness’? Think of air. It fills everyone, it is inside everyone; but does it also extend beyond? Likewise, though the Soul is present in all, it equally extends and surrounds all.

“What we call activity, including the war and the resultant slaughter, does not the least touch and involve the Soul. The body is like the dress one puts on. Everyone changes his clothes whenever they become soiled. Changing clothes is a daily practice. The used clothes are discarded and fresh ones put on. By so doing, the body is not the least involved in the change. Here, the dress and the body are equally visible. Hence, you can understand the process quite well.

“The body alone is visible, but not the Soul, the ‘I’, permeating the body and extending infinitely beyond it. Yet, what of it, dear Arjuna? Knowledge always belongs to the intelligence, like sight belongs to the eyes. What effect the sight gives to the mind, the same, nay even more, should be the effect on the mind by knowledge intelligence gains.

“Do not restrict the mind-process to sensory perceptions alone. The deliberations of the intelligence also have effect on the mind. This is what I try to generate in you and want you to be sensitive enough to absorb. In approaching the Self, the ‘I’, dear Arjuna, repeated introspection by intelligence alone works. That is why I am speaking to you again and again on the Soul, the ‘I’.”

“Every time, the used dress is discarded. A new dress is put on the body. The body always wears the dress. Even more so, is the truth about the Self. Body is like a dress one puts on his ‘I’. Whenever one dies, he only discards his body. But he begets another body and continues to function. In this way you can say, the Soul is always with the body.

“Arjuna, understand well that the Soul is all-pervading, hence present in all bodies. By dropping a body, it does not become bodyless. As is the air present in all bodies, so is the presence of ‘I’, the Self, the Soul, in all bodies.”

Infusing intelligence with subtle perceptions

The only difference is that both the body and the dress are visible objects. While the body is visible, its inner presence Soul, the ‘I’, is not visible. It does not matter, because you have the intelligence, and by introspecting over the existence of the Soul, the ‘I’, its all pervasiveness can be clearly understood. Understand Arjuna that in human life the presence of the senses and the intelligence have their significant place and effectiveness. In the course of our normal life, many factors depend more upon intelligence than on mere senses.

Think of a primary class student. He is taught addition and subtraction. After learning, he is asked to add up 5, 3 and 4. May be, the boy writes the figures one below the other, draws a line underneath. He looks at 5, 3 and 4 and writes 12 below the line. Here, what has happened? The figures 5, 3 and 4 are visibly before him. He has now to add them up and write the figure he gets.

Mentally, he says to himself, 5 plus 3 makes 8, that with 4 more, the total will become 12.

Here, along with the visible figures the eyes see, does not the invisible addition by the intelligence also take place? Where is any conflict between the sensory perception and intellectual comprehension? Are not both complementary? How beautifully the sight works with the intelligence and the figure 12 is arrived at!

Did not Krishna too kill his uncle?

In spiritual pursuit also the same intelligence is at work. It goes on introspecting over the Self, in terms of the qualities it has. And the process generates the outcome called knowledge.

“Arjuna, you know about my birth in Mathura and growth in Vrindavan. My uncle strove consistently to destroy my body, but he could not. Finally, he invited me and my brother to Mathura to witness his ‘dhanur-yaaga’, bow-sacrifice. But it was really a plot to kill me. I knew about it without having been told by anyone. My brother and I decided to face the risk and meet the challenge the uncle threw. I had to jump to the gallery where my uncle was seated. I lifted his body, hurled it into the wrestling arena and fell upon his body. He breathed his last.

“But all this was in bodily and sensory level. The subtle Soul present in the body and all around had no involvement either in my action or in my uncle’s plight. I knew this quite well. One part of the perceptional process is sensory. The other is intelligential. Both co-exist and co-function, like milk and water.

“Therefore, grasp what I say. The ear is to hear. Whatever is said has to be absorbed by brain and transformed into knowledge, which should act upon the mind to become living experience and realization. This is the challenge spirituality throws before the seeker.”

“Dear Arjuna, you are doing quite well in listening to what I say and trying to grasp the message. That is why I continue to speak exposing the same subject.”

Delving on inner processes

Spirituality is such that one can go on exposing it to any extent. Let us see how the conversation shapes.

Whenever death takes place, understand there is no extinction or loss to the Soul. What it does is to drop the used-up body and take a fresh one. Even when a child’s body dies, what the Soul takes up next is a fresh one. Seeing the phenomenon of death in one’s own family and around, the seeker should reflect upon the truth of the Soul and get more and more confirmed in it.

Thus, every instance of death is more enlightening than blinding or deluding. Spiritual enlightenment is such that, it becomes brighter and brighter as the world displays its transitoriness more and more.

The enlightened always stands to be benefited by whatever takes place in his life and the world around.

Arjuna’s face becomes brighter. He looks happier and more delightful. He finds enough message in what Krishna says, for him to introspect. For the first time in his life, Arjuna realizes that sensory objects and perceptions are not the only factor to reflect upon and gain knowledge from. The knowing faculties, like the mind and intelligence do not come within the sensory fold.

Thoughts, emotions, feelings, memory, reason, knowledge, etc. are readily felt by everyone. And in this process senses are not involved at all. The true seeker should learn to focus on these internal processes. He should take to introspection, the effort intelligence makes to probe into the inner processes, making the ‘I’, the sole pivot and hub of the entire pursuit.

Thereafter, Krishna describes the nature of the ‘I’, the Soul in three enthralling verses. These stand out with distinction. There is tremendous inspiration in them. Their enlightening effect is indescribable. The studious seeker will do well to learn them by heart, so that he can recite them whenever he feels like. Thus, we next go to verses 23 to 25 of chapter 2.

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“Body is a gross sensory object. But the ‘I’ is not so. One cannot perceive it sensorily at all. It is conveyed as an idea. This knowledge should enlighten the listener to such an extent that he experiences and realizes the message. ”

“I am the ‘I’, and as that, I am not acting, nor getting affected, even by killing. ”

“In approaching the Self, the ‘I’, dear Arjuna, repeated introspection by intelligence alone works. That is why I am speaking to you again and again on the Soul, the ‘I’.”

“One part of the perceptional process is sensory. The other is intelligential. Both co-exist and co-function, like milk and water. ”

“Seeing the phenomenon of death in one’s own family and around, the seeker should reflect upon the truth of the Soul and get more and more confirmed in it.”

“Spiritual enlightenment is such that, it becomes brighter and brighter as the world displays its transitoriness more and more. The enlightened always stands to be benefited by whatever takes place in his life and the world around.”

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