Shrimad Bhagavad-gita

by Narayana Gosvami | 2013 | 327,105 words

The Bhagavad-gita Verse 2.17, English translation, including the Vaishnava commentaries Sarartha-varsini-tika, Prakashika-vritti and Rasika-ranjana (excerpts). This is verse 17 from the chapter 2 called “Sankhya-yoga (Yoga through distinguishing the Soul from the Body)”

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration, Word-for-word and English translation of verse 2.17:

अविनाशि तु तद् विद्धि येन सर्वम् इदं ततम् ।
विनाशम् अव्ययस्यास्य न कश्चित् कर्तुम् अर्हति ॥ १७ ॥

avināśi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idaṃ tatam |
vināśam avyayasyāsya na kaścit kartum arhati || 17 ||

avināśi–indestructible; tu–indeed; tat–that; viddhi–know; yena–by which;sarvam–entire body; idam–this; tatam–pervaded; vināśam–the destruction; avyayasya–of the imperishable (soul); asya–of; na kaścit–no one; kartum–to effect; arhati–is able.

You should know that which pervades the entire body–the imperishable soul–to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul

Commentary: Sārārtha-Varṣiṇī Ṭīkā

(By Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura; the innermost intention of the commentary named ‘the shower of essential meanings’)

Nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ–that which is eternal cannot be destroyed.” Śrī Bhagavān speaks this verse beginning with avināśi to clarify this truth. The fundamental nature (svarūpa) of the jīva is such that it pervades the whole body. One may question how the consciousness of the jīva, which only pervades the individual body and is therefore limited in size, cannot be temporary. Śrī Kṛṣṇa says, “No, it is not so.” There is evidence of this in both the Śrutis and the Smṛtis. The Śrutis state: “sūkṣmānām apy ahaṃ jīvaḥ–among subtle objects, I am the jīva” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.16.11). The Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad (3.1.9) also states “eṣo’ṇur ātmā cetasā veditavyo yasmin prāṇaṃ pañcadhā saṃviveśa–the ātmā is very minute; it can only be realized in a pure heart. The soul remains situated in the body, separate from the five types of life-airs, such as prāṇa, apāna, vyāna, samāna and udāna.”

In the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (5.9) it is said:

bālāgra-śata-bhāgasya śatadhā kalpitasya ca
bhāgo jīvaḥ sa vijñeyaḥ sa cānantyāya kalpate

One should know that the jīvātmā is the size of one ten-thousandth the tip of a hair.

Also the Aitareya Upaniṣad (5.8) states, “ārāgra-mātro hy avaro’pi drṣṭaḥ–it is seen that the jīva has an extremely subtle form.”

The above statements from the Śrutis prove that the individual soul, or jīvātmā, is atomic in size; it is very subtle. Just as the entire body can be nourished by applying a potent herb or placing a precious gem on the head or chest, similarly, the jīvātmā is able to pervade the entire body, although it is situated in one place. There is no difficulty in reconciling this. Being bound by material designations, the soul enters various species and wanders in different heavens and hells. Dattātreya has also verified this in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.9.20): “yena saṃsarate pumān–the jīvātmā wanders throughout the material world.”

The present verse describes that the jīvātmā has the quality of being able to travel to any place. There is nothing irreconcilable about this. The jīvātmā is called avyayasya, eternal. This is also verified in the Śrutis:

nityo nityānāṃ cetanaś cetanānām
eko bahūnāṃ yo vidadhāti kāmān

Kaṭha Upaniṣad (2.2.13)

He is the Supreme Eternal amongst all eternal entities, the Supreme Conscious Being among all conscious beings. Even though He is only one, He performs so many activities and fulfils the desires of all living entities.

If we view this verse from another perspective, we can say that all three–the body, the soul and the Supersoul (Paramātmā)–are seen in all human beings, birds, animals and so forth. The natures of the body and the soul have been explained in the previous verse, nāsato vidyate bhāvo (Gītā 2.16), so what is the nature of the third entity, Paramātmā? To answer this, Śrī Bhagavān speaks this verse beginning with the word avināśī. The word tu is used to indicate a different context. This material world has come into existence only because māyā and the jīvātmā are by nature fundamentally different from Paramātmā.

Commentary: Sārārtha-Varṣiṇī Prakāśikā-vṛtti

(By Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja; the explanation that illuminates the commentary named Sārārtha-varṣiṇī)

There are two indestructible truths. One is the individual, atomic conscious jīva and the other is the source of the manifestation of all jīvātmās and their controller, namely the Supersoul, or Paramātmā. The one Paramātmā is present as a witness in both inert and conscious objects. The jīvas are unlimited in number. An individual ātmā exists separately in each gross body. The individual jīva in each body experiences happiness and misery. The Supreme Absolute Truth, the Paramātmā, is situated in the body only as a witness and is not affected by the happiness and distress of the individual jīva. In this verse, the nature of the indestructible jīva has been described. How is it that the atomic jīvātmā, being situated in one part of the body, is experienced throughout the entire body? Śrī Kṛṣṇa is answering this question in the present verse. His statement above is verified by the Vedānta-sūtra (2.3.22) avirodhaś candanavat. This means that just as a single drop of sandalwood paste applied to one part of the body cools the whole body, similarly, the jīvātmā, situated in one part of the body, is experienced throughout the entire body.

This is also verified in the Smṛtis:

aṇumātro’py ayaṃ jīvāḥ sva-dehe vyāpya tiṣṭhati
yathā vyāpya śarīrāṇi hari-candana-vipruṣaḥ

Just as a drop of sandalwood paste applied to one part of the body gives pleasure to the whole body, similarly, the jīvātmā, being situated in one part of the body, pervades the whole body.

If the question is asked, “In which part of the body does the jīvātmā reside?” the answer is, “within the heart.” Hṛdi hy eṣa ātmeti (Ṣaṭ-praśnī Śruti). This is also stated in the Vedānta-sūtra (2.3.24), guṇād vā lokavat. Like light, the jīvātmā, by its quality, pervades the whole body. Although the jīvātmā is atomic, by its quality of consciousness, it pervades the entire body. Just as the sun situated in one part of the sky illuminates the whole universe, similarly, the jīvātmā also pervades the whole body. This has been stated by Śrī Bhagavān Himself in the Gītā (13.33).

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