Srimad Bhagavad-gita Study Group
- Chapter 2 -
The Constitution of the Soul
also known as
Contents of the Gita Summarised
Seeing Arjuna dispirited and dejected, the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna encouraged him saying that his despondency was due to his over-attachment to his kith and kin, elders and preceptors. Understanding this he should give up his weakness of heart and rise to the occasion. Helpless and bewildered, Arjuna surrenders himself fully at the feet of the Lord and prays for enlightenment as to his duty at this critical juncture. The Lord being compassionate to his friend advises him to lament neither for the living or the dead because the soul, which is immortal is completely distinct from the perishable body. Krishna goes on to explain about the individual soul (jivatma) and the Supersoul (Paramatma). Arjuna and all the others assembled on the battlefield are individual souls and He, the Supreme Lord Krishna, is the Supersoul or Paramatma. All have existed eternally and will continue to exist in future as they have existed in the past and exist now. The jivatma is an atomic part and parcel of the Paramatma. The duty of the jivatma in its free state is to worship and serve the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna with unalloyed devotion, while to duties of the jivatma in its bound state are prescribed in the Scriptures according to his acquired nature and qualities. This system is known as Varnashram-dharma. Then for one who’s nature in this world is that of a warrior (Ksatriya) to fight for a righteous cause is the most beneficial course of action. To do one’s duty selflessly is called Niskama-karma-yoga. When all self-serving desire is eliminated and the mind is free from the bondage of the world, the soul attains Brahma-nirvana or complete liberation in the spirit. When situated in such a state free from mental speculation and filled with self –bliss he is known as Sthita-prajna or having attained true serenity. Such a soul has full mastery over his senses and when he becomes enlightened by the transcendental knowledge of his eternal relationship with the Lord, thirst to enjoy this world automatically ceases.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
The second chapter, entitled Sankhya Yoga, “The constitution of the Soul” or “Contents of the Gita summarised”, is a succinct overview of the entire philosophy. Arjuna approaches Krishna in a mood of humility and desperation, prompting Krishna to present the most fundamental aspect of spiritual wisdom. Krishna then explains the practical application of such wisdom, and concludes by delineating the symptoms of one who has fully realised such truths. In this way Krishna summarises the spiritual journey from beginning to end. In one sense, however, there is no “end” to the spiritual journey because this is the point at which real life begins.
T Two Duties
G – Guru (Verses 1-10) - Determined not to fight, but simultaneously torn and confused, Arjuna approaches Krishna. “I am in dire need of guidance,” he humbly submits, “please enlighten me so I can mitigate my miserable condition.” Through Arjuna’s example we learn the first fundamental step in spirituality; one must approach a guru who comes in an authentic lineage of teachers and who has mastered the spiritual art. Most things in life require guidance and instruction under a qualified teacher and the spiritual discipline is no different. One may argue that everything they require for their spirituality is contained within, and while this may be true, we still require help to reawaken that pure inner consciousness. As the saying goes, “One who accepts
himself as a guru, accepts a fool for a disciple!”
I - Identity (Verses 11-30) - Krishna begins by teaching Arjuna the most fundamental understanding of spiritual life; as the driver operates a car or as the bird lives in a cage, we, the spirit soul, are similarly utilising his body. Although living within the body, we are simultaneously different from it, temporarily operating it to perform activities, fulfil our desires and interact with the world around us. Until we realise our true identity as spirit soul, we undergo the process of reincarnation, accepting unnatural material bodies and the subsequent sufferings and distresses of life in this material world. This is the first teaching that the guru imparts; knowledge of who we really are. While it may seem elementary and basic, such wisdom has seldom been understood and truly realised. This answer to the eternal question of “who am I?” can set the soul free. It is an answer that is worth hearing again and again.
T - Two Duties (Verses 31-53) - One may then ask how such knowledge practically affects our day-to-day life in the “real” world. Krishna addresses this by delineating the two essential duties of the jiva-soul. Dharma loosely translates as “duty” but in a deeper sense refers to intrinsic characteristics and qualities of something that cannot be avoided, neglected or negated under any circumstance. Firstly, the soul has a sva-dharma, a worldly duty which consists of responsibilities towards family, friends and society. Secondly, the soul has a sanatana-dharma, an eternal spiritual duty which comprises of one’s relationship with God, nature and all spirit souls. One must execute such dharma side-by-side. Many individuals neglect their sanatana-dharma, becoming too preoccupied with their sva-dharma. On the other extreme, individuals can prematurely reject their sva-dharma and falsely try to absorb themselves in sanatana-dharma. The most progressive path is to be fully alert to both duties, and in doing so lead a happy and balanced material and spiritual life.
A - Atmarama (Verses 54-72) - What is the result for someone who performs such duties with determination and enthusiasm? Such a person becomes an atmarama - a spiritually realised soul who finds pleasure in the self. Krishna explains how the atmarama is unaffected by happiness or distress, gain or loss, honour or dishonour. Transcending the dualities of this world, such a spiritualist rids himself of qualities such as fear, attachment, and anger, and remains absorbed in spiritual delight and transcendental consciousness.
Questions on Chapter 2
Chapter 2 slokas to learn:
na tv evāhaṁ jātu nāsaṁ na tvaṁ neme janādhipāḥ
na chaiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ sarve vayam ataḥ param 
(iti) tu na eva–It is not a fact that; aham–I; na āsam–did not exist; jātu–ever before; (iti) na–nor is it that; tvam na–you did not exist; (iti na)–nor is it that; ime janādhipāḥ–all these kings; na–did not exist; cha–and; (iti na) eva–nor is it that; sarve vayam na bhaviṣyāmaḥ–we will all no longer exist; ataḥ param–hereafter. 
12 Never was there a time when you, I, or all these kings did not exist. Just as we exist in the present, so have we existed in the past, and shall continue to exist in the future.
dehino ’smin yathā dehe kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
tathā dehāntara-prāptir dhīras tatra na muhyati 
yathā–As; asmin dehe–in this body; dehinaḥ–of the embodied living being; kaumāram–childhood; yauvanam–youth; jarā–and old age; (bhavati)–occur; tathā–so also; deha-antara prāptiḥ–the attainment of yet another body; (bhavati)–occurs. dhīraḥ–The wise; na muhyati–are not deluded; tatra–by that. 
13 As the living being passes through the bodily changes of childhood, youth, and old age, it similarly attains another body at death. The wise are not deluded by this.
mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya śītoṣṇa-sukha-duḥkha-dāḥ
āgamāpāyino ’nityās tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata 
(he) kaunteya–O Arjuna, son of Kuntī; mātrā-sparśāḥ tu–material contact—the engagement of the senses with their objects; śīta-uṣṇa-sukha-duḥkha-dāḥ–produces cold and heat, pleasure and pain sensations. (te) āgama-apāyinaḥ–These come and go; anityāḥ–and are temporary. (ataḥ)–Therefore; (he) bhārata–O Arjuna; titikṣasva–endure; tān–them. 
14 O son of Kuntī, the engagement of the senses with their objects produces the sensations of cold, heat, pleasure, and pain. But these effects are temporary—they come and go. Therefore, O Bhārat, you must endure them.