“O Partha, how can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, unborn, eternal and immutable, kill anyone or cause anyone to kill?” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.21)
य एनम् अजम् अव्ययम्
कथं स पुरुषः पार्थ
कं घातयति हन्ति कम्
ya enam ajam avyayam
kathaṁ sa puruṣaḥ pārtha
kaṁ ghātayati hanti kam
“It is certainly a great contradiction. That probably contributes to the popularity of the work. Mankind tends to find contrast appealing. For instance, the rags to riches story. Someone started with nothing. They grew up in poverty. The family barely had enough money for food and clothing.
“Somehow the person persevered. They struggled while growing up, but they found a way to succeed. In spite of the obstacles, the odds stacked against them, the many excuses to give up, they pressed forward and rose to the pinnacle of achievement in their respective field.
“In this light the teachings to Arjuna from Shri Krishna make for a compelling story, as the setting is a battlefield. Before the greatest hostilities ever known to this world were to commence, the leading warrior for one of the sides received a lecture on the very nature of life.
“Krishna, the teacher, who is also the adi-guru, does not waste time. He gets to the heart of the matter straight from the beginning. The individual is spirit soul; not the body. The soul is never born and never dies. It is truly sanatana.
“There is one particular verse where Krishna rhetorically questions how any person could be considered a killer based on these truths. The worst person in the world may think they have eliminated their opposition, but the soul will simply move on to another place.
“Do you feel this might give killers an excuse? That we are letting sinful behavior slide, since nothing is actually done to the individual? Is there not some residual danger to hearing this teaching?”
That is certainly not the intention, nor can anyone gleam that lesson after taking away the entirety of the Bhagavad-gita presentation. The premise for the conversation is Arjuna’s reluctance to proceed forward. There is a good chance that his side will emerge victorious. He and his four brothers are the superior fighting force, and they are also subtly supported by Krishna.
Arjuna has concerns over the future of the rival family. The Kauravas had behaved horribly for so long. They certainly did not care about Arjuna and his brothers, who were known as the Pandavas. They had no problem taking to sinful life, papa, in order to take away enjoyment from Arjuna and family.
The guru is explaining to the disciple that no one really kills. Arjuna would take part in the war, likely succeed, but the other side wouldn’t be eliminated entirely. They were individual soul, after all. They would simply move on to another destination.
Arjuna would be following duty, dharma. He would be upholding justice within society, which is necessary. When a strong protective force is lacking, we see that the criminal element thrives. They destroy property. They set fire to buildings. They steal from stores. They terrorize anyone who might object to their behavior.
Arjuna was in the kshatriya order. It was the family business to protect the innocent from injury. If he didn’t step up to the plate, the Kauravas, headed by Duryodhana, would continue to harass the innocent. They would get away with living on adharma.
The greater lesson to take away is that the placement of the soul can be influenced. A relevant Sanskrit term is sarva-ga. This means that the soul can be found everywhere. Within the ground. Inside of the water. On the branches of a tree. In the air. Within the heavenly region, or outer space. It is not that the human beings on earth are the sole representation of individual soul, atma.
As the individual soul will always be somewhere, why not at the side of Shri Krishna? While Arjuna was close by on that chariot, fighting against the enemy, the association did not end with victory in the Bharata War. Though Krishna eventually returned to the spiritual land of Vaikuntha and apparently separated from His well-wishers, we learn that Arjuna is an eternal associate. He always accompanies Krishna in some way.
We have the same opportunity. We can always be with Him, birth after birth, life after life. We can influence in the positive direction through a change in consciousness, which begins with assimilation of the Bhagavad-gita teachings through the via medium of the spiritual master.
The guru teaches me how to purify my consciousness. This change has the greatest benefit, for it allows me to survive and thrive in any situation. In times of turmoil, murkiness, tumult, chaos, destruction, or even great abundance, I will always be right by Krishna’s side, through chanting His holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Living entities everywhere found,
In air, water, and even the ground.
So death certainly not the end,
Living to future births can extend.
Better influence in decision making,
And right course of action taking.
So that in whichever space to find,
Shri Krishna always in mind.