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Na hanyate hanyamane sharire PDF Print E-mail
Gita - Gita Articles

ya enam vetti hantaram
yas cainam manyate hatam
ubhau tau na vijanito
nayam hanti na hanyate

He who thinks that the living entity is the slayer or that he is slain, does not understand. One who is in knowledge knows that the self slays not nor is slain.||2:19||
na jayate mriyate va kadacin
nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah
ajo nityah sasvato 'yam purano
na hanyate hanyamane sharire


For the soul there is never birth nor is there any death. Nor, having once been, does that ever cease to be. That is unborn, eternal, ever existing, undying and primeval. That does not die with the death of the body. ||2:20||

vedavinasinam nityam
ya enam ajam avyayam
katham sa purusah partha
kam ghatayati hanti kam


O Partha, how can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, unborn, eternal and immutable, kill anyone or cause anyone to kill? ||2:21||

Arjuna’s problem is the same as our problems. How can he kill people whom he loves? What are his gains? Are those gains worth the killings? Arjuna views death of the physical body as the death of that individual. The body is so important to Arjuna and to us all. Our definition of Himsa and Ahimsa lies in the hurting of this or any physical being and our Ahimsa also is based on protecting or at least not hurting any being’s body. We shall get back to this issue later.

Krishna knows this very well and therefore he addresses the whole concept of killing and dying early in the Gita. As I said before, Krishna is systematic and methodical. He first talks about Sat and Asat and then applies to an individual’s existence. Body is the Asat which is sustained by the Sat, the essence, the Atma. And he goes on to say that there is no way to destroy the essence, the Atma. Those who think that Atma kills or can be killed do not know, and those who know, know that it is not possible to kill the Atma. That essence is outside of the cycle of birth and death and does not die with the death of the body.

Let us explore the death of the body a little further. What happens? Why is there so much pain when someone dear to us dies? It is important for us to comprehend our ignorance about death. We see that a body ‘s functions stop. As a Doctor we certify that a person is dead when the heart stops beating. Recently, when the modern medicine learned to keep the heart and lung going, the concept of brain death was brought in. And sometimes we do not know if that is real death. In any case, for most of us death is real. Death to some is the only certainty.

But, that is our inference. Someone is walking and talking one day and the other day he meets an accident. He may sustain an injury to the neck and become quadriplegic. Now he can not move his legs or hands. This happened to Christopher Reeves, the one who used to be in the movies, “Superman.” Talk to some one like this. Inside they is still feel as a complete being. There is no injury to the being.

Death is an inference. It is not our knowledge. People always are dying around us. We do not know what happens to them. We know that we cannot relate to them in the same way as we used to before. And therefore, we conclude they must be dead. The pain that we feel for them is not so much because they are gone. It is more so because they had become a part of our being, and when they are gone we have lost that part of our being. That part dies and it hurts. Some one in remotes of Africa dies. That is not so painful because they have not been part of us yet. Anyway, death is our inference and so it was for Arjuna. He has this anguish that some people close to him are likely to die in the war. And that attachment, the possibility of them dying caused all this grief to Arjuna.

But, the question is here is as to what dies. If body is the whole story, then death is certain. Krishna’s stance is totally different. He knows clearly that body has to die anyway, but the essence never shall die. There is no way. And that is what he is trying to convey to Arjuna. Krishna here is saying that for the essence, the Atma, death is impossibility. And therefore Arjuna should have no qualms in killing them for the upholding of Dharma.

“Na hanyate hanymane sharire” is a dangerous statement if it is not qualified. Krishna already talked about Bhavana (state of being) before he gave this statement. He talked about the sum-bhava before he even mentions about this statement that the essence Atma does not die witht the death of the body.

Why is Bhavana so important? If it is okay to kill because Atma never dies then the proponents of Himsa can use this statement to justify the killing of 6 million Jews by Hitler, the killing of 13 million fellow Russians by Stalin and the killing of some 80 million Hindus by several Muslim invaders and rulers. What is wrong? Hitler even designed ingenious methods to do it. It was economical and fast. But there comes the whole equation of bhavana. Krishna’s sum-bhava deserves better understanding.

Krishna redefines Himsa and Ahimsa. At a deeper level, if one enjoys the killing, it is Himsa. Language has a problem. If this definition is made hard and fast, there will appear people on earth who will kill and say I killed without enjoyment. Professional killers can say that. But, the fact remains and that is the pleasure in killing (maarane ka ras) is Himsa.

Krishna’s sum-bhava goes one step further. We have covered it before, but will try to understand it again from a different angle. You want to travel from Boston to New York. You have the choice of traveling by car, fly, catch a train or take a bus. You decide to go by car and go to mapquest.com and get directions from door to door. The computer calculates the shortest route and prints out the details. Now what bhava the computer has in giving those directions. Perhaps none, so that is no-bhava to my understanding. As a person, you have the option of following those directions or change according to your needs. You may want to avoid toll charges (on Mass Pike Rt.90) and take Route 95 all the way. You might want to meet a friend in Hartford on the way and take the appropriate road. And eventually you reach the friend in New York. You then discard the directions that you had printed out and pick up the map of New York so that you can go places. You do not have any special feelings or attachment to Route 95 or Route 90. You would have never thought about getting attached to these routes. You might even think it to be stupid to keep log of all the directions of the USA. The map can always be referred to. This is truly close to sum-bhava. Ahimsa and Himsa are the two major roads of life. A man with sum-bhava will default to the road of Ahimsa but is not afraid to take the road of Himsa. He, however, remains choice less and unattached to both, Ahimsa or Himsa.

We are coming close to making such difficult decisions in our times too. We as a international society, cannot just be bystanders to what the terrorists are attempting to do. We could not let Saddam Hussain run his own course. Krishna wants to establish some normalcy in the society. The value system of the maya-space, Dharma, has been eroded and the road to Ahimsa is closed. Instead of seeing the Dharma erode further Krishna is willing to take the path of minimum Himsa, knowing fully well that the Sat is never disturbed and the Atma never dies.

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