The First & Last Lesson of the Bhagavad-Gita. ~ Vrindavan Rao

Via elephant journal
on May 19, 2013
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Everyday Bhagavad-Gita: The Soul.

Verse 2.13: As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.

In this verse, Krishna reveals the essence of the Gita’s teachings by directly addressing the misconception at the heart of Arjuna’s dilemma.

Arjuna is ultimately confused and distressed because of his identification with the material body; a condition which afflicts not just him, but the majority of us.

So, in order to address this condition, Krishna cuts right to the quick and informs Arjuna (and us), that while we have a material body, our true identification is with our soul. Krishna tells us that the material body is temporary and changing, but our soul is eternal and always traveling with our body through time.  Thus, in order to move beyond our bewilderment with our situation in this world, we should realize, “I am a soul who has a body” and not “a body with a soul.”

At this point, you may ask, “So what if I identify myself with the material body? What does it matter?”Screen Shot 2013-02-14 at 12.08.27 AM

It matters because the body is temporary, limited, and often a cause of misery. The soul, on the other hand, is characterized by three intrinsic characteristics. It is eternal, full of knowledge, and full of bliss and as such can never find real happiness in place of impermanence.

A beautiful analogy is given with respect to this verse. Just as a person puts on clothes and discards them later, the material body can be viewed in a similar way. The only difference is we wear this body for a longer time than the pants or shirt we put on this morning. The body we receive is a direct result of our karma and consciousness in our previous life. These determine the type of body and facility we receive now. In this manner, the cycle continues and the soul gets trapped in the cycle of repeated birth and death.

In addition, this verse can help ease our misconceptions and trepidations regarding death by confirming that the soul never dies.

The body, every body will die, but the soul will live eternally. The loss of friends, family and loved ones which confronts us and Arjuna alike is overwhelming. However, we can take comfort in knowing that the souls we are fortunate enough to encounter and embrace will never cease to be.


Vrindavan RaoVrindavan Rao was born into the bhakti tradition and grew up enveloped in it. However, her personal discovery of the bhakti path began in 2004 when she had the opportunity to go to a Vedic College in Belgium and since that time she has embraced it completely. Her love for travel has given her the opportunity to study Vedic texts, such as the Bhagavad-gita, in places such as India, Canada, Belgium, Ukraine and the United States under the guidance of several advanced practitioners.

She especially loves the Gita and refers to it as her “Guidebook for Life” since it contains practical answers for complicated questions and is currently writing a daily blog on every verse of the Gita. In addition, you can keep track of all the happenings of Everyday Bhagavad-Gita on Facebook and viaTwitter.

Her background is in science and she not only has a Bacherlor’s degree in Biochemistry, but also a Masters in Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology. In her free time she loves to write, read, give presentations, sing and work out.

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Editor: Thaddeus Haas


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12 Responses to “The First & Last Lesson of the Bhagavad-Gita. ~ Vrindavan Rao”

  1. aelliot17 says:

    i agree that death isn't the ultimate end; i reckon that the bio-chemical energies present in a dead organism are transfigured into life. the body decomposes and its biochemical energies are transmuted and absorbed into new organisms. when we eat a leaf, for example, or a piece of meat for non-vegetarians, that item's dormant energy is absorbed into new life. a part of us always persists, albeit in new forms. but i somehow doubt that this conception is really compatible with what is outlined in the gita.

  2. You never cease to move and inspire me, Vrindavan! The Christian apologist, C. S. Lewis is known for this quote: "You don't have a soul; you are a soul. You have a body."
    Once again, the message, the true one, resonates through all thought, space, and time, without regard to religious practice. Our God is an awesome God!
    Love and blessings!

  3. galenpearl says:

    So beautiful. I totally believe this. I love Martha's quote about being a soul and having a body.

  4. Vrindavan_Rao says:

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful quote. It's so true….it's now just a matter of realizing it! Love and blessings to you too!

  5. Vrindavan_Rao says:

    Thank you so much Galen. Yes, we ARE the soul and we only HAVE a body. Such an important distinction!

  6. Vrindavan_Rao says:

    Thank you so much for your comment! The eternal spirit soul, our true selves, constantly persists, even though it may be wrapped up in new forms (i.e. new bodies). So, that point is totally compatible with the Gita!

  7. Mark says:

    If my soul is eternal, why do I not have all knowledge? Do I forget everything I have learned when I exit a body?

  8. Andrew says:

    If I have always existed, and I still am trapped in Karma, what gives me hope that I will exit the cycle? I've had infinite time to do so already, and yet I still haven't overcome.

  9. Vrindavan_Rao says:

    What a great question Mark! Thanks so much for asking it. The soul IS eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. However, it is not possible to experience all those characteristics when we are trapped in the conception that "I am this body". In that condition, we are only able to relate to things on a material level.

    One can think of it like this. If a mirror, which has the capacity to reflect what's put in front of it, is left sitting for years and years in a corner and accumulates layers and layers of dirt up it, it loses it's capacity to reflect. If asked, "Why can't I see myself in it?" the answer is simple. It's not clean. The propensity to reflect is there, it just requires that we uncover it again through the process of cleaning.

    In a similar vein, over numerous lifetimes of taking on so many bodies, we've become engrained into thinking that "I am this present body" and have lost touch with our real selves, the soul. We need to clean off the "dust" of those impressions in order to access our intrinsic characteristics of being eternal, full of bliss and full of knowledge. In order to do so, the bhakti texts describe the powerful process of mantra meditation. Through the process of hearing spiritual sound, one can actually start to remove those layers of dust.

    As for forgetting everything we've learned when we exit the body, that's not always necessarily the case. Most times, yes, we do forget things from previous lifetimes, but there are such things known as "samskaras", otherwise known as impressions which the soul may carry from body to body. Sometimes we may experience this in ourselves and others and may include examples such as fear of water, fear of heights, deja vu and what not.

    I hope that helps answer your questions! If you have any others, feel free to ask!

  10. Vrindavan_Rao says:

    Thank you so much for such a great question Andrew! The Gita actually describes this process in great detail.

    Most of us may be familiar with the concept of good and bad karma. However, that in and of itself will not help us get out of the cycle of karma. The only way in which we can is through performing "akarma" or those actions that will not result in any karma.

    I've actually written several posts on this, one of which I'd like to share here. This article specifically focuses on how to get out of the cycle of karma:

    As for why we haven't been able to overcome this cycle – it's very possible that we did not have access to the knowledge as to how to get out of the cycle of karma until now. As to why that can be the case…the answers can be numerous. However, it could be as simple as we were not interested to find out. When that interest or desire to know how to get out is sparked, the Divine within one's heart reciprocates.

    I hope that helps!

  11. Andrew says:

    Can an eternal being change?

  12. Vrindavan_Rao says:

    Not quite sure what you mean by that question. The soul can take on different bodies, but in and of itself the soul doesn't change in terms of it's composition. The Gita describes that the soul itself is consciousness. Not sure if your question is being addressed though, maybe you can clarify?