Arjuna was quite sure that the conclusion he reached to not fight was noble. He thought that Sri Krishna would applaud his thought process when he gave various reasons for his conclusion. But Sri Krishna surprised Arjuna by reprimanding him with strong words, saying that his behavior is not befitting a person of his stature as indicated in the previous verses. From the reaction he received from Sri Krishna, Arjuna started doubting himself.
Chapter 2, Verse 7
पृच्छामि त्वां धर्मसम्मूढचेताः ।
यच्छ्रेयः स्यान्निश्चितं ब्रूहि तन्मे
शिष्यस्तेऽहं शाधि मां त्वां प्रपन्नम् ॥७॥
pṛcchāmi tvāṁ dharmasammūḍhacetāḥ,
yacchreyaḥ syānniścitaṁ brūhi tanme
śiṣyaste’haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam. (7)
I am confused about my duty in my heart and obliterated with anxiety and faint-heartedness. I am your disciple and surrender unto you. Please instruct me decisively as to what is best for me.
Arjuna, drowning in his sorrow, concluded that he was in delusion. That is when he sought guidance and surrendered unto Sri Krishna as a disciple and pleaded to tell him decisively what he should be doing. With his faith firmly established in Sri Krishna and with all humility, Arjuna accepted the confusion in his heart and sought guidance.
Chapter 2, Verse 8
न हि प्रपश्यामि ममापनुद्याद्
राज्यं सुराणामपि चाधिपत्यम् ॥८॥
na hi prapaśyāmi mamāpanudyād
rājyaṁ surāṇāmapi cādhipatyam. (8)
I do not see any means of driving this sorrow away that is burning my senses, even if I achieve an unrivaled kingdom on the earth, or gain sovereignty like the celestial gods.
Arjuna expresses the urgency to find the solution to his extreme grief, burning his senses. The sorrow that he felt was not because he wanted any material gains, as he indicates in this verse. Since that is beyond his intellectual capacity, with all humility, he surrenders to Sri Krishna, who patiently and compassionately deals with the root cause of the problem. Sri Krishna shares the knowledge to dispel Arjuna’s delusion in the upcoming discourses quite elaborately.
Chapter 2, Verses 9 and 10
एवमुक्त्वा हृषीकेशं गुडाकेशः परन्तप ।
न योत्स्य इति गोविन्दमुक्त्वा तूष्णीं बभूव ह ॥९॥
evamuktvā hṛṣīkeśaṁ gudākeśaḥ parantapa,
na yotsya iti govindamuktvā tūṣṇīṁ babhūva ha. (9)
Having thus spoken to Hrishikesha (Sri Krishna), Gudākesha (Arjuna), the scorcher of enemies said to Govinda (Sri Krishna): “I shall not fight,” and became silent.
तमुवाच हृषीकेशः प्रहसन्निव भारत ।
सेनयोरुभयोर्मध्ये विषीदन्तमिदं वचः ॥१०॥
tamuvāca hṛṣīkeśaḥ prahasanniva bhārata,
senayorubhayormadhye viṣīdantamidaṁ vacaḥ. (10)
O Bhārata, amid both the armies, Sri Krishna smilingly spoke these words to the grief-stricken Arjun.
Only Dhritarashtra had the power to call off the war. Sanjaya hoped that he would understand that Arjuna would be victorious because he surrendered to the Lord, Sri Krishna. Dhritarashtra was not only blind physically but he was also blind intellectually. He could not understand the warnings given by wise people, because of his extreme attachment to his children.
Here Sanjaya is addressing Dhritarashtra as Bhārata, meaning descendant of Bharat. He points out symbolically through this verse how the Lord (the charioteer), with a subtle discriminative intellect controlling the horses (senses), reassures Arjuna who is dejectedly seated (with surrendered ego), with a smile and starts speaking.
Kathopanishad explains the concept of human life and how to live life by comparing the body to a chariot. This concept is symbolically represented perfectly at this moment. Individual ego (Arjuna) sits back in the body (chariot) after throwing down his egocentric activities (Gandiva). The sense organs (horses) are controlled/pulled back by the reins (mind). Then the intellect (charioteer, Sri Krishna) gives divine knowledge to guide the individual ego (Arjuna) to be free of sorrow.
Chapter 2, Verse 11
अशोच्यानन्वशोचस्त्वं प्रज्ञावादांश्च भाषसे ।
गतासूनगतासूंश्च नानुशोचन्ति पण्डिताः ॥११॥
aśocyānanvaśocastvaṁ prajñāvādāṁśca bhāṣase,
gatāsūnagatāsūṁśca nānuśocanti paṇḍitāḥ. (11)
The Lord said:
While you speak words of wisdom, you are grieving for those who are not worthy of grief. The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead.
From this verse onwards start the teachings of Sri Krishna.
Arjuna’s cause for grief seems like it is the challenge of war. Upon closer examination, we can see that was not the case as indicated in the previous verses. He did not know if this grief would go away irrespective of whether he fought the war or not. Like a good doctor, Sri Krishna is removing the cause of the disease, which is the source of Arjuna’s delusion rather than just the symptom of the disease, which is Arjuna’s confusion regarding his duty. This confusion is due to delusion caused by ignorance of his true nature.
The nonapprehension of reality causes the ego conditioned by the BMI (body, mind, and intellect) to rise, leading to the misapprehension of one’s true nature. This hence creates the feeling of being bound by the limitations of the body, the emotions of the mind, and the ideas of the intellect. Sri Krishna starts his discourse by stating that the wise who understand the truth from a spiritual level know that everyone is eternal, and that is why there is no need to grieve for either the living or the dead.
The same thing viewed from different levels gives different understanding and inspiration. Each of us has four personalities: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. When we can appreciate something from an intellectual standpoint, we will not have any sorrow even if we are hurt physically or mentally. Similarly, when we look at something from a spiritual standpoint, one can be inspired to look beyond the dejection felt at physical, mental, and intellectual levels. And this is what the teacher Sri Krishna is trying to do here by starting the lecture with this eternal truth.
Chapter 2, Verse 12
न त्वेवाहं जातु नासं न त्वं नेमे जनाधिपाः ।
न चैव न भविष्यामः सर्वे वयमतः परम् ॥१२॥
na tvevāhaṁ jātu nāsaṁ na tvaṁ neme janādhipāḥ,
na caiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ sarve vayamataḥ param. (12)
There was never a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings. Nor in the future shall all of us cease to be.
Misconception about the Self is that we are the body, mind, and intellect. Sri Krishna is dealing with that misconception here. The body has got nothing to do with one’s existence. The body has birth and death, but the Self has no birth or death. Self temporarily identifies with different forms to gain different experiences. Sri Krishna states that neither he, Arjuna, nor all the kings there came from somewhere accidentally. They are the continuation of their past, living the present and going on to the endless future seemingly conditioned by different names and forms, and will live through different environments based on their karma. This is the basis for the theory of reincarnation in Hindu philosophy.
Chapter 2, Verse 13
देहिनोऽस्मिन्यथा देहे कौमारं यौवनं जरा ।
तथा देहान्तरप्राप्तिर्धीरस्तत्र न मुह्यति ॥१३॥
dehino’sminyathā dehe kaumāraṁ yauvnaṁ jarā,
tathā dehāntaraprāptirdhīrastatra na muhyati. (13)
Just as the embodied soul continuously passes from childhood to youth to old age, so too, at the time of death, the soul passes into another body. The wise do not grieve at this.
As we grow, our body goes through various changes from childhood to youth to middle-aged to old age. As we pass through these stages, we consider the previous dead while the new one takes its place. We do not grieve the death of the previous stage because we have gained so many experiences. Our current stage is possible because of the previous one. Through all these different stages, our memory remains. This subjective experience remains constant. And Sri Krishna asserts here that wise men need not worry when the soul passes from one body to another, just like a change of clothes. Hence one need not be fearful of death. Based on the vāsanas (mental impressions) accumulated the ego gets identified with physical equipment where it can express itself to seek fulfillment.