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Having spoken of cosmic reality and relative unreality, Krishna returns to a more personal aspect, continuing: “These bodies inhabited by the eternal, the indestructible, the immeasurable [illimitable] embodied Self, are said to come to an end, therefore fight, Arjuna!” (Bhagavad Gita 2:18)
Bodies are said to die
Since Krishna has assured Arjuna that the unreal cannot come into being and that the real cannot go out of existence, he obviously cannot state that death “really” occurs. Therefore he says: “These bodies are said to come to an end”–to die. They do not die for two reasons.
The obvious one is that birth and death are mere appearances. Having never been born “in reality” how could the body die? However, the appearances of birth and death are part of the cosmic drama, part of the Divine Dream known as Pradhana or Prakriti. And interestingly, physics has demonstrated that absolutely not even a particle of an atom is ever destroyed; that every bit that existed/appeared “in the beginning” exists right now–only the arrangements of the particles have changed. This would have to be so. Since the Dreamer is eternal and outside of time, so also must the Dream be in its ultimate reality–for can anything of the Divine be unreal?
The dream occurs in the Eternal Now which is the abode of the Dreamer. This is why Sankhya philosophy, the philosophy espoused and expounded by Krishna, postulates that Prakriti is eternal. When we understand its nature as a mere dream, a thought, this is the only possible conclusion. It is when we think of it as an actual substance that can come into being and go out of being that we become entangled in error. And it is this error which the Vedantists deny, the seeming conflict between Sankhya and Vedanta on this point only occurring in the minds of those who have not experienced the vision behind both philosophies–themselves known as darshanas: viewings.
It is necessary for the serious student of Indian philosophy, Sanatana Dharma, to understand that the six orthodox systems (darshanas) of Hinduism are all equally true–otherwise they would not be orthodox. Rather, they represent different viewpoints or attitudes toward the same Reality, differing in emphasis, but never in substance. For a person to understand Sanatana Dharma, all six philosophies must be studied. The preference for one over the others should be understood as a manifestation of personal nature (guna and karma–just as with caste) only and not evidence of one being true (or more true) and the others false (or less true).
But That which possesses the body is eternal
The famous “baby doctor,” Dr. Spock, opened his book on caring for infants with a statement that astounded everyone. Addressing the mothers reading the book he said: “You know more than you know you do.” And urged them to rely on that knowledge. What he was saying, actually, was that they possessed “mother’s intuition” and should learn to tap it and act on it.
Even the most esoterically and philosophically unsophisticated people continually use expressions that show a subliminal knowledge far beyond their conscious awareness. One thing is the universal habit of referring to our bodies as “mine.” “I broke my leg, “we say, not: “I broke myself.” We all know instinctively that we possess our body, that it is separate from us and is being used only as an instrument.
Yes, we identify with it and say things like: “He hit me” when the body was struck, but usually we speak of the body as “mine” rather than “me.” Or we even speak of it in a strange combination such as: “He hit me on the arm.” However mixed these signals may be, the underlying consciousness is that of our being the owner of the body and not the body itself. Yet when we consciously identify ourselves and others with the temporary and the perishable, like Arjuna, we cannot help but be fearful and confused. But the truth is quite different: we are eternal, not just long-lasting. Moreover, what overwhelms us is really meant to be ruled by us.