Chapter 55 — Krishna: The Soul is Permanent, the Body Perishes; Mind Creates Body

Lord Krishna said:—

You need not abstain from your enjoyments, or hold back your mind from them, or give up their acquisition. Simply remain with an even course of action your mind and be content with what comes to you. Never be intimately related to your body because it is not intimately related with you. Remain intimately connected with yourself, which is your uncreated and imperishable soul. We suffer no loss by the loss of our bodies, but we lose everything by the loss of our souls which last forever and never perish. The soul is not weakened, like the sentient mind, by loss of the objects of sense enjoyment. Constantly employed in action, yet the soul does nothing by itself. 5 One’s addiction to an action makes it his act, even though in reality he is no actor. Only ignorance incites the mind to action, and therefore this ignorance must be removed by all means.

A great minded man, acquainted with the superior knowledge of spirituality, forsakes his tendency to action and does everything that comes to him without his being the actor. Know that your soul is without beginning or end, without decay and imperishable in its nature. The ignorant think the soul perishable. You must not fall into this sad error like them. The best of men, blessed with spiritual knowledge, do not regard the soul in the same light as the ignorant vulgar who either believe soulless matter to be the soul or think themselves as incorporate, individual souls by the vanity of their individual ego.

Arjuna said, “If it is so, O Lord of worlds, then I believe that the loss of the body is attended with no loss or gain to the ignorant.”

10 Lord Krishna replied:—

So it is, O mighty armed Arjuna! They lose nothing by losing the perishable body. But the soul is imperishable and its loss is the greatest of all losses.

11 I see no greater mistake of men in this world than when they say that they have lost anything or gained something that never belongs to them. It appears like the crying of a barren woman for her child which she never had, nor is expected to have at anytime. 12 It is axiomatic truth established by the learned and well known to all men of common sense, though the ignorant may not perceive it truly, that an unreality cannot come to reality, nor a reality go to nothing at anytime.

13 That which has spread out this perishable and frail world is imperishable. There is no one that can destroy the indestructible. 14 Finite bodies are said to be the abode of the infinite soul, yet the destruction of the finite, frail body is no loss to the infinite and imperishable soul. Therefore know the difference between the two.

15 The soul is a unity without duality. There is no possibility of the soul’s nonexistence. The eternal and infinite reality of the soul can never be destroyed with the destruction of the body. 16 Leave aside unity and duality and take that which remains. Know the transcendental deity to be that state of tranquility situated between reality and unreality.

17 Arjuna replied, “Such being the nature of the soul, then tell me, O Lord. What causes the certainty in a man that he is dying? What makes him think that he is either going to heaven above or hell below?”

18 The Lord replied:—

Arjuna, know that within the body composed of the elements of earth, air, water, fire and ether, and also within the mind and understanding, there is a living soul dwelling. 19 The embodied and living soul is led by its desire, like the young of a beast led by a rope tied around its neck, and it dwells in the recess of the body, like a bird in a cage. 20 Then as the body is worn out and becomes infirm over course of time, the living soul leaves it, like moisture from a dried leaf, and flies to where it is led by its inborn desire. 21 The living soul carries with it the senses of hearing, seeing, feeling, taste, touch and smell from its body, just as the breeze blows the fragrance from flowers. 22 The body is the production of one’s desire. It has no other assignable cause. It weakens by the weakening of its desire and being altogether weak and wasted, it becomes extinct in its final absorption in the Godhead.

23 A greedy man, staunch in his desires, passes through many wombs into many births, like a magician is skilled leaping up and down in earth and air. 24 The parting soul carries the properties of the senses from the body’s sense organs, just as the flying breeze bears the fragrance of flowers in its flight through the sky. 25 After the soul has fled, the body becomes motionless, like the leaves and branches of trees remaining still after winds die down. 26 When the body becomes inactive and insensitive to wounds inflicted upon it, it is then called dead and lifeless.

27 As this soul, in its form of vital air, resides in any part of the sky, it sees the same form of things manifest before it as was accustomed to desire when living. 28 The soul comes to find that all these forms and bodies are as unreal as those it left behind. So must you reckon all bodies after they are destroyed, unless you are so profoundly asleep as to see and know nothing.

29 Brahma, the lord of creation, has created all beings according to the images that were impressed in his mind in the beginning. He sees them still, continuing and dying in the same forms. 30 Whatever form or body the soul finds on itself on its first and instantaneous springing to life, the same is invariably impressed in its consciousness until its last moment of death. 31 The original desire of a man is the root of his present manliness, which becomes the cause of his future success. A man’s present effort is able to correct and make up past mistakes and deficits and support him in his old age. 32 Whatever is pursued with ardent exertion and diligence, the same is gained among all other objects of one’s former and future pursuit. 33 Whether a man is exposed on the barren rocks of the Vindhya Hills or blown and carried away by the winds, he is supported by his manhood. Therefore at all times, a wise man should never decline to discharge the legal duties required of him.

34 Know that the heaven and hell of which you ask are the creatures of men’s old prejudices. They are the productions of human wish existing only in the customary bias of the populace.

35 Arjuna said, “Tell me, O Lord of the world! What cause gave rise to the prejudice of a heaven and hell?”

36 The Lord replied:—

These prejudices are as false as airy dreams. They have their rise from our desires which, waxing strong by our constant habit of thinking them as true, make us believe them as such. Desires mislead us to rely upon the reality of the unreal world. Therefore for our real good, we must shun our desires.

37 Ignorance is the source of our desires. Ignorance is the mainspring of our error of taking what is not-self for the true self. Knowledge of the self combined with right understanding can dispel the error of our desires.

38 You are best acquainted with the self, O Arjuna! You well know the truth, therefore try to rid your error of yourself and not yourself, as this “I” and that “another.” Also rid yourself of your desires for yourself and other.

39 Arjuna said, “I believe the living soul dies with the death of its desires, because the desire is the support of the soul, which must languish and droop down for want of a desire. 40 Tell me, what is subject to future births and deaths after the living soul perishes with its body at anytime or place?”

41 The Lord replied:—

O intelligent Arjuna, know that the yearning soul has the form of desires in the heart, and any other form that one has framed for himself in his imagination. 42 A soul is said to be liberated in this life if it is identical with itself, unaltered in all circumstances, never subject to the body or any desire on earth, and freed from all desires by its own discretion. 43 Living in this manner, you must always seek the truth. Being released from the snare of worldly cares, you are said to be liberated in this life.

44 The soul burdened with its desires is like a bird in its cage. Though a man may be very learned and observant of all his religious rites and duties, yet he is not said to be liberated as long as he labors under his desires. 45 The man who sees the chain of desires glimmering in the recesses of his heart and mind is like a short-sighted man who sees a glittering, colorful peacock tail in the spotless sky.

He is liberated whose mind is not bound to the chains of desires. Release from this chain is called his liberation in this life and in the next.