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Chapter 2: Sankhya Yoga

There are six schools of Ancient Indian Philosophy (Shad-Darshanas: Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya,
Vaisheshika, Mimamsa and Vedanta). “Sankhya” is one of the them, and is said to be founded by the
sage Kapila.

“Sankhya” literally means – number or multiplicity. Yoga means Union. Why is Chapter 2 of the
Bhagavad Gita called Sankhya Yoga or “Union of Numbers”?

The original Sankhya philosophy regards the Creation consisting of two realities: Consciousness
(Purusha) and Matter (Prakriti). Prakriti further is of three modes: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, perhaps the
three main vibratory states of matter. Sankhya Yoga is thus the Yoga of body (matter), mind
(matter+consciousness) and soul (consciousness). It states that the Universe remains constant, with
nothing new ever being added to or subtracted from it. Nothing ever is created. Everything is only a
combination of Prakriti and Purusha which has existed since eternity and will exists till end of times.
Thus, according to this principle, birth or death are illusory appearances, with no reality. It is silent on
God. As Krishna talks about indestructibility of the “Atma” in this chapter, perhaps it is called Sankya

An interesting thing to note here is that Chapter 2 is one of the longest chapter of Bhagavad Gita, and
Krishna does not talk of Ishwara or God at all! Why does not Krishna reveal his Viswarupa Form here
itself and command Arjuna to fight? He is the Supreme Lord, the Master of all creation – with all
powers! (In fact Krishna waits till chapter 11 to reveal His Universal Form!) Instead of commanding
Arjuna , we see Krishna patiently indulging in a long winding conversation with Arjuna – never telling
him what to do – but how to do. What does it tell about Krishna and His ways of persuasion?

In the Bible we have “10 commandments” where the Lord God tells “thou shalt not kill”, “thou shalt not
steal”, etc, etc. – but in The Bhagavad Gita, no such commandment from the Lord! What do we have
Verse 5 of Chapter 2 shows the crux of Arjuna’s moral crisis:

Without killing the noble-minded elders, even to live on alms in the world would be much better. But by
killing these elders, I shall be enjoying even here pleasures like wealth and fulfilment of desires,
drenched with their blood. (2.5)

To break it up, we have three aspects of Arjuna’s tragic condition:

1. He thinks he will be “killing” his elders (and of course Killing is bad, and killing of family is sin without

2. He thinks the result of killing will be worldy joys and fulfillment of desires

3. He feels terribly guilty about this whole affair.

The entire Chapter 2 is about how Krishna shatters the “misconceptions” of Arjuna regarding these
three basic issues and presents the Higher Truth of life and death, purpose of actions, and the feeling we
derive from our actions.

How does Krishna handle each of these aspects?

What does Krishna has to say about Life and Death?

What does Krishna say about Killing? How does he make “killing” appear moral and acceptable?

In the 19th verse Krishna says:

He who thinks it to be a slayer and he who thinks it to be slain, both are ignorant of the truth; it neither
slays nor is slain! (2.19)

What does this verse mean? Does it mean a man is not responsible for his actions? In that case, how do
we decide what is moral and what is immoral?

In Verse 31, Krishna talks of Swa-dharma. What does Swa-dharma mean?

Does it mean that not particular actions, but actions impelled by dharma of a person, is the basis of
morality? in that case, when can an action be immoral?

Chapter 2 of Bhagawad Gita and many of the following chapters deals with Actions – as Arjuna’s primary
concern was about indulging in utterly wrong immoral actions. As we read the slokas, let us see what
does Krishna have to say about these three questions regarding actions?

1. What or which actions are to be performed? Which actions are to be shunned?

2. How, with what state of mind, are actions to be performed? How should we not perform actions?

3. Why do we perform actions? What does Krishna has to say about the purpose of actions?

Finally Krishna gives a picture of a man of steady wisdom “Sthitaprajna”. What does he have to say
about this man?

As the chapter ends, and we have gone through the outline of Krishna’s thought regarding life and
death, actions, the ideal man- what do we feel?

Are the ideals presented here by Krishna reachable by ordinary mortals? If no, what stops us? What are
the natural urges inherent in us that make Krishna’s ideals almost impossible to achieve? How does
Arjuna react to Krishna’s dialogue?