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Season 3 - Episode 12

2.26 - 2.28 Have No Fear

10 min - Talk


James recites and translates verses 2.26 - 2.28 from the Gita. Krishna eases Arjuna's fears around death, emphasizing that there is no point in fearing the unknown, and that even if you think the soul dies, do not mourn because death is unavoidable and you will be born again. James compares these verses to the natural world, where things they get recycled back into the earth and become compost.
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Nov 20, 2015
Bhakti, Jnana
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So Krishna's emphasized, Arjuna, your essence is undying, it's eternal, it's unshakable, inviolable, indestructible, so you've got no cause to lament or to feel overwhelmed. But then in the 26th he says, but even if you think that you're going to die, even then there's no cause to mourn. Then he explains why for a couple of verses, so this is what we're going to do now. So I'll recite 26th, 27th, 28th. So, ata, otherwise Arjuna, even if you think that this soul is constantly being born and dying, even then you've got no cause to mourn.

So he says, ata, cha, eenam, nitya, jatam, nityam, vamanyasim, nityam, so if you always think that the soul is being born and dying, tatapi, even then, vam mahabahu, oh strong arm, he calls him, kind of encouraging Arjuna to be courageous, so he addresses him as you who are a courageous, great, strong armed warrior, even then you have no cause to mourn. And then he explains why on the 27th and 28th, he says, jatasya, for one who is born, what is certain? Death. And then he goes on to say, dravanjanma me tasya chan, and similarly, birth, or rebirth, is certain for the one that dies, therefore, apariharyerthi natham shorjizam arhasi, he says basically this is unavoidable, there's no way around this, so why get upset? Now, obviously, we could argue about, well, when you die, do you actually get reborn?

But if we look at nature, for example, we can see that actually, when things apparently die, they actually kind of often don't, they get transformed to something else. So for example, one place that I've been very fortunate to teach in recent years is in the Spanish Pyrenees, and this landscape in the national park of the Ordeza and Monte Perdido is this very particular place in the Pyrenees where the geologists say that the African plate and the Eurasian plate collided 80 million years ago or something like that. I could be wrong about the dates, but that's what I recall my friend who was the guy telling us. But a long, long time ago, let's say 80 million years, these plates collided, and what it did was it brought together so many different plant species that previously had been living in different climates. And one of these plant species is called the ear of the bear, because they say it looks like a bear's ear, the leaves on this plant.

But now, that landscape is a little bit different to how it was 80 million years ago, but the ear of the bear, its old form has died, and it has adapted to be a species that can survive over millennia in this new environment. And we see this in nature so often. In this same landscape, it was a very beautiful example, and my friend Danny, who has a retreat center there, when he got funding for his center, this was linked to a reforestation project. One of the few years I've been going to this area is very striking how certain areas in the hills reforestation is happening. And basically, this area used to be more inhabited than it is now.

From many evil times through to the 20th century, communities lived there. But in the last century, with movement more towards the cities, many villages have become deserted. But over all those years, in the high hills, there were some very precious trees, including the black pine, which is the most sought-after for shipbuilding, and the boxers tree, which is particularly prized because it's so hard and so dense, they use it for making tools. And so the people who lived in these places, they would travel from the Pyrenees all the way down to the ports of the Mediterranean on barges they made from black pine, and then they would sell black pine to the shipbuilders, and they would also sell boxes. And consequently, you had these high hills that were kind of desertified.

But there's one plant in that high, or relatively high, hilly mountainous area. They call it the Nun's Pillow. Now, it looks a bit like a hedgehog. It's very spiky. Now, I can imagine if you see a plant that looks a bit like a hedgehog, oh, wow.

You might want to touch it, but once you've done that once, you don't want to do it again because it's really spiky, and the spikes are really tough. And the Nun's Pillow plant, this is just a literal translation of the Spanish name, the Nun's Pillow plant, all it needs is plenty of sunshine. And there is plenty of sunshine in the Spanish Pyrenees, such a beautifully, for someone who comes from England, where it's not quite so sunny. This is a wonderfully sunny area, and the Nun's Pillow thrives with just sunshine. And what the Nun's Pillow does is it basically allows the forest to regenerate, because in these mountains there are so many wild animals, and there are also huge herds of sheep that are encouraged, and cattle, that are encouraged to roam through the alpine meadows and feast on the lush grasslands.

So you can imagine if you've got a little baby sapling tree, and then a herd of goats or sheep come through, or many of the other wild animals, what will they do when they see this tender young sapling, green and juicy? They'll nip its growth in the bud, and they will then recycle its life inside them. However, the Nun's Pillow, what does it do? It's so spiky that even the thick-skinned goats don't want to go through it to get to the sapling. And so what happens, the Nun's Pillow, once that gets established, you have then kind of low areas, like a big bush almost, that can protect the growth of young saplings.

And so the young saplings become bushes, which can then become trees. And in the short time I've been going to these Spanish Pyrenees, I've seen, wow, the forest is actually recovering. But what happens when those saplings transform into bushes and into young trees? What happens to the Nun's Pillow that needs the sunshine? It dies, apparently, but does it really?

In a certain way you could say that it hasn't died at all, it's become a tree. And so when we look at nature we can see that everything's always kind of in this cycling. So of course we could argue about what happens when we die and if we get reborn, and I certainly don't know the answer to anything to do with that. But just through the observance of nature we can see that there's a certain truth that things are always in these cyclical stages, even in the cycles of the year. But Krishna here is basically saying very pragmatically to Arjuna, when you're alive you're going to die one day, so no point getting upset about it.

And he's saying, he says also from his point of view, and when you die you're going to get born again. That's the way he is, but no point lamenting the fact. So why are you feeling so shaken by, he asks Arjuna. And then, in the 28th, he continues, and he says, and he says, why this lamentation Arjuna? He says, the origin of beings we don't know.

We can just see what's manifest, that we do know to some degree. After that, when things die, we don't know. This is just the way it is. This is the mystery of life. So why lament it?

Why get upset about it? So one lovely thing here, one thing I find very helpful, Krishna's pointing out, we know a lot less than we know. I have some friends who are research scientists, and all the kind of real deal research scientists I've met, they always say this, we know so little. What you get taught at science at school is like, oh, a reliable fact. A lot of the time it's not.

I have friends who work at CERN, the European Space and Particle Research Center, a guy who's working on the nuclear fusion project, another friend who's an astrophysicist, and they all say this. All the things that we take as hard science, there's nothing hard and fast about it. A lot of it is supposition, a lot of it's modeling. Some things, yeah, we have data, but what we realize, they say we do know that we don't know so much. We can know just a little bit, and there's so much out there that we don't know.

And Krishna is saying the same thing here. He says, there's a lot more that we don't know than what we do. And so what's the underlying message? There's no point fearing the unknown, because the unknown is part of life. So again, have no fear.


Kate M
1 person likes this.
"Vartaya mā nirbhayam nityam." (Cause me to live without fear!)
Caroline S
2 people like this.
Isn't fear and desire part of human nature?  Could we use the energies of these "obstacles" to assist our transformation?  Because we have to start from somewhere, and yoga graciously / generously allows us to start from where we are 
James Boag
2 people like this.
Yes Caroline, Yes, yes and YES!

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