Bhagavad Gita Commentary – Chapter 2
Unwilling to fight, the Archer asks his Charioteer for advice. The Charioteer encourages the Archer to fight and presents some ideas to help him reshape the way he thinks about the situation.
The Charioteer starts by introducing the idea of rebirth. As we grow older, certain characteristics remain with us — so no matter our age, there exists a continuity of identity — we’re still ourselves. The Charioteer proposes that this concept also applies to life and death: when we die, we simply discard our bodily shell and inhabit a new one. So death is not a tragic event, but a mere change of wardrobe.
The Charioteer continues, mentioning the ambiguous nature of the visible world. What the senses perceive, is just a parade of stimuli — illusions that engage the senses — a brief show of light and sound, taste and touch. But below that surface, there lies an unchanging reality that is beyond human perception. And within this eternal underlying realm, our essence exists forever, beyond harm.
The Charioteer then mentions the necessity of following one’s natural tendencies without the influence of imagined outcomes. In other words, suppressing our impulses in order to avoid a seemingly unpleasant outcome provides temporary relief, but ultimately ends in dissatisfaction.
He advises that we accept life’s narrative and perform our role. We should not shy away from life, but engage in it, doing our part by following our impulses — and through our active participation, we obtain satisfaction.
Reward or punishment, success or failure — the outcome doesn’t matter — he suggests that we not attempt to control outcomes, but control our attitude pertaining to outcomes. So whatever happens, we remain satisfied — and we achieve this steady attitude through practice.
For this practice, we train our minds to interpret our perceptions in a lighthearted manner — not obsessing over the input of the senses. We remind ourselves that the senses cannot discern lasting truth, only fleeting illusion. And accordingly, fear and frustration become relics in the face of this new understanding.
Thoughts continually enter our minds, but we don’t dwell on them — we remain undisturbed by their turbulence, attaining calmness and joyfulness.