Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 2, Sloka 16

Newsletter on Bhagavadgita by Dr. P.V. Nath
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Sloka 16

Nasate vidyate bhavo naa bhavo vidyate sataha
Ubhayorapi drishto ‘ntas tvanayos tatva darshibhihi.

The unreal has no being. The real has no non-being. The final truth of these two has been seen indeed by those who have experienced the essence of things.


This is not an easy sloka to understand. It is enough if we know the meaning of it in essence.

The two words to note in this sloka are : Sat and Asat.

Sat: Truth.

Asat: Untruth.

What is truth and what is untruth?

The Lord says that those who have realised the “Truth in essence” only know the difference.

Who are those that have realised the “Truth in essence”?

We should refer to the previous sloka:

The firm man who is not affected by pain and pleasure, who remains equal minded, is fit for immortality.

Truth is defined as that which remains constant at all the three times: past, present and future. That which does not fit in with this definition cannot be the real truth.

Our physical body comparatively is “asat.” This is because, I was not there before my birth and I am not there after my death.

Let us look at the five gross elements: the earth, water, fire, air and space.

The earth with its geographical boundaries has been there from time immemorial. But it also has a time span of existence. Compared to my life span it was there for many hundreds of years. But, it is also a fact that the boundaries have changes, water submerged areas of land and so many geological changes have taken place.

The conclusion has to be that it is “asat.” It has also a limited existence.

The waters of the rivers and oceans, similarly, are not there constantly. They therefore are “Asat.”

The same applies to “fire.” The “sun”, ball of fire we associate with, also has limited existence in relation to the life of the universe. So many suns come and go.

The “air”, using the similar logic is also “asat.”

The “space” is the nearest that we can say is “sat” but not really so. The scientists do say that the space also changes.

This leads us to the last one, which is “The Primordial Energy.”

This has always been the constant factor. All the rest undergo changes in course of time. Our ancient seers analysed these facts and came to the conclusion that the “Parabrahman”, the symbol of “Primordial Energy” is the only “Truth” and everything else is “Untruth.”

The body goes through the stages of baby, child, teenager, adult and old age and finally departs this physical world. Each of the stages last few years and we tend to consider each stage as permanent and associate ourselves strongly with the life in that stage.

It is during times of distress that we start questioning about the “creator”.

Just like the stages in life, the experiences in each stage are only transient and so not real truth. “Titikshatva”, the capacity to withstand the problems in life is the hall mark of “Dheera.” Dheera is he who is firm in all situations in life and conducts his obligatory duties to the society.

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