वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय
नवानि गृह्णाति नरोऽपराणि।
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णा
न्यन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही।।2.22।।
Krishna told this to indicate bodies are really not that important. Just like we change our old clothes, the soul changes the bodies.
A jignasu wondered how should we accept that our bodies are as discardable as clothes. Just like we change our clothes as per our whims and fancies, could the soul do the same to our bodies? It is hard to accept that souls can be so careless and unattached.
This led me to think more deep about this:
The questions that arise from the above Shloka of Bhagavadgita are these:
- Do souls exist?
- Do really souls change the body as per their wish?
- Krishna says जीर्णानि शरीराणि, what about fully healthy bodies that get killed in accidents, homicides, suicides etc. Do they happen with/without the wishes of the souls?
Such questions are what led to different philosophies like Dvaita, Advaita and Vishishtadvaita.
Lets see what Advaita and Dvaita doctrines of Hinduism have to say about this.
Advaita (Shankaracharya’s Bhashya of Bhagavadgita)
Shankarabhashya is brief. Just by saying आत्मा पुरुषवत् in the end he upheld the sameness of atma(soul) and purusha(paramatma). Also he translates jeernani dehani as Durbalani Dehani. So it seems he accepted that it is wilful decision of soul to leave the body which is no more having the strength.
Now lets see what Dvaita (Madhwacharya’s Bhashya) says about this:
Madhwacharya is even briefer. He just says that Krishna talks (aaha) about cloth (vasamsi) just as a model (drishtanta) to understand(anubhavartham) the distinction between Deha and Atma (dehatmaviveka). This means that the model should not be used for any other purposes like how much wilful the soul is and all. He never claims about body becoming weak (Durbala) etc.
For me it seems Dvaita has steered clear of ambiguous statements. So let me try to analyse the above questions as per Dvaita.
1. Do souls really exist?
If we think Bhagavadgita can be explained from atheist’s perspective we would be wrong. Though atheists can draw useful inputs from some shlokas, fundamental premise of hinduism is that souls do exist. And that there is also Punarjanma for Souls.
In many Bhashyas and treatises Madhwacharya unequivocally accepts that LifeSoul (Jeevatma) exists and is always dependent or “paratantra” of SupremeSoul(Paramatma) which is “svatantra” and exists in the body in the form of “Bimba”. Without souls Karma philosophy cant be explained. So readers of Bhagavadgita with an intention to understand it always have to accept souls.
2. Do really souls change the body as per their wish, do souls decide?
As per Dvaita it is left to Paramatma when a soul should depart. And this decision is according to Karma accrued.
Still souls of some people can opt to leave as per their decisons. They are Yogis who have zero karma balance.
2. Krishna says जीर्णानि शरीराणि, what about fully healthy bodies that get killed in accidents, homicides, suicides etc. Do they happen with/without the wishes of the souls ?
All of these happens without the wish of the soul. But it is finally soul who has to leave the body, so the Gita shloka also is perfectly right. Jeernani here should only mean used body not necessarily a weak body.
Accidents and Homicides take refuge in karma theory. Suicide is a crime done by people whose mind controls them. Soul may not be happy with it. That’s why it is called Atma Hatya.