What is the difference between nitya and shashvata in Gita 2.20?

by Chaitanya CharanSeptember 21, 2014

Transcribed by: Geetanjali Nath

Question: From Anuj Agarwal Prabhu, what is the difference between nitya and shashwata, in Gita 2:20. Both seem to me the same point, the same thing, eternal.

Answer: This answer is a little technical, so you will have to hear carefully. I am answering primarily based on Baldeva Vidhyabhushan”s commentary. So he explains that this verse which Krishna speaks, is a response to yaskas definition of matter and things which exists as material things. So Krishna is contrasting the nature of it with the nature of matter through this verse . So yaska is a famous Sanskrit grammarian who is said to who is the author of nirupts, Nirupta is one of the six vedangas, and it focuses primarily on etymology. The way the words meaning originate, So he is an important authority and his definitions are having quite a significant authority in the vedic tradition. so he used the definition of things , which generally apply to material things . so what is the definition,? he says, jayete asti, verdhate, viparnamate, aksheyake, vinashyati. so these are the six stages through material things go. jayete, things are created, then asti, they exist, they have their existence, then verdhte that they grow, then viparanmate, they change , then apaksheyate, they decay and then vinashayati, they get destroyed. So now these at first glance may seem similar to the six change the matter goes through that we hear in the Prabhupada’s books, yes thy are now Prabhupada primarily differentiates by talking about how he defines one of these are reproduction, as viparnamate is transformation , that can also include reproduction. basically undergoing change. in terms of their producing something else. But let us focus on this verse now. Now look at the verse and I’ll explain how Baldeva VidyaBhushan analysis this verse to be response, So why is he giving the response, ? to that definition of yaska. Why Krishna is giving such a response. Because Krishna wants to cut through Arjun’s material conceptions including any material conception of soul that might be there. Krishna has prior to this said , that how the soul and my body has different nature, anta vente me deha , vityasta yokya sharere naha, so that the body is perishable whereas the soul is not perishable, so that same think Krishna is contaminating here, and He is stating that actually , he is further contrasting it, through this statement as a response to yaska’s statement. na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin, nāyaḿ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ. ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaḿ purāṇo, na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre . So na jayate mriyate va , so this is the response to jayete va jayate, so things are created ? no . they are not created, and also , this is also right in the beginning only the response to vinashati, these are not destroyed, that response is once again also. but here it is coming once. So that spirit is different from other things , other material things that exists , in the sense that, na jayate mriyate va, so now after wards another point is that jayate aste, exists. So that means things have their existence, so now Baldeva VidyaBhushan explains that the soul has essentially spiritual existence, although it may be covered by matter , but still it is at its core spiritual. and its never going to change into something else. so it is going to exists as it is ./ So nayam bhutva bhavita va … that means , it is not , it has not come into birth and it is not going to come into birth, so it has only that its own spiritual existence. Its existence is not going to change, it is not going into some another way. Yes soul may change bodies, but there it is the bodies taking birth it is not that the soul is changing its existence. So it has its own eternal existence always , and so now it has not come into birth, if you say , it has not come into birth , then somebody may argue it does not exists only. No, the point is that it exists outside the time zone, and that’s how its always going to exists. and then afterwards, na bhuyah’, so bhuyah here refers to grow, will it grow ? no vardhate, it actually continually exists as it is, it doesn’t change. So na bhuyah, again it is not going to grow, it is going to be as it is . in the future also it is going to be as it is. Then ajo nityah …, so things in this world , they have this characteristics of vardhete and then apakshiyate, they grow , so when a baby is born , baby grows and at the state of growth and then there is viparnamate, there is reproduction, and after that, apaksheyate, there is decline, but that neither the from bottom to, from , either the upward curve nor the downward curve, the upward curve means vardhate, and the downward curve is apaksheyate, it is neither grow or deterioration decay, neither of them are there for the soul and for that He uses ajo and nityah., so ajo is referring to soul which has no beginning and nityah refers to the point that soul has no ending, So in that sense because the soul has no beginning and no ending , its existence is like a always at a spiritual high, it is not that it starts from low and comes up and again goes low. So ajo and nitya in that sense refer to , the souls’ not having the change of either vardhete or apaksheyate, it is shaswato yam purano. Now sasvato Baldeva Vidya Bhushan links it with puranao, so actually we , viparnamate, is referring to transformation, does it undergo transformation ? no, it doesn’t / Sashvatah, it is as it is, and purana., now the purana , it can have many meanings, so pura api nav iti purana. that is one way that the Sanskrit word is understood, that it is pura, it is very old , it is ancient, but still it has its new ness its freshness, so its ancient, but still the soul is young. soul is ancient without becoming decrepit without becoming old, without becoming worn out, without decomposing. and then finally , an emphatic declaration, na hanyate hanyamane sarire., the body is destroyed and it is not destroys, that means it is na vinashyati, so in this way , the difference between nitya and shasvatah coming specifically, is that nitya is that is used here to convey that the soul does not deteriorate and shasvatah is used to convey the point that although the soul is ancient purana, still it maintains its youthfulness, its maintains its sameness, so nitya is the response to apakshiyate, and shasvate purana is the reference to the viparnate, there is no transformation there is no deterioration, and this way how is soul is different from matter is systematically explained by this verse. Thank you.

Hare Krishna.


Gita 2.20 is a response to Yaksa’s enunciation of the six changes given in Nirukta (1.2)

jaayate asti vardhate viparamanate apakshiyate vinashyati 

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Chaitanya Charan

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