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Atma is never Born, Atma never Dies

To dispel Arjuna's confusion about his outer role and his true identity, Krishna said, "Arjuna, you are disturbed because you think you are going to kill some people. You have lost sight of the truth that underlies all beings. Know that you are the immortal self and your kinsmen, though they have been engaged in evil deeds, are in essence the very same immortal self. Then who is going to die and who will be engaged in killing? You who are the atma do not kill and your kinsmen who are the same atma will not be slain by you. Death relates to the physical body, not to the true self. Atma cannot be killed. Atma is never born. Atma never dies. It is only when you understand and practice this truth that you will be following the wisdom teachings and performing your duty, unaffected by outcomes. Recognize the immortality of atma and fight to uphold righteousness. Then you will act in harmony with divine will and even in the thick of battle you will be immersed in inner peace. When you recognize the principle of the atma, realizing its permanent nature, you will know that there can be no defect or flaw of any kind in it. Then no disturbance can come into your mind and no doubts will ever becloud you."

All this must be understood in its deeper meaning. These statements that one does not kill and that one is not going to be killed, are quickly accepted at face value by most people who read the Gita. But they make no attempt to understand the deeper significance of these declarations, which are based on the principle of the immortal and unchanging nature of the atma. If you look about to see how people are practicing this teaching you will see that they are not practicing it at all, although they will freely repeat all the verses and even give lectures on them to others. Here is a small example of this.

There was a certain hunter, a very bad man who had killed a great number of animals. His killing soon spread to include human beings. He began murdering all the people who passed through the forest and came his way, in order to strip them of whatever possessions they were carrying. When he was caught and convicted, the judge decided to sentence him to death by hanging as punishment for all the horrible crimes he had committed. It was announced that the judgment would be read in court the next day. When he was led into court for sentencing, this criminal brought with him a copy of the Gita, which he kept in his pocket. The judge declared that by 7 o'clock the following morning, he would be hanged. But now, quite boldly, the criminal spoke up, declaring, "Sir, why are you inflicting such a drastic punishment on me?" The judge replied, "This sentence is being given because you have murdered so many innocent people."

At this point the convict took out the Gita from his pocket. He showed it to the judge and said, "According to this holy scripture, Sir, I am neither the killer of those people nor have they been killed!" And he brazenly added, "How can you deny these statements made by God himself?" Well, the judge was equal in cleverness to this man. Without a moment's hesitation, the judge said, "Yes, it is certainly true that you have not killed, nor have those people been killed. Similarly, as pertains to my judgment, I am not killing you nor will you be killed. Nevertheless, the hanging will take place at 7 o'clock tomorrow morning."