Srimad Bhagavadgita Sadhaka Sanjivani -Swami Ramsukhdas
In the first half of this verse, there is mention of discarding of worn-out clothes, while in the second half, there is reference to casting off worn-out bodies. So, how can the illustration of old clothes befit bodies, when bodies of even children and young men, die? The answer is, that end of age, means the worn-out bodies, whether they are of children, youngmen or old men.
In this verse, the Lord by using the terms, 'yatha (as) and 'tatha (so), has explained that as a man, discarding worn-out clothes, puts on new ones, so does an embodied soul, casting off worn-out bodies, acquire other bodies, which are new. Here, a doubt arises, that a man is free in casting off old clothes and putting on new ones, but he is not free to cast off an old body and enter into a new one. The answer is, that Lord Krsna does not mean to talk about freedom and dependence. His aim is to dispel the grief, arising from the separation of a body. One should not grieve, over the death of a body, because the soul remains unattached and unchanged. From this angle, this example is appropriate.
Another question that arises is, that a man is happy by discarding old clothes and putting on new ones, whereas he feels grieved, while casting off an old body and getting into a new one. The reason is, that a man by identifying himself with a body, wants to live long and thinks of the death of the body, as his own death. Thus, he gets sad. The grief (sadness), is the result of the desire to live, not because of death. 'I may live'—this desire is latent, and he has to die, and that causes grief. But if he were to discriminate between the real and the unreal, he need not be sad, he rather rejoices. Thus, it is because of his ignorance, that he weeps. In his ignorance, he is like a child, who weeps, while his old clothes are taken away and he is made to put on new ones. To remove this ignorance, the Lord has used 'yatha (as) and 'tatha (so) words, by giving an illustration of clothes. Lord Krsna, has used the verb 'grhnati for putting on clothes and 'samyllti' (enter), for embodied soul, because people generally think out of ignorance, that man changes clothes, living at his own place while an embodied soul has to go and enter new bodies. So Lord Krsna, has used these two verbs, keeping the worldly point of view in mind.
In the Gita in 'Yena sarvamidam tatam' (2/17), in 'Nityah sarvagatah sthanuh' (2/24) phrases, the soul has been described as all-pervading, eternal, omnipresent and constant, while in phrases such as 'Satnyati navani dehi' (2/22) and 'Sariram yadavapnoti (15/8), it is said that the soul migrates (enters) into another body. So, there seems to be a contrast, but in fact, there is none. For example, when a person grows from his babyhood to youth, he says that he has grown young. But the fact is, that he is the same, it is the body which has grown young. By identifying himself with the body, he grafts the change of his body upon himself. Therefore, in fact the soul does not migrate. But, because of Its identification with bodies, It seems to migrate. Now, a question arises, why this cycle of birth and death, has been going on from times, immemorial. From the view-point of the Discipline of Action, to reap the fruit of virtuous and evil actions, and from the view-point of the Discipline of Knowledge due to ignorance, and from the view-point of the Discipline of Devotion, due to disinclination for God, this cycle of birth anddeath goes on. The basic factor behind these three is, that God has granted liberty to living beings, to make proper use of their lives, but they misuse it and so they have to go through a cycle of birth and death. They can be free from this cycle, by making proper use of this liberty. It means, that if they start working for the welfare of others, by renouncing their selfishness, they will be free from this cycle. Moreover negligence in discrimination is the root cause of birth and death. If we' attach importance to discrimination, we can be free from the shackles of birth and death. Similarly, disinclination for God, is the cause of birth and death, which can be eliminated by having an inclination for Him.
- If we perceive by applying our discrimination we come to know that the body is wearing out every moment and it reaches a stage when it completely dies. But we don't realize this fact because we don't pay attention to it. This is darkness or ignorance (lack of discrimination).
- Negligence in discrimination means that we don't act according to what we know. We know that it is wrong to tell a lie. But still we do an in order to achieve selfish ends. We know that it is wrong to give pain to others. But we derive sadistic pleasure in torturing others. Similarly we know that bodies are perishable but we have attachment and infatuation for them. This is known as an affront to our knowledge.