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I am reading God Talks With Arjuna by Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda. In chapter 2 verse 20, I came across the following line in the interpretation:

This stanza expresses the profound truth of the immortal nature not only of the soul but of matter. As a reflection of Spirit, even matter is indestructible. The essence of matter is never destroyed;

Is it not the stance of the Bhagawad Gita (and consequently the Vedas) that matter only exists because we perceive them so? Which means that matter does not exist without being perceived.
So if the permanence of matter is asserted, shouldn't it imply the permanence of consciousness in the material world which perceives it? Which implies permanence of earthly life.

Is there a glitch in my argument?

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    I would suggest you should probably edit your question title to 'regarding permanence of matter' or 'permanence of earthly life' to be specific instead of just permanence of life. Because I am seeing the trend where users simply read the question's title and attempt to answer it. :) Thanks – Sai Mar 10 '16 at 22:20
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    I think Swami Yogananda mentions that matter is eternal, in the sense that its essence, is the same as that of everything else, the essence being Pure Spirit (or Brahman). Thus in the sense that matter is nothing but Brahman (Sarvam Kalavidam Brahma), it is Eternal. The jnani reasons initially thus: 'this is not He, this is not He' (neti, neti), But finally He realizes that everything is He. Thus says Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (paraphrased). Think of Jnana Yoga as removing one thorn (stuck on one's foot) by means of another thorn. The first thorn is ignorance, the second thorn is knowledge. – Sai Mar 10 '16 at 22:54
  • However upon realization (removal of the thorn), the idea of knowledge and ignorance (both thorns) have to be dismissed. i.e. This too is from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. There is no difference between matter, you and God. All are One. This is Advaita. In other words, the Universe, the individual jivas and Brahman are all One. Good question sir. All the best. – Sai Mar 10 '16 at 22:55
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When I read Yogananda's commentary on the link that you provided, his commentary is in line with Sankara's commentary on this verse. But I do not see anywhere in Yogananda's or Sankara's commentary anything in agreement with the additional commentary you supplied "...the profound truth of the immortal nature not only of the soul but of matter."

The additional commentary "but of matter" is not in line with verse 20, or the verses prior to or after the verse of the Gita quoted. Nor is it line with Yogananda's or Sankara's commentary. The verses clearly have to do with the nature of the Self, of Brahman, and not the nature of the world. The nature of the world is dealt with in other verses in the Gita in other chapters, more specifically, chapter 13 - but not in the verses quoted in chapter 2.

Your second paragraph has a few different concepts confused.

You state:

Is it not the stance of the Bhagawad Gita (and consequently the Vedas) that matter only exists because we perceive them so? Which means that matter does not exist without being perceived.

  • Matter does not exist, we perceive it to exist. What exists is Brahman; we perceive It as matter. We are perceiving Brahman - and interpreting our perception wrongly. It is through the lens of Maya that we are perceiving Brahman.

You then state:

So if the permanence of matter is asserted, shouldn't it imply the permanence of consciousness in the material world which perceives it?

  • The permanence of matter has not been asserted. Maya, or Prakriti is permanent, not matter (See Gita Chapter 13). The gross elements - matter - are destroyed at the end of a cycle.

You state:

Which implies permanence of earthly life. Is there a glitch in my argument?

  • Not sure of the logic in your argument of going from the permanence of consciousness to the permanence of earthly life. Is consciousness dependent upon the body? No. One of the Vedic Mahavakyas is Prajnanam brahma - Consciousness is Brahman. All earthly life ends. Cycles come and go. Only the Soul endures forever.
  • Prakriti (sometimes called MAyA) is permanent which contains "gross" and "subtle" elements. Yes, they are destroyed but then again created. They are 'permanently changing'. "Material" or "Matter" are just its English translation of Prakriti. Don't you think that they should also be permanent? Or am I missing anything. – iammilind Mar 11 '16 at 8:46
  • We perceive Brahman through maya and interpret and label it as matter. Is it not the case that the existence of ego (which wraps the soul) is necessary for matter to be interpreted? How can then one assert the "immortal nature of matter" without there being an ego to interpret it thus. And if ego (any ego) is said to be present at all times, doesn't it suggest the existence of life (and its delusive interpretation of the Spirit as matter) at all times in the universe? – sudeepdino008 Mar 11 '16 at 10:06
  • @iammilind Brahman, through Maya, projects the universe at the start of a new cycle. Material or matter are not English translations of Prakriti. Akasa, space, is a subtle element and not matter. See hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/8508/… Between cycles they do not exist. – Swami Vishwananda Mar 11 '16 at 14:58
  • @sudeepdino008 Read my answer again. I am not asserting in any way the immortal nature of matter, nor does Yogananda, nor does Sankara. I have not asserted that there is an ego present at all times. When a cycle ends, the universe is destroyed and all that exists is Brahman. Consciousness does not imply ego, consciousness only implies perception. Life is merely the presence of consciousness in matter. When consciousness is withdrawn, then there is no life. – Swami Vishwananda Mar 11 '16 at 15:08
  • Swamiji, actually here I meant Prakruti = material nature, which includes all matter. In today's time as we know that even though non-perceived matter in vacuum is also defined like "black hole", "dark matter", ... Most of the translations defines, "Prakruti" as "material nature". Yes, it may not be perfect, but quite near. For sake of argument, if we don't equate them, then there would be absolutely no English equivalent be left. In edited Q from @sudeepdino008, if you read the last line in the quoted text, the word "matter" is "material nature", which IMO is used for Prakruti. – iammilind Mar 12 '16 at 1:41
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"Is it not the stance of the Bhagawad Gita (and consequently the Vedas) that matter only exists because we perceive them so?"

No. Matter is not just a perception.

BG 13.20 — Know that Prakruti and Purusha, both are certainly beginningless; Transformations and Guna (3 modes, sattva, rajas, tamas) are known to be possible due to Prakruti

If what you called "Matter" is "Prakruti", then Bhagavad Gita accepts it to be permanent (i.e. beginningless & hence endless). It might be retaining itself forever by continuously changing in cycles forever. Mostly, Prakruti is also represented by asat (BG 2.16).

"Which means that matter does not exist without being perceived."

Correct.
If you perceive anything, it exists, but not otherwise practically. e.g. We may not know what exists at 10 feet 30 degree angle. Because we are indifferent towards it. Similarly, certain people are indifferent to everything else, except the true self (Atman). For them, relatively matter doesn't exist as they have attained their true nature.
"A Matter is a matter of interest!" :)

"So if the permanence of matter is asserted, shouldn't it imply the permanence of consciousness in the material world which perceives it?"

Yes, it implies permanence.
We saw above, both Prakruti and Purusha are forever. Some people term Purusha as "enjoyer" (or set of "enjoyers") and some as "consciousness" (or set of "consciousnesses").

Analogically, think of a river (Prakruti) and a swimmer (Purusha). Swimmer jumps into the river and takes the form of many fishes (Jeevas). All different fishes will perceive river in various ways. Towards the end, all the fishes will magically merge back to the swimmer. After taking rest for a while, the swimmer will jump again. This keeps repeating.

"Which implies permanence of earthly life."

Not necessarily for everyone.
Continuing above analogy, certain fishes would assume the swimmer's original form during beginning itself, certain at midway of river, certain at 70% completion and certain at very last. So depending on a kind of jeeva we are, we shall get the peace when we assume our true self.

Earth is a too localized platform, but probably you meant "state of continuous engagement in Prakruti". Well, that means there is no Moksha, but there is certainly a state where a person doesn't have to take rebirth in any possible form. So Moksha does exist.

Now that's a debatable topic, if the Moksha is permanent or not. To me as of now, Moksha isn't retained beyond 1 Kalpa (Brahma's day/cycle). After that everything repeats again. If that interests you then, you may refer below post:
What will happen when all atmans get moksha?

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