What does Lord Krishna mean when He says in Bhagavad Gita 2.12 that never was there a time when He did not exist, neither Arjuna nor the assembled Kings? Does it mean that Krishna and we all are eternal individuals?

Obviously it doesn't mean that our bodies will live forever ,but the question is whether the individual essence of who we are is eternal or is it only that the universal nature who we are lives on.

  • "Does it mean that Krishna and we all are eternal individuals?" - yes
    – Ikshvaku
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 23:14
  • In advaita individual essence = universal essence. Note that in some slokas, Krishna says that the "Atman" (he does not use the word) changing bodies is just like changing clothes (relates to individual essence), and in other slokas the same "Atman" is considered "all-pervading" (relates to universal essence).
    – user23407
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 9:58
  • I know that is what is confusing and what the question is about. I guess it means atman is both deeply individual as well as universal Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 10:21
  • Yes, imo, it means, the individual essence and universal essence are the same. This is the advaitic teaching in the Gita, right at the beginning.
    – user23407
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 10:31
  • 1
    Just like water's formula H2O is same whether water is coming from ocean or river or pond but only clean water is fit for drinking, similarly Atman is same in everyone whether animal, insect or human but only few Atman are fit for becoming human based upon their Karmas.
    – user22687
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 11:33

3 Answers 3


One point of view in the Gita is that the individual essence is the same as the universal essence. (all references from Gita supersite).

अहमात्मा गुडाकेश सर्वभूताशयस्थितः। अहमादिश्च मध्यं च भूतानामन्त एव च।।10.20।।

O Gudakesa, I am the Self (Atman) residing in the hearts of all beings, and I am the beginning and the middle as also the end of (all) beings.

क्षेत्रज्ञं चापि मां विद्धि सर्वक्षेत्रेषु भारत। क्षेत्रक्षेत्रज्ञयोर्ज्ञानं यत्तज्ज्ञानं मतं मम।।13.3।।

And, O scion of the Bharata dynasty, under-stand Me to be Kshetrajna (the 'Knower of the field') in all the Kshetras (fields/bodies). In My opinion, that is Knowledge which is the knowlege of the field and the knower of the field.

The below combination of slokas suggest that the all-pervading one (universal essence) and the embodied one (individual essence) are the same entity.

अविनाशि तु तद्विद्धि येन सर्वमिदं ततम्। विनाशमव्ययस्यास्य न कश्चित् कर्तुमर्हति।।2.17।। अन्तवन्त इमे देहा नित्यस्योक्ताः शरीरिणः। अनाशिनोऽप्रमेयस्य तस्माद्युध्यस्व भारत।।2.18।।

2.17 But know That to be indestructible by which all this is pervaded. None can bring about the destruction of this Immutable. 2.18 These destructible bodies are said to belong to the everlasting, indestructible, indeterminable, embodied One. Therefore, O descendant of Bharata, join the battle.

Another point of view presented in the Gita is that the individual self is a part of the supreme self.

ममैवांशो जीवलोके जीवभूतः सनातनः। मनःषष्ठानीन्द्रियाणि प्रकृतिस्थानि कर्षति।।15.7।।

It is verily a part of Mine which, becoming the eternal individual soul in the region of living beings, draws (to itself) the organs which have the mind as their sixth, and which abide in Nature.


In the commentary on this verse (Bhagavad Gita with the commentary of Sankaracarya translation by Swami Gambhirananda):

...On the contrary, we shall exist. The meaning is that even in all the three times (past, present, and future) we are eternal in our nature as the Self [Brahman]. The plural number (in we) is used following the diversity of bodies, buy not in the sense of the multiplicity of the Self.

  • I know it doesn't mean that our bodies will live,but the question is whether the individual essence of who we are is eternal or is it just that the universal nature of our self lives on. Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 7:26

The answer will depend on the Vedanta school that is being followed.

The position of Advaita Vedanta school is given below.

Bodies appear and disappear, but not so the Atman which ever is. ..

Commentary by Swami Chidvabananda on Gita 2.12

This suggests that the Atman present in all is eternal. As far as I can see the Advaita school does not distinguish between the individual essence of a jiva and the universal aspect. Atman is present universally and is eternal.

The Vishistadvaita school arrives at a different conclusion. This school concludes that difference between the Lord and the Jivas is real and the Jivas are eternal because the universe and the Jivas form the body of the Lord. Thus one can say that the principle of God is common between Jivas and the Lord and it is this universal aspect that is eternal.

Indeed I, the Lord of all, who is eternal, was never non-existent, but existed always. It is not that these selves like you, who are subject to My Lordship, did not exist; you have always existed. It is not that 'all of us', I and you, shall cease to be 'in future', i.e., beyond the present time; we shall always exist. Even as no doubt can be entertained that I, the Supreme Self and Lord of all, am eternal, likewise, you (Arjuna and all others) who are embodied selves, also should be considered eternal.

The foregoing implies that the difference between the Lord, the sovereign over all, and the individual selves themselves, are real. This has been declared by the Lord Himself. For, different terms like 'I', 'you'. 'these', 'all' and 'we' have been used by the Lord while explaining the truth of eternality in order to remove the misunderstanding of Arjuna who is deluded by ignorance.


Commentary on Gita 2.12 by Sri Ramanuja translated by Swami Adidevananda

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .