It is stated that the Lord along with His consort Sri Mahalakshmi Thayar protects us always. In this place Thirukkannapuram, we are now in the Thayar sannidhi and invoking Her blessings we will today see the two slokas 23 and 24 together. We have already seen that the atman is the tiniest and so cannot be destroyed. The slokas we are to see are going to offer further explanation on this quality of atman:
nainam chindanti shastrani
nainam dahati pavakah
na cainam kledayanty apo
na sosayati marutah
"The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor dried by the wind."
acchedyo ’yam adahyo ’yam
akledyo ’sosya eva ca
nityah sarva-gatah sthanur
acalo ’yam sanatanah
"This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, present everywhere, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same."
Though the two slokas appear to be repetitive, the 23rd sloka talks of implements, if any, to destroy atman and the next sloka says the atman is indestructible. It is our experience in our schools also that important points are reiterated by teachers so that they are remembered always. Here, Sri Krishna also a Teacher par excellence, wants Arjuna to remember these noble qualities of atman, and so reiterates. This will clear any doubts Arjuna has. In the first place, He says that no weapons are there to cut the atman. Fire cannot burn it. Water cannot wet it. Here it should be understood that the atman couldn’t be dissolved by water. Air cannot dry it.
In the next sloka Sri Krishna says about the everlasting nature of atman, which we had seen earlier. But, in addition He makes another statement that atman is pervading or permeating all over. We have heard that only Paramatma or God only is all pervading and omni present. How, then, atman can have this quality? The interpretation by elders is that when an atman is in a body, by its power of wisdom or knowledge it is pervading in the entire body without a gap. Same atman when takes another body as its residence, pervades that body fully. Like this many bodies are fully pervaded by the atman, at different times. This is a major difference between the Paramatma and the Jeevatma. While, the former permeates all bodies always and simultaneously, the latter occupies different bodies at different times. It is said that certain yogis have that power to have their atman present in more than one body at the same time. Normally, atman is present in one body only. Arjuna accepts that it is all right the atman cannot be dissolved by water or burnt by fire and so on, but it is possible, he doubts, that the atman might fade on its own and disappear. Sri Krishna says that the eternalness is natural to atman. Still not convinced, Arjuna feels that the atman may change its characters with time. He wants to know whether atman’s swabhavam or characteristics undergo change. Sri Krishna says that the swabhavam of atman is gyana or intellect. In other words it is gyana swaroopy, a personification of wisdom. This never changes. A fresh doubt comes in the mind of Arjuna. We find knowledge is neither uniform nor complete and we take efforts to develop. So how it is justified to say that the knowledge of soul is not changing? Our elders have explained this. All atman have total wisdom but when in a body, the knowledge exhibited is limited by the past karmas. So the brightness is reduced by the karmas. We dig the earth at a place for water. Water gushes out. Water was already present there and by digging at the right place the water sprang up. Similarly, the gyana or knowledge is already in the soul and by our efforts we try to bring out and become more knowledgeable. Like Sunshine being reduced by the clouds or the umbrella. So, the atman’s gyana is also permanent.