yam hi na vyathayantyete purusham purusharshabha |
samaduhkhasukham dheeram somrutatvaaya kalpate || 15 ||

Therefore, that person who is not agitated by these (contacts with material objects), O strongest of men, and can remain balanced in joy and sorrow; that wise person is fit for immortality.

yam : that
hi : therefore
na : not
vyathayanti : agitated
yete : these
purusham : person
purusharshabha : O strongest among men
samaduhkhasukham : balanced in joy and sorrow
dheeram : wise person
saha : that
amrutatvaaya : immortality
kalpate : fit for

Most people who read this verse immediately zero in on the last part and quickly ask the question “will this mean that if I follow the teaching in this verse, I will never die?”. Immortality here does not refer to a state where our body never perishes, or a state where we go to heaven and enjoy its delights forever.

What is meant here is that life is a series of experiences that arise, exist temporarily, and perish. The person who knows the “trick” of staying balanced through these experiences will attain a state where they will transcend the push and pull of these experiences, and will eventually get to touch that changeless, eternal essence that came up in the earlier verses. One who does not get affected by agitation is called “dheera”.

So how do we bring this down to our daily lives? Let’s first look at a simple question. Why do someone else’s agitations do not impact us? Because we do not associate our “I” with someone else’s agitations. Similarly, our “I” is also not associated with our body/mind/intellect related agitations and conditions. If there is a fragrance in the room, we do not say “I am fragrant”. Therefore, we should strive to keep the joyful or sorrowful condition from associating with the “I”. Instead of saying “I am sad”, we can say, “there is sadness”.

Furthermore, we have seen instances where people are ready to endure pain and sorrow when they attach themselves to a higher ideal. A parent will endure a lot of suffering so that he or she can educate the child. A freedom fighter will endure torture, or even die for the cause of the country’s freedom. This verse is asking us to become wise and aim for the highest possible ideal, that of the eternal essence.

We have been repeatedly hearing about the eternal essence in these verses. Can we get a deeper understanding?

1. The examples in this post are from Swami Chinmayananda’s commentary on the Gita
2. The word “sama” contains the word “maa” meaning mother. The mother’s loving attitude towards her child is same regardless of how the child behaves or misbehaves. Her attitude is “sama” or even-keel.