āścarya-vat paśyati kaścid enam
āścarya-vad vadati tathaiva cānyaḥ
āścarya-vac cainam anyaḥ śṛṇoti
śrutvāpy enaḿ veda na caiva kaścit
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 2.29
Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Since Gitopanishad is largely based on the principles of the Upanishads, it is not surprising to also find this passage in the Katha Upanishad (1.2.7):
sravanayapi bahubhir yo na labhyah
shrinvanto ’pi bahavo yam na vidyuh
ascaryo vakta kusalo ’sya labdha
ascaryo ’sya jnata kusalanusistah
The fact that the atomic soul is within the body of a gigantic animal, in the body of a gigantic banyan tree, and also in the microbic germs, millions and billions of which occupy only an inch of space, is certainly very amazing. Men with a poor fund of knowledge and men who are not austere cannot understand the wonders of the individual atomic spark of spirit, even though it is explained by the greatest authority of knowledge, who imparted lessons even to Brahma, the first living being in the universe. Owing to a gross material conception of things, most men in this age cannot imagine how such a small particle can become both so great and so small. So men look at the soul proper as wonderful either by constitution or by description. Illusioned by the material energy, people are so engrossed in subject matters for sense gratification that they have very little time to understand the question of self-understanding, even though it is a fact that without this self-understanding all activities result in ultimate defeat in the struggle for existence. Perhaps they have no idea that one must think of the soul, and thus make a solution to the material miseries.
Some people who are inclined to hear about the soul may be attending lectures, in good association, but sometimes, owing to ignorance, they are misguided by acceptance of the Supersoul and the atomic soul as one without distinction of magnitude. It is very difficult to find a man who perfectly understands the position of the Supersoul, the atomic soul, their respective functions and relationships and all other major and minor details. And it is still more difficult to find a man who has actually derived full benefit from knowledge of the soul, and who is able to describe the position of the soul in different aspects. But if, somehow or other, one is able to understand the subject matter of the soul, then one’s life is successful.
The easiest process for understanding the subject matter of self, however, is to accept the statements of the Bhagavad-gita spoken by the greatest authority, Lord Krishna, without being deviated by other theories. But it also requires a great deal of penance and sacrifice, either in this life or in the previous ones, before one is able to accept Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krishna can, however, be known as such by the causeless mercy of the pure devotee and by no other way.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
“What an astonishing thing you are describing! And this is more astonishing: though I am being enlightened by you, my lack of discernment does not go away.”
“Yes, the atma is truly astonishing.” The Lord then speaks this verse.
The word enam in this verse stands for the soul and as well, the body, the combination of both, the whole world.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
2.29 Among innumerable beings, someone, who by great austerity has got rid of sins and has increased his merits, realises this self possessing the above mentioned nature, which is wonderful and distinct in kind from all things other than Itself. Such a one speaks of It to another. Thus, someone hears of It. And even after hearing of It, no one knows It exactly that It really exists. The term ‘ca’ (and) implies that even amongst the seers, the speakers and hearers, one with authentic percepetion, authentic speech and authentic hearing, is a rarity.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
Why then is it seen that even men possessing intelligence lament in this world? It is simply due to ignorance about the true nature of the eternal soul. Having this theme in mind the abstruseness of the eternal soul is being given. One realising the eternal soul by the understanding the truth found within the Vedic scriptures by the words of the spiritual master sees the eternal soul as amazing. One realising the eternal soul as all pervading and of super natural eternity, knowledge and bliss is bewildered and overcome by its incomprehensibility as in the case of something beyond ones capacity to conceive. Another will talk of the eternal soul as amazing and another will hear of the eternal soul as amazing. Others still misguided by erroneous conceptions and overpowered by false doctrines fail to realise the eternal soul even after correctly hearing about it, indicating that even with the opportunity of learning about the eternal soul does not insure that one can understand it fully.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
The eternal soul being a infinitesimal portion of the Supreme Lord is never destroyed even during the repetitious connection and disconnection with the physical body. As this is all in accordance with cosmic order there is certainly no reason to lament for this. The omnipotence of the Supreme Lord is amazing. Another meaning can be it is very rare. Therefore it is amazing when known. The eternal soul being an infinitesimal portion of the Supreme Lord is also amazing and the living entity who is aware of their own eternal soul is also very rare.
Now begins the summation.
What is there to be amazed at for the Supreme Lord to say: It is amazing? Verily what is amazing is the existence of the Supreme Lord Himself. Therefore the spiritually intelligent see the eternal soul as a marvellous expansion of the Supreme Lord and upon realisation of this reality are amazed. Like when the eye sees the expansive sky as being the form of the sky or perceives the expanse of the ocean as being the form of the ocean.
In the Brahma Tarka it is stated thus:
Amazing indeed is the Supreme Lord and it is not possible to find any other comparable to Him. Therefore wisdom about Him is very similar to perceiving Him.
Not being amazed by the Supreme Lord which exists in some is a symptom of those who are spiritually unintelligent. This is indicated by the word kascit meaning some.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Even when the soul has departed from the physical body and no longer connected as is inevitable at the time of death and the bodies of respected elders like Bhishma are no longer perceptible still what is the necessity for grief? To this Lord Krishna states that all is unmanifest in its primordial state which is characterised by the three qualities known as sattva, rajas and tamas and which is a prior stage of creation to the illusory energy and material creation. All living entities have bodies in substratum as consciousness and this is the original matter of all existence which is beyond perception due to its being extremely subtle and subatomic in essence. But this in no way indicates that there is before all this an antecedent non-existence as the logicians and the impersonalists opine due to there inability to perceive this extremely subtle, subatomic nature. This original matter although extremely subtle and subatomic is revealed in the Vedic scriptures and is perceived by one whose consciousness has attained the realization of that state. Thus they are of the same nature although there is modification during the intermediate stage from birth to death as is established in the Vedanta Sutra, II:XV,XVI of Vedavyasa which states: because of the existence of the cause, the effect is perceived; the effect is non-different from the cause although being posterior because it is existent in the cause.
It should not under any circumstances be erroneously assumed or mistakingly believed that from a non-existent condition the existent was produced and that because of the cause being non-existent then the effect is non- existent and thus the world is also non-existent. This has already been refuted and clarified by Vedavyasa in Vedanta-Sutra, II:XIX where it states: That as a cloth is non-different from its threads, an effect is also non-different from it’s cause. So how can it be reconciled that the something can be produced from nothing as those hypothesising that existence can manifest from the non-existent.
If we were to accept our origin as being non-existent then we can accept that the oil of sesame seeds is produced from sand but this has never been seen or heard. Because it is subatomic it is imperceptible and yet it is still existing. Therefore in the matter of the existence of living entities the unmanifest, imperceptibly subtle, transforms itself into the manifest by modification which is known as birth and after some time again transforms itself into the unmanifest which is known as death. So when the correct understanding of birth and death is realized then what possibly is the necessity for lamentation as it is not befitting one who is situated in spiritual intelligence.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
2.29 ‘This Self under discussion is inscrutable. Why should I blame you alone regarding a thing that is a source of delusion to all!’ How is this Self inscrutable? [It may be argued that the Self is the object of egoism. The answer is: Although the individualized Self is the object of egoism, the absolute Self is not.] This is being answered in, ‘Someone visualizes It as a wonder,’ etc. Kascit, someone; pasyati, visualizes; enam, It, the Self; ascaryavat, as a wonder, as though It were a wonder — a wonder is something not seen before, something strange, something seen all on a sudden; what is comparable to that is ascarya-vat; ca, and; tatha, similarly; eva, indeed; kascit, someone; anyah, else; vadati, talks of It as a wonder. And someone else srnoti, hears of It as a wonder. And someone, indeed, na, does not; veda, realize It; api, even; srutva, after hearing, seeing and speaking about It. Or, (the meaning is) he who sees the Self is like a wonder. He who speaks of It and the who hears of It is indeed rare among many thousands. Therefore, the idea is that the Self is difficult to understand. Now, in the course of concluding the topic under discussion, [viz the needlessness of sorrow and delusion,from the point of view of the nature of things.] He says, ‘O descendant of Bharata, this embodied Self’, etc.
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
2.39 Ascaryavat etc. But, if this Self is, in this manner, changeless (or destructionless), why is This not observed just as such by all ? It is so because, as if by a rare chance, only some one observes [This]. Even after listening, not even one understands This i.e., realises This.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
ascarya-vat pasyati kascid enam
ascarya-vad vadati tathaiva canyah
ascarya-vac cainam anyah srnoti
srutvapy enam veda na caiva kascit
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
āścarya-vat — as amazing; paśyati — sees; kaścit — someone; enam — this soul; āścarya-vat — as amazing; vadati — speaks of; tathā — thus; eva — certainly; ca — also; anyaḥ — another; āścarya-vat — similarly amazing; ca — also; enam — this soul; anyaḥ — another; śṛṇoti — hears of; śrutvā — having heard; api — even; enam — this soul; veda — knows; na — never; ca — and; eva — certainly; kaścit — someone.