The Gospel of Selfless Action. The Message of the Gita
Bhagavad Gita or "Song of God" is one of the world's great scriptures.
The story of the warrior Arjuna's battlefield conversation with the
divine Krishna, it holds the universal essence of Hindu philosophy and
Gandhi's translation and commentary on the Gita, presented to his
followers at prayer meetings over a nine-month period in 1926, is
regarded in India as one of the most important of the twentieth century.
In clear and simple terms, Gandhi addresses the concerns that most
directly effect the spiritual lives of common people. He draws on his
extraordinary life experiences and profound inner searching to
illuminate what he describes as "the gospel of selfless action." His
Gita is a call to detached service to others and devotion to God, for
readers of every faith.
I | II
knowledge is to be found without seeking, no tranquility without
travail, no happiness except through tribulation. Every seeker has, at
one time or another, to pass through a conflict of duties, a
1. Tell me, O Sanjaya, what my sons and
Pandu's assembled, on battle intent, did on the field of Kuru, the field
human body is the battlefield where the eternal duel between right and
wrong goes on. Therefore it is capable of being turned into a gateway to
Freedom. It is born in sin and becomes the seed-bed of sin. Hence it is
also called the field of Kuru. The Kuravas represent the forces of Evil,
the Pandavas the forces of Good. Who is there that has not experienced
the daily conflict within himself between the forces of Evil and the
forces of Good?
2. On seeing the Pandava's army drawn up in battle array, King
Duryodhana approached Drona, the preceptor, and addressed him thus:
3. Behold, O preceptor, this mighty army of the sons of Pandu, set
in array by the son of Drupada, thy wise disciple.
4. Here are brave
bowmen, peers of Bhima and Arjuna in fighting: Yuyudhana and Virata, and
the ‘Maharatha' Drupada.
5. Dhrishtaketu, Chekitana, valorous
Kashiraja, Purujit the Kuntibhoja, and Shaibya, chief among men;
Valiant Yudhamanyu, valorous Uttamaujas, Subhadra's son, and the sons of
Draupadi--each one of them a 'Maharatha'.
7. Acquaint thyself now, O
best of Brahmanas, with the distinguished among us. I mention for thy
information, the names of the captains of my army.
8. Thy noble
self, Bhishma, Karna, and Kripa, victorious in battle, Ashvatthaman,
Vikarna, also Somadatta's son;
9. There is many another hero, known
for his skill in wielding diverse weapons, pledged to lay down his life
for my sake, and all adepts in war.
10. This our force, commanded by
Bhishma, is all too inadequate; while theirs, commanded by Bhima, is
11. Therefore, let each of you, holding your
appointed places, at every entrance, guard only Bhishma.
this, the heroic grandsire, the grand old man of the Kurus, gave a loud
lion's roar and blew his conch to hearten Duryodhana.
conches, drums, cymbals and trumpets were sounded all at once. Terrific
was the noise.
14. Then Madhava and Pandava, standing in their great
chariot yoked with white steeds, blew their divine conches.
Hrishikesha blew the Panchajanya and Dhananjaya the Devadatta; while the
wolf-bellied Bhima of dread deeds sounded his great conch Paundra.
16. King Yudhishthira, Kunti's son, blew the Anantavijaya, and
Nakula nd Sahadeva their conches, Sughosha and Manipushpaka.
Kashiraja, the great bowman, Shikhandi the 'Maharatha', Dhrishtadyumna,
Virata and Satyaki, the unconquerable;
18. Drupada, Draupadi's sons,
the strong-armed son of Subhadra, all these, O King, blew each his own
19. That terrifying tumult, causing earth and heaven to
resound, rent the hearts of Dhritarashtra's sons.
20-21. Then, O
King, the ape-bannered Pandava, seeing Dhritarashtra's sons arrayed and
flight of arrows about to begin, took up his bow, and spoke thus to
Hrishikesha: "Set my chariot between the two armies, O Achyuta!"
That I may behold them drawn up, on battle intent, and know whom I have
to engage in this fearful combat;
23. And that I may survey the
fighters assembled here anxious to fulfil in battle perverse
24-25. Thus addressed by
Gudakesha, O King, Hrishikesha set the unique chariot between the two
armies in front of Bhishma, Drona and all the kings and said: Behold, O
Partha, the Kurus assembled yonder.
26-28. Then did Partha see,
standing there, sires, grandsires, preceptors, uncles, brothers, sons,
grandsons, comrades, fathers-in-law and friends in both armies.
Beholding all these kinsmen ranged before him, Kaunteya was overcome
with great compassion and spake thus in anguish:
28-29. As I look upon these kinsmen, O Krishna, assembled here
eager to fight, my limbs fail, my mouth is parched, a tremor shakes my
frame and my hair stands on end.
30. Gandiva slips from my hand, my
skin is on fire, I cannot keep my feet, and my mind reels.
have unhappy forebodings, O Keshava; and I see no good in slaying
kinsmen in battle.
32. I seek not victory, nor sovereign power, nor
earthly joys. What good are sovereign power, worldly pleasures and even
life to us, O Govinda?
33. Those for whom we would desire sovereign
power, earthly joys and delights are here arrayed in battle, having
renounced life and wealth--
34. Preceptors, sires, grandsires, sons
and even grandsons, uncles, fathers-in-law, brothers-in-law, and other
35. These I would not kill, O Madhusudana, even though they
slay me, not even for kingship of the three worlds, much less for an
36. What pleasure can there be in slaying these
sons of Dhritarashtra, O Janardana? Sin only can be our lot, if we slay
these, usurpers though they be.
37. It does not therefore behove us
to kill our kinsmen, these sons of Dhritarashtra. How may we be happy, O
Madhava, in killing our own kins?
38. Even though these, their wits
warped by greed, see not the guilt that lies in destroying the family,
nor the sin of treachery to comrades;
39. How can we, O Janardana,
help recoiling from this sin, seeing clearly as we do the guilt that
lies in such destruction?
40. With the destruction of the family
perish the eternal family virtues, and with the perishing of these
virtues unrighteousness seizes the whole family.
unrighteousness prevails, O Krishna, the women of the family become
corrupt, and their corruption, O Varshneya, causes a confusion of
42. This confusion verily drags the family-slayer, as well
as the family, to hell, and for want of obsequial offerings and rites
their departed sires fall from blessedness.
43. By the sins of these
family-slayers resulting in confusion of varnas, the eternal tribal and
family virtues are brought to naught.
44. For we have had it handed
down to us, O Janardana, that the men whose family virtues have been
ruined are doomed to dwell in hell.
45. Alas! What a heinous sin we
are about to commit, in that, from greed of the joy of sovereign power,
we are prepared to slay our kith and kin!
46. Happier far would it
be for me if Dhritarashtra's sons, weapons in hand, should strike me
down on the battlefield, unresisting and unarmed.
47. Thus spake Arjuna on the field of battle, and dropping his
bow and arrows sank down on his seat in the chariot, overwhelmed with
ends the first discourse, entitled 'Arjuna Vishada Yoga' in the converse
of Lord Krishna and Arjuna, on the science of Yoga as part of the
knowledge of Brahman in the Upanishad called the
reason of delusion, man takes wrong to be right. By reason of delusion
was Arjuna led to make a difference between kinsmen and non-kinsmen. To
demonstrate that this is a vain distinction, Lord Krishna distinguishes
between body (not-Self) and Atman (Self) and shows that whilst bodies
are impermanent and several, Atman is permanent and one. Effort is
within man's control, not the fruit thereof. All he has to do,
therefore, is to decide his course of conduct or duty on each occasion
and persevere in it, unconcerned about the result. Fulfillment of one's
duty in the spirit of detachment or selflessness leads to
1. To Arjuna, thus overcome with compassion, sorrowing, and his
eyes obscured by flowing tears, Madhusudana spake these words:
2. How is it that at this perilous moment this delusion,
unworthy of the noble, leading neither to heaven nor to glory, has
3. Yield not to unmanliness, O Partha; it does not
become thee. Shake off this miserable faint-heartedness and arise, O
4. How shall I, with arrows, engage
Bhishma and Drona in battle, O Madhusudana, they who are worthy of
reverence, O Arisudana?
5. It were better far to live on alms of
this world than to slay these venerable elders. Having slain them I
should but have blood-stained enjoyments.
6. Nor do we know which is
better for us, that we conquer them or that they conquer us, for here
stand before us Dhritarashtra's sons having killed whom we should have
no desire to live.
7. My being is paralysed by faint-heartedness; my
mind discerns not duty; hence I ask thee; tell me, I pray thee, in no
uncertain language, wherein lies my good. I am thy disciple; guide me; I
see refuge in thee.
8. For I see nothing that can dispel the anguish
that shrivels up my senses even if I should win on earth uncontested
sovereignty over a thriving kingdom or lordship over the gods.
9. Thus spoke Gudakesha Parantapa to Hrishikesha
Govinda, and with the words 'I will not fight' became speechless.
10. To him thus stricken with anguish, O Bharata! between the two
armies, Hrishikesha, as though mocking, addressed these words:
11. Thou mournest for them whom thou shouldst not mourn
and utterest vain words of wisdom. The wise mourn neither for the living
nor for the dead.
12. For never was I not, nor thou, nor these
kings; nor will any of us cease to be hereafter.
13. As the embodied
one has, in the present body, infancy, youth and age, even so does he
receive another body. The wise man is not deceived therein.
Kaunteya! contacts of the senses with their objects bring cold and heat,
pleasure and pain; they come and go and are transient. Endure them, O
15. O noblest of men, the wise man who is not disturbed by
these, who is unmoved by pleasure and pain, he is fitted for
16. What is non-Being is never known to have been, and
what is Being is never known not to have been. Of both these the secret
has been seen by the seers of the Truth.
17. Know that to be
imperishable whereby all this is pervaded. No one can destroy that
18. These bodies of the embodied one who is
eternal, imperishable and immeasurable are finite. Fight, therefore, O
19. He who thinks of This (Atman) as slayer and he who
believes This to be slain, are both ignorant. This neither slays nor is
20. This is never born nor ever dies, nor having been
will ever not be any more; unborn, eternal, everlasting, ancient, This
is not slain when the body is slain.
21. He who knows This, O
Partha, to be imperishable, eternal, unborn, and immutable—whom and how
can that man slay or cause to be slain?
22. As a man casts off
worn-out garments and takes others that are new, even so the embodied
one casts off worn-out bodies and passes on to others new.
no weapons wound, This no fire burns, This no waters wet, This no wind
24. Beyond all cutting, burning, wetting and drying is
This-eternal, all-pervading, stable, immovable, everlasting.
Perceivable neither by the senses nor by the mind, This is called
unchangeable; therefore knowing This as such thou shouldst not grieve.
26. And if thou deemest This to be always coming to birth and always
dying, even then, O Mahabahu, thou shouldst not grieve.
certain is the death of the born, and certain is the birth of the dead;
therefore what is unavoidable thou shouldst not regret.
state of all beings before birth is unmanifest; their middle state
manifest; their state after death is again unmanifest. What occasion is
there for lament, O Bharata?
29. One looks upon This as a marvel;
another speaks of This as such; another hears thereof as a marvel; yet
having heard This none truly knows This.
30. This embodied one in
the body of every being is ever beyond all harm, O Bharata; thou
shouldst not, therefore, grieve for any one.
far Lord Krishna, by force of argument based on pure reason, has
demonstrated that Atman is abiding while the physical body is fleeting,
and has explained that if, under certain circumstances, the destruction
of a physical body is deemed justifiable, it is delusion to imagine that
the Kauravas should not be slain because they are kinsmen. Now he
reminds Arjuna of the duty of a Kshatriya.
seeing thine own duty thou shouldst not shrink from it; for there is no
higher good for a Kshatriya than a righteous war.
32. Such a fight,
coming unsought, as a gateway to heaven thrown open, falls only to the
lot of happy Kshatriyas, O Partha.
33. But if thou wilt not fight
this righteous fight, then failing in thy duty and losing thine honour
thou wilt incur sin.
34. The world will for ever recount the story
of thy disgrace; and for a man of honour disgrace is worse than death.
35. The Maharathas will think that fear made thee retire from
battle; and thou wilt fall in the esteem of those very ones who have
held thee high.
36. Thine enemies will deride thy prowess and speak
many unspeakable words about thee. What can be more painful than that?
37. Slain, thou shalt gain heaven; victorious, thou shall inherit
the earth: therefore arise, O Kaunteya, determined to fight.
declared the highest truth, viz. the immortality of the eternal Atman
and the fleeting nature of the physical body (11-30), Krishna reminds
Arjuna that a Kshatriya may not flinch from a fight which comes unsought
(31-32). He then (33-37) shows how the highest truth and the performance
of duty incidentally coincide with expediency. Next he proceeds to
foreshadow the central teaching of the Gita in the following shloka.
alike pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat, and gird up
thy loins for the fight; so doing thou shalt not incur sin.
have I set before thee the attitude of Knowledge; hear now the attitude
of Action; resorting to this attitude thou shalt cast off the bondage of
40. Here no effort undertaken is lost, no disaster befalls.
Even a little of this righteous course delivers one from great fear.
41. The attitude, in this matter, springing, as it does, from fixed
resolve is but one, O Kurunandana; but for those who have no fixed
resolve the attitudes are many-branched and unending.
attitude ceases to be one and undivided and becomes many and divided, it
ceases to be one settled will, and is broken up into various wills of
desires between which man is tossed about.
42-44. The ignorant,
revelling in the letter of the Vedas, declare that there is naught else;
carnally-minded, holding heaven to be their goal, they utter swelling
words which promise birth as the fruit of action and which dwell on the
many and varied rites to be performed for the sake of pleasure and
power; intent, as they are, on pleasure and power their swelling words
rob them of their wits, and they have no settled attitude which can be
centered on the supreme goal.
Vedic ritual, as opposed to the doctrine of Yoga laid down in the Gita,
is alluded to here. The Vedic ritual lays countless ceremonies and rites
with a view to attaining merit and heaven. These, divorced as they are
from the essence of the Vedas and short-lived in their result, are
Vedas have as their domain the three gunas; eschew them, O Arjuna. Free
thyself from the pairs of opposites, abide in eternal truth, scorn to
gain or guard anything, remain the master of thy soul.
46. To the
extent that a well is of use when there is a flood of water on all
sides, to the same extent are all the Vedas of use to an enlightened
47. Action alone is thy province, never the fruits
thereof; let not thy motive be the fruit of action, nor shouldst thou
desire to avoid action.
48. Act thou, O Dhananjaya, without
attachment, steadfast in Yoga, even-minded in success and failure.
Even-mindedness is Yoga.
49. For action, O Dhananjaya, is far
inferior to unattached action; seek refuge in the attitude of detached
action. Pitiable are those who make fruit their motive.
50. Here in
this world a man gifted with that attitude of detachment escapes the
fruit of both good and evil deeds. Gird thyself up for Yoga, therefore.
Yoga is skill in action.
51. For sages, gifted with the attitude of
detachment, who renounce the fruit of action, are released from the
bondage of birth and attain to the state which is free from all ills.
52. When thy understanding will have passed through the slough of
delusion, then wilt thou be indifferent alike to what thou hast heard
and wilt hear.
53. When thy understanding, distracted by much
hearing, will rest steadfast and unmoved in concentration, then wilt
thou attain Yoga.
54. What, O Keshava, is the mark
of the man whose understanding is secure, whose mind is fixed in
concentration? How does he talk? How sit? How move.
55. When a man puts away, O partha, all the cravings that arise
in the mind and finds comfort for himself only from Atman, then he is
called the man of secure understanding.
comfort for oneself from Atman means to look to the spirit within for
spiritual comfort, not to outside objects which in their very nature
must give pleasure as well as pain. Spiritual comfort or bliss must be
distinguished from pleasure or happiness. The pleasure I may derive from
the possession of wealth, for instance, is delusive; real spiritual
comfort or bliss can be attained only if I rise superior to every
temptation even though troubled by the pangs of poverty and hunger.
mind is untroubled in sorrows and longeth not for joys, who is free from
passion, fear and wrath—he is called the ascetic of secure
57. Who owns attachment nowhere, who feels neither
joy nor resentment whether good or bad comes his way—that man's
understanding is secure.
58. And when, like the tortoise drawing in
its limbs from every side, this man draws in his senses from their
objects, his understanding is secure.
59. When a man starves his
senses, the objects of those senses disappear from him, but not the
yearning for them; the yearning too departs when he beholds the
shloka does not rule out fasting and other forms of self-restraint, but
indicates their limitations, these restraints are needed for subduing
the desire for sense-objects, which however is rooted out only when one
has a vision of the Supreme. The higher yearning conquers all the lower
60. For, in
spite of the wise man's endeavour, O Kaunteya, the unruly senses
distract his mind perforce.
61. Holding all these in check, the yogi
should sit intent on Me; for he whose senses are under control is secure
means that without devotion and the consequent grace of God, man's
endeavour is vain.
62. In a
man brooding on objects of the senses, attachment to them springs up;
attachment begets craving and craving begets wrath.
cannot but lead to resentment, for it is unending and unsatisfied.
breeds stupefaction, stupefaction leads to loss of memory, loss of
memory ruins the reason, and the ruin of reason spells utter
64. But the disciplined soul, moving among
sense-objects with the senses weaned from likes and dislikes and brought
under the control of Atman, attains peace of mind.
65. Peace of mind
means the end to all ills, for the understanding of him whose mind is at
peace stands secure.
66. The undisciplined man has neither
understanding nor devotion; for him who has no devotion there is no
peace, and for him who has no peace whence happiness?
67. For when
his mind runs after any of the roaming senses, it sweeps away his
understanding, as the wind a vessel upon the waters.
O Mahabahu, he, whose senses are reined in on all sides from their
objects, is the man of secure understanding.
69. When it is night
for all other beings, the disciplined soul is awake; when all other
beings are awake, it is night for the seeing ascetic.
verse indicates the divergent paths of the discipline ascetic and
sensual man. Whereas the ascetic is dead to the things of the world and
lives in God, the sensual man is alive only to the things of the world
and dead to the things of the spirit.
70. He in
whom all longings subside, even as the waters subside in the ocean
which, though ever being filled by them, never overflows—that man finds
peace; not he who cherishes longing.
71. The man who sheds all
longing and moves without concern, free from the sense of ‘I' and
‘Mine'—he attains peace.
72. This is the state, O partha, of the man
who rests in Brahman; having attained to it, he is not deluded. He who
abides in this state even at the hour of death passes into oneness with
ends the second discourse, entitled ‘Sankhya Yoga' in the converse of
Lord Krishna and Arjuna, on the science of Yoga as part of the knowledge
of Brahman in the Upanishad called the Bhagawadgita.
discourse may be said to be the key to the essence of the Gita. It makes
absolutely clear the spirit and the nature of right action and shows how
true knowledge must express itself in acts of selfless service.
1. If, O Janardana, thou holdest that the attitude of
detachment is superior to action, then why, O Keshava, dost thou urge me
to dreadful action?
2. Thou dost seem to confuse my understanding
with perplexing speech; tell me, therefore, in no uncertain voice, that
alone whereby I may attain salvation.
is sore perplexed, for whilst on the one hand he is rebuked for his
faint-heartedness, on the other he seems to be advised to refrain from
action (II.49-50). But this, in reality, is not the case as the
following shlokas will show.
3. I have spoken, before, O sinless one, of two attitudes in
this world—the Sankhayas', that of Jnana yoga and the Yogins', that of
4. Never does man enjoy freedom from action by not
undertaking action, nor does he attain that freedom by mere renunciation
‘Freedom from action' is freedom from the bondage of action.
This freedom is not to be gained by cessation of all activity, apart
from the fact that this cessation is in the very nature of things
impossible (see following shloka). How then may it be gained? The
following shlokas will explain.
5. For none
ever remains inactive even for a moment; for all are compelled to action
by the gunas inherent in prakriti.
6. He who curbs the organs of
action but allows the mind to dwell on the sense-objects,—such a one,
wholly deluded, is called a hypocrite.
who curbs his tongue but mentally swears at another is a hypocrite. But
that does not mean that free rein should be given to the organs of
action so long as the mind cannot be brought under control. Self-imposed
physical restraint is a condition precedent to mental restraint.
Physical restraint should be entirely self-imposed and not super-imposed
from outside, e.g. by fear. The hypocrite who is held up to contempt
here is not the humble aspirant after self-restraint. The shloka has
reference to the man who curbs the body because he cannot help it while
indulging the mind, and who would indulge the body too if he possibly
could. The next shloka puts the thing conversely.
7. But he,
O Arjuna, who keeping all the senses under control of the mind, engages
the organs in Karma yoga, without attachment—that man excels.
mind and body should be made to accord well. Even with the mind kept in
control, the body will be active in one way or another. But he whose
mind is truly restrained will, for instance, close his ears to foul talk
and open them only to listen to the praise of God or of good men. He
will have no relish for sensual pleasures and will keep himself occupied
with such activity as ennobles the soul. That is the path of action.
Karma yoga is the yoga (means) which will deliver the self from the
bondage of the body, and in it there is no room for self-indulgence.
8. Do thou
thy allotted task; for action is superior to inaction; with inaction
even life's normal course is not possible.
9. This world of men
suffers bondage from all action save that which is done for the sake of
sacrifice; to this end, O Kaunteya, perform action without attachment.
for the sake of sacrifice' means acts of selfless service dedicated to
Together with sacrifice did the Lord of beings create, of old, mankind,
"By this shall ye increase; may this be to you the giver
of all your desires.
11. "With this may you cherish the gods and may
the gods cherish you; thus cherishing one another may you attain the
12. "Cherished with sacrifice, the gods will bestow on
you the desired boons." He who enjoys their gifts without rendering
aught unto them is verily a thief.
in shlokas 11 and 12 must be taken to mean the whole creation of God.
The service of all created beings is the service of the gods and the
same is sacrifice.
righteous men who eat the residue of the sacrifice are freed from all
sin, but the wicked who cook for themselves eat sin.
14. From food
springs all life, from rain is born food; from sacrifice comes rain and
sacrifice is the result of action.
15. Know that action springs from
Brahman and Brahman from the Imperishable; hence the all-pervading
Brahman is ever firm-founded on sacrifice.
16. He who does not
follow the wheel thus set in motion here below, he, living in sin,
sating his senses, lives, O Partha, in vain.
17. But the man who
revels in Atman, who is content in Atman and who is satisfied only with
Atman, for him no action exists.
18. He has no interest whatever in
anything done, nor in anything not done, nor has he need to rely on
anything for personal ends.
19. Therefore, do thou ever perform
without attachment the work that thou must do; for performing action
without attachment man attains the Supreme.
20. For through action
alone Janaka and others achieved perfection; even with a view to the
guidance of mankind thou must act.
21. Whatever the best man does,
is also done by other men, what example he sets, the world follows.
22. For me, O Partha, there is naught to do in the three worlds,
nothing worth gaining that I have not gained; yet I am ever in
objection is sometimes raised that God being impersonal is not likely to
perform any physical activity, at best He may be supposed to act
mentally. This is not correct. For the unceasing movement of the sun,
the moon, the earth etc. signifies God in action. This is not mental but
physical activity. Though God is without form and impersonal, He acts as
though He had form and body. Hence though He is ever in action, He is
free from action, unaffected by action. What must be borne in mind is
that, just as all Nature's movements and processes are mechanical and
yet guided by Divine Intelligence or Will, even so man must reduce his
daily conduct to mechanical regularity and precision, but he must do so
intelligently. Man's merit lies in observing divine guidance at the back
of these processes and in an intelligent imitation of it rather than in
emphasizing the mechanical nature thereof and reducing himself to an
automation. One has but to withdraw the self, withdraw attachment to
fruit from all action, and then not only mechanical precision but
security from all wear and tear will be ensured. Acting thus man remains
fresh until the end of his days. His body will perish in due course, but
his soul will remain evergreen without a crease or a wrinkle.
for were I not, unslumbering, ever to remain in action, O Partha, men
would follow my example in every way.
24. If I were not to perform
my task, these worlds would be ruined; I should be the same cause of
chaos and of the end of all mankind.
25. Just as, with attachment,
the unenlightened perform all actions, O Bharata, even so, but
unattached, should the enlightened man act, with a desire for the
welfare of humanity.
26. The enlightened may not confuse the mind of
the unenlightened, who are attached to action; rather must he perform
all actions unattached, and thus encourage them to do likewise.
All action is entirely done by the gunas of prakriti. Man, deluded by
the sense of ‘I', thinks, ‘I am the doer'.
28. But he, O Mahabahu,
who understands the truth of the various gunas and their various
activities, knows that it is the gunas that operate on the gunas; he
does not claim to be the doer.
breathing, winking and similar processes are automatic and man claims no
agency for them, he being conscious of the processes only when disease
or similar cause arrests them, in a similar manner all his acclivities
should be automatic, without his arrogating to himself the agency or
responsibility thereof. A man of charity does not even know that he is
doing charitable acts, it is his nature to do so, he cannot help it.
This detachment can only come from tireless endeavour and God's grace.
by the gunas of prakriti men become attached to the activities of the
gunas; he who knows the truth of things should not unhinge the
slow-witted who have not the knowledge.
30. Cast all thy acts on Me,
with thy mind fixed on the indwelling Atman, and without any thought of
fruit, or sense of ‘mine' shake off thy fever and fight!
knows the Atman inhabiting the body and realizes Him to be a part of the
supreme Atman will dedicate everything to Him, even as a faithful
servant acts as a mere shadow of his master and dedicates to him all
that he does. For the master is the real doer, the servant but the
who always act according to the rule I have here laid down, in faith and
without cavilling—they too are released from the bondage of their
32. But those who cavil at the rule and refuse to conform
to it are fools, dead to all knowledge; know that they are lost.
Even a man of knowledge acts according to his nature; all creatures
follow their nature; what then will constraint avail?
does not run counter to the teaching in II. 61 and II. 68.
Self-restraint is the means of salvation (VI. 35; XIII. 7). Man's
energies should be bent towards achieving complete self-restraint until
the end of his days. But if he does not succeed, neither will constraint
help him. The shloka does not rule out restraint but explains that
nature prevails. He who justifies himself saying, ‘I cannot do this, it
is not in my nature,' misreads the shloka. True we do not know our
nature, but habit is not nature. Progress, not decline, ascent, not
descent, is the nature of the soul, and therefore every threatened
decline or descent ought to be resisted. The next verse makes this
sense has its settled likes and dislikes towards its objects; man should
not come under the sway of these, for they are his besetters.
Hearing, for instance, is the object of the ears which may be
inclined to hear something and disinclined to hear something else. Man
may not allow himself to be swayed by these likes and dislikes, but must
decide for himself what is conducive to his growth, his ultimate end
being to reach the state beyond happiness and misery.
one's own duty, bereft of merit, than another's well-performed; better
is death in the discharge of one's duty; another's duty is fraught with
man's duty may be to serve the community by working as a sweeper,
another's may be to work as an accountant. An accountant's work may be
more inviting, but that need not draw the sweeper away from his work.
Should he allow himself to be drawn away he would himself be lost and
put the community into danger. Before God the work of man will be judged
by the spirit in which it is done, not by the nature of the work which
makes no difference whatsoever. Whoever acts in a spirit of dedication
fits himself for salvation.
36. Then what impels man to sin, O Varshneya, even against his
will, as though by force compelled?
The Lord Said:
37. It is
Lust, it is Wrath, born of the guna—Rajas. It is the arch-devourer, the
arch-sinner. Know this to be man's enemy here.
38. As fire is
obscured by smoke, a mirror by dirt, and the embryo by the amnion, so is
knowledge obscured by this.
39. Knowledge is obscured, O Kaunteya,
by this eternal enemy of the wise man, in the form of Lust, the
40. The senses, the mind and the reason are said to
be its great seat; by means of these it obscures knowledge and stupefies
Lust seizes the senses, the mind is corrupted, discrimination is
obscured and reason ruined. See II. 62-64.
Therefore, O Bharatarshabha, bridle thou first the senses and then rid
thyself of this sinner, the destroyer of knowledge and discrimination.
42. Subtle, they say, are the senses; subtler than the senses is the
mind; subtler than the mind is the reason; but subtler even than the
reason is He.
43. Thus realizing Him to be subtler than the reason,
and controlling the self by the Self (Atman), destroy, O Mahabahu, this
enemy—Lust, so hard to overcome.
man realizes Him, his mind will be under his control, not swayed by the
senses. And when the mind is conquered, what power has Lust? It is
indeed a subtle enemy, but when once the senses, the mind and the reason
are under the control of the subtlemost Self, Lust is extinguished.
ends the third discourse entitled ‘Karma Yoga' in the converse of Lord
Krishna and Arjuna, on the science of Yoga, as part of the knowledge of
Brahman in the Upanishad called the Bhagawadgita.
discourse further explains the subject-matter of the third and describes
the various kinds of sacrifice.
1. I expounded this imperishable yoga to Vivasvat; Vivasvat
communicated it to Manu, and Manu to Ikshvaku.
2. Thus handed down
in succession, the royal sages learnt it; with long lapse of time it
dwindled away in this world, O Parantapa.
3. The same ancient yoga
have I expounded to thee today; for thou art My devotee and My friend,
and this is the supreme mystery.
4. Later was Thy
birth, my Lord, earlier that of Vivasvat. How then am I to understand
that Thou didst expound it in the beginning?
The Lord Said:
Many births have we passed through, O Arjuna, both thou and I; I know
them all, thou knowest them not, O Parantapa.
Though unborn and
inexhaustible in My essence, though Lord of all beings, yet assuming
control over My Nature, I come into being by My mysterious power.
For whenever Right declines and Wrong prevails, then O Bharata, I come
8. To save the righteous, to destroy the wicked, and to
re-establish Right I am born from age to age.
comfort for the faithful and affirmation of the truth that Right ever
prevails. An eternal conflict between Right and Wrong goes on. Sometimes
the latter seems to get the upper hand, but it is Right which ultimately
prevails. The good are never destroyed, for Right—which is Truth—cannot
perish; the wicked are destroyed, because Wrong has no independent
existence. Knowing this let man cease to arrogate to himself authorship
and eschew untruth, violence and evil. Inscrutable Providence—the unique
power of the Lord—is ever at work. This in fact is avatara, incarnation.
Strictly speaking there can be no birth for God.
9. He who
knows the secret of this My divine birth and action is not born again,
after leaving the body; he comes to Me, O Arjuna.
when a man is secure in the faith that Right always prevails, he never
swerves therefrom, pursuing to the bitterest end and against serious
odds, and as no part of the effort proceeds from his ego, but all is
dedicated to Him, being ever one with Him, he is released from birth to
from passion, fear and wrath, filled full with Me, relying on Me, and
refined by the fiery ordeal of knowledge, many have become one with Me.
11. In whatever way men resort to Me, even so do I render to them.
In every way, O Partha, the path men follow is Mine.
is, the whole world is under His ordinance. No one may break God's law
with impunity. As we sow, so shall we reap. This law operates inexorably
without fear or favor.
who desire their actions to bear fruit worship the gods here; for in
this world of men the fruit of action is quickly obtainable.
as indicated before, must not be taken to mean the heavenly beings of
tradition, but whatever reflects the divine. In that sense man is also a
god. Steam, electricity and the other great forces of Nature are all
gods. Propitiation of these forces quickly bears fruit, as we well know,
but it is short-lived. It fails to bring comfort to the soul and it
certainly does not take one even a short step towards salvation.
order of the four varnas was created by Me according to the different
gunas and karma of each; yet know that though, therefore, author
thereof, being changeless I am not the author.
14. Actions do not
affect Me, nor am I concerned with the fruits thereof. He who recognizes
Me as such is not bound by actions.
has thus before him the supreme example of one who though in action is
not the doer thereof. And when we are but instruments in His hands,
where then is the room for arrogating responsibility for action?
this did men of old, desirous of freedom, perform action; do thou, then,
just as they did—the men of old in days gone by.
16. ‘What is
action? What is inaction?'—here even the wise are perplexed. I will then
expound to thee that action knowing which thou shalt be saved from evil.
17. For it is meet to know the meaning of action, of forbidden
action, as also inaction. Impenetrable is the secret of action.
Who sees action in action and action in inaction, he is enlightened
among men, he is a yogi, he has done all he need do.
‘action' of him who, though ever active, does not claim to be the doer,
is inaction; and the ‘inaction' of him who, though outwardly avoiding
action, is always building castles in his own mind, is action. The
enlightened man who has grasped the secret of action knows that no
action proceeds from him, all proceeds from God and hence he selflessly
remains absorbed in action. He is the true yogi. The man who acts
self-fully misses the secret of action and cannot distinguish between
Right and Wrong. The soul's natural progress is towards selflessness and
purity and one might, therefore, say that the man who strays from the
path of purity strays from selflessness. All actions of the selfless man
are naturally pure.
whose every undertaking is free from desire and selfish purpose, and he
who has burnt all his actions in the fire of knowledge—such an one the
wise call a pandita.
20. He who has renounced attachment to the
fruit of action, who is ever content, and free from all dependence,—he,
though immersed in action, yet acts not.
is, his action does not bind him.
Expecting naught, holding his mind and body in check, putting away every
possession, and going through action only in the body he incurs no
purest act, if tainted by ‘self', binds. But when it is done in a spirit
of dedication, it ceases to bind. When ‘self' has completely subsided,
it is only the body that works. For instance, in the case of a man who
is asleep his body alone is working. A prisoner doing his prison tasks
has surrendered his body to the prison authorities and only his body,
therefore, works. Similarly, he who has voluntarily made himself God's
prisoner, does nothing himself. His body mechanically acts, the doer is
God, hot he. He has reduced himself to nothingness.
with whatever chance may bring, rid of the pairs of opposites, free from
ill-will, even-minded in success and failure, he is not bound though he
23. Of the free soul who has shred all attachment, whose mind
is firmly grounded in knowledge, who acts only for sacrifice, all karma
24. The offering of sacrifice is Brahman; the
oblation is Brahman; it is offered by Brahman in the fire that is
Brahman; thus he whose mind is fixed on acts dedicated to Brahman must
needs pass on to Brahman.
25. Some yogins perform sacrifice in the
form of worship of the gods, others offer sacrifice of sacrifice itself
in the fire that is Brahman.
26. Some offer as sacrifice the sense
of hearing and the other senses in the fires of restraint; others
sacrifice sound and the other objects of sense in the fires of the
restraint of the senses—hearing and others—is one thing; and directing
them only to legitimate objects, e.g. listening to hymns in the praise
of god, is another, although ultimately both amount to the same thing.
again sacrifice all the activities of the senses and of the vital energy
in the yogic fire of self-control kindled by knowledge.
to say, they lose themselves in the contemplation of the Supreme.
sacrifice with material gifts; with austerities; with yoga; some with
the acquiring and some with the imparting of knowledge. All these are
sacrifices of stern vows and serious endeavour.
29. Others absorbed
in the practices of the control of the vital energy sacrifice the
outward in the inward and the inward in the outward, or check the flow
of both the inward and the outward vital airs.
reference here is to the three kinds of practices of the control of
vital energy—puraka, rechaka, and kumbhaka.
others, abstemious in food, sacrifice one form of vital energy in
another. All these know what sacrifice is and purge themselves of all
impurities by sacrifice.
31. Those who partake of the residue of
sacrifice—called amrita (ambrosia)—attain to everlasting Brahman. Even
this world is not for a non-sacrificer; how then the next, O
32. Even so various sacrifices have been described in
the Vedas; know them all to proceed from action; knowing this thou shalt
here means mental, physical and spiritual action. No sacrifice is
possible without this triple action and no salvation without sacrifice.
To know this and to put the knowledge into practice is to know the
secret of sacrifice. In fine, unless man uses all his physical, mental
and spiritual gifts in the service of mankind, he is a thief unfit for
Freedom. He who uses his intellect only and spares his body is not a
full sacrificer. Unless the mind and the body and the soul are made to
work in unison, they cannot be adequately used for the service of
mankind. Physical, mental and spiritual purity is essential for the
harmonious working. Therefore man should concentrate on developing,
purifying, and turning to the best of all his faculties.
Knowledge-sacrifice is better, O-Parantapa, than material sacrifice, for
all action which does not bind finds its consummation in Knowledge
does not know that works of charity performed without knowledge often
result in great harm? Unless every act, however nobel its motive, is
informed with knowledge, it lacks perfection. Hence the complete
fulfillment of all action is in knowledge.
masters of knowledge who have seen the Truth will impart to thee this
Knowledge; learn it through humble homage and service and by repeated
three conditions of knowledge—homage, repeated questioning and
service—deserve to be carefully borne in mind in this age. Homage or
obeisance means humility and service is a necessary accompaniment; else
it would be mock homage. Repeated questioning is equally essential, for
without a keen spirit of inquiry, there is no knowledge. All this
presupposes devotion to and faith in the person approached. There can be
no humility, much less service, without faith.
thou hast gained this knowledge, O Pandava, thou shalt not again fall
into such error; by virtue of it thou shalt see all beings without
exception in thyself and thus in Me.
adage ‘Yatha pinde tatha brahmande'—‘as with the self so with the
universe') means the same thing. He who has attained Self-realization
sees no difference between himself and others.
though thou be the most sinful of sinners, thou shalt cross the ocean of
sin by the boat of knowledge.
37. As a blazing fire turns its fuel
to ashes, O Arjuna, even so the fire of Knowledge turns all actions to
38. There is nothing in this world so purifying as Knowledge.
He who is perfected by yoga finds it in himself in the fullness of time.
39. It is the man of faith who gains knowledge—the man who is intent
on it and who has mastery over his senses; having gained knowledge, he
comes ere long to the supreme peace.
40. But the man of doubt,
without knowledge and without faith, is lost; for him who is given to
doubt there is neither this world nor that beyond, nor happiness.
41. He who has renounced all action by means of yoga, who has
severed all doubt by means of knowledge—him self-possessed, no actions
bind, O Dhananjaya!
42. Therefore, with the sword of
Self-realization sever thou this doubt, bred of ignorance, which has
crept into thy heart! Betake thyself to yoga and arise, O Bharata!
ends the fourth discourse, entitled ‘Jnana-Karma-Sannyasa-Yoga' in the
converse of Lord Krishna and Arjuna, on the science of Yoga, as part of
the knowledge of Brahman in the Upanishad called the Bhagawadgita.
discourse is devoted to showing that renunciation of action as such is
impossible without the discipline of selfless action and that both are
1. Thou laudest renunciation of actions, O Krishna, whilst at
the same time thou laudest performance of action; tell me for a
certainty which is the better.
The Lord Said:
2. Renunciation and
performance of action both lead to salvation; but of the two, karmayoga
(performance) is better than sannyasa (renunciation).
3. Him one
should know as ever renouncing who has no dislikes and likes; for he who
is free from the pairs of opposites is easily released from bondage.
is, not renunciation of action but of attachment to the pairs determines
true renunciation. A man who is always in action may be a good sannyasa
(renouncer) and another who may be doing no work may well be a
hypocrite. See III. 6.
4. It is
the ignorant who speak of sankhya and yoga as different, not so those
who have knowledge. He who is rightly established even in one wins to
the fruit of both.
yogi engrossed in sankhya (knowledge)lives even in thought for the good
of the world and attains the fruit of karmayoga by the sheer power of
his thought. The karmayogi ever engrossed in unattached action naturally
enjoys the peace of the jnanayogi.
5. The goal
that the sankhyas attain is also reached by the yogins. He sees truly
who sees both sankhya and yoga as one.
6. But renunciation, O
Mahabahu, is hard to attain except by yoga; the ascetic equipped with
yoga attains Brahman ere long.
7. The yogi who has cleared himself,
has gained mastery over his mind and all his senses, who has become one
with the Atman in all creation, although he acts he remains unaffected.
8. The yogi who has seen the Truth knows that it is not he that acts
whilst seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, walking, sleeping,
9. Talking, letting go, holding fast, opening or
closing the eyes—in the conviction that is the senses that are moving in
their respective spheres.
as ‘self' endures, this detachment cannot be achieved. A sensual man
therefore may not shelter himself under the pretence that it is not he
but his senses that are acting. Such a mischievous interpretation
betrays a gross ignorance of the Gita and right conduct. The next shloka
makes this clear.
10. He who
dedicates his actions to Brahman and performs them without attachment is
not smeared by sin, as the lotus-leaf by water.
11. Only with the
body, mind and intellect and also with the senses, do the yogins perform
action without attachment for the sake of self-purification.
man of yoga obtains everlasting peace by abandoning the fruit of action;
the man ignorant of yoga, selfishly attached to fruit, remains bound.
13. Renouncing with the mind all actions, the dweller in the body,
who is master of himself, rests happily in his city of nine gates,
neither doing nor getting anything done.
principal gates of the body are the two eyes, the two nostrils, the two
ears, the mouth, and the two organs of excretion—though really speaking
the countless pores of the skin are no less gates. If the gatekeeper
always remains on the alert and performs his task, letting in or out
only the objects that deserve ingress or egress, then of him it can
truly be said that he has no part in the ingress or egress, but that he
is a passive witness. He thus does nothing nor gets any thing done.
Lord creates neither agency nor action for the world; neither does he
connect action with its fruit. It is nature that is at work.
no doer. The inexorable law of karma prevails, and in the very
fulfillment of the law—giving everyone his deserts, making everyone reap
what he sows—lies God's abounding mercy and justice. In undiluted
justice is mercy. Mercy which is inconsistent with justice is not mercy
but its opposite. But man is not a judge knowing past, present, and
future. So for him the law is reversed and mercy or forgiveness is the
purest justice. Being himself ever liable to be judged he must accord to
others what he would accord to himself, viz. forgiveness. Only by
cultivating the spirit of forgiveness can he reach the state of a yogi,
whom no actions bind, the man of even-mindedness, the man skilled in
Lord does not take upon Himself anyone's vice or virtue; it is ignorance
that veils knowledge and deludes all creatures.
delusion lies in man arrogating to himself the authorship of action and
the attributing to God the consequences thereof—punishment or reward as
the case may be.
16. But to
them whose ignorance is destroyed by the knowledge of Atman, this their
knowledge, like the sun, reveals the Supreme.
17. Those whose
intellect is suffused with That, whose self has become one with That,
who abide in That, and whose end and aim is that, wipe out their sins
with knowledge, and go whence there is no return.
18. The men of
Self-realization look with an equal eye on a brahmana possessed of
learning and humility, a cow, an elephant, a dog and even a dog-eater.
to say, they serve every one of them alike, according to the needs of
each. Treating a brahmana and shwapaka (dog-eater) alike means that the
wise man will suck the poison off a snake-bitten shwapaka with as much
eagerness and readiness as he would from a snake-bitten brahmana.
19. In this
very body they have conquered the round of birth and death, whose mind
is anchored in sameness; for perfect Brahman is same to all, therefore
in Brahman they rest.
man thinks, so he becomes, and therefore those whose minds are bent on
being the same to all achieve that sameness and become one with
whose understanding is secure, who is undeluded, who knows Brahman and
who rests in Brahman, will neither be glad to get what is pleasant, nor
sad to get what is unpleasant.
21. He who has detached himself from
contacts without, finds bliss in Atman; having achieved union with
Brahman he enjoys eternal bliss.
has weaned himself from outward objects to the inner Atman is fitted for
union with Brahman and the highest bliss. To withdraw oneself from
contacts without and to bask in the sunshine of union with Brahman are
two aspects of the same state, two sides of the same
22. For the
joys derived from sense-contacts are nothing but mines of misery; they
have beginning and end, O Kaunteya; the wise man does not revel therein.
23. The man who is able even here on earth, ere he is released from
the body, to hold out against the floodtide of lust and wrath,—he is a
yogi, he is happy.
corpse has no likes and dislikes, no sensibility to pleasure and pain,
even so he who though alive is dead to these, he truly lives, he is
24. He who
finds happiness only within, rest only within, light only within,—that
yogi, having become one with nature, attains to oneness with Brahman.
25. They win oneness with Brahman—the seers whose sins are wiped
out, whose doubts are resolved, who have mastered themselves, and who
are engrossed in the welfare of all beings.
26. Rid of lust and
wrath, masters of themselves, the ascetics who have realized Atman find
oneness with Brahman everywhere around them.
27-28. That ascetic is
ever free—who, having shut out the outward sense-contacts, sits with his
gaze fixed between the brows, outward and inward breathing in the
nostrils made equal; his senses, mind, and reason held in check; rid of
longing, fear and wrath; and intent on Freedom.
shlokas refer to some of the yogic practices laid down in the
Yoga-sutras. A word of caution is necessary regarding these practices.
They serve for the yogin the same purpose as athletics and gymnastics do
for the bhogin (who pursues worldly pleasures). His physical exercises
help the latter to keep his senses of enjoyment in full vigour. The
yogic practices help the yogin to keep his body in condition and his
senses in subjection. Men versed in these practices are rare in these
days, and few of them turn them to good account. He who has achieved the
preliminary stage on the path to self-discipline, he who has a passion
for Freedom, and who having rid himself of the pairs of opposites has
conquered fear, would do well to go in for these practices which will
surely help him. It is such a disciplined man alone who can, through
these practices, render his body a holy temple of God. Purity both of
the mind and body is a sine qua non, without which these processes are
likely, in the first instance, to lead a man astray and then drive him
deeper into the slough of delusion. That this has been the result in
some cases many know from actual experience. That is why that prince of
yogins, Patanjali gave the first place to yamas (cardinal vows) and
niyamas (casual vows), and held as eligible for yogic practices only
those who have gone through the preliminary discipline.
cardinal vows are: non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy,
non-possession. The five casual vows are: bodily purity, contentment,
the study of the scriptures, austerity, and meditation of God.
Me as the Acceptor of sacrifice and austerity, the great Lord of all the
worlds, the Friend of all creation, the yogi attains to peace.
shloka may appear to be in conflict with shlokas 14 and 15 of this
discourse and similar ones in other discourses. It is not really so.
Almighty God is Doer and non-Doer, Enjoyer and non-Enjoyer both. He is
indescribably, beyond the power of human speech. Man somehow strives to
have a glimpse of Him and in so doing invests Him with diverse and even
ends the fifth discourse, entitled ‘Sannyasa Yoga' in the converse of
Lord Krishna and Arjuna, on the science of Yoga, as part of the
knowledge of Brahman, in the Upanishad called the Bhagawadgita.
discourse deals with some of the means for the accomplishment of Yoga or
the discipline of the mind and its activities.
1. He who performs all obligatory action, without depending on
the fruit thereof, is a sannyasin and a yogin—not the man who neglects
the sacrificial fire nor he who neglects action.
here may be taken to mean all possible instruments of action. Fire was
needed when sacrifices used to be performed with its help. Assuming that
spinning were a means of universal service in this age, a man by
neglecting the spinning wheel would not become a sannyasi.
2. What is
called sannyasa, know thou to be yoga, O Pandava; for none can become a
yogin who has not renounced selfish purpose.
3. For the man who
seeks to scale the heights of yoga, action is said to be the means; for
the same man, when he has scaled those heights, repose is said to be the
has purged himself of all impurities and who has achieved
even-mindedness will easily achieve Self-realization. But this does not
mean that he who has scaled the heights of yoga will disdain to work for
the guidance of the world. On the contrary that work will be to him not
only the breath of his nostrils, but also as natural to him as
breathing. He will do so by the sheer force of will. See V. 4.
4. When a
man is not attached either to the objects of sense or to actions and
sheds all selfish purpose, then he is said to have scaled the heights of
5. By one's Self should one raise oneself, and not allow
oneself to fall; for Atman (Self) alone is the friend of self, and Self
alone is self's foe.
6. His Self alone is friend, who has conquered
himself by his Self: but to him who has not conquered himself and is
thus inimical to himself, even his Self behaves as foe.
7. Of him
who has conquered himself and who rests in perfect calm the self is
completely composed, in cold and heat, in pleasure and pain, in honour
8. The yogin who is filled with the contentment of
wisdom and discriminative knowledge, who is firm as a rock, who has
mastered his senses, and to whom a clod of earth, a stone and gold are
the same, is possessed of yoga.
9. He excels who regards alike the
boon companion, the friend, the enemy, the stranger, the mediator, the
alien and the ally, as also the saint and the sinner.
10. Let the
yogi constantly apply his thought to Atman remaining alone in a
scheduled place, his mind and body in control, rid of desires and
11. Fixing for himself, in a pure spot, a firm seat,
neither too high nor yet too low, covered with kusha grass, thereon a
deerskin, and thereon a cloth;
12. Sitting on that seat, with mind
concentrated, the functions of thought and sense of control, he should
set himself to the practice of yoga for the sake of self-purification.
13. Keeping himself steady, holding the trunk, the neck and the head
in a straight line and motionless, fixing his eye on the tip of his
nose, and looking not around.
14. Tranquil in spirit, free from
fear, steadfast in the vow of brahmacharya, holding his mind in control,
the yogi should sit, with all his thoughts on Me, absorbed in Me.
Brahmacharya (usually translated ‘celibacy') means not only
sexual continence but observance of all the cardinal vows for the
attainment of Brahman.
yogi, who ever thus, with mind controlled, unites himself to Atman, wins
the peace which culminates in Nirvana, the peace that is in Me.
Yoga is not for him who eats too much, nor for him who fasts too much,
neither for him who sleeps too much, nor yet for him who is too wakeful.
17. To him who is disciplined in food and recreation, in effort in
all activities, and in sleep and waking, yoga (discipline) becomes a
relief from all ills.
18. When one's thought, completely controlled,
rests steadily on only Atman, when one is free from longing for all
objects of desire, then one is called a yogin.
19. As a taper in a
windless spot flickers not, even so is a yogin, with his thought
controlled, seeking to unite himself with Atman.
20. Where thought
curbed by the practice of yoga completely ceases, where a man sits
content within himself, Atman having seen Atman;
21. Where he
experiences that endless bliss beyond the senses which can be grasped by
reason alone; wherein established he swerves not from the Truth;
Where he holds no other gain greater than that which he has gained; and
where, securely seated, he is not shaken by any calamity however great;
23. That state should be known as yoga (union with the Supreme), the
disunion from all union with pain. This yoga must one practice with firm
resolve and unwearying zeal.
24. Shaking oneself completely free
from longings born of selfish purpose; reining in the whole host of
senses, from all sides, with the mind itself;
25. With reason held
securely by the will, he should gradually attain calm and with the mind
established in Atman think of nothing.
26. Wherever the fickle and
unsteady mind wanders, thence should it be reined and brought under the
sole sway of Atman.
28. The yogin, cleansed of all stain, unites
himself ever thus to Atman, easily enjoys the endless bliss of contact
29. The man equipped with yoga looks on all with an
impartial eye, seeing Atman in all beings and all beings in Atman.
30. He who sees Me everywhere and everything in Me, never vanishes
from Me nor I from him.
31. The yogin who, anchored in unity,
worships Me abiding in all beings, lives and moves in me, no matter how
he live and move.
as ‘self' subsists, the Supreme Self is absent; when ‘self' is
extinguished, the Supreme Self is seen everywhere. Also see note on
32. He who,
by likening himself with others, senses pleasure and pain equally for
all as for himself, is deemed to be the highest yogi, O Arjuna.
33. I do not see, O Madhusudana, how this yoga,
based on the equal-mindedness that Thou hast expounded to me, can
steadily endure, because of fickleness (of the mind).
34. For fickle
is the mind, O Krishna, unruly, overpowering and stubborn; to curb it
is, I think, as hard as to curb the wind.
The Lord Said:
Undoubtedly, O Mahabahu, the mind is fickle and hard to curb; yet, O
Kaunteya, it can be held in check by constant practice and dispassion.
36. Without self-restraint, yoga, I hold, is difficult to attain;
but the self-governed soul can attain it by proper means, if he strives
37. If one, possessed of faith, but slack of
effort, because of his mind straying from yoga, reach not perfection in
yoga, what end does he come to, O Krishna?
38. Without a foothold,
and floundering in the path to Brahman fallen from both, is he indeed
not lost, O Mahabahu, like a dissipated cloud?
39. This my doubt, O
Krishna, do thou dispel utterly; for there is to be found none other
than thou to banish this doubt.
The Lord Said:
40. Neither in
this world, nor in the next, can there be ruin for him, O Partha; no
well-doer, oh loved one, meets with a sad end.
41. Fallen from yoga,
a man attains the worlds of righteous souls, and having dwelt there for
numberless years is then born in a house of pure and gentle blood.
42. Or he may even be born into a family of yogins, though such
birth as this is all too rare in this world.
43. There, O
Kurunandana, he discovers the intellectual stage he had reached in
previous birth, and thence he stretches forward again towards
44. By virtue of that previous practice he is borne on,
whether he will it or not, even he with a desire to know yoga passes
beyond the Vedic ritual.
45. But the yogi who perseveres in his
striving, cleansed of sin, perfected through many births, reaches the
46. The yogin is deemed higher than the man of
austerities; he is deemed also higher than the man of knowledge; higher
is he than the man engrossed in ritual; therefore be thou a yogin, O
47. And among all yogins, he who worships Me with faith, his
inmost self all rapt in Me, is deemed by me to be the best yogin.
ends the sixth discourse entitled ‘Dhyana Yoga' in the converse of Lord
Krishna and Arjuna, on the science of Yoga, as part of the knowledge of
Brahman in the Upanishad called the Bhagawadgita.
this discourse begins an exposition of the nature of Reality and the
secret of devotion.
1. Hear, O Partha, how, with thy mind rivetted on me, by
practicing yoga and making me the sole refuge, thou shalt, without
doubt, know me fully.
2. I will declare to thee, in its entirety,
this knowledge, combined with discriminative knowledge, which when thou
hast known there remains here nothing more to be known.
thousands of men hardly one strives after perfection; among those who
strive hardly one knows Me in truth.
4. Earth, Water, Fire, Air,
Ether, Mind, Reason and Ego—thus eightfold is my prakriti divided.
eightfold prakriti is substantially the same as the field described in
XIII. 5 and the perishable Being in XV. 16.
5. This is
My lower aspect; but know thou My other aspect, the higher—which is Jiva
(the Vital Essence) by which, O Mahabahu, this world is sustained.
6. Know that these two compose the source from which all beings
spring; I am the origin and end of the entire universe.
7. There is
nothing higher than I, O Dhananjaya; all this is strung on Me as a row
of gems upon a thread.
8. In water I am the savour, O Kaunteya; in
the sun and the moon I am the light; the syllable AUM in all the Vedas;
the sound in ether, and manliness in men.
9. I am the sweet
fragrance in earth; the brilliance in fire; the life in all beings; and
the austerity in ascetics.
10. Know Me, O Partha, to be the primeval
seed of all beings; I am the reason of rational beings and the splendour
of the splendid.
11. Of the strong, I am the strength, divorced from
lust and passion; in beings I am desire undivorced from righteousness.
12. Know that all the manifestations of the three gunas, sattva,
rajas, and tamas, proceed from none but Me; yet I am not in them; they
are in Me.
not dependent on them, they are dependent on Him. Without Him those
various manifestations would be impossible.
Befogged by these manifestations of the three gunas, the entire world
fails to recognize Me, the imperishable, as transcending them.
For this My divine delusive mystery made up of the three gunas is hard
to pierce; but those who make Me their sole refuge pierce the veil.
15. The deluded evil-doers, lowest of men, do not see refuge in Me;
for, by reason of this delusive mystery, they are bereft of knowledge
and given to devilish ways.
16. Four types of well-doers are devoted
to Me, O Arjuna; they are, O Bharatarshabha, the afflicted, the
spiritual seeker, the material seeker, and the enlightened.
these the enlightened, ever attached to Me in single-minded devotion, is
the best; for to the enlightened I am exceedingly dear and he is dear to
18. All these are estimable indeed, but the enlightened I hold
to be My very self; for he, the true yogi, is stayed on Me alone, the
19. At the end of many births the enlightened man
finds refuge in Me; rare indeed is this great soul to whom ‘Vasudeva is
20. Men, bereft of knowledge by reason of various longings,
seek refuge in other gods, pinning their faith on diverse rites, guided
by their own nature.
21. Whatever form one desires to worship in
faith and devotion, in that very form I make that faith of his secure.
22. Possessed of that faith he seeks a propitiate that one, and
obtains therethrough his longings, dispensed in truth by none but Me.
23. But limited is the fruit that falls to those shortsighted ones;
those who worship the gods go to the gods, those who worship Me come
24. Not knowing My transcendent, imperishable, supreme
character, the undiscerning think Me who am unmanifest to have become
25. Veiled by the delusive mystery created by My unique
power, I am not manifest to all; this bewildered world does not
recognize Me, birthless and changeless.
the power to create this world of sense and yet unaffected by it, He is
described as having unique power.
26. I know,
O Arjuna, all creatures past, present and to be; but no one knows Me.
27. All creatures in this universe are bewildered, O Parantapa, by
virtue of the delusion of the pairs of opposite sprung from likes and
dislikes, O Bharata.
28. But those virtuous men whose sin has come
to an end, freed from delusion and of the pairs of opposites, worship Me
in steadfast faith.
29. Those who endeavour for freedom from age and
death by taking refuge in Me, know in full that Brahman, Adhyatma and
30. Those who know Me, including Adhibhuta, Adhidaiva,
Adhiyajna, possessed of even-mindedness, they know Me even at the time
of passing away.
terms in italics are defined in the next discourse the subject of which
is indicated in 29-30. The sense is that every nook and cranny of the
universe is filled with Brahman, that He is the sole Agent of all
action, and that the man who imbued to Him, becomes one with Him at the
time of passing hence. All his desires are extinguished in his vision of
Him and he wins his freedom.
ends the seventh discourse, entitled ‘Jananvijnana Yoga' in the converse
of Lord Krishna and Arjuna, on the science of Yoga, as part of the
knowledge of Brahman in the Upanishad called the Bhagawadgita.
nature of the Supreme is further expounded in this discourse.
1. What is that Brahman? What is Adhyatma? What Karma, O
Purushottama? What is called Adhibhuta? And what Adhidaiva?
who here in this body is Adhiyajna and how? And how at the time of death
art Thou to be known by the self-controlled?
The Lord Said:
The Supreme, the Imperishable is Brahman; its manifestation is Adhyatma;
the creative process whereby all beings are created is called Karma.
4. Adhibhuta is My perishable form; Adhidaivata is the individual
self in that form; and O best among the embodied, Adhiyajna am I in this
body, purified by sacrifice.
is, from Imperishable Unmanifest down to the perishable atom everything
in the universe is the Supreme and an expression of the Supreme. Why
then should mortal man arrogate to himself authorship of anything rather
than do His bidding and dedicate all action to Him?
5. And he
who, at the last hour remembering Me only, departs leaving the body,
enters into Me; of that there is no doubt.
6. Or whatever form a man
continually contemplates, that same he remembers in the hour of death,
and to that very form he goes, O Kaunteya.
7. Therefore at all times
remember Me and fight on; thy mind and reason thus on Me fixed thou
shalt surely come to Me.
8. With thought steadied by constant
practice, and wandering nowhere, he who meditates on the Supreme
Celestial Being, O Partha, goes to Him.
9-10. Whoso, at the time of
death, with unwavering mind, with devotion, and fixing the breath
rightly between the brows by the power of yoga, meditates on the Sage,
the Ancient, the Ruler, subtler than the subtlest, the Supporter of all,
the Inconceivable, glorious as the sun beyond the darkness,—he goes to
that Supreme Celestial Being.
11. That which the knowers of the
Vedas call the Imperishable (or that word which the knowers of the Vedas
repeat), wherein the ascetics freed from passion enter and desiring
which they practice brahmacharya, that Goal (or Word) I will declare to
thee in brief.
12. Closing all the gates, locking up the mind in the
hridaya, fixing his breath within the head, rapt in yogic meditation;
13. Whoso departs leaving the body uttering AUM—Brahman in one
syllable—repeatedly thinking on Me, he reaches the highest state.
14. That yogi easily wins to Me, O Partha, who, ever attached to Me,
constantly remembers Me with undivided mind.
15. Great souls, having
come to Me, reach the highest perfection; they come not again to birth,
unlasting and (withal) an abode of misery.
16. From the world of
Brahma down, all the worlds are subject to return, O Arjuna; but on
coming to Me there is no rebirth.
17. Those men indeed know what is
Day and what is Night, who know that Brahma's day lasts a thousand yugas
and that his night too is a thousand yugas long.
to say, our day and night of a dozen hours each are less than the
infinitesimal fraction of a moment in that vast cycle of time. Pleasures
pursued during these incalculably small moments are as illusory as a
mirage. Rather than waste these brief moments, we should devote them to
serving God through service of mankind. On the other hand, our time is
such a small drop in the ocean of eternity that if we fail of our object
here, viz. Self-realization, we need not despair. She should bide our
18. At the
coming of Day all the manifest spring forth from the Unmanifest, and at
the coming of Night they are dissolved into that same Unmanifest.
this too, man should understand that he has very little power over
things, the round of birth and death is ceaseless.
same multitude of creatures come to birth, O Partha, again and again;
they are dissolved at the coming of Night, whether they will or not; and
at the break of Day they are re-born.
20. But higher than the
Unmanifest is another Unmanifest Being, everlasting, which perisheth not
when all creatures perish.
21. This Unmanifest, named the
Imperishable, is declared to be the highest goal. For those who reach it
there is no return. That is my highest abode.
22. This Supreme
Being, O Partha, may be won by undivided devotion; in It all beings
dwell, by It all is pervaded.
23. Now I will tell thee,
Bharatarshabha, the conditions which determine the exemption from
return, as also the return, of yogins after they pass away hence.
24. Fire, Light, Day, the Bright Fortnight, the six months of the
Northern Solstice—through these departing men knowing Brahman go to
25. Smoke, Night, the Dark Fortnight, the six months of the
Southern Solstice—Therethrough the yogin attains to the lunar light and
not understand the meaning of these two shlokas. They do not seem to me
to be consistent with the teaching of the Gita. The Gita teaches that he
whose heart is meek with devotion, who is devoted to unattached action
and has seen the Truth must win salvation, no matter when he dies. These
shlokas seem to run counter to this. They may perhaps be stretched to
mean broadly that a man of sacrifice, a man of light, a man who has
known Brahman finds release from birth if he retains that enlightenment
at the time of death, and that on the contrary the man who has none of
these attributes goes to the world of the moon—not at all lasting—and
returns to birth. The moon, after all, shines with borrowed light.
two paths—bright and dark—are deemed to be the eternal paths of the
world; by the one a man goes to return not, by the other he returns
Bright one may be taken to mean the path of knowledge and the dark one
that of ignorance.
Yogin knowing these two paths falls not into delusion, O Partha;
therefore, at all times, O Arjuna, remain steadfast in yoga.
not fall into delusion" means that he who knows the two paths and has
known the secret of even-mindedness will not take the path of ignorance.
Whatever fruit of good deeds is laid down as accruing from (a study of)
the Vedas, from sacrifices, austerities, and acts of charity—all that
the yogin transcends, on knowing this, and reaches the Supreme and
has achieved even-mindedness by dint of devotion, knowledge and service
not only obtains the fruit of all his good actions, but also wins
ends the eighth discourse entitled ‘Brahma Yoga' in the converse of Lord
Krishna and Arjuna, on the science of Yoga, as part of the knowledge of
Brahman in the Upanishad called the Bhagawadgita.
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