Srimad Bhagavad Gita: A Simple Rendering

Srimad Bhagavad Gita: A Simple Rendering
By Swami Samarpanananda
Ramakrishna Mission: Vivekananda Education and Research Institute
Belur Math, Howrah, W. Bengal
YouTube Channel: Indian Spiritual Heritage

This work is a brief rendering of each chapter of Gita, and is meant to serve as an introductory reading of Gita for interested readers who find it difficult to comprehend the work. Necessary comments and explanations have been added wherever necessary to make it intelligible. Serious readers, however, are advised to go through the original text/translation, preferably with a commentary.


Srimad Bhagavad Gita, or more popularly, Gita is the spiritual and philosophical heartbeat of India. The best that India has to give to the world in the fields of wisdom, religion, philosophy and spirituality is Gita. Whatever India has achieved in these areas is poetically preserved in Sanskrit in this short work of seven hundred verses in eighteen chapters.

The poetic beauty and the philosophical clarity of the work is unparalleled in the history of the world literature. Every Hindu lives and dreams in Gita, and when he dies, he is given a farewell of chants from Gita. Every practising Hindu makes it a point to recite from it daily, every philosophical Hindu tries to study and understand the work, and every mystic Hindu strives to mould his life according to Gita.

Gita belongs to the Bhishma Parva of the epic Mahabharata, and is in dialogue from between Sri Krishna and Arjuna just before the battle of Kurukshetra was to take place.

The Background

Arjuna and his four brothers were arrayed against their cousins in a deadly battle for kingdom. Warriors had opted for the war as the only option left to decide the right inheritor of the throne, and had joined one of the two sides depending on their preference. 

Arjuna was the greatest warrior of his time who headed his army as one of the chiefs. His charioteer was Lord Krishna, who was also a great friend and mentor of Arjuna. Just before the war was to begin, Arjuna requested Krishna to take the chariot in the middle of the battlefield so that he could have a look at the chief warriors of the opposing armies.

What he saw appalled him. Standing against each other were close relatives, friends, teachers and such others to kill and ready to get killed. The total number of men involved was in millions. Arjuna became depressed at the sight, and he refused to take part in the war. Instead, he wanted to give up everything and become a mendicant.

This was unacceptable to Sri Krishna, since Arjuna had come prepared to take part in the war in accordance with his dharma. Lord Krishna then preached Arjuna about his duties, his real nature, the nature of the world, and the nature of the Supreme Reality, so that he could come out of his despondency. In the process, the Lord discussed aspects of human life: its aspirations, expectations, and state of perfection.

A few basics regarding Gita

The Upanishads are the gist of the Vedas, and the Gita is the gist of the Upanishads. Thus, the spiritual essence of the Vedas has been recorded in the seven hundred verses of eighteen chapters of Gita. 

Each of the eighteen chapters of the book is named as a different yoga. This means that one can attain perfection by following any of these chapters. The first chapter is Arjuna Vishada Yoga, which implies that one can get united with God even through sorrow.

Although Gita was spoken to Arjuna in the battlefield by Sri Krishna, it slowly became the heartbeat of Hindus, Hinduism and Hindu philosophy. However, there are some misconceptions regarding this great work which need to be clarified.

Many scholars raise questions:  a. whether Gita is an integral part of Mahabharata b. whether there really was a Kurukshetra war, and c. whether Krishna and Arjuna really existed. The fact is that the philosophy taught in Gita can be found throughout the Mahabharata. So, if Gita is not accepted as an integral part of the epic, then those portions of Mahabharata that contain similar teachings, too have to be discarded.

Also, in the Indian tradition, the content of any work is more important than its external form. So, for a true seeker, reality of Krishna, Arjuna and the war are meaningless, since the core spiritual teachings of Gita are priceless. 

One popular allegation against Gita is that Sri Krishna incited Arjuna for the war through this work. But this is not true. When all peace process between Pandavas and Kauravas had failed, only then the decision for the war was taken. And when Arjuna came prepared to fight, he had no right to back out from his sacred duty as per the conventions of varna-ashrama dharma. In fact Sri Krishna only placed before Arjuna's vacillating mind the philosophy of life which helped him take the final decision.

Many wonder how Sri Krishna went on talking for more than two hours (the time taken to recite the entire Gita) when the two great armies were raring to cut down each other. This misconception has been cleared by Acharya Shankara who wrote in his commentary that Vyasa composed the 700 verses of Gita to elucidate the Lord's words spoken to Arjuna just before the war. Thus Gita can be treated both as the words of the Lord, as is commonly believed; or can be treated as the view of Lord Krishna expressed faithfully by Vyasa. In either case it is Lord's words only.

The correctness of a system is measured by its applicability at the micro and macro level. Gita handles issues both at micro and macro level. For example, there is the talk of action at cosmic level, and also as individual duty in the form of Varnashrama dharma. Similarly, rebirth is preached at the individual level, and the cyclic existence of the universe is explained at the macro level.

It is usual to hear from people that Gita should be read in old age, or by monks. What they fail to realise is that the book is about strength, duty and achievement. It contains the philosophy of life and gives solution to all that one faces daily. The central teaching of Gita is the attainment of the final beatitude of life, which is perfection or eternal freedom. One way to attain this is to perform one’s duties unselfishly. 

Many young people think that the book is not relevant for the present age. What they forget is that: a) Gita was preached to a dejected Arjuna. This means that even the most distressed person can make use of it to uplift himself b) It delivers the message of strength. So, a regular reading of the book fills one with strength and hope, and c) it was taught by a calm Sri Krishna amidst war, which means that it is beneficial even for the most active person. In fact today's turbulent society needs Gita much more than whatever ancestors needed.

Gita is not a sectarian work. Its teachings are broad, universal and sublime, and do not belong to any cult, sect, creed, age or country. It has a message of solace, freedom, salvation, perfection and peace for the entire humanity. It is also a samanvya shastra, the book of harmony and synthesis, which brings together various aspects of Indian way of life, religion, philosophy and spirituality.


Chapter I
Arjuna Vishada Yoga: Distress of Arjuna

The chapter describes the despondency of Arjuna that came over him just before the war was to begin. It begins with the question by Dhritarashtra to Sanjay, his minister-cum-charioteer-cum-war reporter, regarding the news of the battle that was raging between his sons and his nephews.

In reply Sanjay narrated the war situation as it had been. Duryodhana, the son of the King, was the usual confident self before the war, and he described the chief warriors, their strength, weapons, flags and trumpets, and also made a comparative description of both the armies to Drona, his war teacher and also one of his chief warriors.

It was then that Arjuna requested Sri Krishna to take his chariot to the middle of the battleground so that he could survey the chiefs of both the sides. What he saw then, was shocking even to the battle hardened heart of Arjuna. Facing each other were the great warriors ready to kill and get killed. What more, nearly everyone had his relatives facing him in the deadly battle. And what for? So that either Duryodhana or Yuddhisthira could rule! Although it was a dharma yuddha, the righteous war, but the expected manslaughter was going to be phenomenal. Indeed, it was the greatest war in the history of the world caused by a family feud.

Arjuna's shock was immense. The future wailing of the widows, cries of the orphans, destruction of human resources, and the expected sight of the earth soaked with blood moved his heart to extreme depression and despondency. He was filled with the worst kind of pitiful emotions, accompanied by a dry mouth, trembling body, shaking limbs, profuse sweating, and a loss of physical steadiness.

He could also foresee the degeneration of the social order that would be the result of such a great holocaust. With so many people of the warrior caste dead, inter caste marriages would be inevitable, which would ultimately pollute the religious rites and ceremonies. Thus the very religious order of the universe was in the danger of getting disturbed.

Arjuna refused to fight.

Expressing what he had to express to Sri Krishna, he laid aside his famous bow, Gāndiva, and collapsed in the backside of the chariot. At that moment he was an embodiment of melancholy, and so he resolved that under no condition was he going to take part in the genocide.

The great sorrow and despondency of Arjuna was not, and is not, unique to him. Everyone has to face sorrow, delusion and pain at some point of his life, when he feels completely lost and sees only darkness around. It is in those moments that one needs a guru, without which he would fail to come out of the vicious law of periodicity. He would continue to revolve and revolve round his pain.

This was the reason why Lord Krishna, the incarnation of that age, spoke out his spiritual message in the next chapters. In the seventh chapter he says that despondency (Ārta) is one of the four conditions when one seeks God.

People of the world are always in some kind of despondency, and hence in need of  a saving message. Lord Krishna gave that saving message to the world through Arjuna, who was not only despondent, but was immersed in the ocean of grief.


Chapter II
Samkhya Yoga: The way of Ultimate Reality

The Upanishads are the gist of the Vedas, the Gita is the essence of the Upanishads, and the second chapter is the gist of Gita. Thus, this chapter contains everything that the Vedas have to say.

Sri Krishna admonishes Arjuna (sl 1-3): Arjuna was overwhelmed with sorrow which made his eyes swell with tears. Sri Krishna was surprised at this sudden development. To remind Arjuna of his duty in this sacred war, the Lord then spoke encouraging words to him, 'Form where has come this lowness of spirit, which is dishonourable, unbecoming to an Aryan (a cultured person), and which is an obstacle to the attainment of the high heavens? Do not yield to impotence, O Arjuna. It does not become you. Shake off this cowardliness and arise!'

Arjuna's lamentations continue (sl 4-10): Arjuna continued with his lamentations and said that he would prefer to live on the charity of others (as monks live) than kill his teachers and elders to enjoy the vast empire. However, he admitted that he was confused and was unable to distinguish between the right and the wrong in this matter, and so he was seeking shelter with Sri Krishna to guide him out of the moral disaster that loomed overhead.

The introductory verses of Gita end here. From this point onward, Lord Krishna expounds the philosophy of life, society, religion, and spirituality to Arjuna. By the medium of Arjuna, a really fit and competent disciple, Lord Krishna showers his grace to the whole humanity, drowning in the ocean of grief and delusion, which is samsāra, the world. 

The wise grieve for no one (sl 11-13): Lord Krishna ridicules Arjuna by telling him that he was behaving like an ignorant person by grieving unnecessarily, and yet was speaking like a wise person concerning religious duties (in the previous chapter). This implied that he had no consistency, and he was like a wild, confused person. The truly wise do not grieve for the living, nor for the dead, since they know that the true individuality of a person lies with the Self which neither dies, nor is born. Self being eternal, there never was a time when Arjuna, Lord Krishna, or others did not exist; nor would they ever cease to exist. As the Self residing in the body experiences childhood, youth, and old age, so does it experience death, which is only moving from one body to another.

These three verses are at the heart of the philosophy of Gita. The whole of Vedanta, and also the subsequent chapters of Gita are elaboration, explanation, and implications of these three verse.

Ignore dualities to reach the highest (sl 14-15): Dualities like heat and cold, pleasure and pain, good and bad, purity and impurity, virtue and vice, life and death etc. are born due to the contact of senses with their respective objects. The Self has nothing to do with these dualities. So, those who aspire for immortality (or a higher way of life), should not get moved by any of the dualities.

Duality is samsara, non duality is spirituality. The goal of true spirituality is to come out of the bondages caused by dualities. Even dharma (right way of life), and adharma (the evil) are dualities, and hence both are shunned at the highest level of spirituality. Being good is not the goal of Hinduism, but transcending both goodness and evil is its goal.

The nature of Reality (sl 16-18): Every philosophy's aim is to find the nature of Reality. According to Gita, Real is that which never ceases to be, and the unreal never comes into existence. The truly imperishable in this universe is the Self, that which pervades everything, and that is truly avyaya (immutable). It is nitya (eternal), anashi (imperishable), aprameya (incomprehensible), and is the indwelling spirit of the bodies. The body alone is perishable, but not the Atman.

The use of term aprameya (incomprehensible) for the Self implies that the Self is knowing- Consciousness, and hence cannot become an object of knowledge. The Self cannot be known through any of the sense, the mind, or by any other means. Even the scriptures can only point at it indirectly. The Self is svatah siddha, self evident, so It can be known only through one's own realisation.

The Soul is all pervading, eternal etc. (sl 19-25):

Sri Krishna explains that the true individuality of a man does not lie with his body-mind-ego complex, but with Atman --  the all pervading, indestructible self which is unborn, ever present, and everywhere present. So,  it was perfectly alright to kill if duty demands so. However, let us not conclude that Sri Krishna was advocating the philosophy of killing and war. On the contrary, he himself had tried to persuade Duryodhana to avert the war, but the wise counsel did not prevail. It should be noted here that Hinduism sanctions war only when it is born of righteousness, and not when it is caused due to greed, ego, pride or self aggrandisement. Also, the philosophy that the soul gets neither killed, nor is the killer can be practised only by those who have realised the all pervading Supreme Self as the true Reality. As a result, those who are established in this knowledge, are not scared of death, nor do they get swayed by dualities like heat and cold, joy and grief, life and death etc. Thus the philosophy preached here is universal, but its application in the matter of killing is entirely personal. People who are swayed by self interest or dualities are not at all fit to practise this.

The Self can neither slay anyone (i.e. It never becomes a doer), nor can It be slain (i.e. It can never become an object). It is never born, nor does It ever die, and it is also not that having once been, It ceases to be. Unborn, eternal, ever present, primeval (ever since), It is not slain when the body is slain. (All material objects, including the body, undergo six kinds of modification: birth, existence, growth, transformation, decay, and death. The Self is beyond these modifications--Sad vikara).

He who knows the Self to be indestructible, eternal, unborn and immutable - how can he slay It? Using an example, the Lord says that as a person throws away his old garments, so does the Self cast off worn-out bodies to enter a new body.

The Lord knows that it is very difficult to comprehend the mystery of the Self. So He describes It again and again in various ways to Arjuna: Weapons cut It not; fire burns It not, water wets It not, the wind does not dry It up. Eternal, all-pervading, unchanging, immovable, the Self is the same for ever.  This Self is said to be unmanifest (because It cannot be experienced by the senses), incomprehensible, and unchangeable (the Self is infinite, and has no parts that can undergo a change).

Since the Self is of this nature, Arjuna should not grieve, is the conclusion of the Lord.

Two other views regarding the Self (sl 26-28):

Arjuna does not seem to be moved by what he heard from the Lord. This made the Lord discuss the remaining two views regarding the Self.
1. If one thinks the self to be being born and dying repeatedly (and staying in the heaven or the hell in between), even then there is nothing to grieve for, because in that case every born self will die and every dead self will be born again. So, birth and death being unavoidable, why grieve?
2. If one thinks the Self to be mere combinations of cause and effect, then also one need not grieve at death. Why? Because before coming into existence, the self was non-existent and after the body perishes, it will again become non-existent. So, why grieve for something which is so impermanent by nature?

In this way, the Lord presents the three views regarding Self and shows that whatever view Arjuna might be having regarding the Self, there was no reason for him to give up his duty.

Concluding the discourse on the Self (sl 29-30)

The Lord concludes his talk on the nature of the Self by saying that some look on the Self as a wonder; some speak of It as a wonder; some hear of It as wonder; still others, though hearing, do not understand It at all. The Self, which dwells in all bodies, can never be slain.

Varnashrama Dharma: Duty and its results (sl 31-38): Arjuna is not yet convinced. He is ready neither for the highest philosophy, nor for logical reasoning. So, the Lord tries to convince Arjuna by using arguments based on social behaviour: Considering even his duty as a warrior, Arjuna should not waver like this, because for a warrior there can be no better duty than joining a righteous war. Only fortunate warriors get an opportunity to take part in an unsought war, which acts  like an open door to the heaven.

"If you refuse to fight this righteous war, then you will fail in your duty, lose your reputation, and incur sin. People will talk about your disgrace forever. And, to the honoured, dishonour is worse than death. The great warriors will think that you have retreated from the battle out of fear, and those who have greatly esteemed you till then, will lose their respect for you. Your enemies will speak many unmentionable words and will ridicule your ability. Could there be anything more bitter than that? You will go to heaven if you get killed in this battle, or you will enjoy the kingdom on this earth if you become victorious. Therefore, arise, and join the battle."

The Lord further advised Arjuna that he should regard dualities like pleasure and pain, gain and loss, and victory and defeat alike, and engage himself in the battle (his duty). This way, he won't incur any sin.

These eight verses mark the social philosophy of the Hindus based on Vedanta. Those who have acquired the highest knowledge of the Self, do not get disturbed by any duality. But, those who have not yet reached that stage, but aspire for that, they must perform their varnashrama dharma (duties based on caste and age) without getting attached to any kind of duality. That is the way to purify oneself to become fit for the highest knowledge of the Self.

Karma Yoga and Self Knowledge (sl 39- 41): Till now the wisdom of  sāmkhya-- the true nature of the Absolute Reality-- was imparted to Arjuna. Now the science of Yoga (Karma Yoga) is  expounded. A person who gets established in this Yoga (by performing duty, without getting attached to the results of action), succeeds in breaking through the bonds of karma (action) and attains the Supreme Knowledge (merit and demerit, virtue and sin, pain and pleasure, and such dualities constitute the bondage of all action when performed with a motive).

No effort is ever lost, and there is no adverse effect in Karma Yoga. Even a little practice of this Yoga saves one from the great fear of repeated birth and death. In this path, there is only one resolute determination (i.e. God realisation) for its practitioner, but the desires of those who work to enjoy the fruits of work are endless.

Thus it can be seen that the Lord takes up various types of arguments to remove the darkness that surrounds Arjuna's mind. In the verses 39-41, the concept of Karma Yoga is introduced, since Arjuna is not yet fit to take up Samkhya Yoga, which can be practised only by all renouncing monks. Karma Yoga is the special contribution of Gita to the philosophy of life. Although sporadic hints of Karma Yoga can be found in the Upanishads, its full philosophy develops in Gita only.

Many wrongly believe that Acharya Shankara, the greatest commentator of the Upanishads and Gita, was against Karma Yoga. Acharya was against Karma (action) with motive. Keeping in tune with the over all philosophy of Gita, Acharya also prescribes Karma Yoga for all those who are not yet ready for non-dual mode of spiritual practices.
The futility of the Vedic rituals in Self realisation (sl 42-46): Those who are attached to pleasure and power, do not have any firm resolve. They get carried away by the flowery words spoken by the ritualists, and consider the attainment of heaven through ritualistic sacrifices as the highest goal of life. They do not realise that the practice of Vedic rites does not result in liberation, but in rebirth.

The Vedas deal with three gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas. See chapter XIV). These gunas are the cause of this material universe, and also the cause of the bondage of everything in this universe. He who wants perfection, has to go beyond the three gunas. So, one must go beyond the ritualistic teachings of the Vedas. A spiritually enlightened person transcends the need of the Vedas, although for an unenlightened person the need of the Vedas continues.

Here it is very important to note that although the Vedas are the most sacred scripture of the Hindus, even these are considered subservient to the ultimate knowledge of the Supreme Brahman.

Theory and practice of Karma Yoga (sl 47-53): If a person is desirous of attaining the highest wisdom, then he should take up Karma Yoga, according to which: One is entitled to work, but is not supposed to crave for its fruits. Nor should such a person be ever inactive, nor his actions should result in becoming the further cause for action (i.e. rebirth). Being established in yoga, he should perform all his actions, casting off attachment and remaining even-minded in success and failure. This evenness is called Yoga. In this state one regards himself as a mere instrument in the hands of the Lord, and hence attachment to the results do not touch him. The secret of Karma yoga lies in the complete effacement of one's ego, and identifying oneself fully with God.

Work done with selfish motives is far inferior to actions performed with an evenness of the mind. So, one should take recourse to this evenness. Those who work with an eye on the fruits of their action become wretched, because they always keep calculating about their gains and losses, over which they have no control.

Once a person is established in the evenness of mind, he gets rid of all his good and bad actions. "Therefore, strive for yoga; Yoga is skill (maintaining evenness of mind) in action." The even-minded persons renounce the fruits of action, and thus get freed from the cause of rebirth, which is mukti (liberation).

When a person's intellect becomes free from delusion born of duality, then only does he attain indifference to the words of the scriptures, and goes beyond ritualistic actions that are prescribed in the Vedas. The ordinary mind normally stays perplexed by the various conflicting words of the sacred books regarding duty and non-duty. But when that mind becomes firm and steady in the Self, then it attains Yoga.  

Marks of the realised (sl 54- 59): It was then that Arjuna calmed down a bit and expressed his eagerness to know more about what Sri Krishna had just spoken. He wanted to know the nature, character, and the behaviour of a jnani, one who is established in the knowledge of the Self. Lord Krishna then narrated the marks of a Realised person.

A realised person is completely free from all desires, and his Self finds satisfaction only in Itself (i.e. such a person does not depend on the world for his happiness). He is so absorbed in the Supreme Reality that his mind is not perturbed by adversity, nor does he long for happiness, and is free from attachment, fear, and anger. He is not attached to anything, does not get elated at getting the desirable, and does not get disturbed on getting the bad. As a tortoise withdraws its limbs into the shell for protection, so does a man of wisdom withdraws the senses from the sense objects.

The desire for sensual pleasures fades away if one abstains from sense enjoyment, as can be seen in the case of diseased persons who are medically advised to abstain from certain things. But in all such cases the craving for enjoyment continues to be there in a very subtle form.  However, in the case of these realised persons, the subtle cravings also disappear completely.

A word of caution for all (sl 60- 63): A perfect yogi restrains all his senses and fixes his mind on the Supreme Lord, who is the innermost Self of all. But a common man is a slave to his senses that hijack them in the long run. So, a person desirous of spirituality should be careful about giving license to his senses. Even a practising yogi must not relax his hold on his senses, since turbulent senses forcibly carry away the mind of even a wise person.

One develops attachment to sense objects by thinking about them again and again, which results in a desire to acquire them. When there is an obstruction in fulfilling that desire, anger is born. An angry person becomes deluded and loses his self control. This results in the loss of smriti  (lit. memory. It means the lessons and values learnt from the scriptures and elders). When smriti is lost, one loses his buddhi (the discriminative faculty of the mind that judges the right and the wrong). And a person who has lost his determinative faculty, he is as good as a destroyed person!

As one can see, the destruction of a life is rooted in the simple act of innocent longing. So, a wise person should be careful about not letting his mind go after desires.

Supreme Knowledge and Peace (sl 64-72): The man of self-control moves around the world, enjoying sense objects with his senses under complete control. He himself is free from the dualities of attachment and aversion born of these interactions, and thus attains serenity of mind. All sorrows are destroyed upon attainment of serenity. The intellect of such a tranquil person soon becomes steady and stays centred on the Self.

The man whose mind is not under his control, has no Self-knowledge, and no contemplation on the Supreme Self either. Without contemplation there can be no peace, and without peace there can be no happiness. This is so because the mind, when not centred in the Self, gets controlled by the wild senses running after their objects. These senses carry away the loose intellect as a storm snatches away a boat from its course. Therefore, only he whose senses are completely withdrawn from the sense objects, can be called a wise person.

The life style of yogis and the ordinary ignorant man is just the opposite. What is night to one, is day to another. A yogi stays conscious of Supreme Reality, but is indifferent to the sense world; whereas a common man delights in the sense world, but is oblivious of the Supreme Reality. As rivers enter the full ocean without creating any disturbance in it, in the same way desires enter a person's mind without causing any disturbance in him. That is when one can be said o have attained peace. A man who still has desires in his heart, is far off from attaining peace. He who gives up all desires, gives up every longing, and is devoid of the sense of  'I' and 'mine', attains peace.

Concluding the chapter, the Lord says that the above description is of the Brahmic state -- the state of superconsciousness. Once a person attains that state, he never again gets deluded. If one can attain this state even at the hour of death, he attains final liberation, and becomes one with  Brahman.

The chapter thus discusses the Supreme Reality, Supreme Knowledge, the ways to attain It, its result, and the characteristics of those who have attained it. The next chapters elaborate these.


Chapter III
Karma Yoga

This and the next chapter is an elaboration of the verse YogasthaH kuru karmani (II.48).

In the second chapter Lord Krishna talks of Yoga Buddhi (characterised by action, II.47 etc.), and also of Samkhya Buddhi (characterised by Knowledge, II.54-72) as two paths to spirituality. However, the emphasis there is on Samkya Buddhi, since the Lord says that it can lead to liberation from the worldly cycle of birth and death (mukti), but does not make any such comment regarding Yoga Buddhi. This creates confusion in the mind of Arjuna who asks, 'Since Knowledge is superior to action, then why do you engage me in this terrible war?'

In response, Sri Krishna expounds the rationale, philosophy, psychology, utility, and the obstacles of Karma Yoga in this chapter. These are being given here in brief.

Why one should work? (Shloka 4-6): The Knowledge of the Self dawns upon those who have Atmajnana nistha (the mental state characterised by a total commitment towards self realisation). This comes only after a person has attained an absolute purity of mind; and this purity comes only to them who have attained the state of non-action (when one is not bound to do anything, nor has he any desire to do anything). This state of  total detachment can come only after one has performed sacrifices (yajna) and virtuous actions (punya karma) to get rid of his sinful tendencies.

Normally Jnana Yoga  (characterised by detachment and non-action) leads to Atmajnananistha. Since non-action is an important characteristics of the jnanis, people think that by merely giving up work, they can become jnani. But this is not so. The jnani does not stop working; he only puts a stop to his mind's running after the sense organs during any work. Thus an ordinary person escaping work loses his chance of growth, since escape from work is not the prelude to self realisation, but is the living example of hypocrisy.

How one should work? (Sl 7-9): Under normal conditions, one's organs (ten of them) tend to run after the respective objects in a wild way. When one begins his journey on the path of Karma Yoga, he keeps  working intensely, but starts controlling his organs. This is how his organs get detached from the objects, which ultimately leads to a complete detachment from everything. This is best done when one performs only those actions that are dedicated to gods (as if performing a yajna). Sri Krishna says, 'Perform actions for yajna alone; actions other than yajna bind the world' (III.9).

Relation between Vedic gods and present day work (Sl 10-16):   The Vedas advise that one must perform sacrificial actions to make the wheel of the universe go, and also advise to offer the return gift to the gods for all that one receives from them in the form of prosperity and well being.

This concept is beautifully harmonised for the people of the non-Vedic period in these verses. The Vedic sacrifices were replaced by Pancha Yajna: Deva Yajna (Rituals, worship, sacrifices etc.), Brahma Yajna (teaching and reciting the scriptures),  Pitr Yajna (offerings to the ancestors), Nr Yajna (feeding the hungry etc.), Bhuta Yajna (feeding the animals), and it was advised that people must not stop performing these sacrifices.

Who are those who need not work? (Sl 17-19): Brihadaranayak Upanishad (3.5.1) says that those noble persons who have realised their Self, are free from worldly desires like having a wife etc., and from whom the false perception of the world born due to the play of avidya has ceased, has no duty to perform. He is as free as one can be.

These three shlokas echo the same idea. One who is devoted to Self, is satisfied with the Self, and is content in the Self has no duties to perform, has nothing to gain by doing some work, and has nothing to lose by not doing something.

But even the realised persons keep doing work (Sl 20-26): Although Self realised persons are not obliged to do any work, yet they continue doing work. This is because ordinary people tend to copy what the greats do, so the greats have to be careful not to become inactive. Even God Himself keeps working unceasingly, otherwise the world will come to disorder. Hence it is prescribed that the wise people should work in a detached way exactly in the same way that an unwise person works with attachment. The mind of the unwise should not be unsettled by preaching the philosophy of non-action. This is injurious for the common man, for the society, and also for the world order.

The wise and the unwise worker (sl 27-29):  The unwise person is one who identifies himself with the complex of the body-senses-mind-ego. Such a person considers this union as his soul, and hence when he performs any action, he thinks himself as the doer, and thus gets identified with the work and its results.

On the contrary, a wise person is able to distinguish his true 'I'ness from the false I of mind-ego-sense complex, and hence when he works, he knows that it is not he who is working, but it is his senses acting on the respective sense objects.

Converting work into worship (sl 30-32): When a person works with the attitude that 'I work as a servant of God'; and thus gives up the sense of attachment and expectation from the work, he becomes fit to attain the Supreme Knowledge. But those who do not accept this attitude of surrender as correct, they are doomed, since they would take a long time to attain spiritual wisdom.

Obstacles in the path of Karma Yoga (sl 33-40): Lord Krishna explains that people helplessly  follow their nature, which is born of  the past samskaras (tendencies). These samskaras work out through attachment (rāga), and aversion (dvesa) towards the objects that come one's way during a work. So, if a person makes an effort to control these tendencies of the mind by following the code of conduct as prescribed by the Varnashrama dharma, then one can slowly stop straying from the path of the good. Affirming this, Sri Krishna says, 'Sva dharme nidhanam shreyaH, paradharmo bhayaavaH' -- it is better to die performing one's prescribed duties than to take up the duties meant for others.

The Lord then elaborates the concept of sin by telling that desires (kāma), which resides in the senses, mind and the intellect, are the root cause of all sinful activities. It is desires that give birth to emotions like anger, which in turn makes people commit sin.

Way to blessedness (sl 41-43): A person desirous of knowledge should realise that the senses are more powerful and superior to the gross body, and the soul is superior to everything. Realising this, one should free one's mind from impurities, and then establish it in the pure knowledge of  the Self.

Thus, instead of indulging in wild activities, or staying away from work, a normal aspirant after self realisation should engage oneself in actions that purify one's mind, and from there he should move over to the contemplation of the Self to attain the state of Blessedness.

This is Karma Yoga.


Chapter IV
Jnana Karma Sannyasa Yoga
(The way of renunciation of action in Knowledge, or simply, The Way of Knowledge)

Antiquity of Jnana Yoga (sl 1-3): In the previous two chapters Lord Krishna discusses Jnana Yoga based on renunciation which is attained through Karma Yoga. Thus Jnana Yoga contains both the life of activity (Pravritti) and the life of renunciation (Nivritti) as has been taught in the Vedas. The essence of Vedic teachings is Jnana Yoga, and hence Sri Krishna extols it by talking of its antiquity and also the unbroken tradition in the first three verses.

On Incarnation of God (sl 4-8): The unenlightened Arjuna wonders how Sri Krishna could be the original teacher of Jnana Yoga to the greats of the past when he was born only the other day. In reply Sri Krishna talks of his divine nature and says that He is untouched by dharma and adharma; therefore His birth does not resemble those of ordinary persons. He is born through His own maya, but is untouched by it. He is born to protect the good and to destroy the wicked; and is born in every age whenever there is a decline of dharma -- yada yada hi dharmasya glaniH bhavati Bharata (IV.7).

People perceive God differently and the result of such perception (sl 9-14): People perceive God differently; and in turn, God rewards them the way they perceive Him. He who sees the Lord beyond birth and death, beyond dharma and adharma, attains God. This divine union is possible only for those who are freed from passion, fear and anger, are absorbed in God, and take refuge in Him alone. But one must not conclude from this that God is partial towards some in favouring His grace. On the contrary, the Lord is beyond such bondages. He simply sets the motion of varnashrama dharma at the beginning of the Creation, and then people follow that dharma (law) according to their mental make up and tendencies. The difference in one's mental make up makes people wish for different results, which are provided by God impartially according to one's acts. Thus, what one gets is not what God gives of His own, but what one deserves from Him.

Characteristics of a true Yogi (sl 15-23): The seekers of Truth always work. In the early stages it is meant to purify oneself, and when he becomes a perfected being, he works  for lokasamgraha (to set a model). So, a spiritual person must continue to work because of one of these reasons. Action based on any other consideration is injurious to one's spiritual life.

However, the philosophy of action is highly confusing even for the learned. Even the wise cannot differentiate between karma (action prescribed by scriptures), vikarma (forbidden action), and akarma (renunciation of action). Making a clear distinction between these the Lord says that the real Self of man never gets into action, and that action belongs to the body, mind and the senses. Anyone who realises this fact, sees action (of the mind) in inaction (of the body) of those who out of ignorance refuse to work; and sees inaction (of the Self) in action (of the body and senses) of a realised person. Thus, the decision of Arjuna not to fight is actually action, since he identifies himself with his body and senses, and even though he refused to fight, he would continue to be active mentally. On the other hand, Sri Krishna identifies himself with his soul, so his taking part in the battle is inaction, because the soul never gets into action. Similarly the intense activities of Swami Vivekananda would appear as inaction to a jnani, whereas the idleness of an imperfect monk would appear to be full of action (because this imperfect monk identifies himself with his mind which is active) by a realised person.

This true state of inaction by a sage is reached only when he works without any desire and self will, and whose mind is fixed in the Knowledge of the Self. Such a free sage is satisfied with what he gets of its own, is not swayed by the pairs of the opposites like heat and cold, and is steady in success and failure.

Various kinds of sacrifices (sl 24-32): For a perfected being everything around him is Brahman alone. So, when he performs any action, he sees the instrument of action, the doer, the result, and the action itself as Brahman. This kind of sacrifice does not produce any binding result, and is known as Jnana Yajna (Knowledge sacrifice).

Then there are yogis who make offerings to the gods in various ways, and there are also yogis who offer their self (self conditioned by various identifications, upadhi sahita) in the fire of the Supreme Self (upadhi rahita Brahman). This kind of sacrifice is called daiva yajna.

The Vedas talk of many kinds of yajna, but Gita mentions twelve kind of yajna only, and it is emphasised that anyone who does not perform even one of these sacrifices, he becomes a misfit in this world, and fails to achieve a higher world after death.

In praise of Knowledge (sl 33-42): The Knowledge sacrifice (IV.24) is superior to all other material sacrifices, since all works culminate in Knowledge. To learn about this supreme Knowledge  one has to seek for a teacher and then learn from him this exalted Knowledge with due humility, service and faith. It is only then that the delusion of multiplicity of existence vanishes from one's mind, and one sees the presence of all beings in one's Self and also in the Lord (sl 35). Thus is experienced the oneness of the Self and God.

The Lord further says that once a person gets established in the Knowledge of Self, all his sins, samskaras, and actions get destroyed forever. There is no purifier on earth that can equal Knowledge. But, this Knowledge can come only to them who have faith and zeal; people with no faith towards this Knowledge of Self ultimately go to ruin.

Sri Krishna sums up his teachings by saying that action does not bind the person who gives up his actions through Karma Yoga, and hence Arjuna should cut asunder his doubts about the Self with the sword of Knowledge, should dedicate himself to Karma Yoga, and should now get up to take part in the battle.

As one might note, this chapter links up Karma Yoga with Jnana Yoga through letting go of one's identification with the non-Self. To attain anything substantial in this world one has to perform some kind of yajna. Depending on the type of yajna, one's achievements would be great or ordinary. The Lord emphasises that the awareness that 'Brahman alone is all this' is the greatest sacrifice which leads to greatest achievements. To do so, one has to learn to differentiate between the Self and the non-Self by overcoming passions, and then acting in a completely detached way.


Chapter V
Karma Sannyasa Yoga: The Way of Renunciation

This and the next chapter is an elaboration of the verse VihAya kAmAn yaH sarvAn (II.71). Both these chapters discuss the state of non-action and also the nature of true yogis.

In the previous chapters Sri Krishna talked of  KarmaYoga and Jnana, and also harmonised them by saying that detached action leads to Jnana. Of these, Yoga is characterised by action, whereas Jnana is characterised by just the opposite, inaction. So, Arjuna wants to know which one of the two: action and inaction, is really superior. In reply, Lord Krishna shows the relationship between action and non-action. It may be noted that this conflict of whether or not a person striving after spirituality should work, has been raging on in India from the Vedic times, and continues till date.

Relation between Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga (sl 2-5):  Lord Krishna says that there is no difference between the path of action, and the path of Knowledge; and that a Karma Yogi who seeks nothing, nor avoids anything is like a perfect sannyasi who by his very nature, renounces everything. However, between an imperfect Karma Yogi (i.e. he who does not work in a detached way), and an imperfect sannyasi (whose renunciation is superficial), the imperfect Karma Yogi is superior, since through intense action a Karma Yogi will one day learn to be detached; but an imperfect sannyasi will never get an opportunity to go through the corrective process. Sincere work is the greatest teacher of a spiritual aspirant.

When renunciation (sannyasa) is aided by Knowledge (of the nature of Self), it is called sAmkhya, and when action (Karma Yoga) is aided with the equanimity of mind (samatva: II.48), it is called Yoga. Since equanimity leads to Knowledge, it is wrong to think that Yoga and sAmkhya are mutually exclusive. For a sincere seeker, both paths are equally good, and lead to the same goal. But for a beginner on the spiritual path, whose senses are not yet under control, the path of action is superior to that of inaction characterised by sannyasa. Anyone who is conscious of the multiplicity around him must go on working.

Arjuna is still under the delusion of multiplicity, so the Lord asks him to get down to work, but also advises him to attain the state of equanimity while at work. The easiest way to reach this state is to offer the results of every action of his to the Lord, or to stay detached from the results of his own action.

How a Karma Yogi becomes a sAmkhya Yogi (sannyasi) (sl 6-7): It is easy to give up the world, but it is difficult to become a sAmkhya yogi (true sannyasi), since it is not easy to acquire the Supreme Knowledge. But if a person continues to work and offer the fruits of his actions to God, then he become a Jnani and a sAmkhya yogi soon. Such a sannyasi is in constant union with God, has is senses under control, and sees the presence of his own Self in everything.

How a Yogi functions (sl 8-9): A perfect Karma Yogi is as good as a true sannyasi. So when he works, he is conscious that it is not he who is working, but it is his senses (whom he now sees as different from his true Self) that are acting upon the respective objects.

How should a struggling yogi function (sl 10-12):  Those yogis who are still struggling to attain perfection should also practise to work the way a perfect yogi works. He should live in the world untouched by its effects, like a lotus leaf stays in water. He should work without any desire for results, so much so that he should not even have the desire for liberation. His only aim of every work should be to attain the purity of his own mind. This purity, which is free of attachment and aversion, leads to Knowledge, which in turn leads to cessation of all activities (sannyasa).

The outlook of a Yogi (sl 13-15): A realised person becomes calm after getting detached from his body and senses, and uses his body as a person uses his house-- living in it, but without any physical identification. Such a person realises that the soul (Lord residing in his heart) does not create the sense of 'I'ness in him, is not the cause of the result of any action, nor does it create any connection between him and the world, and does not accept any virtue or sin of his. In brief, his soul is indifferent to everything that his body and the senses do. It is only the spiritually ignorant who think that the embodied soul does all these.

Knowledge: Its nature and its effects (sl 16-22): The Knowledge of the Supreme Self destroys all ignorance about one's nature and removes every kind of identification of a person. A sannyasi who attains that Knowledge becomes Tadbuddhi (one whose knowledge has reached the Supreme), TadAtmA (one who has realised the Supreme Self as his own Self), TannisTha (one who is not bound by work, and hence permanently established in the Knowledge of the Self), and TatparAyaNa (one whose only shelter is the Supreme Self).

Such a sannyasi becomes completely free from every kind of blemish, and also reaches the stage from where he sees sameness everywhere -- in a learned brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog, or an outcaste. These greats overcome the cycle of birth and death even while living (Jivanmukti). Now he does not feel happy when he experiences the good, nor gets distressed on getting the bad, Being a knower of Brahman, he goes beyond delusion, and is now of a steady mind. Freed from the attachments of the external objects, he finds joy only in the Self and is never devoid of it.

Sri Krishna also explains that the enjoyments born of senses are the real source of pain, since they have a beginning and an end. This is the reason why the wise never indulge in sense pleasure.

How to be a Yogi (sl 23-26):  He who can withstand the attack of lust and anger alone becomes a perfect yogi and attains the Supreme State even before his death. Such an aspirant has to learn to be happy and satisfied within himself, has to rejoice within, and has to be illumined within. It is then that he attains Brahman and becomes one with It. It is then that all his sins get destroyed, his doubts get dispelled, his senses come under control, and he dedicates himself to the welfare of all.

Introducing Meditation as a means to Liberation (sl 27-29): When a person shuts out all external objects, fixes his mind between his eyebrows, practises pranayama, controls his mind and the senses, and rids himself of all desires that he becomes liberated. He then comes to know God, the Dispenser of fruits of all actions, the Great Lord of all worlds, and the Friend of all beings. And knowing this, he attains Peace.

Thus it may be seen that Lord Krishna takes up various issues, shows the inherent harmony  in all of  them, and then shows how each of them is a path to perfection. The goal, according to the Lord is Self Knowledge, which may be attained by any of these means.


Chapter VI
Dhyana Yoga: The Way of Meditation

In V.27, the Lord introduced the concept of meditation. This chapter is an elaboration of its techniques and philosophy. In the previous chapters the focus was on the theoretical concepts of spirituality, but in this chapter the discussion is on the concrete methods for spiritual growth.

To attain the Supreme Knowledge one has to be established in meditation. But this is not an easy thing to do. So all those aspirants who are not able to meditate must do work as described in the earlier chapters. It is only by doing this that one becomes fit to take up meditation, which ultimately makes one fit to attain the Supreme Knowledge.

Defining a true sannyasi and a true yogi (sl 1-4):  In the earlier chapters, Gita described the two paths for the realisation of the Supreme Knowledge. The first one is sAmkhya in which one sees the Self as all pervasive, pure, eternal etc. Persons who practise this path become Sannyasins, and give up every kind of ritual and sacrifices (hence they are also called niragni, lit. one who does not touch fire).

The second path is that of action/work. The followers of this path are called Yogis, who control their senses completely, and withdraw their mind from the external world. These people ultimately give up work altogether, and are seen as being actionless.

Ordinary aspirants also want to imitate the advanced souls, and so when they take up one of these two spiritual paths, they stop performing rituals and give up their obligatory duties. But this is wrong and disastrous. Sri Krishna makes it very clear that such an attitude is wrong. By merely acquiring the characteristics of the great, one does not become great. To emphasise this point, Sri Krishna says that by merely giving up the rituals one does not become a sannyasi; nor by merely giving up actions, one becomes a yogi. Only he who works in a detached way is both a sannyasi and a yogi.

The Lord sums up these issues by telling that 'He who wants to attain yoga, for him action is the means; but he who has attained yoga, for him serenity (detachment from the senses and works) is the means.'

Self-control and self-mastery (sl. 5-9): A person desirous of spiritual life has to raise himself from the worldliness all around him. This can be done  by the control of his lower self (body and senses) by  applying self restraint. It is then that one's self (body and senses) becomes a friend of oneself (the soul); otherwise it becomes his own worst enemy and drowns him into more and more worldliness.

A person who has complete control over himself is always filled with satisfaction, is constantly absorbed in the Supreme Self, goes beyond dualities like heat and cold, considers gold and dirt as equally worthless, and has the same kind of regard and respect for everyone.

Way to Dhyana Yoga (sl 10-19): These verses describe the way to samadhi through meditation. To do so, a yogi should stay in solitude and should practise concentration of the mind. For this, he should take a firm seat and practise prAnAyAma. During meditation his body should be erect, the gaze should be fixed at the tip of his nose, should practise brahmacharya, and should think of God constantly. His food, sleep, recreation and exertion at work should be modest. When such a well controlled mind rests in the Self, it is said to have attained Yoga. At that time the mind of a yogi is as steady as the flame of a candle in a windless place. Such a yogi attains Peace that culminates in Nirvana (mukti, freedom).

Uniqueness of Yoga (sl 20-23): Yoga is described here as severance from the contact of pain. In this state the mind becomes quiet, one enjoys the internal joy, his mind never deviates from The Reality, his joy is boundless and is beyond the reach of the senses. Gaining this state, all other gains seem trivial; and no sorrow seems important. So, this yoga should be practised by all.

Controlling the mind (sl 24-26): One should renounce all desires born of the will (plans, ambitions, expectations), should draw back the senses from every direction, and should struggle to withdraw the mind from the external world and fix it on the Supreme Self. This should be done bit by bit and over a period of time. He should also practise to withdraw the mind from those objects that make it wander away from steadiness.

Results of meditation (27-32):  A yogi whose mind has become quiet and whose passions have calmed down, attains Supreme Bliss and becomes a jivanmukta. Such a yogi is freed from sins and enjoys the touch of Brahman and also unbounded bliss with ease. He also now views all things with equal regard, perceives himself in all beings, and sees all beings in himself. This kind of a yogi, who sees God everywhere and sees everything in God, for him God becomes ever present, and he also becomes ever present for God. Furthermore such a yogi lives in God Himself. According to the Lord, one who treats pleasure and pain alike is the best of the yogis.

How to control the unruly mind (33-36): The mind by nature is restless, turbulent, and uncontrollable like the flow of the wind. How to control such a mind, is Arjuna's question.

To this the Lord said that by a constant practise to bring it under control, and through practising detachment, one can slowly learn to control it. This is quite important, since Yoga cannot be attained by an uncontrolled mind, whereas it can be attained by those who strive after it by applying the proper means.

What if one fails in the path of Yoga (37-45): What happens to those aspirants who do not succeed in the path of yoga? Don't they lose this world and also the higher goal of life? To these questions of Arjuna, Sri Krishna replies that he who gets distracted from the path of yoga, is reborn in a good family, and in time comes in touch with the knowledge acquired in his former body. From that point of time he starts his spiritual journey once again.  But under no condition does that failed yogi comes to a destruction and a total loss. Such a yogabhrasta (fallen from the path of yoga) is led on to the path of spirituality even if he is not aware of his spiritual tendencies, or is even averse to leading a spiritual life due to the interference of the past bad karmas. Thus struggling through many births, one reaches the Supreme Goal.

Superiority of Yoga (46-47): A yogi is superior to those who practise austerities (tapasya), is greater than those who are learned in the scriptures, and is superior to even those who perform actions like rituals and sacrifices. And of all the yogis, the one who worships God with faith, his heart and mind fixed in God -- he is the best of the yogis. So, the Lord advises Arjuna to be a yogi.

Thus in this chapter the Lord explains that one who has not yet reached the state of practising the Supreme Knowledge, should first get down to work, then practise selfless work to control his mind, and then should get down to meditation. It is meditation that links up the early stages of sadhana with the higher reaches of spirituality.


Chapter VII
Jnana Vijnana Yoga: The Way of Knowledge with Reason

This chapter may also be called 'The Way of Realisation'. It discusses the philosophical nature of God and his relationship with the Creation and the Created.

It is rare for a person to know God (sl 1-3): Sri Krishna says that of thousands of men, rare a few strive for perfection, and of these perfect ones (those who are striving for liberation are also considered to be siddha, a perfect one) perchance someone realises God. Hence the Lord wants to teach Arjuna both jnana (knowledge about God) and vijanana (experience of God realisation), knowing which one becomes a sarvajna (for whom nothing else remains to be known).

Jnana means the awareness that God exists and that He is the inmost spirit of all. This can be acquired through scriptural studies and reasoning based on them. Vijana means the realisation of God in oneself and in all beings, and to act accordingly. Sri Ramakrishna says:
"He who has merely heard of milk is 'ignorant'. He who has seen milk has 'knowledge'. But he who has drunk milk and been strengthened by it has attained vijnana.
"The awareness and conviction that fire exists in wood is jnana, knowledge. But to cook rice on that fire, eat the rice, and get nourishment from it is vijnana. To know by one's inner experience that God exists is jnana. But to talk to Him, to enjoy Him as Child, as Friend, as Master, as Beloved, is vijnana. The realization that God alone has become the universe and all living beings is vijnana."

Nature of God (sl 4-5): God has two forms/nature: the lower and the higher. The lower form consists of eight things: Avyakta/Prakriti (mentioned as ahamkara in Gita); mahat (mentioned as buddhi here), ahamkara (mentioned here as manas), and the five elements (which in turn give birth to 5 gross elements, and the 11 organs). This corresponds to the elements of Samkhya philosophy.

In addition to His lower form, God has a higher form also which is the Indwelling Spirit by which the universe is sustained. This is also known as parā prakriti (lit. superior Nature), and being the Spirit form of God, it is superior to His matter form.

Relation between God and his Creation (sl 6-12): The two forms of God discussed earlier are the source of all beings, and He Himself is the origin of the entire Creation and also of its dissolution. Actually, Prakriti has no power to create things or dissolve the created things of its own. Only when God initiates the process that Creation proceeds. Thus God is higher than everything else in the universe, and is like a necklace on which everything of the universe is strung like gems. He is all that is noble, good, virtuous, powerful etc. in the universe. And, whatever is there in the universe, is born of the three gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas), is from the Lord Himself, and is in the Lord itself. But, the Lord is beyond these, and is the controller of all these.

This last statement implies that the universe is only an appearance superimposed by maya on the Lord, as a mirage is superimposed on a desert. The existence of a mirage depends entirely on the desert, but the desert is not dependent on the mirage for anything. And, as the water of mirage cannot soak the desert, similarly none of the properties of the universe can touch God.

Nature of Ignorance (sl 13-15): God is nitya-suddha-buddha-mukta (eternal, pure, conscious/intelligent, free); is the Self of all beings, and is the saviour of all from the cycle of birth and death. It is unfortunate that people cannot recognise Him the way He is because they are deluded by the three gunas that constitute Prakriti/Maya (The Nature). These three gunas produce attachment, aversion, delusion etc. in the minds of all, and do not allow people to know God and His true nature which is beyond the gunas.

Although it is difficult for people to overcome Maya, which is of God, and hence divine; but, those seekers who take refuge in the Lord, succeed in going across the ocean of maya. On the other hand, those who are evil doers -- deluded and meanest of people, their understanding gets robbed by maya. These people are endowed with traits like cruelty, violence, telling lies etc. which belong to people with Asuri  nature (to be discussed in chapter XVI), and fail to take shelter in the Lord.

The Fortunate ones (sl 16-19): Four types of virtuous men worship the Lord: the distressed, the seeker after divine knowledge, those who want enjoyment, and the illumined souls. Of these four categories of devotees, the Jnanis ( illumined ones) are the best. God is supremely dear to the jnanis, and the jnanis are the dear ones of God. This is because they are the Self of each other.

People who seek God for whatever reason are indeed noble (even in distress not everyone goes to God), but the jnanis are the very Self of the Lord. It is rare to come across a jnani who sees God in everything, for, this Knowledge comes to a seeker after many births of spiritual struggle.

Worshipping other gods (sl 20-23):  Not everyone understands the nature and form of God, so common men go on worshipping minor deities, including trees and stones to have their wishes fulfilled. This happens because they lose their discrimination due to their desires and ignorance. The Lord says that even such forms of worship, if performed with faith, get deepened by His grace, and  the devotee finally obtains the result of his worship. But, even in such cases the Lord alone bestows the fruit of worship, since He alone is the dispenser of the fruit of every action. However, such devotees of limited mind who worship minor deities attain those deities only, whereas the worshippers of  the Supreme God attain Him.

Ignorance about God's nature (sl 24-27): People disregard God because they think that He also is impelled by His past karma and is born like an ordinary person. Thus not knowing the supreme nature of God/ Sri Krishna as immutable and transcendent, people go to worship minor deities. This ignorance comes in the mind of a common man due to the Lord's maya which is born of the gunas,  and it is thus that the world fails to know God as eternal and unborn. The Lord, being the controller of maya, knows every being of past, present and future, but they cannot know Him due to their ignorance. All beings are deluded due to the pairs of opposites which in turn arise from their desires and dislikes.

The Blessed seekers (sl 28-30): Those devotees who are free of sin, are of noble deeds,are free from delusion, worship the Lord, and take refuge in Him --  they realise Brahman. They come to know about the individual soul (the Divinity that is the reality underlying the individual soul), and they also come to know all about the subtle ways of action. Those who know the Lord to be the One that underlies all the elements, and know Him to be the One that underlies all the gods, and know Him to be the One that sustains all the sacrifices, their consciousness of the Lord remains undiminished even at the time of death. They are the blessed souls.


The Process of Creation according to Vedanta

The process of creation has been described variously by the different philosophical systems of the Hindus. However, the most commonly accepted view is that Prakriti (nature) creates this universe in the presence of the Purusha, who is the Conscious principle behind every creation. Purusha is identified variously with God, Narayana, Vishnu, Saguna Brahman, Brahma and others, but never with Brahman, the Absolute.

Purusha does not get into the act of creation directly, but gets it done through Prakriti, which is insentient (jada). Vedanta calls it Maya, while many others call it Shakti (the inseparable divine power of God).

Prakriti is composed of three gunas (which mean strands/ qualities, but they may be very very fine particles): Sattva (lightness etc.), Rajas (activity etc.), Tamas (inertness etc.). They always stay together and try to overpower each other. When creation begins, their balance is disturbed. This results in evolution as mentioned below:

Prakriti/ Pradhana/ Avyakta / Avyākrita (also Ajnana, Maya, Shakti) is composed of the three gunas  => Mahat (Cosmic Intelligence)    => Ahamkara (Cosmic Ego)  => 5 sukshma bhuta / tanmatra  =>  5 Sthulabhuta / 5 Mahabhuta (gross elements)  => 10 indriya (bodily organs) + 1 mind. These are the 24 tattva (elements).

Properties of Tanmatras

The 5 sukshamabhuta (subtle elements) are born one after the other successively: Ahamkara => Akasa (ether) --> Vayu (air) --> Agni (Fire) --> Apah --> Bhumi (earth). Each of these elements has its special characteristic which gets manifested when it is born: Ether -- shabda (sound), Air --  sparsa (touch), Fire -- rupa (form), Water -- rasa (taste), Earth -- gandha (smell).

These 5 elements are also known as Apanchikrita (uncompounded elements), since these are in their pure form and have sattva, rajas, tamas present in them in varying proportion. Of these, Akasa has predominance of sattva, whereas the next elements (born successively) have a gradual increase of rajas and tamas, and finally bhumi has predominance of tamas. However, since these elements are not yet compounded, they are not capable of creating the universe as we see it.

The mind is born of the sattva particles of all the five elements taken together (Vedantasara: II.70), while jnanendriya (the 5 organs of Perception) are born of the sattva particles of individual elements, karmendriya (the organs of action) are born of the rajas particles of the subtle elements, and the five prana (vital forces) are born of the rajas particles of all the five subtle elements taken together.

When pure consciousness at the individual level gets covered by ignorance, consisting of the three gunas, it is called Karana sharira. The sukshma shariara / Linga Sharira (the subtle body of all beings) is made of 5 tanmatras, and have seventeen component parts: the ten organs of perception and action + manas (mind) + buddhi (intelelct) + 5 prana (the 5 vital forces of the body).

Properties of Mahabhuta/Sthulabhuta

The 5 tanmatras combine with each other to produce the compounded elements, known as sthulabhuta (gross elements). Each gross element contains  1/2 of the main subtle element, and 1/8th each of the other subtle elements. Thus gross Akasa = 1/2 of subtle akasa + 1/8 subtle vayu + 1/8 subtle agni + 1/8 subtle aapah + 1/8 subtle bhumi. Other gross elements are produced in the like manner.

Because each gross element has 1/2 of a particular subtle element, it is known by the same name: sky, air, fire, water, and earth. These elements should not be confused with the ordinary fire, water, air etc. that we see around us; rather what we see around us are born of these gross elements.

The sthulabhuta contain the characteristic of the elements from which they got evolved. Thus ether manifests only sound;  fire manifests sound, touch, and form; and earth manifests sound, touch, form, taste, and smell.

The heavens, hells, the earth, the bodies (including human) etc. are born of these 5 gross elements. Everything that we see, feel, experience around us are also born of them only.


The table given below details some aspects of creation.

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