(Followed by the Index of the complete Gita)

This final important chapter has the task of gathering up
loose ends of the discussion from various chapters, especially
chapter iii on Karma Yoga (Action Transcended Unitively).
Karma (action) was decried as very inferior in II, 49, and
the status of intelligence was unequivocally praised. In
saying so, the superiority of wisdom was extolled, as in XV,
33. The possibility of a spiritual man attaining to freedom
from action was prominently emphasized in III, 17. Even in
the context of war it was said in XI, 33, that Arjuna had no
initiative to take at all based on any reasoning. He was only
an occasional or incidental factor in the general situation.
Even as early as II, 12, there is a sweeping philosophical
generalization which, if accepted, would make no action

This chapter however, if it has any manifest unity at all in
its construction, must have it in its centering around
necessary action. Various types of action and actors not
covered in previous chapters constitute the distinguishing
subject-matter of this chapter. In fact we find here that
action itself is glorified and held to be a value worthy of
inclusion under contemplation.

Action has to be unitively understood in the context of
wisdom. In other words, wisdom values have to infuse,
regulate and modify necessary action in such a way that the
sublimation of the spirit of the actor may take place. They
may thus help to lead him in his spiritual progress from the
lowest of levels in which he is caught in confusion and
necessity up to the clear heights of a wisdom which is both
pure and practical. The height of wisdom itself need not
necessarily be considered to fall outside the scope of
thought as an activity which the actor is capable of. In other
words, thought itself could be included in the highest values
belonging to the context of action and inseparable from the


We have noticed how, in the immediately preceding chapters,
more and more positive, objective and overt aspects of life
were successively treated as the counterparts of the
contemplative implied in the Gita. Faith, as an outward
value to which individuals may be attached, was discussed
in Chapter xvii. In the present chapter we take one step
more in the same direction of objectivity and the overtness
of the value implied, which is here action as a counterpart
of the actor. Action does not refer to items of activity
but to action that conforms to certain patterns of behaviour.
What gives unity to the present chapter, therefore, is this
notion of action conceived globally as consisting of types or
patterns of behaviour on the part of the actor who in turn is
the contemplative aspirant of the Gita. Action thus
conceived includes such items as thought, opinion and
philosophy itself. A man's ideas about life can regulate his
behaviour, while the pattern of behaviour he consciously
adopts can have repercussions on his thought. In this way
action or karma in its modified or extended sense becomes
a counterpart of the actor. The same truth can be stated in
terms of knowledge. It could have the knower instead of the
actor, and between what is knowable and the knower, an
interplay of relationship is possible, resulting in the
supreme absolutist value called knowledge or wisdom. The
delicate methodological and epistemological considerations
entering into the discussion here have to be carefully

In Verse 20 of this chapter there is reference to sattvik or
pure knowledge. Again in Verse 30 there is reference to
sattvik or pure reason as a form of thought-functioning.
What such a thought accomplishes is to distinguish between
ambivalent values such as bondage and liberation. From
these instances it would be clear that action as intended in
this chapter has a very extended, generalized and global
sense. Knowledge results from the interaction of the
knower and the knowable as implied in the first line of 
Verse 18. However, in the second line of the same verse it is
implied that action and actor are counterparts where the
faculties of the mind are involved. These two sets of triple
factors are seen re-arranged in a slightly different way in
the very next verse, 19. Action and actor are the
counterparts now and knowledge takes the place of the
emergent value implied between them. Arjuna being a
contemplative aspirant for wisdom in the field of battle, we
can think also of fighter, battle and absolute victory as


the triple factors involved in the chapter, after the same
pattern as the two triple sets mentioned in verses 18 and 19.
A careful reading of Verses 18 and 19 reveals what at first
sight seems an unwarranted interposing of actual factors for
those belonging to the perceptual. The triple set of verse 19
which consists of knowledge, action and actor is derived
from the two distinct sets of the previous verse, the former
of which belongs to the perceptual (kshetrajna) order while
the latter belongs to the actual (kshetra). When we notice
that both actual and perceptual were brought progressively
closer and more unitively together even in the previous
chapter (xvii) it is easy to concede that in this next and final
chapter the author has the express intention of synthesizing
as completely as possible, so that the requirements of
theoretical knowledge and the actualities of the battlefield
may come under one inclusive view with a revalued notion
of the Absolute.

The internal structure of this chapter has other
incompatibilities which however on closer examination also
become justifiable. We find that the chapter starts with a
very definite doubt in regard to the difference between
samnyasa (renunciation) and tyaga (relinquishment of benefit-
motivation in active life). Renunciation is a pattern of
behaviour belonging to the contemplative context of
spirituality based on a rationalistic and anti-ritualistic
outlook. Tyaga (relinquishment) is the revised version of
the same as recommended in the Gita (v, 4) by which only
benefit-motivation in action is to be avoided; actions as such
being held permissible and even necessary in normal life.
That some sort of action is inevitable to a living being is
clearly laid down in Verse 11.

Besides samnyasa (renunciation) as a global or unitive
form of action belonging to a contemplative pattern of
behaviour, there are various other patterns of behaviour
equally important for the contemplative to understand in the
revised light of the epistemology and methodology of the
Gita. This epistemology is discussed in detail between 
Verses 13 and 19. After this has been done the chapter
passes in review various forms of contemplative behaviour
under sacrifice, gift, austerity and under knowledge, action
and actor. Bravery and happiness are derivative virtues or
values of the action context which are also discussed before
the types of actor, such as the brahmin, kshattriya, vaisya
and sudra are discussed in the Gita (and by no means the
same as these signify in the Code of Manu for example).


We have pointed out earlier that the latter half of the Gita
has the purpose of referring to the personality of Arjuna in
the actual battlefield, not as a mere philosophical
abstraction, but with all his actual peculiarities as when one
would distinguish a Peter from a Paul. This task has been
progressively accomplished from the beginning of Chapter 
xiv. The necessary basis of absolutist life was discussed
there in relation to nature and its three modalities. Positive
and negative values were made clear by the end of Chapter 
 xvi after effecting a synthesis in the Paramount Person of 
Chapter xv. In Chapter xvii types of faith as a counterpart of
the faithful aspirant to wisdom were synthetically reviewed
and subjected to revaluation. With the discussion of
bravery and happiness as forming the value counterparts of
an active contemplative, the Gita now comes finally to close
grips with the actualities of the situation. Arjuna is
threatened with spiritual destruction in Verse 58. He has to
do or die. Such is the imperative nature implicit in the
situation. The philosophy of obligation and necessity is
preached to Arjuna only till the end of Verse 62 where he is
allowed to act as he likes. The style becomes contemplative
again after this verse and retains the tone in which the Gita
has been conceived as a whole. In Verse 66 Arjuna is asked
to abandon altogether all obligatory duties, in unequivocal
language. Without suffering a whit in the apodictic realism
of outlook, the Gita comes to the culminating final verse in
which values such as justice and fair-play are referred to,
in Verse 78, as belonging to the contemplative context.
As karma (action) has a character of inevitability, nobody,
according to this chapter, can be called a true samnyasin
(total renouncer). The possibility of an exception to this rule
by which all beings are committed to some act or other is, on
the whole, discountenanccd, although such a possibility has
been given sufficient recognition in other chapters. For
example, iii, 17, IV, 20 and v, 8 mention the possibility of
keeping aloof from action. Only in Verse 49 of the present
chapter is there a passing reference to a samnyasin
(renouncer) and that merely as a possible ideal to be reached.
As far as this chapter is concerned, therefore, it would
not be wrong to generalize by saying that it tends to
discredit samnyasa (renunciation) in favour of tyaga
(relinquishment). In Verse 6 of this chapter this decisive
opinion is expressly stated by Krishna. According to the
same verse, karma-phala (the fruit


or result of action) is to be given up by the actor by unitive
treatment of ends and means.

There is again in Verse 12 a very subtle contrast implied
as between the samnyasin (renouncer) and the tyagi
(relinquisher). Between the terms samnyasin (renouncer),
yogi (person of unitive understanding) and tyagi
(relinquisher of benefit-motivation) we have to steer clear
of many implied connotations or old meanings which would
naturally attach to them before we can grasp the pure
method of transcending action recommended by the Gita.
The theory of unitively transcending action is stated in 
Verses 14, 15 and 16 later.

The difference between Samkhya (rationalist philosophy)
and Yoga (unitive philosophy) has already been completely
demolished in v, 5. Samkhya is primarily a heterodox
rationalist school based on the twenty-five tattvas
(principles) dualistically understood; but in spite of its
heterodox dualism, there is a close and avowed adherence
to the Samkhya in Verse 13 later. The revaluation of types
of behaviour or action in this chapter enters into subtle
shades of values relating to diet at one end and to well-
being at the other. It is little wonder, therefore, that the
chapter has been described in xviii, 63 as "more secret
than all else that is secret" and again in next verse as "most
secret of all".

Spirituality, usually understood, tends to be a form of
escapism which often fails to meet squarely the crude or
brute facts of a situation. If escapism is not to vitiate the
conduct of a wise man, the factor called necessity which
inevitably enters into wisdom, when such a life of wisdom
has to be lived in its fullest sense, has to be put on an equal
level with the contingent factor. It is not enough, as Arjuna
indicates in xi, 1, that his intellectual confusion should
have gone but, as he himself indicates again in Verse 73 at
the end of this chapter, it is necessary that he should have
also regained the normal balance of his personality or
proper identity through strengthening of memory. By the
end of the Gita we have not only a wise Arjuna but one
who has fully come to himself by pure and practical

Taking away what is implied in Arjuna's first statement
from what is implied in the second, we get a rough idea of
what the author has in mind here. It is something to be
made clear to Arjuna in the discussion between Chapter xi 
and the end of the Gita here in this last chapter. Arjuna
has to become completely aware of the full inevitable
implications of the


situation in which he finds himself, together with a proper
understanding of his own nature with all its specific
modalities and determining factors, before he can consent to
obey Krishna, as he says he is willing to do, in xviii, 73.
An actual man in an actual situation is not merely an
entity belonging to philosophy, but one who is called upon
to act or lead a life without trying to live in a vacuum, which
would be both absurd and impossible. These are some of the
subtleties of this last chapter, the "secrets" of Verse 63.
But "the most secret of all" of Verse 64 relieves even this
tension in the name of subtlety and makes us breathe again
the calm atmosphere of a treatise on the contemplative life
in relation with the Absolute.

Thus reaching its climax as part of an epic poem, the Gita
makes allusion to the four castes, and seems to lend its
support to the fourfold division. Before closing these
introductory remarks it would be wrong to omit to point out
that the reference to this sociological subject deserves some
careful scrutiny, in order to fit it property into the context
of contemplation, and to understand that those aspects of caste
actually mentioned here, or popularly supposed to be
implied here, and which cannot be so fitted, should be
relegated to the historical background, the sociology or
politics proper, and to be best discussed outside the scope of
the present work on contemplation.

The Gita is a contemplative picture painted on a historico-epic
canvas. What belongs properly to such a historic canvas should
not be mistaken for the true contemplative teaching. Such
teaching should be given its own place and importance if the
Gita is to have its rightful value as a treatise on contemplation
and Yoga.


Arjuna uvacha
samnyasasya mahabaho
tattvam ichchhami veditum
tyagasya cha hrishikesa
prithak kesinishudana

Arjuna said:
I desire to know, 0 Mighty-Armed (Krishna), the truth of
renunciation (samnyasa) as also of relinquishment (tyaga),
0 Hrishikesa (Krishna), each distinctly, O Kesinishudana



Sribhagavan uvacha
kamyanam karmanam nyasam
samnyasam kavayo viduh
sarvakarmaphala yogam
prahus yogam vichakshanah

Krishna said:
Bards of old understand by renunciation (samnyasa) the
renunciation of desire-prompted action; the relinquishing
of the benefit of all actions, those with insight declare
to be relinquishment (tyaga).


These two verses do not call for any further comment.


tyajyam doshavad ity eke
karma prahur manishinah
yajna dana tapah karma
na tyajyam iti cha 'pare

"Action should be given up as an evil", say some rationalists; others say that "acts of sacrifice,giving and austerity should not be abandoned"


The two classes referred to here represent the orthodox
Samkhyas (rationalist philosophers) who, like Kapila, its
reputed founder, were known to be against Vedic ritual,
and those like Jaimini who, in his Purva Mimamsa Darsana
(Inquiry into the Prior or Ritualist Section of the Vedas
as a Philosophic Vision) gave a critically examined form
to Vedic ritualism.


nischayam srinu me tatra
tyage bharatasattama
tyago hi purushavyaghra
trividhah samprakirtitah

yajna dana tapah karma
na tyajyam karyam eva
tat yajno danam tapas
chai 'va pavanani manishinam

etany api tu karmani
sangam tyaktva phalanicha
kartavyani 'ti me partha
nischitam matam uttamam


Hear now from Me, 0 Best of the Bharatas (Arjuna), the
settled conclusion about relinquishment (tyaga), (which)
relinquishment indeed, 0 Best of Men (Arjuna), has been
well known as of three kinds:

the act of sacrifice, gift and austerity should not be
relinquished; each should indeed be observed; sacrifice,
gift and austerity are the purifiers of rational men;

but even these actions should be done leaving out
attachment and desire for result; this, 0 Partha
(Arjuna), is My decided and best conviction.


These three verses must go together because the term nischayam,
(settled conclusion) of Verse 4 refers to Verse 5, while Verse
6 concludes the whole statement. The reference to three kinds
of tyaga (relinquishment) in verse 4 can mean three classes
conceived on the lines of the gunas (modalities of nature)
as expressed in Verses 8 and 9, or as Ramanuja suggests,
can mean (1) relinquishment of result, (2) of agency and
(3) of not thinking of agency at all, but attributing it
to the Absolute.


niyatasya tu samnyasah
karmano no 'papadyate
mohat tasya parityagas
tamasah parikirtitah

Verily the renunciation of necessary inevitable,
action does not arise; the renunciation of such
through delusion is said to be inert-dark (tamasik).


The word samnyasa (renunciation) is used here in its
original conventional sense, without the revaluation
it has been subjected to hitherto in the Gita. One who
mechanistically abandons all action, and wishes thus to
escape necessity, may be said to be one who is not fully
aware of realities. He is therefore dull and deluded. Such
a samnyasa (renunciation) which corresponds to the popular
heterodox pattern, is the first mentioned and is condemned.
Other and more tolerable cases come later.


Under the term niyata (ordained) can be included various
grades of necessary action. Breathing, for example, is a
natural and necessary action for which the question of
renunciation cannot arise. If renunciation refers to
scriptural ordinance, those who belong to orthodox social
groups might consider it necessary, while to others it
might seem artificial and unnecessary. Even among
samnyasins (renouncers) there can be those who resemble
Buddhist bhikkus (mendicants) or Jaina svetambaras
(white-clad ascetics), or other kinds of munis
(quietists). Their renunciation becomes vitiated only
to the extent that it is tainted by the motive mentioned
in the second line as delusory. To the extent that
renunciation is normal and natural, it does not come
under the scope of this verse. Conversely, to the extent
rituals are deemed necessary in a particular situation,
they become justified or permissible.


duhkham ity eva yat karma
kayaklesabhyat tyajet
sa kritva rajasam tyagam
nai 'va tyagaphalam labhet

He who from fear of bodily trouble, relinquishes
action, considering it painful (thus) wilfully (with
rajas) relinquishing, he does not get the (legitimate)
benefit of relinquishment.


Two intriguing phrases appear here; first rajasam-tyagam
(wilful and passionate relinquishment) and second, tyaga-
phalam (benefit of relinquishment). Neither would apply in
the case of samnyasa (renunciation) pure and simple,
innocent of any orthodox values.

That this is so is admitted in Verse 12 later. The meaning of
the second expression should be read in the light of iii, 4
and xviii, 49. Mere omission of actions would amount only
to non-action which has no reference to natural or inevitably
necessary actions as its counterpart. Such inevitable action
has to be transcended by discipline which involves
intermediate stages. When such intermediate stages are
wilfully omitted, or through misplaced obstinacy due to
egoism, laziness etc., neither the mature result, indicated
in the second expression here ("the result of relinquishment")
nor the more respectable perfection of Verse 49, called
naishkarmyasiddhi (perfection where man has nothing to do)
comes about. In III, 4, the obverse and converse


of the same verity applicable to the tyagi (relinquisher) and
samnyasin (renouncer) respectively, are stated together, to
reveal the difference by contrast. Neither simple
renunciation mechanistically understood, nor simple
relinquishment, lifted from its organic context, would be
considered conducive to spiritual progress.


karyam ity evayat karma
niyatam kriyate 'rjuna
sangam tyaktva phalam chai'va
sa tyagah sattviko matah

When necessary action is done, 0 Arjuna, recognizing its
imperative character, relinquishing attachment and benefit,
such relinquishment is considered pure (sattvik).


We note that the gunas (modalities of nature) in this set of 
Verses 7 to 9, are referred to in inverse order. As the centre
of interest has passed on to the side of necessity, the degree
of necessity recognized under each item determines its
superiority. To the extent the importance of a certain action
as necessary is recognized, such action gains a superior
status as a value in this chapter.

By insisting on the avoidance of sangam (attachment) and phalam (fruit, benefit or result) it is prescribed that the actor should be free from even the desire for salvation as a spiritual benefit to the extent that it is a third factor in the form of a counter-attraction which could interfere with the strictly bipolar relation between the contemplative aspirant and the Absolute which is his soul.


na dveshty akusalam karma
kusale na 'nushajjate
tyagi sattvasamavishto
medhavi chhinnasamsayah

The relinquisher pervaded with purity (sattva), and of strong
intelligence, of sundered doubts, hates not unpleasant action,
nor is he attached to one pleasant.


The neutrality of the pure way that a relinquisher can maintain
is praised here preparatory to the next section culminating in 
Verse 16 where egoism is denounced.


na hi dehabhriti sachem
tyaktum karmany aseshatah
yas tu karmaphalatyagi
sa tyagi 'ty abhidhiyate

Nor indeed is it possible for an embodied one to completely
relinquish action; he who relinquishes the benefit of action
is verily called a relinquisher.


This verse suggests that, as action is binding on all in one
form or another, the best that a person can do is to eliminate
objectives referring to personal gain, profit or benefit in
general, which are here called the "fruit of action". The
highest value in the wisdom context, however, which has
been mentioned in Verse 8 as the "fruit of relinquishment"
must not be included under the "fruit of action" here. The
benefit of correct relinquishment must be the Absolute itself
What would fall strictly under this category of "fruit of
action" here and in ii, 47, would be those petty everyday
benefits which fall outside what unitively joins the highest
value and the actor himself. Such third items of interest can
have between themselves a varying range of values, good,
bad or indifferent, as referred to in the next verse. The true
samnyasin (renouncer) who is also a yogi and a proper tyagi
(relinquisher) in the Gita, is one who establishes a bipolar
relationship between himself and the highest values possible,
compatible with his own nature and capacity to understand
absolute wisdom objectively.

To the perfect samnyasin (renouncer), conforming to the
model extolled in Verse 49 later, with whom even the
distinction of actor (the means) and action (ends) has been
abolished, by whom means and ends are unitively understood,
and whose personal life is adjusted through long perfecting,
the question of benefit of action, in the sense of this verse,
does not even arise.


anishtam ishtam misram cha
trividham karmanah phalam
bhavaty atyaginam pretya
na tu samnyasinam kvachit

Pleasant, unpleasant and mixed benefits accrue in the
(spiritual) progress beyond of a non-relinquisher (atyagi)
but none anywhere to renouncers (samnyasinah).


The benefit that the atyagi (non-relinquisher) gets is
juxtaposed with what in a samnyasin (renouncer) never arises
at all. At the one end, we have to imagine an ordinary man such
as a materialist; and at the other end, one who has given up
action because his reason has matured. The latter has attained
a perfection which requires no more action. Both these
persons resemble each other by their indifference to actions
enjoined or made binding by the scriptures.

The good, bad or indifferent results accruing from action
should therefore be understood as natural or normal to all
except one who has properly transcended action, i.e., the true
samnyasin (renouncer). The intermediate group of people
who are called tyagis (relinquishers) because they neither
conform to the natural man nor the ideal man, have to follow
scriptural injunctions as far as they feel that such apply to
their own case.

This verse helps us indirectly to strike the balance between
a samnyasin (renouncer) and a tyagi (relinquisher) which consists
in this, that the relinquisher still has need, according to
himself or from force of circumstances, for guidance from the
scriptures. He has to travel perforce from the appreciation
of one grade of value implied in a scripture that he
appreciates or adopts as his own, to one that he might be able
to appreciate later when his intelligence has matured or
become perfected. There is here an organic progression from
a lower to a higher spiritual value.

By subtracting the samnyasin (renouncer) from the natural
man, we get a precise notion of what is implied by the term
tyagi (relinquisher). A wilful samnyasin (renouncer)
negatively rejecting action is thus reduced to an absurdity
and it is the purpose of this verse to bring this into relief
by a clever method of comparison implicit in what would appear
a contrast. The abhava (negation) of the Nyaya philosophers is
here used with a skill which outwits them.


panchai 'tani mahabaho
karmani nibodha me
samkye kritante proktani
siddhaye sarvakarmanam

adhishthanam tatha karta
karanam cha prithagvidham
vividhas cha prithakcheshta
daivam chai 'va 'tra panchamam

sariravanmanobhir yat
karma prarabhate narah
nyayyam va viparitam va
panchai 'te tasya hetavah

0 Mighty-Armed (Arjuna), learn from Me these five causes for the accomplishment of all actions as stated in the Samkhya at the end of the age called Krita:

the basis and actor, and also the various (mental) instruments, the several and varied movements (activities), And fifth the divine factor;

whatever action a man undertakes by the body, speech and mind, justifiable or the opposite, these five are its causes.


Here there is reference to the Samkhya (rationalist) system
in which there are twenty-five tattvas (principles) which are
here reduced to five factors. The Samkhya system gives primacy
to twenty-four empirical factors, and purusha (spirit) which
is the twenty-fifth, corresponds here to what is called daivam
(the divine factor). This is a term foreign to Samkhya proper,
but attributed to that offshoot of Samkhya called Sesvara

At one extremity of these five factors we have this principle
of divinity corresponding to the purusha (spirit) and at the
other extremity we have what is here called adhishthanam
(basis) [see Samkhya Karika, 17, and Gita iii, 40.

To determine in detail the exact corresponding items between
the five here and the twenty-five of Kapila's school is not
necessary for our purposes. The Gita here only wants to
make out that the actor, the second factor from the basis, is
not to be treated as a disjunct and independently existing,
isolated entity broken away from the other four and treated
as a separate atma (self) or soul with an individuality of its
own. This is stated in Verse 16. For by giving the soul as the
actor an independent status, it becomes a free agent taking
free decisions irrespective of the imperative forces acting on
the individual in real life rationally understood. To give such
a status would be to neglect necessity altogether as a force in
life, although philosophically such a status might be justified
as it is done in purely contemplative texts.


The Gita has a specific purpose in this chapter, of reconciling
actuality with high wisdom. The preference for the methodology
of Samkhya is therefore understandable. This preference for
Samkhya has been consistently maintained, as we can see from
ii, 39, iii , 3 and 4, v, 5 and xiii, 24. For methodological
and epistemological purposes, the Samkhya has been largely
relied upon in enumerating various aspects of the Absolute,
as in vii, 4 and in reference to characteristics of beings
issuing from the Absolute, in x, 4 and 5, and in enumerating
the unique values in Chapter x. The Samkhya framework has
never been abandoned. Not only are the terms often borrowed
and adapted (e.g., the gunas or modalities of nature) but
the underlying implicit method is also closely akin to the

Regarding kritanta (the end of the first or golden age
called Krita) which can also be interpreted as "end of
action" we find the former meaning more acceptable, as the
Gita makes historical references, such as to Manu in iv, 1,
etc. Here it refers to the time of Kapila, the Samkhya
exponent. The reference to actions this are justifiable
and its opposite is to show that there is no choice of
any kind in the actor at all. He is caught in absolute


tatrai 'vam sati kartiram
atmanam kevalam tu yah
pasyaty akritabuddhitvan
na sa pasyati durmatih

Now, such being the case, the man of perverted mind who,
because of unfinished intelligence, looks upon himself
as the isolated agent of action; he does not see indeed.


This factor of absolute necessity referred to in the last
verse is here further stressed. One who cannot understand
this imperative force in which the individual is helplessly
caught is called a durmatih (a man of perverted mind).
The word atma (Self) cannot be taken to mean the one Self
as often suggested as an alternative meaning by Sankara and
others. The necessary context here presupposes nature whose
laws are fixed and unchangeable. Philosophically, it is true
that all actions could be attributed to the one Self as
representing the Absolute. No reference to the Samkhya
philosophy would


have been necessary if this had been in the mind of the

Akritabuddhitvat (because of unfinished intelligence)
indicates that the person meant here has not had the
preliminary training of a finished Vedantin in the methods
belonging to rational schools such as Nyaya and Samkhya.


yasya na 'hamkrito bhavo
buddhir yasya na lipyate
hatva 'pi sa iman lokan
na hanti na nibadhyate

He who is free from ego-sense, whose intelligence is unaffected, though he kills these people, he neither kills nor is bound.


This verse contains the same doctrine as in ii, 38. It is
theoretically permitted in the Gita that even when killing
one is not doing anything. Herein lies the Samkhya attitude
with a vengeance. It is stated more pointedly in xi, 19 and
the same theory of freedom from agency in action is implied
in v, 8 and 9.

Whether approached from the transcendental or the immanent
side, the neutrality implied in the agent here comes to the
same thing. Here it is from the immanent or necessary side
that the neutrality is arrived at.


jnanam jneyam parijnata
trividha karmachodana
karanam karma karte 'ti
trividhah karmasamgrahah

Knowledge, the knowable and the knower (are) the three-fold
incentive to action; the (mental) instrument, the action
and the actor are the three-fold aggregate-base of action.


Here contemplative values as such are treated in the same
way as values of action. When carefully studied, these
two sets show a kinship. They also imply a disparity
belonging to two different aspects altogether. The
difference between them has been sufficiently explained
in Chapter xiii. There, however, the mutual watertight
compartmentalization of these two


aspects was somewhat modified, some interaction between
them being made possible through an over-all Paramount
Person (in Chapter xv).

The subject of psycho-physical interaction in xv, 10, was
avowedly a mystery left unravelled. Spiritual values
belonging to a contemplative order cannot be pinned down
as cut and dried entities as in empiricism. In this chapter
which, as we have said, gives central place to necessary
action, wisdom is objectified and in the next verse is
considered as a positive factor which the knower is capable
of including within the range of his active thinking. If we
admit that thought is a form of action, just as dream is the
action of the subconscious psyche, it would not be a
violation of principle to include knowledge itself as a value
belonging to the context of activity.

In the present verse the two sets are spoken of distinctly
for purposes of being treated unitively only in the next
verse. The veil of mystery which was present regarding the
question of psycho-physical interaction may be said still
to remain even here between these two sets called
karmachodana (incentive to action) and karmasamgraha
(aggregate-basis of action).

The latter strictly belongs to the field of actuality where
alone action may be said to exist horizontally. The former
set may be said to pertain vertically to the perceptual. In iv,
17, it has been shown that the course of activity is gahana
(profound or mysterious). The mystery involved here in
what concerns the right action to be recommended to Arjuna
has therefore already been recognized by the author. The
relation between action and contemplation is hard to
visualize and we have to assume it, at least for the purpose
of discussion here, in the same way as the author takes it for
granted in the next verse, where he places knowledge, action
and actor in a new and of his own. There is, however, a
striking resemblance between his own three categories and
the very elaborate categories mentioned under the tattvas
(true principles) of the Samkhya philosophy. Here at least
we have these reduced and simplified in a form acceptable
even to Vedic orthodoxy.


jnanam karma cha karta cha
tridhai 'va gunabhedatah
prochyate gunasamkhyane
yathavach chhrinu tany api


Even knowledge, action and actor are said, according to
modality-difference by way of their enumeration according
to the modalities, to be of three kinds; hear you of them
(as they are) actually.


After arriving in this verse at a three-limbed formulation
of the three factors entering into a situation involving action
(the subject of this chapter), in his own way, as we have
said, the author wishes to grade action-values belonging to
these three factors into further subdivisions. These are
examined in the light of the theory of the gunas (modalities
of nature) as conditionings dividing each of these three
values. Thus we come to many subdivisions of values into
grades or degrees of value, each conceived on a triple basis.
This amounts to presenting three kinds of conditioning
applied to each of the three constituents of action, thus
making nine subdivisions. The actor gains primacy as the
enumeration proceeds, and action-values such as wisdom,
reason or discretion, firmness and happiness as belonging
primarily to the actor, will be comparatively described one
after another with reference to the three modalities of

The personal action-value called firmness, conditioned
under the affective-passionate modality (rajasa-guna) in 
Verse 34 is going to be tacitly recommended to Arjuna in
this chapter, as it has already been recommended in ii, 31,
in order to make him face the battle with that kind of
reason-discretion belonging to wisdom.

The recognition of these facts will help us in following
the ensuing thread of thought of the author in the
complications brought about by simultaneous treatment of
subtle spirit-conditionings and action-values.


sarvabhuteshu yenai 'kam
bhavam avyayam ikshate
avibhaktam vibhakteshu
taj jnanam viddhi sattvikam

That by which the One unexpended Being is seen in all
beings, undivided in the divided, know you that knowledge
as pure (sattvik).


This and the two following verses refer to the knowledge
component of Verse 19 as conditioned by the three


of nature. When knowledge is conditioned by the pure or
sattvik modality we have a thinker who may be called a
philosopher of a high order. Not only is he able to
generalize and see unity, but his thinking is able to
penetrate to the root of paradoxes such as the one and
the many.


prithaktvena tu yaj jnanam
nanabhavan 'prithagvidhan
vetti sarveshu bhuteshu taj
jnanam viddhi rajasam

The knowledge which sees multiplicity of beings in the
different kinds because of separateness as distinct, know
that knowledge as affectively-pragmatic (rajasik).


Here an empirical and realistic approach to life which
conforms to a rationalist outlook incapable of rising above
particulars into any world of universals, is stated.


yat tu kritsnavad ekasmin
karye saktam ahetukam
atattvarthavad alpam cha
tat tamasam udahritam

But that which clings to one single effect as if it were
the whole, without reason, without meaning, based on any
principle and insignificant, that is called the inert-dark


Blindly clinging to particular values, with exaggerated
affection, to the exclusion of the universal aspects implied
in the particular, reflects a lazy state of mind called here
dark or tamasik.


niyatam sangarahitam
aragadveshatah kritam
aphalaprepsuna karma
yat tat sattvikam uchyate

yat tu kamepsuna karma
sahamkarena va punah
kriyate bahulayasam
tad rajasam udahritam

anubandham kshayam himsam
anapekshya cha paurusham
mohad arabhyate karma
yat tat tamasam uchyate

An action which is obligatory, performed without
attachment, without affection or disregard, by one
not benefit-motivated, that is called pure (sattvik).

But that action done with great strain, by one
desire-prompted, or again, possessed of egoism, is
called affective-passionate (rajasik).

The action undertaken from confusion (of values)
disregarding consequences, loss or injury, and
human limitations, that is called dark (tamasik).


Action itself as a value is graded into three classes in
these three verses. Notice that the modalities of thought
covered in the last three verses came prior to action itself.
Thinking being an impulse is thus given priority.
Knowledge in its revalued status is common to both the sets
mentioned in Verses 18 and 19.

In Verse 23 the action is natural and free from attachment.
In Verse 24 it is laboured and with attachment. In Verse 25
its possibilities and scope are not clear to the actor. These
three represent respectively the degree of insights of
pragmatic intelligence and of desperate confusion on the
part of the actors in each case.


muktasango 'nahamvadi
dhrityutsaha samanvitah
siddhyasiddhyor nirvikarah
karta sattvika uchyate

ragi karmaphalaprepsur
lubdho himadtmako 'suchih
harshasokanvitak karta
rajasah parikirtitah

ayuktah prakritah stabdhah
satho naikritiko 'lasah
vishadi dirghasutri cha
karta tamasa uchyate


The actor, free from attachment, who avoids references
to himself in the first person, endowed with firmness and
zeal, unmoved by success or failure, is called pure (sattvik).

The actor, passionate, prompted by desire for benefits,
greedy, violent-natured, maladjusted (asuchi), with
(moods of) exaltation and depression, is called
affective-passionate (rajasik).

The actor (who is a) misfit, crude, stubborn,deceitful,
malicious, lazy, despondent, procrastinating, is called
dark (tamasik).


From action we pass on subjectively to the actor in this
next set of three verses. The basis of classification is
sufficiently familiar to us. Here the actor himself in his
person represents the value mentioned, whereas in former
cases the values were endowments only. The subject and
object therefore tend to draw closer together as we proceed.
When Arjuna is asked to fight, in virtue of his inclusion in
the category of those possessing high or divine endowments
in xvi, 5, he may here be considered, not a mere kshattriya
(warrior) as in Verse 34 later, but as a pure actor, which
would raise him above that particular type.


buddher bhedam dhrites chai 'va
gunatas trividham srinu
prochyamanam aseshena
prithaktvena dhanamjaya

Hear now the three-fold difference of reason and firmness
also, according to the modalities of nature, 0 Winner of
Wealth (Arjuna), to be set forth fully and severally.


There are three more values which may be assumed to be derived
from the principle of necessary action pertaining to the actor.
In the battlefield these values called here (1) discretion or
reason, (2) bravery or firmness and (3) happiness (the latter
referred to in Verse 36), can be seen to have a place.
A seasoned warrior is happy and stays at his post and uses
his discretion to the best advantage. The happiness of a


warrior has been mentioned in ii, 32. Happiness amounting
to bliss we know belongs to the yogi. It is eloquently
described in the definition of a yogi in vi, 20 and directly
alluded to as the essence of Yoga in vi, 21.

Even when we take firmness as the personal quality of an
actor, we find in xviii, 33, that it is possible to think of
firmness in the pure contemplative context of Yoga, forgetting
all about battlefields. Again, if we scrutinize the meaning
of buddhi (reason) it can just mean discretion as a part of
valour on the battlefield, or it can be understood in the
larger context of philosophy. We find that the words buddhi
(reason) and buddhi-yoga (unitive reasoning) in ii, 49, and
x, 10, etc., have a very important place in the teaching of
the Gita.

Samkhya (rationalist) philosophy itself is based on reasoning,
and we have already noticed that the Gita teaching relies on
the Samkhya in many ways. In understanding with any precision
the meaning of the three values to be immediately described,
we are obliged to keep together in mind the larger context
and the more particular one of this chapter, i.e., warfare
at least till we transcend Verse 63, between which verse
and the next, 64, there is a clear distinction intended by
the author himself as expressed in the two kinds or degrees
of secrets mentioned.

In the treatment of these values here, according to the
modalities of nature as before, we find, some statements
apply to the particular war context, while others, usually
the first mentioned, belong to the larger context, the
philosophical, in each case and under each modality. In
the reading of each verse we must therefore carefully
differentiate between these references.


pravrittim cha nivrittim
cha karyakarye bhayabhaye
bandham moksham cha ya vetti
buddhih sa partha sattviki

That reason which knows the positive way of action and the
negative way of inaction, what ought to be done and what
ought not to be done, what is to be feared and what is not
to be feared, the binding and the liberating (actions),
0 Partha (Arjuna), is pure (sattvik).


The terms pravritti (positive way of action) and nivritti
(negative way of inaction) are known to philosophy. On the
battlefield, reason having the complexion of discretion
only, these terms have to be taken to indicate what is meant
by advance or retreat.

The pair of terms bandha (bondage) and moksha (liberation)
may refer to necessity and contingency respectively in
philosophy; or in the limited context of warfare, to how
far one is trapped or how far one has the advantage of


yaya dharmam adharmam
cha karyam chi 'karyam
eva cha ayathavat prajanati
buddhih sa partha rajasi

That reason which takes right and wrong, the permissible
and the banned, in a sense incompatible with reality,
that, 0 Partha (Arjuna), is affective-passionate (rajasik).


In the active or affective-passionate (rajasik) attitude,
social rather than personal values enter in. In deciding
whether a certain action is right or wrong, such a person
is confused between purely moral or religious values and
those derived merely from social convention, and those
derived merely from social convention, and prefers the
latter. This must be the meaning implicit in the phrase
ayathtavat (not as they are intrinsically). If this word
is translated as "mistakenly" there would be no difference
between this rajasik actor's reasoning and that of the dark
or tamasik one.


adharmam dharmam iti ya
manyate tamasa 'vrita
sarvarthan viparitams cha
buddhih sa partha tamasi

That reason enveloped in darkness, which regards wrong as
right, and sees all values pervertedly, 0 Partha (Arjuna),
is dark (tamasik).


The mistaken judgment about values becomes more markedly
perverted in the case of the dark or tamasik type. Not only
is such a person incapable of judgment in the matter of right
and wrong, but he insists on the wrong being right through


dhritya yaya dharayate
yogena 'vyabhicharinya
dhritih sa partha sattviki

ya tu dharmakamirthan
dhritya dharayate 'rjuna
prasangena phalakankshi
dhritih sa partha rajasi

ya svapnam bhayam sokam
vishadam madam eva cha
na vimunchati durmedha
dhritih sa partha tamasi

The firmness by which the activities of mind, vital
functions and the senses, 0 Partha (Arjuna), are
kept from deflecting (from the, true path) by Yoga,
is pure (sattvik).

But the firmness by which one holds fast to duty and
pleasures and wealth, desirous of the result of each
when the occasion presents itself, that firmness,
0 Partha (Arjuna), is affective-passionate (rajasik).

That by which a stupid man does not give up sleep,
fear, grief, despondency and wantonness, that firmness,
0 Partha (Arjuna), is dark (tamasik).


How firmness is to be understood in the context of Yoga
has already been explained and is sufficiently clear in 
Verse 33 here. The best way to understand this value is
in the context of the affective-passionate modality
discussed in Verse 34, especially in the reference to
dharma (duty).

Holding fast to duty is not the highest or purest expression
of firmness. It is relegated to the middle category. Thus
even here where the factor of necessity is centralized and
keen, the author gives primacy to contemplative firmness,
even above holding fast to duty (which we remember Arjuna
is asked to do).


When a king is called a "defender of the faith" he conforms
to this subdivision of value. Whether Arjuna as a person
admitted to the order of those who possess high or divine
endowments when he finally consents to obey Krishna in 
Verse 73 of this chapter, does so in conformity with what 
Verse 33 implies or with the implications of Verse 34,
or perhaps with both, is left an open question.

The firmness of the dark-dull tamasik person is negative
in character. Sleep, fear, etc., mentioned there cannot imply
true positive firmness. When it amounts to perversity,
stupidity is called firmness here, but this is a misnomer in
the context.


sukham tv idanim trividham
srinu me bharatarshabha
abhyasad ramate yatra
duhkhantam cha nigachchhati

yat tad agre visham iva
pariname 'mritopamam
tat sukham satvikam proktam
atmabuddhi prasadajam

vishayendriya samyogad
yat tad agre 'mritopamam
pariname visham iva
tat sukham rajasam smritam

yad agre cha 'nubandhe cha
sukham mahanam atmanah
tat tamasam udahritam

And now hear from Me, O Best of the bharatas
(Arjuna), the three kinds of happiness, that in
which one by practice rejoices, and in which he
reaches the end of pain;

that happiness which is like gall at first, ambrosial
at the end, born of lucid self-understanding, is
called pure (sattvik);

that happiness arising out of contact of senses with
objects, at first like ambrosia, at the end like gall,
is called affective-passionate (rajasik);

that happiness which at first and in after-effects is
self-confounding, arising from sleep, lassitude and
listlessness, is called dark (tamasik).


The last item pertaining to action-values is sukham
(happiness). In the yogic context disaffiliation from
suffering marks the minimal point, and the attainment of
ultimate happiness, the maximal; as stated in vi, 23 and 21,
where Yoga is defined. In the light of that definition the
meaning of Verse 36 must apply to these requirements of 

The joy of a warrior is not excluded from happiness as
understood here. The chance for a righteous battle has been
called an open gate to heaven in ii, 32. Such joy is to be
thought of when absolutism is fully intended and in such a
case there is no difference between pleasure, happiness and
bliss. In the other three grades belonging to the modalities
of nature, they could be differentiated as representing
supreme happiness, relative or transient happiness and
negative satisfaction.


na tad asti prithivyam va
divi deveshu ad punak
sattvam prakritijair muktam
yad ebhih syat tribhir gunaih

There is no entity either on earth or again in heaven
among the (Vedic) divinities that could be free from
these three modalities born from nature.   


Before entering on the next section which extends from 
Verses 41 to 49, the present verse can be said to be a
punctuation mark concluding the general discussion of the
subject of values in the field of action understood in relation
to the modalities. This verse is also an enunciation of the
general principle on which the much-misunderstood fourfold
division of society mentioned in Verses 41 and 42 is to be

It remains for the author to close-in necessary values
pertaining to the context of action in dealing more directly
than hitherto with the person of the actor himself. The actor,
in his more concrete aspect, is a type of person who has a
body which can be seen as actual, and a vocation or trade
which he plies. Thus he constitutes as a living person the
combination of two aspects which meet in his personality.
These come, as it were, from opposite sides of reality.


There are, on the one hand, his subjective or inner
temperaments and aptitudes which depend largely on the
modality which enters into his life to modify his conduct,
whether for good or ill. On the other hand, this subjective
factor has its counterpart coming from the crude or brute
world of actuality itself, which can be said to be outside and
independent of the person. Matter here meets mind.
Between these two counterparts or tendencies conceived
in actuality there is an equilibrium to be established, the
resultant of which is called right or meaningful action, or at
least action which is not absurd. All sat karma (good or true
actions) as understood at the end of Chapter xvii are
comprised under this general title of action.

We have already noted that the author of the Gita reconciles
orthodoxy and heterodoxy in his own delicately-conceived
revaluation of Samkhya, Yoga and Vedism, not to mention
gift-making and austerity. When he has such an attitude of
revaluation, he cannot justly omit at least a passing reference
to the three grades of varnyas (aspirants to perfection in the
Vedic context). These varnyas have in the first place to be
distinguished from hereditary jati (kinds) or kula (clans),
references to which are conspicuously absent, at least on the
part of Krishna, whose words count as representing the Guru of
the Gita. Arjuna in his delusion does refer to them in i, 43,
but that reference has to be taken as a purva paksha
(anterior opinion) and should not be taken as included in the
teaching of the Gita.

The first reference to the subject of divisions among men,
not based on heredity, occurs in iv, 13, where it is clearly
stated that the Absolute itself is the principle on which the
division of varnyas is based. It is further said to be
scientifically based on the principle of fitting the
temperament or aptitude of a person into the corresponding
type of vocation available for him in the world of actuality.
Looked at in this way, the three principal groups and the
fourth one consisting of the sudra (servant) mentioned in
the next verse here could be understood rationally by anyone,
including a modern man of the East or West, somewhat as

There are always in this human world four main vocations
available. Plato recognizes them as the philosopher, the
soldier, the man of affairs and the servant.

If we should think of the world into which an Oxford or
Harvard graduate enters or one into which the common man,
who has not been to college,


has to fit by necessity, we can speak of these four divisions
as consisting of (1) holy orders, (2) military service,
(3) business and (4) wage-earning. Even in modern Russian
society the terms might be modified into priests, soldiers,
commissars and proletarians. These four divisions have
existed and still exist in all societies, whether explicitly
or implicitly, with slight variations of locality and period.
Political and economic forces have had their effect in such
matters, changing the complexion of the social structure
during different periods of history, but these general
divisions have always been there.

It is in this sense that in iv, 13 the Absolute Principle
itself is said to be behind these four divisions. Even then
we should notice that there is a saving clause in the second
line of that verse, wherein the necessary is cancelled out
by the contingent aspect of the same Absolute principle.
Therefore although in the set-up of society belonging to the
necessary context of life, the four divisions are valid, when
contingent factors enter into it, the rigidity is dissolved and
we have a society of free individuals whose gradation in the
scale of superiority or inferiority is abolished in favour of
an equality of status, as clearly expressed in ix, 32, where
even sudras (servants) can aspire to the highest wisdom, not
to speak of those who are said to be born of 'lowly wombs'.
The whole subject of this coming section reduces itself to
one of choice of vocation depending on inner temperament.
The deep-seated origins of inner temperament based on
modalities which are stated to be binding forces in xiv,
5, have been explained in sufficient detail with graded
examples concerning each possible sub-division.

The separation between actor and action has now narrowed down to such an extent that the inner temperament of a particular type of person and his proper vocation could be spoken of as fitting to each other resulting in individuals who are not misfits. There is no mistake in calling them vocational types determined by actual necessity on one side and temperamental suitability on the other. Life, if it is to go on normally, as it must, requires that these two
aspects are not only brought into agreement, but are even juxtaposed and fused one with the other to produce a correct vocational type of person. A vocational misfit cannot be said to be true to himself. He is at best a freak, an eyesore or an absurdity. These types have nothing in common with tribal, caste or fissiparous separatist units flourishing in every society, based on


sentimental exclusiveness and having nothing to do with
temperament or necessity understood as being harmoniously
matched in them. Social units not based on this principle of
vocational types, such as the numerous castes of India, have
at best a status as forms of religious absurdity or nuisance.
In India these types have tended to be spoken of with a
certain implied grouping into superior and inferior
hereditary classes of men. When the Aryans penetrated into
India the pre-Aryan peoples, who were not inferior to them
in culture, had to be taken for purposes of war strategy as
persons outside the pale of Aryan orthodoxy, and made to
correspond to serfs or slaves.

This tendency is not peculiar to Aryans. In recent times
even Hitler claimed Aryan superiority. Aryans were
essentially ritualistic and any value outside the fire-
sacrifice was legitimately despised and mistrusted by them.
They could not tolerate a sudra (historically a slave of
the invader) arrogating to himself any status within their
own closed social formation.

As the Vedic religion broadened out, however, by coming
into contact with the rishis (seers) who lived in the forests
of India, and who represented a more ancient and negative way
of wisdom, it became open and dynamic instead of static
and closed. Revaluators such as Vyasa, through the words of
Krishna of the Gita, threw open the gates of Upanishadic
wisdom and admitted even the sudras (servants or slaves)
into the right of walking in the path of wisdom (as in ix,32)
Coming closer to the subject of the four divisions themselves,
as mentioned in this next section, its basis is to be
found in the Manu Smriti (Laws of Manu) where it is said:

"But in order to protect this universe He the most
resplendent one, assigned separate (duties and)
occupations to those who sprang from the arms, thighs
and feet.

"To Brahmins He assigned teaching and studying (of
the Veda), sacrificing for their own benefit and for others,
giving and accepting (of alms).(88)

"The Kshatriya He commanded to protect the people,
to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study (the Veda) and
to abstain from attaching himself to sensual pleasures.

"The Vaishya to tend cattle, to bestow gifts, to study (the
Veda), to trade, to lend money and to cultivate land. (90).


"One occupation only the Lord prescribed to the Sudra,
to serve meekly even these (other) three castes. (1, 87-9l)
("The Laws of Manu": trans. G. Bühler, S.B.E. Oxford, 1886.)

The extent to which this original basis has been modified and
revalued here in the Gita is glaringly evident to anyone who
reads the above side by side with the qualifications of the
several divisions mentioned in the Gita.

In Verse 41, we notice by the use of the word karmani
(actions) that it is necessary action which is at the basis
of the divisions here. Karma (action) belongs to the actual
world of necessity and therefore corresponds to the mould
rather than to the liquid, while the liquid corresponds to
the natural dispositions of temperament of the actor. These
flow into the mould to fit into the necessity of a situation.
The word karma (action) is repeated in every case.
But examination of some of the items constituting action,
such as serenity and self-restraint, especially as applied to
the brahmin and the kshattriya in Verses 42 and 43, reveals
that they are negative or contemplative in character, and
cannot be called proper actions at all.

Firmness and not running away from his appointed post in
battle, as vocational qualifications of the kshattriya cannot
be called active occupations. In the case of vaishyas and
sudras who are, as it were, bracketed together and included
in one verse (44), it is hardly fair to say that cultivation
or servitude are freely chosen according to temperament.
To be a man of affairs requires capital and without capital
one is pushed into the place of a proletarian by force of
necessity. Conscious matching of temperament with
occupation does not hold good in these cases. A stray dog
will eat a cake as well as left-over scraps without being able
to choose between them. To say that it does not deserve a
cake would be an unfair reflection on its character.
Aristocratic lap-dogs can cultivate superior taste if there is
the chance. It can be admitted that a hound has a liking for,
or consciously prefers, the chase. These revalued groupings
even here have therefore to be understood with a certain
latitude and imagination.

Moreover available vocations in modern times have
multiplied beyond measure. The ground staff on an airfield
required special aptitudes different from those of a pilot.


A criminal lawyer requires an acumen different from a professor
of theoretical law. Thus in every department the range of
variety in vocations available has become so complicated
today that it sounds archaic to modern ears even to refer to
the four divisions, as in the Gita. Dr. Alexis Carrel, in his
book "L'Homme cet Inconnu" (Man the Unknown) complains:

"Instead of recognizing the necessary diversity of
human beings, the industrial civilization has compressed
them within four classes: the rich, the proletarian, the
peasant and the middle class. The employee, the instructor,
the policeman, the pastor, the small medical man, the savant,
the professor of the university and the shopkeeper who
constitute the middle class have more or less the same kind
of life. These types which are so different in status are
classed together not according to their personality, but
according to their financial position."(translated)

The author of the Gita refers to the four divisions, it
must be presumed, by way of concession to Vedic orthodoxy
which he does not want to slight by neglect. This is evident
from the fact that, after this section, there is an extra sub-
section where the non-vocational way of life of a rationally-
minded spiritual man is portrayed, which conforms more
closely to the Gita pattern of teaching, in Verses 51 to 53.
Even the requirements of this chapter, which is conceived
on the basis of conforming to an actual war situation, is
transcended after Verse 53. After Verse 64, we find all
asymmetrical considerations peculiar to this chapter and
arising from the structure of the work, to be discarded,
with the Gita coming to its culminating teaching in fully
contemplative language.

The present lengthy comment on this coming section can
be excused, because of the fact that this theory of castes or
what is called varnashramadharma (caste-stage-duty) has
vitiated equality, justice and fairplay in Indian life for
many centuries. In the minds even of people like Mahatma
Gandhi it is a matter of much confused theory and practice.
It has even vitiated politics in the meting out of fair
justice in law courts where Manu is still quoted. Two
examples from Manu will suffice to indicate this injustice
with which Verse 73 of the Gita is equally concerned.


"No collection of wealth must be made by a sudra,
even though he is able (to do it): for a sudra who has
acquired wealth gives pain to brahmins."(x, 129)

"A brahmin may confidently seize the goods of (his)
sudra (slave) for, as that (slave) can have no property,
his master may take his possessions."(viii, 417)

The masses of India have awakened keenly to this injustice
which has corrupted Indian life. Several Hindu reformist
and religious movements have raised voices of protest
against it but have been lukewarm or apologetic in their

It is to the credit of Guru Narayana (1855-1928) to have
spoken out unequivocally and declared: "For men their
humanity is their cast" (manushanam manushatvam jatih)
and also: "Brahmins, etc., are not such (castes)" (na
brahmanadhih asya evam). His attitude agrees with the Gita
in throwing open freely the highest of spiritual attainments
whether Vedic or non-Vedic to all human beings, thus
recognizing one jati, caste or kind only.

It will be a consolation to the modern world also to learn
from this commentary that the Gita does not support any
closed form of spirituality but that it is a contemplative
text- book acceptable to the whole world. Any slight vestige
still remaining has to be overlooked and explained in the
light of the antiquity of the Gita itself.

Coming to the present Verse 40, the reference to earth and
heaven, in spite of its extensive scope, does not include
the whole cosmos of which the purushottama (Paramount
Person) is the Absolute principle. The entities here still
belong to the relative world within the Vedic framework of
values covered by the lower of the two purushas (spirits,
persons) of xv, 16.


brahmana kshatriya visam '
sudranam cha paramtapa
karmani pravibhaktani
svabhavaprabhavair gunaih

Of brahmins (quiet contemplatives), kshattriyas
(active contemplatives), vaishyas (men of affairs)
and of sudras (proletarians) too, 0 Conqueror of the
Foe (Arjuna), vocations are separately assigned in
conformity with the modalities arising from their
own nature.


Sankara thinks that the three in the first-mentioned group are to be distinguished from the last by the latter not having any right for Vedic studies. This is one of the minor examples of how, as we have stated elsewhere, Sankara tacitly connives at hereditary caste, as with Manu. Perhaps in his time it was too much to expect him not to do so, lest orthodoxy, already mistrusting him as a prachchhanna bauddha (Buddhist in disguise) should disown him altogether. The mention of sudra (servant, proletarian) disjunctly in this verse can be taken in the light that vaisya (farmer, man of affairs) covers sudra to some extent, since both have occupations outside the scope of contemplative values, as a scrutiny of Verse 44 will reveal.                             

To mention the latter on a par with the others would involve a fourth modality group as a kind of mixed sub-division. Moreover in ix, 32, vaisyas, sudras and women are seen already grouped together under one generic group of those of  "sinful" or non-contemplative origin.             
The brahmin represents the pure modality (sattva), the kshattriya (warrior) the active-passionate modality (rajas) and all the other three mentioned in ii, 32, could be mentioned indifferently as examples of a third grade covering the dark modality (tamas) and other non-contemplative values.

We have said that the word karmani (actions) is incompatible with such virtues as serenity, mentioned in Verse 42, except in a very extended sense.

Sankara has three alternative theories regarding svabhava
(own-nature). If the three alternatives do not prove anything
else, it at least shows us that we are treading on very
delicate disputed ground when we deal with these factors.
No cut and dried division of occupations to agree with
temperaments seems possible, and if such a possibility is
conceded it should be done as a concession made to those
spiritual qualities implicit in the Vedic religion, which
the author does not wish to .slight by omission.


samo damas tapah saucham
kshantir arjavam eva cha
jnanam vijnanam astikyam
brahmakarma svabhavajam

Calmness, self-restraint, austerity, purity, forgiveness
and straightforwardness, (pure) wisdom, applied


wisdom, belief: these are the (items of) activity of
the brahmin, born of his own nature.


The items referred to as constituting the duty or work
belonging to a brahmin's vocation which accords with his
own nature have all a familiar ring in our ears. None of them
have an obligatory character to justify its being included as
a duty; nor are they justified in being mentioned as activities.
In the free contemplative discussion of spiritual values in
the Gita, which is a non-obligatory textbook of wisdom, we
find frequent mention of such and similar values in previous
chapters. When we remember that Chapter x has no connection with
necessity or obligation, the pure contemplative character of
the items listed in x, 4 cannot be doubted. In xi, 1, Arjuna
refers to chapter x as dealing with adhyatma (pertaining to
the Self). This further proves the same.

Further, comparing these items here with such regular acts as
offering sacrifices and teaching the Vedas, mentioned by
Manu as being duties belonging to a brahmin (quoted under 
Verse 40, the root and branch revaluation of the basis of the
four groupings in the Gita as it deviates from Manu must be
clear even to the superficial reader.

The brahmin of this verse, unlike the brahmin of Manu, is one
who is sublimated or glorified in the light of contemplation,
with no vestiges of obligation clinging to the high pattern
of his spiritual life. While it would be good for those
who vociferously claim brahminism for themselves through
magnified religious egoism to aspire for these truly spiritual
qualities for purposes of healthy emulation, to claim such as
a prerogative belonging to a closed and static group in
society can only be considered an anachronistic conceit. The
true brahmin of the Gita approximates to a type of
contemplative rather than a ritualist and resembles in this
way both the tyagi (relinquisher) and the samnyasin


sauryam tejo dhritir dakshyam
yuddhe cha 'py apalayanam
danam isvarabhavas cha
kshatram karma svabhavajam

Prowess, brightness, firmness, skill, and also never-absconding, generosity and dignity of mien refer to the (pattern of ) activity of the kshattriya, born of his own nature.


Among the items belonging to the kshattriya (warrior) we can single out isvarabhava (lordly or dignified mien) and danam (generosity) as glaringly absent in Manu's list. Instead, we find in Manu that sacrifices and the study of the Vedas and political protection of the people are mentioned. Here we have again the picture of a sublimation, this time of the warrior here, who, except in the quality called skill or dexterity, cannot be said to be very active as a
representative of the active-passionate modality (rajas) with which his vocation is said to tally. The quality called dakshyam (skill) is one incapable of being imagined as a binding obligation.

Apparently the Gita does not see the possibility of envisaging either a political type of brahmin on the one hand, or of excluding from its recognized groupings a kshattriya (warrior) who is a non-combatant, non-political contemplative. The raja-rishis (philosopher-kings) of iv, 2, and ix, 33, held up as models or types in the Gita, are both contemplatives and men of action who could not strictly be included in any one of the four divisions as seen in Manu. Reference to women who could conform to contemplative patterns of behaviour is conspicuous by its absence although the possibility of high spiritual endowments in women finds mention in x, 34.


krishi gaurakshya vanijyam
vaisyakarma svabhavajam
paricharyatmakam karma
sudrasya 'pi svabhavajam

Ploughing, tending cattle, and trade are the (items
of) vocation of the vaisya, born of his own nature;
work of the nature of menial service is likewise
born of the sudra's own nature.


Comparison with Manu under this verse reveals that vaisyas
(merchant-farmers) there had also to offer sacrifices
and learn the Vedas, which is again glaringly absent here.
Here they are degraded almost on a level with the poor
sudra (servant) whose one duty according to both Manu and
the Gita is to serve his master.


Every sudra (servant), it must be conceded, would like to
be promoted to the grade of a vaisya (merchant-farmer) if
only he had the required capital. There seems to be no
difference between them spiritually, unless the sudra
(servant) represents a subnormal or wrongly-conditioned
individual. Recent history in India has proved that many
aboriginal or hill tribes make good soldiers. Missionaries
have proved that the lower "castes" offer good human
material which, when polished and presented, can vie with
the best of brahmins and kshattriyas. Moreover, many of the
superior qualities attributed to the first two groups are
capable of being brought about by nurture though not found
in nature.


sve-sve karmany abhiratah
samsiddhim labhate narah
svakarmaniratah siddhim
yatha vindati tach chhrinu

Devoted each to his own occupation, man reaches
perfection (in practical Yoga); how, devoted to his
own occupation, he attains such perfection, that do


The next four verses could be taken as constituting a
section relating to the same question of occupations and
duties. It contains the theory, much spoken of as an
important contribution, and sometimes referred to as the
doctrine of svadharma (own duty) of the Gita. It has
already been referred to more properly in ii, 35, and the
whole of the theory elaborated here has been more briefly
and strikingly stated already. in ii, 31 and 33, there is
reference to the same term svadharma (own duty), not as a
theory, but as an imperative necessity in actual circumstances
meant for Arjuna to recognize. At the end of this chapter
we are again closing-up on actualities, as we have already
pointed out. The theory of svadharma (own duty) is treated
here both in its practical and contemplative implications
at the same time.

The siddhi (attainment) cannot be considered as spiritual
perfection, inasmuch as after such a perfection in its fullest
sense, as employed in Verse 49 later, there is still a long
way to go, as stated in Verse 50, before one is fit to become
the Absolute as stated in Verse 53. Perfection in the context
of action, or even of practical Yoga, which is usually called a


siddhi is only a stepping stone to the final contemplative perfection in the fuller sense of the Gita's teaching which is yet to be distinctly outlined.

Note the slight difference between this verse, which refers
to svakarma (own action) and the svadharma (own duty) of
iii, 35, and reverted to in Verse 47 later. Simple karma
(action) can be a necessity without moral implications,
while the idea of dharma (duty) has in it an implied moral
conscience. Duty is something a man feels he ought to do
because of his convictions. There is a certain choice.
But in simple karma (action) the margin of choice for the
actor is very narrow.


yatah pravrittir bhutanam
yena sarvam idam tatam
svakarmana tam abhyarchya
siddhim vindati manavah

He from whom all existences come forth, and by whom all
this is pervaded, by offering worship to Him with his own
occupation, man wins perfection.


This verse enunciates a very important principle which we
have noticed running throughout the Gita teaching. It is
that of establishing proper bipolarity by the individual
to whatever high ideal he is capable of postulating on
the side of the transcendent.

The counterparts here are (1) the actual actor who is
plying his own trade here below immanently present and
(2) the above-mentioned transcendent principle described
here as the source of all activity resulting in all beings,
and who pervades everything hereunder. These qualifications
are expressly made very plain, as if in a popular
theological style, because if we take the instance of a
sudra he will not be able to think of the Absolute with
all the attributes by which, according to more philosophical
writing, the Absolute could be presented.

It is not necessary, either, for the bipolar condition to be
fulfilled correctly in the context of contemplation, that
the notion of the Absolute should be of a philosophicaly
high order. As long as the counterparts are within the
range of human nature or intelligence, they satisfy the
required condition and would tend towards perfection when
unitively brought together through worship.


As an ordinary Hindu worshipper would offer a flower to
his favourite idol, the man who is practising a certain
vocation is here recommended to take his vocation as an
offering to the transcendental principle, which would
represent the Absolute, at least according to himself. The
technique of Yoga is based on this kind of bipolarity and
unitive merging of counterparts in a central value, as we
have had occasion to point out in connection with various
other verses. This doctrine was called ekantika bhakti
(lonely or solitary affiliation to the Absolute). An
intermediate stage belonging to such a way of spiritual
progress is mentioned in Verse 55 later, and further
clearly affirmed in Verse 57, where bhakti (devotion) and
reason enter into Yoga hand in hand.


sreyan svadharmo vigunah
paradharmat svanushthitat
svabhavaniyatam karma
kurvan na 'pnoti kilbisham

Better is one's own duty (though) inferior, than the duty
of another well-performed. One doing the duty determined
by his own nature incurs no sin.


This verse read with the usual rational mind will fail to
produce any sense because of the contradictions implied in
the word vigunah (without quality, inferior), as compared to
the well-executed work or duty of another. The same doctrine
is more forcibly stated in iii, 35. In the usual life of
workmen, if the carpenter can do the job of a carpenter
well, and get better wages at that, nobody can doubt it
would be an advantage to him in a merely economic,
mechanistic sense. But if the suggestion here is that a
carpenter should always remain a carpenter and that neither
he nor his sons should ever aspire for a more advantageous
profession, that would amount to an absurdity. It is true
there are some advantages in a carpenter's son following
the profession of his father, but when we remember that
heredity segregates dominant and recessive characterstics
in animal and human life, as far as such heredity refers
to physical adaptability to different kinds of work, the
absurdity of following hereditary occupations would also
be clear.

It is also true that in nature certain animals are better
suited for certain activities than others. An elephant cannot
climb a tree, nor a squirrel haul logs of wood, or a fish live


of water. Common phrases like "a sheep in wolf's
clothing", "a jackdaw in peacock's feathers", "painting
the lily", "making a gift of stolen goods", refer to the
same anomaly as paradharma (another's duty).

Within the human species the strict rigidity with
which occupations fit types of individuals is capable of
more adjustment, and adaptation through training and education.
Nurture supplements nature to a large extent, and trained
men or women can adapt themselves to a wide range of
occupations which normally in the general animal world
would belong to different types.

A sensitive youth of poetic or artistic temperament might
feel himself a misfit in a military school and might even
become abnormal if forced to submit to its rigours. The
four types of persons just referred to in this chapter may
be considered as broadly representative types, but even
here intermediate-cases have to be supplied and provision
made for the fluctuating adaptability of the individual
within limits that are evident to reason.

In the Gita, it is not easy to see the relevancy of
referring to the danger of paradharma (another man's duty)
unless we should suppose that Arjuna is himself a case in
point. Arjuna's possible egoism is referred to in Verse 59
later. But his egoism has not been in evidence anywhere
in the Gita. On the other hand he is seen to have too much
humility when he says in ii, 5, that it would be better for
him to be a beggar than to fight.

This very humble attitude of Arjuna, however, contains
perhaps an element of paradharma (another's duty) inasmuch
as he is not a type fit to become a recluse or a samnyasin
(renouncer) as implied in his words. For a warrior of
active temperament to suddenly become a quiet retiring
recluse is incompatible. This brings us to similar
references in xvii, 5 and 6 to men who wrongly practise
austerities. Their asuric (demonic) nature has not been
sublimated to one that fits them with the spirit of
scripture. In the instance implied there we can admit the
nearest case within the Gita of a person who has mistaken
his vocation. In order to get at the root of this theory
of paradharma (another's duty) we have, however, to fit
the theory where it properly belongs in the context of
contemplation which is the most important primary
consideration in the Gita. When we read in ii, 63, that
a person who has lost his intelligence perishes, it is
not in a physical or mechanistic sense that this is meant.


Again, in Verse 58 later, Arjuna is threatened with a
similar destruction if he fails to think of the
Absolute and will not listen. These disasters can
have meaning only in a purely contemplative
setting. The evil of missing or mistaking one's
profession is not therefore so grave as it would appear
from the verse here. In this section it was just now
stressed that a strictly bipolar relation has to be
secured between an actor and his ideal for contemplation
to bear its results in any spiritual progress leading
to perfection. It is in the light of this principle
clearly enunciated that we should understand how one's
own duty is better than the well-performed duty of
another. It is meant to be contemplatively and not
logically true by the author. Such paradoxes are not
unfamiliar in the exposition of the subject of
contemplation, as we have noted already.

Another man's duty by its very name implies that it
is not organically related to the actor. It implies
either egoistic pretence to something he does not
deserve or else a misplaced humility in an attitude
of regret or self-pity, which might be momentary,
as in the case of Arjuna, and which makes Krishna
reprimand him in ii, 2 and 3. Whether it is ambition
or humility, doing another man's duty is a third or
interfering factor which spoils the condition of
bipolarity on which the whole of spiritual progress
rests. In this sense only can this reference to
svadharma (own duty) be understood. To understand
it in any other way would constitute politics
and would not properly belong to spirituality at all,
because to prohibit a man from entering
competitively into a better profession when he
could do the job as well as the other person is open
to the charge in principle of supporting slavery or
of violating the principle well-accepted in modern
life of equality of opportunity. In fact, it is exactly
in this fashion that contemplative texts like the
Gita have been misinterpreted deliberately or
unconsciously by interested groups. In a
competitive society where the struggle between
rival groups is but normal, this is not surprising.
But such interested interpretations have nothing in
common with the teaching of the Gita which is
certainly not a textbook on economic domination.
Regarding kilbisham (sin) which is the same as
the papam (sin) of ii, 33 and 38, when an action
becomes absolutely necessary, the very absoluteness
of its necessity is its justification.

Conforming to one's nature amounts to recognizing
a line Of action as absolutely necessary, although
as an excuse this would not hold good in a court of
law if one should murder


someone on such grounds, to take an extreme case.
In the absolutist context of contemplation, this
however is a line which is valid and which should
be kept in mind as a key to the way of

Conscientious objectors to war have the freedom
of thinking that war is not absolutely necessary as
applied to themselves. If they are so convinced,
and if such an attitude has a fair chance of being
tried out under any form of advanced government,
it is well and good. But the Gita could not
anticipate such a contingency in its antique times,
This is not said here to justify or to deny
conscientious objection to war, but only for
purposes of elucidation. There is also the truth
that if one general refuses to fight he will be
automatically replaced, and that does not help to
change the situation. The evil of war will be there
anyhow. We shall refer to this subject again under 
Verses 59 and 60.


sahajam karma kaunteya
sadosham api na tyajet
sarvarambha hi doshena
dhumena 'gnir iva 'vritah

Duty naturally belonging to one by birth, 0 Son of
Kunti (Arjuna), though accompanied by defects, ought
not to be abandoned; all undertakings are enveloped
with defects, as fire by smoke.


The same imagery here has been employed already in iii,
38. Action has been given a very inferior position in
ii, 49. Though inferior, it has still been recognized
because necessity is as eternal as contingency itself,
as stated in xiii, 19.

That a certain work is defective is therefore no
disqualification. That it is properly related to the act
or and belongs to his proper nature is more
important, at least in contemplative life, than its
superiority as such in a mechanistic sense. Again,
the apparent contradiction should be understood, as
we have explained in the last verse. Regarding the
use of the word sahajam (natural or congenital) we
have already explained that it does not necessarily
follow hereditary lines. Action is to be tolerated or
permitted in life as a necessary evil.


asaktabuddhih sarvatra
jitatma vigatasprihah
naishkarmyasiddhim paramam
samnyasena 'dhigachchhati

He whose reason is unattached in situations, whose
Self has been won over, from whom desire has gone, by
renunciation (samnyasa) he reaches the supreme
perfection of transcending action.


This concludes a section prior to beginning another section where the same subject of practical
spirituality continues in a sense more contemplative. This verse marks the termination of
a long discussion of spiritual values which still belong to the relative and necessary world of
action. The action and the actor have been studied in graded fashion with all possible degrees of values belonging to the context of action. It was in Verse 12 of this chapter that we found a
problem posed, but still left enigmatic. When the atyagi (non-relinquisher) was contrasted with the samnyasin (renouncer) instead of with his own counterpart the tyagi (relinquisher), there was a gap there left to the imagination. This was already partially explained in Verse 8 just before. Even earlier, in Verses 5 and 6, it was categorically laid down that sacrifice, gifts and austerity should not be relinquished, but should be performed, leaving aside attachment to results. From these verses it would seem that the Gita is in favour of relinquishment as against full samnyasa (renunciation of works). Now that the author has had a full chance to explain the various kinds of values still belonging to the relativist world of activity and spiritual life, however, he is now prepared to admit at least the possibility of transcending action altogether, not in any blind mechanistic manner of a heterodox rationalist of the Samkhya pattern, but in an organic way normal to a yogi as well as to one who understands the implications of the Samkhya philosophy. A finally revalued notion of renunciation proper to the Gita thus emerges to view in this verse.

Naishkarmyasiddhih (perfection of transcending action) does not result from mere negation of action. That would come under akarma (non-action) only, and would not deserve the title "supreme" applied here to the perfect yogi. Such a perfected yogi would, in principle, conform to the pattern of a samnyasin (renouncer). He is more than a tyagi (relinquisher) who is only capable of eliminating interest in the results of


action and not in action itself. Samnyasa (renunciation) then is at last admitted as a possible way of spirituality, although it looked as if it was discredited at the beginning of the chapter in favour of tyaga (relinquishment).


siddhim prapto yatha brahma
tatha 'pnoti nibodha me
samasenai 'va kaunteya
nishtha jnanasya ya para

How he who has ascended to perfection thereby obtains the
Absolute, that supreme consummation of wisdom, that do you
learn from Me, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), in brief.


This begins a new section where action is left behind with
the resultant perfection mentioned in the last verse. It is
no longer perfection which is the goal for the aspirant.
It is something of a more contemplative order by which he
is fit to become the Absolute as stated in Verse 53 below.


buddhya visuddhaya yukto
dhritya atmanam niyamya cha
sabdadin vishayams tyaktva
ragadveshau vyudasya cha

viviktasevi laghvasi
yata vak kaya manasah
dhyanayogaparo nityam
vairagyam samupasritah

ahamkararn balam darpam
kamam krodham parigraham
vimuchya nirmamah santo
brahmabhuyaya kalpate

Endowed with pure reason, restraining the Self with firmness,
detaching oneself from sound and other sense-objects, and
casting out liking and disliking;

dwelling in solitude, frugal in diet, controlling speech,
body and mind, ever in meditative contemplation, resorting
to dispassion;


and relinquishing egoism, power arrogance, desire, anger,
possessiveness, free from ownership and tranquil, he is
worthy of becoming the Absolute.


In these three verses a long enumeration of items which constitute the negative or contemplative way of spirituality is given. It cannot strictly be called spiritual practice but rather a way of elimination, like neti, neti (not this, not this), a withdrawal of the Self into the peace which is in one's Self.

We can discover a graded sequence based on the contemolative epistemology running through the various items. The purification of reason is the first item, and we pass on to such items as shutting out the senses and rejecting passions, and come to the requirements of solitude, frugality in eating, etc. We arrive at an item which involves true contemplation, referred to here as the pair dhyana (meditation) and Yoga (unitive understanding), both of which have to refer to the highest notion of the Absolute.

Passing on to the items of Verse 53, we notice that these conform to those mentioned in xvi, 18. There is a striking incompatibility of the items here with such subtle contemplative items as meditation and Yoga of the immediately preceding verses. These items are of a cruder kind not directly related to contemplation. Wisdom is often compared to a gentle mother. This reference to the avoidance of violence, arrogance etc., must be meant by the author to refer to items that could fall in line with the discussion before it changed its tone after xvi, 18, where it took on the tone of an angry punishing Jehovah. From xvi, 18 to the present verse the author had the express intention of covering the harsher and necessarily cruder aspects of spiritual life.


brahmabhutah prasannatma
na sochati na kankshati
samah sarveshu bhuteshu
madbhaktim labhate param

Becoming the Absolute, blissfully serene in the Self, he neither despairs nor hankers; equal-minded towards all beings, he attains a devotion to Me supreme (in character).


We come to a section beginning with this verse
and ending in Verse 63. Contemplative attitudes
such as serenity, self-control, etc., were also
alluded to in the section just over as in Verse 42,
but the perfection envisaged there was far from
being final. There is an ascent and a descent in 
Yoga as indicated in vi, 3. In sections hitherto, Yoga
could be said to have touched the highest point
attainable in the yogarudha (one risen in Yoga).
The practice of ordinary virtues by a man living in
society, and the rarer contemplative virtues still
treated in the context of action or practice, were
covered in the sections of this chapter in their
positive and negative implications, by Verse 53.
We now come to a section where perfection is
conceived on its own in a more neutral or equalized
manner, balanced between opposites.

Brahmabhutah (becoming the Absolute) follows
upon the same idea contained in Verse 53. The
ascent to perfection through action, implied in 
Verse 49, had to be taken up again and subjected to
further more contemplative discipline, before the
state of the yogi could conform to the requirements
of Verse 53. Even there he only became fit to
become the Absolute. After becoming the Absolute in
the sense of Verse 53, which may be described as
merely conforming to the pattern of absolutism,
there is evidently further ground to cover. Such
perfection still to be accomplished makes the subject-
matter of this section. The extreme subtlety involved
makes the author refer in Verse 63 to what is stated
here, as "more secret than all secrets".

We remember that many references to grades of
secrets have been mentioned in the Gita, especially
at the beginning of chapters, either by the word
paramam (supreme) or guhyam (secret). In ix, 2
the latter expression was used with the simple
adjunct raja (royal or public). In x, 1 and 2 there
was further underlining of the superiority of the
teaching. Arjuna in xi, 1, and again in xiv, 1
used the words "supreme"and "superior nature" in
regard to the wisdom involved in these chapters,
while in xv, 10 and 11 the secrecy may be said to
have reached its maximum, though we find it
further stressed in xv, 20 also. In the present
chapter at the end, and not at the beginning as
elsewhere, the word "secret" again occurs. A careful
examination of the structure indicates that several
grades of secret doctrines are present, one meant to
be more esoteric than the other, and culminating in 
Verses 63 and 64 of this chapter and ending with
the striking double superlative sarvaguhyatamam
(the most secret of all) with which the secrecy
reaches its term.


Thus "becoming the Absolute" used here refers
to only one of a series of steps still to be covered
before the Gita concludes. Like the literary devices
at the beginning of the work, which had gradations,
these expressions should be treated as punctuation
marks belonging to literary requirements, before
the contemplative teaching could be merged
unobtrusively and artistically, through such graded
steps, into the context of the Mahabharata epic.
In the present section the tension is further
relieved by one degree. The reference to a fatalistic
god in Verse 61 still retains the imperative tone of
necessity or compulsion, but in spite of this we find
that the technique of Yoga involving balance or
serenity is not altogether abandoned in Verse 54.
This new subdued tone and balanced way of teaching
is maintained up to Verse 58.

Returning to Verse 54 itself there is the word
bhakti (devotion). As a spiritual factor this
displaces action, which took the central place


bhaktya mam abhijanati
yavan yas cha 'smi tattvatah.
tato mam tattvato jnatva
visate tadanantaram

Through devotion he comes to know Me,
how far comprehensible I am and which, in
accord with first principles; then, having
known Me philosophically, he immediately
enters into (Me).


The primacy given to devotion in the last verse is
soon counterbalanced by its own intellectual
counterpart implied in the word tattvatah (in
accord with true principles). Knowledge again gains
primacy here.


sarvakarmany api sada
kurvano madvyapasrayah
matprasadad avapnoti
sasvatam padam avyayam

Although still continuing to do all actions (in Me),
treating Me as his refuge, by My grace he obtains
the everlasting undiminishing status.


Reference to action again comes in, but it is here
considered with a neutral attitude in the same spirit
as in iv, 18. The only difference here is that personal
surrender is included.


chetasa sarvakarmani
mayi samnyasya matparah
buddhiyogam upasriya
machchhitah satatam bhava

Mentally renouncing all actions into Me, regarding Me
as the Supreme, resorting to unitive understanding,
have Me wholly filling your (relational) consciousness.


What is stated in a more final form in Verses 65
and 66 is said here more mildly, where there is
still action, though viewed with a certain degree of
aloofness. This verse is not far different from Verse
xi, 55.


machchittah sarvadurgani
matprasadat tarishyasi
atha chet tvam ahamkaran
na sroshyasi vinakshyasi

(Thus with) consciousness filled with Me you will
overcome all obstacles by My grace, but if, from egoism,
you will not listen, you shall come to ruin.


Here there is reference to a grave disaster which
might befall Arjuna's contemplative Self and not
the body, as we have already explained.
The sarvadurgani (all obstacles) referred to here
is meant by the author to cover the actual diffidence
of Arjuna on the battlefield as also his hesitations
and doubts in the purer wisdom context.


yad ahamkaram asritya
na yotsya iti manyase
mithyai 'sha vyavasayas te
prakritis tvam niyokshyati

If, resorting to egoism, you think, "I will not fight"
absurd is this, your resolution. Nature will compel


This and the following three verses give a very
imperative and absolutist status to the factor of
necessity in life. The idea is not unknown in
Western philosophy. Kant's Categorical Imperative,
based on a priori reasoning, comes nearest to the
idea of the impelling force, here given a very
exalted status.

Man's personality is caught between his freewill
and the force of necessity. It would be fatal not
to recognize one or the other. Equal poise between
these two factors of necessity and contingency
constitutes Yoga as stated in the definition
samatvam yoga uchyate (equanimity is called Yoga)
in ii, 48.

The reference here to egoism as well as in the
previous verse has a special meaning as related to 
Yoga on the one hand, and to the supreme force of
absolute necessity of Verse 61, on the other hand.
If the ego is assertive, necessity can also be
assertive to its utmost limit. Arjuna was as humble
as could be, as we have already explained. The
question of arrogance does not arise with him. But
even humility, if it does not fit in with the context,
as contemplatively understood is a form of egoism,
just as relinquishment itself was disqualified as
"demonic" in Verse 8 earlier. Arjuna's egoism, if any,
may therefore be said to be of the negative type.
Further indications of the egoism meant here are
to be gathered from Verse 14 earlier where it is
said that out of the five factors which enter into
necessary action to make it imperative, the karma
(action) is only one who is caught or jammed as it
were, in between the others, some immanent or
necessary and others transcendental or contingent.
The daivam (divinity) or providential factor
mentioned, applied there to the contingent. Here,
however, in Verse 61, divinity is said to dwell
within the heart of each person and the necessary
and contingent are brought close together and
treated unitively.

As in the formula Aum tat sat (Absolute Word-
That-is-Real) which was analysed at the end of
chapter xvii, the spiritual attitude recommended
here may be said to be that of that tat (That)
of xvii 25.

Egoism has elsewhere been referred to as the enemy
of contemplation both directly and indirectly, in
iii, 27 and xvi, 18.

The triple gate of inferno of xvi, 21, again implies
the ego. The ego has its place among the elemental
forces as a factor belonging to the Absolute as seen
in vii, 4 and xiii, 5. A single self or individual
makes but a single swallow in the general necessary
situation called summer. Egoism consists in the
swallow isolating itself from the general situation
and claiming an ego for


itself, suffering from the illusion that it has a
disjunct status plucked away from the whole

A general who is ordered by his high command to
bomb a city is not responsible for the whole evil
of war, or even for the bombing; nor does his
wilful refusal or exit from the operation make any
appreciable change to the whole situation of
warfare. Some people tend to isolate themselves in
this way, claiming to be free, original or
progressive. Others likewise isolate themselves in
the name of conservatism or diehard forms of
orthodoxy. These are subtle spiritual egoisms. The
closed conservatism of orthodoxy expresses itself
often as glaring cases of wilful and harsh egoism
even in the name of spiritual values.

In his Upadesa Sahasri (One Thousand Teachings)
Sankara refers to the case of a religious
student who claims to be a brahmin. Sankara
considers this attitude as a disqualification for a
student of contemplation. Again, in the Chandogya
Upanishad (iv, iv, 1-5), Satyakama Jabala, the
humble, illicitly born novice in wisdom is readily
admitted by the Guru Gautama because he was
innocently non-egoistic. In its subtle and gross
forms egoism can be said to be the one single item
which constitutes the enemy of contemplation. The
Viveka Chudamani (Crest-Jewel of Discrimination)
of Sankara refers to the cutting by the sword of
wisdom of the three heads of egoism which are of
the gunas (modalities of nature), inclusive of sattva
(the pure or clear modality), which might be called
belonging to spiritual egoism, before one becomes
qualified to tread the path of contemplation.


svabhavajena kaunteya
nibaddhah svena karmana
kartum ne 'chchhasi yan mohat
karishyasy avaso'pi tat

That which through confusion, you do not
like to do, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), you
shall do that (very thing) helplessly, bound
by your own nature-born action.


The actual case of Arjuna is under specific
scrutiny here, and the factors of the situation
pressing on him from every side are mentioned in
their most actual aspects. It is to prepare the mind
of the reader to see the imperative nature of the
situation in which he was actually caught, as
Arjuna, Son of Kunti, and


not merely as a representative of a Self or soul, that
the preparatory discussion of the four divisions of
society and their corresponding vocations were
referred to in minute detail in Verses 18 to 45 of this

We have shown how the theory of castes was not mainly
conceived sociologically and this verse makes it evident
why it was even necessary for the Gita to refer to the
subject at all. As a theory in the Gita it has only an
incidental status to determine how necessity in a very
actual form pressed on Arjuna so that in his exceptional
case killing involved in war could be explained as
being without sin. It is not intended, however, as some
people hold, to teach in the Gita that killing by all
and sundry under other circumstances than that of
Arjuna's so pointedly referred to here, would be
spiritual, moral, or even fair. In his case it so
happened that his inner temperament and disposition
and internal impelling forces tallied with elements
that constituted the totality of the same situation, so
as to justify the action recommended by Krishna.
The situation is not unlike that of childbirth in which
a midwife might help. Not to give help would be
fatal to the mother involved, like not vomiting
would make a patient worse once the vomiting
has started.

Whether after the tension of war and the imperative
urge of the situation itself was over, Arjuna still
remained brazen or warlike, does not arise at this
juncture. But it is quite probable that afterwards
he became a contemplative in a truer sense. His
actual war experience must have had its sobering
contemplative lessons to teach him, as he himself
admits in Verse 73 later.

This very Krishna once asked Arjuna, in ii, 33, to
think of his honour involved. It was stressed many
times later that one must transcend all forms of
egoism including honour (e.g., xv, 5). Calling
attention to honour in this instance may be thought
a glaring inconsistency in the teaching of the Gita,
but the teaching had hardly begun when that
reference was made. Honour as a value was equated
to death in the next verse, ii, 34. Such a high status
given to the quality of honour, understood as a form
of chivalry, is itself contemplative in its character,
like values such as sportsmanship, statesmanship,
etc., in other fields of life. Moreover, the item of
honour formed a necessary constituent of the
situation of war (in Chapter ii). This is what is being
recognized in the present verse, though from the
other, final end of the discussion, when all other
contemplative values have been given due


The reference to honour was therefore justified, as
an initial contemplative value, by whose mention
Arjuna could be whipped or brought back to
normality from his morbid state of negation and
depression. In returning at the end of the Gita to
the actualities of the same war situation, the
reference to honour is again justified.


isvarah sarvabhutanam
hriddese 'rjuna tishthati
bhramayan sarvabhutani
yantrarudhani mayaya

The Lord dwells in the heart-region of all
beings, 0 Arjuna, causing all beings to
revolve through the principle of appearance
(maya),(as if) mounted on a machine.


The Absolute is conceived here with all the
possible implications of the categorical imperative
we have mentioned. The body is a slave to the
spirit and obeys its will and impulses to the
minutest detail. Even in a state of sleep or
subconsciousness, a person's dreams are regulated
and subject to his mental conditionings. A decision
concerning a necessary act in a given situation can
be said to be wholly dependent on the will of the
Absolute within man.

The reference to maya (the philosophical principle
behind appearance) as the inscrutable principle of
unreality which intervenes between the actual
world and reality itself absolves this verse from
any charge of postulating a god who is a ready-
made mechanical entity. He only appears to be so
by the intervention of this negative principle.


tam eva saranam gachchha
sarvabhavena bharata
tatprasadat param santim
sthanam prapsyasi sasvatam

Seek refuge in Him alone in all ways, 0
Bharata (Arjuna); by His grace you shall
obtain the peaceful abode, supreme,


This penultimate verse to this sub-section
abolishes the one-sided picture of the Absolute
implied in the previous verse with a view to
concluding this section.


The expression sarvabhavena (in all ways) means
with every possible approach that Arjuna is
capable of, in the light of all previous teachings,
and is discarding the partial view of the last verse.
The reference to an eternal and peaceful
dwelling-place indicates that all references to
necessary action are closed with this verse. The
Absolute itself regains a status in keeping with the
purushottama (Paramount Person) of Chapter xv.

Note that the reference in this verse is not in the
first person as usual, but in the third person. The
first person is used again only in Verse 66. From
this it would be legitimate to infer that isvara
(Lord) of Verse 61 approximates to a theistic
concept of God as near as could be, if at all,
within the whole range of the Gita. There are only
two other places where this third person is used, in
viii, 10 and 21. When the notion of the Absolute
in the Gita, which is not, generally speaking,
theistic, has occasionally to be represented in
objectified philosophical or theistic terms, then
that indirect or third person is employed.


iti te jnanam akhyatam
guhyad guhyataram maya-,
vimrisyai 'tad aseshena
yathe 'chchhasi tatha kuru

Thus has wisdom more secret than all that
is secret been declared to you by Me;
(critically) scrutinizing all, omitting
nothing, do as you like.


This verse absolves the Gita completely from
being looked upon as a dharma sastra (code of
religious obligations and injunctions). Although
some recommendations and advice have been
given, sometimes in a tone of authority as when
Krishna said, "Bow down to Me" in ix, 34, and in
a more obligatory context when the relinquishment
of results of action was mentioned in xii, 11,
all the other injunctions are to immediate
necessary actions like fighting, which Arjuna is
incidentally asked not to omit.

Now the shackles of obligation are overthrown
completely by the second line of this verse. The
secret so far is only inferior to the final secret
of the next section, especially in Verse 65, where
the doctrine is repeated almost in the same words
as in ix, 34.


sarvaguhyatamam bhayah
srinu me paramam vachah
ishto 'si me dridham iti
tato vakshyami te hitam

Listen again to My supreme word, the most
secret of all; because you are greatly
beloved of Me, therefore I will tell you
what is for your good.


No sooner has the curtain risen revealing a certain
grade of secret than another rises to reveal a
greater secret still, here called the most secret of
all. The personal reference here is to bring back the
nature of the dialogue between Krishna and
Arjuna to the status of a guru-sishya samvada
(teacher-disciple discourse) leaving behind the
great limiting factor of necessity.


manmana bhava madbhakto
madyaji mam namaskuru
mam evai 'shyasi satyam te
pratijane priyo 'si me

Become one in mind with Me: be devoted to Me:
sacrifice to Me: bow down to Me: you shall come
to Me alone: I promise you (in) truth: you are
dear to Me.


We come to the concluding verse of the Gita
(see also ix, 34), where the contemplative devotion
which has formed the central theme of the work
throughout conforms to the pattern of the free
"flight of the alone to the Alone", familiar in the
writings of Plotinus. We have elsewhere stated
that this forms the essence of the Vasudeva or
Bhagavata religion.

The reference to different forms of worship is in
keeping with the three strands of discussion which
were twisted together and continued as one strand
throughout the treatment of the subject of
contemplation. Prostration, sacrifice and devotion
to the Absolute, and yogic identification with the
Absolute are all meant to establish the same
bipolarity between the individual (who is here
Arjuna) and the Absolute (here Krishna), through
particular backgrounds which have been evident in
Indian spiritual traditions. The relation is most
intimate and complete when Krishna speaks in the
form of a pledge to a dearly beloved friend or


sarvadharman parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tva sarvapapebhyo
mokshayishyami ma suchah

Abandoning all duties, come to Me, the One, for refuge;
I shall absolve you from all sins; do not despair.


The theological manner of referring to the
Absolute in Verse 62, and the way of referring to
the triple strands of sacrifice, devotion and Yoga,
etc., in Verse 65, might still leave a lingering
opinion in the mind of the reader that the Gita has
something to do with theism, or that at least its
treatment and manner is that of religious tradition.
Even eminent scholars like Professor Franklin
Edgerton and Dr. S. Radhakrishnan have held such
a wrong point of view.

Although reference has often been made to
sacrifice and other items belonging to the subject
of religion, in the light of this present verse it is
finally clear that even these, inasmuch as they
belong to a purely religious context and therefore
binding on the followers, are to be discarded

Sankara has taken great pains to show that the
Gita's teaching is one of jnana (wisdom) only and
not karma (action), and even the combination of
wisdom and action which some think the Gita
recommends is ably rejected by him, particularly in
his comment on this verse. With him the dual
purpose of wisdom and action makes for what he
calls jnana-karma-samuchchaya (the mixing of
wisdom and action) which would amount to a
contradiction or absurdity.

An examination of the Gita itself is the best
method for us to form an opinion on this matter,
instead of relying, as Sankara does, on references
to works like the Upanishads, and resorting to subtle
polemical battles.

Chapter viii, 28 clearly states that the knowledge
as taught in the Gita, which cannot refer to
obligatory aspects of religion at all, transcends
what is implied in the Vedas, yajnas (sacrifices)
and tapas (austerity). We have noticed from the
structure of the work that the necessary aspects of
life come into prominence only in the chapters at
the end of the book. The Gita does not give an
equal status to necessity in life, side by side with
wisdom. Wisdom itself is considered to be
included by the Gita as belonging to the action
context and as being an incentive to action of the
right kind, as delicately brought out in Verses


18 and 19 of this chapter. The relation between
obligatory action and pure wisdom is very subtle
and we have had occasion to point this out under
Verse 12, earlier.

Even admitting, therefore, that the Gita teaches
wisdom and action it is not necessary to fall into
the error of thinking that karma (action) is not
considered an evil, though necessary. The Gita
does not recommend a way of works for salvation,
but only treats of action and gives it an important
place as a necessary evil.

The author has never been tired of repeating that
action is very inferior to wisdom, even as early as
ii, 49. Various analogies of flame and smoke,
mirror and dust, foetus and amnion, were given in
iii, 38, and desire leading to action was mentioned
as the enemy of wisdom in iii, 39. We see this
attitude consistently maintained throughout the
philosophical discussion in the main body of the
work. Even all sins could be transcended by the
boat of wisdom in iv, 33; and all action whatever
culminates in wisdom in iv, 33; and the fire of
wisdom consumes everything, in iv, 37. Almost
every chapter begins with a reference to wisdom.

There is really no room, after all these references,
even to suspect that the Gita is a religious work. In
fact it is called a brahma-vidya sastra (text on the
Science of the Absolute) on Yoga, at the end of
each chapter, and its resemblance to and origin in
the Upanishads, which are more contemplatively
philosophical than religious in character, must be
clear to the most superficial reader.

Even the popular poem, the Gita-dhyana from
the Vaisnaviya Tantrasara, says the Upanishads
are the cows and Krishna is the milker, Arjuna the
calf, the wise man the drinker and the ambrosial
Gita is the milk. (sarvopanishado gavo dogdha
gopala nandanah: partho vatsah sudhir bhokta
dugdham gitamiritam mahat).

The final blow to any vestige of belief in the
religious character of the Gita has been given by
this verse in which Arjuna is clearly asked to
abandon all duties. The only point that might
favour such an opinion consists perhaps in Arjuna
being asked to worship Krishna or the principle of
Providence in Verse 61.

From the vision of the universal form in Chapter
xi it was sufficiently clear that Krishna did not
represent any conventional theistic god of any
particular religion. Religion binds people to
common patterns of behaviour, and in the absence
of any such pattern except the paramount one of


oneself to the Absolute Reality mentioned at the
end of Chapters iv and xviii respectively, which
affiliation cannot be considered other than
philosophical, there is no reason to consider the
Gita as a religious text standing for any special
form of religion.

Inasmuch as Krishna represents the Absolute,
any religious connotation attached to the word
bhakti (devotion) becomes also one that can apply
as well to the context of wisdom. Sankara himself
defines bhakti (devotion) as constant meditation on
the Self.

That sins are to be transcended by wisdom alone
and not through religious practices of any kind, is
clearly the main teaching of the Gita, summed up
in this verse, as in Verses ix, 30 and 31 -
Notice that this applies to all sins.


idam te ad 'tapaskaya
na 'bhaktaya kadachana
na cha susrushave vachyam
na cha mam yo 'bhyasuyati

This is never to be spoken about by you to
one (spiritually) undisciplined, nor to one
devoid of devotion, nor to one indisposed
to listen, nor again to one who denies Me.


This verse contains the same principle of the
Bible which says, "those who are not with me are
against me", the corollary of which is that those
who are not against me are with me. A mutual
adoption between guru and sishya (teacher and
disciple) has always been considered an important
desideratum in the wisdom teaching.
Between the teacher and the disciple alone can
true dialectics thrive, and persons not
contemplatively disposed are more often repelled
than attracted to enter into such a bipolar
relationship. It is in this sense that the word tapas
(austerity, discipline) and bhakti (devotion) should
be understood. The minimum qualification of a
disciple or a wisdom-seeker is his willingness to
listen, which is mentioned here as susrusha
(eagerness to listen).


ya idam paramam guhyam
madbhakteshv abhidhasyati
bhaktim inayi param kritva
mam evai'shyaty asamsayah


He who gives this supreme secret to My devotee
(thereby) doing for Me supreme devotion, shall
doubtless come to Me.


A person affiliated to wisdom directly is as good
as another who might be affiliated to it indirectly
through the meditation of a friend who has similar
dispositions. In a queue formed for the purchase
of a travel ticket, all in the queue have the same
status of passengers, prospective or immediate.
The same holds good in the context of wisdom.


na cha tasman manushyeshu
kaschin me priyakrittamah
bhavita na cha me tasmad
anyah priyataro bhuvi

Nor is there besides such a one among men any who
is the highest performer of dear acts, nor shall
there be for Me another dearer on earth.


The word krit (to do) here still refers to action,
which is a subject normally belonging to this
chapter as a whole. After giving to action its due
place in this chapter, the Gita passes on to the
virtue of study, in Verse 70, which is a milder
form of action. In Verse 71 it passes on to hearing,
which is still less active, and it culminates in Verse
72 in which there is the destruction of delusion
and the removal of ignorance.

Thus by the end of this section, the contemplative
trend, even of this chapter, is restored.


adhyeshyate cha ya imam
dharmyam samvadam avayoh
jnanayajnena tena 'ham
ishtah syam iti me matih

And he, who will study this dialogue of
ours conducive to righteousness, by him
(in effect) I shall have been worshipped
through the wisdom-sacrifice; so I hold.


The equivalent of ritualistic action in wisdom-
terms is called jnana yajna (wisdom-sacrifice).
The verse gives tacit assent here to the doctrine
that it is possible to omit acts of sacrifice such as
enjoined in the Vedas, and adopt instead what may
be called a sublimated or more symbolic form of
sacrifice belonging to a life dedicated to wisdom.
The study of the Gita as a sastra (scriptural
textbook) is treated as an equivalent of such a


sraddhavan anasuyas cha
srinuyad api yo narah
so 'pi muktah subham lokan
prapnuyat punyakarmanam

And the man who may merely happen to hear,
endowed with faith and uncarping, even he,
liberated, shall attain to the good worlds
of those who perform meritorious deeds.


The expression anasuyah (one free from carping) occurs also in ix, 1. It refers to the minimum requirement for the establishment of healthy relations between Guru and sishya so that deeper secrets of wisdom can be discussed in the  form of a dialogue.

There must be a certain rapport or understanding in the form of a subtle spiritual contract in which the two persons involved adopt each other, which is free from carping, cavilling or nagging, or other marks of spiritual disadoption.

Mere passive hearing of the Gita is equated to the merit of the good worlds of those who perform other religious acts as understood in the ordinary sense.


kachchid etach chhrutam partha
tvayai 'kagrena chetasa
kachchid ajnanasammohah
pranashtas le dhanamjaya

Has it been heard by you, 0 Partha
(Arjuna), with one-pointed mind? 0
Winner of Wealth (Arjuna), has your
delusion of ignorance been destroyed?


The only active element implied in this verse is ekagrata (one-pointedness) of mind, which is essentially the same as attention. It is suggested here that attentive hearing will dispel delusion.


This is the minimum active requirement for affiliation to contemplation. The result indicated is admitted by Arjuna in the next verse.


Arjuna uvacha
nashto mohah smritir labdha
tvatprasada maya 'chyuta
sthito 'smi gatasamdehah
krishye vachanam tava

Arjuna said:
Gone is my delusion and Self-recognition
has been gained by me through Your grace,
0 Achyuta (Krishna); I am properly
established with doubts gone; I shall carry
out Your word.


Arjuna's answer contained here that he will do the bidding as told by Krishna has not much of an active implication at the end of this work, when the drama is to close. Whether he fought actually after these words is not relevant to the teaching and it is purposely left out. The obedience here can also apply to what he was asked to do in Verses 51 to 53 earlier, which covers the whole range of contemplative activity, if it could be called so.


Samjaya uvacha
ity aham vasudevasya
parthasya cha mahatmanah
samvadam imam asrausham
adbhutam romaharshanam

Samjaya said:
Thus have I heard this wonderful dialogue
between Vasudeva (Krishna) and the high-
souled Partha (Arjuna), causing my hair to
stand on end.


The drop curtain implied in the literary device of the Gita may be said to have come down in this verse, hiding Krishna. and Arjuna, and thus restoring the epic setting of the stage.


Vyasaprasadach chhrutavan
etad guhyam aham param
yogamyogesvarat krishnat
sakshat kathayatah svayam

By the grace of Vyasa I heard this supreme
and most secret Yoga and spoken by
Krishna himself, the Lord of Yoga, as
immediately given to my senses.


This verse refers to Samjaya as actually witnessing the scene where the dialogue took place. But then it brings in the name of Vyasa who is well known to be the author of the whole work.

A double literary device is here implied by which, cancelling one against the other, one can see that Vyasa himself as the author-manager appears in front of the curtain before the spectators. Or it can be treated as an author's signature. Sankara, however, prefers to think that Vyasa gave Samjaya the jnana-chakshush (wisdom-eye) by which he was able to witness the scene actually. A certain amount of myth-making being permitted in contemplative literature, we cannot seriously object to this way of putting it.


rajan samsmritya-samsmritya
samvadam imam adbhutam,
kesavarjunayoh punyam
hrishyami cha muhur-muhuh

0 King as I remember and remember this
marvelous and sacred dialogue between
Kesava (Krishna) and Arjuna, I rejoice
over and over again.


The stress on memory, or remembering, four times in this and the next verse, is to effect a beautiful fade-out of the scene, as a reminiscence to be treasured by Samjaya for all time.


tach cha samsmritya-samsmritya
rupam atyadbhutam hareh
vismayo me mahan rajan
hrishyami cha punah-punah

As I remember and remember even that
most marvelous form of Hari, great is my
astonishment, 0 King, and I rejoice over
and over again.


The vision of the Absolute represented by Hari (Krishna here) which can also be Vishnu for those who habitually recognize the Absolute by that name, is brought to the centre instead of the two characters of the dialogue. The reference to the vision of the Absolute is said by Sankara to apply to the vision of chapter xi, which corresponds to the nearest approach to such a vision of the Absolute coming within the Gita text. The conventional picture of a beneficent God, however, cannot be easily fitted into the awe-inspiring vision of that chapter.


yatra yogesvarah krishno
yatra partho dhanurdharah
tatra srir vijayo bhutir
dhruva nitir matir mama

Where there is Krishna, the Lord of Yoga,
where there is Partha (Arjuna) the Archer,
there (will be) prosperity, victory, progress
and well-established justice: such is my
(Samjaya's) belief.


In this finale Krishna and Arjuna emerge once again, this time as actors in the Mahabharata.
Ordinary righteousness, prosperity, victory and justice are mentioned here, so that the Gita may end on a note in the same key as that of the epic with which it began.

Though wisdom values are not related directly to these values mentioned, here their indirect repercussions on normal human life are such as to promote, through love of simple truth, the general all-round welfare of men in ordinary walks of life. The values here are all desirable in everyday life, and refer to what is true. The term dhruva (fixed, established) applied to justice here is related by derivation both to dharma (righteousness) and dharitri (the firm earth).

Krishna here may be taken to have reverted to his status as the charioteer, absolutist, friend and relation of Arjuna. Arjuna himself is wielding his famous bow Gandiva, which slipped from his hand in i, 30, when his confusion was asserting itself, and which he wilfully cast away as we know from i, 47. Now that normal conditions and relationships have been established and he is no more regretful nor in doubt, the normal positive consequences of
prosperity, victory, progress and well-established justice begin to prevail. The final value here is what has


been referred to more generally as lokasamgraha (world welfare) in iii, 20 and 25, where King Janaka is held up as a model.

ity srimad bhagavadgitasupanishatsu brahmavidyayam
yogasastre srikrishnarjunasamvade
samnyasayogo nama 'shtadaso 'dhyayah
iti srimadbhagavadgita upanishadah samaptah

Thus ends in the Upanishads of the Songs of God, in the Science of the Wisdom of the Absolute, in the Dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, the Eighteenth chapter entitled The Unitive Way in Behaviour Patterns.











1) Aum, I meditate on Thee, O Mother Bhagavad Gita, made up of eighteen chapters, showering the nectar of Advaita (non-dualism) that can banish all (phenomenal) becoming; inserted into the middle of the Mahabharata by Vyasa, that antique sage, as it was taught to Arjuna by Narayana himself, the Blessed One.


2) Salutation to thee, O Vyasa of expansive intellect, having eyes like the petals of an open lotus, who has lit the Wisdom-Lamp filled with the oil which is the Bharata epic.


3) Adoration to Krishna, representing in himself that wish-fulfilling heavenly tree (the summum bonum of an eternal cosmology) brought within the reach of those who refuge themselves (in him) as he, wielding the whip (of the charioteer) in one hand, and with the wisdom-teacher’s gesture (in the other hand), milks the nectar of the Gita.


4) All the Upanishads are cows, their milker is the darling of the cowherds, their calf (inducing secretion) is Partha (Arjuna) and the drinkers thereof are all men of good sense; and what is milked is Gita nectar great!


5) I adore that World Teacher Krishna, son of Vasudeva, the Divine One, who overcame Kamsa and Chanura, who was Devaki’s bliss supreme.


6) With Kesava (Krishna) at the helm, was crossed over by the Pandavas (of yore) that battle river for which the banks were Bhishma and Drona, whose waters were Jayadratha, whose blue lilies were the Gandharas, the crocodile wherein was Salya, and the sharks Asvatthama and Vikarna, and the whirlpool Duryodhana.


7) Born of the limpid lake of the words of the son of Parasara, may such a lotus which is even the Mahbharata epic, spreading the fragrance of Gita-meaning, containing numerous secondary anecdotes which are its pollen-bearing anthers, opening to wisdom-light because of having the story of Hari (Vishnu or Krishna) as its content of good teaching be our (everlasting) good as it cleans away the dross incidental to the Age of Kali (the evil cosmic period of thousands of years) as it is sucked day after day by the bees who are the good men on earth.


8) Adoration to Madhva (Krishna) source supreme of bliss, whose grace can make an orator of a dumb man and enable the lame to cross mountains.


9) He whom Brahma, Varuna, Indra, Rudra and Marut ever praise with celestial hymns. Whom the chanters of the Sama (Veda) do extol with songs comprising the Vedas, together with their sub-divisions, respecting word and order, not omitting the Upanishads too, He whom the contemplatives, with minds merged thereinto and established firm in meditation can see, whose end is beyond the ken equally gods and their rival spirits, to such a Divinity do I offer adoration!




Adhyatma, 28
Ad infinitum (regress), 125
Advaita, 136,269
Afferent impulses, 163
Agnihotra, 100, 148, 183
Agnostic, 142
Agony (angoisse), 112
Alexander, 109
Allah, 225
Ambidextrous, 497
Ambivalent,-ence, 60, 128, 169, 172,
236f, 284, 371, 421, 555, 559, 583, 626
Ananda, 28
Anandagiri, 15
Anterior opinion, 71, 73 (See purva-paksha)
Ancestor worship, 95
Anti-Christian, 317
Anthropomorphism, 513
Aquinas, St. Thomas, 237, 421, 555
Aristotle, 137, 203
Arnold, Sir Edwin, 89
Aryan,97, 109, 138, 680
Ashrama, 229
Athenian, 137, 524
Atma-maya, 47
Atmopadesha Satakam, 404
Aum, 117
Aurobindo, Sri, 9, 11, 12, 13, 109
Austerities, 64
Automatism, 164

Bergson, 20, 48, 154, 201, 269, 616
Besant, Mrs. Annie, 9, 11
Bhagavan Das, 9, 11, 112, 216, 226
Bhagavata Cult, -religion, 15, 339, 403,
407, 526, 548, 593, 594, 704
Bhartriprapancha, 269
Bheda-bheda Vada, 552
Bhishma-parva, 3
Bi-polar,-ity, 149, 188, 250, 263, 281,
294, 315, 319, 333, 335, 337, 340, 342,
343, 360, 361, 363, 368, 382, 403, 409,
416, 426, 437, 495, 509, 510, 512, 513,
515, 523, 548, 704, 707
Bible,-ical, 180,201, 329, 333, 339, 707
Brahma, 190
Brahman, 21
Brahma-sutra, 1, 2, 18, 68, 319, 432
Brahma-vidya, 18, 21
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 187, 190, 215,
318, 400, 457, 609
Brihaspathi, 216
Buddha,221, 530
Buddhi, 33
Buddhist,-ism, 126, 140, 257, 259, 272,
277, 282, 291, 293, 296, 331, 361, 373,
390, 415, 480, 597, 684
Burnouf, Emile, 4, 7

CARTESIAN, 139, 189, 603
Carrell, Dr. Alexis, 535, 682
Caste-system, 99, 137, 195
Catalytic agent, 194, 561
Categorical imperative, 202
Category, 79
Cathartic, 266
Chandogya Upanishad, 190, 215, 329, 700
Charvakas, 624
Chemistry, 194
Christ, 221,225, 537
Christian, -ity, 140, 168, 187, 225, 290,
293, 403, 445, 472, 514,
Confucius, 425
Cousins, Victor, 8
Creative intuition, 170, 182
Crowning secret {raja-guhyam), 36

DAKSHA (expert), 32
Dante, 2, 40
Darsana, 269
Darsana-mala, 334, 338, 376
Desai, Mahadev, 141
Deus-ex-machina, 323
Deussen, Paul, 151, 219, 596
Devas, 72
Deva-yana, 31, 63, 72, 76
Dhammapada, 361
Dharma-sdstra, 17, 631
Dialectic, -s, -al, 14, 21, 29, 30, 47,
48, 125, 144, 151, 168, 172, 282,
367, 377, 404, 412, 413, 453, 537,
538, 567, 568, 578, 625, 707
Dialectician, 314, 566
Dialectical awareness 124
" " " " " " " conflict, 30
contemplation, 207
growth, 212
method, 62, 130, 143,241
315, 353
relationship, 247, 339
revaluation, 22, 31, 58,
63, 65, 134, 146, 197,
275, 390, 408
" situation, 90, 342
Dialogue, (samvada) 73, 88
Dichotomy, 236, 583
Dionysius, the Aeropagite, 555
Don Quixote, 67, 128, 231
Double negation, 328
Dualism, 61
Dvandva, 62

Edgerton, F, 9, 10, 144, 403, 705
Efferent impulses, 163
Einstein, 492
Elan-vital, 201, 265
Eleatic Philosophers, 551
Energism, 10, 106, 176
Enneads, 132
Epicureans, 296, 624
European mysticism, 167


GANDHIAN ahimsa, 140
Gandhi, Mahatma, 6, 9, 10, 109, 119
Gandiva, 72, 712
Garbe, R., 3
Gaudapada, 16, 26, 122, 124
Gayatri, 649
Genesis, 326
Gita-dhyana, 7, 25, 73, 74, 76
,, mahatmya, 6
,, Rahasya, 10
,, theism, 145
Greek goddess, Gaia, 329
Gupta rule, 16
Guru-s, 21, 24, 25, 32, 33, 69, 76,
112, 114, 116, 117, 120, 162, 249,
250, 251, 310, 311, 382, 432,497,
498, 505, 709
Gurukula, 311
Guru-sishya-samvada, 22, 115, 704

hallucinations, 270, 582
Hamlet's ghost, 437
Hatha-yoga, 308
Heaven (Svarga), 152
Heavenly values, 75
Hegel, 20
Heliotropism, 489
Hercules, 86
Hermes, 432
Hermetics, 13
Hierophantic, 222, 325
,, values, 87
Hill, W.D.P., 9
Hitler, 680
Hitlerian justice, 412
Hoboism, 156
Homer, 459
Honour, 137
'Horizontal', 185, 305, 331
Hubert, Paul, 5
Hume, 373
Hypostatic, 222, 325, 461

Indra, 241, 355
Indian Civilization, 215
Inquisition, 640
Interpolations, 68
Introversion, 163
Isherwood, Christopher, 9
Isha Upanishad, 57, 125, 264, 303, 334,
335, 538, 576
Ishwara, 219, 541, 551, 560, 603, 624
Ishwara-Krishna, 121, 210, 544
Islam, 225, 514

,, vision, 648
Jaimini, 179, 257, 659
Jaina, 126, 257, 277, 282, 291
James, William, 472
jati-dharma, 100
Jehovah,323, 616, 695
Jesus, 84, 197, 339, 392, 396, 403
Jewish, 140
Jews, 635
Joan of Arc, 537
John of the Cross, St., 206
Jnaneshwar, Maharaj, 14

Kant, 125, 202, 390
Kapila, 121, 144, 166, 179, 210,
659, 666
Katha Upanishad, 22, 105, 112, 115,
365, 450, 596, 601
Kaushitaki Upanishad, 349
Kena Upanishad, 393
Krishna-Dvaipayana, 2
Krishnaism, 3
Kula-dharma, 100
Kural, 187

LAO TZE, 425
Lacombe, Prof. 0., 11, 145, 217, 482
Lakshmana, 97
Lakshanartha, 551
Leibnizian monad, 397
Libido, 167
Light of the World, 84
Lingua mystica, 118
Locke, 373
Logicial positivists, 112
Logic of emotions, 113
Logic of pure reason, 113
Logos, 117
Lokayatikas, 624

Madhva, 15, 185, 526, 593
Mahabharata, 1, 3, 23, 67, 69, 73, 88,
139, 229, 360, 425, 432, 497, 589, 697,
Mahabhashya, 3
Maha-vakya, 29, 635, 649
Maitri-Upanishad, 457, 589, 590, 597,
Mandukya Upanishad, 117, 133, 345,
398, 602
Manu, 41, 214, 228, 230, 412, 578,
585, 666, 682, 684, 685, 686
Manu-smriti, 229, 230, 589, 620, 680
Manu Subedar, 14
Max Muller, Prof., 178, 544
Matthew, 403
Maya, 47, 135
Mendel's laws, 619
Metempsychosis, 122
Methodology, 116, 125, 134, 344, 567
Milinda questions, 22
Mill, 373
Milton, 401
Mimamsakas, 29
Mohenjo-daro, 73
Mohammed, 225
Moses, 84, 396
Mount Carmel, 206
Mulaprakriti, 135
Mundaka Upanishad, 118,148, 270, 273,
326, 367, 445, 489, 556, 563, 602
Muslims, 635
Mussulman, 225

NACHIKETAS, 22, 23, 105, 112, 115
Nagasena, 22.
Narada, 3, 432, 485, 503, 523, 525
Naraka, 74
Narayana Guru, 216,225, 270, 274,
330, 334, 338, 376, 404, 414, 492
Natura naturans, 198
Natura naturata, 198
Necessity 33, 34 '
Neutral position, 89
New Testament, 223, 552
Newton's laws, 492
Nichomachean, 137
Nightingale, Florence, 456
Nihilism, 126
Nimbarka, 15
Nyaya, 257, 314, 328, 664, 667
Nyaya-vaiseshika, 46, 124, 126

Occasionalism, 139, 640
Otto, Prof. R. of Marburg, 146
Ouranos, 514

Panini, 3, 225
Parasara, 2, 7, 25
Parmenides, 20, 47, 59, 538, 551, 568
Patala, 96
Patanjali, 3,4 6, 144,145, 157, 166,
175, 196, 244, 245, 268, 279, 298, 307,
428, 447, 522, 523, 525, 546
Paul, 556
Peter, 556
Pharisee, 528, 628
Pitri-loka, 100
Pitri-yana, 31, 63, 76, 95, 96, 100
Plato, 2, 22, 48, 241, 282, 459, 524,
Plotinus, 20, 48, 132, 241, 347, 357,
Post-Buddhist, 235
Prabhavananda Swami, 9
Pragmatism, 142, 193,
Prajapati, 185
Pravritti ('energism'), 10
Professional orientation, 230
Proletarian (sudra), 230
Pre-Aryan, 216
Pre-Socratic, 317, 538
Pre-Vedic, 216
Purva-mimamsa-darsana., 659
Purva-paksha,-in, 19, 21, 26, 71, 89,
100, 103, 122, 229, 250, 308, 339, 459
Purusha-sukta, 466


RADHAKRISHNAN, S., 9, 144, 145, 146, 151,
226, 229, 232, 294, 525, 526, 705
Raju, 10, 106
Raja-Yoga, 308
Rama (Sri), 74, 93, 109
Ramakrishna, Sri, 30, 528
Ramana Maharshi, 6
Ramanuja, 15, 129, 185, 195, 313, 526,
542, 552, 593, 603, 660
Ramayana, 74, 96, 360, 451
Rapport, 310
Rationalist (Samkhya), 112
Ravana, 74
Reflexive thought, 164
Reincarnation, 130, 131, 218
Relative-mindedness, 75
Relativity Theory, 34
Repressions, 266
Rhapshody, -ic, 68, 80
Rousseau, 580
Rig-Veda, 127
Royal Science, 36
Ribot, Prof.T.A., 8, 21
Russell, Bertrand, 536

SACRIFICE (yajna), 64
savoir-faire, 320, 527
Samkhya, 126, 131, 146, 147, 194,
195, 212, 279, 283, 314, 317, 322,
327, 328, 330, 331, 333, 388, 444,
447, 531, 540, 544, 563, 564, 566,
576, 611, 657, 659, 666, 667, 673,
678, 693
Samaritan, the Good, 644
Samkhya-buddhi, 33
Samkhya Karika, 30, 590, 665
Samnyasa, -i,-in, 29, 30, 65, 661,
685, 693
Samvada, 24
Sankara, 13, 15,16,26, 31, 59, 71, 74,
116, 120, 128, 153, 156f, 159, 167,
177, 185, 215f, 226, 236, 258, 259,
269, 285, 325, 357, 359, 382, 453,
497, 500, 516, 525, 530, 535, 538,
539, 541, 542, 546, 548, 550, 552,
558, 560, 561, 563, 564, 565, 566,
569, 575, 582, 593, 603, 607, 609,
638, 644, 666, 684, 705, 707, 711,
Sankarshana, 339
Sarma, Prof. D.S., 10
Saraswati, 85
Sarcasm, 68
Schlegel, F. von, 7
Schrodinger, 604
Science of the Absolute, 21, 84
Scandinavian mythology, 446
Shabari, 109
Shakespeare, 204, 456, 494, 608, 637
Shastra, 29
Shiva, 231, 394
Shaivaism -ite, 225, 282
Shrutis, 23
Siddhantin, 22, 339
Siddhas, 96
Sishya, 310
Smartha, 17
Smriti, 17, 23
Social obligation, 39
Socrates, 22, 128, 137, 459, 524
Socratic method, 22, 538
Solipsicism, 67, 304
Spinoza, 121, 125, 198
Sreedhara-Swami, 15
Stimulus-response psychology, 123
Stoic, 296
Sub-specie-aeternitatis, 121, 372
Subhadra, 204
Sufi, 472
Svetaketu, 33, 329
Svetasvatara Upanishad, 3, 26, 178, 268,
483, 558, 597, 602
Syncretism, 67
Taittiriya Upanishad, 219, 391, 415,
435, 496
" " Samhita, 359
Tantra, 13
Tarka Sastra, 57
Tellus, 329
Tennyson, 221
thcophany, 146
Tilak, B.G., 4, 9, 10, 159
Tiru-k-kural, 187, 453
Tower of Babel, 84
Twice-born, 80
Tyaga, 29, 30, 96

Unitive, 149
Unmanifest, 399
Upadesa-sahasri, 700
Upanishad,-s-ic, 1, 163, 178, 191, 215,
244, 264, 268, 271, 273, 277, 303, 311,
319, 324, 325, 334, 341, 356, 357, 365,
367, 368, 373, 383, 386, 393, 400, 403,
408, 415, 416, 457, 553, 555, 569, 576,
596, 600, 631, 635, 636, 648, 652, 680,
705, 706
Ushmapas, 485
Uttara, 88
Uttara-mimamsa, 257

VAISESHIKA, 125, 364
Vaishnava,-ite-ism, 16, 225, 231, 282,
Vallabhacharya, 15
Values, 36, 168
Varaha-purana, 6
Varuna, 241, 355
Vasishtha, 528
Vasudeva, 217, 339, 407, 459, 506, 548,
Vedas,-ic, 1, 28, 59, 60, 68, 96, 151,
152, 154, 161, 178, 215, 227, 232, 241,
242, 246, 247, 257, 272, 275, 305, 309,
313, 327, 328, 333, 338, 341, 344, 354,
355, 364, 366, 370, 389, 400, 404, 425,
433, 440, 441, 449, 474, 481, 484, 497,
500, 553, 561, 563, 595, 597, 600, 609,
612, 613, 631, 635, 636, 648, 668, 680,
682, 684, 705, 709
Vedism, 29, 72, 147, 150, 160, 162,
191, 215, 216, 282, 443, 512, 596, 623,
635, 652, 678
Vedanta, 21, 60, 125, 136, 147, 148,
151, 152, 153, 183, 187, 195, 211, 256,
269, 300, 311, 313, 317, 323, 330, 331,
339, 373, 382, 390, 394, 399, 414, 429,
432, 434, 450, 452, 476, 477, 499, 525,
530, 582, 600, 609, 610, 648, 667
Veda-Vyasa, 2
Verbum, 117
'Vertical', 185, 305, 331
Vijnanavadin, 122
Via negativa, 109, 167
Vinoba-Bhave, Acharya, 15
Vivekananda, Swami, 530
Viveka-chudamani, 18, 116, 618, 700
Vrishnis, 72, 138
Vyasa, 2, 23, 24, 46,4 9, 66, 69, 70, 71,
107, 127, 128, 209, 256, 432, 459, 470,
492, 513, 559, 575, 579, 680, 711

WAY OF THE FATHERS (pitriyana), 72
Way of the gods (devayana), 72
Wilkins, Charles, 4
Williams, Monier, 217
Wisdom-dialectics, 412, 432
Word of words, 28
Yajnavalkya Dharma Sutras, 589
Yajnavalkya, 294, 400, 412
Yama,22, 112
Ygdrassil, 446
Yoga-buddhi, 33
Yoga, Lord of, 24
Yoga-maya, 47
Yoga-sutras, 3, 428
Yoga-Vasishtha, 3, 22, 93, 360
Yudhishtira, 432

ZENO, 20, 47, 59, 172, 357, 388, 496,
538, 551, 611
Zone of action, 177