Bhagavad Gita





In many respects, as we have indicated more than once, we
arrive here at a section of the Gita in which its best
contribution as a revaluation of ancient wisdom, both in its
exoteric and esoteric aspects, as well as in its pure and
practical aspects, taken together, is stated.

For the first time we notice that the initiative passes from
the questioner to the answerer in the person of Krishna, who
himself represents the Absolute. The disciple's initiative
begins to be weakened. The rapport established between him
and his Guru becomes more complete and the mutual adoption
implied in the situation becomes more patent There is no
complaint on the Guru's part of carping by the disciple,
nor any complaint of the Guru confusing his mind on the part
of Arjuna.

From the opening of this chapter the Guru himself begins
to occupy the centre of the stage. He is at least as interested
in teaching as the disciple seems to be in learning.
The nature of the subject-matter of this important
chapter is sufficiently clear from the opening verses
themselves. It can be readily seen why the title of the
chapter itself is taken from the second verse.

As we scan the rest of the chapter we find there is a more
balanced symmetry maintained here than was possible
hitherto, although at the end of chapter viii the author
managed to state the case of the dichotomous principle
involved in this science as closely and clearly as was
possible (see viii, 26).

The Absolute represented by Krishna is made to declare
unequivocally in Verse 29 of this chapter that he is neither
interested in the good or the bad people, but is indifferent to
both of them alike. This aloofness and neutrality denotes


highest level of purity that can be attained in the teaching of
the Gita. Even the importance of his own personality tends to
be minimized in this chapter. The Vishnu, the avatar, the
Krishna aspects, tend to be effaced and merged into a
comprehensive and pure notion of the Absolute in the light
of the finalized teaching contained here. It is only the
foolish, according to Verse 11, who are carried away by the
manifested aspects and are unable to grasp the notion of the
Absolute in its purity and totality.

The mystery and wonder of the Absolute is enhanced by 
Verse 5 where all mutual interdependence between the
phenomenal and the noumenal is cleverly cancelled out and
all theological scaffolding removed, so that the notion
of the Absolute emerges in all its purity and glory.
The relative aspects of holiness or spirituality are again
alluded to only to be brushed aside as being of no
consequence, as if with a little gentle play of sarcasm in 
Verses 20 and 21.

This cannot be missed by the eye of the keen critic.
The importance of recognizing the Absolute with higher
reasoning in terms of principles is referred to clearly in 
Verse 24. Although it sounds very tolerant of all approaches
to the Absolute it still insists most emphatically upon laying
down that they fall who do not know the nature of the Absolute
in a manner in keeping with tattvah (first principles). While
most forms of worship are tolerated or permitted, it is the
wisdom of the Absolute alone which can emancipate.
The chapter ends by a reference to the hope which the
way of the Gita gives to all people without distinction,
whether they are the worst sinners, proletarians, or women.
The open way here does not exclude or shut its doors to

As a kind of final mark of punctuation we have the
famous Verse 34 repeated in almost identical form in xviii,
65 at the end of the whole treatise. Even taken with the
slight variation, this verse has a significance which should
never be lightly overlooked. The verse marks the middle of
the work and therefore holds a very strategic position
rhetorically in the Gita teaching as a whole.

It concerns what we might call the central doctrine of the
Gita, if such a doctrine could be singled out at all. The
establishment of a strict unitive relationship with the
Absolute as understood through the various chapters of the
Gita is what is recommended as the best way to attain the
Absolute which is the same as the highest goal or salvation.


Such a unity between the two has to be further understood
to be at every conceivable level or form of spiritual
affiliation whether the form is of worship, personal
surrender or yogic unity.


Sribhagavan uvacha
idam tu te guhyatamam
pravakshyamy anasuyave
jnanam vijnana sahitam
yaj janatva mokshyase 'subhat

Krishna said:
To you indeed who do not mistrust I shall declare
this profound secret of wisdom together with its
applied aspects, by knowing which you shall be
freed from what savours of evil.


We have pointed out how the initiative here passes on to
the teacher. Krishna now occupies the centre of the stage.
The force of the word tu (indeed) almost implying "on
the other hand", points at the special importance of this
chapter as intended by the author. Attention is further
drawn to the unique nature of the teaching here by the
expression guhyatamam (most secret). But the superficial
reader is unlikely to see in this chapter in which statement
this great secret of secrets is lodged.

The reference to asuya (usually translated "cavilling" or
"carping" and given here as "mistrust") involves an attitude of
disadoption, resulting in a lack of sympathetic understanding
between teacher and pupil.

The power to listen is as important as the ability to teach,
especially where such profound secrets are involved. The
relation has to be strictly bipolar. Mistrust and rivalry
between the two have to be completely eliminated. The
importance of this guru-sishya relationship is not unfamiliar
in other works such as the "Viveka Chudamani" of Sankara. It
is even held generally in Vedanta that no worthwhile
teaching can come except through the mediation of a proper
guru, and the recognition of a teacher who is pleased by the
service rendered by a pupil is a desired condition, usually
expressly indicated in all samvadas (philosophical discussions)
of the same kind before any serious teaching begins.


Here in this chapter this particular type of recognition is
given to Arjuna as a disciple, for the first time.
Expressions like saumya (pleasing one) and vatsa (child)
are found elsewhere in the Upanishads, which indicate the
same mutual recognition which may be said to be a form of
pratyabhijnana (counter-recognition).

The reference here to the absence of such a disadoption is
therefore an important prerequisite before the proper
teaching can begin.

The expression jnanam vijnanasahitam (wisdom together with
its specialized implications) would suggest in the first
instance that there is even in this chapter, detailed
indications regarding the practice of spirituality. As a
matter of fact we do not find any such practical directions
at all, except perhaps what is implied in Verses 26 and 34.
The reference to wisdom coupled with specific knowledge must
therefore be understood to mean that here in this chapter
the pure and practical aspects of wisdom are unitively
treated as if they were one. Practice is not a department
of spirituality outside the scope of pure wisdom.
The previous discussions have laid the foundation stone
by stone and step by step for the justification of the
stand taken here.

The last vestige of duality which seemed to persist as
between theory and practice in the previous chapter
where it recommended "remember Me and fight"(viii, 7)
and the double indication of "utter Aum...and remember
Me" (vii,13) are here transcended.

The reference to asubhat (from evil, sin, something
inauspicious) comprises both evil and sin understood in
the moral, religious or value sense. This is a hearkening
back to the starting position of the work as a whole,
because it was upon Arjuna's obsession with sin or evil
that the discussion began, and thus it is the central
practical problem which should never be bypassed, even
in this central chapter.

The way of moksha (emancipation) and the way of wisdom
are treated indifferently here. This is quite in keeping
with what has already been said in iv, 36, where the raft
of wisdom was referred to as being able to carry one beyond
sin. In fact, a position almost similar to this has once
been covered in Chapter iv, where wisdom is given full primacy
over all religious practices whatsoever, including the
highest forms of sacrifice, as in iv, 33. This, taken together
with iv, 32, almost


reaches the same height of the absolutist doctrine more
definitely finalized in the present chapter.


rajavidya rajaguhyam
pavitram idam uttamam
pratyakshavagamam dharmyam
susukham kartum avyayam

Royal science, crowning secret, purificatory is this,
superior, objectively verifiable, conforming to
right living, very easy to live (and) subject to no


The character of the teaching which excels, both as a
public or scientific and open way of wisdom, as also one
which holds the profoundest of secrets which belong to the
esoterics of spirituality, is extolled further in this verse.
The teaching becomes royal in the sense that a public
road may be said to be royal or belonging to the kingdom,
and thus open to all who choose to walk on it. It is not
reserved for the chosen few. This is made clear in Verse 32.
The secret referred to may be said to be indicated in 
Verses 11 and 24. Here the epithet raja means "crowning"
and is not because of its public nature but in the unique
value of the teaching.

Pavitram (purifying) should be understood in the same
sense as already indicated in the previous verse. It is what
clears away the dross of evil whether in the form of sin,
action or ignorance.

The term pratyakshavagamam (experimental) as understood
in modern branches of knowledge, is a quality rarely
claimed for teachings which belong to the metaphysical
domain. No laboratory experiment can be meant, but in
so far as the methods and results come within the purview
of what could be observed in objective terms, this epithet
as applied to the teaching here can be justified. An
objective, critical, scientific treatment could be included
under the term here.

The word dharmyam (in accord with right living) is also
important, because the prevailing notion with regard to
esoteric teaching is that it is removed from the norms of
good life here understood in the human context. As a public
discipline, on the other hand, philosophy can err by going to
the other extreme of setting up standards beyond the reach
of the ordinary man.


It is claimed here that the teaching of the Gita avoids
both these extremes and that it is "easy of practice", while
it remains avyayam (unexpended). This last epithet raises it
to the category of the eternal once again.

The fact that this way with such an open character does
not yet detract from its superiority is implied in the word
uttamam (superior).


asraddadhnah purusha
dharmasya 'sya paramtapa
aprapya mam nivartante
mrityu samsara vartmani

Men without wholehearted faith-affiliation to this
way of right living, 0 Burner of Foes (Arjuna), not
attaining to Me, return to the paths of mortality
and cyclic repetition of existence.


This verse begins the main section where the notion of
the Absolute which Krishna represents is subjected to final
revision and restatement. He puts himself at the head of all
Vedic and other divinities, and his relation to creation is
made as mysterious and paradoxical as befits the purest
way of appraising the Absolute.

Although permitting all forms of worship from the most
childish such as the offering of fruit and flowers to God, he
says that all those who do not understand him as the
Absolute, fall. Thus this chapter speaks of a way of life
which is referred to in this verse as dharmasya'sya (of this
way of right living).

When we consider that in its conclusion the Gita, in xviii,
66, says that anything known as dharma (codified conduct)
may be abandoned by the absolutist, a reference here in the
present verse to faith and conduct as if still tolerated, is
only in view of the fact that the discussion is not yet
completed. Even here, however, the word dharma (codified
conduct) should be understood to be used in the general
sense, as when we say upanishatsu dharmah (way of life in
keeping with the Upanishads). Likewise, the faith here
refers to the ekantika bhakti - the one-pointed devotion
to the Absolute.

Arjuna is still a seeker, and like a brahmachari (religious
student) he may be said to begin to walk in the path of the
Absolute. At the end of this chapter, however, we see that
he has no need any more to think in terms of the way any


In the word asraddadhinah (those who lack faith) it is
suggested that a certain adoption of the new revalued teaching
is an important necessary condition here. One has to be free
from all prejudices. Thus there is the need for such insistence
in terms of faith, though the goal is not strictly a religious
one, but one which pertains to universal wisdom. Faith here
can only be understood as referring to wisdom.

The subject of return and non-return of the soul after death
is alluded to again here in the term nivartante (return)
because this is the pivotal consideration on which the subtle
distinctions intended in this chapter and in the Gita as an
Upanishad may be said to revolve. Referring forwards we
have another allusion to this in Verse 21, and we recall also
that chapter viii ended in Verse 26 on this very same theme.
The distinction of the Gita consists in its upholding of the
non-returning path, which is the same as that of thorough-
going absolutism. All other paths, it is suggested here, make
one return to what is described in this verse as consisting of
the way of mortality and cyclic repetition of existence to
which all relativist spirituality must necessarily be subject.
The plural case emphasizes what has been said in 11, 41 .


Maya tatam idam sarvam
jagad avyaktamurtina
matsthani sarvabhutani
na cha 'ham teshv avasthitah

By Me all this world is pervaded, My form unmanifested;
all beings have existence in Me and I do not have existence
in them. 

The unravelling of the mystery of the Absolute begins in
this verse. It is insisted here that the Absolute is without
form. The same vague or unmanifested nature of the
Absolute is further emphasized in Verse 11.

Although thus the formless Brahman is given a central and
most important position in the Gita teaching, a concession is
made in xii, 5 in favour of persons who might find such pure
teaching difficult of adoption in their own personal lives.
When we note this we find that the pure philosophical
position of the central core of the work is deviated from in
later chapters, greater and greater concession being made to
the workaday requirements of the ordinary man, until we
become able to


distinguish in this present chapter and in Chapter xviii the
various natural duties which belong to the four orders of
society based on individual variations in type and vocation.
In a graded descending series in successive chapters the
work touches on more concrete aspects such as the three
gunas (modalities of nature), higher and lower values
implied in conduct, after recognizing the duality between
kshetra (field) and kshetrajna (knower of the field). An
awe-inspiring picture of the Absolute conceived in terms of
time or becoming leads to the notion even of a punishing
god in certain of the later chapters. The peak of the
discussion being over in Chapters ix and x, there is need for
the structural arch of the Gita to rest on real terra firma
once again. If this general structure is kept in mind, we
shall be able to see that although, doctrinally speaking, the
Gita upholds the manifested Absolute, it progressively
compromises its own teaching when it comes to a life that
is to be lived in workaday terms.

The paradoxical wonder of the Absolute is therefore at its
highest in the present chapter. In the light of what we
have said it is but natural. Beings exist in the Absolute but
the converse is not true, and is here denied. Exactly what
then is the relation between the Absolute and existence
remains a wonder and a mystery. This mystery is further
heightened in the verses that follow.


na cha matsthani bhutani
pasya me yogam aisvaram
bhutabhrin na cha bhutastho
mama 'tma bhutabhavanah

And further, beings do not exist in Me; behold
My status as a divine mystery; further, Myself
remaining that urge behind beings, I bear them
but do not exist in them either.


Manifested beings do not have existence in the Absolute
either, although the relationship of ruler and ruled might be
postulated between them. Mamatma (Self of the Absolute)
seems to make the relation subtler still, as it is this Self
which is stated here to be the vital urge behind the
emanation of all beings.

What remains when all these vague indications are kept
in mind? This is stated frankly, in the verse itself to be a


by the expression pasya me yogam aisvaram (behold My
divine mystery). Yoga here points at some mystery as in the
phrase Yoga Maya (the illusive effect of negative reality)
employed in vii, 25.

We are reminded of Zeno's paradoxes here. The wonder remains,
unsolved by any logic. When the meaning is subjected to final
scrutiny it amounts to saying that Krishna as representing
the Absolute has no ahamkara (individual ego) as might be
the case with ordinary human beings. If then, we ask why
the personal pronoun is used by Krishna we are obliged to
say that it is for purposes of conforming to literary
requirements. It is thus that he attains the divine status
of a wonder, by being an ego-less Self.


yatha 'kasthito nityam
vayuh sarvatrago mahan
tatha sarvani bhutani
matsthani 'ty upadharaya

As the great (expanse of) air filling all space has its
basis in pure extension, thus you should understand
all existences as having their basis in Me.


By a familiar example this verse attempts to clarify the
mystery. It takes two subtle phenomenal entities, the wind
that blows everywhere, filling all space, and the sky that
contains it. The more general entity is included in the more
particular one, though both come under what may be called
the expansive or the great.

Between the air and the sky the difference is not one of
degree but of kind. The Absolute similarly belongs to its
own category, though resembling the principle of mahat
(the great) of Samkhya (rationalist) doctrine. In fact the
word mahat (great) used here in qualifying the air is
reminiscent of the same subtle distinction. We would
normally have expected the adjective to qualify the sky as
the Absolute, but actually it is applied to air which though
great is a more relativist entity. The notion of the Absolute
in the Gita is thus equated to the notion of the highest Self
when purified of all egotism, but it is not to be mixed up
with the mere principle of mahat (the great) of the Samkhya
system. It requires a revised epistemology which the Gita
supplies here, bringing the abstractions of the Samkhya
concept nearer to human


life-values, while still retaining its uncompromising
Absolutist purity.


sarvabhutani kaunteya
prakritim yanti mamikam
kalpakshaye punas tani
kalpadau visrijamy aham

prakritim svam avashtabhya
visrijami punah-punah
bhutagramam imam kri'tsnam
avasam prakriter vasat

All beings, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), pass into My
nature at the end of a unit of cosmic duration
(kalpa) and at the beginning of the same unit, I
emanate them.

By virtue of My nature, I emanate again and again
the whole aggregate of beings, subject as they are
to the necessary compulsion of nature.


The cosmological process of emanation and withdrawal
into the prime nature of the Absolute in a rhythmical
manner, this time has kalpa (in Vedic computation a large
unit of cosmic duration equal to 1000 yugas or to one "Day
of Brahma") as its measure. A similar alternating processes
between the day and night of Brahma, consisting each of
1000 yugas (meaning a very long astronomical aeon
aggregating, according to experts, to 4,320,000 solar years,
and divided into various periods such as Satya, Treta,
Dvapara and Kali) was mentioned in viii, 17. Although the
picture here is apparently similar to the cosmological
process described in the last chapter, there are some
striking differences to be noted.

There it was conceived in terms of alternation between
day and night or light and darkness. Here the twin aspect is
not given any importance, although the beginning and end
of a kalpa or"Day of Brahma" are still envisaged. The
alternation is not between manifested and unmanifested
reality, but between reality in its prime state and its
emanation as nature, immanent and transcendent being
treated as a whole.

The Absolute itself thus comes to be viewed as capable of
having two aspects, one in which it is pure and another in


which it is viewed as if conditioned or coloured by factors
that come under nature.

The relation between this nature and the pure Absolute
itself is one which is similar to the relation between Maya
(relativist appearance due to the principle of error) and
Brahman (Absolute Reality). Not infrequently, we find that Maya (appearance) is the same as Brahman (the Absolute),
because on final analysis Maya as mere appearance has
no existence outside the Absolute. These are subtleties of
the Vedanta philosophy to be dealt with in their own place.
What we have to note here is that nature is hidden in the
Absolute at certain times, while at other times it is not
hidden but evident, or in other words that nature is
virtually present in the Absolute at a given cosmological
moment, while at other times it appears in a more
actualized form.

The object of the author evidently is to present a
cosmological picture which will still uphold the unique unity,
aloofness and overall primacy of the Absolute. This
cosmological allusion is justified in this chapter only as a
final concession to Arjuna, whose background of
spirituality, whether belonging to the devayana (divine
path) or pitriyana (way of the ancestors) in context, is still
coloured. Even in the case of other seekers or aspirants to
wisdom there is need, though perhaps in a modified form
in keeping with their own particular backgrounds, for a
realistic picture from this side of reality. Dry abstractions
in the Buddhistic style are exactly what the Gita is reacting
against. The difference in style and approach is the same
as between Kant and Bergson.

Nature may be said to be an instrument of the pure Absolute
principle. Instead of creating the various aggregates of
beings which we see in the universe, it is this nature
principle which has itself a status approximating to the
Absolute itself and to which all agency in the act of
particularized creation is attributable. The unconditioned
Absolute itself is to be left out of the picture and the
relation between this nature instrument and its operator is
only something like that of a controlling magnet in certain
electrical instruments. By its mere presence, somewhat like
a catalytic agent, the Absolute helps nature indirectly and
, as it were, from a distance, to fulfil its work with all the
compulsive force of necessity which belongs to nature.
While nature is fatalistic, the Absolute belongs to the side
of providence which is a witnessing presence with its own


subtle influence ever counteracting the fatality implied in

The subtle relationship here is as between sin and grace in
theology (brought out for example in "The Imitation of Christ")
or as between an inexorable law and indeterminism in modern
scientific theory. It is referred to in Taittiriya Upanishad
xi, 6. Thus the import of the word avasam (helpless, i.e.,
by force of necessity) should be understood imaginatively,
or even with a certain intuition. The necessary and the
contingent sides of reality meet in unity in the purest
notion of the Absolut,e which is here attempted to be


na cha mam tani karmahi
nibadhnanti dhanamjaya
udasinavad asinam
asaktam teshu karmasu

Maya 'dhyakshena prakritih
suyate sacharacharam
hetuna 'nena kaunteya
jagad viparivartate

Further, these works do not bind Me, 0 Winner of Wealth
(Arjuna), for I am seated, seemingly indifferent,
unattached to those actions.

By Me presiding, nature gives birth to both the moveable
and the immoveable entities; because of this, 0 Son of
Kunti (Arjuna), this (moving) world revolves.


These verses further underline the aloofness of the
witnessing presence of the Absolute, unaffected by actions
or movements, as we have already explained.

The expression suyate (gives birth to) suggests that the
Absolute is the masculine principle. The same idea is
repeated more concretely in xiv, 4. The agency, however,
is less pronounced here, in keeping with the spirit of the

The expression viparivartate (revolving inversely) seems
to suggest a double process of involution and dissolution
when taken with suyate (bringing forth). But this, being
here hardly more than a suggestion, can bear no further


avajananti mim mudha
manushim tanumasritam
param bhavam ajananto
mama bhutamahesvaram

moghasa moghakarmano
moghajnana vichetasah
rakshasim asurim chai'va
prakritim mohinim sritah

The foolish misunderstand Me because of My
adopting the human form, ignorant as they are of
My being that is beyond, as the Lord of all beings,

Of frustrated hope, of frustrated deeds, empty of
wisdom, non discriminating, like malignant titans
and demons, submitting themselves to a nature (of)
confounding (values).


These verses state the position in regard to spiritual life
which may be said to be the most important contribution of
the Gita. While pandits are still discussing the relative
merits of saguna archana (offering flowers to a deity with
qualities) in relation to the meditation on nirguna Brahman
(unqualified Absolute); here is an unequivocal statement at
the very centre of the Gita which, although stated so
clearly, still suffers at the hands of apologists in the name
of image-worship and ishta devata upasana (propitiation of
a chosen deity).

Modern Hinduism, especially after the decadence of the
more philosophic schools of thought, has connived at many
forms of religious practice, some of them being but puerile
forms of popular adoration, on a par perhaps with the
kissing of the brass or plaster image of Jesus in Milan and
elsewhere, and violating even sanitary principles.

Some people even think that if they shed tears before a
photograph or picture it will bring them spiritual progress.
No respectable scripture however, can be quoted in support
of such practices. In fact in the Bhagavata iii, xxix, 21,
it is referred to as archavidambanam (unnecessary or even
deceitful display of worship). It must be remembered also
that in the Visvarupa Darsana (Vision of the Absolute in
Universal Form), Chapter xi, 46, the Gita presents Arjuna as
asking Krishna to show himself in the familiar form of
Vishnu so that he could


worship him as a divine being known to him. But we see in 
Verse 51 of the same chapter that this request is refused,
and that it is the ordinary human form that Krishna prefers
to assume, treating the request of Arjuna with scant respect
as it were, or even ignoring it.

The reference to the offering of flowers in the present
chapter (Verse 26) is often thought by many as supporting
the usual form of worship through offerings familiar to the
Indian scene. But even there, no allusion is made to an
image, and moreover the reference is more permissive than
mandatory in character.

Even puerile forms of worship resorted to with motives
that are pure are permitted a place in the scheme of worship
in the Gita, but a positive injunction to do puja (ritualist
action) as a stepping-stone to reach the Absolute, as some
people put it, is nowhere supported, even in Indian
scriptures. In fact the contrary is stressed in the Gita in
places such as iv, 33. Even in the Puranas (legends)
Ravana's puja (ritual) full of elaborations and many objects
is spoken of disparagingly.

But puja (ritual) through mantra (mystical utterances)
and japa (repetitions of formulae) has always been
preferred to mere upasana (propitiatory worship through
vows). These latter, moreover, have been referred to as
inferior in the Upanishads (e.g., Kena Upanishad 1, 4, 5).
The Gita being a Yoga sastra (textbook on unitive
understanding) dealing with the science of the Absolute,
continues the rational philosophic tradition of India without
giving room for any heterodoxy. Such being its essential
nature it is but natural to expect that it would not uphold
puerile or lazy forms of worship. The strong note here thus
becomes levelled against people who would misunderstand
the true nature of the Absolute. The protest here is in the
same spirit as in xviii, 22, as when a man gives importance
to a particular object as against its universal import as a
principle. Quotations from the Gita itself which suggest the
same perversity among men can be multiplied (e.g., xviii,

One thing, however, is clear: the denunciation of this type
of perversity is stated in most emphatic terms here, as we
see from the term mudhah (fools) and other expressions,
no less denunciatory by which the greater part of Verse 12
is filled. Equally strong denunciation is shown in vii, 25,
where the objection is of the same kind though not stated
so precisely or finally.


All static or fixed notions of the Absolute should be
considered out of place in the strict light of Vedanta. A
static view, even when it is glorified by myth and symbol,
only becomes worse than the commonsense reality of the
Absolute considered as a good, great or loveable man in the
ordinary sense. The misunderstanding of the Absolute
referred to here covers all anthropomorphic forms and notions
possible, from the most simple to the most elaborate.

Perhaps the most excusable of them all is when a good man
is extolled as having mystical attributes as in the Arthurian
legends, or in the case of hero-worship, where a Rama or a
Krishna begin to represent the Absolute. Siva is said to be a
simple hunter who, attained the status of the Absolute as the
Tandava-Murti (divine dancing form). However exalted or
excusable all these might be, they fall short of the ideal held
up to view in this chapter which is given to the wisdom-
vision alone, and for which the Gita stands.

The param bhava (being that is beyond), i.e., in the great
Unmanifest referred to before, gives status of overlordship
over the visible world to the Absolute intended here.
Verse 12 continues the denunciation in measured and
graded language by a series of deliberately thought-out
epithets which seem to follow a tacit epistemological
framework. The same framework can be discerned in xviii,
14, where the various factors are enumerated but in reverse

The term asa (expectation) refers to the future and is a
vague spiritual factor like hope in Christian theology. The
next epithet refers to karma (action) which is more
ontological in character. Finally there is asuri (demonic)
which may be said to be a quality of earth, earthy.
Moha (confusing) really refers to the confounding of
values resulting from lazy attitudes or attachment to sense-
objects. The true contemplative is the one whose intelligence
can penetrate reality without distortion. Others follow the
track of wrong interests at every level and thus their life
becomes full of frustration.

The words asura (demon) and rakshasa (malignant titan)
may be understood to refer to people of low interests or
crude values based on sense-pleasures or mere particularized
objectivity. The word asura (demon) is employed in a
similar sense in vii, 15 and in Chapter xvi is treated more
exhaustively in contrast with the devas (bright deities),i.e.,
those who are capable of appreciating higher values.


mahatmanas tu mam partha
daivim prakritim asritah
bhajanty ananya manaso
jnatva bhutadim avyayam

But those of Great Self, 0 Partha (Arjuna), affiliated to
My divine nature, adore with mind exclusive of all
extraneous interests, having known Me as the unexpended
primal Source of all beings.


This verse states the converse position. Those who are of
a pure disposition, however, are here called mahatmas (of
great Self) as contrasted with the lower types of the last
two verses.

We should notice that the affiliation to the two contrasted
cases belong, as it were, to opposite poles. The affiliation
of the former two classes is through the senses to values
that are particular and objective, while in the case of
those who are called of Great Self here it is to the bhutadi
(primal Source of beings). This Source may be said to be
a higher value or to represent universal values.

The reference to ananya manasah (mind strictly exclusive
of all extraneous interests) again stresses the condition
of bipolarity in relation to the Absolute as it should be
understood in the Gita.


satatam kirtayanto mim
yatantas cha dridhavratah
namasyantas cha mam
bhaktya nityayukta upasate

jnanayajnena cha 'py anye
yajanto mam upasate
ekatvena prithaktvena
bahudha visvato mukham

Always singing praises of Me, ever striving, firm in vows
and saluting Me devotedly, they are ever united in
worshipful attendance;

Others also, sacrificing with the wisdom-sacrifice,
unitively, dualistically as also in many ways
facing universally everywhere, worshipfully attend
on Me.


These two verses serve the purpose of linking together
orthodox religious trends with heterodox rational trends,
both of which have existed side by side on the Indian soil.
Verse 14 alludes to vows and disciplines or methods of
worship common in India under the caption of Yoga as
understood in the Gita, as indicated by the phrase nityayukti

In so far as these disciplines or practices, however
commonplace or ordinary, have by yogic affiliation the Absolute
as their object, they become raised to a freshly revised status,
and are therefore included for respectable mention and
recognition here. Dialectical revaluation which is the method of
the Gita, as of every form of religious progress in the course
of history, is sufficiently evident here. There is no abrupt
breaking away from whatever has been in vogue. There is
fulfilment without destruction, and as Moses was revalued by
Jesus, a subtle dialectical method is here also applied.
The expression kirtayantah (singing praises), the references
to vratih (vows), to namasyantah (salutary worship) and to
upasana (worshipful attendance), all represent popular forms
of practice found in religious life, especially where no
heterodoxy is involved.

Rational schools however, tend to be heterodox because
they are philosophical. The varieties in such a context are
also enumerated in Verse 15.

Although there is no direct reference here to Yoga, as a
general heading for the varieties mentioned in Verse 15, there
is the expression jnanayajna (sacrifice of wisdom) which can
have meaning only as understood in iv, 33 and in iii, 70, as
an expression peculiar to the Gita as a textbook on Yoga
Yajna (sacrifice) and upasana (worshipful attendance) are
also introduced even in the philosophical context. Worship
and philosophy, at least in the Gita, are not advocated in
that pronounced contrasted manner known in the West.
Such expressions as these mentioned in a philosophical
context help to make the arrows point both ways as it were,
reconciling religion and philosophy.

The different schools of philosophy are brought under
three headings here: those that speak monistically; those
that admit a dual principle, whether in the form of a
worshipper and a worshipped or between spirit and nature,
etc.; and those comprising perhaps the pantheists, who take
the whole universe as consisting of the presence of God.


This third category might include even the pluralists,
nominalists or conceptualists, and Leibnizian monadists
need not be excluded from this group.

Whatever the variety of philosophy, they are brought
here together as being affiliated to the notion of the
Absolute in one way or the other. They all hold the Absolute
dear, and thus belong to the one grand category which the
Gita wants to recognize in a very catholic spirit.

The Gita may be said to refer to them elsewhere, e.g., to
those of unitive outlook or monists in ii, 41, to dualistic
philosophers in viii, 26, and to universal pantheists in 
Chapter xi. Without reference to schools of philosophy we
can interpret these three classes as those who think
unitively, those who accept the dual principle for
methodological purposes, and those who are able to see
unity in multiplicity.

The object here is merely to bring all appreciation of the
Absolute under one comprehensive or universal vision.
Such a vision, however, is not to be looked upon as being
tainted by any kind of solipsism, syncretism or eclecticism.
It is when it is viewed in the light of pure epistemology that
the necessity for such a vision emerges as a culminating or
crowning finality. If, however, to this finalized epistemological     vision is added a notion of supreme values, there emerges that complete idea of the Absolute to which the Gita is never tired of referring as the greatest of secrets.

The Absolute is not any particular value as such, but the
principle which runs through all, correlating and coordinating
all of them into one whole. Such is the suggestion contained
in vii, 7.

Thus it is a grand epistemological value-factor which
gives meaning to truth or reality as most comprehensively
conceived. No system nor any discipline falls outside the
scope of such an Absolute, and all religious or philosophical
systems are but cross-sections of its global entirety which is
beyond words.


aham kratur aham yajnah
svadhi 'ham aham aushadham
mantro 'ham aham eva 'jyam
aham agnir aham hutam

I the ritual action, I the sacrifice, I the ancestral
oblation, I the potent medicinal herb, I the holy
formula, I also the melted butter, I the fire, I the


The next section of four verses attempts to mark out the
limits and the amplitude within which this all-comprehensive           value called the Absolute swings. Different departments in        religion, or holy values, are all enumerated to enhance the wonder and the numinous nature of such a notion.

No major type of spirituality is omitted. If some religions
call God the Father; or some others stress the Motherhood
principle - in terms of supreme value they have to be looked
upon as the same.

Moreover we notice from a scrutiny of the instances given
that ends and means are treated indifferently, as we have
seen in iv, 24.

Ritualism, religion, theology and cosmology are the various
approaches covered here. Verse 19 marks the ultimate
limit of such a comprehensive vision when it sums up by
saying that the Absolute is both being and non-being. The
position is reminiscent of the last section of the Mandukya

In Verse 16 in particular, the attempt is made to reconcile
ends and means, the path and the goal.


pita 'ham asya jagato
mata dhat pitamahah
vedyam pavitram aumkara
rik sama yajur eva cha

I the Father of this world, the Mother, the Supporter
and the Grandsire (ancestor), the Holy One who is to
be known, the Purifier, the syllable Aum, as also the
(Vedas) called Rik, Sama and Yajus.


This verse attempts to reconcile different theological
aspects of divinity, including the word Logos as Aum, as
well as scripture itself, which is considered holy. They all
represent theological values in one context or another.


gatir bharta prabhuh sakshi
nivasah saranam suhrit
prabhavah pralayah sthinam
nidhanam bijam avyayam


[I am] the Goal, the Supporter, the Lord, the Witness,
the Abode, the Refuge, the Friend, the Becoming, the
Dissolution, and Ground of Being, ontological Basis,
and never-expended Seed.


A similar synthesis is effected between ontological or
teleological aspects of the Absolute, whether conceived as
the Overlord or merely as a Witness. Aspects of Self-
surrender are treated on a par with reality conceived in
terms of a supreme value as suggested by the term
nidhanam (treasure-house) which could also be understood
as the simple ontological basis of reality.

No purpose would be served by going into the various
implications of these epithets. They cover every form of
possible value in the contemplative context.


tapamy aham aham varsham
nigrihnamy utsrijami cha
cha amritam chai 'va mrityus
cha sad asach cha 'ham arjuna

I radiate heat (and) I rain; I withhold and I send forth;
I am immortality and death; as also being and non-being,
0 Arjuna.


This last verse of the section sums up in more orthodox
fashion how the Absolute is the meeting-place of opposites.
Cool rain and parching heat as phenomenal factors that are
held together unitively is the first notion of the Absolute
presented here. Similarly, holding back and letting-go
represents another pair in the phenomenal world which similarly
neutralize each other in the Absolute. The next pair,
immortality and death, are also juxtaposed and cancelled
out in the neutrality of the Absolute; and finally being and
non-being, which pair is the greatest and most favourite of
all the paradoxes in the Vedanta, is mentioned. This last
pair treated as the two opposites belongs to the
Unmanifested which is the basis of both, as stated in viii,


traividya mam somapah putapapa
yajnair ishtva svargatim prarthayante
te punyam asadya surendralokam
asnanti divyan devabhogan


te tam bhuktvah svargalokam visalam
kshine punye martyalokam visanti
evam trayidharmam anuprapanna
gatagatam kamakama labhante

Knowers of the three (Vedas), soma-drinkers,
purified from sin, worshipping by sacrifices, pray
of Me the way to heaven; they, attaining the holy
world of Indra (Lord of Gods) enjoy divine feasts
in heaven.

They, having enjoyed that expansive heaven-world,
then on their merit exhausted, they enter the world
of mortality, thus conforming to the righteous notions
implied in the three (Vedas), desiring desirable objects
they obtain values which come and go.


These two verses refer to Vedic forms of relativist worship
which it is the main task of the Gita to consider as its
anterior position to be revalued and restated in keeping with
its own absolutist way.

In doing so, however, no wholesale condemnation is resorted to.
On the other hand there is praise, giving full credit to
whatever good such relativist worship might imply.
The picture presented here of souls that rise to the expansive
heaven of Indra, and after enjoying the feasts there, descend
once again when their store of merit is exhausted, is not
however without a touch of sarcasm.

This is all too evident in expressions like asnanti divyan
divi devabhogam (eating in heaven of the divine feasts of the
deities) and svargalokam visalam (expansive heaven) and in
the anti-climax implied in gatagatam (going and coming).
These flavour all too clearly of gentle sarcasm as usual in
many parts of the Upanishads themselves where Vedic chanters
have even been compared to croaking frogs.

The use of special metre in these verses, however, indicates
the opposite. There is exaltation and joy implied. The lower
dharma (right behaviour) of the Vedas is not discarded in
favour of the higher dharma of the Upanishads, or the latter
considered at the expense of the former. Both are accepted in
the spirit of the same song, which knows no duality
anywhere. The position is not different from that of
Yajnavalkya in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (iii, i, 2).
when he accepts the cows with gold tied to their horns, and
then takes up the challenge


regarding the true nature of wisdom. That is why we find
the sublime metre present together with the touch of
sarcasm fitted into the song. The poetic result is similar to
that found in Dante and Milton and one forgets the doctrine
in the sheer musical delight of the sublime song.

Notice here in Verse 20 that although the Vedic
worshippers happen to pray to the same Absolute, their
prayer is not for wisdom but for enjoyment. This makes all
the difference in principle and it is not surprising in the
light of what is to follow in Verse 23, where it is conceded
that even the worshippers of other deities than what is
represented by Krishna, who is the Absolute, are in reality
recognized as worshipping the Absolute in principle,
though wrongly.



ananyas chintayanto

ye janah paryupasate

tesham nityabhiyuktanam

yogakshemam vahamy aham                                                


Those persons who meditating on Me to the exclusion of All
else, worship Me, to those ever established unitively I
bring that solace of the unitive way of Yoga,


This verse is often quoted by pious admirers of the Gita teaching who attach importance to the security that they imagine as suggested here on the part of a conventional God to the devotee. But more than this well-being taken in the usual sense, there is a well-being implied here which is of the nature of Self-realization, which is generally overcovered by their piety and anxiety for security. It is beyond question that the Yogakshema (well-being or happiness through unitive understanding) referred to here cannot be something like welfare or security in the ordinary individual or collective sense, although such an implication need not be purposely ruled out from its meaning. When we remember that Yoga is what the Gita preaches throughout, Yogakshema (the happiness resulting from unitive understanding) must mean something that is different from the transitory happiness gained by Vedic worshippers which was depicted in the preceding verses.

In the first place it must connote lasting happiness, and
secondly it must have something to do with affiliation of


yogi to the Absolute, in a manner which excludes all change,
relapse or return from a state of happiness.

That such is the sense intended is further indicated by
the repetition here of the same conditions which we have
noticed already, such as ananychinta (meditation to the
exclusion of all else) and nityayukta (ever-united) which
are concomitants of the bipolar relation which we have
understood to be the essential feature of the type of self-
surrender recommended throughout the Gita.

It is not in terms of heaven or enjoyment that the yogi
gains advantage, but in terms of Self-knowledge and unitive
wisdom which brings everlasting joy, knowing no fluctuations.


ye 'py anyadevata bhakta
yajante sraddhaya 'nvitah
te 'pi mam eva kaunteya
yajanty avidhipurvakam

Even those who, devoted to other gods, worship them with
faith, they in fact worship Myself, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna),
though not conforming to orthodox rules.


This verse can be considered as complementary to what
has been said in Verse 20, where the prayer is wrong but the
affiliation is right. Here, conversely the prayer is full of
faith but the affiliation is wrong.

Whether it is one way or the other the results accrue. The
faith-element referred to here contains implicitly a spiritual
directive which benefits the aspirant. The subject has been
covered before in vii, 20 and 21. It was individual desire
which deflected the devotee towards other gods there, and
faith was out of the question. The element of faith, however,
which was lacking in the case of the worshippers in vii, .
20, was what made them go astray. But when this element
of faith, mentioned in vii 21, was introduced, the relation
became straightened again and tended to become firmer day
by day.

In the present verse the condition of faith is fulfilled, but
as is stated in the next verse, the danger of blind faith
without knowledge is brought out. Again as between sin and
grace there is a subtle balance between faith and wisdom, of
which the latter is a regulating factor in maintaining the
relationship soundly and correctly.


The catholicity of the Gita as an open way of life is
unquestionable according to the present verse, as it throws
open the door of recognition even to those who do not
worship Krishna himself, but who happen to have
heterodox faith in other gods. No more generous attitude
could be expected or imagined, and the Gita teaching is
therefore one conceived in terms of universal hope for all
humanity. People have only to understand correctly the
laws implied in the Science of the Absolute contained in
the Upanishads. Thus the Gita becomes a sastra (textbook)
of wisdom, and not a closed religion of the Hindus, the
Bhagavatas (worshippers of Krishna) or anybody else. It is
not "theism", as Professor Edgerton and others would have
us believe.


aham hi sarvayajnanam
bhokta cha prabhur eva cha
na tu mam abhijananti
tattvena 'tas chyavanti te

I am indeed the Enjoyer, as also the Lord of all sacrifices;
but they fall indeed who do not understand Me according to
first principles.


The necessity for affiliation to the Absolute is continued
here, this time through wisdom and not through faith. Blind
faith can go off the mark though in principle it need not
necessarily do so.

Thus between all these cross-clauses of the various verses
there is implied a variety of Cartesian Occasionalism. This
is similar to the cross-clauses in the Christian gospel of St.
Matthew regarding those who are with or against Jesus
Christ. There is a subtle bipolar agreement here between the
worshipper and the Absolute, which succeeds or fails
according as the faith is of the right quality or the wisdom
of the right kind.

In this verse it is the possibility of the wisdom not being
finalized which results in the fall mentioned.

True faith, which may have even circumscribed knowledge, gives
the same result as when knowledge is finalized, though the
faith may be feeble. It is the purity of the bipolarity which
is established between the individual and the Absolute which
counts. The relative strength of either faith or wisdom, as
long as it does not interfere with this bipolarity, produces
the same resultant.


Parental affection depends upon filial loyalty and vice
versa. Such is the dialectical relation between faith and
wisdom here. Narayana Guru states the same principle very
clearly in Atmopadesha-Satakam (Verse 60).

"Should knowledge even be brought within the domain of egoism,
and the supreme import of what has been said be forgotten,
(even thus) misconstrued, like the Principle supreme itself,
such knowledge can never become alien to the knowing Self."

Here, by saying that Krishna as the Absolute is the enjoyer
of all sacrifices, it is merely intended to explain in the
ritualistic language of the Vedas, that at one pole of the
bipolar situation there is the Absolute, while at the other
there is the sacrifices or aspirant. Whatever the form of the
sacrifice, a relation between the sacrificer and the Absolute
depends on having a right notion of the Absolute. Whether
this notion is of an academic perfection or not, it has to
be a correct one as far as it goes, here called tattvena
(in accordance with first principles).

Such a relation, when correctly established, succeeds,
whereas all other relations fail. The failure due to wrong
faith does not arise. That would be like saying that a mother
does not love her child while the child loves the mother.
The latter can fail, but the former never does. Thus with true
faith, when it is there, the question of its failure does not
arise. A wrong notion of the Absolute, however, would be
a definite drawback. Of the two factors involved, the right
notion of the Absolute being more directly within the control
of the individual, should be consciously cultivated. 

Though faith is an equally important, or even a more important
factor, blind faith can still have dangers which should be
avoided. The fall referred to in this verse at least that
such a danger is possible.


yanti devavrata devan
pitrin yanti pitrivratah
bhutani yanti bhutejya
yanti madyajino 'pi mam

Votaries of the divinities go to the divinities, votaries
of the ancestors go to the ancestors, sacrificers to
elemental existences go to elemental existences; and
so too My worshippers attain to Me.



The need for right affiliation with the Absolute is again
stressed. If a person has ancestral values in mind which do
not strictly pertain to the Absolute, and if he still thinks that
he is pious in the correct sense, he will miss reaching the
highest that is implied in the Gita teaching. The result of
wrong affiliation is temporary, as stated in vii, 23. Three
kinds of such wrong affiliation are referred to here.


pattram pushpam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayachchhati
tad aham bhaktyupahritam
asnami prayatatmanah

He who offers to Me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit,
or water, that do I accept as being offered with devotion
by one who makes the (right) effort.


The converse case of a man of faith is the basis of this
oft-quoted verse. The offering of a flower or a leaf is a
symbolic act sufficiently familiar in India. Even this simple
or almost puerile form of propitiatory offering is not
rejected in the Gita. In a revalued or permissive form it is
given due recognition with one important proviso, as
contained in the expression me (to Me) bhaktya (with devotion).
The devotee must be sure that he is offering it to the highest
Absolute and secondly he must have that bhakti (devotion) of
the right quality or intensity. Given these two conditions
even this simple worship gains the same status as the fullest
philosophical affiliation of a wise man to the Absolute.
The reference to prayalatmanah (of one who makes the right
effort) is to the intention implied in the worshipper
which is of determining importance as is the case with an
accused in a court of law. Although the objects offered are
trivial, if the qualification of the worshipper is in accord
with the requirements as understood here, the worship is
said to be right.


yat karoshi yad asnasi
yaj juhoshi dadisi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kurushva madarpanam

What you do, what you eat, what you offer, what you give,
what austerity you practise, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), let
that be done as an offering to Me.


The ordinary necessary occupations in a man's life should not
hinder or enter into conflict with the way of wisdom. The
implications of the direction given to Arjuna in viii, 27 to
be a yogi at all times, which was covered at the instinctive
functional level in v, 8 and 9, is further re-examined here
in terms of more conscious activities in which a man might be
engaged, especially in his religious or spiritual life.

As recommended in v, 8 and 9, where it is a denial of
action, here the same Yoga consists of surrendering all actions
to the Absolute. In other words the personal motive of the
action is minimized and the general and universal consciousness
of the Absolute which may be spoken of as the general good at
all times, as a supreme or universal value is here kept in mind.
The egotistic edge attached to actions is thus rubbed off and
it is in this sense that surrender to the Absolute should be
understood. The moral sense which is present as a categorical
imperative in each person thus finds expression in a way of
life which implies global generosity referring to all beings
and for all time.

Note that dadasi yat (what one gives) included among the
other references, which are of a religious character and not
philanthropic or altruistic, implies open goodness to all and
a universal generosity rather than mere interest in personal
emancipation. In such a surrender intended here, therefore,
the idea of generosity and religious spirituality are treated
together without difference.

Reference also to austerity which belongs neither to religion
nor ethics is likewise not omitted.

Read side by side with Verse 34 with which this chapter
closes, where allusion is also made to different styles of
worship or spirituality, it is clear to us what this chapter
aims at accomplishing before it closes. It is a rounding-up
of all forms of anterior spiritual trends in India under one
all-presiding notion of the Absolute, whether understood as
a value or merely epistemologically. The sense of value and
wisdom are both brought together and the path merges with
the goal, as we shall presently see


more clearly. Salvation is not something for which we wait
at the end of meritorious conduct but the conduct itself
when surrendered to the Absolute is virtually a form of

In this cancelling-out of ends and means, the path and
the goal of the meritorious actions and the resultant
emancipation, consists the secret of the Yoga as presented
in the Gita.

The force of kurushva (do thou) in this context should
be taken to be more permissive than mandatory. Such a
direction has to be understood the same way as when we
read a signboard which might read "walk on the pavement"
which permits people who want to walk on the road, and
does not apply to others such as those who might be going
in a car, etc.


subhasubha phalair evam
mokshyase karma bandhanaih
vimukto mim upaishyasi

Thus you will be liberated from the bonds of action,
whether its results are good or evil. With Self affiliated
to unitive Self-denial, as one thus emancipated you will
attain to Me.


Hitherto it was asubha (evil or sin) which was referred to
as something to be avoided. It would be normal in the usual
ethical or religious context to find a scripture recommending
the avoidance of evil and the gaining of merit or good. But
here in this central chapter, as also in the earlier ii, 57,
and in one of the further chapters, xii, 17, we find allusion
indifferently to good and evil, both to be transcended alike.
This is exactly what distinguishes the Gita and puts it on
a par with the Upanishads. Such unitive treatment is quite
common as already stated.

The Gita is therefore more of a philosophic treatise than
a religious classic, especially if this feature to which we
have just now referred is read with the final injunction in
xviii, 66, where all religious duties are to be discarded.
Those who think that the Gita represents a closed scripture
of the followers of the Bhagavata cult or Vasudeva religion,
which is said to have flourished in India about 100 BCE,
will not find much support in this and other passages.


Although such an affiliation is not to be ruled out, the
conformity of the teachings of the Gita with the philosophical
outlook of the Upanishads is not the least compromised thereby.
In the light of the passages just cited, this fact is
sufficiently clear.

The compound word samnyasayogayuktatma (Self affiliated to
unitive self-denial) need not necessarily refer to a samnyasi
(renouncer) known to us in the religious institutional life
of India. The notion of samnyasa (renunciation) itself will
be subjected to a great deal of revision in chapter xviii.
Moreover it is samnyasayoga (renunciation unitively understood)
and not mere renunciation which is referred to here. The
difference it makes to the meaning is quite important to note.
It is the same as between mere karma (action) and karmayoga
(action unitively understood). The latter is action subjected
to the dialectical revaluation implied in Yoga. Similarly the
term samnyasayoga is plain renunciation as understood
before the time of the Gita, also subjected to dialectical
revaluation. It thus comes to represent a way of life which
involves action with a certain amount of detachment. The
nature of that detachment is the same as the surrender to
the Absolute referred to in the previous verse.

By being thus adjusted in the light of Yoga, the samnyasi
(renouncer) becomes vimuktah (emancipated) and attains
the highest, i.e., becomes freed from the bondage of action.


samo 'ham sarvabhuteshu
na me dveshyo 'sti na prayah
ye bhajanti tu mam bhaktya
mayi te teshu cha 'py aham

I (regard) all beings equally. To Me there is none hateful
or dear. They however who worship with devotion, they are
in Me and I too am in them.


From the side of the Absolute, the implications of the
previous verse are here reiterated. In most other passages
at the beginning and end of the Gita we find that Krishna
likes or dislikes, approves or disapproves of certain static
points or attributes. Here the point of neutrality is stressed.
Equality of opposites is the key-word here. He considers
everybody equal, and the question of cruel punishment, as
implied in xvi, 19 and 20, does not arise. Nor is there that
asymmetry between God and creation indicated in the earlier
chapters, in which


God is not in creation, but creation is in God (vii, 12). The
distinction as between the instrument and the operator is not
crudely pronounced as in xviii, 61, where actualities are
again faced.

This neutral. theoretical position of the Absolute has
therefore its right place at the centre of the work. The familiar
expression of priya (dear) as applied to a devotee or disciple,
with a certain amount of partiality implied in it, is altogether
absent here. The relation is therefore pure and sublime.
Whether a devotee lives in God or God lives in the devotee, the
resultant being the same, the perfect unity of worshipper and
worshipped being here, the question of difference does not arise.


api chet sudurachiro
bhajate mam ananyabhak
sadhur eva sa mantavyah
samyag vyavasito hi sah

Even if one of very evil actions should worship Me with a
devotion exclusive of all else, he should be accounted to be good
all the same merely by the fact that he has a properly settled


Underlying the four verses beginning here there is the
same principle which in its implication makes the Gita one
of the most open and generous of scriptures. Not only is the
door open to all grades in society, irrespective of caste or
religious merit, but also there is full hope even to a person
who is branded specifically as a suduracharah (one of
very evil actions).

The sinner against whom the doors of heaven are shut, which
is a favourite theological formula found in most religious books,
is given not only all the hope but even a status of equality
with any other spiritual seeker, if only his affiliation contains
the least element of absolutism. The spark thus kindled is
expected to burn backwards and consume all dross, as stated
in iv, 37. The slightest kindling of the fire of wisdom is
enough, and everything else is automatically accomplished.
The expression ananyabhak (devotion exclusive of all else)
secures the same condition of bipolarity for the speedy
emancipation of the person concerned as more clearly stated
in the next verse.


The phrase samyag vyavasitah (properly settled determination)
implies that the proper determination takes into its
purview some idea, however vague, of the Absolute to
which the person is affiliated. Thus the determination
contains the seed of wisdom which is the saving factor.
Further that it is the Absolute which is intended here is
brought out by the pronoun mam (Me).

The theoretical principle here involved is the same as in
the case where a number of passengers form a queue to buy
a ticket to a certain destination. As passengers they all
have an equal status, irrespective of the ordinal position
they have in the queue.

The exprssion mantavyah (should be accounted) is because
in principle there is no difference between the person here
in status and anybody else, however advanced he might be
in good conduct. Moreover, social conduct has no direct
bearing in the context of contemplation, to which the Gita
properly belongs, as had been made clear by Bergson in
"The Two Sources of Morality and Religion".


kshipram bhavati dharmatma
sasvachchhantim nigachchhati
kaunteya pratijanihi
na me bhaktah pranasyati

Instantaneously he becomes established in his own right
nature and enters into eternal peace. Believe Me in all
confidence, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), that one affiliated
to Me with fidelity knows no destruction.


This verse confirms the same principle, with the additional
guarantee that the devotee in this sense never perishes.
When we, speak of "life everlasting" in the context of
contemplation, its own negative corollary or counterpart
should be understood to be "mortality", or being caught in
the world of relativism. The Gita says, in iv, 40, that the
man of doubt or conflict perishes. Being saved and perishing
should be understood in contemplation as belonging to the
idiom and language peculiar to contemplative metaphysics
and not in the actual sense. The true contemplative who
fulfils the conditions implied in the previous verse enjoys
what is called eternal life or life in the eternal now. That,
in short, is what


is meant here, by the transformation of an evildoer into a
good man, mentioned as being instantaneous or speedy, as
implied in the term kshipram.

The word dharmatma simply refers to one who is his
own natural and correct inclination which can never be bad.
Rousseau's doctrine of nature being good is implied here.
Even values such as eternal peace, which are spoken of as
the supreme goal of all spiritual life, come within the reach
of the evildoer referred to here, when he fulfils the
apparently requisite conditions. Then there is the confident
and fully reassuring promise solemnly made in a tone of
intimacy to Arjuna, stating that the true contemplative lives
a life which is eternal.


mam hi partha vyapasritya
ye 'pi syuh papayonayah
striyo vaisyas tatha sudras
te 'pi yanti param gatim

They too who resort to Me for refuge, 0 Partha (Arjuna),
whoever they might be, (whether) women, workers (sudras)
as well as farmer-merchants (vaisyas), (all) of sinful
origin, they too attain to the supreme goal.


This verse abolishes one of the darkest blemishes that have
stained the spirituality of India through the ages. In
extolling as superior certain patterns of human virtues or
conduct, and decrying others as low or inferior, there crept
into the long history of Indian spirituality a stratifying
and petrifying influence by which the whole of society was
divided into watertight compartments known as castes.
India being a country which gave primacy to spiritual
values, this compartmentalization became accentuated to
such an extent that to the common man these divisions
became more real than the divisions which exist among
different species of animals.

The idea of caste was not confined only to the four castes
in the popular mind. In fact the fissiparous tendency which
is at the root of caste is an evil found in human nature
itself anywhere in the world. The extreme harshness of
attitude which exists even today between the Negro and the
white man is only one example. This tendency always helps


the formation of a hierarchy of groups, often very numerous,
and based on no first principles at all, but merely upon

On the Indian soil the same phenomenon was repeated, but the
experience of the Indian people in this matter made them
codify and state clearly from time to time the principles
involved in such a division. The codes of Manu and
Yajnavalkhya and others, which were written comparatively
early in the history of the Indian people after the
penetration of the Aryans into the amorphous matrix of
the original inhabitants, were conceived, so to say, on a war
footing, and the numerous castes which necessarily existed,
based on racial and political considerations, were reduced to
four main divisions in such codes.

We have explained elsewhere how these four divisions gained
their gradation on the principle of necessity to which the
natural sections of society were subjected.

The sudra, or the proletarian or worker, was one whose life
was most deeply involved in necessity; while the brahmana
or scholar was the leader of the wisdom-dialectics and was
the least involved.

These four divisions, conceived on principles which were
seemingly fluid, had a certain rigidity and hereditary fixity
when understood in the days of warfare between Aryan
invaders and the original inhabitants. It was a Hitlerian
justice that the codes tacitly accepted as their basis. As a
result, it was the prevailing belief at the time of the Gita
that women (who probably belonged mostly to the side that was
conquered), sudras (workers) and vaisyas (agriculturists and
merchants) could not aspire for emancipation in the same
sense, as it applied to the conquering party consisting of
the brahmanas (scholars and priests) and their allies among
the conquered who were called kshattriyas (warriors and tribal

This verse breaks this hardened tradition with one
revolutionary sweep as it were, the full significance of which
may perhaps be lost to the modern reader, more especially of
the West.

On the Indian soil, however, the same prejudices have
persisted down to our own times and have taken the most
cruel forms in social life. It was given to people like
Mahatma Gandhi to face it frontally, though only to drive it
underground. Though the winds of modernism seem to take


the poignancy of the injustice as seen from the public angle,
much of it still persists under the visible level, in spite
of such verses as the present in the Gita, which boldly throws
open the doors of the highest form of spiritual life, without

The singling out of the three, the woman, the worker and
the peasant-trader, and reference to them as being "born of
sin" must be understood in the light of the prevailing
language of the time, and not as containing the opinion of
the author of the Gita.

It is as when a group of people who had to have tickets to
enter a certain place were notified that they could enter now
without tickets at all. We cannot therefore charge the Gita
itself of making any discrimination between the groups
mentioned in this verse and those to be mentioned in the
next. Such a separate reference to the two groups was
factually and incidentally necessary at the time the Gita
was written.

There are superficial pandits who see in the expression
papayonayah (those born out of a womb of sin) a tacit
acceptance of hereditary caste discrimination in the Gita.
They are as mistaken as those who object to the statement
in this verse as containing an express affront degrading to
all those who are not brahmanas (scholars) or kshattriyas
(warriors). But one is compelled to refer to facts, even in
abolishing a long-standing injustice, and such references
should neither hurt nor be a matter of elation to any
interested party.

At the time of the penetration of the Aryans into India,
the discussion of caste had to be on a regular militant basis.
Even at the time of the writing of the Gita it had still to
have strong colouration reminiscent of the original war
footing. In modern times even the reference to the castes,
and more especially the reference to those of sinful origin, is
repugnant and unnecessary. The brahmin and the pariah
belong to a traditional dialectical school of wisdom whose
frontiers have long been abolished. Modern wisdom is to be
conceived only on a universal, worldwide or global basis.
What this verse does is to really guarantee fully the
perfect open nature of the way of life of the Gita.


kim punar brahmanah punya
bhakta rajarshayas latha
anityam asukham lokam
imam prapya bhajasva mam

How much more then the pure brahmanas, as also the devoted
royal sages. Having reached this transient joyless world
do you worship Me.


The first two castes are bracketted together under those who
are pure, holy or devout. The brahmanas, as Vedic scholars,
are honoured wherever they go, and thus enjoy a certain
freedom. The kshattriyas (warriors), being rulers, have power
in their hands which is capable of creating for them a certain
amount of freedom, though mostly limited in their own
domain, unless they are rishis (seers or sages) at the same
time. It is the latter type to whom pointed allusion is made
when treated together with the Brahmanas.

When we remember that some of the important Upanishads are to
be traced to kshattriyas (warriors and kings) rather than to
brahmins, the superiority here attributed to these two
classes is understandable.

Here again the word punya (holy or pure), as opposed to
papayonayah (those born out of a womb of sin), in the
previous verse, has an outmoded ring, for which we should
make due allowance in the light of historical circumstances
peculiar to the period. When we consider that ahimsa (non-
hurting) as a doctrine came into vogue among modern
brahmins only after the influence of heterodox religions like
Buddhism and Jainism, while originally animal sacrifices
were quite common among Vedic brahmins, we have a similar
instance of religious revaluation which can change the
position drastically. The question of caste here is similarly
subjected to revaluation, but vestiges of the past still
cling to it, as in the instance of the expressions referred
to. Revaluation has gone on apace, even after the time of the
Gita, and in the modern Indian situation many saints have
spoken against these caste distinctions altogether.

Among such, Narayana Guru (1855-1928) occupies a central and
significant position. He has subjected the question to proper
philosophical scrutiny, and in condemning caste and declaring
that all men belong to one and the same caste, kind or species,
he has the advantage of the favourable breezes of modernism
to which we have already alluded.

Caste distinctions are as repugnant to the spirit of Vedanta,
as they are to the modern man, influenced by notions of justice
and democracy, which may be said to be the special contribution
of the West.


The brahmin and the pariah are both looked upon as human beings
first, and any difference of custom or tradition between them
has no longer any significance in the present condition of
society. This is where the Guru and the reformer may be said
to meet, as it were.

The concluding admonition in this verse is intended to sum up
the position arrived at, at the end of this important chapter.
This world is joyless as perhaps too well recognized in the
philosophy of Buddhism. The values in this world into which
we are born naturally are tantalizing and do not have any
lasting character. The way out of it is through adoration
of the Absolute along the lines given so far.




manmanabhava madbhakto

madyaji mam namaskuru

mam tvai ‘shyasi yuktvai’vam



Become one with Me; be devoted to Me; sacrifice to Me;
bow down to Me; unifying thus yourself, you shall surely
come to Me, your supreme Goal none other than Me.


This verse repeats in other words what has been said at the
end of the last verse. The object of the repetition
evidently is to end the chapter on the note which as we have
seen, has been running through the whole chapter.
The expression manmana bhava (become Me-minded, i.e.,
attain to mental identification with the Absolute) is quite
in keeping with the Upanishadic dictum that a Brahman-
knower verily becomes Brahman (the Absolute), or reaches
the Supreme, as stated in the Taittiriya Upanishad and

When the mind attains identity with the Absolute, it loses
all its egotism and a sense of agency in actions. When union
is thus established at the level of the mind, other attitudes
follow in outward actions. Here, outward actions which belong
to religious or spiritual discipline are again referred
to one after another.

The expression madbhakto (be devoted to Me) refers to a
religious attitude; madyaji (sacrifice to Me) to the ritualist
context; and mam namaskuru (bow down to Me) refers to the
most overt form of behaviour involving the body, again in
the context of spirituality. Such wholesale affiliation at
all levels


and representing different contexts brings together all
possible attitudes into one wholesale affiliation to the

The result indicated here when examined side by side with
the same verse as nearly repeated in xviii, 65, reveals a
subtle distinction intended by the author. Whereas at the
end of the Gita, attaining the Absolute is spoken of more
in terms of an implied duality between the worshipper and
the Absolute, here it is conceived in terms of Self-knowledge.
The Absolute is within one self. Such is the pure position
of the Upanishads as expressed in the mahavakyas (great
sayings) such as tat-tvam-asi (That thou art). The pure
teaching intended in this chapter is thus naturally
with the above difference. A certain balancing of two
aspects of the same Self is what happens here when surrender
to the Absolute has taken place.

It would be relevant to add that most of the important
points of this chapter have already been once covered in 
Chapter iv, under the caption of jnana-yoga (Unitive
Wisdom). It was however as placed among other chapters of
recognized branches of wisdom that the subject was treated
there in a preliminary fashion. No question of living the way
of wisdom or mixing wisdom with spirituality generally
understood was thought of in the earlier chapter, although
the main high lights of the doctrine were covered in a
summary fashion.

Here the same is treated with all its concomitant and
subsidiary bearings, bringing in even those aspects of
spiritual life which have been considered to be outside
the domain of pure wisdom.

The open character and catholicity implied in this chapter
and the high hope which it holds out to every human being
give this chapter a status of its own at the centre of the
work. The technical and scientific details of establishing
bipolar relationship with the Absolute, which is perhaps the
central teaching of the Gita, finds finalized expression.
Being thus related to the Absolute is the way recommended
for freedom from the ills of life or salvation as the chapter
sums up its penultimate verse.

The acceptance of even puerile forms of worship as permissive
in this kind of affiliation to the Absolute is perhaps one of
the special contributions of the Gita.

Orthodoxy is still capable of being reconciled with the way
of wisdom. Thus without breaking with the past, the Gita
accomplishes what few prophets have ever achieved in
fulfilling without destruction.


In aiming a sledge-hammer blow at the citadel of caste
and in admitting even the worst sinners into its most
generously conceived fold, the Gita as understood in this
chapter, excels.

The claim that this chapter contains the most secret of
secrets, as also the most open ways of wisdom is more than
justified when we examine it closely; although, perhaps, the
statements in earlier preliminary chapters might appear
more sublime, at a first reading.

Krishna opens his mind to Arjuna without reserve here, but
it is in the next chapter that the initiative becomes more
explicit. It is the neutrality of this chapter which,
reflected in many verses, enshrines the great secret.
By treating good and bad on a par both as items to be
transcended by a unitive way of life, by speaking of the
Absolute as both existent and non-existent, by its stress on
the need to transcend both sin and even virtue, while still
extolling the numinous value-factor implied in the
Absolute, and stressing the need for knowing the Absolute
as it ought to be known according to first principles proper
to the Gita (in Verse 24), by all these features this chapter
deserves to be considered as having an important central
place in relation to the teaching of the Gita taken as a
whole. Our survey of later chapters will help us to verify
the validity of this claim beyond dispute.


ity srimad bhagavadgitasupanishatsu brahmavidyayam yogasastre
rajavidyarajaguhyayogo nama navamo'dhyayah

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 Ninth Chapter entitled Unitive Contemplation as a Royal Science and Crowning Secret.





Vibhuti Yoga

The initiative on the part of Krishna continues unabated,
and in fact is in some respects more accentuated than in
the last chapter which, as we have pointed out, together
with the present one, approaches the Absolute from two
viewpoints which may be said to be different only by a
negligible angle.

Intellectual and spiritual notions regarding the Absolute
were reconstructed to the end of the previous chapters, more
or less from the subjective standpoint in which the disciple's
doubts were dispelled and questions answered in a certain
order tacitly kept in mind by the author.

The disciple has his doubts dispelled, but all knowledge is
not gained by this. There is the positive conquest of
knowledge as it penetrates stage by stage from the
theoretically objective to full objective realism at the end of
the Gita.

It is easy to discern this turning point at the beginning of
this chapter. In the second verse Krishna does not hesitate to
praise himself as being non-understandable even to the gods
and sages.

There follows an enumeration of certain spiritual qualities
which are expressions of the absolutist way of life. What this
way of life accomplishes for the individual in terms of
wisdom or Self-realization is also stated by Krishna.
Then comes a section where Arjuna recognizes all that is
claimed by Krishna and more, thus making the adoption
between them as complete as possible. At the specific
request of Arjuna there follows a long enumeration of what
in this chapter is called the Vibhuti (unique value). The
value or glory of the Absolute can be known from the inside
of each individual. It is not so easy to speak of the Absolute
in terms of objective manifestations or other overt values.
The reason for this is a fact recognized by Arjuna himself in 
Verse 15. But it is highly necessary that for purposes of
life's guidance


here that we should have more realistic conceptions of
Absolute values than in just abstract or subjective terms.
Though with some hesitation therefore, Krishna here enumerates
all those highlights in the scheme of real things that we deal
with in this world. Though they do not cover all cases, they
offer to the seeker enough variety of examples by which the
unique glory of the Absolute could be recognized as it
penetrates through the commonplace. This is sufficiently
explained in the concluding verses of the chapter.
The overall characteristics of the Absolute as they are to
be recognized in the world of reality are summed-up finally
by the words vibhutimat srimad urjitam (whatever has
unique living value, abounding in grace and well founded
in truth).

It is true that only a fraction of the Absolute becomes
evident coming into the open for purposes of recognition
as stated in the last verse. But this does not detract from
the importance of recognizing the Absolute from the
standpoint of the person who wants to guide his life or
have aspirations in his life in keeping with the Absolute.
It should be noticed also in passing that these values do
not belong to any known codified religion. They are selected
from a wide range of values, some of them falling generally
within the scope of religion and ethics, but a few which may
be questioned as not failing strictly within what is usually
understood as the field of the sacred or the good, such as
the instances of the gambler and the god of love.
In spite of all these concrete references, we find that
even philosophically this chapter is on a par with the
previous one, for there are statements such as in Verse 4
where existence and even non-existence are said to be
issuing from the absolute outlined here.


Sribhagavan uvacha
bhuya eva mahabaho
srinu me paramam vachah
yat te 'ham priyamanaya
vakshyami hitakamyaya

Sri Krishna said:
Again, 0 Mighty-Armed (Arjuna), listen to My supreme word,
which I, desiring your well-being,shall tell you, so dear
(and favourably disposed).


This opening verse reveals unmistakably the kinship and
equality of status with the previous chapter with its initial
expression bhuya eva (furthermore). The expression
paramam vachah (supreme word) also indicates that the
subject-matter pertains to the highest Absolute.

Not only is Krishna actively interested in teaching Arjuna
because, as he says, he is dear, or as otherwise interpreted,
the teaching pleases him, but also because as he says, he is
interested in his welfare.


ne me viduh suraganah
prabhavam na maharshayah
aham adir hi devanam
maharshinam cha sarvasah

Neither the hosts of the gods nor the great sages know My
origin ; for I am indeed in every way the source of the gods
and the great sages.


Krishna is not just boasting and saying he is superior to
all others. He specifically refers to devas (divinities), i.e.
those spiritual ideals belonging to the hypostatic context of
the Vedic gods, and refers to sages who have existed in
India even before the time of the Vedas. The highest notions
held or represented by either of these groups fall short of
the notion of the Absolute.

By reference to himself as the source and the origin and not
as the end, the author intends to touch that neutral point
starting from which all the various manifestations are to be
later enumerated in an organic fashion.

Before going on to the ramifications, the root or source is
mentioned. The Absolute is appraised at its own zero or
neutral point here. Spiritual values suggested by deities or
sages are treated, as being only secondary in importance.
This superiority to all that is relative is what justifies the
use of the word paramam (supreme) in the previous verse.


yo mam ajam anadim cha
vetti lokamahesvaram
asammudhah sa martyeshu
sarvapapaih pramuchyate

He who understands Me as unborn and beginningless,
as the great Lord of the World, that man undeluded among
mortals is absolved from all sins.


This verse is meant to bring to balance once again the slight
asymmetry which was thought necessary in the previous verse,
in referring to the Absolute as the source.

As well as being the source, the Absolute should be
understood as at the same time marking a neutral point in
the revised terminology of this verse. Here the same
neutrality is referred to as ajam anadim (unborn without
beginning). The Absolute strictly belongs to the Eternal
Present and to speak of it as if it were anterior to the gods
and sages, had to be further clarified, as is done here.
The reference to papa (sin) is again to stress the fact that
even though the idea of the Absolute belongs to the domain
of wisdom or the understanding, it has the potency of
abolishing evil. This will be further defined in the next
two verses where opposites like existence and non-existence,
fear and courage, fame and obloquy, are cancelled out
against each other into a neutrality which must apply to
sin and virtue also.

Liberation from sins must therefore be understood more
correctly in that the question of sin or virtue does not
arise at all, that one is lifted out of the context of both,
and not in the sense that one gains virtue as against sin,
which interpretation would be against the spirit of the

The reference to sin can also be understood in another
way. Sin, which has its opposite in virtue, constitutes the
first degree of reference to such a factor. By transcending or
negating such a dualistic conception, one arrives at a more
unified notion of sin itself by what is called its own double
negation. Such an explanation would not be against the
methods of Western theology either, as may be seen in the
writings of Aquinas. Thus it is Sin with the capital S which
may be said to be transcended here, by Wisdom with a capital
W, on the part of those who are capable of having a non-
dualistic notion of the Absolute as implied here.

If such an interpretation is invalid we have to take it that
this is the usual reference to sin as we find it throughout
the text, since the sense of sin was what started the
dialogue on Arjuna's side. The "sin" here may even have
been consciously referred to as common to both the
absolutist as well as the relativist contexts.


 buddhir jnanam asammohah
kshama satyam damah samah
sukham duhkham bhavo
'bhavo bhayam cha 'bhayam eva cha

ahimsa samata tushtis
tapo danam yaso yasah
bhavanti bhava bhutanam
matta eva prithagvidah

Reason, wisdom, non-delusion, patience, truth,
self-restraint, calmness, pleasure-pain, becoming
and non-becoming, sense of danger and security,

non-hurting, balance, contentment, austerity,
benevolence. fame-shame, are the various distinct
attitudes arising from Me alone.


These two verses enumerate a series of spiritual values,
some of them merely referring to conscious attitudes and
others referring to overt facts or acts. It is difficult to
imagine a common epistemological framework into which
these concepts fit, except by treating all of them
indifferently by making allusion to primary spiritual values,
irrespective of their being subjective, objective, or in the
form of an attitude or act.

We should imagine, as implied here, a man who is perfectly
established in the neutrality of the Absolute beginning to
exercise or enter into conscious or positive awareness
vis-à-vis the Absolute.

The first positive movements of the spirit as it were, are
enumerated indifferently, as having to do with primary
spiritual values. The most important feature to notice here
is that opposites are brought together soon after the
enumeration of such factors as self-restraint, forgiveness,
etc., which are global attitudes of the spirit. Pleasure-
pain, fear-courage and even existence-non existence are
the polarized movements within which the spirit swings,
as we depart more and more from the neutral source of
the spirit, indicated in the previous verse.

In Verse 4, which starts with reason and ends with courage,
we can discern a family group of spiritual attitudes or
feelings. which belong more to the philosophic than to
the religious context.


In Verse 5, however, which again starts with enumerating
global spiritual sentiments such as the attitude of non-
hurting and ends with the dual factors of fame and obloquy
treated together, we have a series which can be said to be
more religious than philosophic.

The whole list, however, may, be said to refer to bhavah
(moods or attitudes) by which the spirit of man is capable
of representing the Absolute in himself or as expressed

A comparison of the series contained in these two verses
come with that in vii, 4, where, besides the elemental factors
in creation, mind, reason and egoism were included, calls
for some clarification.

In the earlier chapter the enumeration was based on the
concept of action viewed phenomenally. The inclusion of
mind, reason and egoism there was because these also were
subject to phenomenal fluctuations as they pertained to the
lower and not to the higher nature of the Absolute.
Here, however, the basic concept for the enumeration of
factors is bhavah (distinct attitudes or expressions). Nature
exists by necessity but the person established in the
Absolute gives expression to certain values through his
dispositions, attitudes or behaviour. It was with a view to
explaining the Absolute that the earlier chapter enumerated
the eightfold factors. In the present chapter, however, the
need for such an explanation has been accomplished. The
enumeration here refers to the various expressions, attitudes
or actions which naturally flow out from that neutral point
which marks the source or the Absolute in a man who
understands it philosophically.

We shall see how a further degree of expression is reached
in a later chapter where it is not expressions, but a
vision of the Absolute in so far as such is possible, is
attempted. While the treatment in chapter vii may be said
to be negative, here it is stated in distinctly positive terms.
In the next chapter the positive character becomes
accentuated to such a degree that it makes the description of
the Absolute so complete and vivid that some writers have
taken objection to it as being of the nature of a crude

Further chapters mark the same process of positive realism
in style and treatment, till we touch actual problems such as
practical ethics, diet, and social organization once again.


maharshayah sapta purve
chatvaro manavas tatha
madbhava manasa jata
yesham loka imah prajah

The seven great sages of old, as also the four law-
givers (manus) are born from My own process of
becoming and mind, and from these all progeny in
the world.


The rishis (sages) and the manus (lawgivers) belong to two
different and divergent developments in spiritual traditions.
At the source of the mystical and contemplative tradition
we must place the rishis (sages, seers or bards) who were
people cut away from society living their own lives free
from social obligation and sometimes transgressing the
rules of society. They were individualists.

The other order referred to who are named here as manus
(lawgivers, thoughtful men) were persons who were
socially and legalistically minded. They laid down the
codes for the government of people who belonged to a
certain group. But during the long course of history it
sometimes happened that what was laid down by the rule-
maker had to be drastically revised in the light of changed
circumstances. The intervening period between one manu
(lawgiver) and another has been named manvantara
(period of a manu) of which fourteen constitute a "day of
Brahma", and of which the present is said to be the seventh.
These refer to natural periods of time in which a certain
tradition remains in vogue with a given group of people. If
we think of humanity in different groups or "races", as it
has been sometimes suggested, these manus may all be
considered as belonging to the same period at the very
beginning of the human race, if such a beginning can be
fixed. But it is more probable that these lawgivers
succeeded one another through manvantaras (periods of a
manu). The names of the first seven are given as follows :
Svayambhuva (the author of the Manusmriti or famous
Code of Manu), Svarochisa, Anuttami, Tamasa, Raivata,
Chakshusha and Vaivasvata.

Whether they existed as contemporaries or succeeded one
another is not of much consequence for us here. What is
important to understand is that the two classes mentioned,
the sages and the lawgivers, who in themselves represent
particular spiritual values important to human life, whether


collective or individual, have both one common origin in
the neutral Absolute, just in the same manner as the other
spiritual values enumerated above.

Maharshayah sapta purve (the seven great sages of old)
refers to the poet-hermits whose names have been renowned
in the Vedas. The Mahabharata, in which the Bhagavad Gita
appears in Book xii, lists the following : Marichi, Atri,
Angiras, Pulaha, Kratu, Pulastya and Vasishta. Other lists of
seven are given, e.g., Kutsa, Atri, Rebha, Agastya, Kushika,
Vasishta and Vyashva, and sometimes other names are included,
such as Gotama, Bharadvaja, Vishvamitra, Jamadagni, Kasyapa,
Daksha, Prachetas, Bhrigu and Narada (see Shataptaha Brahmana,
xxv, 5.2.6, and Harivamsa, 417 ff.).

In this verse the different sets of public or private values
are personalized. They are represented by the lawgiver or
the hermit type of ancient spiritual person. The difference
is similar to that we know to exist between the lawgiver
Confucius and the mystic Lao Tse in China.

When the mind (of vii, 4) begins to function, it tends to
become directed to society because mind is the seat of the
ego and the interaction of ego and ego is the basis of social
life which throws up the social man. But when pure becoming
works out its own nature we find types representing the
natural man who may be even anti-social but still spiritual
according to the best. standards of spirituality known to
the srutis (revealed spiritual texts), though not to the
smritis (remembered codes of behaviour) to which latter
section the lawgivers naturally belong. Thus the sages
and lawgivers represent two branches of the Absolute when
it enters into the domain of human affairs.


etam vibhutim yogam cha
mamayo vetti tattvatah
so 'vikampena yogena
yujyate na 'tra samsayah

He who understands according to fundamental principles
My unique value together with its unitive balance, by
non-wavering contemplation attains union. In this there
is no room for doubt.


The process of becoming which has its origin in the Absolute
as it has been traced so far has two distinct aspects.


The first is called vibhuti (unique value) and the second
is called Yoga (neutral union).

These two should be understood as indicated by tattvalah
(according to first principles). In other words these are
fundamental notions of methodology, epistemology or value.
If vibhuti represents a unique value as we have said, such
a value must be the resultant of a unitive or neutral
appraisal of it, in which the opposites are cancelled out.
Any value to which a person could be related in order
that it might affect him in any worthwhile manner must be
thought of not merely as a process in a changing flux of
becoming, but in terms of something that has attained
stability and is thus of significance in human relationships.
In attaining such a stable equilibrium as a value there are
always opposites or counterparts involved. Herein consists
the Yoga or neutral unifications referred to. Yoga is always
a balancing, a neutralization, a cancelling out or
equation of component parts. Thus the process of becoming
and its own stabilization, in order to make worthwhile
values emerge, is the subtle understanding called for in
this verse.

Conversely, it is suggested here that a man capable of
such understanding himself does not fluctuate between
poles of his own personal tendencies. The unitive and
stabilized value which he is capable of appreciating and
with which he has established a bipolar relationship has
the effect of inducing the same stability in his own

He thus becomes established in a Yoga that never oscillates,
as indicated in the phrase avikampena (non-wavering). Such
a steady relationship established between himself on the one
hand, and a Supreme value on the other, must lead him to
union with the Absolute.


aham sarvasya prabhavo
mattam sarvam pravartate
iti matva bhajante mam
budha bhavasamanvitah

I am the Source of all ; from Me everything moves
outward; understanding thus, the wise adore Me,
endowed with the intuition of pure becoming.


Any implication in the previous verse suggestive of fixed
states is quickly counteracted and corrected here. The
Absolute can be viewed both statically and as an eternal
flux in the process of becoming. Even maya (principle of
negation) has been defined as bhavarupa (of the form of
becoming). The "wise ones" alluded to by the word budhah here
signify those who are capable of a contemplative view of
reality where the factor of time or duration has its place.
All happenings have to be viewed dynamically as a process
of becoming and not merely statically.

A certain sympathetic emotion is implied in contemplation
of the pure process of becoming when it refers to the
Absolute. The intellect is capable of appraising values
only in the form of stills. Those endowed with contemplation
and who are intuitive are capable of entering into
sympathetic understanding of the flux of becoming. It is
the latter class who are referred to as bhavasamanvitih
(endowed with a sympathetic intuition of pure becoming).
In view of the fact that in Verse 2 the reference has been
made to the source from which everything flows out, here
the repetition of the same idea of generation must be to
correct whatever wrong impression might be left from the
previous verse.


machchitta madgataprana
bodhayantah parasparam
kathayantas cha mam nityam
tushyanti cha ramanti cha

With their relational minds affiliated to Me, their
life-tendencies penetrating in Me, enlightening each
other and ever-conversing about Me, they are content
and rejoice.


The proper kind of relation to be established between the
seeker on the one side and the Absolute on the other is
again stated in a clearer form here. While the affiliation
with the Absolute is considered here in as close terms as
possible, almost establishing identity both at the mental or
relational level of the personality and at the vital psycho-
physical level, which latter is implied by the word prana
(which can mean just breath, life or vital tendencies), the
one-pointedness of the surrender thus implied might make
us think that the seeker is completely lost to all that exists
around him, as if absorbed in a mystic trance of exaltation.


But the second line of the verse refers to conversation with
others of a similar inclination who might be present around

The normal occupation of a person steeped in the Absolute
is not unconsciousness or abnormality of any kind, but a
normal state in which he not only teaches others but is taught
by others, while the mutual exchange of wisdom gives both
parties the characteristic joy which comes from interplay of
teaching and learning. They are both content and positively
happy in this normal kind of life.

Too often we read of trances and other abnormal states
as evidence of spirituality in mystical or yogic literature.
Symptoms of blood pressure, of depression or exaltation,
not to speak of childish forms of emotionalism, all pass as
expressions of the contemplative life.

The Gita here presents a sober picture which suffers from
no exaggerations. God-consciousness is a healthy and normal
state as portrayed here. This does not mean, however, that
abnormal states do not have any element of spirituality at

The spirit in which this verse is written is not different
from xi, 34 and xviii, 65, whose significance in the Gita we
have sufficiently emphasized.


tesham satalayuktanam
bhajatam pritipurvakam
dadami buddhiyogam tam
yena mam upayanti te

To such established in unbroken union (with) affectionate
adoration, I grant that kind of unitive understanding by
which they attain to Me.


The result or reward of this dedication is not anything of the
order of a siddhi (spiritual attainment) as usually mentioned
in books on Yoga, including such respectable treatises as
Patanjali's "Yoga Sutras". This and the next verse refer to
an award which might appear too simple or plain. It is of the
order of Self-realization or what is here called buddhi-yoga
(unitive understanding).

This is a special phrase which runs throughout the Gita
and is employed and extolled as early as ii, 49, where it is
contrasted with mere karma (action, ritual, works) which is
condemned there as very inferior. In vi, 43 the term again


appears, where it is employed in a more technical sense,
suggesting that one fallen from Yoga re-establishes a link
with it through the medium of intelligence or reason.
Here in this verse we find the expression used, it would
seem, with the same intended precision. The same expression
is used in xviii, 57 in summing up the whole teaching,
which is sufficient support for its importance as a
significant phrase. Moreover in x, 4 we find buddhi
(reason) occupying premier place among the unique values
whose source is the Absolute. The gift of intelligence or
reason is the greatest which God could confer on man,
according to the teaching of the Gita.

Attaining the Absolute is the other goal or reward referred
to. This itself should be understood in the same light of
Self-realization suggested in the next verse. We could even
change the idiom and say "attaining to peace", which would
bring together three expressions which would have synonymous
significance, as they have always been recognized to be so
in the language of Vedanta, where Ananda, Atma and Brahman
(joy, Self, Absolute) signify the same.


tesham eva 'nukampartham
aham ajnanajam tamah
nasayamy atmabhavastho
jnanadipena bhasvata

Specifically because of compassion for them I, abiding
as what has become the Self, destroy the ignorance born
of darkness by the shining lamp of wisdom.


It is possible to attain to the Absolute by ascending to
its status through worship, meditation or otherwise by the
process of introspection, by which one may be said to sink
into one's own true Self.

Wisdom is the motive force in these methods. Instead of
a reference to worshipping the Absolute; God or the
Absolute is said here to take pity on the seeker of wisdom
and identify himself with the Self of the seeker and so
dispel the darkness of the seeker. These two - worship on
the part of the seeker, and pity on the part of the Supreme
- are complementary processes and when put together amount
to the same state of unity. In the latter case, it is the
Absolute that influences the Self of the seeker. The bounty
of the Absolute


is the motive behind such an influence. Thus the reciprocity
between Verses 10 and 11 is perfect. God loves man as much
as man loves God and identity results.

The comparison of wisdom to a bright light is a favourite
simile in Vedanta. Between light and darkness there seems
to be opposition; but in reality it is light alone without
duality which is the valid factor. Though at first not
logically convincing, this statement becomes dialectically
valid, because light alone can represent reality and not
darkness, which is merely negation and therefore non-

For this reason the analogy of a lamp has become a favourite
one in Vedanta, where the method is essentially dialectical,
as we have shown many times already. The Absolute is
sometimes called the "Light of lights", as stated definitely
in xiii, 17. Of all analogies that of light seems to clarify
the nature of wisdom and this has been recognized by Plato
and other philosophers, and teachers such as Jesus Christ,
all over the world.

The term atmabhavasthah (abiding as what has become the Self)
is capable of being interpreted in such a way that the Self
implied here represents the Absolute, or as referring to the
Self of the seeker. Both ways give acceptable meanings in
principle, but as a complement to Verse 10, and as consistent
with the general context here, it is the individual Self of
the seeker into which the Absolute transforms itself because
of compassion.


Arjuna uvacha
param brahma param dhama
pavitram paramam bhavan
purusham sasvatam divyam
ididevam ajam vibhum

ahus tvam rishayah sarve
devarshir naradas tatha
asito devalo vyasah
svayam chai 'va bravishi me

Arjuna said:
You as being the supreme Absolute, the supreme Abode, the
supreme Purifier, the eternal divine Person, primal
Divinity, the Unborn, the All-pervading -

all the sages say this of You, the divine sage
Narada, so too Asita, Devala, Vyasa, and You
yourself confirm it to me.


Verse 12 opens a section of seven verses which is necessary
for marking out two sets of vibhutis (unique or perfected
values) which it would be wrong on any account to confuse.
These values, when grasped in most general terms, cover
all perfected stages or states in the process of becoming
which we are capable of conceiving, whether intuitively
or objectively.

Objective manifestations of the Absolute have a much lower
status because only a fraction of the potency of the
Absolute principle is said to be necessary to sustain them,
as stated in the last verse of this chapter.

So far we have covered those aspects of becoming which
fall within the scope of intuition rather than mere

The transition into the other series of values or perfections
calls for the literary device of Arjuna's accepting and
questioning interlude.

Arjuna in the first instance accepts the supremacy of the
Absolute, above the Vedic gods and above even the non-
Vedic spirituality of India, both of which belong to his
natural heritage.

When Arjuna in Verse 15 says that the Absolute knows itself
best, not from outside, but known as it were from inside
the Absolute itself, he gives recognition to the fact that the
intuitive method is what reveals the Absolute fully. But still
he requests guidance in the recognition of the touch of the
Absolute, wherever it occurs in the manifested world. Thus
the way is prepared for the last section where unique
perfections or values or specific expressions of the Absolute
are enumerated, an appendix as it were to the intuitive
approach to wisdom.

It takes two sides to make a statement of truth complete,
especially in a dialogue of this kind. It must be stated by one
who knows it and understood by the hearer who is capable of
grasping it. If there is such a recognition on the part of the
hearer, the case for the verity stated may be said to be fully

In the three verses that follow, Arjuna gives full credit to,
and accepts, the teaching of Krishna. He is no longer a
doubting questioner full of mistrust. His conversion in
principle to the


absolutist standpoint is complete. But there are matters of
applied wisdom on which he still needs clarification.
The full character of the Absolute with all its implications
is referred to in sufficiently familiar terms here. As the
central reality of which the Gita treats is the Absolute, such
a description of the particularized aspects of the Absolute
can only heighten the understanding of life in the light of
the Absolute.

In the list of authorities mentioned here, not only the
generality of sages are cited, but particular reference to
certain of them. Narada is singled out as a devarshi (sage
among gods). He is one who interprets Vedic wisdom to
those who belong to the non-Vedic context, and vice-versa.
He is pictured in Puranas (sacred legends) as descending
with his favourite vina (lute) from the domain of the gods
to spy on mortals and, like the Greek Hermes, to carry tales
about them again to the denizens on high. Thus he has
gained for himself the name of kalahapriya (quarrel-
making meddler). He is, everywhere used as a literary
device for purposes of revaluation of wisdom. His authority
is therefore valuable here to Arjuna who represents in
himself both the streams of wisdom.

Asita (the Dark One) was the son of the old Rik Veda
sage and poet Kasyapa, and Devala was the son of Asita (or
sometimes Asita and Devala are joined together as the name
of a son of Kasyapa.) The name "Asita" has its own
significance, since it means literally "not white", i.e. of
non-Vedic appearance. This, coupled with Vyasa who was also
"black" or "dark", and who is also mentioned in this verse,
has its own significance in the wisdom dialectics. These
sages must be imagined to occupy strategic positions;
Vyasa being quite patently the most central of revaluators
or "arrangers" in the whole field of Indian spirituality,
beginning from the Mahabharata to the Brahma Sutras and
the father of Vedanta.

The crowning conviction for Arjuna in regard to Krishna's
supreme status, however, comes from Krishna himself who
is his immediate Guru and who has himself stated this
verity about the Absolute in reference to himself earlier
in this chapter and elsewhere. The validity of this testimony
is, therefore, complete all round as required by the sastras
(text-books). Thus the acceptance by Arjuna of the claims
of Krishna becomes natural, as stated in the next verse.


sarvam tad ritam manye
yan mim vadasi kesava
na hi te bhagavan vyaktim
vidur deva na danavah

I believe that all this that You say is valid, 0 Kesava
(Krishna); neither the divinities nor the demons, 0 Lord,
know Your unique nature.


Although other authorities have been cited, Arjuna seems
to rely wholly on evidence that is centred in Krishna himself
as representing the Absolute, for he says that even the
divinities and their counterparts the danavah (Titans, i.e.
those who opposed the Vedic divinities), can never understand
the unique individual character belonging to the Absolute
as such - gods and their titan opponents have only a relativist
or tribal status.

The expression vyakti (individuation) refers to this individual
character more than to mere manifestation. This becomes clear
from the next verse, which points out that the best evidence
of the Absolute can only be from the standpoint of the Absolute
itself. All relativist approaches are different photographs
taken from different angles only, never capable of giving the
complete picture, as Bergson ably explains in his "Introduction
to Metaphysics".

Public verification is discarded in favour of a purer approach
to the Absolute through one's own consciousness. The devas
(Vedic gods) and the danavas (titan opponents of the Vedic
gods) can only get partial views of reality.

Though the danavas (Titans) are said to be inferior to the
devas (Vedic gods) in the matter of knowing the Absolute,
both have here a status of equality.

The word ritam (valid) does not mean exactly the same as
satyam (true), which latter is used when there is positive
conviction by the use of intelligence. Arjuna's present state
is one of belief rather than conviction.


svayam evi 'tmana 'tmanam
vettha tvam purushottama
bhutabhavana bhatesa
devadeva jagatpate

You Yourself indeed know Yourself by Yourself, most high
Godhead, presiding Principle of elemental expression and
of becoming, Light of shining ones, the Lord of the universe.


The best way to wisdom is through intuition, which is an
approach different from objective knowledge. The way of
intuition is to identify oneself with the object or, in other
words, to abolish, as far as possible, subjective and objective
prejudices which hide the true nature of the thing as viewed
from its own inside. The present verse supports the view that
the Absolute is best known to the Absolute by its own norms
and standards. Outside norms only measure as if by guesswork,
indirectly at best, through symbolic language or inference.
Knowledge, the object of knowledge and the meaning are
all here conceived as belonging to one normative Principle,
the Self, which is a measure of all things.

The methodological requirement of abolishing the natural tri-
basic (triputi in Vedanta terminology) tendency in
cognition is here openly discarded, and though the status
of the Absolute is still spoken of as a divinity or a
theological entity of some kind, we find it raised beyond
all such suspicions of theology, or above what is merely

This is suggested by each of the series of epithets:
purushottama (most high Godhead), bhutabhavana bhutesa
(presiding Principle of elemental expression and of
becoming), devadeva (God of divinities or Light of shining
ones, i.e. Light of lights), jagatpate (Lord of the universe).
The latter perhaps has a theistic flavour in the usual sense,
but is still capable of being understood in the light of pure
philosophy. Inserted, as the Gita is, in the Puranic context of
the Mahabharata, the author adopts a style which would apply
both to theology and philosophy at once.


vaktum arhasy aseshena
divya hy atmavibhutayah
yabhir vibhutibhir lokan
imams tvam vyapya tishthasi

Be pleased to tell me without omission of the divine
perfections of Your own Self by which specific expressions
You pervade these worlds, while remaining (apart)


In spite of certain indications given about perfections as
applied to the Absolute earlier in this chapter, here we find
Arjuna insistent on, hearing from Krishna of whatever
aspects have not been covered so far in the earlier
enumeration. This is what justifies the expression aseshena
(without remainder) by Arjuna.

In Verse 18 the eagerness of Arjuna is further underlined
and in Krishna's reply which begins with the expression
hanta Alas! well, now!) there seem to be unwillingness or
hesitation to enumerate his flimsy glories as if they were of
little importance philosophically. But Arjuna takes care, in 
Verse 17, to give his reason for asking the question in very
explicit terms. It is for fuller guidance in visualizing or
conceiving the Absolute properly. Krishna accordingly
gives Arjuna a sufficient number of instances for his

The word tishthasi (You remain) is reminiscent of the word
sthito (I stand) in Verse 42, which is derived from the
same root. The Absolute exists without being tainted by its
own manifestations in the worlds. It is not a mechanistic
relationship in which the converse of a proposition holds
good, but one in which the converse is not true. Existence
reveals God, but God is not to be identified with existence
(see Taittiriya Upanishad, ii, 6 and Gita vii, 12).


katham vidyam aham yogima
tvam sada parichintavan
keshu-keshu cha bhaveshu chintyo 'si
bhagavan maya

How shall I, constantly meditating on You, know You,
0 Mystic (yogi); in what particular expressions,
0 blessed One, are You to be cognized by me?


The reference to Krishna as a yogi in preference to all
other epithets like bhagavan (blessed One) here is
significant. As we have explained under Verse 7, vibhuti
(unique perfection or value) and Yoga here have a subtle
interconnection. It is in reference to the power of Yoga
which comes near to that of maya (principle of negation)
but devoid of any derogatory stigma, that the word Yoga
is often applied. The yogi is sometimes even compared to
a magician, and


an mixing up of values to produce entities which are
desirable or attractive is a result of the magic of yoga.
It has its origin in the Absolute. Contemplative values
emerge from the vague matrix of the Absolute as highlights
from the general background of a painting and, when they are
sufficiently respectable as properly belonging to the mystical
context, the author of such manifestations, i.e., the Absolute,
could legitimately be called a yogi. This is exactly the
meaning of the word here.

Having spoken of the Absolute as knowing Himself best,
the reference to him as a Divine Yogi here is but one degree
removed in favour of the actual enumeration of perfection
in the visible world which we are about to enter upon. The
yogi who can work magic and the effect that is magical
both belong to the Absolute.

It is suggested that in meditating on such a yogic aspect,
the seeker himself would be better guided in the path of the
Absolute. Arjuna as a seeker wants to be guided by visible
perfections of the Absolute recognizable here and now.
The expression tvam sada parichintayan (constantly meditating
on you) would seem at first sight to be a superfluous
condition when the perfections to be enumerated belong to,
a manifested world. But it should be noted that it is not
objective values alone that are referred to below. They
are values which are revealed only to the eye of a person
who has at least entered into a mood of recognition of higher
values. The values do not by themselves automatically
impress the mind of the seeker. Hence the necessity of being
always in a meditative mood. In the reference to the
gambling of the gambler for example, the implied value is
not evident on the surface, nor is the grandeur of the
Himalaya as a value, to take but two examples from the
great number of cases given.


vistarena 'tmano yogam
vibhutim cha janardana
bhuyah kathaya triptir hi
srinvato ni 'sti me 'mritam

Tell me, again in detail, 0 Janardana (Krishna), of
your balanced perfections and specific expressions,
for I am never satiated by hearing your words of'
ambrosial immortality.



The request is repeated with the additional reference not only
to desire for guidance, but in the name of sheer enjoyment
itself The "cognition" desired in the first instance is here
supported by sheer affection for the wisdom, which, taken
together with "conation" already covered in Chapter ix,
fulfils all the psychological prerequisites for a wholehearted
affiliation to wisdom, even in its most specific aspects.

Muna refers to the wisdom as the ambrosia that gives
immortality and adds further that he would never be satiated.
The seeker for the Absolute has been compared elsewhere to
a bee sipping nectar in the heart of a lotus. The more it sips,
the more the taste for wisdom increases, and because the
Absolute represents eternal value, there is no term that could
be set for its satisfaction.

Vibhuti (unique value, perfection) and Yoga (neutral union)
are here alluded to again. Instead of particularized
expressions which are going to be enumerated presently, this
more general reference is to conform to the theme of the
chapter as a whole by way of concluding this section, where
Arjuna's conversion to the standpoint of Krishna is completed.
The mutual adoption is wholehearted and strictly bipolar with
no misgivings or mistrust.


Sribhagavan uvacha
hanta te kathayishyami
divya hy atmavibhutayah
pradhanyatah kurusreshtha
na 'sty anto vistarasya me

Krishna said:
Ah ! I shall recount to you the (bright) glorious values that
pertain to Myself, (graded) according to their importance,
0 Best of the Kurus (Arjuna), for there is no end to the
elaboration of items pertaining to Me.


The section dealing with the long enumeration of specific,
unique or glorious values which emerge to view in our life as
it is actually lived, to which reference was made in the
introduction to this chapter, begins here. As in the case of
Hamlet's ghost when it was unwillingly compelled to speak


about itself, we find a characteristic interjection here,
hanta (ah !) which can mean "alack "or "alas ". The world
of the spirit has a certain hesitation or unwillingness to
become the subject of overt commonplace discussion. One
could even say that God himself likes to remain unseen,
untainted by the vulgar look of a humanity which belongs
to the market-place. It is at the insistent request of
Arjuna that a concession is made here. When God makes his
appearance to the common human eye it degenerates into a
theophany which theologians have quite rightly condemned.
This charge may at first sight appear to apply to the
enumeration in this chapter and more definitely to the next
chapter, where Arjuna has the vision of God. But those who
level these charges forget one important difference, which is
that it is not a mere theistic God which is the subject of
discussion in the Gita at all, as we have many times pointed
out, but a far higher subject. The difference will be
expressly brought out in xv, 17 and 18.

The unique values are further qualified as being divya
(divine). If theism is excluded how - can this epithet be
justified ? This would be a natural question. But if we look
at the derivation we find it is light or brightness which is
referred to, as in viii, 26. The Absolute, has its bright
aspects. Aditya, which is named first in Verse 21, has
brightness as its expression, and although some of the other
items may not have brightness explicitly as in this case, the
principle of brightness or at least positiveness, is implied
in all these enumerated values.

The term pradhanyatah (according to their importance) shows
that the list is graded, though by no means exhaustive, as
implied in the term vistarasya (to the elaboration of items)
that pertain to the Absolute. This has to be read side by side
with the two concluding verses where the secondary character
intended here for enumerated items is further underlined.


aham atma gudakesa
sarva bhutasaya sthitah
aham adis cha madhyam cha
bhutanam anta eva cha

I am the soul, 0 Gudakesa (Arjuna), seated in the
heart of all beings; and I am the beginning, and the
middle and even the end of beings.


In keeping with the treatment throughout the Gita, where
cosmology and psychology are dealt with side by side, here
the first and most important item of the glory and unique
value of the Absolute is stated in terms of the Self, before
passing on to items that have more of a cosmological
significance, To treat cosmology and psychology together is
one of the peculiarities of contemplative epistemology, as
we have already seen, in vii, 4, where the eightfold division
of the Absolute includes earth at one end and the "I" sense
at the other end.

Here, however, even the vestige of duality which persisted
in Chapter vii as between the lower and the higher Self is
further abolished.

Earlier in the present chapter there is a list of qualities or
virtues which are said to issue from the Absolute where also
duality is present between those virtues which depend upon
intelligence and others that depend upon personal attitudes.
In the present verse it is neither nature nor virtue which
is dealt with, but a series of values conceived more
unitively, and graded according to an epistemological
principle in which the Self as an overt entity is given a
primary place. Thus, the idea of the Self here approaches as
near as could possibly be to the concept of a soul, understood
as an entity rather than as being identical with the Absolute
or Brahman. Otherwise it could not be spoken of as being
seated in the heart of all beings.

Further, the reference to a beginning, middle and end, as
applied to a purer concept of the Self would become irrelevant
because the Absolute Self is beyond time. The reference to
relative time here, however, is consistent with what has been
said in Verse 2, though not with what is implied in Verse 3.
We have already explained how this chapter is on a par with
the last, although the needle here deflects a little towards
the positive appraisal of the Absolute, instead of being only
a little short of the neutral zero in Chapter ix. The norm
or the zero had to be indicated for the appreciation of the
subtle difference in treatment which we have just pointed out.
Hence the justification for Verse 3.

When the Self is seated in the heart it conforms to the
description in Verse 3, but when it is the beginning, middle
and end, it conforms to the more practical or realistic picture
implied in Verse 2. Instead of being merely the source of
beings, as mentioned in Verse 2, here it is also the middle


and even the end. The asymmetry inevitable to a realistic
approach is here rectified without losing its positive
character. Time and eternity are here brought together as
closely as possible without compromising the positive note
of the chapter.


adityanam aham vishnur
jiyotisham ravir amsuman
marichir marutam asmi
nakshatranam aham sasi

Of the Adityas I am Vishnu, of luminaries the radiant Sun;
I am Marichi of the Maruts ; among the stars I am the Moon.


The enumeration of cosmological entities representing
absolutist value gives first place to the Adityas. They
represent luminaries pertaining to each month of the year
(especially in the later brahmanas or later Vedic works).
The twelve suns are supposed to shine together at the
destruction of the universe, and Vishnu is the last of the
series. If we now think of Vishnu as representing Absolute
value, we can easily see how the eleven other suns previous
to him in the series are implicit in that very value which is
the finalized one. Vishnu-hood therefore includes and
transcends all luminous values in the context of relative time
or duration. He might thus represent Absolute time and
Absolute glory conceived together. Thus, cosmologically, we
arrive at the Absolute in terms of a supreme value in the
eternal present. The cosmological approach to the Absolute
cannot possibly go any further.

Coming one step down from this pure and comprehensive notion
of luminaries treated in the abstract, we come to the notion
of ravi (the sun) which is a unitary entity among the existing
luminaries, which would represent something unique or special,
a sort of model by itself The difference between other
luminaries and the sun, it is suggested, is not one of mere
degree, but of kind.

From an objective luminary, we come in the next instance to
Marichi, i.e., to an entity representing a mere ray of light.
It is therefore the qualitative aspect of light which gains
prominence. As the word also refers to one of the seven
sages, to the first Manu, to one of the mind-born sons of


Brahma, and to Krishna himself, the implication here is that
among the Maruts (which means indifferently "vital breath"
or "shining" or more comprehensively living beings in
general). Marichi itself represents the radiant or shining
principle. The quantitative aspect gives place to the
qualitative, and reveals the Absolute through brightness as
an abstract principle or even presence.

The last example reveals the same underlying method. In
the light of actual objective astronomy, as understood in
modern times, it would be incongruous to say that among
the stars the moon has any superiority or uniqueness; but
considered merely from its relative prominence as we look
at the full moon on a starry night, what is intended here is
unmistakably evident. Sanskrit literature has the familiar
figure of speech in which a beautiful woman surrounded by
her handmaidens is compared to the moon surrounded by
stars. The moon stands out conspicuously in its unique
glory among stars viewed in this way. It is the uniqueness
of the glory that matters here and not factual astronomy.


vedinam samavedo 'smi
devanam asmi vasavah
indriyanam manas cha 'smi
bhutanam asmi chetana

Of the Vedas I am the Sama-Veda; of the divinities I am
Indra (Vasava); in respect of the senses I am the Mind,
and of life-expressions I am (pure) Intelligence.


From the Absolute viewed from a cosmological angle, we turn
again to one in which the approach is more subjective.
The three Vedas represent those branches of learning
which adorn a brahmin who represents a spiritual man. One
versed in the Rig Veda gives importance or primacy to
devas (deities), and one versed in the Yajur Veda gives
primacy to man. The Sama Veda on the other hand, praises
soma (some juicy potent ontological principle) side by side
with the pitris (ancestors). It represents a compromising,
synthetic, middle way in spiritual learning; the passages in it
being drawn from the other two Vedas, and as Sama also
suggests song, or chanting, it represents also an element of
ecstasy. All these mark the unique distinction of the Sama


the other two Vedas. The fourth or Atharvana Veda deals with
black magic and therefore need not figure at all here in
this grouping.

The primacy given to Vasava or Indra, well known as the chief
of gods, cited in the next example, requires no explanation.
The comparison established between the mind and the senses
in the instance which follows might be objected to, as one
that is between different classes or entities, because the
mind is not generally counted as a sense organ. But the
sense organs may he said to inhere or be implied in the mind.
Mind has no being apart from them and itself may be
considered as the focal point where the sensations coming
through the different senses may be said to meet. In such a
revised sense the comparison is quite valid, especially when
we remember that the Absolute always belongs to an order of
its own, though related to its component members.
Chetana (living intelligence) is the finest form of the
expression of life. Life itself is a process of constant
becoming, and when it is not statically viewed, pure
becoming is a notion not far different from pure intelligence.
The difference is subtle and negligible. Life can be equated
with intelligence, when both are understood in the purest
terms; or intelligence may be said to be the cream of life


rudranam samkaras cha 'smi
vitteso yaksharakshasam
vasunam pavakas cha 'smi
meruh sikharinam aham

Of the Rudras I am Samkara (Siva) ; of the Yakshas and
the Rakshasas, Vittesa (Lord of Wealth), of the Vasus I am
Pavakah (the purifying elemental fire) and among heights
I am Meru.


Here we, have a series which is conceived in very earthy
or ontological terms. The name rudra, suggesting "roaring"
or "howling", can also refer to something of a necessary or
matter-of-fact order in life. The tragic aspect of life, which
Siva represents as a destroyer, need not be thought of as a
value representing imperfection. Adversity itself has its
sweet uses. There are references in the Indian scriptures to
many Rudras who, treated together, may be thought of as


representing a form of perfection or auspicious value
derived from the Absolute as suggested by the name samkara
(causing happiness) which is a synonym for Siva.
Yakshas and Rakshasas are said to represent a sort of
cousin class of entities worthy of worship who attend on
Kubera (here called Vittesa) the God of Wealth. To be
wealthy, even in a worldly sense, may be said to be
something unique and even glorious and good. So, in that
category of superiority to which Yakshas and Rakshasas
also belong, the lord of wealth occupies a unique place.
Each notion of the Absolute has to be understood from its
own frame of reference or standpoint. Perfection, goodness
or validity can distinguish entities belonging to classes or
categories which are distinct or apart. Superiority in one
category does not mean superiority in another. Thus,
Kubera or the Lord of Wealth is superior in his own context
and not in the context of devas or divinities, with which
latter group he is not to be compared.

In the hierarchy of beings belonging to Vedism, Yakshas and
Rakshasas do not occupy any laudable position, much less
Kubera, their common chief. His inclusion in the list of
unique values enumerated here must depend not so much on
goodness but rather on some tragic or strong note coming
from urjita (something valid or radical) as in Verse 41.
The norms of Vedic orthodoxy are not strictly adhered to

The Vasus, often spoken of as eight in number, are
elemental divinities suggesting brightness, goodness or

Fire, which is really one of them, is spoken of here as
representing all of them, because it implies the potency
of purification.

Mount Meru has the uniqueness in Puranic cosmology of
being the churning-rod or axis round which the known
universe revolves. Geographically speaking, Meru is
distinguished by its height, as against the Himalaya known
for its massive grandeur. When we take into account the
quality of height of mountains, Meru excels; and thus its
uniqueness is revealed, and that is where its absoluteness


purodhasam cha mukhyam
mam viddhi partha brihaspatim
senaninam aham skandah
sarasam asmi sagarah

Even in the case also) of the household priests, 0 Partha
(Arjuna), know Me the Chief, Brihaspati; of the generals
I am Skandha (the war-god); in respect of lakes I correspond
to the ocean.


Brihaspati is a wise teacher of the Vedic gods, and also
a lawgiver. His claims to Vedic orthodoxy are sometimes
questioned although, on the other hand, the authorship of
certain Vedas or passages in the Vedas are sometimes
attributed to him. He is also often referred to as the head
of the rationalism anterior to the Samkhya philosophy. He can
be taken generally. to represent traditional wisdom at its
highest, although himself belonging to a patriarchal or
familial set-up.

The leader of the family priests here, referred to as
Purodhas is a master of ceremonies in household Vedic
ritualism. In such a category Brihaspati occupies a unique
and glorious position. He represents absolutism as far as it
can go in such a relativist framework.

The war-god Skanda represents prowess in the military
context. He stands for a form of positive spirituality which
is not merely a form of impotent piety.

In the lake and ocean reference, we should think of a person
taking a walk through a district of beautiful lakes and,
while he is enjoying their beauty, his eye catches a glimpse
of the ocean which dominates the whole scene. A sense of
wonder marks the difference between the two appreciations.
The object of the author here is to underline this qualitative
difference. By referring to the ocean among lakes quite
abruptly along with other examples in the same verse in
which the values are more personal, it is not against the
philosophy of the Gita to treat of physical entities alongside
spiritual factors such as the ego or the mind.


maharshinam bhrigur aham
giram asmy ekam aksharam
yajnanam japayajno 'smi
sthavaranam himalayah

Of the great hermit-sages I am Bhrigu; of articulated words
I am the one-syllable (Aum); of sacrifices I am the sacrifice
of silent repetition; of immovables I am the Himalaya.


Bhrigu typifies another type of spirituality, conforming to
what could be called the pattern of rishi or hermit. They are
different from priests or even pontiffs; being recluses or
forest-dwellers, related more to the natural than to the
social man. Their life conforms to standards of pure mystical
morality free from the rigid obligatory framework of social
rules. Although the authorship of the Veda is attributed to
them sometimes, as also a patriarchal status of lawgivers,
they are innocent and pure personalities who may be called
originals in the spiritual pattern that each of them

Many Bhrigus have been referred to in ancient Indian
writing; even a whole race of Bhrigus being sometimes
mentioned. It will suffice for us to understand here that
this type of spiritual person has his absolute counterpart
in a Bhrigu, known generically through the ages associated
with fire or its kindling.

The one syllable referred to in this verse is evidently Aum
and how Aum represents the Absolute has been explained in
the Mandukya Upanishad.

In the matter of repeating holy formulae, how this could
be considered as a form of sacrifice is suggested in iv, 28.
The superiority of silent prayer to loudly uttered formulae
comes from the fact that the former approximates to
contemplation which is subjective and involves no outer
expression. The more outward a prayer or sacrifice is, the
more inferior is its grade in the true contemplative sense.
Loud prayers and elaborate ritual are often attributed in the
Puranas (legends) to rakshasas (fierce demons) like Ravana
or stalwarts like Bhima. One is asked to say one's prayers
in lonely privacy even in Christianity, and only Pharisees
are supposed to make a public display of piety. A life
dedicated to the Absolute should conform to contemplative
requirements rather than to social standards.
The superiority of contemplative sacrifices is also praised
indirectly in iv, 33.

The immobility or stability or radical strength which is
here singled out as the unique or specific quality of the
Himalaya suggests the same subjective attitude implicit in
the other examples. A person who is withdrawn and whose
spirit is attuned to his inmost Self, gains a stability or
steadiness which resembles the immobility of the Himalaya.


asvatthah sarvavrikshanam
devarshinim cha naradah
gandharvanam chitrarathah
siddhanam kapilo munih

Of trees (I am) Asvattha, and of divine sages, Narada,
of Gandharvas, Chitraratha, (and) of those of psycho-physical
attainments, Kapila the recluse.

Here the unitive principle on which the instances converge
is that of a neutrality between extremes rather than one-sided
glory of any kind.

The Asvattha tree (ficus religiosa) or banyan, has aerial
roots and therefore derives nourishment both from the
ground and, theoretically at least, from the atmosphere.
Although there are more glorious trees, this neutral example
is chosen here because of having its roots as it were in
heaven and its branches in the human world, as more
completely pictured in the sequence of verses at the
beginning of Chapter xv. It is not famed for its utility but
has been valued for its religious associations throughout
the ages in India, and it corresponds in some ways to the
Ygdrassil of Scandinavian mythology.

Narada is a typical go-between for gods and men and his
nickname is "scandal-monger". He is known as a devarshi
(divine seer or sage) but his status as such is open to
question. He is a kind of intermediate product between two
different sets of spiritual values.

As for the gandharvas, they also occupy an intermediate
position between regular heavenly divinities, such as Indra,
and mortals. Chitraratha, as the name indicates, is the
possessor of an ornamental chariot. Gandharvas are custodians
of the soma plant with which they engaged themselves in
healing the devas (divinities), in which matter they became
rivals to the latter, Indra himself taking away the soma
medicine by force. From all this we gather that the gandharvas
belong to the mortal world as much as to the heavenly, and
therefore represent a mysterious paradoxical value through
their chief, here named Chitraratha.

The eight siddhis (psycho-physical attainments) are not
divine qualities, but merely perfections attainable from the
mundane side. Lightness of body, for example, does


not imply any supernatural quality, but can be understood
merely as a psycho-physical attainment within the reach of
man. The siddhas are those who possess such attainments,
and are said to inhabit alternately the higher and lower
altitudes of the Himalaya.

Kapila, the reputed founder of the Samkhya (rationalist)
system, being of the heterodox school, rightly represents the
group, especially as the siddhis (psycho-physical attainments)
mentioned in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras have, in the Samkhya of
Kapila, a natural counterpart. Rationalism and yogic
attainments meet in the person of Kapila and he thus
represents a unique spiritual value belonging to a certain
well-known context which is that of munis (recluses).


uchchaihsravasam asvanam
viddhi mam amritodbhavam
airavatam gajendranam
naranam cha naradhipam

Know Me among horses to be Uchchaihsravas, born of the
ambrosia of immortality; of noble elephants, Airavata,
and of men, the King.


From examples suggesting higher hypostatic values we come
now to some belonging to the side of ordinary creation,
such as the horse and the elephant.

The equestrian quality in a horse and the elephantine
quality in an elephant are the aspects in which their own
specific reality remains fixed. It is the specific quality
which always contains the virtue or value.

Taking the example of Uchchaihsravas, the high-eared and
neighing, or in other words, very sensitive horse of Indra
which was obtained on the churning of the ocean of milk, the
author puts his finger on one important item of unique
though utilitarian value which comes within the range of
human life.

The milk ocean is symbolic of the, expansive world of values
belonging to the human environment. Churning throws out
specific values from the general matrix of values.
This general matrix is here referred to as the ambrosia of
immortality, because eternal values are to be kept in mind
when we deal with contemplation of the Absolute.


This horse then is not only a prototype of all horses but is
supposed to excel all others and in this way is related to the
unique value of the Absolute which, by itself, cannot be
conceived by human thought in any definite form.
The case of the elephant is a parallel instance. It is also
born from the Ocean of Milk or Values.

The example of a king among men is also very striking in
that it serves to bring into relief the distinction which in
principle exists between just one among many and that
unique value which gives to the individual a totally different
status. A king might resemble a soldier in details of dress
and appearance, but there is a qualitative difference in their
status which is important to recognize. To mistake a king for
an ordinary soldier may sometimes have disastrous consequences.
Thus the unique value of a king among men is brought into
relief through this example.


ayudhanam aham vajram
dhenunam asmi kamadhuk
prajanas cha 'smi kandarpah
sarpanam asmi vasukih

Of weapons I am the thunderbolt; of cows I am the
milk-yielder of all desires; of progenitors I am the
god of erotics; of serpents I am Vasuki (their chief).


The distinct qualities belonging to weapons or to entities
affecting human life adversely or favourably in a more
ordinary sense are enumerated here.

The thunderbolt of Indra is the fiercest of weapons and the
poison of the king of serpents can have ominous significance.
They thus enter into the world of spiritual values in
different ways.

The Cow of Plenty of Indian mythology occupies an intermediate
position covering all and sundry values comprising both
necessity and luxury.

Man must live and multiply, and the principle of fecundity
involved here is a value which is hypostatized in the chief
of progenitors as also found in Indian mythology.
Vasuki, as the king of serpents, represents a negative value
gaining its status through potency rather than fecundity.
Potency is one of the important component parts of what is
generally understood as spiritual and therefore cannot be


anantas cha 'smi naganam
varuno yadasam aham
pitrinam aryama cha 'smi
yamah samyamatam aham

And I am Ananta of Nagas; I am Varuna of the denizens of
the deep; and Aryama of the ancestors: I am Yama of


The entities included here suggest on the one hand time
or eternity. "Ananta", which means "endlessness", is the snake
of Vishnu. Here it is the negative, dark, or existential
aspects of eternity that are suggested by these various
entities. They may be looked upon as representing human
values belonging to the background of the personality,
where retrospection and the consequent element of regret
are also involved. Varuna, for example, is regarded
sometimes as the counterpart of Mitra, the former having to
do with darkness and the latter with the light of day.

The nagas, or cobras with human faces, in mythology,
definitely belong to the nether world and it is safe to
conjecture that they belong to some form of outmoded or
overcovered spiritual tradition. What is too negative or
retrospective when we think of such semi-human cobras is
balanced or corrected when we think of Ananta, where Time
is treated without asymmetry as the eternal present, a
notion in keeping with the absolutist outlook.

With Varuna the presiding deity of the sea and the watery
element in general, the negative character to which we have
referred is further confirmed, as water has more inertia
implied in it than fire. Varuna is much feared, as evident
from Vedic prayers, because he is supposed to know all the
faults of his worshippers, even the winking of an eye. He is
not just some god high above the world, but part and parcel
of the laws of existence which regulate human life here and

Aryama as the chief of the ancestors is more connected
with vaishyas (farmer-merchants) and women rather than with
the highest class. Pure or higher values are not implied in
such an entity. Ancestor worship has its retrospective lag


which is intended here to be corrected or balanced by the
reference to Aryama, who perhaps represents the highest or
furthermost point to which negative ancestor worship could
be lifted.

Yama is always located in the south, and vis-a-vis the
north has always occupied a place corresponding to Hades.
If heaven is in the Himalaya, Hades may be said to be at
the pointed toe of South India. This does not, however, mean
that Yama has not been given an important place. In fact,
in Vedanta, Yama sometimes (in Katha Upanishad for instance)
occupies the place of a guru. He represents the first man,
with his sister Yami the first woman. His name suggests
strict control and as Dharma-Raja he is in charge of natural
or spiritual laws and judgments bearing on justice. The
stern or inexorable character of Yama, like retribution,
is a negative factor, in keeping with the other values
alluded to above.


prahladas cha 'smi daityanam
kalah kalayatam aham
mriganam cha mrigendro 'ham
vainateyas cha pakshinam

And I am Prahlada of the Daityas; among bases of
measurement I am time; and of beasts I am the lord of
beasts (the lion); and Vainateya of birds.


The Daityas have always been considered enemies of the
Vedic gods. They also inhabit the nether world. At a time
when the notion of Vishnu as representing the Absolute
came into vogue, one of the Daityas called Prahlada caught
on to the new idea, while his father Hiranyakashipu
opposed him on this point. Vishnu himself is said to have
given recognition to Prahlada by making him a chief
among Daityas. As one capable of appreciating absolutism,
though still belonging to a non-Vedic context, Prahlada
attains that unique value justifying his inclusion in the
list here.

Time which consists of moments is included in the abstract
notion of pure time which is here called kala. Each unitive
moment is included in the general notion. It is with these
time-units that all worthwhile measurements as in
astronomy are made possible. Thus pure time represents
the Absolute in relation to moments, based on which
calculations are possible.


There are many animals in the forest, but the lion or the
tiger, and especially the lion, has a striking, unmistakable
supremacy which overshadows all the others. In the sense
of thus dominating everything else of the same kind, the
lion is here held up as an example.

Vainateya is a mysterious bird often referred to as the
brother of the dawn because of its glory. The fabled
phoenix is a bird which is self-immolated to be born again
at once and represents the eternal present. Some such idea is
likely to be implied in Vainateya, which by lineage is also
related to Garuda (Vinata) the hypostatic bird-vehicle of
Vishnu. Birds themselves, with their bright plumage and
aerial flight in the glory of the bright sky, are symbols of
the spirit of man seeking freedom, and it is therefore but
apt that the mystery bird Vainateya should be given here a
prime place as an absolutist value.


pavanah pavatam asmi
ramah sastrabhritam
aham jhashanam makaras
cha 'smi srotasam asmi jahnavi

Of purifiers I am the wind; I am Rama of bowmen; of fishes
I am the makara; of streams I am the Ganges.


Fire which had the name of purifier in Verse 3 of this
chapter is not the only purifier. The wind is expressly
spoken of as such here. We know that water also cleanses
The particular sense in which the wind is spoken of as a
purifier here can be got from the fact, that the wind is an
ally of fire (agni) which is a supreme purifier. In helping fire
to purify, a chance or selective influence is exerted by the

It assists the fire to burn away dross and thus let purer
values remain. It can thus be thought of as the wind of
occasionalism or chance. The sifting or selection of inherent
or lasting values may be regarded as belonging to the
chance-like gusts of the wind.

As a bowman, Rama excels all others, not only because of
correct marksmanship, but because of the absolutist
character of the spiritual value he represents in his own
personality. In the Ramayana every weapon of Ravana is
met by something superior on the part of Rama. Weapons
here represent spiritual values in the process of revaluation.
The values that


Ravana is capable of representing are finally superseded by
the weapon of all weapons known as Rama-bana which is
Absolute in its character. It must be in this additional sense
that Rama may be said to be unique as an archer.
The makara is a semi-mythological "fish" perhaps resembling the
Gangetic cetacean gavialis gangeticus. It is notorious for
its voracity, and just as the lion dominates the forest, so
this makara dominates life in the waters. Hence the place given
to it here.

The holiness of the Ganges is well known. It is believed
that a dip in its waters has the power of absolving one from
all sin. In another symbolic sense also the status of the
Ganges becomes unique in that it represents the flow of
beneficent values originating from the head of Siva. It is
thus a perennial value flowing through time for the benefit
of man.


sarganam adir antas cha
madhyam chai 'va'ham arjuna
adhyatmavidya vidvanam
vadah pravadatam aham

(In the structure) of cantos (or chapters) I am the beginning,
end and also the middle, 0 Arjuna; of the sciences (I am) the
Science of the Self; I am the dialectic of pre-eminent


The items here belong to the category of speech,literature,
or branches of wisdom. It is a well-known rule in
rhetoric or composition that in a paragraph or section of a
book, the most important or conspicuous positions are the
beginning, end and middle. It is true that a cosmological
interpretation can be given to the word sarga, but in view
of the fact that such a reference has already been covered
in Verse 20, and also considering the unity of this verse,
it is more likely that the rhetorical interpretation is

In any work the essential content is likely to be mentioned
at the, beginning, middle or end. The structure of the Gita
itself bears this out.

Especially when understood as Self-knowledge, the Vedanta
is often referred to as the crowning jewel of wisdom, or
as the basis of all knowledge. As it deals with the Absolute
itself this description is justified. The Upanishads refer
to that kind of knowledge by knowing which, everything here
is known, where


the unitive grandeur of Upanishadic Self-knowledge is
extolled. Such passages make the meaning here quite clear.
When two people discuss, there is an interplay of dialectic
implied in the situation, especially when such discussion enters
into very subtle or specific matters of spiritual value. This
implied dialectic is here called vada which represents the
neutral Absolute, standing as it were between two differing
points of view in theses cleverly sustained by adepts in the
dialectic art. The prefix pra being held to indicate utkarsha
(special glory) and khyati (fame), supports the meaning here of
a specially gifted dialectician. If this kind of subtle dialectic
is not meant here, vada can just mean reasonable or normal
argument for finding the truth as against jalpa (overbearing
wrangling) and vitanda (idle carping) as Sankara suggests. But,
in our opinion, dialectic is consistent with the subject-matter
of the Gita, as we have many times said.


akshardnam akiiro 'smi
dvandvah samasikasya cha
aham evd 'kshayah kalo
dhata 'ham visvatomukhah

Among syllabic letters I am the A and of compounds I am the
paired-compound; I am also unexpended Time; I am the
Maintainer, universally facing.


The vowel A here called akara is implied in every other
sound of the syllabaries (as in Sanskrit and other Indian
languages) whether vowel or consonant. Even in vowels that
sound different, the basic sound A is merely modified by
the position of the speech organs. This idea is found also
in the Tamil Tiru-Kural. As the common basis of all sounds
the unique value of A among all syllables is quite evident.
There are many ways by which words are compounded with
others. The various types are called samasas. Of the
component parts of most of them, one is treated as more
important than the other. But in the particular compound
known as the dvandva (paired-compound) both components
are given equal status. This reference is very apt and
supports the contention put forward here that the author
thinks in terms of dialectic rather than, as often thought,
of a reasoning leading to monism. The Absolute cannot be
conceived of except through the method of neutralizing or
cancelling-out of counterparts.


The "here" and the "hereafter", the "universal" and the
"particular", the "one" and the "many", have all to be treated
unitively, after being conceived as a pair. That mysterious
hyphen which joins the counterparts into a central or
Absolute value, which is often but a mere wonder, is the
nearest approach to the understanding of the Absolute which
itself is beyond the reach of mind and work.

The reference to kala (pure Time), which is unexpended And
therefore pure, represents the same subtle value. This value
belongs to the domain of intuition in the process of pure
becoming, it has to be complemented by its own counterpart
which is suggested by the word dhatah (maintainer) in the next
item that follows. If a certain value in life is derived from
its relation to Time as by slow maturation, there are others
which belong to Space. These may be called horizontal values,
while those related to Time (in this sense) may be called
vertical. The reference to Time as a unique value here, side
by side with "gift" coming from every side calls for some
philosophical explanation.

The world as we see it is established in space, although by
intuition we can understand it also as a flux in pure time or
becoming. But even as a flux we are able to be related to it in
a continued or sustained manner. The world established in space
has something stable about it which, though not static, relates
human life to various human values, some ordinary and some
superior. But both these sets of values, horizontal and vertical,
should be thought of as belonging to the contemplative order. The
spatial or horizontal values may be spoken of as gifts coming
from the hands of the original Creator, resulting from the relation
which a person is capable of having between himself and the
value coming to him from the Author of things. These values may
be said to be established in the world of space rather than time.
The word visvatomukhah (universally facing) implies not only
the four points of the compass, but all directions necessary to
face the universe in every way. The universe itself is a value
seen by a universal face. Thus it is a supreme gift as secondarily
implied by the word dhata (given).

Both these last two analogies have to be fitted into one time-
space framework to result in the vision of the Absolute intended
by the author here.


mrityuh sarvaharas cha 'ham
udbhavas cha bhavishyatam
kirtih srir vak cha narinam
smritir medha dhritih kshama


I am all-engulfing Death, and the Source throwing up
all things to be; and of womanly values, fame, grace,
speech, memory, willpower, firmness and endurance.


The first line of this verse suggests a kind of paradox. The
process of becoming is viewed both prospectively and
retrospectively at once. Retrospectively viewed, inasmuch as
everything is lost in "yesterday's ten thousand years" of time
called mriytuh (death). But time prospectively viewed is also a
creative principle in which all the tomorrows are implied. The
two examples taken together leaves us with a notion of the
Absolute in the context of becoming as used by Bergson.
The unique value mentioned above is of the nature of an
abstraction, which has at once to be supported by an example and
for this purpose it would evidently seem that Vyasa enumerates
the qualities which distinguish womanhood in the second line

Seven qualities are mentioned, and the relation of these
qualities with the subject mentioned in the first line, could
only be in that each quality is the resultant of two opposing
forces in creative becoming represented in the personality of

Woman represents nature or becoming more than man, and this
is perhaps the reason why her example is chosen here.
Moreover the qualities of manhood have been mentioned

Of the qualities enumerated, the first, kirtih (fame) is a
general or all-covering one. By merely being beautiful, a woman
might not come up to the requirements of true womanhood.
There is a group of qualities which contribute to the fame or
reputation of a woman. For example, a beautiful woman might
be immodest and lose her reputation.

The next quality which enhances the value of womanhood is
sri (well-being or grace). This suggests harmony. A woman who
is worried or in want may be said to lose this grace and become
a nagging nuisance.

Vak (speech) does not suggest ability to chatter but rather the
apt and pleasing use of speech which also implies the correct
adjustment of the personality, neither too positively into
exaltation, nor negatively into depression.


Smriti (memory) gives depth to human personality. A man or
woman without memory becomes easily a misfit in his or her
normal environment. Hysteria might refer to such a maladjustment.
Many women lack that medha (will-power) which alone can
balance the personality and keep it normal. They are often
subject to emotional crises, and the physiological and organic
demands made on womanhood make them weak in the matter of
taking firm decisions involving the power of will. When women
do have this will-power they get that distinction or value which
is here noted as an expression of the Absolute.

Dhriti (firmness) is also a balancing factor like the previous
will-power. At a moment of disaster, like the death of a near
relative, true womanhood expresses itself in the form of this
kind of firmness, when many men around them might break down.
The last attribute of true womanhood is perhaps the most
distinguishing quality. Kshama (endurance) is expressed by a
nurse like Florence Nightingale when she had to tend thousands
of wounded troops. From the Indian scene we can readily think
of the patient endurance of a Sita under the injustice of a Rama,
or a Sakuntala who forgave and forgot the gross injustice of
Dushyanta till chance reconciled them.

In every one of these, qualities we should recognise an emergent
value resulting from the neutralization of opposite tendencies.
Fickleness is said to be normal to women, even by Shakespeare.
But this could be balanced into a properly feminine quality by
its opposite of faithfulness, and when the mean is struck the
unique values of womanhood mentioned here emerge.


brihatsama tatha samnam
gayatri chandasam aham
masanam margasirsho 'ham
ritunam kusumakarah

Likewise, of hymns I am the brihat-sama; of metres I am the
gayatri; of months I am margasirsha and of seasons the


From the present verse onwards absolutist values belonging
to the category of luxuries are grouped together, leading
gradually to actualities of the contemporary period in which
the author himself lived, by way of concluding his series.
In xv, 1, we find that the great Asvattha (fig) tree has
leaves which are compared to the hymns of the Vedas.
Further in xv, 2, its buds are referred to as objects of sense.
It is therefore easily derivable that Vedic chants are items of
luxury value, although high up in the scale of such values
within the relative domain.

Much importance is attached to the saving effect of chants
such as the brihat-sama and the gayatri by Brahmins.
The word gayatri is said to derive its name from its power
of saving the chanter. Much speculation has been lavished
by orthodoxy on the esoteric meanings and implications of
the metre of these chants, and the Upanishads revalue the
gayatri (e.g., Brihadaranyaka v. xiv, 1-8 and Maitri 6-7).
The potency of the chants is said to depend upon these
esoteric considerations. In the Sama-Veda the brihat-sama
refers to a special kind of metre which is considered as very
potent in its own proper context, as the gayatri is in
morning and evening prayers.

The month of margasirsha, which comes in December, corresponds
in India to that resting period in nature resembling the
systole of the heart-beat. The overt phenomenal happenings
are on either side of this resting-period. The harvests have
been gathered in, and it is too early for the ground to be
prepared for the next crop. The Indian sky is mostly clear
at this time, and it is also the time for nightly drummings
in the villages; drummings which go on to the small hours of
the morning. It is thus a resting period generally favourable
for contemplation, although the leisure afforded is often
misused. Leisure constitutes the luxury item here.
How the flowering season of the Indian spring is an expression
of a value in nature is easily understood.


diyutam chalayatim asmi
tejas tejasvinam aham
jayo 'smi vyavasjyo 'smi
sattvam sattvavatim aham

I am the chance-risk of (irresponsible) gamblers, I am the
brilliance of the brilliant (people); I am victory; I am
decisiveness; I am the goodness of those established in the


Miscellaneous everyday virtues as revealed in human society
may be said to terminate the list of values here. It should
be noticed, as we have pointed out, that it is not a
conventional set of virtues that are held up to view. The
gambler has a certain bold and skilful nonchalance, with an
attitude of abandon ready to risk all for what he prizes
most. One who is ready to lose all will gain all, as the
Biblical parable says. Thus the gambler's gamble, although
it could hardly be counted as a virtue in the conventional
social sense, has an intrinsic spiritual value in the context
of pure absolutism. The sailor who risks his life for
someone who has fallen into the sea is a gambler with life-
values and is superior to many virtuous socially superior

When we examine closely the connotations of the terms
employed, we find on the one hand, dhyuta (the uncertain
prize won in gambling) and on the other hand, the attitude
of irresponsibility implied in the word chalayatam (one
who cheats, breaks his contract, or is incapable of keeping
his word), i.e., one who bases his conduct on chance. Thus
between risk and chance there is an implied value which is
here called dhyuta. It may be said to be full of
indetermination, occasionalism or pure luck, good, bad or
indifferent. A carefree abandon is here extolled.
Tejas, which primarily means brilliance, implies an
intellectual or spiritual alertness, a constant readiness
or preparedness to respond to any contingency, however
hazardous it might be. One hears the expressions brahma-
tejas and kshattra-tejas: the former suggesting intellectual
enthusiasm for truth; and the latter a moral enthusiasm to
see the truth. prevail.

It is easy to see how victory is a positive value, as also

Sattvam (goodness) derives its Value from satyam (truth)
as explained in xvii, 26. There are people who love truth for
its own sake, and conform to the requirements of Absolute
truth directly or indirectly, the latter through truthful habits
to be described in later chapters. But goodness established
in truth transcends the region of mere gunas (qualities)
which operate within nature only, and reaches pure goodness
in itself, thus conforming to the Absolute directly.


vrishninam vasudevo 'smi
pandavanam dhanamjayah
muninam apy aham vyasah
kavinam usana kavih


Of the Vrishnis I am Vasudeva, of the Pandavas, Dhanamjaya
(Arjuna), of the recluses also I am Vyasa, of the poets the
poet Usana.


Before closing the list of values the author refers to
himself, and to Krishna, Arjuna and the poet Usana. This
seems to be by way of putting down the signature of the
people concerned or, as in the closing scene of a drama,
the appearance of all the main characters together. The
veil of illusion is here thinned out as much as possible,
and spiritual values which are intended throughout the
chapter are revealed directly through the personalities
who figure in the work itself.

The one principle which may be said to justify the
inclusion of these figures in the same verse is that they
sail in the same boat as revaluators of ancient wisdom.
Krishna the leader of a clan called Vrishnis is mentioned
first. They were a heretical and heterodox group, not of
brahmins but of kshattriyas (warriors) and vaishyas

Vasudeva is the name of Krishna as the son of Vasudeva,
chief of this clan.

Arjuna too is given that unique value which has been the
subject of discussion in the whole chapter, most probably
because he was a typical purva pakshin (critic taking one
side, a sceptic or questioner) in the context of absolutist
wisdom. By prowess also he excels as a simple warrior,
justifying his position even in the Puranic (legendary)

Vyasa's claims as a representative of the same high value
are quite evident since he is the author of this work on the
subject. The same signature is repeated in xviii, 75 and as
the author of the Brahma-Sutras (aphorisms strung together
dealing with the Science of the Absolute) also, which are
referred to in xiii, 4, his claims are doubly established.
As for Usana, the poet, his claim to be included in this list
of wisdom-revaluators consists in that he did not belong
strictly to the orthodox context. As a teacher of the Daityas,
enemies of the Vedic gods, mentioned in Verse 30, he was
credited with great wisdom, while at the same time he was
a poet who wrote epics rather than sastras (text-books) on
the Science of the Absolute. The spirit of these epics
cannot have been like that of Homer, judging from the fact
that Socrates, according to Plato, had a poor opinion of
Homer, while here the poet Usana is extolled as a true
representative of wisdom.


dando damayatam asmi
niter asmi jigishatam
maunam chai'va'smi guhyanam
jnanam jnanavatam aham

Of rulers I am the sceptre, of those who seek victory I am
the statesmanship, and also in esoterics I am silence, and
of knowers I am knowledge.


Even the thin vestige of realism attached to the values
enumerated in Verse 37 is here removed, and the items are
more of the nature of signs, i.e., figuratively treated as in
metonymy. The real concrete object loses its importance and
its symbol or name or the concept representing it comes into
prominence. We should take the lakshanartha (figurative
meaning) instead of the vachartha (literal or direct.
meaning). This is akin to what in medieval scholasticism was
known as conceptualism or nominalism.

The danda (rod or staff) referred to here is the symbol of
power rather than merely a big stick. It resembles the sceptre
of kingly power.

There is the subtle element of statesmanship or discretion
as the better part of valour, justice or fairness, which is here
referred to as niti, as an important factor in gaining victory.
Like good sportsmanship, it involves both giving and taking,
and these values do not depend on any hard and fast rule.
The situation has to be watched for the laying down of a
particular policy. This intuitive quality is the value referred
to here.

In all matters of esoteric significance here called guhyah
(secrets) there is place for an all-inclusive and subjective
attitude of silence which enhances the value of each secret as
such. A charm which has been rationally analysed loses its
flavour or potency as a charm. The same applies to the
suggestive strength of certain medicines.

Finally there is the reference to knowledge itself as a supreme
value in man.

In the present list the items are more like the ideas of Plato,
such as beauty, justice, and so forth. The opposite is true of
the list given in vii, 8-11, where the ontological principles
of existence, and not merely formal or abstract ideas, are


The list there, instead of revealing the Absolute, can be
looked upon, when taken too realistically, as tending to
hide the Absolute.


yach cha 'pi sarvabhutanam
bijam tad aham arjuna
na tad asti vin yat syan
maya bhutam characharam

And further, what is the seed of all beings, that I
am, 0 Arjuna; nor is there anything moving or unmoving
that can exist without Me.


It will be noticed that there is reference to the Absolute as
a seed in this verse as in vii, 10. In that verse buddhi (pure
reason) was also referred to, while knowledge was referred
to in Verse 38 here. In the seed as a value representing the
Absolute we touch the core which is common to both the series
in Chapters vii and x. The series in vii, 8, may be said
to refer to existential factors, while here it is to
abstractions tending to be hypostatic.

Further, the reference to moving and unmoving entities
would seem to suggest that the seed here represents the
central or neutral ground between the two sets of entities
listed in Chapters vii and x. This common core can be no
other than the Absolute itself, as understood in perfect


na'nto 'sti mama divyanam
vibhatinam paramtapa
esha tu 'ddestah prokto
vibhuter vistaro maya

There is no end to My divine unique values, 0 Paramtapa
(Arjuna); what has been said of these unique values is
but indicatory of their (possible) extensive elaboration.


This verse is intended to point out that the list of values
so far enumerated is not exhaustive. There is more left out
in it than included. The term uddesatah (approximative) shows
that these values are neither to be taken too realistically 
nor too theoretically. They have to be understood in the spirit


in the text and should not lead to subtle forms of idolatry or

The word vistara (extensive elaboration of detail) suggests not
only that the list is incomplete but that it is possible to
enter into minuter subdivisions under each of the items
enumerated. In this sense we can see that there is no limit to
be set for such a process of enumeration of values of the


yad-yad vibhutimat sattvam
srimad urjitam eva va
tad-tad eva 'vagachchha tvam
mama tejomsa sambhavam

Whatever entity is unique in perfected value, in grace or
in radical strength, understand that to have manifested
itself from a (mere fractional) spark of My brilliance.


The word sattvam (entity) covers ideological or conceptual
entities such as implied in the sun of Verse 21, and
statesmanship in Verse 38. Various presences or holy values
have been included side by side with others which do not
particularly belong to the context of holiness. Abstract
and concrete entities have been included indifferently as
representing subtle value-factors.

They are all brought under one sweeping generalization here,
under three headings, namely those that are (1) of unique value,
(2) those that represent grace, abundance, harmony or order, and
(3) anything that stands for vigour, strength, wilful dominating
power or a positive attitude in general, deriving validity from

The whole of the Absolute is not required to give that unique
touch to values as we cognize them in everyday life. The glory
of the Absolute has infinite potency and if we think of it as
a brilliant light, only a minute spark of it is all that is
necessary to give that uniqueness which is indicated in the
entire enumeration listed in this chapter.


athava bahunai 'tena
kim jnatena tavi 'rjuna
vishtabhya 'ham idam kritsnam
ekamsena sthito jagat


But what use is there for you, Arjuna, in this
pluralistic knowledge? Supporting this whole
world by a single fraction (of Myself), I remain
still, as ever).


The word bahuna (many, numerous, plurality) suggests
numerical rather than quantitative vastness. The
implication is that of the two ways of understanding;
namely the unitive and the pluralistic. The unitive
comprehends the Absolute more effectively than if we
were to think of taking in individually all the endless
items which go to make up the notion of the Absolute.
The Absolute is, as we have said, a gold coin for which
no amount of small change can ever suffice, as Bergson put
it. Moreover, whatever aspect of the Absolute could be
brought under enumeration is but a small fraction of what
remains of the Absolute beyond the power of enumeration.
In other words, whatever we are able to enumerate are
factors belonging to the waking world. There are other
subjective or subconscious factors which make up the
totality of existence, belonging to the two other states
of consciousness, dream and deep sleep, and also what is
often called the fourth state of consciousness, the turiya.
It is easy to concede therefore, as mentioned here, that the
Absolute remains unaffected, quite without diminution in
principle, after it has supported the visible world with but
a spark or fraction.

In fact, it is in the light of the well-known peace invocation,
where plenitude taken away from plenitude leaves plenitude
as a remainder: (aum, purnna madah purnna medam purnnat
purnam-udachyate; purnasya purnamadaya purna-meva-vasishyate:
"Plenitude is all that is invisible. Plenitude is all that
is visible. Plenitude was born out of plenitude. When
plenitude is absorbed into plenitude, plenitude alone
remains".); that we should understand here the meaning of
the word sthitah (I remain), as the Absolute, remaining
without suffering any quantitative decrease, even though
supporting the visible universe with a fraction of itself.
This chapter, read side by side with the next chapter,
where a multiplicity of divine, holy or sacred entities come
to be considered from Arjuna's, Samjaya's or Krishna's own
standpoint, would seem at first sight to have such a
miscellaneous character as would perhaps give the impression
that they have more of a religious than a philosophical


Although this would apply to a greater extent to the next
chapter, and more especially with those parts of it which
are attributed to Arjuna or Samjaya who are religious-
minded characters, a close examination of the contents of
both chapters reveals that there is no deflection from the
philosophical approach to the subject of the Absolute.
This last verse of the present chapter brings back the
discussion to a full recognition of the philosophical import
of the notion of the Absolute, after the long digression in
the enumeration of specific. values. Taking the chapter as a
whole without this particular digression, it has a status on
a par with Chapter ix, especially when we note in Verse 4
that the Absolute understood here comprises equally both
existence and non-existence.

The spirit in which this chapter is conceived is therefore
not a religious one and this remark applies equally to the
next chapter where the same kind of digression is seen
perhaps more elaborately marked. We shall see how even
the next chapter conforms to the requirements of a strict
science or a philosophy of the Absolute when we adhere
closely to the main development of the theme in the words
of Krishna himself, without being carried away by what
will be incidentally mentioned through the intermediary
characters of a Samjaya or an Arjuna.

We have only to examine the words of Krishna at the end
of the next chapter (xi, 54-55) to see the continuity of
the theme in spite of these inevitable digressions which
have been purposely introduced by the author to bring out
the specific potent or positive aspects of the Absolute.
The position at the end of the present chapter could
therefore he summed up as follows: ethics, religion and
a way of life in general which would cure Arjuna of his
abnormal attitude in the midst of danger are still to be
described in the various chapters that follow. The
enumeration of vibhutis perfections) in this chapter only
supplies the simple basis for the superstructure which is
still to be erected so that the Gita teaching could do
positive good in curing abnormality and establishing the
spiritual aspirant represented by Arjuna on the proper
progressive path of a life of wisdom. The enumerations of
items here is therefore to be understood as being related
to three kinds of life-values: (1) those in which the
forward-flowing urge of the Absolute principle is evidenced


(vibhutimat), (2) those in which the neutral balancing of
neutral tendencies leads to grace, goodness or bounty in
everyday life (srimat) and (3) those in which the radical,
stable, valid or lasting aspect of Absolute truth or reality
(urjitam) is evidenced. In all three cases, values are the
resultants of the neutralization of opposing tendencies in
the process of flux or becoming characteristic of reality as
a whole, tending to produce perfect, specific models of
value, each unique in its own category or sub-category, of
which there could be a great number.

ity srimad bhagavadgitasupanishatsu brahmavidyayam
yogasastre srikrishnarjunasamvade
vibhutiyogo nama dasamo 'dhyayah

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 Tenth Chapter, entitled
Unitive Recognition of Positive Values.



Visvarupa Darsana Yoga

Between this chapter and the last there is a delicate
epistemological distinction. In the last chapter it was taken
for granted that there were certain unique values expressed
through actual entities belonging to the visible or at least
the conceptual world. They thus had a status of their own.
Starting with Chapter vii it was an empirical or
ontological approach from which the earth at one end of a
series and egoism at the other end, were reviewed. In
chapter ix the items or categories were seen further
sublimated in Verses 17-19 in terms of personalized aspects of
the Absolute. In Chapter x again, the Absolute was the origin
of all the entities involved. Personal endowments and
qualities of contemplative life were referred to in x, 4-5.
The absolutist touch in persons or entities was recognized
indirectly through somewhat vague generalities such as
perfections, graces or valid truths in X, 19-39. The approach
through the ontological aspects of the Absolute did not
however, really make the notion of the Absolute clear
enough. Naturally, therefore, Arjuna is left with a feeling of
dissatisfaction, and here he takes the initiative and begins
this chapter with an express desire to satisfy himself with a
more definite view of the Absolute. The answer to this desire
is in the form of a universal vision of the Absolute which
occupies the greater portion of this chapter.

We find three different sets of descriptions of the vision
presented in this chapter. Samjaya comes in again, and as an
impartial reporter of events he takes a cold and matter-of-fact
view of the vision from his own standpoint, somewhat
cosmologically, after the style of the Purusha Sukta of the
Rig Veda. There the cosmic man has innumerable hands and
heads. In Samjaya's picture the element of awe is not
predominant. On the other hand there is a conventional
complacency and childish references to perfumes and jewels.
Secondly, there is Arjuna's standpoint, most of which is in
a special metre attuned to a note of religious exaltation,


characterizes his whole attitude. It is coloured more by
theology than by cosmology. It ranges from the
conventional starting-point of a Vishnu known to
mythology, through various other forms of religious
exaggeration, to the desire to return (in Verse 46) to the
same conventional picture of a mild and soothing Vishnu.
Thirdly, running through these two varieties we hear the
steadying voice of Krishna himself, referring to his own
absolutist nature which, although free from the
cosmological or theological presuppositions or prejudices,
he attributes an even higher value to his own innate
spiritual supremacy, than what is implied in the more
conditioned vision of the other two. Krishna points out
clearly in Verses 48 and 52 that the vision here is beyond
the reach of all conventional religious notions hitherto
known, in spite of its being a marvel, as he says in Verse 6.

Moreover according to him it is a vision to be
seen only through the eye of Yoga (Verse 8). It is given
to the contemplative only. Whether Arjuna availed himself
of this offer is not reported by Samjaya.

According to Krishna in Verse 7, the vision is not a static
one. There is no fixed mould into which the vision is
supposed to fit. The man who has the vision can see
whatever he desires to see, according to his own
conditionings. Without conditioning, that is to say in
the case of a man without religious or other prejudices,
it is to be inferred that there is no vision, or that
the vision is of no importance. The vision vanishes,
and instead we have a person who is capable of making
a proper distinction between the field and the knower
of the field and does not therefore confuse or mistake
one for the other, which is the important philosophic
subject dealt with in Chapter xiii.

Chapter xii is apologetic in favour of those who are unable
to rise to such a philosophical state.

The vision in this chapter thus passes from conditioned
ideas of a cosmological person through a vision conceived
in theological terms and attains finally to the full status
of a positive picture of the Absolute in terms of an
imperative force of becoming which reaches tragic heights.


Arjuna uvacha
madanagrahaya paramam
guhyam adhyatmasa samjnitam
yat tvayo 'ktam vachas tena
moho 'yam vigato mama

Arjuna said: by that speech which has been spoken, by You out
of favour for me, the highest secret known as pertaining to the
Self, this, my confusion, has vanished.


The initiative passes again to Arjuna, and he recalls
that it was a special favour conferred on him in the two
previous chapters wherein it was Krishna who took
the initiative in instructing his disciple. At the opening
verse of each of these chapters we noticed the attitude of
full adoption and of favour reflected in the words addressed
to Arjuna. In Chapter ix, as one free from disadoption or
uncarping in respect of the teaching, Arjuna does not
mistrust any more and, therefore, Krishna is willing to open
his heart and confide in him deeper and more secret aspects
of the wisdom that he represents. At the beginning of 
Chapter x we noticed that the confidence gained further
ground. Krishna is there positively interested in the welfare
of Arjuna and therefore in teaching him once again.
This present verse refers backwards to what has been
dealt with in the last two chapters. Krishna's initiative is
definitely referred to here, and that is sufficient justification
for us to believe that the reference is to the two preceding
chapters. The matter developed in previous chapters generally
could come under the title of adhyatma (pertaining to the Self).
Arjuna says now that such was the subject-matter of what
Krishna has just finished discussing. We are therefore led to
think that the two central chapters contain the essential
teaching on the Self which the, Gita intends to present to the
reader. It is true that a superficial scanning of their contents
does not make this fact particularly evident, but in dealing
with these chapters we have taken sufficient care already to
indicate how the subject of the Self is implied throughout
them both. It is not an elaborate or systematic treatise on the
Self that we should expect in these chapters, but a treatment
of the subject of the Self in that neutral, dispassionate and
absolutist way. It is this which gives these chapters the status
of dealing with the Absolute in a way most fitting to the
subject of the Self. It is in this sense that


Arjuna's reference here to the secret Science of the Self
should be understood as having just been declared by

Arjuna, further adds significantly that his own moha
(confusion) has been dispelled by the teaching in the two
previous chapters. This further confirms our view that
these two central chapters contain the teaching of the Gita,
at least in a form which would dispel confusion on the
subject. In xviii, 73, we notice that Arjuna repeats the
statement with the additional remark that he has not only
come out of confusion but has regained his memory. The
teaching of the Gita must accordingly serve other disciples
like Arjuna to dispel their confusion also in the first place,
and then to reorientate their own personalities in terms of

The part covered by the Gita so far has to do with the
first mentioned purpose, and what is to follow may
therefore be legitimately looked upon as having the second
purpose in view, as we shall try to confirm as we proceed
with these chapters which constitute the latter half of the


bhavapyayau hi bhutanam
srutau vistaraso maya
tvattah kamalapattraksha
mahatmyam api cha 'vyayam

The origin and dissolution of beings have been heard by me
in elaboration from You, 0 Lotus-petal-eyed, as also Your
unexpended greatness.


A confident and more intimate attitude on the part of
Arjuna towards Krishna is implied here, especially by the
appellation kamalapattraksha (O Lotus-petal-eyed). This is
to be contrasted with his own attitude after he has seen
Krishna in his universal form in Verses 35 and 42 later.
However, normal relations are again established by Verse 51.
The intermediate phases of Arjuna's exaltation, trance, or
spiritual agony are implied in the words of Arjuna himself
in the rest of the chapter or through the report of

As seen in this chapter, the personality of Krishna ranges
from the most intimate or ordinary human form of a relative
and friend of Arjuna to one where it touches impersonal
heights of transcendentalism, as near to the Absolute as
could be, as it were, from this side of reality. Before
coming to such a presentation there is here a backward


to the appraisal of the Absolute as envisaged in the two
previous chapters. In ix, 4-10, a picture of the Absolute
was already given. The Absolute was referred to both as a
source as well as an emanating principle in ix, 8. In x, 20,
the Absolute is not only the beginning but the end of all
beings. These various references to origin or end are what
justifies the reference here to bhavapyayau (origin and
dissolution). Though these processes are aspects which
seem to contradict each other as phases of a centralized
process of pure becoming, they are attributes of the same
Absolute. Chapter x made an attempt to present a picture
of the Absolute under various categories, each separate
from the other, and all belonging to items widely apart and
lacking in any space-time unity.

A vestige of duality suggested by the dual number employed
in the word srutau ("the two" have been heard) may be
accepted in the sense that the origin and end are not
identical. These have to be treated unitively and such
treatment has already been attempted in parts of the
previous chapters (Cf. ix, 17 ff. and x, 2,14,19 ff).
Thus, taking Verses 1 and 2 of the present chapter, we
find that there is a summary of the title, subject-matter and
characteristics of the two previous chapters, summed-up
by the author himself. This is done with a view to contrast
such contents with what is to follow, where the Absolute
is to be confronted in a more positive, unitive and
objectively conceived manner.

The actualization of the Absolute might have its limitations
and drawbacks in a purely philosophical sense, but
philosophy is not limited to merely idealistic abstractions.
When it does not become too anthropomorphic or puerile or
a localized and temporarily fixed vision, such a
visualization of the Absolute need not necessarily, merely
because of definiteness of treatment, fall outside the
scope of a respectable form of philosophizing. The
philosophical character of the vision of this chapter
will be evident to anyone capable of penetrating behind
the literary device consciously used by the author.
In fact, when we examine minutely the implications of
the vision of Arjuna as meant by Vyasa or as seen through
the direct words of Krishna, the charge that this chapter
represents a childish or very ordinary form of religious
theophany falls to the ground. Arjuna in fact reveals
himself as a full-fledged philosopher in Verse 18 here.
The difference between


this chapter and the two previous ones is the question
confronting us in the present verse.

Hitherto, the Absolute was looked upon through what may
be called pure becoming, non-localized in time and space.
In this chapter, however, Arjuna feels the need for
appraising the Absolute in a more positive, fixed or actual
manner. Krishna's own personality has been tacitly treated
as representing the Absolute from the very beginning of
this work. One is not charged with puerile anthropomorphism
when one uses such an expression as "the body politic".
The more positive a notion becomes, the more it may be
said to be conceived in terms of actuality in location and
time. Making allowances, therefore, for such considerations
and limitations, we come in this chapter to a section
wherein the Absolute is seen as a vision involving a
superior person who in turn represents the Absolute.


evam etad yatha 'ttha tvam
atmanam paramesvara
drashtum ichchhami te
rupam aisvaram purushottama

So it is as You have said Yourself, supreme Lord; I desire to
see Your divine Form, 0 supreme Person.


This verse repeats the idea of x, 15, to call our attention once
again to the fact that the Absolute is best seen from its own
standpoint. To objectify the Absolute, whether concretely or
through abstract concepts, can only be indirect. The vision that
follows in this chapter is therefore to some extent discredited,
but presented as one to be understood with the allowance for the
limitations as implied here.

When Arjuna is said to see the form of Krishna we have to
take it that Arjuna sympathises with Krishna to such an extent as
to identify himself with Krishna and thus to see the vision as
Krishna would see it himself. An externalized vision is not what
is meant here. Verse 8 later implies the same principle of
sympathetic intuition when it refers to the divine eye.
The express desire of Arjuna to have a vision such as
many religious people naturally, believe in, or claim to have
had in their lives, lends its plausibility to support Vyasa's
inclusion of a vision of this kind in the Gita, a vision which


at least be normal in a purana (legend). The request to see
the rupam aisvaram (form divine) comes from Arjuna, who
is theologically conditioned, but this request is not granted
by Krishna, as we have pointed out. It is neither a merely
philosophical description nor a religious vision which is
given in this chapter. Concessions are made both ways and
the vision is both awe-inspiring and real.


manyase yadi tach chhakyam
maya drashtum iti prabho
yogesvara tato me tvam
darsayi 'tmanam avyayam

If You think that it is possible for me to see it, 0 Powerful
One, then do You, 0 Yoga-Master, show Me Your never-decreasing


Arjuna here refers to the vision he is about to have. In the
context of religion and mysticism in general, various kinds
of visions have been described. Some of them depend on
the special psychic state of the contemplative himself, or
the type of mysticism he represents. Well-known mystics
in the Christian and Sufi worlds present a variety which
has been the subject-matter of study on the part of writers
such as William James. From quietism and even erotic
mysticism, through practical religious works, to the heights
of ecstasy and even agony - they present a vast range of
possibilities in the world of spiritual experience.
On the other hand special circumstances may be said to
evoke certain states of mind which may be called exalted
states of ecstasy. These also have their corresponding
visions. A highly mature philosopher can have his own
version of a vision which can be treated both as an allegory
or a true vision in the actual sense.

On the Indian soil there is a tendency for the religious and
the philosophical visions to meet, and one is capable
of being interpreted in terms of the other. In the vision
which is to follow we should notice it is neither the subject
who feels the ecstasy nor the person inducing the ecstasy is
totally responsible for the vision. Arjuna asks for a vision,
but whether the vision is possible for a human being is still
a matter of doubt with him, as he expresses here.


It is again significant that Krishna is addressed as a
Lord of Yoga. A yogi is one capable of assuming whatever
form he likes. In other words, he is one capable of sliding
upwards or downwards in the contemplative scale of
values represented in his own personality. He is not
statically fixed to any one type of personal expression, but
enjoys a certain degree of freedom.

The request here by Arjuna is that Krishna should
present himself as the One Self incapable of suffering any
decrease or deterioration. What we should particularly
notice is that the vision is a double-sided phenomenon; by
request on one side and consent on the other, instead of
being of the nature of a one-sided personal weakness.
Samjaya is the mildest visionary; Arjuna is capable of a
higher degree of exaltation - and Krishna himself, as
representing the Absolute, goes beyond what is
understandable or pleasing to either. The full implications
of Krishna's own absolutism are left beyond the reach of
not only Arjuna himself but that of most persons who have
hitherto tried to visualize the Absolute.


Sribhagavan uvacha
pasyame partha rupani
sataso 'tha sahasrasah
nanavidhani divyani
nanavarnakritani cha

Krishna said:
Behold, 0 Partha (Arjuna), My forms, by hundreds
and thousands, various in kind, divine, and of
varied colours and shapes.


Except for what is implied in the expression divyani
(divine), there is nothing in this verse which requires any
special vision at all. Coloured, therefore, by this quality
called divine, which merely suggests a contemplative value,
the vision, instead of starting with any hair-raising item,
refers rather to ordinary physical realities, such as the
multiplicity of forms and varieties therein, and the colourful
nature of the phenomenal world as seen by the ordinary
man. In referring to all of them together in generalized
terms, there is to be recognized however, a mildly
philosophical approach.


pasya 'dityan vasan rudran
asvinau marutas tatha
bahuny adrishtapurvani
pasya 'scharyani bharata

Behold the Adityas, the Vasus, the Rudras, the two Asvins,
and also the Maruts; behold many marvels never seen before,
0 Bharata (Arjuna.).


The contemplative vision rises one degree higher here.
Instead of phenomenal aspects that every man can see,
here are ranged certain values which are familiar, as they
have once been covered in the last chapter. The sun
(Aditya) as the largest of luminaries having a direct
influence on human happiness is mentioned first in this
series. The series passes on to include other entities known
to the Vedic world which tend to become more hypostatic
in character, rather than remaining purely phenomenal. The
element of marvel or wonder is correspondingly heightened
one degree.

These marvels described as adrishtapurvani (never seen
before) gives us the hint to what is more explicitly stated
in Verses 52 and 53 later. The claim implied here is that
the teaching of the Gita is a revaluation and a restatement
beyond what has been accomplished by anyone previously.
In other words, a more thorough-going absolutism is
represented in the Gita.


ihai 'kastham jagat kritsnam
pasya 'dya sacharacharam
mama dehe gudakesa
yach cha 'nyad drashtum ichchhasi

Now behold here in My body, 0 Gudakesa (Arjuna), the whole
world, including the static and the dynamic, unitively
established, and whatever else you desire to see.


In the last chapter where unique values were enumerated,
Arjuna was required to arrive at the notion of the Absolute
indirectly through a variety of examples chosen from a vaster
range distributed all over space and time or as contained in
the mind itself. Here in this verse Krishna points out that
there is no need of such distribution in the vision Arjuna


is going to have. The vision is localized in Krishna's own
body, of course, symbolically understood. In the last
chapter the recognition was pluralistic and partial, but here
it becomes a more complete or centralized, unitive vision.
The ambivalent aspects involving static and dynamic
values, here comprised under the expression sacharaharam
(both static and dynamic) are to be viewed as if brought
into a central, unitive focus, ihai 'kastham (here, standing
as one). Arjuna is further asked not to limit himself to what
is given only by such values, but to extend his imagination
if he likes, to whatever else he is capable of visualizing.
Therefore, though localized and fixed, the vision is fully
credited with its own dynamic aspects. This latitude or
concession kindly made in favour of the visionary really
amounts to calling upon him to be more a philosopher than
a visionary. By implication, this suggests that no vision,
however superior, is to be made into a fetish. Even modern
physics gives us an expanding universe full of indeterminism
and not one that is statically fixed.


na tu mam sakyase drashtum
anenai 'va svachakshusha
divyam dadami te chakshuh
pasya me yogam aisvaram

But if you are unable to see Me with this your (human) eye,
I give you a divine eye: Behold My sovereign Yoga.


What is objectively divine evidently presupposes its
counterpart which is the capacity in the subject to recognize
divinity. This law of mutual accord is further confirmed
here, over and above what was implied with reference to
the divine in Verse 5.

The "divine eye" here may be said to be that capacity to
recognize spiritual values, but because the vision is enclosed
in the brackets, as it were, of the first degree or Sanjaya
literary device, so there is no need to take it as seriously as
the descriptions of the vision belonging to the third degree
or samvada (discussion) order. Mere "human eyes", however,
are too weak even to see the continuous flow of events in
time. They can comprise only an empirical view of reality
consisting of disjunct events. A vision of


creative becoming or flux is given only to the yogic or
divine eye. It is the intuitive element implied in such a
vision which is called jnanachakshush (Wisdom-eye)
elsewhere (e.g., xiii, 34 and xv, 10).


Samjaya uvacha
evam uktva tato rajan
maha yogesvaro harih
darsayam asa parthaya
paramam rupam aisvaram

Samjaya said
Having thus spoken, then, 0 King (Dhritarashtra),
Hari (Krishna) the great Yoga-Master showed to Partha
(Arjuna) the supreme Godly Form.


This verse begins the section in which Samjaya again
reports to King Dhritarashtra what happened. Samjaya is
essentially a religious man and besides referring to Krishna
as Hari, which is a name for Vishnu, he looks upon the
vision of the universal form itself through his own
theological conditionings as expressed in the word
aisvaram (divine, godly, pertaining to Isvara, or God).
Isvara is a theological concept belonging to the relativist
and not to the absolutist viewpoint, which latter is proper
to Vedanta.

As a mere reporter in the Puranic or epic setting of the
Gita, this position of Samjaya is only to be expected. But
even as a mere reporter we find such expressions as maha-
yogesvara (the great Yoga-Master) and paramam (supreme).
In effect these words lift the report above the merely
epic or Puranic context towards a Vedantic status.
This is confirmed by Verse 12 later, where Krishna is
described without any conventional religious or theological
reservations. But even here the limitations of the epic
outlook are not altogether absent, as the reference to a
thousand suns is not the same as referring to innumerable
suns. The first degree (Samjaya) device is responsible for
the conservative tinge that still remains.


aneka vakira nayanam
aneka bhuta darsanam
aneka divyabharanam


With many mouths and eyes, with many marvellous aspects,
with many divine ornaments, with many divine weapons held


This verse is reminiscent of the cosmic man familiarly
known as the Purusha Sukta in the Rig Veda (ix, 4, 90).
The Vedic conditioning of Samjaya is sufficiently evident
here, although in the next verse we can definitely
distinguish tendencies belonging to the counterblast to
Vedism in the iconographic language which has distinctly
characterized South Indian spirituality (see "The Word of
the Guru", Ch. xvi. P. Natarajan, Bangalore). Even in the
present verse, the reference, to ornaments and weapons is
more iconographic than purely Vedic.


divya malyambara dharam
divya gandhanulepanam
sarvascharyamayam devam
anantam visvatomukham

Wearing divine garlands and vestures, anointed with
divine perfumes and unguents, a God representing
sheer marvel, without end universally-facing.


Notice here that the element of awe is not yet evident. It
is rather a benign and even luxury-loving god of ritualistic
worship who is portrayed. The universal touch implied in a
truly contemplative attitude comes into evidence only in
the references to the ascharya (marvel), anantam (without
end) and visvatamukham, (universally-facing). The latter
occurred before in x, 33. Taken altogether, the vision, even
according to the report of Samjaya, does not fall short of
an absolute dignified enough for Vedanta, although
cosmological and theological limitations are still evident.


divi suryasahasrara
bhavedyogapad utthita
yadi bhah sadrisi sa syad
bhasas tasya mahatmanah

tatrai 'kasthamjagat kritsnam
pravibhaktam anekadha
apasyad devadevasya
sarire pandavas tadi


If the splendour of a thousand suns were to rise together in
the sky that might resemble the splendour of that great Soul.

There the Pandava (Arjuna) then beheld the whole world,
divided into many kinds, unitively established in the body of
the God of gods.


These verses supplement the description of the cosmic
man in the version of Samjaya. Though still sober and not
given to exaggerations or specialized elaboration, these traits
that necessarily characterize a full cosmic vision are
contained even in this description in what might be called a
nuclear form. Verse 12 in particular, in referring to the
splendour of a thousand suns, uses the favourite simile of
light which has always represented wisdom. The comforting
imagery of the previous verses is discarded in favour of
more positive aspects, such as the brilliance which penetrates
every object. In spite of being. a light, the Being is still
referred to as mahatma (great soul), which keeps the vision
from being understood too diffusedly or as a mere abstraction.
The manifold parts of a cosmic vision referred to in Verse
13 could be the three worlds; bhur, bhuvar and svar, familiar
to the gayatri prayer of the brahmins; or they could be the
fourteen worlds known to tradition, seven below reaching
down to Patala, the lowest, and seven above rising to
Brahma's world or Satya-loka (the world of Truth) where there is
eternal life. Intermediate lokas (worlds) belong to other
spiritual entities such as rishis (seers). A serial or graded
cosmos is here suggested, consisting of the abodes of the
most trivial of creation to that of the highest Brahma. A
contemplative scale of values is here implied.
The reference to the body of Krishna is in the same sense
as we have pointed out under verse 7. The localization does
not detract from the philosophical status of the vision; as
each vision must be necessarily limited by the power to see
on the part of the subject and the power to manifest on the
part of the object (the Absolute).

The expression devadeva (God of gods) ought to absolve
even the vision of Samjaya's report from any charge of being


merely theological, although a markedly theological outlook
was his natural starting-point. The epithet is suggestive of
purushottama (the most high Spirit) elaborated in xv, 18-19.


tatah sa visvamayavishto
hrishtaroma dhanamjayah
pranamya sirasa devam
kritanjalir abhashata

Then he, Dhanamjaya (Arjuna), struck with amazement, with his
hair standing on end, reverently bowing his head to the God,
and with joined palms, said:


In the construction of this chapter we should notice there
is a graded continuity in the vision, irrespective of the
person or character through whose words the vision itself
happens to be described. Arjuna's own vision follows
naturally on the vision reported by Samjaya, and Samjava's
own mood blends with it, except for the difference here
stated that Arjuna was very excited. The tendency to religious
or spiritual exaggeration is therefore only to be expected
in the description that Arjuna himself gives, which now follows.
The reference to hrishtaroma (the hair standing on end)
being a physiological symptom of exaltation, was referred
to already in I, 29. Whenever a situation overwhelms
Arjuna or is too much for him, this symptom appears.
The familiar attitude of a devotee is reflected in Arjuna here
as Samjaya sees him, but Arjuna himself, on recovering
from his exalted state, is seen to establish normal relations
with Krishna once again (as at the beginning of this
chapter) in Verse 51. He apologises however in Verse 42
for any possible irreverence shown to his friend Krishna.
Between these three attitudes of Arjuna, revealed in the
same chapter, the intelligent reader is free to surmise for
himself what Arjuna's proper attitude actually was, in
keeping with his status of a purva pakshin (anterior-sceptic
or questioner-disciple) in the context of wisdom; or of a
mere supplicant in a more traditional or religious sense.
The retention of the word devam (god) in this last verse of
Samjaya's reporting indicates the theological limitation to
which his version of the vision as a whole is to be taken its


Arjuna uvacha
pasyami devams tava deva dehe
sarvams tatha bhuta visesha samghan
brahmanam isam kamalasanastham
rishims cha sarvan uragams cha divyan

Arjuna said:
I see the gods, 0 God, in Your body, and all specific groups
of beings, Brahma the Lord, established on his lotus-seat and
all seers (rishis)and divine serpents.


Arjuna covers the same cosmological and theological entities
or groups in his own way, after the same has been covered
twice already in the words of Krishna and Samjaya. The
elemental or phenomenal expressions are viewed as belonging
to specific groups or categories in the first instance.
To recognize specific groups is the first step towards a
philosophic generalization which is implicit in a
contemplative vision of the whole universe. A plant or an
animal of a particular species has its own status in reality.
Hence the reference in the phrase bhuta visesha samghan
(specific groups of beings) is legitimately of a
contemplative order. Contemplation does not tend to
abolish specific manifested realities, but by grouping them
in a serial order of importance, gives them their legitimate
place in a scale of values ranging from the most ordinary to
the highest spirituality known to man. Ontological aspects
are therefore not omitted but transcended. The reference to
Brahma, seated on a lotus, savours of the favourite
theological-mythological imagery of Hinduism. He is the
first god of creation. A lotus with a thousand petals has
been the favourite symbol of creation both in Hinduism
and Buddhism. Brahma, therefore, represents a unique or
specialized manifestation of a cosmic value. The reference
to such a god after referring to groups of actualities is
therefore quite in place. The lotus seat of Brahma is on the
actual side, while Brahma himself may be considered as
lifted up into a world of contemplative values.

The rishis (seer-sages) as wise men have a superior value
to mere created things however perfect.

The value of serpents in the contemplative context perhaps
consists in their representing time or eternity. The
world of serpents is often spoken of as belonging to a


nether-world of spirituality, and thus may be said to cover
all retrospective values generally. Their divinity consists
in their being included in the contemplative scale of values

The first mentioned in the series here is devas (gods),
suggestive of all the gods of the Vedas. This is
counterbalanced by the reference to the divine serpents.
Vedic gods represent the foreground of the Indian spiritual
scene, while the superseded naga (serpent) worship belongs
to the remote background.


aneka bahudara vaktra netram
pasyami tvam sarvato 'nantarupani
na 'ntam na madhyam na punas tava 'dim
pasyami visvesvara visvarupa

I see You of boundless form on every side, with
multitudinous arms, stomachs, mouths and eyes; neither Your
end, nor Your middle, nor Your begining do I see, 0 Lord
of the Universe, 0 Universal Form!


The difference of treatment of the notions of the Absolute
here and in the previous chapter becomes clear in this
verse. While in x, 2 and 32, the Absolute was viewed from
the angle of a process of becoming and considered as a
source, beginning, middle and end, each distinguishable,
here in Arjuna's vision, these three aspects of the process
tend to be abolished. Samjaya's picture in Verse 10, earlier, is
accentuated on the same lines here to the point of infinity,
instead of being merely numerical. The transition from the
relative to the Absolute must be noted. When a number
becomes too great it tends to be in effect the same as
infinity. A mild relativist vision conforming to general
verities, such as that of Samjaya, when intensified as seen
here, leads to a finalized notion of the Absolute represented
by Krishna's version of his own absolutist glory mentioned
in this chapter and elsewhere.


kiritinam gadinam chakrinam cha
tejorasim sarvato diptimantam
pasyami tvam durniriskshyam samantad
diptanalarkadyutim aprameyam

I behold You with diadem, mace and discus, glowing everywhere
as a mass of light, hard to look at, everywhere blazing like
fire and sun, unpredicable.



There is reference here to the familiar form of Vishnu of
Indian mythology, with diadem, mace and discus. If Arjuna
already sees Vishnu in the universal form presented here, it
would seem incongruous for him again to pray, as he does,
for a vision of the same as stated in Verse 46. There is
perhaps a minimal and maximal degree in the exaltation
implied in the vision. The vision is not one to be conceived
as the product of a single uniformly continued state of mind.
The first reference to the figure of Vishnu which he sees
must be taken as marking a minimal degree of exaltation.
The exaltation becomes too much for him as it proceeds.
By the time the vision develops to what is represented
in Verse 44 it gains the character of an agony rather than
one pleasant or sufferable. It can therefore be thought
that the second reference to Vishnu is by way of a request
to regain normality.

Though a conventional static figure, Vishnu corresponds to
a stage in a scale of values representing the Absolute. Hence
his inclusion in the vision of Arjuna, who is himself
conditioned by the conventions of his time, is not to be
considered out of place.

Further we notice here that it is a dazzling Vishnu rather
than a beneficent godhead. His glory transcends the
conventional relativist limits usually associated with
Vishnu as a beneficent god.

The epithet aprameyam (unpredicable) gives the hallmark of
philosophy even to this verse which seems to stem from a
theological Vishnu. The verses that follow accentuate the
same tendency much more specifically. There is no reference
here to Vishnu as one of the avatars, which is an idea later
than the Gita as Prof. Lacombe of Paris has pointed out.
The Bhagavata partiality for the vyuha (distributive
arrangement) theory of four divine persons of whom Vasudeva
is the highest, is also absent here (cf. p. 26, "L'Absolu
selon le Vedanta").


tvam aksharam paramam veditavyam
tvam asya visvasya param nidhanam
tvam avyayah sasvata dharma gopta
sanatana tvam purusho mato me

You are the Imperishable, the Supreme (that is) to be
known; You are the ultimate Basis of this universe;
You are the unexpended and everlasting Custodian of
(natural) law; You are the immemorial Person; I believe.


Here there is a mixed reference to widely differing values
from the philosophical and ethical to the cosmological,
reminiscent of the later style of the Svetasvatara Upanishad,
where notions such as dharma (naturally right law) are
treated side by side with merely ontological references.
As the metre itself indicates, a state of high exaltation
and synthetic vision is reflected here, hardly capable of
being analysed.

The expression veditavyam (to be known) implies a far-
off philosophical goal of understanding; while nidhanam
(basis) hearkens backwards to the ontological aspect of the
same reality. Both extremes are further described as either
paramam (supreme) or param (ultimate). The ontological
ultimate coincides with the teleological goal.

The eternal moral conscience and the primordial man also
come together in the second half of this verse, marking the
height of philosophical vision of which Arjuna is capable.
The expression mato me (my conviction is this or, I
believe) indicates that Arjuna himself takes a sure stand
here. He is no more in doubt. When we remember that the
Gita finally recommends the discarding of all dharma (law)
in xviii, 66, Arjuna's reference to moral value here may be
considered as belonging to a merely human context.


anddimadhyantam anantaviryam
anantabahum sasisuryaretram
pasyami tvam diptahutasavaktram
svatejasi visvam idam tapantam

I see You without beginning, middle or end, of never-ending
force, of numberless arms, having moon and sun for eyes;
Your face like a lit fire of sacrifice burning this universe
with Your own radiance.


Here we have another confection in which different concepts
are mixed together to give a new flavour to a revalued
spirituality approximating to the absolutist vision of the
Gita as a whole.

The first line is a repetition of the idea of the urge of
pure becoming, knowing neither middle, beginning nor end. The
second line suggests the cosmic purusha (spirit) with sun
and moon for eyes. The third line is taken from the context


Vedic sacrifices, the brightness of which is a moment in the
eternal present. The fourth line suggests the whole universe
as being consumed by this radiant glow of the Absolute.
In philosophic content this picture is not different from
Krishna's own version in Verse 32.


dyavaprithivyor idam antaram hi
vyaptam tvayai 'kena disas cha sarvah
drishtva 'dbhutam rupam ugram tave 'dam
lokatrayam pravyathitam mahatman

The space between heaven, earth and the intermediate realm
is pervaded by You alone, as also the quarters (directions);
having seen this wonderful, terrible form of Yours, the
three worlds are in distress, 0 Great Self.


The different levels into which earth and heaven and the
space between are familiarly divided, as being populated by
different grades of spiritual entities, ranging between simple
humans to devas (divinities), are here telescoped unitively
into a more comprehensive vision with a tragic touch about
it. The Vedas had the more comforting picture in which
souls were described as floating up to heaven or returning to
earth by a slow accumulation of merit. This naive picture has
been deprecatingly alluded to in ix, 20 and 21.

The present unitive though tragic picture is in keeping with
the spirit of the Gita and with Krishna's own idea of the
Absolute as seen at the end of the present chapter.
The Absolute is for the first time represented by the term
pravyathitam (distressed), as suggestive of unhappiness or
tragedy. This term also suggests a Rudra or a Siva more
than a Vishnu.


ami hi tvam surasamgha visanti
kechid bhitah pranjalayo grinanti
svasti 'ty uktva maharshisiddhasamghah
stuvanti tvam stutibhih pushkalabhih

rudraditya vasavo ye cha sadhya
visve 'svinau marutas cho 'shmapas cha
gandharva yakshasura siddha samgha
vikshante tvam vismitas chai 'va sarve


Into You enter those hosts of the Suras (gods), some
in fear of You mutter with joined palms, bands of great
rishis (seer-sages) and Perfected Ones (siddhas) hail
You with the cry "May it be well!" and praise You with
resounding hymns.

The Rudras, Adityas, Vasus and Sadhyas, Visvas and the
two Asvins, Maruts and Ushmapas hosts of Gandharvas,
Yakshas, Asuras and Siddhas, all gaze at You, wonderstruck.


Different orders of spiritual beings, some purely Vedic
and others belonging to other contexts, including that of
ancestor-worship (the Ushmapas being a class of pitris or
ancestors) are all brought together here as praising the
Absolute. In Verse 22 even the Asuras, the demonic enemies
of the Vedic gods, the opposites of the Suras of verse 21, are
not omitted.

When a god is to be praised in India, it is usual to heighten
the effect by reference to sages like Narada and others who
come to worship him. The gods are thus given a revalued
status. Following the same method here, the status of the
Absolute implied in the vision of Arjuna is said to have the
approbation of all kinds of spiritual entities without
distinction. It is the special privilege of maharshis (great
seer-sages) alone to welcome the vision with svasti (May it be
well!). Others either worship - or watch with fear or amazement.


rupam mahat te bahuvaktranetram
mahabaho bahubahurupadam
bahudaram bahudamshtrakaralam
drishtva lokah pravyathitas tatha 'ham

Seeing Your great form, with many mouths and eyes,
0 Mighty-armed One (Krishna), of many arms, thighs and
feet, with many stomachs, with many terrible teeth,
the worlds are distressed, as also myself.


Beginning with mouths and eyes, here the cosmic man is again
portrayed from top to bottom. The object here is evidently
to refer to his terrible destructive aspect. The reference
to terrible teeth in the third line is evidence of this
intention. In Verse 25 the teeth themselves are compared to


flames. In the irresistible process of becoming, all specific
entities have to be absorbed and lost. Instead of stating this
philosophic verity in plain language, here is the allegorical
representation of a cosmic man with all his limbs, each of
which represents a particular grade in the hierarchy of
transformed values in the cosmic process. The distress at the
same time affects both Arjuna on the one side and the
cosmos on the other side. This is a subtle way of suggesting
a parallelism between the subjective and the objective
aspects of the vision. Contemplative methodology tends to
minimize the distinction between subject and object.


nabhahsprisam diptam anekakavarnam
vyattanam diptavisalanetram
drishtva hi tvam pravyathitantaratma
dhritim na 'vindami samam cha vishno

damshtrakaralani cha te mukhani
drishtvai 'va kalanalasamnibhani'
diso na jane na labhe cha sarma
prasida devesa jagannivasa

On seeing You touching the sky, shining in many
a colour with mouths wide open, with large fiery
eyes, my inmost self intensely distressed, I find
neither courage nor control, 0 All-pervading One.

Having seen Your mouths fearful with teeth like
time's devouring flames, I lose my spatial bearings
and find no joy; be gracious, 0 Lord of Gods,
Container of the World!


These verses continue the picture of the cosmic man with
more subtle touches than in the last verse. Visual aspects
and the light element gain prominence. The teeth are
compared to flames. The epithet "Vishnu" in Verse 24 is used
perhaps as in Verse 30 in the sense of all-pervading as the
word means, and need not suggest a deity.

The overpowering effect of the vision on Arjuna is clearly
stated. This must be due to the highly positive character
of the representation - as scraping the sky, rainbow-coloured,
and then the flamelike teeth spreading everywhere - all of
which portrays an accelerated process of becoming, as the
term kalanalasamnibhani (resembling the fire of
time) suggests.


ami cha tvam dhritarashtrasya putrah
sarve sahai 'va 'vanipalasamghaih
bhishmo dronah sutaputras tatha 'sau
saha 'smadiyair api yodhamukhyaih

vaktrani te tvaramana visanti
damshtrakaralani bhayanakani
kechid vilagna dasanantareshu
samdrisyante churnitair uttamangaih

All these sons of Dhritarashtra, with hosts of rulers,
Bhishma, Drona, and that son of a charioteer (Kama),
with our warrior chiefs

are rushing into Your fearful mouths terrible with
teeth; some are found sticking in the gaps between
the teeth with their heads crushed to powder.


The reference here is to the context of warfare. War may be
compared to a landslide in human affairs. When it is let
loose there is a general reshuffling, fusing or melting of
values, and a new order of things, social, economical, not to
mention political, emerges. It is not merely enemies that are
involved, as each one of the contending parties might
mechanistically think. Kings are involved in it as much as
the adopted son of a charioteer. All belong equally to a
single situation.

Hence the reference to Sutaputra (i.e. Karna), adopted son
of a charioteer. He was a hero and a nobleman in his own right,
but only indirectly connected with the Kauravas and even
the Pandavas. The reason why warriors and heroes are all
put together for destruction must be because they constitute
dynamic social elements. Bhishma and Drona more particularly
represent types of spirituality in their own persons, even
outside the concept of heroism.

The reference to heads being crushed to powder is particularly
ghastly, as in keeping with the warfare which is both actual
and terrible at once. The gaps between the teeth in which some
of these warriors are caught must refer to those like Arjuna
himself who, though hesitating to fight, have no option.
They are hemmed in by two aspects of necessity and


obliged to be pressed onwards, caught in a surging queue
as it were. That everybody is equally involved, including
Arjuna, is again stated in its converse form by Krishna in
Verse 32.

An item such as warfare ought to be thought of in the
process of becoming as one among many such in the cosmic
process as a whole. Hence it is that mouths are
plural here rather than singular. The plural employed in
reference to the interstices between the teeth need not,
therefore, apply to one and the same mouth only. Thus the
meaning we have given above is further justified.


yatha nadinam bahavo 'mbuvegah
samudram eva 'bhimukha dravanti
tatha tava 'mi naralokavira
visanti vaktrany abhivijvalanti

As many rushing torrents of rivers race towards
the ocean, so do these heroes in the world of men
enter Your flaming mouths.


The figure of speech is here modified, from the picture of
a cosmic man devouring all, to one of a cosmic principle
above which absorbs into itself all the varied items of
becoming found in the existing cosmos. These varied
processes are compared to rivers that enter the mouths
which lead presumably into an ocean. The urge of necessity
seems reversed in the present verse. Instead of devouring,
the rivers by themselves, by the force of their currents,
push into the mouths of the sea. The plurality of mouths
employed here becomes a negligible factor, and when we
read also that the mouths are flaming, the realism becomes
completely violated in the mixed metaphor. There is a
strange mixture of realism and symbolism here. This verse
only prepares the way for the picture presented in Verse 31
where realistic imagery is abandoned in favour of a
numinous presence representing the Unknown, attaining the
point of being merely a "tremendous mystery".


yatha Pradiptam jvalanam patanga
visanti nasaya samridhhavegah
tathai 'va nasaya visanti lokas
tava 'pi vaktrani samriddhavegah


As moths speed into a blazing fire to be destroyed,
just so do these worlds also speed into Your mouths
unto their destruction.

Heliotropism is a phenomenon familiar in natural science.
Life turns towards the sun. The bright fire of the cosmic
principle, which has been compared to a vast sea with bright
mouths, is treated here as a light into which everything is
reabsorbed in the great cosmic process of becoming. Just as
knowledge is attractive or interesting to man, so a brilliant
light fills the whole of the interest of an insect and blinded,
as it were, by the interest, it seeks to merge itself in the
supreme light. In the world of human values all unitary
items strive to reach the unitive Absolute. The individuality
of each unit thus becomes extinguished in the boundlessness
of the Absolute. Such are some of the philosophical
implications of the vision represented here.

The reference to lokah (worlds) refers to value systems which
may be said to merge in the supreme value of the Absolute.


lelihyase grasamanah samantal
lokan samagran vadanair jvaladbhih
tejobhir apurya jagat samagram
bhasas tavo 'grah pratapanti vishno

You lick up, devouring all worlds on every side with Your
flaming mouths, filling the whole world with glory;
Your fierce rays are blazing forth, 0 All-pervading One.


The image presented here is not unlike the one in the
Mundaka Upanishad (I, ii, 4), where reference is made to the
seven tongues of fire, the most important one of which is
called visvaruchi (the universe-taster). The universe may be
said to leap into visible form by the principle of light, while
colours, shapes and forms may be said to be gradations in
light. This principle may be said to contain all varieties.
If we extend the figure of speech further backwards and
think of light as representing wisdom, all kinds of values in
this world are implied in the supreme value of the Absolute.
It is in this sense that the glory of the Absolute is said to
fill the very worlds that have entered into Its mouths.


The all-pervading Vishnu conforms to a supreme Sun rather
than a cosmic man as hitherto pictured. Ontological
imagery has given place to one teleologically conceived.
The reference to filling the whole world with glory cannot
be understood if a cosmic man devoured all the worlds. It is
rather the supreme Sun which illumines the worlds, bathing
them all in his own glory. The subtle reversal of the imagery
in the very same vision thus becomes evident.


akhyahi me ko bhavan ugrarupo
namo 'stu te devavara prasida
vijnatum ichchhami bhavantam adyam
na hi prajanami tava pravrittim

Tell me who You are, so fierce in form; I bow to You,
0 superior God; Be gracious! I want to understand You,
0 Prime One, nor do I know Your(positive) continued becoming.


The limit of the vision is reached in this verse in which
it is only a mark of interrogation and exclamation that remains
for Arjuna. The Absolute is still to be known. The vision
only covers aspects of the Absolute, beginning from the
ontological and leading up through the teleological to a
notion that culminates in a tremendous mystery beyond
which it is evidently impossible to reach through visions
and descriptions. Arjuna is left in bewilderment, even at the
end of the most direct of visions that could possibly be


Sribhagavan uvacha
kalo 'smi lokakshayakrit pravriddho
lokan samahartum iha pravrittah
rite 'pi tvam na bhavishyanti sarve
ye 'vasthitah pratyanikeshu yodhah

tasmat tvam uttishtha yaso labhasva
jitva satrun bhunkshva rajyam samriddham,
mayai 'vai 'te nihatah purvam eva
nimittamatram bhava savyasachin

dronam cha bhishmam cha jayadratham cha
karnam tatha 'nyan api yodhaviran
maya hatams tvam jahi mi vyathishtha
yudhyasva jetasi rane sapatnan


Krishna said:
I am world-destroying Time, grown into hardened
maturity, operating here continuously, desolating
the worlds. Even without you, none of the warriors
standing in the opposing armies shall continue to

Therefore do you arise and gain fame. Conquering
your foes, enjoy the realm of abundance. By Me
even they have been already slain. Be you the inci-
dental cause only, 0 Left-handed One (savyasachin)

Drona and Bhishma, Jayadratha, Karna and other
great battle-heroes, these are all slain by Me. Do
not be distressed. Fight on, you shall conquer in
battle your rival (co-warriors).


These three verses coming from Krishna form a section of
their own and offer certain problems connected with the
teaching of the Gita.

There is apparently a definite incitement to war and
encouragement on the part of Krishna here. Many scholars,
especially those who have no religious affiliations to India,
have very pertinently put their finger on this most important
problem. It could be stated thus: "How could Krishna, who
represents the Absolute or God and thus goodness and the
highest of spiritual and ethical values, encourage warfare
in which the killing of fellow-men is involved?"
Various answers have been put forward by people, ranging
from mere religious apologists to philosophers, but the
vagueness that has surrounded this problem remains to
this day. We shall therefore scrutinize these verses very
closely for an answer consistent with the teaching of the
Gita as a whole. The following considerations could be
(1) Throughout the Gita, which is part of an epic poem,
there is a general background of warfare which comes into
evidence in such expressions describing Arjuna as
paramtapa (O Burner of Foes) and purusharshabha (O Bull
among Men). We might say therefore that the epic setting is
the canvas,


and that the Gita teaching itself is the painting which should
not be mixed up with the canvas. The incitement to war
therefore forms part of the natural or inevitable background
of the Gita, which Vyasa could not completely efface without
lifting the painting from its natural canvas.

(2) Arjuna himself is but one of the ordinary human characters
of the epic narrative. He has his own status outside the
wisdom-context as one of the Pandavas with his own interests
to safeguard. However much a man might be a philosopher,
there are human limitations to the reaction that a given
actual situation might have on an individual. Taking Arjuna
as a simple man among men, it is but natural that his
brother-in-law whom he loves and confides in intimately,
should advise him not to be a backslider when caught in the
imperative necessity of a war situation. As Narayana Guru
once put it briefly, Arjuna would have repented for not
fighting if he had retired from the battlefield in a moment
of philosophical confusion.

(3) We have noticed throughout that each chapter of the
Gita formed a close system of its own or darsana (special
vision of reality) and the consistency of statements in each
chapter had to be referred to its own proper frame of
reference and not crossways between two different visions
of reality.

We noticed further that in the earlier chapters which make
the anterior half of the book, the problem is approached in
a realistic spirit. For example, there was reference in ii,36
to the extreme distress that ill repute would bring to Arjuna
if he should run away from the battlefield. There are
situations in the necessary context of life in which it
is no more possible to make any choice between alternatives.
The vulgar name for such a force may be destiny or fate.
More respectable names for it would be providence or chance.
There is an element of determinism running side by side
with indeterminism in the nature of the physical, world, as
scientists recognize. Newton's laws hold good side by side
with Einstein's theories. The man who is caught in a surging
queue can hardly decide which way to move. A woman
advanced in pregnancy has hardly any choice whether to
give birth to a child or not. The imperative urge of
becoming has a force that has to be reckoned with,
especially when circumstances have become hardened around it.
A war situation represents exactly this kind of hardening.
This is what has been referred to in Verse 32 as pravriddhah


(grown into hard maturity). A benignant god is not implied
in this chapter. On the contrary Krishna says definitely that
he has come to destroy. We remember that Krishna in ix,
29, represented a neutral if not a benign personality. In v,
25, he pronounces himself as the friend of all beings.
The structure of the Gita is conceived in such a way that
if the earliest chapters are like the stones on one side of an
arch, tending to support it from the ground, the later
chapters have to perform the same function starting in
another direction. The role of the keystone is fulfilled by the
two central chapters. The present chapter comes after the
symmetrical centre of the arch has been passed, and in
keeping with the general scheme we can expect the
treatment here to be different from the central and earlier
chapters. The discussion in the earlier chapters centred
round a doubting Arjuna. Here in the later chapters, the
centre of interest is shifting degree by degree to Krishna
himself, as an actively positive and determining Godhead or
Providence. In fact such a tendency reaches its culmination
in xvi, 19, where he becomes an angry or chastising deity.
The Absolute is not to be looked upon as an impotent or
spent force. It is a virile and radical principle, sometimes
evident with a touch of tragic heroism. Creation is both
comic and tragic, benign and terrible, when viewed from its
own negative or positive side. The necessary and the
contingent aspects exchange positions, yielding primacy to
one or the other, depending on the angle from which reality
is viewed.

When all the different possible views about the Absolute
are put into one living whole as finally given to the intuition
of a wise man, that should represent reality; and this is what
the Gita attempts to accomplish. It is usual even on the part
of scholars to say that the Gita contradicts itself in numerous
places. In the light of the suggestion we have made here that
each chapter is a distinct darsana (vision of reality), and
that each has a general innate structure of its own, with its
own frame of reference, and that statements can tally strictly
only within the four walls of each chapter, the charge of
contradiction in the Gita would fall to the ground.
Further the oft-repeated saying that the Gita gives an
answer to any question of any man at any stage of life, which
cannot be a compliment to the definiteness of the Gita's
teaching, becomes understandable in a new light by which


the different statements fall into a certain organic and
symetrical order which the author has in mind.

(4) Coming to the philosophical content of these verses
we have the key-word when it is indicated by Krishna that he
represents kala (time). In earlier chapters and even in the
present chapter in Arjuna's words, the Absolute was
represented as being without beginning, middle or end. This
is not the same as pure duration. It is conceived in terms of
events belonging to the outer world, even when understood
as the ticking of a clock.

Krishna therefore refers to himself here as an irreversible,
inexorable factor of necessity in terms of the flow of
outward physical events. We see people dying as time, like
the great car of Jagganath, passes on. The imperative tragic
march of time is known to literature, especially to great
writers such as Shakespeare who speaks of a providence
that shapes our ends, or of a tide in the affairs of man. The
choice is "to be or not to be" and "to be" has necessarily to
be voted for. Such is the imperative nature of necessity in
which warlike or tragic heroes get caught. The jaws of time
hold them between its teeth as pictured earlier, with no
choice whatever between "to be" or "not to be". Such a
crude and harsh picture of war actualities subjected to a
contemplative vision of the first degree extends from Verse
9 to Verse 35 inclusive. These are brackets enclosing crude
actualities of the order of the first degree device of Samjaya.

(5) This stress on the necessary aspect of the Absolute,
though stated so unmistakably in this chapter and carefully
enclosed within the brackets of the first degree Samjaya
device, does not, however, compromise the philosophical
nature of the Gita as a whole. There are categoric statements
inserted throughout the chapters which retrieve it from such
a disastrous one-sided and fatalistic teaching. We shall refer
to them as we pass on.


The purushottama (supreme spirit) of Ch. xv.18 and 19, is above both necessity and contingency, as we shall see. en when speaking of the gunatraya (three specific natural factors) in xiv, 23, it is the man who takes a neutral position above necessity who is held up as an example, and not one who merely succumbs to necessity, however strong that necessity might be. The overall philosophical nature of the Gita is finally confirmed by the well-known Verse in xviii, 68.It is true that the primacy given to necessity continues unabated till Verse 35 of the present chapter, and continues in a more toned-down form, even up to xviii, 62, but finally we notice




that the tone again changes where it catches up with the
general spirit in which the Gita has been conceived by its
author as a whole. Finally, it is only the neutral Absolute and
the establishing of a bipolar relation with it that matters.
In answer then, to the major problem stated earlier, the
position reduces itself to this: besides the requirements of an
epic and consideration for the sentiments of a human
Arjuna, there is a simple recognition here of the need for
Arjuna to understand the imperative force of necessity in
which he happens to be caught without any choice. The
Absolute cannot reverse its own necessary laws, and one is
obliged to be part of it.

Freedom, however, remains in its own domain, unaffected
by any limitations of necessity. Krishna's role is not that
of a war-monger in the ordinary sense, but that of a wise
friend who is capable of appraising the situation in both
philosophical and actual terms. He is speaking here merely
as a representative of both the field and the knower of the
field, as explained in Chapter xiii, but this in no way affects
his own status as purushottama (the supreme spirit), that is,
as one who transcends this duality.

Verse 34 makes it clear that it is the possible regret of
Arjuna with which he is concerned. When the inevitable is
anyhow to win the battle for Arjuna, Arjuna is merely, as it
were, one swallow in relation to a summer as pointed out in 
 ii, 32. Even his fighting does not count because it is only
to be looked upon as incidental to the larger situation, as
stated in Verse 33.

To sum up, if one should ask for a pointed and simple answer
to the problem raised above, we could state that Krishna found
that Arjuna would lapse into regret later if he did not give
him the encouragement to play his natural role.

The negation of trying to live in a vacuum was the danger
that Krishna helped his friend successfully to avoid under
very special circumstances.

In Verse 32 the word kala (time) should not be understood
in pure terms, because of the reference to its active agency
in destroying the world. Arjuna wanted to know what the
active agency of the Absolute could be (at the end of Verse
31). The expression pravrittah (positive continued becoming)
must there fore refer to the same action implied in the
question. But pravriddhah (grown into hardened maturity)
implies that even


activity can have a more hardened manifestation in which
any flexibility, choice or adaptability to circumstances
becomes out of the question. Necessity clinches all

The reference to the opposing armies in Verse 32 is different
from what is treated more dualistically in Verse 34 as
sapatnan (rival co-warriors). In Verse 32 the two parties
are referred to without distinction. The absence of Arjuna
would not make an appreciable difference to the situation
taken as a whole. Moreover the warriors are not referred to in 
ii, 32 as dying, but rather as na bhavishyanti (shall not be)
or as ceasing to exist.

The process of becoming should be visualized with both of its
aspects together. Life or food is referred to as living upon 
life or food itself in the Taittirya Upanishad (valli, iii).
Something like a Zeno paradox is presented here. Time
visualized, even objectively as here, is a process of ruthless
becoming, constituting the tragic problem of evil that has
never been explained away by any philosophy, however


In Verse 33 Arjuna is personally addressed in his own
individual interest. Philosophy is not allowed to cloud or
vitiate the commonsense issue involved. The necessary side
of life in its most pressing aspects is not to be and cannot
be brushed aside. Wisdom is not meant to cloud commonsense,
as in so many forms of vague opinion or religious piety. Both
wisdom and commonsense are complementary, and have their proper places, as developed and conclusively stated in xiii, 23 and


The neutral attitude of the wise man results from the cancelling
out of the necessary against the contingent and not by giving
undue prominence to one or the other. Yoga theoretically amounts
to this.


The reference in Verse 33 to anticipatory killing could be looked
upon in two ways: first, that all objective existence, being
subject to change, has no intrinsic existence in the eternal;
and secondly that evil, being based on something false and
non-existent, has no proper being as such. A bad man is already
dead. Good men approximate to values that are eternal, and
bad men to the extent that they are bad may in principle be said
to have already perished. The yasha (fame) must be construed here
to mean fame based on something real or good, and likewise rajyam
samriddham (realm of abundance of goods) need not necessarily refer to that particular kingdom that Arjuna can legalistically claim.
It might refer more generally to the way that leads to a more
abundant life.




Nimittamatram (incidental cause only) should also be understood
with its logical implications. Taking the familiar example
of a potter at his wheel, the clay he uses is the material
cause which is of a fundamental nature. The potter and the
wheel could vary according to circumstances. The particular
potter does not count, nor the particular pattern of the wheel.
These are often distinguished in India as upadana (the material
cause) and nimitta (the efficient cause) respectively.
The potter and wheel are merely instrumental, or of incidental
importance only, varying according to circumstances. Arjuna here
as a person is therefore just an incidental factor in a larger
situation that is given; he is only being reminded of this verity.
Whether the reference in Verse 33 to savyasachin (left-
handed one) is intended to reflect discredit on Arjuna is not
quite clear, but according to Sankara the word can be
interpreted as referring to the ambidextrous skill of Arjuna
rather than his being merely left-handed.

In Verse 34 specific names are mentioned. Although all of
them are to be feared, they are by no means the worst
examples of bad men ranged against Arjuna's side. Why
therefore specific reference should be made to such good
teachers and warriors of worth is a relevant question. They
represent superior values in themselves, even outside the mere
context of warfare, as we have already pointed out early in
this work. The spirituality imparted to Arjuna now, being
thoroughly absolutist in its character, supersedes every other
value, however esteemed it might have been till now in the
anterior context of the Mahabharata war. Therefore the
specific mention of these names must be intended to point out
the superiority of the revalued spirituality of Krishna which is
now Arjuna's also. Karna and Jayadratha are warriors who
hold secret weapons or boons of a divine nature. Drona
represents values implicit in Vedic ritualism, and Bhishma is
a patriarch and model of a man of abnegation and chastity.
The expression ma vyathishtha (be not distressed) refers to
any possible hesitation remaining in the attitude of Arjuna
even after the explanation given, more particularly in regard
to the Gurus (teachers) such as Drona and Bhishma. It does not
recommend ruthless or pitiless killing as some loose
translators would seem to imply.

In the last line Krishna is not deteriorating into a fortune-
teller. In keeping with the Upanishadic dictum that truth alone
prevails, the meaning is to be construed in comprehensive


terms, rather than as referring to the incidental
personalities involved. An absolutist victor, as Arjuna is
recommended here to be, need not even know the names of
his individual rivals. He is not to think of them
relativistically as acquaintances belonging to narrow or
limited contexts.

The expression sapatnan (rivals) so reminiscent of sapatna
(co-wife of a common husband), would seem to suggest that
there is at least one interest common between them and
Arjuna, while in certain other matters the interests
clash. It is the final truth that should prevail as against
any parties dualistically understood, whatever their status.


Samjaya uvacha
etach chhrutva vachanam kesavasya
kritanjalir vepamanah kiriti
namaskritva bhuya eva 'ha krishnam
sagadgadam bhitabhitah pranamya

Samjaya said
Having heard that speech of Kesava (Krishna) the Diademed One
(Arjuna) with worshipfully joined palms, trembling, inclining
himself again before Krishna, with emotional stuttering, in
sustained fear, bowing down, spoke.


The intervention of Samjaya here is perhaps intended to
punctuate the climax of the vision that has been reached as
Krishna describes his own form. The vision itself was lifted
somewhat out of the human context and, having fulfilled its
purpose, had to be discarded for the continuation of the
theme of the Gita again from a more human standpoint.
Samjaya, therefore, brings in his religious note wherein there
is Arjuna in a crisis of emotion, unable to pronounce his
words with clarity, sagadgadam (with emotional stuttering).
He is even said to be prostrating completely, cowed down
with an abject form of fear, bhitabhitah (in sustained fear).
This is not at all in keeping with the self-respect of a warrior.
The conventional picture of a supplicating worshipper here
might be in place in a Puranic (legendary) religious setting,
or perhaps when a seeker of wisdom finds the Guru's teaching
too much for him. Whatever may be the consideration here,
Samjaya's words are meant to punctuate the climax of the vision.


Arjuna uvacha
sthane hrishikesa tava prakirtya
jagat prahrishyaty anurajyate
cha rakshamsi bhutani diso dravanti
sarve namasyanti cha siddhasamghah

Arjuna said:
0 Hrishikesa (Krishna), it is but right that the world
is delighted in praising You, that demons fly in fear
to every quarter, and (that) all hosts of perfected
ones bow in adoration to You.


Verses 36 to 43 contain Arjuna's words in the form of a
panegyric of exalted devotion. The awe-inspiring picture is
abandoned in favour of a state of world rejoicing as
indicated by jagat prahrishyate (the world rejoices). Only
the rakshasas (demons) are terrified. The siddhas (beings
perfected through psychic discipline) take a worshipful
attitude. There is a return to conventional scales of values
and devotion in the sense of ordinary bhakti (adoration).
We thus approach the vision once again from the more
human standpoint. We notice here also that Arjuna speaks
with a certain authority of his own, even as a philosopher, in
the next verse.


kasmach cha te na nameran mahatman
gariyase brahmano 'py adikartre
ananta devesa jagannivasa
tvam aksharam sad asat tatparamyat

And why should they not bow to You, 0 Great Self, more
venerable even than Brahma the first maker, 0 Endless God of
gods, Basis of the Universe! You are the Imperishable One,
Existence and Non-Existence, and What is beyond (even) that.


Although starting conventionally, Arjuna here transcends
conventional limits altogether and by using sad-asat
(existence and non-existence) together, again reaches the
highest point in Vedantic philosophical speculation. The
reference to the Absolute as being greater than Brahma
himself, who is the first creator, lifts the vision above the
level of theology. The reference to the Absolute as the basis
of the whole universe and as tatparam yat (that which is
beyond) brings together two extreme aspects of the vision
that we have noticed in Verse 28.


tvam adidevah purushah puranas
tvam asya visvasya param nidhanam
vetta 'si vedyam cha param cha dhama
tvaya tatam visvam anantarupa

You are the first of the gods and the Ancient Spirit
You are the Supreme Basis of the Universe ; You are both the
Knower and the Knowable; You are the (transcendent) Beyond
and the (immanent) Receptacle (here); the universe is pervaded
by You, 0 One (capable) of Limitless Form!


The same mixed imagery in which ontological factors alternate
with the hypothetical, continues. The references to vetta 'si
vedyam cha (the knower and the knowable) and also to param
(the transcendent beyond), i.e., the hypothetical, and to
dhama (basis) here and now, i.e., ontological, in pairs
together, mark the synthetic style adopted.


vayur yamo 'gnir varunah sasankah
prajapatis tvam prapitamahas cha
namo namas te 'stu sahasrakritvah
punas cha bhuyo 'pi namo namas te

You are Vayu (wind deity), Yama (death deity), Agni
(fire deity), Varuna (sea deity), Sasanka (lunar deity),
Prajapati (first of progenitors) and the Great-grand-sire;
Hail! Hail to You! A thousand times and again, Hail!
Hail to You!


The juxtaposition here of the idea of Prajapati (first of
progenitors) and prapitamaha (great-grandsire) is unusual.
Any one of them would have sufficed normally, but the two
epithets are intended to fuse the Vedic cosmology with the
tradition of ancestor-worship.


namah purastad atha prishthatas te
namo 'stu te sarvata eva sarva
ananta viryamita vikramas tvam
sarvam samapnoshi tato 'si sarvah


Prostrations to You before and after; prostrations to You
on every side; 0 All, of endless potency and immeasurable
strength; You terminate all, then You become all!


The prostrations in the first line, before and after, may
refer to the time-dimensional aspect of the Absolute, and the
prostrations in the second line to points in space.
The reference to virya (potent power) has to be distinguished
from vikrama (overt strength). Potency is what comes into
effect through duration, while overt strength expresses itself
at a given moment in all directions like a bomb that bursts.
Or the difference can be said to be something like that
between a snake and a tiger.

The two expressions samapnoshi (you bring to conclusion) and
tato 'si sarvah (so you are all) must also be understood as
implying the same contrast between time and space. There is
a subtle interrelation between time and space implied here


sakhe 'ti matva Prasabham yad uktam
he krishna he yadava he sakhe 'ti
ajanata mahimanam tave 'dam
maya pramadat pranayena va 'pi

yach chi 'vahasartham asatkrito 'ti
vihara sayyasana bhojaneshu
eko 'thava 'py achyuta tatsamaksham
tat kshamaye tvam aham aprameyam

Whatever I have said rashly from carelessness or
fondness, addressing You as "0 Krishna, 0 Yadava,
0 Comrade" thinking of You as an intimate and ignorant
of this Your greatness,

and for whatever jesting irreverence I may have shown You,
whether at play, reposing, or seated, or at meals, either
when remaining by myself, or when You were present, that
I ask, 0 Achyuta (Krishna), to forgive, 0 Unpredicable One!


The section covering Verses 41 to 46 alludes to various
forms of devotional or bhakti (adoration) relationship
extant or possible. This is to be dealt with on its own in
the next chapter.


The review of the different varieties in this section must be
by way of preparation, and to contrast them with that single
type of devotion recommended in the last verse of this
chapter, and throughout the Gita generally.

The method of the Gita is never to condemn a lower form
of ritual worship or devotion in opposition to the highest
form recommended, but always to treat them hand in hand.
Various forms of sacrifice and Yoga have been similarly
covered in the earlier chapters, without decreasing the
stress on the best form recommended at the end of each
discussion (see iv. 23-32 and also chapter vi.).

The Puranic (religious, legendary) type of devotion was
reflected in Samjaya's speech in Verse 35. Arjuna's own
pattern of worship conforms to what may be described as
that of an upasana-murti (worship of a fixed form for
purposes of ritual offering) of the four-armed Vishnu.
This predilection is sufficiently evident from Verse 17
of this chapter, again repeated in verse 46. But within
the limitations of such a conventional worship, Arjuna is
capable of thinking of different varieties of affiliation
to the Absolute which are correct even in the light of the
canonical text-books likely to have been known to him. But
the Gita as a sastra (canonical text-book) sets its own
standard of devotion which is higher than the conventional.
In Verses 41 and 42 wrong or accidental relationships
possible outside the context of contemplation are all
referred to, with a view to their elimination in establishing
the proper relationship to be described later.

The reference to Yadava is one based on Arjuna's marital
relationship with the clan to which Krishna belonged. This
is but one example of the miscellaneous nature of Arjuna's
relations implied in these epithets.

The phrase tatsamaksham (when you were present) often
translated "in the presence of others" has been so translated
because the relation between Krishna and Arjuna is the
chief subject-matter throughout.

The detailed references to play, repose, seated at meals,
are to show that there are various moments in our everyday
life which are casual and incidental in which one might not
be properly related to the Absolute as recommended in v, 9
and 10 The pardon here prayed for by Arjuna is really for
his acts of omission in conforming to the pattern of life
of a true contemplative in his odd moments.


pita 'si lokasya characharasya
tvam asya pujyas cha gurur gariyan
na tvatsamo 'sty abhyadhikoh kuto 'nyo
lokatraye 'py apratimaprabhava

You are the Father of the world, of the moving and unmoving;
You are to be reverenced by this (world) and (are) the
supreme Guru; none is Your equal; how then could there be
one greater than You, even in the three worlds, 0 One of
incomparable greatness!


The father-son and the guru-sishya (teacher-disciple)
relationships are mentioned here. Krishna is referred to as
the one who has no equal and as the highest to be reverenced.
The attitude is therefore one of intense unitive affiliation
to the Absolute as far as Arjuna is able to understand.


tasmat pranamya pranidhaya kayam
prasadaye tvam aham isam idyam
pite 'va putrasya sakhe 'va sakhyuh
priyah priyaya 'rhasi deva sodhum

Therefore bowing down and prostrating my body, I seek Your
grace, 0 adorable Lord; (it is but proper that) You, O God,
should bear with me, as father to son, as friend to friend,
as lover to beloved.


Bhakti (devotion) in such writings as the Narada Bhakti
Sutras (Verses on Devotion by the Sage Narada) is said to
have different modes. There are, for instance, the dasya
bhava (servant attitude), the asrita bhava (refugee attitude)
and the suhrid bhava (friendly attitude). Coupling worshipper
and worshipped into one situation conforms to a correct
contemplative approach to devotion which cannot be understood
unilaterally. Hence the references here to father-son, etc.,
are very apt, though coming from Arjuna only.


adrishtapurvam hrishito 'smi drishtva
bhayena cha pravyathitam mano me
tad eva me darsaya deva rupam
prasida devesa jagannivasa


kiritinam gadinam chakrahastam
ichchhami tvam drashtum aham tathai 'va
tenai 'va rupena chaturbhujena
sahasrabaho bhava visvamurte

I am glad, having seen what has never been seen by anyone
before, and my mind is troubled with fear; show me that
very form, 0 God; be pleased, 0 God of gods, 0 Abode of
the Universe;

I want to see You even so, diademed, with mace and discus
in Your hand; assume that very form with four Arms,
0 Thousand-armed, O One of Universal Form!


Arjuna here speaks of both fear and gladness at the same
time. Every devotee in his position has to draw the line
between the picture of the Absolute that he can bear and
what is natural to his own previous conditioning. A more
philosophic temperament would perhaps be able to
approximate nearer to an abstract or unconditioned idea of
the Absolute. This largely depends upon temperament and
conditionings depending on each individual.

In keeping with Arjuna's own conditioning, he asks for the
more comforting form of the four-armed Vishnu. He plainly
confesses that the multiplicity of arms and the protean
character of the possible shapes that Krishna is capable of
assuming is too much for him. Arjuna's devotion thus gains
here stable ground again.


Sribhagavan uvacha
maya prasannena tava 'rjune 'dam
rupam param darsitam atmayogat
tejomayam visvam anantam adyam
yan me tvadanyena na drishtapurvam

Krishna said:
By My favour, 0 Arjuna, this supreme form has been shown,
by the Yoga pertaining to the Self, made up of light,
universal, endless, primal, never before seen by any
other than yourself.


In this section of three verses (47 to 49) Krishna examines the
nature of the vision in his own words from his own standpoint
and says, as he has said already and will repeat again, that
the vision is far superior to what is possible through the
Vedas, sacrifices, studies, gifts, rituals and austerity. It
is a culminating vision of the Absolute as revalued and
restated for the first time by Krishna himself. He stresses
the supreme value of such a vision and resumes his normal
form as a human being.

The term atmayogat (through the Yoga pertaining to the Self)
in this verse, refers to the distinguishing feature of the
vision according to Krishna, which should be understood
side by side with the epithets mahatman (great Self) and
yogesvarayogi) which occur in this chapter and
elsewhere. The Absolute is appraised most directly in terms
of the Self, and this truth has already been mentioned in x,

The favour conferred on Arjuna consists of allowing him
to place himself as Krishna's own Self, and thus help him in
having a vision that is superior to all other approaches.
Atma-yogat (through the Yoga pertaining to the Self) is a
new approach different from other theological or
cosmological approaches known generally.


na vedayajna dhyayanair na danair
na cha kriyabhir na tapobhir ugraih
evamrupah sakya aham nriloke
drashtum tvadanyena kurupravira

Neither by the Vedas, sacrifices, nor by study, nor by gifts,
nor by ritual, nor by severe austerities, can I possibly be
seen in such a form in the human world, by anyone other than
you, 0 Hero of the Kurus (Arjuna).


The reference here to nriloka (the human world) admits
that the vision hitherto described is not normally given to
men. Arjuna alone has this unique favour through Krishna.
This brings out the verity so well known in Indian
spirituality that no knowledge is valid without a guru.
True vision of the Absolute comes only by the cancelling
out of two counterparts, one represented by the disciple and
the other by the teacher. Being essentially dialectical,
absolutist wisdom cannot be reached by any one-legged
argument, by ratiocination or eristic forms of reasoning, or
any such one-sided methods, all of which fall short of the
mark as far as the truth of contemplative wisdom is concerned.


As the Gita is never tired of repeating, this underlines
further, as seen in Verse 53 later, that the hitherto usually
recognized approaches to wisdom do not reach that
culminating point implied in the finalized doctrine of the


ma te vyatha ma cha vimudhabhavo
drishtva rupam ghoram idrin mame'dam
vyapetabhih pritamanah punas tvam
tad eva me rupam idam prapasya

Be not distressed, do not be confused, having seen such
a terrible form of Mine; free from fear, mentally
comforted, again behold that very form of Mine (presently)


This verse consoles Arjuna, but definitely admits that the
terrible form did not fit in with the normal human context.
There was a harsh and specialized quality which belonged
perhaps, according to Krishna, to the context of war in
which Arjuna was involved. Krishna would perhaps have
avoided showing this terrible aspect if it had not been for
the hard actualities of warfare which made such a vision,
though somewhat abnormal, necessary all the same. It is
further suggested indirectly that visions and ecstatic states
properly belong to the field of abnormal psychology. The
reference to the human world in the previous verse would
support such a view.

Tad eva me rupam (even that form of Mine) is construed
by Sankara as meaning the four-armed Vishnu. Sankara's
introduction to the Gita itself refers to Vishnu as being
born as the son of Vasudeva, to preserve order and protect
brahmanical values. For our part we do not see why here,
in the absence of any reference to a return to a non-human
four-armed form, such a construction should be given. We
see that Arjuna in Verse 51 refers to manusham rupam (the
human form) which normally should be the antecedent of
the present reference.

Sankara's Puranic (religious legendary) predilections
must be responsible for dragging in the four-armed Vishnu
form into a context where it is absent and unnecessary. This
attitude of Sankara goes well with his condoning of and
conniving at the injustices involved in caste which we had
occasion to point out already.


The reference to Vasudeva as a historical person and to
Krishna being born as an avatar (incarnation from on high)
of Vishnu, even if they should have any validity, hold no
direct interest to the modern man who wants to get at the
root of the Gita teaching as a universal textbook. That the
Bhagavata doctrine of vyuha and the Puranic idea of the ten
avatars are both foreign to the Gita has already been
pointed out under Verse 17 earlier.


Samjaya uvacha
ity arjunam vasudevas latho 'ktva
svakam rupam darsayam asa bhuyah
asvasayam asa cha bhitam enam
bhutva punah saumyavapur mahatma

Samjaya said:
Having thus spoken to Arjuna, Vasudeva (Krishna) again
showed his own form and the Great Self, becoming mild
in form, consoled him who was terrified.


Samjaya's words are meant to close the brackets, as it
were, around the parenthesis of the terrible vision which
was introduced into the Gita to meet the gross requirements
of a war situation. Samjaya makes his appearance again only
at the end of the book.


Arjuna uvacha
drishtve 'dam manusham rupam
tava saumyam janardana
idanim asmi samvrittah
sachetah prakritim,gatah

Arjuna said:
Beholding again this Your mild human form, 0 Janardana
(Krishna), I am now calm, with the living mind restored to
its natural state.


Beginning from this verse to the end of the chapter there
is an absence of the exaltation produced by the vision, and
Krishna and Arjuna continue the dialogue, standing, as it
were, off-stage.


The expression sachetah (with the living mind regained)
suggests that Arjuna has recovered from the exaggerated
after-effects of the vision that was too much for him. He is
conscious of his own personality and normal relationships
as an intelligent and responsible living man.


Sribhagavan uvacha
sudurdarsam idam rupam
drishtavan asi yan mama
deva apy asya rupasya
nityam darsanakankshinah

Krishna said:
This form of Mine which you have seen is very hard to see
indeed; even the gods ever aspire to behold this form.


By saying that even the gods are aspiring for the vision
that Arjuna as a mere human being has had the privilege of
seeing, the status of the Absolute as representing the vision
is raised far above the scope and context of religion
altogether. It must be thought of as being of a highly
mystical or contemplative order.

The expression nityam (ever, always) implies that the
gods can never attain to such a high vision, even if they
should wait for all time. The vision is therefore completely
outside the scope of the theological context to which the
gods belong.


na 'ham vedair na tapasa
na danena na che 'jyayi
sakya evamvidho drashtum
drishtavan asi mam yatha

Not by Vedas, nor by austerity, nor by gifts, nor by
sacrifice, can I be seen in this form as you have seen Me.


This is a repetition of Verse 48 and rejects categorically
all approaches to the vision of the Absolute by religious
methods such as here enumerated.


bhaktya tv ananyaya sakya
aham evamvidho 'rjuna
jnatum drashtum cha lattvena
praveshtum cha paramtapa

But by devotion that excludes all else, 0 Arjuna, I
can be known, seen, and in principle entered into,
Paramtapa (Arjuna).


The way that will surely succeed, not only in producing the
full effect but also in comprehending the full import of
the vision is stated here without ambiguity. This touches the
central doctrine of the Gita, expressed in various ways
throughout the work, in the familiar form of "you shall even
attain to Me".

The attaining here referred to has implications of an
absolutist nature which it would be wrong to overlook.
There is always implied in such instances an identity or
unity of a very thorough character as between the seeker and
the wisdom of the Absolute. Such references by no means
suggest the weak variety of bhakti (devotion), which mostly
consists of clashing cymbals, bell-ringings and parrot-like
muttering of mantrams (sacred syllables). But of course
such practices have their justification, in so far as they
displace worse practices.

The expression ananyaya (to the exclusion of all else) referred
to in viii, 22 and ix, 22, is to secure for the superior
type of devotion meant here, that necessary bipolar condition.
The reference to tattvena (according to principle) also touches
another prerequisite of a proper affiliation to the Absolute,
also insisted on in iv, 9, vii, 3, x, 7, and xviii, 55, and to
be considered as part of the finalized doctrine of the Gita.

The idea of entering into the Absolute indicated by the
word praveshtum (to enter) is also a favourite form of
expression in the Gita. Attaining, reaching or entering into
the Absolute, can only suggest a form of unification between
the subject and the object, the worshipper and the
worshipped. When Krishna says that such and such a devotee
is dear and would reach him surely, it is this same kind of
union which is implied.

Thus something more than a mere vision is promised here by
Krishna, if Arjuna could establish that particular kind of
bipolar affiliation which forms, as we have said, part of the
finalized doctrine of the Gita.


matkarmakrin matparamo
madbhaktah sangavarjitah
nirvairah sarvabhuteshu
yah sa mam eti pandava

He who does actions that are Mine, whose Supreme is Myself,
whose devotion is to Me, devoid of attachment, free from
enmity to all beings, he reaches Me, 0 Pandava (Arjuna).


By way of conclusion there is a summing up of approaches to
the Absolute which refer backwards to subjects such as karma
(action) already covered in earlier chapters. The reference
to bhakti (devotion) brings the subject up to the present,
leading up to the next chapter. The expression matparamah
(having Me as the supreme) is peculiar to the style of the
Gita, in the same way as machchittah (with their relational
mind in Me) in vi, 14, x, 9, and xviii, 57 and 58. Other
expressions like madgataprana (their life-tendencies
penetrating into Me) of x, 9, express clearly what is in
the mind of the author, when such seemingly strained
expressions have to be resorted to by him. Intimate bipolar
relationship between the factors involved in each case
should be clearly understood if the Gita doctrine is to
be grasped in the form intended by the author.

The reference to nirvairah (without enmity) seems an anti-
climax to the chapter as a whole, which has been geared to
war-mindedness and even to the recommendation of slaying
of foes. But when we consider the parenthetical character of
the vision, as we have explained, and remember that the Gita
intends hereafter to proceed more normally, the reference to
lack of enmity becomes understandable. Read together with
the other expression sangavarjitah (devoid of attachment),
the treatment attains the usual contemplative level.
These two references compensate for any over-emphasis
on the harsh or necessary aspects of the Absolute that may
still linger in the mind of Arjuna or of any student of the
Gita. Hard necessity was recognized and given due place in
the highly realistic vision which could not omit hard facts
of evil that form the inevitable counterpart of an existence
included in an all-inclusive unitive view. Existence is not
always harsh and therefore the rest of the Gita continues in
a more normal style.


The next chapter passes on to the question of the Unitive
Contemplation of the Absolute.

ity srimad bhagavadgitasupanishatsu brahmavidyayam
yogasastre srikrishnarjunasamvade
visvarupadarsanayogo namai 'kidaso 'dhayah

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 Eleventh Chapter entitled Unitive Vision
of the Absolute.






A general discussion of devotion on the usual lines has
already been covered in the latter part of the last chapter.
Here an important doubt is raised by Arjuna in regard to
two possible kinds of devotion implied in what till now was
just called bhakti (devotion).

We know that in the rational, heterodox or Buddhistic
tradition bhakti (devotion) to a personal god was greatly
discredited. The Gita being a revaluation of both orthodox and
heterodox tendencies in spirituality, covering both the
rational and the emotional aspects, has to make it clear what
importance it gives to the role of devotion in the spiritual
progress of the aspirant to wisdom. Further, the variety of
bipolar relationship which in the Gita is called devotion
conforms more to a contemplative discipline rather than to
religious worship.

We have seen that the more ordinary approaches to devotion
have been revalued or superseded in xi, 48 and 53. Discredit
on Vedism generally was reflected even in ii, 42, 43,
44 and 46. Brahma as a deity to be worshipped was
superseded in xi, 37. There is no mistaking therefore, that
when devotion is referred to in this chapter, the usual forms
of upasana (devout worship through ritual, offerings of
flowers, etc.) or even popular forms of devotion, are not
implied. The word contemplation rather than devotion
would apply more especially to the type of spirituality of
the person implied in Verses 13-19 inclusive.

Further a bhakta (devotee) is portrayed as a detached and
dispassionate individual, and wisdom is still his higher goal,
as indicated even in Verse 12 of this chapter. The attitude
of a devotee here shows the same traits of a yogi such as
balance between opposites like pleasure-pain, etc., as also
found in other parts of the Gita. The only question that is
discussed in this chapter, which is of particular interest
to the author


Vyasa, consists in the difference between a devotee who
thinks of the Absolute as a person, which might cover even
the personification of a principle; or the devotee who
regards the Absolute in a more theoretical or philosophical

Krishna here votes definitely for the personal, as far as a
yogi is concerned, but the chapter contains verses which
do recognize the superiority of a person capable of
accomplishing the more difficult task of contemplating the
Absolute in a more abstract philosophical manner.
The attributes of the Absolute in the latter case have to
attain a certain globality. Component factors must have an
organic coherence, thus tending to constitute in their
totality a unitive value, and such a value must be
contemplated upon in a bipolar manner. This bipolarity, as
we have said, is the mystical way which is not different
from that of Yoga or contemplation. The conditions are not
consciously fulfilled by rationalists when they think of the
Absolute impersonally. If their contemplation fulfils these
requirements the devotion gains a superior status, as stated
in Verses 3 and 4. It is only just, therefore, that there
is here in Verse 5 an apologetic reference to the difficulty
facing a man who wants to affiliate himself to the Absolute
through mere abstractions.

But this apologetic reference to difficulty does not
detract from the superior status that such people who can
take this difficult path have to be given. In fact this
recognition is what has been again conceded in the form of
a second thought in the last verse of this very chapter.
The Gita is a yoga sastra, a reasoned textbook on
unitive understanding; and although a merely theistic
approach is outside its scope, as we have pointed out, a
certain amount of anthropomorphism is admitted into its
general scheme. It is a personal Krishna who always
represents the Absolute, and as the technique of Yoga
implies counterparts, one of whom is always a personal
devotee, the representation of the Absolute as a person
should not be considered as altogether inconsistent.
In the context of Yoga, therefore, the element of
anthropomorphism implied in the Gita is excusable. Such
a position does not, however, amount to theism, as held
by certain scholars today. It should be treated as part
of the inevitable technique of the practice of the
contemplation of the Absolute.


Arjuna uvacha
evam satatayukta ye
bhaktas tvam paryupasate
ve cha 'py aksharam avyaktam
tesham ke yogavittamah

Arjuna said:
Those devotees who worship You, ever unitively,and those
again (who meditate on) the Imperishable and the
Unmanifested; of them which excels in yoga- knowledge?


The word evam (thus) with which this verse begins, is
meant to refer backwards to the last verse of the previous
chapter, where a personal surrender of actions to a supreme
entity was implied.

Bhakti (devotion) is conventionally associated with the
worship of gods of mythology or idols, especially in India.
Theistic ideas of God are not foreign to Indian thought, as
we found in XI, 43, in referring to the Father of the World;
but theism free from myth or idolatry is found in religions
such as Christianity or Islam. Some of the Vaishnavite
religions of India do place Vishnu in a supreme hypostatic
position resembling a theistic God, but the general tendency
in Indian thought is to approach God more ontologically
through creation itself.

The God described in the previous chapter cannot conform
to the pattern of a beneficent Vishnu theistically
understood, although Vishnu, thought of as an all-
pervading radiance, could be associated with the vision
presented, in a secondary fashion. The destroyer of the
worlds, as Krishna described himself to be in the vision,
could hardly be fitted within the limits of theism proper.
God does not devour his own children - except in the case
of a Greek Ouranos - but such a god must be considered as
belonging more to mythology than to theology.

Arjuna puts here a pointed question in which a subtle
distinction is implied between one who meditates on a
personified God and one who meditates only on impersonal
aspects of the akshara (Imperishable) and the avyaktam
(Unmanifested). Both are equally included under the
designation of Yoga, and it is only a matter of comparison
between them that is here undertaken as expressed by the
phrase yogavittamah (best of Yoga-knowers).


Sribhagavan uvacha
mayy avesya mano ye mam
nityayukta upasate
sraddhya parayo 'petas
te meyuktatama matah

Krishna said:
Those with minds entered into Me, who unitively meditate
on Me, with a fervour pertaining to the Supreme, those
according to Me are the most unitively (attuned) in Yoga.


In the answer of Krishna we find two expressions important
to note. Although both the cases in question are about
yogis, what distinguishes the first group is that they
are mayy avesya manah (with minds entered into Me). In
what sense this entering in is to be understood, we have
already discussed. It pertains to the condition of a bipolar
reciprocity. The other term that distinguishes this first
group is the word sraddha (fervour, faith), which the author
takes care to modify at once by the qualification paraya
(pertaining to the Supreme). Mere religious devotion to an
object will not fulfil the requirement in the mind of the
author. The faith has to refer to something beyond. Thus we
see that it is, as it were, a two-way traffic as between the
worshipper and the worshipped, which is insisted upon
throughout in this chapter on devotion or contemplation.
When the idea of a personal God becomes more vague or
theoretically superior, it has to be compensated by a
faith that is more fervent. When the faith becomes superior
through a better philosophical understanding of the idea
at the other pole has to gain in definiteness of outline.
Therefore although Krishna here apparently votes definitely
in favour of an affiliation to a personal God, it becomes
qualified by other considerations in this chapter as we
proceed, until one is left gasping. The true picture of
the Absolute intended by the Gita seems to be one that is
neither personal nor altogether impersonal.

This view is justified especially in the last verse of this
chapter, where all others who merely think of a value there
referred to as dharmyamritam (an eternally righteous value),
not necessarily personal, are stated to be surpassingly
dear to Krishna.


ye tv aksharam anirdesyam
avyaktam paryupasate
sarvatragam achintyam cha
kutastham achalam dhruvam

samniyamye 'ndrayagramam
sarvatra samabuddhayah
te prapnuvanti mam eva
sarvabhutahite ratah

But those who meditate upon the Imperishable, the
Undefineable, the Unmanifested, the All-Pervasive
and the Thought-transcending, the Firmly-established,
the Immobile, the Constant,

having restrained all sense-aggregates, regarding
all with equalizing understanding, interested in the
well-being of all creatures, they reach Me too.


These verses describe the other variety of spiritual
aspirant involved in Arjuna's question. No personal God
is involved in any of the descriptive terms enumerated.
But we note that the word upasana (meditate upon)
applies equally to such an aspirant as to the worshipper
of a personal God. It must therefore have a purer connotation
than when employed in the context of mere conventional
worship. Here we have to do with a philosopher whose
vision, while it is theoretical and abstract, is accompanied
by a personal attitude involving qualities enumerated in Verse 4, such as samabuddhayah (those who regard all with equalizing understanding). The counterparts implied in his attitude are: firstly, a correct philosophical vision of the Absolute; and secondly, a generous and open attitude of free and joyous life among his fellow beings.

As Sankara points out, here upasana (meditate upon) should
be understood in its extended sense. He says it"consists in approaching the object of worship by contemplating it according to the sastra (revealed text) and remaining for a long time fixed in the current of the same thought (continuous) like a line of descending oil".


When these two aspects of the personal life of the aspirant
described in the second case are considered unitively, we can
hardly deny that he attains a spiritual status at least equal
to that of any bhakta (devotee) who might conform to the first
type of aspirant. The two types tend to coalesce when understood
in the proper light of the Yoga which is specifically referred
to as yathoktam (as stated) in Verse 20. When properly understood
there would remain nothing to choose between the two cases.


klesho 'dhikataras tesham
avyaktasakta chetasam
avyakta hi gatir duhkham
dehavadbhir avapyate

The difficulty of those whose relational minds are set on the
Unmanifested is greater, for the way of the Unmanifested is
very hard for the embodied to reach.


A direct answer to Arjuna's question is not given in this
verse. Krishna rather chooses to bypass the issue, taking
an apologetic attitude, favouring for the present the one
devoted to a personal God. It is in the name of klesha
(difficulty) and not in the name of intrinsic superiority
that the type of bhakta (devotee) is preferred.

All devotees are human beings first and yogis afterwards,
and there are limitations belonging to bodily existence
which set a limit to establishing effective relation with
the Absolute. Each man, according to his own temperament,
has to draw the line between the transcendental and the
immanent aspects of the Absolute for his own purposes of
constant meditation. Those who by education and training
are capable of visualizing the Absolute globally, yet
impersonally, are very rare.


ye tu sarvani karmani
mayi samnyasya matparah
ananyenai 'va yogena
mam dhyayanta upasate

tesham aham samuddharta
mrityu samsara sagarat
bhavami nachirat partha
mayy avesita chetasam


But those who worship Me, renouncing all actions in Me,
regarding Me supreme, meditating on Me by that Yoga
exclusive of all else,

for them whose minds have entered into Me, I become ere
long, 0 Partha (Arjuna), the saviour out of the ocean
of death and repeated cyclic existences.


From Verses 6 to 12 we have a graded reference to persons
of different temperaments who have several alternatives
to choose from, such as knowledge, practice, meditation,
renunciation of benefits of actions, etc. The alternatives
are considered in a certain order and in Verses 6 and 7
we have the extremely rare case of a wise yogi who is
capable of renouncing all actions in favour of the Absolute.
This type conforms to what is mentioned in xviii, 2.
The samnyasin (renouncer of actions) here represents a
thorough-going contemplative or yogi with whom no
question of having to do anything arises. His Yoga has the
character of being ananya (without any extraneous factors)
and consists of being wholly absorbed in the Absolute. The
Absolute itself in such an extreme case may be considered
to be that potent factor capable of saving the life of the
individual from the relativistic context of death and
samsara (cyclic repetition of life-states), which is here
compared to an ocean because birth and death are like the
rising and falling of waves.

The expression mayy avesita chetasam (those whose minds
have entered into Me) applies to this type of wholehearted
devotee, and the initiative in the matter of saving such
devotees as stated here, devolves on the Absolute.
There is to be noticed here a wholehearted devotion met
by a wholesale hope of salvation, the two counterparts
of the devotional situation being equalized.

A simple samnyasin (renouncer of actions) is unlike a
tyagi (relinquisher of benefits of actions) because in the
latter case his renunciation applies only to benefit derived
from action and not to action itself.

Elsewhere in the Gita (ii, 5 and 8; xviii, 11) it has been
repeated that it is impossible to relinquish action

The distinction of the Gita as a philosophical treatise
consists in that it never minimizes the importance of the
necessary aspects of life. This reference to the extreme
type of samnyasin (renouncer) devotee who is capable of
being a pure meditator or contemplative at the same time,
is here brought in more as an exception than as a rule,
to head the list of other instances of a lesser order
which are to be enumerated presently.


mayy eva mana adhatsva
mayi buddhim nivesaya
nivasishyasi mayy eva
ata urdhvam na samsayah

Place your mind in Me only, let your higher reason enter
into Me; you shall without doubt thereafter live in Me.


After citing the rare and perfect case in the last two
verses, we come to cases of devotees of lesser grades, who
cannot be so easily saved. They are, given detailed
instructions of choice between alternative courses to follow
in contemplative discipline. This continues up to Verse 12.
In the present verse, we think of the next best type. It is
one who is capable of placing his mind in and making his
faculty of higher reasoning enter into the Absolute. It is
evident that even such an operation or adjustment is a
difficult one, as is recognised by the author in the next

The bhakti (devotion) implied in this verse involves a
degree of unity between the worshipper and the
worshipped. Even this is rare in the usual context of


atha chittam samadhatum
na saknoshi mayi sthiram
abhyasayogena tato
mam ichchha'ptum dhanamjaya

If you are unable to fix your thoughts steadily on Me,
then by means of unitive ascent (Yoga of practice)
seek to reach Me, 0 Dhanamjaya (Arjuna).


We come now to a type of devotee capable of establishing
a lesser degree of unity with the Absolute. The term
sthiram (steady) indicates that this type wavers and
sometimes allows other interests and activities to absorb
his attention or time. The remedy recommended is to bring
back the straying mind to the Absolute every time it runs
away. The nature of the practice implied here is evident
from vi, 26.


abhyase 'py asamartho 'si
matkarma paramo bhava
madartham api karmani
kurvan siddhim avapsyasi

If you happen to be incapable even for practice,
then become one whose every action belongs to
Me, the Supreme; even doing work for My sake,
you shall attain to perfection.


An even lesser alternative is now given for a man still
weaker in devotion. The phrase matkarma paramah (one,
all of whole actions belong to Me as the Supreme) has been
subjected to various interpretations. Abhinavagupta
includes within its scope all conventional devotional
actions, including the usual ritualistic ones. As we have
explained under xi, 55, this expression is one of those
peculiar to the Gita. All possible action which a man cannot
help doing in the normal course has to be thought of
together on the one hand, and on the other hand the totality
of such unavoidable necessary action must be treated as
belonging to paramam (the Supreme) which the Absolute

Thus equated, the evil attached to karma (action) becomes
neutralized by its necessity or inevitability, and also
as belonging to the Absolute; because the Absolute is
responsible directly for whatever evil of necessity may be
in actions. All nature is good, as Rousseau would put it.
By the same principle, all necessary or inevitable action
equated to the Absolute; or thought of as belonging to the
Absolute, becomes free from any taint.

The allusion to "My action" should be understood in this
sense. The Absolute itself has no karma (action), but the
inevitable, natural and necessary action of the devotee
becomes acceptable to the Supreme, whose touch may be said
to absolve him (as the actor) from any evil in such karma

Even if the subtle import of this is not understood by the
devotee, the same perfection is promised through an even
simpler alternative implied in the expression madartham
(for My sake), that is, "out of love for Me"


athai 'tad apy asakto 'si
kartum madyogam asritah
sarva karma phala tyagam
tatah kuru yatatmavan

If you are unable to do even this, then seek refuge (for
your individuality) in My unitive (Being),renouncing the
benefits of all actions as one of controlled Self.


The former verse implied that all necessary and unnatural
actions were pruned to make activity as a whole conform to
the will, as it were, of the Absolute principle. Here a
further concession is made in the name of a weakness that
is incapable even of omitting unnecessary flourishes in
the field of natural activity.

What is recommended in such a case is that the devotee
should merge his individuality into the larger unitive
individuality of the Absolute, however vaguely the devotee
may be able to understand such a numinous factor, which is
here called madyogam (My Yoga, My unitive Being). Yoga as
applied to the Absolute is a vague term and at best can be
thought of as a unitive way of life dedicated to the unitive
of the Absolute, wherein the necessary and the contingent
aspects of life merge without difference.

What happens to a devotee who has effaced his active
individuality in this way is that he becomes no more
interested in gaining anything for himself as a result of
his activity. For examples he might engage himself in
cultivating a field, but he is not keen on seeing that the
sale proceeds go into his own pocket to be used for diversions
that take his mind away from the Supreme or the Absolute.
All that this amounts to is that he effaces his egoistic
individuality which reaches out towards objectified values
for self-gratification. Karma phala tyaga (renunciation of
the benefits of action) should be taken in the sense that
means and ends are unitively understood as belonging to the
Absolute without egoistic interests, which correspond to
the benefits intervening.

Nishkama karma (passion-freed action) and karma phala tyaga
(renunciation of the benefits of action) both equally
refer to one of the important doctrines of the Gita,
mentioned as early as ii, 47 and repeated in v, 12 and
elsewhere. Some commentators interpret this to mean that
a man should not have any result in view for the action he
undertakes. If there is a


disparity between ends and means altogether, the result would
be an absurdity. Therefore the renunciation of the result or
benefit of action, if it is not to lead to absurdities in
life, should be understood in the sense that the actor does
actions for their own sake which bring natural results. Into
such a bipolar relationship established between ends and
means, the individual craving for pleasures that lie outside
his interest in the Absolute, do not enter in as interfering
third factors.


sreyo hi jnanam abhyasaj
jnanad dhyanam visishyate
dhyanat karma phala tyagas
tyagach chhantir anantaram

Better indeed is knowledge than practice; than knowledge
meditation is superior; than meditation,renunciation of
the benefit of action - after renunciation - peace.


The alternatives given from Verses 6 to 11 were based on the
motive of easiness. In this verse a gradation is indicated
which is based or superiority. Whether a man worships a
manifested God in the form of Vishnu or Rudra, or whether
he is capable of meditating on the abstract notion of the
Absolute as the Unmanifested, the final criterion by which
all devotees have to be measured consists primarily of the
question of how far their devotion has brought them
happiness or peace.

Judged from this normative principle of peace, it is
possible to grade and arrange all forms of devotional
practice or contemplation as is done here.

Blind practice of devotion without knowledge can only be
inferior to a devotion that is guided by knowledge. It is
therefore legitimate that the author has given knowledge
primacy over practice. Practice covers quite a variety
of items: from hatha yoga (Yoga which is forced, involving
severe psycho-physical disciplines) and ritualistic and
religious practices; to the pranayama (restraint of vital
forces like breath etc.), mentioned by Patanjali. Even
taking the most respectable connotation implied in practice
here, as indicated in vi, 26, there is an artificial and
mechanistic effort to be made by the devotee to bring back
the mind to the subject of meditation. Unless the


interest in the subject is intelligent, the effort to bring
back the mind constantly would in most cases be futile.
Therefore primacy is first given to knowledge here.
In its turn, knowledge cannot be sustained and focussed
for a long time uninterruptedly without that element of
interest which can give it that oily flow so often referred to,
which distinguishes meditation from mere thought or knowledge.
The condition of bipolarity in devotion is better fulfilled
in dhyana (meditation) and therefore it is given primacy
over knowledge.

To sustain meditation uniformly and to save it from
distractions that might develop at any time, one should have
the power to eliminate all those factors that are likely to
drag the mind into channels of instinctive desires. This
implies a certain neutrality in regard to means and ends,
which is implied in the word karma phala tyagam (renunciation
of the benefits of action) already explained.

Whether in the form of such a limited relinquishment of
benefit only, or in the form of fuller renunciation, as
implied in Verses 6 and 7 earlier, the element of giving up
of personal interest goes very far in establishing that final
value in spiritual life leading to the peace or happiness for
the contemplative devotee. Thus renunciation has its place
higher than meditation because it is by renunciation that
peace comes.

This verse brings the subject of devotion further in line
with the discipline of Yoga or contemplation, as understood in
other chapters. Devotion or practice in the Gita are not to
be confused with indications in such texts as the Narada
Bhakti Sutras and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, which should be
looked upon as distinct darsanas (systematic visions of
reality) of their own with very little in common with the
pure contemplation of the Absolute which is implied in
this chapter. These darsanas have been revalued here.


adveshta sarva bhutanam
maitrah karuna eva cha
nirmamo nirahamkarah
sama duhkha sukhah kshami

samtushtah satatamyogi
yatatma drishanischayah
mayy arpita mano buddhir
yo madbhaktah sa me priyah


He who has no hatred to all creatures, who is also
friendly and compassionate, who is free from
possessiveness, (mine-ness), and egoism, who is
equalized in pain and pleasure, and forgiving,

such a unitively-disciplined one (yogi) who is
always contented, self-controlled, firmly resolved,
whose mind and reason are dedicated to Me he,
My devotee, is dear to Me.


The last section of this chapter from Verse 13 to 19
describes the ideal bhakta (devotee) who conforms to a
contemplative type, as the Gita understands him. We notice
at once the difference between the usual devotee in the
minds of most people, especially in India, and what is
presented here. The devotee here is hardly distinguishable
from the contemplative mystic or yogi. The only trait that
marks him out is his retiring nature. He is a type who wants
to be left alone and at peace with himself.

Such a type is hardly one that could be expected to fight
with that zeal which is demanded of Arjuna (in the last
chapter). At best he would perhaps conform to the pattern of
Socrates fighting for the Athenian city-state, familiar to
us through Plato's "Symposium".

The difference in style and outlook here can be justified
only in the light of the fact that it was again within the
parenthetical brackets of Samjaya's words that the
inducement to war was recommended by Krishna in Chapter
xi. Now that the bracket of such a literary device has been
effectively closed; when the style after xi, 50, as we have
noticed, is again the normal one of the Gita, the toning down
here of the personal attitude of the devotee is understandable.
This section, moreover, does not refer to bhakti (devotion)
as something to be actively cultivated from the side of the
devotee, but rather refers to conformity to the will of the
Absolute by which the devotee is said to become dear to the
Absolute, as stated in the termination of almost every verse
from 13 to 19.

The reference in verse 13 to being equalized in pain and
happiness does not suggest any more a bhakta than a
contemplative yogi. The principal feature of the yoga of
the Gita lies in the concept of samya (equalization) as
recognized by Arjuna in vi 33. There is a regular definition
of Yoga itself as consisting of samatvam (equanimity), in ii,


Even in Chapter v,wherein renunciation is the principal theme,
we find in Verses 19 and 20 the same idea of equanimity or
equalization given due importance. Thus, whether it is action,
renunciation, or devotion, this equalization of two counterparts
is a common distinguishing feature of the perfected yogi,
irrespective of the section of chapter where it is discussed.
If we keep this in mind, the rest of this section (Verses 13
to 19 inclusive) hardly needs further comment.


yasman no 'dvijate loko
lokan no 'dvijate chayah
harshamarsha bhayodvegair
mukto yah sa cha me priyah

He who does not disturb (the peace of) the world and (whose
peace) is not disturbed by the world, and who is free from
exaggerations of joy, haste and fear, he too is dear to Me.


The neutrality and lack of exaggeration in the attitude of
the bhakta (devotee) are referred to here. We know in the
Puranas (religious legends) and in the Indian scene generally
that a great place is given to exaggerated emotionalism,
from what might be called "Lord-Lordism "or "Krishna-
Krishnaism" to ecstasies of joy, horripilation or tears, all
of which pass under the name of bhakti (devotion). The Gopis
(milkmaids) of Brindavan lost themselves in their love for
Krishna, which is another form of popular devotion in India
coming under erotic mysticism. Now, however much such types
of emotion may be justified in the context of religious
legends or Puranas, such exaggerated ways of devotion are
not at all countenanced in the Gita, as definitely expressed
in the phrase harshamarsha bhayodvegair mukto (free from
exaggerations of joy, haste and fear).

Such emotions do have their natural place in the Puranic
literature of India, and in some of the texts such as the
Narada Bhakti Sutras and even in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras
where there is reference to Isvarapranidhana (worshipping
Isvara) as an alternative in Yoga. In Vedantic literature
however, bhakti (devotion) is referred to by writers like
Sankara in the Viveka Chudamani (Verse 31) as meditation
on the Self.

All exaggerations are thus discredited in the Gita and
even in the Vishnu Purana, as Radhakrishnan quotes in his


"Introductory Essay to The Bhagavad Gita" (p. 65).
Bhaktiratmanusandhanam (devotion is constant meditation
on the Self) is also found as a definition in the Bhakti
Darsana (Reality Viewed as Devotion) of Narayana Guru's
Darsana Mala (Garland of Visions of Reality). He adds
further that bhajatitya yadatmanam bhaktiritya bhidhiyate
(from meditating on the Self it is called devotion). Though
dualism between worshipped and worshipper is recognized
by Ramanuja and Madhva, they too give the wisdom of the
Absolute an important place in their writings on devotion.
Even modern writers like Radhakrishnan who support the
idea that the Gita is a religious classic standing for theism,
misunderstand the type of bhakti (devotion) represented in
this chapter, and give recognition to exaggerated forms of
devotion belonging to the Puranas and to the context of the
erotic mysticism of the milkmaids who fell in love with
Krishna. Radhakrishnan himself admits that such bhakti
(devotion) is more natural to women. He writes:

"As a rule the particular qualities associated with bhakti,
love and devotion, mercy and tenderness, are to be found
more in women than in men. As bhakti emphasizes humility,
obedience readiness to serve, compassion and gentle love,
as the devotee longs to surrender himself, renounce self-will
and experience passivity, it is said to be more feminine in
character"etc. (p. 61, Introductory Essay to The Bhagavad

However much such forms of bhakti (devotion) might find
their place in religious legends, we can confidently say that
the Gita discountenances them, as is sufficiently evidenced in
this chapter, and especially in this verse which condemns all
forms of excitement or exaggeration. Moreover, in this verse
we find the further definition of bhakti, by which it does not
stand out in contrast or relief as something that disturbs the
normality of human life. A true bhakta (devotee) effaces his
personality to such an extent that he leaves no mark on his
surroundings, and the surroundings on their part take no
notice of him.

In India at least, ostentatious forms of devotion, especially
collectively practised, often express themselves as disturbing
elements in social life. The love of the gopis (milkmaids) for
Krishna as related in the Bhagavata, none can deny, created
some stir in the life of the simple people of Brindavan
judging by the descriptions given. We have only to imagine
ourselves questioning Yashodha and some of the peasant
husbands to find out whether the bhakti of the Gopis to
Krishna was a disturbing factor to the people or not!
Such devotion cannot therefore be said to fit into the
requirements mentioned in this verse.


anapekshak suchir daksha
udasino gatavyathah
sarvarambha pariyogi
yo madbhaktah sa me priyah

He who neither rejoices nor hates, nor grieves nor desires,
and who has relinquished (both) the beneficial and the
harmful, such a one endowed with devotion is dear to Me.


The epithets suchi (clear, clean) and daksha (expert) do
not suggest the sloppiness or slovenliness which is often
condoned in the name of other-worldliness or mysticism. A
man of devotion is not steeped in the negative state of inert
ignorance. A contemplative is not a hobo type. The Gita
here discountenances any type of spirituality which does not
include being awake to the details of a given situation,
without which no-one could be described as daksha (expert),
i.e. a man of savoir-faire.

The epithet sarvarambha parityagi (relinquisher of all
undertakings) just means that he does not initiate any course
of action as a conscious agent. He participates in life only
as a boat would go downstream.

The expression anapekshah (one who expects no favours)
indicates his neutral poise, in the same way as the
other term udasinah (one who sits unconcerned). This
picture of a contemplative can hardly be made to
correspond to what is required of a warrior on the


yo na hrishyati na dveshti
na sochati na kankshati
subhasubha parityagi
bhaktimanyah sa me priyah

He who expects no favours, who is clean, expert, who sits
unconcerned, carefree, who has relinquished all undertakings,
he My devotee is dear to Me.


Subhasubha parityagi (relinquisher of both the beneficial
and the harmful) raises the devotee at once from the merely


ethical and social level to one who is above mere virtues in
the usual sense, and makes him conform to the mystical or
Upanishadic way of life. He should not be confounded with
that ostentatious type of devotee who, like the Pharisee,
prays in public, or who puts the leaf of the tulsi plant
(ocymum basilicum, the sacred basil of India) which has
been distributed from the temple altar, on his ear in order
to declare his devotion, and about whom one should beware,
according to Sri Ramakrishna.


samah satrau cha mitre cha
tatha manapamanayoh
sitoshna sukhaduhkheshu
samah sangavivarjitah

tulyanindastutir mauni
samtushto yena kenachit
aniketah sthiramatir
bhaktimam me priyo narah

He who is the same to foe and friend, and also in honour
and dishonour, who is the same in cold and heat, in pleasure
and pain, and who is free from attachment;

to whom censure and praise are equal, who is silent
(in manner), content with whatever happens to come, having
no fixed abode, mentally constant, such a man of devotion is
dear to Me.


These verses supplement the description of the type of
contemplative recommended by the Gita. When all the
different qualifications are put together we get the picture
of a man who is at once both a yogi and a bhakta (devotee).
There are other sequences of descriptive verses (e.g., ii,
57 et seq.; xiii, 6 et seq.; and xiv, 22 et seq.) which
illustrate spiritually advanced types, according to the
grades to which they belong. Narayana Guru cites them
when he speaks of different stages of nirvana (pure or
absolute consciousness, with the "blowing out" of desires)
in the last chapter of his Darsana Mala (Garland of
Visions of Reality), and such graded types are also
mentioned in the Yoga Vasishtha, a compendious textbook
on Vedanta, in the form of copiously illustrative
stories related by the Guru Vasishtha to the young Rama,
where the


varieties are called bhumikas (grounds or steps). The
interested reader would profit by a comparative study of
these texts.

Aniketah sthiramatih (having no fixed abode, mentally
constant) is another of those double-edged expressions
peculiar to the Gita. The lack of constancy in the physical
sense is at once counteracted by a constant loyalty to the
mental ideal which is here the Absolute, and while the
devotee is at home in regard to the Absolute he does not
care where his body finds itself lodged. All tendency to a
closed, static or parochial form of spirituality tends to
be abolished by this condition.


ye tu dharmyamritam idam
yathoktam paryupasate
sraddadhana matparama
bhaktas te 'tiva me priyah

But they who cherish devotedly this righteous immortal
value, as stated, endowed with faith, with Me for
Supreme, these devotees are exceedingly dear to Me.


Here it is not the individual devotee conforming to the
pattern described in the previous verses who is referred to,
but a more general and wider group of persons who
legitimately ought to be considered according to the Gita as
conforming to the requirements of a devotion of a very high

The term Yathoktam (as stated) must refer to all those
who have not been covered by the specific reference of the
section just concluded. Whether this reference includes
those of verse 5 who were attracted to the Unmanifested is
not explicitly stated, but the type of contemplative in verses
3 and 4 is certainly within the scope of this reference. Then
the expression dharmyamritam idam (this eternally righteous
value) gives us an indication of what is implied here.

Clearly it is not a person that is referred to by the phrase "The Unmanifested Impersonal" could be conceived by some rare devotees as an immortal value that does not violate the laws  of existence or being.

Such a devotee is given a superior status to all the other types alluded to.

We see, however, in xiv, 27 that this Impersonal value
referred to here is equated with the absolutist personality
of Krishna. The idea of an eternally righteous value is treated
personally and impersonally, indifferently, in the Gita.


The difficulty mentioned in Verse 5 that applies to others
does not apply to this rare type of devotee here mentioned by
way of rounding off the discussion. By this verse, we see that
the Gita does not limit itself to the opinion that only personal
devotion can bring a man to the highest form of perfection.
In the light of vii, 17, where the man of wisdom is praised,
the view that we have taken becomes further justified.
It is usual for people to refer to the head and heart as
if to say that what is gained by wisdom is taken away from
feeling, implying thereby that the same man cannot be wise
and kind or devoted at the same time. Swami Vivekananda's
favourite saying, in which he contrasts Sankara and the
Buddha, the former as having a wise head and the latter as
having a warm heart, has influenced the ideas of more than a
generation of Vedantic enthusiasts, both at home and abroad.
But according to the present chapter, it must be sufficiently
clear that the devotion which implies peace has its start in
wisdom and its main expression in renunciation as stated in

The word matparama (with Me for Supreme) might suggest even
in this verse, personal worship, but being a secondary epithet
and upasana (worship, cherish) applying primarily to the eternal
value, our suggestion that no personality is directly implied
here may be justified.

Therefore, on final analysis, as stated in this last verse, we
find that the Gita gives to the men of philosophic vision even
a higher place than to those who conform to the requirements
of devotion in their attitudes and ways.


ity srimad bhagavadgitasupanishatsu brahmavidyayam
yogasastre srikrishnarjunasamvade
bhaktiyoga nama dvadaso 'dhyayah

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
Twelfth Chapter entitled Unitive Devotion and




Kshetra-Kshetrajna-Vibhaga Yoga

This chapter is concerned with one of the most difficult
problems, one which has puzzled not only philosophers and
psychologists, but also men of affairs. Arjuna puts the
question under three couples of concepts: one pair being
based on the concept of prakrti (nature) of which the
counterpart in the Samkhya (rationalist) philosophy is the
purusha (spirit); another pair is based on the concept of
what is here named kshetra (the field), i. actuality, and the
kshetrajna (one who knows the field), i.e. the perceptual
counterpart of actuality; while the third pair which belongs
more to a subtler philosophical order, jneyam (that which is
to be known) has its counterpart in jnanam (knowledge or

In the first p
lace we find that concepts belonging to
branches of knowledge which are generally considered
widely apart are here seen as brought together for purposes
of general treatment of a special kind in keeping with the
development of the subject-matter of the Gita.
The field and the knower of the field may be said to
belong to the world of action; the concepts of nature and
spirit to the duality implied in Samkhya (rationalist)
philosophy; and that which is to be known to epistemology,
whose problems are not to be mixed up with action or

We have found that whole chapters have already been
devoted to subjects such as Samkhya (Chapter ii), action
(Chapter iii) and wisdom (Chapter iv). When such an
opportunity has been availed of already for dealing with
these subjects in extenso it may be legitimate to ask why
these subjects are now taken again in pairs belonging to
each context for a juxtaposed treatment together, in one


The earlier chapters referred to these subjects only in a
preliminary fashion. The discussion had to be built up step
by step, settling initial doubts and silencing critics. We have
noticed how, in the middle of the work, in Chapters viii, ix
and x, the Gita enunciated and explained its own version of
what is explicitly referred to as adhyatma (pertaining to the
Self, the principle of the Self, i.e. Self-science). The
peculiarty of these central chapters, we have noticed, was
the perfect neutrality as between the transcendental and the
immanent which was maintained in the discussion. The Self
was a central value around which the notion of the Absolute
was developed.

At the end of Chapter x, however, the discussion tended
to lay a certain stress on the objective evidence of the
Absolute; on what was called vibhutis (unique values). These
specific, beneficent, unique values indirectly gave evidence
of the spark of the Absolute represented by each specific
reality in its own category.

By Arjuna's reference in xi, 1 to the fact that he had lost all
his moha (confusion) we should understand that the Gita had
done with theoretical discussions regarding the Absolute.
After that declaration it is natural to assume that he was no
more interested in a merely academic or theoretical
discussion of the science of the Self. At the end of Chapter x
he is not even satisfied with the indirect evidence dispersed
throughout the world of values where he is asked to
recognize the seal of the Absolute.

In Chapter xi he prays for and gets a direct vision which is
more objectified and even terrible. To call it objective is the
same as saying it was more positive. Any vision must
necessarily imply, tacitly or explicitly, the principle of duality
as between the seer and the seen. Thus we find already in Chapter xi a certain duality of treatment necessarily creeping into the style of the Gita. This, however, is not against the scheme in the mind of the author, as we have already pointed out.

This duality of treatment becomes more pronounced as we
travel further away from the symmetrical centre of the work.
In Chapter xii, based on the distinction between the object of
devotion and the devotee, the personified representative of
the Absolute tends to become one distinct pole as against the
devotee himself who constitutes the other pole, and bhakti
(devotion) had to be understood as the establishment of as


intimate a relationship as possible between these poles or

The counterparts having thus become very distinctly
pronounced and inevitable in the treatment thus far, it
has become necessary for the author in this chapter to
explain this duality unitively, so that there might not be
any misunderstanding when more empirical and pragmatical
problems are discussed, as we find in later chapters.
Although the couplements here discussed belong to
different branches of thought, they lend themselves to
comparison to reveal the underlying unitive method which
has always been present throughout the Gita. This is Yoga.
Yoga is the common link running through all the chapters.
The Yoga resulting from the compromises of counterparts
belonging to the necessary aspects of life was the subject of
the earlier chapters which may be looked upon as being
generally negative in character. Now that we have come to
a discussion of more positive spiritual values in life, they
require an "objective" exposition. This is exactly what we
find in the present chapter. It may be said to centre round
jneyam - what is to be known. The relation between jnanam
(wisdom) and jneyam (what is to be known) or the knower
and the known, is one of great philosophical import.

In order to show the relation between the knower and the
known, two other pairs which belong to other branches of
wisdom, are here brought together and dealt with side by
side. That which is to be known is distinct from that which
is knowledge, just in the same way as spirit is to be
distinguished from nature, and the "knower of the field"
from "the field" - or the conceptual from the actual.
All these have a common epistemological principle which
this chapter seeks to expose or clarify. The necessary and
contingent aspects of life should be properly understood.
before we can cancel them one against the other so that
there can be positive spiritual progress towards higher and
higher values by a contemplative wisdom. Such is the aim
of the present chapter The high personal values enumerated
from Verses 7 to 11 inclusive rightly belong to this chapter
because they result from this positive yet unitive wisdom.
This wisdom is made possible by the equation of the aspects
of the Self such as the perceptual and the actual.


Verse 0 (1)
Arjuna uvacha
prakritim purusham chaiva
ksketram kshetrajnam eva cha
etad veditum ichchami
jnanam jneyam cha kesava

Arjuna said:
Nature and spirit; the field and the knower of the
field; knowledge (wisdom) and what is to be known;
these I should like to know, 0 Kesava (Krishna).


As in the last chapter, Arjuna takes the initiative in
putting the composite question. He has already become
theoretically a wise man, but certain positive aspects of
wisdom, as already stated in our preliminary remarks to this
chapter, are still the object of his inquiry. Knowledge itself
as a proper subject requires to be understood as a systematic
whole, as belonging to a definite body of philosophic wisdom.
The word jneyam (what is to be known) shows that knowledge is
here presented not merely subjectively, but more consciously,
positively or objectively.

Sribhagavan uvacha
idam sariram kaunteya
kshetram ity abhidhiyate
etad yo vetti tam prahuh
kshetrajna iti tadvidah

Krishna said:
This body, 0 Kaunteya (Arjuna), is called the field,
and he who knows this, thus they call, who know, the
knower of the field.

(1) With a view to conformity between different editions and
following the example of some other editions, we are not
including this opening verse in the serial numbering, for the
reason that the Gita traditionally is supposed to consist of
700 verses. This verse added would make 701. Inasmuch as
this verse is of the nature of a title only, and could safely be
omitted without interfering with the subject-matter, and as it
could have been added as an afterthought by someone other
than Vyasa himself, its exclusion can perhaps be justified.


There are two definitions here, one of the field and one of
the knower of the field. These are two different aspects of
the same neutral or central Self. But they are being
distinguished, not for emphasizing their distinctness, but
rather to yield a unitive concept of the Self to which both of
them belong. The implicit duality is retained for purposes of
discussion till almost the very end of the work.

Before such a unity could be established however, they
are, as stated here, two distinct concepts. This explains the
expression iti tadvidah (thus they call, who know), for the
reference is evidently to philosophers like the Samkhyas
(rationalists) who recognize this duality between matter and
spirit, actual and perceptual.

The duality of the Samkhya philosophy, however, has
been fully revalued in the Gita, and the two aspects have
been brought together into a unitive concept of the Absolute.
This has been accomplished preliminarily in chapter xi and
will be more fully expressed in the present chapter.
The reference to sariram (body) in its connotation as
employed here, retains a tinge of the dualism which is
tentatively permitted in the present verse but which will be
modified in the next verse. We should not therefore take the
first definition too literally, when it states that the body is
the field, although it could be so taken in a plain non-
revalued Samkhya context. In a more unitively understood
context, the field forms the counterpart of the knower of the
field. There has to be something in common between the
field and the knower of the field, the actual and the perceptual, before they can be interrelated unitively. As understood physiologically, a dead body on a dissection table is very different from a living body. Dr. Alexis Carrell in his work "Man the Unknown" has recognized this distinction. Considered as one of the poles or counterparts in a contemplative situation with which here, in a yoga sastra (textbook on unitive understanding), we are primarily concerned, the living body attains the status of a personal value belonging to the Self.

In the next verse, where the field and the knower of the
field are to be considered more unitively, this revised
concept of the body as a value, when kept in mind, will help
us to avoid many of the doubts such as those raised by a
series of questioners belonging to different sceptical schools
of philosophy in the commentary of Sankara. To take one
example, Sankara has


to answer the charge that the knower of the field, who
corresponds to the purusha (spirit) of the Samkhya school,
would become a samsarin (one tainted with mundane
considerations) if treated as the body. Many such doubts can
be collectively or serially abolished together if we look upon
this sarira (body) not merely as a physical body, but as a
value-factor belonging to a contemplative situation. How
this could be so will become more evident as we proceed.


kshetrajnam chi 'pi mam viddhi
sarvakshetreshu bharata
kshetra kshetrajnayor jnanam
yat taj jnanam matam mama

And also know Me as the knower of the field in all fields,
0 Bharata (Arjuna); that knowledge (which refers to the
knowledge) of the field and the knower of the field, that,
in my opinion, is the knowledge.


This verse contains what is at first sight a sweeping
generalization about the nature of true wisdom. According
to this verse, wisdom consists in rightly understanding the
relation between the field and the knower of the field, or
between the actual and the perceptual. Even modern
philosophers like Betrand Russell have stated that this
relation touches one of the most difficult problems of
philosophy. The relation is a very elusive one, and lack of
understanding of this relation leads to many errors of
judgment in almost every department of intelligent human
life, many of them with grave and disastrous consequences.
In the name of spirituality, people often pamper or torture
their bodies, hoping to get salvation or wisdom. One man
cannot drink medicine for another's ailment. This sounds
simple enough, but many serious religious doctrines, such as
vicarious suffering, for which people are ready to be
martyred, depend upon this same kind of confusion. In
recent years in India itself, we know the case of how the
simple change of name of a certain region (now Pakistan)
led to large-scale genocide. Though communism and
democracy have many principles in common, these names
are used to fan the war mentality between very powerful
nations. That pomp and pride cannot walk hand in hand
with true spirituality, which is derived from a higher
source, is unfortunately not recognized


even by intelligent men who dabble in spiritual values. By
burning a Joan of Arc or crucifying a Christ, the spiritual
value that each of them might have represented is not killed.
When we come to religious and political wars, intelligent
politicians still talk of exterminating races or of wiping
religions out of existence.

The sins of the father cannot be attributed to the son; and
in large-scale warfare there is also large-scale slaughter of
innocent non-combatants, which is also a disaster and
injustice arising out of the same confusion. Here hatred is
misapplied when people suffer from mass war-psychosis.
To expect from Caesar what God alone must grant is
another of the absurdities of common life. Proverbs such as
"a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" refer to the
same common error of wrongly transferring values between
the actual and the perceptual. These instances could be
multiplied from the most commonplace to the gravest in
human existence.

This chapter itself makes reference to some aspects of
this problem in as far as they conduce to the notion of the
Absolute. God must not be said to change or evolve. It is the
field that evolves and not the knower of the field. And over
and above these two aspects there is the notion of the
Absolute untouched by either of these considerations as
explained more completely in Chapter xv.

The Gita throughout employs a parallel or double method
in which the necessary and the contingent are discussed side
by side. There is a subtle interplay and changing over of one
aspect of the necessary with its own contingent counterpart,
and one aspect of the contingent with its own necessary
counterpart, interlocked but running together throughout
the various chapters, with an exchange of subtle factors
giving rise to resultant unitive values of contemplative life.
This makes the Gita, as its name, "song" implies, a veritable
hymn of dialectics.

This is perhaps the most important verse as far as giving
the key to the philosophy of the Gita is concerned. Samkhya
(rationalist) philosophy is here very subtly revalued, without
tampering with its methodological frame of reference and
without discarding its precise scientific terminology. The
subtle revaluation may be located in the words cha'pi (and
also). In this there is an apparent redundancy which we have
noticed already in verses such as vi, 9 and vii, 39 and in
numerous other places. Cha (and) and api (also), whether


together or separately, are expressions used on more
occasions than any other two terms in the whole of the Gita.
Ideologically, the example we have cited earlier of the
double injunction in viii 7 of "think of Me and fight"
reveals the same parallel simultaneous treatment of the
contingent and the necessary.

While the Samkhya (rationalist) philosophers thought of
the kshetra (field) and the kshetrajna (knower of the field)
as distinct entities, here we are asked to think of them more
unitively as belonging to a centralized value. Herein is
contained the revaluation which, if we should miss it, would
mean losing the whole significance of this chapter.
This unitive way is not unfamiliar to us even in the
Upanishads. We have the famous passage in the Isa
Upanishad (11 to 13) where the insistence is very clear on
the understanding of the counterparts (knowledge and non-
knowledge, becoming and non-becoming) conjointly, i.e.

The expression sarvakshetreshu (in all the fields) implies
that delicate paradox which is inevitable to all truly
dialectical forms of reasoning. The knower of the field (the
perceiver), suggests a unity; but when we say he is in every
field, it seems to imply at the same time multiplicity. Thus
unity and multiplicity, the one and the many, are delicately
counterpoised, or set one against the other, in this
statement, as if to cancel out both in favour of a truly
absolutist value. It is because of this emergence of an
absolutist value from the unitive understanding of the two
counterparts that the generalization in the second line
which, though as we have said , it appears sweeping at first
sight, becomes perfectly justified. The Absolute is and
could only be the true subject-matter of wisdom.

This type of dialectical reasoning was known at the time
of Parmenides, and Zeno's paradoxes reveal the same
method. But modern philosophers have tended to discredit
pre-Socratic philosophy in the same way as great intellectual
stalwarts like Sankara (who in their commentaries have
entered into wordy controversy) have missed the delicate
methodology of dialectics. Sankara preferred to employ a
way of reasoning conforming to more mechanistic or
formally logical standards. This has landed him into many
situations bristling with controversy, from whose meshes it
is hardly possible for a reader to extricate himself. While
we agree with his conclusions, most of Sankara's commentary,
with its hair-splitting, thus becomes unreadable. Even the
gentleness of the Socratic method is missing, and the
poor critic (the purva pakshin) often gets scant respect at
the hand of an overpowering polemical giant like Sankara.


tat kshetram yach cha yadrik cha
yadvikari yatas cha yat
sa cha yo yatprabhavas cha
tat samasena me srinu

(That) hear in brief from Me; what the field is, what it is
like, of what it is the modification, and whence, and which
(it is), also what he (the knower of the field) is, and what
is his specialized resulting expression.


Note here in the first place that while this verse refers to
the field specifically - seemingly with a subtle purpose
behind it - there is omission of any direct reference by name
to the kshetrajna (knower of the field). Even in Verse 1 we
noticed that there was already some hesitation in naming
these two counterparts - the field and the knower of the field
- attributing their recognition vaguely or elusively to other
sages or to sages generally. The same sages will be referred
to in Verse 4.

As we study the difference between the two counterparts,
as stated in the verses that follow, we notice also that there
is no direct reference to kshetrajna (the knower of the field)
in Verse 11 although it is meant to be implied by the author
in the more comprehensive term jnana (wisdom) which is
there contrasted with ignorance, thus by-passing the
concept of kshetrajna (the knower of the field) altogether.
Thus the connotation of the term kshetrajna (knower of the
field) in Verse 3 has already shifted its own centre with a
slightly higher value than what it meant in the initial
definition as directly referring to the body. We have already
pointed out how, even there, it could not be the body in the
sense of a carcase, but something that has a value in the
context of contemplation, in however finite terms it might
be thought of.

Here we find the field gains its status more by contrast
with the ignorance mentioned in Verse 11, than with
anything fundamentally its own. When we find in Verse 6
that the field and its transformations include such factors as
intelligence and firmness, the theoretical status that the field
gains becomes more accentuated.


We shall see, however, in Verses 5 and 6, a very striking
difference between the orthodox enumeration of tattvas
(principles) as belonging to prakriti (nature) in the Samkhya
(rationalist) philosophy, and even from the description of
the lower nature of the Absolute as enumerated in vii, 4. We
have to look out for a revalued position here wherein a
greater unity is established between prakriti (nature) and
purusha (spirit), or between kshetra (field) and kshetrajna
(the knower of the field) than was understood hitherto,
whether by the Samkhya or even in the earlier chapters of
the Gita itself.

The unitively superior status that the kshetrajna (knower
of the field) is to gain in this chapter becomes evident from 
Verse 7 onwards. The enumeration of values there ranges
from the simple personal value of humility to wisdom as the
highest of absolutist values. The status of kshetra (the field)
itself (and its modifications) is also seen slightly promoted
in the enumeration of items referring to it in Verses 5 and 6,
beginning from the gross elements, here slightly glorified by
the attribute "great" and ending in the personal quality
dhritih (firmness), which quality is here intended to be
superior to chetana (vital intelligence).

When speaking of the attributes of kshetra (the field) the
term vikari (having modifications, transformations) is used,
while the term prabhava (specialized becoming) is used in
reference to the superior value connected with wisdom,
which corresponds to the knower of the field. Pure
knowledge or wisdom knows no transformations,
transmutations, evolution or change; but the actual,
represented here by the field, being opposed to wisdom,
is subject to necessary change and therefore to various
modifications or evolution. Vikari (modifications) further
has a deprecatory sense suggesting change for the worse.
Yatah (whence) refers to the field, but we find no direct
answer is given, except the indirect suggestion in Verse xi,
that all that is other than wisdom belongs to ignorance.
Hence the field results from ignorance, as Sankara ably
argues in his long comment on Verse 2. Further, Sankara
points out that even avidya (ignorance) is an extraneous
factor to the kshetrajna (knower of the field) who represents,
in his words Isvara (God) who in his terminology he interprets
as being identical with wisdom or the Absolute.

Ignorance, even as an upadhi (conditioning factor) in so
far as it is capable of affecting the ordinary man's notion
of a


pure unconditioned Absolute, must remain, on final analysis,
as a limiting attribute to the Absolute. To lift the
notion of the Absolute too far out of the human context
would tend to make of it a mere abstraction which would be
of no value. It would be a mere philosophical triviality
prejudicial to the cause of wisdom. But if we recognize the
Absolute, not abstractedly, but in the sense of a human
value, however ordinary, this particular form of intellectual
difficulty which Sankara had to face could be easily

To the argument of the opponent that all sastras (revealed
scientific texts) would become useless if the knower of the
field was already beyond samsara (repeated cyclic existence),
Sankara goes as far as to postulate the factor of ignorance
as intervening in some sort of figurative or indirect way
between the pure absolute God and the ordinary man to whom
the sutras (revealed scientific texts) apply, as something
intermediate which would make these texts necessary for him,
almost as in the case of the dvaitins (dualistic philosophers)
who tend to treat kshetrajna (the knower of the field) and
kshetra (the field) more realistically. The introduction of
such a third factor on the part of Sankara is rather artificial,
and to some extent compromises his unitive stand on the
primacy of the pure absolutist Isvara (God). If the notion of
Isvara (God) is conceived, not in terms of a philosophical
abstraction, but rather in terms of value, even as knowledge
would only be as, according to the Taittiriya Upanishad
(11, 4-9 inclusive), the term ananda (bliss, high human value)
suggests then much of the hair-splitting caused by purva
pakshins (anterior sceptics or critics) and the need for
explaining figuratively, or having to give indirect meanings
to the texts, could be avoided.

Regarding the use of the word pra
bhava (specialized
resulting expression) when referring to the kshetrajna
(knower of the field), the term is justified, because the
same pure wisdom-value could have its more ordinary global
and personal expression in common human life.
In the series of such human values enumerated in Verses 7
to 11 we find an implied scale of such values: freedom from
conventional pride constituting the lowest rung of the
ladder; and wisdom itself being implied as the highest. Man's
consciousness is capable of swinging between this wide
amplitude of values, from values of everyday life to those
which are rare and unique held by those who have attained
to wisdom.


The pure dualists such as the followers of Madhva and
those who conceive of the Absolute itself as having superior
human attributes, like the visishtadvaitins (those who treat
non-dualistically even specialized expressions of the
Absolute) of the Ramanuja school, would then have no
room for saying that Sankara finds no use for all the
scriptures. Without degrading the Absolute into the status of
a samsarin (one tainted with mundane considerations) it is
possible to conceive of a wide range of human values, in
whose understanding and adoption the ordinary human being
would find valuable indications in all the valid scriptures
of the world.

rishibhir bahudha gitam
chhandobhir vividhaih prithak
brahmasutrapadais chai 'va
hetumadbhir vinischitaih

Sung by rishis (seers) in many ways, severally and
distinctly in (different) metres, and also in the
aphoristic words of the Brahma-Sutras, replete with
critical reasonings and positively determined.


The object of this verse is to emphasize the subtle nature
of the problem involved in the question of the relation of
kshetra (the field) and kshetrajna (the knower of the field).
It is suggested here that the subject is one which has agitated
the minds of rishis (seers) and other philosophers, even from
the most ancient times. They have advanced their opinions
in the form of ancient chants, not necessarily Vedic. There
have been heterodox seers like Brihaspati, Kapila and others
who have composed verses in exalted mystical style, which
would justify the term gitam (song) used here.

The reference to chhandobhir (through a variety of metres)
is to emphasize the different contexts and styles,
including those of the Rig, Saman and Yajus Vedas which
are known to be in different styles or metres. The
expression vividhaih (various) suggests the large variety of
such literature extant. The expression prithak (severally,
distinctly), indicates that there is no uniform agreement on
this subject between the sages. The Samkhya (rationalist)
philosophers, for example, by their dualistic approach,
differ from the true Upanishadic standpoint.


The compliment is here paid to the precise and well-
reasoned presentation found in the aphorisms of the
Brahma Sutras (sequence of aphorisms dealing with the
wisdom of the Absolute) which is evidently, as most
scholars now agree, that composed by Badarayana, another
name for Vyasa, to whom the Gita itself is attributed.
By the expression rishi i.e. the sages of this verse, there
is a reference back to Verse 1: tadvidah (those who know).
A similar reference is found in iv, 2, where the rajarishis
philosophers) are more specifically alluded to. The
reference there is also to a form of ancient dialectical
wisdom which Krishna deplores has been lost by the great
lapse of time.

We see in the Gita that a high value is attached to a certain
rare kind of wisdom which tends to get lost from time to
time in the history of mankind. The paramam guhyam
(supreme secret) in xi, 1 and the concluding reference in
xviii, 63 to guhyad guhyataram (more secret than all other
secrets), taken together with the high status given to wisdom
in the present verse, is unmistakable, in determining the
teaching of the Gita.

mahabhutany ahamkaro
buddhir avyaktam eva cha
indriyani dasai 'kam cha
pancha che 'ndriyagocharah

ichchha dveshah sukham duhkham
samghatas chetana dhritih
etat kshetram samasena
savikaram udahritam

The great elements, ego-sense, reason, and also the
Unmanifest, the ten senses, and the one (mind) and
the five conceptual aspects of the senses,

wish-dislike, pleasure-pain, the organic
aggregation, vital intelligence, firmness: this in
brief, is the field, with modifications named.


The items of existing entities and derivatives from them
both belonging to the legitimate context of contemplation,
which are enumerated here, reveal a marked difference from
the usual way in which factors of existence of personal
virtue are generally expounded.


If we should try to relate these backwards to the Samkhya
(rationalist) philosophy to which at first sight they reveal
a general kinship, we find that there is no strict agreement
between the factors enumerated. In the first place the order
here has been mixed. Whether such a transposition is due to
requirements of prosody merely is not quite clear.

Moreover, under kshetra (the field), which may be said to
correspond to the prakriti (nature) side of the Samkhya
system, we have in verse 6 a new set of factors like chetana
(vital intelligence) and it is not clear whether they belong
to the orthodox Samkhya system or to the Yoga counterpart of
the same dualistic school.

A reference to a similar series of higher and lower values
was made in iii, 42. Further in v, 4 and 5 a sweeping
abolition of the distinction between Samkhya (rationalist
philosophy) and Yoga (unitive individualist philosophy) was
made. In vii, 8 the principle of the Absolute was said to be
implied in the rasa (taste) of water. Earlier, in Verses 4
and 5 of the same chapter the two aspects of the nature of
the Absolute were similarly mentioned as here, but with a
striking difference in the number of items. Prakriti (nature)
and purusha (spirit) were referred to there as the lower and
higher aspects of the Absolute. When we consider that between
the "Samkhya Karika" (Outline of Rationalist Philosophy) of
Isvarakrishna, attributed to Kapila, and the reputedly earlier
work -mentioned by Max Muller, bearing on the Samkhya system
itself, called the "Tattva Samasa" (Assemblage of Principles
of the Samkhya System) it is not at all easy to determine
with exactitude which items enumerated here would correspond
to the ones enumerated in these works, or anteriorly in the
Gita itself. Without confounding ourselves with such an
inquiry at present, we shall merely see what meaning, in
keeping with the context here, we can extract from these
items as here enumerated.

We find that the series starting with maha-bhutas (great
elements) refers to ontological realities such as the earth,
water, etc. This is but legitimate, because the field has been
primarily designated as the decaying body in Verse 1,
implying all its grossest actualities. The series in Verse 5
ends with the five conceptual aspects of the senses (the
tanmatras of the Samkhya system) - sound, touch, sight,
taste and smell. There depend for their reality on our own
consciousness. The senses themselves represent the windows
of consciousness.

In between these two extremes, the ontological and the
conceptual, are placed factors such as buddhi (intelligence)


ahamkara (individuality), which refer to the personal
consciousness more directly. All the items enumerated in
Verse 5 may be said to represent the field more directly than
their derivatives enumerated in Verse 6. The latter have
some resemblance to the lists of abhibuddhis (apprehensions)
and karmayonis (source of activity) listed in the Tattva Samasa
already mentioned, and some scholars have suggested on the
other hand that chetana (vital intelligence) and dhritih 
(firmness) etc., correspond to avidya (ignorance) and asmita

At very first sight it is evident that the items in Verse 6
are to be taken in pairs, wish with its opposite dislike,
pleasure with pain, while samghatah (organic aggregation) is
capable of being coupled with chetana (vital intelligence),
because organic integration is a counterpart of vital

The last item dhritih (firmness) might be said to mark the
culmination of the integration or the holding-together of
opposing tendencies constituting the individuality in a
human being. Thus unitive firmness is meant to be treated
here as important in human life. This leads to the "firm
justice" referred to in the very last verse of the Gita.


ahimsa kshantir arjavam
acharyopasanam saucham
sthairyam atmavinigrahah

Freedom from conventional pride, unpretentiousness,
non-hurting, non-retaliating forbearance, straightforwardness,
loyal support of the teacher (acharya), purity, steadfastness,
and state of self-withdrawal;


We come to a description of the knower of the field which, as
we have explained, is here indirectly referred to as forming
the essence of jnanam (wisdom).

Verses 7 to 11 form a natural section. Items here range
from such factors as lack of pride to that supreme value
called Wisdom. Some of these are not fundamentally
different from what one might call moral virtues. But in
principle they have nothing in common with such social
values at all.

If, for example, we should take the very first item
mentioned, amanitvam (freedom from conventional pride)
- it is a pure virtue, if it could be so called, belonging to
a source different from that of society. It is the virtue of
a contemplative or mystic.


A man concerned with his emancipation or self-realization
is hardly concerned with what society thinks of him. His moral
norms are within the categorical imperatives of his own true

The second epithet, adambhutvam (unpretentiousness),
implies the same principle of integrity or being true to
oneself. As a corollary to the same self-sufficient attitude,
he never wants to interfere with the happiness of any being
around him. A universal generosity here called ahimsa (non-
hurting) is implied in this kind of self-sufficiency.
Kshanti (non-retaliating forbearance) is also a leave-me-
alone attitude which ignores society. Arjavam
(straightforwardness) implies a certain frankness which
speaks out without fear or favour, and which also shows
independence from popular approbation. Then instead of
having social considerations, he is affiliated to a superior
model of a wise person, here referred to as an acharya
(teacher). Saucham (purity) refers not only to freedom from
actual dirt, but from anything tending to depress or tarnish
the state of the spirit.

Sthairyam (steadfastness or constancy) means he does not
change his way of life in favour of values other than the
contemplative. Atmavinigrahah (state of self-withdrawal)
suggests the stage of pratyaharah (withdrawal) of Patanjali.
Here it is sufficient to give it the simpler meaning that
outgoing tendencies are restrained and directed to the Self.


indriyartheshu vairagyam
anahamkara eva cha
janmamrityu jaravyadhi-

detachment in respect of sense-interests, absence of egoism,
insight regarding the pain and evil of birth, death, old age
and disease:


This verse comes nearest to the description of a samnyasin (renouncer) which Sankara believes is implied in the whole of the description of personal traits taken together.
A pessimistic note implied here might be the heritage of the previous Buddhistic outlook. Although according to vi, 17, and other verses, it would not be in keeping with the general spirit of the Gita to give a stoically exaggerated meaning to the reference to suffering (duhkha) here in of the more positive


and therefore perfected model of a spiritual man that we can
expect to be portrayed in this chapter, Sankara's opinion that
the reference here is to a samnyasin (renouncer) need not be
considered, however, too far off the mark.

The detachment even from wife and home mentioned in the next
verse further confirms that a model of a samnyasin (though
not necessarily the conventional institutional type), is
implied in the description here. The pessimistic note is
clear in the second line of this verse, where there is specific
reference to duhkha (suffering) as the principal thing to be
avoided, coming from birth, death, old age and disease.


asaktir anabhishvangah
putra dara grihadishu
nityam cha samachittatvam

without clinging to, (and) without intensely-involved
attachment to, (relations such as) sons, wives, (and property
such as) houses, and having a constant neutral mental attitude
in respect of desirable and undesirable happenings,


This verse reflects an attitude of general neutrality towards
happenings as well as towards domestic or family relations,
besides not being attracted by common interests such as wealth,
etc. The attitude to wife and children referred to here does
not imply that he is purposely unjust to them or partial either.
He takes an impersonal neutral attitude in the matter, balancing
justly between the two opposing tendencies that might influence
his judgment. He never errs on the side of partiality to his own


mayi cha 'nanyayogena
bhaktir avyabhicharini
viviktadesa sevitvam
aratir janasamsadi

devotion to Me to the exclusion of everything extraneous,
and never straying from the (direct) path, preference to dwell
in a place apart, distaste for crowded living;


Here is a culminating reference to the special kind of bipolar
relation which, we have often said, constitutes one of the
central doctrines of the Gita. It may be called ekantika-
bhakti yoga (the unitive way of lone devotion) which
scholars have distinguished as the characteristic of the
Bhagavata religion of Vasudeva. We have explained already
the import of the word ananyayoga (the unitive way which
excludes everything extraneous).

The bhakta (devotee), moreover, should not deflect from
the path which joins him contemplatively with the Absolute
in a most direct or strictly bipolar fashion. The two other
qualifications of the yogi or samnyasin (renouncer) here
refer to his preference for quiet surroundings with nothing
obtruding into or disturbing his peace. He generally avoids
crowds or living in the market-place. His peace of mind is
further secured by a type of place described here as
viviktadesa (a place apart) where petty rivalries and social
feuds do not interfere. Sankara thinks that the place must be
free from snakes and thieves.


adhyatmajnana nityatvam
tattva jnanartha darsanam
etaj jnanam iti proktam
ajnanam yad ato 'nyatha

everlasting affiliation to the wisdom pertaining to
the Self, insight into the content of philosophical
wisdom - this is declared to be wisdom; whatever is
other than this is ignorance.


In this verse which is added after the culminating reference
in the previous verses, we find that in conformity with xii,
20, a model of a man who does not think in terms of a personal
affiliation to Krishna; but who is merely affiliated to the
supreme wisdom-value, is given ultimate recognition, over and
above the praise given to the personal affiliation to Krishna
referred to in the last verse.

This may be said to mark the culminating model belonging to
the more specific framework of the Gita teaching as part of a
Bhagavata religion. It leaves the door wide open for others
here who are votaries at wisdom's pure altar alone.
The wisdom here refers to the Self as implied in the first
epithet, and at the same time is conceived in positive or
objective terms as implied in the second epithet. The jnanam


(wisdom) referred to in the second line should be taken to be
the true knowledge of Verse 2 and as substituting the notion
of kshetrajna (knower of the field) which has been conveniently
forgotten, as we have pointed out.

This culminating wisdom is a unitive factor covering both the
field and the knower of the field. It is as it were a central
value which may even be said to be implicit in the word
antaram (principle of difference, differential) in the last
verse of this chapter and which, as stated there, is to be
discerned by the jnanachakshushah (eye of wisdom).
Under ajnana (ignorance), similarly, there is to be implied
all those aspects of the field which lead the consciousness
away from higher wisdom-values, including both those that
tend to do so, and those failing outside the scope of
contemplation altogether, such as the decaying aspects of
a dead body, wherein no soul-happiness is any more to be

In reviewing the section covered from Verses 5 to 11 inclusive,
in which both the idea of the field and the knower of the
field were covered in a special and unitive way which we have
tried to explain, we find that beginning from the idea of a body
which was only superior to a mere carcase by a margin of
contemplative principle involved, we have touched in the
knower of the field an all-comprehensive wisdom-value which
is going to be expounded more finally in Verse 12, by way of
rounding up the section, as we shall see.

We further notice that even within the items belonging to the
field there is an implied gradation of values culminating in
the qualification dhritih (firmness) in Verse 6. A vertical
series of values relating to action, somewhat on the same lines
as the series here, is given in xviii, 14.

In the present verse an integrated organism which constitutes
the personal value called the field is the basis where higher
virtues can be cultivated or erected. The vital intelligence leads
to a personal quality called firmness here, which is not
unrelated to the idea of urjitam (vigour) of x, 41. It suggests
both stability and strength and, as a personal quality, marks the
furthermost limit which perfection in the context of the field
can attain. Firmness represents the narrow neck of the hour-
glass structure of the values presented, from the most broad-
based ones of the great elements at the bottom of the lower cone
to this pointedly personal virtue of firmness at the central apex.
Beyond this point we reach up to other personal virtues of a
non-social and individualistic character which are


also of the nature of personal virtues, but which really
belong to the domain of kshetrajna (the knower of the field).
Instead of pravritti (forward-going tendencies) we come
to what is represented by nivritti (inwardly retreating
tendencies). Egoism, for example, is a recognized value
under kshetra (the field) in Verse 5, and has its place, while
the same ahamkara (egoism) is a value to be negated to
constitute a personal virtue of the kshetrajna (knower of the
field) in Verse 8.

Scanning the series we find that the values become more
and more generally applicable in the later verses, as we
ascend the scale or rise into the region of the upper expanse
of the hour-glass, where universal values such as wisdom
are comprehended.

The legitimate doubt that might arise in the reader regarding
the validity of referring to virtues as leading to wisdom, as
they might be mistaken to be, to which Sankara makes allusion,
is explained at least partially, by our analogy of the
hour-glass. Whether universal or particular value-factors are
involved in the scale of values enumerated, it is the person or
the individual who is primarily concerned with them. Thus a
reference to the individual as representing the values which
necessarily have to resemble personal virtues is but legitimate
and natural. All values have to be conceived, at least in the
contemplative context, as personal values, because personal
liberation or self-realization is the end common to all
contemplative disciplines.

The question of Sankara's opponent, raised in connection
with the next verse, of how a virtue can be a means for
wisdom, is only answered in an indirect way by Sankara when
he says that these virtues or qualifications are conducive to
wisdom; or because they are secondary or auxiliary causes of
wisdom, they are treated on a par with wisdom itself. From
the way we have approached the problem by giving primacy to
value rather than to abstract wisdom as such, this indirect
explanation becomes unnecessary. Every item in the series has
an equal status as a value, whether personal or merely

Sankara's other explanation of the charge of his opponent
that the kshetrajna (knower of the field) would either be a
samsarin (one of mundane interests) or there would result
the absence of samsara (the cycle of repeated existences) at
all, depends upon an argument based upon infinite regression,
by which he tries to explain that if attributes of relative
existence are to be applied to Isvara (God) or to the
kshetrajna (knower


of the field), we would thereby be compelled to postulate an
author of consciousness who would be able to see the ego so
tainted as an object or entity outside himself. This would
necessitate a series of egos, one superior to the other; the
more superior one being able to make of the inferior one an
object of its perception, and so on ad infinitum. By the
absurdity implied in such an infinite regression, Sankara
succeeds in establishing, though in a laboured way, the
unconditioned purity implied in the kshetrajna (knower of
the field) which fully represents Isvara (God) or Vishnu as
he specifically says.

Vishnu could only be a supreme value when stripped of
mythological vestures with which in his mind the common
man might clothe the value. Thus conceived as a human
value entering into different levels of human life, this
laboured resort of Sankara to a regression to infinity,
together with his arguments based on indirect or lakshanartha
(figurative meanings), could easily have been by-passed.


jneyam yat tat pravakshyami
yaj jnatva 'mritam asnute
anadimat param brahma
na sat tan na 'sad uchyate

I shall declare that which is to be known, which, being known,
one gains immortality; the beginningless, having Me as its
supreme culminating factor, the Absolute, which is said to
be neither existence nor non-existence.


From this verse onwards we have a complete picture of the
unitive Self or the eternal Absolute or whatever may be
designated by tat (That). It is unmistakable from the
description that it is not an entity which could be definitely
called either matter or spirit. As stated in Verse 19, both
matter and spirit have to be given an equal status as values
and considered as eternal or beginningless. The Absolute implied
here in Verse I2 is neither sat (existence) nor asat
(non-existence), and is of the nature of a paradox, in the
same way as in the Eleatic philosophers, Parmenides and Zeno.
The one and the many adhere together in this notion of the
Absolute, as stated in Verse 30.

When it is said that the Absolute participates in both
existence and non-existence, and the one and the many, it


should not be thought however, that it combines contradictions,
reducing the notion to a mere absurdity. It should be
conceived rather as valid as a datum of reasoning, or better
still as an authentic human value to be intuitively
understood, and not as a mere contradiction in terms as
bhedabheda vadins (difference-non-difference thinkers) would
tend to look upon it.

The reference to immortality in this verse is only to
emphasize the correctness or validity of the revalued,
restated notion of the Absolute implied here. It corresponds
to the "verily, verily" of the New Testament, while the
word pravakshyami (I shall declare) also corresponds to the
"I say unto you" of the same. The latter should be read with
me srinu (hear from Me) of verse 3. These all indicate that
Krishna has something unusually precious to say.
The word jneyam (what is to be known) marks the positive
nature of the notion of the Absolute to be described
in this chapter, giving it a certain amount of philosophical
objectivity. The phrase anadimatparam (beginningless and
having Me as its supreme culminating factor) has been
subjected to differences of interpretation and treatment by
important commentators like Sankara and Ramanuja, the
former taking it as anadimat-param (beginningless,
supreme) and the latter as anadi-matparam (beginningless,
ruled by Me). Both these interpretations have something to
be said in their favour. In the light of the essential
paradoxical nature of the Absolute as we have shown, the
different interpretations are but natural. But it is important
(on whichever the accent is put, on beginningless or on
supreme) that we steer clear of any such duality in
understanding the meaning of the term. In other words we
have to conceive of it as a neutral value as it is clearly
intended to be in the description given in the rest of the


sarvatah panipadam tat
sarvatokshi siromukham
sarvatah srutimal loke
sarvam avritya tishthati

With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes and hands, and
mouths, with hearing everywhere, in the world, That remains,
enveloping all.


Verses 13 to 18 form a new section wherein various
paradoxical statements about the Absolute are included in a
certain order.


In Verse 13, which is the same as that of the Svetasvatara
Upanishad iii, 16, the Vedic picture of a cosmic man is
repeated in the form revalued in the Upanishads. The
paradox is implied in the expression sarvam avritya
(enveloping all). The term, loke (in the world), on the other
hand, would suggest an inside position. The same paradox
is more explicitly stated in Verse 15.


sarvendriya gunabhasam
sarvendriya vivarjitam
asaktam sarvabhrich chai'va
nirgunam gunabhoktri cha

Shining by the specific characters of the senses, devoid
of all sense (attributes); unattached, supporting all;
without qualities, and perceiving qualities.


This verse contains three paradoxical statements. The first
is quite within the range of our own experience, when we
think of dreaming, where things are seen without the help of
eyes, etc. The second paradox is easily understood if we
think of space supporting form. Regarding the third paradox,
we know that the pure Absolute is not subject to the
modalities of the three degrees of specialization in nature
called the gunas (qualities). They act only as conditioning
factors, like Shelley's "dome of many-coloured glass".


bahir antas cha bhutanam
acharam charam eva cha
sukshmatvat tad avijneyam
durastham cha 'ntike cha tat

Without and within beings; immobile and mobile too; because
subtle, That is unknowable; That stands far and near also.


Here again there are three paradoxes to be resolved. They
are quite clear and require no explanation. The Absolute is
referred to as being a subtle principle. This is an initial
attempt to explain the paradoxes and would correspond to
the argument advanced in Verse 32.


avibhaktam cha bhateshu
vibhaktam iva cha sthitam
bhutabhartri cha taj jneyam
grasishnu prabhavisnu cha

And undivided yet remaining divided as it were in beings;
supporter of existence and That which is to be known;
hold back and releasing for expansive becoming.


Again three paradoxes are implied, two explicit and one
hidden. In the first, explicit one, the word iva (as it were)
is meant to relieve the contrast somewhat. The paradox of
the one and the many is meant, although it is expressed in
terms of outward appearances.

The second paradox here has the implied opposition between
the counterparts bhutabhartri (supporter of existence) and
jneyam, (what is to be known) which in this chapter should
be understood as an objective philosophical entity to be
clearly placed in a circle apart, as it were, from jnanam
(wisdom), subjectively considered. The opposition between
the two counterparts is the same as that between existence
and subsistence.

The third pair of paradoxical counterparts is based on the
notion that there is a centrifugal and a centripetal principle
involved in reality, whether cosmic or psychic. Grasishnu
(grasping) refers to the centripetal tendency to hold inwards
and prabhavishnu (releasing expansive becoming) is the
centrifugal tendency.

This verse thus terminates the series of paradoxical
references which are all meant as examples of the principle
of equalization, neutralization or cancelling-out of
counterparts or tendencies into a neutral central value which
is the Absolute. As in mathematics, the operation can be
compared to the cancelling-out of the plus and minus or the
unitive cancellation in vulgar fractions of the numerator
and the denominator. This kind of equalization, which can
also be thought of as peace, harmony or joy, is of the essence
of Yoga. Indeed, Yoga is equalization, even by the Gita
definition, as we have had many occasions to point out.


jyotisham api taj jyotis
tamasah param uchyate
jndnam jneyam jnanagamyam
hridi sarvasya dhishthitam


The Light even of lights, that is said to be beyond darkness;
knowledge, the knowable and what is to be reached through
knowledge; particularly located in the hearts of everyone.


Here instead of reference to two counterparts, we find
three items referring to the Absolute. These must be looked
upon as corresponding to the triputi (tri-basic) aspect of
consciousness. Wisdom and the object of wisdom here
correspond to the subjective and the objective aspects of
knowledge which are counterparts belonging to the same
order as the field and the knower of the field. But the third
factor referred to here, by the phrase jnanagamyam (that
which is to be reached through wisdom), stands neutrally
between subject and object.

Between an onlooker and a lamp there is the neutral value
called light which is neither subjective nor objective, but
is arrived at by virtue of both eye and lamp. It can thus be
compared to a central value. Legitimately, therefore, there
is reference here to the Light of lights which is located
neutrally, as it were, in the hearts of men, as a superior
basic human value.

This kind of light is not the ordinary light which is
opposed to darkness, but light conceived in itself and in a
more absolutist manner, darkness itself being overlooked as
a negation to be negated. The double use of Light of lights
here is justified because of the double negation of darkness
implied. A double assertion replaces a double negation. This
is a subtlety known to mystical theology and methodology in
the writings of Aquinas and Dionysius the Areopagite. This
image is also resorted to in the Upanishads.

We note also in passing that this third factor mentioned in
this verse may possibly refer to the antaram (differential
principle) of Verse 34.


iti kshetram tatha jnanam
jneyam cho 'ktam samasatah
madbhakta etad vijnaya
madbhavayo 'papadyate

Thus the field, and wisdom, and what has to be known, have
been briefly told; My devotee, having known this, attains
to My state of being.


How a man of wisdom who merely knows what has been stated,
could, by that mere fact, as it is said, enter into the being
of the Absolute, is not against the spirit of the dictum
of the Mundaka Upanishad III, ii, 9: "He verily who knows
that supreme Absolute, the Absolute Itself becomes".
Although the more theologically-minded commentators would
hesitate to give full credit to this statement, it holds
good in principle.

Notice in this verse again that a reference to kshetrajna
(knower of the field) is omitted for reasons already explained.


prakritim purusham chai 'va
viddhy anadi ubhav api
vikarams cha gunams chai 'va
viddhi prakritisambhavan

Know you that nature and spirit are both beginningless;
and know you also that modifications and their intrinsic
modalities are born of nature.


After seemingly closing a section with Verse 18 in which
the answers to the three sets of questions of Arjuna were
expressly concluded, we have here another extra section
covering Verses 19 to 22 inclusive, whose object is to bring
out the subtle interrelation that exists between what is here
called prakriti (nature) and purusha (spirit). Verse 21
incidentally makes allusion to the principle that underlies
birth in "good or evil" wombs. The object of this section
is to develop a philosophy by which the human personality
could be understood not only in its general aspects but
also in those particularized aspects which would help us
to distinguish a Peter from a Paul.

The theory of the three modalities in nature, which is to be
discussed in detail in the next chapter under the three gunas
called sattva, rajas and tamas, is to be the basis of the
determination of types of persons. We shall come to a fuller
discussion of the implications of this theory of gunas in its
proper place in the next chapter and elsewhere, and see how
the four social divisions emerge again to view as based on
these gunas, in Chapter xviii, 41 ff.

Here in the present verse we have to notice that matter
and spirit are given an equal status by virtue of the eternity
implicit in - the intrinsic nature of both. If Peter and Paul
are different the difference is due to the guna which enters
into the nature of each of them tending to modify their original
pure nature.


We know that this question of psycho-physical interaction is
full of vague and subtle implications. In other parts of the
Gita this subtle nature of the question has been referred to,
as in xv, 10 and 11. In the unitive treatment of nature and
spirit here we are asked in this section to recognize that
although these two are distinct, it is from their interaction as
equal and opposite eternal factors that various grades, even
within the human species, result.

It would help our later discussion of the fourfold social division
in Chapter xviii to note even here that it is not the spirit but
only nature which is responsible for the inequalities of birth.
The status of man remains therefore untouched by the modalities
of nature, giving all men spiritual equality outside the relativist
domain of nature.


karya karana kartritve
hetuh prakritir uchyate
purushah sukhaduhkhanam
bhoktritve hetur uchyate

In what concerns agency for cause and effect the motivating
factor is said to be nature; in the matter of the experiencer
of pleasure and pain, the motivating factor is spirit.


In getting at the root of the statement in this verse, we
have to examine it from a very matter-of-fact point of view.
The dividing line between the actual and the perceptual
implied here is very thin. Prakriti (nature) and purusha
(spirit) are again referred to here as dual aspects of reality,
the aim being to explain in an empirical or practical way
where mind and matter meet, to result in personal types
referred to in Verse 21.

The values pertaining to the mind are necessarily distinct
from those pertaining to matter. It would be vain to deny
their necessary difference. A stone must hit a mango fruit to
make it fall. Only a magic mango will fall by a magic spell.
In this and many popular proverbial instances, the
distinction between the actual and the perceptual has
prevailed as commonsense wisdom.

We have already done with the philosophical implications
of this wisdom, and the only object that the author has
in referring to nature and spirit here is to reveal that
subtle dividing line which demarcates them.


The first compound word karyakaranakartritve (in what
concerns agency for cause and effect) has another reading
karyakaranakartritve (in what concerns agency for effect and
instruments). In the latter case, the karana (instruments) are
factors producing the effect called the body (i.e. in Samkhya;
the five organs of sensation, the five of activity, mind,
intelligence and egoism). Both these versions have been subjected
to critical examination by Sankara. Without going into the
technical details involved, we can see how this verse is
beautifully conceived by the author to serve the main purpose
of dividing nature and spirit as practical counterparts
in an empirically valid theory on the basis of which personal
types and aptitudes could be discussed. We need not,
therefore enter into the profound philosophical implications
here. The same problem is more closely tackled in the next
verse where the question of rebirth and "good and evil"
wombs is expressly mentioned.

Here we find the two hetus (motivating factors) each given
an almost equal status, the motivating factor of nature and
that of spirit. The motivating factor of nature is behind all
causes and effects that we see in this mechanistic world.
Similarly, in what we know in the everyday world as
pleasure and pain, the motivating factor belongs to one who
can feel such pleasure and pain, here named purusha (spirit).
Thus the thin dividing line that is sought to be explicitly
defined by this verse lies between the conscious spirit which
is capable of feeling, and the inert matter which is within the
domain of causality, and which does not necessarily imply a
selective or aesthetic consciousness.

We should therefore make the distinction between hetuh
(motivating factor) and the karana (cause) associated with
karya (effect). Hetuh (motivating factor) is more unitively
conceived than cause-effect, which depend upon one another
for their meaning as counterparts of a mechanistic situation.
Further, cause and effect can belong to the field of vikriti
(deteriorating effects), while prakriti (nature) as a more
general hetuh (motivating factor) includes both good and
bad effects.


purushah prakritistho hi
bhunkte prakritijan gunan
karanam gunasango 'sya
sad asad yoni janmasu

The spirit, seated in nature, appreciates the modalities
born of nature; association with the modalities is the cause
of births in good or evil wombs.


This verse is an attempted explanation of the process
involved in reincarnation, contributing to the inequality of
status between types of men. The subject is not one that
directly concerns spirituality in the best sense of the word.
But inequality in this world as an expression of injustice
touches on sociology and ethics, and can drastically influence
politics, as it has done in India in the name of caste, which is
a major problem that can hardly be bypassed by an author
such as Vyasa, whose figure may be said to stand at the very
core of Indian spirituality, representing the supreme role of
dialectical revaluation of a superior way of life, individual or
collective In the theorization implied here, Vyasa is not
unlike Plotinus in his graphic description of how the soul
enters matter.

Bergson's theories of matter and spirit follow the same lines.
Even in the Gita the allusion to birth in good or evil wombs
has to be read side by side with xv, 8, and xvi, 19. There is a
slight contradiction to be observed when the implication of
this verse is read with the implication of Verse 31 of this
chapter, where it is said that the Self is not affected though
seated in the body, and though touching the body it is not
tainted by the body.

The same idea is contained in v, 10 that it is possible to keep
the soul from being tainted like the lotus leaf unaffected by
water. The way in which the spirit can taste or enjoy qualities
belonging to nature or matter is thus a paradox, better left
unexplained. However, when we remember that the purusha (spirit)
here, as even Sankara admits in his comment on Verse 20, could
be a samsari (a mundane enjoyer) and in the light ,of the
pragmatic necessity here to explain types of men, as we have
pointed out, the contact between mattter and mind implied in
this verse becomes understandable, though a certain mystery
is still attached to it. Perhaps the author intends it to be
a mystery, as samsara (cyclic repetition of existences) is
a mystery, or as in osmosis in plants, the spirit absorbs
what is good for itself to enjoy, leaving the dross in the

All we need admit for the purposes of the theory here is
something like the law of opposites attracting each other, as
in a magnet, the idea of purusha (spirit) here being reduced
to the status of one of the ambivalent factors. Unlike the
status of the


kshetrajna (knower of the field), which corresponds to
Isvara (God) according to Sankara, and could be absorbed
into wisdom; the purusha (spirit) could be called a samsari
(a mundane enjoyer) still on the relativist side of life.
The reference to sad asad yonih (good and bad wombs)
calls for some comment. In xvii, 26, it is explained that
the word sat (true, existent implies goodness and existence
equally. The good and bad wombs must, therefore, refer to
degrees of perfection or goodness that an individual ego or
self can attain, irrespective of the relative levels within
which the differences of degree lie.

In speaking of the yogabhrasto (the person fallen from 
Yoga) in vi, 41-42, another aspect of the same theory was
alluded to. There it was stated that a person who had
deflected from the path of Yoga would be born in the family
of pure and intelligent people. The reference to papayonah
(wombs of sin) in ix, 32 gives us another indication as to
what might be in the mind of the author when he refers to
bad wombs. Between these two limits of a clean and
intelligent family and persons steeped in necessity like
proletarians (sudras) and others, we have to form a notion
of degrees of difference within whose range a particular
soul can have a choice. Sankara suggests that good wombs
are those of devas (divinities) and bad wombs those of
lower animals, which would imply a still wider range with
a choice possible outside the human context altogether.
Keeping within the limits of what the Gita itself hints at
in the passages cited above, we can safely conjecture that it
is the gradations of the four varnas (colours, aptitudes
divisions) on the one hand and the kind of birth that a yogi
can get on the other hand, that is in the mind of the author.
The difference must be based on some sort of equilibrium
between opposing tendencies of attraction and repulsion in
the field of values. An intellectually lazy or inert spirit gets
involved deeper in a world of necessity like an elephant in a
bog, to borrow an example from the Yoga Vasishtha.
An intellectually alert individual will naturally escape the
clutches of necessity and emerge out of the relativist world
- to some degree at least. An intermediate group might
include men who, by their alertness or activity, can float
half-immersed as it were. Prakriti (nature) and purusha
(spirit) are two opposing tendencies or forces, and the
individual life-expression is a kind of stable equilibrium
arrived at by the simultaneous action upon it of these
opposing forces. In Verse 26 we find this


principle stated in very generalized terms, but we find that
instead of nature and spirit, kshetra (field) and kshetrajna
(knower of the field) are there substituted. There is no harm
in this, because the knower of the field here is not
necessarily meant to have a superior status corresponding to
absolute wisdom. A degree of dualism is admitted here for
the sake of explaining inequality as observed in this world.
We shall have further occasion to enter into the implication
of this in greater detail from xviii, 41 onwards.


upadrashta 'numanta cha
bharta bhokta mahesvarah
paramatme 'ti cha 'py ukto
dehe 'smin purusha parah

Supervisor, and Permitter, Supporter, Experiencer, the Great
Lord, and also called the supreme Self (is) the supreme
Spirit in the body.


The mystery implied in the mode of contact between nature
and spirit which was left vague in the previous verse is
sought to be further clarified here. Within the limits of the
body, the Absolute in its purest implications suffers from
certain conditionings and limitations. The favourite example
in Indian philosophy of a colourless, transparent crystal
placed on red silk, the latter technically named upadhi (the
conditioning factor) explains the contact to some extent. In
chemistry we have the example of catalytic agents which
themselves suffer no change while being necessary for
effecting changes in other chemicals with which they are in
contact. If these two examples still do not explain the
mystery sufficiently, especially in a contemplative context,
we find mentioned here some other functions or qualities of
the supreme Self within the body limits, as its modified
patterns of behaviour or types of personality.

The word upadrashti (supervisor) suggests the role of an
overseer of works. He does not work himself, but his
immediate presence as a man on the spot is necessary for the
work to go on. Sankara suggests the head priest in a Vedic
ritual, under whose supervision the various ritual acts
proceed in a certain order.

Anumanta (Permitter) can be thought of as a selective and
eliminative principle. Certain acts are approved and certain


others disapproved, depending upon an innate principle
derived from the Absolute.

The word bharta (supporter, one who bears the weight)
can in the first place be thought of, not necessarily as
supporting from below, but from above as from a hanging
lamp. The gross and active aspects of the senses, mind, etc.,
which form an aggregate in themselves, depend for their
intelligent, conscious function, on the spirit which is in
contact with them, though indirectly. They are like the
reflection of a flame on a mirror below, which reflection
looks as though the flame were burning downwards, while in
reality it is burning upwards. The reflection depends upon
and may be said to be supported by the actual flame which
represents pure wisdom, although within the limits of the
body there is no harm in calling the same wisdom the

The term bhokta (experiencer) is similarly justified,
although in a strict sense absolute wisdom cannot be called
an enjoyer. Within the limits of the body it is permissible to
refer to the spirit as enjoyer inasmuch as a dead body cannot
enjoy anything at all, and whatever enjoyment or experiencing
there is on the perceptual side, must belong in principle at
least, to the Absolute.

The expression mahesvarah (great lord) is used in approximately
the same sense as in xviii, 61. While here he is within the
limit of the body, there he is further localized in the heart
of man. Within the body limits there is another name for the
same derived from the Absolute principle, named in xv, 14,
as vaisvanarah (universal principle of the vital man) spoken
of more particularly in connection with the important vital
principle of the digestive "fire". It is here called mahesvarah
(great lord) because of its universality, though the sense is
limited here to the human species.

The word paramatma (supreme Self) cancels out any cosmological
or theological coloration implied in the former epithet,
referring it back to psychology.


ya evam vetti purusham
prakritim cha gunaih saha
sarvatad vartamano 'pi
na sa bhuyo 'bhijayate

He who thus knows spirit and nature, together with the
intrinsic modalities, though he may happen to be leading
every kind of life, is not born again.


This verse contains a sweeping assertion. To expect more
knowledge about the difference concerning spirit and nature
to produce the far-reaching effect of annihilating all
bondage of karma (action), as Sankara insists on holding,
may be considered rather too easy a generalization. But in
the light of iv, 37, and the Mundaka Upanishad II, ii, 8, the
statement is quite in keeping with the Gita teaching. Even if
we have to take it in a realistic sense, we have the Verses iv,
36, and ix, 30 and 31, with which the statement here tallies.
The secret of the pure Absolute may be that of a rare
philosopher only, but even a common man, who is able by his
intuition to appreciate the subtle differential principle
given to dialectical reasoning rather than to wisdom as
such, can be said to hold the secret of that rare and neutral
value which the Gita teaching throughout keeps in view.
This latter is not given to buddhi (reason) particularly alone,
but to one who has a dialectical intuition and as such is
called a yogi. This point is brought out in the Gita in vi, 46.
The expression sarvatha vartamano 'pi (though he may
happen to be leading every kind of life) in effect states that
no orthodox mode of life is recognized in the Gita. A man
can be a profligate, a gambler or publican, but if he is wise
he will be saved. To think that a mode of life in keeping with
Vedic orthodoxy alone will lead to the goal implied in the
Gita is wholly discredited by this verse.


dhyanena 'tmani pasyanti
kechid atmanam atmana
anye samkhyenayogena
karmayogena cha 'pare

By meditation some behold the Self in the Self by the Self;
others by Samkhya-Yoga (unitive reasoning) and others by
karma-yoga (action unitively understood).


Three kinds of Self-realization are referred to here. From
chapters ii on Samkhya (rationalist) philosophy, and iii on
karma (action) we had sufficient explanation of what
Samkhya-Yoga (unitive reasoning) and karma-yoga (action
unitively understood) were intended to mean, as here. These
compound terms ought not to be confused with mere
Samkhya (rationalism or mere karma (action).


Yoga implies a certain method of equalization or cancellation
of counterparts which we have tried to explain. It is as
when two factors are cancelled one against the other, that we
come to something which is unitive. Whether in the world of
values that might belong to the field of necessary action, or of
rational life, or of Self-realization - the unitive value which
results from the cancellation of counterparts is the same.
Thus it is stated here that some attain to the supreme value of
the Absolute Self by cancelling the subjective aspect of the
Self against the objective aspect of the same. In other words,
as in Verse 17, there is an all-inclusive wisdom representing
both these aspects.

To cite one verse from the Samkhya (rationalist) philosophical
context which implies the equalizing principle, we refer back
to ii, 48; and for the karma (action) context there is
the famous Verse xv, 18.

Sankara again resorts to his favourite argument of indirect
or figurative meaning in regard to conceding to karma
(action) the status of a yoga leading to Self-realization.
His polemics have always been directed against ritualism, but
understood in the light of Yoga as explained above, and in
terms of a value, independent of any philosophical
superiority, this slur on realization through karma (action)
is unnecessary, though justified to the extent that karma
(action) is very inferior to buddhiyoga (unitive understanding
through reason) as admitted in the Gita in 11,49.


anye tv evam ajanantah
srutva 'nyebhaya upasate
te 'pi cha 'titaranty eva
mrityum srutiparayanah

But others, not knowing as stated (above) worship,having
heard from others; they also cross beyond death, depending
on hearsay.


This verse covers all and sundry aspirants innocent of the
secret of Yoga. Yoga being a counterpart of Samkhya
(rationalist) philosophy implies some philosophical
understanding of tattvas (principles). There is a large
amorphous body of people outside the world of yogis, who
instinctively have a notion of the Absolute by hearsay or
other indirect means. Although they may not attain to
wisdom, they can also get the freedom


of a non-relative kind by their appreciation of other-worldly
values that lie beyond death, values that belong simultaneously
to the here and the hereafter. This verse also tends to abolish
any orthodoxy or patent rights in regard to the secret teaching
of the Gita.


yavat samjayate kimchit
sattvam sthavara jangamam
kshetra kshetrajna samyogat
tad viddhi bharatarshabha

Whatever is produced, the unmoving or the moving, know you,
0 Best of the Bharatas (Arjuna), that to be from the union
of the field and the knower of the field.


We find here a return to the terms field and knower of the
field, with which this chapter started. The discussion
followed unitive philosophical lines, but confronted
problems of empirical and pragmatic import, preferring the
employment of the terms nature and spirit, which are now
made to correspond to the original expressions, field and
knower of the field, after a due explanation of the yogic
methodology implied in Verses 23 and 24.

Sankara sees in this union of field and knower of the field
the basis of mithyajnana (false, mistaken knowledge). True
knowledge according to him would be one-sided, favouring
the kshetrajna (knower of the field). The field and the
knower of the field together, according to him, lead to the
adhyasa (mistaken attribution) of one in the other. Sankara's
preference for wisdom values to ordinary values is quite
legitimate, but need not make the truth of the statement in
this verse invalid. As we have already pointed out under 
Verse 24, yogic understanding is different from mere logical
understanding. Sankara, being still a logician par excellence,
refuses to see the value factor implied in the union of the
field with the knower of the field, even while both are given
the same eternal status. The next verse throws further light
on how, as Values, all beings have the same status. Chapter v,
18, has stated the same equality. If all beings are the same,
such equality cannot depend on the actuality represented by
each object. We see them and deal with them differently, but
the value principle in each is the same. It is of the nature
of a resultant equilibrium between the opposite factors that
is the


point here in this chapter. It is the differential principle
between the two counterparts which is at the basis of the
value called the Absolute present in each object, the
superior entity given to philosophical speculation and
referred to in Verse 12, representing the positive content of
wisdom. This can be spoken of as a high value of a positive
kind, but there are innumerable other values in the world
towards which, as a yogi or dialectician, the wise man is
related, and each of which, as representing an absolute value
in itself, is the same to him.


samam sarveshu bhuteshu
tishthantam paramesvaram
vinasyatsv avinasyantam
yah pasyati sa pasyati

He who sees the supreme Lord abiding (in a state of) equality
in all beings, within the perishing as the non-perishing, he


The word samam (equal), as used here, does not merely imply
a horizontal distributive equality of the high principle
of the Supreme in all entities, which includes animate and
inanimate objects according to the previous verse.
According to what was suggested in respect of the two
opposing factors, the field and the knower of the field, the
word samam (equal) indicates an equilibrium between two
opposing forces, one tending towards the spirit, the other
towards nature.

The entities here have the same status as values each within
its own category. As the non-perishing in the perishing, it is
the Absolute itself which gives a final and equal status to all
entities. Inequality of status in value is not conceivable when
the value implied in all entities is understood to be that of
the Absolute. Each category of entities might have a normative
value belonging to its own frame of reference, but over and.
above all such frames of reference there is the absolute value
equally implied in all of them. The subtlety herein justifies
the expression "he who sees.. he sees".

Sankara here reveals a Samkhya (rationalist) inclination
to raise the status of the Absolute above all its living
expressions into something transcendental corresponding to
a purusha (spirit). The full implication of the word samam
(equal) is missed by him, and the paradox implicit in the


"non-perishing in the perishing" where opposites cancel
each other into a neutrality, resulting in a value that can
be both at once immanent and transcendent, is not clearly
recognized by him. This is because of his use of reason
rather than dialectics in his arguments.


samam pasyan hi sarvatra
samavasthitam isvaram
na hinasty atmana 'tmanam
tato yati param gatim

For he who sees the Lord seated equally everywhere, destroys
not the Self by the Self; and then he attains the supreme goal.


The secret implied in Verse 27 is further elaborated in this
and the next verse. The duality of nature and spirit is
implicit in both verses but in Verse 30, we return again to a
more unitive vision which is elaborated so as to reveal its
full glory in the last four verses. In these last four verses
the dual aspects which it became necessary to resort to for
the sake of dialectical methodology are completely discarded.
In this present verse the counterparts are the Lord on one
side and the Self on the other. These two are really
interchangeable terms. When the idea of an Isvara (Lord) fulfils
the condition of abiding equally in all entities, whether
animate or inanimate, in the sense elaborated in the two
previous verses, it must correspond to the Absolute itself
Hence it is that we are justified in saying that the Self and
the Absolute are interchangeable terms. Brahman (the Absolute)
is a synonym of the Self and of ananda (bliss or the supreme

When the Lord thus understood is equated with the Self, there
is no longer any opposition. This principle by which the
Self as the Lord can unitively merge in the notion of the Self
as the soul or inner spirit, without any implied conflict
between them, is explained in vi, 6.

The expression hinasti (destroys) refers to the alternative
contingency also mentioned in vi, 6, which happens when the
two Selfs here implicitly referred to for purposes of
discussion, are non-unitively or non-contemplatively treated,
contrary to the requirements of a yogic way of life. One who
can treat them unitively easily reaches the highest goal.


prakrityai 'va cha karmani
kriyamanani sarvasah yah
pasyati tatha 'tmanam
akartaram sa pasyati

He who sees that all actions are done by nature alone, and
likewise that the Self is actionless, he (truly) sees.


The spirit of this verse is not fundamentally different from
iv, 18. Necessary action is automatic or could be accomplished
by letting the action develop naturally without the will of
the person concerned interfering with its natural course.
Thus nature may be left to work out its tendencies, the person
being only a neutral witness.

The converse of the same proposition would consist of the
perfect actionlessness of the perceptual side of the
personality. To think that this perceptual side is in any way
involved in the actual accomplishment of acts through the
agency of nature, constitutes a typical case of adhyasa (false
attribution) of agency in action) to the spirit. A great deal
of worry can be avoided if the division between the actual and
perceptual is clear in all its possible implications, whether
in ordinary everyday life or in the spiritual life proper, so
called. Thus attaining to peace, such a person may be said to
see the secret of the way of yoga recommended in the Gita.


yada bhutaprithagbhavam
ekastham anupasyati
tata eva cha vistaram
brahma sampadyate tada

When he perceives the disjunct existence of beings established
in the one, and from whence also their expansion, then he
becomes the Absolute.


By this reference to the subtle dialectical principle of the
one and the many, as in Parmenides, a more comprehensive
and unitive view of the Absolute is regained in the
discussion here. There is also here a reference to the centre
and the periphery being unitively comprehended as in the
case of the one and the many. Becoming the Absolute, instead
of seeing, marks a further degree in the spiritual progress
of the man of wisdom.

This is not out of tune with the teaching of the Upanishads
and what is said elsewhere in the Gita, as we have explained
under Verse 23.


anaditvan nirgunatvat
paramatma 'yam avyayah
sarirastho 'pi kaunteya
na karoti na lipyate

Having no beginning, having no attributes (gunas),this supreme
Self, suffers no decrease though dwelling in the body, 0 Son
of Kunti (Arjuna), it neither acts nor is it tainted.


This begins the series of four verses in which the status of
the Absolute is restored to its full untainted purity and glory
so as to remove any stigma that might attach itself to the
notion of the Absolute, which was subjected to a dualistic
treatment earlier in the chapter.

The word anadvitvam (beginninglessness) refers to the nature
aspect of the Absolute and nirgunatvam (attributelessness),
the state of absence of triple modalities, refers to its
spirit-aspect. Both put together and understood unitively
gives us the neutral value which is actionless though seated
within the living body. These paradoxes have been already



yatha sarvagatam saukshmyad
akasam no 'palipyate
sarvatra 'vasthito dehe
tatha 'tma no 'palipyate

As the all-pervading subtle space-principle (akasa) is
untarnished by reason of its subtlety, so the Self, seated
everywhere in the body, is untarnished.


The specific functions which might be considered sacred
or profane within the body are not so considered by the pure
spirit seated uniformly spread throughout every part of the
body. The experience of the body that the spirit feels is non-
specific and wholesale in character. In its globality and
because of the subtle nature of such a general affective
content, the feeling is merely one of two poles interacting.
To use Sankara's analogy, fire can heat a pot. The heat
belongs to the pot, while the fire is independent of the
specific qualities belonging to the pot.


yatha prakasayaty ekah
kritsnam lokam imam
ravih kshetram kshetri tatha
kritsnam prakasayati bharata

As the one sun illumines this whole world, so does the Lord
of the field, 0 Bharata (Arjuna) illumine all the field.


The illustration gains in universality and subtlety by one
degree. It is well known that the sun shines on good and bad
places indifferently, just revealing its aloofness and
supremacy as a glorious value. By shining on the field it
can even be supposed that the field itself and its visible
existence depends on the unitive sun, which would thus
include without difference the kshetra (field) and the
kshetrajna (knower of the field), fused into one supreme

The individual entities or units that might constitute the
field, as in Verse 3, are overlooked here because "the many"
is treated as the dialectical counterpart of "the one", and
taken collectively to be absorbed unitively in the value that
the knower of the field represents analogously to the sun.


kshetra kshetrajnayor evam
antaram jnanachakshusha
bhutaprakritimoksham cha
ye vidur yanti te param

Those who by the eye of wisdom perceive the difference
between the field and the knower of the field (its bearing on)
elements-nature-emancipation - they go to the Supreme.


In this chapter the most important subject to which the
author wanted our attention to be directed was the
distinction between kshetra (the field) and kshetrajna (the
knower of the field). Summing up the discussion, the author
almost takes the words out of the contents of Verse 2, where
it was stated that knowledge itself only amounted to
understanding the distinction implied between these two
factors. Standing


neutrally between them, linking them into unity, is the
enigmatic hyphen (antaram) which is a great mystery,
requiring the jnanachakshushah (eye of wisdom) to see.
It is further indicated in this verse, by way of a
concluding review, that we have covered incidentally the
other allied questions concerning first the elements which
we know formed the first of the items making up the field;
and secondly how the discussion passed on to active good
and bad modalities implied in nature, also in the domain of
the field, and its dynamic aspect; and finally in the last
section, there was reference to how a person who
understands this subject of the chapter properly would
attain to the Absolute or reach the goal, etc. - all of which
pertain to the subject of moksha (emancipation). Thus the
author wants to direct our attention to the incidental
discussion of these subjects also, while focussing the
attention mainly on the field and the knower of the field.
In this last section on moksha (emancipation) and in the
section on jneyam (what is to be known), the two factors,
the field and the knower of the field, were treated unitively.
But when it was a question of facing problems in nature,
they were treated as distinct counterparts for the purposes
of discussion, without however damaging their essential

The compound word Bhutan-prakriti-moksha (elements-
nature-emancipation) gives equal importance to the three
sections, while referring to them summarily here. Some
translators treat the compound word not as samara-
dvandva (collective dual compound) but as panchami-tat-
purusha (compound in which the members do not lose their
independence) by which the word gains the meaning of
"liberation of beings from nature". The object of this
concluding verse being one of reviewing by way of a final
resumé of the subjects covered in this chapter, we prefer
to treat the compound as a form of samdhara-dvandva.

ity srimad bhagavadgitasupanishatsu brahmavidyayam
yogasastre srikrishnarjunasamvade
kshetrakshetrajnavibhagayogo nama trayodaso 'dhyayah

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, Thirteenth Chapter
entitled Unitive Understanding of the Distinction between
the Actual and the Perceptual.