The vision revealed at the express request of Arjuna in 
Chapter xi was not meant to be one given to philosophical
insight. The essential content of the vision has now to be
revised and restated in a more finalized philosophical form.
Having described the character of aparabrahma (the
immanent Absolute) in the previous chapter, whatever one-
sidedness might have been left by such a treatment, as was
necessary there, is here to be corrected. The chapters that
follow deal with very objective values in life in the ethical,
religious and other fields, which also makes it necessary to
have a revision of the notion of the Absolute generally.

In trying to meet these requirements the author feels called
upon here to present a full notion of the Absolute, which
would include at once both the immanent and transcendent
aspects of the Absolute. In doing so, however, it is
inevitable, as we have already seen in the last verse of the
previous chapter, that paradoxes cannot be avoided, and the
approach from two sides only heightens the mystery of the

Rightly, it is stated in Verses 10 and 11 that understanding is
given only to those rare persons who are wisdom-eyed, and
that even yogis cannot get it by mere effort, but must have
intelligence that perfects Yoga.

The favourite image of a cosmic tree is resorted to by
Krishna who, it must be noticed here, speaks without being
questioned. There is no dialogue to disturb the eloquence of
this chapter. The tree itself is meant to be a mystery,
reaching as it were from heaven to earth. It is important to
keep in mind that this mysterious tree has to be cut asunder
with a certain severe relentlessness, as recommended in 
Verse 3. The tree is equated with the world of the Vedas and
to think of cutting it down would be sacrilegious in the
usual context of orthodoxy.


The Gita's aversion to Vedism on one side as well as to
atheistic materialism on the other side, is evident in
numerous other places which we have cited already. In this
chapter, the author makes Krishna speak directly on the
very important subject of getting rid of every kind of
relativist approach to the Absolute, including even what the
Vedas imply. This does not mean, however, that the Gita is
heterodox. This should be quite evident from xvi, 24, where
there is a return to a form of revised orthodoxy, and where
Arjuna is definitely asked not to disregard the sastras
(scriptural texts).

The whole of Chapter xvii is again devoted to what comes
under religious values, which succeeds in formulating a new
or revised way of life which can be said to be neither
orthodox nor heterodox, but in conformity with the
recognition of the main subject of this chapter where the
Supreme Spirit is lifted high above both relativist and
non-relativist levels.

Sribhagavan uvacha
urdhvamulam adhahsakham
asvattham prahur avyayam
chhandamsi yasya parnani
yas tam veda sa vedavit

Krishna said:
They speak of an unexpended (holy) fig tree
(asvattha) with roots above and branches below,
whose leaves are sacred verses; he who knows it is
a Veda-knower.


The cosmic tree with roots above and branches below, from
which latter sprout the leaves representing the Vedic
hymns taken as a whole, corresponds to what a person
well-versed in the Veda is likely to understand about
spirituality. The tree therefore represents the purva-
pakshin's (anterior critic's) position in this chapter, which
is to be replaced by the finalized version of spirituality
given by Krishna.

The expression vedavit (one who knows the Vedas) is
equated indirectly to the knower of the asvattha (the holy
fig tree or ficus religiosa) implied here. The tree has been
the symbol of reality viewed from the angle of time or
relativity and has been used. allegorically to explain subtle
truths of the relativist world in various Upanishads of which
the Katha Upanishad. (vi, 1) is the chief reference. Slight
variations of the same picture occur


in the Maitri Upanishad (vi, 4), and Svetasvatara Upanishad
(iii, 9, and vi, 6).

Such a tree is not unknown in the Indian Puranas (legends)
either, and is common also to the religious legends
of pre-Christian Europe. The most important feature about
the tree here is that its roots are above. This is suggestive of
the fact that all spiritual values derive their strength and
nourishment from something hypostatically raised above the
actualities of life. In other words God may be said to be the
source of all such values, and he is not on earth but in heaven.
This is the case in most religions, except those that are
rational such as Buddhism.

The Vedic gods are all nature-gods who live in a world
called svarga, also said to be above. The tree should, therefore,
be understood as representing all multifarious branchings of
everyday spiritual values which we find in the world of men,
all of which have their nourishment from some hidden
source which could be referred to as being above.


adhas cho 'rdhvam prasritas tasya sakha
gunapravriddha vishayapravalah
adhas cha mulany anusamtatani
karmanubandhini manushyaloke

Below and above spread its branches, nourished by the
modalities of nature (gunas), sense-values its buds, and
downwards also there are ramified roots which bind to action
in the world of men.


The tree, more elaborately described here, is summarily
called sometimes the tree of samsara (relative existence of a
cyclic nature), but inasmuch as the text takes great pains to
refer in detail to each part of this tree, to relate it to
aspects of samsara (relative cyclic existence) it would be
justifiable to linger a little on this verse.

1 The branches are said to grow upwards and downwards; the
upward-growing branches being values in the context of
holiness or ostentatious forms of religion, the downward-
growing branches being values tending to be more earthy or
at least based on tangible realities of life.

2. The branches are said to be nourished by the modalities
of nature, the gunas; the upward growing branches may
therefore correspond to the pure-clear or sattvik tendencies
in nature,


while the inert-dark or tamasik nourishes the more earthy
branches, and the affective-active rajasik may be said to
nourish those branches not specifically mentioned here
which radiate horizontally in the mass, as in the world of
actions and agents.

3. The buds or sprouts correspond to the ever-growing
interests of man, reaching out to objects that give him
pleasure. In the manner in which this picture here is
conceived, there is no strict differentiation between the
subjective and the objective aspects of any item. Thus the
sprout represents both the senses and sense-objects which
result in pleasures, interests or values.

4. There are also roots that grow downwards, besides the
main roots above. These roots have ramifications and may
be supposed to keep those interested in ritual or other active
forms of spirituality enmeshed and helplessly caught within
their tangle of conflicting interests belonging to each
family, tribal or group tradition. All obligations, taboos,
laws and other necessary aspects connected with spiritual or
even everyday life-interests may be said to be represented
by these multiple tangled spreading roots.

The roots here correspond to necessity, for necessity does
not originate above. It belongs to the earth and therefore
such roots are below. As we know from other parts of the
Gita, necessity itself is beginningless, and these downward
roots are represented as reaching to subtle aspects of the
unmanifested reality lying below or beyond the earth, in the
same way as the main roots are directed to the transcendental
Supreme, which is also unmanifest. Further, the downward
roots may be spoken of as referring to retrospective values,
such as instinctive respect for ancestral traditions.


na rupam asye 'ha tatho 'palabhyate
ni 'nto na cha 'dir na cha sampratishtha
asvattham enam suvirudhamulam
asangasastrena dridhena chhittva

tatah padam tat parimargitavyam
yasmin gata na nivartanti bhuyah
tam eva chi 'dyam purusham prapadye
yatah pravrittih prasrita purani

Nor is its form here comprehended thus (as stated),
nor its end, nor its beginning, nor its foundation.
Having sundered this holy fig tree with strongly-fixed
roots with the weapon of decisive non-attachment,

then (alone) that path is to be sought, treading
which they do not return again, (thinking) I seek
refuge in that Primordial Man from whom of old
streamed forth active (relativist) manifestation.


These verses explain further the nature of the tree. It is
not to be taken as something definitely fixed or concrete.
It is of the order of a comprehensive philosophical vision
referring to the world of relativist interests in all values
and in all their bearings and aspects together.

Even such a vision is not given to ordinary people of the
world, especially where it concerns its origin and termination.
How it holds itself in a realistic or pragmatic sense in the
world of action, is indicated by the word sampratishtha

Verse 3 goes on to say that all these values, including
some very dear to the context of Vedic religion, at least as
understood till the time of the Gita, have to be mercilessly
cut down. The roots are called suvirudha (strongly-fixed)
and, in view of the fact that some roots go downward and
the main root is from above, it is legitimate to think that
when it is recommended to cut these roots, both sets of
roots are included.

On one side man is attached to values belonging to the pure
domain of the holy and, at the other extremity there is
a multiple tangle of minor items of ancestral, tribal, caste
or other instinctive, traditional values which bind the spirit
of man as much as the purer religious ideas that have roots
above. These two sets of roots are to be cut down by the
asangasastram (weapon of non-association, non-attachment).
This weapon has to be strong and suggests that the
non-attachment has to be decisive and determined and not of
a lukewarm kind.

When all these conditions have been fulfilled, then only
is a person ready, according to Verse 4, to tread the other
path which is called padam tat (that way).

The difference between the former relativist path and the
present one is indicated by one expression only which is
meant to make all the difference between them. This
difference consists in that while in the former path the spirit
would be caught in a cyclic process which would bring it
back to human birth, as stated in ix, 20 and 21, in the latter
case there is no question of return at all.


Jva nivartanti bhuyah (no return at all) is a familiar idiom
in the Upanishads and in allied writings. It distinguishes the
Absolute way from the way of cyclic relative existence called
samsara. To distinguish between these two ways is of crucial
importance in understanding the import of the Upanishads
and higher contemplative literature in general, including the
Gita, which itself definitely belongs to this category.

The adyam purusha (Primeval Man) in Verse 4 seems to introduce
something of a religio-mythical imagery not in keeping with the
purity of the way and the vision suggested by these two verses.
But when we remember that this chapter is intended to extol the
Supreme spirit which transcends the other two purushas (spirits)
spoken of in Verse 16 later, we can see that the reference here
is to bring the discussion in line with the subject of this
chapter by referring to both the aspects.

Verse 18 further mentions that such a Supreme spirit is not
unknown even to the Vedas (although the Vedas are mainly
dualistic or relativist) for it is implied in the references to
the Vedas to the monotheistic one God, often called ekadeva
(the Most High God).

In its visible aspects, the creative vision is comparable to
a stream. In the favourite Vedantic simile of a mirage, it
is normal to speak of water or a stream emerging out of the
illusion. The pravrittih prasrita (streaming, manifesting) that
the visible here represents, has its agent behind it known
mythologically as the Primeval Man.

The cyclic existence of relative life is the activity initiated
by this Primeval Man. When the purushottaman (Supreme Spirit)
of this Chapter is meditated upon as such a One behind,
and not as part and parcel of relative existence, such an
adoration cannot be considered as outside the scope of an
absolutist way pictured here. The mythological reference does
not compromise the absolutist character of the vision


nirmanamoha jitasangadosha
adhydtmanityd vinivrittakamah
dvandvair vimuktdh sukhaduhkhasamjnair
gachchhanty amudhdh padam avyqyam tat

Those who are neither proud nor deluded, who have overcome the
evil of attachment, who are ever constant to that (value)which
pertains to the Self, whose passions are withdrawn, who are
beyond the opposing


dual factors known as pleasure-pain, and who are non-foolish,
wend that way of life which knows no decay.

Further attributes of a man who conforms to the absolutist
way of life recommended in the previous verse are given here.
These should be taken to be minimal rather than maximal
requirements. The reference to being without manah (pride)
and mohah (delusion), for example, touches the same perceptual
stratum of the personality as revealed in xiii, 7, where
amanitvam (absence of social pride) is mentioned as the first

The expression adhyatmanitya [constant to the (value)
that pertains to the Self refers to a factor more subjective
than the anahamkara (egolessness) of xiii, 8. As the atma
(Self) is identical with the Absolute, the persons referred to
here may be said to belong to the absolutist way rather than
to the relativist.

Dvandva (dual opposing factors) which is different from
duality philosophically understood, refers to such examples
as those given in xiii, 6, like desire-aversion, and pleasure-
pain, etc. Heat-cold may also be cited as such an opposing
pair of dual factors. The unitive way of the absolutist is
marked by dealing with these pairs indifferently as
belonging to the necessary context of existence.
The term amudhah (non-foolish) marks the lowest limit
of the minimal requirements for walking in the path of
wisdom. To be sufficiently intelligent is the minimum for

The epithet avyayam (unexpended, eternal) as applied to
the state or path of the Absolute, also marks the lowest
limiting factor which differentiates the Absolute from the

The two purushas (spirits) are seen to be differentiated
on the same basis in Verse 16 later.


na tad bhasayate suryo
na sasanko na pavakah
yad gatva na nivartante
tad dhama paramam mama

The sun does not illumine That, nor the moon nor the fire;
That is My supreme abode, from which, having reached, they
return not.


Here follows a description of the supreme Absolute highly
reminiscent of almost similar words in the Katha
Upanishad, 15;


Mundaka Upanishad xi, ii, 10; Svettasvatara Upanishad vi,
14 and Maitri Upanishad vi, 24. The non-phenomenal or
super-phenomenal nature of the Absolute is particularly
stressed here. The word paramam (supreme) however,
gives a transcendental slant to the description, which is to
be quickly balanced by the next verse. Verses 12 and 13
later also refer to the transcendental and ontological aspects
of the Absolute in more concrete terms, bringing them
closer to reality or phenomenal existence. The top of the
holy fig tree might correspond to what is implied, while the
bottom of the same tree might apply to what follows in the
next verse.


mamai 'va 'mso jivaloke
jivabhutah sanatanah
manah shashthani 'ndriyani
prakritisthani karshati

A qualitative unit even of Mine which is eternal, having
become life in the world of life, attracts (to itself)
the senses - of which the mind is the sixth - which abide
in nature.


The supreme Absolute of the previous verse descends, as
it were, to where nature operates, and there attracts to itself
the mind and the senses, without itself losing its pure status
as a value, as indicated clearly by the word sanatana
(eternal). The emphasis on eva (even) underlines this fact,
so that the reader may not miss it.

The loka (world) which consists of jivas (living beings)
may be said to belong to both the higher world of life as an
abstract principle and to life expressed through nature.
It is said here that the Absolute first becomes or, in other
words, descends downwards to this dichotomous world of
life, and what it does there is expressed by the word
karshati (attracts). What it attracts is also clearly stated.
First it attracts from nature the mental qualities belonging to
nature, then the five others, which are the senses, to which
mind itself is the sixth and more central factor. As indicated
by the word prakritisthani (abiding in nature) all these
items belong to nature.

Life which is an expression of the Absolute belonging to
it, and homogeneous with it, is here said to form part of it,
although strictly the Absolute cannot be thought of as
having a part, just as quality cannot have any parts. As the
spark of a


fire is qualitatively the same as the fire, there is no real
change implied. Sankara gives the example of sunlight seen
through reflection, which is the same as the sunlight directly
perceived, but there is nothing corresponding to reflection
here in this verse and to that extent the example is

The Absolute, while still retaining its quality as the
Absolute, here becomes jiva (life) which attracts its nature-
counterparts. The individual soul as a partial expression of
the Absolute can belong only to the kshetra (field) or actual
side belonging to nature. We tend to agree with Ramanuja
when he places the senses and the mind on the side of
nature, and when he says that the soul is an actual
qualitative unit of God, the Absolute.

Many writers have tended to transfer the spark or portion
of the Absolute which pertains to jiva (life) to the lower
nature of the Absolute, but vii, 5, makes it clear that life
belongs to the transcendental aspect and not to the lower
aspect. There is no harm in the former view if the
implications of xiii, 26 are properly understood. Even in the
light of what is contained in this present chapter, in the
next two verses, where the counterparts of the attraction are
clearly stated, we can see that the attracting element, taking
possession of the mind and the senses, belongs to the side
of Isvara (God) corresponding to kshetrajna (the knower of
the field) or the perceptual, rather than to kshetra (the field)
or the actual.

How a neutral Brahman (the Absolute) could attract the senses
or be attracted by them is a problem of the utmost delicacy,
as admitted by the author in Verses 10 and 11. It corresponds
to the implications of the similar delicate theory of Cartesian


Sariram yad avapnoti
yach cha 'py utkramati
'svarah grihitvai 'tani samyati
vayur gandhan iva 'sayat

When the Lord takes a body and when He leaves
it, He takes these (mind and senses) and goes even
as the wind gathering scents from their retreats.


Verses 8 and 9 contain a theory about one of the most
puzzling features of philosophical inquiry: how nature and
mind interact and whether it is in the form of a mere
psycho-physical parallelism. These are questions which
have been problems


for both philosophers and psychologists, and modern
experimental psychology has not brought us any nearer
to the solution. Bold biological approaches have also
been made by eminent scientists like Schrodinger.
Heredity itself is only vaguely understood, and the
transmission of specific qualities from parents to
progeny is located in the chromosomes or polar bodies.
Some have gone further and named more subtle media in
the transmission of parental characteristics.

In India itself reincarnation has been theorized about in
various ways. Some speak of a subtle or astral body which
is able to float in the atmosphere. Others rely on memory
factors. None of them, however, is as pointed and simple
as that presented in these two Verses 8 and 9, which is
as far as normal intelligence can delve into the matter.
In Verse 8 the most important point to notice is that there
is a reference on the one hand to subtle retreats where
certain factors can lie dormant, and on the other hand a
reference to something expansive like the wind which can
carry away these very subtle factors in their own kinetic
form. Further clarification of how this is done is very
cleverly accomplished by bringing in the analogy of a
flower and its scent.

The flower as a part of a mere vegetable cannot by itself
diffuse its dormant subtle quality of scent. It requires
somebody to smell it. No rose can itself be the enjoyer of
its own perfume. Thus the joy of the scent implies an agent
external to the flower. Sunshine and wind playing on the
flower make a dormant smell-principle express itself as
a value called scent which we can appreciate.

A subtle interaction of the counterparts is therefore
implied here, and where this takes place is just that point
where the kshetra (field) or actual meets the kshetrajna
(knower of the field) or the perceptual.

While it is easy to imagine how the Lord here can take
subtle perceptual smell-factors away from their fine retreats
when he goes away to another body, it is somewhat harder
to imagine how, in taking a body, he brings the sense-
qualities to bear on the nature side. This is left to the
imagination of the contemplative reader in this verse. When
we know that it is only the perceptual aspect of a smell-
value that is involved in this statement, it is not too
difficult to fill in the gap by ourselves.


srotram chakshuh sparsanam cha
rasanam ghranam eva cha
adhishthaya manas cha 'yam
vishayan upasevate


Presiding over the car, the eye and touch, taste and smell,
and also the mind, this one avails himself of the values
relating to the senses.


The doubt which was left in Verse 8 is somewhat cleared
here where the converse process is stated. It is as a
presiding principle, as the term adhishthaya (presiding over)
definitely suggests, that ayam (this one) i.e., the Lord,
approaches its own counterpart in nature. The relation will
be clarified further if read with xiii, 22.

Even when we admit that the presiding principle of the
kshetrajna (knower of the field) or the perceptual is closely
put in contact with the mind and the five senses, we have to
imagine a thin film at least separating it from being mixed
with the kshetra (the field) or the actual side. It has been
pointed out in xiii, 34, that the nature of the separation
between the perceptual and the actual requires the eye of
wisdom to understand, and in xiii, 2, that it constitutes the
core of wisdom itself The two verses following the present
one underline the same difficulty.

Besides the status of merely presiding over the senses,
when the Lord even makes use of the senses, as meant by
the term upasevate (avails himself), there is a certain degree
of indirectness implied between the Lord or kshetrajna
(knower of the field) or the perceptual principle itself and
the senses as such. How the contact between the two
compartments is established remains as much a mystery as
ever. The purest notion of the Absolute knows no duality,
and it is through the mediation of this most subtle of
principles that the interaction may be said to be established.


utkramantam sthitam vi 'pi
bhunjanam va gunanvitam
vimudha nd 'nupasyanti
pasyanti jnanachakshushah

Whether departing, staying or experiencing, conditioned
(as they are) by the modalities of nature, the foolish
cannot see; the wisdom-eyed can see.


Here we find a new reference to the three gunas
(modalities of nature) dealt with in the last chapter. When
the perceptual presiding principle which belongs to the
kshetrajna (knower of the field) avails itself of sense-values
as stated in the last verse, besides being conditioned by the
specific values of each sense itself, it is also conditioned by
the modalities of nature which imply greater or lesser
attachment to sense-values, according to the dominance of
one or other of the three.

When rajas (affective-active) modality of nature prevails,
sensuality has a magnified value; when sattva (pure-clear)
modality prevails, sense-values occupy the background of
consciousness; and when tamas (inert-dark) modality
prevails, each sense-value tends to be magnified beyond
any limitations that actuality might impose.

This kind of contact varies also in kind or degree, depending on whether the Lord is departing, staying or enjoying life. When all these variants, due to gunas (modalities of nature), involved in departing, or with stages of life, and depending, upon each of the senses or mind-values, have to be thought of as in operation simultaneously, the mode of operation becomes difficult, even for a philosopher, to vividly picture to himself. It requires the eye of wisdom,    the penetrative and intuitive vision, of a wise man, which only rare individuals possess.


yatanto yoginas chai 'nam
pasyanty atmany avasthitam
yatanto 'py akritatmano
nai 'nam pasyanty achetasah

The yogis striving also perceive this One established in
the Self; though striving, those yogis of imperfected Self,
lacking wisdom, do not see this One.


Penetrating into the subtle way whereby nature and spirit
interact is not within the usual normal vision even of yogis.
True yogis may attain to it by effort, but yogis who lack
intelligence, being consequently unfinished or imperfected
products of the discipline of Yoga, cannot attain to this

In other words this verse suggests that yogic perfection
has complementary to it an element of wisdom. Inasmuch
as it constitutes a discipline belonging to the kshetra (the
field, or actual) Yoga has to be met by its complementary


which must include wisdom in its composition to add the
final touches of perfection to the best of yogis.

The striving mentioned here covers this crowning wisdom-
element which normally is not within the reach of the yogi
as such. Wisdom and Yoga have to go hand in hand to achieve
the desired insight here. As Sankara suggests, the pride of
a yogi is an impediment to his vision. As long as he is proud
he is not wise in the sense inclusive of both actual and
perceptual factors. As stated in xiii, 7, as the first of the
requirements for insight, the truly wise is without pride.


yad aditayagatam tejo
jagad bhasayate 'khilam
yach chandramasi yach cha 'gnau
tat tejo viddhi mamakam

That brilliance which reaches the sun and brightens the
whole world, that which is in the moon and the fire too,
that brilliance know to be of Me.


From this verse up to Verse 15 forms a section which is
meant to bring the two aspects of the Spirit discussed in
this chapter into one unified vision.

Two aspects of reality are indicated in Verses 12 and 13,
in referring to sun, moon and fire on the one hand, and on
the other hand to more ontological aspects of reality such as
the soil or earth, plants, etc. If we should think of these
realities as representing values, we can imagine a line
connecting the two sets.

In Verse 14 there is reference to the fire of life which
digests food, as a middle value between these two extremities,
because it is both physiological in its function and
cosmological in its derivation. In Verse 15 the meeting-
point of all values is located in the heart of man, and
understood in terms of consciousness, with its prospective
and retrospective aspects included.

Thus in a vertical line the whole range of possible values,
cosmological, ontological or psychological are all included
in these verses, so as to form one comprehensive vision.
The expression mamakam (mine) in Verse 12, suggests
that the light of the luminaries is not to be understood as
actual light as in physics but as the value-principle implied
in luminosity.


The expression adityagatam (gone to or reaching the sun)
would suggest that the Absolute here is at the centre of the
universe radiating light to the luminaries at the periphery.
The centralizing of the Absolute in the heart of man in Verse
15 and even more mechanistically in xviii, 61, takes place
progressively from this chapter onwards.


gam avisya cha bhutani
dharayamy aham ojasa
pushnami chau 'shadhih
sarvah somo bhutva rasatmakah

Permeating the earth, I sustain all elemental existences by
(My) vitalizing heat-principle, and become soma (king of
herbs of the Vedas) identical with sap (or taste); I also
nourish all herbs.


Soma (a plant mentioned in the Vedas) covers many ontological values, such as its juice which is the life-giving drink of the gods. It can refer to Shakespeare's "watery moon", suggesting some principle of vitality or eroticism. Soma is also the presiding principle of the plant-world in general. From the potency attributed to it, it can be called a rare herb, the chief of all medicinal plants. It is stated here also that its essential nature is to be understood as identical with rasa (taste). Thus it covers values belonging to the lower nature of the Absolute, as mentioned in vii, 4, already once explained in vii, 8 and 9.

The reference to aushadhih (medicinal herbs) taken together
with sarvah (all) may mean every plant that has some potency
making it valuable to man, not excluding even food-crops such
as wheat and rice.

The word ojas (vitalizing heat-principle) one of whose
meanings as "vital warmth" puts it in line with the fire of
life in the next verse, is not to be understood as just brute
strength or vitality, but as a subtle principle traversing and
strengthening all life. It is both invisible and ineffable. The
soil is the supporter of life and life itself implies the values
that all the other elements superior to the earth represent.


aham vaisvanaro bhutva
praninam deham asritah
pranapana samayuktah
pachamy annam chaturvidham

Having become the fire of life and resorting to the body of
living creatures, uniting with the ingoing and outgoing vital
energies, I cook (digest) the four kinds of food.


The fire analogy still continues in this verse. This time it is
the very real fire which digests food. It is found in all men,
as the term vaisvanara (universal man) suggests. Such a fire
located in the stomach is spoken of in the Brihadaranyaka
Upanishad v, 9; Maitri Upanishad xi, 6, vi, 17, etc. Here the
reference to praninah (breathing, living) extends the field of
operation of this digestive fire to all beings, instead of only
to men.

Sankara suggests that what the fire consumes is the soma,
the juicy essence of the plant of that name. Here the four
kinds of food cannot be soma juice, since the latter appears
to be a liquid only, for the kinds of food must be based on
solidity and other qualities as well.

That the prana (vital energies) enter into this process of
digestion and that there is a balance between the opposing
ingoing and outgoing vital energies is also suggested here.


sarvasya cha 'ham hridi samnivishto
mattah smritir jnanam apohanam cha
vedais cha sarvair aham eva vedvo
vedantakrid vedavid eva cha 'ham

And I am seated in the heart of all; from Me are memory and,
(positive) wisdom and its negative process; I am that which
is to be known by all the Vedas; I am indeed the Vedanta-maker
and the Veda-knower too.


The unitive way of referring to the Absolute is finalized in
this verse where the Absolute is located in the heart of all.
It is not the physiological organ called the heart, but the
representative of the centre of consciousness. Memory may
be said to radiate retrospectively and other rays are directed
to knowledge of a positive kind, called here jnana (wisdom,
positive), and its negative process, called here apohanam
(negative way of wisdom, doubt-removing). The latter expression
is well-known in Vedanta as the neti-neti (not this, not this!)
method, otherwise apavada (eliminative method).


If jnana (positive wisdom) implies an ascent, apohana
(negative process of wisdom) would imply the reverse. If
the Supreme Absolute here is brought back to refer to the
normal Self, then such a reverse process in knowing could
be called apohana.

The Absolute implied in the Vedas is what comes within
the province of the three gunas (modalities of nature) as
stated in ii, 45. The Absolute viewed from the relativist
angle is implied by the words vedaih...vedyah (to be known
by the Vedas).

In the two expressions vedantakrid (Vedanta-maker) and
vedavid (Veda-knower) there is a transposition of adjectives
contrary to what is usual. Veda being karma kanda (section
on works) the word krid (maker) would be more suitable in
the latter's content of ritual and obligations. Vedanta is
more concerned with the higher criticism of wisdom, with no
question of action in it. But the krid (maker) is here applied
to it, which is somewhat puzzling. Perhaps the author has
the intention of referring to the Veda rid of its own
obligatory aspect, thus equating it with Vedanta which,
as presented in the Gita, is not without its own stress
on practice.

There are certain statements in the Vedas which do not
refer to action, and likewise certain aspects of Vedanta
which, do involve practice. these attributes tend to give
a neutral, central position to the Absolute between the two
purushas (spirits) of the next verse, in order to indicate
an Absolute which transcends both, as in Verse 17.


dvav imau purushau loke
ksharas chi 'kshara eva cha
ksharah sarvani bhutani
kutastho 'kshara uchyate

There are two Persons in the world, the Changing and the
Changeless; the Changing comprises all beings, and the
mysteriously-fixed is called the Changeless.


After so many references to dual aspects of the Absolute, it
would hardly be necessary to add to them here by reference
to two purushas (spirits). But there is an implicit revolution.
In the first place both are called purusha (spirit, person),


gives them each equal status, unlike the purusha (spirit)
opposed to prakriti (nature) of the Samkhya (rationalist)
philosophy, where it is in opposition as a polarity. The
duality which it was necessary to retain for purposes of
methodical development of the finalized notion of the
Absolute, as we have seen in some of the previous
chapters, where the higher and lower nature of Absolute
and where the kshetrajna (knower of the field, the
perceptual) and the kshetra (the field, actual) together
with purusha (spirit) and prakriti (nature, matter) were
distinguished, is now discarded in favour of a completely
unified concept which emerges finally in the next two

As we have said, the idea of a higher and lower Absolute
is not unfamiliar to us, as implied in xiv, 3, where the
mahad brahma (Great Absolute) is called the womb of all

There was a subtle duality as between the sexes found there,
which is now abolished in favour of two purushas (spirits,
persons) both of which are masculine. They are here values
of equal status, only different in that one is "changing"
and the other is changeless.

The term kutasthah (rock-seated or one veiled in mystery)
is applied to the akshara (changeless) aspect of the
Absolute, while what is changeful is applied to all beings.
How these two are counterparts of the one Supreme Person
of Verse 18 is a paradox or a mystery, similar to the relation
between the large and the small, the one and the many, the
infinite and the finite, etc., of Zeno the Eleatic. All that
we can gather definitely from this verse is that there is an
aspect of the Absolute subject to the process of becoming,
and another purer aspect, more mysterious and not subject
to such a flux, change or becoming. To whatever aspect or
class the Absolute might refer, these have an equal status.

Note: Since the duality of purusha (spirit) and prakriti
(nature) has been transcended at this point, we shall
henceforward be translating the word purusha by "person"
and not spirit to bring out the equality of status assigned
to these two purushas, or to both the higher and the lower
aspects of the Absolute.


uttamah purushas tv anyah
paramatme 'ty udahritah
yo lokatrayam avisya
bibharty avyaya isvarah

That Person Paramount, however, is another, called the
Supreme Self who, the eternal Lord, pervading the three
worlds sustains them.


That the Absolute pertains to another order than that of the
relative has been sufficiently stressed in this chapter
itself, when it is insisted in Verse 3 that the fig tree,
however holy or valuable in a religious context, had to be
hewn down before the other path could be trodden. Here the
word anyah (other) stresses the same difference. The vision
of the two purushas (persons) of the previous verse is as far
as our relativistic reason can take us; but beyond the duality
is a value that effectively covers and comprehends the values
represented by the two Persons there.

This Supreme Person is equated with paramatman (the Paramount
Self). By being so understood, this notion here does not suffer
in the theological status that belongs to it, as the all-pervading
Lord and Supporter of the universe.

The lokatrayam (three worlds) refer to levels of values
known on earth, in the middle regions and in heaven. The
implication is that all values come within the range of this
Supreme Principle.


yasmat ksharam atito 'ham
aksharad api cho 'ttamah
ato 'smi loke vede cha
prathitah purushottamah

Because I transcend the Changing and am even superior to the
Changeless, there I am celebrated in the world and in the Veda
as the Paramount Person (purushottama).


Here it is pointed out that the notion of purushottama
(Paramount Person) is both popularly in use and, what is
more, that it is recognized in the Veda itself. The idea is
not an original invention of Vyasa based on any special
philosophy of his own, but one that has obtained tacit
recognition in the world and even in the Vedas which are
mainly relativist in their conception of divinity.


yo mam evam asammudho
janati purushottamam
sa sarvavid bhajati mam
sarvabhavena bharata


He who, undeluded thus knows Me, the Paramount Person, he,
the all-knower, adores Me in all aspects, 0 Bharata (Arjuna).


The expression sarvavid (all-knower) as applied to one who
knows the Paramount Person specifically described here is
justifiable, since all possible aspects of the Absolute
have been comprehended in the notion. Similarly the
expression sarva bhavena (in all aspects) underlines the
objective side of the same description. Both the subjective
and the objective aspects of the Absolute are said to be
comprehended here in the description of the Absolute
contained in this chapter.


iti guhyatamam sastram
idam uktam maya 'nagha
etad buddhva buddhiman syat
kritakrityas cha bharata

Thus, this most secret doctrine has been taught by Me, 0 Sinless 0ne (Arjuna); understanding this, one becomes wise, and one who has done with all works, 0 Bharata (Arjuna).


In this last verse the teaching here is called most secret.
The Gita itself is to be looked upon as a sastra (scientific
and philosophical treatise) and this chapter especially,
according to this verse is also so called because the
discussion is of high philosophic import, and may be said
to contain the finalized doctrine of the Gita as far as
philosophy is concerned, the ethical, religious and other
values being discussed in other chapters.

Krishna asks Arjuna not only to be illuminated, but also
to feel that his work is done, as suggested by the expression
kritakritva (one of accomplished work). In other words, by
understanding the full import of this chapter as intended by
the author, there is no need any more, either to follow the
injunctions of the Vedas or to tax one's brain by any further
philosophical inquiry. Matters of obligatory duties and
theoretical research are both here terminated.


ity srimad bhagavadgitasupanishatsu brahmavidyayam
yogasastre srikrishnarjunasamvade
purushottamayoga nama panchadaso '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 Fifteenth Chapter
entitled The Unitive Approach to the Paramount Person.