Samkhya Yoga

When we scan this chapter it is striking to note first of all that Arjuna's conflict is carried over from the previous chapter, where we should normally have expected it to terminate. The literary device of a Samjaya talking to a Dhritarashtra is again introduced. Krishna himself tries to arouse Arjuna from his apparent inertia or lethargy by sharp stinging expressions; but Arjuna, instead of being cowed down by them, justifies himself further in a manner that reflects a certain state of abandonment. The metrical change in Verses 5 to 8 indicates this. This is usual throughout the work wherever it rises to a pitch of rhapsody, where factors of feeling dominate. Arguments as such are thrown into the background. The rishi (sage-seer) style as found in the Vedas comes into evidence unmistakably. Here the structure of the verses attains a new dialectical perfection, reciprocal expressions being used with a striking symmetry, neutralizing factors or values into a vague sense of wonder of the numinous. Arjuna himself thus attains a new status in this chapter, as a representative contemplative disciple who belongs to the Guru-sishya context proper. The word sishya (disciple) is expressly used to refer to this new status in Verse 7.

In Verse 8 the nature of Arjuna's doubt is no longer mistakable. He says categorically that nothing on this earth nor in heaven will cure him of his painful conflict. He is not unlike Nachiketas of the Katha Upanishad who refuses boons belonging to the relativist world. In fact the structure of all the Upanishads reveals the same initial attitude of a disciple in one form or another. Arjuna's conflict, condition and attitude are no exception. From the mere emotion of the first chapter, here in the second chapter it attains the status of a philosophical doubt which he himself is quite capable of stating consciously and precisely in conformity with other shastras (textbooks).



The nature of his sorrow is such as to dry up the indriyas or senses collectively. He is numbed or dazed intellectually, while in the previous chapter his mouth was parched and he was trembling. We should understand, from the difference between Arjuna in these two phases in these two chapters, that the author in this second chapter enters into the subject proper. This is where the Gita-Acharya (teacher) begins the role of a Guru, instead of being merely a charioteer who brings Arjuna's chariot into the midst of the ranged armies.

Krishna's role as an acharya is thus inaugurated properly with Verse 11. The smile on his lips in Verse 10 is characteristically in contrast with the pessimistic state of Arjuna who is gloomy and pensive. Between this bright smile and the tedium vitae is to take place presently a normal dialectical revaluation of wisdom values.

The value under the caption Samkhya (rationalism) is what is indicated as the general overall concluding title of this chapter. But we find that Verse 39 draws a line between two distinct parts of the chapter itself. This, however, is no objection, as the first part is a revaluation of Samkhya (heterodox rationalist school) in terms of Yoga, and the second part is called buddhi yoga (rationalism treated again dialectically, i.e. as a Yoga). Buddhi yoga, which in essence is also rational, is here also stated in revalued terms as a Yoga. This intriguing term will be defined later in this chapter. The title Samkhya Yoga (Unitive Reasoning) for the whole chapter is therefore not unjustified. If we should expect to find the pure Samkhya of Kapila in the earlier part of the chapter, we shall be disappointed. This has been a fecund cause of confusion on the part of several critics of the Gita (e.g. Edgerton and Raju) who discredit the Gita as a systematic treatise on this score. The Gita has an inner structure of its own, and each chapter (as we have stated in the Introduction) has its own frame of reference.

A growing number of Western professors, among whom must be included many of their disciples who happen to be Indians, make the inexcusable error of thinking that the Gita is a theistic religious classic rather than a philosophical treatise, a smriti (code of laws as of Manu, Yajnavalkya, Parashara, etc.) or dharma-shastra (textbook of social obligations) rather than a shruti (revealed wisdom-utterance) or upanishad (wisdom-teaching of a Guru).

When the discussion or samvada which is a philosophical discourse between Guru and sishya opens properly in this


second chapter, such a view is glaringly belied, for here we see that the discussion enters into the very heart of rationalism which is philosophy and cannot possibly be conceived to be either theological or religious in the plain meaning of these terms. Full examination of the other chapters will enable us to establish firmly the fact that the Gita is first and foremost a philosophical work and that the references to matters of religious practice are only incidental and non-obligatory, covering aspects of applied wisdom only.

Samkhya (rationalism) when treated unitively attains the status of a Yoga, and buddhi (pure reason), when employed to reconcile counterparts, also attains to the same Yoga status. That Samkhya and Yoga are the same has been plainly stated in v, 4-5. No possible doubt should remain about this as far as the author Vyasa's attitude towards the two schools is concerned.


samjaya uvacha
tam tathi kripaya vishtam
vishidantam idam vakyam
uvacha madhusudanah


Samjaya said:
To him who was thus filled with tenderness (kripa) whose eyes were filled with tears, and agitated and who was in distress, the Destroyer of Madhu (Krishna) spoke these words:


Kripaya avishtam: The usual meaning given is that Arjuna was "overcome with pity ". We should notice that the phrase kripaya paraya vishto has already appeared in. i, 28. The kripa, "pity", there has sometimes been interpreted as kripaya-aparaya "non-transcendental pity"- correctly enough according to the rules of Samskrit grammar -  but we need not stretch the meaning so far to see the distinction implied between the qualified kripa of the first chapter and the plain kripa here. Further, the word comes from the same root from which the word karpanya "negative state of spirit"in 11, 7 is derived. If we note further the expression in ii, 49 - kripanah phalahetavah (end-motivated persons are poor), we can see that the term is used irrespective of the subject or object of pity. Here in this


verse it is unqualified pity as distinct from pity for relations in an actual historical context as in Chapter i. This difference will become more definite philosophically with the words of Arjuna in the next verse.

Here the emotion of Arjuna undergoes some slight sublimation as we can see by comparison with i, 47. There he is just obstinate; here he melts into tears. The process of sublimation later on enables him to formulate his inner conflict in the form of a finalized doubt in Verse 6, supported by a variety of dialectics of his own so masterfully enunciated in Verse 5. The visible aspects of Arjuna's inner conflict are graphically described in the phrase asrupurnakulekshanam (with both eyes agitated and filled with tears). He has become immobile here in all other respects except for his eyes. This detailed description makes him stand on the threshold of a truly contemplative life, as the agitation of the eyes being due to doubt only, affiliates him more closely to the context of contemplation.

The meaning of the vishada (conflict) should also be understood in the sense of being nearer to a doubt than to any gross emotion.

Madhusudana (Slayer of Madhu) as applied to Krishna, balances with Arjuna here as a non-combatant warrior in the field.


sribhagavan uvacha
kutas tva kasmalam idam
vishame samupasthitam
anaryajustam asvargyam
akirtikaram arjuna


Krishna said:
In (the midst of this) difficulty whence comes to you this dejection, typical of non-Aryans (anarya), heaven-barring and disreputable, 0 Arjuna?

Here the double literary device at the beginning of this chapter, of Samjaya reporting the actual dialogue in Verse 1 and again in Verse 9, as if the curtain drops and rises twice before the actual dialogue - the central samvada proper which is to hold the stage - which begins properly in Verse 11, has its own significance. It is in the light of this dramatic structure



that we must interpret the meaning of Verses 2 and 3 particularly; otherwise the second line here which refers to factors such as svarga (heaven) and kirti (social reputation) and anaryajushtam become inexplicable.

The imperative need for action in this critical situation, considered here in actual historical terms, belongs to the canvas rather than the painting. To identify it with the proper teaching of the Gita as many have done (see our remarks on the realism of Sri Aurobindo in the Introduction) is unpardonable.

The phrase anaryajushtam (typical of non-Aryans) deserves pointed attention. From history we know that the Aryans subjugated India by grabbing more and more lands. The common amorphous matrix constituting the greater part of India proper has always suffered from an over-generous attitude which amounts to a form of defeatism. Sri Rama, the Aryanized king of Ayodhya, who penetrated southwards, was received everywhere, even by Guha, not to speak of rishis and ashram-ites such as Shabari, with great respect and cordiality instead of opposition, with offerings of roots and fruits. This passive or negative attitude characterized India even at the time of the invasion of Alexander, and has been confusing to the minds of all invaders ever since. We may even consider that in recent history Gandhi's "passive fight" was too much for the puzzled foreigners who have left India as much out of bewilderment as for any other reason. Such negativism has been expressed in many ways. Some yogis taken to Rome by conquerors are known to have publicly burned themselves to death. This marks the limit of such a negativist attitude. This is the essentially non-Aryan character referred to here.

Krishna is not opposed to this negative attitude, inasmuch as he preaches nivritti marga, the via negativa or path of negation proper to contemplation; but he wants it to be applied only in the domain of wisdom. In the field of action he employs ordinary reasoning when action should be countered by its reaction in the ordinary sense. That is why pointed reference is made here in this verse to the critical situation where the attitude of Arjuna becomes completely out of place, when we take into account how deeply Arjuna was actually involved or caught within the imperatively necessary aspects of the situation. He did not realize that he had hardly any margin of choice left.


klaibyam ma sma gamah partha
nai 'tat tvayy upapadyate
kshudram hridayadaurbalyam
tyaktvo 'ttishtha paramtapa


Give not yourself to impotence, 0 Partha (Arjuna). It does not befit you. Cast off this base faintheartedness; arise, 0 Terror of Foes!


Here Krishna further states his objections in piquant terms. He refers even to faintheartedness with a view to goading Arjuna to action in the given situation, although the epithet would hardly apply to the veteran hero. Krishna is not talking as a Gita acharya here at all, but rather as a charioteer and friend who finds his master in a confused plight, and therefore the further epithet kshudram (base), which would be too much ordinarily to be applied to Arjuna, becomes permissible only in the light of extreme familiarity and earnest interest in Arjuna as a friend. The word klaibyam (impotent) is also too much, if not seen in the light of camaraderie. Many persons who have written about the Gita have too easily taken the side of Krishna here, and wanted, as it were, to pat Arjuna on the back patronizingly. This privilege must be reserved for Krishna as a friend, or even for Krishna considered as a Gita acharya. But for pundits, patriots and politicians, of the rank and file who are not his comrades, to use this same patronizing tone towards Arjuna's attitude is, to say the least, out of place, as Arjuna's position is superior to all of them, and inferior to Krishna or a Guru of equal status only.


Arjuna uvacha:
katham bhishmam aham samkhye
dronam cha madhusadhana
ishubhih pratiyotsyami
pujarhav arisudana


Arjuna said:
How could I, 0 Slayer of Madhu (Krishna), encounter with arrows in battle Bhishma and also Drona who are worthy of worship, 0 Slayer of Foes (Krishna) ?


The definite and precise reference here by name, first to Bhishma and then to Drona, who are not Gurus in the same sense - Bhishma being only respected as a grandsire - but both equally covered by the title "worthy of reverence", sharpens Arjuna's doubt to a further degree. The instrument with which he is to fight them is also referred to; the relevance being that it was Drona who taught him archery, and it was to Bhishma that he could trace his physical prowess needed for archery. These factors, the arrows and the two enemies, are looked upon as counterparts in the same plane of actuality, thus paving the way for the argument in the next verse, which underlines the nature of the dilemma in greater detail.

The prefix prati (against) is used to accentuate the duality implicit in the situation, which seems to Arjuna to be absurd. It is in fact absurd to anybody, in the way Arjuna puts it, and it can only be reasonable in a fully revalued way of absolutism implied in xviii, 66 where all duties of relativist life are to be thrown away.


guran ahatva hi mahanubhavam
sreyo-bhoktum bhaikshyam api 'ha loke
hatva 'rthakamams tu gurun ihai 'va
bhunjiya bhogan rudhirapradighan


Desisting from the killing of the Gurus who are highly honourable, it would be more meritorious in this world even to have to eat of a beggar's pittance. Choosing (on the other hand) to kill these Gurus as fortune - seekers, I should be feasting even here on blood-stained benefits of life.


This verse shows Arjuna as one who can employ dialectics with a vengeance, leading to a doubly negative or unfavourable judgment. Duryodhana, who does not claim to be a dialectician, can stand on simpler, plainer and firmer ground. Arjuna's difficulty, which was hitherto stated strictly as within the domain of actuality that involved here-and-now values only, is in this verse restated with one important difference, indicated by the word sreyas (something morally or spiritually better) thus introducing for the first time into the discussion a positive spiritual value-factor and not merely worldly advantage.

Even as such it does not refer to life hereafter as the repetition of iha (here) clearly indicates. In fact it is Arjuna's


desire to be a better man even here itself which distinguishes him from Duryodhana. He is an aspirant or a candidate for wisdom, though still a realist.

The metrical structure of this verse is meant to reveal an emotional content rising to the pitch - though not of a rhapsody here - at least to that of a spiritual agony or angoisse.

The note of this agony is not unlike that of Yama (Death), the Guru in the Katha Upanishad, who wailingly pleads with the sishya Nachiketas to dissuade him from asking the final boon of all, respecting wisdom. There it is the Guru who wails, but it makes no difference to the quality of the rhetorical mode employed, which is common to both Guru there and sishya here.

Another peculiarity to note about this verse is that the same Gurus are referred to with almost opposite titles. In one place they are called mahanubhavas (people of great sympathy) and at another place arthakamaha (grabbers of goods).

This would seem paradoxical and, except in the light of the special dialectical structure that we have suggested, it would remain unresolved. In fact many have indeed mistranslated or misinterpreted the word arthakamaha "well-wishers" by Bhagavan Das.)

The word iha (here), appearing in its simple form in the second line, appears again, repeated in the third line more emphatically as iha eva (here itself), which cannot be looked upon as accidentally inserted by the author, Vyasa. It is just here that Arjuna's dialectic fails to work as applied to value-factors, because both these value components belong to an here and now order, but Arjuna has the excuse of speaking in this chapter as an empiricist or just as a rationalist. As a correct sceptic ought to be, he puts the question in its sharpest form as any practically-minded religious man even of our own times - scrupulous of life here - might do.

In either of the alternatives, still treated dualistically by Arjuna after the manner of the Nyaya-Vaiseshikas (logical-empiricists), or at best the Samkhyas (rationalists), the result for him is in the form of an adverse verdict. He must either suffer poverty or enjoy life with a sense of the guilt of having out-done a fellow-man. This doubly negative result is characteristic of a form of reasoning which appears very subtle at first sight, but is still tinged with the blemish of dualism - as Krishna will point out in due course. According to Krishna, who


is an absolutist, he is going to show how Arjuna can surmount his duality by the right use of dialectics, by applying this method only to unitive values which come within the scope of contemplation, and not merely for decisions between alternative advantages here in the world of multiplicity and action. Dialectics is conducive to unitive understanding only, and spoils the case when applied to ordinary situations in life where usual ratiocinative methods or logic would be the proper instrument to employ.

It might be well also for us to note that the expression ahatva "non-killing" is not enforced on Arjuna. It is a contingent factor from which he derives the theoretical consequences of poverty, etc., which factor and consequences are not directly connected as cause and effect. He is sentimental and speaks like a theoretical philosopher when a practical necessity confronts him. It is on this score that Krishna pulls him up quite readily in Verse 11.

Arjuna may be said to resemble a man who has a telescope, but who looks through the wrong end. Instead of ascending from the necessary to the contingent, he descends from factors which are not strictly of a necessary order to imaginary and conflicting necessities. He is simply overwhelmed by a logic of emotions which goes always contrary to the logic of pure reason, spoiling both natural spontaneity in emotion and purity of reason.


Na chai 'tad vidmah kataran no gariyo
yad va jayema yadi va no jayeyuh
yan eva hatva najijivishamas
te 'vasthitah pramukhe dhartarashtrah


Neither is it clear which would be of greater advantage to us: that we win or that they win over us. Killing whom we should no more wish to live, those very persons are standing ranged before us, the progeny of Dhritarashtra.


The confounding of reason and emotion comes out here, each factor having equal force. To add to the vagueness, there is the express use of the plural. He speaks now apparently almost as a representative of both the contending parties - thus indirectly thinking of the evils of war in most general terms.


His concern, however, to save humanity from the given effects of war, seems to overleap itself when he again points to the sons of Dhritarashtra - as if he is concerned more for them than for his own side, which commonsense should lead us to expect. Actually we find him more concerned for his enemies. This is because his logic is coloured by his emotions and he is carried beyond even the neutral ground of common-sense to an extreme position untenable either from common-sense or contemplative norms. His only excuse is perhaps that Bhishma and Drona, who belong to a spiritual context, are both ranged against him. They represent spiritual values but happen to be on the enemy side which already enjoys a majority.

Na jijivishama (we do not wish to live) - can only legitimately mean that he is concerned with humanity who must be impoverished by the extermination of spiritual leaders or Gurus. Note his plural again here by which he speaks for all, including his enemies and Krishna himself.

karpanyadoshopahat vabhavah
prichchhami tvam dharmasammudhachetah
yach chhreyah syan nischitam bruhi tan me
sishyas to 'ham sadi mam tvam, prapannam


Struck down by the evil of a tender disposition, with a mind confounded in regard to what is right to do, I ask you: that which is definitely more meritorious, that do indicate to me. I am your disciple; do discipline me coming thus for refuge to you.


Now the style reverts to the singular. Here Arjuna is able himself to state clearly the nature of his trouble: (1) that a negative state of mind has overtaken him and (2) that his reason is therefore clouded about the choice before him. These are the two factors involved. The cure for one is clearer reasoning (heterodox samkhya yoga). For the other the cure is the method of buddhi-yoga (orthodox rationalism treated unitively) which would make him more Aryan and relieve him of the sense of sin. These exactly are just the remedies to be applied by Krishna in the remainder of this chapter.

The word dharma (righteousness, connoting also inner tendencies to natural activity) is used by Arjuna both in the sense


of "conduct" as used by Buddhist writers, and in its purer psychological connotation.

Although a warrior's sense of honour is appealed to by Krishna in Verses 32-35 of this chapter, the main part of the chapter is concerned with rationalism of an "objective" order. The reference to honour, etc. fits into this chapter as the common-sense counterparts or corollaries of a rational matter-of-fact attitude.

The word shreyah (spiritually meritorious) again indicates a superior human value belonging to contemplative wisdom, especially when taken together with the word sishya (disciple), which makes him essentially not a warrior merely, but principally a wisdom-seeker. Also the word sadhi (teach) helps to confirm this way of looking at the situation. This is the cue for the samvada or Guru-sishya dialogue, which is to hold the stage.


na hi prapasyami mama 'panudyad
yach chhokamuchchhosanam indriyanam
avapya bhumav asapatnam riddham
rajyam suranam api cha 'dhipatyam


I cannot visualize either what could rid me of this distress which dries up the senses in this way - even should (it transpire that) I obtain unrivalled dominion of the earth's plenty or overlordship of the gods in heaven too.


The resemblance of Arjuna, who is here an equally thorough-going wisdom-seeker, to Nachiketas of the Katha Upanishad (to whom we have already referred) becomes unmistakably evident here. He is for the first time referring to heaven and lordship over the gods, which itself is strange inasmuch as till now he was thinking of negative factors only. He who preferred to be a mendicant begging his way now also refers to the uttermost limit of worldly prosperity. He rejects both of these possible futures because they are only relative values, while he seeks merit in an absolute sense. As a disciple in any other Upanishad, the implications in this verse must make it indubitably clear to the reader that the Gita is not concerned with conduct here, or even the relative heaven-determined values of the Vedas, but only with ultimate or absolute factors of supreme wisdom. Even the highest of the shining gods are to be left behind if Arjuna is to find satisfaction. If Krishna


refers in his teaching hereafter to Heaven and relativist values, they therefore become of incidental importance only (e.g. Verses xi. 32 and 37 mention heaven only for purposes of methodology. We shall clarify this in due course. It is enough to state here that this has nothing to do with the final teaching of the Gita).

Like the third boon of Nachiketas, Arjuna is not going to be satisfied with anything short of the highest wisdom, for he indicates here that only such wisdom can cure him of his agony of spirit. This condition of Arjuna is not symptomatic of any known pathological disease or psychological abnormality. It is only found expressed in such Guru-sishya textbooks as the "Vivekachudamani" of Sankara - where the disciple compares himself to an animal trapped in a raging forest-fire (Verse 36).


samjaya uvacha
evam uktva 'hrishikesam
gudakesah paramtapah
na yotsya iti govindam
uktva tushnim babhuva ha


Samjaya said:
Having spoken thus to Hrishikesa (Krishna), Gudakesa (Arjuna) the Terror of the Foe, saying, "I will not fight"to Govinda (Krishna), lapsed finally into silence.


tam uvacha hrishikesah
prahasann iva bharata
senayor ubhayor madhye
vishidantam idam vachah


On this Hrishikesa (Krishna), with a semblance of smiling, 0 Bharata (Dhritarashtra), spoke these words to him who was in grief between the two armies:


The Samjaya-Dhritarashtra device is used for these two verses only, for the express purpose of setting the stage for the impending full-dress discourse which starts at Verse 11, from which point onwards it becomes fully philosophical.

These verses reveal the attendant circumstances in the actual world most delicately counterpoised in every respect, thus forming the correct defined situation on firm ground, upon


whose basis the theoretical discussion can proceed. To the extent that the questioner is practically-minded, the answerer has to be downright conclusive in his reply. The concrete question requires an apodictic reply. It is tit for tat. Before the sweeping generalizations of Krishna follow, therefore, it is necessary to review in a short span the ensemble of the situation. These two verses serve that very purpose.

Hrishikesa and Gudakesa, balancing sound as well as meaning, suggest equality between Guru and disciple. Reference is also made in favourite terms to senayor ubhayor madhye (between two armies) to indicate the perfect neutrality of the absolutist way of life preached by the Guru Krishna. The smile of a Guru is the only actor differentiating him from the gloomy disciple.

Vachah (the word) is singular and not plural. This is most significant. All the words used in the chapter are supposed to be upavikyanam (elaborations of one central Word), the Verbum or Logos or the AUM as definitely stated in the Mandukya Upanishad. The same singular is strikingly repeated in x. 1 and xi. 1. So this cannot be just the accidental usage of the author, Vyasa.

Further, Arjuna definitely says "I will not fight "which hitherto he has not dared to say to Krishna. It is this brazen attitude which should justify the oft-repeated words of Krishna in later chapters, in which he seems to order Arjuna to fight. Although the Gita is free from obligatory injunctions, this style of speech here arises incidentally from Arjuna's words. To the extent that such an admonition is meant to counteract this obstinacy, it is in place. But the main character of such advice should be understood as permissive and never fully mandatory because vidhi or mandate is repugnant altogether to an Upanishad which is a shruti (revealed utterance of wisdom) and not a smriti (code of laws). Those who interpret such expressions as injunctions will find themselves completely in the wrong by the time they reach the end of the Gita, wherein Krishna finally says to Arjuna: "Do as you like "(xviii, 63) which, taken together with "abandon all duties "(xviii, 66) makes the non-mandatory character of the reference to fighting unequivocal. The various references to the subject of fighting will be dealt with as occasions arise. The reader however, must watch out for a gradation or change of sense even in the permissive or advisory character according to the proper context of each chapter.


Notice that Arjuna remains no whit less a warrior (Paramtapa means "Consumer of Foes"), in spite of his being silent. It is still the silence of a great hero and not that of a coward.

His doubt belongs to the realm of wisdom and not to his physical prowess. Sankara's long-drawn comment on this verse to establish that "knowledge alone, and not by knowledge conjoined with works" is the conclusive teaching of the Gita, could be taken for granted by us in the present commentary without any arguments, because we look upon the Gita as a "dialectical revaluation" of wisdom into which obligatory works do not enter at all. The Gita is not a Dharma Shastra or Smriti treating of obligatory injunctions. Any reference to such in the Gita is incidental to the narrative or discussion and is of a recommending or permissive character only and never of an obligatory character.

The term iva (as if) applied to the smile of Krishna is a peculiarity of the lingua mystica familiar in the Upanishads (e.g. Mundaka Upanishad, 1. 2 , 4-6) by which the edge is, as it were, taken off the actuality of the description, tending to make it more perceptual and thus more in keeping with a contemplative text.


Sribhagavan uvacha
asochyan anvasochas tvam
prajnavadams cha bhashase
gatasum agatasums cha
na 'nusochanti panditah


Krishna said:
You are sorry for those with whom sorrow is unreasonable. You speak in terms of reason too. Veritable philosophers (pandits) are not affected in regard to those whose breath has gone and those whose breath has not gone.


We begin the samvada (Guru-sishya dialogue on wisdom) noting straight away that it starts off in no uncertain words. The position of a thorough-going absolutist is stated for all it is worth, to be elaborated stage by stage afterwards. The second line of this verse has been much misunderstood and misinterpreted, seriously enough to vitiate and compromise


the whole message of the Gita in commentaries by people who did not realize that the Gita is based on dialectical reasoning and not on mere ratiocination.

Note the word cha (and) in this line which has invariably been taken to be identical or interchangeable with va (either-or). Though seemingly small, there is a world of difference between the two meanings. The latter meaning would be tantamount to upholding a model of a spiritual man who is indifferent or cold-h
earted when a person is dead, while the former meaning, which conforms to the text and is the only meaning possible here, supports a perfected wise man or pandit who has transcended both the aspects of life and death here, treated together, as inevitable dual sides of our relative life here and now. The Gita preaches ahimsa (non-hurting) in later chapters. Indifference in causing death is not therefore compatible with the teaching of the Gita at all. Gandhi's Gita commentary has made an effort to make this clear by other evidences of his own, which has left many people unconvinced. The delicate difference implied in this opening verse when properly understood would not require long-drawn arguments to bend the Gita to support any special doctrine of ahimsa which is only a natural corollary to the Gita's chief teaching of wisdom, as we shall have ample occasion to see.

The word panditah refers expressly, not to a man of action like Arjuna, but to men of wisdom, those who understand. Between the two lines of this verse - the first reflecting necessity, the second reflecting free contingency - the argument will be seen like a pendulum, now swinging to one side, now to the other. The wide-
awake student of the Gita should not be too hasty or hurried in deriving rigid snap judgments about what the Gita teaches from isolated verses, as has been done so often.


Note that sorrow is the central consideration on which the verse revolves. The concept of shoka (compassion) is the spiritual value with which the dialogue begins. The disparity between wisdom and sympathy, reason and emotion, is the subject for reconciliation - the one in terms of the other, retaining both unitively by Yoga. The duality between the two persists in Arjuna, producing a conflict or doubt which constitutes the major problem of the Gita as a whole.

That Arjuna himself has strongly-rooted rival theories about right and wrong, virtue and sin, is revealed in i. 40-45. Now that he seeks nothing short of absolute wisdom, as revealed in ii. 8, it


is in reference to these two incompatible attitudes; one being still relativist, the other belonging to wisdom, that Krishna here speaks outrightly, pointing out the anomaly of Arjuna's position.

In understanding the meaning of asochyan (those not to be grieved for) we have to be guided by the indications in Verse 5 above which refers to the Gurus, as well as by the absolutist ideas which follow immediately in this chapter.

Sankara suggests that the reference applies to such people as Bhishma and Drona and states "they deserve no grief for they are men of good conduct and are eternal in their real nature". Arjuna has enumerated in detail all those for whom he is concerned in i. 34. Even if the two Gurus are exempt from the pity normal to the situation, the case of all others who include good, bad and indifferent persons on both the sides (as explicitly mentioned in i. 27) is not covered by Sankara's explanation. There is an over-all answer to the question: "Who are the persons meant here as not deserving or incapable of being sympathetically thought of?" which is contained in this very Chapter (Verses 12 to 38 inclusive).

The same is again implied in xi. 33, where Krishna states that the men have already been killed by him and his (Arjuna's) killing is only incidental to the situation. This type of over-all absolutist argument need be resorted to only last of all. On the lines of Sankara's suggestion we could think of two groups to whom the remark can possibly apply.

These could be those emancipated from necessity by their intelligence and freedom of choice in action, like Bhishma and Drona who have deliberately chosen the path of war, and those like the rest of the rank and file caught helplessly in a general and imperative war situation. The former can take care of themselves and the latter cannot, even if they thought that war was an evil.


na tv eva 'ham jatu na 'sam
na tvam ne 'me janadhipah
na chai 'va na bhavishyamah
sarve vayam atah param

Further, never was I non-existent, nor you, nor these chiefs of men; neither shall we, all of us, ever cease becoming hereafter.


The initial line of argument adopted in this chapter is clearly indicated here. It makes the absolutist position more


striking than in the second line of Verse 11. It asserts at once the eternal existence not only of the individual (or in terms of a subjective soul), but of the whole group of humanity involved. In fact the whole situation, as we shall see shortly, is treated sub specie aeternitatis (under the category of the eternal) as Spinoza put it. The reference to the kings or chiefs of men as such, who are also, as it were, to be considered eternal, seems to be asking too much for us to believe. In so far as no king can really die ("The King is dead, Long Live the King!"), even this apparent exaggeration becomes justified.

This chapter expressly faces the problem from an apodictic or sharply matter-of-fact point of view. A bad disease needs a drastic remedy. The rot of confusion has to be stopped before it worsens. That is why the argument plunges without apology into the heart of the problem. The impossible character of the arguments thus become understandable.

Note also that eternity is conceived both retrospectively and prospectively. The inner logical or methodological order maintained is striking. Krishna refers to himself first. Even as plural entities, human beings are to be treated in the light of the eternal. The conflict between the one and the many can be resolved in the light of higher reasoning as elsewhere explained.



The approach of heterodox Samkhya is evidenced in these
verses but we should remember it is not Samkhya as Kapila
or even Ishvarakrishna presented it in the Samkhya Karika
that is here adhered to. The Gita restates Samkhya to suit its
own doctrine of the Absolute. In other words the Gita is a
dialectical revaluation in terms of Yoga of pure Samkhya as
such, without omitting the technical terms belonging to
Samkhya method and not entirely breaking away from the
epistemological frame of reference proper to the Samkhya
system. We should look here for a Samkhya-Yoga still
viewed from a heterodox angle, leaving the same to be
reviewed from an orthodox angle, with buddhi (pure reason
or intelligence) as a central value, in the second half of this
chapter, after Verse 39, and thereafter to be known under the
caption of buddhi-yoga - buddhi there being not essentially
different from the Samkhya attitude. Both buddhi and
Samkhya therefore are


covered by the general title Samkhya-Yoga without any real
contradiction, at the end of the chapter.


dehino 'smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanon jara
tatha dehantarapraptir
dhiras tatra na muhyati


As there is here in the body for the embodied, childhood,
youth, old age, so also the passing on to another body
in the same manner; those firm in mind are not thereby


Let us focus attention on the word dehi (body-owner or
author-agent). It almost suggests some entity like Launcelot
Gobbo's conscience which hangs at the neck of his heart,
having an almost empirical status so repugnant to the way of
thinking of the Buddhist Vijnanavadins, and no less so even
with Advaitins of the Gaudapada school. The apparent
grossness here is explicable, since any theoretical discussion
of a subject implies its own purva pakshin (anterior sceptic)
and, in order to convince a person, one has to meet him on
his own terms with his own background. The empiricism
has to be met by an empirical attribute if it is to be revalued.
Rationalistic heterodox Samkhya tended to realism. When
the inner man had to be distinguished clearly from the
physical man, it became necessary for the Gita to employ
the word dehi (body-owner) with the same realism which
we find accentuated, until by Verse 23 all vestiges of
materiality are abolished. But this abolition begins
significantly only after Verse 22, which again is a kind of
rhapsody where realism and idealism merge, as it were,
bursting into song.

This verse recommends a view of reality in the form of a
flux pertaining to a general process of becoming. Childhood,
youth and old age are three stages known even to
realists, which are to be viewed, not statically, but as
flowing organically in terms of duration. Time itself is not
yet abolished.

Rebirth is introduced as a natural consequence belonging
to the same order of flux or becoming. Metempsychosis is
therefore taken for granted as a natural corollary even of a
realistic and rationalistic attitude to life. The word dhira
here refers not merely to a brave man one a battlefield, but


more aptly refers to one who is capable of taking a firm
stand in a contemplative context. He is a man of intuition
and imagination and not a mere ratiocinator.


matrasparsas tu kaunteya
agamapayino 'nityas
tams titikshasva bharata


Momentary sense contacts on the other hand, 0 Kaunteya
(Arjuna), yielding cold-warmth, joy-pain, alternately
coming and going, are transitory. Do you endure them, 0
Bharata (Arjuna).


yam hi na vyathayanty ete
purusham purusharshabha
samaduhkhasukham dhiram
so 'mritatvaya kalpate

That man indeed of firm mind who is unaffected by these, 0
Best of Men (Arjuna), equal-minded in joy as well as pain,
he is destined for immortality.


After stating the position of a man of intuition, Verse 14
speaks of the opposite or counterpart - of reflexes and
automatisms belonging to physiology. Stimulus-response
psychology is involved here. Pleasure and pain, heat and
cold, belong to this order. This is the domain of sheer
necessity which no living being can escape. Arjuna is here
asked not to minimise their importance, as some vague
philosophers might do, or to learn to bear them stoically.
What cannot be cured must be endured.

Such a hardened and brave man, Verse 15 indicates, almost
too hastily it might seem, is fit for "immortality", a term
usually applied only to the highest spiritual goal. But we
should note the reference to "pain" and "pleasure" as being
equalized before one qualifies for this immortality.

The modern stoic, by definition, has come to mean one of mere
brute endurance. But the yogi of the Gita, who is referred to
here, is a man who enjoys as well as suffers with a certain
neutral attitude which cancels one against the other. This
makes all the difference for qualifying for immortality, even
in the fullest connotation of the term in Vedantic usage - as


one who has come to his full status as a yogi, equanimity
being a positive quality and not mere indifference.


na' sato vidyate bhavo
na' bhavo vidyate satah
ubhayor api drishto 'ntas tv
anayos tattvadarsibhih

What is unreal cannot have being and non-being can­not be real;
the conclusion in regard to both these has been known to


In this verse we have a clear enunciation of the methodology
adopted in the Gita. Terms like bhava and abhava (becoming
and non-becoming) are familiar to us in the Nyaya-Vaishesika
system of philosophy, where the term abhava (non-becoming)
is the last of the seven padarthas (categories of cognizable
en­tities) (1). Again, with reference to the word sat
(existence-reality) we should note it is not very different
from the notion of dravya (substance) used in the same system,
for even the mind is there considered as a substance. Substances
in this sense are considered as paramanu (atomic or exceedingly
refined prime matter). The word sat as employed in this verse
has, over and above the substantiality of the Nyaya-Vaishesika
context, some connotation of its own as reality understood in
neutral terms as between existence and non-existence. While the
cancelling-out of existence with non-existence might lead to
shunya or emptiness, the sat of the Vedanta of the Gita is meant
to represent the Absolute. The difference will perhaps become
clear if explained in mathematical terms; if we subtract two
equal quantities, thy answer is zero. But in the case of the
operation in the form of a fraction the result is not a zero
but a one (10 minus 10 = 0; 10/10= 1). The unitive Absolute
is similarly to be understood as different from the mere
nothing­ness which results from a mechanistic form of reasoning.
Unitive reasoning is based upon an intuitive or dialectical

In the Gaudapada Karika (IV, 4 et seq.) reference is made
to the very problem implicit in this verse. Gaudapada takes

(1) See "A Primer of Indian Logic" (According to Annambhatta's
Tarkasamgraha) by S. Kuppuswami Sastri (P. Varadachary &
Co.Madras, 1932). dravya-gun-a­karma-dvandva-samanya-vishesa
-samavayabhavah sapta padarthah: v.2, (substance, quality,
action, generality, speciality, inherence and non-becoming
are the seven cate­gories of cognizable entities).


case of two disputants - one a Vaishesika who argues that
there is no anterior cause to empirical reality, while the
other is a Samkhyan who says there is a cause which
regresses ad infinitum. Between these two disputants
nothing is decided about the final nature of reality. Sancerre
in his commentary seems to exploit the situation as an
argument in favour of a positive notion about Brahman (the
Absolute). Whether he legitimately succeeds in establishing
a positive Brahman on the basis of a mere disagreement
between these disputants is questionable. The Gita,
however, scores better than the Karika when it states here
that the disputants are not still disputing but have resolved
their disputes in terms of a finalized doctrine - the anta
(end) in the second line of this verse. This we can easily see
is the anta which is present in the Vedanta (Veda-anta) as it
is to be understood in the Gita.

There can be no question either in regard to the schools of
thought under reference here by the term tattvadarsibhih
(those capable of seeing first principles). The word tattva
(that-ness) is known to us even in the maha-vakyas (great
sayings) such as aum-tat-sat (Aum that is) or tat-tvam-asi_
(That thou art) - apart from its familiarity in the rationalistic
schools anterior to Vedanta, such as the Samkhya. Tattva
comes close to Kant's ding-an-sich (thing-in-itself) and
Spinoza's substantia (underlying Substantiality). This verse
satisfies itself for the present to leave this absolutist concept
open for further elaboration in this chapter, meeting
empirical requirements, while elsewhere other relevant
ways are dealt with.

The words ubhayor api (both taken together) have special
significance which we know as the distinguishing mark of
the methodology proper to dialectical or yogic reasoning,
(see p. 49, Introduction). In the Isha Upanishad (1, 1-14) two
striking examples occur, showing this same double-sided
method of reasoning. Sambhuti (becoming) and vinasha
(destruction or non-becoming) are to be understood
ubhayam saha (both taken together), i.e. not singly. Vidya
(knowledge) and avidya (nescience) are also treated in the
same way. Both pairs of opposites must be treated unitively
to bring out a central notion which pertains to the Absolute.
We know in the West also, philosophers have been referring
to a one - legged argument or a lame excuse to mean
something untenable. The pros and cons have to be taken
together, the obverse and reverse of the same coin; these,
and many other phrases point to the same necessity in valid
thinking. This is the essential


distinguishing feature of dialectic or yogic reasoning,
where intuition comes into play, rather than remaining
merely logical in a factual manner. We shall find other
expressions like api cha (also, and) scattered throughout the
Gita text. These are not necessary requirements of syntax, if
the reasoning is merely mechanistic, but they do become
essential only for delicate dialectical purposes. Most
translators treat this distinction in a casual manner, because
they are unconscious of the difference between the two
styles - the merely rational and the dialectical ways of
exposition. In Bhagavan Das' "Introduction to the Gita" he
refers to the profuse use of such expressions as superfluous
and as having no significance (The Bhagavad-Gita, P. 36,
3rd ed., 1940).

The difference is not to be lightly brushed aside in view
of the finalized doctrine which must emerge from the
method employed. Passing through the vicissitudes of the
shunyavada and the vijnanavada (doctrines of emptiness
and subjective idealism) as understood in the Jaina or
Buddhist contexts, theories of reality have been formulated
in the history of post - Buddhistic thought in India. Some
have attained to rationalism, others to idealism within the
philosophies such as the Nyaya-Vaishesika and Samkhya-
Yoga schools. The last vestige of merely academic or
scholastic asymmetry became progressively adjusted and
rounded off. Shunyavada, Kshanika - Vijnanavada and
Mayavada may be said to mark the successive stages of the
perfection of this doctrine, but even in Mayavada vestiges
of duality persist, as between sat and asat (authentic
existence and non-authentic existence) - as a reaction
against the supposed nihilism in Buddhist doctrines. Here in
the Gita, however, we catch up once again with the spirit of
the Upanishads, more ancient than all these schools of
thought, where wisdom again attains its primal sublimity
as a song.


avinasi tu tad viddhi
yena sarvam idam
tatam vinasam avyayasya'sya
na kaschit kartum arhati

Know That to be indestructible by which all this
is pervaded. None can bring about the destruction
of This that knows no decrease.


antavanta ime deha
nityasyo 'ktah saririnah
anasino 'prameyasya
tasmad yudhyasya Bharata

These bodies (however) of the everlasting indestructible
and undefinable embodied (One) are spoken of as having
an end. Therefore go on with the battle, 0 Bharata (Arjuna).


These two verses must be taken together. Treated apart,
they lend semblance of support to conflicting doctrines.
In fact many commentators have derived both unethical and
non-spiritual doctrines from expressions contained here,
and especially from the last words of Verse 18, tasmad
yudhyasva bharata (therefore fight, 0 Bharata).

Truisms and absurdities are equally derivable from the
sense of these two verses put together. To derive a
consistent way of life from the words of the Gita requires
its understanding in unitive terms where equivocation or
quibbling becomes impossible. We must try to enter into
what the author Vyasa himself wants to say before hastily
foisting our own favourite doctrines on disjunct sayings
lifted from the total context.

There are two extremities or poles to be distinguished in
these verses. Verse 17 refers to an aspect of the human spirit
corresponding to the purusha (spirit) of the Samkhya
which is altogether above prakriti (phenomena or nature).
This cannot be touched by any activity of man. At the other
extreme there is the pole corresponding to prakriti which is
recognized by Samkhya and even common sense as antavanta
(having an end). These two poles belong unitively to one and
the same atma (Self) - as implied in the phrase nityasya uktah
(said to be belonging to the eternal).

Although not strictly in conformity with Samkhya doctrines
which retain their dual character; yet in the light of more
ancient Vedic tradition, with which the Gita wishes to
maintain unbroken continuity, the expression uktah (said to
be) is fully justified. Monism is well known in the Rig-Veda
(e.g. I, 164: 46: "Him who is the One existent, sages name

The expression "Therefore fight, 0 Bharata" which
seems to be an order given to Arjuna, deserves our attention
because it is perhaps the basis of the greatest amount of
misunderstanding in connection with the Gita. Some say the
Gita wants


everybody to fight for their own interests, national,
religious, etc. Others, like Sankara, though understanding it
as permissive only, think that the advice is legitimate in the
case of a kshatriya (warrior). It is clear that war takes a
very imperative character when we take the particular
instance of Arjuna as an individual caught in those
necessary circumstances so carefully mentioned in great
detail by Vyasa in this and the previous chapter. If, because
of its imperative character as applied to the particular
Arjuna, the converse generalization leading to justification
of violence or war as a guiding principle for the regulation
of human affairs could derive support from the Gita
teaching remains very problematic indeed. It is often
forgotten that the rare quality called true Kshatriya-hood of
the Gita mentioned in xviii, 43 has to tally with its outer
corresponding counterpart called a righteous war in ii, 31,
so that war in that rare and very occasionally remote
contingency becomes the "open door to heaven"
mentioned in ii, 32 . Without a just war a Kshatriya could be
a Don Quixote and the fight itself an absurd rioting by a
plundering rabble.

The balance between the infinite One of Verse 17 and the
finite Many of Verse 19 has to be struck in a manner in
keeping with the perfect symmetry which is maintained here
between the two verses. The first verse refers to the
helplessness of man, and the second verse carries the same
argument further to its simple and natural consequence. The
necessary side of life has its own proper imperatives which
are categorical. We are all caught in necessity and are
obliged to act. Even Socrates had to go to the battlefield
(vide "Symposium", 219-220).

Arjuna is asked to fight so that he may not set in motion
a sequence of disasters, major or minor, personal or
impersonal. His own reputation, as we shall see, is
involved. Krishna is interested, above all, that his friend is
saved from personal regression or regret amounting to a
moral or spiritual death as Arjuna.

Note that only here (and in XI, 34 for other reasons) is
this mandatory form of advice stated so clearly. Elsewhere
it is watered down gradually into expressions such as
"Stand up, 0 Bharata!", "Conquer your enemy, called
desire, 0 Bharata!", "Therefore do not regret", etc. The
mandatory form is fully justified here when we note that, in
conformity to the Samkhya frame of reference, the two poles
of the spirit are kept here as strictly apart as possible within
a truly Vedantic context, retaining the fullest degree of
ambivalence permissible.


The Ramanuja school of dualism proves that these two
aspects are admissible within a unitive notion of the
Absolute. The necessary and contingent aspects that belong
to the central notion of the Absolute of this chapter, which
begins by accentuating the duality implied, will be brought
more unitively together in later chapters, and then the
obligatory tone of the instruction to fight will be seen to be
modified according to each chapter as indicated above. The
mandatory character is most apparent in this verse and in
xviii, 59. In the central chapters there is no mandate form
resorted to at all. The mandate here is therefore due to the
structure of the Gita as a whole.

The third-personal usage ("anyone") employed at the
end of Verse 17 is correctly counterbalanced by the word
"Bharata" which applies to the particular person Arjuna
at the end of Verse 18.

The word dehah (bodies) of Verse 18 also refers to the
quantitative or numerical aspect as against sarvam idam
(all this) of Verse 17. "Bodies", therefore, are looked upon
as necessary cannon-fodder, as is inevitable in one form or
another in this world of transitory events. Arjuna is only a
cog in the wheel caught in the scheme of necessity, and the
sooner he realizes this, the better for him. This truth is
repeated in xviii, 61. Unnecessary friction could thus be
avoided. Anyone therefore who construes this reference to
fighting as an injunction as in a smriti (code of laws or
conduct) will be mistaking its purpose, which is only
philosophical. Any vestige or doubt on this score will be
finally abolished when this reference is read with xviii:
"Having reflected, act as you like"


ya enam vetti hantaram
yas chai 'nam manyate hatam
ubhau tau na vijanito
na'yam hanti na hanyate

He who thinks This as the killed and he who thinks This as
killed - both these know not. This does not kill; is not killed.


This verse modifies the supposed mandate of Verse 18 by
stating that Arjuna is not killing at all when he is asked
to kill there - thus heightening the paradoxical effect, with
the object of resolving the ambivalence in more unitive


The word ubhau (both together) occurs again here,
underlining the dialectical method of reasoning fully
employed here. Counterparts are brought more closely
together, with all the reciprocal implications. Finally the
seal of unitive thinking is stamped on the whole argument
in the last phrase: "This does not kill, is not killed",
bringing us normally to the wonder referred to in verse 29,
for which the ground is being prepared.


na jayate mriyate va kadachin
na 'yam bhutva bhavita va na
ajo nityasavato 'yam purano
na hanyate hanyamane sarire

This is neither born nor does This die, nor having
once come into being, cease to become any more:
Unborn, perpetual, eternal is This Ancient One. It is
not killed on the killing of the body.


As indicated in the metre itself, the words here attain a
new height of sublimity. Except for one hidden phrase, the
words do not require much explanation. Na yam bhutva
bhavita va na bhuyah (once considered existent, it does not
become again so). Reincarnation in the popular sense is
seen to be ruled out. Eternal life seems to be what is meant
here. The Self is never born and never dies. It is pure being
in itself, not subject to any process of evolution, flux or

The epithets ajah (unborn) and puranah (ancient) cannot
strictly be reconciled logically, but such apparent
contradictions as we have said, fit into the style of the Gita.


veda 'vinasam nityam
ya enam ajam avyayam
katham sa purushah partha
kam ghatayati hanti kam

About him who knows This as the indestructible, the everlasting,
the unborn, never-decreasing one (of) such a person how could
(the questions) ' whose death he causes', 'whom he kills' (arise)
0 Partha (Arjuna)?


This verse finalizes the position of Arjuna as belonging to a
context of wisdom rather than of action - so as to bring the


subject into conformity with the major part of the Gita,
which is mainly a dialogue of philosophical import.
Krishna in effect tells Arjuna here that the question of
killing does not obtrude into the situation at all. Arjuna is
considered as a contemplative and not as a warrior any
more. He has no longer any one-sided agency in the matter
of killing. The full purpose or import of such a verse will
become evident if we remember that the Samkhya-Yoga of
this chapter is more than plain Samkhya which is revalued
here. The term purusha (spirit) is purposely employed here
as implying the purusha (spirit) of Samkhya philosophy,
unitively equated to a wise man.


vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya
navani grihnati naro 'parani
tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany
anyani samyati navani dehi

As a man casting off his worn-out garments assumes others
that are new - likewise casting off bodies that are worn-out,
the embodied one takes to others that are new.


Here we have a rather picturesque description, often
quoted in support of reincarnation. The over-simplicity of
the picture is excusable only because of the necessity for
rhapsodic singing as the Gita is primarily meant to be. On
closer examination we find that the popular view of
reincarnation is not directly supported here - although
semblance of such support may be found elsewhere and to
which we shall come in due course. It is not spirit actively
entering into matter; it is rather matter being put aside as it
clings on to spirit by force of necessity again and again. If
we note the complementary aspect of this theory of
supposed reincarnation in xv, 8, we find it is not any
individual soul but Ishvara (the Deity) that reincarnates.
Between the two-faced implications of these two verses (ii,
22 and xv, 8) the case for a veritable theory of
reincarnation, spoken of usually as a doctrine of Hinduism,
has only a very dubious support in the Gita. There are other
verses which seem to suggest and support the usual theory
of reincarnation as popularly held, such as IV, 5, where
Krishna refers to his many past births. Arjuna does not
remember his many births but Krishna does. The
implications of such a difference


between Arjuna and Krishna are many. In fact the Gita,
which speaks of an everlasting soul so graphically in this
Verse, ii, 22, seems to contradict itself very definitely in ii,
27, where it says just the converse of the proposition,
namely, "a person who is born is sure to die" etc. Between
everlasting life and an intermittent existence there are
different theories of reincarnation which have all to be
studied individually and fitted into a general scheme to give
a true and sufficiently respectable picture of reincarnation as
it is to be understood in the proper sense of brahmavidya
(the science of the Absolute). Puerile theories must be
abandoned so that we may treat this matter with the respect
it deserves. To state the theory of reincarnation in very
simple terms, as when a person speaks of a crow as his
grandfather, would be to detract from the theory as a very
legitimate way of explaining inequality among created
beings. Childish theories of reincarnation, much in vogue,
are repugnant to the Gita. We do not deny, however, that a
pure picture of how matter and spirit get inter-related, more
or less as implied in the "Enneads" of Plotinus, is still


nai 'nam chhindanti sastrani
nai 'nam dahati pavakah
na chai 'nam kledayanty apo
na soshayati marutah

Weapons do not cut This, fire does not burn This and water
does not wet This; wind does not dry This:


achchhedyo 'yam adahyo yam
akledyo 'soshya eva cha
nityah sarvagatah
sthanur achalo 'yam sanatanaha

Indeed It is uncleavable; It is non-inflammable; It is
unwettable and non-dryable also; everlasting, all-
pervading, stable, immobile; It is eternal.


avyakto 'yam achintyo 'yam
avikaryo 'yam uchyate
tasmad evam viditvai 'nam
na 'nusochitum arhasi

Undefined is It, unthinkable is It, as non-subject to
change is It spoken of - therefore, knowing It as
such, there is no reason for you to feel sorry for It.


Lest any materialistic or dualistic notion should still
persist in regard to the Self as envisaged here, these verses
are meant to give to it a purer status in keeping with the
unitive Self as the Absolute.

The self transcends materiality or the elements (Verse 23),
becomes eternal (Verse 24), and even beyond thought (Verse
25) - attaining the reality of pure absolutism as in the
Upanishads such as the Mandukya (Verse 7) where the Self
is equated with the chaturtha or turiya (the fourth) state. A
dialectical revaluation of Samkhya duality can be seen to run
through these verses that bring immanent and transcendent

With Verse 25 the attention of Krishna begins to be given
to the immediate problem of Arjuna's grief, which
Krishna wants to counteract. The apparent change of
subject and style of argument in the verses that
follow, dropping down from the sublime to the
ordinary, is quite consistent with the uniform style
adopted in the Gita of referring to contingent and
necessary, transcendent and immanent aspects of
reality side by side. The key to understand the unity
of Krishna's reasoning from Verse 25 onwards, up to
Verse 38 (which forms one natural section) is the
phrase "there is no reason for you to feel regret"
which is many times repeated. The Samkhya style of
reasoning finds its natural counterpart in down-to-
earth commonsense which is therefore not out of
place here when Krishna has to deal with the
actualities of the situation.


atha chai 'nam nityajatam
nityam va manyase mritam
tathi 'pi tvam mahabaho
nai 'nam sochitum arhasi

Or again if you should hold This to be constantly
ever-born or as constantly ever-dying, even then 0
Mighty-Armed (Arjuna) you have no reason to
regret it.


Here there is a climbing down by way of concession to
Arjuna's possible incapacity to understand the argument in
all its absolutist implications. Krishna adopts an Alternative


next-best line of argument which, however, still conforms
to the methodology proper to Yoga, though conceding more
to the dualism of Samkhya. Though doctrinally accepting
Samkhya duality for the sake of argument, the method
employed conforms to the strict requirements of yogic
dialectics. Herein consists the dialectical revaluation of the
Gita to which we have referred. Note that the principle of
continuity is maintained by the use of the word nitya
(eternal) with the Self. Birth and death are treated as twin
aspects that naturally neutralize themselves in the context of
the eternal. Arjuna is just left unaffected by both equally.

Note the reversion to the second person as against the third
person employed in Verse 17. This is because in Verse 17 a
model rational contemplative was under reference, while in
Verse 26 here it is Arjuna as a historical personage who is


jatasya hi dhruvo mrityur
dhruvam janma mrtasya
tasmad apariharye 'rthe
na tvam sochitum arhasi

In respect of anyone born, death is certain, and certain
is birth likewise for anyone dead; therefore regarding
something inevitable, you have no reason to feel any regret.


That the same double-sided method of reasoning is valid
even in the domain of sheer necessity, is brought out in
this verse. Death and life are the two counterparts here
which, when unitively understood, should leave Arjuna in
the same position as a contemplative.

But, textually examined this verse seems to contradict
all that has been stated in Verses 20 ff earlier,
regarding the eternal nature of the Self. However,
considering the supposition on which the arguments here
are advanced, this contradiction is only apparent and
should be treated together with the previous verse where
there is a saving phrase atha cha (now also, if). The
difference between the Self of Verse 20 and that implied
here is not unlike the two theories of relativity (general and
particular) employed by modern writers. This particular
reference is meant to be fitted without contradiction into
the general theory developed earlier. In both cases it is the
methodology of Yoga that is the common factor.



avyaktadini bhutani
vyaktamadhyani bharata
avyaktanidhanany eva
tatra ka paridevana

Beings have an unmanifested origin and manifested middle
states, 0 Bharata (Arjuna), and again unmanifested
terminations. Where is room for plaint herein?


A slight deflection from the pure position of ajatavada
(doctrine of non-creation) is again, for purposes of
argument, admitted here. Manifestation, or the middle stage
referred to here, lends tentative reality to what is otherwise
treated as mere appearance and maya in Vedanta. This is a
concession made to reason as employed by all intelligent
man, which is in keeping with the spirit and scope of this
chapter. The vyakta (manifest) of the Samkhya philosophy
proper is not so symmetrically bounded on either side by
the avyakta (unmanifest) as herein postulated. The head
and tail ends of the Samkhya scheme of reality are
represented by purusha (pure spirit) and mulaprakriti (root-
nature, which is synonymous with avyakta, the unmanifest)
respectively. In the event of death or dissolution the three
stages of beginning, middle and end, merge without
differentiation into the new notion of the avyakta
(unmanifest) in the unitive Absolute envisaged here, which
is a numinous factor whose wonder is referred to in the
next verse.


ascharyavat pasyati kaschid enam
ascharyavad vadati tathai'va cha 'nya
ascharyavach chai 'nam anyah srinoti
srutva 'py enam veda na chai 'va kaschit

A certain person sees This as a wonder, likewise another
speaks about This as a wonder. Another hears of It even as a
wonder, but even hearing no one understands This at all.


Here the Gita rises once more to the sublimity of a
mystical song, before descending soon after to the
commonplace, like the flute of a Krishna producing
different notes in succession, but having always the lulling
effect of the same music


Krishna himself is called Yoga-Isvara (Lord of Yoga) at
the end of the whole work.

"Sees", "speaks" and "hears" are three ways of
appraising the Absolute - and yet, in spite of each, the
Absolute remains a wonder eluding the seeker and not to be
understood in any fixed or static manner as a thing, entity
or intellectual concept. It appears a rather sweeping
statement to say that "nobody understands", but when we
remember that the highest understanding of the Advaita
(non-dualistic doctrine) abolished the duality of subject and
object altogether, this statement is perfectly in keeping with
the final position of Vedanta.


dehi nityam avadhyo yam
dehe sarvasya bharata
tasmat sarvani bhutani
na tvam sochitum arhasi

This embodied One within the bodies of all is ever
immune to killing, 0 Bharata (Arjuna). Therefore
in respect of any being you have no reason for regretting.


This verse serves as a punctuation for the section that it
brings to a close. The next section extends to Verse 39.
The reference to sarvani bhutani (all beings) lifts the
discussion one degree higher than the purely human and
historical context. Life values are referred to in the most
general terms. Regret in any relativist sense is ruled out
finally whether it applies to individual life or even life in


svadharmam api cha 'vekshya
na vikampitum arhasi
dharmyad dhi yuddhach chhreyo 'nyat
kshatriyasa na vidyate

Further having regard also for the pattern of
behaviour natural to you (svadharma) there is no
reason for vacillation, for there could be nothing
more meritorious than a war that is right for a true
fighter (kshatriya).


Matters relating to the personal life of Arjuna are dealt
with by his friend Krishna by way of consoling him. Even


new section bears a direct relation to the rest of the
theoretical discussion of this chapter, inasmuch as the values
implied, whether spiritual, ethical or merely those of
personal honour, are all directly derivable from the main
doctrine of the Absolute.

Honour, the loss of which is equated to death in verse 34,
taken in its usual light outside the context of absolutism,
would seem to lend support to such absurdities as when a
student commits suicide when he fails in an examination.
Honour as a value in the absolutist context is equal to
dishonour seen in the same context, and these are meant to
cancel each other out, leaving the contemplative again on
the neutral ground which belongs to the Absolute. When
honour is equated thus with dishonour and dishonour with
death as in Verse 34 below, there is no violation of the
principles of an absolutist way of life that the Gita
consistently upholds.

The much talked-about doctrine of svadharma (conduct
proper to oneself), which is considered by many as one of the
principal doctrinal contributions of the Gita, is referred to for
the first time here. Favourite sociological doctrines of
religious-minded people have seemingly derived support
from this idea. Reserving a fuller discussion of svadharma in
relation to what is called varnashramadharma (familiarly
known as the caste system) when we come to the latter in iv,
13, ix, 32 and xviii, 41, ff. of the Gita, for our present
purposes it is sufficient for us to say that the reference here is
to the position of Arjuna, consistent with his past upbringing
and present position as an actual fighter on the side of the
Pandavas. Svadharma as a general doctrine is to be
distinguished from its particular application to Arjuna in the
given situation. As a general principle it is not far different
from what is known in the "Nichomachean Ethics" of Aristotle
where specificity itself is the basis of virtue. If a tree bears
fruit that is proper to its species it is fulfilling its svadharma,
or unfolding its innate character. The virtue of a good cow
may be said to be the quality and quantity of its milk.
Similarly saltiness is proper to salt. Man's humanity
distinguishes the human kind and conforming to human
nature is the basis of virtue or svadharma for man. Socrates,
as an Athenian, was fulfilling his svadharma when he took up
arms for his city. MacArthur when he bombed Koreans was
fulfilling his svadharma in his own particular context. If he
had refused he would have been just replaced.


Here the svadharma of an Arjuna who is referred to as a
kshatriya (warrior) is a parallel case. When we see that
Drona is a brahmin-archer whose svadharma is not in the
battlefield, and even Bhishma is primarily a patriarch rather
than a combatant, the reference to kshatriya conduct here
has to be taken with the latitude that we see is being
permitted for the situation.

It is not to a watertight class called kshatriyas that
reference is made here, but to a warrior type of personality
to which. Arjuna as an individual happens to conform.
Moreover Arjuna is not within the Aryan fold, strictly
speaking. He was related to the dark-skinned
Krishna who was a king of the Vrishnis, some forgotten
and probably heterodox section found south of the
Vindhya mountains. There is no indication elsewhere of the
Aryan origin of the Pandavas ethnologically. The kshatriya-
hood here referred to must therefore pertain merely to a
psycho-physical type and not to a caste, as people easily
tend to understand it.

We have also the glaring case of Krishna himself, who is
not in his svadharma (conduct proper to oneself) as a
charioteer. He is a Guru, a teacher of philosophy who
follows another vocation, not his own, for the time being.
A man is true to his svadharma when he does not
willfully and abruptly break away from his own previous
nature and nurture. Such breaking away in the case of
Arjuna would be if he suddenly desired to become a
mendicant or a samnyasin (renouncer) as hinted at by

Api cha (also and) occurs again here. This indicates that
the argument is something extra added on to the main
argument, which does not concern itself with svadharma at
all. Such reference is therefore incidental, being merely
meant to console Arjuna.

The word vikampitum, usually interpreted "to tremble", may
be taken to mean more simply "not to swerve" from the path
chalked out for Arjuna by natural circumstances,.
Note in the second line that the svadharma of Arjuna as a
kshatriya has to tally with the legitimate or righteous
character of the war he is asked to wage, if it is to be
conducive to spiritual progress.

Shreyas (better): any warfare is not to be waged by a
kshatriya to promote spiritual progress. Conversely, even a
righteous war has to be waged only by a genuine kshatriya
to produce right results. The reciprocal factors thus
coinciding correctly


would alone produce a desirable spiritual effect. This is
almost like Cartesian occasionalism in view of the thin
probability involved here. The chance element
(yadrichchhaya) mentioned in the next verse refers to this
very condition. To derive mechanically the dictum that if a
kshatriya should simply fight he would gain merit is an
absurd notion, although very commonly held.


yadrichchhaya cho'papannam
svargadvaram apavritam
sukhinah kshatriyah partha
labhante yuddham idrisam

True warriors (kshatriyas) have reason to be
happy too) 0 Partha (Arjuna) to have the chance of
such a war presenting itself unsought before them
as an open door to heaven.


The idea here is complementary to that of the previous
verse. The door of heaven opens before the warrior who is a
true kshatriya without any exertion or active seeking on his
part. This only underlines the element of occasionalism
which alone favours spiritual progress.

In the actual war that we know in this case in which
Arjuna is involved, there is no absolutely clear line of
righteousness discernible. In fact it is not even a true "war".
It is worse than even a civil war, being a family feud. To
speak of righteous warfare here could have but one
meaning, that it is a war where absolutist spiritual values
are involved. We may suppose that it is righteous because
Arjuna and Krishna are interested in absolutism, while
Drona and Bhishma, who are the best of the Kurus,
represent only one form or another of relativist spirituality.
This is what makes this particular warfare so rare and
happy according to Krishna in this verse. Arjuna does not
go to heaven though there is reference to the gate of heaven
open or him. He was not admitted into a relativistic heaven,
though Duryodhana was, as we read at the end of the
Mahabharata story. Arjuna must have attained to
something higher, in keeping with the value he represented
in the war.


atha chet tvam imam dharmyam
samgramam na karishyasi
tatah svadharmam kirtim cha
hitad papam avapyasi

If, on the other hand, you will not take to this
battle which conforms to the requirements of
righteousness, then thwarting what is consistent
with your own nature and your good repute you
will become involved in evil.


There is reference on the part of Krishna to papa (sin). This
was exactly what Arjuna feared (i, 45) and for which he
was decried by Krishna.

Now what exact connotation should be given to this word
sin? This question becomes more difficult to answer when
we see that later on the teaching of the Gita is for
transcending both sin and virtue, both bad and good, as we
find even as early as Verse 50 in this same chapter.
The sin referred to here must therefore be to the form of
regret or negative state of diffidence from which Arjuna
himself suffered a moment ago. It is clear at least that sin here
does not allude to any cardinal aspect of the Gita teaching.
Disqualification for full moksha (liberation) and lapsing into
samsara (relativistic life) are referred to often as the worst
disaster, rather than sin, which is a vague term used by
religious people only. Krishna uses Arjuna's expression as
Arjuna himself might use it, for the sake of clarity.
The nature of the sin is suggested in that Arjuna would
contradict his own nature and spoil his reputation, thus
lapsing into regret which describes the state of mind of a

The word dharmyam (what accords with one's true nature)
is again stressed for reasons already indicated. In other
words the war must be willed by God if it is to be fought so
as to be free from sin. Omission of such a war is the sin here
as it defeats the will of God, to put it in the usual language
of Christian theology. In this rare case, not killing becomes
sin, rather than killing, which latter all religions hold to be
sinful. It is a special kind of sin of omission and not of
commission. The religious notion of sin is not refuted here.
It remains intact in its own proper context (x, 5). It is not the
subject of discussion here at all. The "kill not" of the
Jewish commandments, of Christianity and Buddhism, do
not suffer therefore by any teaching of the Gita. Gandhian
ahimsa (non-hurting) belonging to Jainism would have


equally intact, if he had not sought support to explain it in
the light of an arbitrary understanding of the teaching of the
Gita. (e.g. "Thus the author of the Gita, by extending
meaning of words has taught us to imitate him. Let it be
granted that according to the letter of the Gita it is possible
to say that warfare is consistent with renunciation of fruit.
But after forty years' unremitting endeavour fully to enforce
the teaching of the Gita in my own life I have in all
humility, felt that perfect renunciation is impossible without
perfect observance of ahimsa in every shape and form."
(P. 130, "The Gita According to Gandhi" by Mahadev Desai,
Ahmedabad 1946).


akirtim cha 'pi bhutani
kathayishyanti te 'vyayam
sambhavitasya cha 'kirtir
maranad atirichyate

Living beings will also pronounce a never-ending verdict of
calumny on you, and to one used to honour, dishonour is
worse than death.


bhayad ranad uparatam
mamsyante tvam maharathah
yesham cha tvam bahumato
bhutva yasyasi laghavam

The great car-generals will look upon you as quitting the
battle from fear and having been honourably looked upon by
them you will be held in derision.


avachyavadams cha bahun
vadishyanti tava'hitah
nindantas tava samarthyam
tato duhkhataram nu kim

Those against you will speak of you in unspeakable terms,
scorning your ability; what pain could there be keener than


In these three verses there is reference to very commonplace
values not generally alluded to as religious or even
spiritual. In Verse 34, honour is the value involved.


How honour is precious to a warrior on the battlefield is
easily understandable and has already been touched upon in
the previous verse. The Samkhya philosophers were heterodox
rationalists who were not specially religious. In this chapter,
where such a school of Samkhya is under reference, the
personal values such as honour, ill-repute and shame, to
which Arjuna is likely to be exposed by backing out of the
battlefield at the eleventh hour, are just those legitimate
and normal values in whose name he could be appealed to.
It is true that in other chapters we find the Gita clearly
teaching a neutral indifference to reputation, shame or
public opinion (xii, 19; xiv, 24, 25 etc). The place given to
shame, reputation and honour in the three separate verses so
prominently here is to be understood as normal to a
complete enumeration of personal values that legitimately
belong to the rationalist realism of the Samkhya School.
Rationalism itself is a form of agnostic attitude where
"here and now" aspects of life are given a large place.
Further, the dishonour or disrepute mentioned in Verse 34
comes from the whole world of created beings, as implied
in the expression bhutani (creatures). Life itself,
philosophically understood in the context of rationalism, is
a constant going forward, a forward flowing flux or
becoming. The "sin" of Verse 33 implies, as we have said,
a regression or set-back in this forward flow of life. The
vital energy in all creatures may be said to make life
always play a forward game. Sulkiness, when one is in the
thick of a game or a battle, amounts to a deliberate act of
obstruction of the normal forward flow of events. Any
backing out of the situation in which Arjuna found himself
would amount to violence towards life itself, understood
in negative philosophical terms, as with the Samkhyas.
Negation has, therefore, no place in the scheme of values of
a rationalist as understood within the scope of this chapter.
As a real soldier on the battlefield Arjuna is here called
upon to recognize the need for safeguarding his own
personal reputation. Soon, however, the tone changes even
in this section of the chapter, as we see in Verse 38 below,
just before the chapter passes on to the orthodox pragmatic
form of Yoga after Verse 39.


hato va prapsyasi svargam
jitva va bhokshyase mahim
tasmad uttishtha kaunteya
yuddhaya kritanischayah

Dying you will attain heaven or winning you will have the
enjoyment of the earth. Therefore arise, 0 Kaunteya
(Arjuna), making up your mind to fight.


sukhadukhe same kritva
labhalabhau jayajayau
tato yuddhaya yujyasva
nai 'vam papam avapsyasi

Equalizing both pleasure and pain, both gain and loss,
both victory and defeat, enter wholly into battle. Thus
you will avoid sin.


These two verses are intended to round off the Samkhya
position as revalued in the Gita, before switching over to
buddhi-Yoga (dialectics of pure reason). The dialectical
method is again used. In Verse 37, note that the gain is
double. When Arjuna's reason was clouded by his
emotions, he tried to apply the same dialectical method in
xi, 5, where he imagined two disasters falling on himself.
Here the same dialectics properly applied result in gain
both here and hereafter. When applied to values that were
of earth we had a doubly negative conclusion. Here, heaven
is introduced and doubly positive values emerge.

In the light of the fact that Arjuna did not desire heaven
at all, nor even earthly joys, these words of Krishna should
be taken as giving an example of how to apply dialectical
reason correctly to a given situation and consciously to set
it off against the negative dialectics of Arjuna which is
based on wrong values. Krishna is just teaching him a
method and not asking him to desire heaven or worldly
gains. It would be inconsistent to think that Krishna would
teach Arjuna to desire a relativistic heaven, when Arjuna's
own position has been stated in ii, 8, quite emphatically, in a
manner more in keeping with the superior doctrine of the
Gita. For a Guru to be inferior in outlook to the disciple on
such a subject would be totally untenable even on the basis
of any adhikari-bheda (differences in the rights of persons
to claim higher knowledge) sometimes advanced.
Such an interpretation would be repugnant to the structure
of the Upanishads on which the Gita itself relies.
The verse terminates with the milder admonition to
"stand up" with a firm conviction, rather than "to fight"


by sheer necessity, as in ii, 18. The keenness of actual
necessity gives place to the need for an intellectual resolve.
It is the need for spiritual reorientation which emerges to
the forefront.

In Verse 38 an example is given where dialectics is
employed quite properly, rid of the dualism still adhering
to the Samkhya way of reasoning. The counterparts are
brought closer together. We find a central place given to
the avoidance of papa (sin) or evil, which obscured
Arjuna's mind much in i, 45. Everything is set and ready
for buddhi-yoga (the dialectics of pure reason) to be

The word same (equal) alludes to the chief prerequisite
of yoga, as stated in Verse 48 of this same chapter.


esha te 'bhihita samkhye
buddhir yoge tv imam srinu
buddhya yukto yaya partha
karmabandham prahasyasi

What has just been taught is reason according to Samkhya;
but hear now of the same according to Yoga, attaining to
the unity of which reasoning you will be able to throw
off the bondage of works.


That there are two sections in this chapter and that there
is a certain relation between them, we have already
mentioned. The line of demarcation between the two
sections is most explicitly mentioned here, beyond any
question of doubt. There is a buddhi or reasoning which has
been discussed so far. It conforms to the model or pattern of
the Samkhya philosophy; and there is another buddhi which
employs a method and follows a line of thought in keeping
with a more orthodox tradition. The last verse of this
chapter distinguishes the second way or state of thought by
the word brahmi (pertaining to the Absolute). The notion of
brahman (the Absolute) has its affiliations to the Vedas.
Hence it is that we have called the second way as conforming
to a more orthodox tradition.

It has been generally admitted on the part of scholars (e.g.,
Edgerton and Radhakrishnan) that the Samkhya here is not
the same as the Samkhya system known to us from Kapila's
time. The Yoga of the latter half of this chapter does not
conform either to the pattern of Patanjali's Yoga system.


In trying to bring out the unity of structure of the whole
chapter Radhakrishnan suggests there is an adaptation here
to "Gita theism "(P 1. the Bhagavad Gita, 1948).

In this chapter, at least, there is nothing which could be
taken to be even approaching theism. The word Ishvara or
Lord does not occur in this chapter. Elsewhere, however,
the word does occur. We should particularly note that in
xviii 61, Krishna does not refer to himself as an Ishvara, but
refer to an Ishvara in the third person, as if outside himself
- Krishna being the absolute and not a deity in the theistic
sense. Then, in iv, 6, Krishna, it is true, does refer to
himself as Ishvara, but here it is among other more or less
important roles that lordship is mentioned incidentally as
the word api (also) indicates. In xv, 8, Ishvara is used as
synonymous with the reincarnating Self and in xv, 17,
Ishvara is unmistakably identified once again with the
Absolute. The word Ishvara should not mislead us into any
idea of theism at all. Ishatva (lordliness) is one of the
siddhis (powers) of a yogi, according to Patanjali, and in
these last two references, Ishvara means human attributes
akin to leadership. Therefore, the meaning of Ishvara as
used in the Gita will be seen to range between the idea of
the Absolute and the mere attribute of a leader. The static
notion of a theistic god like Vishnu is repugnant to the spirit
in which the whole Gita has been conceived. Dr. Lacombe
points out: "Vishnu also, as in Vedic texts, passes from a
subordinate rank to a supreme rank. His identification with
Narayana and with Vasudeva took place at epic periods
posterior to the composition of the Gita" (translated, p. 26,
"L'Absolu Selon le Vedanta", Paris, 1937).

It is clear from xv, 19 that a theistic approach to reality
is ruled out altogether. Krishna represents there the
Purushottama (the Highest of the High) which concept is
different from that of an Ishvara or Lord, since
Purushottama stands for the pure Absolute. Krishna is
against himself being looked upon as having a human form,
as seen in ix, xi. Any semblance of support for the theism
referred to by Radhakrishnan must be derived, if at all, from
Chapter xii where, in Verse 5, the Gita recommends the path
of the manifested as being easier than the pursuit of the
unmanifested, but in the very same chapter amends are made
for this preference on the score of easiness only, by a
concluding verse specially intended for the purpose of
straightening any wrong impression on this matter. We shall


give this closer scrutiny in its proper place, but in the
expression dharmyamritam (righteous and everlasting value)
the value implied is far from suggesting any theism. If some
scholars still think that the Gita is a religious book
belonging to a particular form of theism, the only other
semblance of support, perhaps, is Chapter xi, where the
Vishvarupa Darshana (Vision of the Cosmic Form) is
wrongly treated as a theophany, or manifestation of God.
Many western critics, like Prof. R.Otto of Marburg, have
fallen into this error, which is not strange. But for Indians
like Radhakrishnan to make this mistake is perhaps too
much to leave unnoticed. Brahmavidya (the science of the
Absolute) should not be confused with mere religious
theism, and the distinction between the nature of the Vishva-
rupa (cosmic form) and a merely religious worship of
Vishnu should be patent to anyone who scrutinizes xi, 48.
Arjuna himself, not capable of being an absolutist in the full
sense intended in the Gita, pleads for a lesser vision in xi,
46, which perhaps might conform to theism, but Krishna did
not grant that prayer. Instead, he just revealed his ordinary
form as stated in xi, 50. He refused to reveal himself as any
theistic or conventional God of any religious group.
In the concluding part of the Gita (xviii, 66) the final point
to this view that the Gita has no religious message at all, is
found in the words sarvadharman parityajya (abandoning all
religious duties). The Gita is a philosophical work and treats
of Brahmavidya, which has nothing to do with theism or
religion as such.

The second half of Chapter ii has been characterized in ii,
72 as pertaining to brahmi sthitih (the state of the Absolute).
The unity of the two sections in this chapter can be under-
stood when we consider them (1) as Samkhya revalued in the
first half of the chapter and (2) the more rational tradition of
the orthodox schools of thought which prevailed prior to the
Gita, as also similarly revalued in the second half of the
chapter. What gives further unity and justifies the general
title of Samkhya-Yoga (Unitive Reasoning) as applied to
both the sections together, is that both represent revaluations
of rationalism (heterodox and orthodox) dialectically, i.e.,
according to a methodology particular to yoga, "as we shall
see from the definitions and instances of Yoga given in the
verses to follow. No doubt is left about Samkhya and Yoga
being the same, by v, 4-5, so that the title of this chapter
could cover both even in advance already and justify the


synthetic way of referring to the two aspects of this chapter
together as one "Samkhya-Yoga".

In this particular verse the terms "buddhi (reason)
according to Samkhya" and "buddhi (reason) according to
Yoga " are referred to. The latter is really none other than
buddhi-Yoga (dialectics of pure reason). Buddhi (reason) is a
human value capable of being discussed (I) under heterodox
rationalism known to the Samkhya school revalued as a
Yoga and (2) under orthodox Vedism to which rationalistic
norms could be applied to conform again to the requirements
of a Yoga. Verse ii, 39 demarcates the two sections inclusively
named Samkhya-Yoga as having to do with the Absolute.
Karmabandham (bondage of works) is an evil, one degree
milder than papa (sin) of the previous verse. The remedy for
this bondage suggested here is to be yoked to buddhi (pure
reason) - thus to be "yoked to buddhi "is an interchangeable
term with buddhi-yoga.

The demarcation line between the two sections becomes
very clear by the placing of the word tu (well, now then!).


ne 'ha 'bhikramanaso 'sti
pratyavayo na vidyate
svalpam apy asya dharmasya
trayate mahato bhayat

In such (a path) there is no forfeiture of any merit
nor is there involved any demerit by transgression.
Even a little of such a way of life saves one from great


This verse begins the section which is described at the
very end of this chapter by the words brahmi sthitih (the
state of spirit in accordance with the notion of the Absolute).
The word Brahman, we know already, has its origin in the
brahminical or Vedic context and thus refers back to the
orthodox schools of Vedism, as opposed to the heterodox
rationalist schools of the previous half of this chapter.
Naturally, therefore, this verse begins by contrasting the
merely orthodox Vedism with Brahmavidya (the science of
the Absolute) as intended in the Gita.

Relativistic Veda is here contrasted with absolutist
Vedanta. The progressive accumulation of merit, or
regression into demerit, are both irrelevant to spirituality as
it should be


understood in Vedanta. Although Vedanta has no dharma
so-called, or as absolutism is beyond all dharmas (which belong to the relativist world of action), here we find the reference to dharma is merely for purposes of contrast with relativist duties which are full of injunctions and obligations. It is usual in the same sense to speak sometimes of upanishadsudharmah (dharma as implied in the Upanishads). In the light of the final recommendation to abandon all dharmas (xviii, 66), the non-obligatory character of the dharma here becomes evident. Relativist dharma is open to two dangers which are referred to here.

After building up merit, a slight deflection from, or error of, obligatory conduct could jeopardize the whole progress made, at any stage, at any given moment, not only nullifying all merit, but prospectively and adversely affecting generations still unborn, in the family of the defaulter.

These two dangers are referred to in the terms
abhikramanasah (destruction of what is gradually built up)
and pratyavaya (negation of what should have accrued).
By contrast, absolutist wisdom is safe sailing, as we shall
see from the quotation below from the Mundaka
Upanishad. All Upanishads invariably begin their teaching
of absolutist wisdom by first referring to Vedic or relativist
wisdom often in seemingly laudatory terms, but soon to
damn it with faint praise, pointing out its dangers. This is a
favourite device in Sanskrit and is known as virodhabhasa.
The fear referred to here should also be understood in the
light of the danger in all relativist forms of spiritual
progression which belong to the Vedic context.
The words svalpam api (even a little) suggest those
biblical sayings which also refer to wisdom, such as "a little
leaven leaveneth the whole lump", "the still small voice",
and the pearl of great price,"etc.

The nature of the pratyavaya (negation of what should
have accrued) referred to becomes clear from the following
quotation from the Mundaka Upanishad (1, 2, 3):
"If one's Agnihotra (Vedic burnt offering) sacrifice is
not followed by the sacrifice of the new moon and of the
full moon, by the four-months sacrifice, by the harvest
sacrifice, if it is unattended by guests, or not offered at
all, or without the ceremony to all the gods, or not
according to rule, it destroys his seven worlds."


vyavasayatmika buddhir
eke 'ha kurunandana
bahusakha hy anantas cha

Here, 0 Prize of the Kurus (Arjuna), the well-founded
reasoning is unitive but many branched and endless are
the reasonings of them in whom reason is ill-founded.


The basic requirements for buddhi (reasoning) to
function in manner conducive to attain spiritual values is
here referred as being unitive or uniate. Unitive thinking
alone is the proper instrument of contemplation. It
follows certain vyavasthas or rules of arrangement which
properly belong to its method of achieving worthwhile
values in life treated as a whole. One has to desire
spiritual values wholeheartedly according to certain
attitudes proper to the context of wisdom. Such unitive
well-founded reasoning is here referred to as vasayatmika
buddhi (a reason well-founded and regulated and directed
to its object). Such a reasoning establishes a direct bi-
polar relationship with the object of its search. It does not
get lost in endless ramifications. Bi-polarity, once
established, is conducive to further reasoning along the
same lines, culminating in the highest good, in the Self.
This, we shall see, is the basic doctrine of the Gita. This
bi-polar method which consists of resolving duality
implicit in it at every stage is none other than the method
of Yoga, as employed throughout the Gita.
Dialectics, when understood properly in Western
philosophy, would come nearest to this method of Yoga.
In the Introduction and elsewhere, wherever the subject
arises, further clarification of dialectics will be found.


yam imam pushpitam vacham
pravadanty avipaschitah
vedavadaratah partha
na'nyad asti 'ti vadinah


kanatatmanah svargapara
janma karma phala
pradam kriya visesha bahulam
bhogaisvaryagatim prati



bhogaisvarya prasaktanam
vyavasayatmika buddhih
samadhau na vidhiyate

Such flowery speech as uttered by the foolish
adhering to the doctrine of the Veda negating any
other (transcendental) verity, the self of which is
nothing but desire-made, holding heaven for
highest goal, offering only birth as the result of
works abounding in many special observances
which aim at enjoyment and domination:
in the case of those whose minds are under the
sway of such teachings, who are attached to
enjoyment and domination, a well-founded reason
does not come under the sway of the peace of
contemplation (samadhi).


traigunya vishaya veda
nistraigunyo bhava 'rjuna
nirdvandvo nitya sattvastho
niryogakshema atmavan

The Veda treats of matters related to the three
gunas (modalities of nature); you should he free
from these three modalities 0 Arjuna; free from
(relative) pairs of opposites, established ever in
pure being, without any Yoga (discipline) or well-
being (as dual factors), but remain one (unitively)
Self-possessed (atmavan).


yavan artha udapane
sarvatah samplutodake
tavan sarveshu vedeshu
brahmanasya vijanatah

There would be as much use for all the Vedas to a
Brahmin of wisdom as there could be for a pool of
water when a full flood prevails all over.


These verses must be taken together. They unequivocally
continue a tirade against Vedism. The relativism of Vedic
spirituality is here condemned as being non-conducive to


turning of the mind to samadhi (final peace, emancipation,
the highest goal).

The method of reasoning that Vedic-minded people
employ is also here discredited in unmistakable terms. It is
usual however, on the part of apologists in the name of
Hindu orthodoxy to condone or take away the edge from
this forthright condemnation. Here, in Verse 46, the Vedas
are referred to as a useless old well. Condemnation of this
kind is further repeated elsewhere in the Gita. The tree that
the Veda-knower knows is to be ruthlessly cut down in xv,

Radhakrishnan, for example, as one such apologist, refers
to the Vedic ritualists as of this verse or "Vedic Aryans "
as he calls them, as "glorious children the youth of humanity
whose life was still fresh and sweet" - yet who "had
also the balanced wisdom of maturity." (The Bhagavad Gita,
p. 117). He does not say however, that they were mistaken
according to the Gita.

In their eagerness to save the Vedas in the name of orthodoxy,
such writers forget that to the extent that relativism
is connived at, the true cause of Vedanta, which is perhaps
a superior heritage for all mankind, suffers by such apologetics.
The rishis (seers or sages) stood for absolutist wisdom first and
foremost, while giving to relativist knowledge all possible credit
due to it. For anyone to try to out-do the rishis themselves in the
name of any Hindu apologetics whatsoever, with which certain
elements of patriotism and nationalism are also likely to be
mixed, would be indirectly a disservice to that very heritage
which Paul Deussen describes as "the fairest flower on the tree
of Indian wisdom."

In Verse 42 the word vedavadaratah (those attached to Vedic
reasoning) is often apologetically translated as referring only
to karma kanda (ritualistic section) of the Vedas, although it
plainly refers here to those who are attached to an argument
which is one-legged, or which is a form of reasoning that is
non-dialectical, and peculiar to the Vedas and not to the

That such a meaning as we give is intended is clear from
the next qualifying phrase in the same verse: na aniyad asti
iti vadinah (those who contend there is no second side to a
given argument). Vedantic thought conforms to a pattern of
reasoning which has two counterparts, which is exactly
what is known from early Greek times in the West as
dialectical reasoning.


That Yoga is essentially the same as dialectical reasoning
the succeeding verses will soon reveal.

In Verse 43 the word svargaparah (those for whom
heaven is the supreme value) would seem at first sight to
contradict what was just said in Verse 49 where the ritualists
are represented as thinking with undue emphasis on one
side of life. Svarga (heaven) brought in here might seem to
compensate for this one-sidedness, but in reality the heaven
of the ritualist is only a form of an "earthly paradise"
where the same pleasures that are understood on earth could
be prolonged. Indra, for example, is steeped in such
pleasures. Such a heaven, non-dialectically conceived, is
repugnant to the teaching of the Gita, although this does not
mean that higher human values properly understood are
excluded. This will be clear from iii, 11, where there is a
reference to a properly contemplative give and take
between man and gods as reciprocal counterparts of the
same situation as revised in Vedanta.

The phrase janma-karma-phala-pradam (yielding fruits of
action through births) can refer to superior or inferior
relativist values, but both the result and the action are
conceived as lying within the relativistic scheme. Further the
"fruit" here is a third factor incompatible with either ends or
means. Therein lies the absurdity of the Vedic way,
confusing the mind of the seeker because of the triangular
situation involved. Bi-polarity of interest, which is a pre-
requisite for yogic reasoning is thus violated. Hence the
ritualistic injunctions become endlessly complicated and
entangled. This is what is suggested in the next phrase: kriya
visesha bahulam (abounding in ritualistic speculations).

In Verse 44, the phrase tayi apahrita-chetasam (faculties
dominated by such factors), refers to what we have
distinguished above as the third intrusive interest,
lopsidedly conceived. For samadhi (final peace) to result, it
is essential that energies should not be dissipated in third
interests which fall outside the scope of spirituality, for
spiritual progress takes place only through a direct bi-polar

Of reasoning it is said here na vidhiyate (will not bend).
Reasoning will not bend or submit to progressive
sublimation in terms of higher and higher interests or values
to the extent that the bipolarity is interfered with.
In Verse 45 the relativistic character of the Vedas is further
elaborated. The highest point of perfection envisaged


to Vedic teaching is a brahmin of sattvic (pure) nature.
Arjuna is called upon to desire something better still, which
is to be got only by a thorough-going Absolutist.
The categoric nature of the injunction to Arjuna to discard
altogether the relativist standpoint is made quite
clear in the phrase nistraigunyo bhava'rjuna (transcend the
three modalities of nature, Arjuna). J ust as crabbed age and
youth cannot live together, so with relativism and
absolutism. To think that karma (action) and jnana
(wisdom) are recommended together here as some lukewarm
apologists tend to think is exactly what Sankara calls the
error of jnana-karma-samuchchhaya (commingling of
wisdom and work) against which he has fought many a
battle in various parts of his bhashyas commentaries).
The revised attitude proper to the outlook of Vedanta is
summed up in the second line of the same verse:
nirdvandvah (not based on pairs of opposites, e.g., pleasure
and pain), nityasattvastho (established in timeless or pure
being). It is true that the word sattva (referring to pure
being) is common to Vedic and Vedantic ways of life, but
the prefix nitya (timeless) lifts it out of the framework of
relativism altogether. It does not refer to the social quality,
holiness or purity of a ritualistic brahmin, who is the highest
product of the Vedic way. To complete the meaning of what
these remarks mean, they should be read with reference to
the brahmin in Verse 46. Finally there is the phrase
niryogakshema (without caring for end, e,g., prosperity and
happiness here, as understood in the Vedic context). Further
implications of Yoga (something to be attained) and kshema
(prosperity) as used here have to be derived from Chapter iv,11
and the connective verses. The dualistic attitude as regards
ends and means is here condemned.

In Verse 46 the central value of the Vedas is compared to
drinking water. The intelligent brahmin values this in the
form of its full-flooded culmination as the Vedanta and has
left off drinking at the Vedic well. The non-intelligent
brahmin still persists in seeing value in what has been
discarded, and because of his relativistic, static or closed
form of spirituality, which the intelligent have long since
transcended, is here held up for ridicule. The absurdity of
Vedic orthodoxy for its own sake is condemned. The reductio
ad absurdum argument,

(1) For further discussion on ends and means see Chapter
XVIII in "The Word of the Guru" by P. Natarajan (Bangalore,


evidently implicit in this verse, is watered down
considerably in many translations, especially by those who
are religious-minded.

In the light of v, 18, we see further that the Gita attaches
no superiority even to a learned and humble brahmin in the
context of the wisdom of the Absolute (brahmavidya)
which is its main concern, although some credit seems to be
allowed for the spirituality of brahminhood in ix, 33 But on
closer examination of that verse, we find that it is only
simple human goodness and not any special holiness as
such that is given a passing recognition. The question is of
loving Vedanta more and the Veda only as much as it
deserves. It is not that we should love the Vedas less but
that we should love Vedanta more. The Gita represents a
full-blooded revaluation of the closed static spirituality of
the Vedas in dynamic and open terms, to use the terminology
of Bergson. No total discredit of the Vedas is intended here,
if it implies no denial of the absolutist way.


karmany eva 'dhikras te
ma phaleshu kadachana
ma karma phala hetur bhur
ma te sango 'stv akarmani

Your concern should be with action (as such) alone, not for
any benefits ever. Do not become benefit-motivated; be
not attached to inaction (either).


The idea of karma (action) is for the first time
theoretically considered here and continuing up to Verse
51, although it might be thought to belong more strictly
to the next chapter on Karma Yoga (Unitive Action), as
this is supposed to be a chapter on Samkhya. The
digression, however, is justified in the light of Verse 49
(p.158) where buddhi (reason) is given primacy again
over karma (action). Vedic ritualism implies so much of
karma that it becomes unavoidable to refer to it here,
particularly in this second half of Chapter ii. The attempt
is to revalue Vedism and bring it into line with a
rationalism compatible with Yoga. Thus understood, the
digression is normal.

This is a much-quoted and much-abused verse which has
been bandied about by pseudo-pandits who seem to support
the idea that a man who works should not think of any


results. If a man should cultivate a field and if, when the
corn is ripe, he himself should set fire to it to prove to his
neighbours that he does not care for "the fruit of action",
that would almost correspond to the sense in which many
such pandits seem to interpret the meaning of the verse. To
expect reasonable results from any action that a man might
do is but normal, hence purposely to minimize the
importance of results in the sense indicated in the above
example, would be absurd. Aurobindo Ghose denounces
what he calls the gospel of duty and renouncing the fruits of
action which, he says, has become almost a mahavakya
(great dictum) of the Gita, by popular usage (pp. 49-50,
"Essays on Gita", 1st Series, 1926). There is a way in which
nishkama-karma (motiveless action) is to be understood,
and an aspect of the theory has already been discussed (see
Verse 45 under niryogakshema). The subtle implications of
this doctrine will be better understood in the light of verses
xviii, 11 - 12.

The fruit (phala) of action referred to here must mean, not
results that are desirable in the proper context of wisdom,
but only third or extraneous "fruits "or ends in the context
where ends and means are treated dualistically. When an
artist paints for the joy of painting, ends and means
coincide; but in the case of a mercenary soldier, ends and
means do not coincide, since he is thinking of his payment
as a "fruit", and such an end is extraneous to the bi-polar
situation between victory and fighting which are the proper
ends and means; although to the degree that he treats his
remuneration as incidental, the duality may be minimised.
This is exactly what is being attempted to be explained here
by the phrase ma karma-phala-hetur bhur (be not benefit-

In the light of such an interpretation alone could the
concluding phrase, which is the converse of the proposition,
become fully relevant - ma te sangah asstu akarmani (do not
lapse into inactivity or indifference, i.e. owing to lack of
interest in the end to be attained). Between taking action too
seriously, as might seem to be suggested in the opening
phrase karmany eva adhikiras te, and not being indifferent to
it as suggested in the last phrase, a certain neutrality is to be
maintained. This neutrality, as we shall see, is directly
connected with the state of mind of a yogi.

The unitive or non-dual treatment of ends and means is the
subject matter of this verse, and is often interpreted as
encouraging a callous attitude towards life, when a man


merely says "I don't care for any good results". At best this
could be called a form of hoboism.

No reflection on the fitness of Arjuna to be the recipient of wisdom is implied here, as even Sankara's commentary would seem to suggest, qualified by his notions of varna (colour) as existing in the vyavaharika (actual) world in which he lived, Sankara seems to suggest the inferiority of Arjuna to a brahmin to receive instruction in Brahmavidya (science of the Absolute). If this attitude were justified we should have found Krishna refusing to teach Arjuna Brahmavidya altogether. The sentence here, however, is applicable equally to a brahmin or kshatriya; in fact it is more applicable to a brahmin as it is ritualism in the Vedic context that has just been discussed. Dualism in the Vedic karma (action) of a brahmin is as reprehensible as dualism brought into a kshatriya's normal vocation. Hence the imaginary words that Sankara puts in the mouth of Krishna as addressing Arjuna: "You are qualified for works alone, not for the path of knowledge," (in his comment on this verse) fail to hit the mark altogether. If Arjuna had been a sudra (worker), this reference by Sankara to caste rights would have been less absurd especially as heaven has been held out as a reward for Arjuna in ii, 32, and as Arjuna has been included among types who have divine qualities in xvi,5.

The word adhikarah is often translated as referring to
adhikara-bheda (rights of castes for activities, according to
law-makers). This is unwarranted in the light of what we
have said. It can just mean "concern". Here we have only
an admonition on the part of Krishna asking Arjuna to avoid
any consideration extraneous to the situation; or to avoid
allowing any outside or third factor to interfere with his
normal course of action. Too much detachment is equally
reprehended, not because of any caste rights involved, but
only in the name of Yoga, which is to be understood in the
light of the definition in the next verse.

The word eva (alone) of the first line is meant to point to
action for its own sake, as when we say "art for art's sake"
to underline its idealistic nature. It does not suggest the
binding nature of action in the case of a kshatriya, as often
too complacently believed.

We see, therefore, that to press into service here the
argument of the caste obligations of a kshatriya would be
rather artificial and incompatible with the normal treatment
of the


subject of a non-dual approach to ends and means in respect
of action, whether of a brahmin or of a kshatriya. This
becomes all the more evident because Sankara, when
explaining the meaning of "Do therefore fight, Arjuna" in
his comment on ii, 18, says: "Here the duty of fighting is not


yogasthah kuru karmani
sangam tyaktva dhanamjaya
siddhyasiddhyoh samo bhutva

Engage in activity, 0 Dhananjaya (Arjuna), taking your stand on
the unitive way (of Yoga) discarding attachments and capable of
regarding both attain­ment and non-attainment as the same: in
sameness consists the unitive way (Yoga).


Yoga here is for the first time given some precision of meaning,
though in a preliminary and general way only. It is further
defined in this chapter and, according to the requirements of
context, in other chapters also. The Yoga of the Gita does not
follow the conventional notions of Yoga as found in the "Yoga
Aphorisms" of Patanjali. This is clear from the over-all
definition in VI, 23 C ("disaffiliation from the context of
suffering"). Even the laboured steps, or stages of Yoga as
popularly understood are prominent by omission here.
We have both Samkhya and Yoga revalued in this chapter.
We should note further that nowhere is Yoga defined merely
as chitta-vritti-nirodha (inhibition of the fluctuations of
the mind) which is the well-known definition of Patanjali
in his "Yoga-Sutras". Patanjali's Yoga has postures (asanas)
and breath­ing exercises, which are hardly touched upon in the
Gita. We find a touch of Samkhya dualism in this sister school
of Yoga, as understood in the Shad-darshanas or Six Systems
of Indian philosophy. ­

Such a dual treatment is what is revised and revalued in the
Gita. Hence the stress on the word samatvam (equality).
The nature of equality intended here is indicated in the
verse itself. It is the same non-duality or ends and means
which we have already discussed. 

The true yogi is equally unconcerned about siddhyasiddha,
(attainments and non-attainments), spiritual or otherwise.
In other words both the propositions are equally foreign to


the neutralized yogi. Samadhi (final peace) is not a distant
goal to be reached by intermediate stages of attainment
(siddhi). But any given stage of a true yogi is a neutral state
where opposite tendencies are cancelled out. It is in this
sense that Yoga is to be understood here. Only such a notion
of Yoga would be in keeping with non-duality as understood
in Brahmavidya.

In this verse Arjuna is asked not to perform karma (action)
in the usual way, like any other ordinary person, but to act
with the neutral attitude of Yoga firmly established in him.


durena hy avaram karma
buddhi yogad dhanamjaya buddhau
saranam anvichchha
kripanah phala hetavah

Far inferior is (the way of) action to the unitive
way of reason, 0 Dhanamjaya (Arjuna); Resort to
reason for final refuge; pitiful are they who are


Buddhi yukto jahati 'ha
ubhe sukrita dushkrite
tasmad yogaya yujyasva
yogah karmasu kausalam

Affiliated to reason one leaves behind here both
meritorious and unmeritorious deeds. Therefore
affiliate yourself to the unitive way (of Yoga);
Yoga is reason in action.


These two verses together naturally follow up the
difference between mere action, and action as modified by
Yoga - which is a form of equalization of action with its
counterpart, which in this chapter is buddhi (reason). Karma
(action) could have other counterparts in other chapters. In
a ritualistic context karma (action) could have moksha (final
liberation) as its counterpart.

In Verse 49 the importance of buddhi (reason) in
rationalizing mere action is referred to. Rationalized action
is far superior, it says, to mere action.

Although pure reason is the central value of this chapter,
action, subjected to yogic revision, is also to be theoretically


distinguished before the proper discussion of Karma Yoga
(unitive action) can be dealt with normally in the next

A fresh definition of Yoga is, therefore, given in Verse 50 to
complement the first definition in Verse 48. The element of
reason that could counterbalance and neutralize mere action
is what makes for Yoga in the context of action. Hence the
revised definition of yogah karmasu kausalam (Yoga is the
application of non-mechanistic intuitive or even creative
understanding into the domain of mere action).

Therefore not only is mere action, whether ritualistic or
otherwise, far inferior to buddhi-yoga (unitive reasoning), as
stated in Verse 49, but also interior to action understood
creatively according to Verse 50.

The buddhi (reasoning) referred to in Verse 49 is one that
is pure, not admitting of third or extraneous factors such as
fruits of action, as we have already explained under Verse
47. The direct bi-polar relation between buddhi (pure
reason, contemplative understanding) here with its object,
should not be interfered with by other considerations, as
when one is end-motivated. The karpanya-dosha (evil due
to a negative state of spirit) of Arjuna in Verse 7 is due to
this interference of dualistic interests, which condition is
here exposed and discredited. The prevailing notion that the
Gita teaches "karma yoga" interpreted as "energism" by
such great scholars as Tilak, becomes untenable in the light
of the phrase buddhau saranam anvichchha (do thou take
refuge in pure reason) in Verse 49. This recommendation,
though particularly pertinent to this chapter, holds good
throughout, and references to action never have a
mandatory character, but are only to be seen in every case
to be merely of a permissive character, as has been
sufficiently recognized by Sankara. We have already noted
this in our comment on Verse 47.

No redundancy is implied in the words yogaya yujyasva
(unite yourself to a unitive outlook).

Pure Yoga is independent of particular values implied, and
can be spoken of as uniting with itself in an absolutist
sense. There is therefore no more vagueness than
when one says "nothing succeeds like success". All
that we can say by way of explanation is that pure
Yoga exists for its own sake. It is the cancelling-out of
all opposites into a neutral state of non-suffering or
global wisdom.

The reference in Verse 50 to merit and demerit is an
answer to Arjuna's concern about the "great sin" (mahat
papa) of war in i, 45.


It is also the intention here to cancel-out the merit
of a ritualistic heaven, in the same way as attainment
and non-attainment are to be abandoned (as in Verse 48).
The buddhi (reason) here being of an absolutist kind
transcends all relativistic values, whether positive or

Kausalam (often weakly or wrongly translated as "skill")
suggests an element of reason or even intuition rather than
mechanistic ability. Mere action gets purified or sublimated
by the rationalizing touch of wisdom.

The word ubhe (both) in Verse 50 is significant in yoga,
understood as the cancelling-out of ambivalent aspects.


karmajam buddhiyukta hi
phalam tyaktvamanishinah
janmabandha vinirmuktah
padam gachchhanty anamayam

By affiliation to unitive reason wise men,transcending
birth-bondage, renouncing benefit-interest, go onwards
to a state beyond all pain.


The rest of the chapter is a description of what is to be
understood as brahmi sthitih (the state of being established
in the Absolute) in contradistinction to absolutism in the
context of Samkhya as covered in the section concluding
with Verse 39.

The word Brahman (the Absolute) has its origin in the
Vedas and Samkhya has the same absolutism, but because of
its being a heterodox school of rationalism, the absolutism is
treated separately, in order to relate each expression to its
proper context. Naturally, therefore, in this second section
there is a drastic revision of Vedism, as we have already
noticed in Verses ii, 42-46.


yada te mohakalilam
buddhir vyatitarishyati tada
gantasi nirvedam
srotavyasya srutasya cha

When your reason has transcended the dross of vagueness,
then you attain to that neutral attitude both in respect
of what is to be learnt and what has already been heard.


srutivi pratipanna te
yada sthasyati nischala
samadhav achala buddhis
tada yogam avapsyasi

When disillusioned respecting the (contradictory
injunctions of the) scriptures (Vedas) your
reasoning stands steady in samadhi (supreme
peace) then you shall have reached Yoga (unitive

arjuna uvacha
sthitaprajnasya ka bhasha
samadhisthasya kesava
sthitadhih kim prabhasheta
kim asita vrajeta kim

Arjuna said:
What is the way of one whose reason is well-
founded; who is established in samadhi (supreme
peace) 0 Kesava (Krishna) ? Now does he
discourse, what his state of being, how does he
move about?


In these verses the same attack on the Vedas begun in
Verse 42 is continued. The Vedas are referred to as a
confusing entanglement in Verse 52 and, in Verse 53 Vedic
texts are referred to as having a distracting effect not
conducive to wisdom or Yoga. The relativist Vedas have to
be transcended and got rid of somehow before unitive
contemplation can establish itself.

This contemplation was what was enjoyed by the sages
(manishinah), as Verse 51 declares. The example of the
wise sages is held up. It is neither priests nor logicians who
are praised here. These latter can fall into opposite errors,
but the pure contemplative seer escapes duality and attains
to peace with himself

The word nirvedam in Verse 52 need not mean
"indifference" as often translated by apologists for the
Vedas, but can connote "freedom from the Vedas" as
scriptures of a particular religion. This will help us to see
the contrast all the better between relativism and

The word srotavyasya (to be heard hereafter) points to
the possibility of relativism in any future religions, in
addition to


the relativism found in the religion of the Hindu Vedas
which has already been heard.

That contemplation and Yoga are the same, as we have
taken them to be in Verse 51, is justified by the last line of
Verse 53. Serenity, steadiness and unitiveness are some of
the characteristics of contemplation indicated here. These
are to be further elaborated, prompted by a specific question
by Arjuna, which follows in the next verse.

Arjuna's question is intended by the author as a device to
make the discussion conform to the guru-sishya samvada
(teacher-disciple dialogue) pattern. The revised standpoint
of the Gita itself is to be taught in such replies to questions
by Krishna as Guru.

Many aspects of spirituality or ethics, previously alluded
to incidentally, find here a revalued statement which could
be considered a siddhanta (finalized doctrine), not covering
the whole subject but, in so far as the problems are relevant
to the chapter.

For purposes of clear visualization of the spiritual values
involved, such final teachings take the form of the personal
description of the man who is held up as a model according
to the spirituality understood in the Gita. He is sometimes
praised as being "dear" or "most dear" to the Absolute.
At other times he is said to "enter into" or "to abide in"
the Absolute. A typical yogi, the man who conforms to
absolutist ways in life, or one who has obtained the highest,
or is merely destined for the highest, are seen to be referred
to generally at the end of the various chapters of the Gita.
Here we come upon a sequence of verses extolling a
certain type of spirituality. Similar sets of verses describing
the yogi in other contexts will be found in iv, 18-24; v, 23-
28; vi, 27-32; xii, 13-20; xiii, 27-32; xxv, 22-26 and xviii,

Stability or being properly established in the path of the
Absolute is the central topic of the present group of verses,
as can be seen by the repetition of the word sthiti
(steadiness). The culminating Verse 70 gives us the spiritual
content that is intended in these verses to be described in
detail. There it is a mystical state - compared to an ocean
into which all river waters enter to fill, though in principle
only. All the component factors or necessary conditions that
contribute to this culminating state of the absolutist, not in
the context of Vedism or of any other religion, but in the
plain context of buddhi (pure reason), are referred to one
after another, in these succeeding verses.


Arjuna's question vrajeta kim (How does he - the
contemplative - walk?) merely shows his eagerness for a
precise answer, and the answer is as exact as could be
possible in a shastra (textbook) which the Gita claims to
be. It gives definitions and examples, and the reference to
the tortoise in Verse 58 makes the answer as graphic as it
could be, when trying to describe the type of introversion of
a contemplative.


sribhagavan uvacha
prajahati yada kaman
sarvan partha manogatan
atmany eva 'tmana tushtah
sthitaprajnas tado 'chyate

Krishna said:
When one banishes all desires that enter the mind, 0
Partha (Arjuna), satisfied in the Self by the Self
alone, then he is said to be one of well-founded


The first thing that happens to a man who begins to tread
The path of the contemplative consists in his disaffiliation
from the various desires with which he is attached to
different grades of relativistic values in everyday life. These
are collectively called kamah (desires). Such desires are
meant to include all those desires which are capable of
entering into or affecting the mind as the word manogatan
(going into the mind) indicates.

Desires can be said to enter the mind or be "afferent"
in character as opposed to "efferent" impulses which may
be said to go outwards to each object of desire.

Contemplation is primarily concerned with the former - those
that enter the mind. Hence their mention here. A man who
purposely or actively searches for objects of desire falls
outside the scope of contemplation altogether.

The word prajahati - often translated "throws away"
would be better translated "shedding" inasmuch as no
activity is implied therein. The analogy of a snake casting its
skin, familiar in the Upanishads, is the idea intended here.
The expression atmany eva'tmani tushtah (satisfied in
Self by Self) seems to be a tall order for a beginner in


but no contemplative worth the name could be considered
so if he was still attached to any value that was outside.
This condition is both the alpha and omega of
contemplative life. There are no shortcuts or made-easy
ways to wisdom.


duhkheshu anudvignamanah
sukheshu vigatasprihah
vita raga bhaya krodhah
sthitadhir munir uchyate

He whose mind is unaffected by mishaps, who on
happy occasions too evinces no interest, rising
above attachment, anxiety or anger, such a sage-
recluse is said to be of well-founded reason.


The steady neutrality of a contemplative is described now
in detail. Desire, fear and anger form, as it were, a kind of
triangle spelling evil as factors working against the
contemplative life. These are not to be understood as an
enumeration of social vices as often treated by public
exponents of the Gita. Vices in a social sense are surely
more than just three. This trio of evil comes into the
discussion in many parts of the Gita (e.g., iii, 37; xvi 21).
The trio are organically related to the subject inasmuch as
they make contemplation impossible of being even initiated.
The attempt here is merely to remove impediments to
contemplation and not to teach virtues. If this is not
understood then the error is often committed of looking on
the Gita as a dharma shastra (a code of conduct).
Pain and pleasure are the two components of desire. The
steady contemplative is unaffected by either - in other
words, both are equal to him. Good or bad cancel each
other out as twin factors of relative dualism. Reflexes of the
nervous system act in one plane and reflexive thought is
unaffected by them. Contemplation belongs to the order of
reflexive thought. It transcends the level of mere
automatisms, which depend upon such extraneous factors
as heat and cold, leading to pleasure or pain, as already
mentioned in ii, 14. More complex causes of pleasure or
pain which are still relativist, are referred to here. The
contemplative attains a neutral position. There is a touch of
heroism implied in such a picture of one properly
established in wisdom here. Such heroism is foreign to
types of persons who lack seriousness.



yah sarvatra 'nabhisnehas
tat-tat prapya subhasubham
na 'bhinandati na dveshti
tasya prajna pratishthita

He who remains in all cases unattached on gaining
such or such desirable-undesirable end, who
neither welcomes (anything) nor rejects in anger,
his reason is well-founded. 


Here the same detachment is brought out in terms of
events more generally conceived, as forming the successive
personal environments of an individual. The contemplative
should not be depressed when he does not have a nice time
in society, nor should he be exuberant in gay company. He
must be free from such fluctuating moods.
That a general disposition is intended here is indicated by
the word sarvatra (in every given situation).

The word anabhisnehah (without outgoing attachments)
purposely puts the stress on attachments reaching outwards,
rather than on normal interests that flow like rivers inwards
to produce that plenitude referred to in ii, 70.
The words subha (favourable or good) and asubha
(unfavourable) carry a wider range of meaning than just
pleasure or pain which were referred to earlier.
The words tat-tat (that-that) refer to each event being
treated disjunctly and not as each event should be treated; as
belonging to a continuous process proper to one who has a
contemplative attitude. The relation of anger, pleasure and
desire are again indicated. This vicious circle is completely
described in Verses 62 and 63 which follow.


yada samharate cha yam
kurmo 'ngani 'va sarvasah
indriyani 'ndriyarthebhyas
tasya prajna pratishthita

Again as when a tortoise retracts its limbs from all
sides the senses are (withdrawn) from objects of
sense-interest, his reason is well-founded.


The word sarvasah (from everything, from everywhere) is significant.
The word shows that not only the limbs of the


tortoise, but the head and tail as well are withdrawn. The
limbs are withdrawn from the sides and the head and tail,
likewise, vertically. Both actual and perceptual causes of
distraction are here equally covered and ruled out. That the
perceptual is also covered is clear from the opening word
of Verse 62, dhyayato (thinking intently, i.e., on the objects
of sense) and from the general statement in iii, 6 where one
who dwells even mentally on the objects of sense while
controlling his actions, is decried as a mithyacharah (a man
with wrong notions of living).

This verse draws attention also to the fact that mere
transcendence of duality in the sense indicated in the
previous verses is not all that is required for contemplation,
as the words cha ayam (also, this Self) indicate. A
wholesale introversion of all aspects of the spirit into a
central unitive core of being is here recommended. This
might be said to cover what is known as the item of
pratyahara (withdrawal), one of the steps to Yoga
mentioned by Patanjali. It might be permissible to say that
the picture of contemplation presented by the Gita has no
resemblance to the graded progression in Yoga envisaged
by Patanjali, the Yoga of Patanjaii being a sister system of
the Samkhya of Kapila, suffering from the same taint of a
dualistic approach to yoga, which the Gita revalues or
resolves in unitive terms.


vishaya vinivartante
niraharasya dehinah
rasavarjam raso 'py asya
param drishtva nivartate

Objective interests revert without the relish for
them on starving the embodied (of them).
Even the (residual) relish reverts on the One Beyond
being sighted.


It would be best for us to get the gist of this verse before
entering into the construction, which might read rather
involved, especially in the original Samskrit. If we should
think of sex - to take an example - this verse wants to say
that mere sex-starvation will not destroy all relish for sex
for ever. When, however, an interest higher than sex
prevails; then such relish is destroyed without the
possibility of sex asserting itself any more. Such a
dominant interest could be


nothing less than a full confrontation, in a strictly bi-polar
sense, of the Absolute Itself, as the summum bonum of life.
Then the return to the Self becomes complete. The rest is
clear from the translation.

Param, referring to the Absolute, may also be translated as
the Supreme,"or "the One Beyond "as here.

The word vishaya here covers sensuous interests generally,
and does not refer specially to objects of sense as is more

Dehi (body-dweller) corresponds both to the libido on the
one side and to the Self on the other, for the purposes of
this verse.

The word nivartate (turns back) comes from the same
root as nirvritti (withdrawal) and nirvana (emancipation
negatively conceived). All these are equally suggestive of
the nivrittimarga (path of negation) of the Vedanta (or the
via negativa of European mysticism), as Sankara has
explained in the preface to his commentary on the Gita.


yatato hy api kaunteya
purushasya vipaschitah
indriyani pramathini
haranti prasabham manah

Even with a man of wisdom, 0 Son of Kunti
(Arjuna), in spite of his effort, excited sense
interests (can) forcibly distract the mind.

tani sarvani samyamya
yukta asita matparah
vase hi yasye 'ndriyani
tasya prajnapratishthita

Restraining every one of them he should rest
unitively established, having Me for his Supreme
(ideal). He in whom sense-interests are subdued,
his reason is well-founded.


The converse case of a wise man who falls short of being
a contemplative as understood in the preceding verses, is
dealt with in Verse 60 here and in some of the following
verses, as a slight digression from the description of a
contemplative which otherwise continues almost to the end
of this chapter.


The difference between the vipaschitah (wise man) of
Verse 60 and the contemplative of Verse 61, consists in the
latter being matparah (having Me for Supreme Goal) - the
"Me" here standing for the Absolute of Verse 59. The subtle
contrast implicit in the two cases of Verses 60 and 62 is
referred to again in xv, 11. The man of discursive reasoning
cannot stand up against temptations, while the contemplative
who has established a bi-polar relationship with the Absolute
gains this stability. The maximum amount of mechanical or
ordinary reasoning does not avail without the bipolarity
implied in all dialectical reasoning.

The word pramathini means "excited" or suffering from
exaggeration of values to the extent of their being a menace
to calm reasoning itself. Values tend to be distorted and
magnified beyond proportion under conditions described in
the verses which follow.

The prasabham (by force) meant here can be further
visualized from the example of the gale-driven ship of Verse
67. It is a force contrary to contemplation and comes near to
the idea of concupiscence of Christian theology. Non-
theologically, it has a simpler meaning in the Gita. A living
being tends to be related to everyday values, which could be
so exaggerated as to endanger mere happiness, not to speak
of contemplative happiness.

In the expression in Verse 61, vase hi (under control
indeed) the force of "indeed "is to draw the contrast with
the case of a man as described in Verse 60. Here the senses
do not run away, but are on his side. This makes all the
difference which is further examined minutely in Verse 64.


dhyayato vishayan pumsah
sangas teshu 'pajayate
sangat samjayate kamah
kamat krodho 'bhijayate

Meditating on objects of sense-interest there is
born in man an attachment for them; from
attachment rises passion; in the face of passion
(frustrated) arises rage.

krodhad bhavati sammohah
sammohat smritivibhramah
smritibhramsad buddhinaso
buddhinasat pranasyati

From rage is produced distortion of values, and
from distortion of values memory-lapse, and from
memory-lapse comes loss of reason, and from loss
of reason he perishes.


These verses comprise the psychological analysis of a
situation in which a man, so to say, "perishes"
contemplatively, as stated at the end of Verse 63. This is to
be taken as a spiritual death only, as it is common
knowledge that mere indulgence in sensuality as we see in
nature, does not "kill ". Out of natural limits, however,
some sort of death may also be implied.

Attachments tend to be strengthened and magnified to the
extent that the mind cultivates sensuous propensities. At a
given moment the mind through one particular sense
attraction, or through a group of sense attractions,
establishes a bi-polar relation with an external object of
desire, as described in Verse 67. The relation then goes out
of hand, and the resulting exaggeration of value leads to
psychic disturbances like anger, when impediments to the
relation become interposed.

Anger adds to the emotional confusion, resulting in
sammohah (a delusion), which evil invades the memory
itself, and memory, or the duration-factor, being important
in contemplative functioning, contemplation itself thus
becomes impossible. Infatuation thus results in "spiritual
death". Buddhi (reason) here is not mere ratiocination, as in
Verse 60. It is rather the instrument of contemplation.
Death here may be compared to a kind of short-circuit,
going across the path of free contemplation.


raga dvesha viyuktais tu
vishayan indriyais charan
atmavasyair vidheyatma
prasadam adhigachchhati

But he whose Self is subdued, whose attachment
and aversion are both within the sway of the Self,
although his senses still move amidst sense-
interests, he wends towards a state of spiritual


The converse case of a man who becomes happy through
contemplation correctly applied to actual life is detailed
here and in the two succeeding verses.


A subtle point is to be noticed here. Objective interests,
when purified, begin to accord with or go with the
corresponding subjective factors of sensuousness, or the
"seats" of the different senses, called indriyas. This
purification, as indicated here, merely consists of the
cancelling-out of attraction and repulsion. The senses are
treated neutrally or unitively and the subjective counterparts
of the senses go hand in hand without conflict. A bipolarity
is again established, this time of a contemplative order. By
virtue of sensuality being atma-vasyair (under the control of
the Self) the Self itself as a whole is in effect brought into
submission; in other words, there is no remaining conflict
between aspects of the Self, subjective or objective. The
consciousness of this global unitive Self is conducive to the
peace or absence of conflict called prasada, often translated


prasade sarva duhkhanam
hanir asyo 'pajayate
prasanna chetaso hy asu
buddhih paryavatishthate

By spiritual clarity there takes place the effacement
for him of all sufferings; and for one whose spirit
has become lucid, very soon reason becomes properly founded.


How consciousness or spirit, when freed from emotional
disturbances, gets a poise or a steadiness favourable to
contemplation is stated here.


na'sti buddhir ayuktasya
na chi yuktasya bhavana
na cha 'bhavayatah santir
asantasya kutah sukham

For one unbalanced there can be no reason, nor is
there any creative intuition for the unbalanced, and
for one incapable of creative intuition there could
be no peace, and for the unpeaceful where could
there be happiness?


Normal contemplative thinking takes place when aspects
of the self are harmonized. Bhavana here means creative


the word being derived from the root bhav (to become).
Peace results only when intuition comes into operation,
along lines of creative becoming, which reconciles
opposing tendencies of the mind. Real happiness is the
result of a global sense of being where currents and
counter-currents are stilled in happiness, which can be said
to be the goal of contemplation.


indriyanam hi charatam
yan mano 'nuvidhiyate
tad asya harati prajnam
vayur navam iva'mbhasi

Still moving amid sense-interests that (item) to
which the mind submits, that very item draws
away the reasoning as the wind does a ship on the


This verse is to be contrasted with what is said in Verse 64
and is meant to recapitulate and sum up the position of a
man whose intelligence is carried away by sensuous values.
This happens very imperceptibly. The senses are in constant
motion like five birds moving on a branch which has five
fruits or berries. The mind, which is the more centralized
organ of thought behind the moving senses, suddenly finds
itself under the sway of some sense-interests in which one
or more of the birds above may be involved. Through this
frail affiliation a bipolarity becomes established which
brings the disaster indicated in this verse.


tasmadyasya mahabaho
nigrihitani sarvasah
tasya prajna pratishthita

Therefore, 0 Mighty-Armed (Arjuna), he whose
senses have been in every way withdrawn from
sense-interests, his reason is well-founded.


This is a warning against the calamity referred to in the
previous verse. No loopholes can be left in the matter of
keeping the senses from getting attached to sense objects.
The need for whole-heartedness in this matter is indicated by
the word sarvasah (in every way).


ya nisa sarvabhutanam
tasyam jagrati samyami
yasyam jagrati bhutani
si nisa pasyato muneh

What is night for all creatures; the one of self-
control keeps awake therein; wherein all creatures
are wakeful, that is night for the sage-recluse who

This verse has that peculiar construction found elsewhere
(e.g., xv, 18), stating the case as it were, in the form of an
impossible paradox. The Gita excels in this style and such
verses constitute supreme examples of dialectical reasoning.
The nearest in modern literature is found in Bergson's
writings, where he bases himself on Zeno's paradoxes. We
are still here in the chapter on Samkhya, where dualism is
taken for granted; hence paradox is but normal. In plain
language what it says is that the contemplative lives in a
world of his own which is the counterpart of the world in
which the rest of creation lives. There is an ambivalent
reciprocal relation between the two which is here brought
into close juxtaposition to be resolved more unitively in
global terms as in the next verse and elsewhere.


apuryamanam achala pratishtham
samudram apah pravisanti yadvat
tadvat kamayam pravisanti sarve
sa santim apnoti na kamakami

Still getting filled, while fixed firm in immobility,
the ocean remains; so too he into whom all interests enter,
he attains to peace, not the craver of desires.


The sublime rhapsody together with the vagueness of the
similes of this verse are best left without analysis The
ocean is not usually referred to as immovably established,
nor as being filled. Its plenitude and over-all changelessness
are here compared to state of mind of a yogi. He is not a
kamakami (desirer of desirable objects). All relativistic
values are small change compared to the gold coin of
absolutism which his plenitude represents. Such plenitude
brings peace.



vihaya kaminyah sarvan
pumams charatinihsprihah
nirmamo nirahamkarah
sa santim adhigachchhati

That man who, giving up all attachments, moves
about desirelessly without owning anything and
without egoism, he goes to peace.

esha brahmi sthitih partha
an 'nam prapya vimuhyati
sthtiva 'syam antakale 'pi
brahmanirvanam richchhati

This is the state of being in the Absolute
(Brahman) 0 Partha (Arjuna), on reaching which
one suffers from delusion no more. Established in
this at the very last moments of life, one reaches
that final state of pure being (nirvana) in the
Absolute (Brahman).


These concluding verses are meant to indicate the
culminating results of contemplative reasoning.
Besides raga-bhaya-krodha (passion, fear, anger) the trio
already referred to in Verse 56, there is the sense of "I"
and "mine" on which depends the relation with external
objects, from whose attraction or repulsion all the three
others arise. Compare the triple gate of hell mentioned in
xvi, 21. There the vices attain a further degree of
objectivity. Egotism is therefore the root cause and the first
enemy of contemplation, whether in this chapter or even in
Chapter xvi. It is at the base of the possessive relationship,
either personal, ideological or objective.

When reason functions without any trace of such egotism
then it may be said to function in a manner in keeping with
the Absolute. This is what is referred to as brahmi sthitih
(the state-of reasoning-in keeping or according with the

Such a reasoning in tune with the Absolute, if it could be
maintained unaffected, even when a man is faced with
death, qualifies him for brahmavidya (the science of the
Absolute) or to final or absolute emancipation or
withdrawal, here called brahmanirvana which is so
reminiscent of Buddhist nirvana. This is also in keeping
with the science of this rational chapter which gives
primacy to buddhi (pure reason) throughout.


ity srimad bhagavadgita supanishatsu
brahmavidyayam yogasastre
Samkhyayogo nama dvitiyo '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
Second Chapter, entitled Unitive Reasoning.