As a guide to conduct, it is necessary for each person to be
able to recognize what is good from what is bad, in other
words, to discriminate between the values belonging to life.
In this chapter there is an enunciation and description of
values which have been divided and distinguished as
belonging to the world of devas (divinities) and asuras
(demons), from which we should understand references
only to higher and lower values. These have already been
referred to in ix, 12 and 1.

Even on a superficial scanning of the items constituting
these sets of values, we can see that they do not conform to
conventional social virtues, although such are not altogether
omitted, e.g., reference to truthfulness is only indirectly
mentioned in Verse 7.

If we should scan the list with religious values in mind,
we find that almsgiving and offering sacrifices, which
would be laudatory acts in the orthodox religious context,
are degraded and listed among the demonic items in Verse
15. Almsgiving, however, is given a sufficiently important
place as the fourth item danam (gift) among the divine
values in Verse 1. Sacrifice is also mentioned there. It is
therefore not unwarrantable to assume that the values are
not conceived along the usual orthodox, or heterodox lines.
The values are graded according to a principle which is
neither strictly ethical nor religious, but which arises
independently from the epistemological frame of reference of
the Gita itself. Comparing the items with the higher and
lower aspects of the Absolute enumerated in various
previous chapters, we can easily see how these higher
values are derivatives from the higher attributes of the
Absolute itself. Taken together they represent an absolutist
way of life and the first item itself,


which is fearlessness, sufficiently reveals what is meant by
this absolutist way. We shall have more to say when we
come to the items themselves in the verses.

It suffices for us to recognize here that these virtues or
values, most of which are of an individual or personal kind,
belong to a mystical or contemplative order. They cannot
be considered as social virtues or pertaining to a morality
derived from popular opinion. Such a world of popular
opinion, where virtues have a Pharisaical character, fall
outside the world of contemplation. True contemplative
values have their source in the superior world of the
purushottama (Paramount Person), the Absolute, of the
previous chapter, which represents the Value of values for
the mystic or contemplative.

Such values do not have difference as between one
religious growth and another, and are not of the order of
obligations, taboos or bans, (for which see Bergson's "The
Two Sources of Morality and Religion" which deals with this

We find here that the tone becomes rather harsh and crude.
In Verses 19 and 20 we come up against a god who resembles
an angry Jehovah, who will not be satisfied till he
metes out strict justice. The nature of the presiding god of
this chapter sinks definitely to the side of karma (action)
or necessity.

Necessity itself, in its most imperative form, is a principle
that cannot be neglected or lightly brushed aside by a
philosopher who is able to penetrate into reality as such. As
necessity itself is cruel and harsh, the tone of the chapter
has to change correspondingly. This should not be taken to
mean that the essential character of the Absolute, as
portrayed in the Gita as a whole, is compromised or changed
for the worse.

The chapter concludes by calling upon Arjuna to rely on
the sastras (recognized scientific scriptural writings).
The Gita does not recommend heterodoxy, but has its own
version of what should be considered authoritative or
canonical. This is brought out in more detail in the last
two chapters, and especially in Chapter xvii, in answer to
the pointed question of Arjuna about a person who does not
adhere to the sastras (scientific canons).


Sribhagavan uvacha
abhayam sattvasamsuddhir
jnanayoga vyavasthitih
danam damas cha yajnas cha
svadhyayas taba drjavam

ahimsa satyam akrodhas
yogah santir apaisunam
daya bhuteshv aloluptvam
mardavam hrir achapalam

tejah kshama dhritih saucham
adroho na 'timanita
bhavanti sampadam daivim
abhijatasya bharata

Krishna said:
Fearlessness, transparency to truth, proper affiliation to
unitive wisdom, attitude of generous sharing, self-restraint
and sacrifice, private perusal of sacred books, discipline
and rectitude,

non-hurting, truth, non-anger, relinquishment, calmness,
self-integrity, compassion to beings, non-interest
in sense-values, gentleness, modesty, non-fickleness,

alertness, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, absence of
malice, absence of excessive respectability: these make up
the divine (higher) values of anyone, 0 Bharata (Arjuna),
born for them.


These verses enumerate certain personal virtues or values
characterizing a man belonging to a higher order of good
men as understood in the Gita.

The very first qualification abhayam (fearlessness) strikes
the note of independence and self-reliance rather than
conforming to the requirements of any social system. A
philosopher becomes fearless in a sense in keeping with the
rest of the Gita when he sees equally and neutrally, as stated
in vi, 29, 30 ,and 32, and in xiv, 23. There remains nothing
for him to be afraid of outside himself, while death,
inasmuch as it implies no real change in his being, also
fails to frighten him.

The expression sattvasamsuddhih (transparence to truth)
of Verse 1, refers to the purusha (Person) called kshara (the
changing) as described in the last chapter, the aspect of the
Absolute belonging to the necessary context of life, and
subject to the laws of changing nature. The modality called
sattva (pure-clear) helps the intelligence to arrive at
truthful judgments.


When this modality of nature acts in a perfectly transparent
way, that would indicate what the expression here means.
A good man is also one who has proper affiliation to the
wisdom called here jnana-yoga (unitive understanding) as
known in the Gita. This implies a certain steady loyalty to
wisdom values.

Danam (gift) only means readiness to share the goods of
life with others and not ostentatious charity or almsgiving
listed in Verse 15. Here the giving is egoless.

Again, self-restraint contrasts with the attitude portrayed in 
Verse 15 where a man says, "I will sacrifice". Dama (self-
restraint) belongs to the nivritti marga (negative way) and it
is included in the six preliminary requirements of a wisdom
seeker, such as sama (equanimity), uparati, (disinterest in the
non-contemplative), titiksha (bearing without complaint the
difficulties of the contemplative life), sraddha (confidence in
the teaching and the Guru) and samadhana (constant
recollective meditation) these are the meanings given by
Sankara in the Viveka Chudamani (Verses 19-30).

The word yajna (sacrifice) need not infer limitation to
Vedic sacrifices. Worship itself is a form of sacrifice, as the
word itself has been elsewhere employed in the Gita (iv, 25-30).
Svadhyaya (private perusal of sacred books) also conforms
to the other virtues here in being non-ostentatious, self-reliant
and independent, as all contemplative virtues ought to be.
In the light of xvii, 5, 6, 18 and 19, we should understand
that the tapas (austerity) here is strictly within the
contemplative way, and refers properly to discipline. Arjavam
(rectitude) or sincere straightforwardness is also a quality
referring to oneself and not to society.

Most of the qualities of Verse 2 are contemplative and
negative or neutral, and requiring no explanation, except
perhaps apaisunam (self-integrity), meaning leaving others
alone, non-interfering, and aloluptvam (non-interest in sense-
values). Both of these refer to the self-sufficiency of the

In Verse 3 we have more commonplace virtues which do not need
any philosophical understanding to cultivate, as they are of
an existential order. If we take the instance of saucham
(purity) here it is more physical cleanliness than the
transparency of spirit mentioned in Verse 1. Again, dhritih
(fortitude) indicates a stable quality reminiscent of the
elemental principles of xiii, 5, that necessarily enter the
make-up of the Absolute.


Na atimanita (absence of excessive respectability) marks
the lowest limit of inclusion among those higher or "divine"
qualities, being the last-mentioned here. Good and sensitive
people tend to exaggerate their own respectability or status.
A certain degree of self-respect would be permissible to a
godly man, but over-sensitivity in the matter would be a
disqualification, as suggested by the prefix ati (excessive).
Some people tend to understand by the reference to birth
here that there is a tacit acceptance of heredity, although
the text properly scanned does not warrant such a definite view.
Because many translators have rendered the meaning in such
a way as to imply a distinction based on birth, we are
tempted to make the following remarks.

It is a fact, hardly to be denied, that good and bad people
are found in the world. To speak of them as belonging to
different groups by the peculiarity of their birth does not
mean that humanity is being summarily divided into sheep
and goats depending on some status related to birth. There
is a complete theory put forward by the author in great
detail, in whose light these divisions should be understood.
It is nowhere suggested in the Gita that birth is based on
heredity. We should understand these distinctions as
belonging to type psychology based on the capacity to
appreciate higher or lower values in life which do not
always follow the lines of heredity. In fact Mendel's laws
of heredity prove just the opposite. We know also in common
life that sons of the same parents can be poles apart in
the respective types they represent.


dambho darpo 'bhimanas cha
krodah purushyam eva cha
ajnanam cha 'bhijatasya
partha sampadam asurim

Pretentiousness, arrogance and a sense of self-importance,
anger, and harshness also and ignorance: these, 0 Partha
(Arjuna), make up the demonic (lower) values of anyone born
for them.


The items under asuric (demonic) values reveal a kinship
with either rajas (affective-active modality of nature) and
tamas (inert-dark modality) rather than with sattva (clear-
pure modality). Except for ajnana (ignorance) all of them


characterized by an enlargement of the ego. Egoism is
therefore the principal enemy of the contemplative in the
Gita doctrine, whether that ego gets expressed through
tamas, rajas, or even sattva.

The personal value of honour, implicit in the word
abhimana (high sense of self-respect), here grouped with
bad qualities, is referred to by Krishna himself as
something to be seriously considered when he says in ii, 34
that "dishonour is worse than death". In the light of the
status given to Arjuna in Verse 5: that he is born with
divine endowments, the contradiction implied becomes
somewhat glaring. But there Arjuna was only being introduced
to positive values at a time when he was steeped in negation
and regret. The statement was, therefore, perhaps intended
to whip him, as it were, into a more positive attitude with
sharply stinging words, as a form of treatment for his state
of psychological regression.

The philosophy of Chapter ii was highly theoretical and
sweeping in its abstractions; hence the reference to honour
balanced correctly the abstract value system.

The tail-end of demonic characteristics consists of ignorance
pure and simple, which belongs to a tamasik (inert-dark)

The word abhijatasya (born for) again suggests that some
persons are by their very birth endowed with these qualities
of the lower order. We have explained how such birth does
not conform with the lines along which heredity works.
Men or women themselves conform to different modalities
of nature or types as understood in the light of the
explanations given in Chapter xiv. Arjuna is a kshattriya
(warrior) and is almost directly addressed as such in ii, 31.
In Verse 5 of the present chapter, Arjuna is definitely
admitted in the group of people possessing high or "divine"
endowments as enumerated earlier. According to the
division of necessary duties belonging to kshattriyas, stated
in xviii, 43, we find that despite the striking disparity
between the qualities mentioned there and those of the
Manusmriti (code of regulations of Manu the law-giver),
which includes sacrifices and learning the Vedas, etc., there
is also a further noticeable difference between the higher
endowments of the present chapter and the necessary
activities conforming to the type called the kshattriya
(warrior) of Chapter xviii. In later chapters of the Gita
rigid values of the world of necessary action gain primacy,
while here the gunas (modalities of nature) and endowments
apply to a more flexible state of the spirit.


The matching of the type of spirit to its corresponding mould
of necessity and actual situation is what the Gita recommends
by these references to inborn traits. To mix up in the mind
the fluid traits of the spirit with the factors of necessity
in the hard world outside would give us wrong notions in regard
to the subtle theory put forward here and in xviii, 41 ff.
That such matching of counterparts is in the mind of the author
is clear from iv, 13.

The Pandavas themselves, though brothers, represented.
widely different types, of whom only Arjuna is promoted by
Krishna, in the next verse, to the honour of belonging to the
order of those who have the higher endowments which fit
him for emancipation. The type-psychology of this chapter
and of Chapter xiv, has to he understood with all its dynamic
and organic implications and not statically or mechanistically
interpreted to fit it into any clannish, tribal or caste


daivi sampad vimokshaya
nibandhaya 'suri mata
ma suchah sampadam daivim
abhijato 'si pandava

The divine (higher) values are deemed to be for
emancipation and the demonic (lower) for bondage
(to necessity): do not regret, 0 Pandava (Arjuna):
you are born for the divine (higher) values.


Bondage and liberation are the lowest and the highest points
within whose limits any spiritual progress is to be
accomplished. The spiritual progress of any individual must
depend upon his appreciation of, or affiliation to, spiritual
values such as those enumerated in this chapter. The two
sets described are summarily distinguished here as those
helping to emancipate and those tending towards necessity
and bondage. Arjuna is assured that he is not gravitating
towards bondage, because he belongs to a contemplative
type capable of appreciating those negative, individualistic,
non-social and personal values which have been listed as
"divine". This is to reassure him and save him from his
tendency to regret.


dvau bhutasargau loke'smin
daiva asura eva cha
daivo vistarasah prokta
asuram partha me srinu

There are two (orders of) created beings in this world,
the divine and the demonic; the divine have been described
at length; hear from Me, 0 Partha (Arjuna), of the demonic.


In this verse the values distinguished in the previous
verses are applied to the whole world of created beings
without particular reference to human types. The object here
is to examine the repercussions of these two types on what
constitutes human environment and life in general rather
than what refers to the subjective human spirit only.
Bad men become a nuisance to society, as stated in Verse
9 later, and involve others in distress. A rather detailed
description of bad men continues throughout the rest of the
chapter. It seems to suggest strongly that the world has
need of elimination of the evil resulting from bad natures
and that God himself is not indifferent to such a necessity
as stated in Verses 19 and 20. There his role resembles that
of a jailor or policeman or at least a magistrate, the only
difference being that the punishment is in terms of
degradation in the scale of contemplative values. The
offenders get caught more and more in necessity.


pravrittim cha nivrittim
cha jana na vidur asurah
na saucham na 'pi cha
'charo na satyam teshu vidyate

The demonic men do not know the way of positive action
nor the way of negative withdrawal; in them is found neither
cleanliness, nor propriety in conduct, nor veracity.


Those of the lower order described are neither intelligent,
nor do they have any of the virtues that go to make a man
really superior to others. The minimum required to make a
man distinctly intelligent is that he should be able to
differentiate between pravritti (the positive way of action)
and nivritti (the negative way of withdrawal). In everyday
life he should have sufficient cleanliness as well as
propriety in conduct.


The man of lower nature possesses neither of these
qualifications, lastly, he lacks veracity.

It is implied here that the correct way of life would be
to be able to strike the balance between a forward and a
negatively cautious game in life. Both statesmanship and
sportsmanship and even chivalry imply balancing correctly
between the necessary and contingent factors of a given
situation, while the unwise referred to in Verse 4 lack
exactly this inner capacity, just as in outward life they
lack propriety and cleanliness.


asatyam apratishtham te
jagad ahur anisvaram
aparaspara sambhutam
kim anyat kamahaitukam

They say that the world is without true existence,without
a basis, without a presiding principle, not resulting
from reciprocal factors (lying beyond immediate vision,
as if asking) what else is there other than caused by lust?


To understand this verse we must first refer to ii, 42
where the word anyat (something else, other) has almost the
same sense as intended here. There the follower of Vedism
is condemned because he is a person who believes there is
nothing else other than the immediate world of pleasures
mundane or heavenly. In other words he suffers from a lack
of vision regarding the purushottama (Paramount Absolute
Person). Then too, in xviii, 16, it is again said that a
person who isolates his ego from the larger scheme of
reality in which the ego is but one link in the fivefold
chain of necessity, as xviii, 13 and 14 state, is a man
of perverted intelligence.

Putting together what is considered as wrong in these two
references, and also taking them together with the gist of 
Verses 13 and 14 later, we would be sufficiently justified
in saying that the Gita teaching is against any such
shortsighted, disjunct view of life. There is what is called
this side of life in which we are related to pleasurable
events as simple isolated individuals, and there is the larger
context both in time and space to which we also belong. A
short-spanned interest in life would be wrong because it
does not take a sufficiently comprehensive view of reality.


What is more serious is the neglect of what is called anyat
(the other). There are hidden values transcending even what
heaven can offer. Absolutist values belong to that order
where pleasures recede to the background, and this order
requires renunciation or detachment to appreciate.

In the name of being rational or practical, many people can
see only values close at hand under their nose, easily
attained with quick results, as mentioned in iv, 12. Such
people can be called materialists or sensualists, and include
even those who cannot see beyond the pleasures of heaven.
They are all condemned in this verse. Those who have that
type of short-span interests and who give an important place
to the gratification of desires have a particular type of
materialistic philosophy resembling what the Epicureans of
ancient Greece and the Charvakas of ancient India are
popularly supposed to represent. (Charvaka's followers are
sometimes called Lokayatikas, i.e. , worldly materialists).
Even modern scientific materialism tends to conform to the
pattern of thinking of such persons as described here.
A short-span interest within and a short-sighted outlook is
common to them all, and they do not see any deeper causes,
either in the eternally necessary, or in the eternally
contingent mentioned in xiii, 19.

The reference to pratishtham (basis) as we can easily
recognize, belongs to the necessary side, corresponding to
the synonymous adhishthanam (basis) of xviii, 14. Isvara
(Lord) on the other hand, is a reference to a value belonging
to a transcendental order. To refuse to recognize these two
extremities lying beyond the immediate vision of a
materialist, constitutes the error. The word anyat (other),
therefore, refers simultaneously to this two-sided error of
one who can neither recognize the deep-based foundation of
necessity in life, nor the transcendental Lord who is beyond
the scope of pleasures.

The world is not the product of action and reaction factors
of the here and now. It is the result of factors either deep-
seated or far beyond which by their reciprocity bring about
the phenomenal world. This theory is supported by xiii, 26.
There is an interaction of hidden factors not immediately
visible. Even if an intelligent materialist is able to see two
counterparts, he can see them only lying within the world of
desires. He refuses to believe in any hidden forces beyond
his perception and therefore pooh-poohs the very idea of
either deeper or transcendental factors.


The expression aparaspara sambhutam (not resulting
from reciprocal factors) refers to what the materialists
cannot see; to what lies beyond their immediate vision. At
best the materialist sees a reciprocity between such
immediate counterparts as the sexes whose union results in
progeny. His vision does not extend any further. Modern
dialectical materialism may also be said to fall under this
category, inasmuch as it fails to admit any principle
presiding over matter.


etam drishtim avashtabhya
nashtatmano 'lpabuddhayah
prabhavanty ugrakarmanah
kshayaya jagato'hitah

Wilfully holding to this view, these (men) of lost souls,
of little understanding, of harsh deeds, emerge as
non-beneficial, effecting the world's decline.


From this verse onwards begins a transfer of interest from
the person himself to the possible harm the evil man might
do to the world. The positive nature of the discussion has
reached a point where objective realities of necessary life
find full treatment insofar as they are directly related to
problems of spirituality or even to the understanding of
the full implications of the notion of the Absolute in its
bearings on real or practical problems.


kamam asritya dushparam
dambha mana madanvitah
mohad grihitva sadgrahan
pravartante 'suchivratah

Holding to insatiable desires, accompanied by
pretentiousness, arrogance and madness; fondly grasping
false values deludedly, they act with unclean resolves.


This verse suggests that wilful and dogged addiction to
evil can be present in almost as strong a manner as the
loyalty to higher values in a good man. A person with
wrong notions can be as strongly cocksure or convinced in
his views as one with right notions.

By referring to values in this chapter as divine or higher
and as demonic or lower, it is intended to indicate the two


by contrast rather than comparison, so that the strong
ambivalence as expressed in the world of values can stand
out clearly in the mind of the reader. The greater portion
of humanity does not come under these extreme types which
are purposely magnified here for the sake of clarifying the
theory. In this sense it would be but fair to remember here
that humanity cannot he divided into good and bad.


chintam apatimeyam cha
pralayantam upasritah
kamopabhoga parama
etavad iti nischitah

asapasasatair baddhah
kama krodha parayanah
ihante kama bhogartham
anyayena 'rthasamchayan

Engrossed with infinite cares lasting till doomsday, for
whom desire and enjoyment is the supreme end, cocksure that
such is the way,

bound by a hundred cords (consisting) of expectations, given
to lust and anger, they strive unfairly to hoard wealth for
sensual enjoyment.


In these verses there is no new idea other than what has been many times explained, except the expression kamopabhoga-paramah (those for whom desire and enjoyment is the supreme end). Here we have for the first time a supreme status given to a value belonging to the here and now, to the order of everyday pleasure and enjoyment. The term covers all values of a non-contemplative order, because contemplative values inevitably imply detachment from sense-values.

The term anyayena (by unfair means) in Verse 12, refers to
injustice, which in the contemplative context, can only mean
violation of the principle of equality towards all.


idam adya mayi labdham
imam prapsye manoratham
idam asti 'dam api me
bhavishyati punar dhanam

asau maya hatah satrur
hanishye cha 'paran api
isvaro 'ham aham bhogi
siddho 'ham balavan sukhi

adhyo 'bhijanavan asmi
ko 'nyo 'sti sadriso maya
yakshye dasyami modishya
itv ajnana vimohitah

anekachitta vibhranta
mohajala samavritah
prasaktah kamabhogeshu
patanti narake 'suchau

This today has been gained by me; this (particular) end I will get;   this wealth is mine, and that wealth also will be mine;

that enemy has been killed by me; and others I will
also kill; I am the lord; I am the enjoyer; I have
satisfied my ambitions; I am powerful and happy;

I am rich and well-born; who else is like me? I will sacrifice; I will give; I will rejoice; - thus deluded by ignorance,

maddened by many thoughts, caught within the snare of confusing values, addicted to lustful gratifications, they fall into an unclean hell.


The description in these verses gives the picture of a man
who is engrossed in himself and thinks only of the happiness
of the moment. His life consists of disjunct bits of happiness
of which the typical example is "This today has been gained
by me" in the opening lines. Another typical statement is
"I am rich" of Verse 15 which pertains to egoism which, as we
have said, is the greatest enemy of the contemplative. Even
pride in religious acts is condemned as leading to bondage,
in Verse 15.

Verse 16 has an indirect description of what constitutes
hell in terms of contemplation. This corresponds to the
ramifications of roots of the holy fig tree described in
xv, 2, which bind human beings addicted to relativist values.


atma sambhavitah stabdha
dhana mana madanvitah
yajante namayajnais te
dambhena 'vidhipurvakam

Self-righteous, perversely immobile, filled with pride and intoxication of wealth, they perform sacrifices ostentatiously, which are (only) nominal sacrifices, not conforming to scriptural rules.


The namayajnah (nominal sacrifices) here are those made
in the spirit of those Pharisees of the Bible who prayed in
public to gain social status and not from truly spiritual
motives (see also xvii, 12). The emphasis on scripture is the
very note on which this chapter ends. The apparent orthodoxy
of this chapter is balanced by the ways of the heterodox also
recognized in the next chapter.

ahamkaram balam darpam
kamam kradham cha samsritah
mam atma paradeheshu
pramishanto 'bhyasuyakah

Resorting to egoism, force, insolence, lust and anger,
these envious ones hate Me in their own and others' bodies.


The Paramount Person or Absolute itself is included in the
torture implied in this verse as we shall see from xvii, 6.
The Paramount Person here should be thought of as described
in chapter xv, and which covers more particularly the
Changeless Self. That the body or the Changing is also
included goes without saying. The torture implied in the
case of the Paramount Person can refer at best to a global
sense of suffering rather than any items of specific


tan aham dvishatah kruran
samsareshu naradhaman
kshipamy ajasram asubhan
asurishv eva yonishu

asurim yonim apanna
mudha janmani janmani
mam apraiyai kaunteya
tato yanty adhamam gatim


These cruel haters in the world, worst of men, I hurl
unceasingly even into the degraded wombs of demons;

attaining a demonic womb, deluded birth after birth, not
reaching Me, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), they go to the lowest


The punishment here consists of being degraded to a low
birth. This should be understood as lowness in contemplative
values as we have sufficiently made clear already. The
primitive idea of a hell of fire and brimstone is not
envisaged here. Ignorance alone itself constitutes the
infernal punishment.


trividham narakasye 'dam
dvaram nasanam atmanah
kamah krodhas tatha lobhas
tasmad etat trayam tyajet

Triple is the internal gate, destructive of the Self;
lust, hate and greed; therefore these three should
be avoided.


The lowest vices to be avoided in order to be saved from
utter degradation in the scale of spiritual values are
mentioned here as consisting mainly of three. The same
items of utmost evil are again seen mentioned in xviii, 53.
Their avoidance would mark the lowest rung of the ladder
of contemplative values. Between this verse and xviii, 53,
the Gita touches crude aspects of necessity in life.


etair vimuktah kaunteya
tamodvarais tribhir narah
acharaty atmanah sreyas
tato yati param gatim

A man who has abandoned these three gates of darkness,
0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), observes what conduces to his
progress, and thereafter attains to the supreme path.


This verse coming at the close of this chapter serves the
purpose of indicating that by referring to the triple
infernal gate of Verse 21 the whole series of higher and
truly contemplative values have all been passed in review,
whether in this chapter or others. We remember that in the
first three verses which began with the value called
abhayam (fearlessness) all the positive or higher
contemplative values were enumerated. The greater portion
of this chapter was devoted to a discussion of the lower
negative or demonic values which came to a termination
with the reference to the triple infernal gate of Verse 21.
It will be noticed on scanning the items enumerated in the
first four verses of this chapter that they are both ethical
and contemplative values at the same time. The triple
infernal gate (lust, hate and greed) refer to negative
values that are to be avoided. They may be called vices,
but when we see ignorance included as a vice we have to
understand that they rather refer to contemplative drawbacks
rather than to moral failures in the social sense. To be
saved from lust, hate and greed mentioned in Verse 21 is
very important for the spiritual progress envisaged in the
Gita. Hence it is that as a last resort the Gita decide
in favour of a general reliance on the sastras in the next
two final verses. The present verse must be treated as a
mark of punctuation between the section which enumerates
the lower or evil values that can compromise contemplation,
and the suggested remedy against falling into evil.


yah sastravidhim utsrijya
vartate kamakaratah
na sa siddhim avapnoti
na sukham na param gatim

tasmach chhastram pramanam te
karyakarya vyavasthitau
jnatva sastra vidhanoktam
karma kartum iha 'rhasi

He who having abandoned the guiding principles of scripture,
acts under the promptings of desire; he cannot attain
perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme path.

Therefore the scripture is your authority in deciding
what should and should not be done. Understanding
what is indicated for guidance in scripture, it is
right you should work here.


Fearlessness is at the head of the series of higher values
and, as we notice in Verse 4, ignorance reveals the tail-end
of the lower values enumerated. The gamut of
contemplative-ethical values are passed in review in this
chapter with more space being devoted to lower values.
The limit was indicated in the triple gate of inferno referred
to in Verse 21. These last verses here make a final appeal to
the canonical writings called the sastras to give Arjuna any
directions in matters which lie beyond the scope of
contemplative values. Whether it is the Vedas or the
Dharma Sastras (codified scriptural injunctions) or even
the Upanishads that are meant by the reference to sastras
(canonical scientific treatises) is not important for us to
decide. All scriptures, whether in or outside India, tend to
draw people away from such factors as the three items of
lust, hate and greed of Verse 21. In fact no scripture would
be even worth the name without this basic qualification.
Every man is likely to follow some scripture or other,
especially if he is religious-minded. Even irreligious people
have their own authorities whom they consult. Even
atheists swear in the name of some favourite writers.
Inasmuch as such writings contribute to the abandonment
of the three vices mentioned, and help a man to decide what
should and should not be done (as in Verse 24), such
guidance must be acceptable to whatever regional, religious
or traditional background they might belong. Conformity to
scripture as recommended in these two verses should be
understood in this larger and more general sense.

The chapter began with fearlessness as the first-mentioned value and ended with the triple vices of darkness to be avoided. In the latter it touched the lowest water-mark of a life of contemplation and recommended reliance on some written authority to save the ordinary man from falling into error or of degrading himself further spiritually.

This seemingly conservative recommendation will be relieved by
a more discriminating way of life involving faithful affiliation
to what can be included under religious values, which are not
merely ethical, in the next chapter.

This chapter prepares us to take one more step into the field
of necessary life in the next chapter, which in principle can
be called a chapter on contemplative religion, just as the
present in principle can be called a chapter on contemplative


ity srimad bhagavadgitasupanishatsu brahmavidyayam
yogasastre srikrishnarjunasamvade
daivasurasampadvibhagayogo nama sodaso '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 Sixteenth Chapter entitled the Unitive
Way of Discriminating between Higher and Lower Values.