Jnana-Vijnana Yoga


This chapter has variously been called Jnana-Yoga (Yoga of
Pure Wisdom), Vijnana Yoga (Yoga of Applied Wisdom)
and Jnana-Vijnana Yoga (Yoga of Pure and Applied
Wisdom). A similar sounding title was given to Chapter iv.
There the perennial nature of wisdom as distinct from a mere
system of rational philosophy covered by Samkhya in 
Chapter xi was made evident. Chapter v gave further
primacy to the way of wisdom, while Chapter vi brought the
discussion to a personalized focal point in the name of a
universalist yogi. The best of all yogis, it concluded, was
one who had established a bipolar relation with the

The present chapter continues from this point, not in
terms of personal relationship, but in an understanding of
the absolute nature of reality; not in the language of pure
philosophy, but as given to intuition or by the contemplative
method of synthesis by bringing counterparts under one

Contemplation can result only from the extreme identity
of subject and object by which, through intuition, one
penetrates into the synthetic object-subject. Reality is then
revealed in its own light.

A superficial scansion of the verses reveals that the
enumeration of items under reality discussed here includes
earth, water, fire, air and space. Modern philosophy does not
usually include such entities within its scope. Pre-Socratic
hylozoism, the notion that all matter is alive, has been
discredited in the western world as being too ancient or anti-
Christian. In India too, the Samkhya enumeration of the
tattvas (principles or categories of reality or nature) which
includes the tanmatras (essences of sense-values) has been
largely transcended in the Vedanta. The duality as between
prakriti (nature) and purusha (spirit) is repugnant to


Yet here we find reference to a higher and a lower nature
of the Absolute, and to the sapidity of water as representing
the Absolute. Evidently the attempt is to include existential
and subsistantial aspects of reality together in one sweeping
synthetic survey of reality as a whole.

These two aspects of nature (referred to in Verses 4 and 5)
can be brought together unitively as a counterpart to the
yogi or contemplative only through the device of a
personification of the Absolute. There is the yogi on the one
side and the yogesvara (Lord of Yoga) on the other side,
who represents the highest personal value or good to be
attained. In knowing the Absolute good all else that matters
in wisdom is comprised. It is in this sense that this chapter
may be said to deal with wisdom that "leaves nothing more
left to be known", as said in Verse 2. The Brihadaranyaka
Upanishad, II, iv, 5 contains a similar statement about the
all - comprehensive nature of Absolute wisdom.

For reasons we have explained, such wisdom presupposes an
intimate bipolar relation between the yogi and the Absolute:
as recommended in the last verse of the previous chapter
and repeated in the very first word (mayi, in Me) of this
present chapter. This bipolar relationship characterizes
this chapter. The kind of synthetic wisdom which results
from such a relationship refers to immanent and
transcendental, subjective and objective, pure and
practical, aspects of reality at the same time.

In the middle of the chapter a scale of values from everyday
ones to the highest is given where again subjective and
objective items are included indifferently. The scope of
this chapter is further indicated by the reference to the
condition of the spirit of a man who is about to die. All
departmentalized spirituality tends to be canalized into
one master sentiment at such a time. Spirituality thus
becomes wholehearted and global and personal again, covering
the whole subject-object of wisdom and all items of value
to human life.



Sribhagavan uvachha
mayy asaktamanah partha
yogam yunjan madasrayah
asamsayam samagram mam
yatha jnasyasi tach chhrinu

Krishna said:
Having a mind attached to Me, 0 Partha (Arjuna),
and joining unitively through Yoga, and having Me
as refuge, how you will know Me without any
doubt, comprehensively, that do hear.


The expression joining this chapter with the last is the
very first phrase mayy-asaktamanah (one whose mind is
attached to Me). In the last verse of the previous chapter it
was more than mind which was affiliated. There it was the
whole Self. Here only the minimum requirement for the
purposes of this chapter is insisted upon, as a necessary
condition for knowing Absolute reality as samagram
(whole). The necessity for wholesale understanding is more
emphatically stressed in the next verse.

The science of the Absolute has always been described in
the Upanishads as "knowing which, everything else
becomes known". Thus the subject of this chapter becomes
indirectly indicated as the same brahmavidya (science of the
Absolute) as spoken of in the Brahma-Sutras I, iii, 6.
The bipolar nature of the affiliation being qualified by
(1) yogam yunjan (joining unitively through Yoga) which
means that the subject and object here enter constantly into
a relationship belonging to the method of Yoga; and (2) by
the phrase madasrayah (one whose refuge is Myself), that
is in Krishna as a representative of the Absolute - this
affiliation becomes unmistakable.

It is brahmavidya (the science of the Absolute) which is
going to be covered in this short chapter. What may seem
the peculiarities of the approach are already indicated in
this opening verse.


jnanam te 'ham savijnanam
idam vakshyamy aseshatah
yaj jnatva ne 'ha bhuyo 'nyaj
jnatavyam avasishyate

I shall teach you this (pure) wisdom together with
this (applied) knowledge, without any omission,
knowing which, there will be nothing more here
left over that should be known.


The whole of this verse is meant to underline the
meaning, of samagram (whole) of Verse 1. The term
aseshatah (without remainder) means there is no possibility
of any remainder when Brahman (the Absolute) has been
understood as explained in this chapter. The second line
only makes this more explicit for purposes of emphasis, that
the Science of the Absolute is not to be considered a
department or branch of any knowledge. It is complete in
itself, and belongs to its own unique category.

What is more, it comprises two broad divisions which are
here named jnana (pure wisdom) and vijnana (specialized
knowledge). If wisdom refers to theory, specialized
knowledge refers to practice. If the former is pure, the other
is applied. If one is philosophy, the other is a way of life.
Although indicating a way of life, the Gita should not be
considered either a smriti (indirectly remembered scripture)
or a dharma sastra (treatise on obligatory duties). It stops
short of being mandatory and even of being permissive. A
way of life is merely indicated as optional for the disciple to
choose, because such a way of life agrees with and forms a
natural counterpart to the way of wisdom. If diet and caste
rules are referred to in certain chapters of the Gita, they are
conceived in an advisory spirit, and only in so far as they
directly rise out of the theory. Wisdom by itself would be
incomplete without this natural counterpart which implies a
savoir faire or a knowledge of what to do in every situation.
The vijnana (applied knowledge) here has to be understood in
this light only, and though the Gita in later chapters deals
with subjects such as dietetics and sociology, in this chapter
the applied knowledge comprises merely existential aspects
of reality, where laws of nature operate, and referred to
as the lower nature of the Absolute in Verse 4.

Jnana (pure wisdom) and vijnana (applied knowledge)
taken together would cover all the aspects of the Absolute,
because whatever other department might be thought of as
belonging to the science of the Absolute could be
legitimately included under one or the other. The Science
of the Absolute deals with ultimate personal value. It has
therefore to be treated

1 The Amarakosa, a famous Samskrit lexicon, considered
to be the earliest thesaurus, has the definition, mokshe dhih
jnanam anyatra vijnanam silpasastrayoh (quoted but not
translated, by Radhakrishnan in his “Bhagavadgita”, p. 149)
meaning, "Consciousness applied to liberation is called
jnana and when otherwise, as in the science of architecture, it
is called vijnana."


globally and should never be treated piecemeal in sectional
fashion, as might be permissible in other branches of knowledge
such as mechanics, dynamics, etc.


manushayam sahasreshu
kaschidyatati siddhaye
yatatam api siddhanim
kaschin mam vetti tattvatah

Among thousands of men, one perchance strives for
perfection. Even among the striving who have
attained, one perchance knows me according to
proper principles.


Here the author complains that very few get to the
bottom of this unique and thorough wisdom. People are
interested in wisdom in many different ways. Some
approach it through religion, some through good works,
and even among these there are degrees and varieties.
Apart from such a complaint, this verse draws attention to
the great variety of ways existing among seekers. The
expression tattvatah (according to principles) means
"according to the full philosophical import of the Absolute",
and this chapter being intended for the examination of the
philosophical implications of Yoga, the aptness of this
statement cannot be questioned, especially as we find later,
in Verse 16, that these several varieties are enumerated. The
same complaint of a lack of understanding, and that people
do often miss the proper approach to wisdom, is further
referred to in Verse 24. In xv, 10. it was once stated that
many have come to the Absolute, and in iv, xi also that all
may be said to walk the path of the Absolute. The rarity
here must therefore refer to a philosophical understanding
of the Absolute.

The word vetti (understands) refers to a perfection through
wisdom rather than through the siddhis (psychic attainments)
commonly associated with Yoga.


bhumir apo 'nalo vayuh
kham mano buddhir eva cha
ahamkara iti 'yam me
bhinna prakritir ashtadha

Earth, water, fire, air, sky, mind, reason also, and
consciousness of individuality: thus here is divided
My eightfold nature.


The enumeration given here is not in the usual strict order
of the twenty-five categories or principles (tattvas) of the
Samkhya philosophy. Samkhya places the tanmatras
(subtle principles of sound, etc.), prior to the mahabhutas
(gross elemental conditions of nature). The Gita here avoids
unnecessary theorization along Samkhya lines, and begins
in inverse order with the grossest of the mahabhutas (gross
elements) the earth, leading upwards as it were to mind,
reason and individuality-consciousness (ahamkara).
We find also in Verses 8 and 9 that these actual gross aspects
of nature are not viewed as matter, but as values to which
human beings are related and which enter consciousness
more directly. Thus the unitive nature of the Absolute is
established. But in this preliminary enumeration, the Gita
wishes to err, if at all, on the side of actuality rather than
on the side of far-fetched theory.

By the inclusion of the ego-consciousness in this series of
the lower nature of the Absolute, some factors of
consciousness which properly belong to the intelligent
purusha (self or spirit) of orthodox Samkhya are covered.
On the other hand, the gross earth, when it is referred to as
"pure fragrance" in Verse 9, again attains a new and revised

Ascending and descending dialectics move, as it were,
simultaneously in inverse directions, so as to transmute
these divided and separate entities into pearls of value
strung on the thread of the Absolute, and with the Absolute
as the final source-value as stated in Verse 7.

The reference to me bhinna prakriti (my distinct divided
nature) further shows that the duality between prakriti
(nature) and purusha (spirit) which is such a marked feature
of Samkhya, is not given recognition. Instead, each item
mentioned gains a distinct status. The Absolute pervades
nature which itself is an aspect of the Absolute. In Verse 12
a reciprocal relation is indicated.


apare 'yam itas tv anyam
prakritim viddhi me param
jivabhutam mahabaho
yaye 'dam dharyate jagat



This is the non-transcendental (apara = immanent).
Know the other to be my nature, which is transcedental,
constituting life, 0 Mighty-Armed (Arjuna) by which the
phenomenal world is sustained.

Two aspects of the Absolute are referred to here by the
terms para (immanent) and apara (transcendent). These
dual aspects are examined in this chapter under the heading
of the nature of the Absolute treated unitively and taken as
one whole The life-principle running through the two
aspects is referred to here as jivabhuta (life-element) the
common unitive factor linking up both.

This counterpart-duality is not the same as the more
mechanistic duality of the Samkhya. Before abolishing the
duality completely, the Gita has to accept a modified
Samkhya frame of reference, and seemingly adopt its
method. But we find as we proceed towards the more
central chapters of the Gita, which deal with the deeper
seats of consciousness, that the asymmetry attached to the
duality at this initial stage tends to be rounded off. In
chapter xiii the duality emerges again, to become more
pronounced, till almost the very end of the Gita, where
different religious practices have to be compared and
criticized, with questions of diet and vocational differences
to be revalued.

In xviii, 61, the Absolute is treated as a kind of deus ex
, and in xvi, 19, like an angry Jehovah. These

references being graded according to the structural method
of the Gita are justified in their own proper context. The
reader has to see the delicate shades of such distinctions.
To treat of matter and mind as two distinct entities is
against the spirit of Vedanta, and consequently of the Gita.
Instead of graded distinctions between matter and mind,
Vedanta speaks of concentric inner and outer zones, or
koshas (sheaths, shells), which refer to the spiritual aspects
of the personality of man. Cosmology itself is included side
by side with subjective factors such as wisdom and
knowledge. Some asymmetry is bound to persist when
cosmology and psychology are treated together as here,
however. One can ascend from cosmology to psychology or
descend downwards from consciousness to the tangible
realities of life.

In this particular verse, the author has chosen the
ascending method. The reverse method, of descent, may be
noted in xv, 7. A more neutral position is implied in x 42.


The asymmetry tends to be abolished, and when we attain
to the innermost vijnana-maya-kosha (zone of pure
consciousness) even the suggestion of a difference is

The outermost zone of the Self is called annamaya-
kosha (zone made up of nourishment or food). Even here,
as looked upon in the Upanishads, there is no conflict
between any immanent and transcendent aspects, as food
itself is treated as the Absolute.

The Gita is anxious to base its arguments on rational
traditions such as the Samkhya and, with the intention of
being realistic, retains here a vestige of asymmetry between
the higher and lower natures of the Absolute, for purposes
of argument in developing the main thesis.

We should therefore treat what is said here as being
necessary only for argument's sake.

The expression dharyate (sustains) coming from the
same root as dharma (innate active expression) does not
suggest physical support of this world by the Absolute, but
rather a principle of existence or life running through
phenomenal movements, holding them unitively together.
The principle of gravitation, understood in very generalized
terms in modern physics, would suggest something
corresponding to this existential reality called ritham
(existential truth) in the Upanishads which, taken with
satyam (truth) understood in a more formal sense, belongs
to the Absolute. The outward expression of this existential
truth is what is referred to here as the sustainer of the

etadyonini bhutani
sarvani 'o upadharaya
aham kritsnasya jagatah
prabhavah pralayas tatha

Know that all beings have this as their common source
(womb). I am the becoming, as also the dissolution of
all this (phenomenal) world (jagat)


Phenomenal existences have their source in the Absolute
and they are withdrawn and merge finally in the Absolute
when sets of forces are spent out. Thus the cycle of
emanation and ingression alternates. But the use of the
word yoni (womb) in the first line would suggest that the
world has its source only in the Absolute. In xiv, 3 the
Absolute is represented as


a masculine principle. The difference belongs to the
particular contexts, to be understood imaginatively and not
too literally.

As stated expressly here, the Absolute is both the Origin
and the final terminus of regression for the phenomenal
world. The reference to a superior yoni (womb) or source
above, which is the source of phenomenal nature here
below, would suggest that the Absolute is a hypostatic
entity. But this asymmetry is soon corrected here and
elsewhere in the Gita. For example, in the verse cited
earlier, xiv, 3, the mahad brahma (Great Brahma) is more
suggestive of a hierophantic presence.

The application to the same Absolute of the two
qualifications, prabhavah (becoming) and pralayah
(dissolution) tends to cancel out such hypostatic and
hierophantic fixations into a central notion of a neutral

mattah parataram na 'nyat
kimchid asti dhanamjaya
mayi sarvam idam protam
sutre manigana iva

Nothing else is higher than Me, 0 Winner of Wealth
(Arjuna). In Me all this is strung as a classified
series (ganah) of precious beads on a string.

How the Absolute is related to the visible or invisible
entities filling the consciousness of mankind, whether in
the Platonic World of the intelligibles or in the world of
actualities, is attempted to be brought out here by an
analogy whose import is vague. This has given rise to
alternative speculations on the part of commentators such as
Sankara who think it better to change the analogy to the
weaving of cloth instead of thinking of beads.

This relation between the Absolute and the manifested is
understood by such commentators as causal, the Absolute
being traced backwards and identified with a first cause.
But this analogy of beads on a string is deeper than mere
philosophical speculation. To understand the Absolute
merely as a first cause does not reveal its character in that
wholesale manner mentioned in Verses 1 and 2.

If we are ever to understand what is in the mind of the
author we must therefore go back to similar analogies lying
buried in the Upanishads. From the list of items dealt with
in the verses that immediately follow, it is clear that each


bead corresponds to a system or cluster of realities which
adhere together to form a compact unit in a world of its own.
These units may touch the actual, or enter into consciousness
through concepts or percepts, or may even rise to the purer
world of the intelligibles.

Whatever level they may belong to, earthy, human or celestial;
when they are regarded as representing closed groups of human
values, the bead analogy becomes understandable. There is a
relation uniting all beads and running through them, and each
bead, at whatever level it may be considered, has its value
depending upon this relationship.

We can imagine an ascending scale of values ranging from
the most actual to the most theoretical or sublime, at the
highest point of which the Absolute itself may be considered
as a brilliant pearl of great price. This presiding value is
what gives coherence and correlation to all the other values
at the different levels of human consciousness.

This concept is justified by the expression mattah
parataram na 'nyat (nothing whatever is higher than Me).
The Absolute is thus understood, as a supreme value. At the
same time it should be understood as a correlational
principle or as a norm which sets the standard for all other
values whatsoever.

In the Mundaka Upanishad (xi, ii, 5), instead of a string,
there is the analogy of a bridge which spans the gulf
between the here and the beyond for men to cross over to
and fro:

"He on whom the sky, the earth, and the atmosphere are woven,
and the mind, together with all the vital energies,
Him alone know as the one atman (Self).
Other words dismiss.
He is the bridge to immortality."

Again in the Prasna Upanishad (iv, iv. 7-9) all the components
of prakriti (nature) are likened to birds resorting to the
tree of the supreme Self.

In Genesis xxviii, 10, there is a similar analogy where
angels go up and down Jacob's ladder.

The scale of values must have been implied in these
antique analogies handed down from very remote times.
Some of the verses that follow here become clearer when
considered in terms of such a string of graded values,
more than when


thought of in terms of belonging either to philosophical
realism or idealism.

It must be imagined that the maniganah (classified series
of precious beads) belong to different grades, whether taken
individually or in groups consisting of small numbers as the
term gana admits of, meaning series as well as classes.


raso 'ham apsu kaunteya
prabha 'smi sasisuryayoh
pranavah sarvavedeshu
sabdah khe paurusham nrishu

I am the taste in waters, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), I
am the light in the moon and the sun, I am Aum
(numinous exclamation) in all the Vedas, sound in
the sky and the human quality in men.


The way of entering into the unitive principle implied in
the various entities enumerated is indicated in this verse.
It involves intuition and a certain pressure of contemplation.
The very first example is taken from the elements and the
Samkhya order would seem to be purposely violated,
because the value factor emerging out of any one item is
meant to have an equal status with any other. The taste of
water depends upon a subtle relationship established
between water as an object and the person feeling the taste.
It is a relation whose reality depends upon the Absolute
reality implied in it.

The second example of prabha (brightness) being akin to
fire, has a value which similarly has its being in the
Absolute. The reference to moon and sun together is to give
unitive treatment to the luminaries without regard to

The next example goes beyond the senses to the
consciousness or the mind. The Vedas mean much to
people attached to them, and they might get lost in all its
ramifications. But the spoken word Aum, as representing
the sabda-brahman (the Word Absolute) may be said to be
the core of the Vedas and, in what concerns contemplation,
their quintessence. When the Vedic adherent establishes a
relationship with this word, he appreciates in himself a
certain human value which refers to the same constant,
depending on the Absolute. The feeling content may be
called the sense of the holy, the awful, the wonderful or
the numinous. But nevertheless it is not different from the
Absolute implied in it.


The Vedas are all represented by the word Aum which, in
its unuttered or higher aspect, can include the Vedanta
also, if the Absolute here is to be understood as all-

The fourth example, sound, represents an important
value-factor As music can please, so also sounds
representing concepts or ideas can exalt the individual and
serve as a kind of necessary nourishment in human life, thus
relating sound in general to the Absolute.

The last example here, is the human quality in man, which
distinguishes the individual. This is the unique quality
which touches his essential nature. When a man expresses
fully his own manhood, he may be said to be truly himself,
and thus a representative of the Absolute. Here, the
counterparts can be the simple animal basis of individual
life on the one hand, and what distinguishes man as the
human species on the other hand.

The employment of the plural in the various examples is
to accentuate the variety of manifestation as against the
unity of the Absolute principle. It is a relation unitively
conceived between the many and the One.


punyo gandhah prithivyam cha
tejas cha 'smi vibhavasau
jivanam sarvabhuteshu
tapas chi 'smi tapasvishu

I am the holy fragrance of the earth (divinity) and
also the brilliance of the luminary (presence), the
vital principle in all beings, and the (essence of)
austerity in all ascetics.

A new set of examples has been chosen apparently for
variety's sake. Here too there are hierophantic and
hypostatic principles under reference. The odour of the
earth is called punyah (holy or pure), a term which
can apply to all the items here, and it is further called
gandhah (smell or perfume) intended here to mean
something agreeable rather than noxious. This is in keeping
with the definition in the tarka sastra (textbook on Nyaya
logic) as well as in Samkhya, it is known that the
distinguishing feature of the earth, philosophically, apart
from actuality is its odour.

Throughout the world people who are related to nature,
whether called civilized or primitive, have considered the


good earth as holy. The Greek goddess Gaya and the Roman
goddess Tellus are personifications of the earth principle.
Among other similar peoples the idea of holiness applied to
the earth is universally common. The "holy fragrance" is
therefore understandable. The word prithivi ("the wide"
- the earth as a female deity) implies personification of
the earth and is not mere objectivity.

The term vibhavasu (luminary) is not a specific or actual
object only. It is also a presence, a hierophancy, and can
connote fire, moon and sun. The object of the author is to
refer here to the holy presences suggested in all bright
objects, including fire. The light itself is referred to
as tejas (brilliance) which is related to that aspect of
consciousness called taijasa (the brilliant) which is at
the basis of dreams.

Similarly, all beings have at their core jivanam (the life
element) or the élan vital or vital urge.

The reference to tapas (the "burning"of spiritual discipline,
asceticism) which is a human quality or a personal attitude,
is intended to be included as one instance at least of
the items mentioned in Verse 4. The self-discipline here
concerns the ego, mind and reason which are subdued and
introverted. A perfectly self-controlled man represents
the Absolute in essence.

Touching different levels of consciousness, this verse
provides, through a chosen set of illustrations, the way
of life of a contemplative who is related with himself
and with external factors simultaneously.


bijam mam sarvabhutanam
viddhi partha sanatanam
buddhir buddhimatam
asmi tejas tejasvinam aham

Know Me, 0 Partha (Arjuna), to be the perennial seed of
all beings; I am the reason of the intelligent, and I
the brightness of (those who are) the brilliant.


The analogy of the seed is sufficiently familiar as the
mustard seed of the Bible and in Indian literature in the
Chandogya Upanishad (VI, xii, 1-3). Svetaketu is asked to
break open a tiny fig-fruit and look for the very minute and
negligibly existent origin of a giant fig-tree. Such a potent


essence is said to be both the Self of Svetaketu and the

Having referred to the Absolute as a womb in Verse 6, the
analogical change in the same chapter here can be justified
by the Absolute being both the masculine and feminine
principle at the same time. This combination is again more
directly stated in ix, 17.

What is called the pradhana (chief potency) aspect of
nature, known to Samkhya and acceptable even to modern
Vedantins like Narayana Guru (e.g., chapter on Maya in
Darsana Mala), is the principle involved in this reference to
the seed of all beings. The seed is further called sanatanam
(timeless, perennial, eternal) and therefore abolishes any idea
of duration which might be associated with a growing seed.
The references to the buddhi (reason) of the intelligent and
the tejas (brightness) of the brilliant are to inner spiritual
qualities. With a priori reasoning certainty is attained
through reason alone. Such forms of reasoning are not
different from the Absolute. Brightness or mental alertness is
also a spiritual quality, to be likened to a perfectly-tuned
musical instrument, or to a sportsman in good form. There
are popular notions of tejas (brightness) referred to as
brahma-tejas (brightness of the Brahmin) and kshattra-tejas
(brightness of a warrior) which are mostly based on
prejudices in the name of closed loyalties, determined largely
by patterns of behaviour or dress.

Notice here in the structure of the verse that while the first
line refers to hylozoic aspects, the second line brings in tejas
(brightness) going beyond reason, and entering the domain
proper to purusha (spirit) thus easing out the last vestiges of
duality between purusha (spirit) and prakriti (nature) of


balam balavatam cha'ham
kamaraga vivarjitam
dharmaviruddho bhuteshu
kamo 'smi bharatarshabha

I am the strength of the strong, devoid of desire
and passion. In beings I am desire which is not
contrary, to righteousness (dharma) 0 Leader of
the Bharatas (Arjuna).


The dual nature, if any, persisting between the higher and
lower aspects of the Absolute is more forcibly and pointedly


effaced in this verse. If it hurts nobody, the strong man's
strength can be a pure quality. Its potentiality is not
different from that of the Absolute. The verse boldly says
that this same rule applies even to kama (desire), which in
most religions (particularly in Buddhism) is considered to
be the worst enemy of spirituality.

Repressions and inhibitions can be exaggerated in
spiritual life. They can become a fetish. The Gita here
postulates the possibility of pure desire which is the
essential "vertical" aspect, the "horizontal" being the clash
of desire with the interests of fellow men and fellow
creatures. The vertical remains pure and established in its
own loneliness, without social implications or motives,
Religion in the Gita loses its heavy negative character and
is liberated as the free way of life of a philosopher or one
dedicated to the Absolute.

Note that, while in the first line, desire is referred to as
something to be avoided; this very desire is put on a
pedestal in the second line. Desire here should not clash
with dharma (righteous pattern of behaviour) i.e., with the
social principle.

The term bhutah (beings) is meant expressly to cover not
only human life but life in general. The desire of beings
here does not belong exclusively to the social context of
human life.

ye chai 'va sattvika bhava
rajasas tamasas cha ye
matta eve 'ti tan viddhi
na tv aham teshu te mayi

Even those manifestations recognized as according
with existence (sattviki), and active or dominant
(rajasi), and dark or inert (tamasi), know them
even to be My own. I am not in them but they are
in Me.


The three manifestations or qualities of sattva (what accords
with pure existence), rajas (active, dominant) and tamas
(dark, inert), are also included as expressions of the
Absolute. They are modalities of the same vital principle
referred to in the last verse, but these three are referred to
here in a manner in keeping with Vedantic epistemology.
The Samkhya system has the three gunas (modalities of
nature). Their distinct existence in nature, it is true, is not
evident when examined objectively. Specialization in nature
expresses itself at three


different levels, of which the tamasic (dark and inert) and
the sattvic (what accords with existence, the pure) mark two
extremes. The hardened stem of a tree has become dead and
inert and to that extent may be compared to the tamasic
nature in man. The growing tip, bud or flower, on the other
hand, corresponding to the sattvic, shows extreme
sensitivity and specialization. The specific nature of the
plant is best expressed here. A man of keen intelligence or
sharpened. Wit is a human being who is perfected or
specialized in a certain sense, and the best values which
distinguish a human being have a chance to find at least
approximate expression through such specialization. But we
shall see from the Gita presently that even such
specialization does not belong to true spirituality in an
absolutist sense, although laudable as far as it goes in the
relativist domain.

In between these two extremes nature expresses itself, as
it were, in the rajasic (active, dominant) on the horizontal
plane. A king engaged in the chase or in over-running a
country is in a dominant or active mood, which has nothing
to do with contemplative values. But such a mood is natural
to man also. In nature it expresses itself in the urge for
quantitative or numerical increase.

In thinking of these three levels we have primarily to
keep in mind values and interests and not objects or mere
states of mind. The scale of values implied here is one
which can help us to compare the different types of
spirituality as observed in the world of men and actions.
There is the scholar of subdued habits who tries to study
and understand the Absolute. There is the other who makes
no effort and lapses into negative states, tending to get
lost in hallucinations and superstitions. The overactive
temperament leads to interests which lie altogether outside
the contemplative or vertical axis.

Such a theory is further elaborated in other chapters of
the Gita. Here it is brought into discussion seriously for the
first time, and the relativist nature of these three expressions
of spiritual values is stated unequivocally. The object of this
verse is to include relative and non-relative values together,
under one comprehensive notion of the Absolute.
The constant use of cha (and, also) in this verse is to
show that these three qualities are not to be thought of
individually, but are to be taken together as expressions of
relativist value or reality. The slothful man is also to be
included within the


world of contemplatives. He is not outside the pale of
spirituality, only his spirituality is like a smoky lamp.
Note the characteristic one-way nature of the assertion in
the last line which is reminiscent of the Biblical statement
that those who are not with me are against me (Matthew xii,
30). A vestige of duality between subject and object seems
to persist here, akin to the relation between the purusha
(spirit) and prakriti (nature) of Samkhya. While the
Absolute is not in the manifested nature, the converse is
asserted. The relation is something like that between waves
and ocean. The ocean has waves but the wave is not the
ocean. Thus subtle relationship between God and man has
been much discussed in Western theology. The emphasis in
this verse is on the necessary relation which should be
understood to exist between the Absolute and nature which
the Samkhya doctrine would have considered as distinct.
This is where the Vedantic revaluation comes in.


tribhir gunamayair bhavair
ebhih sarvam idam jagat
mohitam na 'bhijanati
mam ebhyah param avyayam

Deluded by these three manifestations (of value) this whole
world is unable to know Me who am beyond them and


The world of values surrounding a man presents a variety
which confounds him. This variety belongs to the three
levels distinguished in the last verse. Superior or inferior
though they may be in the relative sense, these values are
not to be confused with the bipolar relation with the
Absolute, which is what matters most in contemplative life.
The common man is attracted or repelled by these relative
values in life, and therefore misses the bolder and more
generous relationship with the Absolute which ever remains
unchanged or unexpended. The distinction between relative
and absolute values is radical and one does not lead to the
other in a graded way. This verse attempts to bring this out.
The word param (beyond) marks the distinction between
relative and Absolute values. The Absolute, though it is to
be understood as including the relative, is beyond it. In
other words, a man whose interest is in Absolute value
belongs to a distinct or superior order to all others, however


praiseworthy they are. The holiest type of learned Brahmin,
who may represent highly refined sattvic (pure) qualities, is
still a relativist, to be thought of apart from one who
represents that supreme wisdom of the Absolute in himself.


daivi hy esha gunamayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te

Verily, this divine illusion of Mine (maya) made up of the manifestations (of value - gunah) is hard to surmount. Those who seek Me alone pass over this illusion.


After speaking of relative values which come under the
three gunas (manifestations or qualities, modes of nature), it
is rather unexpected to find the epithet "divine" applied to
the maya (illusion) which is the resultant of their interplay.
This illusion has to be transcended before a man attains the
Absolute. Thus divinity becomes an impediment rather
than a help in spiritual progress.

The question naturally arises regarding the aptness of the
epithet "divine", as applied to illusion comprising relativist
values. The justification, if any, lies in the fact that these
three levels of value are conceived here as belonging to a
contemplative scale of values. In so far as a contemplative
epistemology is implied here, the term "divine" is justified.
The word used, daivi, means belonging to light, and the five
senses are sometimes referred to as devas (gods, shining
ones) in the Upanishads (e.g., Isa. 4). Anything related to
understanding belongs to the order of luminous values. In
this sense maya (illusion) itself is to be understood in its
own all-comprehensive glory, though still relative, before
the Absolute can be grasped with all its pure implications.
The recognition of illusion both as an enemy and an
inevitable stepping-stone to the attainment of the Absolute
is here recommended.

The term gunamayi (composed of modes of nature) comprises a
partial definition of maya (illusion). Nature itself is
the most general effect of maya (illusion) and is often
described as trigunatmika (essentially the same as the three
modalities). Again we refer to the Maya Chapter in Guru
Narayana's Darsana Mala.


The expression duratyaya (hard to go beyond) suggests
that maya (illusion) is the last impediment before reaching
the Absolutist position. There are all sorts of religious
values masquerading under the name of spirituality or
holiness, whose resultant confusion of values has to be
boldly torn asunder by one whose keen intelligence can
penetrate into the domain of Absolute value. It is suggested
here that the notion of divinity itself, being still relativist,
is to be discarded.

The phrase mam eva (Me alone) is meant to underline the
necessity of establishing strict bipolarity with the Absolute
before true spirituality can be reached.


na mam dushkritino mudhah
prapadyante naradhamah
mayaya pahrtajnana
asuram bhavam asritah

Not Me do evil-doers, foolish, attain, lowest among men; their
wisdom being distracted by illusion (maya), affiliated as they
are to the demonic (or non-intelligent) aspect of nature.


This verse presents a picture of those who turn away
from contemplative values. Strong epithets are used by way
of contrast with those who follow the contemplative scale
of values indicated in the last verse, daivi (divine) and
asura (demonic) being extreme poles in the context of
possible human values.

The phrase asuram bhavam (manifestations of a demonic
order) is merely to bring out the contrast with the daivi
(divine) of the previous verse.

The first epithet chosen to mark the contrast is
dushkritinah (evil-doers) indicating that it is the promptings
for action rather than interest in wisdom which distinguishes
such fallen people. They are condemned by expressions
such as mudhah (foolish) and naradhamah (lowest of men).
These lowest of men are not necessarily sudras (proletarians) or chandalas (outcastes), but even Brahmins who think in terms of   karma (action) in which relativist values are involved.               


Similar strong references are seen in xvi, 19. Note that the word asuram (demonic) is not applied to human beings here, but to the whole relativist world of values involving actions, as stated in Isa Upanishad, 3.



chaturvidha bhajante mam
janah sukritino 'rjuna
arto jijnasur artharthi
jnani cha bharatarshabba

Four kinds of the (doers of the) good are intent on
Me, Arjuna; the distressed, the seeker of
knowledge, the seeker of the goods of life, and the
wise, 0 Leader of the Bharatas (Arjuna).


After condemning those prone to evil action, we now turn
to those affiliated to the contemplative context. Although the
word sukritinah (those who do righteous action) contains the
root kri, referring to action, it is meant to cover all people
affiliated contemplatively to a righteous way of life by
intention to be good or virtuous in a purely spiritual and not
social sense.

The phrase bhajante mam (adore or intently think of Me)
refers to a form of contemplative life rather than action. The
evil-doers and the doers of good are taken as broad divisions
applying to the whole of mankind, and not too literally,
because contemplation does not necessarily envisage action.
The four grades mentioned here, it should be noted, have
nothing in common with the four varnas (colours or castes)
classified in xviii, 41, ff. Here the grades refer to varieties
in contemplative life rather than to social orders, although it
is true that the degree of necessity enters as a regulating
factor even here. The term artah (the suffering person) for
example, is one who has the necessity of being relieved from
suffering. The bondage coming from ignorance is also a
form of necessity, from which the jijnasur (seeker after
wisdom) wishes to gain release, to feel free or happy. When
these gross and subtle factors of necessity are absent, the
general tendency in man is to reach out for various grades of
goods which will bring him pleasure (here referred to as
artha). These three are still in the relativist world, however
superior might be the "good" involved in the last case. There
is a true jnani (man of wisdom) however, whose case falls
outside these altogether. The unique nature of his position is
singled out and underlined in the next two verses. The wise
man is only interested in the Absolute, hence his unique


 tesham jnani nityayukta
ekabhaktir visishyate
priyo hi jnanino 'tyartham
aham sa cha mama priyah

Of these the wise man, forever united and unitively affiliated
with the Absolute excels, for dear to the utmost limit am I
to the wise, and he is dear to Me.


In the first three cases mentioned in Verse 16 the relation
is neither unitive nor strictly bipolar. The present verse
makes it clear that only in that relation where a wise man
thinks of the Absolute, does the bipolar condition exist which
is a prerequisite for all true contemplation to exist. When
such a contemplative bipolarity is established, the distinction
between the subject and the object, the meditator and the
Absolute meditated upon, is abolished. With equal validity
one can say that the meditator is attached to the Absolute or
that the Absolute is attached to the meditator.

The terms nityayuktah (forever united) and ekabhaktih
(unitively affiliated) bring out the implications of this
contemplative and necessarily perennial bipolar relationship.
The doctrine of the Gita is sometimes called ekantika
bhakti-yoga (Yoga of lonely devotion) and phrases like
ananyas chinta-yanto mam (meditating upon Me to the
exclusion of everything else) of ix, 22 and ananyayogena
(by a Yoga with nothing extraneous) of xiii, 10 are favourite
expressions found in many parts of the Gita. They are meant
to stress the same condition of bipolarity.

The word atyartham (to the extreme limit) shows the
Absolute nature of the relationship established in which
there is neither superiority nor inferiority. All true
contemplatives enjoy equal status in holiness. Spirituality
may be said to reach its term or limit when it has to do with
the Absolute.


udarah sarva evai 'te
jnani tv atmai 'va me matam
asthitah sa hi yuktatma
mam eva 'nuttamam gatim

Honourable are all these, but My firm opinion is that the wise
one is the Self itself. He of unitively established Self indeed
remains in My path which has nothing higher.


The same verity is restated here in terms of the Self rather
than the Absolute. The theological distinction between the
worshipper and the worshipped which still persisted in Verse
17 tends to be abolished completely here, where the centre
of gravity shifts, as it were, to the Self, which is the same
as the Absolute in the science of the Absolute (brahmavidya).
Ananda (Value), Atma (Self) and Brahman (the Absolute) are all
interchangeable terms in Brahmavidya (science of the Absolute).
(See Guru Narayana's Darsana Mala, chapter on Bhakti, Verse 5.)
The other three categories mentioned in Verse 16 are not
wholly condemned. Relatively they have their own status or
value. The praise here, however, is subjected to the
correction applied in Verse 23 of this chapter, where all
relativist-minded persons are called alpamedhasah (people
of small intelligence). Following the time-honoured
precaution of fulfilling rather than destroying anterior
opinion, the term udarah (honourable) used here should be
understood as a form of "damning with faint praise". The
case of the absolutist is held aloft as most praiseworthy
because he may be said to walk the highest or most
unrivalled path of the Absolute itself.

The word yuktatma (of unitive Self), understood as
applying to a person who walks the way of wisdom, is the
same in effect as a man who is merged in the Absolute,
because the Absolute can be spoken of as a path as well as a
reality. To identify the path of the Absolute and the
worshipper of the Absolute is not against the spirit of


bahanam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti
sa mahatma sudurlabhah

After many births the wise man attains Me. Such a
great Self, thinking Vasudeva to be all is rare
indeed to find.


The religion of the Bhagavatas came into vogue in India at a certain historic period when the teachings of the Upanishads had to be restated in a popular form. Ekantika bhaktiyoga (Yoga of lonely devotion) was their main doctrine, and the central figure of acharya (teacher) of this religious expression was the son of Vasudeva, otherwise known as Krishna or


Vasudeva, who is identified with Krishna of the Gita. This verse establishes the relation between the Vasudeva religion and the teaching of the Gita. Krishna in the Gita represents
the Absolute, and the man of wisdom, when he sees the whole of this universe and the Self as being unitively comprised in the Absolute as represented by Vasudeva, the superior Guru of this teaching, becomes finally and unitively established in wisdom, without any trace of duality between disciple and Guru - not to speak of worshipper and worshipped. The Bhagavata religion with its Vasudeva cult has other doctrines such as that of the Vyuha, hypostatic personages such as Sankarshana etc., which the Gita ignores, and which are also against the spirit of Vedanta. To see the principle that makes Vasudeva represent the Absolute is a very rare possibility of mahatmas (great Selves) alone. Not only is such a mahatma (great Self) rare to find in this world at a given time, but such a perfected one of supreme wisdom must be the product of a long experience, when we speak of it in a workaday (vyavaharika) language.

Before stating in more definite terms the difference between this doctrine of the Gita and the prevailing doctrines anterior to it, this historical reference to the origin of the new teaching becomes apt , as in the case of the Bible, where Jesus says: "You have heard it said... but verily I say unto you..." This verse serves therefore as a kind of punctuation mark between the purva paksha (anterior criticism) and the siddhanta (final conclusion) in this important chapter before we enter into the more proper discussions in the next chapters.


kamais tais-tair hritajnanah
prapadyante 'nyadevatih
tam-tam niyamam asthtiya
prakritya niyatah svaya

Their wisdom distracted by such (or) such (other)
desire (counterparts) they attain to other divinities,
committed to obligations such or such belonging
to each, prompted by their own particular nature in
each case).


This and the next four verses refer to the subtle dialectical
relation between the spiritual aspirant and the object of the
adoration that he might have as his ideal or goal. There is in


each case the subject who is the aspirant or worshipper, and
the ideal or goal, which is a value adored or aspired after.
It is important for us to remember, in order to grasp the
full import of these verses, that each aspirant has his own
natural counterpart in the object of aspiration. In each
instance they are matched by a certain subtle reciprocal
relationship. Innate interest in each case corresponds to the
object of interest, and the law of like attracting like is
implied in every instance.

Before going to the subject of strict bipolarity as it
should belong to the context of contemplation, understood
in the absolutist sense, the author here enunciates the
principle of the same bipolarity which, even in the domain
of relativist nature, normally prevails in every variety of
spiritual affiliation. In each case the good that accrues to
the aspirant depends on the nature of the bipolarity

Thus, although these five verses here deal with relativist spirituality, they are not unconnected with the Absolute. Whatever benefits accrue to the worshipper even in the relativist domain, in principle belong to the Absolute, although they might seem to come from the object of worship. Even the joy-element contained in sense pleasure finally belongs to the Absolute, because inert matter contacting inert matter cannot produce joy. Therefore whatever benefits are pleasurable in whatever context, relative or Absolute, must be thought of as resulting from the interaction of counterparts of a bipolar situation, in which subject and object are implied, as explained above.

The highest type of such a relationship is that in which the bipolarity is between the Self that seeks happiness and the Absolute and in this last case the happiness "is a joy forever" in an absolute sense.

We now turn to Verse 20. Pure wisdom tends to be dispassionate. It is not interested in any but the highest value. But relativist interests lie on a different plane. They tend to deflect the spirit of man from the high path of pure wisdom, affiliating him to an object of interest which lies outside the line of the highest.

These horizontal interests are not all of a mundane order. There are pious and religious people capable of interesting themselves in deities or superior ideals which are raised above common pleasures of the senses. All positive values which rise above the mundane level may be called values which shine.


We know that the Upanishads refer to the senses sometimes as
devas (shining entities). Anyadevatah (other shining ones)
here must be understood therefore as covering all relativist
human values which do not fall in line with the supreme
way of wisdom.

The interest that such values hold out to the aspirant is
one which draws him away from the true path of wisdom.
The expression taih taih (by them, by them) repeated twice,
is intended to indicate that each relativist desire has its
corresponding counterpart, and that the attraction of
relativist value is not promiscuous or haphazard, as we
have tried to explain. The word hrita (drawn) implies a
deflection from the true line of wisdom which is affected
by affiliation to relativist values. The prefix anya- (other-)
before devatah (divinities) makes this clearer still.
According to the Gita, iv, 11, other divinities cannot exist
except in the sense we have explained. They are called
"other divinities" because they tend to compromise wisdom
understood in the fullest sense.

The repetition of tam-tam (that, that) further emphasizes
the same factor of counterparts, whose force has been
missed in all translations, but which is of the utmost
importance. The niyama (rule) or ritualistic injunction, laid
down in each case, varies with each pair of counterparts
involved. If they are Vedic, then ordinances of a Vedic
order prevail; if with theological values, the forms of the
cult laid down are to be followed. And so also with different
forms of worship as, for example, in the worship of Ganesa,
etc. Each has its own proper rule belonging to it. These
rules, further, have their basis in nature itself. Pompous
people, for example, love ceremonial. Thus it is nature
which decides which grade or kind of affiliation will be
adopted in the domain of relativist spirituality. The word
niyatah (obliged) implies an element of compulsion which
comes from the attraction between counterparts which exists
in nature.


yo-yo yam-yam tanum bhaktah
sraddhaya 'richitum ichchhati
tasya-tasya 'chalam sraddham
tam eva vidadhamy aham

By whichever (particular) form such and such a devotee with
faith wishes to worship, each to his own faith I confirm.


Here again we find three pairs of demonstrative pronouns
invoked to stress the bipolar nature of the relation involved
in all spiritual seeking. A man can have an erroneous faith in
an object or a value which is not quite in keeping with the
highest value, but every form of value, in so far as it is a
value, must necessarily and implicitly at least have the
Absolute in it, because, as we have stated earlier, two
negative poles cannot attract each other. Matter cannot be of
value to matter itself.

Whatever the counterparts involved in this dialectical
situation, the value factor which emerges has to depend on
the compensating counterpart. Thus values must depend on
something that is either one or the other of these counterparts,
to be of interest at all. The Absolute value represented
by Krishna enters thus into the picture. When value becomes
fully absolutist the counterparts merge into one central
unitive value.

All three words: tanum (body), bhaktah (devotee) and
architum (to worship), belong to the context of idol-worship,
but the intended meaning here is not limited to such a
context. When a man worships an image there is the
subjective aspect, the bhaktah (devotee) on one side, the act
of worshipping with flowers (archana), and the image, form
or object of worship, here called tanum (body).

These three are inevitable in any form of appreciation of
value in a religious sense. Even doctrinal values like
worshipping a high God have these three factors involved.
Each man, according to his temperament or upbringing,
likes or is disposed to worship in his own way.

It is the absolutist value which is implied in each relative
value which relates the worshipper with the worshipped.
Even if a man is interested in a penny, it is the unitive pound
which, in principle, is the object of interest, indirectly
though it may be. The Absolute, as we have said earlier, is a
coin for which no amount of small change can suffice.
Although thus the relation between the Absolute and the
particular object of worship is of a unique order, there is, in
principle at least, a link between them, which, figuratively,
might be described as a kind of sanction. It is in this sense
only that the toleration of other worship apparent in these
verses is to be understood.

The Absolute is necessarily behind every form of worship,
however puerile it may be, but this does not mean that all


forms of worship have an equal status, as Verse 23 already
referred to makes evident.

The bipolar relationship which is established between the
counterparts becomes confirmed or strengthened because
some value factor must be implied in every such relationship,
and the value, depending on the Absolute, may be said to
sanction or confirm the relationship in each case, just in
the form in which the relation, irrespective of circumstances,
gets established.

The wise man, however, chooses his interests, and thus
rises in the scale of values, leading finally to the value
which is Absolute.


sa taya sraddhaya yuktas
tasya 'radhanam ihate
labhate cha tatah kaman
mayai 'va vihitan hi tan

He, endowed with that faith, seeks the worship of such a one, and from him obtains his desires, the benefits being decreed by Me.


The same principle mentioned in Verse 21 is implied also in this verse. The object which gains primacy here is faith and not the form of worship. The indirect relation between the Absolute value and the relative value worshipped by the ignorant worshipper is further made explicit here. The words kaman (desires) and hitan (benefits) are interchangeable, except that the former refers to the object and the latter to the subject.


antavat tu phalam tesham
tad bhavaty alpamedhasam
devan devavayajo yanti
madbhakta yanti mam api

Terminable indeed is the benefit (accruing) to these of
small intelligence; sacrificers to the divinities go to the
divinities, but My devotees come to Me.


This verse has to be understood in the light of ix, 23-25
and also the more general statement of iv, 11. Here,
however, the reference is limited to devas (gods, divinities,


ones) which are hypostatic entities still in the domain of
relative ends. It is pointed out that whatever value such a
faith might have is finite and does not belong to true

The expression alpamedhasah (those of small intelligence)
makes the depreciation quite clear.

Instead of condemning relativist worship, the Gita permits
it, while making clear how inferior a place it has. It does
not mix everything up under the nebulous term "toleration"
claimed for Hinduism by many enthusiasts. The distinction
between the two kinds of devotion is clearly marked.
Krishna as a representative of the Absolute certainly
prefers his devotees to come to Him rather than to go to the
various gods, especially of the Vedic world. All relativist
notions of divinity are disapproved, though generously
permitted out of respect for the feeling of others, according
to the spirit of iii, 26.


avyaktam vyaktim apannam
manyante mam abuddhayah
param bhavam ajananto
mama'vyayam anuttamam,

Unreasoning persons consider Me as the unmanifest
come to manifestation; not knowing my supreme (value)
unexpended, with no superior.


The Absolute is beyond all predication, whether methodological,
epistemological or actual. This is what the last section of
this chapter, beginning with this verse, wants to underline
unmistakably, before passing over to the detailed aspects
of the Absolute in later chapters.

When we remember that in Verse 2 of this chapter it was
promised that a full and all-comprehensive picture of
the Absolute would be covered in this chapter, it is
natural to expect that the final rounding-off of the subject,
in its more subtle implications, would find its place in
the present concluding section of this chapter which is
theoretically most important.

In Verses 24-27 inclusive, a final attempt is made to complete the picture of the unpredicable Absolute as far as description can do so. Verse 24 here, enuniciates the character of Absolute in terms of manifestation and non-manifestation.


The verse admits of four possible ways of ruling out predications about the Absolute.

First, it denies that the manifest is the Absolute, though
derived from a prior unmanifest. Second, it rules out the
theory (which is more philosophical) that the unmanifest is
the Absolute, although it attains to manifestation as the
visible world. Third, it rules out the position where a
philosopher thinks that the manifest and unmanifest are dual
aspects of the same Absolute, a position which Sankara
(under the criticism of bheda-abheda vada "doctrine of
difference non-difference" in the Brahma Sutra commentary,
I, iv, 20 and III, ii, 29) has taken so much trouble to
refute. Fourth, as a final residue there is the possible
predication which states that the Absolute is an entity
to be included among entities abstract or concrete
which the mind is capable of conceiving statically or
existentially. Here the Absolute is not to be thought of
as a thing at all. The Absolute belongs to the unique order
of the Absolute itself which has nothing in common with
things or entities, however subtle or perceptual they may be.
The Absolute is the supreme and therefore above all, though
comprehending all. Nothing can therefore be predicated of it,
but everything that is predicated derives its reality from it.
Such a thoroughgoing interpretation of this verse is
justified, not only in the light of the character of this
chapter, but also because the unpredicable nature of the
Absolute is found in many Upanishads (see particularly
Mandukya Upanishad, Verse 7).

The term abuddhayah (unreasonable) means those who have no
proper method of reasoning, but only a vague form of religious
fervour The Gita is never tired of harping on the word buddhi
(reason) and its derivatives, which appear dozens of times
in the work, and those familiar with the Gita cannot mistake
the sense in which it is used here. The rational philosophical
attitude is given its due share in spiritual life here.

The word param (beyond, transcendent, or supreme) is
generally used in contradistinction to aparam (immanent or
non-transcendent). As a methodological device for
distinguishing the two aspects of the Absolute, the duality
here might be permissible. But when we think of the
Absolute as a supreme goal or value, even this duality

There is a value which has nothing else left outside or
beyond it. The two epithets here at the end of the verse,
avyayam (unexpended) and anuttamam (with no superior)


meant to mark the uniqueness of the Absolute in terms of
value, rather than of mere philosophical reality.

That a value is here implied rather than a philosophical
concept is further confirmed by the reference to life-values,
both immanent and transcendent inclusively, in the last two
verses of this chapter. The meaning we have given is further
clarified by viii, 18-20, as we shall see.


na 'ham prakasah sarvasya
yogamaya samavritah
mudho 'yam na 'bhijanati
loko mam ajam avyayam

I am not revealed brightly to all; shrouded as I am by the
illusive effect of negative reality (yoga-maya) this deluded
world does not know Me, unborn, unexpended.


The clarity or the luminosity, by which alone this supreme
value called the Absolute is apprehended or appraised, is not
given to the generality of human beings. The reason is
stated. There is a veil produced by what is called yoga-maya
(the illusive effect of negative reality). The nature of this
has puzzled commentators.

Sankara gives two alternative explanations: first, that
maya is the resultant of the three gunas (value-levels or
modalities) mixed together; second, that maya belongs to
God or Isvara when he has steadfastness of mind as a certain

Both of these explanations are still vague and unsatisfactory.
We know of the word Yoga as meaning union between two aspects
of reality. The immanent and the transcendent, the Self and
the non-Self may he thought of as these two aspects, among
many other possible pairs.

Whatever the actual concept implied, there are two poles to
be distinguished methodologically.

These poles interact and, to the extent that duality persists
in the product of this bipolar interaction, it only
succeeds in confounding. Thus this form of Yoga (union)
tainted by dualism, tends to confuse our judgment in regard
to the supreme value of the Absolute. In this sense maya
(illusion or error-principle) and Yoga (union) go hand in
hand to defeat the purpose of wisdom. Maya being the most
subtle and general principle of error or appearance in the
human mind, yoga-maya thus means the illusive effect of
negative reality.


The epithets ajam (unborn) and avyayam (unexpended)
further distinguish the Absolute as it is to be understood
above. Here the time factor is brought into these epithets
leading up to the further reference to the relation between
time and the Absolute in the next verse. Ajitavada (doctrine
of the world as unborn) and vivartavada (doctrine of the
world as a presentment) which could be taken as corollaries
of mayavada ( doctrine of the world as illusion or a
principle of error) are implied in these epithets, indicating
that the notion of the Absolute refers to pure time or the
eternal present as understood in the philosophy of Bergson
or Plotinus.


veda 'ham samatitani
vartamanani cha 'rjuna
bhavishyani cha bhutani
mam tu veda na kaschana

I know the beings that are past, present and to come,
0 Arjuna, but no one knows Me.


At first sight there seems to be a complaint here on the
part of Krishna that true knowledge of him is not found in
anybody. The possibility of all knowledge of the Absolute
seems thus to be shut off altogether.

This superficial interpretation is not what is intended by
the author. Here, he wants to point out that there are two
ways of cognition by living beings or persons; one which
might be called static, mechanistic or actual; and the other
the intuitive, dynamic or vital.

The latter is the way given to the eye of contemplation, in
which the subject and the object become identified and a
certain transparency of vision is established between the
divisions of time, past, present and future.

The former or static way is when beings are objectively
established as mere expressions of the Absolute. It is where
the multiplicity of beings may be said to exist in an endless
series of cross-sections of reality which are not intuitively
or vitally interrelated, and there is no transparency of vision.
This static view shuts out any global or comprehensive
vision of the Absolute. Beings as such, as specific entities of
an objective order, can never comprehend the Absolute
fully. The vision of the Absolute is possible through the
intuitive identity of subject and object. The lamp of wisdom
becomes clear to the extent


that the triputi (tri-based division of subject, object and
meaning) is transcended.

To overcome ignorance therefore, the way of intuition is
recommended. The object of the whole chapter is to indicate
the way to know the Absolute comprehensively. Hence the
relevancy of the distinction here pointed out between the two
ways of knowing.


ichchhadvesha samutthena
dvandvamohena bharata
sarvabhutani sammoham
sarge yanti paramtapa

From the delusion of the pairs of opposites arising
from attraction and repulsion, 0 Bharata (Arjuna),
all beings, on being created, are subject to confusion
(of values), 0 Burner of the Foe (Arjuna).


Dvandva (pairs of opposites) in the philosophical sense, is
the subject matter of Verses 27 and 28. Every duality implies
values which produce conflict in the individual. Attractions
and repulsions under various categories create a general
confusion of values through whose haze the individual gets

This is the dvandvamoha (confusion arising from opposites)
referred to in both these verses. The attractions and
repulsions may be in regard to everyday values, or may
comprise moral or spiritual values.

When a being is born the very act of coming into contact
with the material world starts the process of attraction and
repulsion, of which the basic example of heat and cold is
mentioned at the beginning of the Gita in ii, 14. A child
wants no extremes of temperature and therefore is caught
between two such limits which may exist in the physical
world. Dvandva (pairs of opposites) here are not dvaita
(duality) but refer to pleasure and pain in the actual world,
or refer to conflicting interests immediately present to
each man.

This struggle between pleasure and pain is common to all
beings and is indicated in birth itself. From basic examples
such as heat and cold we rise in a scale which includes all
necessary values. Where conflicts are neutralized, pairs of
opposites become non-operative. Then the vision regarding
true values becomes clear.


To avoid attraction and repulsion is therefore the attitude
to be cultivated by the spiritual man, so that necessity can
be transcended without conflict and the total content of the
Absolute calmly contemplated.

The word sarge (on being created) gives this verse that turn
by which it is joined in meaning to the last and the next
verse. The main object of this chapter, we should remember,
is to show a complete picture of the Absolute so as to leave
nothing over, as promised at the beginning in Verse 2.


yesham tv antagatam papam
jananam punyakarmanam
te dvamdvamoha nirmukta
bhajante mam dridhavratah

But those persons of pure deeds whose sin has
come to an end, freed from the conflict of pairs of
opposites, adore Me with a firm resolve.


This verse states the converse position of a man who has
transcended the conflict arising from attraction and
repulsion of pairs of opposites. Here the terms papam (sin)
and punyam (pure, good, holy) are introduced, lifting the
values out of the necessary into the contingent field. A man
capable of choosing high yet normal human values and who
is not confused by ordinary attractions and repulsions is the
man of holiness here. It is not the ordinary sin and grace,
which again would imply duality, which are to be understood
here. Both sin and grace have been referred to as being
outside the scope of a wise man's life as implied in v,15,
and in, e.g., the Kaushitaki Upanishad, 1,4.

These concluding verses are intended to lead up to the
discussion in the next chapter and further on, of the
implications of the science of the Absolute. In the ninth
chapter a full dress discussion is to be given. This explains
why this chapter stops short with a reference to a way of
life, rather than stating a philosophical doctrine.

The term dridhavratah (those of firm resolve) might at
first sight suggest that even persons of the Gita's way of life
observe rigorous or austere disciplines. It is not suggested
here that they should observe such discipline; but rather that
they are well established on a straight, normal or spiritual
way of life, by their very freedom from the conflict of
attractions and


repulsions. They naturally lead a life in which all activities
are pure. They do not deliberately choose observances
ordained as holy as laid down in scriptures.


jaramarana mokshaya
mam asritya yatanti ye
te brahma tad viduh kritsnam
adhyatmam karma cha'khilam

Whoever resorting to Me, strive for liberation from
decay and death, they know That, that Absolute,
all that constitutes Self-knowledge, and everything
pertaining to (ritualistic) action.


Departmentalized streams of spirituality prevailing before
the time of the Gita were brought into one convergent
current in the previous verse. It was a personal attitude
rather than a philosophical doctrine or a ritualistic
observance which was stated.

Here the same unitive tendency is carried over to a second
degree of clarity. Any concept of freedom should be thought
of as a breaking away from the chains of necessity. But
necessity has many items comprising this binding chain.
The direst necessity of man is death itself, and next to
it is the inescapable old age which creeps over all living

In trying to cut oneself away from these general though
subtle factors of necessity, one has to focus one's attention
on a value which constitutes a second pole representing
freedom in the Absolute in the fullest sense possible. A dire
disease requires a drastic remedy. The value which can form
the legitimate counterpart of the suffering bondage of man,
conceived in the most general terms, must be that Absolute
which can be considered in the most all-inclusive manner.
Here even the distinction between ritualistic observance
and perfect knowledge of the Absolute tends to be abolished
in the person of the spiritual seeker. He can be said to be a
knower of Brahman, a knower of the Self, and a knower of
the secret of all action, indifferently.

These three approaches to the knowledge of the Absolute
are evident in this verse, to be further and more specifically
referred to in the next verse, and the same three ways form
the opening questions in the next chapter.



sadhibhutadhidaivam mam
sidhiyajnam cha ye viduh
prayanakale 'pi cha mam
te vidur yuktachetasah

Those who know Me, taking together what refers
to existential (adhibhuta), hypostatic (adhidaiva)
and sacrificial (adhiyajna) aspects, they know Me
in a unitive spirit, even at the time of their departure.


The final focussing of the Self in relation to that supreme
value called the Absolute generally takes place when a man
is about to leave life here. It is referred to in this verse as
prayanakala (time of departure).

Conversely, if a man is capable of retaining a global or
intuitive vision of the Absolute in all its three aspects
mentioned, at the time of his passing, he may be said to have
at that time a proper and complete vision of the Absolute as
intended in this chapter.

The three departments of the way of wisdom mentioned here form
the key subject-matter of the next chapter. We need not
therefore enter into their implications in any detail here.
We can say however that adhibhuta is the existential,
subjective; adhidaiva the hypostatic, subsistantial, objective;
and adhiyajna the relational interaction between the subject
and object by which different absolutist values emerge. We
notice there are three seemingly different factors referred to
in the previous verse, and also that there are four different
problems with regard to them - all of which will be examined
in detail in the opening verses of the next chapter.
The repetition of the preposition sa (with) is to emphasize
that these three aspects have to be treated together by the
seeker for wisdom without compartmentalization.

This chapter as a whole leaves us gasping in many respects.
We wonder why, in the first place, the elements like earth
and water are brought into the context of pure spirituality.
We wonder again at the end of this chapter, why a dying
man's spirituality is referred to with approval.

However, when we remember that the object of this chapter
is to cover the whole subject of Brahman (the Absolute)
leaving out nothing belonging to it, taking as it were a
megascopic view, for the purposes of further elaboration,
we find that the intention of the author here is to mark
out the extreme limits


within whose range lies the science of the Absolute. A
spirituality which ignores matter on one side and
eschatology on the other side will remain incomplete. The
whole range of living interests, reaching from considerations
of equable temperature to the balancing of the spirit between
sin and grace, are all referred to in this chapter from the
cosmological, psychological and value aspects. These are to
be followed up in the next chapter.

ity srimad bhagavadgitasupanishatsu brahmavidydyam
yogasastre srikrishnarjunasamvade
jnanavijnanayogo nama saptamo '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
Seventh Chapter, entitled Unitive Way of Wisdom