We have stated more than once that the Gita is a dialectical
revaluation of spiritual or philosophical doctrines as they
prevailed in India at the time it was written. The character
of this revaluation consists of reconciling divergent
traditions in the unitive terms of an absolutist way of life.
In iii, 3, it was stated by Krishna that he had declared a
two-fold path from ancient times, there referred to as jnana
(wisdom) of the Samkhyas and karma (active discipline) of
the Yoga school. A revaluation of these two trends formed
part of the subject-matter of Chapter iii. As we have seen,
this was continued in Chapter iv. The factors of reason and
instinctive action were brought as close together as possible
and also discussed together. We notice however that the
word Yoga as used in the Gita is wider and more liberal in
its scope than its limited connotation in iii, 3, where Yoga is
always associated with karma (action).

If we examine the history and nature of the six systems of
Indian philosophy, we find that they fall into three pairs:
1. Nyaya-Vaiseshika;
2. Samkhya-Yoga and
3. Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa.

Each pair taken separately reveals on one side a rationalist
trend, and another in which matters of practice or discipline
are introduced. Following up the development of Indian thought
further, we notice that Vedic orthodoxy and heterodoxy also
alternately change positions or take over primacy as between
the successive pairs, as the thought matures, to culminate
in the final Vedantic teaching of Badarayana, which contains,
in revalued terms, all that is implied in the other anterior
schools of a logical, methodological or epistemological
order. The final doctrinal aspects, however, belong to
Vedanta as revalued and restated by master-minds like Vyasa.
The critical student must therefore look out for the
opposing tendencies and the alternating movement from
orthodoxy to


heterodoxy or from reason to faith that we find in the
growth of the spiritual and philosophical thought of India,
before he can be clear in his own mind about the exact
nature of the revaluation accomplished chapter by chapter
in the Gita.

Nyaya, for example, in its origin is orthodox or Vedic-related,
though rational and logical, and Vaiseshika, is heterodox in
relation to the Veda, but religious in its origin. When we
come to the next pair, Samkhya-Yoga, we find Samkhya to be
rational and heterodox while Yoga, as in the Patanjali system,
permits or tolerates an Isvara or Lord as an alternative for
its discipline. There is an interplay of atheism and theism
implicit as between these two schools. In the third pair
orthodoxy is represented by the Purva Mimamsa (Old or Prior
Critique), which is primarily concerned with Vedic ritualism
though subjected to the critical scrutiny of Jaimini. Uttara
Mimamsa (Later or Higher Critique) as Vedanta itself, is
neither heterodox nor orthodox, as we find in the Gita.
The same twofold path of iii, 3 persists and shows itself as
two distinct ways of spiritual life known in India. One is
that of the samnyasi (the renouncer) and the other that of the
karmi (the doer), i.e., of the one who still adheres to
active disciplines, whether of the Yoga system or of ritualism.
It is with these two types who represent the culmination of
the two currents of thought and life in India, that the
revaluation of the Gita, starting with this chapter in particular,
becomes primarily concerned.

However, with the vicissitudes to which these ways of life
have been subjected in the long course of their development,
they change their complexion, but stand out throughout mainly
as typified by the samnyasi and the yogi. We might add also that
the samnyasi not only represents rational "Hindu" tradition,
but also continues the Indian traditions of the Jaina and Buddhist
religions bringing in the element of heterodoxy implied in samnyasa

In this chapter and in chapter xviii, these remarks will, we hope, help the reader in following the nature of the discussion and the factors involved more intelligently, without getting confused by such terms as Samkhya (rational philosophy),
Yoga (unitive discipline and philosophy), samnyasa (renunciation), tyaga (relinquishment of ends), and karmi (doer - of discipline or ritual). In all cases, however, it should be remembered that a plain ritualist or a plain Samkhya philosopher is quite different from a karma-yogi (one who


treats action unitively) or a buddhi-yogi (one who treats
reason unitively) as meant in the Gita where Yoga is a
method that can apply to all disciplines of a unitive nature.
The full connotation of Yoga in the Gita is one that the
reader has to formulate for himself stage by stage as the
discussion proceeds.


Arjuna uvacha
samnyasam karmanam krishna
punarYogam cha samsasi
yach chhreya etayor ekam
tan me bruhi sunischitam

Arjuna said:
You recommend the effective transcending of
action, 0 Krishna, and again Yoga also: tell me,
duly determined, which one of these two is
spiritually better.


Arjuna here enters the very heart of the problem we have
just discussed. His charge that Krishna's words are vague,
as implied here, is legitimate, because of remarks such as
those in iv, 41 and elsewhere, where the rational and the
instinctive still remain distinguishable, although brought
very close together.

Arjuna has his own prejudiced notions of samnyasa
(renunciation) and of Yoga (unitive discipline) in his mind.
Perhaps the samnyasi (renouncer) is by necessity the
heterodox man who discards all ritualism with scant
respect, more and more like a non-Hindu. The yogi perhaps
presents in his mind a more orthodox person. The
distinction to Arjuna as an ordinary man is one involving
these two alternatives. He wants to accept the one and reject
the other. But the Gita neither accepts nor rejects but
instead, as we shall see, revalues both.

Sankara's concern about the promiscuous mixing of
jnana (wisdom) and karma (action) is legitimate, but the
Gita teaching, properly understood does not fall into the
error of confusing or mixing different sets of values
together at the same time in the same person. Permissive
action and mandatory or obligatory action when properly
distinguished, will help us to see that it is possible for one
and the same person to appear active and really be inactive
at the same time. Necessary action is inevitable, while
contingent action can be


either permissive or obligatory. The intelligent man
relegates necessary action to its proper domain in the
background of his personality, as it were, where
automatisms and reflex actions take care of themselves; he
himself as a conscious agent of activity remaining inactive.
The complex nature of such a relation between action and
inaction in the human personality has already been
sufficiently explained in iv, 16 to 18 and the verses that
follow. Sankara in his anxiety to give primacy to Advaita
(non-duality) is rightly scared of ritualists who might drag
Vedanta again into the mire of relativist ritualism. As a
"prachchhanna bauddha" (a Buddhist in disguise), as he
was called, he rightly votes in favour of buddhi (pure
reason) or tattva (pure principle of philosophy) to which
the Gita itself, as an open way of life, so often gives
primacy throughout the text.


sri bhagavan uvacha
samnyasah karmayogas cha
nihsreyasakarav ubhau
tayos karmasamnyasat
karmayogo visishyate

Krishna said:
Both renunciation (samnasa) and unitive action
(karma yoga) have emancipation as their common
effect; of the two however, unitive action is
superior to (mere) renunciation of action.


Samnyasa (renunciation) is spoken of here as being equal
to karma-yoga (unitive action) when judged by their
common effect of spiritual emancipation. Although thus
equal when judged merely on the basis of effect or end,
rather than by the method or means employed, when we
take into consideration the means, there is a difference. The
Gita decides in favour of karma-yoga (unitive action) as
against mere karma-samnyasa (omission of action). The
decided stand that the Gita takes in this matter is stated
more finally in xviii, 6. The revaluation of samnyasa
(renunciation) in the light of Yoga may be said to be one of
the important considerations of the Gita.

In spite of this explanation however, it must be admitted
there is a residue of vagueness still left in the discussion,


is only to be progressively remedied as we proceed. It might
be well to note, however, even here, that it is karma-
samnyasa (mere omission of action) which is discredited in
the second line, rather than unqualified samnyasa
(renunciation) which is to be revalued and restated more
clearly hereafter.

Both the samnyasi (renouncer) and the karma yogi (the
one who treats action unitively) have certain traits in
common. When samnyasa (renunciation) itself is
understood as samnyasa yoga (renunciation treated
unitively) as in ix, 28, the stigma attached to it as a merely
negative form of discipline disappears, and samnyasa
(renunciation) itself then becomes laudable.

The reader should watch for revaluation in both the directions
of samnyasa (renunciation), understood as having Yoga
as a means, and karma (action) understood in keeping with
wisdom as an end. When ends and means of both are thus
equated, the distinction between them is abolished.
In preferring karma yoga (unitive action) the Gita makes
a contribution whose importance should not be minimised in
the name of tolerance or catholicity. The Gita neither advocates
action nor recommends quietism, but helps to find a
via media in revalued terms in which a samnyasi (a man of
renunciation) still engages in normal activity as a form of
yogic discipline.


jneyah sa nityasamnyasi
yo na dveshti na kankshati
nirdvandvo hi mahabaho
sukham bandhat pramuchyate

That man should be recognized as a perennial renouncer
(nitya-samnyasi) who neither hates nor desires; free indeed
from conflicting pairs (of interests), 0 Mighty Armed (Arjuna),
he is happily released from (the) bondage (of necessity).


A slightly revised form of the samnyasi (renouncer) is
introduced here. Instead of a mere ascetic-abandoner of old,
we have a nitya samnyasi (one who is ever-renounced), and
the simple qualifications for recognizing such a man are
that he neither hates nor desires anything, i.e., he is
balanced between the opposites of pleasure and
displeasure, attraction and repulsion, which are conflicting
interests entering into the life of a person.


The conventional outward marks and habits, such as
shaving the head and objection to doing ritual sacrifices,
which are usually associated with a samnyasi (renouncer)
are discarded. It is the inner attitude which counts. This
consists merely of being a nirdvandvah (without conflicting
pairs of interests). This might seem too easy a condition for
emancipation, but is in keeping with the teaching of the
Gita, which is free from religious practices or forms of
holiness, as we find from the implication of v, 18, xviii, 66
and many other verses.

The word jneyah (should be known) shows that the samnyasi
hitherto has not been recognized in the way here indicated.
The prefix nitya (perennial) implies that such a person
remains a renouncer irrespective of different phases of
action or inaction normal to his life. He is a renouncer to
be understood in the context proper to brahmavidya (the
science of the Absolute), or of perennial wisdom.
The word sukham (happily or easily) indicates that freedom
from conflicting pairs of opposite interests in itself
induces a happy state of mind. Cruel forms of asceticism
are thus discountenanced.


samkhyayogau prithag balah
pravadanti na panditah
ekam apy asthitah samyag
ubhayor vindate phalam

That rationalism (Samkhya) and self-discipline (Yoga)
are distinct, only children say, not the well-informed
(pandits); one well-established in any one of them obtains
the result of both.

yat samkhyaih prapyate sthanam
tadyogair api gamyate
ekam samkhyam chayogam cha
yah pasyati sa pasyati

That status attained by men of Samkhya (rationalist
persuasion) is reached also by those of the Yoga
(unitive discipline persuasion); Samkhya and Yoga as
one, he who thus sees, he (alone) sees.


These verses seem to digress and revert back to a subject
that has been discussed once before in ii, 39 and iii,
3 and 4.


These prior verses seem to suggest that the subjects of
Samkhya and Yoga could be spoken of as two distinct
disciplines coming from the most ancient times. In xviii, 13
again for purposes of discussion the distinction continues to
be referred to. In xiii, 24 three disciplines instead of two are
enumerated in passing. But here the author seems to be
most emphatic in abolishing the distinction. And just now,
in this fifth chapter, in Verse 2, the same distinction was
discussed under the headings of samnyasa (renunciation)
representing the Samkhya, and karma-yoga (action unitively
treated) representing the Yoga school.

The present digression is only apparent. The plea throughout
this chapter is to look upon pure and practical aspects of
spiritual life unitively. It is in terms of self-realization or
in terms of the Absolute that this unity becomes clearly
understood without even apparent or implied contradiction. This
chapter is heading towards such a conclusive generalized
position, and samnyasa (renunciation), as understood in this
chapter, is not so much rejection of action expressly or
wilfully on the part of a spiritual aspirant as seeing action in
terms of inaction, and vice-versa, in the Absolute.

Theoretical justification for such a method of equalization
or cancelling of opposites is found in iv, 18, where action
and inaction have been equated. This chapter even permits
the disowning by the actor even of actual activity in v, 8 and
9. The Gita here insists on the unitive comprehension of both
pure and practical spirituality, on both wisdom and practice
being treated on a par.

Sin itself, which belongs to the context of religion, could
be completely effaced from the life of an individual as
already said in iv, 36 and again in v, 10. Thus sin itself needs
no expiation other than the purificatory touch of wisdom. It
is in this sense that the two verses here so emphatically refer
to those who take the disciplines as distinct, as mere children,
an attitude so unworthy of a pandit, while the author devotes
a second verse to underline the same thing in his own
favourite way, by saying that he alone who sees unitively
sees at all.

In the discussion here, it should be noted, words like
asthitah (established) of Verse 4, and yogayukto munih
(unitively harmonized one of subdued ways) of Verse 6, and
even the word sthanam (status) of Verse 5, imply only the
minimum duality between ends and means required for the


samnyasas tu mahabaho
dukham aptum ayogatah
yogayukto munir brahma
nachirena 'dhigachchhati

But renunciation (samnyasa), 0 Mighty-Armed
(Arjuna), non-unitively (without Yoga) is full of
pain to achieve; (but) one unitively harmonized
(yogayuktah) of subdued ways, without any delay
attains the Absolute (brahman).


From systems of philosophy this verse reverts to the
subject that is mainly revalued in this chapter, namely
samnyasa (renunciation).

That antique form of renunciation which is full of taboos,
denials, harsh obligations, bans and austerities is here
described as dukham aptum (full of pain to achieve). This
pain is, however, minimized or abolished by that unifying
solvent touch implied in Yoga understood dialectically.
When one becomes thus unitively harmonized, the whole
picture is changed. Conflicts are eased out and contradictions
blended reciprocally. The rest of the progress in spirituality
takes care of itself. All disciplines are brought under the
aegis of the Absolute. Mere wholehearted affiliation to the
Absolute by itself has this far-reaching effect as mentioned
so emphatically in iv, 36, ix, 31 and 34, and in xviii, 65.
The present verse, taken together with Verse 2 of this
chapter, and again with what is implied in xii, 5, makes it
clear that the Gita favours a bipolar relation to be
established with the Absolute, which is more than
intellectuality or austerity, though it gives due credit to
these paths.

As suggested by the expression already referred to,
dukham aptum (full of pain to achieve) here, and by the
word kleso (difficult) of xii, 5, it is in the name of greater
facility or freedom from hardship also, among more direct
reasons, that the yogic method of the Gita is recommended.


yogayukto visuddhatma
vijitatma jitendriyah
sarva bhutatma bhutatma
kurvann api na lipyate

One affiliated to the unitive way of life, attained to
lucidity of Self, one of Self-conquest, one who has gained a
victory over the senses, whose Self-existence has become
the same as the Self-existence of all, though active, is
unaffected (thereby).


It will be seen that the word atma (Self) as repeated in
this verse, gives to the subject of Yoga, as understood in the
previous verse, a subjective or psychological turn from one
of mere discipline or austerity understood more religiously.
In the unitive outlook or harmony implied in Yoga, the Self
is made firstly visuddha (lucid, transparent or clear), and
secondly the lower instinctive aspects of the Self are
transcended as the word vijitatma (one of conquered Self)
indicates, and it goes without saying that, by the same
method, such a yogi becomes a jitendriyah (one who has
gained a victory over the senses). Such a victory implies at
the same time the far-reaching consequence indicated by
the expression that follows, which finalizes the Self-
mastery understood here; he becomes sarva-bhutatma
bhutatma (whose Self-existence has become the same as
the Self-existence of all). This phrase is reminiscent of the
Upanishadic dicta in the Isa Upanishad 5-6, where the
psychological Self is equated to the visible world of beings.
The Self thus has its movement in an axis or plane which
is independent of the plane of everyday activities. It is in
this sense that the usual activities of life are said not to
affect the contemplative personality, and to leave him


nai 'va kimchit karomi 'ti
yukto manyeta tattvavit
pasyan srinvan sprisan jighrann
asnan gachchhan svapan svasan

pralapan visrijan grihnann
unmishan nimishann api
indriyani 'ndrayartheshu
vartanta iti dharayan

"I do nothing at all"- saying thus, he of unitive
ways, who is a philosopher (too), should think
and, (while) seeing, hearing, touching, smelling,
eating, going, sleeping, breathing,

Speaking, excreting, grasping, opening and closing
the eyes, treating the senses to be (merely) related
to their (corresponding) sense-objects.


These verses enumerate those vital, automatic or reflex
functionings which are incidental to physical existence,
from the most passive ones such as seeing, to where the
minimum volition may be said to enter, such as in the
opening and closing of the eyes. All belong to a biological
order involving no element of contemplation, moving and
having their being on a plane which has nothing to do with
spiritual or contemplative life. They should be treated as
incidental to life in general by a tattvavit (philosopher)
who is also yuktah (of unitive ways). He denies his own
agency in these incidental reflex actions which
automatically take care of themselves, and if he happens to
be looking at or enjoying things in outside nature, he
dissociates himself and maintains a certain detached
neutrality like that of a scientist who looks upon even his
own Self with a certain detached objectivity. The
contemplative disavows any direct responsibility for the
incidental attachments coming through the senses.
The usual ascetic practices which resort to self-torture
or indulge in immolation are here presented in a revised or
revalued light free from such extremes.


brahmany adhaya karmani
sangam tyaktva karoti yah
lipyate na sa papena
padmapattram iva 'mbhasa

Placing all actions in the Absolute, having given
up attachment, he who acts is not affected by sin,
like a lotus leaf by water.


The phrase brahmany adhaya karmani (placing all actions in
the Absolute) should be understood in the light of
the previous verses where we saw that actions have their
being on two distinct planes as it were, one not affecting the
other. The plane of the Absolute referred to here covers all
actions of any value to a contemplative; incidental values
being disclaimed by him as indicated in the last two verses.
All legitimate or natural actions which could be called
events that matter in contemplative life are brought into line,


as it were, with the crowning value of Absolutism.
Such pure acts involve no personal attachments or repulsions.
Being detached and treated purely, such acts leave the
actor unaffected. The favourite example of a lotus leaf in
water is invoked.


kayena manasa buddhya
kevalair indriyair api
yoginah karma kurvanti
sangam tyaktva 'tmasuddhaye

By the body, by the mind, by intelligence, and
even by the senses alone, yogis engage in action,
abandoning attachment, for (purposes of) purity of


Activity is permitted to the yogi, though only in the
revised light of the preceding verses. Such permissive
actions go beyond the scope of physiological automatisms.
They can be of a mental or intellectual order, and cover
even sense-functions, whether afferent, belonging to the
karmendriyas (sense-action organs) or efferent, belonging
to the jnanendriyas (sense-perceptive organs).

Suppression of the senses is spoken of as the first stage of
spirituality in other disciplines, but a certain freedom of the
senses is permitted in the Gita, and a yogi is to that extent
different from a mere ascetic who is only negatively conditioned.
The force of the word kevala (alone) taken with api (also) is
just to bring out this revision.

The term atmasuddhaye (for Self-purification) calls for
some explanation because it has just now been stated that
actions do not affect the actor if he is a yogi. To avoid the
stagnation produced by wilful inaction and its consequent
morbid psychic states, and to permit the free interplay of
natural tendencies and impulses, some sort of non-
obstructive working out of tendencies is required.
Repressions benumb the spirit and cathartic easing is a
remedy known to modern psychology. Verses ii, 33, 38 and
39, as we have seen, imply the same theory. It is in this
sense that the purification is to be understood here.



yuktah karmaphalam tyaktva
santim apnoti naishthikim
ayuktah kamakarena
phale sakto nibhadyate

The one of unitive (discipline) (yuktah),
discarding benefit-motive, attains to ultimate
peace; the one of non-unitive discipline being
desire-motivated, attached to results, is bound.


The difference between the man who relinquishes according
to the requirements of Yoga and one who is still
motivated by desire in his action is brought out here,
rounding up the foregoing discussion.
In both these cases action is permitted, but in the case of a
non-yogi, permissive action is related to a desired end;
while in the case of a yogi, ends and means neutralize each
other, i.e., desire does not obtrude as a third factor between
ends and means.

The expression naishthikim (of the nature of a pure
observance or discipline submitted to by one's own choice
for its own sake independent of any external pressure or
obligation) implies that the peace attained by the yogi is of a
supreme, finalized or absolute nature.

Viewing renunciation in the light of Yoga is the essential
difference between the two cases contrasted in this verse.
Wilful or conscious attachment to ends is what distinguishes
the non-yogic attitude. Desire as a third factor interferes
between the bipolarity of the Self (as means) and the Absolute
(as end), and it is this third factor of interference with
the bi-polar situation which is spoken of as being prejudicial
to Yoga.


sarvakarmani manasa
samnyasya 'ste sukham vasi
navadvare pure dehi
nai'va kurvan na karayan

Relinquishing by means of the mind all activities,
the embodied one sits happily, a victor, in the
nine-gated city, neither acting nor causing to act.


The two alternative cases as between a yuktah (one
unified or disciplined) and an ayuktah (one non-unified)
just contrasted, are discarded here, and a new concept, the


(embodied one) is introduced. This "embodied one" occupies,
as it were, a neutral position between the other two,
though of a somewhat more theoretical character, connoting
an entity corresponding to the libido or soul. This soul is
self-sufficient, its own master, as implied in the term vasi
(one who has brought everything into submission, a victor).
He, like a king, iste sukham (sits perfectly satisfied).

References to the soul as dwelling in the nine-gated city
which represents peripheral aspects - both psychological
and physiological - of the Self, are found in the Upanishads,
e.g., Svetasvatara, iii, 18. The nine gates are those channels
of communication by which contacts, afferent and efferent,
with the outer world, become possible.

The active or passive non-agency of the Self is brought
out by the expression kurvan na karayan (neither acting
nor causing to act). The Absolute is characterized by
perfect neutrality as explained in the three verses that


na kartritvam na karmani
lokasya srijati prabhuh
na karmaphalasamyogam
svabhavas tu pravartate

The Supreme does not generate either the idea of agency or
activity in regard to the world, nor the union of action
and benefit; the innate urge in beings, however, exerts


The next two verses refer to prabhuh (the Supreme) and
vibhuh (the pervading One). These two expressions are
often taken as a reference to God in a theistic sense, but the
context here does not demand such an interpretation. The
perfected man, who has been referred to as a yogi untouched
by peripheral aspects of ordinary existence, is automatically
raised in his spiritual status, which can even amount to a
form of isatva (lordship), one of the eight attainments
according to Patanjali. It is not uncommon to refer to the
soul as a vibhuh (the pervading One) in such a philosophical
and non-theistic sense. Further, to give a theistic
interpretation here would make these three verses stand out
as a digression, which is not intended here. The two words
become necessary because of the author's intention to deal
with the yogi from the standpoint of pure contemplation in
which all questions of


activity, whether subjective, objective or combined, have to
be ruled out., The soul as the Absolute is innocent or free
from such limitations.

The expression svabhavas tu pravartate (the innate urge
in beings, however, exerts itself) does not refer particularly
to gross aspects of nature in manifestation. That would
make the activity one-sided or asymmetrical and not in
keeping with the notion of prabhuh (the superior One).
Bergson's élan vital (vital impulse) in the most general
terms comes nearest perhaps to what is intended.
The ruling out of karma phala samyogan, (the union of
action and benefit) is significant, because it finalizes the
advaita (non-dual) position as against those schools such as
the bheda-abheda-vadins (teachers of duality and non-duality
together) of Bhatriprapancha so effectively refuted
by Sankara in the Brahma-Sutras. All vestiges of duality,
explicit or implicit, are repugnant to the revalued position
of Vedanta in the Gita.


na 'datte kasyachit papam
na chai 'va sukritam vibhuh
ajnanena 'vritam jnanam
tena muhyanti jantavah

The all-pervading One takes cognisance neither of
the sinful nor of the meritorious actions of anyone;
wisdom is veiled by unwisdom; beings are deluded


The theistic context to which sinful or meritorious actions
belong is more finally abolished in the first lines here. The
pardoning and punishing God of theology referred to here
as vibhuh (the all-pervading One) which word, as we have
pointed out, is equally applicable to the soul, is revalued in
the second line in keeping with the idea of pure wisdom in
the most general terms. Beings are deluded and thus
imagine theological gods who punish and reward, and also
imagine that the innermost being is affected one way or
another by necessary activity. All such notions are mere
suppositions due to the veiling effect of ajnana (ignorance
or unknowing).

This verse seems to contradict what has been said in iii,
24, where the Absolute principle is said to be active. As we
have pointed out in the Introduction, each chapter of the
Gita has to be looked upon, though not as a separate
darsana (viewpoint


or vision of reality), at least as a distinct prakarana
(section) with a frame of reference proper to itself. The
key concept of Chapter iii being karma (action) a unitive
concept of action was normal or permissive of usage there.
In Chapter iv the discussion passed on into more unitive
ways of equating action and inaction, and in the present
chapter action is even denied or disclaimed in reference to
the contemplative Self. A fuller revaluation in terms of a
purer absolutism becomes possible therefore here, although
even here the distinction between jnana (wisdom) and
ajnana (unwisdom) is retained, the former being veiled by
the latter. The triumph of wisdom, if it is to be spoken of,
has to imply its negative counterpart, at least as a rhetorical
inevitable necessity.

The word jantavah (beings) indicates the intention of the
author to make this statement in as general terms as
possible, covering all beings and not as merely limited to
human beings.

The word avritam (veiled) is derived from the same root
as avarana (covering or negative form of hallucination)
which is due to a weak or negative state of mind. An active
mind can project imaginary values on outside objects. This
is called vikshepa (projected or positive form of


jnanena tu tad ajnanam
yesham nasitam atmanah
tesham adityavaj jnanam
prakisayati tat param

Those, however, in whom that unwisdom in the Self
has been destroyed, to those wisdom shines
sunlike as the Ultimate (the Absolute).


The full triumph of wisdom which effectively abolishes
its own negative shadow as it were, as implied in the
previous verse, is finally stated here in a converse manner.
Relativism has no effect at all anymore and the knower of
Brahman (the Absolute) becomes verily Brahman, as stated
in the Mundaka Upanishad, iii, i, 3. The analogy of the sun
is perhaps the nearest in nature where darkness is wholly
effaced, but we have to imagine that in the case of wisdom
which reaches the ultimate limits of absolutism, darkness
itself becomes brilliant with its own non-dual light. This
has been finally brought out in Guru Narayana's
composition Arivu (Wisdom).



The expression tu (indeed), taken with tat param (after
that), has the force of bringing out the contrast between
what is said in this and the previous verse.


tadbuddhayas tadatmanas
tanishthas tatparayanah
gachchhanty apunarivrittim
jnana nirdhuta kalmashah

Those having That (Absolute) for reasoning, That
for the Self, That for finalized discipline, That for
supreme goal, they go to a state of final non-return,
all their (relativistic) dross being cancelled-out
by wisdom.


Apodictic finality of what has been dealt with more
discursively or didactically is reached here in almost
Upanishadic words. A form of expression dear to the Gita is
employed here in repeated phrases using the prefix tat (that).
To take one example, the term tadbuddhayah (having that as
reasoning) should be understood in the sense that reasoning
has attained identity with the Absolute, and not merely as
qualifying or conditioning buddhi (reason). The same perfect
unity of counterparts is implied in the other instances where
tat is repeated in this long compound expression.

The reference to apunaravritti (state of final non-return)
means that all other forms of emancipation, understood religiously
or theologically, involve relativist samsara (cyclic
existence) in which return is implied, as mentioned in ix, 21.
The Gita takes its stand on absolute emancipation, and
discountenances all other forms which belong to the varied
domains of holiness, religion or spirituality, however
relatively superior one or the other might be. This verse
again underlines what has been stated in iv, 36: that sin
itself, which is a notion belonging to religion, is effectively
counteracted by wisdom. Absolutist wisdom needs no resort
to lesser forms of holiness or religious discipline to destroy
sin. Ritualist Brahmanism was supposed to be the weapon
held hitherto as effectual against sin. But the revaluation
here favours wisdom, a position which will be made more
explicit in the next verse. The word kalmashah (dross) does
not mean merely sin in the theological sense, but every form
of relativistic dregs.


vidya vinaya sampanne
brahmane gavi hastini
suni chai 'va svapake
cha panditih samadarsinah

In regard to a Brahmin endowed with learning or humility,
a cow, an elephant, and even a dog, as also one who cooks
dog (for food), the well-informed ones (panditah) see the
same (differenceless reality).


The doctrine of the Gita rises above all forms of holiness
or relativist spirituality. In any such religious or theological
context we know there are all sorts of grades distinguishing
man from man on the basis of considerations of virtue or
vice, the sacred or profane. The panditah (well informed
ones), as recognized by the Gita, are samadarsinah (those
who see equality) and not those who see distinctions. The
list of examples given here include those belonging to the
context of the profane, such as the dog-eater, and even the
holy, such as the learned Brahmin, who may be endowed
with the rare crowning virtue of humility due to self-
discipline, the word vinaya (humility) meaning also
discipline as used in the Buddhist Tripitaka.

Sacred animals such as the cow and elephant are not
omitted, so as to be in keeping with the reference to "all
beings" in Verse 15. Equality of castes, it goes without
saying, is forcefully implied in this verse, by the reference
to the dog-eater. All are equals in the light of the Absolute.
The Brahmin here is just one learned in the Vedas as
distinct from a brahmajnani (knower of the Absolute) who
would himself be a representative of the Absolute, and as
such unique in a certain sense. The dog is a profane animal
in the context of the Vedas and taboo to a Brahmin.


iahi 'va tair jitah sargo
yesham samye sthitam manah
nirdesham hi samam brahma
tasmad brahmani te sthitah

Even here creative urges are conquered by those
whose minds are balanced in sameness; free from
blemish and unitively balanced is indeed the
Absolute; therefore such (persons) become
grounded in the Absolute.



Further implications of the term panditah (the well-informed ones) used in the last verse, are indicated here and brought in line with the concept of a full-fledged brahmavid (knower of the Absolute) mentioned in the next verse, as he is to be described hereafter in the light of the discussion so far. Such a brahmavid (knower of the Absolute) has not to wait for any emancipation in the distant future. The nature of the equality in which he becomes established as indicated in the previous verse, and referred to here also, ensures a certain stability or neutrality between opposing tendencies, by virtue of which he transcends the process of creative flux which belongs to sargah (creative urges). This is accomplished here itself.

The term jitah (conquered) merely means that he conquers the situation mentally by the expressed use of the word manah (mind). Actual immortality is not suggested. The Absolute being itself spotless, poised between opposite tendencies, those whose minds are tuned to it attain to the same balanced neutrality which is its fundamental state. Subject and object are equated here as in the Mundaka Upanishad iii, i, 3 already referred to.

The word dosham (defect) is akin to kalmanashah (dross) of verse 17, and papam (sin) of Verse 10. The main anxiety of Arjuna as a purva pakshin (anterior sceptic), as seen from
his own earlier words, is religious scruples conceiving sin as seen in i, 45. According to the conclusive doctrine of the Gita seen here, all grades of evil can be transcended here and now
by an absolutist attitude which is property grounded on the teaching of the Gita.

Tasmat (therefore) as stated here, might seem to make the attainment of the Absolute too easy an affair, requiring only samatvam (sameness), but the implications of such an equality are to be understood in the larger context of the teaching of the Upanishads as a whole, and not in any limited sense. Equality implies balance of counterparts such as between subject and object, good and bad, etc.


na prahrishyet priyam prapyya
no 'dvijet prapya cha 'priyam
sthirabuddhir asammudho
brahmavid brahmani sthitah

He may not rejoice on good befalling him nor be
disturbed on a mishap; stabilized in reason,
delusion free, as knower of the Absolute, firmly
established is he in the Absolute.


The external characteristics of a man thus established in
the Absolute are indicated here. He transcends pleasure and
pain, i.e., the horizontal pairs of conflicting values or
interests in the relative world. That values are here meant is
indicated by the words priyam (dear) and apriyam (repugnant).
One balanced between opposites is sthirabuddhi (of stabilized
reason) and this word is reminiscent of ii, 55 and the 
following verse.
The word asammudho (undeluded) is put in this negative
form because the Absolute is to be known by a process of
negation (neti,neti! - "not this, not this!"). When all false
notions have been removed, the Absolute reveals itself and
is not apprehended as one does ordinary information. To
transcend duality is tantamount to becoming established in
the Absolute, but this quality includes both dvandva
(external duality or pairs of opposites) and dvaita (internal
duality understood sui generis). No separate act of
establishing oneself in the Absolute is to be understood here.
The word brahmavid (knower of the Absolute), "one capable of
apprehending the Absolute", marks the first stage
of becoming grounded in the Absolute. The reader should
look out for other stages noted in the Gita as the discussion
develops. Such bhumikah (grounds) are mentioned in the
"Yoga Vasishta" and in the Nirvana Darsana of Guru Narayana.


bahyasparseshv asaktatmi
vindaty atmani yat sukham
sa brahmayogayuktatma
sukham akshayam asnute

That (same) joy which is felt by one in his own
Self when he is unattached to outer contacts (such
as touch), he whose Self has established unity with
the Absolute experiences also never-decreasingly.


Relinquishing action in terms of external activity, which
was hitherto the subject of this Chapter, is now conclusively
dealt with in this last section. The basis of relinquishment is
in discarding external contacts through touch and other

Contemplation involves in the first instance introversion
applied to the outgoing senses. The horses have to be



by proper reins. As soon as this curbing is accomplished a
new order of consciousness is initiated which is here
referred to by the high-sounding phrase brahmayoga (union
with the Absolute).

How such a far-reaching effect could be derived from
such a simple act as introversion of the senses might leave
the reader in doubt, but further remarks will clarify the
matter. Even here, however, it can be stated that when the
objective interests are effaced, subjective interests must
prevail, proportionately. Innate pressures of life can lead to
far-reaching spiritual attainments when properly canalized.
In such a reorientation of the spirit disaffiliation from outer
interests thus plays an important role.

The reference to bahyasparsa (outward touch) gives a
primary place to the most realistic of sense-contacts.
This is meant to imply all the others.

The construction of this verse follows the same pattern of
delicate dialectical revaluation which we have so often
referred to, and whose flavour is lost in most translations
where mechanistic rules of grammar are followed. The object
of the author is clearly to equate the terms atma sukham (joy
in the Self) and brahmayogayuktatma (one whose Self has
established unity with the Absolute). Of these the former is
simple and psychological, while the latter has its origin in
Vedic cosmology. The Gita thus revalues cosmology in
terms of psychology and notions such as that of samnyasa
(renunciation) are examined in the sober and critical light
of a sastra (scientific text).

The expression kashiyama (never-decreasing) marks the
non-relativist nature of the joy, thus giving it the same
absolutist character as in the unitive state of mind referred
to in the latter half of this verse.


ye hi samsparsaja bhoga
duhkhayonaya eva te
adyantavantah kaunteya
na teshu ramate budhah

Those contact-born pleasures, indeed are the
sources (wombs) of pain, having a beginning, and
an end 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna); the wise man does
not take pleasure in them.


The converse of the last verse is stated here in order to
underline negatively the same verity. Values are spoken of


Vedanta as nitya (lasting or eternal) and anitya (passing,
transitory). Transitory values are the cause of suffering,
i.e., they are duhkhayonaya (of the womb of suffering), and
the physical, objective or real contact established with the
external world lies at the root of suffering. The wise man
avoids cultivating such contact-born values by refusing to
be happy in them. The same subject was referred to in ii,
14. Endurance of suffering was what was recommended
there, while here it is the avoidance of indulgence in
pleasurable elements of the sense level by a man of
wisdom which is advocated. This difference is due to the
fact that such values as heat or cold are fixed by
physiological laws while the interests under discussion
here are such that they allow some room for choice.


saknoti 'hai 'vayah sodhum
prak sarira vimokshanat
kamakridhodbhavam vegam
sayuktah sa sukhi narah

He who is able to experience undisturbed here itself,
before liberation from the body, that impulse
arising out of desire and hatred, he is the unified
and he is the happy man.


The same is stated in more commonplace language as
applicable to an ordinary man, here called narah (plain man,
male person), without the embellishments of holiness or
unusual wisdom. There may also be a play on the word as
representing Arjuna as distinguished from Nara or Narayana,
"the rare person", a name for Krishna. The simple
requirement for a man to be happy is to experience or bear
with an attitude of neutrality, that impulse arising out of
desire and anger.

The sukhi (happy man) or the yuktah (the unified, the yogi)
are treated on a par, and the happiness and unitive life
implied in these words are conceived in terms of iha eva
(here itself), and before the dropping of the body.


yo'ntahsukho 'ntararamas
atha 'ntarjyotir evayah
sa yogi brahmanirvanam
brahmabhuto 'dhigachchhati

He of inward happiness, whose inner life is free
and easy, and likewise of inward brilliance, he also
of unitive understanding, he having become the
Absolute, enters the self-effacement of the Absolute.


A composite picture of a person who has relinquished acts
as well as external contacts is repeated here and in the
following verses, not in a matter-of-fact style as hitherto,
but in a more sublime language. Pure and practical
considerations are blended.

The inner life of a yogi which is both brilliant and
blissful, both wise and happy, is here equated to the
Absolute. The various synonyms applicable to a man of the
highest spiritual attainment are all ranged here and treated
as if they were interchangeable.

Yogic samadhi (sublime unitive peace), Buddhistic
nirvana (final self-effacement), and Upanishadic
brahmabhutah (becoming one with the Absolute) are all
successively suggested in this verse.

labhante brahmanirvanam
rishayah kshinakalmashah
chhinnadvaidha yatatmanah
sarvabhutahite ratah

Seers, their evils weakened, cutting themselves
away from conflicting pairs of interests, who are
self-controlled, who are ever kindly disposed to all
beings, attain to self-effacement (nirvana) in the
Absolute (brahman).


Other miscellaneous concepts pertaining to the spiritual
life prevailing in ancient India are also brought into focus.
The rishi (Vedic seer or sage) and the yatatminah (those of
self control) are mentioned here side by side with
sarvabhutahite ratah (those ever kindly disposed to all
beings) which latter must also include Buddhist or Jaina
spiritual values. All of them attain brahmanirvana (self-
effacement in the Absolute). The effective weakening of
evil in them is the common factor. The only condition
introduced in the Gita for all such types is that they
should be chhinnadvaidha (those who have cut off pairs of
opposite interests). It is not advaita (non-duality) which
is implied here, but rather the transcending of the


dvandva (pairs of relatively opposite factors). This is
more in keeping with the context, although non-duality
cannot be held altogether irrelevant.


kama krodha viyuktanim
yatinam yatachetasam
abhito brahmanirvanam
vartate viditatmanam

To those disjoined from desire and anger, those
self-controlled ones whose vital consciousness is
subdued, (who are also) knowers of the Self, Self-
effacement in the Absolute lies near at hand.


The sober teaching normal to the Gita is continued here.
This verse plainly states that self-control brings men near
to the Absolute through the knowledge of the Self
Glamorous trimmings and embellishments describing the
exalted state of the yogi are abandoned. To be swayed by
opposing likes and dislikes is here indicated as the greatest
impediment to Self-realization. Self-control itself has to be
understood as that neutrality which has so often been
insisted upon.

Chetas (vital outward sowing consciousness) is more
than just mere mind, the element of living volition being
greater. This reference to the mind that seeks outward
relations instead of mere manas (mind) paves the way to
the meditation indicated in the next two verses.


sparsan kritva bahir bahyams
chakshus cai 'va 'ntare bhruvoh
pranapanau samau kritva

yatendriya mano bhuddhir
munir mokshaparayanah
vigatechchha bhaya krodho
yah sada mukta eva sah

Having peripherally discarded outward factors
(such as touch,) and also with eyes fixed between
the eyebrows, equalizing the positive (outward
prana) and negative (inward apana) vital tendencies
moving within the nasal orifice


with the senses, mind and reason controlled, the
silent recluse (muni) wholly intent on liberation,
with desire, fear, and anger gone, is ever himself,
the liberated one.


The subject of detachment consistently developed in this
chapter is brought to its culminating point, naturally
leading up to the subject-matter of the next chapter, which
deals with sustained meditation. This latter would mark a
more positive stage than mere relinquishment of action or
detachment from the outer world, implied here at the end of
this chapter.

The outward rejection referred to in the initial line of Verse
27 is radical and drastic. The fixing of the eyes between the
eyebrows is to indicate a certain intense unitive concentration.
The reference to breath moving within the nasal orifice
implies a revised form of pranayama (restraint of vital
breaths or functionings), where centralizing or neutralizing
of vital tendencies are envisaged. All these are intended to
revise more unitively the Yoga according to Patanjali where
vestiges of Samkhya duality still persist, as we have pointed
out under iv, 29. The meaning we have given of the vital
breath moving within the nasal orifice is preferable to one in
which the two nostrils are referred to. The gaze of the yogi
is to be directed to the tip of the nose (see vi, 13) though the
puraka (filling) and rechaka (emptying) of Patanjali's
pranayama (restraint of vital functions) bring into play one
nostril after another.

In kumbhaka (restraining) however, both breaths are equally
involved. A sort of neutral restraint of both vital
tendencies and breaths seems to be treated without
distinction in the yogic discipline of the Gita. This seems
to be evident when the indications in the different chapters
referred to above are taken together. Neutrality between
opposites is the key of Yoga throughout the Gita. Even
Patanjali has a passing reference to this neutral state in
the Yoga Sutras, II, 51.

In Verse 28 the question of personal salvation is more
evident than in Verse 27, by the use of the phrase moksha-
parayanah (one wholly intent on liberation).

Sada mukta eva sah (he is ever himself the liberated one)
makes the personified reference expressly pointed, as a
counterpart of what is referred to in the next and concluding
verse of this chapter, where the Absolute is itself referred to
with exalted personal attributes.


bhoktaram yasjnatapasam
sarvaloka mahesvaram
suhridam sarvabhutanam
jnatva mam santim richchhati

Having known Me as the Enjoyer of ritual sacrifices,
the Acceptor of austerities, the great Lord of all worlds,
and the Friend of all beings, one reaches peace.


All the ways in which the Absolute is understood in the
contexts of sacrifice, discipline, theology and kind bounty,
so far covered in the previous chapters, are here brought
together as being conducive to peace.

Before the Gita becomes more fully philosophical, these
miscellaneous loose ends, as it were, of the subject-matter,
such as reconciling reason and faith, are gathered together,
clearing the stage for a more thorough-going treatment.

ity srimad bhagavadgitasupanishatsu brahmavidyayam
Yogasastra srikrishnarjunasamvade
karmasamnyasayogo nama panchamo '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
Fifth Chapter, entitled Unitive Action and