The Bhagavad Gita
Translated in Verse by Sir Edwin Arnold
The Bhagavad Gita
Translated by Edwin Arnold
CHAPTER I: Of the Distress of Arjuna
Dhritirashtra: Ranged thus for battle on the sacred plain—
On Kurukshetra—say, Sanjaya! say
What wrought my people, and the Pandavas?
Sanjaya: When he beheld the host of Pandavas,
Raja Duryodhana to Drona drew,
And spake these words: “Ah, Guru! see this line,
How vast it is of Pandu fighting-men,
Embattled by the son of Drupada,
Thy scholar in the war! Therein stand ranked
Chiefs like Arjuna, like to Bhima chiefs,
Benders of bows; Virata, Yuyudhan,
Drupada, eminent upon his car,
Dhrishtaket, Chekitan, Kasi’s stout lord,
Purujit, Kuntibhoj, and Saivya,
With Yudhamanyu, and Uttamauj
Subhadra’s child; and Drupadi’s; – all famed!
All mounted on their shining chariots!
On our side, too, – thou best of Brahmans! see
Excellent chiefs, commanders of my line,
Whose names I joy to count: thyself the first,
Then Bhishma, Karna, Kripa fierce in fight,
Vikarna, Aswatthaman; next to these
Strong Saumadatti, with full many more
Valiant and tried, ready this day to die
For me their king, each with his weapon grasped,
Each skilful in the field. Weakest – meseems-
Our battle shows where Bhishma holds command,
And Bhima, fronting him, something too strong!
Have care our captains nigh to Bhishma’s ranks
Prepare what help they may! Now, blow my shell!”
Then, at the signal of the aged king,
With blare to wake the blood, rolling around
Like to a lion’s roar, the trumpeter
Blew the great Conch; and, at the noise of it,
Trumpets and drums, cymbals and gongs and horns
Burst into sudden clamour; as the blasts
Of loosened tempest, such the tumult seemed!
Then might be seen, upon their car of gold
Yoked with white steeds, blowing their battle-shells,
Krishna the God, Arjuna at his side:
Krishna, with knotted locks, blew his great conch
Carved of the “Giant’s bone;” Arjuna blew
Indra’s loud gift; Bhima the terrible-
Wolf-bellied Bhima – blew a long reed-conch;
And Yudhisthira, Kunti’s blameless son,
Winded a mighty shell, “Victory’s Voice;”
And Nakula blew shrill upon his conch
Named the “Sweet-sounding,” Sahadev on his
Called “Gem-bedecked,” and Kasi’s Prince on his.
Sikhandi on his car, Dhrishtadyumn,
Virata, Satyaki the Unsubdued,
Drupada, with his sons, (O Lord of Earth!)
Long-armed Subhadra’s children, all blew loud,
So that the clangour shook their foemen’s hearts,
With quaking earth and thundering heav’n.
Beholding Dhritirashtra’s battle set,
Weapons unsheathing, bows drawn forth, the war
Instant to break – Arjun, whose ensign-badge
Was Hanuman the monkey, spake this thing
To Krishna the Divine, his charioteer:
“Drive, Dauntless One! to yonder open ground
Betwixt the armies; I would see more nigh
These who will fight with us, those we must slay
To-day, in war’s arbitrament; for, sure,
On bloodshed all are bent who throng this plain,
Obeying Dhritirashtra’s sinful son.”
Thus, by Arjuna prayed, (O Bharata!)
Between the hosts that heavenly Charioteer
Drove the bright car, reining its milk-white steeds
Where Bhishma led, and Drona, and their Lords.
“See!” spake he to Arjuna, “where they stand,
Thy kindred of the Kurus:” and the Prince
Marked on each hand the kinsmen of his house,
Grandsires and sires, uncles and brothers and sons,
Cousins and sons-in-law and nephews, mixed
With friends and honoured elders; some this side,
Some that side ranged: and, seeing those opposed,
Such kith grown enemies – Arjuna’s heart
Melted with pity, while he uttered this:
Arjuna: Krishna! as I behold, come here to shed
Their common blood, yon concourse of our kin,
My members fail, my tongue dries in my mouth,
A shudder thrills my body, and my hair
Bristles with horror; from my weak hand slips
Gandiv, the goodly bow; a fever burns
My skin to parching; hardly may I stand;
The life within me seems to swim and faint;
Nothing do I foresee save woe and wail!
It is not good, O Keshav! nought of good
Can spring from mutual slaughter! Lo, I hate
Triumph and domination, wealth and ease,
Thus sadly won! Aho! what victory
Can bring delight, Govinda! what rich spoils
Could profit; what rule recompense; what span
Of life itself seem sweet, bought with such blood?
Seeing that these stand here, ready to die,
For whose sake life was fair, and pleasure pleased,
And power grew precious: – grandsires, sires, and sons,
Brothers, and fathers-in-law, and sons-in-law,
Elders and friends! Shall I deal death on these
Even though they seek to slay us? Not one blow,
O Madhusudan! will I strike to gain
The rule of all Three Worlds; then, how much less
To seize an earthly kingdom! Killing these
Must breed but anguish, Krishna! If they be
Guilty, we shall grow guilty by their deaths;
Their sins will light on us, if we shall slay
Those sons of Dhritirashtra, and our kin;
What peace could come of that, O Madhava?
For if indeed, blinded by lust and wrath,
These cannot see, or will not see, the sin
Of kingly lines o’erthrown and kinsmen slain,
How should not we, who see, shun such a crime-
We who perceive the guilt and feel the shame-
O thou Delight of Men, Janardana?
By overthrow of houses perisheth
Their sweet continuous household piety,
And – rites neglected, piety extinct-
Enters impiety upon that home;
Its women grow unwomaned, whence there spring
Mad passions, and the mingling-up of castes,
Sending a Hell-ward road that family,
And whoso wrought its doom by wicked wrath.
Nay, and the souls of honoured ancestors
Fall from their place of peace, being bereft
Of funeral-cakes and the wan death-water.
So teach our holy hymns. Thus, if we slay
Kinsfolk and friends for love of earthly power,
Ahovat! what an evil fault it were!
Better I deem it, if my kinsmen strike,
To face them weaponless, and bare my breast
To shaft and spear, than answer blow with blow.
So speaking, in the face of those two hosts,
Arjuna sank upon his chariot-seat,
And let fall bow and arrows, sick at heart.
CHAPTER II: Of Doctrines
Sanjaya: Him, filled with such compassion and such grief,
With eyes tear-dimmed, despondent, in stern words
The Driver, Madhusudan, thus addressed:
Krishna: How hath this weakness taken thee?
The inglorious trouble, shameful to the brave,
Barring the path of virtue? Nay, Arjun!
Forbid thyself to feebleness! it mars
Thy warrior-name! cast off the coward-fit!
Wake! Be thyself! Arise, Scourge of thy Foes!
Arjuna: How can I, in the battle, shoot with shafts
On Bhishma, or on Drona – O thou Chief!-
Both worshipful, both honourable men?
Better to live on beggar’s bread
With those we love alive,
Than taste their blood in rich feasts spread,
And guiltily survive!
Ah! were it worse – who knows? – to be
Victor or vanquished here,
When those confront us angrily
Whose death leaves living drear?
In pity lost, by doubtings tossed,
My thoughts – distracted – turn
To Thee, the Guide I reverence most,
That I may counsel learn:
I know not what would heal the grief
Burned into soul and sense,
If I were earth’s unchallenged chief-
A god – and these gone thence!
Sanjaya: So spake Arjuna to the Lord of Hearts,
And sighing, “I will not fight!” held silence then.
To whom, with tender smile, (O Bharata!)
While the Prince wept despairing ‘twixt those hosts,
Krishna made answer in divinest verse:
Krishna: Thou grievest where no grief should be! thou speak’st
Words lacking wisdom! for the wise in heart
Mourn not for those that live, nor those that die.
Nor I, nor thou, nor any one of these,
Ever was not, nor ever will not be,
For ever and for ever afterwards.
All, that doth live, lives always! To man’s frame
As there come infancy and youth and age,
So come there raisings-up and layings-down
Of other and of other life-abodes,
Which the wise know, and fear not. This that irks-
Thy sense-life, thrilling to the elements-
Bringing thee heat and cold, sorrows and joys,
‘Tis brief and mutable! Bear with it, Prince!
As the wise bear. The soul which is not moved,
The soul that with a strong and constant calm
Takes sorrow and takes joy indifferently,
Lives in the life undying! That which is
Can never cease to be; that which is not
Will not exist. To see this truth of both
Is theirs who part essence from accident,
Substance from shadow. Indestructible,
Learn thou! the Life is, spreading life through all;
It cannot anywhere, by any means,
Be anywise diminished, stayed, or changed.
But for these fleeting frames which it informs
With spirit deathless, endless, infinite,
They perish. Let them perish, Prince! and fight!
He who shall say, “Lo! I have slain a man!”
He who shall think, “Lo! I am slain!” those both
Know naught! Life cannot slay. Life is not slain!
Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;
Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!
Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit for
Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it
Who knoweth it exhaustless, self-sustained,
Immortal, indestructible, – shall such
Say, “I have killed a man, or caused to kill?”
Nay, but as when one layeth
His worn-out robes away,
And, taking new ones, sayeth,
“These will I wear to-day!”
So putteth by the spirit
Lightly its garb of flesh,
And passeth to inherit
A residence afresh.
I say to thee weapons reach not the Life;
Flame burns it not, waters cannot o’erwhelm,
Nor dry winds wither it. Impenetrable,
Unentered, unassailed, unharmed, untouched,
Immortal, all-arriving, stable, sure,
Invisible, ineffable, by word
And thought uncompassed, ever all itself,
Thus is the Soul declared! How wilt thou, then,-
Knowing it so, – grieve when thou shouldst not grieve?
How, if thou hearest that the man new-dead
Is, like the man new-born, still living man-
One same, existent Spirit – wilt thou weep?
The end of birth is death; the end of death
Is birth: this is ordained! and mournest thou,
Chief of the stalwart arm! for what befalls
Which could not otherwise befall? The birth
Of living things comes unperceived; the death
Comes unperceived; between them, beings perceive:
What is there sorrowful herein, dear Prince?
Wonderful, wistful, to contemplate!
Difficult, doubtful, to speak upon!
Strange and great for tongue to relate,
Mystical hearing for every one!
Nor wotteth man this, what a marvel it is,
When seeing, and saying, and hearing are done!
This Life within all living things, my Prince!
Hides beyond harm; scorn thou to suffer, then,
For that which cannot suffer. Do thy part!
Be mindful of thy name, and tremble not!
Nought better can betide a martial soul
Than lawful war; happy the warrior
To whom comes joy of battle – comes, as now,
Glorious and fair, unsought; opening for him
A gateway unto Heav’n. But, if thou shunn’st
This honourable field – a Kshattriya-
If, knowing thy duty and thy task, thou bidd’st
Duty and task go by – that shall be sin!
And those to come shall speak thee infamy
From age to age; but infamy is worse
For men of noble blood to bear than death!
The chiefs upon their battle-chariots
Will deem ’twas fear that drove thee from the fray.
Of those who held thee mighty-souled the scorn
Thou must abide, while all thine enemies
Will scatter bitter speech of thee, to mock
The valour which thou hadst; what fate could fall
More grievously than this? Either – being killed-
Thou wilt win Swarga’s safety, or – alive
And victor – thou wilt reign an earthly king.
Therefore, arise, thou Son of Kunti! brace
Thine arm for conflict, nerve thy heart to meet-
As things alike to thee – pleasure or pain,
Profit or ruin, victory or defeat:
So minded, gird thee to the fight, for so
Thou shalt not sin!
Thus far I speak to thee
As from the “Sankhya” – unspiritually-
Hear now the deeper teaching of the Yog,
Which holding, understanding, thou shalt burst
Thy Karmabandh, the bondage of wrought deeds.
Here shall no end be hindered, no hope marred,
No loss be feared: faith – yea, a little faith-
Shall save thee from the anguish of thy dread.
Here, Glory of the Kurus! shines one rule-
One steadfast rule – while shifting souls have laws
Many and hard. Specious, but wrongful deem
The speech of those ill-taught ones who extol
The letter of their Vedas, saying, “This
Is all we have, or need;” being weak at heart
With wants, seekers of Heaven: which comes – they say-
As “fruit of good deeds done;” promising men
Much profit in new births for works of faith;
In various rites abounding; following whereon
Large merit shall accrue towards wealth and power;
Albeit, who wealth and power do most desire
Least fixity of soul have such, least hold
On heavenly meditation. Much these teach,
From Veds, concerning the “three qualities;”
But thou, be free of the “three qualities,”
Free of the “pairs of opposites,” and free
From that sad righteousness which calculates;
Self-ruled, Arjuna! simple, satisfied.
Look! like as when a tank pours water forth
To suit all needs, so do these Brahmans draw
Text for all wants from tank of Holy Writ.
But thou, want not! ask not! Find full reward
Of doing right in right! Let right deeds be
Thy motive, not the fruit which comes from them.
And live in action! Labour! Make thine acts
Thy piety, casting all self aside,
Contemning gain and merit; equable
In good or evil: equability
Is Yog, is piety!
Yet, the right act
Is less, far less, than the right-thinking mind.
Seek refuge in thy soul; have there thy heaven!
Scorn them that follow virtue for her gifts!
The mind of pure devotion – even here-
Casts equally aside good deeds and bad,
Passing above them. Unto pure devotion
Devote thyself: with perfect meditation
Comes perfect act, and the righthearted rise-
More certainly because they seek no gain-
Forth from the bands of body, step by step,
To highest seats of bliss. When thy firm soul
Hath shaken off those tangled oracles
Which ignorantly guide, then shall it soar
To high neglect of what’s denied or said,
This way or that way, in doctrinal writ.
Troubled no longer by the priestly lore,
Safe shall it live, and sure; steadfastly bent
On meditation. This is Yog – and Peace!
Arjuna: What is his mark who hath that steadfast heart,
Confirmed in holy meditation? How
Know we his speech, Kesava? Sits he, moves he
Like other men?
Krishna: When one, O Pritha’s Son!-
Abandoning desires which shake the mind-
Finds in his soul full comfort for his soul,
He hath attained the Yog – that man is such!
In sorrows not dejected, and in joys
Not overjoyed; dwelling outside the stress
Of passion, fear, and anger; fixed in calms
Of lofty contemplation; – such an one
Is Muni, is the Sage, the true Recluse!
He who to none and nowhere overbound
By ties of flesh, takes evil things and good
Neither desponding nor exulting, such
Bears wisdom’s plainest mark He who shall draw
As the wise tortoise draws its four feet safe
Under its shield, his five frail senses back
Under the spirit’s buckler from the world
Which else assails them, such an one, my Prince!
Hath wisdom’s mark! Things that solicit sense
Hold off from the self-governed; nay, it comes,
The appetites of him who lives beyond
Depart, – aroused no more. Yet may it chance,
O Son of Kunti that a governed mind
Shall some time feel the sense-storms sweep, and wrest
Strong self-control by the roots. Let him regain
His kingdom! let him conquer this, and sit
On Me intent. That man alone is wise
Who keeps the mastery of himself! If one
Ponders on objects of the sense, there springs
Attraction; from attraction grows desire,
Desire flames to fierce passion, passion breeds
Recklessness; then the memory – all betrayed-
Lets noble purpose go, and saps the mind,
Till purpose, mind, and man are all undone.
But, if one deals with objects of the sense
Not loving and not hating, making them
Serve his free soul, which rests serenely lord,
Lo! such a man comes to tranquillity;
And out of that tranquillity shall rise
The end and healing of his earthly pains,
Since the will governed sets the soul at peace.
The soul of the ungoverned is not his,
Nor hath he knowledge of himself; which lacked,
How grows serenity? and, wanting that,
Whence shall he hope for happiness?
That gives itself to follow shows of sense
Seeth its helm of wisdom rent away,
And, like a ship in waves of whirlwind, drives
To wreck and death. Only with him, great Prince!
Whose senses are not swayed by things of sense-
Only with him who holds his mastery,
Shows wisdom perfect. What is midnight-gloom
To unenlightened souls shines wakeful day
To his clear gaze; what seems as wakeful day
Is known for night, thick night of ignorance,
To his true-seeing eyes. Such is the Saint!
And like the ocean, day by day receiving
Floods from all lands, which never overflows;
Its boundary-line not leaping, and not leaving,
Fed by the rivers, but unswelled by those;-
So is the perfect one! to his soul’s ocean
The world of sense pours streams of witchery,
They leave him as they find, without commotion,
Taking their tribute, but remaining sea.
Yea! whoso, shaking off the yoke of flesh
Lives lord, not servant, of his lusts; set free
From pride, from passion, from the sin of “Self,”
Toucheth tranquillity! O Pritha’s Son!
That is the state of Brahm! There rests no dread
When that last step is reached! Live where he will,
Die when he may, such passeth from all ‘plaining,
To blest Nirvana, with the Gods, attaining.
CHAPTER III: Of Virtue in Work
Arjuna: Thou whom all mortals praise, Janardana!
If meditation be a nobler thing
Than action, wherefore, then, great Kesava!
Dost thou impel me to this dreadful fight?
Now am I by thy doubtful speech disturbed!
Tell me one thing, and tell me certainly;
By what road shall I find the better end?
Krishna: I told thee, blameless Lord! there be paths
Shown to this world; two schools of wisdom. First
The Sankhya’s, which doth save in way of works
Prescribed by reason; next, the Yog, which bids
Attain by meditation, spiritually:
Yet these are one! No man shall ‘scape from act
By shunning action; nay, and none shall come
By mere renouncements unto perfectness.
Nay, and no jot of time, at any time,
Rests any actionless; his nature’s law
Compels him, even unwilling, into act;
[For thought is act in fancy]. He who sits
Suppressing all the instruments of flesh,
Yet in his idle heart thinking on them,
Plays the inept and guilty hypocrite:
But he who, with strong body serving mind,
Gives up his mortal powers to worthy work,
Not seeking gain, Arjuna! such an one
Is honourable. Do thine allotted task!
Work is more excellent than idleness;
The body’s life proceeds not, lacking work.
There is a task of holiness to do,
Unlike world-binding toil, which bindeth not
The faithful soul; such earthly duty do
Free from desire, and thou shalt well perform
Thy heavenly purpose. Spake Prajapati –
In the beginning, when all men were made,
And, with mankind, the sacrifice – – “Do this!
Work! sacrifice! Increase and multiply
With sacrifice! This shall be Kamaduk,
Your ‘Cow of Plenty,’ giving back her milk
Of all abundance. Worship the gods thereby;
The gods shall yield thee grace. Those meats ye
The gods will grant to Labour, when it pays
Tithes in the altar-flame. But if one eats
Fruits of the earth, rendering to kindly Heaven
No gift of toil, that thief steals from his world.”
Who eat of food after their sacrifice
Are quit of fault, but they that spread a feast
All for themselves, eat sin and drink of sin.
By food the living live; food comes of rain,
And rain comes by the pious sacrifice,
And sacrifice is paid with tithes of toil;
Thus action is of Brahma, who is One,
The Only, All-pervading; at all times
Present in sacrifice. He that abstains
To help the rolling wheels of this great world,
Glutting his idle sense, lives a lost life,
Shameful and vain. Existing for himself,
Self-concentrated, serving self alone,
No part hath he in aught; nothing achieved,
Nought wrought or unwrought toucheth him; no hope
Of help for all the living things of earth
Depends from him. Therefore, thy task prescribed
With spirit unattached gladly perform,
Since in performance of plain duty man
Mounts to his highest bliss. By works alone
Janak and ancient saints reached blessedness!
Moreover, for the upholding of thy kind,
Action thou should’st embrace. What the wise choose
The unwise people take; what best men do
The multitude will follow. Look on me,
Thou Son of Pritha! in the three wide worlds
I am not bound to any toil, no height
Awaits to scale, no gift remains to gain,
Yet I act here! and, if I acted not –
Earnest and watchful – – those that look to me
For guidance, sinking back to sloth again
Because I slumbered, would decline from good,
And I should break earth’s order and commit
Her offspring unto ruin, Bharata!
Even as the unknowing toil, wedded to sense,
So let the enlightened toil, sense-freed, but set
To bring the world deliverance, and its bliss;
Not sowing in those simple, busy hearts
Seed of despair. Yea! let each play his part
In all he finds to do, with unyoked soul.
All things are everywhere by Nature wrought
In interaction of the quahties.
The fool, cheated by self, thinks, “This I did”
And “That I wrought;” but – – ah, thou strong-armed Prince! –
A better-lessoned mind, knowing the play
Of visible things within the world of sense,
And how the qualities must qualify,
Standeth aloof even from his acts. Th’ untaught
Live mixed with them, knowing not Nature’s way,
Of highest aims unwitting, slow and dull.
Those make thou not to stumble, having the light;
But all thy dues discharging, for My sake,
With meditation centred inwardly,
Seeking no profit, satisfied, serene,
Heedless of issue – – fight! They who shall keep
My ordinance thus, the wise and willing hearts,
Have quittance from all issue of their acts;
But those who disregard My ordinance,
Thinking they know, know nought, and fall to loss,
Confused and foolish. ‘Sooth, the instructed one
Doth of his kind, following what fits him most:
And lower creatures of their kind; in vain
Contending ‘gainst the law. Needs must it be
The objects of the sense will stir the sense
To like and dislike, yet th’ enlightened man
Yields not to these, knowing them enemies.
Finally, this is better, that one do
His own task as he may, even though he fail,
Than take tasks not his own, though they seem good.
To die performing duty is no ill;
But who seeks other roads shall wander still.
Arjuna: Yet tell me, Teacher! by what force doth man
Go to his ill, unwilling; as if one
Pushed him that evil path?
Krishna: Kama it is!
Passion it is! born of the Darknesses,
Which pusheth him. Mighty of appetite,
Sinful, and strong is this! – – man’s enemy!
As smoke blots the white fire, as clinging rust
Mars the bright mirror, as the womb surrounds
The babe unborn, so is the world of things
Foiled, soiled, enclosed in this desire of flesh.
The wise fall, caught in it; the unresting foe
It is of wisdom, wearing countless forms,
Fair but deceitful, subtle as a flame.
Sense, mind, and reason – – these, O Kunti’s Son!
Are booty for it; in its play with these
It maddens man, beguiling, blinding him.
Therefore, thou noblest child of Bharata!
Govern thy heart! Constrain th’ entangled sense!
Resist the false, soft sinfulness which saps
Knowledge and judgment! Yea, the world is strong
But what discerns it stronger, and the mind
Strongest; and high o’er all the ruling Soul.
Wherefore, perceiving Him who reigns supreme,
Put forth full force of Soul in thy own soul!
Fight! vanquish foes and doubts, dear Hero! slay
What haunts thee in fond shapes, and would betray!
CHAPTER IV: Of the Religion of Knowledge
Krishna: This deathless Yoga, this deep union,
I taught Vivaswata, the Lord of Light;
Vivaswata to Manu gave it; he
To Ikshwaku; so passed it down the line
Of all my royal Rishis. Then, with years,
The truth grew dim and perished, noble Prince!
Now once again to thee it is declared-
This ancient lore, this mystery supreme-
Seeing I find thee votary and friend.
Arjuna: Thy birth, dear Lord, was in these later days
And bright Vivaswata’s preceded time!
How shall I comprehend this thing thou sayest,
“From the beginning it was I who taught?”
Krishna: Manifold the renewals of my birth
Have been, Arjuna! and of thy births, too!
But mine I know, and thine thou knowest not,
O Slayer of thy Foes! Albeit I be
Unborn, undying, indestructible,
The Lord of all things living; not the less-
By Maya, by my magic which I stamp
On floating Nature-forms, the primal vast-
I come, and go, and come. When Righteousness
Declines, O Bharata! when Wickedness
Is strong, I rise, from age to age, and take
Visible shape, and move a man with men,
Succouring the good, thrusting the evil back,
And setting Virtue on her seat again.
Who knows the truth touching my births on earth
And my divine work, when he quits the flesh
Puts on its load no more, falls no more down
To earthly birth: to Me he comes, dear Prince!
Many there be who come! from fear set free,
From anger, from desire; keeping their hearts
Fixed upon me – my Faithful – purified
By sacred flame of Knowledge. Such as these
Mix with my being. Whoso worship me,
Them I exalt; but all men everywhere
Shall fall into my path; albeit, those souls
Which seek reward for works, make sacrifice
Now, to the lower gods. I say to thee
Here have they their reward. But I am He
Made the Four Castes, and portioned them a place
After their qualities and gifts. Yea, I
Created, the Reposeful; I that live
Immortally, made all those mortal births:
For works soil not my essence, being works
Wrought uninvolved. Who knows me acting thus
Unchained by action, action binds not him;
And, so perceiving, all those saints of old
Worked, seeking for deliverance. Work thou
As, in the days gone by, thy fathers did.
Thou sayst, perplexed, It hath been asked before
By singers and by sages, “What is act,
And what inaction?” I will teach thee this,
And, knowing, thou shalt learn which work doth save
Needs must one rightly meditate those three-
Doing, – not doing, – and undoing. Here
Thorny and dark the path is! He who sees
How action may be rest, rest action – he
Is wisest ‘mid his kind; he hath the truth!
He doeth well, acting or resting. Freed
In all his works from prickings of desire,
Burned clean in act by the white fire of truth,
The wise call that man wise; and such an one,
Renouncing fruit of deeds, always content.
Always self-satisfying, if he works,
Doth nothing that shall stain his separate soul,
Which – quit of fear and hope – subduing self-
Rejecting outward impulse-yielding up
To body’s need nothing save body, dwells
Sinless amid all sin, with equal calm
Taking what may befall, by grief unmoved,
Unmoved by joy, unenvyingly; the same
In good and evil fortunes; nowise bound
By bond of deeds. Nay, but of such an one,
Whose crave is gone, whose soul is liberate,
Whose heart is set on truth – of such an one
What work he does is work of sacrifice,
Which passeth purely into ash and smoke
Consumed upon the altar! All’s then God!
The sacrifice is Brahm, the ghee and grain
Are Brahm, the fire is Brahm, the flesh it eats
Is Brahm, and unto Brahm attaineth he
Who, in such office, meditates on Brahm.
Some votaries there be who serve the gods
With flesh and altar-smoke; but other some
Who, lighting subtler fires, make purer rite
With will of worship. Of the which be they
Who, in white flame of continence, consume
Joys of the sense, delights of eye and ear,
Foregoing tender speech and sound of song:
And they who, kindling fires with torch of Truth,
Burn on a hidden altar-stone the bliss
Of youth and love, renouncing happiness:
And they who lay for offering there their wealth,
Their penance, meditation, piety,
Their steadfast reading of the scrolls, their lore
Painfully gained with long austerities:
And they who, making silent sacrifice,
Draw in their breath to feed the flame of thought,
And breathe it forth to waft the heart on high,
Governing the ventage of each entering air
Lest one sigh pass which helpeth not the soul:
And they who, day by day denying needs,
Lay life itself upon the altar-flame,
Burning the body wan. Lo! all these keep
The rite of offering, as if they slew
Victims; and all thereby efface much sin.
Yea! and who feed on the immortal food
Left of such sacrifice, to Brahma pass,
To The Unending. But for him that makes
No sacrifice, he hath nor part nor lot
Even in the present world. How should he share
Another, O thou Glory of thy Line?
In sight of Brahma all these offerings
Are spread and are accepted! Comprehend
That all proceed by act; for knowing this,
Thou shalt be quit of doubt. The sacrifice
Which Knowledge pays is better than great gifts
Offered by wealth, since gifts’ worth – O my Prince!
Lies in the mind which gives, the will that serves:
And these are gained by reverence, by strong search,
By humble heed of those who see the Truth
And teach it. Knowing Truth, thy heart no more
Will ache with error, for the Truth shall show
All things subdued to thee, as thou to Me.
Moreover, Son of Pandu! wert thou worst
Of all wrong-doers, this fair ship of Truth
Should bear thee safe and dry across the sea
Of thy transgressions. As the kindled flame
Feeds on the fuel till it sinks to ash,
So unto ash, Arjuna! unto nought
The flame of Knowledge wastes works’ dross away!
There is no purifier like thereto
In all this world, and he who seeketh it
Shall find it – being grown perfect – in himself.
Believing, he receives it when the soul
Masters itself, and cleaves to Truth, and comes-
Possessing knowledge – to the higher peace,
The uttermost repose. But those untaught,
And those without full faith, and those who fear
Are shent; no peace is here or other where,
No hope, nor happiness for whoso doubts.
He that, being self-contained, hath vanquished doubt,
Disparting self from service, soul from works,
Enlightened and emancipate, my Prince!
Works fetter him no more! Cut then atwain
With sword of wisdom, Son of Bharata!
This doubt that binds thy heart-beats! cleave the bond
Born of thy ignorance! Be bold and wise!
Give thyself to the field with me! Arise!
CHAPTER V: Of Religion by Renouncing Fruit of Works
Arjuna: Yet, Krishna at the one time thou dost laud
Surcease of works, and, at another time,
Service through work. Of these twain plainly tell
Which is the better way?
Krishna: To cease from works
Is well, and to do works in holiness
Is well; and both conduct to bliss supreme;
But of these twain the better way is his
Who working piously refraineth not.
That is the true Renouncer, firm and fixed,
Who – seeking nought, rejecting nought – dwells proof
Against the “opposites.” O valiant Prince!
In doing, such breaks lightly from all deed:
‘Tis the new scholar talks as they were two,
This Sankhya and this Yoga: wise men know
Who husbands one plucks golden fruit of both!
The region of high rest which Sankhyans reach
Yogins attain. Who sees these twain as one
Sees with clear eyes! Yet such abstraction, Chief!
Is hard to win without much holiness.
Whoso is fixed in holiness, self-ruled,
Pure-hearted, lord of senses and of self,
Lost in the common life of all which lives-
A “Yogayukt” – he is a Saint who wends
Straightway to Brahm. Such an one is not touched
By taint of deeds. “Nought of myself I do!”
Thus will he think – who holds the truth of truths-
In seeing, hearing, touching, smelling; when
He eats, or goes, or breathes; slumbers or talks,
Holds fast or loosens, opes his eyes or shuts;
Always assured “This is the sense-world plays
With senses.” He that acts in thought of Brahm,
Detaching end from act, with act content,
The world of sense can no more stain his soul
Than waters mar th’ enamelled lotus-leaf.
With life, with heart, with mind, – nay, with the help
Of all five senses – letting selfhood go-
Yogins toil ever towards their souls’ release.
Such votaries, renouncing fruit of deeds,
Gain endless peace: the unvowed, the passion-bound,
Seeking a fruit from works, are fastened down.
The embodied sage, withdrawn within his soul,
At every act sits godlike in “the town
Which hath nine gateways,” neither doing aught
Nor causing any deed. This world’s Lord makes
Neither the work, nor passion for the work,
Nor lust for fruit of work; the man’s own self
Pushes to these! The Master of this World
Takes on himself the good or evil deeds
Of no man – dwelling beyond! Mankind errs here
By folly, darkening knowledge. But, for whom
That darkness of the soul is chased by light,
Splendid and clear shines manifest the Truth
As if a Sun of Wisdom sprang to shed
Its beams of dawn. Him meditating still,
Him seeking, with Him blended, stayed on Him,
The souls illuminated take that road
Which hath no turning back – their sins flung off,
By strength of faith. [Who will may have this Light;
Who hath it sees.] To him who wisely sees,
The Brahman with his scrolls and sanctities,
The cow, the elephant, the unclean dog,
The Outcast gorging dog’s meat, are all one.
The world is overcome – aye! even here!
By such as fix their faith on Unity.
The sinless Brahma dwells in Unity,
And they in Brahma. Be not over-glad
Attaining joy, and be not over-sad
Encountering grief, but, stayed on Brahma, still
Constant let each abide! The sage whose soul
Holds off from outer contacts, in himself
Finds bliss; to Brahma joined by piety,
His spirit tastes eternal peace. The joys
Springing from sense-life are but quickening wombs
Which breed sure griefs: those joys begin and end!
The wise mind takes no pleasure, Kunti’s Son!
In such as those! But if a man shall learn,
Even while he lives and bears his body’s chain,
To master lust and anger, he is blest!
He is the Yukta; he hath happiness,
Contentment, light, within: his life is merged
In Brahma’s life; he doth Nirvana touch!
Thus go the Rishis unto rest, who dwell
With sins effaced, with doubts at end, with hearts
Governed and calm. Glad in all good they live,
Nigh to the peace of God; and all those live
Who pass their days exempt from greed and wrath,
Subduing self and senses, knowing the Soul!
The Saint who shuts outside his placid soul
All touch of sense, letting no contact through;
Whose quiet eyes gaze straight from fixed brows,
Whose outward breath and inward breath are drawn
Equal and slow through nostrils still and close;
That one – with organs, heart, and mind constrained,
Bent on deliverance, having put away
Passion, and fear, and rage; – hath even now,
Obtained deliverance, ever and ever freed.
Yea! for he knows Me Who am He that heeds
The sacrifice and worship, God revealed;
And He who heeds not, being Lord of Worlds,
Lover of all that lives, God unrevealed,
Wherein who will shall find surety and shield!
CHAPTER VI: Of Religion of Self-Restraint
Krishna: Therefore, who doeth work rightful to do,
Not seeking gain from work, that man, O Prince!
Is Sanyasi and Yogi – both in one
And he is neither who lights not the flame
Of sacrifice, nor setteth hand to task.
Regard as true Renouncer him that makes
Worship by work, for who renounceth not
Works not as Yogin. So is that well said:
“By works the votary doth rise to faith,
And saintship is the ceasing from all works;
Because the perfect Yogin acts – but acts
Unmoved by passions and unbound by deeds,
Setting result aside.
Let each man raise
The Self by Soul, not trample down his Self,
Since Soul that is Self’s friend may grow Self’s foe.
Soul is Self’s friend when Self doth rule o’er Self,
But Self turns enemy if Soul’s own self
Hates Self as not itself.
The sovereign soul
Of him who lives self-governed and at peace
Is centred in itself, taking alike
Pleasure and pain; heat, cold; glory and shame.
He is the Yogi, he is Yukta, glad
With joy of light and truth; dwelling apart
Upon a peak, with senses subjugate
Whereto the clod, the rock, the glistering gold
Show all as one. By this sign is he known
Being of equal grace to comrades, friends,
Chance-comers, strangers, lovers, enemies,
Aliens and kinsmen; loving all alike,
Evil or good.
Sequestered should he sit,
Steadfastly meditating, solitary,
His thoughts controlled, his passions laid away,
Quit of belongings. In a fair, still spot
Having his fixed abode, – not too much raised,
Nor yet too low, – let him abide, his goods
A cloth, a deerskin, and the Kusa-grass.
There, setting hard his mind upon The One,
Restraining heart and senses, silent, calm,
Let him accomplish Yoga, and achieve
Pureness of soul, holding immovable
Body and neck and head, his gaze absorbed
Upon his nose-end, rapt from all around,
Tranquil in spirit, free of fear, intent
Upon his Brahmacharya vow, devout,
Musing on Me, lost in the thought of Me.
That Yogin, so devoted, so controlled,
Comes to the peace beyond, – My peace, the peace
Of high Nirvana!
But for earthly needs
Religion is not his who too much fasts
Or too much feasts, nor his who sleeps away
An idle mind; nor his who wears to waste
His strength in vigils. Nay, Arjuna! I call
That the true piety which most removes
Earth-aches and ills, where one is moderate
In eating and in resting, and in sport;
Measured in wish and act; sleeping betimes,
Waking betimes for duty.
When the man,
So living, centres on his soul the thought
Straitly restrained – untouched internally
By stress of sense – then is he Yukta. See!
Steadfast a lamp burns sheltered from the wind;
Such is the likeness of the Yogi’s mind
Shut from sense-storms and burning bright to Heaven.
When mind broods placid, soothed with holy wont;
When Self contemplates self, and in itself
Hath comfort; when it knows the nameless joy
Beyond all scope of sense, revealed to soul-
Only to soul! and, knowing, wavers not,
True to the farther Truth; when, holding this,
It deems no other treasure comparable,
But, harboured there, cannot be stirred or shook
By any gravest grief, call that state “peace,”
That happy severance Yoga; call that man
The perfect Yogin!
Steadfastly the will
Must toil thereto, till efforts end in ease,
And thought has passed from thinking. Shaking off
All longings bred by dreams of fame and gain,
Shutting the doorways of the senses close
With watchful ward; so, step by step, it comes
To gift of peace assured and heart assuaged,
When the mind dwells self-wrapped, and the soul broods
Cumberless. But, as often as the heart
Breaks – wild and wavering – from control, so oft
Let him re-curb it, let him rein it back
To the soul’s governance; for perfect bliss
Grows only in the bosom tranquillised,
The spirit passionless, purged from offence,
Vowed to the Infinite. He who thus vows
His soul to the Supreme Soul, quitting sin,
Passes unhindered to the endless bliss
Of unity with Brahma. He so vowed,
So blended, sees the Life-Soul resident
In all things living, and all living things
In that Life-Soul contained. And whoso thus
Discerneth Me in all, and all in Me,
I never let him go; nor looseneth he
Hold upon Me; but, dwell he where he may,
Whate’er his life, in Me he dwells and lives,
Because he knows and worships Me, Who dwell
In all which lives, and cleaves to Me in all.
Arjuna! if a man sees everywhere-
Taught by his own similitude – one Life,
One Essence in the Evil and the Good,
Hold him a Yogi, yea! well perfected!
Arjuna: Slayer of Madhu! yet again, this Yog,
This Peace, derived from equanimity,
Made known by thee – I see no fixity
Therein, no rest, because the heart of men
Is unfixed, Krishna! rash, tumultuous,
Wilful and strong. It were all one, I think,
To hold the wayward wind, as tame man’s heart.
Krishna: Hero long-armed! beyond denial, hard
Man’s heart is to restrain, and wavering;
Yet may it grow restrained by habit, Prince!
By wont of self-command. This Yog, I say,
Cometh not lightly to th’ ungoverned ones;
But he who will be master of himself
Shall win it, if he stoutly strive thereto.
Arjuna: And what road goeth he who, having faith,
Fails, Krishna! in the striving; falling back
From holiness, missing the perfect rule?
Is he not lost, straying from Brahma’s light,
Like the vain cloud, which floats ‘twixt earth and heaven
When lightning splits it, and it vanisheth?
Fain would I hear thee answer me herein,
Since, Krishna! none save thou can clear the doubt.
Krishna: He is not lost, thou Son of Pritha! No!
Nor earth, nor heaven is forfeit, even for him,
Because no heart that holds one right desire
Treadeth the road of loss! He who should fail,
Desiring righteousness, cometh at death
Unto the Region of the Just; dwells there
Measureless years, and being born anew,
Beginneth life again in some fair home
Amid the mild and happy. It may chance
He doth descend into a Yogin house
On Virtue’s breast; but that is rare! Such birth
Is hard to be obtained on this earth, Chief!
So hath he back again what heights of heart
He did achieve, and so he strives anew
To perfectness, with better hope, dear Prince!
For by the old desire he is drawn on
Unwittingly; and only to desire
The purity of Yog is to pass
Beyond the Sabdabrahm, the spoken Ved.
But, being Yogi, striving strong and long,
Purged from transgressions, perfected by births
Following on births, he plants his feet at last
Upon the farther path. Such as one ranks
Above ascetics, higher than the wise,
Beyond achievers of vast deeds! Be thou
Yogi Arjuna! And of such believe,
Truest and best is he who worships Me
With inmost soul, stayed on My Mystery!
CHAPTER VII: Of Religion by Discernment
Krishna: Learn now, dear Prince! how, if thy soul be set
Ever on Me – still exercising Yog,
Still making Me thy Refuge – thou shalt come
Most surely unto perfect hold of Me.
I will declare to thee that utmost lore,
Whole and particular, which, when thou knowest,
Leaveth no more to know here in this world.
Of many thousand mortals, one, perchance,
Striveth for Truth; and of those few that strive-
Nay, and rise high – one only – here and there-
Knoweth Me, as I am, the very Truth.
Earth, water, flame, air, ether, life, and mind,
And individuality – those eight
Make up the showing of Me, Manifest.
These be my lower Nature; learn the higher,
Whereby, thou Valiant One! this Universe
Is, by its principle of life, produced;
Whereby the worlds of visible things are born
As from a Yoni. Know! I am that womb:
I make and I unmake this Universe:
Than me there is no other Master, Prince!
No other Maker! All these hang on me
As hangs a row of pearls upon its string.
I am the fresh taste of the water; I
The silver of the moon, the gold o’ the sun,
The word of worship in the Veds, the thrill
That passeth in the ether, and the strength
Of man’s shed seed. I am the good sweet smell
Of the moistened earth, I am the fire’s red light,
The vital air moving in all which moves,
The holiness of hallowed souls, the root
Undying, whence hath sprung whatever is;
The wisdom of the wise, the intellect
Of the informed, the greatness of the great.
The splendour of the splendid. Kunti’s Son!
These am I, free from passion and desire;
Yet am I right desire in all who yearn,
Chief of the Bharatas! for all those moods,
Soothfast, or passionate, or ignorant,
Which Nature frames, deduce from me; but all
Are merged in me – not I in them! The world-
Deceived by those three qualities of being-
Wotteth not Me Who am outside them all,
Above them all, Eternal! Hard it is
To pierce that veil divine of various shows
Which hideth Me; yet they who worship Me
Pierce it and pass beyond.
I am not known
To evil-doers, nor to foolish ones,
Nor to the base and churlish; nor to those
Whose mind is cheated by the show of things,
Nor those that take the way of Asuras.
Four sorts of mortals know me: he who weeps,
Arjuna! and the man who yearns to know;
And he who toils to help; and he who sits
Certain of me, enlightened.
Of these four,
O Prince of India! highest, nearest, best
That last is, the devout soul, wise, intent
Upon “The One.” Dear, above all, am I
To him; and he is dearest unto me!
All four are good, and seek me; but mine own,
The true of heart, the faithful – stayed on me,
Taking me as their utmost, blessedness,
They are not “mine,” but I – even I myself!
At end of many births to Me they come!
Yet hard the wise Mahatma is to find,
That man who sayeth, “All is Vasudev!”
There be those, too, whose knowledge, turned aside
By this desire or that, gives them to serve
Some lower gods, with various rites, constrained
By that which mouldeth them. Unto all such-
Worship what shrine they will, what shapes, in faith-
‘Tis I who give them faith! I am content!
The heart thus asking favour from its God,
Darkened but ardent, hath the end it craves,
The lesser blessing – but ’tis I who give!
Yet soon is withered what small fruit they reap:
Those men of little minds, who worship so,
Go where they worship, passing with their gods.
But Mine come unto me! Blind are the eyes
Which deem th’ Unmanifested manifest,
Not comprehending Me in my true Self!
Imperishable, viewless, undeclared,
Hidden behind my magic veil of shows,
I am not seen by all; I am not known-
Unborn and changeless – to the idle world.
But I, Arjuna! know all things which were,
And all which are, and all which are to be,
Albeit not one among them knoweth Me!
By passion for the “pairs of opposites,”
By those twain snares of Like and Dislike, Prince!
All creatures live bewildered, save some few
Who, quit of sins, holy in act, informed,
Freed from the “opposites,” and fixed in faith,
Cleave unto Me.
Who cleave, who seek in Me
Refuge from birth and death, those have the Truth!
Those know Me BRAHMA: know Me Soul of Souls,
The ADHYATMAN: know KARMA, my work;
Know I am ADHIBHUTA, Lord of Life,
And ADHIDAIVA, Lord of all the Gods,
And ADHIYAJNA, Lord of Sacrifice;
Worship Me well, with hearts of love and faith,
And find and hold me in the hour of death.
CHAPTER VIII: Of Religion by Devotion to the One Supreme God
Arjuna: Who is that BRAHMA? What that Soul of Souls,
The ADHYATMAN? What, Thou Best of All!
Thy work, the KARMA? Tell me what it is
Thou namest ADHIBHUTA? What again
Means ADHIDAIVA? Yea, and how it comes
Thou canst be ADHIYAJNA in thy flesh?
Slayer of Madhu! Further, make me know
How good men find thee in the hour of death?
Krishna: I BRAHMA am! the One Eternal GOD,
And ADHYATMAN is My Being’s name,
The Soul of Souls! What goeth forth from Me,
Causing all life to live, is KARMA called:
And, Manifested in divided forms,
I am the ADHIBHUTA, Lord of Lives;
And ADHIDAIVA, Lord of all the Gods,
Because I am PURUSHA, who who begets.
And ADHIYAJNA, Lord of Sacrifice,
I – speaking with thee in this body here-
Am, thou embodied one! (for all the shrines
Flame unto Me!) And, at the hour of death,
He that hath meditated Me alone,
In putting off his flesh, comes forth to Me,
Enters into My Being – doubt thou not!
But, if he meditated otherwise
At hour of death, in putting off the flesh,
He goes to what he looked for, Kunti’s Son!
Because the Soul is fashioned to its like.
Have Me, then, in thy heart always! and fight!
Thou too, when heart and mind are fixed on Me,
Shalt surely come to Me! All come who cleave
With never-wavering will of firmest faith,
Owning none other Gods: all come to Me,
The Uttermost, Purusha, Holiest!
Whoso hath known Me, Lord of sage and singer,
Ancient of days; of all the Three Worlds Stay,
Boundless, – but unto every atom Bringer
Of that which quickens it: whoso, I say,
Hath known My form, which passeth mortal knowing;
Seen my effulgence – which no eye hath seen-
Than the sun’s burning gold more brightly glowing,
Dispersing darkness, – unto him hath been
Right life! And, in the hour when life is ending,
With mind set fast and trustful piety,
Drawing still breath beneath calm brows unbending,
In happy peace that faithful one doth die,-
In glad peace passeth to Purusha’s heaven.
The place which they who read the Vedas name
AKSHARAM, “Ultimate;” whereto have striven
Saints and ascetics – their road is the same.
That way – the highest way – goes he who shuts
The gates of all his senses, locks desire
Safe in his heart, centres the vital airs
Upon his parting thought, steadfastly set;
And, murmuring OM, the sacred syllable-
Emblem of BRAHM – dies, meditating Me.
For who, none other Gods regarding, looks
Ever to Me, easily am I gained
By such a Yogi; and, attaining Me,
They fall not – those Mahatmas – back to birth,
To life, which is the place of pain, which ends,
But take the way of utmost blessedness.
The worlds, Arjuna! – even Brahma’s world-
Roll back again from Death to Life’s unrest;
But they, O Kunti’s Son! that reach to Me,
Taste birth no more. If ye know Brahma’s Day
Which is a thousand Yugas; if ye know
The thousand Yugas making Brahma’s Night,
Then know ye Day and Night as He doth know!
When that vast Dawn doth break, th’ Invisible
Is brought anew into the Visible;
When that deep Night doth darken, all which is
Fades back again to Him Who sent it forth;
Yea! this vast company of living things-
Again and yet again produced – expires
At Brahma’s Nightfall; and, at Brahma’s Dawn,
Riseth, without its will, to life new-born.
But – higher, deeper, innermost – abides
Another Life, not like the life of sense,
Escaping sight, unchanging. This endures
When all created things have passed away;
This is that Life named the Unmanifest,
The Infinite! the All! the Uttermost.
Thither arriving none return. That Life
Is Mine, and I am there! And, Prince! by faith
Which wanders not, there is a way to come
Thither. I, the PURUSHA, I Who spread
The Universe around me – in Whom dwell
All living Things – may so be reached and seen!
Richer than holy fruit on Vedas growing,
Greater than gifts, better than prayer or fast,
Such wisdom is! The Yogi, this way knowing,
Comes to the Utmost Perfect Peace at last.
CHAPTER IX: Of Religion by the Kingly Knowledge and the Kingly Mystery
Krishna: Now will I open unto thee – whose heart
Rejects not – that last lore, deepest-concealed,
That farthest secret of My Heavens and Earths,
Which but to know shall set thee free from ills,-
A royal lore! a Kingly mystery!
Yea! for the soul such light as purgeth it
From every sin; a light of holiness
With inmost splendour shining; plain to see;
Easy to walk by, inexhaustible!
They that receive not this, failing in faith
To grasp the greater wisdom, reach not Me,
Destroyer of thy foes! They sink anew
Into the realm of Flesh, where all things change!
By Me the whole vast Universe of things
Is spread abroad; – by Me, the Unmanifest!
In Me are all existences contained;
Not I in them!
Yet they are not contained,
Those visible things! Receive and strive to embrace
The mystery majestical! My Being-
Creating all, sustaining all – still dwells
Outside of all!
See! as the shoreless airs
Move in the measureless space, but are not space,
[And space were space without the moving airs];
So all things are in Me, but are not I.
At closing of each Kalpa, Indian Prince!
All things which be back to My Being come:
At the beginning of each Kalpa, all
Issue new-born from Me.
And help of Prakriti, my outer Self,
Again, and yet again, I make go forth
The realms of visible things – without their will-
All of them – by the power of Prakriti.
Yet these great makings, Prince! involve Me not
Enchain Me not ! I sit apart from them,
Other, and Higher, and Free; nowise attached!
Thus doth the stuff of worlds, moulded by Me,
Bring forth all that which is, moving or still,
Living or lifeless! Thus the worlds go on!
The minds untaught mistake Me, veiled in form;-
Naught see they of My secret Presence, nought
Of My hid Nature, ruling all which lives.
Vain hopes pursuing, vain deeds doing; fed
On vainest knowledge, senselessly they seek
An evil way, the way of brutes and fiends.
But My Mahatmas, those of noble soul
Who tread the path celestial, worship Me
With hearts unwandering, – knowing Me the Source,
Th’ Eternal Source, of Life. Unendingly
They glorify Me; seek Me; keep their vows
Of reverence and love, with changeless faith
Adoring Me. Yea, and those too adore,
Who, offering sacrifice of wakened hearts,
Have sense of one pervading Spirit’s stress,
One Force in every place, though manifold!
I am the Sacrifice! I am the Prayer!
I am the Funeral-Cake set for the dead!
I am the healing herb! I am the ghee,
The Mantra, and the flame, and that which burns!
I am – of all this boundless Universe-
The Father, Mother, Ancestor, and Guard!
The end of Learning! That which purifies
In lustral water! I am OM! I am
Rig-Veda, Sama-Veda, Yajur-Ved;
The Way, the Fosterer, the Lord, the Judge,
The Witness; the Abode, the Refuge-House,
The Friend, the Fountain and the Sea of Life
Which sends, and swallows up; Treasure of Worlds
And Treasure-Chamber! Seed and Seed-Sower,
Whence endless harvests spring! Sun’s heat is mine;
Heaven’s rain is mine to grant or to withhold;
Death am I, and Immortal Life I am,
Arjuna! SAT and ASAT, Visible Life,
And Life Invisible!
Yea! those who learn
The threefold Veds, who drink the Soma-wine,
Purge sins, pay sacrifice – from Me they earn
Passage to Swarga; where the meats divine
Of great gods feed them in high Indra’s heaven.
Yet they, when that prodigious joy is o’er,
Paradise spent, and wage for merits given,
Come to the world of death and change once more.
They had their recompense! they stored their treasure,
Following the threefold Scripture and its writ;
Who seeketh such gaineth the fleeting pleasure
Of joy which comes and goes! I grant them it!
But to those blessed ones who worship Me,
Turning not otherwhere, with minds set fast,
I bring assurance of full bliss beyond.
Nay, and of hearts which follow other gods
In simple faith, their prayers arise to me,
O Kunti’s Son! though they pray wrongfully;
For I am the Receiver and the Lord
Of every sacrifice, which these know not
Rightfully; so they fall to earth again!
Who follow gods go to their gods; who vow
Their souls to Pitris go to Pitris; minds
To evil Bhuts given o’er sink to the Bhuts;
And whoso loveth Me cometh to Me.
Whoso shall offer Me in faith and love
A leaf, a flower, a fruit, water poured forth,
That offering I accept, lovingly made
With pious will. Whate’er thou doest, Prince!
Eating or sacrificing, giving gifts,
Praying or fasting, let it all be done
For Me, as Mine. So shalt thou free thyself
From Karmabandh, the chain which holdeth men
To good and evil issue, so shalt come
Safe unto Me – when thou art quit of flesh-
By faith and abdication joined to Me!
I am alike for all! I know not hate,
I know not favour! What is made is Mine!
But them that worship Me with love, I love;
They are in Me, and I in them!
If one of evil life turn in his thought
Straightly to Me, count him amidst the good;
He hath the high way chosen; he shall grow
Righteous ere long; he shall attain that peace
Which changes not. Thou Prince of India!
Be certain none can perish, trusting Me!
O Pritha’s Son! whoso will turn to Me,
Though they be born from the very womb of Sin,
Woman or man; sprung of the Vaisya caste
Or lowly disregarded Sudra, – all
Plant foot upon the highest path; how then
The holy Brahmans and My Royal Saints?
Ah! ye who into this ill world are come-
Fleeting and false – set your faith fast on Me!
Fix heart and thought on Me! Adore Me! Bring
Offerings to Me! Make Me prostrations! Make
Me your supremest joy! and, undivided,
Unto My rest your spirits shall be guided.
CHAPTER X: Of Religion by the Heavenly Perfections
Krishna: Hear farther yet, thou Long-Armed Lord! these latest
words I say-
Uttered to bring thee bliss and peace, who lovest Me alway-
Not the great company of gods nor kingly Rishis know
My Nature, Who have made the gods and Rishis long ago;
He only knoweth – only he is free of sin, and wise,
Who seeth Me, Lord of the Worlds, with faith-enlightened eyes,
Unborn, undying, unbegun. Whatever Natures be
To mortal men distributed, those natures spring from Me!
Intellect, skill, enlightenment, endurance, self-control,
Truthfulness, equability, and grief or joy of soul,
And birth and death, and fearfulness, and fearlessness, and shame,
And honour, and sweet harmlessness, and peace which is the same
Whate’er befalls, and mirth, and tears, and piety and thrift,
And wish to give, and will to help, – all cometh of My gift!
The Seven Chief Saints, the Elders Four, the Lordly Manus set-
Sharing My work – to rule the worlds, these too did I beget;
And Rishis, Pitris, Manus, all, by one thought of My mind;
Thence did arise, to fill this world, the races of mankind;
Wherefrom who comprehends My Reign of mystic Majesty-
That truth of truths – is thenceforth linked in faultless faith to
Yea! knowing Me the source of all, by Me all creatures wrought,
The wise in spirit cleave to Me, into My Being brought;
Hearts fixed on Me; breaths breathed to Me; praising Me, each to
So have they happiness and peace, with pious thought and speech;
And unto these – thus serving well, thus loving ceaselessly-
I give a mind of perfect mood, whereby they draw to Me;
And, all for love of them, within their darkened souls I dwell,
And, with bright rays of wisdom’s lamp, their ignorance dispel.
Arjuna: Yes! Thou art Parabrahm! The High Abode!
The Great Purification! Thou art God
Eternal, All-creating, Holy, First,
Without beginning! Lord of Lords and Gods!
Declared by all the Saints – by Narada,
Vyasa Asita, and Devalas;
And here Thyself declaring unto me!
What Thou hast said now know I to be truth,
O Kesava! that neither gods nor men
Nor demons comprehend Thy mystery
Made manifest, Divinest! Thou Thyself
Thyself alone dost know, Maker Supreme!
Master of all the living! Lord of Gods!
King of the Universe! To Thee alone
Belongs to tell the heavenly excellence
Of those perfections wherewith Thou dost fill
These worlds of Thine; Pervading, Immanent!
How shall I learn, Supremest Mystery!
To know Thee, though I muse continually?
Under what form of Thine unnumbered forms
Mayst Thou be grasped? Ah! yet again recount,
Clear and complete, Thy great appearances,
The secrets of Thy Majesty and Might,
Thou High Delight of Men! Never enough
Can mine ears drink the Amrit of such words!
Krishna: Hanta! So be it! Kuru Prince! I will to thee unfold
Some portions of My Majesty, whose powers are manifold!
I am the Spirit seated deep in every creature’s heart;
From Me they come; by Me they live; at My word they depart!
Vishnu of the Adityas I am, those Lords of Light;
Maritchi of the Maruts, the Kings of Storm and Blight;
By day I gleam, the golden Sun of burning cloudless Noon;
By Night, amid the asterisms I glide, the dappled Moon!
Of Vedas I am Sama-Ved, of gods in Indra’s Heaven
Vasava; of the faculties to living beings given
The mind which apprehends and thinks; of Rudras Sankara;
Of Yakshas and of Rakshasas, Vittesh; and Pavaka
Of Vasus, and of mountain-peaks Meru; Vrihaspati
Know Me ‘mid planetary Powers; ‘mid Warriors heavenly
Skanda; of all the water-floods the Sea which drinketh each,
And Bhrigu of the holy Saints, and OM of sacred speech;
Of prayers the prayer ye whisper; of hills Himila’s snow,
And Aswattha, the fig-tree, of all the trees that grow;
Of the Devarshis, Narada; and Chitrarath of them
That sing in Heaven, and Kapila of Munis, and the gem
Of flying steeds, Uchchaisravas, from Amritwave which burst;
Of elephants Airavata; of males the Best and First;
Of weapons Heav’n’s hot thunderbolt; of cows white Kamadhuk,
From whose great milky udder-teats all hearts’ desires are strook;
Vasuki of the serpent-tribes, round Mandara entwined;
And thousand-fanged Ananta, on whose broad coils reclined
Leans Vishnu; and of water-things Varuna; Aryam
Of Pitris, and, of those that judge, Yama the Judge I am;
Of Daityas dread Prahlada; of what metes days and years,
Time’s self I am; of woodland-beasts – buffaloes, deers, and bears-
The lordly-painted tiger; of birds the vast Garud,
The whirlwind ‘mid the winds; ‘mid chiefs Rama with blood imbrued,
Makar ‘mid fishes of the sea, and Ganges ‘mid the streams;
Yea! First, and Last, and Centre of all which is or seems
I am, Arjuna! Wisdom Supreme of what is wise,
Words on the uttering lips I am, and eyesight of the eyes.
And “A” of written characters, Dwandwa of knitted speech,
And Endless Life, and boundless Love, whose power
And bitter Death which seizes all, and joyous sudden Birth,
Which brings to light all beings that are to be on earth;
And of the viewless virtues, Fame, Fortune, Song am I,
And Memory, and Patience; and Craft, and Constancy:
Of Vedic hymns the Vrihatsam, of metres Gayatri,
Of months the Margasirsha, of all the seasons three
The flower-wreathed Spring; in dicer’s-play the conquering
The splendour of the splendid, and the greatness of the great,
Victory I am, and Action! and the goodness of the good,
And Vasudev of Vrishni’s race, and of this Pandu brood
Thyself! – Yea, my Arjuna! thyself; for thou art Mine!
Of poets Usana, of saints Vyasa, sage divine;
The policy of conquerors, the potency of kings,
The great unbroken silence in learning’s secret things;
The lore of all the learned, the seed of all which springs.
Living or lifeless, still or stirred, whatever beings be,
None of them is in all the worlds, but it exists by Me!
Nor tongue can tell, Arjuna! nor end of telling come
Of these My boundless glories, whereof I teach thee some;
For wheresoe’er is wondrous work, and majesty, and might,
From Me hath all proceeded. Receive thou this aright!
Yet how shouldst thou receive, O Prince! the vastness of this word?
I, who am all, and made it all, abide its separate Lord!
CHAPTER XI: Of the Manifesting of the One and Manifold
Arjuna: This, for my soul’s peace, have I heard from Thee,
The unfolding of the Mystery Supreme
Named Adhyatman; comprehending which,
My darkness is dispelled; for now I know-
O Lotus-eyed! – whence is the birth of men,
And whence their death, and what the majesties
Of Thine immortal rule. Fain would I see,
As thou Thyself declar’st it, Sovereign Lord!
The likeness of that glory of Thy Form
Wholly revealed. O Thou Divinest One!
If this can be, if I may bear the sight,
Make Thyself visible, Lord of all prayers!
Show me Thy very self, the Eternal God!
Krishna: Gaze, then, thou Son of Pritha! I manifest for thee
Those hundred thousand thousand shapes that clothe my Mystery:
I show thee all my semblances, infinite, rich, divine,
My changeful hues, my countless forms. See! in this face of mine,
Adityas, Vasus, Rudras, Aswins, and Maruts; see
Wonders unnumbered, Indian Prince! revealed to none save thee.
Behold! this is the Universe! – Look! what is live and dead
I gather all in one – in Me! Gaze, as thy lips have said
On GOD, ETERNAL, VERY GOD! See ME! what thou prayest!
Thou canst not! – nor, with human eyes, Arjuna! ever mayest!
Therefore I give thee sense divine. Have other eyes, new light!
And, look! This is My glory, unveiled to mortal sight!
Sanjaya: Then, O King! to God, so saying,
Stood, to Pritha’s Son displaying
All the splendour, wonder, dread
Of His vast Almighty-head.
Out of countless eyes beholding,
Out of countless mouths commanding,
Countless mystic forms enfolding
In one Form: supremely standing
Countless radiant glories wearing,
Countless heavenly weapons bearing,
Crowned with garlands of star-clusters,
Robed in garb of woven lustres,
Breathing from His perfect Presence
Breaths of every subtle essence
Of all heavenly odours; shedding
Blinding brilliance; overspreading-
Boundless, beautiful – all spaces
With His all-regarding faces;
So He showed! If there should rise
Suddenly within the skies
Sunburst of a thousand suns
Flooding earth with beams undeemed-of,
Then might be that Holy One’s
Majesty and radiance dreamed of!
So did Pandu’s Son behold
All this universe enfold
All its huge diversity
Into one vast shape, and be
Visible, and viewed, and blended
In one Body – subtle, splendid,
Nameless – th’ All-comprehending
God of Gods, the Never-Ending
But, sore amazed,
Thrilled, o’erfilled, dazzled, and dazed,
Arjuna knelt; and bowed his head,
And clasped his palms; and cried, and said:
Arjuna: Yea! I have seen! I see!
Lord! all is wrapped in Thee!
The gods are in Thy glorious frame! the creatures
Of earth, and heaven, and hell
In Thy Divine form dwell,
And in Thy countenance shine all the features
Of Brahma, sitting lone
Upon His lotus-throne;
Of saints and sages, and the serpent races
Yea! mightiest Lord! I see
Thy thousand thousand arms and breasts, and faces,
And eyes, – on every side
And nowhere end of Thee, nowhere beginning,
Nowhere a centre! Shifts-
Wherever soul’s gaze lifts-
Thy central Self, all-wielding, and all-winning!
Infinite King! I see
The anadem on Thee,
The club, the shell, the discus; see Thee burning
In beams insufferable,
Lighting earth, heaven, and hell
With brilliance blazing, glowing, flashing; turning
Darkness to dazzling day,
Look I whichever way;
Ah, Lord! I worship Thee, the Undivided,
The Uttermost of thought,
The Treasure-Palace wrought
To hold the wealth of the worlds; the Shield provided
To shelter Virtue’s laws;
The Fount whence Life’s stream draws
All waters of all rivers of all being:
The One Unborn, Unending:
Unchanging and Unblending!
With might and majesty, past thought, past seeing!
Silver of moon and gold
Of sun are glories rolled
From Thy great eyes; Thy visage, beaming tender
Throughout the stars and skies,
Doth to warm life surprise
Thy Universe. The worlds are filled with wonder
Of Thy perfections! Space
Star-sprinkled, and void place
From pole to pole of the Blue, from bound to bound,
Hath Thee in every spot,
Thee, Thee! – Where Thou art not,
O Holy, Marvellous Form! is nowhere found!
O Mystic, Awful One!
At sight of Thee, made known,
The Three Worlds quake; the lower gods draw nigh Thee;
They fold their palms, and bow
Body, and breast, and brow,
And, whispering worship, laud and magnify Thee!
Rishis and Siddhas cry
“Hail! Highest Majesty!
From sage and singer breaks the hymn of glory
In dulcet harmony,
Sounding the praise of Thee;
While countless companies take up the story,
Rudras, who ride the storms,
Th’ Adityas’ shining forms,
Vasus and Sadhyas, Viswas, Ushmapas;
Maruts, and those great Twins
The heavenly, fair, Aswins,
Gandharvas, Rakshasas, Siddhas, and Asuras,-
These see Thee, and revere
In sudden-stricken fear;
Yea! the Worlds, – seeing Thee with form stupendous,
With faces manifold,
With eyes which all behold,
Unnumbered eyes, vast arms, members tremendous,
Flanks, lit with sun and star,
Feet planted near and far,
Tushes of terror, mouths wrathful and tender;-
The Three wide Worlds before Thee
Adore, as I adore Thee,
Quake, as I quake, to witness so much splendour!
I mark Thee strike the skies
With front, in wondrous wise
Huge, rainbow-painted, glittering; and thy mouth
Opened, and orbs which see
All things, whatever be
In all Thy worlds, east, west, and north and south.
O Eyes of God! O Head!
My strength of soul is fled,
Gone is heart’s force, rebuked is mind’s desire!
When I behold Thee so,
With awful brows a-glow,
With burning glance, and lips lighted by fire
Fierce as those flames which shall
Consume, at close of all,
Earth, Heaven! Ah me! I see no Earth and Heaven!
Thee, Lord of Lords! I see,
Thee only – only Thee!
Now let Thy mercy unto me be given,
Thou Refuge of the World!
Lo! to the cavern hurled
Of Thy wide-opened throat, and lips white-tushed,
I see our noblest ones,
Great Dhritarashtra’s sons,
Bhishma, Drona, and Karna, caught and crushed!
The Kings and Chiefs drawn in,
That gaping gorge within;
The best of both these armies torn and riven!
Between Thy jaws they lie
Mangled full bloodily,
Ground into dust and death! Like streams down-driven
With helpless haste, which go
In headlong furious flow
Straight to the gulfing deeps of th’ unfilled ocean,
So to that flaming cave
Those heroes great and brave
Pour, in unending streams, with helpless motion!
Like moths which in the night
Flutter towards a light,
Drawn to their fiery doom, flying and dying,
So to their death still throng,
Blind, dazzled, borne along
Ceaselessly, all those multitudes, wild flying!
Thou, that hast fashioned men,
Devourest them again,
One with another, great and small, alike!
The creatures whom Thou mak’st,
With flaming jaws Thou tak’st,
Lapping them up! Lord God! Thy terrors strike
From end to end of earth,
Filling life full, from birth
To death, with deadly, burning, lurid dread!
Ah, Vishnu! make me know
Why is Thy visage so?
Who art Thou, feasting thus upon Thy dead?
Who? awful Deity!
I bow myself to Thee,
Namostu Te, Devavara! Prasid!
O Mightiest Lord! rehearse
Why hast Thou face so fierce?
Whence doth this aspect horrible proceed?
Krishna: Thou seest Me as Time who kills,
Time who brings all to doom,
The Slayer Time, Ancient of Days, come hither to consume;
Excepting thee, of all these hosts of hostile chiefs arrayed,
There stands not one shall leave alive the battlefield! Dismayed
No longer be! Arise! obtain renown! destroy thy foes!
Fight for the kingdom waiting thee when thou hast vanquished those.
By Me they fall – not thee! the stroke of death is dealt them now,
Even as they show thus gallantly; My instrument art thou!
Strike, strong-armed Prince, at Drona! at Bhishma strike! deal
On Karna, Jyadratha; stay all their warlike breath!
‘Tis I who bid them perish! Thou wilt but slay the slain;
Fight! they must fall, and thou must live, victor upon this plain!
Sanjaya: Hearing mighty Keshav’s word,
Trembling that helmed Lord
Clasped his lifted palms, and – praying
Grace of Krishna – stood there, saying,
With bowed brow and accents broken,
These words, timorously spoken:
Arjuna: Worthily, Lord of Might!
The whole world hath delight
In Thy surpassing power, obeying Thee;
The Rakshasas, in dread
At sight of Thee, are sped
To all four quarters; and the company
Of Siddhas sound Thy name.
How should they not proclaim
Thy Majesties, Divinest, Mightiest?
Thou Brahm, than Brahma greater!
Thou Infinite Creator!
Thou God of gods, Life’s Dwelling-place and Rest.
Thou, of all souls the Soul!
The Comprehending Whole!
Of being formed, and formless being the Framer;
O Utmost One! O Lord!
Older than eld, Who stored
The worlds with wealth of life! O Treasure-Claimer,
Who wottest all, and art
Wisdom Thyself! O Part
In all, and All; for all from Thee have risen
Numberless now I see
The aspects are of Thee!
Vayu Thou art, and He who keeps the prison
Of Narak, Yama dark;
And Agni’s shining spark;
Varuna’s waves are Thy waves. Moon and starlight
Are Thine! Prajapati
Art Thou, and ’tis to Thee
They knelt in worshipping the old world’s far light,
The first of mortal men.
Again, Thou God! again
A thousand thousand times be magnified!
Honour and worship be-
Glory and praise, – to Thee
Namo, Namaste, cried on every side;
Cried here, above, below,
Uttered when Thou dost go,
Uttered where Thou dost come! Namo! we call;
Namostu! God adored!
Namostu! Nameless Lord
Hail to Thee! Praise to Thee Thou One in all;
For Thou art All! Yea, Thou!
Ah! if in anger now
Thou shouldst remember I did think Thee Friend,
Speaking with easy speech,
As men use each to each;
Did call Thee “Krishna,” “Prince,” nor comprehend
Thy hidden majesty,
The might, the awe of Thee;
Did, in my heedlessness, or in my love,
On journey, or in jest,
Or when we lay at rest,
Sitting at council, straying in the grove,
Alone, or in the throng,
Do Thee, most Holy! wrong,
Be Thy grace granted for that witless sin
For Thou art, now I know,
Father of all below,
Of all above, of all the worlds within
Guru of Gurus; more
To reverence and adore
Than all which is adorable and high!
How, in the wide worlds three
Should any equal be?
Should any other share Thy Majesty?
Therefore, with body bent
And reverent intent,
I praise, and serve, and seek Thee, asking grace.
As father to a son,
As friend to friend, as one
Who loveth to his lover, turn Thy face
In gentleness on me!
Good is it I did see
This unknown marvel of Thy Form! But fear
Mingles with joy! Retake,
Dear Lord! for pity’s sake
Thine earthly shape, which earthly eyes may bear!
Be merciful, and show
The visage that I know;
Let me regard Thee, as of yore, arrayed
With disc and forehead-gem,
With mace and anadem,
Thou that sustainest all things! Undismayed
Let me once more behold
The form I loved of old,
Thou of the thousand arms and countless eyes!
This frightened heart is fain
To see restored again
My Charioteer, in Krishna’s kind disguise.
Krishna: Yea! thou hast seen, Arjuna! because I loved thee well,
The secret countenance of Me, revealed by mystic spell,
Shining, and wonderful, and majestic, manifold,
Which none save thou in all the years had favour to behold;
For not by Vedas cometh this, nor sacrifice, nor alms,
Nor works well-done, nor penance long, nor prayers, nor chanted
That mortal eyes should bear to view the Immortal Soul unclad,
Prince of the Kurus! This was kept for thee alone! Be glad!
Let no more trouble shake thy heart, because thine eyes have seen
My terror with My glory. As I before have been
So will I be again for thee; with lightened heart behold!
Once more I am thy Krishna, the form thou knew’st of old!
Sanjaya: These words to Arjuna spake
Vasudev, and straight did take
Back again the semblance dear
Of the well-loved charioteer;
Peace and joy it did restore
When the Prince beheld once more
Mighty BRAHMA’S form and face
Clothed in Krishna’s gentle grace.
Arjuna: Now that I see come back, Janardana!
This friendly human frame, my mind can think
Calm thoughts once more; my heart beats still again!
Krishna: Yea! it was wonderful and terrible
To view me as thou didst, dear Prince! The gods
Dread and desire continually to view!
Yet not by Vedas, nor from sacrifice,
Nor penance, nor gift-giving, nor with prayer
Shall any so behold, as thou hast seen!
Only by fullest service, perfect faith,
And uttermost surrender am I known
And seen, and entered into, Indian Prince!
Who doeth all for Me; who findeth Me
In all; adoreth always; loveth all
Which I have made, and Me, for Love’s sole end,
That man, Arjuna! unto Me doth wend.
CHAPTER XII: Of the Religion of Faith
Arjuna: Lord! of the men who serve Thee – true in heart—
As God revealed; and of the men who serve,
Worshipping Thee Unrevealed, Unbodied, Far,
Which take the better way of faith and life?
Krishna: Whoever serve Me – as I show Myself—
Constantly true, in full devotion fixed,
Those hold I very holy. But who serve-
Worshipping Me The One, The Invisible,
The Unrevealed, Unnamed, Unthinkable,
Uttermost, All-pervading, Highest, Sure-
Who thus adore Me, mastering their sense,
Of one set mind to all, glad in all good,
These blessed souls come unto Me.
The travail is for such as bend their minds
To reach th’ Unmanifest. That viewless path
Shall scarce be trod by man bearing the flesh!
But whereso any doeth all his deeds
Renouncing self for Me, full of Me, fixed
To serve only the Highest, night and day
Musing on Me – him will I swiftly lift
Forth from life’s ocean of distress and death,
Whose soul clings fast to Me. Cling thou to Me!
Clasp Me with heart and mind! so shalt thou dwell
Surely with Me on high. But if thy thought
Droops from such height; if thou be’st weak to set
Body and soul upon Me constantly,
Despair not! give Me lower service! I seek
To reach Me, worshipping with steadfast will;
And, if thou canst not worship steadfastly,
Work for Me, toil in works pleasing to Me!
For he that laboureth right for love of Me
Shall finally attain! But, if in this
Thy faint heart fails, bring Me thy failure! find
Refuge in Me! let fruits of labour go,
Renouncing hope for Me, with lowliest heart,
So shalt thou come; for, though to know is more
Than diligence, yet worship better is
Than knowing, and renouncing better still.
Near to renunciation – very near-
Dwelleth Eternal Peace!
Who hateth nought
Of all which lives, living himself benign,
Compassionate, from arrogance exempt,
Exempt from love of self, unchangeable
By good or ill; patient, contented, firm
In faith, mastering himself, true to his word,
Seeking Me, heart and soul; vowed unto Me,-
That man I love! Who troubleth not his kind,
And is not troubled by them; clear of wrath,
Living too high for gladness, grief, or fear,
That man I love! Who, dwelling quiet-eyed,
Stainless, serene, well-balanced, unperplexed,
Working with Me, yet from all works detached,
That man I love! Who, fixed in faith on Me,
Dotes upon none, scorns none; rejoices not,
And grieves not, letting good or evil hap
Light when it will, and when it will depart,
That man I love! Who, unto friend and foe
Keeping an equal heart, with equal mind
Bears shame and glory; with an equal peace
Takes heat and cold, pleasure and pain; abides
Quit of desires, hears praise or calumny
In passionless restraint, unmoved by each;
Linked by no ties to earth, steadfast in Me,
That man I love! But most of all I love
Those happy ones to whom ’tis life to live
In single fervid faith and love unseeing,
Drinking the blessed Amrit of my Being!
CHAPTER XIII: Of Religion by Separation of Matter and Spirit
Arjuna: Now would I hear, O gracious Kesava!
Of Life which seems, and Soul beyond, which sees,
And what it is we know – or think to know.
Krishna: Yea! Son of Kunti! for this flesh ye see
Is Kshetra, is the field where Life disports;
And that which views and knows it is the Soul,
Kshetrajna. In all “fields,” thou Indian prince!
I am Kshetrajna. I am what surveys!
Only that knowledge knows which knows the known
By the knower! What it is, that “field” of life,
What qualities it hath, and whence it is,
And why it changeth, and the faculty
That wotteth it, the mightiness of this,
And how it wotteth – hear these things from Me!
The elements, the conscious life, the mind,
The unseen vital force, the nine strange gates
Of the body, and the five domains of sense;
Desire, dislike, pleasure and pain, and thought
Deep-woven, and persistency of being;
These all are wrought on Matter by the Soul!
Humbleness, truthfulness, and harmlessness,
Patience and honour, reverence for the wise.
Purity, constancy, control of self,
Contempt of sense-delights, self-sacrifice,
Perception of the certitude of ill
In birth, death, age, disease, suffering, and sin;
Detachment, lightly holding unto home,
Children, and wife, and all that bindeth men;
An ever-tranquil heart in fortunes good
And fortunes evil, with a will set firm
To worship Me – Me only! ceasing not;
Loving all solitudes, and shunning noise
Of foolish crowds; endeavours resolute
To reach perception of the Utmost Soul,
And grace to understand what gain it were
So to attain, – this is true Wisdom, Prince!
And what is otherwise is ignorance!
Now will I speak of knowledge best to know-
That Truth which giveth man Amrit to drink,
The Truth of HIM, the Para-Brahm, the All,
The Uncreated; not Asat, nor Sat,
Not Form, nor the Unformed; yet both, and more;-
Whose hands are everywhere, and everywhere
Planted His feet, and everywhere His eyes
Beholding, and His ears in every place
Hearing, and all His faces everywhere
Enlightening and encompassing His worlds.
Glorified in the senses He hath given,
Yet beyond sense He is; sustaining all,
Yet dwells He unattached: of forms and modes
Master, yet neither form nor mode hath He;
He is within all beings – and without-
Motionless, yet still moving; not discerned
For subtlety of instant presence; close
To all, to each; yet measurelessly far!
Not manifold, and yet subsisting still
In all which lives; for ever to be known
As the Sustainer, yet, at the End of Times,
He maketh all to end – and re-creates.
The Light of Lights He is, in the heart of the Dark
Shining eternally. Wisdom He is
And Wisdom’s way, and Guide of all the wise,
Planted in every heart.
So have I told
Of Life’s stuff, and the moulding, and the lore
To comprehend. Whoso, adoring Me,
Perceiveth this, shall surely come to Me!
Know thou that Nature and the Spirit both
Have no beginning! Know that qualities
And changes of them are by Nature wrought;
That Nature puts to work the acting frame,
But Spirit doth inform it, and so cause
Feeling of pain and pleasure. Spirit, linked
To moulded matter, entereth into bond
With qualities by Nature framed, and, thus
Married to matter, breeds the birth again
In good or evil yonis.
Yet is this-
Yea! in its bodily prison! – Spirit pure,
Spirit supreme; surveying, governing,
Guarding, possessing; Lord and Master still
PURUSHA, Ultimate, One Soul with Me.
Whoso thus knows himself, and knows his soul
PURUSHA, working through the qualities
With Nature’s modes, the light hath come for him!
Whatever flesh he bears, never again
Shall he take on its load. Some few there be
By meditation find the Soul in Self
Self-schooled; and some by long philosophy
And holy life reach thither; some by works:
Some, never so attaining, hear of light
From other lips, and seize, and cleave to it
Worshipping; yea! and those – to teaching true-
Wherever, Indian Prince!
Life is – of moving things, or things unmoved,
Plant or still seed – know, what is there hath grown
By bond of Matter and of Spirit: Know
He sees indeed who sees in all alike
The living, lordly Soul; the Soul Supreme,
Imperishable amid the Perishing:
For, whoso thus beholds, in every place,
In every form, the same, one, Living Life,
Doth no more wrongfulness unto himself,
But goes the highest road which brings to bliss.
Seeing, he sees, indeed, who sees that works
Are Nature’s wont, for Soul to practise by
Acting, yet not the agent; sees the mass
Of separate living things – each of its kind-
Issue from One, and blend again to One:
Then hath he BRAHMA, he attains!
That Ultimate, High Spirit, Uncreate,
Unqualified, even when it entereth flesh
Taketh no stain of acts, worketh in nought!
Like to th’ ethereal air, pervading all,
Which, for sheer subtlety, avoideth taint,
The subtle Soul sits everywhere, unstained:
Like to the light of the all-piercing sun
[Which is not changed by aught it shines upon,]
The Soul’s light shineth pure in every place;
And they who, by such eye of wisdom, see
How Matter, and what deals with it, divide;
And how the Spirit and the flesh have strife,
Those wise ones go the way which leads to Life!
CHAPTER XIV: Of Religion by Separation from the Qualities
Krishna: Yet farther will I open unto thee
This wisdom of all wisdoms, uttermost,
The which possessing, all My saints have passed
To perfectness. On such high verities
Reliant, rising into fellowship
With Me, they are not born again at birth
Of Kalpas, nor at Pralyas suffer change!
This Universe the womb is where I plant
Seed of all lives! Thence, Prince of India, comes
Birth to all beings! Whoso, Kunti’s Son!
Mothers each mortal form, Brahma conceives,
And I am He that fathers, sending seed!
Sattwan, Raias, and Tamas, so are named
The qualities of Nature, “Soothfastness,”
“Passion,” and “Ignorance.” These three bind down
The changeless Spirit in the changeful flesh.
Whereof sweet “Soothfastness,” by purity
Living unsullied and enlightened, binds
The sinless Soul to happiness and truth;
And Passion, being kin to appetite,
And breeding impulse and propensity,
Binds the embodied Soul, O Kunti’s Son!
By tie of works. But Ignorance, begot
Of Darkness, blinding mortal men, binds down
Their souls to stupor, sloth, and drowsiness.
Yea, Prince of India! Soothfastness binds souls
In pleasant wise to flesh; and Passion binds
By toilsome strain; but Ignorance, which blots
The beams of wisdom, binds the soul to sloth.
Passion and Ignorance, once overcome,
Leave Soothfastness, O Bharata! Where this
With Ignorance are absent, Passion rules;
And Ignorance in hearts not good nor quick.
When at all gateways of the Body shines
The Lamp of Knowledge, then may one see well
Soothfastness settled in that city reigns;
Where longing is, and ardour, and unrest,
Impulse to strive and gain, and avarice,
Those spring from Passion – Prince! – engrained; and where
Darkness and dulness, sloth and stupor are,
‘Tis Ignorance hath caused them, Kuru Chief!
Moreover, when a soul departeth, fixed
In Soothfastness, it goeth to the place-
Perfect and pure – of those that know all Truth.
If it departeth in set habitude
Of Impulse, it shall pass into the world
Of spirits tied to works; and, if it dies
In hardened Ignorance, that blinded soul
Is born anew in some unlighted womb.
The fruit of Soothfastness is true and sweet;
The fruit of lusts is pain and toil; the fruit
Of Ignorance is deeper darkness. Yea!
For Light brings light, and Passion ache to have;
And gloom, bewilderments, and ignorance
Grow forth from Ignorance. Those of the first
Rise ever higher; those of the second mode
Take a mid place; the darkened souls sink back
To lower deeps, loaded with witlessness!
When, watching life, the living man perceives
The only actors are the Qualities,
And knows what rules beyond the Qualities,
Then is he come nigh unto Me!
Thus passing forth from the Three Qualities-
Whereby arise all bodies – overcomes
Birth, Death, Sorrow, and Age; and drinketh deep
The undying wine of Amrit.
Arjuna: Oh, my Lord!
Which be the signs to know him that hath gone
Past the Three Modes? How liveth he? What way
Leadeth him safe beyond the threefold Modes?
Krishna: He who with equanimity surveys
Lustre of goodness, strife of passion, sloth
Of ignorance, not angry if they are,
Not wishful when they are not: he who sits
A sojourner and stranger in their midst
Unruffled, standing off, saying – serene-
When troubles break, “These be the Qualities!
He unto whom – self-centred – grief and joy
Sound as one word; to whose deep-seeing eyes
The clod, the marble, and the gold are one;
Whose equal heart holds the same gentleness
For lovely and unlovely things, firm-set,
Well-pleased in praise and dispraise; satisfied
With honour or dishonour; unto friends
And unto foes alike in tolerance;
Detached from undertakings, – he is named
Surmounter of the Qualities!
With single, fervent faith adoring Me,
Passing beyond the Qualities, conforms
To Brahma, and attains Me!
For I am
That whereof Brahma is the likeness! Mine
The Amrit is; and Immortality
Is mine; and mine perfect Felicity!
CHAPTER XV: Of Religion by Attaining the Supreme
Krishna: Men call the Aswattha, – the Banyan-tree,-
Which hath its boughs beneath, its roots above,-
The ever-holy tree. Yea! for its leaves
Are green and waving hymns which whisper Truth!
Who knows the Aswattha, knows Veds, and all.
Its branches shoot to heaven and sink to earth,
Even as the deeds of men, which take their birth
From qualities: its silver sprays and blooms,
And all the eager verdure of its girth,
Leap to quick life at kiss of sun and air,
As men’s lives quicken to the temptings fair
Of wooing sense: its hanging rootlets seek
The soil beneath, helping to hold it there,
As actions wrought amid this world of men
Bind them by ever-tightening bonds again.
If ye knew well the teaching of the Tree,
What its shape saith; and whence it springs; and, then
How it must end, and all the ills of it,
The axe of sharp Detachment ye would whet,
And cleave the clinging snaky roots, and lay
This Aswattha of sense-life low, – to set
New growths upspringing to that happier sky,-
Which they who reach shall have no day to die,
Nor fade away, nor fall – to Him, I mean,
FATHER and FIRST, Who made the mystery
Of old Creation; for to Him come they
From passion and from dreams who break away;
Who part the bonds constraining them to flesh,
And, – Him, the Highest, worshipping alway-
No longer grow at mercy of what breeze
Of summer pleasure stirs the sleeping trees,
What blast of tempest tears them, bough and stem:
To the eternal world pass such as these!
Another Sun gleams there! another Moon!
Another Light, – not Dusk, nor Dawn, nor Noon-
Which they who once behold return no more;
They have attained My rest, life’s Utmost boon!
When, in this world of manifested life,
The undying Spirit, setting forth from Me,
Taketh on form, it draweth to itself
From Being’s storehouse, – which containeth all,-
Senses and intellect. The Sovereign Soul
Thus entering the flesh, or quitting it,
Gathers these up, as the wind gathers scents,
Blowing above the flower.-beds. Ear and Eye,
And Touch and Taste, and Smelling, these it takes,-
Yea, and a sentient mind; – linking itself
To sense-things so.
The unenlightened ones
Mark not that Spirit when he goes or comes,
Nor when he takes his pleasure in the form,
Conjoined with qualities; but those see plain
Who have the eyes to see. Holy souls see
Which strive thereto. Enlightened, they perceive
That Spirit in themselves; but foolish ones,
Even though they strive, discern not, having hearts
Know, too, from Me
Shineth the gathered glory of the suns
Which lighten all the world: from Me the moons
Draw silvery beams, and fire fierce loveliness.
I penetrate the clay, and lend all shapes
Their living force; I glide into the plant-
Root, leaf, and bloom – to make the woodlands green
With springing sap. Becoming vital warmth,
I glow in glad, respiring frames, and pass,
With outward and with inward breath, to feed
The body by all meats.
For in this world
Being is twofold: the Divided, one;
The Undivided, one. All things that live
Are “the Divided.” That which sits apart,
Higher still is He,
The Highest, holding all, whose Name is LORD,
The Eternal, Sovereign, First! Who fills all worlds,
Sustaining them. And – dwelling thus beyond
Divided Being and Undivided – I
Am called of men and Vedas, Life Supreme,
Who knows Me thus,
With mind unclouded, knoweth all, dear Prince!
And with his whole soul ever worshippeth Me.
Now is the sacred, secret Mystery
Declared to thee! Who comprehendeth this
Hath wisdom! He is quit of works in bliss!
CHAPTER XVI: Of the Separateness of the Divine and the Undivine
Krishna: Fearlessness, singleness of soul, the wilL
Always to strive for wisdom; opened hand
And governed appetites; and piety,
And love of lonely study; humbleness,
Uprightness, heed to injure nought which lives,
Truthfulness, slowness unto wrath, a mind
That lightly letteth go what others prize;
And equanimity, and charity
Which spieth no man’s faults; and tenderness
Towards all that suffer; a contented heart,
Fluttered by no desires; a bearing mild,
Modest, and grave, with manhood nobly mixed,
With patience, fortitude, and purity;
An unrevengeful spirit, never given
To rate itself too high; – such be the signs,
O Indian Prince! of him whose feet are set
On that fair path which leads to heavenly birth!
Deceitfulness, and arrogance, and pride,
Quickness to anger, harsh and evil speech,
And ignorance, to its own darkness blind,-
These be the signs, My Prince! of him whose birth
Is fated for the regions of the vile.
The Heavenly Birth brings to deliverance,
So should’st thou know! The birth with Asuras
Brings into bondage. Be thou joyous, Prince!
Whose lot is set apart for heavenly Birth.
Two stamps there are marked on all living men,
Divine and Undivine; I spake to thee
By what marks thou shouldst know the Heavenly Man,
Hear from me now of the Unheavenly!
They comprehend not, the Unheavenly,
How Souls go forth from Me; nor how they come
Back unto Me: nor is there Truth in these,
Nor purity, nor rule of Life. “This world
Hath not a Law, nor Order, nor a Lord,”
So say they: “nor hath risen up by Cause
Following on Cause, in perfect purposing,
But is none other than a House of Lust.”
And, this thing thinking, all those ruined ones-
Of little wit, dark-minded – give themselves
To evil deeds, the curses of their kind.
Surrendered to desires insatiable,
Full of deceitfulness, folly, and pride,
In blindness cleaving to their errors, caught
Into the sinful course, they trust this lie
As it were true – this lie which leads to death-
Finding in Pleasure all the good which is,
And crying “Here it finisheth!”
In nooses of a hundred idle hopes,
Slaves to their passion and their wrath, they buy
Wealth with base deeds, to glut hot appetites;
“Thus much, to-day,” they say, “we gained! thereby
Such and such wish of heart shall have its fill;
And this is ours! and th’ other shall be ours!
To-day we slew a foe, and we will slay
Our other enemy to-morrow! Look!
Are we not lords? Make we not goodly cheer?
Is not our fortune famous, brave, and great?
Rich are we, proudly born! What other men
Live like to us? Kill, then, for sacrifice!
Cast largesse, and be merry!” So they speak
Darkened by ignorance; and so they fall-
Tossed to and fro with projects, tricked, and bound
In net of black delusion, lost in lusts-
Down to foul Naraka. Conceited, fond,
Stubborn and proud, dead-drunken with the wine
Of wealth, and reckless, all their offerings
Have but a show of reverence, being not made
In piety of ancient faith. Thus vowed
To self-hood, force, insolence, feasting, wrath,
These My blasphemers, in the forms they wear
And in the forms they breed, my foemen are,
Hateful and hating; cruel, evil, vile,
Lowest and least of men, whom I cast down
Again, and yet again, at end of lives,
Into some devilish womb, whence – birth by birth-
The devilish wombs re-spawn them, all beguiled;
And, till they find and worship Me, sweet Prince!
Tread they that Nether Road.
The Doors of Hell
Are threefold, whereby men to ruin pass,-
The door of Lust, the door of Wrath, the door
Of Avarice. Let a man shun those three!
He who shall turn aside from entering
All those three gates of Narak, wendeth straight
To find his peace, and comes to Swarga’s gate.
CHAPTER XVII: Of Religion by the Threefold Kinds of Faith
Arjuna: If men forsake the holy ordinance,
Heedless of Shastras, yet keep faith at heart
And worship, what shall be the state of those,
Great Krishna! Sattwan, Rajas, Tamas? Say!
Krishna: Threefold the faith is of mankind, and springs
From those three qualities, – becoming “true,”
Or “passion-stained,” or “dark,” as thou shalt hear!
The faith of each believer, Indian Prince!
Conforms itself to what he truly is.
Where thou shalt see a worshipper, that one
To what he worships lives assimilate,
[Such as the shrine, so is the votary,]
The “soothfast” souls adore true gods; the souls
Obeying Rajas worship Rakshasas
Or Yakshas; and the men of Darkness pray
To Pretas and to Bhutas. Yea, and those
Who practise bitter penance, not enjoined
By rightful rule – penance which hath its root
In self-sufficient, proud hypocrisies-
Those men, passion-beset, violent, wild,
Torturing – the witless ones – My elements
Shut in fair company within their flesh,
(Nay, Me myself, present within the flesh!)
Know them to devils devoted, not to Heaven!
For like as foods are threefold for mankind
In nourishing, so is there threefold way
Of worship, abstinence, and almsgiving!
Hear this of Me! there is a food which brings
Force, substance, strength, and health, and joy to live,
Being well-seasoned, cordial, comforting,
The “Soothfast” meat. And there be foods which bring
Aches and unrests, and burning blood, and grief
Being too biting, heating, salt, and sharp,
And therefore craved by too strong appetite.
And there is foul food – kept from over-night,
Savourless, filthy, which the foul will eat,
A feast of rottenness, meet for the lips
Of such as love the “Darkness.”
Thus with rites;-
A sacrifice not for rewardment made,
Offered in rightful wise, when he who vows
Sayeth, with heart devout, “This I should do!
Is “Soothfast” rite. But sacrifice for gain,
Offered for good repute, be sure that this,
O Best of Bharatas! is Rajas-rite,
With stamp of “passion.” And a sacrifice
Offered against the laws, with no due dole
Of food-giving, with no accompaniment
Of hallowed hymn, nor largesse to the priests,
In faithless celebration, call it vile,
The deed of “Darkness!” – lost!
Worship of gods
Meriting worship; lowly reverence
Of Twice-borns, Teachers, Elders; Purity,
Rectitude, and the Brahmacharya’s vow,
And not to injure any helpless thing,-
These make a true religiousness of Act.
Words causing no man woe, words ever true,
Gentle and pleasing words, and those ye say
In murmured reading of a Sacred Writ,-
These make the true religiousness of Speech.
Serenity of soul, benignity,
Sway of the silent Spirit, constant stress
To sanctify the Nature, – these things make
Good rite, and true religiousness of Mind.
Such threefold faith, in highest piety
Kept, with no hope of gain, by hearts devote
Is perfect work of Sattwan, true belief.
Religion shown in act of proud display
To win good entertainment, worship, fame,
Such – say I – is of Rajas, rash and vain.
Religion followed by a witless will
To torture self, or come at power to hurt
Another, – ’tis of Tamas, dark and ill.
The gift lovingly given, when one shall say
“Now must I gladly give!” when he who takes
Can render nothing back; made in due place,
Due time, and to a meet recipient,
Is gift of Sattwan, fair and profitable.
The gift selfishly given, where to receive
Is hoped again, or when some end is sought,
Or where the gift is proffered with a grudge,
This is of Rajas, stained with impulse, ill.
The gift churlishly flung, at evil time,
In wrongful place, to base recipient,
Made in disdain or harsh unkindliness,
Is gift of Tamas, dark; it doth not bless!
CHAPTER XVIII: Of Religion by Deliverance and Renunciation
Arjuna: Fain would I better know, Thou Glorious One!
The very truth – Heart’s Lord! – of Sannyas,
Abstention; and Renunciation, Lord!
Tyaga; and what separates these twain!
Krishna: The poets rightly teach that Sannyas
Is the foregoing of all acts which spring
Out of desire; and their wisest say
Tyaga is renouncing fruit of acts.
There be among the saints some who have held
All action sinful, and to be renounced;
And some who answer, “Nay! the goodly acts-
As worship, penance, alms – must be performed!”
Hear now My sentence, Best of Bharatas!
‘Tis well set forth, O Chaser of thy Foes!
Renunciation is of threefold form,
And Worship, Penance, Alms, not to be stayed;
Nay, to be gladly done; for all those three
Are purifying waters for true souls!
Yet must be practised even those high works
In yielding up attachment, and all fruit
Produced by works. This is My judgment, Prince!
This My insuperable and fixed decree!
Abstaining from a work by right prescribed
Never is meet! So to abstain doth spring
From “Darkness,” and Delusion teacheth it.
Abstaining from a work grievous to flesh,
When one saith “‘Tis unpleasing!” this is null!
Such an one acts from “passion;” nought of gain
Wins his Renunciation! But, Arjun!
Abstaining from attachment to the work,
Abstaining from rewardment in the work,
While yet one doeth it full faithfully,
Saying, “‘Tis right to do!” that is “true” act
And abstinence! Who doeth duties so,
Unvexed if his work fail, if it succeed
Unflattered, in his own heart justified,
Quit of debates and doubts, his is “true” act:
For, being in the body, none may stand
Wholly aloof from act; yet, who abstains
From profit of his acts is abstinent.
The fruit of labours, in the fives to come,
Is threefold for all men, – Desirable,
And Undesirable, and mixed of both;
But no fruit is at all where no work was.
Hear from me, Long-armed Lord! the makings five
Which go to every act, in Sankhya taught
As necessary. First the force; and then
The agent; next, the various instruments;
Fourth, the especial effort; fifth, the God.
What work soever any mortal doth
Of body, mind, or speech, evil or good,
By these five doth he that. Which being thus,
Whoso, for lack of knowledge, seeth himself
As the sole actor, knoweth nought at all
And seeth nought. Therefore, I say, if one-
Holding aloof from self – with unstained mind
Should slay all yonder host, being bid to slay,
He doth not slay; he is not bound thereby!
Knowledge, the thing known, and the mind which knows,
These make the threefold starting-ground of act.
The act, the actor, and the instrument,
These make the threefold total of the deed.
But knowledge, agent, act, are differenced
By three dividing qualities. Hear now
Which be the qualities dividing them.
There is “true” Knowledge. Learn thou it is this:
To see one changeless Life in all the Lives,
And in the Separate, One Inseparable.
There is imperfect Knowledge: that which sees
The separate existences apart,
And, being separated, holds them real.
There is false Knowledge: that which blindly clings
To one as if ’twere all, seeking no Cause,
Deprived of light, narrow, and dull, and “dark.”
There is “right” Action: that which – being enjoined-
Is wrought without attachment, passionlessly,
For duty, not for love, nor hate, nor gain.
There is “vain” Action: that which men pursue
Aching to satisfy desires, impelled
By sense of self, with all-absorbing stress:
This is of Rajas – passionate and vain.
There is “dark” Action: when one doth a thing
Heedless of issues, heedless of the hurt
Or wrong for others, heedless if he harm
His own soul – ’tis of Tamas, black and bad!
There is the “rightful” doer. He who acts
Free from self-seeking, humble, resolute,
Steadfast, in good or evil hap the same,
Content to do aright – he “truly” acts.
There is th’ “impassioned” doer. He that works
From impulse, seeking profit, rude and bold
To overcome, unchastened; slave by turns
Of sorrow and of joy: of Rajas he!
And there be evil doers; loose of heart,
Low-minded, stubborn, fraudulent, remiss,
Dull, slow, despondent – children of the “dark.”
Hear, too, of Intellect and Steadfastness
The threefold separation, Conqueror-Prince!
How these are set apart by Qualities.
Good is the Intellect which comprehends
The coming forth and going back of life,
What must be done, and what must not be done,
What should be feared, and what should not be feared,
What binds and what emancipates the soul:
That is of Sattwan, Prince! of “soothfastness.”
Marred is the Intellect which, knowing right
And knowing wrong, and what is well to do
And what must not be done, yet understands
Nought with firm mind, nor as the calm truth is:
This is of Rajas, Prince! and “passionate!”
Evil is Intellect which, wrapped in gloom,
Looks upon wrong as right, and sees all things
Contrariwise of Truth. O Pritha’s Son!
That is of Tamas, “dark” and desperate!
Good is the steadfastness whereby a man
Masters his beats of heart, his very breath
Of life, the action of his senses; fixed
In never-shaken faith and piety:
That is of Sattwan, Prince! “soothfast” and fair!
Stained is the steadfastness whereby a man
Holds to his duty, purpose, effort, end,
For life’s sake, and the love of goods to gain,
Arjuna! ’tis of Raias, passion-stamped!
Sad is the steadfastness wherewith the fool
Cleaves to his sloth, his sorrow, and his fears,
His folly and despair. This – Pritha’s Son!-
Is born of Tamas, “dark” and miserable!
Hear further, Chief of Bharatas! from Me
The threefold kinds of Pleasure which there be.
Good Pleasure is the pleasure that endures,
Banishing pain for aye; bitter at first
As poison to the soul, but afterward
Sweet as the taste of Amrit. Drink of that!
It springeth in the Spirit’s deep content.
And painful Pleasure springeth from the bond
Between the senses and the sense-world. Sweet
As Amrit is its first taste, but its last
Bitter as poison. ‘Tis of Rajas, Prince!
And foul and “dark” the Pleasure is which springs
From sloth and sin and foolishness; at first
And at the last, and all the way of life
The soul bewildering. ‘Tis of Tamas, Prince!
For nothing lives on earth, nor ‘midst the gods
In utmost heaven, but hath its being bound
With these three Qualities, by Nature framed.
The work of Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas,
And Sudras, O thou Slayer of thy Foes!
Is fixed by reason of the Qualities
Planted in each:
A Brahman’s virtues, Prince
Born of his nature, are serenity,
Self-mastery, religion, purity,
Patience, uprightness, learning, and to know
The truth of things which be. A Kshatriya’s pride,
Born of his nature, lives in valour, fire,
Constancy, skilfulness, spirit in fight,
And open-handedness and noble mien,
As of a lord of men. A Vaisya’s task,
Born with his nature, is to till the ground,
Tend cattle, venture trade. A Sudra’s state,
Suiting his nature, is to minister.
Whoso performeth – diligent, content-
The work allotted him, whate’er it be,
Lays hold of perfectness! Hear how a man
Findeth perfection, being so content:
He findeth it through worship – wrought by work-
Of HIM that is the Source of all which lives,
Of HIM by Whom the universe was stretched.
Better thine own work is, though done with fault,
Than doing others’ work, ev’n excellently.
He shall not fall in sin who fronts the task
Set him by Nature’s hand! Let no man leave
His natural duty, Prince! though it bear blame!
For every work hath blame, as every flame
Is wrapped in smoke! Only that man attains
Perfect surcease of work whose work was wrought
With mind unfettered, soul wholly subdued,
Desires for ever dead, results renounced.
Learn from me, Son of Kunti! also this,
How one, attaining perfect peace, attains
BRAHM, the supreme, the highest height of all!
Devoted – with a heart grown pure, restrained
In lordly self-control, forgoing wiles
Of song and senses, freed from love and hate,
Dwelling ‘mid solitudes, in diet spare,
With body, speech, and will tamed to obey,
Ever to holy meditation vowed,
From passions liberate, quit of the Self,
Of arrogance, impatience, anger, pride;
Freed from surroundings, quiet, lacking nought-
Such an one grows to oneness with the BRAHM;
Such an one, growing one with BRAHM, serene,
Sorrows no more, desires no more; his soul,
Equally loving all that lives, loves well
Me, Who have made them, and attains to Me.
By this same love and worship doth he know
Me as I am, how high and wonderful,
And knowing, straightway enters into Me.
And whatsoever deeds he doeth – fixed
In Me, as in his refuge – he hath won
For ever and for ever by My grace
Th’ Eternal Rest! So win thou! In thy thoughts
Do all thou dost for Me! Renounce for Me!
Sacrifice heart and mind and will to Me!
Live in the faith of Me! In faith of Me
All dangers thou shalt vanquish, by My grace;
But, trusting to thyself and heeding not,
Thou can’st but perish! If this day thou say’st,
Relying on thyself, “I will not fight!”
Vain will the purpose prove! thy qualities
Would spur thee to the war. What thou dost shun,
Misled by fair illusions, thou wouldst seek
Against thy will, when the task comes to thee
Waking the promptings in thy nature set.
There lives a Master in the hearts of men
Maketh their deeds, by subtle pulling-strings,
Dance to what tune HE will. With all thy soul
Trust Him, and take Him for thy succour, Prince!
So – only so, Arjuna! – shalt thou gain-
By grace of Him – the uttermost repose,
The Eternal Place!
Thus hath been opened thee
This Truth of Truths, the Mystery more hid
Than any secret mystery. Meditate!
And – as thou wilt – then act!
Nay! but once more
Take My last word, My utmost meaning have!
Precious thou art to Me; right well-beloved!
Listen! tell thee for thy comfort this.
Give Me thy heart! adore Me! serve Me! cling
In faith and love and reverence to Me!
So shalt thou come to Me! I promise true,
For thou art sweet to Me!
And let go those-
Rites and writ duties! Fly to Me alone!
Make Me thy single refuge! will free
Thy soul from all its sins! Be of good cheer!
[Hide, the holy Krishna saith,
This from him that hath no faith,
Him that worships not, nor seeks
Wisdom's teaching when she speaks:
Hide it from all men who mock;
But, wherever, 'mid the flock
Of My lovers, one shall teach
This divinest, wisest, speech-
Teaching in the faith to bring
Truth to them, and offering
Of all honour unto Me-
Unto Brahma cometh he!
Nay, and nowhere shall ye find
Any man of all mankind
Doing dearer deed for Me;
Nor shall any dearer be
In My earth. Yea, furthermore,
Whoso reads this converse o'er,
Held by Us upon the plain,
Pondering piously and fain,
He hath paid Me sacrifice!
(Krishna speaketh in this wise!)
Yea, and whoso, full of faith,
Heareth wisely what it saith,
Heareth meekly, – when he dies,
Surely shall his spirit rise
To those regions where the Blest,
Free of flesh, in joyance rest.]
Hath this been heard by thee, O Indian Prince!
With mind intent? hath all the ignorance-
Which bred thy trouble – vanished, My Arjun?
Arjuna: Trouble and ignorance are gone! the Light
Hath come unto me, by Thy favour, Lord!
Now am I fixed! my doubt is fled away!
According to Thy word, so will I do!
Sanjaya: Thus gathered I the gracious speech of Krishna, O my
Thus have I told, with heart a-thrill, this wise and wondrous thing
By great Vyasa’s learning writ, how Krishna’s self made known
The Yoga, being Yoga’s Lord. So is the high truth shown!
And aye, when I remember, O Lord my King, again
Arjuna and the God in talk, and all this holy strain,
Great is my gladness: when I muse that splendour, passing speech,
Of Hari, visible and plain, there is no tongue to reach
My marvel and my love and bliss. O Archer-Prince! all hail!
O Krishna, Lord of Yoga! surely there shall not fail
Blessing, and victory, and power, for Thy most mighty sake,
Where this song comes of Arjun, and how with God he spake.
Here Ends The Bhagavad Gita
Recension By William Quan Judge
Recension By William Quan Judge
The Bhagavad-Gita is an episode of the Mahabharata, which is said to have been written by Vyasa. Who this Vyasa is and when he lived is not known.
J. Cockburn Thomson, in his translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, says:
“The Mahabharata, as all students of Sanskrit well know, is the great epic of India, which, from its popularity and extent, would seem to correspond with the Iliad among the Greeks. The theme of the whole work is a certain war which was carried on between two branches of one tribe, the descendants of Kuru, for the sovereignty of Hastinapura, commonly supposed to be the same as the modern Delhi. The elder branch is called by the general name of the whole tribe, Kurus; the younger goes by the patronymic from Pandu, the father of its five principal leaders.
“This war between the Kurus and Pandavas occupies about twenty thousand slokas, or a quarter of the whole work, as we now possess it. . . . In order to understand the allusions there made [in the Bhagavad-Gita], a knowledge is requisite of the preceding history of the tribe, which will now be given as follows.
“Of the name Kuru we know but little, but that little is sufficient to prove that it is one of great importance. We have no means of deriving it from any Sanskrit root, nor has it, like too many of the old Indian names, the appearance of being explanatory of the peculiarities of the person or persons whom it designates. It is, therefore, in all probability, a name of considerable antiquity, brought by the Aryan race from their first seat in Central Asia. Its use in Sanskrit is fourfold. It is the name of the northern quarter, or Dwipa, of the world, and is described as lying between the most northern range of snowy mountains and the polar sea. It is, further, the name of the most northern of the nine Varshas of the known world. Among the long genealogies of the tribe itself, it is found as the name of an ancient king, to whom the foundation of the tribe is attributed. Lastly, it designates an Aryan tribe of sufficient importance to disturb the whole of northern India with its factions, and to make its battles the theme of the longest epic of olden time.
“Viewing these facts together, we should be inclined to draw the conclusion that the name was originally that of a race inhabiting Central Asia beyond the Himalaya, who emigrated with other races into the northwest of the Peninsula, and with them formed the great people who styled themselves unitedly Arya, or the Noble, to distinguish them from the aborigines whom they subdued, and on whose territories they eventually settled. . . .
“At the time when the plot of the Mahabharata was enacted, this tribe was situated in the plain of the Doab, and their particular region, lying between the junma and Sursooty rivers, was called Kurukshetra, or the plain of the Kurus. The capital of this country was Hastinapura, and here reigned, at a period of which we cannot give the exact date, a king named Vichitravirya. He was the son of Santanu and Satyavati; and Bhishma and Krishna Dwaipayana, the Vyasa, were his half-brothers; the former being his father’s, the latter his mother’s son. He married two sisters — Amba and Ambalika — but dying shortly after his marriage . . . he left no progeny; and his half-brother, the Vyasa, instigated by divine command, married his widows and begot two sons, Dhritarashtra and Pandu. The former had one hundred sons, the eldest of whom was Duryodhana. The latter married firstly Pritha, or Kunti, the daughter of Sura, and secondly Madri. The children of these wives were the five Pandava princes; but as their mortal father had been cursed by a deer while hunting to be childless all his life, these children were mystically begotten by different deities. Thus Yudhishthira, Bhima, and Arjuna, were the sons of Pritha by Dharnma, Vayu, and Indra, respectively. Nakula was the son of Madri by Nasatya the elder, and Sahadeva, by Dasra the younger of the twin Asvinau, the physicians of the gods. This story would seem to be a fiction, invented to give a divine origin to the five heroes of the poem: but, however this may be, Duryodhana and his brothers are the leaders of the Kuru, or elder branch of the tribe; and the five Pandava princes those of the Pandava or younger branch.
“Dhritarashtra was blind, but although thus incapacitated for governing, he retained the throne, while his son Duryodhana really directed the affairs of the State. . . . he prevailed on his father to banish his cousins, the Pandava princes, from the country. After long wanderings and varied hardships, these princes collected their friends around them, formed by the help of many neighboring kings a vast army, and prepared to attack their unjust oppressor, who had, in like manner, assembled his forces.
“The hostile armies meet on the plain of the Kurus. Bhishma, the half-brother of Vichitravirya, being the oldest warrior among them, has the command of the Kuru faction; Bhima, the second son of Pandu, noted for his strength and prowess, is the general of the other party [Arjuna's]. The scene of our poem now opens, and remains throughout the same — the field of battle. In order to introduce to the reader the names of the principal chieftains in each army, Duryodhana is made to approach Drona, his military preceptor, and name them one by one. The challenge is then suddenly given by Bhishma, the Kuru general, by blowing his conch; and he is seconded by all his followers. It is returned by Arjuna, who is in the same chariot with the god Krishna, who, in compassion for the persecution he suffered, had become his intimate friend, and was now acting the part of a charioteer to him. He is followed by all the generals of the Pandavas. The fight then begins with a volley of arrows from both sides; but when Arjuna perceives it, he begs Krishna to draw up the chariot in the space between the two armies, while he examines the lines of the enemy. The god does so, and points out in those lines the numerous relatives of his friend. Arjuna is horror-struck at the idea of committing fratricide by slaying his near relations, and throws down his bow and arrow, declaring that he would rather be killed without defending himself, than fight against them. Krishna replies with the arguments which form the didactic and philosophical doctrines of the work, and endeavors to persuade him that he is mistaken in forming such a resolution. Arjuna is eventually overruled. The fight goes on, and the Pandavas defeat their opponents. . . .”
This quotation from Thomson’s edition gives the student a brief statement of what is more or less mythological and allegorical, but if the story of the Mahabharata be taken as that of Man in his evolutionary development, as I think it ought to be, the whole can be raised from the plane of fable, and the student will then have before him an account, to some extent, of that evolution.
Thus looking at it from the theosophical point of view, the king Dhritarashtra is the human body which is acquired by the immortal monad in order to go through the evolutionary journey; the mortal envelope is brought into existence by means of Tanha, or thirst for life. He is blind because the body without the faculties within is merely senseless matter, and thus is “incapacitated for governing,” and some other person is represented in the Mahabharata as being the governor of the state, the nominal king being the body — Dhritarashtra. As the theosophical scheme holds that there is a double line of evolution within us, we find that the Kurus spoken of in the poem represent the more material side of those two lines, and the Pandava princes, of whom Arjuna is one, stand for the spiritual side of the stream — that is, Arjuna represents the immortal Spark.
The learned Brahmin theosophist, Subba Row, says in his Notes on the Bhagavad-Gita:
Krishna was intended to represent the Logos, . . . and Arjuna, who was called Nara, was intended to represent the human monad. — The Theosophist, VIII, 299
Nara also means Man. The alleged celestial origin for the two branches of the family, the Kurus and Pandavas, is in perfect consonance with this, for the body, or Dhritarashtra, being solely material and the lower plane in which the development takes place, the Kurus and Pandavas are our inheritance from the celestial beings often referred to in Mme. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine, the one tending towards materiality, the other being spiritual. The Kurus, then, the lower portion of our nature earliest developed, obtain the power on this plane for the time being, and one of them, Duryodhana, “prevails,” so that the Pandavas, or the more spiritual parts of our nature, are banished temporarily from the country, that is, from governing Man. “The long wanderings and varied hardships” of the Pandavas are wanderings caused by the necessities of evolution before these better parts are able to make a stand for the purpose of gaining the control in man’s evolutionary struggle. This also has reference to the cyclic rise and fall of nations and the race.
The hostile armies, then, who meet on the plain of the Kurus are these two collections of the human faculties and powers, those on one side tending to drag us down, those on the other aspiring towards spiritual illumination. The battle refers not only to the great warfare that mankind as a whole carries on, but also to the struggle which is inevitable as soon as any one unit in the human family resolves to allow his higher nature to govern him in his life. Hence, bearing in mind the suggestion made by Subba Row, we see that Arjuna, called Nara, represents not only Man as a race, but also any individual who resolves upon the task of developing his better nature. What is described as happening in the poem to him will come to every such individual. Opposition from friends and from all the habits he has acquired, and also that which naturally arises from hereditary tendencies, will confront him, and then it will depend upon how he listens to Krishna, who is the Logos shining within and speaking within, whether he will succeed or fail.
With these suggestions the student will find that the mythology and allegory spoken of by Thomson and others are useful instead of being merely ornamental, or, as some think, superfluous and misleading.
The only cheap edition of the Bhagavad-Gita hitherto within the reach of theosophical students of limited means has been one which was published in Bombay by Brother Tookeram Tatya, F.T.S., whose efforts in that direction are entitled to the highest praise. But that one was simply a reprint of the first English translation made one hundred years ago by Wilkins. The great attention of late bestowed on the poem . . . in America has created an imperative demand for an edition which shall be at least free from some of the glaring typographical mistakes and blind renderings so frequent in the Wilkins reprint. To meet this demand the present has been made up. It is the result of a careful comparison of all the English editions and of a complete retranslation from the original wherever any obscurity or omission was evident in the various renderings consulted.
The making of a commentary has not been essayed, because it is believed that the Bhagavad-Gita should stand on its own merits without comments, each student being left to himself to see deeper as he advances. The publisher of this edition holds that the poem can be read in many different ways, each depending on the viewpoint taken, e.g., whether it is considered in its application to the individual, or to cosmogenesis, or to the evolution of the astral world, or the hierarchies in nature, or to the moral nature, and so on. To attach a commentary, except such an one as only a sage like Sankaracharya could write, would be audacious, and therefore the poem is given undisfigured.
The Bhagavad-Gita tends to impress upon the individual two things: first, selflessness, and second, action; the studying of and living by it will arouse the belief that there is but one Spirit and not several, that we cannot live for ourselves alone, but must come to realize that there is no such thing as separateness, and no possibility of escaping from the collective karma of the race to which one belongs, and then, that we must think and act in accordance with such belief.
The poem is held in the highest esteem by all sects in Hindustan except the Mohammedan and Christian. It has been translated into many languages, both Asiatic and European; it is being read today . . . in every part of the world. To those and to all others who truly love their fellowmen, and who aspire to learn and teach the science of devotion, this edition of the Bhagavad-Gita is offered.
WILLIAM Q. JUDGE
Chapter I: The Despondency Of Arjuna
Tell me, O Sanjaya, what the people of my own party and those of Pandu, who are assembled at Kurukshetra resolved upon war, have been doing. 1
King Duryodhana, having just beheld the army of the Pandus drawn up in battle array, went to his preceptor and spoke these words:
“Behold! O Master, the mighty army of the sons of Pandu drawn up by thy pupil, the clever son of Drupada. In it are warriors with great bows, equal to Bhima and Arjuna in battle, namely, Yuyudhana, and Virata, and Drupada on his great car; Dhrishtaketu, Chekitana, and the valiant king of Kasi, and Purujit, and Kuntibhoja, with Saibya, chief of men; Yudhamanyu the strong, and Uttamauja the brave; the son of Subhadra, and all the sons of Draupadi, too, in their huge chariots. Be acquainted also with the names of those of our party who are the most distinguished. I will mention a few of those who are amongst my generals, by way of example. There is thyself, my Preceptor, and Bhishma, Karna, and Kripa, the conqueror in battle, and Asvatthama, and Vikarna, and the son of Somadatta, with others in vast numbers, who for my service risk their life. They are all of them practiced in the use of arms, armed with divers weapons, and experienced in every mode of fight. This army of ours, which is commanded by Bhishma, is not sufficient, while their forces, led by Bhima, are sufficient. Let all the generals, according to their respective divisions, stand at their posts, and one and all resolve Bhishma to support.”
The ancient chief, brother of the grandsire of the Kurus, then, to raise the spirits of the Kuru chief, blew his shell, sounding like the lion’s roar; and instantly innumerable shells and other warlike instruments were sounded on all sides, so that the clangor was excessive. At this time Krishna and Arjuna, standing in a splendid chariot drawn by white horses, also sounded their shells, which were of celestial form: the name of the one which Krishna blew was Panchajanya, and that of Arjuna was called Devadatta — “the gift of the Gods.” Bhima, of terrific power, blew his capacious shell, Paundra; and Yudhishthira, the royal son of Kunti, sounded Ananta-Vijaya; Nakula and Sahadeva blew their shells also, the one called Sughosha, the other Manipushpaka. The prince of Kasi, of the mighty bow; Sikhandi, Dhrishtadyumna, Virata, Satyaki, of invincible arm; Drupada and the sons of his royal daughter; Krishna, with the son of Subhadra, and all the other chiefs and nobles, blew also their respective shells, so that their shrill-sounding voices pierced the hearts of the Kurus and re-echoed with a dreadful noise from heaven to earth.
Then Arjuna, whose crest was Hanuman, perceiving that the sons of Dhritarashtra stood ready to begin the fight, and that the flying of arrows had commenced, having raised his bow, addressed these words to Krishna:
“I pray thee, Krishna, cause my chariot to be placed between the two armies, that I may behold who are the men that stand ready, anxious to commence the battle; with whom it is I am to fight in this ready field; and who they are that are here assembled to support the evil-minded son of Dhritarashtra in the battle.”
Krishna being thus addressed by Arjuna, drove the chariot, and, having caused it to halt in the space between the two armies, bade Arjuna cast his eyes towards the ranks of the Kurus, and behold where stood the aged Bhishma, and Drona, with all the chief nobles of their party. Standing there Arjuna surveyed both the armies, and beheld, on either side, grandsires, uncles, cousins, tutors, sons, and brothers, near relations, or bosom friends; and when he had gazed for awhile and beheld all his kith and kin drawn up in battle array, he was moved by extreme pity, and, filled with despondency, he thus in sadness spoke:
“Now, O Krishna, that I have beheld my kindred thus standing anxious for the fight, my members fail me, my countenance withereth, the hair standeth on end upon my body, and all my frame trembleth with horror! Even Gandiva, my bow, slips from my hand, and my skin is parched and dried up. I am not able to stand; for my mind, as it were, whirleth round, and I behold on all sides adverse omens. When I shall have destroyed my kindred, shall I longer look for happiness? I wish not for victory, Krishna; I want not pleasure; for what are dominion and the enjoyments of life, or even life itself, when those for whom dominion, pleasure, and enjoyment were to be coveted have abandoned life and fortune, and stand here in the field ready for the battle? Tutors, sons and fathers, grandsires and grandsons, uncles and nephews, cousins, kindred, and friends! Although they would kill me, I wish not to fight them: no, not even for the dominion of the three regions of the universe, much less for this little earth! Having killed the sons of Dhritarashtra, what pleasure, O thou who art prayed to by mortals, can we enjoy? Should we destroy them, tyrants though they are, sin would take refuge with us. It therefore behooveth us not to kill such near relations as these. How, O Krishna, can we be happy hereafter, when we have been the murderers of our race? What if they, whose minds are depraved by the lust of power, see no sin in the extirpation of their race, no crime in the murder of their friends, is that a reason why we should not resolve to turn away from such a crime — we who abhor the sin of extirpating our own kindred? On the destruction of a tribe the ancient virtue of the tribe and family is lost; with the loss of virtue, vice and impiety overwhelm the whole of a race. From the influence of impiety the females of a family grow vicious; and from women that are become vicious are born the spurious caste called Varna-Sankara. Corruption of caste is a gate of hell, both for these destroyers of a tribe and for those who survive; and their forefathers, being deprived of the ceremonies of cakes and water offered to their manes, sink into the infernal regions. By the crimes of the destroyers of a tribe and by those who cause confusion of caste, the family virtue and the virtue of a whole tribe are forever done away with; and we have read in sacred writ, O Krishna, that a sojourn in hell awaits those mortals whose generation hath lost its virtue. Woe is me! What a great crime are we prepared to commit! Alas! that from the desire for sovereignty and pleasure we stand here ready to slay our own kin! I would rather patiently suffer that the sons of Dhritarashtra, with their weapons in their hands, should come upon me, and, unopposed, kill me unresisting in the field.”
When Arjuna had ceased to speak, he sat down in the chariot between the two armies; and, having put away his bow and arrows, his heart was overwhelmed with despondency.
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the First Chapter, by name –
THE DESPONDENCY OF ARJUNA.
1. The key for reading the Bhagavad-Gita is to be applied to this first verse. If we look at the poem in its application to a man aspiring to devotion, then the battlefield is the body acquired by Karma and Tanha, thirst for life, while the speaker and his party represent the lower self, and the Pandus the Higher Self. But if this and succeeding chapters are regarded from the cosmic standpoint, then the speaker, the plain of Kuru, the generals described in the first chapter, together with their instruments and weapons, are beings, forces, planes, and planets in the universe, of which it would be out of place to treat here. As applied to ourselves, the poem is of greater interest and importance: it opens with the battle inevitable between the higher and lower natures of man, and then, from this viewpoint, Krishna — who is the Higher Self — in order to encourage Arjuna, becomes his instructor in philosophy and right ethics, so that he may be fit to fight and conquer.
Chapter II: Devotion Through Application To The Speculative Doctrines
Krishna, beholding him thus influenced by compunction, his eyes overflowing with a flood of tears, and his heart oppressed with deep affliction, addressed him in the following words:
“Whence, O Arjuna, cometh upon thee this dejection in matters of difficulty, so unworthy of the honorable, and leading neither to heaven nor to glory? It is disgraceful, contrary to duty, and the foundation of dishonor. Yield not thus to unmanliness, for it ill-becometh one like thee. Abandon, O tormenter of thy foes, this despicable weakness of thy heart, and stand up.”
“How, O slayer of Madhu, shall I with my shafts contend in battle against such as Bhishma and Drona, who of all men are most worthy of my respect? For it were better to beg my bread about the world than be the murderer of my preceptors, to whom such awful reverence is due. Were I to destroy such friends as these, I should partake of possessions, wealth, and pleasures polluted with their blood. Nor can we tell whether it would be better that we should defeat them, or they us. For those drawn up, angrily confronting us — and after whose death, should they perish by my hand, I would not wish to live — are the sons and people of Dhritarashtra. As I am of a disposition which is affected by compassion and the fear of doing wrong, I ask thee which is it better to do. Tell me that distinctly! I am thy disciple; wherefore instruct in my duty me who am under thy tuition; for my understanding is confounded by the dictates of my duty, and I see nothing that may assuage the grief which drieth up my faculties, although I were to obtain a kingdom without a rival upon earth, or dominion over the hosts of heaven.”
Arjuna having thus spoken to Krishna, became silent, saying: “I shall not fight, O Govinda.” Krishna, tenderly smiling, addressed these words to the prince thus standing downcast between the two armies:
“Thou grievest for those that may not be lamented, whilst thy sentiments are those of the expounders of the letter of the law. Those who are wise in spiritual things grieve neither for the dead nor for the living. I myself never was not, nor thou, nor all the princes of the earth; nor shall we ever hereafter cease to be. As the lord of this mortal frame experienceth therein infancy, youth, and old age, so in future incarnations will it meet the same. One who is confirmed in this belief is not disturbed by anything that may come to pass. The senses, moving toward their appropriate objects, are producers of heat and cold, pleasure and pain, which come and go and are brief and changeable; these do thou endure, O son of Bharata! For the wise man, whom these disturb not and to whom pain and pleasure are the same, is fitted for immortality. There is no existence for that which does not exist, nor is there any non-existence for what exists. By those who see the truth and look into the principles of things, the ultimate characteristic of these both is seen. Learn that He by whom all things were formed is incorruptible, and that no one is able to effect the destruction of IT which is inexhaustible. These finite bodies, which envelop the souls inhabiting them, are said to belong to Him, the eternal, the indestructible, unprovable Spirit, who is in the body: wherefore, O Arjuna, resolve to fight. The man who believeth that it is this Spirit which killeth, and he who thinketh that it may be destroyed, are both alike deceived; for it neither killeth nor is it killed. It is not a thing of which a man may say, ‘It hath been, it is about to be, or is to be hereafter'; for it is without birth and meeteth not death; it is ancient, constant, and eternal, and is not slain when this its mortal frame is destroyed. How can the man who believeth that it is incorruptible, eternal, inexhaustible, and without birth, think that it can either kill or cause to be killed? As a man throweth away old garments and putteth on new, even so the dweller in the body, having quitted its old mortal frames, entereth into others which are new. The weapon divideth it not, the fire burneth it not, the water corrupteth it not, the wind drieth it not away; for it is indivisible, inconsumable, incorruptible, and is not to be dried away: it is eternal, universal, permanent, immovable; it is invisible, inconceivable, and unalterable; therefore, knowing it to be thus, thou shouldst not grieve. But whether thou believest it to be of eternal birth and duration, or that it dieth with the body, still thou hast no cause to lament it. Death is certain to all things which are born, and rebirth to all mortals; wherefore it doth not behoove thee to grieve about the inevitable. The antenatal state of beings is unknown; the middle state is evident; and their state after death is not to be discovered. What in this is there to lament? Some regard the indwelling spirit as a wonder, whilst some speak and others hear of it with astonishment; but no one realizes it, although he may have heard it described. This spirit can never be destroyed in the mortal frame which it inhabiteth, hence it is unworthy for thee to be troubled for all these mortals. Cast but thine eyes towards the duties of thy particular tribe, and it will ill become thee to tremble. A soldier of the Kshatriya 1 tribe hath no duty superior to lawful war, and just to thy wish the door of heaven is found open before thee, through this glorious unsought fight which only fortune’s favored soldiers may obtain. But if thou wilt not perform the duty of thy calling and fight out the field, thou wilt abandon thy natural duty and thy honor, and be guilty of a crime. Mankind will speak of thy ill fame as infinite, and for one who hath been respected in the world ill fame is worse than death. The generals of the armies will think that thy retirement from the field arose from fear, and even amongst those by whom thou wert wont to be thought great of soul thou shalt become despicable. Thine enemies will speak of thee in words which are unworthy to be spoken, depreciating thy courage and abilities; what can be more dreadful than this! If thou art slain thou shalt attain heaven; if victorious, the world shall be thy reward; wherefore, son of Kunti, arise with determination fixed for the battle. Make pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat, the same to thee, and then prepare for battle, for thus and thus alone shalt thou in action still be free from sin.
“Thus before thee has been set the opinion in accordance with the Sankhya doctrine, speculatively; now hear what it is in the practical, devotional one, by means of which, if fully imbued therewith, thou shalt forever burst the bonds of Karma and rise above them. In this system of Yoga no effort is wasted, nor are there any evil consequences, and even a little of this practice delivereth a man from great risk. In this path there is only one single object, and this of a steady, constant nature; but widely-branched is the faith and infinite are the objects of those who follow not this system.
“The unwise, delighting in the controversies of the Vedas, tainted with worldly lusts, and preferring a transient enjoyment of heaven to eternal absorption, whilst they declare there is no other reward, pronounce, for the attainment of worldly riches and enjoyments, flowery sentences which promise rewards in future births for present action, ordaining also many special ceremonies the fruit of which is merit leading to power and objects of enjoyment. But those who thus desire riches and enjoyment have no certainty of soul and least hold on meditation. The subject of the Vedas is the assemblage of the three qualities. Be thou free from these qualities, O Arjuna! Be free from the ‘pairs of opposites’ and constant in the quality of Sattva, free from worldly anxiety and the desire to preserve present possessions, self-centered and uncontrolled by objects of mind or sense. As many benefits as there are in a tank stretching free on all sides, so many are there for a truth-realizing Brahman in all the Vedic rites.
“Let, then, the motive for action be in the action itself, and not in the event. Do not be incited to actions by the hope of their reward, nor let thy life be spent in inaction. Firmly persisting, in Yoga, perform thy duty, O Dhananijaya 2, and laying aside all desire for any benefit to thyself from action, make the event equal to thee, whether it be success or failure. Equal-mindedness is called Yoga.
“Yet the performance of works is by far inferior to mental devotion, O despiser of wealth. Seek an asylum, then, in this mental devotion, which is knowledge; for the miserable and unhappy are those whose impulse to action is found in its reward. But he who by means of Yoga is mentally devoted dismisses alike successful and unsuccessful results, being beyond them; Yoga is skill in the performance of actions: therefore do thou aspire to this devotion. For those who are thus united to knowledge and devoted, who have renounced all reward for their actions, meet no rebirth in this life, and go to that eternal blissful abode which is free from all disease and untouched by troubles.
“When thy heart shall have worked through the snares of delusion, then thou wilt attain to high indifference as to those doctrines which are already taught or which arc yet to be taught. When thy mind once liberated from the Vedas shall be fixed immovably in contemplation, then shalt thou attain to devotion.”
“What, O Kesava 3, is the description of that wise and devoted man who is fixed in contemplation and confirmed in spiritual knowledge? What may such a sage declare? Where may he dwell? Does he move and act like other men?”
“A man is said to be confirmed in spiritual knowledge when he forsaketh every desire which entereth into his heart, and of himself is happy and content in the Self through the Self. His mind is undisturbed in adversity; he is happy and contented in prosperity, and he is a stranger to anxiety, fear, and anger. Such a man is called a Muni 4. When in every condition he receives each event, whether favorable or unfavorable,with an equal mind which neither likes nor dislikes, his wisdom is established, and, having met good or evil, neither rejoiceth at the one nor is cast down by the other. He is confirmed in spiritual knowledge, when, like the tortoise, he can draw in all his senses and restrain them from their wonted purposes. The hungry man loseth sight of every other object but the gratification of his appetite, and when he is become acquainted with the Supreme, he loseth all taste for objects of whatever kind. The tumultuous senses and organs hurry away by force the heart even of the wise man who striveth after perfection. Let a man, restraining all these, remain in devotion at rest in me, his true self; for he who hath his senses and organs in control possesses spiritual knowledge.
“He who attendeth to the inclinations of the senses, in them hath a concern; from this concern is created passion, from passion anger, from anger is produced delusion, from delusion a loss of the memory, from the loss of memory loss of discrimination, and from loss of discrimination loss of all! But he who, free from attachment or repulsion for objects, experienceth them through the senses and organs, with his heart obedient to his will, attains to tranquillity of thought. And this tranquil state attained, therefrom shall soon result a separation from all troubles; and his mind being thus at ease, fixed upon one object, it embraceth wisdom from all sides. The man whose heart and mind are not at rest is without wisdom or the power of contemplation; who doth not practice reflection, hath no calm; and how can a man without calm obtain happiness? The uncontrolled heart, following the dictates of the moving passions, snatcheth away his spiritual knowledge, as the storm the bark upon the raging ocean. Therefore, O great-armed one, he is possessed of spiritual knowledge whose senses are withheld from objects of sense. What is night to those who are unenlightened is as day to his gaze; what seems as day is known to him as night, the night of ignorance. Such is the self-governed Sage!
“The man whose desires enter his heart, as waters run into the unswelling passive ocean, which, though ever fall, yet does not quit its bed, obtaineth happiness; not he who lusteth in his lusts.
“The man who, having abandoned all desires, acts without covetousness, selfishness, or pride, deeming himself neither actor nor possessor, attains to rest. This, O son of Pritha, is dependence upon the Supreme Spirit, and he who possesseth it goeth no more astray; having obtained it, if therein established at the hour of death, he passeth on to Nirvana in the Supreme.”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Second Chapter, by name –
DEVOTION THROUGH APPLICATION TO THE SANKHYA DOCTRINE.
1. Kshatriya is the second or military caste of India.
2. Dhananijaya — despiser of wealth.
3. Kesava — he whose rays manifest themselves as omniscience — a name of Krishna.
4. Muni — a wise man.
Chapter III: Devotion Through The Right Performance Of Action
“If according to thy opinion, O giver of all that men ask, knowledge is superior to the practice of deeds, why then dost thou urge me to engage in an undertaking so dreadful as this? Thou, as it were with doubtful speech, confusest my reason; wherefore choose one method amongst them by which I may obtain happiness and explain it unto me.”
“It hath before been declared by me, O sinless one, that in this world there are two modes of devotion: that of those who follow the Sankhya, or speculative science, which is the exercise of reason in contemplation; and that of the followers of the Yoga school, which is devotion in the performance of action.
“A man enjoyeth not freedom from action from the non-commencement of that which he hath to do; nor doth he obtain happiness from a total abandonment of action. No one ever resteth a moment inactive. Every man is involuntarily urged to act by the qualities which spring from nature. He who remains inert, restraining the senses and organs, yet pondering with his heart upon objects of sense, is called a false pietist of bewildered soul. But he who having subdued all his passions performeth with his active faculties all the duties of life, unconcerned as to their result, is to be esteemed. Do thou perform the proper actions: action is superior to inaction. The journey of thy mortal frame cannot be accomplished by inaction. All actions performed other than as sacrifice unto God make the actor bound by action. Abandon, then, O son of Kunti, all selfish motives, and in action perform thy duty for him alone. When in ancient times the lord of creatures had formed mankind, and at the same time appointed his worship, he spoke and said: ‘With this worship, pray for increase, and let it be for you Kamadhuk, the cow of plenty, on which ye shall depend for the accomplishment of all your wishes. With this nourish the Gods, that the Gods may nourish you; thus mutually nourishing ye shall obtain the highest felicity. The Gods being nourished by worship with sacrifice, will grant you the enjoyment of your wishes. He who enjoyeth what hath been given unto him by them, and offereth not a portion unto them, is even as a thief. But those who eat not but what is left of the offerings shall be purified of all their transgressions. Those who dress their meat but for themselves eat the bread of sin, being themselves sin incarnate. Beings are nourished by food, food is produced by rain, rain comes from sacrifice, and sacrifice is performed by action. Know that action comes from the Supreme Spirit who is one; wherefore the all-pervading Spirit is at all times present in the sacrifice.
“He who, sinfully delighting in the gratification of his passions, doth not cause this wheel thus already set in motion to continue revolving, liveth in vain, O son of Pritha.
“But the man who only taketh delight in the Self within, is satisfied with that and content with that alone, hath no selfish interest in action. He hath no interest either in that which is done or that which is not done; and there is not, in all things which have been created, any object on which he may place dependence. Therefore perform thou that which thou hast to do, at all times unmindful of the event; for the man who doeth that which he hath to do, without attachment to the result, obtaineth the Supreme. Even by action Janaka and others attained perfection. Even if the good of mankind only is considered by thee, the performance of thy duty will be plain; for whatever is practiced by the most excellent men, that is also practiced by others. The world follows whatever example they set. There is nothing, O son of Pritha, in the three regions of the universe which it is necessary for me to perform, nor anything possible to obtain which I have not obtained; and yet I am constantly in action. If I were not indefatigable in action, all men would presently follow my example, O son of Pritha. If I did not perform actions these creatures would perish; I should be the cause of confusion of castes, and should have slain all these creatures. O son of Bharata, as the ignorant perform the duties of life from the hope of reward, so the wise man, from the wish to bring the world to duty and benefit mankind, should perform his actions without motives of interest. He should not create confusion in the understandings of the ignorant, who are inclined to outward works, but by being himself engaged in action should cause them to act also. All actions are effected by the qualities of nature. The man deluded by ignorance thinks, ‘I am the actor.’ But he, O strong-armed one! who is acquainted with the nature of the two distinctions of cause and effect, knowing that the qualities act only in the qualities, and that the Self is distinct from them, is not attached in action.
“Those who have not this knowledge are interested in the actions thus brought about by the qualities; and he who is perfectly enlightened should not unsettle those whose discrimination is weak and knowledge incomplete, nor cause them to relax from their duty.
“Throwing every deed on me, and with thy meditation fixed upon the Higher Self, resolve to fight, without expectation, devoid of egotism and free from anguish.
“Those men who constantly follow this my doctrine without reviling it, and with a firm faith, shall be emancipated even by actions; but they who revile it and do not follow it are bewildered in regard to all knowledge, and perish, being devoid of discrimination.
“But the wise man also seeketh for that which is homogeneous with his own nature. All creatures act according to their natures; what, then, will restraint effect? In every purpose of the senses are fixed affection and dislike. A wise man should not fall in the power of these two passions, for they are the enemies of man. It is better to do one’s own duty, even though it be devoid of excellence, than to perform another’s duty well. It is better to perish in the performance of one’s own duty; the duty of another is full of danger.”
“By what, O descendant of Vrishni, is man propelled to commit offenses; seemingly against his will and as if constrained by some secret force?”
“It is lust which instigates him. It is passion, sprung from the quality of rajas 1; insatiable, and full of sin. Know this to be the enemy of man on earth. As the flame is surrounded by smoke, and a mirror by rust 2, and as the womb envelops the foetus, so is the universe surrounded by this passion. By this — the constant enemy of the wise man, formed from desire which rageth like fire and is never to be appeased — is discriminative knowledge surrounded. Its empire is over the senses and organs, the thinking principle and the discriminating faculty also; by means of these it cloudeth discrimination and deludeth the Lord of the body. Therefore, O best of the descendants of Bharata, at the very outset restraining thy senses, thou shouldst conquer this sin which is the destroyer of knowledge and of spiritual discernment.
“The senses and organs are esteemed great, but the thinking self is greater than they. The discriminating principle 3 is greater than the thinking self, and that which is greater than the discriminating principle is He. 4 Thus knowing what is greater than the discriminating principle and strengthening the lower by the Higher Self, do thou of mighty arms slay this foe which is formed from desire and is difficult to seize.”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Third Chapter, by name –
DEVOTION THROUGH THE RIGHT PERFORMANCE OF ACTION.
1. Rajas is one of the three great qualities; the driving power of nature; active and bad.
2. The burnished metal mirrors are here referred to.
3. The discriminating principle is Buddhi.
4. “He,” the Supreme Spirit, the true Ego.
Chapter IV: Devotion Through Spiritual Knowledge
“This exhaustless doctrine of Yoga I formerly taught unto Vivasvat 1; Vivasvat communicated it to Manu 2 and Manu made it known unto Ikshvaku 3; and being thus transmitted from one unto another it was studied by the Rajarshis 4, until at length in the course of time the mighty art was lost, O harasser of thy foes! It is even the same exhaustless, secret, eternal doctrine I have this day communicated unto thee because thou art my devotee and my friend.”
“Seeing that thy birth is posterior to the life of Ikshvaku, how am I to understand that thou wert in the beginning the teacher of this doctrine?”
“Both I and thou have passed through many births, O harasser of thy foes! Mine are known unto me, but thou knowest not of thine.
“Even though myself unborn, of changeless essence, and the lord of all existence, yet in presiding over nature — which is mine — I am born but through my own maya 5, the mystic power of self-ideation, the eternal thought in the eternal mind. 6 I produce myself among creatures, O son of Bharata, whenever there is a decline of virtue and an insurrection of vice and injustice in the world; and thus I incarnate from age to age for the preservation of the just, the destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of righteousness. Whoever, O Arjuna, knoweth my divine birth and actions to be even so doth not upon quitting his mortal frame enter into another, for he entereth into me. Many who were free from craving, fear, and anger, filled with my spirit, and who depended upon me, having been purified by the ascetic fire of knowledge, have entered into my being. In whatever way men approach me, in that way do I assist them; but whatever the path taken by mankind, that path is mine, O son of Pritha. Those who wish for success to their works in this life sacrifice to the gods; and in this world success from their actions soon corneth to pass.
“Mankind was created by me of four castes distinct in their principles and in their duties according to the natural distribution of the actions and qualities. 7 Know me, then, although changeless and not acting, to be the author of this. Actions affect me not, nor have I any expectations from the fruits of actions. He who comprehendeth me to be thus is not held by the bonds of action to rebirth. The ancients who longed for eternal salvation, having discovered this, still performed works. Wherefore perform thou works even as they were performed by the ancients in former times.
“Even sages have been deluded as to what is action and what inaction; therefore I shall explain to thee what is action by a knowledge of which thou shalt be liberated from evil. One must learn well what is action to be performed, what is not to be, and what is inaction. The path of action is obscure. That man who sees inaction in action and action in inaction is wise among men; he is a true devotee and a perfect performer of all action.
“Those who have spiritual discrimination call him wise whose undertakings are all free from desire, for his actions are consumed in the fire of knowledge. He abandoneth the desire to see a reward for his actions, is free, contented, and upon nothing dependeth, and although engaged in action he really doeth nothing; he is not solicitous of results, with mind and body subdued and being above enjoyment from objects, doing with the body alone the acts of the body, he does not subject himself to rebirth. He is contented with whatever he receives fortuitously, is free from the influence of the ‘pairs of opposites’ and from envy, the same in success and failure; even though he act he is not bound by the bonds of action. All the actions of such a man who is free from self-interest, who is devoted, with heart set upon spiritual knowledge, and whose acts are sacrifices for the sake of the Supreme, are dissolved and left without effect on him. The Supreme Spirit is the act of offering, the Supreme Spirit is the sacrificial butter offered in the fire which is the Supreme Spirit, and unto the Supreme Spirit goeth he who maketh the Supreme Spirit the object of his meditation in performing his actions.
“Some devotees give sacrifice to the Gods, while others, lighting the subtler fire of the Supreme Spirit, offer up themselves; still others make sacrifice with the senses, beginning with hearing, in the fire of self-restraint, and some give up all sense-delighting sounds, and others again, illuminated by spiritual knowledge, sacrifice all the functions of the senses and vitality in the fire of devotion through self-constraint. There are also those who perform sacrifice by wealth given in alms, by mortification, by devotion, and by silent study. Some sacrifice the up-breathing in the down-breathing and the down-breathing in the up-breathing by blocking up the channels of inspiration and expiration; and others by stopping the movements of both the life breaths; still others by abstaining from food sacrifice life in their life.
“All these different kinds of worshipers are by their sacrifices purified from their sins; but they who partake of the perfection of spiritual knowledge arising from such sacrifices pass into the eternal Supreme Spirit. But for him who maketh no sacrifices there is no part nor lot in this world; how then shall he share in the other, O best of the Kurus?
“All these sacrifices of so many kinds are displayed in the sight of God; know that they all spring from action, and, comprehending this, thou shalt obtain an eternal release. O harasser of thy foes, the sacrifice through spiritual knowledge is superior to sacrifice made with material things; every action without exception is comprehended in spiritual knowledge, O son of Pritha. Seek this wisdom by doing service, by strong search, by questions, and by humility; the wise who see the truth will communicate it unto thee, and knowing which thou shalt never again fall into error, O son of Bharata. By this knowledge thou shalt see all things and creatures whatsoever in thyself and then in me. Even if thou wert the greatest of all sinners, thou shalt be able to cross over all sins in the bark of spiritual knowledge. As the natural fire, O Arjuna, reduceth fuel to ashes, so does the fire of knowledge reduce all actions to ashes. There is no purifier in this world to be compared to spiritual knowledge; and he who is perfected in devotion findeth spiritual knowledge springing up spontaneously in himself in the progress of time. The man who restraineth the senses and organs and hath faith obtaineth spiritual knowledge, and having obtained it he soon reacheth supreme tranquillity; but the ignorant, those full of doubt and without faith, are lost. The man of doubtful mind hath no happiness either in this world or in the next or in any other. No actions bind that man who through spiritual discrimination hath renounced action and cut asunder all doubt by knowledge, O despiser of wealth. Wherefore, O son of Bharata, having cut asunder with the sword of spiritual knowledge this doubt which existeth in thy heart, engage in the performance of action. Arise!”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Fourth Chapter, by name –
DEVOTION THROUGH SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.
1. Vivasvat, the sun, first manifestation of divine wisdom at the beginning of evolution.
2. Manu, generic title for the reigning spirit of the sensuous universe; the present one being Vaivasvata Manu.
3. Ikshvaku, the founder of the Indian solar dynasty.
4. Rajarshis, Royal Sages.
5. Maya, Illusion.
6. See also the Varaha Upanishadof Krishna Yajurveda, viz: “The whole of the universe is evolved through Sankalpa [thought or ideation] alone; it is only through Sankalpa that the universe retains its appearance.”
7. This refers to the four great castes of India: the Brahmin, the soldier, the merchant, and the servant. Such division is plainly evident in every country, even when not named as such.
Chapter V: Devotion By Means Of Renunciation Of Action
“At one time, O Krishna, thou praisest the renunciation of action, and yet again its right performance. Tell me with certainty which of the two is better.”
“Renunciation of action and devotion through action are both means of final emancipation, but of these two devotion through action is better than renunciation. He is considered to be an ascetic 1 who seeks nothing and nothing rejects, being free from the influence of the ‘pairs of opposites,’ 2 O thou of mighty arms; without trouble he is released from the bonds forged by action. Children only and not the wise speak of renunciation of action 3 and of right performance of action 4 as being different. He who perfectly practices the one receives the fruits of both, and the place 5 which is gained by the renouncer of action is also attained by him who is devoted in action. That man seeth with clear sight who seeth that the Sankhya and the Yoga doctrines are identical. But to attain to true renunciation of action without devotion through action is difficult, O thou of mighty arms; while the devotee who is engaged in the right practice of his duties approacheth the Supreme Spirit in no long time. The man of purified heart, having his body fully controlled, his senses restrained, and for whom the only self is the Self of all creatures, is not tainted although performing actions. The devotee who knows the divine truth thinketh ‘I am doing nothing’ in seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving, sleeping, breathing; even when speaking, letting go or taking, opening or closing his eyes, he sayeth, ‘the senses and organs move by natural impulse to their appropriate objects.’ Whoever in acting dedicates his actions to the Supreme Spirit and puts aside all selfish interest in their result is untouched by sin, even as the leaf of the lotus is unaffected by the waters. The truly devoted, for the purification of the heart, perform actions with their bodies, their minds, their understanding, and their senses, putting away all self-interest. The man who is devoted and not attached to the fruit of his actions obtains tranquillity; whilst he who through desire has attachment for the fruit of action is bound down thereby. 6 The self-restrained sage having with his heart renounced all actions, dwells at rest in the ‘nine gate city of his abode,’ 7 neither acting nor causing to act. 8
“The Lord of the world creates neither the faculty of acting, nor actions, nor the connection between action and its fruits; but nature prevaileth in these. The Lord receives no man’s deeds, be they sinful or full of merit. 9 The truth is obscured by that which is not true, and therefore all creatures are led astray. But in those for whom knowledge of the true Self has dispersed ignorance, the Supreme, as if lighted by the sun, is revealed. Those whose souls are in the Spirit, whose asylum is in it, who are intent on it and purified by knowledge from all sins, go to that place from which there is no return.
“The illuminated sage regards with equal mind an illuminated, selfless Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and even an outcaste who eats the flesh of dogs. Those who thus preserve an equal mind gain heaven even in this life, for the Supreme is free from sin and equal-minded; therefore they rest in the Supreme Spirit. The man who knoweth the Supreme Spirit, who is not deluded, and who is fixed on him, doth not rejoice at obtaining what is pleasant, nor grieve when meeting what is unpleasant. He whose heart is not attached to objects of sense finds pleasure within himself, and, through devotion, united with the Supreme, enjoys imperishable bliss. For those enjoyments which arise through the contact of the senses with external objects are wombs of pain, since they have a beginning and an end; O son of Kunti, the wise man delighteth not in these. He who, while living in this world and before the liberation of the soul from the body, can resist the impulse arising from desire and anger is a devotee and blessed. The man who is happy within himself, who is illuminated within, is a devotee, and partaking of the nature of the Supreme Spirit, he is merged in it. Such illuminated sages whose sins are exhausted, who are free from delusion, who have their senses and organs under control, and devoted to the good of all creatures, obtain assimilation with the Supreme Spirit. 10 Assimilation with the Supreme Spirit is on both sides of death for those who are free from desire and anger, temperate, of thoughts restrained; and who are acquainted with the true Self.
“The anchorite who shutteth his placid soul away from all sense of touch, with gaze fixed between his brows; who maketh the breath to pass through both his nostrils with evenness alike in inspiration and expiration, whose senses and organs together with his heart and understanding are under control, and who hath set his heart upon liberation and is ever free from desire and anger, is emancipated from birth and death even in this life. Knowing that I, the great Lord of all worlds, am the enjoyer of all sacrifices and penances and the friend of all creatures, he shall obtain me and be blessed.”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Fifth Chapter, by name —
DEVOTION BY MEANS OF RENUNCIATION OF ACTION.
1. That is, one who has really renounced.
2. That is, cold and heat, pleasure and pain, misery and happiness, etc.
3. Sankhya school.
4. Yoga school.
5. Nirvana, or emancipation.
6. This refers not only to the effect on the man now, in life, but also to the “binding to rebirth” which such action causes.
7. That is, the body as having nine openings through which impressions are received, viz: eyes, ears, mouth, nose, etc.
8. The Sage who has united himself to true consciousness remains in the body for the benefit of mankind.
9. In order to understand this clearly it is necessary to remember that in the Vedic philosophy it is held that all actions, whether they be good or bad, are brought about by the three great qualities — sattva, rajas, tamas— inherent in all throughout evolution. This is set forth at length in the 17th Chapter, and in Chapter 14 the manner in which those qualities show themselves is fully given.
10. That is, direct knowledge of Self.
Chapter VI: Devotion By Means Of Self-Restraint
“He who, unattached to the fruit of his actions, performeth such actions as should be done is both a renouncer 1 of action and a devotee 2 of right action; not he who liveth without kindling the sacrificial fire and without ceremonies. 3 Know, O son of Pandu, that what they call Sannyasa or a forsaking of action is the same as Yoga or the practice of devotion. No one without having previously renounced all intentions can be devoted. Action is said to be the means by which the wise man who is desirous of mounting to meditation may reach thereto; so cessation from action is said to be the means for him who hath reached to meditation. When he hath renounced all intentions and is devoid of attachment to action in regard to objects of sense, then he is called one who hath ascended to meditation. He should raise the self by the Self; let him not suffer the Self to be lowered; for Self is the friend of self, and, in like manner, self is its own enemy. 4 Self is the friend of the man who is self-conquered; so self like a foe hath enmity to him who is not self-conquered. The Self of the man who is self-subdued and free from desire and anger is intent on the Supreme Self in heat and cold, in pain and pleasure, in honor and ignominy. The man who hath spiritual knowledge and discernment, who standeth upon the pinnacle, and hath subdued the senses, to whom gold and stone are the same, is said to be devoted. And he is esteemed among all who, whether amongst his friends and companions, in the midst of enemies or those who stand aloof or remain neutral, with those who love and those who hate, and in the company of sinners or the righteous, is of equal mind.
“He who has attained to meditation should constantly strive to stay at rest in the Supreme, remaining in solitude and seclusion, having his body and his thoughts under control, without possessions and free from hope. He should in an undefiled spot place his seat, firm, neither too high nor too low, and made of kusa grass which is covered with a skin and a cloth. 5 There, for the self’s purification he should practice meditation with his mind fixed on one point, the modifications of the thinking principle controlled and the action of the senses and organs restrained. Keeping his body, head, and neck firm and erect, with mind determined, and gaze directed to the tip of his nose without looking in any direction, with heart at peace and free from fear, the Yogi should remain, settled in the vow of a Brahmachari, his thoughts controlled, and heart fixed on me. The devotee of controlled mind who thus always bringeth his heart to rest in the Supreme reacheth that tranquillity, the supreme assimilation with me.
“This divine discipline, Arjuna, is not to be attained by the man who eateth more than enough or too little, nor by him who hath a habit of sleeping much, nor by him who is given to over watching. The meditation which destroyeth pain is produced in him who is moderate in eating and in recreation, of moderate exertion in his actions, and regulated in sleeping and waking. When the man, so living, centers his heart in the true Self and is exempt from attachment to all desires, he is said to have attained to yoga. Of the sage of self-centered heart, at rest and free from attachment to desires, the simile is recorded, ‘as a lamp which is sheltered from the wind flickereth not.’ When regulated by the practice of yoga and at rest, seeing the self by the self, he is contented; when he becometh acquainted with that boundless bliss which is not connected with objects of the senses, and being where he is not moved from the reality 6; having gained which he considereth no other superior to it, and in which, being fixed, he is not moved even by the greatest grief; know that this disconnection from union with pain is distinguished as yoga, spiritual union or devotion, which is to be striven after by a man with faith and steadfastly.
“When he hath abandoned every desire that ariseth from the imagination and subdued with the mind the senses and organs which impel to action in every direction, being possessed of patience, he by degrees finds rest; and, having fixed his mind at rest in the true Self, he should think of nothing else. To whatsoever object the inconstant mind goeth out he should subdue it, bring it back, and place it upon the Spirit. Supreme bliss surely cometh to the sage whose mind is thus at peace; whose passions and desires are thus subdued; who is thus in the true Self and free from sin. He who is thus devoted and free from sin obtaineth without hindrance the highest bliss — union with the Supreme Spirit. The man who is endued with this devotion and who seeth the unity of all things perceiveth the Supreme Soul in all things and all things in the Supreme Soul. He who seeth me in all things and all things in me looseneth not his hold on me and I forsake him not. And whosoever, believing in spiritual unity, worshipeth me who am in all things, dwelleth with me in whatsoever condition he may be. He, O Arjuna, who by the similitude found in himself seeth but one essence in all things, whether they be evil or good, is considered to be the most excellent devotee.”
“O slayer of Madhu 7, on account of the restlessness of the mind, I do not perceive any possibility of steady continuance in this yoga of equanimity which thou hast declared. For indeed, O Krishna, the mind is full of agitation, turbulent, strong, and obstinate. I believe the restraint of it to be as difficult as that of the wind.”
“Without doubt, O thou of mighty arms, the mind is restless and hard to restrain; but it may be restrained, O son of Kunti, by practice and absence of desire. Yet in my opinion this divine discipline called yoga is very difficult for one who hath not his soul in his own control; yet it may be acquired through proper means and by one who is assiduous and controlleth his heart.”
“What end, O Krishna, doth that man attain who, although having faith, hath not attained to perfection in his devotion because his unsubdued mind wandered from the discipline? Doth he, fallen from both 8, like a broken cloud without any support 9, become destroyed, O strong-armed one, being deluded in the path of the Supreme Spirit? Thou, Krishna, shouldst completely dispel this doubt for me, for there is none other to be found able to remove it.”
“Such a man, O son of Pritha, doth not perish here or hereafter. For never to an evil place goeth one who doeth good. The man whose devotion has been broken off by death goeth to the regions of the righteous 10, where he dwells for an immensity of years and is then born again on earth in a pure and fortunate family 11; or even in a family of those who are spiritually illuminated. But such a rebirth into this life as this last is more difficult to obtain. Being thus born again he comes in contact with the knowledge which belonged to him in his former body, and from that time he struggles more diligently towards perfection, O son of Kuru. For even unwittingly, by reason of that past practice, he is led and works on. Even if only a mere enquirer, he reaches beyond the word of the Vedas. But the devotee who, striving with all his might, obtaineth perfection because of efforts continued through many births, goeth to the supreme goal. The man of meditation as thus described is superior to the man of penance and to the man of learning and also to the man of action; wherefore, O Arjuna, resolve thou to become a man of meditation. But of all devotees he is considered by me as the most devoted who, with heart fixed on me, full of faith, worships me.”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Sixth Chapter, by name —
DEVOTION BY MEANS OF SELF-RESTRAINT.
1. A Sannyasi.
2. A Yogi.
3. Those ceremonies prescribed by the Brahmanical law.
4. In this play upon “self” the Higher and the lower self are meant, in that the lower is the enemy of the Higher through its resistance to true development; and the lower self is at the same time the enemy of its own best interests through its downward tendency.
5. These directions are for those hermits who have retired from the world. Many of the translators have variously construed the text; one reads that the devotee has “only skin and sheet to cover him and grass to lie upon”; another that “his goods are a cloth and deer-skin and kusa grass.” “Those who know” say that this is a description of a magnetically arranged seat and that kusa grass is laid on the ground, the skin on the grass, and the cloth on the skin. Philological discussion will never decide the point.
6. “Reality,” Nirvana, and also complete realization of the True and the disappearance of the illusion as to objects and separateness.
7. Madhu: a daitya or demon slain by Krishna, and representing the quality of passion in nature.
8. “From both” here means the good Karma resulting from good deeds and spiritual knowledge acquired through yoga, or heaven and emancipation.
9. “Without any support” refers to the support or sanction contained in the Brahmanical law in its promises to him who keeps it, for he who practices yoga is not abiding by the promises of the law, which are for those who obey that law and refrain from yoga.
10. That is, Devachan.
11. Madhusudana says this means in the family of a king or emperor.
Chapter VII: Devotion By Means Of Spiritual Discernment
“Hear, O son of Pritha, how with heart fixed on me, practicing meditation and taking me as thy refuge, thou shalt know me completely. I will instruct thee fully in this knowledge and in its realization, which, having learned, there remains nothing else to be known.
“Among thousands of mortals a single one perhaps strives for perfection, and among those so striving perhaps a single one knows me as I am. Earth, water, fire, air, and akasa, Manas, Buddhi, and Ahankara is the eightfold division of my nature. It is inferior; know that my superior nature is different and is the knower; by it the universe is sustained; learn that the whole of creation springs from this too as from a womb; I am the cause, I am the production and the dissolution of the whole universe. There is none superior to me, O conqueror of wealth, and all things hang on me as precious gems upon a string. I am the taste in water, O son of Kunti, the light in the sun and moon, the mystic syllable OM in all the Vedas, sound in space, the masculine essence in men, the sweet smell in the earth, and the brightness in the fire. In all creatures I am the life, and the power of concentration in those whose minds are on the spirit. Know me, O son of Pritha, as the eternal seed of all creatures. I am the wisdom 1 of the wise and the strength of the strong. And I am the power of the strong who in action are free from desire and longing; in all creatures I am desire regulated by moral fitness. Know also that the dispositions arising from the three qualities, sattva, rajas, and tamas, are from me; they are in me, but I am not in them. The whole world, being deluded by these dispositions which are born of the three qualities, knoweth not me distinct from them, supreme, imperishable. For this my divine illusive power, acting through the natural qualities, is difficult to surmount, and those only can surmount it who have recourse to me alone. The wicked among men, the deluded and the low-minded, deprived of spiritual perception by this illusion, and inclining toward demoniacal dispositions, do not have recourse to me.
“Four classes of men who work righteousness worship me, O Arjuna; those who are afflicted, the searchers for truth, those who desire possessions, and the wise, O son of Bharata. Of these the best is the one possessed of spiritual knowledge, who is always devoted to me. I am extremely dear to the wise man, and he is dear unto me. Excellent indeed are all these, but the spiritually wise is verily myself, because with heart at peace he is upon the road that leadeth to the highest path, which is even myself. After many births the spiritually wise findeth me as the Vasudeva who is all this, for such an one of great soul 2 is difficult to meet. Those who through diversity of desires are deprived of spiritual wisdom adopt particular rites subordinated to their own natures, and worship other Gods. In whatever form a devotee desires with faith to worship, it is I alone who inspire him with constancy therein, and depending on that faith he seeks the propitiation of that God, obtaining the object of his wishes as is ordained by me alone. But the reward of such short-sighted men is temporary. Those who worship the Gods go to the Gods, and those who worship me come unto me. The ignorant, being unacquainted with my supreme condition which is superior to all things and exempt from decay, believe me who am umnanifested to exist in a visible form. Enveloped by my magic illusion I am not visible to the world; therefore the world doth not recognize me the unborn and exhaustless. I know, O Arjuna, all creatures that have been, that are present, as well as all that shall hereafter be, but no one knows me. At the time of birth, O son of Bharata, all beings fall into error by reason of the delusion of the opposites which springs from liking and disliking, O harasser of thy foes. But those men of righteous lives whose sins have ceased, being free from this delusion of the ‘pairs of opposites,’ firmly settled in faith, worship me. They who depend on me, and labor for deliverance from birth and death know Brahman, the whole Adhyatma, and all Karma. Those who rest in me, knowing me to be the Adhibhuta, the Adhidaiva, and the Adhiyajna, know me also at the time of death.”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Seventh Chapter, by name —
DEVOTION BY MEANS OF SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT.
1. This means here the principle “Buddhi.”
2. In the original the word is “mahatma.”
Chapter VIII: Devotion To The Omnipresent Spirit Named As Om
“What is that Brahman, what is Adhyatma, and what, O best of men! is Karma? What also is Adhibhuta, and what Adhidaiva? Who too is Adhiyajna here, in this body, and how therein, O slayer of Madhu? Tell me also how men who are fixed in meditation are to know thee at the hour of death.”
“Brahman the Supreme is the exhaustless. Adhyatma is the name of my being manifesting as the Individual Self. Karma is the emanation which causes the existence and reproduction of creatures. 1 Adhibhuta is the Supreme Spirit dwelling in all elemental nature through the mysterious power of nature’s illusion. Adhidaiva is the Purusha, the Spiritual Person, and Adhiyajna is myself in this body, O best of embodied men. Whoever at the hour of death abandoneth the body, fixed in meditation upon me, without doubt goeth to me. Whoso in consequence of constant meditation on any particular form thinketh upon it when quitting his mortal shape, even to that doth he go, O son of Kuni. Therefore at all times meditate only on me and fight. Thy mind and Buddhi being placed on me alone, thou shalt without doubt come to me. The man whose heart abides in me alone, wandering to no other object, shall also by meditation on the Supreme Spirit go to it, O son of Pritha. Whosoever shall meditate upon the All-Wise which is without beginning, the Supreme Ruler, the smallest of the small, the Supporter of all, whose form is incomprehensible, bright as the sun beyond the darkness; with mind undeviating, united to devotion, and by the power of meditation concentrated at the hour of death, with his vital powers placed between the eyebrows, attains to that Supreme Divine Spirit.
“I will now make known to thee that path which the learned in the Vedas call indestructible, into which enter those who are free from attachments, and is followed by those desirous of leading the life of a Brahmachari 2 laboring for salvation. He who closeth all the doors of his senses, imprisoneth his mind in his heart, fixeth his vital powers in his head, standing firm in meditation, repeating the monosyllable OM, and thus continues when he is quitting the body, goeth to the supreme goal. He who, with heart undiverted to any other object, meditates constantly and through the whole of life on me shall surely attain to me, O son of Pritha. Those great-souled ones who have attained to supreme perfection come unto me and no more incur rebirths rapidly revolving, which are mansions of pain and sorrow.
“All worlds up to that of Brahman are subject to rebirth again and again, but they, O son of Kunti, who reach to me have no rebirth. Those who are acquainted with day and night 3 know that the day of Brahma is a thousand revolutions of the yugas and that his night extendeth for a thousand more. At the coming on of that day all things issue forth from the unmanifested into manifestation, so on the approach of that night they merge again into the unmanifested. This collection of existing things, having thus come forth, is dissolved at the approach of the night, O son of Pritha; and now again on the coming of the day it emanates spontaneously. But there is that which upon the dissolution of all things else is not destroyed; it is indivisible, indestructible, and of another nature from the visible. That called the unmanifested and exhaustless is called the supreme goal, which having once attained they never more return — it is my supreme abode. This Supreme, O son of Pritha, within whom all creatures are included and by whom all this is pervaded, may be attained by a devotion which is intent on him alone.
“I will now declare to thee, O best of the Bharatas, at what time yogis dying obtain freedom from or subjection to rebirth. Fire, light, day, the fortnight of the waxing moon, six months of the sun’s northern course — going then and knowing the Supreme Spirit, men go to the Supreme. But those who depart in smoke, at night, during the fortnight of the waning moon, and while the sun is in the path of his southern journey, proceed for a while to the regions of the moon and again return to mortal birth. These two, light and darkness, are the world’s eternal ways; by one a man goes not to return, by the other he cometh back again upon earth. No devotee, O son of Pritha, who knoweth these two paths is ever deluded; wherefore, O Arjuna, at all times be thou fixed in devotion. 4 The man of meditation who knoweth all this reaches beyond whatever rewards are promised in the Vedas or that result from sacrifices or austerities or from gifts of charity, and goeth to the supreme, the highest place.”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Eighth Chapter, by name —
DEVOTION TO THE OMNIPRESENT SPIRIT NAMED AS OM.
1. Karma here is, so to say, the action of the Supreme which is seen in manifestation throughout the evolution of the objective worlds.
2. Brahmacharya vow is a vow to live a life of religious study and asceticism — “following Brahma.”
3. This refers to those who have acquired knowledge of the ultimate divisions of time, a power which is ascribed to the perfect yogi in Patanijali’s Yoga Aphorisms.
4. The paragraph up to here is thought by some European Sanskritists to be an interpolation, but that view is not held by all, nor is it accepted by the Hindus.
Chapter IX: Devotion By Means Of The Kingly Knowledge And The Kingly Mystery
“Unto thee who findest no fault I will now make known this most mysterious knowledge, coupled with a realization of it, which having known thou shalt be delivered from evil. This is the royal knowledge, the royal mystery, the most excellent purifier, clearly comprehensible, not opposed to sacred law, easy to perform, and inexhaustible. Those who are unbelievers in this truth, O harasser of thy foes, find me not, but revolving in rebirth return to this world, the mansion of death.
“All this universe is pervaded by me in my invisible form; all things exist in me, but I do not exist in them. Nor are all things in me; behold this my divine mystery: myself causing things to exist and supporting them all but dwelling not in them. Understand that all things are in me even as the mighty air which passes everywhere is in space. O son of Kunti, at the end of a kalpa all things return unto my nature, and then again at the beginning of another kalpa I cause them to evolve again. Taking control of my own nature I emanate again and again this whole assemblage of beings, without their will, by the power of the material essence. 1 These acts do not bind me, O conqueror of wealth, because I am as one who sitteth indifferent, uninterested in those works. By reason of my supervision nature produceth the animate and inanimate universe; it is through this cause, O son of Kunti, that the universe revolveth.
“The deluded despise me in human form, being unacquainted with my real nature as Lord of all things. They are of vain hopes, deluded in action, in reason and in knowledge, inclining to demoniac and deceitful principles. 2 But those great of soul, partaking of the godlike nature, knowing me to be the imperishable principle of all things, worship me, diverted to nothing else. Fixed in unbroken vows they worship, everywhere proclaiming me and bowing down to me. Others with the sacrifice of knowledge in other ways worship me as indivisible, as separable, as the Spirit of the universe. I am the sacrifice and sacrificial rite; I am the libation offered to ancestors, and the spices; I am the sacred formula and the fire; I am the food and the sacrificial butter; I am the father and the mother of this universe, the grandsire and the preserver; I am the Holy One, the object of knowledge, the mystic purifying syllable OM, the Rik, the Sama, the Yajur, and all the Vedas. I am the goal, the Comforter, the Lord, the Witness, the resting-place, the asylum and the Friend; I am the origin and the dissolution, the receptacle, the storehouse, and the eternal seed. I cause light and heat and rain; I now draw in and now let forth; I am death and immortality; I am the cause unseen and the visible effect. Those enlightened in the three Vedas, offering sacrifices to me and obtaining sanctification from drinking the soma juice 3, petition me for heaven; thus they attain the region of Indra 4, the prince of celestial beings, and there feast upon celestial food and are gratified with heavenly enjoyments. And they, having enjoyed that spacious heaven for a period in proportion to their merits, sink back into this mortal world where they are born again as soon as their stock of merit is exhausted; thus those who long for the accomplishment of desires, following the Vedas, obtain a happiness which comes and goes. But for those who, thinking of me as identical with all, constantly worship me, I bear the burden of the responsibility of their happiness. And even those also who worship other gods with a firm faith in doing so, involuntarily worship me, too, O son of Kunti, albeit in ignorance. I am he who is the Lord of all sacrifices, and am also their enjoyer, but they do not understand me truly and therefore they fall from heaven. Those who devote themselves to the gods go to the gods; the worshipers of the pitris go to the pitris; those who worship the evil spirits 5 go to them, and my worshipers come to me. I accept and enjoy the offerings of the humble soul who in his worship with a pure heart offereth a leaf, a flower, or fruit, or water unto me. Whatever thou doest, O son of Kunti, whatever thou eatest, whatever thou sacrificest, whatever thou givest, whatever mortification thou performest, commit each unto me. Thus thou shalt be delivered from the good and evil experiences which are the bonds of action; and thy heart being joined to renunciation and to the practice of action, thou shalt come to me. I am the same to all creatures; I know not hatred nor favor; but those who serve me with love dwell in me and I in them. Even if the man of most evil ways worship me with exclusive devotion, he is to be considered as righteous, for he hath judged aright. Such a man soon becometh of a righteous soul and obtaineth perpetual happiness. I swear, O son of Kunti, that he who worships me never perisheth. Those even who may be of the womb of sin, women 6, vaisyas, and sudras, 7 shall tread the highest path if they take sanctuary with me. How much more, then, holy brahmans and devotees of kingly race! Having obtained this finite, joyless world, worship me. Serve me, fix heart and mind on me, be my servant, my adorer, prostrate thyself before me, and thus, united unto me, at rest, thou shalt go unto me.”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Ninth Chapter, by name —
DEVOTION BY MEANS OF THE KINGLY KNOWLEDGE AND THE KINGLY MYSTERY.
1. That is to say, by the power of “prakriti.”
2. This reads that “they are inclined to the nature of the asuras and rakshasas,” a class of evil elementals of beings, or, as some say, “of the nature of the very low constituents of nature.”
3. Among the Hindus the drinking of the soma at the end of a sacrifice is an act of great merit, with its analogy in the Christian faith in the drinking of the communion wine.
4. “The region of Indra” is the highest of the celestial spheres. It is the devachan of theosophical literature, for Indra is the prince of the celestial beings who abide in deva-sthan.
5. These evil spirits are the Bhutas, and are the same as the so-called spirits of the dead — the shells — worshiped or run after at spiritualistic seances.
6. This may seem strange to those who have been born in Christendom, and perhaps appear to be testimony to harsh views on the part of Hindu sages respecting women, but in the Bible the same thing is to be found and even worse, where in 1 Tim. 2, 11-15, it is declared that the woman shall be saved through her husband, and that she must be subservient.
7. Vaisyas and suidras are the two lower castes, or merchants and servitors.
Chapter X: Devotion By Means Of The Universal Divine Perfections
“Hear again, O thou of mighty arms, my supreme words, which unto thee who art well pleased I will declare because I am anxious for thy welfare.
“Neither the assemblage of the Gods nor the Adept Kings know my origin, because I am the origin of all the Gods and of the Adepts. Whosoever knoweth me to be the mighty Ruler of the universe and without birth or beginning, he among men, undeluded, shall be liberated from all his sins. Subtle perception, spiritual knowledge, right judgment, patience, truth, self-mastery; pleasure and pain, prosperity and adversity; birth and death, danger and security, fear and equanimity, satisfaction, restraint of body and mind, alms-giving, inoffensiveness, zeal and glory and ignominy, all these the various dispositions of creatures come from me. So in former days the seven great Sages and the four Manus who are of my nature were born of my mind, and from them sprang this world. He who knoweth perfectly this permanence and mystic faculty of mine becometh without doubt possessed of unshaken faith. I am the origin of all; all things proceed from me; believing me to be thus, the wise gifted with spiritual wisdom worship me; their very hearts and minds are in me; enlightening one another and constantly speaking of me, they are full of enjoyment and satisfaction. To them thus always devoted to me, who worship me with love, I give that mental devotion by which they come to me. For them do I out of my compassion, standing within their hearts, destroy the darkness which springs from ignorance by the brilliant lamp of spiritual discernment.”
“Thou art Parabrahman! 1 the supreme abode, the great Purification; thou art the Eternal Presence, the Divine Being, before all other Gods, holy, primeval, all-pervading, without beginning! Thus thou art declared by all the Sages — by Narada, Asita, Devala, Vyasa, and thou thyself now dost say the same. I firmly believe all that thou, O Kesava, sayest unto me; for neither Gods nor demons comprehend thy manifestations. Thou alone knowest thyself by thy Self, Supreme Spirit, Creator and Master of all that lives, God of Gods, and Lord of all the universe! Thou alone canst fully declare thy divine powers by which thou hast pervaded and continuest to pervade these worlds. How shall 1, constantly thinking of thee, be able to know thee, O mysterious Lord? In what particular forms shall I meditate on thee? O Janardana — besought by mortals — tell me therefore in full thine own powers and forms of manifestation, for I am never sated of drinking of the life-giving water of thy words.”
“O best of Kurus, blessings be upon thee. 2 I will make thee acquainted with the chief of my divine manifestations, for the extent of my nature is infinite.
“I am the Ego which is seated in the hearts of all beings; I am the beginning, the middle, and the end of all existing things. Among Adityas 3 I am Vishnu, and among luminous bodies I am the sun. I am Marichi among the Maruts 4, and among heavenly mansions I am the moon. Among the Vedas I am the Samaveda 5,and Indra 6 among the Gods; among the senses and organs I am the Manas 7, and of creatures the existence. I am Sankara among the Rudras; and Vittesa, the lord of wealth among the Yakshas 8 and Rakshasas. 9 I am Pavaka among the Vasus 10, and Meru 11 among high-aspiring mountains. And know, O son of Pritha, that I am Brihaspati 12, the chief of teachers; among leaders of celestial armies Skanda, and of floods I am the ocean. I am Bhrigu among the Adept Kings; of words I am the monosyllable OM; of forms of worship, the silent repetition of sacred texts, and of immovable things I am the Himalaya. Of all the trees of the forest I am Asvattha the Pippala tree; and of the celestial Sages, Narada; among Gandharvas 13 I am Chitraratha, and of perfect saints, Kapila. Know that among horses I am Uchchaisrava, who arose with the Amrita out of the ocean; among elephants, Airavata, and among men their sovereigns. Of weapons I am the thunderbolt; among cows, Kamadhuk, the cow of plenty; of procreators, the God of love, and of serpents, Vasuki 14, their chief. I am Ananta among the Nagas 15, Varuna among things of the waters; among the ancestors, Aryarman, and of all who judge I am Yama. 16 Among the Daityas I am Prahlada, and among computations I am Time itself; the lion among beasts, and Garuda 17 among the feathered tribe. Among purifiers I am Pavana, the air; Rama among those who carry arms, Makara among the fishes, and the Ganges among rivers. Among that which is evolved, O Arjuna, I am the beginning, the middle, and the end; of all sciences I am the knowledge of the Adhyatma 18, and of uttered sounds the human speech. Among letters I am the vowel A, and of all compound words I am the Dvandva 19; I am endless time itself, and the Preserver whose face is turned on all sides. I am all-grasping death, and the birth of those who are to be; among feminine things I am fame, fortune, speech, memory, intelligence, patience, and forgiveness. Among the hymns of the Samaveda I am Brihat-Saman, and the Gayatri among metres; among months I am the month Margasirsha 20, and of seasons spring called Kusumakara, the time of flowers. Of those things which deceive I am the dice, and splendor itself among splendid things. I am victory, I am perseverance, and the goodness of the good. Of the race of Vrishni I am Vasudeva; of the Pandava I am Arjuna the conqueror of wealth; of perfect saints I am Vyasa 21, and of prophet-seers I am the bard Usana. Among rulers I am the rod of punishment, among those desiring conquest I am policy; and among the wise of secret knowledge I am their silence. I am, O Arjuna, the seed of all existing things, and there is not anything, whether animate or inanimate which is without me. My divine manifestations, O harasser of thy foes, are without end, the many which I have mentioned are by way of example. Whatever creature is permanent, of good fortune or mighty, also know it to be sprung from a portion of my energy. But what, O Arjuna, hast thou to do with so much knowledge as this? I established this whole universe with a single portion of myself, and remain separate.”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Tenth Chapter, by name –
DEVOTION BY MEANS OF THE UNIVERSAL DIVINE PERFECTIONS.
1. Beyond Brahman.
2. In the original the first word is one which carries a blessing with it; it is a benediction and means “now then,” but this in English conveys no idea of a benediction.
3. Adityas, the twelve Sun-Gods, who, at the recurrence of the time for dissolution by fire, bring on the universal conflagration.
4. The Gods of air.
5. In Western language this may be said to be the Veda of song in the very highest sense of the power of song. Many nations held that song had the power to make even mere matter change and move obedient to the sound.
6. In the original it is “Vasava” which is a name of Indra.
7. The heart or the mind.
8. Spirits of a sensual nature.
9. An order of evil spirits.
10. Among the first created Beings of a high order.
11. Said by some to be the North Pole.
12. Jupiter, the teacher of the Devas.
13. Celestial host of singers; they are a class of elementals.
14. Poisonous serpents.
15. Non-poisonous serpents of a fabled sort, said to have speech and wisdom.
16. The Judge of the dead.
17. Garuda, the bird of Vishnu, and also means esoterically the whole manvantaric cycle.
18. The highest spiritual knowledge.
19. A form of compound word in the Sanskrit which preserves the meaning of the words making up the compound.
20. The month when the regular rains have stopped and the heat abated.
21. Vyasa, the author of the Mahabbarata.
Chapter XI: The Vision Of The Divine Form As Including All Forms
“My delusion has been dispersed by the words which thou for my soul’s peace hast spoken concerning the mystery of the Adhyatma — the spirit. For I have heard at full length from thee, O thou whose eyes are like lotus leaves, the origin and dissolution of existing things, and also thy inexhaustible majesty. It is even as thou hast described thyself, O mighty Lord; I now desire to see thy divine form, O sovereign Lord. Wherefore, O Lord, if thou thinkest it may be beheld by me, show me, O Master of devotion, thine inexhaustible Self.”
“Behold, O son of Pritha, my forms by hundreds and by thousands, of diverse kinds divine, of many shapes and fashions. Behold the Adityas, Vasus, Rudras, Asvins, and the Maruts, see things wonderful never seen before, O son of Bharata. Here in my body now behold, O Gudakesa, the whole universe animate and inanimate gathered here in one, and all things else thou hast a wish to see. But as with thy natural eyes thou are not able to see me, I will give thee the divine eye. Behold my sovereign power and might!”
O king, having thus spoken, Hari 1, the mighty Lord of mysterious power, showed to the son of Pritha his supreme form; with many mouths and eyes and many wonderful appearances, with many divine ornaments, many celestial weapons upraised; adorned with celestial garlands and robes, anointed with celestial ointments and perfumes, full of every marvelous thing, the eternal God whose face is turned in all directions. The glory and amazing splendor of this mighty Being may be likened to the radiance shed by a thousand suns rising together into the heavens. The son of Pandu then beheld within the body of the God of gods the whole universe in all its vast variety. Overwhelmed with wonder, Dhananjaya 2, the possessor of wealth, with hair standing on end, bowed down his head before the Deity, and thus with joined palms 3 addressed him:
“I behold, O God of gods, within thy frame all beings and things of every kind; the Lord Brahma on his lotus throne, all the Rishis and the heavenly Serpents. 4 I see thee on all sides, of infinite forms, having many arms, stomachs, mouths, and eyes. But I can discover neither thy beginning, thy middle, nor thy end, O universal Lord, form of the universe. I see thee crowned with a diadem and armed with mace and chakra 5, a mass of splendor, darting light on all sides; difficult to behold, shining in every direction with light immeasurable, like the burning fire or glowing sun. Thou art the supreme inexhaustible Being, the end of effort, changeless, the Supreme Spirit of this universe, the never-failing guardian of eternal law: I esteem thee Purusha 6, I see thee without beginning middle, or end, of infinite power with arms innumerable, the sun and moon thy eyes, thy mouth a flaming fire, overmastering the whole universe with thy majesty. Space and heaven, and earth and every point around the three regions of the universe are filled with thee alone. The triple world is full of fear, O thou mighty Spirit, seeing this thy marvelous form of terror. Of the assemblage of the gods some I see fly to thee for refuge, while some in fear with joined hands sing forth thy praise; the hosts of the Maharshis and Siddhas, great sages and saints, hail thee, saying “svasti,” 7 and glorify thee with most excellent hymns. The Rudras, Adityas, the Vasus, and all those beings — the Sadhyas, Visvas, the Asvins, Maruts, and Ushmapas, the hosts of Gandharvas, Yakshas, and Siddhas 8 — all stand gazing on thee and are amazed. All the worlds alike with me are terrified to behold thy wondrous form gigantic, O thou of mighty arms, with many mouths and eyes, with many arms, thighs and feet, with many stomachs and projecting tusks. For seeing thee thus touching the heavens, shining with such glory, with widely-opened mouths and bright expanded eyes, my inmost soul is troubled and I lose both firmness and tranquillity, O Vishnu. Beholding thy dreadful teeth and thy face like the burning of death, I can see neither heaven nor earth; I find no peace; have mercy, O Lord of gods, thou Spirit of the universe! The sons of Dhritarashtra with all these rulers of men, Bhishma, Drona and also Kama and our principal warriors, seem to be impetuously precipitating themselves into thy mouths terrible with tusks; some are seen caught between thy teeth, their heads ground down. As the rapid streams of full-flowing rivers roll on to meet the ocean, even so these heroes of the human race rush into thy flaming mouths. As troops of insects carried away by strong impulse find death in the fire, even so do these beings with swelling force pour into thy mouths for their own destruction. Thou involvest and swallowest all these creatures from every side, licking them in thy flaming lips; filling the universe with thy splendor, thy sharp beams burn, O Vishnu. Reverence be unto thee, O best of Gods! Be favorable! I seek to know thee, the Primeval One, for I know not thy work.”
“I am Time matured, come hither for the destruction of these creatures; except thyself, not one of all these warriors here drawn up in serried ranks shall live. Wherefore, arise! seize fame! Defeat the foe and enjoy the fullgrown kingdom! They have been already slain by me; be thou only the immediate agent, O thou both-armed one. 9 Be not disturbed. Slay Drona, Bhishma, Jayadratha, Karna, and all the other heroes of the war who are really slain by me. Fight, thou wilt conquer all thine enemies.”
When he of the resplendent diadem 10 heard these words from the mouth of Kesava 11, he saluted Krishna with joined palms and trembling with fear, addressed him in broken accents, and bowed down terrified before him.
“The universe, O Hrishikesa 12, is justly delighted with thy glory and is filled with zeal for thy service; the evil spirits are affrighted and flee on all sides, while all the hosts of saints bow down in adoration before thee. And wherefore should they not adore thee, O mighty Being, thou who art greater than Brahma, who art the first Maker? O eternal God of gods! O habitation of the universe! Thou art the one indivisible Being, and Non-Being, that which is supreme. Thou art the first of Gods, the most ancient Spirit; thou art the final supreme receptacle 13 of this universe; thou art the Knower and that which is to be known, and the supreme mansion; and by thee, O thou of infinite form, is this universe caused to emanate. Thou art Vayu, God of wind, Agni, God of fire, Yama, God of death, Varuna, God of waters; thou art the moon; Prajapati, the progenitor and grandfather, art thou. Hail! hail to thee! Hail to thee a thousand times repeated! Again and again hail to thee! Hail to thee! Hail to thee from before! Hail to thee from behind! Hail to thee on all sides, O thou All! Infinite is thy power and might; thou includest all things, therefore thou art all things!
“Having been ignorant of thy majesty, I took thee for a friend, and have called thee ‘O Krishna, O son of Yadu, O friend,’ and blinded by my affection and presumption, I have at times treated thee without respect in sport, in recreation, in repose, in thy chair, and at thy meals, in private and in public; all this I beseech thee, O inconceivable Being, to forgive.
“Thou art the father of all things animate and inanimate; thou art to be honored as above the guru himself, and worthy to be adored; there is none equal to thee, and how in the triple worlds could there be thy superior, O thou of unrivaled power? Therefore I bow down and with my body prostrate, I implore thee, O Lord, for mercy. Forgive, O Lord, as the friend forgives the friend, as the father pardons his son, as the lover the beloved. I am well pleased with having beheld what was never before seen, and yet my heart is overwhelmed with awe; have mercy then, O God; show me that other form, O thou who art the dwelling-place of the universe; I desire to see thee as before with thy diadem on thy head, thy hands armed with mace and chakra; assume again, O thou of a thousand arms and universal form, thy four-armed shape!” 14
“Out of kindness to thee, O Arjuna, by my divine power I have shown thee my supreme form, the universe, resplendent, infinite, primeval, and which has never been beheld by any other than thee. Neither by studying the Vedas, nor by alms-giving, nor by sacrificial rites, nor by deeds, nor by the severest mortification of the flesh can I be seen in this form by any other than thee, O best of Kurus. Having beheld my form thus awful, be not disturbed nor let thy faculties be confounded, but with fears allayed and happiness of heart look upon this other form of mine again.”
Vasudeva 15 having so spoken reassumed his natural form; and thus in milder shape the Great One presently assuaged the fears of the terrified Arjuna.
“Now that I see again thy placid human shape, O Janadana, who art prayed to by mortals, my mind is no more disturbed and I am self-possessed.”
“Thou hast seen this form of mine which is difficult to be perceived and which even the gods arc always anxious to behold. But I am not to be seen, even as I have shown myself to thee, by study of the Vedas, nor by mortifications, nor alms-giving, nor sacrifices. I am to be approached and seen and known in truth by means of that devotion which has me alone as the object. He whose actions are for me alone, who esteemeth me the supreme goal, who is my servant only, without attachment to the results of action and free from enmity towards any creature, cometh to me, O son of Pandu.”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Eleventh Chapter, by name —
THE VISION OF THE DIVINE FORM AS INCLUDING ALL FORMS.
1. Hari, an epithet of Krishna, meaning that he has the power to remove all difficulty.
3. This is the Hindu mode of salutation.
4. These are the Uragas, said to be serpents. But it must refer to the great Masters of Wisdom, who were often called Serpents.
5. Among human weapons this would be known as the discus, but here it means the whirling wheel of spiritual will and power.
6. Purusha, the Eternal Person. The same name is also given to man by the Hindus.
7. This cry is supposed to be for the benefit of the world, and has that meaning.
8. All these names refer to different classes of celestial beings, some of which are now called in theosophical literature “elementals”; the others are explained in H. P. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine.
9. Arjuna was a famous archer who could use the celestial bow, Gandiva, with either hand equally well.
10. Arjuna wore a brilliant tiara.
11. Krishna, by another name.
13. That is, that into which the universe is resolved on the final dissolution.
14. Arjuna had been accustomed to see Krishna in his four-armed form, not only in the images shown in youth, but also when Krishna came into incarnation, and could therefore look on the four-armed form without fear.
15. A name of Krishna.
Chapter XII: Devotion By Means Of Faith
“Among those of thy devotees who always thus worship thee 1, which take the better way, those who worship the indivisible and unmanifested, or those who serve thee as thou now art?”
“Those who worship me with constant zeal, with the highest faith and minds placed on me, are held in high esteem by me. But those who, with minds equal toward everything, with senses and organs restrained, and rejoicing in the good of all creatures, meditate on the inexhaustible, immovable, highest, incorruptible, difficult to contemplate, invisible, omnipresent, unthinkable, the witness, undemonstrable, shall also come unto me. For those whose hearts are fixed on the unmanifested the labor is greater because the path which is not manifest is with difficulty attained by corporeal beings. 2 But for those who worship me, renouncing in me all their actions, regarding me as the supreme goal and meditating on me alone, if their thoughts are turned to me, O son of Pritha, I presently become the savior from this ocean of incarnations and death. Place, then, thy heart on me, penetrate me with thy understanding, and thou shalt without doubt hereafter dwell in me. But if thou shouldst be unable at once steadfastly to fix thy heart and mind on me, strive then, O Dhananjaya, to find me by constant practice in devotion. If after constant practice, thou art still unable, follow me by actions performed for me 3; for by doing works for me thou shalt attain perfection. But if thou art unequal even to this, then, being self-restrained, place all thy works, failures and successes alike, on me, abandoning in me the fruit of every action. For knowledge is better than constant practice, meditation is superior to knowledge, renunciation of the fruit of action to meditation; final emancipation immediately results from such renunciation.
“My devotee who is free from enmity, well-disposed towards all creatures, merciful, wholly exempt from pride and selfishness, the same in pain and pleasure, patient of wrongs, contented, constantly devout, self-governed, firm in resolves, and whose mind and heart are fixed on me alone, is dear unto me. He also is my beloved of whom mankind is not afraid and who has no fear of man; who is free from joy, from despondency and the dread of harm. My devotee who is unexpecting 4, pure, just, impartial, devoid of fear, and who hath forsaken interest in the results of action, is dear unto me. He also is worthy of my love who neither rejoiceth nor findeth fault, who neither lamenteth nor coveteth, and being my servant hath forsaken interest in both good and evil results. He also is my beloved servant who is equal-minded to friend or foe, the same in honor and dishonor, in cold and heat, in pain and pleasure, and is unsolicitous about the event of things; to whom praise and blame are as one; who is of little speech, content with whatever cometh to pass, who hath no fixed habitation, and whose heart, full of devotion, is firmly fixed. But those who seek this sacred ambrosia — the religion of immortality — even as I have explained it, full of faith, intent on me above all others, and united to devotion, are my most beloved.”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Twelfth Chapter, by name —
DEVOTION BY MEANS OF FAITH.
1. That is, as described at the end of Chapter XI.
2. The difficulty here stated is that caused by the personality, which causes us to see the Supreme as different and separate from ourselves.
3. The works referred to here are special works of all kinds performed for the sake of the Supreme Being, which will have their effect upon the performer in future lives.
4. In the original this reads as “not peering about.”
Chapter XIII: Devotion By Means Of The Discrimination Of The Kshetra From Kshetrajna
“This perishable body, O son of Kunti, is known as Kshetra; those who are acquainted with the true nature of things call the soul who knows it, the Kshetrajna. Know also that I am the Knower in every mortal body, O son of Bharata; that knowledge which through the soul is a realization of both the known and the knower is alone esteemed by me as wisdom. What the Kshetra or body is, what it resembleth, what it produceth, and what is its origin, and also who he is who, dwelling within, knoweth it, as well as what is his power, learn all in brief from me. It has been manifoldly sung by the Rishis with discrimination and with arguments in the various Vedic hymns which treat of Brahman.
“This body, then, is made up of the great elements, Ahankara — egotism, Buddhi — intellect or judgment, the unmanifest, invisible spirit; the ten centers of action, the mind, and the five objects of sense; desire, aversion, pleasure and pain, persistency of life, and firmness, the power of cohesion. Thus I have made known unto thee what the Kshetra or body is with its component parts.
“True wisdom of a spiritual kind is freedom from self-esteem, hypocrisy, and injury to others; it is patience, sincerity, respect for spiritual instructors, purity, firmness, self-restraint, dispassion for objects of sense, freedom from pride, and a meditation upon birth, death, decay, sickness, and error; it is an exemption from self-identifying attachment for children, wife, and household, and a constant unwavering steadiness of heart upon the arrival of every event whether favorable or unfavorable; it is a never-ceasing love for me alone, the self being effaced, and worship paid in a solitary spot, and a want of pleasure in congregations of men; it is a resolute continuance in the study of Adhyatma, the Superior spirit, and a meditation upon the end of the acquirement of a knowledge of truth; — this is called wisdom or spiritual knowledge; its opposite is ignorance.
“I will now tell thee what is the object of wisdom, from knowing which a man enjoys immortality; it is that which has no beginning, even the supreme Brahman, and of which it cannot be said that it is either Being or Non-Being. It has hands and feet in all directions; eyes, heads, mouths, and ears in every direction; it is immanent in the world, possessing the vast whole. Itself without organs, it is reflected by all the senses and faculties; unattached, yet supporting all; without qualities, yet the witness of them all. It is within and without all creatures animate and inanimate; it is inconceivable because of its subtlety, and although near it is afar off. Although undivided it appeareth as divided among creatures, and while it sustains existing things, it is also to be known as their destroyer and creator. It is the light of all lights, and is declared to be beyond all darkness; and it is wisdom itself, the object of wisdom, and that which is to be obtained by wisdom; in the hearts of all it ever presideth. Thus hath been briefly declared what is the perishable body, and wisdom itself, together with the object of wisdom; he, my devotee, who thus in truth conceiveth me, obtaineth my state.
“Know that prakriti or nature, and purusha the spirit, are without beginning. And know that the passions and the three qualities are sprung from nature. Nature or prakriti is said to be that which operates in producing cause and effect in actions 1; individual spirit or purusha is said to be the cause of experiencing pain and pleasure. 2 For spirit when invested with matter or prakriti experienceth the qualities which proceed from prakriti; its connection with these qualities is the cause of its rebirth in good and evil wombs. 3 The spirit in the body is called Mahesvara, the Great Lord, the spectator, the admonisher, the sustainer, the enjoyer, and also the Paramatma, the highest soul. He who thus knoweth the spirit and nature, together with the qualities, whatever mode of life he may lead, is not born again on this earth.
“Some men by meditation, using contemplation upon the Self, behold the spirit within, others attain to that end by philosophical study with its realization, and others by means of the religion of works. Others, again, who are not acquainted with it in this manner, but have heard it from others, cleave unto and respect it; and even these, if assiduous only upon tradition and attentive to hearing the scriptures, pass beyond the gulf of death. 4
“Know, O chief of the Bharatas, that whenever anything, whether animate or inanimate, is produced, it is due to the union of the Kshetra and Kshetrajna — body and the soul. He who seeth the Supreme Being existing alike imperishable in all perishable things, sees indeed. Perceiving the same Lord present in everything and everywhere, he does not by the lower self destroy his own soul, but goeth to the supreme end. He who seeth that all his actions are performed by nature only, and that the self within is not the actor, sees indeed. And when he realizes perfectly that all things whatsoever in nature are comprehended in the ONE, he attains to the Supreme Spirit. This Supreme Spirit, O son of Kunti, even when it is in the body, neither acteth nor is it affected by action, because, being without beginning and devoid of attributes, it is changeless. As the all-moving Akasa by reason of its subtlety passeth everywhere unaffected, so the Spirit, though present in every kind of body, is not attached to action nor affected. As a single sun illuminateth the whole world, even so doth the One Spirit illumine every body, O son of Bharata. Those who with the eye of wisdom thus perceive what is the difference between the body and Spirit and the destruction of the illusion of objects 5, go to the Supreme.”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arj una, stands the Thirteenth Chapter, by name —
DEVOTION BY MEANS OF THE DISCRIMINATION OF THE KSHETRA FROM KSHETRAJNA.
1. Prakriti, matter or nature, is the cause of all action throughout the universe, as it is the basis by which action may take place; and herein are included all actions, whether of men, of gods, powers, or what not.
2. Purusha is the aspect of the individual spirit in every human breast; it is the cause of our experiencing pain and pleasure through the connection with nature found in the body.
3. Here Purusha is the persisting individuality which connects all reincarnations, as if it were the thread, and has hence been called the “thread Soul.”
4. This last sentence means that they thus lay such a foundation so that in subsequent fives they will reach the other states and then to immortality.
5. This refers to what has previously been said about the great illusion produced by nature in causing us to see objects as different from Spirit, and it agrees with Patanjali, who says that, although the perfectly illuminated being has destroyed the illusion, it still has a hold upon those who are not illuminated — they will have to go through repeated rebirths until their time of deliverance also comes.
Chapter XIV: Devotion By Means Of Separation From The Three Qualities
“I will explain further the sublime spiritual knowledge superior to all others, by knowing which all the sages have attained to supreme perfection on the dissolution of this body. They take sanctuary in this wisdom, and having attained to my state they are not born again even at the new evolution, nor are they disturbed at the time of general destruction.
“The great Brahman is my womb in which I place the seed; from that, O son of Bharata, is the production of all existing things. 1 This great Brahman is the womb for all those various forms which are produced from any womb, and I am the Father who provideth the seed. The three great qualities called sattva, rajas, and tamas — light, or truth, passion or desire, and indifference or darkness — are born from nature, and bind the imperishable soul to the body, O thou of mighty arms. Of these the sattva quality by reason of its lucidity and peacefulness entwineth the soul to rebirth through attachment to knowledge and that which is pleasant. Know that rajas is of the nature of desire, producing thirst and propensity; it, O son of Kunti, imprisoneth the Ego through the consequences produced from action. The quality of tamas, the offspring of the indifference in nature, is the deluder of all creatures, O son of Bharata; it imprisoneth the Ego in a body through heedless folly, sleep, and idleness. The sattva quality attaches the soul through happiness and pleasure, the rajas through action, and tamas quality surrounding the power of judgment with indifference attaches the soul through heedlessness.
“When, O son of Bharata, the qualities of tamas and rajas are overcome, then that of sattva prevaileth;tamas is chiefly acting when sattva and rajas are hidden; and when the sattva and tamas diminish, then rajas prevaileth. When wisdom, the bright light, shall become evident at every gate of the body, then one may know that the sattva quality is prevalent within. The love of gain, activity in action, and the initiating of works, restlessness and inordinate desire are produced when the quality of rajas is prevalent, whilst the tokens of the predominance of the tamas quality are absence of illumination, the presence of idleness, heedlessness, and delusion, O son of Kunti.
“If the body is dissolved when the sattva quality prevails, the self within proceeds to the spotless spheres of those who are acquainted with the highest place. When the body is dissolved while the quality of rajas is predominant, the soul is born again in a body attached to action; and so also of one who dies while tamas quality is prevalent, the soul is born again in the wombs of those who are deluded.
“The fruit of righteous acts is called pure and holy, appertaining to sattva; from rajas is gathered fruit in pain, and the tamas produceth only senselessness, ignorance, and indifference. From sattva wisdom is produced, from rajas desire, from tamas ignorance, delusion and folly. Those in whom the sattva quality is established mount on high, those who are full of rajas remain in the middle sphere, the world of men, while those who are overborne by the gloomy quality, tamas, sink below. But when the wise man perceiveth that the only agents of action are these qualities, and comprehends that which is superior to the qualities, he attains to my state. And when the embodied self surpasseth these three qualities of goodness, action, and indifference — which are coexistent with the body — it is released from rebirth and death, old age and pain, and drinketh of the water of immortality.”
“What are the characteristic marks by which the man may be known, O Master, who hath surpassed the three qualities? What is his course of life, and what are the means by which he overcometh the qualities?”
“He, O son of Pandu, who doth not hate these qualities — illumination, action, and delusion — when they appear, nor longeth for them when they disappear; who, like one who is of no party, sitteth as one unconcerned about the three qualities and undisturbed by them, who being persuaded that the qualities exist, is moved not by them; who is of equal mind in pain and pleasure, self-centered, to whom a lump of earth, a stone, or gold are as one; who is of equal mind with those who love or dislike, constant, the same whether blamed or praised; equally minded in honor and disgrace, and the same toward friendly or unfriendly side, engaging only in necessary actions, such an one hath surmounted the qualities. And he, my servant, who worships me with exclusive devotion, having completely overcome the qualities, is fitted to be absorbed in Brahman the Supreme. I am the embodiment of the Supreme Ruler, and of the incorruptible, of the unmodifying, and of the eternal law, and of endless bliss.”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Fourteenth Chapter, by name —
DEVOTION BY MEANS OF SEPARATION FROM THE THREE QUALITIES.
1. In this verse Brahman is to be taken as prakriti, or nature.
Chapter XV: Devotion Through Knowledge Of The Supreme Spirit
“Men say that the Asvattha, the eternal sacred tree 1, grows with its roots above and its branches below, and the leaves of which are the Vedas; he who knows this knows the Vedas. Its branches growing out of the three qualities 2 with the objects of sense as the lesser shoots, spread forth, some above and some below; and those roots which ramify below in the regions of mankind are the connecting bonds of action. Its form is not thus understood by men; it has no beginning, nor can its present constitution be understood 3, nor has it any end. When one hath hewn down with the strong axe of dispassion this Asvattha tree with its deeply-imbedded roots, then that place is to be sought after from which those who there take refuge never more return to rebirth, for it 4 is the Primeval Spirit from which floweth the never-ending stream of conditioned existence. Those who are free from pride of self and whose discrimination is perfected, who have prevailed over the fault of attachment to action, who are constantly employed in devotion to meditation upon the Supreme Spirit, who have renounced desire and are free from the influence of the opposites known as pleasure and pain, are undeluded, and proceed to that place which endureth forever. Neither the sun nor the moon nor the fire enlighteneth that place; from it there is no return; it is my supreme abode.
“It is even a portion of myself which, having assumed life in this world of conditioned existence, draweth together the five senses and the mind in order that it may obtain a body and may leave it again. And those are carried by the Sovereign Lord to and from whatever body he enters or quits, even as the breeze bears the fragrance from the flower. Presiding over the eye, the ear, the touch, the taste, and the power of smelling, and also over the mind, he experienceth the objects of sense. The deluded do not see the spirit when it quitteth or remains in the body, nor when, moved by the qualities, it has experience in the world. But those who have the eye of wisdom perceive it, and devotees who industriously strive to do so see it dwelling in their own hearts; whilst those who have not overcome themselves, who are devoid of discrimination, see it not even though they strive thereafter. Know that the brilliance of the sun which illuminateth the whole world, and the light which is in the moon and in the fire, are the splendor of myself. I enter the earth supporting all living things by my power, and I am that property of sap which is taste, nourishing all the herbs and plants of the field. Becoming the internal fire of the living, I associate with the upward and downward breathing, and cause the four kinds of food to digest. I am in the hearts of all men, and from me come memory, knowledge, and also the loss of both. I am to be known by all the Vedas; I am he who is the author of the Vedanta, and I alone am the interpreter of the Vedas.
“There are two kinds of beings in the world, the one divisible, the other indivisible; the divisible is all things and the creatures, the indivisible is called Kutastha, or he who standeth on high unaffected. But there is another spirit designated as the Supreme Spirit — Paramatma — which permeates and sustains the three worlds. As I am above the divisible and also superior to the indivisible, therefore both in the world and in the Vedas am I known as the Supreme Spirit. He who being not deluded knoweth me thus as the Supreme Spirit, knoweth all things and worships me under every form and condition.
“Thus, O sinless one, have I declared unto thee this most sacred science; he who understandeth it, O son of Bharata, will be a wise man and the performer of all that is to be done.”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Fifteenth Chapter, by name —
DEVOTION THROUGH KNOWLEDGE OF THE SUPREME SPIRIT.
1. This is a symbol for the universe, which, although apparently destroyed and then again renovated, is never ending, for it is the same as the Evolutionary Stream.
2. See preceding Chapter.
3. This means that the bound Ego cannot understand it.
4. It is the place of the Supreme.
Chapter XVI: Devotion Through Discriminating Between Godlike And Demoniacal Natures
“Fearlessness, sincerity, assiduity in devotion, generosity, self-restraint, piety, and alms-giving, study, mortification, and rectitude; harmlessness, veracity, and freedom from anger, resignation, equanimity, and not speaking of the faults of others, universal compassion, modesty, and mildness; patience, power, fortitude, and purity, discretion, dignity, unrevengefulness, and freedom from conceit — these are the marks of him whose virtues are of a godlike character, O son of Bharata. Those, O son of Pritha, who are born with demoniacal dispositions are marked by hypocrisy, pride, anger, presumption, harshness of speech, and ignorance. The destiny of those whose attributes are godlike is final liberation, while that of demoniacal dispositions, born to the Asuras’ lot, is continued bondage to mortal birth; grieve not, O son of Pandu, for thou art born with the divine destiny. There are two kinds of natures in beings in this world, that which is godlike, and the other which is demoniacal; the godlike hath been fully declared, hear now from me, O son of Pritha, what the demoniacal is.
“Those who are born with the demoniacal disposition — of the nature of the Asuras — know not the nature of action nor of cessation from action, they know not purity nor right behavior, they possess no truthfulness. They deny that the universe has any truth in it, saying it is not governed by law, declaring that it hath no Spirit; they say creatures are produced alone through the union of the sexes, and that all is for enjoyment only. Maintaining this view, their souls being ruined, their minds contracted, with natures perverted, enemies of the world, they are born to destroy. They indulge insatiable desires, are full of hypocrisy, fast-fixed in false beliefs through their delusions. They indulge in unlimited reflections which end only in annihilation, convinced until death that the enjoyment of the objects of their desires is the supreme good. Fast-bound by the hundred cords of desire, prone to lust and anger, they seek by injustice and the accumulation of wealth for the gratification of their own lusts and appetites. ‘This today hath been acquired by me, and that object of my heart I shall obtain; this wealth I have, and that also shall be mine. This foe have I already slain, and others will I forthwith vanquish; I am the lord, I am powerful, and I am happy. I am rich and with precedence among men; where is there another like unto me? I shall make sacrifices, give alms, and enjoy.’ In this manner do those speak who are deluded. Confounded by all manner of desires, entangled in the net of delusion, firmly attached to the gratification of their desires, they descend into hell. Esteeming themselves very highly, self-willed, full of pride and ever in pursuit of riches, they perform worship with hypocrisy and not even according to ritual 1, but only for outward show. Indulging in pride, selfishness, ostentation, power, lust, and anger, they detest me who am in their bodies and in the bodies of others. Wherefore I continually hurl these cruel haters, the lowest of men, into wombs of an infernal nature in this world of rebirth. And they being doomed to those infernal wombs, more and more deluded in each succeeding rebirth, never come to me, O son of Kunti, but go at length to the lowest region. 2
“The gates of hell are three — desire, anger, covetousness, which destroy the soul; wherefore one should abandon them. Being free from these three gates of hell, O son of Kunti, a man worketh for the salvation of his soul, and thus proceeds to the highest path. He who abandoneth the ordinances of the Scriptures to follow the dictates of his own desires, attaineth neither perfection nor happiness nor the highest path. Therefore, in deciding what is fit and what unfit to be done, thou shouldst perform actions on earth with a knowledge of what is declared in Holy Writ.”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Sixteenth Chapter, by name —
DEVOTION THROUGH DISCRIMINATING BETWEEN GODLIKE AND DEMONIACAL NATURES.
1. This refers to the irregular performance of Vedic sacrifices by those who are without the right spiritual gifts, and only wish to imitate ostentatiously the right performance.
2. This is final annihilation of those who deny their own soul and thus lose it. It is worse than the hell before spoken of, for there is no return.
Chapter XVII: Devotion As Regards The Three Kinds Of Faith
“What is the state of those men who, while they neglect the precepts of the Scriptures, yet worship in faith, O Krishna? Is it of the sattva, the rajas, or the tamas quality?”
“The faith of mortals is of three kinds, and is born from their own disposition; it is of the quality of truth — sattva, action — rajas, and indifference — tamas; hear now what those are.
“The faith of each one, O son of Bharata, proceeds from the sattva quality; the embodied soul being gifted with faith, each man is of the same nature as that ideal on which his faith is fixed. Those who are of the disposition which ariseth from the prevalence of the sattva or good quality worship the gods; those of the quality of rajas worship the celestial powers, the Yakshas and Rakshasas; other men in whom the dark quality of indifference or tamas predominates worship elemental powers and the ghosts of dead men. Those who practice severe self-mortification not enjoined in the Scriptures are full of hypocrisy and pride, longing for what is past and desiring more to come. They, full of delusion, torture the powers and faculties which are in the body, and me also, who am in the recesses of the innermost heart; know that they are of an infernal tendency.
“Know that food which is pleasant to each one, as also sacrifices, mortification, and alms-giving, are of three kinds; hear what their divisions are. The food which increases the length of days, vigor and strength, which keeps one free from sickness, of tranquil mind, and contented, and which is savory, nourishing, of permanent benefit and congenial to the body, is that which is attractive to those in whom the sattva quality prevaileth. The food which is liked by those of the rajas quality is over bitter, too acid, excessively salt, hot, pungent, dry and burning, and causeth unpleasantness, pain, and disease. Whatever food is such as was dressed the day before, that is tasteless or rotting, that is impure, is that which is preferred by those in whom predominates the quality of tamas or indifference.
“The sacrifice or worship which is directed by Scripture and is performed by those who expect no reward but who are convinced that it is necessary to be done, is of the quality of light, of goodness, of sattva. But know that that worship or sacrifice which is performed with a view to its results, and also for an ostentation of piety, belongs to passion, the quality of rajas, O best of the Bharatas. But that which is not according to the precepts of Holy Writ, without distribution of bread, without sacred hymns, without gifts to brahmans at the conclusion, and without faith, is of the quality of tamas.
“Honoring the gods, the brahmans, the teachers, and the wise, purity, rectitude, chastity, and harmlessness are called mortification of the body. Gentle speech which causes no anxiety, which is truthful and friendly, and diligence in the reading of the Scriptures, are said to be austerities of speech. Serenity of mind, mildness of temper, silence, self-restraint, absolute straightforwardness of conduct, are called mortification of the mind. This threefold mortification or austerity practiced with supreme faith and by those who long not for a reward is of the sattva quality.
“But that austerity which is practiced with hypocrisy, for the sake of obtaining respect for oneself or for fame or favor, and which is uncertain and belonging wholly to this world, is of the quality of rajas. Those austerities which are practiced merely by wounding oneself or from a false judgment or for the hurting of another are of the quality of tamas. Those gifts which are bestowed at the proper time to the proper person, and by men who are not desirous of a return, are of the sattva quality, good and of the nature of truth. But that gift which is given with the expectation of a return from the beneficiary or with a view to spiritual benefit flowing therefrom or with reluctance, is of the rajas quality, bad and partaketh of untruth. Gifts given out of place and season and to unworthy persons, without proper attention and scornfully, are of the tamas quality, wholly bad and of the nature of darkness.
“OM TAT SAT: these are said to be the threefold designation of the Supreme Being. By these in the beginning were sanctified the knowers of Brahman 1, the Vedas, and sacrifices. Therefore the sacrifices, the giving of alms, and the practicing of austerities are always, among those who expound Holy Writ, preceded by the word OM. Among those who long for immortality and who do not consider the reward for their actions, the word TAT precedes their rites of sacrifice, their austerities, and giving of alms. The word SAT is used for qualities that are true and holy, and likewise is applied to laudable actions, O son of Pritha. The state of mental sacrifice when actions are at rest is also called SAT. Whatever is done without faith, whether it be sacrifice, alms-giving, or austerities, is called ASAT, that which is devoid of truth and goodness, O son of Pritha, and is not of any benefit either in this life or after death.”
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Seventeenth Chapter, by name —
DEVOTION AS REGARDS THE THREE KINDS OF FAITH.
1. It reads “Brahmanas,” and does not seem to refer to any caste.
Chapter XVIII: Devotion As Regards Renunciation And Final Liberation
“I wish to learn, O great-armed one, the nature of abstaining from action and of the giving up of the results of action, and also the difference between these two, O slayer of Kesin.” 1
“The bards conceive that the forsaking of actions which have a desired object is renunciation or Sannyasa, the wise call the disregard of the fruit of every action true disinterestedness in action. By some wise men it is said, ‘Every action is as much to be avoided as a crime,’ while by others it is declared, ‘Deeds of sacrifice, of mortification, and of charity should not be forsaken.’ Among these divided opinions hear my certain decision, O best of the Bharatas, upon this matter of disinterested forsaking, which is declared to be of three kinds, O chief of men. Deeds of sacrifice, of mortification, and of charity are not to be abandoned, for they are proper to be performed, and are the purifiers of the wise. But even those works are to be performed after having renounced all selfish interest in them and in their fruits; this, O son of Pritha, is my ultimate and supreme decision. The abstention from works which are necessary and obligatory is improper; the not doing of such actions is due to delusion springing from the quality of tamas. The refraining from works because they are painful and from the dread of annoyance ariseth from the quality of rajas which belongs to passion, and he who thus leaves undone what he ought to do shall not obtain the fruit which comes from right forsaking. The work which is performed, O Arjuna, because it is necessary, obligatory, and proper, with all self-interest therein put aside and attachment to the action absent, is declared to be of the quality of truth and goodness which is known as sattva. The true renouncer, full of the quality of goodness, wise and exempt from all doubt, is averse neither to those works which fail nor those which succeed. It is impossible for mortals to utterly abandon actions; but he who gives up the results of action is the true renouncer. The threefold results of action — unwished for, wished for, and mixed — accrue after death to those who do not practice this renunciation, but no results follow those who perfectly renounce. 2
“Learn, O great-armed one, that for the accomplishment of every work five agents are necessary, as is declared. These are the substratum, the agent, the various sorts of organs, the various and distinct movements and with these, as fifth, the presiding deities. These five agents are included in the performance of every act which a man undertaketh, whether with his body, his speech, or his mind. This being thus, whoever because of the imperfection of his mind beholdeth the real self as the agent thinketh wrongly and seeth not aright. He whose nature is free from egotism and whose power of discrimination is not blinded does not slay though he killeth all these people, and is not bound by the bonds of action. The three causes which incite to action are knowledge, the thing to be known, and the knower, and threefold also is the totality of the action in the act, the instrument, and the agent. Knowledge, the act, and the agent are also distinguished in three ways according to the three qualities; listen to their enumeration after that classification.
“Know that the wisdom which perceives in all nature one single principle, indivisible and incorruptible, not separate in the separate objects seen, is of the sattva quality. The knowledge which perceives different and manifold principles as present in the world of created beings pertains to rajas, the quality of passion. But that knowledge, wholly without value, which is mean, attached to one object alone as if it were the whole, which does not see the true cause of existence, is of the nature of tamas, indifferent and dark.
“The action which is right to be done, performed without attachment to results, free from pride and selfishness, is of the sattva quality. That one is of the rajas quality which is done with a view to its consequences, or with great exertion, or with egotism. And that which in consequence of delusion is undertaken without regard to its consequences, or the power to carry it out, or the harm it may cause, is of the quality of darkness — tamas.
“The doer who performs necessary actions unattached to their consequences and without love or hatred is of the nature of the quality of truth — sattva. The doer whose actions are performed with attachment to the result, with great exertion, for the gratification of his lusts and with pride, covetousness, uncleanness, and attended with rejoicing and grieving, is of the quality of rajas — passion and desire. The doer who is ignorant, foolish, undertaking actions without ability, without discrimination, with sloth, deceit, obstinacy, mischievousness, and dilatoriness, is of the quality of tamas.
“Hear now, O Dhananjaya, conqueror of wealth, the differences which I shall now explain in the discerning power 3 and the steadfast power within, according to the three classes flowing from the divisions of the three qualities. The discerning power that knows how to begin and to renounce, what should and what should not be done, what is to be feared and what not, what holds fast and what sets the soul free, is of the sattva quality. That discernment, O son of Pritha, which does not fully know what ought to be done and what not, what should be feared and what not, is of the passion-born rajas quality. That discriminating power which is enveloped in obscurity, mistaking wrong for right and all things contrary to their true intent and meaning, is of the dark quality of tamas.
“That power of steadfastness holding the man together, which by devotion controls every motion of the mind, the breath, the senses and the organs, partaketh of the sattva quality. And that which cherisheth duty, pleasure, and wealth, in him who looketh to the fruits of action is of the quality of rajas. But that through which the man of low capacity stays fast in drowsiness, fear, grief, vanity and rashness is from the tamas quality, O son of Pritha.
“Now hear what are the three kinds of pleasure wherein happiness comes from habitude and pain is ended. That which in the beginning is as poison and in the end as the waters of life, and which arises from a purified understanding, is declared to be of the sattva quality. That arising from the connection of the senses with their objects which in the beginning is sweet as the waters of life but at the end like poison, is of the quality of rajas. That pleasure is of the dark tamas quality which both in the beginning and the end arising from sleep, idleness, and carelessness, tendeth both in the beginning and the end to stupefy the soul. There is no creature on earth nor among the hosts in heaven who is free from these three qualities which arise from nature.
“The respective duties of the four castes, of Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras, are also determined by the qualities which predominate in the disposition of each, O harasser of thy foes. The natural duty of a Brahman compriseth tranquillity, purity, self-mastery, patience, rectitude, learning, spiritual discernment, and belief in the existence of another world. Those of the Kshatriya sprung from his nature are valor, glory, strength, firmness, not to flee from the field of battle, liberality and a lordly character. The natural duties of the Vaisya are to till the land, tend cattle and to buy and sell; and that of the Sudra is to serve, as is his natural disposition.
“Men being contented and devoted to their own proper duties attain perfection; hear now how that perfection is attained by devotion to natural duty.
“If a man maketh offering to the Supreme Being who is the source of the works of all and by whom this universe was spread abroad, he thus obtaineth perfection. The performance of the duties of a man’s own particular calling, although devoid of excellence, is better than doing the duty of another, however well performed; and he who fulfills the duties obligated by nature, does not incur sin. A man’s own natural duty, even though stained with faults, ought not to be abandoned. For all human acts are involved in faults, as the fire is wrapped in smoke. The highest perfection of freedom from action is attained through renunciation by him who in all works has an unfettered mind and subdued heart.
“Learn from me, in brief, in what manner the man who has reached perfection attains to the Supreme Spirit, which is the end, the aim, and highest condition of spiritual knowledge.
“Imbued with pure discrimination, restraining himself with resolution, having rejected the charms of sound and other objects of the senses, and casting off attachment and dislike; dwelling in secluded places, eating little, with speech, body, and mind controlled, engaging in constant meditation and unwaveringly fixed in dispassion; abandoning egotism, arrogance, violence, vanity, desire, anger, pride, and possession, with calmness ever present, a man is fitted to be the Supreme Being. And having thus attained to the Supreme, he is serene, sorrowing no more, and no more desiring, but alike towards all creatures he attains to supreme devotion to me. By this devotion to me he knoweth fundamentally who and what I am and having thus discovered me he enters into me without any intermediate condition. And even the man who is always engaged in action shall attain by my favor to the eternal and incorruptible imperishable abode, if he put his trust in me alone. With thy heart place all thy works on me, prefer me to all else, exercise mental devotion continually, and think constantly of me. By so doing thou shalt by my divine favor surmount every difficulty which surroundeth thee; but if from pride thou wilt not listen to my words, thou shalt undoubtedly be lost. And if, indulging self-confidence, thou sayest ‘I will not fight,’ such a determination will prove itself vain, for the principles of thy nature will impel thee to engage. Being bound by all past karma to thy natural duties, thou, O son of Kunti, wilt involuntarily do from necessity that which in thy folly thou wouldst not do. There dwelleth in the heart of every creature, O Arjuna, the Master — Isvara — who by his magic power causeth all things and creatures to revolve mounted upon the universal wheel of time. Take sanctuary with him alone, O son of Bharata, with all thy soul; by his grace thou shalt obtain supreme happiness, the eternal place.
“Thus have I made known unto thee this knowledge which is a mystery more secret than secrecy itself; ponder it fully in thy mind, act as seemeth best unto thee.
“But further listen to my supreme and most mysterious words which I will now for thy good reveal unto thee because thou art dearly beloved of me. Place thy heart upon me as I have declared myself to be, serve me, offer unto me alone, and bow down before me alone, and thou shalt come to me; I swear it, for thou art dear to me. Forsake every other religion and take refuge alone with me; grieve not, for I shall deliver thee from all transgressions. Thou must never reveal this to one who doth not practice mortification, who is without devotion, who careth not to hear it, nor unto him who despiseth me. He who expoundeth this supreme mystery to my worshipers shall come to me if he performs the highest worship of me; and there shall not be among men anyone who will better serve me than he, and he shall be dearest unto me of all on earth. If anyone shall study these sacred dialogues held between us two, I shall consider that I am worshiped by him with the sacrifice of knowledge; this is my resolve. And even the man who shall listen to it with faith and not reviling shall, being freed from evil, attain to the regions of happiness provided for those whose deeds are righteous.
“Hast thou heard all this, O son of Pritha, with mind one-pointed? Has the delusion of thought which arose from ignorance been removed, O Dhananjaya?”
“By thy divine power, O thou who fallest not 4, my delusion is destroyed, I am collected once more; I am free from doubt, firm, and will act according to thy bidding.”
Thus have I been an ear-witness of the miraculous astonishing dialogue, never heard before, between Vasudeva and the magnanimous son of Pritha. By the favor of Vydsa I heard this supreme mystery of Yoga — devotion — even as revealed from the mouth of Krishna himself who is the supreme Master of devotion. And as I again and again remember, O mighty king, this wonderful sacred dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, I am delighted again and again. Also, as I recall to my memory the wonderful form of Hari 5, the Lord, my astonishment is great, O king, and I rejoice again and again. Wherever Krishna, the supreme Master of devotion, and wherever the son of Pritha, the mighty archer, may be, there with certainty are fortune, victory, wealth, and wise action; this is my belief.
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Eighteenth Chapter, by name —
DEVOTION AS REGARDS RENUNCIATION AND FINAL LIBERATION.
1. Kesin was a daitya, a demon, fabled to have been sent by Kansa for the purpose of destroying Krishna.
2. This verse refers not only to effects after death in the post-mortem states, but also to subsequent lives in the body upon reincarnating.
3. This is Buddhi, the highest intellection, the power of judgment.
4. The word is “Achyuta.”
5. One of the names of Vishnu, and also applied to Krishna.
Translation by Charles Johnston
“Songs of the Master”
Translated With an Introduction and Commentary by
The Bhagavad Gita is one of the noblest scriptures of India, one of the deepest scriptures of the world. It is rich in beauty and full of poetic power. The characters stand out in heroic grandeur, in the midst of a splendid setting of martial valor. The figures of Arjuna, very human in despondency and doubt, and of Krishna, majestic, resolute, persuasive, are clear, living, of universal truth. On another side, the Bhagavad Gita is full of inspiration, of religious devotion, of keenest insight into the heart of man. The conflict of motives that beset human action, the clinging fetters of selfishness which check us in the path to the immortal, the subtle evasions of the lurking whisperer in the heart: all are clearly seen and vividly revealed. Yet, withal, the claims of abstract thought are not forgotten; every stage of Indian philosophy, every shade of logic and metaphysics, is given its place; and many practical suggestions are put forward, touching the problems of Indian politics and history, hints as valid to-day in human affairs as they were two thousand years ago.
“Bhagavad Gita” means The Songs of the Master, that is, of Krishna, Prince of Dvaraka, a Rajput of royal line. The occasion is the decisive battle of Kurukshetra, and the opening of the poem is epic and martial in spirit. Only a part of the battle is recorded. We are not told the result. For this work is but a section of a much longer poem, the Mahabharata, which embodies a whole cycle of Indian history, tradition and legend.
The leading events of the great Mahabharata war are historical. They have left a deep mark on all later ages of Indian life, down to our day. The great struggle between kindred branches of the Rajput race recorded there, permanently weakened that race, and eclipsed its glory, thus making way for the long dominance of the sacerdotal Brahmans. The growth of the Brahman power forms, as it were, a measure of the passage of ages in ancient India. In the archaic days of the first Upanishads, we find the sacred wisdom wholly in the hands of the Rajputs, the royal races akin, as it would seem, to the ancient Egyptians and Chaldeans. Two of the Upanishads record the first initiation of a Brahman into that wisdom. The initiator, a princely Rajput marks the occasion by declaring that this wisdom had never before been given to a Brahman, but in every region was the hereditary teaching of the Kshatriya, the warrior, alone.
In the days of the Mahabharata war, the Brahmans have already gained much ground, but they are far from being the strong and dominant caste they later became. There are many instances in which the privileges and dignity of Brahmans are somewhat curtly treated; and in many cases, as in the marriages of the Pandu brothers, Brahmanical law is broken in a way that would be unthinkable later on. There is abundant evidence that it was precisely this great fratricidal struggle among the Rajput princes that gave the Brahmans their opportunity, opening the way for the consolidation of their power.
In the days of Prince Siddhartha, also a Rajput of the Solar race, the priestly hierarchy was not only grown strong and great all over northern India, but, in many regards, it had fallen into over-ripeness and decline. One of the Buddha’s most eloquent sermons is directed against the many abuses of the Brahman order, and preserves for us a picture, unsparing in its satire, and perfect in detail, of the life of the Brahmans, in spiritual and external matters alike, in the Buddha’s day. As we know that the Buddha’s long life was lived some twenty-five hundred years ago, we can easily see that the epoch of the Great War, in which Krishna and Arjuna fought, must have been many centuries earlier; and far beyond the time of the Great War lie the archaic days of the greater Upanishads.
In general, we may hold that no man who has been well forgotten, suddenly becomes the hero of a popular poem. The very essence of ballads and bardic songs is that they record doughty deeds still fresh in all memories; and, the world over, the bards have gained glory and reward by singing the praises of warriors, and the beauty of queens, at the courts of the queens and warriors they celebrated, or at least before their children, who shone in their reflected glory. Praise of living princes has always been the business of heralds and bards.
We are justified, then, in believing that every bardic poem, every ballad belauding some hero, was in the first instance genuinely contemporary, though many later changes may have been made. And this is true, no doubt, of the cycle of ballads and bardic poems which form the kernel of the Mahabharata. They were made in the first instance while the echoes of the Great War were in all men’s ears; while the victors were still flushed with victory; while the wreaths were still fresh on the tombs of the fallen. And amongst those ballads there was one, if we may trust the great cyclic poem itself, which recorded the Despondency of Arjuna in sight of the armies, and the wise and stinging words by which Prince Krishna stirred him to the conflict.
This poem of Krishna and Arjuna, made soon after the battle, no doubt, formed the kernel of the present work. To that kernel many elements were added, and its growth followed the growth of Indian life throughout centuries. Gradually developed and perfected in form, it came at last to stand as a symbolic scripture, with many meanings, containing many truths. This development has taken place, in a large degree, by weaving together the different threads of Indian thought, the work of the great lines of Indian tradition.
There is but one problem of life; throughout all lands, in all age, it has been the same. It is the problem of the soul and immortality. From difference of temperament or race, or both, there have been certain widely divergent lines in the effort of ancient India to solve the immemorial secret. Each had its growth and development; each its long line of adherents; each its controversies, its commentators, its triumphs. In course of time, the difference between these systems grew more marked than their agreement, and controversy overshadowed appreciation. One great task of the Bhagavad Gita is that of reconciler between these divergent systems, and the revelation of the truth that they all lead to a single goal.
These different lines of thought may have had their origin in difference of race; since a blending of four great races went to the forming of the Indian polity. These are the red race of the Rajputs, the white race of the Brahmans, the yellow race of the Vaishyas, and the black race of the Shudras. The white race was, perhaps, the most northerly, and may have come into India by way of the Hindu Kush. We find the red race of the Rajputs stretching from the Indus to the Ganges, on the west holding Rajputana, and on the east extending to Ayodhya or Oudh, and the Buddha’s country in Behar. South of the Rajputs, along the Vindhya hills, the mountains of Orissa, and certain spurs of the Ghats, are the yellow agricultural races from whom the Vaishyas were recruited. And in the southern peninsula,down to the extremity of India, are various black or nearly black tribes and races,who contributed the Shudra element to the ancient Four-Caste system. The local disposition of these four great races was, doubtless, the source of the ancient parable that from the head of Brahma were born the Brahmans; from his arms, the Rajputs; from his middle, the Vaishyas; from his feet, the Shudras.
A large part of ancient Indian law was concerned with the balancing of duties and rights between the four races. Each had its genius and gifts; and the selective force of development had naturally assigned a province of activities to each. For each, there were certain duties, a certain “dharma” by fulfilling which he could obtain fulness of life and salvation; and thus an ideal race perfection was held up to each of the four stems. Further, every barrier was placed in the way of intermarriage, for it was found that, in general, half-breeds failed to inherit the better qualities of either parent. The word mulatto, or mule-like, is used by Manu’s commentator, in describing the half-bred stocks, the result of caste-mixture; and the Manu code is most stringent in its prohibition of race mixture.
This is what Arjuna means, when he speaks of mingling of caste, or, more properly, mingling of color, and the social anarchy which would follow it, toward the close of the first book; and it is of the genius and duties of the different races that Krishna speaks later on.
There was another quality which sprang from the original difference of race: a difference in spiritual insight and religious ideal. The Rajputs had their ancient tradition, which is put forth in the greater Upanishads, and which held the twin doctrine of rebirth and liberation. This tradition, as we have seen, was at first the hereditary teaching of the Rajputs alone, and was much later imparted to the Brahmans.
The Brahmans also had their faith. In Indra and Agni, they adored certain great cosmic principles, and the Vedic hymns record the ritual of their worship. They believed in the soul’s immortality, but did not hold the teaching of rebirth until the Rajputs disclosed it to them. They conceived the souls of the dead as still present in earthly life, making a united life with the living members of the family, and bound to them by close ties of moral and psychical kinship. Every year they offered sacrifices to them; cakes of rice to the father, grandfather and great-grandfather; fragments of the cakes to the next three generations; and libations of water o the three still higher. In the extreme theory of Indian law, the inheritance was for the purpose of providing for these memorial rites, and the title to celebrate them was, and is deemed to-day, evidence of the right to inherit. The rites thus depend on purity of line, on a clear title to descent. Any obscurity of birth impedes the rites, so that by this obscurity the ancestors may be “cut off from the offerings of rice-cake and water.” On these offerings their spiritual sustenance was held to depend, and they were thought of as falling into the pit of hell, when their sustenance failed. This ancient ancestor-worship runs through the whole of Brahmanical law. It is almost identical with the spiritual system which prevails in China, Korea and Japan; and in Korea the rites and obligations depending on the souls of ancestors are almost exactly what they were under Manu’s code.
The yellow race of central India held, and for the most part holds to-day, a somewhat similar belief. To it is added a practical spiritualism, the priests being mediums, who obtain communications from the souls of the departed ancestors, in trances and visions. In modern times, we have been witness of a revival in Westem lands of this ancient cult of many Asian races.
The black races had their beliefs, but they were wilder and more elemental. Fierce and grimly destructive gods, symbolized from the darker and more menacing powers of nature, of cataclysm and disease, we propitiated in wild emotional rites. Much stress was laid on such forces as mesmerism, hypnotism and the evil eye. The many-armed and fantastic Indian gods are, in all likelihood, the contribution of the darker races of the south to the common fund. They have their place in that part of the Bhagavad Gita, which describes the transfiguration of Krishna, with many faces and many arms.
Thus each of the four races contributed an element of form to the great composite of Indian religion. There were also profound differences of spirit. There was the great tradition of the Upanishads, in origin belonging to the Rajputs. That tradition was based on the intuition of the soul, the immortal, with its splendid powers and high destiny. The soul and its powers are the secret theme of the greater Upanishads; and they reveal the soul as it is in life, as it is in death. They trace the soul from its fountain-head in the Eternal, in its downward course through the three manifested worlds. In each world it has its fitting vesture, its fitting perceptions and powers. Lowest of these is that physical body with its animal life, which plays its part on the stage of this mortal world. It is but the sheath of the personal, psychical self of egotism and passion, who is the moving figure in the wars and contests of our human life, and who fills the world of dreams, whether in waking or in sleep.
Above this personal self is the spiritual being, the higher Self, in the sunlight of the eternal. This is the real man, the immortal, and for his purposes are enacted all the dramas of this our life. In his being all gains are harvested, all losses have their purpose and explanation; and in his wider life all mysteries and perils of this our life are but the incidents, the rough material of final and enduring good. We have all of us had moments in which we have caught glimpses of this mighty secret, and felt the brooding presence of the mightier Self. Feeling that we indeed are poor, orphaned and insignificant, we are yet aware that there is in us that whose very glory makes our poverty and meanness so sensible in contrast; that these mazes and confusions of our earthly life, with their crying tragedies of wrong and sorrow and separation, are, in truth, no tragedies, but ordered movements in a greater drama, in which we, through our divine life, play a part that is immortal. We have felt the might and majesty of that larger life descend upon us, mantling us in glory, and have known that we are not mere stragglers in the wilderness, but that we are close to the divine heart of being, and that all is well provided for, in power and glory and love.
This teaching of inspiration, of intuition, of faith, is the inspiring spirit of the Upanishads, to which the name of Vedanta, the End of the Veda, was, in due time, given. In historic origin, it is the sacred tradition of the Rajputs; and the Rajputs derived from it the twin doctrines of rebirth and liberation, which formed the heart of their secret teaching. They taught that the psychical, personal man might follow either one of two contrasted destinies. He might remain under the sway of his bodily longings and desires, and blind to the greater spiritual life above him; a man amongst men, and with all the weakness and failings of fallen humanity. In this case, blinded by passion and fettered by egotism, he was shut off for the time from his larger destiny. At death, he entered a world of dreams, there reaping the harvest of such good and righteous acts as he might have performed; and destined, when this harvest was consumed, to be reborn in this human world, a man once more in the world of men. Stumbling forward along the path, with his blindness still upon him, he met the same fate again and again, falling once more under Death’s dominion. And thus it was with him, until the day of his liberation dawned.
When that day came, he began to perceive the brooding presence of the greater Self, who, in truth, had guided the cycle of his births and led him along the devious ways of many lives. He felt that he was no longer alone in the wilderness of the world, but that he was guarded, watched, provided for; and that the guardian was his own divine Self. But feeling this, he came to a dark and difficult region of the path. Personal desires, kinships, claims beset him, and all the longings of personal life. And the immortal claims beset him also, very importunate, demanding perfect sacrifice, and pointing to a path that led away from the level places of the world. Then came the great and immemorial conflict between the personal and the divine will; between the man’s self and his better Self. The prize of victory was liberation, and liberation was immortal life, in the sunlight of the Eternal. This was the teaching of the greater Upanishads, and this is the conflict to which Krishna urges Arjuna.
Besides this way of intuition, there was a way of abstract reason, in which we should, doubtless, perceive the genius of the Brahmans expressing itself. This abstract reason approached the problem with the mind rather than with the soul; and, faithfully using the mind, reached very valuable results. Piercing by a powerful insight through the appearances of things, it perceived a single reality, one Being, wherein all rests. In that Being were hid certain powers, which, in due time, manifested themselves; and through their manifestation, all the worlds and all creatures were presently produced. First of these great primal powers was that of causation, which we may conceive as the power of number. For, when we count a series of things in number, we imply much more than that they are different. We imply that they are related, and that they follow each other in orderly sequence. The three stages which we call cause, causing and effect are but one instance of numbering; we think of the second as the result of the first, and the third as the result of the second. Numbering also contains the idea of division, of diversity, and thus implies differentiation in the one Substance, which was originally “alone and without a second.” Through differentiation, the one Being becomes many beings. From this principle of numbering, the system which sprang from it was called the Sankhya or Number system.
The next step in this system was the idea of succession, the root of time, and the marking of a new stage in evolution or emanation, whereby the manifold beings created by differentiation become manifested in time. Finally from time sprang space, which is but the field of many series of successions, conceived as taking place simultaneously; and with space added to time and causation, the frame of the universe was complete. In reality, these three great tendencies, which gave birth to nature, were but mirages, things which seemed to be, as compared with veritable Being; and the way of salvation, for the Sankhyas, lay in a perception of Being, above all differentiation, “alone and without a second.” We are only seemingly beings; we are really Being; this was their thought. And differentiation is but the fruit of the many-sided mind, which perceives as diverse that which is really one. Therefore, to reach liberation, we must disentangle ourselves from the net of the mind, and see ourselves as Being, as pure Spirit. Thus by sheer intellect, by abstract philosophy, the Sankhyas sought the final goal of man. And, though few bear the name of Sankhya in India to-day, yet very many, who call themselves Vedantins, are really Sankhyas, thinking that by acts of intellect the goal is to be won.
Two other forms of faith are outlined in the Gita. There is the way of works, and there is the way of devotional feeling. The first seeks salvation by doing all things as to the Lord, by fulfilling all duties as a ritual of the great religion of service. The other seeks to find the way by a certain exaltation of the heart; by carrying into all life a glow of emotion, a rapture, a gladness manifested first in a joyful ceremonial of festivals, and then turning all life into a festival. It might be suggested that the ritual way of works springs from the yellow race, always prone to minute ceremony; as to-day in China and Korea, victims of the ceremonial tendency; and that the way of emotion came from the emotional darker races of the south. But this point need not be pressed.
What is of far more importance is, that each of these ways of worship represents a great primary tendency of the human heart and mind; and that along one or other of them must be sought the answer to the riddle of life. Intuition, intellect, work, feeling: these are the four great methods whereby we can approach the mystery; and the truth is, that they are not rivals but allies; all must be used, if a wise balance is to be maintained.
The author or authors of the Bhagavad Gita set themselves to describe the great conflict, and to show in what way each of the powers may help toward victory. The personal man begins to feel the greater Self above him, with its insistent voice, its brooding power. About him is the furniture of his habitual life, to which he is bound by many dear, close ties; many things are threatened, if he is to follow that new and imperious voice from within and above; many things are visibly condemned. He had his ideals of worldly success, of wealth, of ambition, of regard and consideration for others. How will these stand if the great silent voice be obeyed? He will then have to set out on a path not that of mortals; and many mortal things must pass away from him as he treads it. How shall he apply himself to the task? How make even the first resolve to undertake it? How shall he substitute for the vari-colored lights of the world the quiet light of the soul? These are the questions sought to be answered in the Bhagavad Gita, and nothing more dramatic could be imagined than the position of Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield, which is made the occasion of their answers.
Krishna points again and again to a certain principle, which will form a safe clue through the labyrinth; a principle which we may call disinterested work. Let us give a few examples:
If an artist finds some inspiring thought of beauty, some insight into the finer quality of things, he seeks to embody this inspiration in a picture. He also has material needs and a thirst for praise. These two tendencies pull him opposite ways. He must center the whole ardor of his will and heart on the pure ideal of beauty, and paint for that alone, if he wishes to paint a worthy picture. If he thinks of personal profit, he will fail.
Again, a general in war should hold in view only his duty to his country, disregarding thought of praise or blame, or safety or death. If he thinks of these, he will be rash or weak; advancing too far, or supinely surrendering in fear. Purely disinterested valor is his one path of honor.
In action toward others, the same rule holds. We must keep clearly in heart the other’s real good, and seek to accomplish that, putting away every thought of our own profit. Thus we shall do something clean, holy and sanative, which will cement the bonds of real love.
Finally, in our relation with the Highest, we must put away the thought of personal pain. We must with clear intuition perceive the task set us by the divine Life, and with high valor perform it, leaving all further matters out of sight. The heart’s devotion must be laid on the altar, and from that pure offering a knowledge of divine life will arise. This is Krishna’s doctrine of disinterestedness, of detachment, to which he comes back again and again. By following it we shall gradually untie the knot of the heart, and the hard and dense psychic nature will become purified and transparent, so that some of the divine light may come down into our hearts and we may hear the quiet voice of our immortality.
Thereafter, born again from above, we begin a new and immortal life. We are no longer creatures of this earth only, but dwellers in the spiritual universe. We work with divine and everlasting law, carrying out the commands of infinite love. A great tenderness and gentleness dwells in our hearts, and we feel the sorrow and pain of every being, not of men and women only, but of those lesser lives who are also bound to us by close ties of brotherhood. Passing through sacrifice, we shall live in joy, great and evermore increasing, till it fills all life, the heavens and the earth alike. Power will be given us to carry out the things of our immortality, and the vesture of pain and the limits of the mortal will pass away like a curtain that is withdrawn. The Eternal coming to us, and we entering into the Eternal, we shall know ourselves as that infinite All, and know the Self in us as the Self of all beings made one through love. This is liberation, the path of immortal and infinite life.
From the beginning of the way we shall find a threefold expression of power in our spiritual progress. First, through strong aspiration, we shall strive with the whole power of our hearts toward the still but dimly discerned Highest. Then, as the result of long and ardent effort, continued with devotion and sacrifice, we shall find the light suddenly grow into full illumination, knowing ourselves in the presence of the Soul. Gathering into our hearts and memories that revelation, we shall store it for future use, and, the hour of our illumination past, we shall take up again the tasks of our daily life, seeking the realization of our high inspiration. There are these three: aspiration, illumination, realization; the “pistis, gnosis, sophia” of the Greek mystics. And it is held by some students of the Bhagavad Gita that its eighteen books are consciously divided according to this threefold law; six books of aspiration; six books of illumination; six books of realization. It is worth while to see how far this works out in detail, and how close the correspondence may be; but certain it is that the beginning of the poem is concerned with the search for the light; the middle is dominated by the transfiguration of Krishna; and the close by the practical application to life of the laws and inspirations already reached.
At what time was the Bhagavad Gita written? If we are justified in holding the views already suggested, it was written at different times, through several centuries, growing gradually to fuller and fuller completeness. The kernel is that poem or ballad of Krishna and Arjuna, which must have been composed soon after the great battle of Kurukshetra; and to that kernel layer after layer was added, as the ages passed.
In the days of Shankaracharya, the work was already complete, in its present form. And great Shankara lived, according to the traditions of the schools he founded in southern India, some twenty-two hundred years ago. But we must put the Bhagavad Gita somewhat further back, even in its complete and final form. For some two centuries before the date assigned to great Shankara, Patanjali lived and taught, recording in the Yoga Sutras the sum and essence of his philosophy. And these Sutras are evidently later and more developed than the Bhagavad Gita, and are, indeed, the final summing up of that long tradition of Yoga teaching, many aspects of which are spoken of in this poem.
Patanjali was, in all probability, a contemporary of Gautama, the Buddha, who lived some five and twenty centuries ago. And the fact that there is no clear trace of the Buddha’s mighty mission in the Bhagavad Gita is another reason for assigning it, even in its final form, to an earlier date.
We shall, perhaps, come closest to the truth, if we think of the Bhagavad Gita as veritably recording the teaching and mission of Krishna, though with certain added themes; and of Krishna’s mission as but one in a long series of revelations through Rajput sages, which made and continued the spiritual life of India.
Thus, in archaic times, we have the greater Upanishads, with their doctrines of the royal sages, teachings hitherto imparted to no Brahman, as two of the great Upanishads declare; and in Vedic times also we have the hymns of the Rajput Vishvamitra, seer of the third Mandala of the Rig Veda, wherein is contained the thrice-holy Gayatri.
After Vishvamitra and the Upanishads, we have Rama of Ayodya, esteemed a divine avatar; and, after Rama, Prince Krishna of Dvaraka, hero, sage and seer of Rajput race. Krishna himself insists on this, at the beginning of the fourth book of the Bhagavad Gita: “This imperishable Yoga I have declared to the Solar lord. The Solar lord imparted it to Manu, and Manu told it to Ikshvaku. Thus the Rajput sages and seers knew it, handed down from Master to disciple.”
Then, in the fulness of time, if our understanding be right, prince Siddhartha the Compassionate, himself a descendant of Ikshvaku, once more gave forth to the world the Rajput sacred teaching, enriched as of old by the twin doctrines of rebirth and liberation from rebirth—liberation, to which, following the older Indian tradition already recorded in the Bhagavad Gita, the Awakened Siddhartha gave the splendid name of Nirvana.
This great doctrine, thus handed down from Master to disciple, forms the living heart of the Eastern wisdom, and, as a tribute to that wisdom, this rendering of the Bhagavad Gita is made.
Introduction to Book I
The first book and a great part of the second book belong without doubt to the earliest period of the Bhagavad Gita. They are an integral part of the bardic cycle of the War of the Kurus and Pandus, which forms the kernel of the great Indian epic poem, the Mahabharata. The style is that of the martial epic, and the strong personal outlines of the chief figures have not begun to take on a symbolic and universal coloring. Arjuna is still the prince of Hastinapura, and Krishna is the warrior lord of Dvaraka, come to help him in the fight for his kingdom. As the second book progresses, both assume a larger and more universal aspect, and the arguments of Krishna grow wider in scope, of universal application and everlasting import. We can see the work gradually growing from the bardic poem to the spiritual scripture.
A few words, to make the position of the persons more intelligible. Two brothers, Dhritarashtra and Pandu, were princes of Hastinapura, in the territory between the upper waters of the Ganga and Yamuna, now called the Ganges and Jumna. The place of the great ancient city is reputed to be not far from Delhi. Dhritarashtra had many sons, of whom Duryodhana was eldest. Pandu, twice married had five sons, spoken of as the five Pandu princes, from the name of their father. The sons of Dhritarashtra drove the sons of Pandu out of the kingdom. Then, after a period of exile, the sons of Pandu gathered a host of allies, invaded their ancestral territory, and fought a great contest at Kurukshetra, a decisive battle in the history of ancient India.
Of the five sons of Pandu, Arjuna was the most eminent. He bears many names. He is called the son of Pandu when it is clear that he alone of the five brothers is spoken of. He is described as the son of Pritha, his mother, who, by adoption, also bore the name of Kunti. He is called the descendant of Bharata, the conqueror of wealth, the lord of the crested locks, the lord of the monkey banner.
In like manner, his great ally Krishna has many titles. He is the slayer of the demon Madhu. He is the descendant of Vrishni. He is the lord of the flowing hair, of the beautiful hair. He is the arouser of men. He is the lord of the earth. Thus from local and personal titles, he gradually passes to names of universal and spiritual significance, just as the book itself passes from the bardic poem to the spiritual scripture.
The father of Dhritarashtra had two half-brothers. One of these, Bhishma, espoused the cause of Dhritarashtra and his sons, and led their army. He is called the grandsire, the elder Kuru, and was the granduncle not only of Duryodhana and his brothers, but also of Arjuna, Bhima, Yudhisthira, Sahadeva and Nakula, the five sons of Pandu. The second half-brother was Krishna Dvaipayana, who bears the title of the Vyasa, the Revealer, a name associated with many sacred Indian books.
The great war was thus a contest between the children of two brothers, and Arjuna’s horror and remorse were entirely natural. The grief and despondency attributed to him had, no doubt, their real historic existence, which was made the motive of a splendidly dramatic bardic poem, the kernel of our book.
Besides the horror of fratricide, there is another motive for Arjuna’s misery. That motive is found in the thought of the spiritually united family, made up of the living and the dead, which was the old popular religion of India, as of many other Asian and Western lands. The members of the family were thought of as held together by spiritual bonds; the souls of the departed, dwelling beyond the threshold of the visible world, continued to take part in all its hopes and fears, and were united with their descendants still living upon earth. More than this, their spiritual well-being depended on these descendants, who fed their ethereal bodies with yearly offerings of rice-cakes and water. The duty of making this offering was a most sacred one, and fell to the male head of the family, in his representative capacity. His headship was bound up with this mystical rite, and he inherited the property of his fathers, in theory, in order that the cost of the rite might be secured. So vital was the due performance of this rite, that, where no son was born, it became a sacred duty to adopt a son, who thus became the representative of the family, and offered the mystical sustenance to the spirits of the fathers. A vivid story of ancient India represents the ancestors of a certain Jaratkaru as suspended by a slender thread over the pit of hell, the rat of Time ever gnawing the thread. As the offering of cakes was made, the thread grew thicker. If the offering failed, the rat cut the thread, and the souls fell into the pit of hell. Arjuna fears that, in this war of kinsman, the sons of the warring brothers will fall; and, the offerings thus failing, all their honored and worshipped forefathers will be condemned to spiritual ruin.
Lastly, there is the fear for the women of their families, a fear always present in war until quite recent times. The women, left unprotected, were the real victims of the war, far more than the warriors who fell in fight. Arjuna fears lest the women of his family, of old and noble Rajput race, may be left unguarded, and thus fall victims to the lower races of other colors, who made up a great part of the peoples of India. This fear of race-mingling runs all through Indian law, and the most stringent rules were made to guard against it, and to humiliate the offspring of race mixture. Spiritual as well as temporal ignominy attended the sin of mingling of races, and this dread, always present to the thought of the noble races of India, comes back in full force to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
There is a spiritual significance to all this, and the situation of Arjuna is well chosen to bring out great spiritual truths. He stands for the personal self, beginning to grow conscious of the Higher Self; touched and enkindled with the spiritual light of that Higher Self, yet full of dismay and terror from the realization of what obedience to the Higher Sell must mean. The contest of brothers is now concentrated within a single nature, the life of a single man. A war must be waged within himself, a war long and arduous, for the life of the Soul. Nothing but high courage, joined with faith and aspiration, makes the contest possible, and even then there will be shrinking and dismay. Against the still, small voice of the Soul are arrayed the strong forces of the material nature, the passions, the mind. These are the opposing brothers on the field of the Law.
Of the same conflict, another Teacher, speaking for the Soul, has said: Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross and followeth after me is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
The losing of this life that he may find it is the great fratricidal war that opens the door to the Path, and the shrinking and dismay of Arjuna have thus their universal value and significance. He is facing the battle of man, as he grieves there in the chariot, between the two armies, while the arrows are already falling.
On the field of the law, on Kuru’s field assembled and ready to fight, what did my people, O Sanjaya, and the Pandu host?
King Duryodhana, beholding the Pandu army drawn up for battle, coming to Drona, his instructor, addressed to him this word:
Behold, O instructor, this mighty host of the sons of Pandu, marshalled by thy wise pupil, Drupada’s son;
Heroes are here, mighty archers, equal to Bhima and Arjuna in battle, Yuyudhana and Virata, and Drupada of the great chariot;
Dhrishtaketu and Chekitana, and Kashi’s valorous king; Purujit and Kuntibhoja and Shaivya, bull of men: (5)
The victorious Yudhamanyu and Uttamaujas the valorous, Subhadra’s son and the sons of Draupadi, with great chariots all.
Hear now, best of the Twice-born, who are our chiefest men, my army’s captains; that thou mayest know their names, tell them to thee;
Thyself and Bhishma, Karna and Kripa, conqueror in battle, Ashvatthama and Vikarna, and Somadatta’s son;
And many other heroes who give their lives for me, variously armed, all skilled in war.
Our force which Bhishma leads is inadequate; their force which Bhima commands is strong; (10)
Therefore, do ye all support Bhishma, holding the several places allotted to you, O worthy warriors!
Then enkindling his ardor, the elder Kuru, the martial grandsire, loudly blew his conch-shell, sounding the lion note.
Thereupon sounded conches, drums, great drums, cymbals and trumpets, till the sound grew to a tumult.
Then standing together in their great chariot yoked with white horses, Krishna, slayer of Madhu, and Arjuna, son of Pandu, blew their godlike conches.
He of the flowing hair blew the conch called Fivefold, and the conqueror of wealth blew the God-given; and he of the wolf-maw, terrible in deeds, blew the Reed-note; (15)
King Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti, blew Unending-victory; Nakula and Sahadeva blew the conches Well-sounding and Pearl-flowered;
And the mighty archer, the king of Kashi, and Shikhandin of the great chariot, Dhrishtadyumna, Virata and Satyaka’s unvanquished son;
Drupada and the sons of Draupadi, his daughter, O monarch, and Subhadra’s son of mighty arms, blew their conches on all hands, on this side and on that;
And the sound pierced the hearts of Dhritarashtra’s sons; the din made heaven and earth resound.
Then Pandu’s son, he of the monkey-banner, looking toward the sons of Dhritarashtra set over against him, while the arrows were already falling, grasped his bow; (20)
And thus, O monarch, he spoke to him of the flowing hair: Draw up my chariot, O unfallen one, between the two armies;
That I may view those ranged against us ready to fight, with whom must do battle in this clash of war;
That I may see those who are about to fight, gathered here to work the will of Dhritarashtra’s evil-minded son in battle!
Krishna of the flowing hair, thus addressed by Arjuna of the crested locks, O son of Bharata, stopping the most excellent chariot between the two armies,
In face of Bhishma and Drona and all the rulers of the earth, spoke thus: Behold the Kurus assembled here, O son of Pritha! (25)
Pritha’s son beheld standing there fathers and grandfathers, instructors, uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons and companions, Fathers-in-law and dear friends in both armies. He, the son of Kunti, viewing all these near kinsmen standing opposed, filled with supreme pity, desponding, spoke thus:
Seeing my own kindred here, O Krishna, desiring battle, ranged against each other,
My limbs sink under me, my mouth dries up, trembling besets my body, and my flesh creeps; My bow Gandiva slips from my hand, my skin burns with fever; I cannot stand; my heart is confused; (30)
I see contrary omens, O thou of the flowing hair, nor can I look for the better part, if I slay my kindred in battle.
I want not victory, Krishna, nor the kingdom nor its pleasures; for what profit is the kingdom to us, thou lord of the earth; what are feasts, or even life itself?
They for whose sake a kingdom is sought, and its feasts and pleasures, even they are drawn up against us, staking their lives and wealth in battle:
Instructors, fathers, sons and grandsires, uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, wives’ brothers, kinsmen.
These would I not kill, though killed myself, O slayer of Madhu, even for the kingdom of the three worlds, much less for this earth; (35)
If we strike down the sons of Dhritarashtra, what joy shall we find, thou arouser of men? Sin will follow us if we slay these usurpers.
Therefore, we must not slay the sons of Dhritarashtra, our kinsmen. How can we be happy, if we kill our own kin, O slayer of Madhu?
Even if they, their hearts blinded by greed, see not the evil of family strife, and the crime of the hatred of friends;
How shall we fail to tum back from this sin, we who do see the evil of family strife, O arouser of men?
For when the family is cut off, the immemorial rites of the family perish, and when the rites perish, lawlessness overtakes the whole family; Overtaken by lawlessness, O Krishna, the women of the family are led astray; when the women are led astray, descendant of Vrishni, there comes mingling of races; (41)
And mingling of races makes for hell for the slayers of family and for their family; for their departed fathers fall, cut off from the offerings of rice-cakes and water.
Through these sins of those who slay their kindred, thus causing impurity of race, the immemorial birth rites and family rites are overthrown;
And for the sons of men whose family rites fail, thou arouser of men, a place in hell is certain. Thus we have heard from our fathers!
Woe is me! We are set on doing a great evil, since through lust of the kingdom and its pleasures, we are ready to slay our own kin. (45)
If Dhritarashtra’s sons, weapon in hand, should slay me in battle, weaponless and unresisting, that would be far more easy to bear!
Thus speaking, Arjuna sank on the floor of the chariot, in the midst of the host, dropping his bow and his arrows, his heart shaken with sorrow.
Introduction to Book II
The very first speech of Krishna, though he says only a few words, strikes the keynote of the Soul. He appeals to Arjuna’s manhood, to his martial valor, to his instinct of noble race, to his ideal of honor. Through these high powers, the Soul moulds the individual nature of man, and guides it along the way that leads to the Path. These fine virtues are the Soul’s representatives in individual life.
Arjuna replies with pathetic force, with a grief and shrinking that are altogether genuine, in dismay at the fight which he is called to fight. He once more puts forward his pitiful plea, and speaks of all he is asked to sacrifice. He shrinks from losing his life that he may save it; the price seems too great; the burden is unendurable. We may follow the symbolic purpose of the poem, and state in universal terms the sacrifice Arjuna is called on to make, in order that the personal self may give place to the Higher Self.
There is, first, the inheritance of the long struggle for life in the animal world, the instinct of self-preservation, the determination to make life a contest for one’s separate fortune; the gospel of worldly and material success. The general lives of men are lived for success, but his life must be lived for obedience to divine Law. He is not to work his separate will, he is to work the will of the Father in Heaven, the Divine Self, the Soul.
Then, as a finer form of the first, there is ambition; the desire for name and fame; the desire to be thought well of, to be spoken well of, to be noticed and commented on, to be famous and admired. This is to give way to another desire, the desire that the divine will may be done, as in the divine world, so in the human world; and no praise will be valid but that of the still, small voice.
Then there are the desires of the senses, very hungry and importunate, begging incessantly to be fed, urging, stinging, tormenting; and these must be stilled, before the divine voice can be heard. All desires that abide in the heart must be let go, before the light and life and love of the Soul can dwell there.
In fine, the whole former structure of things is to pass away, the scheme of life built on hopes and fears and wishes; all relationships with others based on self-seeking, on desire, on the hunger of the senses, are to be transmuted; the personal will is to be transformed, so that only the divine will shall remain, guiding all things into new ways, making a new heaven and a new earth. And from the death that precedes this renewal, the heart of man shrinks. The sacrifice alone is certain, the resurrection is hid in darkness.
To the doubt and fear of Arjuna, Krishna makes a series of answers. These answers are arranged in an order which is very significant. There is an answer for each power of the soul, an answer addressed to each obstacle of the soul. First, to the question of fear, of material and natural dread, comes the answer of valor, the statement of the Soul. The Soul is divine, immortal, full of splendor, therefore what need we fear? The Soul can suffer no loss, therefore what loss need we dread? The temporal body belongs to the eternal lord of the body; therefore, fight, O son of Bharata!
This first answer of Krishna, running to verse 25, is the grandest and most eloquent passage in the whole book. It is the affirmation of the Soul, the splendid vindication of intuition. It is of the quality of the greater Upanishads, and many of its verses are taken from them, or from some common store from which they also came.
The second answer of Krishna is addressed rather to the doubting mind. And to the mind he replies, by citing a law evident to the mind, the law of mutation. All things change; change is inevitable; death follows birth; rebirth follows death. There is no escaping change, rebirth, transformation. Therefore accept this great transformation, the mystical rebirth.
Thirdly, Krishna appeals to Arjuna’s pride and sense of honor: to the warrior-instinct of the Soul, the high courage which is the voice of the Soul itself, for all valor is of the Soul.
Finally, Krishna brings forward the thought which, more than all others, is the heart of this whole poem; the thought of detachment, of disinterested work done in union with the Soul. Of this great and central thought we shall have to say much. At this place, however, the even course of the poem is broken up by certain passages later added, and to which we must now call attention. The first is verse 39: “This thought is declared to thee according to Sankhya; now hear it according to Yoga,” and so on. Then a few lines further, verses 42 to 46, there is an impassioned attack on the ceremonial worship of the Vedas, such an attack as is made more than once in the Upanishads, where the Mystic protests against the system of the Priest. This again is a manifest addition. If we leave out these two passages, what remains is entirely cogent and continuous in thought. We may show this by giving the passage without the additions.
“Either, slain, thou wilt gain heaven, or conquering, thou wilt enjoy the earth; therefore, arise, O son of Kunti, determined to do battle! Making equal good and ill fortune, gain and loss, victory and defeat, gird thyself for the fight, for thus thou shalt not fall into sin! Here is no loss of advantage, nor any going back; even a little of this law saves from the great fear. The thought whose essence is determination is single, O rejoicer of the Kurus! Many-branched and endless are the thoughts of the undetermined. Thy right is to the work, but never to its fruits; let not the fruit of thy work be thy motive, nor take refuge in abstinence from works. Standing in union with the Soul carry out thy work, putting away attachment, O conqueror of wealth; equal in success and failure, for equalness is called union with the Soul.”
The verses which follow carry on the same thought, and develop it with lucidity, power and beauty. A man should give up personal wants and wishes, and in all things act only for the Soul. Let him by purity and devotion gain the vision of the Soul, and then let him in all things serve that Master, obeying only the behests of the Soul. Such a one will gain the Godlike resting place, and, at the time of the end, will enter into union with the Eternal.
There is great significance in the order in which these arguments are put before Arjuna. The order followed is that in which the successive battles must be fought and won.
First will come the battle for the intuition of the Divine, the great fight against materialist fear, where victory brings certainty that the Soul is. Then, as the second step, and as confirming us in carrying on the struggle, comes the thought of necessary transformation; growth is perpetual, therefore let us throw the weight of our wills on the side of that which is to be, not holding fearfully to that which now is.
Then there is the appeal to the warrior spirit, to the high valor which dwells in every Soul, waiting to be called forth, the valor needed, if we are to go forward on the path. Finally, there is detachment, based on recollection and Soul-vision, as the way in which alone we may go forward with our great work.
To him thus full of distress, his eyes perplexed and filled with tears, despondent, the slayer of Madhu spoke this word:
THE MASTER SAID:
Whence has this faint-heartedness in trouble come upon thee, unseemly for a noble, not bringing heaven, inglorious, O Arjuna?
Fall not into impotence, O son of Pritha, for this beseems thee not! Put away this mean faint-heartedness, and arise, O consumer of the foe!
How can I fight against Bhishma, how against Drona, with my arrows, O slayer of Madhu, for they are both worthy of honor, O slayer of the foe!
Rather than slay these great ones, worthy of all honor, it were better to eat the bread of beggars in this world; for slaying them, even though they seek my possessions, I should eat feasts sprinkled with blood! (5)
Nor do we know which is heavier for us, whether we conquer or whether they conquer us; for Dhritarashtra’s sons are here facing us, slaying whom we should not wish to live.
Overwhelmed with pity and fear of sin I ask thee, for my vision of duty is obscured. Which is better? Tell me clearly! I am thy disciple! Teach me! I appeal to thee!
For I see no way to drive away my grief and this fever in all my powers, though gaining wealth and mastery of the earth without a rival, or even overlordship of the gods!
He of the crested locks, consumer of the foe, thus addressing him of the flowing hair, saying to the lord of the earth: I will not fight! was silent.
To him Krishna of the flowing hair replied, smiling as it were, O son of Bharata, as he sank there despondent between the two armies: (10)
THE MASTER SAID:
Thou hast grieved for those who need no grief, and thou speakest words of wisdom! The wise grieve neither for the dead nor for the living;
For never was I not, nor thou, nor these princes of men; nor shall we all ever cease to be, in the time to come.
As the lord of the body in the body here finds boyhood, youth and age, so is there the gaining of another body; the wise err not concerning this.
These things of matter, that bring us cold, heat, pleasure, pain, come and go again; they last not; therefore endure them, O son of Bharata!
Whom these perturb not, O bull of men, equal in pain and pleasure, wise, he builds for immortality. (15)
For the unreal there is no being, nor any end of being for the real; the truth as to these two is seen by those who behold reality.
But know That to be imperishable whereby all this is stretched forth; and none can cause the destruction of the everlasting.
These temporal bodies are declared to belong to the eternal lord of the body, imperishable, immeasurable; therefore fight, O son of Bharata!
He who sees him as slayer, or who thinks of him as slain, both understand not; he slays not nor is slain.
He is never born nor dies, nor will he, having being, evermore cease to be; unborn, eternal, immemorial, this Ancient is not slain when the body is slain. (20)
He who knows this imperishable, eternal, unborn, and passing not away, how can that man, O son of Pritha, slay any, or cause any to be slain?
As putting off worn garments, a man takes others new, so putting off worn-out bodies, the lord of the body enters others new.
Swords cut him not, nor may fire burn him, O son of Bharata, waters wet him not, nor dry winds parch.
He may not be cut nor burned nor wet nor withered; he is eternal, all-present, firm, unshaken, everlasting.
He is called unmanifest, unimaginable, unchanging; therefore, knowing him thus, deign not to grieve! (25)
But even if thou thinkest of him as ever born, ever dying, yet deign not, therefore, to grieve for him, O mighty armed one!
For certain is the death of what is born, and certain is the birth of what dies; therefore, deign not to grieve in a matter that is inevitable.
The beginnings of things are unmanifest, their mid course is manifest, O son of Bharata; their ending is unmanifest; what cause is here for lamentation?
One sees him as marvellous, another speaks of him as marvellous, another hears of him as marvellous, yet even hearing, one knows him not.
This lord of the body dwells ever immortal in the body of each, O son of Bharata; therefore, deign not to grieve even for all beings! (30)
Or having regard to thy duty, deign not to shrink back! For nothing is better for a warrior than a righteous battle.
And such a battle has come to thee of its own accord, a very door of heaven wide opened; happy the warriors, son of Pritha, who find such a fight as this!
But if thou shalt not fight this righteous fight, then failing in duty and honor, thou wilt incur sin;
And men will tell of thy lasting dishonor, and for one who has stood in honor, ill-fame is worse than death.
The warriors in their chariots will think thou hast retreated from the battle through fear, and thou shalt come to light esteem among those who held thee high. (35)
Many unspeakable words will thy enemies speak of thee, impeaching thy manhood. What fate could be more grievous than that?
Either, slain, thou wilt gain heaven, or, conquering, thou wilt enjoy the earth; therefore, arise, O son of Kunti, determined to do battle!
Making equal good and ill fortune, gain and loss, victory and defeat; gird thyself for the fight, for thus thou shalt not fall into sin!
[This thought is declared to thee according to Sankhya; now hear it according to Yoga. Held by this thought, O son of Pritha, thou shalt free thyself from the bond of works.]
Here is no loss of advantage, nor any going back; even a little of this law saves from the great fear. (40)
The thought whose essence is determination is single, O rejoicer of the Kurus! Many-branched and endless are the thoughts of the undetermined.
[This is a flowery word which the unwise declare, who delight in the letter of the Vedas, O son of Pritha, and say there is nothing else,
[They are full of desire and eager for heaven; this word offering rebirth and the reward of works, abounding in special rites making for feasts and lordship;
[The thought of those who are set on feasts and lordship, whose minds are carried away thereby, has not determination as its essence, nor is it set in soul-vision;
[The Vedas have the Three Powers as their object; be thou above the Three Powers, O Arjuna! Be free from duality, ever standing in the real without desire of possessions, full of the Soul; (45)
[As much use as there is in a well, when the whole land is flooded, so much use is there in all the Vedas for a Knower of the Eternal who possesses wisdom.]
Thy right is to the work, but never to its fruits; let not the fruit of thy work be thy motive, nor take refuge in abstinence from works.
Standing in union with the Soul, carry out thy work, putting away attachment, O conqueror of wealth; equal in success and failure, for equalness is called union with the Soul.
For work is far lower than union in soul-vision, O conqueror of wealth; find refuge in soul-vision, for pitiful are those whose motive is the fruit of their works.
He who is united in soul-vision offers up even here both things well done and ill done; therefore, gird thyself for union with the Soul, for this union brings success in works. (50)
For the possessors of wisdom, united in soul-vision, giving up the fruit of works, freed from the bondage of rebirth, reach the home where no sorrow dwells.
When thy soul shall pass beyond the forest of delusion, thou shalt no more regard what shall be taught or what has been taught.
When withdrawn from traditional teaching, thy soul shall stand steadfast, firm in soul-vision, then shalt thou gain union with the Soul.
What is the description of one firm in perception, of one firm in soul-vision, O thou of the flowing hair? He who is firm in soul, how does he speak? How does he sit? How does he go?
THE MASTER SAID:
When he offers up all desires that dwell in the heart, O son of Pritha, in soul rejoicing in the Soul, then he is said to be firm in perception. (55)
Whose heart is untroubled in sorrows, who in pleasures is unallured, from whom lust and fear and wrath have gone, that silent one is declared to be firm in soul.
He who is free from over-fondness, meeting glory and gloom alike, who exults not nor hates, his perception is set firm.
When as a tortoise withdraws its limbs on all sides, he withdraws his powers from things of sense, his perception is set firm.
Things of sense withdraw from the lord of the body who tastes them not; even the desire for them falls away from him who has seen the desireless Supreme.
Even when a wise man strives, O son of Kunti, the turbulent powers swiftly steal away his heart; (60)
Controlling them all, let him remain united, intent upon Me; for of him who controls his powers, the perception is set firm.
In the man who broods on things of sense, attachment to them springs up; from attachment is born desire, from desire wrath takes birth;
From wrath comes delusion, from delusion loss of recollection, from loss of recollection comes loss of soul-vision, through loss of soul-vision he perishes.
But who among things of sense uses his powers, freed from lust and hate, and controlled by the Soul, with soul well-disposed, he enters into peace.
In peace there comes the ending of all sorrows, for the soul of inspiration swiftly enfolds him whose heart is full of peace. (65)
There is no soul-vision for him who is not united, nor is there any divine experience for him; without experience of the divine, there is no peace, and what happiness can there be without peace? For when his emotion follows the powers in their action it carries his perception away, as the wind carries a boat away to sea.
Therefore, of him, O mighty armed one, whose powers are altogether withheld from things of sense, the perception is set firm.
He who has attained self-mastery wakes where is night for all beings, and where all being wake is night for the silent seer.
As the waters enter the ocean, ever filled yet standing unmoved, whom all desires so enter, he gains peace, not he who lusts after desires. (70)
The man who, offering up all desires, walks without allurement, without the sense of possessing, without self-reference, he enters into peace.
This is the God-like resting-place, O son of Pritha, nor will he who has gained it be led away; dwelling in this at the time of the end, he wins union with the Eternal.
Introduction to Book III
Krishna has unveiled to Arjuna the teaching of the divine Soul, unborn, immemorial, ancient, who is not slain when the body is slain. He has regarded the Soul also as ever passing through death and birth, and therefore imperishable. He has challenged Arjuna to valor, calling on the warrior in him to fight. From valor he has passed to the kindred virtue of high disinterestedness: let not the fruit of thy work be thy motive; standing in union with the Soul, carry out thy work, putting away attachment. And he has insisted that this union with the Soul, this soul-vision, is the great matter, the road of liberation, the way of peace.
Arjuna is perplexed. If soul-vision be the chief matter, why work at all? Above all, why engage in such a terrible work as this warfare of kindred? Were it not better to rest in soul-vision, where all is peace?
To this doubt, as to those that preceded it, Krishna now addresses himself. It might be well to rest in soul-vision, withdrawing from all work and warfare, were it possible to do so. But it is impossible. A mere withholding of the hands is not the real Cessation; for while the hands are withheld, the mind still works, the desires are busy, the little voices of lust and wrath are clamorous. Rest lies not here. All life is in motion forever. To escape from motion we should have to escape from the One Life; and that is forever impossible.
Not work and warfare bind us, but the attitude of the heart. There is that mysterious power called Desire, which would draw all things to itself, which would absorb the life of all things within its reach, drawing them vampire-like into its circle. This is what binds the heart and soul. Desire is the enemy; lust is the enemy; wrath is the enemy; selfishness is the enemy. Lust, selfishness, has created, as it were, a whirlpool, a backwash in the great river of life; and here sorrow is born and misery and bondage.
Therefore let him purify his heart of lust. Let him purge desire thoroughly from his heart, so that not a trace or stain may remain. Then shall he find the secret: that work and rest are one. Right work with the Eternal Will means also perfect divine rest and peace. So soul-vision is not opposed to work; but soul-vision is opposed to desire, to selfishness, to lust and wrath.
A word as to the two systems spoken of, the Sankhya and Yoga. There is much to show that the explicit mention of these systems by name, in the third, as in the second book, is a later addition; not as altering the meaning, but as making it clearer and more intelligible to students familiar with the views of the Sankhyas and the Yogas. For us, who are not thus familiar with them, a word of explanation may be helpful.
The Sankhya system, so far as it has come down to us, held that the Spirit of man, Purusha, is chained to Nature, Prakriti, through the forms of Intellect, Buddhi. Regarding Nature through the intellect, the Spirit of man believes himself to be immersed in Nature, and identifies himself with Nature’s triple Powers, Substance, Force and Darkness. Thus comes bondage, and intellect is that which ensnares. The Spirit of man must free himself from this snare of false identification; then he will stand alone, eternal, liberated. This is the Sankhya system, here alluded to, and its characteristic words are: Spirit of man, Nature, Intellect and the three Powers, Substance, Force, Darkness; or, in Sanskrit: Purusha, Prakriti, Buddhi, Sattva, Rajas, Tamas.
In part, at least, this system is drawn from the Katha Upanishad, “In the House of Death.” In the third section of that ancient tract of the Mysteries, the tenth and eleventh verses read:
The impulses are higher than the sense-powers; emotion is higher than the impulses; understanding is higher than emotion; the soul, the great one, is higher than the understanding; than the great soul the unmanifested is higher; than the unmanifested the Spirit, Purusha, is higher. Than the Spirit none is higher; that is the foundation, the supreme way.
This is the passage freely quoted, at the close of our third book, and introduced by the words of quotation: They say; the equivalent of: It is written. Here we see what is probably the germ of the Sankhya classification quoted from the Katha Upanishad, and given an avowedly Sankhya coloring in the Bhagavad Gita.
According to the Yoga doctrine, God is the great fact of life; God is “all things in all things.” And liberation comes by holding in thought to God, and doing all as from God and for God. This is “the way of works,” or “the way of union through works,” of the Yogas. And the perception of God is said to come through inspiration, or illumination, or soul-vision, for which the word Buddhi is used.
Thus in the Sankhya system Buddhi is the name of the power that binds; in the Yoga system, it is the name of the power that makes free. The same word is used in quite opposed senses. And a part of the difficulty in translating the Bhagavad Gita lies in this, that we must be able to see in which of these two opposed senses the word is used, each time it occurs.
The truth is, there is a surface opposition, not a fundamental one. For each of our powers alternately binds and frees us. It frees us and lifts us, when we are below it; it binds us, if we try to rise above it without mastering its lesson. And just such a contradiction as this, which is in truth no contradiction, is the theme of this book of the Gita. We are to be liberated from bondage to works; yet this liberation is not reached by ceasing from works.
If soul-vision be deemed by thee greater than work, O arouser of men, then why dost thou engage me in a terrible deed, O thou of flowing hair?
With confused speech thou deludest my thought, as it were; then declare one thing clearly, whereby I may gain the better way.
THE MASTER SAID:
[In this world a twofold rule was declared by me of old, O sinless one: by union through wisdom for the Sankhyas; by union through works, for the followers of Yoga.]
Not by withholding from works does a man reach freedom from works, nor through renunciation alone does he win supreme success.
For none ever for an instant even remains without working works; for he is made to work works involuntarily, through the Powers born of Nature. (5)
He who, restraining the powers of action, dwells remembering in mind the objects of sense, such a one, wholly deluded, is called a false ascetic.
But he who, controlling the sense-powers by the mind, Arjuna, enters through his powers of action on union through works, he, detached, gains excellence.
Do the work that is laid on thee, for work is better than ceasing from works; nor could thy bodily life proceed, if thou didst cease from works.
Except by work done through sacrifice, this world is bound by works; therefore, do thou, son of Kunti, carry out thy work to that end, free from attachment.
[Putting forth beings united with sacrifice, the Lord of beings declared of old: By this shall ye increase and multiply; let this be your cow of plenty, granting your wishes. (10)
[Nourish the gods through this; may the gods also nourish you! Thus mutually nourishing each other, ye shall gain happiness supreme.
[For the gods, nourished by sacrifice, will grant you the feasts that you wish. He who eats, not giving to them of what they give, is a thief indeed.
[The righteous, who eat what is left from the sacrifice, are freed from all sins. The sinful eat sin, who prepare food for themselves alone.
[From food are born beings; from the Rain-lord is born food; from sacrifice is born the Rain-lord; sacrifice is born of works;
[Know that works are born of Brahma; Brahma is born of the Everlasting. Therefore the all-present Brahma is set firm forever in sacrifice. (15)
[He who makes not to revolve the wheel thus set revolving, sinful of life, making a pleasure-ground of the senses, he, son of Pritha, lives in vain.]
But the son of man who, rejoicing in the Soul, delighting in the Soul, finds contentment, verily, in the Soul, for him no work remains to be done.
There is no gain to him through work done, nor through what is left undone in this world below; nor among all beings is there any whom he need beg for any boon.
Therefore, detached, carry out ever the work that is to be done; for the man who accomplishes his work detached wins the supreme.
For through works did Janaka and his like achieve supreme success. And deign thou also to work, having regard to the host of the people. (20)
Whatever the best does, that lesser folk do also; what example he sets, that the world follows after.
For Me, son of Pritha, nothing remains that should be done throughout the three worlds, nor aught to gain that I have not gained; yet I engage in works.
For if I should not engage in works unceasingly, even for a moment,—since all beings put forth their energy in obedience to mine—
These worlds would sink away, were I not to carry on works, and I should cause confusion among them, and bring destruction to these beings.
As the unwise work, attached to their work, O son of Bharata, so let the wise man work detached, working for the order of mankind. (25)
Let him not cause a breach in the understanding of the unwise, who are attached to works, but rather let the wise man lead them in all works, engaging in them in union with the Soul.
Works are being wrought on all hands by the Powers of Nature; only when the soul is deluded by egotism, does one think himself to be the doer.
But he who knows the truth, O mighty armed one, as to the separateness of the Powers and works, understanding that the Powers work in the Powers, is not attached.
Those who are deluded by the Powers of Nature become attached to the works of the Powers; they see not the whole, and are slow of understanding; let not him who sees the whole cause them to waver.
In Me renouncing all works, through perception of oneness with the Oversoul, without expectation or sense of possession, fight thou, thy fever gone! (30)
The sons of man who follow ever after this mind of Mine, full of faith, without cavil, they indeed are freed by their works.
But they who cavil, and follow not this mind of Mine, know them, led astray from all wisdom, as lost through lack of understanding.
The wise ever strives conformably with his nature; beings follow their nature, what will constraint avail?
Lust and hate are lodged in the object of every sense; let him not come under their sway, for they lie in wait about his path.
Better one’s own duty without excellence than the duty of another well followed out. Death in one’s own duty is better; the duty of another is full of danger. (35)
Then under whose yoke does man here commit sin, unwillingly even, O descendant of Vrishni, as though compelled by force?
THE MASTER SAID:
It is lust, it is wrath, born of the Power of Force; the great consumer, the great evil,—know this to be the enemy.
As flame is wrapped by smoke, as a mirror is veiled by rust, as the germ is enwrapped by the womb, so is this enveloped by that;
Wisdom is enveloped by that eternal enemy of the wise, whose form is Desire, O son of Kunti, an insatiate fire.
The sense-powers, the emotions, the understanding are its dwelling place; through them Desire deludes the lord of the body, enveloping wisdom. (40)
Therefore in the beginning restraining the sense-powers, O bull of the Bharatas, do thou put away this evil, destroyer of wisdom and knowledge both.
They say the sense-powers are higher than objects; than the sense-powers emotion is higher; than emotion understanding is higher; but higher than understanding is He.
Thus awaking to Him who is above understanding, establishing thy soul on the Soul, slay the enemy, O mighty armed one, whose form is Desire, who is hard to overcome.
Introduction to Book IV
The Bhagavad Gita is made of many threads entwined together. The primary motive, the dismay of Arjuna on the field of fratricidal war, is always kept in sight, though subordinated to the more universal motive, the battle of soul for liberation. That is the perpetual theme; and just as the soul turns this way and that, in doubt and manifold perplexity, before the path becomes clear to it, so does this scripture turn this way and that, meeting doubt after doubt, resolving perplexity after perplexity.
But another aim is held in view. From time to time a chapter of the Mystery doctrine is dropped in, as it were, into the main progression of the poem, in a way not at first evidently related to the immediate problem of the soul. In this way we have two parts of the Mystery doctrine set forth in the present book: the transmission of the Mystery doctrine through certain specially gifted and qualified races; and the doctrine of Avatars, or divine incarnations, through which the teaching of the Mysteries is from time to time renewed and restored.
As to the first theme, the transmission of the Mystery doctrine through certain races, Krishna says that he declared this teaching to the Solar lord, who told it to Manu, from whom it was handed down, through Ikshvaku to the Rajanya sages. There is really a profound meaning in every word of this. Beginning at the nearer end of the chain, the Rajanyas, or Rajputs, are the great warrior race of ancient India, a red or bronze-colored race akin to the ancient Egyptians, and to one element among the ancient Chaldeans. To this red warrior race belonged Vishvamitra, seer of the Gayatri and Rishi of the third circle of the Rig Veda hymns; to the same race belonged Rama, esteemed a divine incarnation, and Krishna himself, also esteemed an Avatar. And in later ages to this same race belonged not only prince Siddhartha the Compassionate, known as Gautama Buddha, but the greatest of the Buddha’s disciples; among others, those who carried the Buddha’s teaching of the Good Law northward through the Himalayas into Tibet. Therefore this declaration of Krishna’s, that the Mystery teaching, the secret doctrine, as he calls it, was handed down from master to disciple among the Rajanya or Rajput sages, has a most defined and significant meaning, and is the clue to much of the mystical history of the East, involving Egypt and Chaldea, as well as India, and in later ages China and Tibet, and the lands, further to the East, like Burma, Siam, Korea and Japan, which received the doctrine from India.
Again, we are in this fourth book initiated into the doctrine of Avatars, or divine incarnations, which is the complement of the transmission of the Mystery doctrine. For through these Avatars the Mystery doctrine has, in fact, been revealed to the world in age after age, just as Krishna says; and in every case we can trace the river of mystical teaching back to its source in some great Teacher, who not only taught, but in his own person lived, the Mystery doctrine. From such as these the world has drawn all its spiritual religions, without exception; and there is much mystical history of this character in the progression of the great race which Krishna indicates: the race from which came the red Rajputs or Rajanyas.
Compare with Arjuna’s question and Krishna’s answer, in the fourth and fifth verses, the question addressed to the Western Avatar and his answer:
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: he saw it and was glad.
Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
Krishna then returns to the problem of the soul and its struggle for liberation, and uses the thought of the divine incarnation to make one aspect of that struggle clear. He suggests the twofold character of such a divine incarnation: first, the Great Soul, which dwells perpetually in the highest meditation, in the sunlight of the Eternal; and then the personal apparition of that same Great Soul, which appears as man among men, passing through the gates of birth, and suffering mortality. It is, in his degree, the same thing with the seeker for spiritual life. There is the divine Soul, the Higher Self; there is also the personal self, which suffers and bears the burden of the conflict. By discerning the truth as to these two, the Immortal and the mortal, the thick cloud on the path will be lifted, and the perplexity concerning work and abstinence from work will be resolved. Whatever comes from the personal self, and is done for the personal se1f, whether against the Higher Self, or the Self in others, is “work which binds,” and from this he shall abstain. Whatever comes from the Higher Self, and makes for the Higher Self, whether in oneself or in others, is work that makes free, and is therefore to be carried out.
Again, Krishna uses the great thought of Sacrifice, and the Eastern ceremony of sacrifice, to impart further light. Let every act be done as a sacrifice to the Most High, and thus all bonds binding acts to the personal self will cut; thus all acts will become expressions of the divine Will, of the will of the Higher Self. And every aspect of sacrifice is thus touched and illumined, the formal worship of the ritualist being irradiated with spiritual light. “Blessed are they who eat of the leavings of the sacrifice” means much more than the subsistence of the priests on the offerings of the faithful. It means that every act, every work, must be done primarily with the thought of sacrifice to the Most High; and that this consecrated work will bring to him who offers it the most ample reward “even in this present world,” so that he thus becomes an “eater of the leavings of the sacrifice;” nourished in spirit, heart, mind and body by the reward which his sacrifice brings to him, under the Law. But greatest of all is the sacrifice of wisdom, and “he who is perfected in union, in due time finds wisdom within his own soul.”
THE MASTER SAID:
This imperishable teaching of union I declared to the Solar lord. The Solar lord imparted it to Manu, and Manu told it to Ikshvaku.
Thus the Rajanya sages knew it, handed down from Master to disciple. This teaching of union has been lost in the world through long lapse of time, O consumer of the foe.
This same immemorial teaching of union I have declared to thee to-day; for thou art my beloved, my companion; and this secret doctrine is the most excellent treasure.
Later was thy birth, O noble one, earlier the birth of the Solar lord. How then may I understand this, that thou hast declared it in the beginning?
THE MASTER SAID:
Many are My past births and thine also, Arjuna; I know them all, but thou knowest them not, O consumer of the foe. (5)
Though I am the Unborn, the Soul that passes not away, though I am the lord of beings, yet as lord over My nature I become manifest, through the magical power of the Soul.
For whenever there is a withering of the Law, O son of Bharata, and an uprising of lawlessness on all sides, then I manifest Myself.
For the salvation of the righteous, and the destruction of such as do evil; for the firm establishing of the Law I come to birth in age after age.
He who thus perceives My birth and work as divine, as in truth it is, leaving the body, he goes not to rebirth; he goes to Me, Arjuna.
Rid of rage and fear and wrath, become like Me, taking refuge in Me, many made pure by the fire of wisdom have entered My being. (10)
In whatever way men approach Me, in that way I love them; in all ways the sons of man follow My way, O son of Pritha.
Desiring the success of their works, they worship the deities here; for quickly in the world of men success comes, born of works.
The Four Caste Rule was formed by Me, according to the division of powers and works; know Me as its maker, I who forever am above all works.
Works smear Me not, nor am I allured by reward of works; he who thus knows Me well, such a one is not bound by works.
Thus knowing, those of old who sought liberation engaged in works. Do thou therefore that same work which was done of old by the men of old. (15)
As to what is work, and what not work, even seers have been deceived; therefore I shall declare work to thee, knowing which thou shalt go free from darkness.
One must understand works; one must understand also what is forbidden; and one must understand abstinence from work; the way of works is hard to trace.
He who sees abstinence from work in work, and work in abstinence from work, he is wise among the sons of man; he possesses union, and has accomplished the whole work.
He whose initiatives are all devoid of lust and false imaginings, the wise say that that sage has burned up works in the fire of wisdom.
Giving up attachment to the reward of works, ever content, not seeking boons, though thoroughly wrapped up in work, such a one engages not in work. (20)
Without expectations, with imagination well ruled, ceasing from all grasping, with the body only engaging in work, he incurs no sin.
Content with what comes of its own accord, beyond the opposites, without sense of ownership, equal in success and failure, though engaging in works he is not bound.
Works fall away from him whose attachment is gone, who is set free, whose thought rests in wisdom, who works for sacrifice alone.
The Eternal is the offering, the Eternal is the sacrificial butter, the Eternal is in the fire, by the Eternal is the sacrifice made: the Eternal, verily, is to be approached by that sacrifice, by him intent on the work of the Eternal.
Some who seek union worship through sacrifice to the gods; but others offer self-sacrifice as a sacrifice in the fire of the Eternal. (25)
Others offer up hearing and the other powers in the fire of self-control; others offer sound and other things of sense in the fire of the powers.
Yet others offer all the works of the powers and the works of the life-force in the fire of control by the soul, the fire that wisdom kindles.
There are sacrificers of wealth, sacrificers through fervor, sacrificers for union, sacrificers through study and wisdom, well-ruled, firm in their vows.
So others offer the life-breath in the downward breath, or the downward breath in the life-breath, guarding the ways of the life-breath and the downward breath, devoted to breath-control.
Others restrained in food, offer the life-breath in the life-breath; all these knowers of sacrifice, through sacrifice wear away their darkness. (30)
They who eat the ambrosial leavings of the sacrifice go to the immemorial Eternal. Not this world even belongs to him who sacrifices not, how then the other world, O best descendant of Kuru?
Thus are many forms of sacrifice set forth before the Eternal. Know them all to be born of works; thus knowing, thou shalt be set free.
Better than the sacrifice of wealth is the sacrifice of wisdom, O consumer of the foe! Each and every work is consummated in wisdom.
Seek for wisdom with obeisance, questioning and service; the wise, who know the truth, will point the way of wisdom to thee;
Knowing which, thou shalt not again come to confusion, O son of Pandu; and by it thou shalt behold all beings without reserve in the Soul, and thus in Me. (35)
Even though thou art the chief sinner among all sinners, thou shalt cross to the further side of evil in the boat of all-knowledge.
As a kindled fire reduces the fuel to ashes, Arjuna, so does the fire of wisdom reduce to ashes all works.
For no purifier can be found equal to wisdom; he who is perfected in union in due time finds that within his own soul.
He who is full of faith gains wisdom, seeking after it with powers controlled; gaining wisdom, in no long time he enters the supreme peace.
But the unknowing, who has no faith, who is full of doubt, falls; neither this world, nor the world beyond, nor happiness are for him who is full of doubt. (40)
Works bind not him who offers up works through wisdom, who by wisdom has cut through all doubt, who is full of the Soul, O conqueror of wealth.
Therefore, with the Soul’s sword of wisdom cutting through every doubt born of unwisdom that dwells in the heart, arise and go forward to union, son of Bharata!
Introduction to Book V
The Spirit of man is free and perfect; the Mind is other than the Spirit, and through the Mind comes bondage: this is the teaching of the Sankhyas. Therefore they see the way of liberation in a clear discerning of the lonely Spirit of man, which thus stands apart from all the works of body and mind and heart. For them, the first step on the way is discernment of the Spirit; and this perception brings renunciation in thought of all that is other than the Spirit. Thus through renunciation made in thought the Sankhyas seek the Way.
The followers of Yoga, the way of Union, seek to gain soul-vision of the Supreme. Then resting heart and thought in that vision, they do all things for the Supreme, seeing in all their acts nothing but the work of the Supreme.
These two ways Krishna has set forth to Arjuna; and Arjuna is confused, unable to discern between them. Therefore he asks Krishna to tell him which is better, the way of renunciation or the way of work in union with the Supreme.
Krishna tells him that these two ways are not different; they are both views of the one Way which leads to Nirvana, to union with the Eternal. Arjuna need not choose between them, for in following the one he treads both.
For the follower of Sankhya who, in all sincerity, has gained intuitive vision of the Spirit of man, and has thereby perceived that all outer works are other than the Spirit, has indeed found the Supreme that the follower of Yoga seeks. And in attributing all reality to the Spirit, and holding all else as unreal, he has indeed made the great renunciation of all desires that dwell in the heart. The Spirit alone is real. All else is let go.
The follower of Yoga, his heart full of the Supreme, attributes all to the Supreme, every work of body and mind and heart. Only the Eternal is, and all things are of the Eternal.
What is, then, the difference between these two ways? And if they be the same, how can Krishna say that the way of Union is the more excellent way?
The answer would seem to be this: The Sankhyas seek to put perception first, to make insight precede the will; to liberate thought first, and then, through liberated thought, to free themselves from bondage in act.
The followers of Yoga, on the other hand, put first the will, enkindled by fervor; and seek, through the victory of the will, to gain pure vision of the Soul. They do the will of the Supreme, trusting that later they will win the vision of the Eternal.
This would seem to be the wiser way, nearer to the essential being of man. The will must come first; then wisdom follows. Act comes before insight. Through work comes experience; from experience comes knowledge.
The one way is positive, that of the followers of Yoga. The other way is negative, the way which is followed by the Sankhyas. This would seem to be the difference. The Yogas follow will and intellect. The Sankhyas follow intellect and will. For each, both powers must be present to insure success; it is only a question of the preponderance of the one or the other. The difference is no greater than that. Both are good ways. Both lead to Nirvana, to union with the Eternal.
Thou praisest renunciation of works, O Krishna, and again union with the Soul; tell me with certainty which of these two is better!
THE MASTER SAID:
Renunciation and union through works both make for the supreme goal; but of these two union through works is more excellent than renunciation of works.
He should be known as ever renouncing, who hates not nor desires; for he who is without these opposites, O mighty armed one, is happily freed from bondage.
Children, not wise men, speak of Sankhya and Yoga as different; he who has perfectly mastered one finds the fruit of both.
The goal that is gained by the Sankhyas, is also reached by the followers of Yoga; who sees Sankhya and Yoga as one, he indeed sees! (5)
But renunciation, O mighty armed one, is hard to attain for him who is without union; the master of silence, who is joined in union, in no long time attains the Eternal.
Joined in union, purified in soul, self-conquered, lord of all his powers, his soul made one with the Soul of all beings, even though working, he is not stained.
He who is joined in union, who truly knows, understands that he engages not at all in work, though seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, walking, sleeping, breathing.
Conversing, putting forth, grasping, opening or closing his eyes; he understands that the powers are working with the objects of the powers.
Who works, putting all works on the Eternal, giving up attachment, is not stained by sin, as the lotus leaf by water. (10)
With body, with mind, with understanding, with pure powers the followers of union do work, free from attachment, to make themselves clean.
He who is united, giving up the fruit of works, wins perfect peace; the ununited, attached to the fruit of his works, is bound by the force of his desire.
Renouncing all works in mind, lord of himself, the lord of the body dwells content in the nine-doored abode, neither working nor the cause of work.
The Lord of the world makes neither actorship nor works, nor attachment to the fruit of works; self-existent Nature acts in these.
The Lord receives not the sin nor the good deeds of any; wisdom is concealed by unwisdom; through this the people are led astray. (15)
But in whom unwisdom is destroyed by the wisdom of the Soul, for them wisdom, sunlike, illumines the Supreme.
With thought fixed on That, with soul set on That, making That their rule, going forward toward That, they go the Way that has no return, by wisdom rid of all their sins.
A Brahman full of wisdom and virtue, a cow, an elephant, a dog or an eater of dogs: in these the wise behold no difference.
Even in this world they have conquered rebirth whose minds are set firm in Oneness; the Eternal is one and faultless, therefore they are set firm in the Eternal.
Let him not exult when he meets happiness, let him not grieve when he meets sorrow; firm in soul-vision, undeluded; knowing the Eternal, he stands firm in the Eternal. (20)
When with soul detached from contact of outer things, he finds all happiness in the Soul, joined in union with the Eternal, he reaches everlasting joy.
For delights born of contact with outer things are wombs of pain; they have their beginning and their ending, son of Kunti; in them the wise finds no delight.
He who even here, before the liberation from the body, is able to withstand the impetuous rush of desire and wrath, he is united, he is the happy man.
Who finds his joy within, his paradise within, his light within, that master of union, become the Eternal, wins Nirvana, union with the Eternal.
The seers win Nirvana, union with the Eternal, whose sins are worn away, who have cut the knot of separateness, who are self-mastered, who delight in the weal of all beings. (25)
Nirvana, union with the Eternal, has come nigh to those who are rid of desire and wrath, who have gained control, who control their thoughts, who have beheld the Soul.
Putting away external contacts, fixing the vision between the brows, making the inbreathing and outbreathing in the nostrils equal,
Controlling the powers and mind and thought, master of silence, bent on liberation, free from longing, fear and wrath, such a one is ever free.
Knowing Me to be the enjoyer of sacrifice and fervor, mighty Lord of all the world, lover of all beings, he reaches peace.
Introduction to Book VI
In Yoga, as in Sankhya, it is all a question of the twofold nature of man; that marvellous paradox of blended angel and demon. The Sankhya speaks of the Higher Self as the Spirit, alone, lonely and pure, and of the lower self as the Mind, perpetual breeder of confusion. For the follower of Yoga, there is the same twofold enigma: the personal self on the one hand, the Supreme on the other; our wonderful, complex being embracing both.
The present book views the matter from the standpoint of Yoga, as the preceding did from that of Sankhya. For the follower of Yoga, the great thing is to find in his heart the dim spark of the Supreme, the beginning of the small, old Path, that leads to immortal life. Finding, within, that spark, that Path, let him give his whole heart and life and soul to it, forgetting all else, and no longer obeying the desire of the personal self for one or another indulgence. Then, as he watches with faithful worship, the spark of pure divine consciousness in the heart will grow; the light will gather strength, and begin to illumine the secrets of his immortality. The Supreme will begin to fill the world for him, and all things will appear to him as part and parcel of the Supreme.
Such a one will be lifted above himself; his consciousness will no longer dwell wholly in the personal self, but will shine out in the spiritual realm above the personal self, revealing mysteries. And that higher realm will become for him a dwelling-place, above the waters of birth and death.
There are the two parts of the Way: the finding of the Supreme within the heart, through reverent aspiration and obedience; and then the ruling and dominating of the personal self by that new-found Lord. The task is not easy, nor is it to be compassed in a day. Difficult will be the struggle against the personal self, its desires and hates, its sense of separateness from others, as possessing separate fortunes and a separate fate. Only the divine power within can meet and master the headstrong will of the personal self, whose minister, Mind, ever suggests subtle and plausible pretexts for disobedience. The contest is age-long, calling for high faith and valor, and a deep patience, which will accept no defeat, and ever renews the fight, even when it seems hopeless.
The incidents and aspects of the battle are here detailed, with eloquence and endless richness of symbol. Every sentence speaks some intimate truth of the contest, describes some landmark of the Way. Only those who have faithfully made the sacrifice and entered on the path can understand how deep and perfect is the insight, the vision of the Way here recorded. They must learn within themselves something of the Peace, which comes after the first great victory over the personal self; of the Silence, which is indeed the voice of the Soul; of that firm Control of the Mind by the Higher Self, so that the Mind, from being unstable and inconstant, shall become steady as an unruffled lake, mirroring at last the wisdom that is from above.
The battle is long and arduous. If renouncing the world, one has entered that battle, yet through the obstinate subtlety of the Mind has won no final victory, has such a one lost both worlds, giving up this, and yet not finding the other?
This question of Arjuna, Krishna answers by declaring the law of the Soul. He who has sought the Supreme is guarded by the Supreme, even through the waters of death. The contest bravely begun will be taken up again and carried on, in days to come, under other skies. None can lose the Way of the Supreme, whose heart is set on that Way in love. For greatest of all powers that make for advance upon the Way is genuine and unfeigned love of the Divine. This is really the heart of faith, of peace, of silence, of control; of all the treasures that are brought forth from the store of divinity for the enrichment of the pure heart.
THE MASTER SAID:
Who does the work that is to be done without seeking reward, he has renounced, he follows union, not he who ceases from sacrifice and rites.
Son of Pandu, know that what they call renunciation is also union, for none can reach union who has not renounced the heart’s desires.
For the master of silence who is seeking to rise to union, work is said to be the means; for him, when he has risen to union, peace is declared to be the means.
For when he is attached neither to the objects of the powers nor to works, renouncing all the desires of the heart, then he is called one who has risen to union.
Let him raise himself toward the Self, let him not debase himself; for self is the friend of self, and self is the enemy of self. (5)
Self is the friend of self for him in whom the self is conquered by the Self; but to him who is far from the Self, his own self is hostile, like an enemy.
The soul of him, who is self-conquered and full of peace, is fixed on the Supreme, in cold and heat, in pleasure and pain, in honor and dishonor.
That seeker of union is declared a possessor of union,whose soul delights in wisdom and knowledge, who has gained the mountain-top, who has controlled his powers, for whom a clod, a stone and gold are alike.
Who regards with equal view beloved, friend, foe, indifferent, undecided, hateful, and kindred, as also the righteous and sinners, he stands supreme.
Let the follower of union, dwelling apart, ever seek union with the Self, standing alone, controlling mind and heart, free from expectation, uncovetous. (10)
[In a pure place finding a firm seat for himself, neither too high nor too low, spread with a cloth, a fawn-skin and sacred grass;
[Making his mind one-pointed, controlling thought and powers and acts, seated there let him seek to join himself in union, for self-purification;
[Holding body, head and neck upright, firm and unmoving, fixing his view on the tip of the nose, nor looking this way and that.]
With soul at peace, with fear gone, standing firm in the vow of service of the Eternal, controlling the mind, with heart set on Me, let him dwell in union, intent on Me.
The seeker of union ever holding his soul thus in union, with emotion well controlled, enters into the supreme peace of Nirvana, dwelling in Me. (15)
Union is not for him who eats too much, nor for him who eats not at all; it is not his who is too dreamy, nor of him who is too full of waking life, Arjuna.
For him who is united when eating and moving, who is united when busy with work, who is united asleep and awake, union destroys all pain.
When the imagination, well ruled, comes to rest in the Soul, unallured by all desires, then he is called a possessor of union.
As a lamp standing in a windless place flickers not, this is remembered as the similitude of the seeker of union, who, with imagination controlled, joins himself in union with the Soul.
Where thought enters the silence, stilled by the practice of union, there, verily, through the soul beholding the Soul, he finds joy in the Soul; (20)
Where he knows that infinite joy, transcending the powers, to be grasped by soul-vision, and stands firm, unshakable indeed;
Gaining which, he knows that nought remains to gain; standing in which he is not shaken even by heavy grief;
Let him know that escape from the yoke of sorrow, which is called union; the union that is to be sought determinedly, with indomitable heart.
Giving up unreservedly all longings born of the desires of the heart, through the mind completely controlling the assembly of the powers,
Let him gradually enter the silence, with firmly held soul-vision, making the mind rest in the soul, allowing no imaginings. (25)
Whithersoever the mind wanders, wavering and unstable, drawing it ever back thence, let him bring it under the sway of the Soul.
For the most excellent joy draws near to that seeker for union, whose mind has found peace, whose forces are at peace, who has become the Eternal, who is free from darkness.
The seeker for union, thus ever joining himself in union, his darkness gone, happily attains the infinite joy of union with the Eternal.
He sees his soul as one with all beings, and all beings as one with his soul; his soul joined in union, beholding Oneness everywhere.
Who sees Me everywhere, and sees all in Me, him I lose not, nor will he lose Me. (30)
Who, resting in Oneness, loves Me dwelling in all beings, wheresoever he may turn, this follower of union dwells in Me.
Who through loving all as himself beholds Oneness everywhere, Arjuna, whether it be in joy or sorrow, that follower of union is deemed supreme.
This union through Oneness which is taught by Thee, Slayer of Madhu,—I perceive not its firm foundation, owing to the wavering of the mind; For the mind wavers, Krishna, turbulent, impetuous, forceful; and I think it is as hard to hold as the wind!
THE MASTER SAID:
Without doubt, mighty armed one, the wavering mind is hard to hold; but through assiduous practice, O son of Kunti, and through detachment it may be held firm. (35)
For him whose mind is uncontrolled, union is hard to obtain, this is my opinion; but for him whose mind has been brought under his sway, who is controlled, it can be won by the right means.
If one be full of faith, yet uncontrolled, because his mind wanders from union, falling short of the perfect attainment of union, what path does he follow, Krishna?
Does he perish like a riven cloud, missing his way in both worlds, unsteadfast, mighty armed one, deluded from the path of the Eternal?
Deign to solve this doubt of mine completely, Krishna; for other than thee none may solve this doubt.
THE MASTER SAID:
Son of Pritha, neither in this world nor the other is there any loss for him; nor does any doer of fair deeds, friend, enter into the evil way. (40)
Entering the worlds won by holy deeds, and dwelling for long ages there, he who fell short of union is reborn in the house of pure and holy folk;
Or indeed he may be born in a family of seekers for union, full of wisdom, for such a birth in this world is harder to obtain.
There he possesses the same soul-vision that he won in the former body, and thenceforth strives again for the perfect attainment, O descendant of Kuru.
Even without any wish of his own, he is taken in hand by his former effort. He who wishes to learn of union, passes beyond mere word knowledge of the Eternal.
But the seeker of union who strenuously strives, purified of sin, after many births attaining, thereafter goes the higher way. (45)
The follower of union is deemed higher than men of penance, higher than men of learning; the follower of union is higher than men of works; be thou therefore a follower of union, Arjuna!
But among all followers of union, he who, full of faith, loves Me, the soul within him set on Me, him I deem the best possessor of union.
Introduction to Book VII
In the sixth book, the Teaching of Union was unfolded, the path of those who follow Yoga. It was shown that they first perceive the divine spark in the heart, and, watching with ardent love and aspiration, listening to each faintest admonition of the divine, finally behold that spark grow to the infinite Light.
The seventh book takes up the question of the way in which the disciple shall learn to recognize that divine Light; and here we come to a distinctive quality of the Indian wisdom, as compared with other schools and ideals of sacred study. The wisdom of India lays great stress on purified understanding, as supplementing the right attitude of the heart; and again and again effort is made, with splendid richness of luminous power, to kindle that side of the soul which understands, as well as that side which aspires and loves.
The need of this we can see, if we watch certain forms of religion founded and inspired by great Teachers of wisdom. Resting almost wholly on aspiration, on the will that makes for righteousness, these forms of faith are splendidly effective for those who, with the full faith of disciples, carry out with closest devotion each least command of the Master. These faithful, leading the life, come to know the doctrine.
But besides these devoted disciples there are always many who try to master the teaching with the understanding; and if the understanding be not trained and illumined, they are very prone, even through the excess of their zeal, to take uncomprehended words of the Master, and weave them into a thousand fantastic webs of theology, in which their own feet will presently be caught. Our Western world has suffered greatly from this imperfect training of the understanding, deficient in the very power which is so characteristic of the Indian schools. If that power be gained, if the understanding be cleared, illumined and led ever toward universals, then it becomes a wonderful helper along the path, everywhere making easier the task of the spiritual will, removing stumbling-blocks and making straight the path of immortal life.
If the understanding be not thus cleared and illumined, it may catch every gleam of intuition and spiritual light, only to distort that gleam, to light with it the false pictures of the lower mind, thus filling the spiritual life with images of material things. Thus are painted the material heavens that fill so great a space in certain forms of faith, and thus comes it that the Most High is represented with purely human qualities, revengeful, jealous, threatening punishment like some despot of a down-trodden land.
From these erring theologies there ever comes a reaction and a protest, and, confounding the substance with the form, men of strong unillumined mind reject both faith and fable, and build up speculative materialisms, which increase the sum of human pain, the dread of death, the unendurable sorrow of separation.
For these ills, there is no cure like wisdom, no available cure so potent as the ancient wisdom of India. And in all that wisdom, there is no treasure so precious as the thought of the Supreme as the Highest Self of all beings. If the Supreme be indeed my Highest Self, then I can at once comprehend those admonitions of the heart which come to me from within, ever urging me to transcend myself, to give up the lower for the higher, to lose my life that I may find it. These are the commands of what I shall be to what I am; the orders of the real Self to the lesser self, its minister. If that supreme truth of the divine Self be held in the heart, it makes all injunctions of faith and sacrifice intelligible, reasonable, self-evident.
If the Most High be the Supreme Self of all beings, then can I immediately understand why I must love my neighbor; for the Self of one is the Self of both; there is but one Self, of which love is the inherent being, the essential nature.
These two thoughts, which are one, form the heart of the Indian wisdom, here marvellously set forth in the teaching of Krishna to Arjuna.
THE MASTER SAID:
With heart attached to Me, son of Pritha, taking refuge in Me, joining himself in union, hear how thou mayest know Me perfectly, free from doubt.
This wisdom and knowledge shall I declare to thee, without reserve; knowing this, nought remains to be known in the world.
Among thousands of men, one strives for perfection; of those who strive and attain, one knows Me truly.
Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, thought, self-consciousness: thus is My nature divided eightfold.
This is My lower nature; but know thou also My higher nature, as manifested Life, whereby this whole world is upheld. (5)
Know that all beings are born from this; for I am the forthcoming and withdrawal of the whole world.
But higher than I nothing is, Arjuna; on Me all this is woven, as a string of pearls on a thread.
I am taste in the waters, O son of Kunti, I am light in moon and sun; in all Vedas I am the Om, I am sound in the ether and manhood in men.
I am the sweet scent in the earth, I am the glow in fire; life am I in all beings, and fervor in men in fervor.
Know Me as the everlasting seed of all beings, the thought of the thinking, the radiance of the radiant. (10)
I am the might of the mighty, rid of lust and wrath; I am love unopposed to law among beings, O bull of the Bharatas.
And whatever forms there are of Goodness, Force and Darkness, know they also are from Me; nor am I in them, but they in Me.
Entranced by the forms resting on these Three Powers, this whole world recognizes not Me, who am above them, everlasting.
For wondrous is this Glamour of mine, formed of the Three Powers, very hard to pass beyond; but they who come to Me pass indeed beyond this Glamour.
But workers of evil, deluded, basest of men, come not to Me; their wisdom rapt away by Glamour, they enter some demoniac being. (15)
Four kinds of men rightly worship Me, Arjuna; the afflicted, the seeker for knowledge, he who desires a boon, and the wise man, O bull of the Bharatas.
Among these the wise man, ever joined in union, of single heart, stands first; for I am greatly beloved of the wise, and he is beloved of Me.
All these are noble, but the wise is esteemed as My own Self; for united in soul, he is set on Me, the most excellent way.
At the end of many births, the possessor of wisdom comes to Me, perceiving that the Lord of Wealth is the All; such a one of mighty soul is hard to find.
They whose wisdom is stolen away by diverse desires go to other deities, following one or another service, each impelled by his own nature. (20)
Whatever form he seeks to honor, worshipping with faith, that firm faith of his I establish;
Held firm by faith, he seeks the service of that form; and from it receives his dear desires, granted verily by Me.
But the reward of these of little wisdom comes to an end; who worship the gods go to the gods; My worshippers come to Me.
The thoughtless think that I, the unmanifest, possess a manifested form, not knowing My Higher Being, excellent and everlasting.
Nor am I visible to all, wrapt in My magical Glamour; this world deluded recognizes Me not, unborn, everlasting. (25)
I know all beings, Arjuna, the past, the present, those that are to come; but Me none knows.
By the delusion of the opposites, arising in desire and hate, O son of Bharata, all beings in the world are deluded, consumer of the foe.
But they whose darkness is gone, who are workers of righteousness, free from the delusion of the opposites, worship Me, firm in their vows.
They who strive for freedom from age and death, taking refuge in Me, know the Eternal, the All, the highest self, the perfect Work.
They who know Me as the highest Being, the highest Divinity, the highest Sacrifice, even in death perceive Me, their hearts united to Me.
Introduction to Book VIII
The opening verses of this book exemplify something we have already noted: the manner in which general topics of the Mystery Teaching are introduced in the course of the dialogue. We shall have a second instance in this book.
Here, the theme is the Manifestation of the Universe, or, to speak more truly, the Spiritual Structure of the Universe; since in part it is never manifested. This ideal structure of the Universe, according to the Mystery Teaching here unfolded, rests on the Eternal, in Sanskrit “Parabrahma,” which is everlasting Being, undivided, unmanifested, unchanging. Within this Supreme Eternal arises the first Pair or Duality, here called “Self-conscious Life” on the one side, and the “Emanating Power” on the other. These might be called the positive and negative sides of the First Logos, to use the Greek term. Through the action of this first Duality, we have a further manifestation, which we may call the Second Logos. It is again divided into positive and negative sides, the former being called the “Individual Spirit,” and the latter the “Highest Existence.” Both are subject to change, and they are, in a certain sense, the field of Evolution; since manifested life consists of the experiences of individualised spirit in contact with existence, through manifold transformations, until the hour strikes for its return to the bosom of the Infinite Spirit.
To this return the Teacher passes: “Who remembers Me at the time of the end, comes to My Being.” And we have been told that he who has set his heart on the Divine throughout his whole life will remember that Being at the time of going forth from the body. Where the treasure has been stored up, there will the heart be at the time of the end.
The teaching of the ideal structure of the Universe is then supplemented by that of the Days and Nights of Brahma, each lasting for a thousand ages. At the dawn of Day manifested beings go forth; at the coming of Night, they return again to the fold. And there is the Unmanifest, which goes not out, but remains in the great Peace for ever.
Toward the close of this book, we have a passage, which, as it stands, may well be unintelligible: that concerning the Two Ways. As given in this book, the form is slightly altered from the Upanishad original, which is as follows:
“Born in the fire of birth, man lives his life-span, and so dies. They bring him to the pyre, and in this fire the bright Powers offer man as the sacrifice; from that sacrifice man arises, of the color of the sun. They who know this, and they who in this forest worship in faith and truth, may indeed rise in the flame of the fire; from the flame they go to the day; from the day to the moonlit weeks; from the moonlit weeks to the summer months; from the months to the world of the bright Powers; from the world of the bright Powers to the sun; from the sun to the lightning; and when they have entered the lightning, a Spirit Mind-born, drawing near, leads them to the worlds of the Eternal; in those worlds of the Eternal beyond the highest they dwell, and for them there is no return.
“But they who win worlds by sacrifice, gifts and penance, they arise in the smoke of the pyre; from the smoke they go to the night; from the night to the moonless weeks; from the moonless weeks to the winter months; from the winter months to the world of the Fathers; from the world of the Fathers to the moon, and gaining the moon, they become food, the bright Powers consume them, as the lunar lord waxes and wanes. When they have fulfilled their time, they return through the ether, from the ether to the air, from the air to rain, from rain to the earth, where, becoming food, they are sacrificed in the fire of man, born in the fire of woman, and, rising up again in this world, they thus have their return.”
The fire and smoke, day and night, moonlit and moonless weeks, summer and winter, sun and moon, the world of the bright Powers, the world of the Fathers, are, as it were, the positive and negative poles of a series of ascending planes. Those who are bound by self-seeking, typified here by acts of ritual religion, are drawn in each plane to the negative pole. In the “lunar world,” the paradise between death and birth, their “merit” enters into the substance of the higher Self, and thus they are said to be consumed by the bright Power. And when their time in paradise is ended, they pass downward again, through the same planes, now symbolized as ether, air, water and earth; and so re-enter this world through the gates of birth. But those who are not bound by self-seeking, “who worship in faith and truth in this forest,” are drawn at death to the positive pole of each plane, and so they ascend to the Sun and the Lightning, where they are met by a Spirit Mind-born, who leads them to the worlds of the Eternal, whence they return no more.
Compare the words of the Seer of the Apocalypse: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God. . . .”
What is the Eternal? What is the highest Self? What is the Work, O best of men? What is called the highest Being, and what is declared to be the highest Divinity?
What and in what manner is the highest Sacrifice, here, in the body, O Slayer of Madhu? And how art thou to be known at the time of going forth in death, by those who are self-ruled?
THE MASTER SAID:
Unchanging is the supreme Eternal. Self-conscious Life is called the highest Self. The emanating Power which causes the form and forth-comings of all beings, is called Karma, the great Work.
The highest Being is existence subject to change. Individual Spirit is the highest Divinity. The highest Sacrifice am I, here in the body, O best of embodied creatures!
And he who goes forth, putting off the body, and at the time of the end remembering Me, such a one goes to My Being; of this there is no doubt. (5)
Whatever Being one remembers, when putting off the body at death, to that verily he goes, O Son of Kunti, ever formed in the likeness of that Being.
Therefore at every instant remember Me, and fight on; with heart and soul-vision fixed on Me, thou shalt assuredly come to Me.
Such a one with thought assiduously held in union with Me, and wandering in no other way, goes to the supreme Spirit, the Divine, ever thinking thereon, O son of Pritha.
He who holds in his heart that Seer, the Ancient, the Giver of commands, who is smaller than small; who is the Disposer of the All, of form unthinkable, in color like the sun, beyond the darkness;
At the time of the end united in love, with heart unwavering, and with the power of union, gathering the life-power between the brows, he enters straightway into the supreme Spirit, the Divine. (10)
That which knowers of the Vedas call the Unchanging, to which saints, freed from passion, enter in, that which they seek who vow service to the Eternal, that resting place shall I briefly tell to thee.
Firmly holding all the doors of the senses, and holding emotion within the heart, drawing the life-breath together in the brow, steadfastly set on the practice of union;
Sounding the syllable Om, for the eternal, with heart set upon Me, who goes forth thus, putting off the body, he enters on the highest Way.
He who ever rests his heart on Me, with no other thought, for him I am easy to find, for the seeker of union, thus holding ever to union.
Entering into Me, the Mighty-souled return not to rebirth, to this unenduring house of pain; they have reached supreme attainment. (15)
All beings, Creator and worlds alike, return again and again, O Arjuna; but, son of Kunti, entering into Me, there is no more rebirth.
They who know the Day of the Creator as completed in a thousand ages, and the Night of the Creator as ending in a thousand ages, they are knowers of day and night.
All manifest things spring forth from the Unmanifest, at the coming of the Day; and at the coming of the Night, they melt away into the Unmanifest again.
The whole host of beings, coming into being again and again, melts away at the coming of the Night, and comes forth inevitably at the coming of the Day, O son of Pritha.
But beyond this manifest Being, there is another Being, unmanifest, everlasting, which does not pass away, even when all beings perish. (20)
That Unmanifest is called the Everlasting, and this they call the Supreme Way, gaining which they return not again; this is My highest home.
This supreme Spirit, O son of Pritha, is to be found by undivided love; in This all beings dwell, by This was the universe stretched forth.
But at what time going forth, seekers of union return not, or return, that time I shall declare to thee, O bull of the Bharatas.
They who go forth at death in the flame, the light, the day, the moonlit weeks, the summer, they, knowers of the Eternal, enter the Eternal.
But the seeker of union who goes forth in the smoke, the night, the moonless weeks, the winter, he, entering into the lunar light, returns again. (25)
These are deemed the world’s immemorial ways of light and darkness; by the one he goes to return no more, by the other he returns again.
Knowing these two paths, O son of Pritha, the seeker of union goes not astray. Therefore at all times be thou united in union, O Arjuna.
The holy reward that is pointed out in the Vedas, sacrifices, penances and gifts, that perfect reward the seeker of union, who knows all this, passes beyond, entering into the supreme home, the source of all.
Introduction to Book IX
The ninth is, perhaps, the simplest, the most direct, the most eloquent book in this whole scripture. It is full of pure religious feeling, clear intuition. Perhaps the closest approach to its essence, among modern writers, is this passage of Emerson:
“There is one Mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same. . . . Who hath access to this universal Mind, is a party to all that is or can be done, for this is the only and sovereign agent. . . . Of the works of this mind, history is the record. . . .”
And again: “The Supreme Critic on the errors of the past and the present, and the only prophet of that which must be, is that great nature in which we rest, as the earth lies in the soft arms of the atmosphere; that Unity, that Oversoul, within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all others; that common heart, of which all sincere conversation is the worship. . . .”
Throughout this scripture, as in many scriptures, the Teacher speaks for the Oversoul, speaks as the Oversoul, with which his inner Self is at one. And it is evident that Krishna identifies the Oversoul, as which he speaks, with Atma, the supreme Self, the Life, of the older Upanishads. Here is a part of the Hymn to Life, from the “Upanishad of the Questions”:
“Thou, Life, as Lord of beings, movest in the germ; and thou thyself art born from it. And to thee, Life, these beings bring the offering; thou who art set firm through the lives.
“Thou art the tongued flame of the bright ones; the first oblation of the fathers. Thou art the law of the sages; the truth of sacrificial priests.
“Thou art the Thunderer, Life, with his rightness; thou art the storm-god, the preserver. Thou movest in the mid space as the sun; thou art master of the stars. . . .”
In the passage from the greatest Upanishad quoted in the Introduction to the eighth book, the passage on the Two Ways, we saw that those who follow ritual worship go by the lunar path to paradise, and that, when their “merit” is consumed, they return again. They are contrasted with those who worship in faith and truth, who follow the solar path and return no more, finding full liberation. It is significant to find exactly the same contrast in the twentieth and twenty-first verses of our ninth book: “The men of the Three Vedas, gaining Lord Indra’s paradise, eat divine feasts of the gods in heaven. They, having enjoyed that wide heavenly world, on the waning of their merit enter the mortal world. Thus putting their trust in the threefold Vedic law, they gain a reward that passes away.”
This is the deep line of cleavage, lying at the root of the religions of India, between the Mystery Teaching of the Red Rajanyas or Rajputs, and the ritual worship of the White Brahmans, which at first knew nothing of the Mystery Teaching, nothing of rebirth, nothing of liberation.
The essence of the teaching of this book would seem to be this:
We recognize the divine soul first within the inner chamber of our own consciousness, a something higher and holier than ourselves, which makes itself known to us in divine communion. Steadily, as we watch and worship, the light grows, until it becomes the infinite Light. The soul widens and deepens, until we recognize it as the infinite Soul.
Finding it in ourselves, we find it also in our brothers, and so are drawn together in the bonds of brotherhood and fellowship. Brotherly love thus unites all humanity in one, and that one a manifestation of the infinite Soul.
In Nature too, we recognize the same loved face. Wherever we turn, toward the green earth, the mountains, or the quiet stars, we see everywhere the handiwork of that one Soul.
Thus in the worlds about us, in the hearts of our brothers, in the inmost chamber of the heart, we find the soul, the deep and infinite life, the everlasting. For the soul we are to live, seeing in our every condition the arranging hand of the soul; recognizing in all our tasks the work set us by the soul; doing all things for the soul with a great rejoicing that the partition wall is broken down, and the twain are become one. The teacher declares, speaking as the soul: “He who with love gives Me a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, this gift of love I accept from him. . . . Whatever thou doest, whatever thou eatest, whatever thou offerest, whatever thou givest, do it as an offering to Me. . . .”
Compare these passages from another scripture:
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. . . .”
“And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. . . .”
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
THE MASTER SAID:
This most secret wisdom I will declare to thee, since thou dost not cavil, and with it knowledge, knowing which thou shalt be freed from darkness.
This is the royal science, the royal secret, this is the most excellent purifier; it is to be understood by intuition, it is righteous, it is happiness to follow, it passes not away.
Men without faith in this law, O consumer of the foe, failing to reach Me, turn back again along the way of the circle of death.
By Me, whose form is unmanifest, was this whole world stretched forth; all beings are set in Me, but I am not contained in them.
Yet do not beings dwell in Me; behold My lordly power! I am the supporter of all beings, though I dwell not in beings; My Soul causes beings to be. (5)
As the mighty wind, that goes everywhere, rests ever in space, so do all beings dwell in Me; thus understand!
All beings, O son of Kunti, go to My nature at the end of the age; and I put them all forth again at the beginning of the world-period.
Establishing My own nature, again and again I put forth this host of beings inevitably, by the power of nature.
Nor do all these works bind Me down, O winner of wealth; seated in lordship above them, unattached to all these works.
Under My supervision Nature engenders beings moving and motionless; through this motive power, O son of Kunti, the world circles on its way. (10)
The deluded contemn Me, thus entered into a human form, not knowing My supreme nature, as mighty Lord of beings.
Vain their hopes, vain their works, vain their wisdom, of little knowledge; they have entered into savage and demoniac natures, full of delusions.
But the Mighty-souled, O son of Pritha, who draw near My divine nature, love Me with undivided heart, knowing Me the source of beings, that passes not away.
Ever doing honor to Me, striving, firm in their vows, they bow down to Me in love, drawing near to Me in perpetual union.
And others, offering the sacrifice of wisdom, draw near to Me, as in unity or diversity, or manifold, appearing in all things. (15)
I am the offering, I am the sacrifice, I am the oblation, I am the libation; I am the chant, I am the holy oil, I am the fire, I am what is offered.
I am the father of this world, the mother, the guardian, the father’s father; I am the end of knowledge, the purifier, the sacred syllable, the hymn, the chant, the sacred sentence.
I am the way, the supporter, the lord, the witness, the home, the refuge, the beloved; the forthcoming and withdrawing, the place, the treasure, the everlasting seed.
I give warmth, I withhold the rain and send it forth; I am immortality and death, existent and non-existent, O Arjuna.
The men of the Three Vedas, Soma-drinkers, pure from sin, offering sacrifices, seek from Me the way of heaven; they, gaining Lord Indra’s paradise, eat divine feasts of the gods in heaven. (20)
They, having enjoyed that wide heavenly world, on the waning of their merit enter the mortal world. Thus putting their trust in the threefold Vedic law, and full of desires, they gain as reward their going and return.
But those who think on Me with undivided heart, drawing near to Me in worship, for them ever joined to Me in union, I bring a sure reward.
Even they who worship other deities with love, filled with faith, they also, O son of Kunti, even though irregularly, worship Me;
For I am the enjoyer and lord of all sacrifices; yet they know Me not truly, and so they fall.
Those who vow to the gods, go to the gods; those who vow to the Fathers, go to the Fathers; those who sacrifice to the departed, go to the departed, and those who sacrifice to Me, go to Me. (25)
He who with love gives Me a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, this gift of love I accept from him who is self-conquered.
Whatever thou doest, whatever thou eatest, whatever thou offerest, whatever thou givest, whatever penance thou doest, O son of Kunti, do it as an offering to Me.
Thus shalt thou be set free from the bonds of works, fruits of deeds fair or foul; thy soul united through renunciation and union, liberated, thou shalt come to Me.
I am equal toward all beings; nor is any hated or favored of Me; but they who love Me with dear love, they are in Me and I in them.
Should even a chief of sinners love Me with undivided love, he is to be held a saint, for he has decided wisely. (30)
Soon he becomes altogether righteous, entering ever into peace; and know certainly, O son of Kunti, my beloved will not perish.
Whosoever they be, O son of Pritha, who take refuge in Me, even though they be born of sin, women or merchants or serfs, they also go on the highest way.
How much more holy priests and royal sages, full of love! Therefore, as thou dwellest in this unlasting, sorrowing world, do thou love Me.
Set thy heart on Me, thy love on Me, sacrifice to Me, bow down to Me, thus joining thyself to Me in union, and bent on Me, thou shalt come to Me.
Introduction to Book X
In the tenth book, the teacher carries forward in a very vital way the teaching of the Spiritual Structure of the Universe. Having already shown how, within the undivided., unchanging Eternal there arises the Logos, he tells how within the Logos there appear the Seven Seers and the Four Lords of mankind. The Seven Seers are, as it were, assemblies of spiritual life, the seven sources from which flow seven rays of souls, embracing the totality of living things in their varying degrees. The Four Lords of mankind are the regents of the four directions of space, the guardians of the manifested world. In a sense they are representatives of the positive forces among the Seven Seers, the intervening three being regarded as negative. Then comes a most vital link in the teaching. As the seven spiritual rays pour downward from the Seven Seers, they are met by the Awakened, those among manifested souls in whom the light has grown bright; and these Awakened ones also enter into the life of the Logos, forming an undivided hierarchy with the life of the Seven Seers. The Awakened ones hand down the teaching of the Logos from Master to disciple, imparting the knowledge of the soul-vision. Over all broods the Logos, bending down, yet retaining its own nature, and driving away the darkness born of unwisdom, with the flaming lamp of wisdom.
Compare with this the vision of the Apocalypse: “And after this beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb (the Logos), clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to the Eternal which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the Messengers stood round about the throne, and about the Seniors, and the Four Lives, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped the Eternal. . . . These are they which came out of the great trial, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of the Eternal, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
The Apocalypse depicts the Eternal and the Logos enthroned amid the rainbow; round the throne are the seven lamps of fire, which are the Seven Spirits of God; and the Four Lives, full of eyes before and behind. And drawn near to this celestial host are the Seniors and the Messengers, elect of humanity, drawn from every nation under heaven.
The Bhagavad Gita represents the Eternal, and the Logos resting within the everlasting Being; the Seven Seers, and the Four Lords of mankind. Rising toward them and meeting them are the Awakened, with their disciples, joying and rejoicing in the Logos for ever.
With Arjuna’s description of the Logos: “Most excellent Spirit, Creator of beings, Lord of beings, God of gods, Ruler of the world! Thou alone art worthy to declare Thy forms. . . .” we may compare these words of St. Paul: “Blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords: Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see. . . .”
The reply of Krishna is so beautiful and full of poetry that it needs no comment.
THE MASTER SAID:
Further, verily, O mighty-armed one, hear thou My supreme word, which I shall declare to thee because thou lovest it, desiring what is dear to thee.
The hosts of the gods know not My birth, nor the mighty Seers; for I am the source of all the gods, and all the mighty Seers.
Who knows Me unborn, beginningless, mighty Lord of the world, he undeluded among mortals, is freed from all sin.
Soul-vision, wisdom, victory over delusion, patience, truth, control and peace, happiness, sorrow, birth and death, fear and valor;
Gentleness, equity, joy, fervor, charity, honor, dishonor, such are the natures of beings, proceeding from Me in their varied forms. (5)
The seven mighty Seers, and the four Lords of mankind are mind-born from My being, of whom these worlds are the offspring.
Who rightly knows this My splendor and power, he is united in unwavering union; this is altogether sure.
I am the source of all, from Me the universe comes forth; the Awakened, thinking thus, love Me, following after love.
Their hearts set on Me, their lives given to Me, handing this wisdom down, and imparting the knowledge of Me, they joy and rejoice forever.
To them, ever joined in union, and full of love, I give soul-vision, whereby they may enter into Me. (10)
Bending down to them, yet retaining My own nature, I drive away their darkness born of unwisdom, with the flaming lamp of wisdom.
The supreme Eternal, the supreme home, the supreme purifier art Thou, the everlasting Spirit, the divine; source of the gods, the unborn Lord; Thus have all the Seers declared Thee, and the divine Seer Narada also; and Asita, Devala and Vyasa, and Thou also sayest so to me.
All this I hold to be true which Thou speakest, O long-haired one; for neither the gods nor the spirits of darkness know Thy forthcoming, Lord!
Thou Thyself, through Thyself, knowest Thyself, most excellent Spirit, Creator of beings, Lord of beings, God of gods, Ruler of the world! (15)
Thou alone art worthy to declare Thy forms, for divine are the manifold forms of Thyself, whereby permeating these worlds, Thou dwellest in them.
How may I know Thee, O Lord of union, ever meditating on Thee? and in what forms art Thou to be thought of, Lord, by me?
Declare again in order Thy power and glory, O arouser of the people! for I can never be sated with hearing this immortal tale.
THE MASTER SAID:
Verily shall declare to thee the divine forms whereby manifest Myself, naming the chiefest, O best of the children of Kuru, for My forms are endless.
I am the Self, O thou of crested locks, dwelling inwardly in all beings; Verily I am the beginning, and the middle, and the end also of beings. (20)
Of the sons of the Mother, I am Vishnu; among lights, I am the rayed sun; of the storm lords I am Marichi; in the mansions of the night, I am the moon.
Of the Vedas, I am the Veda of chants; among the gods, I am Indra; of perceiving powers, I am the heart; I am the consciousness of beings.
Among devourers, I am Shiva; among gnomes and sprites, I am the Lord of treasures; among fire-powers, I am the Fire-lord; among peaks, I am mount Meru.
Among priests, O son of Pritha, know Me to be their chief, Vrihaspati; among leaders of hosts, I am the War-god; among waters, I am the ocean.
Among mighty Seers, I am Bhrigu; among words, I am the sacred syllable; among sacrifices, I am unuttered prayer; among hills, I am the Himalayas. (25)
Among trees, I am the tree of life; and Narada among divine Seers: among seraphs, I am he of the painted car; and Kapila the silent, among those who have attained.
Among horses, know Me as the divine steed, born of ambrosia; among elephants, I am Indra’s elephant; among men, I am the king.
Among weapons, I am the thunderbolt; among cattle, I am the cow of desires; I am the love-god, the engenderer; among serpents, I am the serpent-king.
Among snakes, I am the snake of eternity; among the water-born, I am the ocean-lord; among the fathers, I am Aryaman; and the Lord of the dead, among constrainers.
I am Prahlada among demons; I am time, among measures; among beasts, I am the king of beasts; and Garuda among winged creatures. (30)
Among purifiers, I am the wind; I am Rama among warriors; among fish, I am the sacred crocodile; among rivers I am the Ganges.
Of all that comes forth, I am the beginning and middle and end, O Arjuna; among sciences, I am the science of the divine soul; I am the word of those that speak.
Among letters, I am A; I am the dual among compounds; I am unwaning Time; I am the Ruler, appearing through all things.
I am all-consuniing Death; I am the birth of things that shall be; I am honor, grace, voice, among things feminine; and memory and wisdom, firmness, patience.
Among chants, I am the great Chant; among hymns, I am the Gayatri; among months, I am the month of the deer-head; I am flower-bringing spring among the seasons. (35)
I am the dice among uncertain things; the fire of the fiery; I am victory and decision; I am the goodness of the good.
Among the children of Vrishni, I am Vasudeva; among the sons of Pandu, I am Arjuna, conqueror of wealth; among silent seers, I am Vyasa; among poets, I am Ushanas the poet.
I am the scepter of the dominant; I am the rule of those seeking victory; I am the silence of things secret; I am the wisdom of the wise.
And whatever is the seed among all beings, that am I, O Arjuna; nothing that is could be without Me, among things moving or unmoving.
Nor is there any end of My divine forms, O consumer of the foe; this I have told thee for thy instruction, as an enumeration of My manifold forms. (40)
Whatever being is glorious, gracious or powerful, thou shalt recognize that as sprung from a fragment of My fire.
But what need hast Thou of this manifold wisdom, O Arjuna? With one part of My being I stand establishing this whole world.
Introduction To Book XI
One might call the eleventh book the Book of the Transfiguration. It holds its place in the entire work, not arbitrarily, but in accordance with the laws of spiritual life. For the Transfiguration portrays a certain real event, and has, therefore, had its fitting symbol in the Mystery Teachings of all times and all lands.
To take two instances. It is depicted in the Book of Job, by the Lord answering out of the whirlwind, after the trials of the patriarch have been successfully overcome. Again, the Transfiguration has its parallel, and a very close one, in the Apocalypse:
“I was in the spirit . . . and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last . . . and I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto line brass, as if they burned as in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last; I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. . . .”
The truth would seem to be that, at a certain point in spiritual life, the ardent disciple, who has sought in all things to bring his soul into unison with the great Soul, who has striven to bring his will to likeness with the Divine Will, passes through a marked spiritual experience, in which the great Soul draws him upward, the Divine Will raises his consciousness to oneness with the Divine Consciousness; for a time, he perceives and feels, no longer as the person, but as the Oversoul, gaining a profound vision of the divine ways of life, and feeling with the infinite Power, which works through life and death alike, through sorrow and joy, through union and separation, through creation, destruction and recreation. The awe and mystery which surround that great unveiling have set their seal on all who have passed through it.
Did space permit, it would be possible to show that the symbols used to portray this divine event correspond, part by part, whether we draw them from the Egyptian Mysteries, from the Bhagavad Gita, or from the Apocalypse. We have made the general resemblance between the two latter sufficiently evident, however; and those to whom the theme appeals, may work out the details for themselves. The second vision in the Apocalypse, which we quoted in part in the Introduction to Book X, should be taken into account, and the two together compared with the Transfiguration in the Bhagavad Gita.
It should be pointed out that the dramatic situation in the two Scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita and the Apocalypse, is identical. In both, we have, first the Master addressing the disciple. Then the disciple receives the power of divine vision,or is “in the spirit,” as John says, in introducing both visions. Then comes the Transfiguration, in which the Master’s Spirit becomes, as it were, the channel through which the disciple is initiated into the Oversoul. And, as a result of the Transfiguration, the disciple falls in awe and reverence at the feet of the Master, and the Master raises him up, encouraging and consoling him. The words: “Awake! Arise!” mark the closing scene of this divine event, according to most ancient Scriptures.
One word more. The symbolism used, whether in the Bhagavad Gita or in the Apocalypse, is as strange as it is tremendous. We have in both the Ancient of Days, with eyes as of flaming fire, and with a tongued flame proceeding out of his mouth. In the one, we have the vision of Deity, many-armed and many-eyed; in the other, we have the many-winged Lives, with innumerable eyes; in both, we have the rainbow-colored halo round the throne, which is beset with thunderings and lightnings. This tremendous symbolism has its purpose, and its very strangeness may remind us that we are in presence of an effort to tell of the things of other worlds in the imagery of this. Keeping these principles in mind, one may reach a measure of success in grasping the significance of this mystical and apocalyptic vision.
The word which Thou hast spoken through love of me, the supreme mystery named the Oversoul—through it my delusion is gone.
For the birth and the passing of beings have been heard by me at length from Thee, whose eyes are lotus petals; I have heard also of the Great Spirit, which passes not away.
So I would see that Self as it has been spoken by Thee, Mighty Lord; that divine form of Thine, O best of men!
If Thou thinkest it can be seen by me, Lord, Master of union, then reveal to me the Self everlasting!
THE MASTER SAID:
Son of Pritha, behold my forms hundredfold and thousandfold; manifold, divine, of many colors and forms. (5)
Behold the sons of the Mother, the Breaths, the Thunderers, the twin Healers,. the Storm-powers! Behold, O son of Bharata, many wonders unseen before!
Behold the whole world gathered together here, things moving and unmoving, within My body; and whatsoever else thou wouldst see, O thou of crested locks!
But Me thou canst not behold with this vision of thine. I give thee divine vision! Behold my lordly power!
Thereupon, O king, having spoken thus, Hari, the mighty Lord of power, revealed to the son of Pritha the supreme lordly form.
Many-faced, many-eyed, of many wonderful aspects,with many divine adornments, with many upraised divine weapons, (10)
With divine garlands and vestures, anointed with divine perfumes, altogether marvellous in nature, godlike, endless, facing everywhere.
Such as would be the radiance of a thousand suns bursting forth suddenly in the sky, such was the radiance of that Mighty Spirit.
There the son of Pandu beheld the whole world with all its differences gathered together in the body of that God of gods.
Then invaded with dismay, his flesh creeping, the conqueror of wealth bowing his head before the divinity, and with palms joined, spoke thus:
I behold the gods in Thy body, O divine One! and all the hosts of diverse beings; Brahma the Creator, seated on the lotus throne, and all the Seers and Serpents of wisdom. (15)
With many an arm and maw and face and eye, I behold Thee altogether endless-formed; neither end nor middle nor yet beginning of Thee do I see, O all-formed Lord of all!
With diadem, mace and disk, a mountain of light, through Thy whole being luminous I behold Thee, difficult to view, perfectly radiant like blazing fire or the sun, immeasurable.
Thou art to be known as the supreme Everlasting; Thou art the supreme treasure of the universe; Thou art the eternal guardian of the immemorial law, I esteem Thee to be the everlasting Spirit.
Without beginning, middle or end, of endless valor, mighty-armed, Whose eyes are sun and moon; I behold Thee of countenance like flaming fire, illuminating all the universe by Thy light.
For all the expanse between heaven and earth is filled by Thee, and all the regions of space; beholding this wonderful and terrible form of Thine, the three worlds tremble, O Mighty Spirit! (20)
For the host of the powers draw near to Thee, praising Thee, fearful, with joined palms; and the hosts of the Mighty Seers and Masters adore Thee with songs of praise, crying: Hail! Before Thee.
The Thunderers, the sons of the Mother, the Breaths, the Light-powers, the twin Healers, the Storm-powers, those who drink up the offering; seraphs, earth-sprites, the hosts of gods and Masters, all view Thee with awe.
Beholding Thy mighty form, many-faced, many-eyed, O mighty-armed one, with many maws, many terrible teeth, the worlds tremble, and I also.
For seeing Thee, reaching to the clouds, luminous, many-colored, wide-mouthed, with wide luminous eyes, trembling in heart, I find nor firmness nor peace, O Vishnu!
And beholding Thy mouths with terrible teeth, like unto Time’s consuming fires, I know not where I am, nor do I find any place of refuge. Be gracious to me, Lord of gods, upholder of the world! (25)
And the sons of Dhritarashtra here, all of them, with the hosts of the princes of the earth, Bhishma, Drona, Karna yonder, son of the charioteer, and our leading warriors, too,
Hurrying enter Thy mouths, fearful, with terrible teeth; some of them are seen fixed between Thy teeth, their heads crushed.
As many rivers with impetuous waters run forward toward the ocean, so these heroes of the world of men enter Thy flaming mouth.
As moths enter a kindled flame swiftly, to their own destruction, so, verily, to their destruction the people swiftly enter thy mouths.
Thou consumest the people with licking tongues, all together in Thy blazing mouths; Thy terrible rays glow, O Vishnu, filling all the world with their radiance. (30)
Declare to me who Thou art, terrible formed! Honor to Thee, best of gods! Be gracious! I would know Thee, Primal One; for Thy power I comprehend not!
THE MASTER SAID:
I am Time, grown ripe for the destroying of the worlds, here ready to consume the people. Even without thee, they shall all cease to be, the warriors who stand there in the opposing armies.
Therefore arise, win glory, conquering thy foes, enjoy thy splendid kingdom! For these are all slain by Me already. Be thou but the instrument, thou whose both hands have equal skill!
Slay thou Drona and Bhishma, and Jayadratha and Karna, and likewise other heroes of battle, slain by Me already! Fear not! Fight, for thou shalt conquer thy rivals in battle!
Arjuna of the diadem, hearing this word of Him of the flowing hair, with joined palms, trembling, bowing low, spoke again to Krishna, stammering, bending fearfully before Him. (35)
Rightly, O Thou of flowing hair, the world joys and rejoices in Thy praises! Demons fearing flee to the comers of space; and all the hosts of Masters bow down before Thee.
And how should they not bow before Thee, O Mighty Spirit, Who art more potent than the Creator, Who makest the beginning of things!
O unending Lord of gods, upholder of the world, Thou art the Everlasting, the existent and non-existent, and what is beyond.
Thou art First of the gods, the Spirit, the Ancient, Thou art the supreme treasure of the universel Thou art knower and knowable, and the supreme home; by Thee, of endless form, was all this stretched forth!
Thou art the Wind-god, the Constraining Death, the Fire-lord, the Lord of the azure sphere, the Moon, the Lord of beings, the great Progenitor! Obeisance, obeisance to Thee thousandfold! Again, once more, obeisance, obeisance to Thee!
Obeisance from before and from behind! Obeisance to Thee on all sides, for Thou art All! Thou art of endless valor, of measureless might! Thou possessest all, for Thou art All! (40)
If thinking Thee my comrade, addressed Thee brusquely: Ho Krishna! Ho son of Yadu! Ho comrade! not knowing this greatness of Thine, or carelessly, or through affection,
Or whatever I have done to make a jest of Thee, unseemly, in journeying, resting, or seated, or at the banquet, whether alone, O unfallen one! or in presence of these, for all this ask forgiveness from Thee, immeasurable one!
Thou art the Father of the world, of things moving and unmoving; Thou art worthy of honor, the reverend Teacher of the world! None equal Thee; how could any be greater?—even in the three worlds there is none like Thee in might!
Therefore bowing down, prostrating my body before Thee, I seek Thy grace, O worthy Lord! As the father his son, the comrade his comrade, the beloved his beloved, so deign Thou, Lord, to pardon me!
I exult, beholding what was never seen before, and my heart trembles with fear; show me, Lord, the former form; Lord of gods, be gracious, upholder of worlds! (45)
I would see Thee once more with diadem, mace and disk in thy hands as before! Take again Thy four-limbed shape, Thou of a thousand arms, of form universal!
THE MASTER SAID:
Through My favor toward thee, Arjuna, was this supreme form shown thee by My divine power, radiant, universal, endless, primal, seen by none before thee.
Not by Vedas, sacrifices, study, not by gifts or rites or harsh penances is the vision of Me to be gained in the world of men by any but thee, foremost hero of the children of Kuru!
Let not fear nor confusion overcome thee, beholding My form so terrible! Behold my former shape once more, thy fear gone, thy heart at rest!
Vasudeva thus addressing Arjuna, showed him once more His own form; the Mighty Spirit consoled him fearful, taking once more a friendly shape. (50)
Seeing this gracious human form of Thine, O arouser of men! I am now myself again, of quiet heart, returned to my own nature.
THE MASTER SAID:
This form of Mine which thou hast seen is hard indeed to see! Even the gods ever desire a sight of this form!
Nor can I be seen thus through Vedas, penances, gifts, sacrifices, in the form which thou hast seen.
But I can be known thus through single-hearted love, Arjuna, and seen as I truly am, and entered, O consumer of the foe!
He who works for Me, intent on Me, loving Me, free from attachment, without enmity toward all beings, he comes to Me, O son of Pandu! (55)
Introduction to Book XII
This book lays down the practical rule for the disciple. The way is found. The disciple must now enter on it in earnest. He has had the great vision of the Divine, working through life and death, joy and sorrow, vision and separation; and, coming back to himself, he hears the words: Awake! Arise! He must now take up his life and live it under divine law.
But there may be disciples of many types, of many temperaments, of many degrees of attainment. Something must be said for each of these. There is the broad distinction between the contemplative and the active life and character; what one might call the Eastern and the Western temperament. Arjuna states the case of these two: those who worship the unmanifest Eternal, and those who, ever united and full of love, draw near to the Master,—which of these follows the better way?
We may illustrate these two ways by passages from the Scriptures of two other religions.
First, the abstract, contemplative way, which one may call the way of the Eastern spirit. This we may illustrate by a sentence from one of the Buddha’s sermons:
“We may have, O disciples, the case of one, who, himself subject to birth and death, perceives the wretchedness of what is subject to birth and death, and longs for the incomparable security of a Nirvana free from birth and death; himself subject to old age, disease, death, sorrow, dissolution, perceives the wretchedness of what is subject to dissolution, and longs for the incomparable security of a Nirvana free from dissolution. This, O disciples, is a noble longing!”
Now the concrete, practical way of devotion, which we may call the way of the Western spirit. We may illustrate it from one of the Sermons of Jesus.
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him . . . If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”
The rest of the book is so simple, direct and practical that it needs no comment.
They who thus ever united and full of love draw near to Thee, and they who worship the unmanifest Eternal,—which of these are the best knowers of union?
THE MASTER SAID:
They who, resting their hearts in Me, ever united, draw near to Me, full of supreme faith, these I hold to be most perfect in union.
But they who worship the Eternal, undefined, unmanifest, omnipresent, unthinkable, the basis of things, immovable and firm,
Restraining the bodily powers, everywhere equal-minded, they come to Me, verily, who thus rejoice in the weal of all beings.
But the toil of those whose minds are set on the Unmanifest is greater, for the way of the Unmanifest is hard for mortals to attain. (5)
But they who in Me renouncing all works, are bent on Me, draw near to Me, meditating with single-hearted union,
I am become their Saviour from the ocean of death and rebirth after no long time, O son of Pritha, because they have set their hearts on Me.
Therefore set thy heart on Me, enter into Me, with thy soul! Thou shalt verily dwell in Me in the world above! Of this, there is no doubt.
But if thou art not able to concentrate thy imagination steadily on Me, then seek to reach Me by union through assiduous practice, O conqueror of wealth!
And if thou art incapable of assiduous practice, then dedicate all thy works to Me; and doing all works for My sake thou shalt reach mystic power. (10)
But if thou art unable even to do this, taking refuge in union with Me, then self-controlled, make the renunciation of the fruit of all works.
For wisdom is better than assiduous practice, but soul-vision is better than wisdom. From soul-vision comes renunciation of the fruit of works. From renunciation, peace swiftly comes.
Putting away hate for any being, friendly, pitiful, without desire of possessions, without vanity, equal in weal and woe, patient,
Content, ever following union, self-ruled, firmly determined, with heart and soul centered in Me, who thus loves Me is beloved of Me.
He whom the world fears not, who fears not the world, free from exultation, anguish, fear, disquiet, such a one is beloved of Me. (15)
Unconcerned, pure, direct, impartial, unperturbed, renouncing all personal initiatives, who thus loves Me is beloved of Me.
Who exults not nor hates nor grieves nor longs, renouncing fortune and misfortune, who is thus full of love is beloved of Me.
Equal to foe and friend, equal in honor and dishonor, equal in cold and heat, weal and woe, from attachment altogether free,
Balanced in blame or praise, full of silence, content with whatever may befall, seeking no home here, steadfast-minded, full of love, this man is beloved of Me.
And they who draw near to the righteous Immortal thus declared, full of faith, resting in Me, full of love, they are beyond all beloved of Me. (20)
Introduction to Book XIII
It has been suggested that the eighteen books of the Bhagavad Gita fall naturally into three groups of six books each; and that the first group of six books corresponds in general to the stage of Aspiration, the second group of six to the stage of Illumination, the third six to the stage of Realization. Without pushing this thought too far, we may recognize, in a general way, that the earlier books of this divine poem are concerned with the first halting steps on the path of life; the middle culminates in the Transfiguration of the eleventh book, and the closing part of the poem is made up of teachings worked out in detail, for use in daily life. In general, these passages of practical teaching rest on the Upanishads and the Sankhya teaching of Kapila, as developed and embodied in the later Vedanta. We cannot speak definitely of the dates either of the Upanishads or of Kapila. We can only say that both certainly belong to a period long before Buddha, and that the Upanisbads are much older than Kapila. We can further say, with some confidence, that Kapila’s great contribution to Indian wisdom was the division of life into the two opposing camps of Spirit and Nature: Purusha and Prakriti; and the further division of Nature under the Three Powers of Substance, Force and Darkness: Sattva, Rajas, Tamas.
This division is not found in the great Upanishads, but it corresponds closely to something that is found there. The antithesis between Spirit and Nature answers to the Upanishad distinction between Self and not-Self. And the Three Powers are closely related to the Three Worlds of the Upanishads. In the development of the Vedanta in the period after the great Upanishads, much of the teaching of Kapila was adopted, and we find the two strands interwoven throughout the Bhagavad Gita, with a strong coloring of the devotional Yoga school added. Shankaracharya fully approves of this adoption, and uses Sankhya classifications throughout his works, both commentaries and original teachings. The reason would seem to be that Kapila, while not giving forth the great traditional teaching of the Mysteries embodied in the Upanishads, nevertheless developed his philosophy in close harmony with the Mystery Teaching, and developed it with marvellous intellectual cogency and lucidity. Kapila was in many ways the prototype of Kant, and his purely intellectual work served as a basis for spiritual teaching, just as Kant’s work serves as the foundation for later idealism.
We therefore find the closing books of the Bhagavad Gita strongly colored by the thought of Kapila; and his division of life into Spirit and Nature, with Nature divided under the Three Powers, is used as the basis of instruction.
The first three verses of Book XIII divide life into objective and subjective, the “field,” and the “knower of the field.” This is in effect Kapila’s division between Nature and Spirit; but, while Kapila seems to contemplate a countless number of isolated Spirits, the Vedanta, in adopting his teaching, greatly strengthened it, by seeing, under all these individuals, a larger unity, the Spirit Supreme, the one Self of all beings. This presence of the Oversoul is finely expressed here: “Know Me to be the knower of the field, in all fields, O son of Bharata.”
The fourth verse, which refers to the Brahma-Sutras, the great analytical work commented on by Shankaracharya, is of later date, and has been inserted by some lover of philosophical orthodoxy, a little jealous, perhaps, of the prominence given to the rival Sankhya system.
The fifth and sixth verses cover what the Upanishads would call the two lowest planes of consciousness, the physical and the psychic; the mental and emotional energies being included, as they ought to be, under the psychic.
A group of five verses follow, which set forth “the fruits of the spirit,” corresponding to the third plane of consciousness of the Upanishads, the plane of “dreamlessness,” of moral and spiritual nature, above the dreamland of the psychic plane. These five verses form, in fact, a fine moral code for the disciple, who must grow in just these qualities of “humility, sincerity, patience, reverence, selflessness.” Every word of these five verses should be dwelt on, till the spiritual principle involved is discerned and assimilated.
Then come six verses, from the twelfth to the seventeenth inclusive, which finely and wonderfully set forth the fourth plane of consciousness of the Upanishads, the direct perception of the Logos, the Oversoul. The Logos is the “Light of lights,” undivided among beings, though seeming to be divided; the power and consciousness of the Logos are everywhere: “with hands and feet everywhere, with eyes everywhere,” in the fine symbolism of the poem. And the union of individual consciousness with this divine consciousness of the Logos is well declared to be the goal of wisdom, the aim of life.
Then Detachment is taught, first along the line of Sankhya thought, which regards the Spirit as the disinterested spectator, whose liberation is to be gained by perception that personal acts and desires are not of the Spirit. By thus raising our consciousness to the one Life, we stand apart from the personal in us, and work only the works of the Life, the works of the Father. The teaching of Detachment is stated also in terms of the Yoga and Vedanta schools, the reconciliation of the three bringing us to the close of the book.
THE MASTER SAID:
This bodily being, O son of Kunti, is named the field; and who beholds it, him the wise call the knower of the field.
And know Me to be the knower of the field, in all fields, O son of Bharata; the knowledge of the field and of the knower of the field, esteem to be knowledge indeed.
What the field is, of what nature, what are its changes, and whence it is; and what the knower is, and what his power is, that briefly learn from Me.
[By the Seers this has been celebrated in many varied hymns; and by the verses of the Brahma-Sutras, full of firm wisdom, it has been set forth.]
The elements, self-reference, understanding, the Unmanifest; the ten powers that perceive and act, mind, and the five fields of perception, (5)
Desire, hate, pleasure, pain, bodily unity, intellect, will; this is the field, briefly set forth, with its changes.
Humility, sincerity, harmlessness, patience, uprightness, reverence for the Teacher, purity, steadfastness, self-control,
Freedom from sensuous longings, selflessness, perception of the defects of birth and death and age and sickness and pain,
Detachment, freedom from absorption in sons and wife and household, perpetual balance of mind, whether the wished or the unwished befall, Undivided and faithful love of Me, a dwelling in the solitary place, shunning the multitude, (10)
Steadfast perception of the Oversoul, an understanding of the goal of true wisdom,—this is declared to be wisdom, and whatever is other than this is unwisdom.
What is to be known I shall declare to thee, knowing which thou shalt gain immortality: the beginningless Supreme Eternal, which is neither being nor non-being,
With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes and head and face everywhere, possessed of hearing everywhere in the world, That stands, enveloping all things,
Illuminated by the power that dwells in all the senses, yet free from all sense-powers, detached, all-supporting, not divided into powers, yet enjoying all powers,
Without and within all beings, motionless, yet moving, not to be perceived is That, because of its subtlety, That stands afar, yet close at hand, (15)
Undivided among beings, though standing as if divided, and as the supporter of beings is That to be known, whither they go, and whence they come,
Light of lights also is That called, beyond the darkness, It is wisdom, It is the aim of wisdom, to be gained by wisdom, in the heart of each It is set firm.
Thus the field and wisdom and what is to be known are briefly set forth; My beloved, understanding this, enters into My being.
Know that both Nature and Spirit are beginningless; and know that changes and powers are Nature-born.
Nature is declared to be the source of cause, causing and effect; Spirit is declared to be the cause, in the tasting of pleasures and pains. (20)
For Spirit, resting in Nature, tastes of the Nature-born powers; attachment to these powers is the cause of the Spirit’s births, from good or evil wombs.
The Supreme Spirit, here in the body, is called the Beholder, the Thinker, the Upholder, the Taster, the Lord, the Highest Self.
Who thus knows Spirit, and Nature with her powers, whatever may be his walk here, such a one enters not into rebirth.
Through meditation, some perceive the Self within, through the self; others through the Yoga of thought, and others through the Yoga of works.
Others not thus knowing, worship, hearing from others; and they also cross over death, intent on the truth they have heard. (25)
Whatever being is born, whether stationary or moving, know, O bull of the Bharatas, that it comes from the union between the field and the knower of the field.
He who beholds the Supreme Lord dwelling ever the same in all beings, not perishing when they perish, he indeed beholds.
For beholding everywhere the Lord who dwells in all things, he of himself injures not himself, and thus goes the higher way.
But he who perceives that works are altogether worked by Nature, and that the Self engages not in works, he indeed perceives.
When he perceives the manifold nature of beings resting in One, and their diversity also springing from That, then he enters the Eternal. (30)
As beginningless, and not divided according to the powers, this Supreme Self, unchanging, even though dwelling in the body, O son of Kunti, neither works nor is stained.
As from its fineness the all-pervading ether is not stained, so the Self, though everywhere embodied, is not stained.
As the one sun illumines all this world, so, O descendant of Bharata, the knower of the field lights up the whole field.
They who, with the eye of wisdom, perceive the distinction between the field and the knower of the field, and the liberation of being from Nature, go to the Supreme.
Introduction to Book XIV
Book XIV carries the Sankhya teaching a step farther. The development of the manifested universe is first traced to the united action of two powers: the Logos, as Father, and the Great One, Mahat, as Mother. In the words of Krishna, speaking as the Logos: “Mahat is the womb, and I am the Father who gives the seed.”
From Mahat, thus enkindled by the Logos, arise Three Powers, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. In their cosmic aspect they are the Substance of manifested life, the Force which expands that Substance into myriad forms, and the Darkness in which Substance is expanded into manifestation. From the point of view of individual life, the Three Powers seem practically identical with the “three bodies” of such Vedanta works as the Tattva Bodha. Sattva corresponds to the Causal body, “the cause and substance of the other two bodies,” as Shankara calls it; Rajas corresponds to the Psychic body, the body of mental and emotional life; and Tamas corresponds to the Physical body, the dark field, which is to be illumined by the five-fold powers of sense and action, projected into it from the psychic realm. For without the psychic, the physical body is unconscious and inert.
Beginning with the fifth verse, this parallelism between the Three Powers and the three bodies is developed in several practical directions. First there is the question of bondage. Beginning with the lowest, the power of Darkness, or the physical body, we are told that it binds “through heedlessness, indolence and sleep,” the mere grossness and inertness of the natural life, before it has been stirred and awakened into keen personal consciousness by the psychic energies of mental and emotional existence. When this stage is reached, when personal psychic life is developed, the cause of bondage changes. The binding force is now “desire, thirst, attachment;” and liberation is to be gained by overcoming these. Bondage through desire, thirst and attachment is what is called Karma in the more restricted sense; and when we pass beyond the psychic personal stage, we are free from Karma in that sense. The third stage is that of the Causal self, which is immortal, in that it is above the birth and death of the body; but which binds, in that it is the dwelling-place of individualism, of the separate consciousness of the Higher Ego. This “binds through the bond of pleasure and the bond of knowledge,” that is, through the attraction of happiness for oneself and knowledge for oneself; therefore this stage also must be transcended, in order that the life may become purely spiritual and free, the consciousness blending with the Oversoul, and thus coming into its true and everlasting individuality. Along this path “all silent seers have passed to supreme adeptship; at the creation of the worlds they go not forth, nor do they fail when the worlds are dissolved.”
Again, “obscurity, inactivity, sloth, delusion,” are the forces of Darkness, of the unawakened physical life. Their underlying principle is inertia, the wish to avoid effort, the longing for “yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep.” It is the state of the yet unborn child, or the state of the body in sleep. And the whole of animal life, with its goad of hunger, seems to be designed to overcome this sluggishness, this unwillingness for effort. Until this obscuring and deadening force is overcome, there can be no truly human life; hence its prevalence is said to entail birth “in wombs of delusion.”
The psychic tendencies are thus enumerated: “desire of possessions, activity, the undertaking of works, restlessness, longing,” all characteristics of the mental and emotional nature. They are the cause of personal Karma, and cause rebirth “among those who are bound by works.”
Finally, the powers belonging to the third stage, which corresponds to the Causal body of Shankara, are “light and wisdom;” those who possess them go upward; they enter the stainless worlds of those who know the best. They possess the stainless fruit of works well done. Yet this third stage is only the anteroom to real spiritual life, life in the divine consciousness of the Logos: “when he beholds That which is beyond the Three Powers, he enters into My being; let go by birth and death and age and pain, he reaches immortality.”
I shall further declare to thee this wisdom, which is the best of all wisdoms, knowing which all silent seers have passed hence to supreme success.
Taking refuge in this wisdom, attaining to oneness of being with Me, at the creation of worlds they go not forth, nor do they fail, when the worlds are dissolved.
The Eternal, the Great One, is the womb for Me, wherein I lay the germ; thence, O descendant of Bharata, comes the birth of all beings.
Whatever forms, O son of Kunti, are born in all wombs, the Eternal, the Great One, is the womb, and I am the Father who gives the seed.
Substance, Force, Darkness: these are the Powers born of Nature; they bind, O mighty armed one, the eternal lord of the body within the body. (5)
There Substance, luminous through its stainlessness, and free from sorrow, binds by the bond of pleasure, and the bond of knowledge, O blameless one.
Force, of the essence of desire, engendering thirst and attachment, binds the lord of the body by the bond of works, O son of Kunti.
But Darkness, born of unwisdom, is known to be the deluder of all who are embodied; it binds through heedlessness, indolence and sleep, O descendant of Bharata.
Substance causes attachment through pleasure; Force, through works, O descendant of Bharata; but Darkness, enwrapping wisdom, causes attachment through sloth.
Overcoming Force and Darkness, Substance prevails, O descendant of Bharata; Force prevails over Substance and Darkness; or Darkness over Substance and Force. (10)
When light shines at all the doors in this dwelling, when wisdom shines, then let him know that Substance has prevailed.
Desire of possessions, activity, the undertaking of works, restlessness, longing, these are born when Force prevails, O bull of the Bharatas.
Obscurity, inactivity, sloth, delusion, these are born when Darkness prevails, O descendant of Kuru.
But when the wearer of the body comes to dissolution while Substance prevails, then he enters into the stainless worlds of those who know the best.
Coming to dissolution with Force prevailing, he is reborn among those who are bound by works; and so reaching dissolution with Darkness prevailing, he is born in wombs of delusion. (15)
They declare that the fruit of works well done is stainless, belonging to Substance; the fruit of Force is pain; the fruit of Darkness is unwisdom.
From Substance is born wisdom; from Force comes the desire of possessions; from Darkness come sloth, delusion and unwisdom also.
Those who dwell in Substance go upward; in the midst stand those who dwell in Force; those who dwell in Darkness go downward, under the sway of the lowest powers.
When the seer perceives that the source of works is no other than the powers, and when he beholds That which is beyond the powers, he enters into My being.
Passing beyond these Three Powers, from which the body comes into being, the lord of the body, let go by birth and death and age and pain, reaches immortality. (20)
What are the marks of him who has passed beyond the Three Powers, Lord? What is his walk? And how does he transcend the Three Powers?
THE MASTER SAID:
He who, O son of Pandu, hates not Light, nor Activity nor Delusion, when they are manifested, nor desires them when they have passed away,
Remaining an onlooker only, unperturbed by the Three Powers, seeing that the Powers alone work, he stands unwavering,
Equal in pain and pleasure, dwelling in the Self, regarding a clod, a stone and gold as equal; balanced in gladness and woe, wise, holding equal balance in blame or praise,
Balanced in honor or dishonor, balanced toward friend and enemy, ceasing from all personal initiatives, such a one has passed beyond the Three Powers. (25)
And he who serves Me with faithful love, he, passing beyond the Three Powers, builds for oneness with the Eternal.
For I am the resting place of the Eternal, of unfading immortality, of immemorial law and perfect joy.
Introduction to Book XV
Book XV is full of echoes from the great Upanishads. To begin with, the simile of the Tree of Life is taken from the second part of the Katha Upanishad, the teaching of Death to Nachiketas. There it is written that: “Rooted above, with branches below, is this immemorial Tree. It is that bright one, that Eternal; it is called the immortal. In it all the worlds rest; nor does any go beyond it.” This is the original of our opening passage. It is taken from one of the older Upanishads, but it is taken with a difference. As used in Book XV, the image has passed through the mind of Kapila, and has taken on a Sankhya coloring.
For the Tree of the Upanishads is veritably the Tree of Life, whose taste gives immortality; the Logos, rooted above and branching downward. It is the Supreme Sell, the immortal spirit. But in the Bhagavad Gita the Tree is transformed. It is now no longer the Tree of Life eternal, but only the Tree of manifested life, rooted not in the Eternal, but in Mahat, and branching downward through the three worlds. The tree of our simile is the Ashvattha tree, one of those banyans, from whose huge branches tufts of roots spring forth, descending through the air, and reaching the ground, where they immediately become the source of a new tree, with a life of its own, yet one with the parent tree. This is the meaning of the image: “Downward and upward stretch the branches, grown strong through the Three Powers, and with things of sense for twigs; downward stretch the roots, which bind to works in the world of men.”
There is, however, no fundamental difference between this teaching and that of the Upanishad. It is only that the great intellect of Kapila, viewing the manifested universe, discerned between the forms of manifestation and the silent Spirit within them, and set Spirit on the one side, and manifested Nature on the other.
The sixth verse is another echo from the Upanishads. In the teaching of Death to Nachiketas, once more it is written: “This is That, they think, the ineffable supreme joy. How then may I know whether This shines or borrows light? No sun shines there, nor the moon and stars; nor lightnings, nor fire like this. All verily shines after that shining. From the shining of That, all this borrows light.” It is noteworthy that we find exactly the same image in another scripture, the Apocalypse: “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”
The eighth verse again echoes the older teaching, this time in the Upanishad of the Questions: “Life proudly made as if to go out above. And as Life goes out, all the others go out, and as Life returns, all the others return.” And a few verses further down, in the eleventh verse of our book, we have an echo of this passage from the same older scripture: “He warms as fire; as sun, and the rain god; the thunderer, wind, and the earth, substance, the bright one, what is, what is not, and what is immortal.”
This triple division into “what is, what is not, and what is immortal,” has again suggested the closing verses of our book; from the sixteenth to the end: “there are two Spirits in the world, the changing and the unchanging . . . But the Highest Spirit is other than these, it is the Supreme Self, the everlasting Lord.” It is evident that we are dealing with what has been called the threefold form of the Logos, the division of the One into the three stages: the First Logos, the Second Logos, and the Third Logos. The First Logos is the Supreme Spirit; the Second Logos is the Unchanging Spirit; the Third Logos is the Changing Spirit of our poem. The highest form of the Logos is the Oversoul, in which our consciousness is to be blended with the All-consciousness: “Who knows Me thus, free from delusion, loves Me with his whole heart.”
THE MASTER SAID:
Rooted above, downward-branching, they say, is that immemorial tree, whose leaves are the hymns; who knows it, knows the Vedas.
Down and upward stretch its branches, grown strong through the powers, and with things of sense for twigs; downward stretch its roots which bind to works in the world of men.
The form of it cannot be so perceived in this world, nor its end, nor beginning, nor its foundation; with the firm sword of detachment cutting this tree, whose roots grow firm,
Let him then follow the path to that resting-place, whither going, they come forth no more, saying: “I enter into the primal Spirit, whence hath flowed forth the ancient stream of things.”
They who are free from pride and delusion, who have conquered the fault of attachment; who dwell ever in the Oversoul, who have turned back from desire, who are freed from the opposites called pleasure and pain, go undeluded to that everlasting rest. (5)
The sun shines not there, nor the moon, nor fire; whither going, they return not again, that is My supreme home.
The immemorial part of Me, which becomes life in the living world, draws the mind and the powers of sense and action which dwell in Nature.
When the lord of the body takes a body, and when he departs from it, he goes forth, taking the powers with him, as the wind carries perfumes with it.
Through hearing, seeing, touch, taste and smell, and likewise mind, he partakes of objects of sense.
Fools perceive not him as that which leaves the body or lingers in it, tasting through union with the powers, but those perceive who possess the eye of wisdom. (10)
Seekers of union, who press on, perceive him within themselves; but even pressing on, the uncontrolled, devoid of wisdom, perceive him not.
The light that, dwelling in the sun, illumines the whole world, the light that is in the moon, in fire, know that light to be of Me.
Entering the world and all beings, I support them by my force; and I feed all plants, becoming Soma, the essence of the sap.
I, becoming vital fire, and entering the bodies of all living things, joined with the forward breath and the downward breath, prepare the four-fold food.
And I have entered into the heart of each, from Me come memory, knowledge, judgment; through all Vedas am I to be known, I am the maker of the Vedanta, the knower of the Vedas. (15)
There are two Spirits in the world, the changing and the unchanging; the changing is all beings, the unchanging is that which stands firm.
But the Highest Spirit is other than these, it is called the Supreme Self; it is the everlasting Lord, who, entering the three worlds, upholds them.
As I transcend the changing, and am also more excellent than the unchanging, therefore in the world and in the Vedas I am praised as the Supreme Spirit.
Who knows Me thus, free from delusion, as the Supreme Spirit, he, all-knowing, loves Me with his whole heart, O son of Bharata.
Thus this most secret scripture is declared by Me, O blameless one; who understands this, possesses wisdom, and has attained his goal, O son of Bharata. (20)
Introduction to Book XVI
Leaving for a time the threefold division of life according to the Three Powers, Book XVI approaches the moral problem in a more direct and simple way. The main theme of the book is exactly that of the Epistle of St. James:
“The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. . . .
“But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, psychical, devilish.”
One may state the matter thus: The psychical nature lies between the animal in us and the divine. It is the essence of the psychical nature that it will reflect and mirror in its own substance whatever the attention and the will are set on. Therefore if the thoughts are fixed on the appetites of the body, the animal desires and passions, these will be reflected in the psychical nature. And reflected not in their simplicity, as they are in the wild animal life, but mirrored and broken into a thousand images, distorted, exaggerated out of all semblance of natural likeness or natural purpose. Thus the simple animal impulse of self-preservation will become ambition, selfishness, cruelty; in like manner the animal search for food and water will be mirrored and distorted into psychic gluttony, drunkenness, greed, and the pure animal power of reproduction into lust and passion. This is “the wisdom from beneath,” as St. James calls it, the word “wisdom” translating “sophia,” which means rather “executive force.” This is the impulse which is “earthly, psychical, devilish,” or demoniac, as the Bhagavad Gita puts it.
But if the heart be set on the things of the Spirit, then the psychical nature will reflect and mirror into itself spiritual things. The eternal power of the Spirit will be mirrored as peace, stability; the oneness of the Spirit, in virtue of which the One Life stands at the heart of all living things, will mirror itself as gentle charity, as kindly affection one to another, with brotherly love. The ever-living joy of the Spirit will mirror itself as happiness and peace. Thus shall we have that wisdom from above, which is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, full of mercy, without hypocrisy.”
Nor will the direction of thought and will affect the emotional nature only. The intellect will be similarly colored. If the heart be set on the things that are below, then the psychic nature, mirroring the things that are below, will build an intellectual image of a world, material, gross, not ruled by divine law, subject to chance, to death and dissolution. But if the heart be set on the things above, then the intellectual nature will build an image of the world in harmony with the things that are above, and will perceive the world as permeated by divinity, ruled by holy law, made out of the elements of the best in us, and akin to our hearts and souls, not merely to the grossness of our bodies. Thus does our intellectual view of the world depend not at all on logical deductions but on the purity or impurity of our moral natures.
The materialistic mood of mind is dramatically expressed in the passage beginning, “This have I gained to-day; this desire shall I obtain; this much I have, and this shall I have of further wealth; this foe has been slain by me, and I shall slay yet others . . .” and ending “Thus they say, deluded . . . and fall into the impure pit of hell.”
We cannot fail to be reminded of a similar passage:
“This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry. But God said unto him, Fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee . . .”
THE MASTER SAID:
Valor, cleanness of heart, steadfast union with illumination, generous giving, control, sacrifice, study, fervor, righteousness,
Gentleness, truth, freedom from anger, detachment, peace, loyalty, pity for all beings, an unlascivious mind, mildness, modesty, steadfastness,
Fire, patience, firmness, purity, good-will, absence of conceit, these belong to him who is born to the godlike portion, O descendant of Bharata!
Hypocrisy, pride, vanity, anger, meanness, unwisdom, these, O son of Pritha, are his, who is born to the demoniac portion.
The godlike portion makes for liberation, and the demoniac for bondage. But grieve not, son of Pandu!Thou art born to the godlike portion. (5)
There are two ways of beings in this world: the godlike and the demoniac. The godlike has been declared at length; hear now from Me the demoniac, O son of Pritha.
Those of demoniac nature know not right action nor right abstinence; nor purity nor discipline nor truth are found in them.
This world, say they, is without truth or firm foundation, without a Lord; not ruled by mutual law, driven only by wilfulness.
Resting in this view, self-destroying, of little wisdom, they come forth violent and hostile, for the destruction of the world.
Taking their refuge in desire insatiable, following after hypocrisy, vanity, madness, through delusion grasping after thoughts of evil, they follow unclean lives; (10)
Given to limitless imaginings stopped only by death, they yield themselves up to the enjoyment of their desires, persuaded that there is nothing else;
Bound by a hundred meshes of expectation, filled with lust and wrath, they seek, for the enjoyment of their desires, to heap up wealth unjustly:
“This have I gained to-day; this desire shall I obtain; this much I have, and this shall I have of further wealth.
“This foe has been slain by me, and I shall slay yet others. I am a lord, I am master of feasts, I have won success and might and happiness;
“I am wealthy and well-born, what other is like unto me? I shall sacrifice, I shall give gifts, I shall exult;” thus say they, deluded by unwisdom, (15)
Wandering in many imaginings, enmeshed by the nets of delusion, fastened to the feasts of their desires, they fall into the impure pit of hell.
Puffed up with self-conceit, vain, following after the pride and intoxication of wealth, their offerings are no true offerings, full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Clinging to self-conceit, violence, pride, lust, wrath, hating Me in themselves and in others, and full of cavilling;
Them, full of hate, cruel, basest of men in the world, I cast down quickly in their impurity into demoniac wombs.
Entering demoniac birth, deluded in birth after birth, not finding Me, O son of Kunti, they go the lower way. (20)
Threefold is this door of soul-destroying hell: lust, wrath, and greed are its doors; therefore let him shun these three.
The man who gets free from these three doors of darkness, O son of Kunti, reaches happiness of soul, and thenceforth goes the higher way.
He who, scorning the scriptural law, does according to his own lusts, reaches not perfection, nor happiness, nor the higher way.
Therefore the scripture is thy rule, to establish what shall be done, what left undone. Knowing the work appointed to thee by the scripture, deign thou therefore to perform it.
Introduction to Book XVII
The early verses of Book XVII may remind us of something we should never forget: that the speech of the Orient is always symbolical; that, for the Eastern mind, the particular always represents the universal, so that each particular symbol stands for a universal truth. This is the principle on which the mystery language is based, in which all true Scriptures are written; for that alone is a true Scripture, whose writer has clear vision of the universal, the One Eternal, and beholds that Eternal in each individual form.
Thus the words: “Those of Substance worship bright deities; those of Force worship deities greedy and passionate; the men of Darkness worship the hosts of darkness,” mean very much more than that the good worship the Devas, the passionate worship Titans, the sluggish worship ghosts. For we must remember that the Three Powers, Substance, Force, Darkness express much the same truth as the Three Worlds of the Vedantins. So that “those of Substance” really means those whose consciousness has been raised to their spiritual nature, and dwells there. They whose consciousness has thus opened in the spiritual world will aspire toward the bright, divine powers of that world. They will “lay up treasure in heaven.” And their thought of God will be in harmony with that spiritual world; they will conceive of the awful majesty of the Silent One as the heart of love, mightily working for the final good of all. The men of Force are those whose consciousness dwells in the psychic nature; the realm of emotionalism, of the argumentative mind, of ambition, strife, egotism, self-reference. These will worship all that makes for a like activity, a like vibration in themselves. For all these psychic activities are, in one sense, vibratory perturbations of the psychic body, psychic stimulants, for the obtaining of which physical stimulants are taken. These are the “deities greedy and passionate,” worshipped by the “men of Force”; and, in another sense, those who dwell in the psychic realm will picture to themselves deities greedy and passionate, gods jealous and destructive. This is the impulse which leads men to think that their gods will be served by fierce controversies about the gods of others, by campaigns of persecution, whether bodily or mental, in favor of orthodoxy of whatever color; by attempts to force their views of God down the throats of others; in a word, by every sin against the great law of tolerance. Again, the cause is not mental limitation so much as moral perversity; the consciousness being centered in the psychical nature, which is separatist, self-assertive, prone to hostility and hate.
Then we have, in the enumeration of the Three Foods, another instance of Eastern symbolism. For Food, in the mystery language, is a general name for all experience that is wrought into nature, food of body, food of mind, food of heart and soul. Those who take into themselves spiritual power, drawing into their hearts the divine life above them, eat spiritual food, the mystical “body of the Lord.” This is the symbol on which rests the sacrifice of bread and wine, which was first associated with the death and resurrection of Osiris, and was for ages a mystical rite of Egypt. The body of the sacrificed god is the divine Logos, entered into incarnation, and offering itself inwardly to our souls, in sustenance and support.
This symbolic meaning of food is found in the oldest Upanishads. Thus, in the teaching of the father of Shvetaketu, we read:
“Learn from me, dear, the meaning of hunger and thirst. When a man hungers, as they say, the Waters guide what he eats. And as there are guides of cows, guides of horses, guides of men, so they call the Waters the guides of what is eaten. Thus you must know, dear, that what he eats grows and sprouts forth; and it cannot grow without a root. And where can the root of what he eats be? Where but in the world-food, Earth? And through the world-food, Earth, that has sprouted forth, you must seek the root, the Waters. And through the Waters that have sprouted forth, you must seek the root, Radiance. And through Radiance that has sprouted forth, you must seek the root, the Real. For all these beings, dear, are rooted in the Real, resting in the Real, abiding in the Real.”
Here, it is evident, we have the exact equivalent of the teaching of Spirit and the Three Powers. The Real of the Upanishad is Spirit. Radiance is the same as Substance; the Waters are the same as Force; Earth, the world-food, is the same as Darkness. From the Real, the Higher Self, are emanated the spiritual, psychical and animal natures. Or, as the Upanishad says, from the Real the Radiance sprouts forth; from the Radiance the Waters sprout forth; from the Waters the world-food, Earth, sprouts forth. And each realm of our being is ruled by the realm above it. The experience of the bodily nature is guided and ruled by the powers next above, the psychical or astral powers, while the experience of the psychical nature is ruled by the spiritual powers. Or, as the symbolic language of the Upanishad says:
“When a man hungers, as they say, the Waters guide what he eats. And when a man thirsts, as they say, the Radiance guides what he drinks. And as there are guides of cows, guides of horses, guides of men, so, they say, the Radiance guides the Waters. Thus you must know, dear, that what he drinks grows and sprouts forth; and it cannot grow without a root. And where can the root of what he drinks be? Where, but in the Waters? And through the Waters that sprout forth, you must seek their root, the Radiance. And through the Radiance, dear, that sprouts forth, you must seek its root, the Real. For all these beings, dear, are rooted in the Real, resting in the Real, abiding in the Real. And how these three: the world-food, Earth, the Waters, Radiance, coming to a man, become each threefold, threefold, this has been taught already.
“And of a man who goes forth in death, formative Voice sinks back into Mind; Mind sinks back into vital Breath, vital Breath to Radiance, and Radiance to the higher Divinity. This is the soul, the Self of all that is, this is the Real, this is the Self, That Thou Art, O Shvetaketu.”
Thus hunger and thirst mean the impulses of bodily and psychical experience. When all experience has been consecrated by sacrifice, so that we see in all things the life of the higher Divinity, then food and drink are also consecrated; all experience becomes divine, and we partake of the mystical bread and wine.
The same spirit of symbolism underlies what is further said of gifts, penance and sacrifice: exactly the same spirit that finds expression in the words:
“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free?”
The teaching of the righteous gift, to one who will not return it, finds a parallel in the words: “But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee. . . .”
They who, neglecting the scripture ordinance, nevertheless sacrifice full of faith, what is their basis, is it Substance, Force or Darkness?
THE MASTER SAID:
Faith is of three kinds; it is according to the innate character of embodied beings, either of Substance, or of Force, or of Darkness. Hear it thus:
Everyone is according to the nature of his faith, O descendant of Bharata. For man is formed of faith; what his faith is, that verily is he.
Those of Substance worship bright deities; those of Force, deities greedy and passionate; the others, the men of Darkness, worship the hosts of darkness, the spirits of night.
They who submit themselves to penance not appointed by scripture, and terrible, their hearts full of hypocrisy and vanity, following after lust, rage, violence, (5)
Foolishly afflicting the lives that dwell within their bodies, and Me also within their inner selves, know these to be of demoniac mind.
And the favorite food of each is also divided threefold, and likewise the sacrifice, penance, gifts. Learn the divisions of these:
Foods that increase the life-force, power, strength, health, well-being, happiness, foods that are savory, mild, strengthening, vigorous, are dear to the men of Substance.
Foods that are acrid, bitter, salt, over-hot, sharp, stinging and burning, are the foods dear to the men of Force, and bring pain and sorrow and sickness.
Foods that are stale, whose savor has departed, which are decayed and corrupt, things that are leavings and impure are the choice of the men of Darkness. (10)
The sacrifice that is offered according to law, by those who are not seeking reward, but whose only thought is, that it is right to sacrifice, is the offering of the men of Substance.
But what is offered through desire of reward, or through hypocrisy, know this, O best of the Bharatas, to be the sacrifice of Force.
The sacrifice that is offered contrary to law, at which no food is distributed, where there are no chants nor gifts, the sacrifice that is without faith, is declared to be of Darkness.
Reverence for divine beings, for the twice born, the spiritual teacher, the wise, purity, righteousness, chastity, gentleness, this is declared to be the true penance of the body.
Speech that brings peace, true, friendly and kind, and assiduous study are declared to be the true penance of word. (15)
Quietness of heart, amiability, silence, self-control, purity of nature, this is declared to be the true penance of the mind.
This threefold penance, offered with perfect faith by men who seek no personal reward, who are joined in union, is declared to be the penance of Substance.
But the penance that is offered to gain a name for piety, for fame or respect, and in hypocrisy, this is declared to be the penance of Force, unstable and infirm.
The penance that is offered with a deluded heart, through suffering self-inflicted, or in order to destroy another, this is declared to be the penance of Darkness.
What gift is given because it ought to be given, to one who will not repay it, at the right time and place, to the right person, this is recorded to be the gift of Substance. (20)
But the gift that is given for the sake of a benefit in return, or for some personal reward, or by constraint, this is recorded to be the gift of Force.
The gift given at the wrong place and time, to the wrong person, not through kindness, but haughtily, that is declared to be the gift of Darkness.
“Om That True,” this is recorded as the triple symbol of the Eternal; through this of old were Brahmans and Vedas and sacrifices ordained.
Therefore reciting “Om” are sacrifices, gifts and penances performed, according to ordinance, by those who know the Eternal:
With thought of “That” are the rites of sacrifices and penance and giving, in all their forms, performed by those who seek liberation. (25)
“True” is used to indicate the Real and the Good; the word “true” is likewise used, O son of Pritha, for auspicious work.
Steadfastness in sacrifice, penance, gifts is declared to be “true”; and whatever work makes for these is also declared to be “true.”
Whatever sacrifice is offered, whatever gift is given, whatever penance is performed, whatever is done, without faith, that, O son of Pritha, is declared to be “untrue”; neither in the other world nor in this does it avail.
Introduction to Book XVIII
Though the longest in the poem, Book XVIII needs very little comment. It by no means follows that it needs little study, or that it will scantily repay study. On the contrary, no part of the poem is richer in immediately practical wisdom, in counsel applicable to the needs of daily life. But this counsel students must dig out for themselves, rather than receive it ready-made from a commentator.
The beginning of Book XVIII contains the moral teaching which is most characteristic of the Bhagavad Gita, the teaching which has the distinctive note of Krishna as a spiritual leader. It is the teaching of Renunciation, or of genuine disinterestedness, to express the same thing in another way. The ideal of ancient India has ever been Liberation, whether we speak of the ancient Upanishads, or of the Buddhists, or of their close kinsmen the Jainas. The only question has been as to the way in which Liberation is to be gained. The extremists among the ascetics held that Liberation should be sought by giving up the world in the most literal way, by dwelling in the forest far from human habitations, by living on wild herbs and water, by cutting oneself loose from all intercourse with one’s fellowmen. Thus, and thus only, said the extremists, can one get free from the bondage of works, which we are ever suffering and ever renewing. In answer to these ascetics, the Buddha taught the doctrine of the Golden Mean, the path of righteousness, gentleness, humanity. To the same problem Krishna had already given an answer equally valid, and with a marked individual coloring. The true way of Liberation, he said, is disinterestedness. Work for the love of the work, and not that you may gain a reward. Work is imperative and not to be escaped; what should be escaped is bondage to work. And it is to be escaped, not by selfish calculations, whether called ascetic or ritual, but by a clear and selfless spirit, by self-forgetfulness, by doing all work as to the Most High, and thus ridding oneself of the heresy of separateness, self-centered vanity and egotism. It may be thought that, when this is done, the individuality becomes pale and diaphanous. The truth is just the contrary. When this is done, the individuality for the first time has real being, for the first time emerges clearly into the light of day. Genuine happiness, genuine cheerfulness, genuine mirth come first with this clear and disinterested spirit, when all work is done as to the Master, when all self-reference is left behind. This teaching of work with disinterestedness is the first theme of Book XVIII, and the most distinctive moral feature of the Bhagavad Gita.
Then comes a further exposition of the Three Powers, and their application to different phases of life. Here again is most fruitful material for study. The clue already given should be used, it being held in mind that the Three Powers correspond to the Three Bodies, or the Three Worlds of the Vedanta, as set forth, for example, in the Mandukya Upanishad. Students should make the application for themselves. Thus, verse 20 tells us that, when the consciousness has been raised to the spiritual body, as St. Paul calls it, then “one eternal nature will be perceived in all beings, undivided, though beings are divided.” In like manner, when the consciousness is centered in the psychic body, one will see “in all beings various natures according to their variety.” In other words, the psychic nature sees diversity where the spiritual nature sees unity. The one divides where the other unites. In the same way should be worked out the threefold divisions of work, doer, firmness and happiness, set forth in the verses that follow.
Then comes the close of the poem, with its blessing to all who hear and further the same teaching, a blessing which we, as hearers of it, hope to share.
The truth of Renunciation, O mighty-armed one, I would learn of Thee, and of Resignation, with their difference, O Thou demon-slayer of flowing locks!
THE MASTER SAID:
The renouncing of works done through desire, sages have called Renunciation; and the wise have declared that ceasing from all desire of personal reward for one’s work is Resignation.
Some of those who follow after knowledge have declared that every work is to be abandoned, as being faulty; but others say that works of sacrifice, gifts and penance are not to be abandoned.
Learn therefore from Me the certain truth concerning Resignation, O best descendant of Bharata; for Resignation, O tiger of men, is declared to be of three kinds.
Works of sacrifice, gifts and penance are not to be abandoned, but are to be performed; for sacrifice, gifts and penance are the purifiers of those who seek wisdom. (5)
But even these works are to be performed with abandonment of attachment and the desire of reward; this, O son of Pritha, is My sure and excellent decision.
But the renunciation of necessary work is not right; the ceasing from such work comes of delusion, and is declared to be the fruit of Darkness.
Whoever ceases from any work through fear of bodily weariness, and saying: “it is painful,” he, making the renunciation of Force, does not gain the fruit of renunciation.
Whatever necessary work is done, O Arjuna, from the thought that it ought to be done, without attachment or desire of reward, this is held to be the renunciation of Substance.
He hates not unhappy work, nor is attached to happy work, the wise renouncer, who is pervaded by Substance, whose doubts are cut. (10)
For it is impossible for an embodied being to abandon all work without exception; but he who has given up the love of reward, he indeed has made the true renunciation.
The fruit of works is threefold, desirable, or undesirable, or mixed; it follows those who have not abandoned desire, but not those who have made renunciation.
Learn from Me, O mighty-armed one, these five causes, which are declared in the Sankhya teaching, for the accomplishment of all works.
They are: the material instrument, the doer, the organ of whatever kind, the different impulses, and fifthly, Destiny.
Whatever work a man initiates, by body, speech or mind, whether it be righteous or the contrary, these are its five causes. (15)
As this is so, whoever views the Self, the lonely one, as the doer, he, confused in thought, sees not rightly through defect of understanding.
Whose nature is not selfish, whose vision is not stained, even though he slays the whole world, such a one kills not, nor is he subject to bondage.
The knowing, the thing to be known, the knower, make the threefold driving-power of works; the organ, the thing done, the doer, make the threefold content of works.
The knowing, the thing done, and the doer, divided threefold according to the powers, are declared according to the enumeration of the powers. Hear thou rightly these:
The knowledge whereby one eternal nature is perceived in all beings, undivided, though beings are divided, know that knowledge to be of Substance. (20)
But the knowledge which sees in all beings various natures according their variety, know that knowledge to be of Force.
But the knowledge which attaches itself to one thing, as though that were the whole, lacking the right motive, without true perception, narrow, know that to be of Darkness.
The work that is done because it is necessary, without attachment, without lust or hate, by one who seeks no reward, is declared to be the work of Substance.
But work done by one seeking his desire, and selfishly, and with abundant toil, is declared to be the work of Force.
What work is begun without regard for consequences, for the loss it may cause, or injury to others, or waste of power, through delusion, this is declared to be of Darkness. (25)
The doer who is free from attachment, without vanity, who has firmness and will, who is not changed by success or failure, such a one is declared to be of Substance.
The doer who is full of desire, who seeks the reward of his works, who is greedy, who harms others and is impure, who falls into exultation or sorrow, is famed to be of Force.
The doer who is without union, brutish, conceited, malignant, unfair, slothful, despondent, temporising, is declared to be of Darkness.
Hear thou the division of understanding and of firmness, threefold according to the powers, declared completely according to their differences, O conqueror of wealth.
The understanding which knows action and abstention, what is to be done, what left undone, what is to be feared and what not, and also bondage and freedom, that, O son of Pritha, is of Substance. (30)
The understanding which distinguishes not truly between law and lawlessness, what should and should not be done, is of Force, O son of Pritha.
The understanding which, enwrapped in darkness, sees the unlawful as lawful, and all things as opposite to their true nature, that, O son of Pritha, is of Darkness.
The firmness whereby one firmly holds the emotional nature, and the actions of the life-powers, unwavering in union, that, O son of Pritha, is the firmness of Substance.
But the firmness, O Arjuna, whereby one desiring reward holds firmly to duty, desire, riches, that, O son of Pritha, is the firmness of Force.
But the firmness through which one of foolish mind will not let go dreams, fears, grief, despondency, arrogance, that, O son of Pritha, is of Darkness. (35)
Hear now from Me the three kinds of happiness, O bull of the Bharatas, through following which one finds delight, and makes an end of pain.
That which at the beginning is as poison, but in the outcome is like nectar, that is the happiness of Substance, springing from clear vision of the Soul.
The happiness which springs from the union of the senses with the objects of desire, in the beginning like nectar, but in the outcome like poison, that is declared to be the happiness of Force.
The happiness which, in the beginning, and to the end, causes blindness to the Soul, springing from sleep, sloth, negligence, that is declared to be of Darkness.
Neither on earth, nor in heaven, nor among the gods is there any being which is free from these Three Powers born of Nature. (40)
The works of Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra, O consumer of the foe, are apportioned according to the powers inherent in the character of each.
Peace, control, penance, purity, patience, and also rectitude, wisdom, knowledge, affirmative faith, are the Brahman’s work, according to his nature.
Heroism, fire, firmness, skill, and refusal to flee in battle, giving of gifts, governing, are the works of the Kshatriya, according to his nature.
Ploughing, tending cattle, commerce, are the natural work of the Vaishya; work which consists in service is the natural work of the Shudra.
By devotion each to his own work, every man gains true success; how each finds success through devotion to his own work, learn thou: (45)
From Whom all beings come, by Whom all this is stretched forth, Him honoring, each by his own work, the son of man finds success.
Better is one’s own duty even without excellence than the duty of another well carried out; doing the work imposed by one’s own nature, he incurs no sin.
Let not a man withdraw from his natural work, O son of Kunti, even if it be faulty; for all initiatives are subject to fault, as fire is wrapped in smoke.
With thought everywhere unattached, self-conquered, from longing free, through renunciation he gains supreme success, free from bondage to works.
And how, having gained success, he gains the Eternal, learn thou of Me, hearing briefly, O son of Kunti, what is the supreme seat of wisdom. (50)
With soul-vision kept pure, firmly self-controlled, detached from sounds and other sense-objects, and discarding lust and hate;
Seeking solitude, eating little, with speech, body and mind controlled, given up to union through soul-vision, following ever after dispassion;
Getting free from vanity, violence, pride, lust, wrath, avarice, without desire of possessions, full of peace, he builds for union with the Eternal.
Become one with the Eternal, with soul at peace, he grieves not nor desires; equal toward all beings, he gains highest love of Me.
Through love he learns Me truly, how great and what I am; then knowing Me truly, he straightway enters that Supreme. (55)
Even continuing to perform all works, taking refuge in Me, through My grace he gains that everlasting home.
In heart renouncing all works in Me, devoted to Me, following after union through soul-vision, keep thy heart ever set on Me.
With heart set on Me, through My grace thou shalt cross through all rough places. But if through vanity thou wilt not hearken to Me, thou shalt perish.
When through self-assertion thou thinkest: “I will not fight!” thy determination is a delusion, for Nature will constrain thee.
Bound, O son of Kunti, by thine own natural work, what thou desirest not to do through thy delusion, thou shalt do against thy will. (60)
The Lord dwells in the heart of every creature, O Arjuna, through His divine power moving all beings, as though guided by mechanism.
Take refuge in Him with thy whole heart, O descendant of Bharata; through His grace thou shalt gain supreme peace, the everlasting resting-place.
Thus to thee that wisdom which is more secret than all secrets is declared by Me; fully pondering on it, as thou desirest, so do!
Hear further My ultimate word, most secret of all; thou art exceeding dear to Me, therefore will I speak what is good for thee.
Set thy heart on Me, full of love for Me, sacrificing to Me, make obeisance to Me, and thou shalt come to Me; this is truth I promise thee, for thou art dear to Me. (65)
Putting aside all other duties, come for refuge to Me alone; grieve not, for I shall set thee free from all sins.
This is never to be told by thee to him who is without fervor, without love, to him who seeks not to hear it, or who cavils at Me.
Whosoever shall declare this supreme secret in the company of those who love Me, showing the highest love for Me, he shall certainly come to Me.
Nor does any among mankind do aught dearer to Me than he; nor shall any in the world be dearer to Me than he.
And whosoever shall study this righteous converse of Me and thee, such a one sacrifices to Me the sacrifice of wisdom; such is My thought. (70)
And whosoever shall hear it, full of faith and without cavil, he also, set free, will gain the shining worlds of those of holy works.
Say then, O son of Pritha, whether thou hast listened in singleness of heart; say whether thy delusion of unwisdom is destroyed, O conqueror of wealth!
Gone is my delusion; I have come to right remembrance through Thy grace, O unfallen one! I stand, with my doubts gone. I shall fulfil thy word!
Thus did I hear the converse of the son of Vasudeva and the mighty-souled son of Pritha, marvellous, causing the hair to stand erect with wonder.
Through Vyasa’s grace I heard this supreme secret, this union, from the Lord of union, Krishna himself, relating it. (75)
O king, ever and anon remembering this marvellous converse, this holy talk between him of the flowing locks and Arjuna, I exult again and agam.
And ever and anon remembering Lord Hari’s marvellous form, great dismay comes on me, O king, and I exult again and again.
Wherever are Krishna, Lord of union, and Pritha’s son, bearer of the bow, there are fortune, victory, blessing and steadfast law; this I maintain.
THUS THE BHAGAVAD GITA IS COMPLETED.
MAY IT BE WELL WITH ALL BEINGS!
Essays on the Gita, by William Quan Judge
Notes on the Bhagavad Gita, by T. Subba Row
The Bhagavad-Gita: Informal Essays on Everyday Questions, Theosophy magazine
Gods and Heroes of The Bhagavad-Gita, by Geoffrey A. Barborka
Listen to the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit, English or Hindi