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Srimad-Bhagavad-Gita, English translation and commentary by Swami Swarupananda, [1909], at

p. 27


Sanjaya said:

1. To him who was thus overwhelmed with pity and sorrowing, and whose eyes were dimmed with tears, Madhusudana spoke these words: 1

p. 28

The Blessed Lord said:

2. In such a crisis, whence comes upon thee, O Arjuna, this dejection, un-Aryalike, disgraceful and contrary to the attainment of heaven? 2

3. Yield not to unmanliness, O son of Prithâ! Ill doth it become thee. Cast off this mean faint-heartedness and arise, O scorcher of thine enemies!

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Arjuna said:

4. —But how can I, in battle, O slayer of Madhu, fight with arrows against Bhishma and Drona, who are rather worthy to be worshipped, O destroyer of foes!

p. 30

5. Surely it would be better even to eat the bread of beggary in this life than to slay these great-souled masters. But if I kill them, even in this world, all my enjoyment of wealth and desires will be stained with blood. 5

6. And indeed I can scarcely tell which will be better, that we should conquer them, or that they should conquer us. The very sons of Dhritarâshtra,—after slaying whom we should not care to live,—stand facing us.

p. 31

7. With my nature overpowered by weak commiseration, with a mind in confusion about duty, I supplicate Thee. Say decidedly what is good for me. I am Thy disciple. Instruct me who have taken refuge in Thee. 7

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8. I do not see anything to remove this sorrow which blasts my senses, even were I to obtain unrivalled and flourishing dominion over the earth, and mastery over the gods.

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Sanjaya said:

9. Having spoken thus to the Lord of the senses, Gudâkesha, the scorcher of foes, said to Govinda, "I shall not fight," and became silent. 9

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10. To him who was sorrowing in the midst of the two armies, Hrishikesha, as if smiling, O descendant of Bharata! spoke these words. 10

The Blessed Lord said:

11. Thou hast been mourning for them who should not be mourned for. Yet thou speakest words of wisdom. The (truly) wise grieve neither for the living nor the dead. 11

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12. It is not that I have never existed, nor thou, nor these kings. Nor is it that we shall cease to exist in the future. 12

13. As are childhood, youth, and old age, in this body, to the embodied soul, so

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also is the attaining of another body. Calm souls are not deluded thereat. 13

14. Notions of heat and cold, of pain and pleasure, are born, O son of Kunti, only of the contact of the senses with their objects. They have a beginning and an end. They are impermanent in their nature. Bear them patiently, O descendant of Bharata. 14

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15. That calm man who is the same in pain and pleasure, whom these cannot disturb, alone is able, O great amongst men, to attain to immortality. 15

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16. The unreal never is. The Real never is not. Men possessed of the knowledge of the Truth fully know both these. 16

17. That by which all this is pervaded,—That know for certain to be indestructible. None has the power to destroy this Immutable. 17

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18. Of this indwelling Self, the ever-changeless, the indestructible, the illimitable,—these bodies are said to have an end. Fight therefore, O descendant of Bharata. 18

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19. He who takes the Self to be the slayer, he who takes It to be the slain, neither of these knows. It does not slay, nor is It slain. 19

20. This in never born, nor does It die. It is not that not having been It again comes into being. (Or according to another view: It is not that having been It again ceases to be). This is unborn, eternal, changeless, ever-Itself. It is not killed when the body is killed. 20

p. 41

21. He that knows This to be indestructible, changeless, without birth, and immutable, how is he, O son of Prithâ, to slay or cause another to slay? 21

p. 42

22. Even as a man casts off worn-out clothes, and puts on others which are new, so the embodied casts off worn-out bodies, and enters into others which are new. 22

23. This (Self), weapons cut not; This, fire burns not; This, water wets not; and This, wind dries not.

p. 43

24. This Self cannot be cut, nor burnt, nor wetted, nor dried. Changeless, all-pervading, unmoving, immovable, the Self is eternal.

25. This (Self) is said to be unmanifested, unthinkable, and unchangeable. Therefore, knowing This to be such, thou oughtest not to mourn. 25

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26. But if thou shouldst take This to have constant birth and death, even in that case, O mighty-armed, thou oughtest not to mourn for This. 26

27. Of that which is born, death is certain, of that which is dead, birth is certain. Over the unavoidable, therefore, thou oughtest not to grieve. 27

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28. All beings are unmanifested in their beginning, O Bhârata, manifested in their middle state and unmanifested again in their end. What is there then to grieve about? 28

p. 46

29. Some look upon the Self as marvellous. Others speak of It as wonderful. Others again hear of It as a wonder. And still others, though hearing, do not understand It at all. 29

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30. This, the Indweller in the bodies of all, is ever indestructible, O descendant of Bharata. Wherefore thou oughtest not to mourn for any creature. 30

31. Looking at thine own Dharma, also, thou oughtest not to waver, for there is nothing higher for a Kshatriya than a righteous war. 31

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32. Fortunate certainly are the Kshatriyas, O son of Prithâ, who are called to fight in such a battle, that comes unsought as an open gate to heaven. 32

33. But if thou refusest to engage in this righteous warfare, then, forfeiting thine own Dharma and honour, thou shalt incur sin.

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34. The world also will ever hold thee in reprobation. To the honoured, disrepute is surely worse than death. 34

35. The great chariot-warriors * will believe that thou hast withdrawn from the battle through fear. And thou wilt be lightly esteemed by them who have thought much of thee.

p. 50

36. Thine enemies also, cavilling at thy great prowess, will say of thee things that are not to be uttered. What could be more intolerable than this?

37. Dying thou gainest heaven; conquering thou enjoyest the earth. Therefore, O son of Kunti, arise, resolved to fight.

p. 51

38. Having made pain and pleasure, gain and loss, conquest and defeat, the same, engage thou then in battle. So shalt thou incur no sin. 38

39. The wisdom of Self-realisation has been declared unto thee. Hearken thou now to the wisdom of Yoga, endued with which, O son of Prithâ, thou shalt break through the bonds of Karma. 39

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40. In this, there is no waste of the unfinished attempt, nor is there production of contrary results. Even very little of this Dharma protects from the great terror. 52

p. 53

41. In this, O scion of Kuru, there is but a single one-pointed determination. The purposes of the undecided are innumerable and many-branching. 53

p. 54

42-44. O Pârtha, no set determination is formed in the minds of those that are deeply attached to pleasure and power, and whose discrimination is stolen away by the flowery words of the unwise, who are full of desires and look upon heaven as their highest goal and who, taking pleasure in the panegyric words of the Vedas, declare that there is nothing else. Their (flowery) words are exuberant with various specific, rites as the means to pleasure and power and are the causes of

p. 55

[paragraph continues] (new) births as the result of their works (performed with desire). 42

45. The Vedas deal with the three Gunas. Be thou free, O Arjuna, from the triad of the Gunas, free from the pairs of opposites, ever-balanced, free from (the thought of) getting and keeping, and established in the Self. 45

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46. To the Brâhmana who has known the Self, all the Vedas are of so much use as a reservoir is, when there is a flood everywhere. 46

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47. Thy right is to work only; but never to the fruits thereof. Be thou not the producer of the fruits of (thy) actions; neither let thy attachment be towards inaction. 47

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48. Being steadfast in Yoga, Dhananjaya, perform actions, abandoning attachment, remaining unconcerned as regards success and failure. This evenness. of mind (in regard to success and failure) is known as Yoga.

49. Work (with desire) is verily far inferior to that performed with the mind undisturbed by thoughts of results. O

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[paragraph continues] Dhananjaya, seek refuge in this evenness of mind. Wretched are they who act for results.

50. Endued with this evenness of mind, one frees oneself in this life, alike from vice and virtue. Devote thyself, therefore, to this Yoga. Yoga is the very dexterity of work. 50

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51. The wise, possessed of this evenness of mind, abandoning the fruits of their actions, freed for ever from the fetters of birth, go to that state which is beyond all evil.

52. When thy intellect crosses beyond the taint of illusion, then shalt thou attain to indifference, regarding things heard and things yet to be heard. 52

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53. When thy intellect, tossed about by the conflict of opinions—has become immovable and firmly established in the Self, then thou shalt attain Self-realisation.

Arjuna said:

54. What, O Keshava, is the description of the man of steady wisdom, merged in Samâdhi? How (on the other hand) does the man of steady wisdom speak, how sit, how walk? 54

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The Blessed Lord said:

55. When a man completely casts away, O Pârtha, all the desires of the mind, satisfied in the Self alone by the Self, then is he said to be one of steady wisdom. 55

p. 63

56. He whose mind is not shaken by adversity, who does not hanker after happiness, who has become free from affection, fear, and wrath, is indeed the Muni of steady wisdom. 63

57. He who is everywhere unattached, not pleased at receiving good, nor vexed at evil, his wisdom is fixed. 57

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58. When also, like the tortoise its limbs, he can completely withdraw the senses from their objects, then his wisdom becomes steady. 58

59. Objects fall away from the abstinent man, leaving the longing behind. But his longing also ceases, who sees the Supreme. 59

p. 65

60. The turbulent senses, O son of Kunti, do violently snatch away the mind of even a wise man, striving after perfection.

61. The steadfast, having controlled them all, sits focussed on Me as the Supreme. His wisdom is steady, whose senses are under control.

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62. Thinking of objects, attachment to them is formed in a man. From attachment longing, and from longing anger grows.

63. From anger comes delusion, and from delusion loss of memory. From loss of memory comes the ruin of discrimination, and from the ruin of discrimination he perishes. 63

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64. But the self-controlled man, moving among objects with senses under restraint, and free from attraction and aversion, attains to tranquillity. 64

65. In tranquillity, all sorrow is destroyed. For the intellect of him who is tranquil-minded, is soon established in firmness. 65

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66. No knowledge (of the Self) has the unsteady. Nor has he meditation. To the unmeditative there is no peace. And how can one without peace have happiness?

67. For, the mind which follows in the wake of the wandering senses, carries away his discrimination, as a wind (carries away from its course) a boat on the waters.

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68. Therefore, O mighty-armed, his knowledge is steady, whose senses are completely restrained from their objects. 68

69. That which is night to all beings, in that the self-controlled man wakes. That in which all beings wake, is night to the Self-seeing Muni. 69

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70. As into the ocean,—brimful, and still,—flow the waters, even so the Muni into whom enter all desires, he, and not the desirer of desires, attains to peace. 70

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71. That man who lives devoid of longing, abandoning all desires, without the sense of 'I' and 'mine,' he attains to peace. 71

72. This is to have one's being in Brahman, O son of Prithâ. None, attaining to this, becomes deluded. Being established therein, even at the end of life, a man attains to oneness with Brahman.

The end of second chapter, designated The Way of Knowledge.


27:1 Overwhelmed with pity: Not Arjuna, but Arjuna's feeling was master of the situation.

28:2 Mark with what contempt Krishna regards Arjuna's attitude of weakness masked by religious expression!

30:5 i.e. even in this world I shall be in hell.

31:7 Dharma is the ness, the law of the inmost constitution of a thing. The primary meaning of Dharma is not virtue or religion, but that is only its secondary significance. Fighting in a just cause is the religious duty or Dharma of a Kshatriya, while the same is a sin to a Brâhmana, because it is contrary to the law of his being. Working out one's Karma according to the law of one's own being is p. 32 therefore the Dharma or religion or way to salvation of an individual. The cloud of Karma hides the Self-Sun from view. The means which exhausts this cloud without adding to it and thus helps in one's Self-restoration is one's Dharma.

Thy disciple: Until this declaration has been made, the Master may not give the highest knowledge.

33:9 The object of Sanjaya in using these names is to remind Dhritarâshtra—who may naturally be a little elated at the prospect of Arjuna's not fighting —that this is only a temporary weakness, since by the presence of the Lord of the senses all ignorance must eventually be dispelled. Arjuna's own nature also is devoid of darkness. Is he not the conqueror of sleep, and the terror of foes?

34:10 Smiling—to drown Arjuna in the ocean of shame. Krishna's smile at Arjuna's sorrow is like the lightning that plays over the black monsoon cloud. The rain bursts forth, and the thirsty earth is saturated. It is the smile of the coming illumination.

34:11 Words of wisdom: Vide I. 35-44.

35:12 Of course Krishna here does not mean that the body is immortal, but refers to the true Self, behind all bodies.

36:13 According to this, the continuity of the ego is no more interrupted by death than by the passing of childhood into youth and youth into old age in this body.

Calm souls: Those who have become calm by Self-realisation.

36:14 They have a beginning and an end: as distinguished from the Permanent Self. The more one is able to identify oneself with the Permanent p. 37 Self, the less one is affected by the agreeable and disagreeable conditions of life.

Impermanent in their nature: That is, the same object which gives pleasure at one moment gives pain at another, and so on.

37:15 Thus perfect sameness amidst the ills of life means full and unbroken consciousness of our oneness with the Immortal Self. Thus is immortality attained.

38:16 Unreal: Real: The determination of the nature of the Real is the quest of all philosophy. Sri Krishna here states that a thing which never remains the same for any given period is unreal, and that the Real on the other hand is always the same. The whole of the phenomenal world, therefore, must be unreal, because in it no one state endures for even an infinitesimal division of time. And that which takes note of this incessant change, and is therefore itself changeless,—the Atman, Consciousness,—is the Real.

38:17 p. 39 That by which all this is pervaded, i.e. He that pervades all this as the Witness.

39:18 Arjuna's grief which deters him from his duty of fighting against the Kauravas is born of ignorance as to the true nature of the Soul. Hence Sri Bhagavân's strong and repeated attempts to illumine him on the subject.

40:19 Cf. Katha Up. I. ii. 19-20.

40:20 p. 41 This sloka refers in the sense of denial to the six kinds of modification inherent in matter: birth, subsistence, growth, transformation, decay, and death.

41:21 How is he to slay?—referring to Arjuna. To cause another to slay—referring to Krishna's own part.

42:22 As one only puts off the old, when one already possesses the new garment, so the embodied is already entering a new body in the act of leaving this. The Upanishad compares this to the movement of a leech, which has already established a new foothold before leaving the old.

43:25 This Self is infinite and partless, so can be neither subject nor object of any action.

44:26 Krishna here, for the sake of argument, takes up the materialistic supposition, and shows that even if the Self were impermanent, sorrow ought to be destroyed, since in that case there would be no hereafter, no sin, and no hell.

44:27 This sloka concerns only those who are not yet free. So long as there is desire, birth and death are inevitable.

Therefore thou oughtest not to grieve: Since you cannot control the inevitable and preserve the bodies of your relations, work out your own Karma and go beyond both birth and death.

45:28 Beings: In their relationships as sons and friends, who are mere combinations of material elements, correlated as causes and effects.

The idea here is that that which has no existence in the beginning and in the end, must be merely illusory in the interim, and should not therefore be allowed to have any influence upon the mind.

46:29 The sloka may also be interpreted in the sense that those who see, hear and speak of the Self are wonderful men, because their number is so small. It is not therefore remarkable that you should mourn, because the Atman is so difficult to comprehend.

47:30 Krishna here returns to His own point of view.

47:31 That is to say, it is the duty of a Kshatriya to fight in the interest of his country, people and religion.

48:32 The Shâstras say that if a Kshatriya fighting for a righteous cause falls in the battle-field, he at once go to heaven.

49:34 The present argument,—slokas 33-36, assumes that the cause in hand is already proved to be right. Hence it could only be from cowardice that Arjuna could abandon it. Even a hero may be weakened by the stirring of his deepest emotions.

49:* Vide commentary I. 6.

51:38 It is always the desire for one of the pairs of opposites that binds. When an act is done without attachment either for itself or its fruit, then Karma can be worked out without adding to its store, and this leads to Freedom.

51:39 Yoga:—Karma Yoga, or that plan of conduct which secures the working out of past Karma; non-accumulation of new; and the striving for Self-realisation with the whole of the will. In this discipline, one's sole object in life is Self-realisation; hence no importance is attached to anything else. Thus all actions are performed without attachment, p. 52 or care for results. So no new Karma is made: only the already accumulated is exhausted. And at the same time, the whole will is left free to devote itself to the achievement of Self-realisation alone.

In the preceding slokas, 11-25, Krishna has given the point of view of the highest knowledge, the ancient Brahmajnâna. In the 25th and 27th we have a purely materialistic standpoint. Slokas 28 to 37 give the attitude of a man of the world. In the 38th we have an anticipation of the Yoga. And in what is to follow, we have Sri Krishna's own contribution to the philosophy of life.

52:52 Waste of the unfinished attempt: A religious rite or ceremony performed for a definite object, if left uncompleted, is wasted, like a house unroofed which is neither serviceable nor enduring. In Karma Yoga, however, that is, action and worship performed p. 53 without desire, this law does not apply, for every effort results in immediate purification of the heart. Production of contrary results: In worship for an object, any imperfection in the process produces positive loss instead of gain. As in cases of sickness, the non-use of the right medicine results in death. The great terror: Being caught in the wheel of birth and death.

53:53 In Karma Yoga, the one goal is Self-realisation. The undecided (that is, about the highest), naturally devote themselves to lower ideals, no one of which can satisfy. Thus they pass from plan to plan.

55:42 Samâdhi has been rendered into 'mind' in the above. The generally accepted significance of the term (absorption in God-consciousness produced by deep meditation) would give an equally consistent and happy meaning: Persons attached to pleasure and power cannot have perfect steadiness of mind in divine meditation.

Panegyric words of the Vedas: The Karma Kânda or the sacrificial portion of the Vedas which lays down specific rules for specific actions and their fruits, and extols these latter unduly. Nothing else: Beyond the heavenly enjoyments procurable by the sacrificial rites of the Vedas.

55:45 The Vedas deal with etc.: That is to say, the Vedas treat of relativity. Pairs of opposites: Dvandva, all correlated ideas and sensations, e.g., good and bad, pleasure and pain, heat and cold, light and darkness, etc.

Guna is a technical term of the Sânkhya philosophy: also used in the same sense by the Vedânta. Prakriti or Nature is constituted of three Gunas; Sattva (equilibrium), Rajas (attraction), Tamas (inertia). Prakriti is the three Gunas, not that she has them. Guna is wrongly translated as quality; it is substance as well as quality, matter and force. Wherever there is name and form, there is Guna. Guna also means a rope, that which binds.

56:46 A man possessed of Self-knowledge has no need whatever of the Vedas. This does not, however, mean that the Vedas are useless; only to the knower of Brahman they have no value, as the transient p. 57 pleasures derivable from them are comprehended in the infinite bliss of Self-knowledge.

57:47 Be thou not the producer, etc.: That is, do not work with any desire for results, for actions produce fruits or bondage only if they are performed with desire.

Karma primarily means action, but a much profounder meaning has come to be attached to this word. It means the destiny forged by one in one's past incarnation or present: the store of tendencies, impulses, characteristics, and habits laid by, which determines the future embodiment, environment and the whole of one's organisation.

Another meaning of Karma often used in reference to one's caste or position in life, is duty, the course of conduct which one ought to follow in pursuance of the tendencies which one acquired in p. 58 one's past, with a view to work them out and regain the pristine purity of the Self.

59:50 Alike from vice and virtue: A follower of Karma Yoga can have no personal motive for any action. Our action without motive becomes colourless, loses its character of vice or virtue.

Dexterity of work: It is the nature of work to produce bondage. Karma Yoga is the dexterity of work because it not only robs work of its power to bind, but also transforms it into an efficient means of freedom.

60:52 The taint of illusion: the identifying of the Self with the non-Self, the ego.

61:54 Arjuna is asking, (1) what is the state of the mind of the man of realisation when in Samâdhi? and (2) how is its influence shown in his conduct when out of it? p. 62

Steady wisdom: Settled conviction of one's identity with Brahman gained by direct realisation.

62:55 This answers the first part of Arjuna's question.

63:63 This and the following two slokas answer the second part of Arjuna's question, as to the conduct of one of perfect realisation.

Muni: Man of meditation.

63:57 Not pleased etc.: consequently he does not praise or blame. This is an answer to the query: "How does he speak?"

64:58 Withdraw the senses: bring the mind back upon the Self from all sense-objects. This is known as Pratyâhâra in Yoga.

To explain the sloka more fully: a man of the highest realisation can, at any moment, shake himself clear of all impressions of the sense-world and go into Samâdhi, with the ease and naturalness of a tortoise drawing its limbs within itself.

64:59 Abstinent man: An unillumined person abstaining from sense-pleasure for penance, or because of physical incapacity.

66:63 A beautiful image appears. The tendency of the mind is to repeat it. Then, if the image is allowed to recur, a liking grows. With the growth of liking the wish to come close, to possess, appears. Any obstacle to this produces wrath. The impulse of anger throws the mind into confusion, which casts a veil over the lessons of wisdom learnt by past experience. Thus deprived of his moral standard, he is prevented from using his discrimination. Failing in discrimination, he acts irrationally, on the impulse of passion, and paves the way to moral death.

Thus Krishna traces moral degradation to those p. 67 first breaths of thought, that come softly and almost unconsciously to the mind.

67:64 The above is in answer to Arjuna's fourth question, "How does he move?"

67:65 That is, firmly concentrates itself on the Self.

69:68 This does not mean that the senses remain completely estranged, but that they are all estrange-able at will.

69:69 Where all beings are in darkness, there the Muni sees, and vice versa. The consciousness of the man of realisation is so full of God that he cannot see anything apart from Him. The ignorant man, on the other hand, lives in the world of plurality alone and God is a nonentity to him. p. 70

It follows, that non-susceptibility to the influences of Nature, that is, perfect self-control (spoken of in the preceding sloka) is quite as natural a trait of the illumined soul as its opposite is of the ignorant.

70:70 The ocean is not at all affected by the waters flowing into it from all sides. Similarly, that man alone finds true peace in whom no reaction of desire is produced by the objects of enjoyment, which he happens to come across during his sojourn on earth.

71:71 The man who lives,—merely to work out his past Karma.

Next: Third Chapter. The Way of Action