When I read the Bhagavad-Gita
and reflect about how God created this universe,
everything else seems so superfluous.
– Albert Einstein
– Albert Einstein
The story begins on a dusty battlefield in ancient India. Arjuna, the famed archer and greatest warrior of his time, is poised to fight the evil enemy who have unjustly captured his kingdom using treachery and deceit and have unleashed a reign of terror, cruelty and tyranny on the citizens.
Poised for the biggest battle of his life with the hopes of millions of people resting on him to lead them to victory in a war for justice, the great hero Arjuna suddenly reels and begins to falter and tremble. The real magnitude of the situation and ghastly consequences of impending war hit him with full force. To fight for justice, Arjuna will have to likely kill all these men, many if not most of whom are his friends, teachers, and kin who were and still are very near and dear to him. Arjuna is completely confused, overwhelmed, in denial and paralysed. To escape the situation, he ponders giving it all up to go live his life as a recluse in a forest.
It is at this moment that Krishna – The Cosmic Consciousness, the Supersoul, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who had so far been acting as Arjuna’s friend and charioteer reveals His true identity. He leads Arjuna through a discussion of the karma, jnana and bhakti yogas, revealing the nature of divinity, humankind’s ultimate destiny, and the purpose of mortal life.
We’ve selected three passages to give you a sample right now. Pick one and get a feel for the book, explore its philosophy, presentation and message to see if it resonates with you.
One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments or desires to have anything. He is equally disposed toward every living entity. (18.54)
The Supreme is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy. (18.61)
As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones. (2.22)
In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear. (2.40)
The Vedas mainly deal with the subject of the three modes of material nature. Rise above these modes, O Arjuna. Be transcendental to all of them. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the Self. (2.45)
What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage. (2.69)
The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature. (3.27)
Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kuntī, that state he will attain without fail. (8.6)
Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me clearly what is best for me. (2.7)
O son of Kuntī, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed. (2.14)
Humility; pridelessness; nonviolence; tolerance; simplicity; approaching a bona fide spiritual master; cleanliness; steadiness; self-control; renunciation of the objects of sense gratification; absence of false ego; the perception of the evil of birth, death, old age and disease; detachment; freedom from entanglement; even-mindedness amid pleasant and unpleasant events; constant and unalloyed devotion to Me; aspiring to live in a solitary place; detachment from the general mass of people; accepting the importance of self-realization; and philosophical search for the Absolute Truth – all these I declare to be knowledge, and besides this whatever there may be is ignorance. (13.8-12)
He who is temperate in his habits of eating, sleeping, working and recreation can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system. (6.17)
From anger, delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost, one falls down again into the material pool. (2.63)
Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues. (3.21)
cakṣur unmīlitaṁ yena
tasmai śrī-gurave namaḥ
sthāpitaṁ yena bhū-tale
svayaṁ rūpaḥ kadā mahyaṁ
I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him.
When will Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhupāda, who has established within this material world the mission to fulfill the desire of Lord Caitanya, give me shelter under his lotus feet?
vande ’haṁ śrī-guroḥ śrī-yuta-pada-
kamalaṁ śrī-gurūn vaiṣṇavāṁś ca
śrī-rūpaṁ sāgrajātaṁ saha-gaṇa-
raghunāthānvitaṁ taṁ sa-jīvam
sādvaitaṁ sāvadhūtaṁ parijana-
I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of my spiritual master and unto the feet of all Vaiṣṇavas. I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī along with his elder brother Sanātana Gosvāmī, as well as Raghunātha Dāsa and Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa, Gopāla Bhaṭṭa and Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī. I offer my respectful obeisances to Lord Kṛṣṇa Caitanya and Lord Nityānanda along with Advaita Ācārya, Gadādhara, Śrīvāsa and other associates. I offer my respectful obeisances to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and Śrī Kṛṣṇa along with Their associates Śrī Lalitā and Viśākhā.
he kṛṣṇa karuṇā-sindho
rādhā-kānta namo ’stu te
O my dear Kṛṣṇa, You are the friend of the distressed and the source of creation. You are the master of the gopīs and the lover of Rādhārāṇī. I offer my respectful obeisances unto You.
I offer my respects to Rādhārāṇī, whose bodily complexion is like molten gold and who is the Queen of Vṛndāvana. You are the daughter of King Vṛṣabhānu, and You are very dear to Lord Kṛṣṇa.
kṛpā-sindhubhya eva ca
vaiṣṇavebhyo namo namaḥ
I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaiṣṇava devotees of the Lord. They can fulfill the desires of everyone, just like desire trees, and they are full of compassion for the fallen souls.
śrī-advaita gadādhara śrīvāsādi-gaura-bhakta-vṛnda
I offer my obeisances to Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, Prabhu Nityānanda, Śrī Advaita, Gadādhara, Śrīvāsa and all others in the line of devotion.
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
Bhagavad-gītā is also known as Gītopaniṣad. It is the essence of Vedic knowledge and one of the most important Upaniṣads in Vedic literature. Of course there are many commentaries in English on the Bhagavad-gītā, and one may question the necessity for another one. This present edition can be explained in the following way. Recently an American lady asked me to recommend an English translation of Bhagavad-gītā. Of course in America there are so many editions of Bhagavad-gītā available in English, but as far as I have seen, not only in America but also in India, none of them can be strictly said to be authoritative because in almost every one of them the commentator has expressed his own opinions without touching the spirit of Bhagavad-gītā as it is.
The spirit of Bhagavad-gītā is mentioned in Bhagavad-gītā itself. It is just like this: If we want to take a particular medicine, then we have to follow the directions written on the label. We cannot take the medicine according to our own whim or the direction of a friend. It must be taken according to the directions on the label or the directions given by a physician. Similarly, Bhagavad-gītā should be taken or accepted as it is directed by the speaker Himself. The speaker of Bhagavad-gītā is Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. He is mentioned on every page of Bhagavad-gītā as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavān. Of course the word bhagavān sometimes refers to any powerful person or any powerful demigod, and certainly here bhagavān designates Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa as a great personality, but at the same time we should know that Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as is confirmed by all great ācāryas (spiritual masters) like Śaṅkarācārya, Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, Nimbārka Svāmī, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and many other authorities of Vedic knowledge in India. The Lord Himself also establishes Himself as the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the Bhagavad-gītā, and He is accepted as such in the Brahma-saṁhitā and all the Purāṇas, especially the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, known as the Bhāgavata Purāṇa (kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam). Therefore we should take Bhagavad-gītā as it is directed by the Personality of Godhead Himself. In the Fourth Chapter of the Gītā (4.1–3) the Lord says:
imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ
proktavān aham avyayam
vivasvān manave prāha
manur ikṣvākave ’bravīt
imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ
sa kāleneha mahatā
yogo naṣṭaḥ paran-tapa
sa evāyaṁ mayā te ’dya
yogaḥ proktaḥ purātanaḥ
bhakto ’si me sakhā ceti
rahasyaṁ hy etad uttamam
Here the Lord informs Arjuna that this system of yoga, the Bhagavad-gītā, was first spoken to the sun-god, and the sun-god explained it to Manu, and Manu explained it to Ikṣvāku, and in that way, by disciplic succession, one speaker after another, this yoga system has been coming down. But in the course of time it has become lost. Consequently the Lord has to speak it again, this time to Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra.
He tells Arjuna that He is relating this supreme secret to him because Arjuna is His devotee and His friend. The purport of this is that Bhagavad-gītā is a treatise which is especially meant for the devotee of the Lord. There are three classes of transcendentalists, namely the jñānī, the yogī and the bhakta, or the impersonalist, the meditator and the devotee. Here the Lord clearly tells Arjuna that He is making him the first receiver of a new paramparā (disciplic succession) because the old succession was broken. It was the Lord’s wish, therefore, to establish another paramparā in the same line of thought that was coming down from the sun-god to others, and it was His wish that His teaching be distributed anew by Arjuna. He wanted Arjuna to become the authority in understanding the Bhagavad-gītā. So we see that Bhagavad-gītā is instructed to Arjuna especially because Arjuna was a devotee of the Lord, a direct student of Kṛṣṇa, and His intimate friend. Therefore Bhagavad-gītā is best understood by a person who has qualities similar to Arjuna’s. That is to say he must be a devotee in a direct relationship with the Lord. As soon as one becomes a devotee of the Lord, he also has a direct relationship with the Lord. That is a very elaborate subject matter, but briefly it can be stated that a devotee is in a relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead in one of five different ways:
1. One may be a devotee in a passive state;
2. One may be a devotee in an active state;
3. One may be a devotee as a friend;
4. One may be a devotee as a parent;
5. One may be a devotee as a conjugal lover.
Arjuna was in a relationship with the Lord as friend. Of course there is a gulf of difference between this friendship and the friendship found in the material world. This is transcendental friendship, which cannot be had by everyone. Of course everyone has a particular relationship with the Lord, and that relationship is evoked by the perfection of devotional service. But in the present status of our life, not only have we forgotten the Supreme Lord, but we have forgotten our eternal relationship with the Lord. Every living being, out of the many, many billions and trillions of living beings, has a particular relationship with the Lord eternally. That is called svarūpa. By the process of devotional service, one can revive that svarūpa, and that stage is called svarūpa-siddhi – perfection of one’s constitutional position. So Arjuna was a devotee, and he was in touch with the Supreme Lord in friendship.
How Arjuna accepted this Bhagavad-gītā should be noted. His manner of acceptance is given in the Tenth Chapter (10.12–14):
paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma
pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān
puruṣaṁ śāśvataṁ divyam
ādi-devam ajaṁ vibhum
āhus tvām ṛṣayaḥ sarve
devarṣir nāradas tathā
asito devalo vyāsaḥ
svayaṁ caiva bravīṣi me
sarvam etad ṛtaṁ manye
yan māṁ vadasi keśava
na hi te bhagavan vyaktiṁ
vidur devā na dānavāḥ
“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest. All the great sages such as Nārada, Asita, Devala and Vyāsa confirm this truth about You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me. O Kṛṣṇa, I totally accept as truth all that You have told me. Neither the demigods nor the demons, O Lord, can understand Your personality.”
After hearing Bhagavad-gītā from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Arjuna accepted Kṛṣṇa as paraṁ brahma, the Supreme Brahman. Every living being is Brahman, but the supreme living being, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the Supreme Brahman. Paraṁ dhāma means that He is the supreme rest or abode of everything; pavitram means that He is pure, untainted by material contamination; puruṣam means that He is the supreme enjoyer; śāśvatam, eternal; divyam, transcendental; ādi-devam, the original Supreme Personality of Godhead; ajam, the unborn; and vibhum, the greatest.
Now one may think that because Kṛṣṇa was the friend of Arjuna, Arjuna was telling Him all this by way of flattery, but Arjuna, just to drive out this kind of doubt from the minds of the readers of Bhagavad-gītā, substantiates these praises in the next verse when he says that Kṛṣṇa is accepted as the Supreme Personality of Godhead not only by himself but by authorities like Nārada, Asita, Devala and Vyāsadeva. These are great personalities who distribute the Vedic knowledge as it is accepted by all ācāryas. Therefore Arjuna tells Kṛṣṇa that he accepts whatever He says to be completely perfect. Sarvam etad ṛtaṁ manye: “I accept everything You say to be true.” Arjuna also says that the personality of the Lord is very difficult to understand and that He cannot be known even by the great demigods. This means that the Lord cannot even be known by personalities greater than human beings. So how can a human being understand Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa without becoming His devotee?
Therefore Bhagavad-gītā should be taken up in a spirit of devotion. One should not think that he is equal to Kṛṣṇa, nor should he think that Kṛṣṇa is an ordinary personality or even a very great personality. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So according to the statements of Bhagavad-gītā or the statements of Arjuna, the person who is trying to understand the Bhagavad-gītā, we should at least theoretically accept Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and with that submissive spirit we can understand the Bhagavad-gītā. Unless one reads the Bhagavad-gītā in a submissive spirit, it is very difficult to understand Bhagavad-gītā, because it is a great mystery.
Just what is the Bhagavad-gītā? The purpose of Bhagavad-gītā is to deliver mankind from the nescience of material existence. Every man is in difficulty in so many ways, as Arjuna also was in difficulty in having to fight the Battle of Kurukṣetra. Arjuna surrendered unto Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and consequently this Bhagavad-gītā was spoken. Not only Arjuna, but every one of us is full of anxieties because of this material existence. Our very existence is in the atmosphere of nonexistence. Actually we are not meant to be threatened by nonexistence. Our existence is eternal. But somehow or other we are put into asat. Asat refers to that which does not exist.
Out of so many human beings who are suffering, there are a few who are actually inquiring about their position, as to what they are, why they are put into this awkward position and so on. Unless one is awakened to this position of questioning his suffering, unless he realizes that he doesn’t want suffering but rather wants to make a solution to all suffering, then one is not to be considered a perfect human being. Humanity begins when this sort of inquiry is awakened in one’s mind. In the Brahma-sūtra this inquiry is called brahma-jijñāsā. Athāto brahma-jijñāsā. Every activity of the human being is to be considered a failure unless he inquires about the nature of the Absolute. Therefore those who begin to question why they are suffering or where they came from and where they shall go after death are proper students for understanding Bhagavad-gītā. The sincere student should also have a firm respect for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such a student was Arjuna.
Lord Kṛṣṇa descends specifically to reestablish the real purpose of life when man forgets that purpose. Even then, out of many, many human beings who awaken, there may be one who actually enters the spirit of understanding his position, and for him this Bhagavad-gītā is spoken. Actually we are all swallowed by the tigress of nescience, but the Lord is very merciful upon living entities, especially human beings. To this end He spoke the Bhagavad-gītā, making His friend Arjuna His student.
Being an associate of Lord Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna was above all ignorance, but Arjuna was put into ignorance on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra just to question Lord Kṛṣṇa about the problems of life so that the Lord could explain them for the benefit of future generations of human beings and chalk out the plan of life. Then man could act accordingly and perfect the mission of human life.
The subject of the Bhagavad-gītā entails the comprehension of five basic truths. First of all the science of God is explained, and then the constitutional position of the living entities, jīvas. There is īśvara, which means the controller, and there are jīvas, the living entities which are controlled. If a living entity says that he is not controlled but that he is free, then he is insane. The living being is controlled in every respect, at least in his conditioned life. So in the Bhagavad-gītā the subject matter deals with the īśvara, the supreme controller, and the jīvas, the controlled living entities. Prakṛti (material nature) and time (the duration of existence of the whole universe or the manifestation of material nature) and karma (activity) are also discussed. The cosmic manifestation is full of different activities. All living entities are engaged in different activities. From Bhagavad-gītā we must learn what God is, what the living entities are, what prakṛti is, what the cosmic manifestation is, how it is controlled by time, and what the activities of the living entities are.
Out of these five basic subject matters in Bhagavad-gītā it is established that the Supreme Godhead, or Kṛṣṇa, or Brahman, or the supreme controller, or Paramātmā – you may use whatever name you like – is the greatest of all. The living beings are in quality like the supreme controller. For instance, the Lord has control over the universal affairs of material nature, as will be explained in the later chapters of Bhagavad-gītā. Material nature is not independent. She is acting under the directions of the Supreme Lord. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says, mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ sūyate sa-carācaram: “This material nature is working under My direction.” When we see wonderful things happening in the cosmic nature, we should know that behind this cosmic manifestation there is a controller. Nothing could be manifested without being controlled. It is childish not to consider the controller. For instance, a child may think that an automobile is quite wonderful to be able to run without a horse or other animal pulling it, but a sane man knows the nature of the automobile’s engineering arrangement. He always knows that behind the machinery there is a man, a driver. Similarly, the Supreme Lord is the driver under whose direction everything is working. Now the jīvas, or the living entities, have been accepted by the Lord, as we will note in the later chapters, as His parts and parcels. A particle of gold is also gold, a drop of water from the ocean is also salty, and similarly we the living entities, being part and parcel of the supreme controller, īśvara, or Bhagavān, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, have all the qualities of the Supreme Lord in minute quantity because we are minute īśvaras, subordinate īśvaras. We are trying to control nature, as presently we are trying to control space or planets, and this tendency to control is there because it is in Kṛṣṇa. But although we have a tendency to lord it over material nature, we should know that we are not the supreme controller. This is explained in Bhagavad-gītā.
What is material nature? This is also explained in the Gītā as inferior prakṛti, inferior nature. The living entity is explained as the superior prakṛti. Prakṛti is always under control, whether inferior or superior. Prakṛti is female, and she is controlled by the Lord just as the activities of a wife are controlled by the husband. Prakṛti is always subordinate, predominated by the Lord, who is the predominator. The living entities and material nature are both predominated, controlled by the Supreme Lord. According to the Gītā, the living entities, although parts and parcels of the Supreme Lord, are to be considered prakṛti. This is clearly mentioned in the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā. Apareyam itas tv anyāṁ prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām/ jīva-bhūtām: “This material nature is My inferior prakṛti, but beyond this is another prakṛti – jīva-bhūtām, the living entities.”
Material nature itself is constituted by three qualities: the mode of goodness, the mode of passion and the mode of ignorance. Above these modes there is eternal time, and by a combination of these modes of nature and under the control and purview of eternal time there are activities, which are called karma. These activities are being carried out from time immemorial, and we are suffering or enjoying the fruits of our activities. For instance, suppose I am a businessman and have worked very hard with intelligence and have amassed a great bank balance. Then I am an enjoyer. But then say I have lost all my money in business; then I am a sufferer. Similarly, in every field of life we enjoy the results of our work, or we suffer the results. This is called karma.
Īśvara (the Supreme Lord), jīva (the living entity), prakṛti (nature), kāla (eternal time) and karma (activity) are all explained in the Bhagavad-gītā. Out of these five, the Lord, the living entities, material nature and time are eternal. The manifestation of prakṛti may be temporary, but it is not false. Some philosophers say that the manifestation of material nature is false, but according to the philosophy of Bhagavad-gītā or according to the philosophy of the Vaiṣṇavas, this is not so. The manifestation of the world is not accepted as false; it is accepted as real, but temporary. It is likened unto a cloud which moves across the sky, or the coming of the rainy season, which nourishes grains. As soon as the rainy season is over and as soon as the cloud goes away, all the crops which were nourished by the rain dry up. Similarly, this material manifestation takes place at a certain interval, stays for a while and then disappears. Such are the workings of prakṛti. But this cycle is working eternally. Therefore prakṛti is eternal; it is not false. The Lord refers to this as “My prakṛti.” This material nature is the separated energy of the Supreme Lord, and similarly the living entities are also the energy of the Supreme Lord, although they are not separated but eternally related. So the Lord, the living entity, material nature and time are all interrelated and are all eternal. However, the other item, karma, is not eternal. The effects of karma may be very old indeed. We are suffering or enjoying the results of our activities from time immemorial, but we can change the results of our karma, or our activity, and this change depends on the perfection of our knowledge. We are engaged in various activities. Undoubtedly we do not know what sort of activities we should adopt to gain relief from the actions and reactions of all these activities, but this is also explained in the Bhagavad-gītā.
The position of īśvara, the Supreme Lord, is that of supreme consciousness. The jīvas, or the living entities, being parts and parcels of the Supreme Lord, are also conscious. Both the living entity and material nature are explained as prakṛti, the energy of the Supreme Lord, but one of the two, the jīva, is conscious. The other prakṛti is not conscious. That is the difference. Therefore the jīva-prakṛti is called superior because the jīva has consciousness which is similar to the Lord’s. The Lord’s is supreme consciousness, however, and one should not claim that the jīva, the living entity, is also supremely conscious. The living being cannot be supremely conscious at any stage of his perfection, and the theory that he can be so is a misleading theory. Conscious he may be, but he is not perfectly or supremely conscious.
The distinction between the jīva and the īśvara will be explained in the Thirteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā. The Lord is kṣetra-jña, conscious, as is the living being, but the living being is conscious of his particular body, whereas the Lord is conscious of all bodies. Because He lives in the heart of every living being, He is conscious of the psychic movements of the particular jīvas. We should not forget this. It is also explained that the Paramātmā, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is living in everyone’s heart as īśvara, as the controller, and that He is giving directions for the living entity to act as he desires. The living entity forgets what to do. First of all he makes a determination to act in a certain way, and then he is entangled in the actions and reactions of his own karma. After giving up one type of body, he enters another type of body, as we take off and put on clothes. As the soul thus migrates, he suffers the actions and reactions of his past activities. These activities can be changed when the living being is in the mode of goodness, in sanity, and understands what sort of activities he should adopt. If he does so, then all the actions and reactions of his past activities can be changed. Consequently, karma is not eternal. Therefore we stated that of the five items (īśvara, jīva, prakṛti, time and karma) four are eternal, whereas karma is not eternal.
The supreme conscious īśvara is similar to the living entity in this way: both the consciousness of the Lord and that of the living entity are transcendental. It is not that consciousness is generated by the association of matter. That is a mistaken idea. The theory that consciousness develops under certain circumstances of material combination is not accepted in the Bhagavad-gītā. Consciousness may be pervertedly reflected by the covering of material circumstances, just as light reflected through colored glass may appear to be a certain color, but the consciousness of the Lord is not materially affected. Lord Kṛṣṇa says, mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ. When He descends into the material universe, His consciousness is not materially affected. If He were so affected, He would be unfit to speak on transcendental matters as He does in the Bhagavad-gītā. One cannot say anything about the transcendental world without being free from materially contaminated consciousness. So the Lord is not materially contaminated. Our consciousness, at the present moment, however, is materially contaminated. The Bhagavad-gītā teaches that we have to purify this materially contaminated consciousness. In pure consciousness, our actions will be dovetailed to the will of the īśvara, and that will make us happy. It is not that we have to cease all activities. Rather, our activities are to be purified, and purified activities are called bhakti. Activities in bhakti appear to be like ordinary activities, but they are not contaminated. An ignorant person may see that a devotee is acting or working like an ordinary man, but such a person with a poor fund of knowledge does not know that the activities of the devotee or of the Lord are not contaminated by impure consciousness or matter. They are transcendental to the three modes of nature. We should know, however, that at this point our consciousness is contaminated.
When we are materially contaminated, we are called conditioned. False consciousness is exhibited under the impression that I am a product of material nature. This is called false ego. One who is absorbed in the thought of bodily conceptions cannot understand his situation. Bhagavad-gītā was spoken to liberate one from the bodily conception of life, and Arjuna put himself in this position in order to receive this information from the Lord. One must become free from the bodily conception of life; that is the preliminary activity for the transcendentalist. One who wants to become free, who wants to become liberated, must first of all learn that he is not this material body. Mukti, or liberation, means freedom from material consciousness. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam also the definition of liberation is given. Muktir hitvānyathā-rūpaṁ svarūpeṇa vyavasthitiḥ: mukti means liberation from the contaminated consciousness of this material world and situation in pure consciousness. All the instructions of Bhagavad-gītā are intended to awaken this pure consciousness, and therefore we find at the last stage of the Gītā’s instructions that Kṛṣṇa is asking Arjuna whether he is now in purified consciousness. Purified consciousness means acting in accordance with the instructions of the Lord. This is the whole sum and substance of purified consciousness. Consciousness is already there because we are part and parcel of the Lord, but for us there is the affinity of being affected by the inferior modes. But the Lord, being the Supreme, is never affected. That is the difference between the Supreme Lord and the small individual souls.
What is this consciousness? This consciousness is “I am.” Then what am I? In contaminated consciousness “I am” means “I am the lord of all I survey. I am the enjoyer.” The world revolves because every living being thinks that he is the lord and creator of the material world. Material consciousness has two psychic divisions. One is that I am the creator, and the other is that I am the enjoyer. But actually the Supreme Lord is both the creator and the enjoyer, and the living entity, being part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, is neither the creator nor the enjoyer, but a cooperator. He is the created and the enjoyed. For instance, a part of a machine cooperates with the whole machine; a part of the body cooperates with the whole body. The hands, legs, eyes and so on are all parts of the body, but they are not actually the enjoyers. The stomach is the enjoyer. The legs move, the hands supply food, the teeth chew, and all parts of the body are engaged in satisfying the stomach because the stomach is the principal factor that nourishes the body’s organization. Therefore everything is given to the stomach. One nourishes the tree by watering its root, and one nourishes the body by feeding the stomach, for if the body is to be kept in a healthy state, then the parts of the body must cooperate to feed the stomach. Similarly, the Supreme Lord is the enjoyer and the creator, and we, as subordinate living beings, are meant to cooperate to satisfy Him. This cooperation will actually help us, just as food taken by the stomach will help all other parts of the body. If the fingers of the hand think that they should take the food themselves instead of giving it to the stomach, then they will be frustrated. The central figure of creation and of enjoyment is the Supreme Lord, and the living entities are cooperators. By cooperation they enjoy. The relation is also like that of the master and the servant. If the master is fully satisfied, then the servant is satisfied. Similarly, the Supreme Lord should be satisfied, although the tendency to become the creator and the tendency to enjoy the material world are there also in the living entities because these tendencies are there in the Supreme Lord who has created the manifested cosmic world.
We shall find, therefore, in this Bhagavad-gītā that the complete whole is comprised of the supreme controller, the controlled living entities, the cosmic manifestation, eternal time and karma, or activities, and all of these are explained in this text. All of these taken completely form the complete whole, and the complete whole is called the Supreme Absolute Truth. The complete whole and the complete Absolute Truth are the complete Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. All manifestations are due to His different energies. He is the complete whole.
It is also explained in the Gītā that impersonal Brahman is also subordinate to the complete Supreme Person (brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham). Brahman is more explicitly explained in the Brahma-sūtra to be like the rays of the sunshine. The impersonal Brahman is the shining rays of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Impersonal Brahman is incomplete realization of the absolute whole, and so also is the conception of Paramātmā. In the Fifteenth Chapter it shall be seen that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Puruṣottama, is above both impersonal Brahman and the partial realization of Paramātmā. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is called sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha. The Brahma-saṁhitā begins in this way: īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ/ anādir ādir govindaḥ sarva-kāraṇa-kāraṇam. “Govinda, Kṛṣṇa, is the cause of all causes. He is the primal cause, and He is the very form of eternity, knowledge and bliss.” Impersonal Brahman realization is the realization of His sat (eternity) feature. Paramātmā realization is the realization of sat-cit (eternal knowledge). But realization of the Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, is realization of all the transcendental features: sat, cit and ānanda (eternity, knowledge and bliss) in complete vigraha (form).
People with less intelligence consider the Supreme Truth to be impersonal, but He is a transcendental person, and this is confirmed in all Vedic literatures. Nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām (Kaṭha Upaniṣad 2.2.13). As we are all individual living beings and have our individuality, the Supreme Absolute Truth is also, in the ultimate issue, a person, and realization of the Personality of Godhead is realization of all of the transcendental features in His complete form. The complete whole is not formless. If He is formless, or if He is less than any other thing, then He cannot be the complete whole. The complete whole must have everything within our experience and beyond our experience, otherwise it cannot be complete.
The complete whole, the Personality of Godhead, has immense potencies (parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate). How Kṛṣṇa is acting in different potencies is also explained in Bhagavad-gītā. This phenomenal world or material world in which we are placed is also complete in itself because the twenty-four elements of which this material universe is a temporary manifestation, according to Sāṅkhya philosophy, are completely adjusted to produce complete resources which are necessary for the maintenance and subsistence of this universe. There is nothing extraneous, nor is there anything needed. This manifestation has its own time fixed by the energy of the supreme whole, and when its time is complete, these temporary manifestations will be annihilated by the complete arrangement of the complete. There is complete facility for the small complete units, namely the living entities, to realize the complete, and all sorts of incompleteness are experienced due to incomplete knowledge of the complete. So Bhagavad-gītā contains the complete knowledge of Vedic wisdom.
All Vedic knowledge is infallible, and Hindus accept Vedic knowledge to be complete and infallible. For example, cow dung is the stool of an animal, and according to smṛti, or Vedic injunction, if one touches the stool of an animal he has to take a bath to purify himself. But in the Vedic scriptures cow dung is considered to be a purifying agent. One might consider this to be contradictory, but it is accepted because it is Vedic injunction, and indeed by accepting this, one will not commit a mistake; subsequently it has been proved by modern science that cow dung contains all antiseptic properties. So Vedic knowledge is complete because it is above all doubts and mistakes, and Bhagavad-gītā is the essence of all Vedic knowledge.
Vedic knowledge is not a question of research. Our research work is imperfect because we are researching things with imperfect senses. We have to accept perfect knowledge which comes down, as is stated in Bhagavad-gītā, by the paramparā (disciplic succession). We have to receive knowledge from the proper source in disciplic succession beginning with the supreme spiritual master, the Lord Himself, and handed down to a succession of spiritual masters. Arjuna, the student who took lessons from Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, accepts everything that He says without contradicting Him. One is not allowed to accept one portion of Bhagavad-gītā and not another. No. We must accept Bhagavad-gītā without interpretation, without deletion and without our own whimsical participation in the matter. The Gītā should be taken as the most perfect presentation of Vedic knowledge. Vedic knowledge is received from transcendental sources, and the first words were spoken by the Lord Himself. The words spoken by the Lord are called apauruṣeya, meaning that they are different from words spoken by a person of the mundane world who is infected with four defects. A mundaner (1) is sure to commit mistakes, (2) is invariably illusioned, (3) has the tendency to cheat others and (4) is limited by imperfect senses. With these four imperfections, one cannot deliver perfect information of all-pervading knowledge.
Vedic knowledge is not imparted by such defective living entities. It was imparted unto the heart of Brahmā, the first created living being, and Brahmā in his turn disseminated this knowledge to his sons and disciples, as he originally received it from the Lord. The Lord is pūrṇam, all-perfect, and there is no possibility of His becoming subjected to the laws of material nature. One should therefore be intelligent enough to know that the Lord is the only proprietor of everything in the universe and that He is the original creator, the creator of Brahmā. In the Eleventh Chapter the Lord is addressed as prapitāmaha because Brahmā is addressed as pitāmaha, the grandfather, and He is the creator of the grandfather. So no one should claim to be the proprietor of anything; one should accept only things set aside for him by the Lord as his quota for his maintenance.
There are many examples given of how we are to utilize those things which are set aside for us by the Lord. This is also explained in Bhagavad-gītā. In the beginning, Arjuna decided that he should not fight in the Battle of Kurukṣetra. This was his own decision. Arjuna told the Lord that it was not possible for him to enjoy the kingdom after killing his own kinsmen. This decision was based on the body because he was thinking that the body was himself and that his bodily relations or expansions were his brothers, nephews, brothers-in-law, grandfathers and so on. Therefore he wanted to satisfy his bodily demands. Bhagavad-gītā was spoken by the Lord just to change this view, and at the end Arjuna decides to fight under the directions of the Lord when he says, kariṣye vacanaṁ tava: “I shall act according to Your word.”
In this world men are not meant for quarreling like cats and dogs. Men must be intelligent to realize the importance of human life and refuse to act like ordinary animals. A human being should realize the aim of his life, and this direction is given in all Vedic literatures, and the essence is given in Bhagavad-gītā. Vedic literature is meant for human beings, not for animals. Animals can kill other living animals, and there is no question of sin on their part, but if a man kills an animal for the satisfaction of his uncontrolled taste, he must be responsible for breaking the laws of nature. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is clearly explained that there are three kinds of activities according to the different modes of nature: the activities of goodness, of passion and of ignorance. Similarly, there are three kinds of eatables also: eatables in goodness, passion and ignorance. All of this is clearly described, and if we properly utilize the instructions of Bhagavad-gītā, then our whole life will become purified, and ultimately we will be able to reach the destination which is beyond this material sky.
That destination is called the sanātana sky, the eternal, spiritual sky (yad gatvā na nivartante tad dhāma paramaṁ mama). In this material world we find that everything is temporary. It comes into being, stays for some time, produces some by-products, dwindles and then vanishes. That is the law of the material world, whether we use as an example this body, or a piece of fruit or anything. But beyond this temporary world there is another world of which we have information. That world consists of another nature, which is sanātana, eternal. The jīva is also described as sanātana, eternal, and the Lord is also described as sanātana in the Eleventh Chapter. We have an intimate relationship with the Lord, and because we are all qualitatively one – the sanātana-dhāma, or sky, the sanātana Supreme Personality and the sanātana living entities – the whole purpose of Bhagavad-gītā is to revive our sanātana occupation, or sanātana-dharma, which is the eternal occupation of the living entity. We are temporarily engaged in different activities, but all of these activities can be purified when we give up all these temporary activities and take up the activities which are prescribed by the Supreme Lord. That is called our pure life.
The Supreme Lord and His transcendental abode are both sanātana, as are the living entities, and the combined association of the Supreme Lord and the living entities in the sanātana abode is the perfection of human life. The Lord is very kind to the living entities because they are His sons. Lord Kṛṣṇa declares in Bhagavad-gītā, sarva-yoniṣu … ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā: “I am the father of all.” Of course there are all types of living entities according to their various karmas, but here the Lord claims that He is the father of all of them. Therefore the Lord descends to reclaim all of these fallen, conditioned souls, to call them back to the sanātana eternal sky so that the sanātana living entities may regain their eternal sanātana positions in eternal association with the Lord. The Lord comes Himself in different incarnations, or He sends His confidential servants as sons or His associates or ācāryas to reclaim the conditioned souls.
Therefore, sanātana-dharma does not refer to any sectarian process of religion. It is the eternal function of the eternal living entities in relationship with the eternal Supreme Lord. Sanātana-dharma refers, as stated previously, to the eternal occupation of the living entity. Śrīpāda Rāmānujācārya has explained the word sanātana as “that which has neither beginning nor end,” so when we speak of sanātana-dharma, we must take it for granted on the authority of Śrīpāda Rāmānujācārya that it has neither beginning nor end.
The English word religion is a little different from sanātana-dharma. Religion conveys the idea of faith, and faith may change. One may have faith in a particular process, and he may change this faith and adopt another, but sanātana-dharma refers to that activity which cannot be changed. For instance, liquidity cannot be taken from water, nor can heat be taken from fire. Similarly, the eternal function of the eternal living entity cannot be taken from the living entity. Sanātana-dharma is eternally integral with the living entity. When we speak of sanātana-dharma, therefore, we must take it for granted on the authority of Śrīpāda Rāmānujācārya that it has neither beginning nor end. That which has neither end nor beginning must not be sectarian, for it cannot be limited by any boundaries. Those belonging to some sectarian faith will wrongly consider that sanātana-dharma is also sectarian, but if we go deeply into the matter and consider it in the light of modern science, it is possible for us to see that sanātana-dharma is the business of all the people of the world – nay, of all the living entities of the universe.
Non-sanātana religious faith may have some beginning in the annals of human history, but there is no beginning to the history of sanātana-dharma, because it remains eternally with the living entities. Insofar as the living entities are concerned, the authoritative śāstras state that the living entity has neither birth nor death. In the Gītā it is stated that the living entity is never born and he never dies. He is eternal and indestructible, and he continues to live after the destruction of his temporary material body. In reference to the concept of sanātana-dharma, we must try to understand the concept of religion from the Sanskrit root meaning of the word. Dharma refers to that which is constantly existing with a particular object. We conclude that there is heat and light along with the fire; without heat and light, there is no meaning to the word fire. Similarly, we must discover the essential part of the living being, that part which is his constant companion. That constant companion is his eternal quality, and that eternal quality is his eternal religion.
When Sanātana Gosvāmī asked Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu about the svarūpa of every living being, the Lord replied that the svarūpa, or constitutional position, of the living being is the rendering of service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If we analyze this statement of Lord Caitanya’s, we can easily see that every living being is constantly engaged in rendering service to another living being. A living being serves other living beings in various capacities. By doing so, the living entity enjoys life. The lower animals serve human beings as servants serve their master. A serves B master, B serves C master, and C serves D master and so on. Under these circumstances, we can see that one friend serves another friend, the mother serves the son, the wife serves the husband, the husband serves the wife and so on. If we go on searching in this spirit, it will be seen that there is no exception in the society of living beings to the activity of service. The politician presents his manifesto for the public to convince them of his capacity for service. The voters therefore give the politician their valuable votes, thinking that he will render valuable service to society. The shopkeeper serves the customer, and the artisan serves the capitalist. The capitalist serves the family, and the family serves the state in the terms of the eternal capacity of the eternal living being. In this way we can see that no living being is exempt from rendering service to other living beings, and therefore we can safely conclude that service is the constant companion of the living being and that the rendering of service is the eternal religion of the living being.
Yet man professes to belong to a particular type of faith with reference to particular time and circumstance and thus claims to be a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist or an adherent of any other sect. Such designations are non–sanātana-dharma. A Hindu may change his faith to become a Muslim, or a Muslim may change his faith to become a Hindu, or a Christian may change his faith and so on. But in all circumstances the change of religious faith does not affect the eternal occupation of rendering service to others. The Hindu, Muslim or Christian in all circumstances is a servant of someone. Thus, to profess a particular type of faith is not to profess one’s sanātana-dharma. The rendering of service is sanātana-dharma.
Factually we are related to the Supreme Lord in service. The Supreme Lord is the supreme enjoyer, and we living entities are His servitors. We are created for His enjoyment, and if we participate in that eternal enjoyment with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we become happy. We cannot become happy otherwise. It is not possible to be happy independently, just as no one part of the body can be happy without cooperating with the stomach. It is not possible for the living entity to be happy without rendering transcendental loving service unto the Supreme Lord.
In the Bhagavad-gītā, worship of different demigods or rendering service to them is not approved. It is stated in the Seventh Chapter, twentieth verse:
kāmais tais tair hṛta-jñānāḥ
taṁ taṁ niyamam āsthāya
prakṛtyā niyatāḥ svayā
“Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.” Here it is plainly said that those who are directed by lust worship the demigods and not the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa. When we mention the name Kṛṣṇa, we do not refer to any sectarian name. Kṛṣṇa means the highest pleasure, and it is confirmed that the Supreme Lord is the reservoir or storehouse of all pleasure. We are all hankering after pleasure. Ānanda-mayo ’bhyāsāt (Vedānta-sūtra 1.1.12). The living entities, like the Lord, are full of consciousness, and they are after happiness. The Lord is perpetually happy, and if the living entities associate with the Lord, cooperate with Him and take part in His association, then they also become happy.
The Lord descends to this mortal world to show His pastimes in Vṛndāvana, which are full of happiness. When Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa was in Vṛndāvana, His activities with His cowherd boyfriends, with His damsel friends, with the other inhabitants of Vṛndāvana and with the cows were all full of happiness. The total population of Vṛndāvana knew nothing but Kṛṣṇa. But Lord Kṛṣṇa even discouraged His father Nanda Mahārāja from worshiping the demigod Indra, because He wanted to establish the fact that people need not worship any demigod. They need only worship the Supreme Lord, because their ultimate goal is to return to His abode.
The abode of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is described in the Bhagavad-gītā, Fifteenth Chapter, sixth verse:
na tad bhāsayate sūryo
na śaśāṅko na pāvakaḥ
yad gatvā na nivartante
tad dhāma paramaṁ mama
“That supreme abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by fire or electricity. Those who reach it never return to this material world.”
This verse gives a description of that eternal sky. Of course we have a material conception of the sky, and we think of it in relationship to the sun, moon, stars and so on, but in this verse the Lord states that in the eternal sky there is no need for the sun nor for the moon nor electricity or fire of any kind because the spiritual sky is already illuminated by the brahma-jyotir, the rays emanating from the Supreme Lord. We are trying with difficulty to reach other planets, but it is not difficult to understand the abode of the Supreme Lord. This abode is referred to as Goloka. In the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.37) it is beautifully described: goloka eva nivasaty akhilātma-bhūtaḥ. The Lord resides eternally in His abode Goloka, yet He can be approached from this world, and to this end the Lord comes to manifest His real form, sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha. When He manifests this form, there is no need for our imagining what He looks like. To discourage such imaginative speculation, He descends and exhibits Himself as He is, as Śyāmasundara. Unfortunately, the less intelligent deride Him because He comes as one of us and plays with us as a human being. But because of this we should not consider the Lord one of us. It is by His omnipotency that He presents Himself in His real form before us and displays His pastimes, which are replicas of those pastimes found in His abode.
In the effulgent rays of the spiritual sky there are innumerable planets floating. The brahma-jyotir emanates from the supreme abode, Kṛṣṇaloka, and the ānanda-maya, cin-maya planets, which are not material, float in those rays. The Lord says, na tad bhāsayate sūryo na śaśāṅko na pāvakaḥ/ yad gatvā na nivartante tad dhāma paramaṁ mama. One who can approach that spiritual sky is not required to descend again to the material sky. In the material sky, even if we approach the highest planet (Brahmaloka), what to speak of the moon, we will find the same conditions of life, namely birth, death, disease and old age. No planet in the material universe is free from these four principles of material existence.
The living entities are traveling from one planet to another, but it is not that we can go to any planet we like merely by a mechanical arrangement. If we desire to go to other planets, there is a process for going there. This is also mentioned: yānti deva-vratā devān pitṝn yānti pitṛ-vratāḥ. No mechanical arrangement is necessary if we want interplanetary travel. The Gītā instructs: yānti deva-vratā devān. The moon, the sun and higher planets are called Svargaloka. There are three different statuses of planets: higher, middle and lower planetary systems. The earth belongs to the middle planetary system. Bhagavad-gītā informs us how to travel to the higher planetary systems (Devaloka) with a very simple formula: yānti deva-vratā devān. One need only worship the particular demigod of that particular planet and in that way go to the moon, the sun or any of the higher planetary systems.
Yet Bhagavad-gītā does not advise us to go to any of the planets in this material world, because even if we go to Brahmaloka, the highest planet, through some sort of mechanical contrivance by maybe traveling for forty thousand years (and who would live that long?), we will still find the material inconveniences of birth, death, disease and old age. But one who wants to approach the supreme planet, Kṛṣṇaloka, or any other planet within the spiritual sky, will not meet with these material inconveniences. Amongst all of the planets in the spiritual sky there is one supreme planet called Goloka Vṛndāvana, the original planet in the abode of the original Personality of Godhead Śrī Kṛṣṇa. All of this information is given in Bhagavad-gītā, and we are given through its instruction information how to leave the material world and begin a truly blissful life in the spiritual sky.
In the Fifteenth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā, the real picture of the material world is given. It is said there:
aśvatthaṁ prāhur avyayam
chandāṁsi yasya parṇāni
yas taṁ veda sa veda-vit
Here the material world is described as a tree whose roots are upwards and branches are below. We have experience of a tree whose roots are upward: if one stands on the bank of a river or any reservoir of water, he can see that the trees reflected in the water are upside down. The branches go downward and the roots upward. Similarly, this material world is a reflection of the spiritual world. The material world is but a shadow of reality. In the shadow there is no reality or substantiality, but from the shadow we can understand that there are substance and reality. In the desert there is no water, but the mirage suggests that there is such a thing as water. In the material world there is no water, there is no happiness, but the real water of actual happiness is there in the spiritual world.
The Lord suggests that we attain the spiritual world in the following manner (Bg. 15.5):
dvandvair vimuktāḥ sukha-duḥkha-saṁjñair
gacchanty amūḍhāḥ padam avyayaṁ tat
That padam avyayam, or eternal kingdom, can be reached by one who is nirmāna-moha. What does this mean? We are after designations. Someone wants to become “sir,” someone wants to become “lord,” someone wants to become the president or a rich man or a king or something else. As long as we are attached to these designations, we are attached to the body, because designations belong to the body. But we are not these bodies, and realizing this is the first stage in spiritual realization. We are associated with the three modes of material nature, but we must become detached through devotional service to the Lord. If we are not attached to devotional service to the Lord, then we cannot become detached from the modes of material nature. Designations and attachments are due to our lust and desire, our wanting to lord it over the material nature. As long as we do not give up this propensity of lording it over material nature, there is no possibility of returning to the kingdom of the Supreme, the sanātana-dhāma. That eternal kingdom, which is never destroyed, can be approached by one who is not bewildered by the attractions of false material enjoyments, who is situated in the service of the Supreme Lord. One so situated can easily approach that supreme abode.
Elsewhere in the Gītā (8.21) it is stated:
avyakto ’kṣara ity uktas
tam āhuḥ paramāṁ gatim
yaṁ prāpya na nivartante
tad dhāma paramaṁ mama
Avyakta means unmanifested. Not even all of the material world is manifested before us. Our senses are so imperfect that we cannot even see all of the stars within this material universe. In the Vedic literature we can receive much information about all the planets, and we can believe it or not believe it. All of the important planets are described in the Vedic literatures, especially Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and the spiritual world, which is beyond this material sky, is described as avyakta, unmanifested. One should desire and hanker after that supreme kingdom, for when one attains that kingdom, he does not have to return to this material world.
Next, one may raise the question of how one goes about approaching that abode of the Supreme Lord. Information of this is given in the Eighth Chapter. It is said there:
anta-kāle ca mām eva
smaran muktvā kalevaram
yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaṁ
yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ
“And whoever, at the end of his life, quits his body remembering Me alone at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Bg. 8.5) One who thinks of Kṛṣṇa at the time of his death goes to Kṛṣṇa. One must remember the form of Kṛṣṇa; if he quits his body thinking of this form, he surely approaches the spiritual kingdom. Mad-bhāvam refers to the supreme nature of the Supreme Being. The Supreme Being is sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha – that is, His form is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. Our present body is not sac-cid-ānanda. It is asat, not sat. It is not eternal; it is perishable. It is not cit, full of knowledge, but it is full of ignorance. We have no knowledge of the spiritual kingdom, nor do we even have perfect knowledge of this material world, where there are so many things unknown to us. The body is also nirānanda; instead of being full of bliss it is full of misery. All of the miseries we experience in the material world arise from the body, but one who leaves this body thinking of Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, at once attains a sac-cid-ānanda body.
The process of quitting this body and getting another body in the material world is also organized. A man dies after it has been decided what form of body he will have in the next life. Higher authorities, not the living entity himself, make this decision. According to our activities in this life, we either rise or sink. This life is a preparation for the next life. If we can prepare, therefore, in this life to get promotion to the kingdom of God, then surely, after quitting this material body, we will attain a spiritual body just like the Lord’s.
As explained before, there are different kinds of transcendentalists – the brahma-vādī, paramātma-vādī and the devotee – and, as mentioned, in the brahma-jyotir (spiritual sky) there are innumerable spiritual planets. The number of these planets is far, far greater than all of the planets of this material world. This material world has been approximated as only one quarter of the creation (ekāṁśena sthito jagat). In this material segment there are millions and billions of universes with trillions of planets and suns, stars and moons. But this whole material creation is only a fragment of the total creation. Most of the creation is in the spiritual sky. One who desires to merge into the existence of the Supreme Brahman is at once transferred to the brahma-jyotir of the Supreme Lord and thus attains the spiritual sky. The devotee, who wants to enjoy the association of the Lord, enters into the Vaikuṇṭha planets, which are innumerable, and the Supreme Lord by His plenary expansions as Nārāyaṇa with four hands and with different names like Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Govinda associates with him there. Therefore at the end of life the transcendentalists think either of the brahma-jyotir, the Paramātmā or the Supreme Personality of Godhead Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In all cases they enter into the spiritual sky, but only the devotee, or he who is in personal touch with the Supreme Lord, enters into the Vaikuṇṭha planets or the Goloka Vṛndāvana planet. The Lord further adds that of this “there is no doubt.” This must be believed firmly. We should not reject that which does not tally with our imagination; our attitude should be that of Arjuna: “I believe everything that You have said.” Therefore when the Lord says that at the time of death whoever thinks of Him as Brahman or Paramātmā or as the Personality of Godhead certainly enters into the spiritual sky, there is no doubt about it. There is no question of disbelieving it.
The Bhagavad-gītā (8.6) also explains the general principle that makes it possible to enter the spiritual kingdom simply by thinking of the Supreme at the time of death:
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his present body, in his next life he will attain to that state without fail.” Now, first we must understand that material nature is a display of one of the energies of the Supreme Lord. In the Viṣṇu Purāṇa (6.7.61) the total energies of the Supreme Lord are delineated:
viṣṇu-śaktiḥ parā proktā
kṣetra-jñākhyā tathā parā
tṛtīyā śaktir iṣyate
The Supreme Lord has diverse and innumerable energies which are beyond our conception; however, great learned sages or liberated souls have studied these energies and have analyzed them into three parts. All of the energies are of viṣṇu-śakti, that is to say they are different potencies of Lord Viṣṇu. The first energy is parā, transcendental. Living entities also belong to the superior energy, as has already been explained. The other energies, or material energies, are in the mode of ignorance. At the time of death either we can remain in the inferior energy of this material world, or we can transfer to the energy of the spiritual world. So the Bhagavad-gītā (8.6) says:
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his present body, in his next life he will attain to that state without fail.”
In life we are accustomed to thinking either of the material or of the spiritual energy. Now, how can we transfer our thoughts from the material energy to the spiritual energy? There are so many literatures which fill our thoughts with the material energy – newspapers, magazines, novels, etc. Our thinking, which is now absorbed in these literatures, must be transferred to the Vedic literatures. The great sages, therefore, have written so many Vedic literatures, such as the Purāṇas. The Purāṇas are not imaginative; they are historical records. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 20.122) there is the following verse:
māyā-mugdha jīvera nāhi svataḥ kṛṣṇa-jñāna
jīvere kṛpāya kailā kṛṣṇa veda-purāṇa
The forgetful living entities or conditioned souls have forgotten their relationship with the Supreme Lord, and they are engrossed in thinking of material activities. Just to transfer their thinking power to the spiritual sky, Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa has given a great number of Vedic literatures. First he divided the Vedas into four, then he explained them in the Purāṇas, and for less capable people he wrote the Mahābhārata. In the Mahābhārata there is given the Bhagavad-gītā. Then all Vedic literature is summarized in the Vedānta-sūtra, and for future guidance he gave a natural commentation on the Vedānta-sūtra, called Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. We must always engage our minds in reading these Vedic literatures. Just as materialists engage their minds in reading newspapers, magazines and so many materialistic literatures, we must transfer our reading to these literatures which are given to us by Vyāsadeva; in that way it will be possible for us to remember the Supreme Lord at the time of death. That is the only way suggested by the Lord, and He guarantees the result: “There is no doubt.”
tasmāt sarveṣu kāleṣu
mām anusmara yudhya ca
mām evaiṣyasy asaṁśayaḥ
“Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Kṛṣṇa and at the same time continue your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.” (Bg. 8.7)
He does not advise Arjuna simply to remember Him and give up his occupation. No, the Lord never suggests anything impractical. In this material world, in order to maintain the body one has to work. Human society is divided, according to work, into four divisions of social order – brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra. The brāhmaṇa class or intelligent class is working in one way, the kṣatriya or administrative class is working in another way, and the mercantile class and the laborers are all tending to their specific duties. In the human society, whether one is a laborer, merchant, administrator or farmer, or even if one belongs to the highest class and is a literary man, a scientist or a theologian, he has to work in order to maintain his existence. The Lord therefore tells Arjuna that he need not give up his occupation, but while he is engaged in his occupation he should remember Kṛṣṇa (mām anusmara). If he doesn’t practice remembering Kṛṣṇa while he is struggling for existence, then it will not be possible for him to remember Kṛṣṇa at the time of death. Lord Caitanya also advises this. He says, kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ: one should practice chanting the names of the Lord always. The names of the Lord and the Lord are nondifferent. So Lord Kṛṣṇa’s instructions to Arjuna to “remember Me” and Lord Caitanya’s injunction to “always chant the names of Lord Kṛṣṇa” are the same instruction. There is no difference, because Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa’s name are nondifferent. In the absolute status there is no difference between reference and referrent. Therefore we have to practice remembering the Lord always, twenty-four hours a day, by chanting His names and molding our life’s activities in such a way that we can remember Him always.
How is this possible? The ācāryas give the following example. If a married woman is attached to another man, or if a man has an attachment for a woman other than his wife, then the attachment is to be considered very strong. One with such an attachment is always thinking of the loved one. The wife who is thinking of her lover is always thinking of meeting him, even while she is carrying out her household chores. In fact, she carries out her household work even more carefully so her husband will not suspect her attachment. Similarly, we should always remember the supreme lover, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and at the same time perform our material duties very nicely. A strong sense of love is required here. If we have a strong sense of love for the Supreme Lord, then we can discharge our duty and at the same time remember Him. But we have to develop that sense of love. Arjuna, for instance, was always thinking of Kṛṣṇa; he was the constant companion of Kṛṣṇa, and at the same time he was a warrior. Kṛṣṇa did not advise him to give up fighting and go to the forest to meditate. When Lord Kṛṣṇa delineates the yoga system to Arjuna, Arjuna says that the practice of this system is not possible for him.
yo ’yaṁ yogas tvayā proktaḥ
etasyāhaṁ na paśyāmi
cañcalatvāt sthitiṁ sthirām
“Arjuna said: O Madhusūdana, the system of yoga which You have summarized appears impractical and unendurable to me, for the mind is restless and unsteady.” (Bg. 6.33)
But the Lord says:
yoginām api sarveṣāṁ
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ
sa me yukta-tamo mataḥ
“Of all yogīs, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion.” (Bg. 6.47) So one who thinks of the Supreme Lord always is the greatest yogī, the supermost jñānī, and the greatest devotee at the same time. The Lord further tells Arjuna that as a kṣatriya he cannot give up his fighting, but if Arjuna fights remembering Kṛṣṇa, then he will be able to remember Kṛṣṇa at the time of death. But one must be completely surrendered in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.
We work not with our body, actually, but with our mind and intelligence. So if the intelligence and the mind are always engaged in the thought of the Supreme Lord, then naturally the senses are also engaged in His service. Superficially, at least, the activities of the senses remain the same, but the consciousness is changed. The Bhagavad-gītā teaches one how to absorb the mind and intelligence in the thought of the Lord. Such absorption will enable one to transfer himself to the kingdom of the Lord. If the mind is engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service, then the senses are automatically engaged in His service. This is the art, and this is also the secret of Bhagavad-gītā: total absorption in the thought of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
Modern man has struggled very hard to reach the moon, but he has not tried very hard to elevate himself spiritually. If one has fifty years of life ahead of him, he should engage that brief time in cultivating this practice of remembering the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This practice is the devotional process:
śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ
arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ
These nine processes, of which the easiest is śravaṇam, hearing the Bhagavad-gītā from the realized person, will turn one to the thought of the Supreme Being. This will lead to remembering the Supreme Lord and will enable one, upon leaving the body, to attain a spiritual body which is just fit for association with the Supreme Lord.
The Lord further says:
paramaṁ puruṣaṁ divyaṁ
“He who meditates on Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his mind constantly engaged in remembering Me, undeviated from the path, he, O Arjuna, is sure to reach Me.” (Bg. 8.8)
This is not a very difficult process. However, one must learn it from an experienced person. Tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet: one must approach a person who is already in the practice. The mind is always flying to this and that, but one must practice concentrating the mind always on the form of the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, or on the sound of His name. The mind is naturally restless, going hither and thither, but it can rest in the sound vibration of Kṛṣṇa. One must thus meditate on paramaṁ puruṣam, the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the spiritual kingdom, the spiritual sky, and thus attain Him. The ways and the means for ultimate realization, ultimate attainment, are stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, and the doors of this knowledge are open for everyone. No one is barred out. All classes of men can approach Lord Kṛṣṇa by thinking of Him, for hearing and thinking of Him are possible for everyone.
The Lord further says (Bg. 9.32–33):
māṁ hi pārtha vyapāśritya
ye ’pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ
striyo vaiśyās tathā śūdrās
te ’pi yānti parāṁ gatim
kiṁ punar brāhmaṇāḥ puṇyā
bhaktā rājarṣayas tathā
anityam asukhaṁ lokam
imaṁ prāpya bhajasva mām
Thus the Lord says that even a merchant, a fallen woman or a laborer or even human beings in the lowest status of life can attain the Supreme. One does not need highly developed intelligence. The point is that anyone who accepts the principle of bhakti-yoga and accepts the Supreme Lord as the summum bonum of life, as the highest target, the ultimate goal, can approach the Lord in the spiritual sky. If one adopts the principles enunciated in Bhagavad-gītā, he can make his life perfect and make a permanent solution to all the problems of life. This is the sum and substance of the entire Bhagavad-gītā.
In conclusion, Bhagavad-gītā is a transcendental literature which one should read very carefully. Gītā-śāstram idaṁ puṇyaṁ yaḥ paṭhet prayataḥ pumān: if one properly follows the instructions of Bhagavad-gītā, one can be freed from all the miseries and anxieties of life. Bhaya-śokādi-varjitaḥ. One will be freed from all fears in this life, and one’s next life will be spiritual (Gītā-māhātmya 1).
There is also a further advantage:
naiva santi hi pāpāni
“If one reads Bhagavad-gītā very sincerely and with all seriousness, then by the grace of the Lord the reactions of his past misdeeds will not act upon him.” (Gītā-māhātmya 2) The Lord says very loudly in the last portion of Bhagavad-gītā (18.66):
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” Thus the Lord takes all responsibility for one who surrenders unto Him, and He indemnifies such a person against all reactions of sins.
jala-snānaṁ dine dine
“One may cleanse himself daily by taking a bath in water, but if one takes a bath even once in the sacred Ganges water of Bhagavad-gītā, for him the dirt of material life is altogether vanquished.” (Gītā-māhātmya 3)
gītā su-gītā kartavyā
kim anyaiḥ śāstra-vistaraiḥ
yā svayaṁ padmanābhasya
Because Bhagavad-gītā is spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one need not read any other Vedic literature. One need only attentively and regularly hear and read Bhagavad-gītā. In the present age, people are so absorbed in mundane activities that it is not possible for them to read all the Vedic literatures. But this is not necessary. This one book, Bhagavad-gītā, will suffice, because it is the essence of all Vedic literatures and especially because it is spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (Gītā-māhātmya 4)
As it is said:
punar janma na vidyate
“One who drinks the water of the Ganges attains salvation, so what to speak of one who drinks the nectar of Bhagavad-gītā? Bhagavad-gītā is the essential nectar of the Mahābhārata, and it is spoken by Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself, the original Viṣṇu.” (Gītā-māhātmya 5) Bhagavad-gītā comes from the mouth of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the Ganges is said to emanate from the lotus feet of the Lord. Of course, there is no difference between the mouth and the feet of the Supreme Lord, but from an impartial study we can appreciate that Bhagavad-gītā is even more important than the water of the Ganges.
pārtho vatsaḥ su-dhīr bhoktā
dugdhaṁ gītāmṛtaṁ mahat
“This Gītopaniṣad, Bhagavad-gītā, the essence of all the Upaniṣads, is just like a cow, and Lord Kṛṣṇa, who is famous as a cowherd boy, is milking this cow. Arjuna is just like a calf, and learned scholars and pure devotees are to drink the nectarean milk of Bhagavad-gītā.” (Gītā-māhātmya 6)
ekaṁ śāstraṁ devakī-putra-gītam
eko devo devakī-putra eva
eko mantras tasya nāmāni yāni
karmāpy ekaṁ tasya devasya sevā
In this present day, people are very much eager to have one scripture, one God, one religion and one occupation. Therefore, ekaṁ śāstraṁ devakī-putra-gītam: let there be one scripture only, one common scripture for the whole world – Bhagavad-gītā. Eko devo devakī-putra eva: let there be one God for the whole world – Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Eko mantras tasya nāmāni: and one hymn, one mantra, one prayer – the chanting of His name: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Karmāpy ekaṁ tasya devasya sevā: and let there be one work only – the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Disciplic Succession
taṁ tathā kṛpayāviṣṭam
viṣīdantam idaṁ vākyam
sanjayaḥ uvāca—Sanjaya said; tam—unto Arjuna; tathā—thus; kṛpayā—by compassion; āviṣṭam—overwhelmed; aśru–pūrṇa—full of tears; ākula—depressed; īkṣaṇam—eyes; viṣīdantam—lamenting; idam—this; vākyam—words; uvāca—said; madhusūdanaḥ—the killer of Madhu.
Sanjaya said: Seeing Arjuna full of compassion and very sorrowful, his eyes brimming with tears, Madhusūdana, Kṛṣṇa, spoke the following words.
Material compassion, lamentation and tears are all signs of ignorance of the real self. Compassion for the eternal soul is self-realization. The word “Madhusūdana” is significant in this verse. Lord Kṛṣṇa killed the demon Madhu, and now Arjuna wanted Kṛṣṇa to kill the demon of misunderstanding that had overtaken him in the discharge of his duty. No one knows where compassion should be applied. Compassion for the dress of a drowning man is senseless. A man fallen in the ocean of nescience cannot be saved simply by rescuing his outward dress—the gross material body. One who does not know this and laments for the outward dress is called a śūdra, or one who laments unnecessarily. Arjuna was a kṣatriya, and this conduct was not expected from him. Lord Kṛṣṇa, however, can dissipate the lamentation of the ignorant man, and for this purpose the Bhagavad-gītā was sung by Him. This chapter instructs us in self-realization by an analytical study of the material body and the spirit soul, as explained by the supreme authority, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This realization is made possible by working with the fruitive being situated in the fixed conception of the real self.
kutas tvā kaśmalam idaṁ
śrī bhagavān uvāca—the Supreme Personality of Godhead said; kutaḥ—wherefrom; tvā—unto you; kaśmalam—dirtiness; idam—this lamentation; viṣame—this hour of crisis; samupasthitam—arrived; anārya—persons who do not know the value of life; juṣṭam—practiced by; asvargyam—that which does not lead to higher planets; akīrti—infamy; karam—the cause of; arjuna—O Arjuna.
The Supreme Person [Bhagavān] said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They do not lead to higher planets, but to infamy.
Kṛṣṇa and the Supreme Personality of Godhead are identical. Therefore Lord Kṛṣṇa is referred to as “Bhagavān” throughout the Gītā. Bhagavān is the ultimate in the Absolute Truth. Absolute Truth is realized in three phases of understanding, namely Brahman or the impersonal all-pervasive spirit; Paramātmā, or the localized aspect of the Supreme within the heart of all living entities; and Bhagavān, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Kṛṣṇa. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam this conception of the Absolute Truth is explained thus:
vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvaṁ yaj jnānam advayam
brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate.
“The Absolute Truth is realized in three phases of understanding by the knower of the Absolute Truth, and all of them are identical. Such phases of the Absolute Truth are expressed as Brahman, Paramātmā, and Bhagavān.” (Bhāg. 1.2.11) These three divine aspects can be explained by the example of the sun, which also has three different aspects, namely the sunshine, the sun’s surface and the sun planet itself. One who studies the sunshine only is the preliminary student. One who understands the sun’s surface is further advanced. And one who can enter into the sun planet is the highest. Ordinary students who are satisfied by simply understanding the sunshine—its universal pervasiveness and the glaring effulgence of its impersonal nature—may be compared to those who can realize only the Brahman feature of the Absolute Truth. The student who has advanced still further can know the sun disc, which is compared to knowledge of the Paramātmā feature of the Absolute Truth. And the student who can enter into the heart of the sun planet is compared to those who realize the personal features of the Supreme Absolute Truth. Therefore, the bhaktas, or the transcendentalists who have realized the Bhagavān feature of the Absolute Truth, are the topmost transcendentalists, although all students who are engaged in the study of the Absolute Truth are engaged in the same subject matter. The sunshine, the sun disc and the inner affairs of the sun planet cannot be separated from one another, and yet the students of the three different phases are not in the same category.
The Sanskrit word Bhagavān is explained by the great authority, Parāśara Muni, the father of Vyāsadeva. The Supreme Personality who possesses all riches, all strength, all fame, all beauty, all knowledge and all renunciation is called Bhagavān. There are many persons who are very rich, very powerful, very beautiful, very famous, very learned, and very much detached, but no one can claim that he possesses all riches, all strength, etc., entirely. Only Kṛṣṇa can claim this because He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. No living entity, including Brahmā, Lord Śiva, or Nārāyaṇa, can possess opulences as fully as Kṛṣṇa. Therefore it is concluded in the Brahma–saṁhitā by Lord Brahmā himself that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. No one is equal to or above Him. He is the primeval Lord, or Bhagavān, known as Govinda, and He is the supreme cause of all causes.
īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda–vigrahaḥ
anādir ādir govindaḥ sarva–kāraṇa–kāraṇam
“There are many personalities possessing the qualities of Bhagavān, but Kṛṣṇa is the supreme because none can excel Him. He is the Supreme Person, and His body is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. He is the primeval Lord Govinda and the cause of all causes.” (Brahma–saṁhitā 5.1)
In the Bhāgavatam also there is a list of many incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but Kṛṣṇa is described as the original Personality of Godhead, from whom many, many incarnations and Personalities of Godhead expand:
ete cāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam
indrāri-vyākulaṁ lokaṁ mṛḍayanti yuge yuge
“All the lists of the incarnations of Godhead submitted herewith are either plenary expansions or parts of the plenary expansions of the Supreme Godhead, but Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself.” (Bhag. 1.3.28)
Therefore, Kṛṣṇa is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth, the source of both the Supersoul and the impersonal Brahman.
In the presence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Arjuna’s lamentation for his kinsmen is certainly unbecoming, and therefore Kṛṣṇa expressed His surprise with the word kutas, “wherefrom.” Such unmanly sentiments were never expected from a person belonging to the civilized class of men known as Āryans. The word āryan is applicable to persons who know the value of life and have a civilization based on spiritual realization. Persons who are led by the material conception of life do not know that the aim of life is realization of the Absolute Truth, Viṣṇu, or Bhagavān, and they are captivated by the external features of the material world, and therefore they do not know what liberation is. Persons who have no knowledge of liberation from material bondage are called non-Āryans. Although Arjuna was a kṣatriya, he was deviating from his prescribed duties by declining to fight. This act of cowardice is described as befitting the non-Āryans. Such deviation from duty does not help one in the progress of spiritual life, nor does it even give one the opportunity to become famous in this world. Lord Kṛṣṇa did not approve of the so-called compassion of Arjuna for his kinsmen.
klaibyaṁ mā sma gamaḥ pārtha
naitat tvayy upapadyate
klaibyam—impotence; mā—do not; sma—take it; gamaḥ—go in; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; na—never; etat—like this; tvayi—unto you; upapadyate—is befitting; kṣudram—very little; hṛdaya—heart; daurbalyam—weakness; tyaktvā—giving up; uttiṣṭha—get up; parantapa—O chastiser of the enemies.
O son of Pṛthā, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy.
Arjuna was addressed as the “son of Pṛthā,” who happened to be the sister of Kṛṣṇa’s father Vasudeva. Therefore Arjuna had a blood relationship with Kṛṣṇa. If the son of a ksatriya declines to fight, he is a kṣatriya in name only, and if the son of a brāhmaṇa acts impiously, he is a brāhmaṇa in name only. Such kṣatriyas and brāhmaṇas are unworthy sons of their fathers; therefore, Kṛṣṇa did not want Arjuna to become an unworthy son of a kṣatriya. Arjuna was the most intimate friend of Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa was directly guiding him on the chariot; but in spite of all these credits, if Arjuna abandoned the battle, he would be committing an infamous act; therefore Kṛṣṇa said that such an attitude in Arjuna did not fit his personality. Arjuna might argue that he would give up the battle on the grounds of his magnanimous attitude for the most respectable Bhīṣma and his relatives, but Kṛṣṇa considered that sort of magnanimity not approved by authority. Therefore, such magnanimity or so-called nonviolence should be given up by persons like Arjuna under the direct guidance of Kṛṣṇa.
kathaṁ bhīṣmam ahaṁ saṅkhye
droṇaṁ ca madhusūdana
arjunaḥ uvāca—Arjuna said; katham—how; bhīṣmam—unto Bhīṣma; aham—I; saṅkhye—in the fight; droṇam—unto Droṇa; ca—also, madhusūdana—O killer of Madhu; iṣubhiḥ—with arrows; pratiyotsyāmi—shall counterattack; pūjā–arhau—those who are worshipable; arisūdana—O killer of the enemies.
Arjuna said: O killer of Madhu [Kṛṣṇa], how can I counterattack with arrows in battle men like Bhīṣma and Droṇa, who are worthy of my worship?
Respectable superiors like Bhīṣma the grandfather and Droṇācārya the teacher are always worshipable. Even if they attack, they should not be counterattacked. It is general etiquette that superiors are not to be offered even a verbal fight. Even if they are sometimes harsh in behavior, they should not be harshly treated. Then, how is it possible for Arjuna to counterattack them? Would Kṛṣṇa ever attack His own grandfather, Ugrasena, or His teacher, Sāndīpani Muni? These were some of the arguments by Arjuna to Kṛṣṇa.
gurūn ahatvā hi mahānubhāvān
śreyo bhoktuṁ bhaikṣyam apīha loke
hatvārtha-kāmāṁs tu gurūn ihaiva
bhunjīya bhogān rudhira-pradigdhān
gurūn—the superiors; ahatvā—by killing; hi—certainly; mahā–anubhāvān—great souls; śreyaḥ—it is better; bhoktum—to enjoy life; bhaikṣyam—begging; api—even; iha—in this life; loke—in this world; hatvā—killing; artha—gain; kāmān—so desiring; tu—but; gurūn—superiors; iha—in this world; eva—certainly; bhunjīya—has to enjoy; bhogān—enjoyable things; rudhira—blood; pradigdhān—tainted with.
It is better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of great souls who are my teachers. Even though they are avaricious, they are nonetheless superiors. If they are killed, our spoils will be tainted with blood.
According to scriptural codes, a teacher who engages in an abominable action and has lost his sense of discrimination is fit to be abandoned. Bhīṣma and Droṇa were obliged to take the side of Duryodhana because of his financial assistance, although they should not have accepted such a position simply on financial considerations. Under the circumstances, they have lost the respectability of teachers. But Arjuna thinks that nevertheless they remain his superiors, and therefore to enjoy material profits after killing them would mean to enjoy spoils tainted with blood.
na caitad vidmaḥ kataran no garīyo
yad vā jayema yadi vā no jayeyuḥ
yān eva hatvā na jijīviṣāmas
te ‘vasthitāḥ pramukhe dhārtarāṣṭrāḥ
na—nor; ca—also; etat—this; vidmaḥ—do know; katarat—which; naḥ—us; garīyaḥ—better; yat—what; vā—either; jayema—conquer us; yadi—if; vā—or; naḥ—us; jayeyuḥ—conquer; yān—those; eva—certainly; hatvā—by killing; na—never; jijīviṣāmaḥ—want to live; te—all of them; avasthitāḥ—are situated; pramukhe—in the front; dhārtarāṣṭrāḥ—the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra.
Nor do we know which is better—conquering them or being conquered by them. The sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, whom if we killed we should not care to live, are now standing before us on this battlefield.
Arjuna did not know whether he should fight and risk unnecessary violence, although fighting is the duty of the kṣatriyas, or whether he should refrain and live by begging. If he did not conquer the enemy, begging would be his only means of subsistence. Nor was there certainty of victory, because either side might emerge victorious. Even if victory awaited them (and their cause was justified), still, if the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra died in battle, it would be very difficult to live in their absence. Under the circumstances, that would be another kind of defeat for them. All these considerations by Arjuna definitely prove that he was not only a great devotee of the Lord but that he was also highly enlightened and had complete control over his mind and senses. His desire to live by begging, although he was born in the royal household, is another sign of detachment. He was truly virtuous, as these qualities, combined with his faith in the words of instruction of Śrī Kṛṣṇa (his spiritual master), indicate. It is concluded that Arjuna was quite fit for liberation. Unless the senses are controlled, there is no chance of elevation to the platform of knowledge, and without knowledge and devotion there is no chance of liberation. Arjuna was competent in all these attributes, over and above his enormous attributes in his material relationships.
pṛcchāmi tvāṁ dharma-sammūḍha-cetāḥ
yac chreyaḥ syān niścitaṁ brūhi tan me
śiṣyas te ‘haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam
kārpaṇya—miserly; doṣa—weakness; upahata—being inflicted by; svabhāvaḥ—characteristics; pṛcchāmi—I am asking; tvām—unto You; dharma—religion; saṁmūḍha—bewildered; cetāḥ—in heart; yat—what; śreyaḥ—all-good; syāt—may be; niścitam—confidently; brūhi—tell; tat—that; me—unto me; śiṣyaḥ—disciple; te—Your; aham—I am; śādhi—just instruct; mām—me; tvām—unto You; prapannam—surrendered.
Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me clearly what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.
By nature’s own way the complete system of material activities is a source of perplexity for everyone. In every step there is perplexity, and therefore it behooves one to approach a bona fide spiritual master who can give one proper guidance for executing the purpose of life. All Vedic literatures advise us to approach a bona fide spiritual master to get free from the perplexities of life which happen without our desire. They are like a forest fire that somehow blazes without being set by anyone. Similarly, the world situation is such that perplexities of life automatically appear, without our wanting such confusion. No one wants fire, and yet it takes place, and we become perplexed. The Vedic wisdom therefore advises that in order to solve the perplexities of life and to understand the science of the solution, one must approach a spiritual master who is in the disciplic succession. A person with a bona fide spiritual master is supposed to know everything. One should not, therefore, remain in material perplexities but should approach a spiritual master. This is the purport of this verse.
Who is the man in material perplexities? It is he who does not understand the problems of life. In the Garga Upaniṣad the perplexed man is described as follows:
yo vā etad akṣaraṁ gārgy aviditvāsmāl lokāt praiti sa kṛpaṇaḥ
“He is a miserly man who does not solve the problems of life as a human and who thus quits this world like the cats and dogs, without understanding the science of self-realization.” This human form of life is a most valuable asset for the living entity who can ultilize it for solving the problems of life; therefore, one who does not utilize this opportunity properly is a miser. On the other hand, there is the brāhmaṇa, or he who is intelligent enough to utilize this body to solve all the problems of life.
The kṛpaṇas, or miserly persons, waste their time in being overly affectionate for family, society, country, etc., in the material conception of life. One is often attached to family life, namely to wife, children and other members, on the basis of “skin disease.” The kṛpaṇa thinks that he is able to protect his family members from death; or the kṛpaṇa thinks that his family or society can save him from the verge of death. Such family attachment can be found even in the lower animals who take care of children also. Being intelligent, Arjuna could understand that his affection for family members and his wish to protect them from death were the causes ot his perplexities. Although he could understand that his duty to fight was awaiting him, still, on account of miserly weakness, he could not discharge the duties. He is therefore asking Lord Kṛṣṇa, the supreme spiritual master, to make a definite solution. He offers himself to Kṛṣṇa as a disciple. He wants to stop friendly talks. Talks between the master and the disciple are serious, and now Arjuna wants to talk very seriously before the recognized spiritual master. Kṛṣṇa is therefore the original spiritual master of the science of Bhagavad-gītā, and Arjuna is the first disciple for understanding the Gītā. How Arjuna understands the Bhagavad-gītā is stated in the Gītā itself. And yet foolish mundane scholars explain that one need not submit to Kṛṣṇa as a person, but to “the unborn within Kṛṣṇa.” There is no difference between Kṛṣṇa’s within and without. And one who has no sense of this understanding is the greatest fool in trying to understand Bhagavad-gītā.
na hi prapaśyāmi mamāpanudyād
yac chokam ucchoṣaṇam indriyāṇām
avāpya bhūmāv asapatnam ṛddhaṁ
rājyaṁ surāṇām api cādhipatyam
na—do not; hi—certainly; prapaśyāmi—I see; mama—my; apanudyāt—they can drive away; yat—that; śokam—lamentation; ucchoṣaṇam—drying up; indriyāṇām—of the senses; avāpya—achieving; bhūmau—on the earth; asapatnam—without rival; ṛddham—prosperous; rājyam—kingdom; surāṇām—of the demigods; api—even; ca—also; ādhipatyam—supremacy.
I can find no means to drive away this grief which is drying up my senses. I will not be able to destroy it even if I win an unrivalled kingdom on the earth with sovereignty like that of the demigods in heaven.
Although Arjuna was putting forward so many arguments based on knowledge of the principles of religion and moral codes, it appears that he was unable to solve his real problem without the help of the spiritual master, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. He could understand that his so-called knowledge was useless in driving away his problems, which were drying up his whole existence; and it was impossible for him to solve such perplexities without the help of a spiritual master like Lord Kṛṣṇa. Academic knowledge, scholarship, high position, etc., are all useless in solving the problems of life; help can only be given by a spiritual master like Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, the conclusion is that a spiritual master who is one hundred percent Kṛṣṇa conscious is the bona fide spiritual master, for he can solve the problems of life. Lord Caitanya said that one who is master in the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, regardless of his social position, is the real spiritual master.
kibāvipra, kibā nyāsī, śūdra kene naya
yei kṛṣṇa–tattva–vettā, sei ‘guru’ haya.
(Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 8.127)
“It does not matter whether a person is a vipra [learned scholar in Vedic wisdom] or is born in a lower family, or is in the renounced order of life—if he is master in the science of Kṛṣṇa, he is the perfect and bona fide spiritual master.” So without being a master in the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, no one is a bona fide spiritual master. It is also said in Vedic literatures:
ṣaṭ–karma-nipuṇo vipro mantra–tantra–viśāradaḥ
avaiṣṇavo gurur na syād vaiṣṇavaḥ śvapaco guruḥ
“A scholarly brāhmaṇa, expert in all subjects of Vedic knowledge, is unfit to become a spiritual master without being a Vaiṣṇava, or expert in the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. But a person born in a family of a lower caste can become a spiritual master if he is a Vaiṣṇava, or Kṛṣṇa conscious.”
The problems of material existence—birth, old age, disease and death—cannot be counteracted by accumulation of wealth and economic development. In many parts of the world there are states which are replete with all facilities of life, which are full of wealth, and economically developed, yet the problems of material existence are still present. They are seeking peace in different ways, but they can achieve real happiness only if they consult Kṛṣṇa, or the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam—which constitute the science of Kṛṣṇa—or the bona fide representative of Kṛṣṇa, the man in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
If economic development and material comforts could drive away one’s lamentations for family, social, national or international inebrieties, then Arjuna would not have said that even an unrivalled kingdom on earth or supremacy like that of the demigods in the heavenly planets would not be able to drive away his lamentations. He sought, therefore, refuge in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and that is the right path for peace and harmony. Economic development or supremacy over the world can be finished at any moment by the cataclysms of material nature. Even elevation into a higher planetary situation, as men are now seeking a place on the moon planet, can also be finished at one stroke. The Bhagavad-gītā confirms this: kṣīṇe puṇye martyalokaṁ viśanti “When the results of pious activities are finished, one falls down again from the peak of happiness to the lowest status of life.” Many politicians of the world have fallen down in that way. Such downfalls only constitute more causes for lamentation.
Therefore, if we want to curb lamentation for good, then we have to take shelter of Kṛṣṇa, as Arjuna is seeking to do. So Arjuna asked Kṛṣṇa to solve his problem definitely, and that is the way of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
evam uktvā hṛṣīkeśaṁ
na yotsya iti govindam
uktvā tūṣṇīṁ babhūva ha
sajayaḥ uvāca—Sajaya said; evam—thus; uktvā—speaking; hṛṣīkeśam—unto Kṛṣṇa, the master of the senses; guḍākeśaḥ—Arjuna, the master at curbing ignorance; parantapaḥ—the chastiser of the enemies; na yotsye—I shall not fight; iti—thus; govindam—unto Kṛṣṇa, the giver of pleasure; uktvā—saying; tūṣṇīm—silent; babhūva—became; ha—certainly.
Sajaya said: Having spoken thus, Arjuna, chastiser of enemies, told Kṛṣṇa, “Govinda, I shall not fight,” and fell silent.
Dhṛtarāṣṭra must have been very glad to understand that Arjuna was not going to fight and was instead leaving the battlefield for the begging profession. But Sajaya disappointed him again in relating that Arjuna was competent to kill his enemies (parantapaḥ). Although Arjuna was for the time being overwhelmed with false grief due to family affection, he surrendered unto Kṛṣṇa, the supreme spiritual master, as a disciple. This indicated that he would soon be free from the false lamentation resulting from family affection and would be enlightened with perfect knowledge of self-realization, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and would then surely fight. Thus Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s joy would be frustrated, since Arjuna would be enlightened by Kṛṣṇa and would fight to the end.
tam uvāca hṛṣīkeśaḥ
prahasann iva bhārata
senayor ubhayor madhye
viṣīdantam idaṁ vacaḥ
tam—unto him; uvāca—said; hṛṣīkeśaḥ—the master of the senses, Kṛṣṇa; prahasan—smiling; iva—like that; bhārata—O Dhṛtarāṣṭra, descendant of Bharata; senayoḥ—of the armies; ubhayoḥ—of both parties; madhye—between; viṣīdantam—unto the lamenting one; idam—the following; vacaḥ—words.
O descendant of Bharata, at that time Kṛṣṇa, smiling, in the midst of both the armies, spoke the following words to the grief-stricken Arjuna.
The talk was going on between intimate friends, namely the Hṛṣīkeśa and the Guḍākeśa. As friends, both of them were on the same level, but one of them voluntarily became a student of the other. Kṛṣṇa was smiling because a friend had chosen to become a disciple. As Lord of all, He is always in the superior position as the master of everyone, and yet the Lord accepts one who wishes to be a friend, a son, a lover or a devotee, or who wants Him in such a role. But when He was accepted as the master, He at once assumed the role and talked with the disciple like the master—with gravity, as it is required. It appears that the talk between the master and the disciple was openly exchanged in the presence of both armies so that all were benefitted. So the talks of Bhagavad-gītā are not for any particular person, society, or community, but they are for all, and friends or enemies are equally entitled to hear them.
aśocyān anvaśocas tvaṁ
prajā-vādāṁś ca bhāṣase
gatāsūn agatāsūṁś ca
śrī bhagavān uvāca—the Supreme Personality of Godhead said; aśocyān—that which is not worthy of lamentation; anvaśocaḥ—you are lamenting; tvam—you; prajā–vādāḥ—learned talks; ca—also; bhāṣase—speaking; gata—lost; asūn—life; agata—not past; asūn—life; ca—also; na—never; anuśocanti—lament; paṇḍitāḥ—the learned.
The Blessed Lord said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.
The Lord at once took the position of the teacher and chastised the student, calling him, indirectly, a fool. The Lord said, you are talking like a learned man, but you do not know that one who is learned—one who knows what is body and what is soul—does not lament for any stage of the body, neither in the living nor in the dead condition. As it will be explained in later chapters, it will be clear that knowledge means to know matter and spirit and the controller of both. Arjuna argued that religious principles should be given more importance than politics or sociology, but he did not know that knowledge of matter, soul and the Supreme is even more important than religious formularies. And, because he was lacking in that knowledge, he should not have posed himself as a very learned man. As he did not happen to be a very learned man, he was consequently lamenting for something which was unworthy of lamentation. The body is born and is destined to be vanquished today or tomorrow; therefore the body is not as important as the soul. One who knows this is actually learned, and for him there is no cause for lamentation, regardless of the condition of the material body.
na tv evāhaṁ jātu nāsaṁ
na tvaṁ neme janādhipāḥ
na caiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ
sarve vayam ataḥ param
na—never; tu—but; eva—certainly; aham—I; jātu—become; na—never; āsam—existed; na—it is not so; tvam—yourself; na—not; ime—all these; janādhipāḥ—kings; na—never; ca—also; eva—certainly; na—not like that; bhaviṣyāmaḥ—shall exist; sarve—all of us; vayam—we; ataḥ param—hereafter.
Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.
In the Vedas, in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad as well as in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, it is said that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the maintainer of innumerable living entities, in terms of their different situations according to individual work and reaction of work. That Supreme Personality of Godhead is also, by His plenary portions, alive in the heart of every living entity. Only saintly persons who can see, within and without, the same Supreme Lord, can actually attain to perfect and eternal peace.
nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām
eko bahūnāṁ yo vidadhāti kāmān
tam ātmasthaṁ ye ‘nupaśyanti dhīrās
teṣāṁ śāntiḥ śāśvatī netareṣām.
The same Vedic truth given to Arjuna is given to all persons in the world who pose themselves as very learned but factually have but a poor fund of knowledge. The Lord says clearly that He Himself, Arjuna, and all the kings who are assembled on the battlefield, are eternally individual beings and that the Lord is eternally the maintainer of the individual living entities both in their conditioned as well as in their liberated situations. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the supreme individual person, and Arjuna, the Lord’s eternal associate, and all the kings assembled there are individual, eternal persons. It is not that they did not exist as individuals in the past, and it is not that they will not remain eternal persons. Their individuality existed in the past, and their individuality will continue in the future without interruption. Therefore, there is no cause for lamentation for anyone.
The Māyāvādī theory that after liberation the individual soul, separated by the covering of māyā or illusion, will merge into the impersonal Brahman and lose its individual existence is not supported herein by Lord Kṛṣṇa, the supreme authority. Nor is the theory that we only think of individuality in the conditioned state supported herein. Kṛṣṇa clearly says herein that in the future also the individuality of the Lord and others, as it is confirmed in the Upaniṣads, will continue eternally. This statement of Kṛṣṇa is authoritative because Kṛṣṇa cannot be subject to illusion. If individuality is not a fact, then Kṛṣṇa would not have stressed it so much—even for the future. The Māyāvādī may argue that the individuality spoken of by Kṛṣṇa is not spiritual, but material. Even accepting the argument that the individuality is material, then how can one distinguish Kṛṣṇa’s individuality? Kṛṣṇa affirms His individuality in the past and confirms His individuality in the future also. He has confirmed His individuality in many ways, and impersonal Brahman has been declared to be subordinate to Him. Kṛṣṇa has maintained spiritual individuality all along; if He is accepted as an ordinary conditioned soul in individual consciousness, then His Bhagavad-gītā has no value as authoritative scripture. A common man with all the four defects of human frailty is unable to teach that which is worth hearing. The Gītā is above such literature. No mundane book compares with the Bhagavad-gītā. When one accepts Kṛṣṇa as an ordinary man, the Gītā loses all importance. The Māyāvādī argues that the plurality mentioned in this verse is conventional and that it refers to the body. But previous to this verse such a bodily conception is already condemned. After condemning the bodily conception of the living entities, how was it possible for Kṛṣṇa to place a conventional proposition on the body again? Therefore, individuality is maintained on spiritual grounds and is thus confirmed by great ācāryas like Śrī Rāmānuja and others. It is clearly mentioned in many places in the Gītā that this spiritual individuality is understood by those who are devotees of the Lord. Those who are envious of Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead have no bona fide access to the great literature. The nondevotee’s approach to the teachings of the Gīta is something like bees licking on a bottle of honey. One cannot have a taste of honey unless one opens the bottle. Similarly, the mysticism of the Bhagavad-gītā can be understood only by devotees, and no one else can taste it, as it is stated in the Fourth Chapter of the book. Nor can the Gītā be touched by persons who envy the very existence of the Lord. Therefore, the Māyāvādī explanation of the Gītā is a most misleading presentation of the whole truth. Lord Caitanya has forbidden us to read commentations made by the Māyāvādīs and warns that one who takes to such an understanding of the Māyāvādī philosophy loses all power to understand the real mystery of the Gītā. If individuality refers to the empirical universe, then there is no need of teaching by the Lord. The plurality of the individual soul and of the Lord is an eternal fact, and it is confirmed by the Vedas as above mentioned.
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
dehinaḥ—of the embodied; asmin—in this; yathā—as; dehe—in the body; kaumāram—boyhood; yauvanam—youth; jarā—old age; tathā—similarly; dehāntara—transference of the body; prāptiḥ—achievement; dhīraḥ—the sober; tatra—thereupon; na—never; muhyati—deluded.
As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.
Since every living entity is an individual soul, each is changing his body every moment, manifesting sometimes as a child, sometimes as a youth, and sometimes as an old man. Yet the same spirit soul is there and does not undergo any change. This individual soul finally changes the body at death and transmigrates to another body; and since it is sure to have another body in the next birth—either material or spiritual—there was no cause for lamentation by Arjuna on account of death, neither for Bhīṣma nor for Droṇa, for whom he was so much concerned. Rather, he should rejoice for their changing bodies from old to new ones, thereby rejuvenating their energy. Such changes of body account for varieties of enjoyment or suffering, according to one’s work in life. So Bhīṣma and Droṇa, being noble souls, were surely going to have either spiritual bodies in the next life, or at least life in heavenly bodies for superior enjoyment of material existence. So, in either case, there was no cause of lamentation.
Any man who has perfect knowledge of the constitution of the individual soul, the Supersoul, and nature—both material and spiritual—is called a dhīra or a most sober man. Such a man is never deluded by the change of bodies. The Māyāvādī theory of oneness of the spirit soul cannot be entertained on the ground that spirit soul cannot be cut into pieces as a fragmental portion. Such cutting into different individual souls would make the Supreme cleavable or changeable, against the principle of the Supreme Soul being unchangeable.
As confirmed in the Gītā, the fragmental portions of the Supreme exist eternally (sanātana) and are called kṣara; that is, they have a tendency to fall down into material nature. These fragmental portions are eternally so, and even after liberation, the individual soul remains the same—fragmental. But once liberated, he lives an eternal life in bliss and knowledge with the Personality of Godhead. The theory of reflection can be applied to the Supersoul who is present in each and every individual body and is known as the Paramātmā, who is different from the individual living entity. When the sky is reflected in water, the reflections represent both the sun and the moon and the stars also. The stars can be compared to the living entities and the sun or the moon to the Supreme Lord. The individual fragmental spirit soul is represented by Arjuna, and the Supreme Soul is the Personality of Godhead Śrī Kṛṣṇa. They are not on the same level, as it will be apparent in the beginning of the Fourth Chapter. If Arjuna is on the same level with Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa is not superior to Arjuna, then their relationship of instructor and instructed becomes meaningless. If both of them are deluded by the illusory energy (māyā), then there is no need of one being the instructor and the other the instructed. Such instruction would be useless because, in the clutches of māyā, no one can be an authoritative instructor. Under the circumstances, it is admitted that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord, superior in position to the living entity, Arjuna, who is a forgotten soul deluded by māyā.
mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya
tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata
mātrā—sensuous; sparśāḥ—perception; tu—only; kaunteya—O son of Kuntī; śīta—winter; uṣṇa—summer; sukha—happiness; duḥkha–daḥ—giving pain; āgama—appearing; apāyinaḥ—disappearing; anityāḥ—nonpermanent; tān—all of them; titikṣasva—just try to tolerate; bhārata—O descendant of the Bhārata dynasty.
O son of Kuntī, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.
In the proper discharge of duty, one has to learn to tolerate nonpermanent appearances and disappearances of happiness and distress. According to Vedic injunction, one has to take his bath early in the morning even during the month of Māgha (January-February). It is very cold at that time, but in spite of that a man who abides by the religious principles does not hesitate to take his bath. Similarly, a woman does not hesitate to cook in the kitchen in the months of May and June, the hottest part of the summer season. One has to execute his duty in spite of climatic inconveniences. Similarly, to fight is the religious principle of the kṣatriyas, and although one has to fight with some friend or relative, one should not deviate from his prescribed duty. One has to follow the prescribed rules and regulations of religious principles in order to rise up to the platform of knowledge because by knowledge and devotion only can one liberate himself from the clutches of māyā (illusion).
The two different names of address given to Arjuna are also significant. To address him as Kaunteya signifies his great blood relations from his mother’s side; and to address him as Bhārata signifies his greatness from his father’s side. From both sides he is supposed to have a great heritage. A great heritage brings responsibility in the matter of proper discharge of duties; therefore, he cannot avoid fighting.
yaṁ hi na vyathayanty ete
so ‘mṛtatvāya kalpate
yam—one who; hi—certainly; na—never; vyathayanti—are distressing; ete—all these; puruṣam—to a person; puruṣarṣabha—is best among men; sama—unaltered; duḥkha—distress; sukham—happiness; dhīram—patient; saḥ—he; amṛtatvāya—for liberation; kalpate—is considered eligible.
O best among men [Arjuna], the person who is not disturbed by happiness and distress and is steady in both is certainly eligible for liberation.
Anyone who is steady in his determination for the advanced stage of spiritual realization and can equally tolerate the onslaughts of distress and happiness is certainly a person eligible for liberation. In the varṇāśrama institution, the fourth stage of life, namely the renounced order (sannyāsa) is a painstaking situation. But one who is serious about making his life perfect surely adopts the sannyāsa order of life in spite of all difficulties. The difficulties usually arise from having to sever family relationships, to give up the connection of wife and children. But if anyone is able to tolerate such difficulties, surely his path to spiritual realization is complete. Similarly, in Arjuna’s discharge of duties as a kṣatriya, he is advised to persevere, even if it is difficult to fight with his family members or similarly beloved persons. Lord Caitanya took sannyāsa at the age of twenty-four, and His dependants, young wife as well as old mother, had no one else to look after them. Yet for a higher cause He took sannyāsa and was steady in the discharge of higher duties. That is the way of achieving liberation from material bondage.
nāsato vidyate bhāvo
nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ
ubhayor api dṛṣṭo ‘ntas
tv anayos tattva-darśibhiḥ
na—never; asataḥ—of the nonexistent; vidyate—there is; bhāvaḥ—endurance; na—never; abhāvaḥ—changing quality; vidyate—there is; sataḥ—of the eternal; ubhayoḥ—of the two; api—verily; dṛṣṭaḥ—observed; antaḥ—conclusion; tu—but; anayoḥ—of them; tattva—truth; darśibhiḥ—by the seers.
Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent there is no endurance, and of the existent there is no cessation. This seers have concluded by studying the nature of both.
There is no endurance of the changing body. That the body is changing every moment by the actions and reactions of the different cells is admitted by modern medical science; and thus growth and old age are taking place in the body. But the spirit soul exists permanently, remaining the same despite all changes of the body and the mind. That is the difference between matter and spirit. By nature, the body is ever changing, and the soul is eternal. This conclusion is established by all classes of seers of the truth, both impersonalist and personalist. In the Viṣṇu Purāṇa it is stated that Viṣṇu and His abodes all have self-illuminated spiritual existence. “Jyotīṁṣi viṣṇur bhavanāni viṣṇuḥ.“ The words existent and nonexistent refer only to spirit and matter. That is the version of all seers of truth.
This is the beginning of the instruction by the Lord to the living entities who are bewildered by the influence of ignorance. Removal of ignorance involves the reestablishment of the eternal relationship between the worshiper and the worshipable and the consequent understanding of the difference between the part and parcel living entities and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One can understand the nature of the Supreme by thorough study of oneself, the difference between oneself and the Supreme being understood as the relationship between the part and the whole. In the Vedānta-sūtras, as well as in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the Supreme has been accepted as the origin of all emanations. Such emanations are experienced by superior and inferior natural sequences. The living entities belong to the superior nature, as it will be revealed in the Seventh Chapter. Although there is no difference between the energy and the energetic, the energetic is accepted as the Supreme, and energy or nature is accepted as the subordinate. The living entities, therefore, are always subordinate to the Supreme Lord, as in the case of the master and the servant, or the teacher and the taught. Such clear knowledge is impossible to understand under the spell of ignorance, and to drive away such ignorance the Lord teaches the Bhagavad-gītā for the enlightenment of all living entities for all time.
avināśi tu tad viddhi
yena sarvam idaṁ tatam
na kaścit kartum arhati
avināśi—imperishable; tu—but; tat—that; viddhi—know it; yena—by whom; sarvam—all of the body; idam—this; tatam—widespread; vināśam—destruction; avyayasya—of the imperishable; asya—of it; na kaścit—no one; kartum—to do; arhati—able.
Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.
This verse more clearly explains the real nature of the soul, which is spread all over the body. Anyone can understand what is spread all over the body: it is consciousness. Everyone is conscious of the pains and pleasures of the body in part or as a whole. This spreading of consciousness is limited within one’s own body. The pains and pleasures of one body are unknown to another. Therefore, each and every body is the embodiment of an individual soul, and the symptom of the soul’s presence is perceived as individual consciousness. This soul is described as one ten-thousandth part of the upper portion of the hair point in size. The Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad confirms this:
bālāgra-śata–bhāgasya śatadhā kalpitasya ca
bhāgo jīvaḥ sa vijeyaḥ sa cānantyāya kalpate.
“When the upper point of a hair is divided into one hundred parts and again each of such parts is further divided into one hundred parts, each such part is the measurement of the dimension of the spirit soul.” (Svet. 5.9) Similarly, in the Bhāgavatam the same version is stated:
keśāgra-śata–bhāgasya śatāṁśaḥ sādṛśātmakaḥ
jīvaḥ sūkṣma-svarupo ‘yaṁ saṅkhyātīto hi cit–kaṇaḥ
“There are innumerable particles of spiritual atoms, which are measured as one ten-thousandth of the upper portion of the hair.”
Therefore, the individual particle of spirit soul is a spiritual atom smaller than the material atoms, and such atoms are innumerable. This very small spiritual spark is the basic principle of the material body, and the influence of such a spiritual spark is spread all over the body as the influence of the active principle of some medicine spreads throughout the body. This current of the spirit soul is felt all over the body as consciousness, and that is the proof of the presence of the soul. Any layman can understand that the material body minus consciousness is a dead body, and this consciousness cannot be revived in the body by any means of material administration. Therefore, consciousness is not due to any amount of material combination, but to the spirit soul. In the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad the measurement of the atomic spirit soul is further explained:
eṣo ‘ṇurātmā cetasā veditavyo
yasmin prāṇaḥ pacadhā saṁviveśa
prāṇaiś cittaṁ sarvam otam prajānāṁ
yasmin viśuddhe vibhavaty eṣa ātmā.
“The soul is atomic in size and can be perceived by perfect intelligence. This atomic soul is floating in the five kinds of air [prāṇa, apāna, vyāna, samāna and udāna], is situated within the heart, and spreads its influence all over the body of the embodied living entities. When the soul is purified from the contamination of the five kinds of material air, its spiritual influence is exhibited.” (Muṇḍ. 3.1.9)
The haṭha–yoga system is meant for controlling the five kinds of air encircling the pure soul by different kinds of sitting postures—not for any material profit, but for liberation of the minute soul from the entanglement of the material atmosphere.
So the constitution of the atomic soul is admitted in all Vedic literatures, and it is also actually felt in the practical experience of any sane man. Only the insane man can think of this atomic soul as all-pervading Viṣṇu–tattva.
The influence of the atomic soul can be spread all over a particular body. According to the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad, this atomic soul is situated in the heart of every living entity, and because the measurement of the atomic soul is beyond the power of appreciation of the material scientists, some of them assert foolishly that there is no soul. The individual atomic soul is definitely there in the heart along with the Supersoul, and thus all the energies of bodily movement are emanating from this part of the body. The corpuscles which carry the oxygen from the lungs gather energy from the soul. When the soul passes away from this position, activity of the blood, generating fusion, ceases. Medical science accepts the importance of the red corpuscles, but it cannot ascertain that the source of the energy is the soul. Medical science, however, does admit that the heart is the seat of all energies of the body.
Such atomic particles of the spirit whole are compared to the sunshine molecules. In the sunshine there are innumerable radiant molecules. Similarly, the fragmental parts of the Supreme Lord are atomic sparks of the rays of the Supreme Lord, called by the name prabhā or superior energy. Neither Vedic knowledge nor modern science denies the existence of the spirit soul in the body, and the science of the soul is explicitly described in the Bhagavad-gītā by the Personality of Godhead Himself.
antavanta ime dehā
tasmād yudhyasva bhārata
antavantaḥ—perishable; ime—all these; dehāḥ—material bodies; nityasya—eternal in existence; uktāḥ—it is so said; sarīriṇaḥ—the embodied souls; anāśinaḥ—never to be destroyed; aprameyasya—immeasurable; tasmāt—therefore; yudhyasva—fight; bhārata—O descendant of Bharata.
Only the material body of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity is subject to destruction; therefore, fight, O descendant of Bharata.
The material body is perishable by nature. It may perish immediately, or it may do so after a hundred years. It is a question of time only. There is no chance of maintaining it indefinitely. But the spirit soul is so minute that it cannot even be seen by an enemy, to say nothing of being killed. As mentioned in the previous verse, it is so small that no one can have any idea how to measure its dimension. So from both viewpoints there is no cause of lamentation because the living entity can neither be killed as he is, nor can the material body, which cannot be saved for any length of time, be permanently protected. The minute particle of the whole spirit acquires this material body according to his work, and therefore observance of religious principles should be utilized. In the Vedānta-sūtras the living entity is qualified as light because he is part and parcel of the supreme light. As sunlight maintains the entire universe, so the light of the soul maintains this material body. As soon as the spirit soul is out of this material body, the body begins to decompose; therefore it is the spirit soul which maintains this body. The body itself is unimportant. Arjuna was advised to fight and sacrifice the material body for the cause of religion.
ya enaṁ vetti hantāraṁ
yaś cainaṁ manyate hatam
ubhau tau na vijānīto
nāyaṁ hanti na hanyate
yaḥ—anyone; enam—this; vetti—knows; hantāram—the killer; yaḥ—anyone; ca—also; enam—this; manyate—thinks; hatam—killed; ubhau—both of them; tau—they; na—never; vijānītaḥ—in knowledge; na—never; ayam—this; hanti—kills; na—nor; hanyate—be killed.
He who thinks that the living entity is the slayer or that he is slain, does not understand. One who is in knowledge knows that the self slays not nor is slain.
When an embodied living entity is hurt by fatal weapons, it is to be known that the living entity within the body is not killed. The spirit soul is so small that it is impossible to kill him by any material weapon, as is evident from the previous verses. Nor is the living entity killable because of his spiritual constitution. What is killed, or is supposed to be killed, is the body only. This, however, does not at all encourage killing of the body. The Vedic injunction is, “māhiṁsyāt sarva–bhūtāni” never commit violence to anyone. Nor does understanding that the living entity is not killed encourage animal slaughter. Killing the body of anyone without authority is abominable and is punishable by the law of the state as well as by the law of the Lord. Arjuna, however, is being engaged in killing for the principle of religion, and not whimsically.
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
na—never; jāyate—takes birth; mriyate—never dies; vā—either; kadācit—at any time (past, present or future); na—never; ayam—this; bhūtvā—came into being; bhavitā—will come to be; vā—or; na—not; bhūyaḥ—or has come to be; ajaḥ—unborn; nityaḥ—eternal; śāśvataḥ—permanent; ayam—this; purāṇaḥ—the oldest; na—never; hanyate—is killed; hanyamāne—being killed; śarīre—by the body.
For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.
Qualitatively, the small atomic fragmental part of the Supreme Spirit is one with the Supreme. He undergoes no changes like the body. Sometimes the soul is called the steady, or kūṭastha. The body is subject to six kinds of transformations. It takes its birth in the womb of the mother’s body, remains for some time, grows, produces some effects, gradually dwindles, and at last vanishes into oblivion. The soul, however, does not go through such changes. The soul is not born, but, because he takes on a material body, the body takes its birth. The soul does not take birth there, and the soul does not die. Anything which has birth also has death. And because the soul has no birth, he therefore has no past, present or future. He is eternal, ever-existing, and primeval—that is, there is no trace in history of his coming into being. Under the impression of the body, we seek the history of birth, etc., of the soul. The soul does not at any time become old, as the body does. The so-called old man, therefore, feels himself to be in the same spirit as in his childhood or youth. The changes of the body do not affect the soul. The soul does not deteriorate like a tree, nor anything material. The soul has no by-product either. The by-products of the body, namely children, are also different individual souls; and, owing to the body, they appear as children of a particular man. The body develops because of the soul’s presence, but the soul has neither offshoots nor change. Therefore, the soul is free from the six changes of the body.
In the Kaṭha Upaniṣad also we find a similar passage which reads:
na jāyate mriyate vā vipaścin
nāyaṁ kutaścin na vibhūva kaścit
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre.
The meaning and purport of this verse is the same as in the Bhagavad-gītā, but here in this verse there is one special word, vipaścit, which means learned or with knowledge.
The soul is full of knowledge, or full always with consciousness. Therefore, consciousness is the symptom of the soul. Even if one does not find the soul within the heart, where he is situated, one can still understand the presence of the soul simply by the presence of consciousness. Sometimes we do not find the sun in the sky owing to clouds, or for some other reason, but the light of the sun is always there, and we are convinced that it is therefore daytime. As soon as there is a little light in the sky early in the morning, we can understand that the sun is in the sky. Similarly, since there is some consciousness in all bodies—whether man or animal—we can understand the presence of the soul. This consciousness of the soul is, however, different from the consciousness of the Supreme because the supreme consciousness is all-knowledge—past, present and future. The consciousness of the individual soul is prone to be forgetful. When he is forgetful of his real nature, he obtains education and enlightenment from the superior lessons of Kṛṣṇa. But Kṛṣṇa is not like the forgetful soul. If so, Kṛṣṇa’s teachings of Bhagavad-gītā would be useless.
There are two kinds of souls—namely the minute particle soul (aṇu–ātmā) and the Supersoul (the vibhu–ātmā). This is also confirmed in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad in this way:
aṇor aṇīyān mahato mahīyān
ātmāsya jantor nihito guhāyām
tam akratuḥ paśyati vīta-śoko
dhātuḥ prasādān mahimānam ātmanaḥ
“Both the Supersoul [Paramātmā] and the atomic soul [jīvātmā] are situated on the same tree of the body within the same heart of the living being, and only one who has become free from all material desires as well as lamentations can, by the grace of the Supreme, understand the glories of the soul.” Kṛṣṇa is the fountainhead of the Supersoul also, as it will be disclosed in the following chapters, and Arjuna is the atomic soul, forgetful of his real nature; therefore he requires to be enlightened by Kṛṣṇa, or by His bona fide representative (the spiritual master).
ya enam ajam avyayam
kathaṁ sa puruṣaḥ pārtha
kaṁ ghātayati hanti kam
veda—in knowledge; avināśinam—indestructible; nityam—always; yaḥ—one who; enam—this (soul); ajam—unborn; avyayam—immutable; katham—how; saḥ—he; puruṣaḥ—person; pārtha—O Pārtha (Arjuna); kam—whom; ghātayati—hurts; hanti—kills; kam—whom.
O Pārtha, how can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, unborn, eternal and immutable, kill anyone or cause anyone to kill?
Everything has its proper utility, and a man who is situated in complete knowledge knows how and where to apply a thing for its proper utility. Similarly, violence also has its utility, and how to apply violence rests with the person in knowledge. Although the justice of the peace awards capital punishment to a person condemned for murder, the justice of the peace cannot be blamed because he orders violence to another person according to the codes of justice. In Manu–saṁhitā, the lawbook for mankind, it is supported that a murderer should be condemned to death so that in his next life he will not have to suffer for the great sin he has committed. Therefore, the king’s punishment of hanging a murderer is actually beneficial. Similarly, when Kṛṣṇa orders fighting, it must be concluded that violence is for supreme justice, and, as such, Arjuna should follow the instruction, knowing well that such violence, committed in the act of fighting for Kṛṣṇa, is not violence at all because, at any rate, the man, or rather the soul, cannot be killed; so for the administration of justice, so-called violence is permitted. A surgical operation is not meant to kill the patient, but to cure him. Therefore the fighting to be executed by Arjuna at the instruction of Kṛṣṇa is with full knowledge, so there is no possibility of sinful reaction.
vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya
navāni gṛhṇāti naro ‘parāṇi
tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny
anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī
vāsāṁsi—garments; jīrṇāni—old and worn out; yathā—as it is; vihāya—giving up; navāni—new garments; gṛhṇāti—does accept; naraḥ—a man; aparāṇi—other; tathā—in the same way; śarīrāṇi—bodies; vihāya—giving up; jīrṇāni—old and useless; anyāni—different; saṁyāti—verily accepts; navāni—new sets; dehī—the embodied.
As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.
Change of body by the atomic individual soul is an accepted fact. Even some of the modern scientists who do not believe in the existence of the soul, but at the same time cannot explain the source of energy from the heart, have to accept continuous changes of body which appear from childhood to boyhood and from boyhood to youth and again from youth to old age. From old age, the change is transferred to another body. This has already been explained in the previous verse.
Transference of the atomic individual soul to another body is made possible by the grace of the Supersoul. The Supersoul fulfills the desire of the atomic soul as one friend fulfills the desire of another. The Vedas, like the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad, as well as the Śvetāśvatara Upanisad, compare the soul and the Supersoul to two friendly birds sitting on the same tree. One of the birds (the individual atomic soul) is eating the fruit of the tree, and the other bird (Kṛṣṇa) is simply watching His friend. Of these two birds—although they are the same in quality—one is captivated by the fruits of the material tree, while the other is simply witnessing the activities of His friend. Kṛṣṇa is the witnessing bird, and Arjuna is the eating bird. Although they are friends, one is still the master and the other is the servant. Forgetfulness of this relationship by the atomic soul is the cause of one’s changing his position from one tree to another or from one body to another. The jīva soul is struggling very hard on the tree of the material body, but as soon as he agrees to accept the other bird as the supreme spiritual master—as Arjuna agreed to do by voluntary surrender unto Kṛṣṇa for instruction—the subordinate bird immediately becomes free from all lamentations. Both the Kaṭha Upaniṣad and Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad confirm this:
samāne vṛkṣe puruṣo nimagno
‘nīśayā śocati muhyamānaḥ
juṣṭaṁ yadā paśyaty anyam īśam asya
mahimānam iti vīta–śokaḥ
“Although the two birds are in the same tree, the eating bird is fully engrossed with anxiety and moroseness as the enjoyer of the fruits of the tree. But if in some way or other he turns his face to his friend who is the Lord and knows His glories—at once the suffering bird becomes free from all anxieties.” Arjuna has now turned his face towards his eternal friend, Kṛṣṇa, and is understanding the Bhagavad-gītā from Him. And thus, hearing from Kṛṣṇa, he can understand the supreme glories of the Lord and be free from lamentation.
Arjuna is advised herewith by the Lord not to lament for the bodily change of his old grandfather and his teacher. He should rather be happy to kill their bodies in the righteous fight so that they may be cleansed at once of all reactions from various bodily activities. One who lays down his life on the sacrificial altar, or in the proper battlefield, is at once cleansed of bodily reactions and promoted to a higher status of life. So there was no cause for Arjuna’s lamentation.
nainaṁ chindanti śastrāṇi
nainaṁ dahati pāvakaḥ
na cainaṁ kledayanty āpo
na śoṣayati mārutaḥ
na—never; enam—unto this soul; chindanti—can cut into pieces; śastrāṇi —all weapons; na—never; enam—unto this soul; dahati—burns; pāvakaḥ—fire; na—never; ca—also; enam—unto this soul; kledayanti—moistens; āpaḥ —water; na—never; śoṣayati—dries; mārutaḥ—wind.
The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.
All kinds of weapons, swords, flames, rains, tornadoes, etc., are unable to kill the spirit soul. It appears that there were many kinds of weapons made of earth, water, air, ether, etc., in addition to the modern weapons of fire. Even the nuclear weapons of the modern age are classified as fire weapons, but formerly there were other weapons made of all different types of material elements. Firearms were counteracted by water weapons, which are now unknown to modern science. Nor do modern scientists have knowledge of tornado weapons. Nonetheless, the soul can never be cut into pieces, nor annihilated by any number of weapons, regardless of scientific devices.
Nor was it ever possible to cut the individual souls from the original Soul. The Māyāvādī, however, cannot describe how the individual soul evolved from ignorance and consequently became covered by illusory energy. Because they are atomic individual souls (sanātana) eternally, they are prone to be covered by the illusory energy, and thus they become separated from the association of the Supreme Lord, just as the sparks of the fire, although one in quality with the fire, are prone to be extinguished when out of the fire. In the Varāha Purāṇa, the living entities are described as separated parts and parcels of the Supreme. They are eternally so, according to the Bhagavad-gītā also. So, even after being liberated from illusion, the living entity remains a separate identity, as is evident from the teachings of the Lord to Arjuna. Arjuna became liberated by the knowledge received from Kṛṣṇa, but he never became one with Kṛṣṇa.
acchedyo ‘yam adāhyo ‘yam
akledyo ‘śoṣya eva ca
nityaḥ sarva-gataḥ sthāṇur
acalo ‘yaṁ sanātanaḥ
acchedyaḥ—unbreakable; ayam—this soul; adāhyaḥ—cannot be burned; ayam—this soul; akledyaḥ—insoluble; aśoṣyaḥ—cannot be dried; eva—certainly; ca—and; nityaḥ—everlasting; sarva–gataḥ—all-pervading; sthāṇuḥ—unchangeable; acalaḥ—immovable; ayam—this soul; sanātanaḥ—eternally the same.
This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.
All these qualifications of the atomic soul definitely prove that the individual soul is eternally the atomic particle of the spirit whole, and he remains the same atom eternally, without change. The theory of monism is very difficult to apply in this case, because the individual soul is never expected to become one homogeneously. After liberation from material contamination, the atomic soul may prefer to remain as a spiritual spark in the effulgent rays of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but the intelligent souls enter into the spiritual planets to associate with the Personality of Godhead.
The word sarva–gataḥ (all-pervading) is significant because there is no doubt that living entities are all over God’s creation. They live on the land, in the water, in the air, within the earth and even within fire. The belief that they are sterilized in fire is not acceptable, because it is clearly stated here that the soul cannot be burned by fire. Therefore, there is no doubt that there are living entities also in the sun planet with suitable bodies to live there. If the sun globe is uninhabited, then the word sarva–gataḥ—living everywhere—becomes meaningless.
avyakto ‘yam acintyo ‘yam
avikāryo ‘yam ucyate
tasmād evaṁ viditvainaṁ
avyaktaḥ—invisible; ayam—this soul; acintyaḥ—inconceivable; ayam—this soul; avikāryaḥ—unchangeable; ayam—this soul; ucyate—is said; tasmāt—therefore; evam—like this; viditvā—knowing it well; enam—this soul; na—do not; anuśocitum—may lament over; arhasi—you deserve.
It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.
As described previously, the magnitude of the soul is so small for our material calculation that he cannot be seen even by the most powerful microscope; therefore, he is invisible. As far as the soul’s existence is concerned, no one can establish his existence experimentally beyond the proof of śruti or Vedic wisdom. We have to accept this truth, because there is no other source of understanding the existence of the soul, although it is a fact by perception. There are many things we have to accept solely on grounds of superior authority. No one can deny the existence of his father, based upon the authority of his mother. There is no other source of understanding the identity of the father except by the authority of the mother. Similarly, there is no other source of understanding the soul except by studying the Vedas. In other words, the soul is inconceivable by human experimental knowledge. The soul is consciousness and conscious—that also is the statement of the Vedas, and we have to accept that. Unlike the bodily changes, there is no change in the soul. As eternally unchangeable, the soul remains atomic in comparison to the infinite Supreme Soul. The Supreme Soul is infinite, and the atomic soul is infinitesimal. Therefore, the infinitesimal soul, being unchangeable, can never become equal to the infinite soul, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This concept is repeated in the Vedas in different ways just to confirm the stability of the conception of the soul. Repetition of something is necessary in order that we understand the matter thoroughly without error.
atha cainaṁ nitya-jātaṁ
nityaṁ vā manyase mṛtam
tathāpi tvaṁ mahā-bāho
nainaṁ śocitum arhasi
atha—if, however; ca—also; enam—this soul; nitya–jātam—always born; nityam—forever; vā—either; manyase—so think; mṛtam—dead; tathāpi—still; tvam—you; mahā–bāho—O mighty-armed one; na—never; enam—about the soul; śocitum—to lament; arhasi—deserve.
If, however, you think that the soul is perpetually born and always dies, still you have no reason to lament, O mighty-armed.
There is always a class of philosophers, almost akin to the Buddhists, who do not believe in the separate existence of the soul beyond the body. When Lord Kṛṣṇa spoke the Bhagavad-gītā, it appears that such philosophers existed, and they were known as the Lokāyatikas and Vaibhāṣikas. These philosophers maintained that life symptoms, or soul, takes place at a certain mature condition of material combination. The modern material scientist and materialist philosophers also think similarly. According to them, the body is a combination of physical elements, and at a certain stage the life symptoms develop by interaction of the physical and chemical elements. The science of anthropology is based on this philosophy. Currently, many pseudo-religions—now becoming fashionable in America—are also adhering to this philosophy, as well as to the nihilistic nondevotional Buddhist sects.
Even if Arjuna did not believe in the existence of the soul—as in the Vaibhāṣika philosophy—there would still have been no cause for lamentation. No one laments the loss of a certain bulk of chemicals and stops discharging his prescribed duty. On the other hand, in modern science and scientific warfare, so many tons of chemicals are wasted for achieving victory over the enemy. According to the Vaibhāṣika philosophy, the so-called soul or ātmā vanishes along with the deterioration of the body. So, in any case, whether Arjuna accepted the Vedic conclusion that there is an atomic soul, or whether he did not believe in the existence of the soul, he had no reason to lament. According to this theory, since there are so many living entities generating out of matter every moment, and so many of them are being vanquished every moment, there is no need to grieve for such an incidence. However, since he was not risking rebirth of the soul, Arjuna had no reason to be afraid of being affected with sinful reactions due to his killing his grandfather and teacher. But at the same time, Kṛṣṇa sarcastically addressed Arjuna as mahā–bāhu, mighty-armed, because He, at least, did not accept the theory of the Vaibhāṣikas, which leaves aside the Vedic wisdom. As a kṣatriya, Arjuna belonged to the Vedic culture, and it behooved him to continue to follow its principles.
jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyur
dhruvaṁ janma mṛtasya ca
tasmād aparihārye ‘rthe
na tvaṁ śocitum arhasi
jātasya—one who has taken his birth; hi—certainly; dhruvaḥ—a fact; mṛtyuḥ—death; dhruvam—it is also a fact; janma—birth; mṛtasya—of the dead; ca—also; tasmāt—therefore; aparihārye—for that which is unavoidable; arthe—in the matter of; na—do not; tvam—you; śocitum—to lament; arhasi—deserve.
For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.
One has to take birth according to one’s activities of life. And, after finishing one term of activities, one has to die to take birth for the next. In this way the cycle of birth and death is revolving, one after the other without liberation. This cycle of birth and death does not, however, support unnecessary murder, slaughter and war. But at the same time, violence and war are inevitable factors in human society for keeping law and order.
The Battle of Kurukṣetra, being the will of the Supreme, was an inevitable event, and to fight for the right cause is the duty of a kṣatriya. Why should he be afraid of or aggrieved at the death of his relatives since he was discharging his proper duty? He did not deserve to break the law, thereby becoming subjected to the reactions of sinful acts, of which he was so afraid. By avoiding the discharge of his proper duty, he would not be able to stop the death of his relatives, and he would be degraded due to his selection of the wrong path of action.
tatra kā paridevanā
avyaktādīni—in the beginning unmanifested; bhūtāni—all that are created; vyakta—manifested; madhyāni—in the middle; bhārata—O descendant of Bharata; avyakta—nonmanifested; nidhanāni—all that are vanquished; eva—it is all like that; tatra—therefore; kā-what; paridevanā—lamentation.
All created beings are unmanifest in their beginning, manifest in their interim state, and unmanifest again when they are annihilated. So what need is there for lamentation?
Accepting that there are two classes of philosophers, one believing in the existence of soul and the other not believing in the existence of the soul, there is no cause for lamentation in either case. Nonbelievers in the existence of the soul are called atheists by followers of Vedic wisdom. Yet even if, for argument’s sake, we accept the atheistic theory, there is still no cause for lamentation. Apart from the separate existence of the soul, the material elements remain unmanifested before creation. From this subtle state of unmanifestation comes manifestation, just as from ether, air is generated; from air, fire is generated; from fire, water is generated; and from water, earth becomes manifested. From the earth, many varieties of manifestations take place. Take, for example, a big skyscraper manifested from the earth. When it is dismantled, the manifestation becomes again unmanifested and remains as atoms in the ultimate stage. The law of conservation of energy remains, but in course of time things are manifested and unmanifested—that is the difference. Then what cause is there for lamentation either in the stage of manifestation or unmanifestation? Somehow or other, even in the unmanifested stage, things are not lost. Both at the beginning and at the end, all elements remain unmanifested, and only in the middle are they manifested, and this does not make any real material difference.
And if we accept the Vedic conclusion as stated in the Bhagavad-gītā (antavanta ime dehāḥ) that these material bodies are perishable in due course of time (nityasyoktāḥ śarīriṇaḥ) but that soul is eternal, then we must remember always that the body is like a dress; therefore why lament the changing of a dress? The material body has no factual existence in relation to the eternal soul. It is something like a dream. In a dream we may think of flying in the sky, or sitting on a chariot as a king, but when we wake up we can see that we are neither in the sky nor seated on the chariot. The Vedic wisdom encourages self-realization on the basis of the nonexistence of the material body. Therefore, in either case, whether one believes in the existence of the soul, or one does not believe in the existence of the soul, there is no cause for lamentation for loss of the body.
āścarya-vat paśyati kaścid enam
āścarya-vad vadati tathaiva cānyaḥ
āścarya-vac cainam anyaḥ śṛṇoti
śrutvāpy enaṁ veda na caiva kaścit
āścaryavat—amazing; paśyati—see; kaścit—some; enam—this soul; āścaryavat—amazing; vadati—speak; tathā—there; eva—certainly; ca—also; anyaḥ—others; āścaryavat—similarly amazing; ca—also; enam—this soul; anyaḥ—others; śṛṇoti—hear; śrutvā—having heard; api—even; enam—this soul; veda—do know; na—never; ca—and; eva—certainly; kaścit—anyone.
Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.
Since Gītopaniṣad is largely based on the principles of the Upaniṣads, it is not surprising to also find this passage in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad.
śravaṇāyāpi bahubhir yo na labhyaḥ
śṛṇvanto ‘pi bahavo yaḥ na vidyuḥ
āścaryo vaktā kuśalo ‘sya labdhā
āścaryo jātā kuśalānuśiṣṭaḥ.
The fact that the atomic soul is within the body of a gigantic animal, in the body of a gigantic banyan tree, and also in the microbic germs, millions and billions of which occupy only an inch of space, is certainly very amazing. Men with a poor fund of knowledge and men who are not austere cannot understand the wonders of the individual atomic spark of spirit, even though it is explained by the greatest authority of knowledge, who imparted lessons even to Brahmā, the first living being in the universe. Owing to a gross material conception of things, most men in this age cannot imagine how such a small particle can become both so great and so small. So men look at the soul proper as wonderful either by constitution or by description. Illusioned by the material energy, people are so engrossed in subject matter for sense gratification that they have very little time to understand the question of self-understanding, even though it is a fact that without this self-understanding all activities result in ultimate defeat in the struggle for existence. Perhaps one has no idea that one must think of the soul, and also make a solution of the material miseries.
Some people who are inclined to hear about the soul may be attending lectures, in good association, but sometimes, owing to ignorance, they are misguided by acceptance of the Supersoul and the atomic soul as one without distinction of magnitude. It is very difficult to find a man who perfectly understands the position of the soul, the Supersoul, the atomic soul, their respective functions, relationships and all other major and minor details. And it is still more difficult to find a man who has actually derived full benefit from knowledge of the soul, and who is able to describe the position of the soul in different aspects. But if, somehow or other, one is able to understand the subject matter of the soul, then one’s life is successful. The easiest process for understanding the subject matter of self, however, is to accept the statements of the Bhagavad-gītā spoken by the greatest authority, Lord Kṛṣṇa, without being deviated by other theories. But it also requires a great deal of penance and sacrifice, either in this life or in the previous ones, before one is able to accept Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Kṛṣṇa can, however, be known as such by the causeless mercy of the pure devotee and by no other way.
dehī nityam avadhyo ‘yaṁ
dehe sarvasya bhārata
tasmāt sarvāṇi bhūtāni
na tvaṁ śocitum arhasi
dehī—the owner of the material body; nityam—eternally; avadhyaḥ—cannot be killed; ayam—this soul; dehe—in the body; sarvasya—of everyone; bhārata—O descendant of Bharata; tasmāt—therefore; sarvāṇi—all; bhūtāni—living entities (that are born); na—never; tvam—yourself; śocitum —to lament; arhasi– deserve.
O descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body is eternal and can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any creature.
The Lord now concludes the chapter of instruction on the immutable spirit soul. In describing the immortal soul in various ways, Lord Kṛṣṇa establishes that the soul is immortal and the body is temporary. Therefore Arjuna as a kṣatriya should not abandon his duty out of fear that his grandfather and teacher—Bhīṣma and Droṇa—will die in the battle. On the authority of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, one has to believe that there is a soul different from the material body, not that there is no such thing as soul, or that living symptoms develop at a certain stage of material maturity resulting from the interaction of chemicals. Though the soul is immortal, violence is not encouraged, but at the time of war it is not discouraged when there is actual need for it. That need must be justified in terms of the sanction of the Lord, and not capriciously.
sva-dharmam api cāvekṣya
na vikampitum arhasi
dharmyād dhi yuddhāc chreyo ‘nyat
kṣatriyasya na vidyate
svadharmam—one’s own religious principles; api—also; ca—indeed; avekṣya—considering; na—never; vikampitum—to hesitate; arhasi—you deserve; dharmyāt—from religious principles; hi—indeed; yuddhāt—of fighting; śreyaḥ—better engagements; anyat—anything else; kṣatriyasya—of the kṣatriya; na—does not; vidyate—exist.
Considering your specific duty as a kṣatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation.
Out of the four orders of social administration, the second order, for the matter of good administration, is called kṣatriya. Kṣat means hurt. One who gives protection from harm is called kṣatriya (trayate—to give protection). The kṣatriyas are trained for killing in the forest. A kṣatriya would go into the forest and challenge a tiger face to face and fight with the tiger with his sword. When the tiger was killed, it would be offered the royal order of cremation. This system is being followed even up to the present day by the kṣatriya kings of Jaipur state. The kṣatriyas are specially trained for challenging and killing because religious violence is sometimes a necessary factor. Therefore, kṣatriyas are never meant for accepting directly the order of sannyāsa or renunciation. Nonviolence in politics may be a diplomacy, but it is never a factor or principle. In the religious law books it is stated:
āhaveṣu mitho ‘nyonyaṁ jighāṁsanto mahīkṣitaḥ
yuddhamānāḥ paraṁ śaktyā svargaṁ yānty aparāṅmukhāḥ
yajeṣu paśavo brahman hanyante satataṁ dvijaiḥ
saṁskṛtāḥ kila mantraiś ca te ‘pi svargam avāpnuvan.
“In the battlefield, a king or kṣatriya, while fighting another king envious of him, is eligible for achieving heavenly planets after death, as the brāhmaṇas also attain the heavenly planets by sacrificing animals in the sacrificial fire.” Therefore, killing on the battle on the religious principle and the killing of animals in the sacrificial fire are not at all considered to be acts of violence, because everyone is benefitted by the religious principles involved. The animal sacrificed gets a human life immediately without undergoing the gradual evolutionary process from one form to another, and the kṣatriyas killed in the battlefield also attain the heavenly planets as do the brāhmaṇas who attain them by offering sacrifice.
There are two kinds of svadharmas, specific duties. As long as one is not liberated, one has to perform the duties of that particular body in accordance with religious principles in order to achieve liberation. When one is liberated, one’s svadharma—specific duty—becomes spiritual and is not in the material bodily concept. In the bodily conception of life there are specific duties for the brāhmaṇas and kṣatriyas respectively, and such duties are unavoidable. Svadharma is ordained by the Lord, and this will be clarified in the Fourth Chapter. On the bodily plane svadharma is called varṇāśrama–dharma, or man’s steppingstone for spiritual understanding. Human civilization begins from the stage of varṇāśrama–dharma, or specific duties in terms of the specific modes of nature of the body obtained. Discharging one’s specific duty in any field of action in accordance with varṇāśrama–dharma serves to elevate one to a higher status of life.
sukhinaḥ kṣatriyāḥ pārtha
labhante yuddham īdṛśam
yadṛcchayā—by its own accord; ca—also; upapannam—arrived at; svarga—heavenly planet; dvāram—door; apāvṛtam—wide open; sukhinaḥ—very happy; kṣatriyāḥ—the members of the royal order; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; labhante—do achieve; yuddham—war; īdṛśam—like this.
O Pārtha, happy are the kṣatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets.
As supreme teacher of the world, Lord Kṛṣṇa condemns the attitude of Arjuna who said, “I do not find any good in this fighting. It will cause perpetual habitation in hell.” Such statements by Arjuna were due to ignorance only. He wanted to become nonviolent in the discharge of his specific duty. For a kṣatriya to be in the battlefield and to become nonviolent is the philosophy of fools. In the Parāśara–smṛti or religious codes made by Parāśara, the great sage and father of Vyāsadeva, it is stated:
kṣatriyo hi prajā rakṣan śastra–pāṇiḥ pradaṇḍayan
nirjitya parasainyādi kṣitiṁ dharmeṇa pālayet.
“The kṣatriya’s duty is to protect the citizens from all kinds of difficulties, and for that reason he has to apply violence in suitable cases for law and order. Therefore he has to conquer the soldiers of inimical kings, and thus, with religious principles, he should rule over the world.”
Considering all aspects, Arjuna had no reason to refrain from fighting. If he should conquer his enemies, he would enjoy the kingdom; and if he should die in the battle, he would be elevated to the heavenly planets whose doors were wide open to him. Fighting would be for his benefit in either case.
atha cet tvam imaṁ dharmyaṁ
saṅgrāmaṁ na kariṣyasi
tataḥ sva-dharmaṁ kīrtiṁ ca
hitvā pāpam avāpsyasi
atha—therefore; cet—if; tvam—you; imam—this; dharmyam—religious duty; saṅgrāmam—fighting; na—do not; kariṣyasi—perform; tataḥ—then; svadharmam—your religious duty; kīrtim-—reputation; ca—also; hitvā—losing; pāpam—sinful reaction; avāpsyasi—do gain.
If, however, you do not fight this religious war, then you will certainly incur sins for neglecting your duties and thus lose your reputation as a fighter.
Arjuna was a famous fighter, and he attained fame by fighting many great demigods, including even Lord Śiva. After fighting and defeating Lord Śiva in the dress of a hunter, Arjuna pleased the Lord and received as a reward a weapon called pāśupata-astra. Everyone knew that he was a great warrior. Even Droṇācārya gave him benediction and awarded him the special weapon by which he could kill even his teacher. So he was credited with so many military certificates from many authorities, including his adopted father Indra, the heavenly king. But if he abandoned the battle, he would not only neglect his specific duty as a kṣatriya, but he would lose all his fame and good name and thus prepare his royal road to hell. In other words, he would go to hell, not by fighting, but by withdrawing from battle.
akīrtiṁ cāpi bhūtāni
kathayiṣyanti te ‘vyayām
akīrtim—infamy; ca—also; api—over and above; bhūtāni—all people; kathayiṣyanti—will speak; te-of you; avyayām—forever; sambhāvitasya—for a respectable man; ca—also; akīrtiḥ—ill fame; maraṇāt—than death; atiricyate—becomes more than.
People will always speak of your infamy, and for one who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death.
Both as friend and philosopher to Arjuna, Lord Kṛṣṇa now gives His final judgement regarding Arjuna’s refusal to fight. The Lord says, “Arjuna, if you leave the battlefield, people will call you a coward even before your actual flight. And if you think that people may call you bad names but that you will save your life by fleeing the battlefield, then My advice is that you’d do better to die in the battle. For a respectable man like you, ill fame is worse than death. So, you should not flee for fear of your life; better to die in the battle. That will save you from the ill fame of misusing My friendship and from losing your prestige in society.”
So, the final judgement of the Lord was for Arjuna to die in the battle and not withdraw.
bhayād raṇād uparataṁ
maṁsyante tvāṁ mahā-rathāḥ
yeṣāṁ ca tvaṁ bahu-mato
bhūtvā yāsyasi lāghavam
bhayāt—out of fear; raṇāt—from the battlefield; uparatam—ceased; maṁsyante—will consider; tvām—unto you; mahā–rathāḥ—the great generals; yeṣām—of those who; ca—also; tvam—you; bahu–mataḥ—in great estimation; bhūtvā—will become; yāsyasi—will go; lāghavam—decreased in value.
The great generals who have highly esteemed your name and fame will think that you have left the battlefield out of fear only, and thus they will consider you a coward.
Lord Kṛṣṇa continued to give His verdict to Arjuna: “Do not think that the great generals like Duryodhana, Karṇa, and other contemporaries will think that you have left the battlefield out of compassion for your brothers and grandfather. They will think that you have left out of fear for your life. And thus their high estimation of your personality will go to hell.”
avācya-vādāṁś ca bahūn
nindantas tava sāmarthyaṁ
tato duḥkhataraṁ nu kim
avācya—unkind; vādān—fabricated words; ca—also; bahūn—many; vadiṣyanti—will say; tava—your; ahitāḥ—enemies; nindantaḥ—while vilifying; tava—your; sāmarthyam—ability; tataḥ—thereafter; duḥkhataram—more painful; nu—of course; kim—what is there.
Your enemies will describe you in many unkind words and scorn your ability. What could be more painful for you?
Lord Kṛṣṇa was astonished in the beginning at Arjuna’s uncalled-for plea for compassion, and He described his compassion as befitting the non-Aryans. Now in so many words, He has proved His statements against Arjuna’s so-called compassion.
hato vā prāpsyasi svargaṁ
jitvā vā bhokṣyase mahīm
tasmād uttiṣṭha kaunteya
hataḥ—being killed; vā—either; prāpsyasi—you gain; svargam—the heavenly kingdom; jitvā—by conquering; vā—or; bhokṣyase—you enjoy; mahīm—the world; tasmāt—therefore; uttiṣṭha—get up; kaunteya—O son of Kuntī; yuddhāya—to fight; kṛta—determination; niścayaḥ—uncertainty.
O son of Kuntī, either you will be killed on the battlefield and attain the heavenly planets, or you will conquer and enjoy the earthly kingdom. Therefore get up and fight with determination.
Even though there was no certainty of victory for Arjuna’s side, he still had to fight; for, even being killed there, he could be elevated into the heavenly planets.
sukha-duḥkhe same kṛtvā
tato yuddhāya yujyasva
naivaṁ pāpam avāpsyasi
sukha—happiness; duḥkhe—in distress; same—in equanimity; kṛtvā—doing so; lābhālābhau—both in loss and profit; jayājayau—both in defeat and victory; tataḥ—thereafter; yuddhāya—for the sake of fighting; yujyasva—do fight; na—never; evam—in this way; pāpam—sinful reaction; avāpsyasi—you will gain.
Do thou fight for the sake of fighting, without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat—and, by so doing, you shall never incur sin.
Lord Kṛṣṇa now directly says that Arjuna should fight for the sake of fighting because He desires the battle. There is no consideration of happiness or distress, profit or gain, victory or defeat in the activities of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That everything should be performed for the sake of Kṛṣṇa is transcendental consciousness; so there is no reaction to material activities. He who acts for his own sense gratification, either in goodness or in passion, is subject to the reaction, good or bad. But he who has completely surrendered himself in the activities of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is no longer obliged to anyone, nor is he a debtor to anyone, as one is in the ordinary course of activities. It is said:
na kiṅkaro nāyamṛṇī ca rājan
sarvātmanā yaḥ śaraṇaṁ śaraṇyaṁ
gato mukundaṁ parihṛtya kartam
“Anyone who has completely surrendered unto Kṛṣṇa, Mukunda, giving up all other duties, is no longer a debtor, nor is he obliged to anyone—not the demigods, nor the sages, nor the people in general, nor kinsmen, nor humanity, nor forefathers.” That is the indirect hint given by Kṛṣṇa to Arjuna in this verse, and the matter will be more clearly explained in the following verses.
eṣā te ‘bhihitā sāṅkhye
buddhir yoge tv imāṁ śṛṇu
buddhyā yukto yayā pārtha
eṣā—all these; te—unto you; abhihitā—described; śāṅkhye—by analytical study; buddhiḥ—intelligence; yoge—work without fruitive result; tu—but; imām-this; śṛṇu—just hear; buddhyā—by intelligence; yuktaḥ—dovetailed; yayā—by which; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; karma–bandham—bondage of reaction; prahāsyasi—you can be released from.
Thus far I have declared to you the analytical knowledge of sāṅkhya philosophy. Now listen to the knowledge of yoga whereby one works without fruitive result. O son of Pṛthā, when you act by such intelligence, you can free yourself from the bondage of works.
According to the Nirukti, or the Vedic dictionary, saṅkhya means that which describes phenomena in detail, and saṅkhya refers to that philosophy which describes the real nature of the soul. And yoga involves controlling the senses. Arjuna’s proposal not to fight was based on sense gratification. Forgetting his prime duty, he wanted to cease fighting because he thought that by not killing his relatives and kinsmen he would be happier than by enjoying the kingdom by conquering his cousins and brothers, the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra. In both ways, the basic principles were for sense gratification. Happiness derived from conquering them and happiness derived by seeing kinsmen alive are both on the basis of personal sense gratification, for there is a sacrifice of wisdom and duty. Kṛṣṇa, therefore, wanted to explain to Arjuna that by killing the body of his grandfather he would not be killing the soul proper, and He explained that all individual persons, including the Lord Himself, are eternal individuals; they were individuals in the past, they are individuals in the present, and they will continue to remain individuals in the future, because all of us are individual souls eternally, and we simply change our bodily dress in different manners. But, actually, we keep our individuality even after liberation from the bondage of material dress. An analytical study of the soul and the body has been very graphically explained by Lord Kṛṣṇa. And this descriptive knowledge of the soul and the body from different angles of vision has been described here as sāṅkhya, in terms of the Nirukti dictionary. This sāṅkhya has nothing to do with the sāṅkhya philosophy of the atheist Kapila. Long before the imposter Kapila’s sāṅkhya, the sāṅkhya philosophy was expounded in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam by the true Lord Kapila, the incarnation of Lord Kṛṣṇa, who explained it to His mother, Devahūti. It is clearly explained by Him that the Puruṣa, or the Supreme Lord, is active and that He creates by looking over the prakṛti. This is accepted in the Vedas and in the Gītā. The description in the Vedas indicates that the Lord glanced over the prakṛti, or nature, and impregnated it with atomic individuals souls. All these individuals are working in the material world for sense gratification, and under the spell of material energy they are thinking of being enjoyers. This mentality is dragged to the last point of liberation when the living entity wants to become one with the Lord. This is the last snare of māyā or sense gratificatory illusion, and it is only after many, many births of such sense gratificatory activities that a great soul surrenders unto Vāsudeva, Lord Kṛṣṇa, thereby fulfilling the search after the ultimate truth.
Arjuna has already accepted Kṛṣṇa as his spiritual master by surrendering himself unto Him: śiṣyas te ‘haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam. Consequently, Kṛṣṇa will now tell him about the working process in buddhi–yoga, or karma–yoga, or in other words, the practice of devotional service only for the sense gratification of the Lord. This buddhi–yoga is clearly explained in Chapter Ten, verse ten, as being direct communion with the Lord, who is sitting as Paramātmā in everyone’s heart. But such communion does not take place without devotional service. One who is therefore situated in devotional or transcendental loving service to the Lord, or, in other words, in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, attains to this stage of buddhi–yoga by the special grace of the Lord. The Lord says, therefore, that only to those who are always engaged in devotional service out of transcendental love does He award the pure knowledge of devotion in love. In that way the devotee can reach Him easily in the ever-blissful kingdom of God.
Thus the buddhi–yoga mentioned in this verse is the devotional service of the Lord, and the word sāṅkhya mentioned herein has nothing to do with the atheistic sāṅkhya–yoga enunciated by the impostor Kapila. One should not, therefore, misunderstand that the sāṅkhya–yoga mentioned herein has any connection with the atheistic sāṅkhya. Nor did that philosophy have any influence during that time; nor would Lord Kṛṣṇa care to mention such godless philosophical speculations. Real sāṅkhya philosophy is described by Lord Kapila in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, but even that sāṅkhya has nothing to do with the current topics. Here, sāṅkhya means analytical description of the body and the soul. Lord Kṛṣṇa made an analytical description of the soul just to bring Arjuna to the point of buddhi–yoga, or bhakti–yoga. Therefore, Lord Kṛṣṇa’s sāṅkhya and Lord Kapila’s sāṅkhya, as described in the Bhāgavatam; are one and the same. They are all bhakti–yoga. He said, therefore, that only the less intelligent class of men make a distinction between sāṅkhya–yoga and bhakti–yoga.
Of course, atheistic sāṅkhya–yoga has nothing to do with bhakti–yoga, yet the unintelligent claim that the atheistic sāṅkhya–yoga is referred to in the Bhagavad-gītā.
One should therefore understand that buddhi–yoga means to work in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, in the full bliss and knowledge of devotional service. One who works for the satisfaction of the Lord only, however difficult such work may be, is working under the principles of buddhi–yoga and finds himself always in transcendental bliss. By such transcendental engagement, one achieves all transcendental qualities automatically, by the grace of the Lord, and thus his liberation is complete in itself, without his making extraneous endeavors to acquire knowledge. There is much difference between work in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and work for fruitive results, especially in the matter of sense gratification for achieving results in terms of family or material happiness. Buddhi–yoga is therefore the transcendental quality of the work that we perform.
pratyavāyo na vidyate
sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya
trāyate mahato bhayāt
na—there is not; iha—in this world; abhikrama—endeavoring; nāśaḥ—loss; asti—there is; pratyavāyaḥ—diminution; na—never; vidyate—there is; svalpam—little; api—although; asya—of this; dharmasya—of this occupation; trāyate—releases; mahataḥ—of very great; bhayāt—from danger.
In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.
Activity in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or acting for the benefit of Kṛṣṇa without expectation of sense gratification, is the highest transcendental quality of work. Even a small beginning of such activity finds no impediment, nor can that small beginning be lost at any stage. Any work begun on the material plane has to be completed, otherwise the whole attempt becomes a failure. But any work begun in Kṛṣṇa consciousness has a permanent effect, even though not finished. The performer of such work is therefore not at a loss even if his work in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is incomplete. One percent done in Kṛṣṇa consciousness bears permanent results, so that the next beginning is from the point of two percent; whereas, in material activity, without a hundred percent success, there is no profit. Ajāmila performed his duty in some percentage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, but the result he enjoyed at the end was a hundred percent, by the grace of the Lord. There is a nice verse in this connection in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:
tyaktvā sva–dharmaṁ caraṇāmbujaṁ harer
bhajan na pakko ‘tha patet tato yadi
yatra kva vābhadram abhūd amuṣya kiṁ
ko vārtha āpto ‘bhajatāṁ sva–dharmataḥ
“If someone gives up self-gratificatory pursuits and works in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and then falls down on account of not completing his work, what loss is there on his part? And, what can one gain if one performs his material activities perfectly?” (Bhāg. 1.5.17) Or, as the Christians say, “What profiteth a man if he gain the whole world yet suffers the loss of his eternal soul?”
Material activities and their results end with the body. But work in Kṛṣṇa consciousness carries the person again to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, even after the loss of the body. At least one is sure to have a chance in the next life of being born again as a human being, either in the family of a great cultured brāhmaṇa or in a rich aristocratic family that will give one a further chance for elevation. That is the unique quality of work done in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
bahu-śākhā hy anantāś ca
vyavasāyātmikā—resolute Kṛṣṇa consciousness; buddhiḥ—intelligence; ekā—only one; iha—in this world; kuru–nandana—O beloved child of the Kurus; bahu–śākhāḥ—various branches; hi—indeed; anantāḥ—unlimited; ca—also; buddhayaḥ—intelligence; avyavasāyinām—of those who are not in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Those who are on this path are resolute in purpose, and their aim is one. O beloved child of the Kurus, the intelligence of those who are irresolute is many-branched.
A strong faith in Kṛṣṇa consciousness that one should be elevated to the highest perfection of life is called vyavasāyātmikā intelligence. The Caitanya–caritāmṛta states:
‘śraddhā’-śabde viśvāsa kahe sudṛḍha niścaya
kṛṣṇe bhakti kaile sarva–karma kṛta haya
Faith means unflinching trust in something sublime. When one is engaged in the duties of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he need not act in relationship to the material world with obligations to family traditions, humanity, or nationality. Fruitive activities are the engagements of one’s reactions from past good or bad deeds. When one is awake in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he need no longer endeavor for good results in his activities. When one is situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, all activities are on the absolute plane, for they are no longer subject to dualities like good and bad. The highest perfection of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is renunciation of the material conception of life. This state is automatically achieved by progressive Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The resolute purpose of a person in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is based on knowledge (“Vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti sa mahātmā sudurlabhaḥ“) by which one comes to know perfectly that Vāsudeva, or Kṛṣṇa, is the root of all manifested causes. As water on the root of a tree is automatically distributed to the leaves and branches, in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, one can render the highest service to everyone—namely self, family, society, country, humanity, etc. If Kṛṣṇa is satisfied by one’s actions, then everyone will be satisfied.
Service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is, however, best practiced under the able guidance of a spiritual master who is a bona fide representative of Kṛṣṇa, who knows the nature of the student and who can guide him to act in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. As such, to be well-versed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness one has to act firmly and obey the representative of Kṛṣṇa, and one should accept the instruction of the bona fide spiritual master as one’s mission in life. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākur instructs us, in his famous prayers for the spiritual master, as follows:
yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādo
yasyāprasādānna gatiḥ kuto ‘pi
dhyāyaṁ stuvaṁs tasya yaśas tri–sandhyaṁ
vande guroḥ śrī-caraṇāravindam.
“By satisfaction of the spiritual master, the Supreme Personality of Godhead becomes satisfied. And by not satisfying the spiritual master, there is no chance of being promoted to the plane of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. I should, therefore, meditate and pray for his mercy three times a day, and offer my respectful obeisances unto him, my spiritual master.”
The whole process, however, depends on perfect knowledge of the soul beyond the conception of the body—not theoretically but practically, when there is no longer chance for sense gratification manifested in fruitive activities. One who is not firmly fixed in mind is diverted by various types of fruitive acts.
yām imāṁ puṣpitāṁ vācaṁ
nānyad astīti vādinaḥ
yām imām—all these; puṣpitām—flowery; vācam—words; pravadanti—say; avipaścitaḥ—men with a poor fund of knowledge; veda–vāda–ratāḥ—supposed followers of the Vedas; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; na—never; anyat—anything else; asti—there is; iti—this; vādinaḥ—advocates; kāma–ātmānaḥ—desirous of sense gratification; svarga–parāḥ—aiming to achieve heavenly planets; janma–karma–phala–pradām—resulting in fruitive action, good birth, etc.; kriyā–viśeṣa—pompous ceremonies; bahulām—various; bhoga—sense enjoyment; aiśvarya—opulence; gatim—progress; prati—towards.
Men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various fruitive activities for elevation to heavenly planets, resultant good birth, power, and so forth. Being desirous of sense gratification and opulent life, they say that there is nothing more than this.
People in general are not very intelligent, and due to their ignorance they are most attached to the fruitive activities recommended in the karma–kāṇḍa portions of the Vedas. They do not want anything more than sense gratificatory proposals for enjoying life in heaven, where wine and women are available and material opulence is very common. In the Vedas many sacrifices are recommended for elevation to the heavenly planets, especially the jyotiṣṭoma sacrifices. In fact, it is stated that anyone desiring elevation to heavenly planets must perform these sacrifices, and men with a poor fund of knowledge think that this is the whole purpose of Vedic wisdom. It is very difficult for such inexperienced persons to be situated in the determined action of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. As fools are attached to the flowers of poisonous trees without knowing the results of such attractions, similarly unenlightened men are attracted by such heavenly opulence and the sense enjoyment thereof.
In the karma–kāṇḍa section of the Vedas it is said that those who perform the four monthly penances become eligible to drink the somarasa beverages to become immortal and happy forever. Even on this earth some are very eager to have somarasa to become strong and fit to enjoy sense gratifications. Such persons have no faith in liberation from material bondage, and they are very much attached to the pompous ceremonies of Vedic sacrifices. They are generally sensual, and they do not want anything other than the heavenly pleasures of life. It is understood that there are gardens called nandana–kānana in which there is good opportunity for association with angelic, beautiful women and having a profuse supply of somarasa wine. Such bodily happiness is certainly sensual; therefore there are those who are purely attached to material, temporary happiness, as lords of the material world.
samādhau na vidhīyate
bhoga—material enjoyment; aiśvarya—opulence; prasaktānām—those who are so attached; tayā—by such things; apahṛta–cetasām—bewildered in mind; vyavasāyātmikā—fixed determination; buddhiḥ—devotional service of the Lord; samādhau—in the controlled mind; na—never; vidhīyate—does take place.
In the minds of those who are too attached to sense enjoyment and material opulence, and who are bewildered by such things, the resolute determination of devotional service to the Supreme Lord does not take place.
Samādhi means “fixed mind.” The Vedic dictionary, the Nirukti, says, samyag ādhīyate ‘sminn ātmatattva-yāthātmyam: “When the mind is fixed for understanding the self, it is called samādhi. “Samādhi is never possible for persons interested in material sense enjoyment, nor for those who are bewildered by such temporary things. They are more or less condemned by the process of material energy.
traiguṇya—pertaining to the three modes of material nature; viṣayāḥ—on the subject matter; vedāḥ—Vedic literatures; nistraiguṇyaḥ—in a pure state of spiritual existence; bhava—be; arjuna-O Arjuna; nirdvandvaḥ—free from the pains of opposites; nitya–sattva–sthaḥ—ever remaining in sattva (goodness); niryoga–kṣemaḥ—free from (the thought of) acquisition and preservation; ātmavān—established in the Self.
The Vedas mainly deal with the subject of the three modes of material nature. Rise above these modes, O Arjuna. Be transcendental to all of them. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the Self.
All material activities involve actions and reactions in the three modes of material nature. They are meant for fruitive results, which cause bondage in the material world. The Vedas deal mostly with fruitive activities to gradually elevate the general public from the field of sense gratification to a position on the transcendental plane. Arjuna, as a student and friend of Lord Kṛṣṇa, is advised to raise himself to the transcendental position of Vedānta philosophy where, in the beginning, there is brahma–jijāsā, or questions on the Supreme Transcendence. All the living entities who are in the material world are struggling very hard for existence. For them the Lord, after creation of the material world, gave the Vedic wisdom advising how to live and get rid of the material entanglement. When the activities for sense gratification, namely the karma–kāṇḍa chapter, are finished, then the chance for spiritual realization is offered in the form of the Upaniṣads, which are part of different Vedas, as the Bhagavad-gītā is a part of the fifth Veda, namely the Mahābhārata. The Upaniṣads mark the beginning of transcendental life.
As long as the material body exists, there are actions and reactions in the material modes. One has to learn tolerance in the face of dualities such as happiness and distress, or cold and warmth, and by tolerating such dualities become free from anxieties regarding gain and loss. This transcendental position is achieved in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness when one is fully dependant on the good will of Kṛṣṇa
yāvān artha udapāne
tāvān sarveṣu vedeṣu
yāvān—all that; arthaḥ—is meant; udapāne—in a well of water; sarvataḥ—in all respects; sampluta–udake—in a great reservoir of water; tāvān—similarly; sarveṣu—in all; vedeṣu—Vedic literatures; brāhmaṇasya—of the man who knows the Supreme Brahman; vijānataḥ—of one who is in complete knowledge.
All purposes that are served by the small pond can at once be served by the great reservoirs of water. Similarly, all the purposes of the Vedas can be served to one who knows the purpose behind them.
The rituals and sacrifices mentioned in the karma–kāṇḍa division of the Vedic literature are to encourage gradual development of self-realization. And the purpose of self-realization is clearly stated in the Fifteenth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā (15.15): the purpose of studying the Vedas is to know Lord Kṛṣṇa, the primeval cause of everything. So, self-realization means understanding Kṛṣṇa and one’s eternal relationship with Him. The relationship of the living entities with Kṛṣṇa is also mentioned in the Fifteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā. The living entities are parts and parcels of Kṛṣṇa; therefore, revival of Kṛṣṇa consciousness by the individual living entity is the highest perfectional stage of Vedic knowledge. This is confirmed in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.33.7) as follows:
aho bata śvapaco’to garīyān
yaj-jihvāgre vartate nāma tubhyam
tepus tapas te juhuvuḥ sasnur āryā
brahmānūcur nāma gṛṇanti ye te.
“O my Lord, a person who is chanting Your holy name, although born of a low family like that of a cāṇḍāla [dog eater], is situated on the highest platform of self-realization. Such a person must have performed all kinds of penances and sacrifices according to Vedic rituals and studied the Vedic literatures many, many times after taking his bath in all the holy places of pilgrimage. Such a person is considered to be the best of the Āryan family.” So one must be intelligent enough to understand the purpose of the Vedas, without being attached to the rituals only, and must not desire to be elevated to the heavenly kingdoms for a better quality of sense gratification. It is not possible for the common man in this age to follow all the rules and regulations of the Vedic rituals and the injunctions of the Vedāntas and the Upaniṣads. It requires much time, energy, knowledge and resources to execute the purposes of the Vedas. This is hardly possible in this age. The best purpose of Vedic culture is served, however, by chanting the holy name of the Lord, as recommended by Lord Caitanya, the deliverer of all fallen souls. When Lord Caitanya was asked by a great Vedic scholar, Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī, why He, the Lord, was chanting the holy name of the Lord like a sentimentalist instead of studying Vedānta philosophy, the Lord replied that His spiritual master found Him to be a great fool, and thus he asked Him to chant the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa. He did so, and became ecstatic like a madman. In this age of Kali, most of the population is foolish and not adequately educated to understand Vedānta philosophy; the best purpose of Vedānta philosophy is served by inoffensively chanting the holy name of the Lord. Vedānta is the last word in Vedic wisdom, and the author and knower of the Vedānta philosophy is Lord Kṛṣṇa; and the highest Vedantist is the great soul who takes pleasure in chanting the holy name of the Lord. That is the ultimate purpose of all Vedic mysticism.
karmaṇy evādhikāras te
mā phaleṣu kadācana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr
mā te saṅgo ‘stv akarmaṇi
karmaṇi—prescribed duties; eva—certainly; adhikāraḥ—right; te-of you; mā—never; phaleṣu—in the fruits; kadācana—at any time; mā—never; karma–phala—in the result of the work; hetuḥ—cause; bhūḥ—become; mā—never; te—of you; saṅgaḥ—attachment; astu—be there; akarmaṇi—in not doing.
You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.
There are three considerations here: prescribed duties, capricious work, and inaction. Prescribed duties refer to activities performed while one is in the modes of material nature. Capricious work means actions without the sanction of authority, and inaction means not performing one’s prescribed duties. The Lord advised that Arjuna not be inactive, but that he perform his prescribed duty without being attached to the result. One who is attached to the result of his work is also the cause of the action. Thus he is the enjoyer or sufferer of the result of such actions.
As far as prescribed duties are concerned, they can be fitted into three subdivisions, namely routine work, emergency work and desired activities. Routine work, in terms of the scriptural injunctions, is done without desire for results. As one has to do it, obligatory work is action in the mode of goodness. Work with results becomes the cause of bondage; therefore such work is not auspicious. Everyone has his proprietory right in regard to prescribed duties, but should act without attachment to the result; such disinterested obligatory duties doubtlessly lead one to the path of liberation.
Arjuna was therefore advised by the Lord to fight as a matter of duty without attachment to the result. His nonparticipation in the battle is another side of attachment. Such attachment never leads one to the path of salvation. Any attachment, positive or negative, is cause for bondage. Inaction is sinful. Therefore, fighting as a matter of duty was the only auspicious path of salvation for Arjuna.
yoga-sthaḥ kuru karmāṇi
saṅgaṁ tyaktvā dhanajaya
siddhy-asiddhyoḥ samo bhūtvā
samatvaṁ yoga ucyate
yoga–sthaḥ—steadfast in yoga; kuru—perform; karmāṇi—your duty; saṅgam—attachment; tyaktvā—having abandoned; dhanajaya—O Dhanajaya; siddhi–asiddhyoḥ—in success and failure; samaḥ—the same; bhūtvā—having become; samatvam—evenness of mind; yogaḥ–yoga; ucyate—is called.
Be steadfast in yoga, O Arjuna. Perform your duty and abandon all attachment to success or failure. Such evenness of mind is called yoga.
Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna that he should act in yoga. And what is that yoga? Yoga means to concentrate the mind upon the Supreme by controlling the ever-disturbing senses. And who is the Supreme? The Supreme is the Lord. And because He Himself is telling Arjuna to fight, Arjuna has nothing to do with the results of the fight. Gain or victory are Kṛṣṇa’s concern; Arjuna is simply advised to act according to the dictation of Kṛṣṇa. The following of Kṛṣṇa’s dictation is real yoga, and this is practiced in the process called Kṛṣṇa consciousness. By Kṛṣṇa consciousness only can one give up the sense of proprietorship. One has to become the servant of Kṛṣṇa, or the servant of the servant of Kṛṣṇa. That is the right way to discharge duty in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, which alone can help one to act in yoga.
Arjuna is a kṣatriya, and as such he is participating in the varṇāśrama–dharma institution. It is said in the Viṣṇu Puraṇa that in the varṇāśrama–dharma, the whole aim is to satisfy Viṣṇu. No one should satisfy himself, as is the rule in the material world, but one should satisfy Kṛṣṇa. So, unless one satisfies Kṛṣṇa, one cannot correctly observe the principles of varṇāśrama–dharma. Indirectly, Arjuna was advised to act as Kṛṣṇa told him.
dūreṇa hy avaraṁ karma
buddhau śaraṇam anviccha
dūreṇa—by discarding it at a long distance; hi—certainly; avaram—abominable; karma—activities; buddhi–yogāt—on the strength of Kṛṣṇa consciousness; dhanajaya—O conqueror of wealth; buddhau—in such consciousness; śaraṇam—full surrender; anviccha—desire; kṛpaṇāḥ—the misers; phala–hetavaḥ—those desiring fruitive action.
O Dhanajaya, rid yourself of all fruitive activities by devotional service, and surrender fully to that consciousness. Those who want to enjoy the fruits of their work are misers.
One who has actually come to understand one’s constitutional position as the eternal servitor of the Lord gives up all engagements save working in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. As already explained, buddhi–yoga means transcendental loving service to the Lord. Such devotional service is the right course of action for the living entity. Only misers desire to enjoy the fruit of their own work just to be further entangled in material bondage. Except for work in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, all activities are abominable because they continually bind the worker to the cycle of birth and death. One should therefore never desire to be the cause of work. Everything should be done in Kṛṣṇa consciousness for the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa. Misers do not know how to utilize the assets of riches which they acquire by good fortune or by hard labor. One should spend all energies working in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and that will make one’s life successful. Like the misers, unfortunate persons do not employ their human energy in the service of the Lord.
tasmād yogāya yujyasva
yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam
buddhi–yuktaḥ—one who is engaged in devotional service; jahāti—can get rid of; iha—in this life; ubhe—in both; sukṛta–duṣkṛte—in good and bad results; tasmāt—therefore; yogāya—for the sake of devotional service; yujyasva—be so engaged; yogaḥ—Kṛṣṇa consciousness; karmasu—in all activities; kauśalam—art.
A man engaged in devotional service rids himself of both good and bad actions even in this life. Therefore strive for yoga, O Arjuna, which is the art of all work.
Since time immemorial each living entity has accumulated the various reactions of his good and bad work, As such, he is continuously ignorant of his real constitutional position. One’s ignorance can be removed by the instruction of the Bhagavad-gītā which teaches one to surrender unto Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa in all respects and become liberated from the chained victimization of action and reaction, birth after birth. Arjuna is therefore advised to act in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the purifying process of resultant action.
karma-jaṁ buddhi-yuktā hi
phalaṁ tyaktvā manīṣiṇaḥ
padaṁ gacchanty anāmayam
karma–jam—because of fruitive activities; buddhi–yuktāḥ—being done in devotional service; hi—certainly; phalam—results; tyaktvā—giving up; manīṣiṇaḥ—devotees who are great sages; janma–bandha—the bondage of birth and death; vinirmuktāḥ—liberated souls; padam—position; gacchanti—reach; anāmayam—without miseries.
The wise, engaged in devotional service, take refuge in the Lord, and free themselves from the cycle of birth and death by renouncing the fruits of action in the material world. In this way they can attain that state beyond all miseries.
The liberated living entities seek that place where there are no material miseries. The Bhāgavatam says:
samāśritā ye padapallava-plavaṁ
mahat–padaṁ puṇya-yaśo murāreḥ
bhāvambudhir vatsa–padaṁ paraṁ padaṁ
paraṁ padaṁ yad vipadāṁ na teṣām
“For one who has accepted the boat of the lotus feet of the Lord, who is the shelter of the cosmic manifestation and is famous as Mukunda or the giver of mukti, the ocean of the material world is like the water contained in a calf’s hoofprint. Param padam, or the place where there are no material miseries, or Vaikuṇṭha, is his goal, not the place where there is danger in every step of life.”
Owing to ignorance, one does not know that this material world is a miserable place where there are dangers at every step. Out of ignorance only, less intelligent persons try to adjust to the situation by fruitive activities, thinking that resultant actions will make them happy. They do not know that no kind of material body anywhere within the universe can give life without miseries. The miseries of life, namely birth, death, old age and diseases, are present everywhere within the material world. But one who understands his real constitutional position as the eternal servitor of the Lord, and thus knows the position of the Personality of Godhead, engages himself in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. Consequently he becomes qualified to enter into the Vaikuṇṭha planets, where there is neither material, miserable life, nor the influence of time and death. To know one’s constitutional position means to know also the sublime position of the Lord. One who wrongly thinks that the living entity’s position and the Lord’s position are on the same level is to be understood to be in darkness and therefore unable to engage himself in the devotional service of the Lord. He becomes a lord himself and thus paves the way for the repetition of birth and death. But one who, understanding that his position is to serve, transfers himself to the service of the Lord, at once becomes eligible for Vaikuṇṭhaloka. Service for the cause of the Lord is called karma–yoga or buddhi–yoga, or in plain words, devotional service to the Lord.
yadā te moha-kalilaṁ
tadā gantāsi nirvedaṁ
śrotavyasya śrutasya ca
yadā—when; te—your; moha—illusory; kalilam—dense forest; buddhiḥ—transcendental service with intelligence; vyatitariṣyati—surpasses; tadā—at that time; gantāsi—you shall go; nirvedam—callousness; śrotavyasya—all that is to be heard; śrutasya—all that is already heard; ca—also.
When your intelligence has passed out of the dense forest of delusion, you shall become indifferent to all that has been heard and all that is to be heard.
There are many good examples in the lives of the great devotees of the Lord of those who became indifferent to the rituals of the Vedas simply by devotional service to the Lord. When a person factually understands Kṛṣṇa and his relationship with Kṛṣṇa, he naturally becomes completely indifferent to the rituals of fruitive activities, even though an experienced brāhmaṇa. Śrī Mādhavendra Purī, a great devotee and ācārya in the line of the devotees, says:
sandhyā–vandana bhadram astu bhavato bhoḥ snāna tubhyaṁ namo
bho devāḥ pitaraś ca tarpaṇa–vidhau nāhaṁ kṣamaḥ kṣamyatām
yatra kvāpi niṣadya yādava-kulottamasya kaṁsa–dviṣaḥ
smāraṁ smāram aghaṁ harāmi tad alaṁ manye kim anyena me.
“O Lord, in my prayers three times a day, all glory to You. Bathing, I offer my obeisances unto You. O demigods! O forefathers! Please excuse me for my inability to offer you my respects. Now wherever I sit, I can remember the great descendant of the Yadu dynasty [Kṛṣṇa], the enemy of Kaṁsa, and thereby I can free myself from all sinful bondage. I think this is sufficient for me.”
The Vedic rites and rituals are imperative for neophytes: comprehending all kinds of prayer three times a day, taking a bath early in the morning, offering respects to the forefathers, etc. But, when one is fully in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and is engaged in His transcendental loving service, one becomes indifferent to all these regulative principles because he has already attained perfection. If one can reach the platform of understanding by service to the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa, he has no longer to execute different types of penances and sacrifices as recommended in revealed scriptures. And, similarly, if one has not understood that the purpose of the Vedas is to reach Kṛṣṇa and simply engages in the rituals, etc., then he is uselessly wasting time in such engagements. Persons in Kṛṣṇa consciousness transcend the limit of śabda–brahma, or the range of the Vedas and Upaniṣads.
yadā sthāsyati niścalā
samādhāv acalā buddhis
tadā yogam avāpsyasi
śruti—Vedic revelation; vipratipannā—without being influenced by the fruitive results of the Vedas; te—your; yadā—when; sthāsyati—remains; niścalā—unmoved; samādhau—in transcendental consciousness, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness; acalā—unflinching; buddhiḥ—intelligence; tadā—at that time; yogam—self-realization; avāpsyasi—you will achieve.
When your mind is no longer disturbed by the flowery language of the Vedas, and when it remains fixed in the trance of self-realization, then you will have attained the Divine consciousness.
To say that one is in samādhi is to say that one has fully realized Kṛṣṇa consciousness; that is, one in full samādhi has realized Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān. The highest perfection of self-realization is to understand that one is eternally the servitor of Kṛṣṇa and that one’s only business is to discharge one’s duties in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person, or unflinching devotee of the Lord, should not be disturbed by the flowery language of the Vedas nor be engaged in fruitive activities for promotion to the heavenly kingdom. In Kṛṣṇa consciousness, one comes directly into communion with Kṛṣṇa, and thus all directions from Kṛṣṇa may be understood in that transcendental state. One is sure to achieve results by such activities and attain conclusive knowledge. One has only to carry out the orders of Kṛṣṇa or His representative, the spiritual master.
sthita-prajasya kā bhāṣā
sthita-dhīḥ kiṁ prabhāṣeta
kim āsīta vrajeta kim
arjuna uvāca—Arjuna said; sthita–prajasya—of one who is situated in fixed Kṛṣṇa consciousness; kā—what; bhāṣā—language; samādhi–sthasya—of one situated in trance; keśava—O Kṛṣṇa; sthita–dhīḥ—one fixed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness; kim—what; prabhāṣeta—speak; kim—how; āsīta—does remain; vrajeta—walk; kim—how.
Arjuna said: What are the symptoms of one whose consciousness is thus merged in Transcendence? How does he speak, and what is his language? How does he sit, and how does he walk?
As there are symptoms for each and every man, in terms of his particular situation, similarly one who is Kṛṣṇa conscious has his particular nature—talking, walking, thinking, feeling, etc. As a rich man has his symptoms by which he is known as a rich man, as a diseased man has his symptoms, by which he is known as diseased, or as a learned man has his symptoms, so a man in transcendental consciousness of Kṛṣṇa has specific symptoms in various dealings. One can know his specific symptoms from the Bhagavad-gītā. Most important is how the man in Kṛṣṇa consciousness speaks, for speech is the most important quality of any man. It is said that a fool is undiscovered as long as he does not speak, and certainly a well-dressed fool cannot be identified unless he speaks, but as soon as he speaks, he reveals himself at once. The immediate symptom of a Kṛṣṇa conscious man is that he speaks only of Kṛṣṇa and of matters relating to Him. Other symptoms then automatically follow, as stated below.
prajahāti yadā kāmān
sarvān pārtha mano-gatān
ātmany evātmanā tuṣṭaḥ
śrī bhagavān uvāca—the Supreme Personality of Godhead said; prajahāti—gives up; yadā—when; kāmān—desires for sense gratification; sarvān—of all varieties; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; manaḥ–gatān—of mental concoction; ātmani—in the pure state of the soul; eva—certainly; ātmanā—by the purified mind; tuṣṭaḥ—satisfied; sthita–prajaḥ—transcendentally situated; tadā—at that time; ucyate—is said.
The Blessed Lord said: O Pārtha, when a man gives up all varieties of sense desire which arise from mental concoction, and when his mind finds satisfaction in the self alone, then he is said to be in pure transcendental consciousness.
The Bhāgavatam affirms that any person who is fully in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or devotional service of the Lord, has all the good qualities of the great sages, whereas a person who is not so transcendentally situated has no good qualifications, because he is sure to be taking refuge in his own mental concoctions. Consequently, it is rightly said herein that one has to give up all kinds of sense desire manufactured by mental concoction. Artificially, such sense desires cannot be stopped. But if one is engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then, automatically, sense desires subside without extraneous efforts. Therefore, one has to engage himself in Kṛṣṇa consciousness without hesitation, for this devotional service will instantly help one on to the platform of transcendental consciousness. The highly developed soul always remains satisfied in himself by realizing himself as the eternal servitor of the Supreme Lord. Such a transcendentally situated person has no sense desires resulting from petty materialism; rather, he remains always happy in his natural position of eternally serving the Supreme Lord.
sthita-dhīr munir ucyate
duḥkheṣu—in the threefold miseries; anudvigna–manāḥ—without being agitated in mind; sukheṣu—in happiness; vigata–spṛhaḥ—without being too interested; vīta—free from; rāga—attachment; bhaya—fear; krodhaḥ—anger; sthita–dhīḥ—one who is steady; muniḥ—sage; ucyate—is called.
One who is not disturbed in spite of the threefold miseries, who is not elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind.
The word muni means one who can agitate his mind in various ways for mental speculation without coming to a factual conclusion. It is said that every muni has a different angle of vision, and unless a muni differs from other munis, he cannot be called a muni in the strict sense of the term. Nāsau munir yasya mataṁ na binnam. But a sthita–dhī–muni as mentioned herein by the Lord, is different from an ordinary muni The sthita–dhī–muni is always in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, for he has exhausted all his business of creative speculation. He has surpassed the stage of mental speculations and has come to the conclusion that Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, or Vāsudeva, is everything. He is called a muni fixed in mind. Such a fully Kṛṣṇa conscious person is not at all disturbed by the onslaughts of the threefold miseries, for he accepts all miseries as the mercy of the Lord, thinking himself only worthy of more trouble due to his past misdeeds; and he sees that his miseries, by the grace of the Lord, are minimized to the lowest. Similarly, when he is happy he gives credit to the Lord, thinking himself unworthy of the happiness; he realizes that it is due only to the Lord’s grace that he is in such a comfortable condition and able to render better service to the Lord. And, for the service of the Lord, he is always daring and active and is not influenced by attachment or aversion. Attachment means accepting things for one’s own sense gratification, and detachment is the absence of such sensual attachment. But one fixed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness has neither attachment nor detachment because his life is dedicated in the service of the Lord. Consequently he is not at all angry even when his attempts are unsuccessful. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person is always steady in his determination.
tat tat prāpya śubhāśubham
nābhinandati na dveṣṭi
tasya prajā pratiṣṭhitā
yaḥ—one who; sarvatra—everywhere; anabhisnehaḥ—without affection; tat—that; tat—that; prāpya—achieving; śubha—good; aśubham—evil; na—never; abhinandati—prays; na—never; dveṣṭi—envies; tasya—his; prajā—perfect knowledge; pratiṣṭhita—fixed.
He who is without attachment, who does not rejoice when he obtains good, nor lament when he obtains evil, is firmly fixed in perfect knowledge.
There is always some upheaval in the material world which may be good or evil. One who is not agitated by such material upheavals, who is unaffected by good and evil, is to be understood to be fixed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. As long as one is in the material world there is always the possibility of good and evil because this world is full of duality. But one who is fixed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not affected by good and evil because he is simply concerned with Kṛṣṇa, who is all good absolute. Such consciousness in Kṛṣṇa situates one in a perfect transcendental position called, technically, samādhi.
yadā saṁharate cāyaṁ
kūrmo ‘ṅgānīva sarvaśaḥ
tasya prajā pratiṣṭhitā
yadā—when; saṁharate—winds up; ca—also; ayam—all these; kūrmaḥ—tortoise; aṅgāni—limbs; iva—like; sarvaśaḥ—altogether; indriyāni—senses; indriya–arthebhyaḥ—from the sense objects; tasya—his; prajā—consciousness; pratiṣṭhitā—fixed up.
One who is able to withdraw his senses from sense objects, as the tortoise draws his limbs within the shell, is to be understood as truly situated in knowledge.
The test of a yogī, devotee, or self-realized soul is that he is able to control the senses according to his plan. Most people, however, are servants of the senses and are thus directed by the dictation of the senses. That is the answer to the question as to how the yogī is situated. The senses are compared to venomous serpents. They want to act very loosely and without restriction. The yogī, or the devotee, must be very strong to control the serpents—like a snake charmer. He never allows them to act independantly. There are many injunctions in the revealed scriptures; some of them are do-not’s, and some of them are do’s. Unless one is able to follow the do’s and the do-not’s, restricting oneself from sense enjoyment, it is not possible to be firmly fixed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The best example, set herein, is the tortoise. The tortoise can at any moment wind up his senses and exhibit them again at any time for particular purposes. Similarly, the senses of the Kṛṣṇa conscious persons are used only for some particular purpose in the service of the Lord and are withdrawn otherwise. Keeping the senses always in the service of the Lord is the example set by the analogy of the tortoise, who keeps the senses within.
rasa-varjaṁ raso ‘py asya
paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate
viṣayāḥ—objects for sense enjoyment; vinivartante—are practiced to be refrained from; nirāhārasya—by negative restrictions; dehinaḥ—for the embodied; rasa–varjam—giving up the taste; rasaḥ—sense of enjoyment; api—although there is; asya—his; param—far superior things; dṛṣṭvā—by experiencing; nivartate—ceases from.
The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.
Unless one is transcendentally situated, it is not possible to cease from sense enjoyment. The process of restriction from sense enjoyment by rules and regulations is something like restricting a diseased person from certain types of eatables. The patient, however, neither likes such restrictions, nor loses his taste for eatables. Similarly, sense restriction by some spiritual process like aṣṭāṅga-yoga, in the matter of yama, niyama, āsana, prāṇāyāma, pratyāhāra, dharaṇā, dhyāna, etc., is recommended for less intelligent persons who have no better knowledge. But one who has tasted the beauty of the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa, in the course of his advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, no longer has a taste for dead material things. Therefore, restrictions are there for the less intelligent neophytes in the spiritual advancement of life, but such restrictions are only good if one actually has a taste for Kṛṣṇa consciousness. When one is actually Kṛṣṇa conscious, he automatically loses his taste for pale things.
yatato hy api kaunteya
haranti prasabhaṁ manaḥ
yatataḥ—while endeavoring; hi—certainly; api—in spite of; kaunteya—O son of Kuntī; puruṣasya—of the man; vipaścitaḥ—full of discriminating knowledge; indriyāṇi—the senses; pramāthīni—stimulated; haranti—throws forcefully; prasabhaṁ—by force; manaḥ—the mind.
The senses are so strong and impetuous, O Arjuna, that they forcibly carry away the mind even of a man of discrimination who is endeavoring to control them.
There are many learned sages, philosophers and transcendentalists who try to conquer the senses, but in spite of their endeavors, even the greatest of them sometimes fall victim to material sense enjoyment due to the agitated mind. Even Viśvāmitra, a great sage and perfect yogī, was misled by Menakā into sex enjoyment, although the yogī was endeavoring for sense control with severe types of penance and yoga practice. And, of course, there are so many similar instances in the history of the world. Therefore, it is very difficult to control the mind and the senses without being fully Kṛṣṇa conscious. Without engaging the mind in Kṛṣṇa, one cannot cease such material engagements. A practical example is given by Śrī Yāmunācārya, a great saint and devotee, who says: “Since my mind has been engaged in the service of the lotus feet of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and I have been enjoying an ever new transcendental humor, whenever I think of sex life with a woman, my face at once turns from it, and I spit at the thought.”
Kṛṣṇa consciousness is such a transcendentally nice thing that automatically material enjoyment becomes distasteful. It is as if a hungry man had satisfied his hunger by a sufficient quantity of nutritious eatables. Mahārāja Ambarīṣa also conquered a great yogī, Durvāsā Muni, simply because his mind was engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
paraṁ bhūyaḥ pravakṣyāmi
jnānānāṁ jnānam uttamam
yaj jnātvā munayaḥ sarve
parāṁ siddhim ito gatāḥ
śrī bhagavān uvāca—the Supreme Personality of Godhead said; param—transcendental; bhūyaḥ—again; pravakṣyāmi—I shall speak; jnānānām—of all knowledge; jnānam—knowledge; uttamam—the supreme; yat—which; jnātvā—knowing; munayaḥ—the sages; sarve—all; parām—transcendental; siddhim—perfection; itaḥ—from this world; gatāḥ—attain.
The Blessed Lord said: Again I shall declare to you this supreme wisdom, the best of all knowledge, knowing which all the sages have attained to supreme perfection.
From the Seventh Chapter to the end of the Twelfth Chapter, Śrī Kṛṣṇa in detail reveals the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Now, the Lord Himself is further enlightening Arjuna. If one understands this chapter through the process of philosophical speculation, he will come to an understanding of devotional service. In the Thirteenth Chapter, it was clearly explained that by humbly developing knowledge one may possibly be freed from material entanglement. It has also been explained that it is due to association with the modes of nature that the living entity is entangled in this material world. Now, in this chapter, the Supreme Personality explains what those modes of nature are, how they act, how they bind and how they give liberation. The knowledge explained in this chapter is proclaimed by the Supreme Lord to be superior to the knowledge given so far in other chapters. By understanding this knowledge, various great sages attain perfection and transfer to the spiritual world. The Lord now explains the same knowledge in a better way. This knowledge is far, far superior to all other processes of knowledge thus far explained, and knowing this many attain perfection. Thus it is expected that one who understands this Fourteenth Chapter will attain perfection.
idaṁ jnānam upāśritya
mama sādharmyam āgatāḥ
sarge ‘pi nopajāyante
pralaye na vyathanti ca
idam—this; jnānam—knowledge; upāśritya—taking shelter of; mama—My; sādharmyam—nature; āgatāḥ—attain; sarge api—even in the creation; na—never; upajāyante—comes in; pralaye—in the annihilation; na—nor; vyathanti—disturbed; ca—also.
By becoming fixed in this knowledge, one can attain to the transcendental nature, which is like My own nature. Thus established, one is not born at the time of creation nor disturbed at the time of dissolution.
After acquiring perfect transcendental knowledge, one acquires qualitative equality with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, becoming free from the repetition of birth and death. One does not, however, lose his identity as an individual soul. It is understood from Vedic literature that the liberated souls who have reached the transcendental planets of the spiritual sky always look to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, being engaged in His transcendental loving service. So, even after liberation, the devotees do not lose their individual identities.
Generally, in the material world, whatever knowledge we get is contaminated by the three modes of material nature. But knowledge which is not contaminated by the three modes of nature is called transcendental knowledge. As soon as one is situated in that transcendental knowledge, he is on the same platform as that of the Supreme Person. Those who have no knowledge of the spiritual sky hold that after being freed from the material activities of the material form, this spiritual identity becomes formless, without any variegatedness. However, just as there is material variegatedness in this world, so, in the spiritual world, there is also variegatedness. Those in ignorance of this think that spiritual existence is opposed to material variety. But actually, in the spiritual sky, one attains spiritual form. There are spiritual activities, and the spiritual situation is called devotional life. That atmosphere is said to be uncontaminated, and there one is equal in quality with the Supreme Lord. To obtain such knowledge, one must develop all the spiritual qualities. One who thus develops the spiritual qualities is not affected either by the creation or the destruction of the material world.
mama yonir mahad brahma
tasmin garbhaṁ dadhāmy aham
tato bhavati bhārata
mama—My; yoniḥ—source of birth; mahat—the total material existence; brahma—supreme; tasmin—in that; garbham—pregnancy; dadhāmi—create; aham—I; sambhavaḥ—possibility; sarva–bhūtānām—of all living entities; tataḥ—thereafter; bhavati—becomes; bhārata—O son of Bharata.
The total material substance, called Brahman, is the source of birth, and it is that Brahman that I impregnate, making possible the births of all living beings, O son of Bharata.
This is an explanation of the world: everything that takes place is due to the combination of kṣetra and kṣetrajna, the body and the spirit soul. This combination of material nature and the living entity is made possible by the Supreme God Himself. The mahat–tattva is the total cause of the total cosmic manifestation, and because in the total substance of the material cause there are three modes of nature, it is sometimes called Brahman. The Supreme Personality impregnates that total substance, and thus innumerable universes become possible. This total material substance, the mahat–tattva, is described as Brahman in the Vedic literature: tasmād etad brahma nāma–rūpam annaṁ ca jāyate. Into that Brahman the seeds of the living entities are impregnated by the Supreme Person. The twenty-four elements, beginning from earth, water, fire and air, are all material energy, called Mahā–brahman, or the great Brahman, the material nature. As is explained in the Seventh Chapter, beyond this there is another, superior nature-the living entity. In material nature the superior nature is mixed by the will of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and thereafter all living entities are born of this material nature.
The scorpion lays its eggs in piles of rice, and sometimes it is said that the scorpion is born out of rice. But the rice is not the cause of the scorpion. Actually, the eggs were laid by the mother. Similarly, material nature is not the cause of the birth of the living entities. The seed is given by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and they only seem to come out as products of material nature. Thus every living entity, according to his past activities, has a different body, created by this material nature, and the entity can enjoy or suffer according to his past deeds. The Lord is the cause of all the manifestations of living entities in this material world.
mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ
tāsāṁ brahma mahad yonir
ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā
sarva–yoniṣu—in all species of life; kaunteya—O son of Kuntī; mūrtayaḥ—forms; sambhavanti—as they appear; yāḥ—which; tāsām—all of them; brahma—supreme; mahat yoniḥ—the source of birth in the material substance; aham—Myself; bīja–pradaḥ—seed-giving; pitā—father.
It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kuntī, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.
In this verse it is clearly explained that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, is the original father of all living entities. The living entities are combinations of the material nature and the spiritual nature. Such living entities are seen not only on this planet, but in every planet, even in the highest where Brahmā is situated. Everywhere there are living entities; within the earth there are living entities, even within water and within fire. All these appearances are due to the mother, material nature, and Kṛṣṇa’s seed-giving process. The purport is that the living entities, being impregnated in the material world, come out and form at the time of creation according to their past deeds.
sattvaṁ rajas tama iti
dehe dehinam avyayam
sattvam—mode of goodness; rajaḥ—mode of passion; tamaḥ—mode of ignorance; iti—thus; guṇāḥ—qualities; prakṛti—material nature; sambhavāḥ—produced of; nibadhnanti—does condition; mahā–bāho—O mighty-armed one; dehe—in this body; dehinam—the living entity; avyayam—eternal.
Material nature consists of the three modes-goodness, passion and ignorance. When the living entity comes in contact with nature, he becomes conditioned by these modes.
The living entity, because he is transcendental, has nothing to do with this material nature. Still, because he has become conditioned by the material world, he is acting under the spell of the three modes of material nature. Because living entities have different kinds of bodies, in terms of the different aspects of nature, they are induced to act according to that nature. This is the cause of the varieties of happiness and distress.
tatra sattvaṁ nirmalatvāt
tatra—thereafter; sattvam—mode of goodness; nirmalatvāt—being purest in the material world; prakāśakam—illuminating; anāmayam—without any sinful reachon; sukha—happiness; saṅgena—association; badhnāti—conditions; jnāna—knowledge; saṅgena—association; ca—also; anagha—O sinless one.
O sinless one, the mode of goodness, being purer than the others, is illuminating, and it frees one from all sinful reactions. Those situated in that mode develop knowledge, but they become conditioned by the concept of happiness.
The living entities conditioned by material nature are of various types. One is happy, another is very active, and another is helpless. All these types of psychological manifestations are causes of the entities’ conditioned status in nature. How they are differently conditioned is explained in this section of Bhagavad-gītā. The mode of goodness is first considered. The effect of developing the mode of goodness in the material world is that one becomes wiser than those otherwise conditioned. A man in the mode of goodness is not so much affected by material miseries, and he has a sense of advancement in material knowledge. The representative type is the brāhmaṇa, who is supposed to be situated in the mode of goodness. This sense of happiness is due to understanding that, in the mode of goodness, one is more or less free from sinful reactions. Actually, in the Vedic literature it is said that the mode of goodness means greater knowledge and a greater sense of happiness.
The difficulty here is that when a living entity is situated in the mode of goodness, he becomes conditioned to feel that he is advanced in knowledge and is better than others. In this way he becomes conditioned. The best examples are the scientist and philosopher: each is very proud of his knowledge, and because they generally improve their living conditions, they feel a sort of material happiness. This sense of advanced happiness in conditioned life makes them bound by the mode of goodness of material nature. As such, they are attracted toward working in the mode of goodness, and, as long as they have an attraction for working in that way, they have to take some type of body in the modes of nature. Thus there is no likelihood of liberation, or of being transferred to the spiritual world. Repeatedly, one may become a philosopher, a scientist, or a poet, and, repeatedly, become entangled in the same disadvantages of birth and death. But, due to the illusion of the material energy, one thinks that that sort of life is pleasant.
rajo rāgātmakaṁ viddhi
tan nibadhnāti kaunteya
rajaḥ—mode of passion; rāga–ātmakam—born of desire or lust; viddhi—know; tṛṣṇā—hankering; saṅga—association; samudbhavam—produced of; tat—that; nibadhnāti—is bound; kaunteya—O son of Kuntī; karma–saṅgena—association with fruitive activity; dehinam—of the embodied.
The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, O son of Kuntī, and because of this one is bound to material fruitive activities.
The mode of passion is characterized by the attraction between man and woman. Woman has attraction for man, and man has attraction for woman. This is called the mode of passion. And, when the mode of passion is increased, one develops the hankering for material enjoyment. He wants to enjoy sense gratification. For sense gratification, a man in the mode of passion wants some honor in society, or in the nation, and he wants to have a happy family, with nice children, wife, and house. These are the products of the mode of passion. As long as one is hankering after these things, he has to work very hard. Therefore it is clearly stated here that he becomes associated with the fruits of his activities and thus becomes bound by such activities. In order to please his wife, children and society and to keep up his prestige, one has to work. Therefore, the whole material world is more or less in the mode of passion. Modern civilization is considered to be advanced in the standards of the mode of passion. Formerly, the advanced condition was considered to be in the mode of goodness. If there is no liberation for those in the mode of goodness, what of those who are entangled in the mode of passion?
tamas tv ajāna-jaṁ viddhi
tan nibadhnāti bhārata
tamaḥ—mode of ignorance; tu—but; ajāna–jam—products of ignorance; viddhi—knowing; mohanam—delusion; sarva–dehinām—of all embodied beings; pramāda—madness; ālasya—indolence; nidrābhiḥ—sleep; tat—that; nibadhnāti—binds; bhārata—O son of Bharata.
O son of Bharata, the mode of ignorance causes the delusion of all living entities. The result of this mode is madness, indolence and sleep, which bind the conditioned soul.
In this verse the specific application of the word tu is very significant. This means that the mode of ignorance is a very peculiar qualification of the embodied soul. This mode of ignorance is just the opposite of the mode of goodness. In the mode of goodness, by development of knowledge, one can understand what is what, but the mode of ignorance is just the opposite. Everyone under the spell of the mode of ignorance becomes mad, and a madman cannot understand what is what. Instead of making advancement, one becomes degraded. The definition of the mode of ignorance is stated in the Vedic literature: under the spell of ignorance, one cannot understand the thing as it is. For example, everyone can see that his grandfather has died, and therefore he will also die; man is mortal. The children that he conceives will also die. So death is sure. Still, people are madly accumulating money and working very hard all day and night, not caring for the eternal spirit. This is madness. In their madness, they are very reluctant to make advancement in spiritual understanding. Such people are very lazy. When they are invited to associate for spiritual understanding, they are not much interested. They are not even active like the man who is controlled by the mode of passion. Thus another symptom of one embedded in the mode of ignorance is that he sleeps more than is required. Six hours of sleep is sufficient, but a man in the mode of ignorance sleeps at least ten or twelve hours a day. Such a man appears to be always dejected, and is addicted to intoxicants and sleeping. These are the symptoms of a person conditioned by the mode of ignorance.
sattvaṁ sukhe sajayati
rajaḥ karmaṇi bhārata
jānam āvṛtya tu tamaḥ
pramāde sajayaty uta
sattvam—mode of goodness; sukhe—in happiness; sajayati—develops; rajaḥ—mode of passion; karmaṇi—fruits of activities; bhārata—O son of Bharata; jānam—knowledge; āvṛtya—covering; tu—but; tamaḥ—the mode of ignorance; pramāde—in madness; sajayati—develops; uta—it is said.
The mode of goodness conditions one to happiness, passion conditions him to the fruits of action, and ignorance to madness.
A person in the mode of goodness is satisfied by his work or intellectual pursuit, just as a philosopher, scientist, or educator may be engaged in a particular field of knowledge and may be satisfied in that way. A man in the modes of passion and goodness may be engaged in fruitive activity; he owns as much as he can and spends for good causes. Sometimes he tries to open hospitals, give to charity institutions, etc. These are the signs of one in the mode of passion. And the mode of ignorance covers knowledge. In the mode of ignorance, whatever one does is neither good for him nor for anyone.
rajas tamaś cābhibhūya
sattvaṁ bhavati bhārata
rajaḥ sattvaṁ tamaś caiva
tamaḥ sattvaṁ rajas tathā
rajaḥ—mode of passion; tamaḥ—mode of ignorance; ca—also; abhibhūya—also surpassing; sattvam—mode of goodness; bhavati—becomes prominent; bhārata—O son of Bharata; rajaḥ—mode of passion; sattvam—mode of goodness; tamaḥ—mode of ignorance; ca—also; eva—like that; tamaḥ—mode of ignorance; sattvam—mode of goodness; rajaḥ—mode of passion; tathā—as in this.
Sometimes the mode of passion becomes prominent, defeating the mode of goodness, O son of Bharata. And sometimes the mode of goodness defeats passion, and at other times the mode of ignorance defeats goodness and passion. In this way there is always competition for supremacy.
When the mode of passion is prominent, the modes of goodness and ignorance are defeated. When the mode of goodness is prominent, passion and ignorance are defeated. And, when the mode of ignorance is prominent, passion and goodness are defeated. This competition is always going on. Therefore, one who is actually intent on advancing in Kṛṣṇa consciousness has to transcend these three modes. The prominence of some certain mode of nature is manifested in one’s dealings, in his activities, in eating, etc. All this will be explained in later chapters. But if one wants, he can develop, by practice, the mode of goodness and thus defeat the modes of ignorance and passion. One can similarly develop the mode of passion and defeat goodness and ignorance. Or, one can develop the mode of ignorance and defeat goodness and passion. Although there are these three modes of material nature, if one is determined, he can be blessed by the mode of goodness, and, by transcending the mode of goodness, he can be situated in pure goodness, which is called the vāsudeva state, a state in which one can understand the science of God. By the manifestation of particular activities, it can be understood in what mode of nature one is situated.
sarva-dvāreṣu dehe ‘smin
jānaṁ yadā tadā vidyād
vivṛddhaṁ sattvam ity uta
sarva–dvāreṣu—all the gates; dehe asmin—in this body; prakāśaḥ—quality of illumination; upajāyate—develops; jānam—knowledge; yadā—when; tadā—at that time; vidyāt—must know; vivṛddham—increased; sattvam—mode of goodness; iti—thus; uta—said.
The manifestations of the mode of goodness can be experienced when all the gates of the body are illuminated by knowledge.
There are nine gates in the body: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, the mouth, the genital and the anus. In every gate, when the symptom of goodness is illuminated, it should be understood that one has developed the mode of goodness. In the mode of goodness, one can see things in the right position, one can hear things in the right position, and one can taste things in the right position. One becomes cleansed inside and outside. In every gate there is development of the symptoms of happiness, and that is the position of goodness.
lobhaḥ pravṛttir ārambhaḥ
karmaṇām aśamaḥ spṛhā
rajasy etāni jāyante
lobhaḥ—greed; pravṛttiḥ—hankering; ārambhaḥ—endeavor; karmaṇām—of activities; aśamaḥ—uncontrollable; spṛhā—desire; rajasi—in the mode of passion; etāni—all this; jāyante—develop; vivṛddhe—when there is excess; bharatarṣabha—O chief of the descendants of Bharata.
O chief of the Bhāratas, when there is an increase in the mode of passion, the symptoms of great attachment, uncontrollable desire, hankering, and intense endeavor develop.
One in the mode of passion is never satisfied with the position he has already acquired; he hankers to increase his position. If he wants to construct a residential house, he tries his best to have a palatial house, as if he would be able to reside in that house eternally. And he develops a great hankering for sense gratification. There is no end to sense gratification. He always wants to remain with his family and in his house and to continue the process of sense gratification. There is no cessation of this. All these symptoms should be understood as characteristic of the mode of passion.
aprakāśo ‘pravṛttiś ca
pramādo moha eva ca
tamasy etāni jāyante
aprakāśaḥ—darkness; apravṛttiḥ—inactivity; ca—and; pramādaḥ—madness; mohaḥ—illusion; eva—certainly; ca—also; tamasi—of the mode of ignorance; etāni—these; jāyante—are manifested; vivṛddhe—is developed; kuru–nandana—O son of Kuru.
O son of Kuru, when there is an increase in the mode of ignorance madness, illusion, inertia and darkness are manifested.
When there is no illumination, knowledge is absent. One in the mode of ignorance does not work by a regulative principle; he wants to act whimsically for no purpose. Even though he has the capacity to work, he makes no endeavor. This is called illusion. Although consciousness is going on, life is inactive. These are the symptoms of one in the mode of ignorance.
yadā sattve pravṛddhe tu
pralayaṁ yāti deha-bhṛt
yadā—when; sattve—mode of goodness; pravṛddhe—in development; tu—but; pralayam—dissolution; yāti—goes; deha–bhṛt—embodied; tadā—at that time; uttama–vidām—of the great sages; lokān—the planets; amalān—pure; pratipadyate—attains.
When one dies in the mode of goodness, he attains to the pure higher planets.
One in goodness attains higher planetary systems, like Brahmaloka or Janaloka, and there enjoys godly happiness. The word amalān is significant; it means free from the modes of passion and ignorance. There are impurities in the material world, but the mode of goodness is the purest form of existence in the material world. There are different kinds of planets for different kinds of living entities. Those who die in the mode of goodness are elevated to the planets where great sages and great devotees live.
rajasi pralayaṁ gatvā
tathā pralīnas tamasi
rajasi—in passion; pralayam—dissolution; gatvā—attaining; karma–saṅgiṣu—in the association of fruitive activities; jāyate—takes birth; tathā—thereafter; pralīnaḥ—being dissolved; tamasi—in ignorance; mūḍha—animal; yoniṣu—species; jāyate—take birth.
When one dies in the mode of passion, he takes birth among those engaged in fruitive activities; and when he dies in the mode of ignorance, he takes birth in the animal kingdom.
Some people have the impression that when the soul reaches the platform of human life, it never goes down again. This is incorrect. According to this verse, if one develops the mode of ignorance, after his death he is degraded to the animal form of life. From there one has to again elevate himself, by evolutionary process, to come again to the human form of life. Therefore, those who are actually serious about human life should take to the mode of goodness and in good association transcend the modes and become situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This is the aim of human life. Otherwise, there is no guarantee that the human being will again attain to the human status.
sāttvikaṁ nirmalaṁ phalam
rajasas tu phalaṁ duḥkham
ajānaṁ tamasaḥ phalam
karmaṇaḥ—of work; sukṛtasya—in the mode of goodness; āhuḥ—said; sāttvikam—mode of goodness; nirmalam—purified; phalam—result; rajasaḥ—of the mode of passion; tu—but; phalam—result; duḥkham—misery; ajānam—nonsense; tamasaḥ—of the mode of ignorance; phalam—result.
By acting in the mode of goodness, one becomes purified. Works done in the mode of passion result in distress, and actions performed in the mode of ignorance result in foolishness.
By pious activities in the mode of goodness one is purified; therefore the sages, who are free from all illusion, are situated in happiness. Similarly, activities in the mode of passion are simply miserable. Any activity for material happiness is bound to be defeated. If, for example, one wants to have a skyscraper, so much human misery has to be undergone before a big skyscraper can be built. The financier has to take much trouble to earn a mass of wealth, and those who are slaving to construct the building have to render physical toil. The miseries are there. Thus Bhagavad-gītā says that in any activity performed under the spell of the mode of passion, there is definitely great misery. There may be a little so-called mental happiness-“I have this house or this money”-but this is not actual happiness. As far as the mode of ignorance is concerned, the performer is without knowledge, and therefore all his activities result in present misery, and afterwards he will go on toward animal life. Animal life is always miserable, although, under the spell of the illusory energy, māyā, the animals do not understand this. Slaughtering poor animals is also due to the mode of ignorance. The animal killers do not know that in the future the animal will have a body suitable to kill them. That is the law of nature. In human society, if one kills a man he has to be hanged. That is the law of the state. Because of ignorance, people do not perceive that there is a complete state controlled by the Supreme Lord. Every living creature is the son of the Supreme Lord, and He does not tolerate even an ant’s being killed. One has to pay for it. So, indulgence in animal killing for the taste of the tongue is the grossest kind of ignorance. A human being has no need to kill animals because God has supplied so many nice things. If one indulges in meat-eating anyway, it is to be understood that he is acting in ignorance and is making his future very dark. Of all kinds of animal killing, the killing of cows is most vicious because the cow gives us all kinds of pleasure by supplying milk. Cow slaughter is an act of the grossest type of ignorance. In the Vedic literature the words gobhiḥ prīṇita-matsaram indicate that one who, being fully satisfied by milk, is desirous of killing the cow, is in the grossest ignorance. There is also a prayer in the Vedic literature that states:
namo brahmaṇya–devāya go-brāhmaṇa–hitāya ca
jagaddhitāya kṛṣṇāya govindāya namo namaḥ.
“My Lord, You are the well-wisher of the cows and the brāhmaṇas, and You are the well-wisher of the entire human society and world.” The purport is that special mention is given in that prayer for the protection of the cows and the brāhmaṇas. Brāhmaṇas are the symbol of spiritual education, and cows are the symbol of the most valuable food; these two living creatures, the brāhmaṇas and the cows, must be given all protection-that is real advancement of civilization. In modern human society, spiritual knowledge is neglected, and cow killing is encouraged. It is to be understood, then, that human society is advancing in the wrong direction and is clearing the path to its own condemnation. A civilization which guides the citizens to become animals in their next lives is certainly not a human civilization. The present human civilization is, of course, grossly misled by the modes of passion and ignorance. It is a very dangerous age, and all nations should take care to provide the easiest process, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, to save humanity from the greatest danger.
sattvāt sajāyate jānaṁ
rajaso lobha eva ca
bhavato ‘jānam eva ca
sattvāt—from the mode of goodness; sajāyate—develops; jānam—knowledge; rajasaḥ—from the mode of passion; lobhaḥ—greed; eva—certainly; ca—also; pramāda—madness; mohau—illusion; tamasaḥ—from the mode of ignorance; bhavataḥ—develops; ajānam—nonsense; eva—certainly; ca—also.
From the mode of goodness, real knowledge develops; from the mode of passion, grief develops; and from the mode of ignorance, foolishness, madness and illusion develop.
Since the present civilization is not very congenial to the living entities, Kṛṣṇa consciousness is recommended. Through Kṛṣṇa consciousness, society will develop the mode of goodness. When the mode of goodness is developed, people will see things as they are. In the mode of ignorance, people are just like animals and cannot see things clearly. In the mode of ignorance, for example, they do not see that by killing one animal they are taking a chance of being killed by the same animal in the next life. Because people have no education in actual knowledge, they become irresponsible. To stop this irresponsibility, education for developing the mode of goodness of the people in general must be there. When they are actually educated in the mode of goodness, they will become sober, in full knowledge of things as they are. Then people will be happy and prosperous. Even if the majority of the people aren’t happy and prosperous, if a certain percentage of the population develops Kṛṣṇa consciousness and becomes situated in the mode of goodness, then there is the possibility for peace and prosperity all over the world. Otherwise, if the world is devoted to the modes of passion and ignorance, there can be no peace or prosperity. In the mode of passion, people become greedy, and their hankering for sense enjoyment has no limit. One can see that even if one has enough money and adequate arrangement for sense gratification, there is neither happiness nor peace of mind. That is not possible because one is situated in the mode of passion. If one wants happiness at all, his money will not help him; he has to elevate himself to the mode of goodness by practicing Kṛṣṇa consciousness. One engaged in the mode of passion is not only mentally unhappy, but his profession and occupation are also very troublesome. He has to devise so many plans and schemes to acquire enough money to maintain his status quo. This is all miserable. In the mode of ignorance, people become mad. Being distressed by their circumstances, they take shelter of intoxication, and thus they sink further into ignorance. Their future in life is very dark.
ūrdhvaṁ gacchanti sattva-sthā
madhye tiṣṭhanti rājasāḥ
adho gacchanti tāmasāḥ
ūrdhvam—upwards; gacchanti—goes; sattva–sthāḥ—one who is situated in the mode of goodness; madhye—in the middle; tiṣṭhanti—dwell; rājasāḥ—those who are situated in the mode of passion; jaghanya—abominable; guṇa—quality; vṛtti–sthāḥ—occupation; adhaḥ—down; gacchanti—go; tāmasāḥ—persons in the mode of ignorance.
Those situated in the mode of goodness gradually go upward to the higher planets; those in the mode of passion live on the earthly planets; and those in the mode of ignorance go down to the hellish worlds.
In this verse the results of actions in the three modes of nature are more explicitly set forth. There is an upper planetary system, consisting of the heavenly planets, where everyone is highly elevated. According to the degree of development of the mode of goodness, the living entity can be transferred to various planets in this system. The highest planet is Satyaloka, or Brahmaloka, where the prime person of this universe, Lord Brahmā, resides. We have seen already that we can hardly calculate the wondrous condition of life in Brahmaloka, but the highest condition of life, the mode of goodness, can bring us to this.
The mode of passion is mixed. It is in the middle, between the modes of goodness and ignorance. A person is not always pure, but even if he should be purely in the mode of passion, he will simply remain on this earth as a king or a rich man. But because there are mixtures, one can also go down. People on this earth, in the modes of passion or ignorance, cannot forcibly approach the higher planets by machine. In the mode of passion, there is also the chance of becoming mad in the next life.
The lowest quality, the mode of ignorance, is described here as abominable. The result of developing ignorance is very, very risky. It is the lowest quality in material nature. Beneath the human level there are eight million species of life: birds, beasts, reptiles, trees, etc., and, according to the development of the mode of ignorance, people are brought down to these abominable conditions. The word tāmasāḥ is very significant here. Tāmasāḥ indicates those who stay continually in the mode of ignorance without rising to a higher mode. Their future is very dark.
There is opportunity for men in the modes of ignorance and passion to be elevated to the mode of goodness, and that system is called Kṛṣṇa consciousness. But one who does not take advantage of this opportunity certainly will continue in the lower modes.
nānyaṁ guṇebhyaḥ kartāraṁ
guṇebhyaś ca paraṁ vetti
mad-bhāvaṁ so ‘dhigacchati
na—never; anyam—other than; guṇebhyaḥ—from the qualities; kartāram—the performer; yadā—when; draṣṭā anupaśyati—he who sees properly; guṇebhyaḥ ca—from the modes of nature; param—transcendental; vetti—know; mat–bhāvam—My spiritual nature; saḥ—he; adhigacchati—is promoted.
When you see that there is nothing beyond these modes of nature in all activities and that the Supreme Lord is transcendental to all these modes, then you can know My spiritual nature.
One can transcend all the activities of the modes of material nature simply by understanding them properly by learning from the proper souls. The real spiritual master is Kṛṣṇa, and He is imparting this spiritual knowledge to Arjuna. Similarly, it is from those who are fully in Kṛṣṇa consciousness that one has to learn this science of activities in terms of the modes of nature. Otherwise, one’s life will be misdirected. By the instruction of a bona fide spiritual master, a living entity can know of his spiritual position, his material body, his senses, how he is entrapped, and how he is under the spell of the material modes of nature. He is helpless, being in the grip of these modes, but when he can see his real position, then he can attain to the transcendental platform, having the scope for spiritual life. Actually, the living entity is not the performer of different activities. He is forced to act because he is situated in a particular type of body, conducted by some particular mode of material nature. Unless one has the help of spiritual authority, he cannot understand in what position he is actually situated. With the association of a bona fide spiritual master, he can see his real position, and, by such an understanding, he can become fixed in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness. A man in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not controlled by the spell of the material modes of nature. It has already been stated in the Seventh Chapter that one who has surrendered to Kṛṣṇa is relieved from the activities of material nature. Therefore for one who is able to see things as they are, the influence of material nature gradually ceases.
guṇān etān atītya trīn
vimukto ‘mṛtam aśnute
guṇān—qualities; etān—all these; atītya—transcending; trīn—three; dehī—body; deha—body; samudbhavān—produced of; janma—birth; mṛtyu—death; jarā—old age; duḥkhaiḥ—distresses; vimuktaḥ—being freed from; amṛtam—nectar; aśnute—enjoys.
When the embodied being is able to transcend these three modes, he can become free from birth, death, old age and their distresses and can enjoy nectar even in this life.
How one can stay in the transcendental position, even in this body, in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness, is explained in this verse. The Sanskrit word dehī means embodied. Although one is within this material body, by his advancement in spiritual knowledge he can be free from the influence of the modes of nature. He can enjoy the happiness of spiritual life even in this body because, after leaving this body, he is certainly going to the spiritual sky. But even in this body he can enjoy spiritual happiness. In other words, devotional service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the sign of liberation from this material entanglement, and this will be explained in the Eighteenth Chapter. When one is freed from the influence of the modes of material nature, he enters into devotional service.
kair liṅgais trīn guṇān etān
atīto bhavati prabho
kim ācāraḥ kathaṁ caitāṁs
trīn guṇān ativartate
arjunaḥ uvāca—Arjuna said; kaiḥ—by which; liṅgaiḥ—symptoms; trīn—three; guṇān—qualities; etān—all this; atītaḥ—transcend; bhavati—become; prabho—my Lord; kim—what; ācāraḥ—behavior; katham—what; ca—also; etān—these; trīn—three; guṇān—qualities; ativartate—transcend.
Arjuna inquired: O my dear Lord, by what symptoms is one known who is transcendental to those modes? What is his behavior? And how does he transcend the modes of nature?
In this verse, Arjuna’s questions are very appropriate. He wants to know the symptoms of a person who has already transcended the material modes. He first inquires of the symptoms of such a transcendental person. How can one understand that he has already transcended the influence of the modes of material nature? The second question asks how he lives and what his activities are. Are they regulated or nonregulated? Then Arjuna inquires of the means by which he can attain the transcendental nature. That is very important. Unless one knows the direct means by which one can be situated always transcendentally, there is no possibility of showing the symptoms. So all these questions put by Arjuna are very important, and the Lord answers them.
prakāśaṁ ca pravṛttiṁ ca
moham eva ca pāṇḍava
na dveṣṭi sampravṛttāni
na nivṛttāni kāṅkṣati
guṇair yo na vicālyate
guṇā vartanta ity evaṁ
yo ‘vatiṣṭhati neṅgate
guṇātītaḥ sa ucyate
śrī bhagavān uvāca—the Supreme Personality of Godhead said; prakāśam ca—and illumination; pravṛttim ca—and attachment; moham—illusion; eva ca—also; pāṇḍava—O son of Pāṇḍu; na dveṣṭi—does not hate; sampravṛttāni—although developed; na nivṛttāni—nor stop development; kāṅkṣati—desires; udāsīnavat—as if neutral; āsīnaḥ—situated; guṇaiḥ—by the qualities; yaḥ—one who; na—never; vicālyate—is agitated; guṇāḥ—the qualities; vartante—is situated; iti evam—knowing thus; yaḥ—one who; avatiṣṭhati—remains; na—never; iṅgate—flickering; sama—equally; duḥkha—in distress; sukhaḥ—in happiness; svasthaḥ—being situated himself; sama—equally; loṣṭa—a lump of earth; aśma—stone; kācanaḥ—gold; tulya—equally disposed; priya—dear; apriyaḥ—undesirable; dhīraḥ—steadily; tulya—equally; nindā—in defamation; ātma–saṁstutiḥ—in praise of himself; māna—honor; apamānayoḥ—dishonor; tulyaḥ—equally; tulyaḥ—equally; mitra—friend; ari—enemy; pakṣayoḥ—in party; sarva—all; ārambhaḥ—endeavor; parityāgī—renouncer; guṇa–atītaḥ—transcendental to the material modes of nature; saḥ—he; ucyate—is said to be.
The Blessed Lord said: He who does not hate illumination, attachment and delusion when they are present, nor longs for them when they disappear; who is seated like one unconcerned, being situated beyond these material reactions of the modes of nature, who remains firm, knowing that the modes alone are active; who regards alike pleasure and pain, and looks on a clod, a stone and a piece of gold with an equal eye; who is wise and holds praise and blame to be the same; who is unchanged in honor and dishonor, who treats friend and foe alike, who has abandoned all fruitive undertakings-such a man is said to have transcended the modes of nature.
Arjuna submitted the three different questions, and the Lord answers them one after another. In these verses, Kṛṣṇa first indicates that a person transcendentally situated neither envies anyone nor hankers for anything. When a living entity stays in this material world embodied by the material body, it is to be understood that he is under the control of one of the three modes of material nature. When he is actually out of the body, then he is out of the clutches of the material modes of nature. But as long as he is not out of the material body, he should be neutral. He should engage himself in the devotional service of the Lord so that his identity with the material body will automatically be forgotten. When one is conscious of the material body, he acts only for sense gratification, but when one transfers the consciousness to Kṛṣṇa, sense gratification automatically stops. One does not need this material body, and he does not need to accept the dictations of the material body. The qualities of the material modes in the body will act, but as spirit soul the self is aloof from such activities. How does he become aloof? He does not desire to enjoy the body, nor does he desire to get out of it. Thus transcendentally situated, the devotee becomes automatically free. He need not try to become free from the influence of the modes of material nature.
The next question concerns the dealings of a transcendentally situated person. The materially situated person is affected by so-called honor and dishonor offered to the body, but the transcendentally situated person is not affected by such false honor and dishonor. He performs his duty in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and does not mind whether a man honors or dishonors him. He accepts things that are favorable for his duty in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, otherwise he has no necessity of anything material, either a stone or gold. He takes everyone as his dear friend who helps him in his execution of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and he does not hate his so-called enemy. He is equally disposed and sees everything on an equal level because he knows perfectly well that he has nothing to do with material existence. Social and political issues do not affect him because he knows the situation of temporary upheavals and disturbances. He does not attempt anything for his own sake. He can attempt anything for Kṛṣṇa, but for his personal self he does not attain anything. By such behavior one becomes actually transcendentally situated.
māṁ ca yo ‘vyabhicāreṇa
sa guṇān samatītyaitān
mām—unto Me; ca—also; yaḥ—person; avyabhicāreṇa—without fail; bhakti–yogena—by devotional service; sevate—renders service; saḥ—he; guṇān—all the modes of material nature; samatītya—transcending; etān—all this; brahma–bhūyāya—to be elevated on the Brahman platform; kalpate—is considered.
One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstance, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.
This verse is a reply to Arjuna’s third question: What is the means of attaining to the transcendental position? As explained before, the material world is acting under the spell of the modes of material nature. One should not be disturbed by the activities of the modes of nature; instead of putting his consciousness into such activities, he may transfer his consciousness to Kṛṣṇa activities. Kṛṣṇa activities are known as bhakti–yoga–always acting for Kṛṣṇa. This includes not only Kṛṣṇa, but His different plenary expansions such as Rāma and Nārāyaṇa. He has innumerable expansions. One who is engaged in the service of any of the forms of Kṛṣṇa, or of His plenary expansions, is considered to be transcendentally situated. One should also note that all the forms of Kṛṣṇa are fully transcendental, blissful, full of knowledge and eternal. Such personalities of Godhead are omnipotent and omniscient, and they possess all transcendental qualities. So, if one engages himself in the service of Kṛṣṇa or His plenary expansions with unfailing determination, although these modes of material nature are very difficult to overcome, he can overcome them easily. This is already explained in the Seventh Chapter. One who surrenders unto Kṛṣṇa at once surmounts the influence of the modes of material nature. To be in Kṛṣṇa consciousness or in devotional service means to acquire the equality of Kṛṣṇa. The Lord says that His nature is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge, and the living entities are part and parcel of the Supreme, as gold particles are part of a gold mine. Thus the living entity’s spiritual position is as good as gold, as good as Kṛṣṇa in quality. The difference of individuality continues, otherwise there is no question of bhakti–yoga. Bhakti–yoga means that the Lord is there, the devotee is there and the activity of exchange of love between the Lord and the devotee is there. Therefore the individuality of two persons is present in the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the individual person, otherwise there is no meaning to bhakti–yoga. If one is not situated in the same transcendental position with the Lord, one cannot serve the Supreme Lord. To be a personal assistant to a king, one must acquire the qualifications. Thus the qualification is to become Brahman, or freed from all material contamination. It is said in the Vedic literature: brahmaiva san brahmāpyeti. One can attain the Supreme Brahman by becoming Brahman. This means that one must qualitatively become one with Brahman. By attainment of Brahman, one does not lose his eternal Brahman identity as individual soul.
brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham
śāśvatasya ca dharmasya
brahmaṇaḥ—of the impersonal brahmajyoti; hi—certainly; pratiṣṭhā—the rest; aham—I am; amṛtasya—of the imperishable; avyayasya—immortal; ca—also; śāśvatasya—of eternal; ca—and; dharmasya—of the constitutional position; sukhasya—happiness; aikāntikasya—ultimate; ca—also.
And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness, and which is immortal, imperishable and eternal.
The constitution of Brahman is immortality, imperishability, eternity, and happiness. Brahman is the beginning of transcendental realization. Paramātmā, the Supersoul, is the middle, the second stage in transcendental realization, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the ultimate realization of the Absolute Truth. Therefore, both Paramātmā and the impersonal Brahman are within the Supreme Person. It is explained in the Seventh Chapter that material nature is the manifestation of the inferior energy of the Supreme Lord. The Lord impregnates the inferior material nature with the fragments of the superior nature, and that is the spiritual touch in the material nature. When a living entity conditioned by this material nature begins the cultivation of spiritual knowledge, he elevates himself from the position of material existence and gradually rises up to the Brahman conception of the Supreme. This attainment of the Brahman conception of life is the first stage in self-realization. At this stage the Brahman realized person is transcendental to the material position, but he is not actually perfect in Brahman realization. If he wants, he can continue to stay in the Brahman position and then gradually rise up to Paramātmā realization and then to the realization of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There are many examples of this in Vedic literature. The four Kumāras were situated first in the impersonal Brahman conception of truth, but then they gradually rose to the platform of devotional service. One who cannot elevate himself beyond the impersonal conception of Brahman runs the risk of falling down. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is stated that although a person may rise to the stage of impersonal Brahman, without going farther, with no information of the Supreme Person, his intelligence is not perfectly clear. Therefore, in spite of being raised to the Brahman platform, there is the chance of falling down if one is not engaged in the devotional service of the Lord. In the Vedic language it is also said: raso vai saḥ; rasaṁ hy evāyaṁ labdhvānandī bhavati. “When one understands the Personality of God, the reservoir of pleasure, Kṛṣṇa, he actually becomes transcendentally blissful.” The Supreme Lord is full in six opulences, and when a devotee approaches Him, there is an exchange of these six opulences. The servant of the king enjoys on an almost equal level with the king. And so, eternal happiness, imperishable happiness, eternal life accompany devotional service. Therefore, realization of Brahman, or eternity, or imperishability is included in devotional service. This is already possessed by a person who is engaged in devotional service.
The living entity, although Brahman by nature, has the desire to lord it over the material world, and due to this he falls down. In his constitutional position, a living entity is above the three modes of material nature, but association with material nature entangles him in the different modes of material nature, goodness, passion and ignorance. Due to the association of these three modes, his desire to dominate the material world is there. By engagement in devotional service in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he is immediately situated in the transcendental position, and his unlawful desire to control material nature is removed. Therefore the process of devotional service beginning with hearing, chanting, remembering-the prescribed nine methods for realizing devotional service-should be practiced in the association of devotees. Gradually, by such association, by the influence of the spiritual master, one’s material desire to dominate is removed, and one becomes firmly situated in the Lord’s transcendental loving service. This method is prescribed from the twenty-second to the last verse of this chapter. Devotional service to the Lord is very simple: one should always engage in the service of the Lord, should eat the remnants of foodstuffs offered to the Deity, smell the flowers offered to the lotus feet of the Lord, see the places where the Lord had His transcendental pastimes, read of the different activities of the Lord, His reciprocation of love with His devotees, chant always the transcendental vibration Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, and observe the fasting days commemorating the appearances and disappearances of the Lord and His devotees. By following such a process one becomes completely detached from all material activities. One who can thus situate himself in the brahmajyoti is equal to the Supreme Personality of Godhead in quality.
Thus end the Bhaktivedanta Purports to the Fourteenth Chapter of the Śrīmad-Bhagavad-gītā in the matter of the Three Modes of Material Nature.