Month: November 2017

Chapter 18: The beautiful conclusion (Part 2 of 2)

Number of verses: 41 – 78

Introduction: This narrative, marks the end of the conversation between Krishna and his disciple-friend Arjuna, on the battle-field that day. In this chapter, Krishna talks to Arjuna about the roots and the basis of the Hindu Caste-system and how duties have been designated under these four castes based on the inherent characteristics of men born in them.

Further, Krishna touches a little upon the topic of karma as he had elaborately described earlier (chapter 2 of the Gita) by stating firmly that performance of one’s own duties, even if sloppily, is much better than the dexterous performance of someone else’s.

He moves on to explain to Arjuna, even when not asked, about the characteristics and symptoms of men who eventually unite with him on the path of devotion. Such men think of Krishna, even when they may not know it themselves and have chosen to shun physical pleasures and sensory gratification, with a single-minded goal of uniting with the supreme power. This they have managed with the help of Krishna’s divine consciousness or bhakti-yoga, he claims.

Towards the end, he makes a promise to his friend Arjuna, of taking care of him in this world and the next, if only Arjuna should seek his refuge without a trace of doubt, malice and hesitation. No one is dearer to him that a pure devotee, Krishna claims, once again highlighting the superiority of bhakti or devotion over any other form of knowledge or spiritual advancement.

In the end, when all doubts in Arjuna’s mind have been dispelled and he is ready to fight the war against his kith and kin in the name of righteousness, Krishna makes a promise to all those who will carry this knowledge forward by spreading its magical contents among the believers and also to those, who with a pure mind and open ears shall bask in the glory of its contents.

He shall take personal care of all such people, he promises.

What more could one want?


Krishna to Arjuna:

The duties of the four castes[1] – the Brahmins (the priestly class), Kshatriyas (the warrior class), Vaishyas (the trader class) and the Shudras (the helper class) have been determined on the basis of their inherent nature.

The following are the chief characteristics of the Brahmins – calmness, self-restraint, purity, knowledge, intellect, truthfulness and faith.

The following are the chief attributes of the Kshatriyas – valour, determination, presence of mind, charity, leadership and administrative ability.

Agriculture, raising of cattle and trade are the primary duties of a Vaishya. The primary function of a Shudra is to serve the other three castes above him.

That human who is engaged in performing the duty designated to him eventually attains salvation. Now hear from me about it in detail.

That supreme Lord from who this very world and all its living beings have stemmed, can be attained by different human beings by the performance of duties designated for the caste in which he has been born.

Better than the dexterous performance of another man’s job, is the sloppy performance of one’s own duties. For that man who is forever engaged in the performance of his own work never acquires sin in the course of his work.

O Arjuna! Just as fire always remains shrouded with black smoke, all deeds and action in this world is covered with sin of some kind. Therefore, one’s own designated duty, however sinful, must never be abandoned.

The purest reward of renunciation, sanyasa, can be attained simply by self-control, self-restraint, renunciation of desire for physical objects, and the abandonment of physical pleasures. This is the pinnacle of reward from sanyasa.

O Arjuna! Hear from me about how spiritually advanced individuals reach the zenith of spiritual bliss.

The man who with a pure mind and a spiritual thought-process, succeeds in controlling his mind, and in this manner, renounces all sensory objects of physical pleasure, frees himself of the dualities of attachment (raaga) and abhorrence (dwesha), eats only the required quantities of food in a clean, silent place, controls his thoughts and speech, remains occupied in the thought of spiritual communion with the ultimate power, manages to renounce false human ego, the illusion of power, lust and anger and having shunned the pleasure he once derived from the collection and accumulation of physical possessions, becomes tranquil and calm, definitely manages to discover the supreme light in his own being, in this very life.

This illumined man experiences the divine bliss at all times in this current life. He neither grieves, longs nor desires. He maintains compassion and equanimity towards all beings. In this state of consciousness, he attains the pristine consciousness I grant to devotees, the bhakti-yoga.

The Bhakti-yoga or the divine consciousness is the very tool with which a man can comprehend the complete nature of my supreme presence, the brahman. Having known me thus, such a man immediately enters my abode of no return, the vaikuntha.

That devotee who in my name and my for my sake, keeps himself occupied with the performance of his daily duties, with no desire to benefit from its outcome (the karma-yogi), eventually unites with me.

Being placed in bhakti-yoga, such a devotee thinks of me twenty-four hours in a day and surrenders from the depth of his heart, all his being and all he does to my name and benefit.

Men who thus surrender to me, gain the necessary spiritual power to sail through the worst nightmares this life has to offer. However, those who out of ego and false pride, do not heed my words and do not acquire the skill of working and acting with selflessness are eventually destroyed.

Know this Arjuna, it is your pride that eludes you to believe that you choose to not fight this battle, even against my wish or recommendation. The truth is that this determination of yours is but an illusion. Your very nature, your own being, will eventually push you into fighting this war.

O son of Kunti! The same act that you do not wish to perform out of mere delusion and your massive sense of ego, even at my recommendation, you will end up doing because of the compulsion that your own mind will create.[2]

O Arjuna! The supreme light, the creator, dwells in the heart of all each living being there is. It is that divine and magical force that at all times, is responsible for dictating what each being, encased in a physical body, does and performs.

O Arjuna! In every manner possible, go seek the refuge of that light that shines within you. It is only with the will and blessing of that divine power, that you will ever manage to attain eternal peace and divine communion.

So far I have narrated only for your sake my dear friend, this super-confidential spiritual knowledge. Having known this now, brood over it and then decide for yourself, what you deem fit.

Of all that I have told you so far, I will summarise for your benefit, the most important and powerful bit of information. You are very dear to me Arjuna, and thus, I repeat myself.

Every day and at all times, think of me with immeasurable love and surrender your life to me. Think of me and worship me alone. In this manner, you will finally arrive at my doorstep, and I make this promise to you dear friend, for you are one of those I hold most dear to myself.

Shun all your faith and all other beliefs, and come into my arms my friend! Do not worry when you have me – I will take care of you and redeem you of everything that is not auspicious.

Never narrate this confidential spiritual knowledge to a man who has not yet acquired control over his mind, or an atheist who cares not to hear this, or a man with no devotion at all and even to one who abhors me or my name.

The man who spreads the secrets of this poem I narrated to you, the Gita, among believers, shall without a trace of doubt, be blessed with the power of devotion that I shall confer on him (bhakti-yoga) and this man will finally, return to me, back in my arms.

There is no other devotee dearer to me than this man, in all the worlds there are, and shall never be.

It is my declaration today that any man who will revisit this sacred conversation of the Gita, as it takes place between you and me today, I shall bless with knowledge that will help him find me.

Also for those men who without doubt, hesitation and malice, will hear these sacred words of the Gita, with devotion and belief, shall be reborn in the planets of wise men, having ridden themselves of all sins.

O Arjuna! Have you heard these words of mine with complete attention and have these succeeded in dispelling the doubt and ignorance in your mind?

Arjuna to Krishna:

O Krishna! O Achyuta[3]! Thanks to your narrative, all my doubts are now dissolved and I have regained my good sense. I now stand here clear in my head, determined to carry out what you ask of me.

Sanjaya to Dhritrashtra:

In this manner, I managed to hear this fabulous and exciting conversation between two saints – Krishna and his disciple Arjuna.

Thanks to this blessing received from Sage Vyasa, I have managed to enrich myself with this spiritual revelation by none other than the supreme Lord Shri Krishna to his friend and disciple Arjuna.

O King! As I recall the magical conversation between Krishna and Arjuna that I have just finished narrating to you, my hair stands on end. The memory seems to excite me more and more with every passing moment.

O King! The memory of that magnanimous form of Lord Krishna gives me goose-bumps. I can barely control my happiness each time I think of his almost surreal form.

Where co-exist the master of illusion and magic, Krishna and also his archer-friend Arjuna, shall belong all the riches and prosperity of the world, and also all things good – fame, victory, mental power and the strategy of the winner. This is my opinion.

Image taken from Google images


“The Bhagavad Gita As It Is”, by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

I am glad I could finish the task, even when not so much on time.

A heartfelt thanks to Krishna for helping with the translation from Hindi to English.

[1] These four represent the four categories spelled out by the Indian Caste system or varna system. These four castes are further divided into sub-castes (jaati) and sub-sub-castes (varnas).

Of course, over time, the caste system has become a social evil, a system whose roots are too deep to dig into and get rid of.

[2] Here Krishna probably talks about the power that the supreme Lord can exercise on the minds of human beings who choose not to comply with his wish.


[3] Literally, ‘the incomparable one’ or one that is one of his kind.

The rare celestial union

Though I am not very much of a measured, scientific person with keen interest in astro-physics, a news item late night yesterday caught my attention. It was about the rare celestial phenomenon of the two planets, Jupiter and Venus coming spectacularly close early morning next day. The article claimed that given the proximity of these two planets between a particular time-slot, they would be visible as two separate rising suns early morning in France, even before the actual sun was to rise. And all this, for a novice like me, without needing something as complex as a telescope sounded like fun.

No kidding, I have often had bizarre dreams of firework-like celestial phenomena take place, as I lie on the dewy grass, gaping with my mouth open. To experience something that would be not as fire-worky but real for sure was exciting enough to wake me up early next morning. Trust me, I wouldn’t do that for anything or anyone.

Wrapped in layers of clothing, covering my face, ears and neck (gladly not the eyes!), I set out to witness a phenomenon in whose reality I barely believed, only to be awe-struck a couple of minutes later. I had read that the planets would be visible head-to-head in the southern direction in the geography I am in. Where was south, I wondered, as I walked past the tall buildings that stood as impediments in witnessing the honey-red sky, the specks of which I could only behold as long, vertical slices between the lengths of two skyscrapers.

I will have to walk further, I said to myself and continued to walk, much to the amusement of men who found the idea of a morning walk rather eccentric at that time of the day when there was barely any light and bone-chilling temperatures. I continued till a vast stretch of the turnip-pink sky became visible, only to hunt for two star-like things (for I do not know how planets look like or whether they look different from stars) close to each other. I found several pairs and using my creative imagination, thought of them to be Jupiter and Venus, beholding another, face-to-face, even when they continued to be millions of kilometres away from each other in reality.

Beautiful, I thought to myself. May be that’s what it’s supposed to look like. But it’s no different from the stars really. But who knows how much more nuanced the phenomenon would appear to be had I possessed a telescope. But never mind, I thought. After all, something is better than nothing!

I even clicked pictures of what I saw in the hope of awing my husband later. After couple of minutes (it was nearly 7.10 am then) I turned my gaze around to the other side where once my back had been and trust me, I saw something that seemed to yell out loud, for my gaze, my attention.

It was the most beautiful and surreal sight I have ever seen and I do not exaggerate here. What I saw what a glistening circle of light, twinkling feverishly with the slightest movement of the wind, diagonally alongside a much smaller ball of light (this one looked more like a bright star) against the now orangish-blue hue of the sky. It looked surreal, sublime and this is when reality struck – this was what I had come here to see and the guys I had been photographing all this while had been stars!

I kept staring, my eyes glued to the two illuminated spheres, barely caring to blink my eyes. I saw joggers dressed in track-suits out for leisurely jogs, men smoking as they lazed outside their homes and even dogs who ran hither and tither, looking for a place to sniff and pee. Amidst all this early-morning chaos, I wanted this moment to last forever. Little did matter the cold wind that made my knees tremble and my lips freeze. This truly was just about an inch close to what I had often dreamt of – fireworks in the sky, bright, dazzling light and a spectacle worthy of remembering through all my days.

As I stood there in the midst of wilderness, staring at the planets dimming with each passing second, a wave of thought brushed by. How small I felt, how insignificant, a mere observer of the bigger things as they happened. The non-doer, the non-controller, only a spectator. How would I have reacted to this sight had I not known this coming or had not read about it? Would I have been equally wondered by it had I just seen it out of chance upon may be, returning from the bakery with a loaf of bread in my hand? Really, I don’t know. All I know is that the sight was something that just took my heart away in all its simplicity and yet, indescribable splendour.

It was almost 7.22 am as I stood there, staring as if in infinity. The coldness had begun to take its toll on my body – my throat felt sore and eyes watery. It was time to go, I told myself as I bade farewell to that sight, silently, without a word. I turned around and in slow steps, walked towards home. My eyes saw what they did, but my mind wavered.

That feeling of smallness and insignificance had returned. I was just a tiny speck who could not change anything (or maybe I could, who knows?) but blessed with the power to observe and absorb. I could see some things which were probably just a fragment of reality, but a lot more, the iceberg beneath that my bespectacled eyes can neither behold nor comprehend. But does that mean that those things I do not see, do not exist? Well, after this sight, I do not think so.

They do exist I guess, but I see them only when the time is right. It does not raise a question mark as to the existence of a larger scheme of things, but definitely as to my own ability to see, understand and assimilate.

But who knows when there shall be more to see and know. Who knows when one shall have the eyes to see that bigger picture that exists for sure, but is too grand for us small creatures to see?

Few lines as I end:

Everything in nature is in an organised rhythm,

in line with divine notes in chorus.

Their discipline makes them stay forever,

The only thing fleeting being us.

Image captured from my i-phone 6 (please forgive the blur caused by maximum zooming)


Chapter 18: The beautiful conclusion (Part 1 of 2)

Number of verses: 40 of 78

Introduction: This chapter is the longest and probably the simplest in the entire Bhagwad Gita. It must be so, for it is the last one which plays the role of wrapping up everything that has been exchanged so far between spiritual guru Krishna and the dutiful disciple, Arjuna.

This chapter opens with Arjuna’s questioning of Krishna about the nature and essence of sacrifice (tyaga) and renunciation (sanyasa), an important concept in the Hindu tradition. Krishna, as always, beautifully explains, this time without much ambiguity. He claims that no human being, however accomplished, is in a position to give up action or karma completely. By doing this, even survival is not possible.

Therefore, the best one can do is to renounce not the action, but the desire to benefit from it. This in his opinion, is the best form of sanyasa or complete renunciation. Additionally, he states that three actions must never be abandoned in life – sacred offerings, penance and charity. These must be performed as one’s moral duty.

Krishna then goes on to talk about (even when not explicitly questioned by Arjuna about this) the forces that convert all human effort into success. There are five forces he claims – the physical body of the doer, the real doer or the aatman, the five senses of the doer’s body, the doer’s effort and finally, the Supreme Lord. Men who understate the role of the Lord in converting action into success are mistaken, he claims. Such men consider themselves both the doer of action as well as the judge of its fruit.

These words of Krishna corroborate his words in chapter 2 when he suggests to Arjuna that his only duty is to perform his action to the best of his ability and leave the rest to the almighty. He can control his actions, but not their fruits, to be precise.

Finally, in the rest of the shlokas, as well as the rest of the chapter, Krishna shifts his attention to the three attributes or gunas of physical nature, prakriti and provides detailed classifications of various actions and thought-processes through this lens. For instance, he explains how the intention of performing karma, knowledge, action, the nature of the doer, the intellect, the levels of consciousness, and even pleasure itself can be classified differently based on the guna that governs the personality of man.


Arjuna to Krishna:

O mighty-armed! O Hrishikesha![1] O slayer of the demon Keshi! I wish to know from you the essence of sacrifice (tyaga) and renunciation (sanyasa), individually.

Krishna to Arjuna:

O Arjuna! The renunciation or abandonment of the fruits of one’s actions has been deemed to be sacrifice (tyaga) by learned men of all time. The same thing is considered sanyasa by wise men.

There are two schools of thought regarding renunciation. While one group believes in the renunciation of all actions is this world owing to the bondages they create for their performer, the other and more lenient group believe that sacred offerings (yagya), penance (tapa) and philanthropy (daan) should never be abandoned.

O Arjuna! Now hear from me, my personal views about sacrifice and renunciation. O the best of all men! The holy scriptures, the Shastras, enumerate three types of sacrifices.

One should never think of giving up these three kinds of actions, namely yagya, tapa and daan. Their performance is man’s moral duty. Undoubtedly, performance of these three cleanse the souls of even the purest of men.

O Arjuna! Therefore, one should perform these three moral duties of offerings, penance and charity, without any anticipation of any personal benefit therefrom. These should never be abandoned. This is my view.

One’s daily duties should never be given up. Such abandonment arising out of attachment and delusion is precisely what is termed ‘tamas’ in the religious texts.

Those men, however, who consider the performance of daily duties painful for the body that carries them out, and thus choose to give them up, gain nothing despite such renunciation. This tendency must be considered as belonging to men governed by ‘rajas’.

However, O Arjuna! There are men who carry out all their actions with a sense of duty, without the ego of a ‘doer’ and with no expectation to benefit from the outcomes of their own actions. The sacrifice by these men is in its truest form, that of a ‘saatvik’ nature.

That saatvik-minded man who neither abhors painful tasks nor clings to pleasant ones, has all his work-related doubts erased owing to the stillness of his mind.

Since the aatman enveloped in the physical body can never completely give up action, the only renunciation possible for the living being is that of the fruits of actions and not the action itself.

Men who perform fruit-laden actions (sakaam-karma) must after death, avail of three different kinds of fruits resulting from their own actions – happiness for good deeds, grief for bad and a mixed emotion. However, those who perform without attachment to fruit (karma-yogis) must not be bound by these on death.

O mighty-armed Arjuna! There are five forces that result in the conversion of all actions into fruit. Hear from me about these.

As per the ancient Sankhya philosophy, these five forces are the physical body of the doer, the true doer (the aatman), the five senses of the doer’s body, effort and the supreme Lord himself.

All actions that humans beings undertake with the help of their mind, speech and body, whether in line with or against the preaching of the scriptures, stem out of these five forces I just mentioned to you.

The man who fails to comprehend the role of these five forces of action and considers himself the doer and the winner of the fruit is indeed deluded and mistaken.

On the other hand, he who is not bedazzled by the false ego of the human, and whose mind remains unclouded, never ends up binding himself by anything he does. Such a man, if he were to slay the whole world, would actually end up slaying none.

Hear from me now, about the motivators of all action and also their basis.

The three forces that motivate all human action are knowledge, that which is worthy of being known and the knower himself. The three bases of all action, on the other hand, are the five senses, the action itself and the doer, the aatman.

Based on the three gunas of prakriti, different types of knowledge, action and the doer can be classified into three categories. Hear from me about these distinctions.

That knowledge which enables a man to comprehend an all-encompassing, undivided reality among millions of divided and separate living beings, must be considered saatvik.

That knowledge through which a man sees realities of different shapes, sizes and power among distinct and separate living beings, must be considered rajas.

On the other hand, that knowledge that prompts a man to be wholly engaged in futile and useless activity at all times, that which is entirely disconnected from reality and is of the lowest order, must be considered tamas.

Let me classify karma or action for you now.

That karma which is performed with a sense of duty, as stipulated by the scriptures, without the ego of the doer and with no sense of either abhorrence or fondness and that which is devoid of any anticipation of gain whatsoever, must be considered saatvik.

That karma however, which is undertaken with a lot of pain and struggle resulting from the passion of the doer, who is unduly attached to the outcome of his own actions, must be considered rajas.

That karma which is undertaken without any consideration as to the larger picture, the consequences, the use of violence, the loss of righteousness, and even one’s own capacity for completing it, motivated entirely by attachment and delusion, must be considered tamas.

Let me tell you about the classifications of the doer or the karta now.

The doer who is devoid of any kind of worldly attachment and false sense of the self (the ego), who is flowing with positive energy and unflinching determination and courage, who is indifferent to the success or failure of his own projects, must be considered saatvik.

That doer who is completely coloured by his hope for consumption, who is driven by the desire to benefit out of everything he does, who is greedy and never satisfied, who is hateful of others around him, who is impure, and unduly shaken by all happiness and grief that comes his way, must be considered rajas.

That doer who is forever occupied in pursuing activities explicitly forbidden by the Shastras, is extremely materialistic, stubborn, treacherous, skilled at humiliation, lazy, depressed, and slow must be considered tamas.

O Arjuna! Now hear from me about the three classifications of the intellect (buddhi) and consciousness (dhriti), separately.

O Arjuna! That understanding or intellect that fully comprehends the distinction between action and passivity, duty and futile acts, fear and fearlessness and finally, bondage and salvation must be considered saatvik.

That intellect however, that cannot discriminate between that which is right and which is forbidden, between one’s duty and all that is undoable, must be considered rajas.

That intellect on the other hand which being completely shrouded with darkness and ignorance, considers righteousness to be wickedness and vice-versa and is at all times, engaged in making progress only in the wrong direction, must be considered tamas.

O Arjuna! Let me talk to you about the different types of human consciousness or dhriti.

The unwavering and precious consciousness that is acquired through disciplining of the mind with the practise of yoga, and with the help of which the human being succeeds in taming his mind, life, and the functioning of the senses, must be considered saatvik.

That consciousness which keeps a man glued to physical concepts like wealth, sensory satisfaction and physical pleasure must be considered rajas.

On the other hand, that consciousness which causes an ignorant man to be clouded with fear, bad dreams, sadness, attachment and regret at all times, must be considered tamas.

O Arjuna, the best of the Bharatas! Now let me tell you about the three different types of pleasures (sukh).

That pleasure which initially tastes vile as poison itself but eventually feels sweet as honey, that which drives a man to the shore of salvation from which there is no return, that pleasure which takes a man towards self-discovery and union with the divine is indeed saatvik.

That pleasure on the other hand, which initially soothes as nectar and intoxicates, but eventually results in poisonous outcomes must be considered rajas.

That pleasure which is blind to self-discovery and in all manner, only creates trouble through rampant laziness, drowsiness and intoxication must be considered tamas.

No being on this earth, including the demi-gods and goddesses on the higher heavenly planets is spared from being affected by these three gunas of physical nature, prakriti.

Image taken from Google images.


[1] Literally, master of the senses.

Chapter 17: The three personality types

Number of verses: 28

Introduction: This chapter starts off by Arjuna posing a question to Krishna about the nature of men who undertake good deeds with complete devotion, albeit without following the guidelines of the holy scriptures.

Krishna uses Arjuna’s question as a platform to educate him about the three personality types governed by the physical forces of prakriti, with reference to sacred offerings (yagya), penance (tapa) and philanthropy (daan). Every human being is a mixed bag of these traits, but continues to be dominated by one of these personality types. Krishna explains in great detail, the thought process of men in these categories, their intentions in undertaking good deeds and even their preferences for food!

Krishna talks to Arjuna about the three words that hold huge importance in Hindu religious texts – ‘Om Tatt Satt’. He claims that it is from these words that both the creator and the creation came into being at the dawn of the universe.

The takeaway from this chapter is Krishna’s emphasis on selflessness and detachment for he stresses again and again, in different ways, that even the best of deeds when performed with personal motives in mind, can never be beneficial to the doer – not in this birth, nor the next.


Arjuna to Krishna:

O Krishna! What about those men then who with great devotion, worship the demi gods and goddesses, even when they do not tread the path laid down by the Shastras, the holy scriptures? What in your opinion are such men – sattva, rajasa or tamas?

Krishna to Arjuna:

Such faith of human beings, in the absence of knowledge of the scriptures, can arise only out of the spiritual knowledge they have acquired over their previous births. Such dedication carried forward from the good and spiritual acts of previous lives is called swa-bhavaja. Such a dedication, however, can be of any of three types you mentioned – sattva, rajasa and tamas.

O descendent of Bharata! Know this – the faith of all men is an exact mirror image of their innermost consciousness. Every man believes to be true what he is himself.

While men in sattva worship demi gods and goddesses, those in rajasa worship demons. On the other hand, men in tamas worship ghosts and evil spirits.

Men in rajasa defy the ways of the shastras and are full of ego, a massive sense of the self, selfish desire, attachment and haughtiness about their power.

Also hear about those who are hell-bent on causing pain and grief to the divinity that dwells in their heart (the sacred aatman) by worshipping spirits and ghosts in various forms. Such men of low intelligence must be considered of the demonic type (tamas).

Not only behaviour, even preferences for food differ across the three categories of prakriti. Similarly, hear from me about the three different types of offerings (yagya), penance (tapa) and philanthropy (daan).

Men in sattva prefer moist, oily food that tends to benefit the body for a long time after it has been consumed. Such food enhances age, health, intelligence and fitness.

Men in Rajasa men prefer food that is pungent, acidic, spicy, and dehydrated. Such food is responsible for causing disease, mental illnesses and worry.

On the other hand, men in tamas prefer semi-cooked food that is stale, smelly and unhygienic.

Hear from me about the three types of sacred offerings (yagyas) based on the intention with which these are carried out.

A saatvik yagya is one which is performed as one’s sacred duty, in line with the procedures outlined in the shastras. Such a yagya is done without any anticipation of benefiting from it, in any form.

However, O Arjuna! Those yagyas that are undertaken with a mere desire to avail its fruit, should be definitely considered Rajasik.

Tamasik yagya, on the other hand, is one that is completely devoid of the instructions of the shastras, performed without donating grains (anna-daan), without chanting the holy mantras, without expressing gratitude to the Brahmins present and of course, without faith in the act itself.

I will now tell you about penance, tapa.

Reverence for one’s teachers, elders, and the demi gods, simplicity, purity of the mind and body, celibacy and non-violence are collectively considered to be physical penance or tapa of the body.

Control over one’s speech which is well-thought, sweet, truthful and beneficial for all, and that which comes out of reading holy texts and chanting the holy names is simply called the tapa of the speech.

Happiness of the mind, calmness, the tendency to think of God and his nature, purity of thoughts, and contentment are deemed to be the tapa of the mind.

All these three tapas of the body, speech and the mind, when performed by men out of sheer devotion, without any anticipation of benefit, are deemed to be saatvik.

These three tapas, when performed out of greed, selfish desire, ambition or fame, merely constitute sham. With such intentions, tapas bear only momentary benefits for the doer and must be considered rajasik.

Those tapas, however, that are performed out of foolishness, stubbornness of the mind, and with an intention to harm the interest of another, must be considered tamasik.

I will now talk to you about philanthropy- daan.

The daan which is undertaken as one’s moral duty, with a view to help someone in need, without the intention to oblige the receiver, must be considered saatvik.

The daan that is undertaken with a selfish motive, which could be to gain name and fame, to accumulate good deeds, to be free of illness and attain higher worlds after death, or the like, must be considered rajasik.

The daan that is given not as one’s duty, but as an obligation to the receiver, with disdain for the needy, must be considered tamasik.

Know that the three words – Om, Tatt and Satt are the holy words that represent the holistic nature of God. It is from these that the creator Brahma, the holy Vedas and sacred offerings germinated at the start of civilisation.

Given that, any spiritual mission or sacred offering made by sensible men begins with the holy syllable Om, which is nothing, but the name of the eternal divine light.

The word Tatt signifies that everything worthwhile in this world is ultimately for the benefit of the Supreme Lord. It is with this feeling that spiritually-illuminated men perform yagyas, tapas and daan. It is this knowledge that enables them to be unattached to the fruits of any activity that they may perform.

The word Satt symbolises ultimate truthfulness and all that is good and beautiful. Hence, O Parth, this word is often brought to use at the time of undertaking large projects with public welfare in mind. All acts when performed with a sense of moral duty, with complete surrender to the Lord, are termed as satt[1].

O Arjuna! Any sacred offering (yagya), penance (tapa) or philanthropy (daan) or for that matter any good deed, undertaken without faith and belief in the Lord is beneficial to its doer neither in this world nor in those yet to come. Such deeds are in all sense, asatt.[2]

Image taken from Google images.

[1] This word also forms the root of the word ‘sattva’.

[2] This is the exact opposite of ‘satt’, meaning falseness.


Chapter 16: Divine and demonic tendencies

Number of verses: 24

Introduction: Yet again, this is a very short chapter of the Gita, also being one of the most straight-forward and non-ambiguous.

Here, Krishna explains to Arjuna, in great detail, the characteristics of men born with divine and demonic tendencies. While his description of the qualities of a divine human being are not new, for we have heard his version of an ideal devotee several times in the previous chapters, his account of demonic tendencies takes us by surprise.

Unexpectedly, Krishna is extremely detailed in his description and somehow, at the end of the chapter, he succeeds in the reader being able to form a mental image of such men.

For me, the take-away of this chapter has been to take a more realistic look at the two personality types for ultimately, all of us, in any geography, gender or age-group will fall in one of two categories enlisted by Krishna. Needless to say, both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ attributes he talks about will be present in each of us, but this sort of list with a clear bifurcation will probably be useful in attaining higher standards through a conscious change in behaviour over time.

Towards the end, Krishna takes a firm stand and suggests to his friend and cousin Arjuna, to get rid of three vices immediately – lust, anger and greed. These are open doors to hell, he claims. This again gives us an added motivation in life, to at least try, on some occasions, to not let these emotions plague our thinking. For it is how we think, that we act.


Krishna to Arjuna:

O Arjuna, the descendant of Bharata! I will now talk to you about the qualities of men blessed with a divine consciousness. Such men are characterised with complete faith in the almighty, fearlessness, the need for self-purification, determination in seeking the Supreme, surrender to the Lord, self-restraint and control, promptness in performance of daily duties, the urge to know the self, and simplicity.

Such men can never hurt anyone, are completely non-violent, are the same in thought and speech, possess complete control over their anger, lack a sense of ego, possess the desire to control emotional imbalances, lack negativity and the need to criticise, have compassion towards all beings, remain free of greed, remain detached from sense objects even in the midst of them, are soft in attitude, experience guilt on wrong behaviour and display determination even in failure.

They also possess the divine glow on the countenance, forgiveness for the sins of others, self-control in all situations, purity of the mind and body, complete lack of envy and comparison, lack of desire of being acclaimed. These taken together constitute the signs of a man born with godly qualities (daiviya swa-bhava).

O son of Pritha! Pretence, haughtiness, anger, hard-heartedness and ignorance – these are all characteristics of men born with demonic tendencies (aasuri swa-bhava).

While divine characteristics enable men to attain salvation, demonic tendencies tend to create bondages. O son of Pandu! You have no cause to worry, for I can tell you that you have been born with divine tendencies.

O Arjuna! Of all men that take birth in this world, there can be only two types – divine and demonic. While I have already given you an account of the divine qualities, hear now about demonic characteristics.

Men born with demonic qualities fail to differentiate between the good and the bad, not knowing the difference between that which is worthy of pursuit and that which is absolutely forbidden. They are unclean, both from the inside and the outside. They seldom engage in good behaviour and with them, one can associate no goodness or truth.

Such men claim that the world is a bad place, without a basis or creator. They disregard the existence of God, believing the world to have come to existence merely by the sexual communion of man and woman. For such men, the only worthwhile driver of activity is sexual desire. Men who have accepted such silly notions as the ultimate truth lose their sense of righteous thinking, remaining capable of only such actions that hurt the universe and its beings.

Such men, armed with futile notions and ensnared by insatiable physical urges, a false sense of the self, and the drive to attain physical possessions, forever remain fixed in unhealthy resolves. Owing to their thinking, such men remain ridden with innumerable worries and fears till the time of their death. This must be so for their sole objective in life is to satisfy their senses and their physical urges.

Tied tightly to hundreds of ropes representing their physical desires, they remain vulnerable to anger and lust. This dangerous desire to satisfy their senses urges them to gain and hoard endless wealth, even by illegitimate means.

Such men are constantly calculating the levels of their existing possessions – the wealth yesterday, that today and that which they shall be able to acquire in the future. With their extreme sense of being ‘the doers’, they consider themselves to be the slayers, the supreme Lord, the one worthy of enjoying the luxuries the world has to offer, the most powerful and the happiest of all men there are.

With their false sense of ego, such men have thoughts of being the most prosperous of all men, the most well-connected to other men of power, the incomparable and ultimate authority. They aim at making donations (daan) and performing religious sacrifices (yagya) only with the single-minded goal of accumulating good deeds in their kitty so that they can enjoy life even more.

Disillusioned with thousands of worries and fears, such men become the slaves of their own desires and eventually fall in hell and the lower worlds.

Such men consider themselves the best of all beings, the most influential. Being thus disillusioned by their own ego and sense of the self, such men perform even the best of deeds and rituals with haughtiness and without a real sense of the method and technique.

Bewildered by their false ego, anger, pride and power, these men are forever envious of other men around them, thus disregarding the presence of me, the Lord himself, in all these other human beings they dislike.

Such men are envious, hard-hearted, brutal and faithless. I always strive to ensure that even in subsequent births, they continue to be born with the demonic qualities they shed their previous body with.

O son of Kunti! Thus born again and again with this demonic nature I talked about, such men never manage to attain my abode. On the other hand, they keep getting degenerated to the lower worlds and attain lower physical forms at every rebirth.

O Arjuna! Remember this – the three attributes that are sure to drive a human being to hell are lust, anger and greed. Given their dangerous nature, they should be shunned immediately.

O son of Kunti! The man who frees himself of these three perpetual enemies of the soul, begins to make progress on the path of spirituality and self-knowledge. This way, he finally attains me.

On the other hand, he who becomes a slave to his own desires and shortcomings and shuns the ways of the scriptures by doing as he pleases, attains neither good deeds, nor happiness or even salvation.

O Arjuna! The ultimate authority on acceptable and unacceptable behaviour for any human being are the Shastras or the religious scriptures. One should therefore, aspire to know them well before he sets out to act.

Image taken from Google images.