Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Shankara | Discourse 13 verse 15-18

Brahman, the perceiver of the Guas.

There is this yet another gate to knowledge of the existence of the Knowable:

Though devoid of the guṇas, — Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas—yet the Knowable is the enjoyer, the perceiver, of the guṇas which, assuming the forms of sound and other (objects of sense), transform themselves into pleasure, pain and delusion.

Brahman is all.


15. Without and within (all) beings; the unmoving as also the moving. Because subtle, That is incomprehensible; and near and far away is That.

Shankara's commentary:

Without: What lies outside the body which is inclusive of the skin and which is regarded through ignorance as one’s own self. And ‘within’ refers to the Inner Self, Pratyagātman, lying inside the body.

—The statement that It is ‘without and within’ may imply Its absence in the middle.

To prevent this implication, the Lord says that It is ‘the unmoving as also the moving.’ It is Brahman, the Knowable, that appears as the bodies, moving and unmoving, just as a rope appears as a snake.

Brahman is comprehended only by the wise.

(Objection):—If all things we perceive, the moving and the unmoving, were the Knowable, then how is it that Brah­man is not directly comprehended by everybody, as ‘This It is’?

(Answer):—True, It manifests Itself as everything; but It is subtle like the ākāśa. Wherefore, on account of Its subtlety, It is incomprehensible to the unenlightened, though knowable in Itself.

It is, however, always known to the enlightened, as revealed in the following texts:

All this is the Self and the Self alone.’ (Bri. Up. 2-4-6.)

‘All this is Brahman and Brahman alone.’ (Ibid. 2-5-1.)

It is far away when unknown; for, It is unattainable by the unenlightened even in millions of years. And to the enlightened It is very near, because It is their own Self.

Brahman is the one Self in all.


16. And undivided, yet remaining divided as it were in beings; supporter of beings, too, is That, the Knowable; devouring, yet generating.

Shankara's commentary:

It is undivided in the different bodies, It is one like the ākāśa. Still, it appears to be different in all the different- bodies, inasmuch as It manifests Itself only in the bodies.

Brahman is the Cause of the Universe.

The Knowable supports beings during sthiti, the period of sustenance of the Universe; and It devours them at pralaya, i.e., at the time of dissolution. It generates them at the time of utpatti, the origin of the Universe, just as a rope gives rise to an illusory snake.

Brahman is the Illuminator of all.

(Objection):—If the Knowable, though existing every­where, is not perceived, then It is but darkness (Tamas).

(Answer):—No.—What then?—


17. The Light even of lights, That is said to be beyond darkness. Knowledge, the Knowable, the Goal of knowledge, (It) is implanted in the heart of every one.

Shankara's commentary:

That, the Knowable, is the Light even of lights such as the sun. Indeed these latter shine only when illumined by the light of the consciousness of the Self.

The Chants say:

That Light by which illumined the sun shines’— (Taitt. Br. 3-12-9.)

By Its light all this shines’—(Śvet. Up. 6-14).

So says the smriti also here (in the Bhagavad-Gītā xv. 12.) It is said to be uncontaminated by Tamas, by ajñāna, by nescience.

The Light is in the heart of every one.

Now, with a view to cheer up Arjuna who seemed dejected at the thought of the knowledge (of Brahman) be­ing very difficult of attainment, the Lord says:

Knowledge, such as humility (xiii.7-11); the Knowable, as described in xiii. 12-17; and the same thing, i.e., the Knowable,

which, when known, forms the fruit of knowledge and is therefore said to be the Goal of knowledge, and which as a thing to be known forms the Knowable:

these three (knowledge, the Knowable, and the Goal of knowledge) are implanted pre-eminently in the heart (buddhi) of every living being; it is indeed there that the three are distinctly manifested.

Seek the Light through devotion.

Here follows the verse which concludes the subject just treated of:

18. Thus the Kshetra, as well as knowledge and the Knowable, have been briefly set forth. My devotee, on knowing this, is fitted for My state.

Shankara's commentary:

Thus the Kshetra, described above (xiii-5-6), beginning with the ‘Great elements’ and ending with ‘firmness;’

knowledge, comprising the attributes which have been enumerated, beginning with ‘ humility ’ and ending with ‘perception of the end of the knowledge of truth’ (xiii. 7-11);

and the Knowable, described in xiii -12-17 these have been set forth in brief.

Such, indeed, is the whole doctrine, the doctrine of the Vedas and the doctrine of the Gītā, taught in brief.

{Question):—Who is fit to attain this right knowledge?

(Answer):—He who is devoted to Me, who regards Me— Vāsudeva, the Supreme Lord, the Omniscient, the Supreme Guru—as the Self (Soul, Essence) of everything,

i.e., he who is possessed (as it were) with the idea that all that he sees or hears or touches is nothing but the Lord, Vāsudeva.

Thus devoted to Me, and having attained the right know­ledge described above, he is fit to attain to My state, i. e., he attains moksha.