Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Shankara | Discourse 7 verse 13-30

Māyā: How to overcome it.

The Lord now expresses His regret that the world does not understand Him, who is thus the Supreme Lord;

who by nature is eternal, pure, intelligent and free; who is the Self of all beings, devoid of all attributes; by knowing whom they might burn up the evil which is the seed of saṁsāra.

—What is this ignorance on the part of the world due to?

—Listen.

13. Deluded by these three (sorts of) things composed of guas, all this world knows not Me as distinct from them and immutable.

Shankara's commentary:

All living beings are deluded by such things as love, hatred and attachment, which are all modifications of guṇas. Immutable: devoid of such changes as birth and the like, which pertain to all things in the world.

How then can one surmount this Divine Illusion (Māyā) of Vishṇu made up of the three guṇas?

—Listen:

14. Verily this Divine Illusion of Mine, made up of guas, is hard to surmount. Whoever seeks Me alone, they cross over this Illusion.

Shankara's commentary:

This Illusion (Māyā), formed of guṇas, is inherent in Me, Vishṇu, the Lord.

Such being the case, whoever abandon all formal religion (Dharma) and completely devote them­selves to Me, their own Self, the Lord of Illusion, they cross over the Illusion which deludes all living beings: they are liberated from the bondage of saṁsāra.

If those who resort to Thee cross over the Illusion, why do not all resort to Thee only?—

- Listen:

15. Not Me do the evil-doers seek, the deluded, the vilest of men, deprived of wisdom by Illusion, following the ways of the Demons.

Shankara's commentary:

Me: the Supreme Lord, Nārāyaṇa. The ways of the Demons are cruelty, untruth, and the like.

Four classes of devotees.

But as to the best of men, men of good deeds:

16. Four kinds of virtuous men worship Me, O Arjuna,—the distressed, the seeker of knowledge, the seeker of wealth, and the wise man, O lord of the Bhāratas.

Shankara's commentary:

The distressed: he who is in distress, overpowered by a robber, a tiger, illness or the like. Knowledge: of the real nature of the Lord. The wise man: he who knows the real nature of Vishṇu.

17. Of them the wise man, ever steadfast and devoted to the One, excels; for, excessively dear am I to the wise, and he is dear to Me.

Shankara's commentary:

Of the four, the wise man, as knowing the truth, is ever steadfast, and devoted to the One, finding no other object of worship. Thus, he who is devoted to the One is superior to all others. Since I am his very Self, I am excessively dear to the wise man.

—It is well-known to all in this world that the Self is dear to everyone. Therefore Vasudeva, as the Self of the wise man, is dear to him.

—And the wise man is My very Self and is therefore very dear to Me.

Then the three others, the distressed and the rest, are not dear to Vāsudeva?

—Not so.

—What then?

18. Noble indeed are all these; but the wise man, I deem, is the very Self; for, steadfast in mind, he resorts to Me alone as the unsurpassed goal.

Shankara's commentary:

These are all noble indeed; i.e., those three also are dear to Me. There is no devotee of Mine but is dear to Me, Vāsudeva.

There is, however, this difference: the wise man is excessively dear to Me.

—Why so?

—It is my con­viction that the wise man is the very Self, not different from Me. The wise man strives to reach Me, firm in the faith that he himself is the Lord Vāsudeva and is no other than He.

He seeks Me only, the Supreme Brahman, as the highest goal to be reached.

The wise man is again extolled:

19. At the end of many births, the man of wisdom comes to Me, (realising) that Vāsudeva is the all: he is the noble-souled (Mahātman), very hard to find.

Shankara's commentary:

At the end of many births occupied in spiritual regenera­tion as preparatory to the attainment of wisdom, the man of mature wisdom resorts to Me, Vāsudeva, the innermost Self (Pratyagātman).

—How?

—Realising that Vāsudeva is the All. He who thus comes to Me, Nārāyaṇa, the Self of All, is a Mahātman, a man of high soul; there is no other either equal to him or superior to him.

Therefore such a man is very hard to find; it has indeed been said that “among thousands of men, one perchance strives for perfection ” (vii. 3.)

The ignorant worship inferior Gods.

Now will be shown the cause of (the people) not seeing that the Self or Vasudeva alone is the All:

20. Those whose wisdom has been led away by this or that desire resort to other Gods, engaged in this or that rite, constrained by their own nature.

Shankara's commentary:

Their desires for progeny, cattle, svarga and the like deprive them of their power of discrimination, and they resort to other Gods (Devatās), other than Vāsudeva, the Self.

They engage in rites peculiar to the worship of these Gods; they being constrained to do so by their own nature (prakṛti), by that peculiar tendency (saṁskāra) which they acquired in the previous births.

Of these lustful men,

21. Whatever devotee seeks to worship with faith what form soever, that same faith of his I make unflinching.

Shankara's commentary:

Whatever form of God (Devatā) a man of desire worships in devotion and faith, I confirm his faith in the worship of that same form.

By whatever faith a man is naturally actuated and seeks to worship a particular form of Devatā,

22. Possessed of that faith he engages in the worship of that (form); thence he obtains his de­sires, these being indeed ordained by Me.

Shankara's commentary:

Possessed of that faith ordained by Me, he engages in the worship of that form of God.

From the God worshipped in this form he obtains the objects of his desire as ordained by Me, the Supreme Lord, the Omniscient, as I alone know the precise relation between actions and their fruits.

Be­cause their desires are all ordained by the Lord Himself, therefore the devotees are sure to obtain them.

Another interpretation is also given which would make the last part of the verse mean that desires are beneficial.

But desires can be beneficial only in a secondary sense; for, strictly speaking, they are beneficial to nobody.

Because they are unwise and full of desires and resort to the means of attaining finite results, therefore,

23. That result indeed is finite, (which accrues) to those men of small intellect. Worshippers of Gods (Devatās) go to Gods (Devatās); My devotees come unto Me.

Shankara's commentary:

Though there is the same amount of exertion (in the two kinds of worship), people do not resort to Me so that they may attain infinite results. Alas! it is very miserable.

— Thus does the Lord express His regret.

Why do they not come unto Me?—it may be asked.

The answer follows:

24. The foolish regard Me as the unmanifested coming into manifestation, knowing not My high­er, immutable, unsurpassed nature.

Shankara's commentary:

Not knowing my higher nature as the Supreme Self, the ignorant think that I have just now come into manifesta­tion, having been unmanifested hitherto, though I am the ever luminous Lord.

To what is their ignorance due?

—Listen:

25. I am not manifest to all, veiled (as I am) by Yoga-Māyā. This deluded world knows not Me, unborn and imperishable.

Shankara's commentary:

I am not manifest to all people; that is to say, I am manifest only to a few who are my devotees. I am veiled by Yoga- Māyā.

—Yoga-Māyā, is the Māyā which is none other than the Yoga or union of the three guas.—Or, Yoga is the firm will of the Lord or Īśvara.

The Illusion or veil thereby spread is called Yoga-Māyā.—Wherefore people are deluded and know Me not as unborn and imperishable.

That Yoga-Māyā by which I am veiled and on account of which people do not recognise Me, is Mine, i. e., subject to My control, and, as such, it cannot obstruct My know­ledge

—the knowledge of the Īśvara, of the possessor (or wielder) of the Māyā, just as the glamour (Māyā) caused by a juggler (māyāvin) does not obstruct his own knowledge.

Wherefore,

26. I know, O Arjuna, the past and the present and the future beings, but Me nobody knows.

Shankara's commentary:

Nobody knows Me, except that one man who worships Me and seeks refuge with Me. Just for want of knowledge of My real nature, nobody worships Me.

The root of ignorance.

It may be asked: “What is that obstacle to their know­ledge of My real nature, whereby deluded, all creatures that are born know Me not? ”

—Listen:

27. From the delusion of pairs caused by desire and aversion, O Bhārata, all beings are subject to illusion at birth, O harasser of thy foes.

Shankara's commentary:

The very desire and aversion which are opposed to each other like heat and cold, and which, arising in connection with pleasure and pain and their causes, occur to every being in its turn, are known as pairs (dvandva).

Now, when desire and aversion arise on the occurrence of pleasure and pain or of the causes thereof, they cause delusion in all be­ings and create obstruction to the rise of a knowledge of the Supreme Reality, the Self, by subjugating to themselves the intelligence of those beings.

To one whose mind is subject to the passions of desire and aversion, there cannot indeed arise a knowledge of things as they are, even of the external world;

and it needs no saying that to a man whose intellect is overpowered by passion there cannot arise a knowledge of the Innermost Self, inasmuch as there are many obstacles in its way.

All creatures coming into existence are born subject to this delusion.

Wherefore every being has its intelligence obscured by the delusion of pairs; and thus de­luded it knows not that I am the Self, and therefore worships Me not as the Self.

Divine worship leads to realisation.

Who then are free from the delusion of pairs and know Thee and worship Thee as their Self according to the Teaching (Śāstra)?

—In answer to this, the Lord says:

28. Those mortals of pure deeds whose sin has come to an end, who are freed from the delusion of pairs, they worship Me with a firm resolve.

Shankara's commentary:

Those persons of good deeds—good deeds causing purity of mind—whose sin has almost come to an end are freed from the delusion of pairs spoken of above and worship Me, their Highest Self.

They resolutely abandon all else, firm in the conviction that “This is the Supreme Reality and no other.

With what object do they worship?

—Listen:

29. Whoever resorting to Me strive for libera­tion from decay and death, they realise in full that Brahman, the individual Self, and all action.

Shankara's commentary:

Those who, with the mind steadfast in Me, the Supreme Lord, strive for liberation from decay and death, realise in full, That, the Supreme (Para) Brahman.

They realise in full the Reality underlying the Innermost individual Self (adhyātma), and they know all about action (karma).

30. Those who realise Me in the Adhibhuta (physical region), in the Adhidaiva (the divine re­gion) and in the Adhiyajna (region of Sacrifice), realise Me even at the time of departure, steadfast in mind.