Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Shankara | Discourse 9 verse 1-15



Brahma-Jñāna is the best Religion.

In the eighth discourse has been declared the Yoga of concentration (dhāraṇa) through nādi as well as its pro­cess, and its result has been shown to be none other than the attainment of Brahman—at a subsequent period, through ‘fire and light’ and the like,—whence there is no return.

Now, with a view to give no room to the supposi­tion that the attainment of moksha is possible only by this means and by no other, the Lord proceeds as follows:

The Blessed Lord said:

1. To thee who dost not cavil, I shall now declare this, the greatest secret, knowledge combined with experience, which having known thou shalt be liberated from evil.

Shankara's commentary:

This: the Brahma-jñāna, the knowledge of Brahman, which is going to be declared, and which has been declared in the preceding discourses.

Now: this word points to the superiority of knowledge (over Dhyāna): this right knowledge alone forms the direct means of attaining moksha, as declar­ed in the śruti and the smriti:

Vāsudeva is the All”—(Bhagavad-Gītā, vii. 19.)

All this is the Self.”—(Chhānd. Upa., 7-25-2.)

One only without a second”—(Ibid, 6-2-1.)

And nothing else is a direct means to moksha, as the pass­ages of the śruti like the following declare:

Now the other princes who understand otherwise than thus, they shall attain to perishable regions.”— (Ibid, 7-25-2.)

On attaining this knowledge you will be liberated from the bondage of saṁsāra.

And it is

2. The Sovereign Science, the Sovereign Secret, the Supreme Purifier is this; immediately com­prehensible, unopposed to Dharma, very easy to perform, imperishable.

Shankara's commentary:

Of sciences it is the king, because it is of great splendour. Indeed, the science of Brahman is the most brilliant of all sciences. So also, it is the king of secrets.

Of all the purifiers, this knowledge of Brahman is the best purifier. That it is a purifier needs no saying, since it reduces karma to ashes in an instant, root and all,—all the karma, dharma and a-dharma, which has been accumulated during many thousand births.

Moreover, it can be comprehended by pratyakṣa, by immediate perception, like the feeling of pleasure and so on.

What is possessed of many a desirable quality may be opposed to dharma; but not so is the knowledge of Ātman opposed to Dharma; on the other hand it is not separable from Dharma, i. e., not opposed to it.

Even then it may be supposed that it is very difficult to attain; but it is not so, says the Lord. It is very easy to acquire, like the power of discriminating gems.

Now, of the other acts, those which involve little trouble and are easily ac­complished are seen to be productive of small results, and difficult acts are found to be productive of great results.

Accordingly it may be imagined that this Brahma-jñāna which is so easily attained perishes when its effect is ex­hausted: to prevent this supposition, the Lord says that it is imperishable.

It does not perish like an act when the effect is exhausted. Wherefore knowledge of Ātman (Self) is worth acquiring.


3. Persons having no faith in this Dharma, O harasser of thy foes, without reaching Me, remain verily in the path of the mortal world.

Shankara's commentary:

Those who have no faith in this Dharma (law, religion) i.e., knowledge of the Self, those who do not believe in its existence or in its effects, the sinful who follow the doctrine of the Demons (Asuras), regarding the physical body itself as the Self,

—these greedy and sinful persons do not attain to Me, the Supreme Lord.

—The attaining of Me is certain­ly out of question; wherefore, the implication is that they do not attain even to devotion (Bhakti) which is one of the paths leading to Me;

they are sure to remain in the path of the mortal world, in that path only which leads to hell (nāraka) and to the lower kingdoms of animals, etc.

All beings rest in the Lord.

Having prepared Arjuna (to listen to the Doctrine) by extolling it, the Lord says:

4. By Me all this world is pervaded, My form unmanifested. All beings dwell in Me; and I do not dwell in them.

Shankara's commentary:

All this world is pervaded by My Highest Being, My form being invisible to the senses. In Me, of unmanifested form, dwell all beings from Brahma down to the plant. No being devoid of the Self can ever become an object of experience.

Wherefore they dwell in Me, i. e., they are self-existent (or have an individual existence) through Me, the Self, (i. e., they are what they are in virtue of Me, the Self, underlying them all.) Since I am the Self of all those beings, it would seem to the deluded as though I dwell in them.

Wherefore I say:

 I do not dwell in those beings, be­cause of the absence of contact with others, unlike corporeal things. I am, certainly, the innermost essence even of the ākāśa.

That which is unconnected with any object cannot indeed be contained anywhere as though in a receptacle. Wherefore, as I am unconnected with any object,

5. Nor do those beings dwell in Me; behold My Divine Yoga! Sustaining all beings, but not dwelling in them, is My Self, the cause of beings.

Shankara's commentary:

And yet these beings, from Brahma downwards, dwell not in Me; behold My Divine working, the Divine Mystery, the real nature of the Self.

Accordingly, the śruti speaks of the unattached condition of the Self, seeing that He is unconnected with any object:

Devoid of attachment, He is never attached.”—( Brih. Up. 3-9-26.)

Behold, there is yet another mystery. Though unattach­ed, My Self supports all beings, but does not dwell in them, as shown above with reasons.

—Then how to justify the Lord’s words, ‘My Self’?

—We answer:

Separating (from the Real Self) the aggregate of the physical and other material environments, and regarding that aggregate as the ‘I’, the Lord speaks of the Self as ‘My Self’,

—so far following only the popular conception; not certainly that He believes, as the masses ignorantly believe, that the Ātman, the Self, is distinct from Himself.

And further it is Myself that cause all beings to come into being, that cause all beings to grow.

By way of illustrating by an example what has been taught in the two preceding verses, the Lord says:

6. As the mighty wind moving everywhere rests ever in the ākāśa, so, know thou, do all beings, rest in Me.

Shankara's commentary:

It is observed in our ordinary experience that the wind, moving everywhere and mighty in expanse, ever rests in the ākāśa; so also in Me, who am all-pervading like the ākāśa, do all beings rest, without any contact at all.

The Lord is the source and the end of all beings.

Thus, as the wind rests in the ākāśa, so do all beings rest in Me as long as the world lasts.

7. All beings, O son of Kuntī, go into My Prakriti at the end of a Kalpa. I send them forth again at the beginning of (the next) Kalpa.

Shankara's commentary:

Prakriti: the inferior one composed of the three guṇas. The end of a Kalpa is the time of dissolution (pralaya), and the beginning of a Kalpa is the time of production (utpatti).


8. Resorting to My Prakriti, I again and again send forth this whole multitude of beings, power­less under the control of the Prakriti.

Shankara's commentary:

With the help of the Prakriti, i.e., of Avidya, which is subject to Me, I cause all these beings we now see to emanate again and again from the Prakriti;

all of them being rendered powerless by avidyā and other sources of evil under the influence of the Prakriti, i. e, of Svabhāva or Nature.

The Lord is not bound by His acts.

Then as creating this multitude of beings of unequal conditions, Thou, the Supreme Lord, shalt be subject to dharma and a-dharma arising from that act?

—In reply, the Lord says:

9. Nor do these acts, O Dhananjaya, bind Me, remaining like one unconcerned, unattached to those acts.

Shankara's commentary:

The acts involved in the unequal creation of the multitudi­nous beings do not bind Me, the Īśvara.

—Now, the Lord gives the reason why He is not affected by the acts:

—I, knowing the immutability of the Self, remain like one who is unconcerned, without attachment for the fruit of the act, i.e., without the egotistic feeling ‘I do’.

Wherefore, in the case of others also, the absence of the egotistic feeling of agency and the absence of attachment for results is the cause of freedom (from dharma and a-dharma).

Otherwise, the deluded man is bound by his own acts like the silk-worm in the cocoon.

Now, the statements ‘I send forth this multitude of beings’ (ix. 7) and ‘remaining like one unconcerned’ involve a self-contradiction.

In explanation thereof, the Lord says:

10. By Me presiding, Prakriti produces the mov­ing and the unmoving; because of this, O son of Kuntī, the world revolves.

Shankara's commentary:

By Me presiding: as a mere viewer on every side and the immutable witness.

My Māyā, i.e., the Avidya, composed of the three guṇas, produces the universe comprising the moving and the unmoving objects. So says the chant:

The one, the luminous, hidden in all beings, all- 1 pervading, the Inner Self of all, the superintendent of all acts, the abode of all beings, the witness, the perceiver, alone, and free from qualities.(Śvetāśvatara-Up. 6-11).

Because I am the witness, because I preside, this universe comprising the moving and the unmoving objects, the manifested and the unmanifested, moves on through all stages.

Indeed, all activity in the world—such as ‘I shall enjoy this,’ ‘I see this,’ ‘I hear this,’ ‘I feel pleasure,’ ‘I feel pain,’ ‘To gain this I shall do it,’ ‘ I shall learn this’

—arises by way of forming an object of consci­ousness; it has its being in consciousness and has its end in consciousness.

Such chants as ‘Who in the Supreme Heaven (of the heart) is the witness of this,’ (Tai. Br.2.8-9) point only to this view.

Accordingly as there is no conscious entity other than the One Divine Being, there cannot be a separate enjoyer; and it is therefore irrelevant to ask or to answer the question:

Of what purpose is this creation by the One, the Divine, the pure all-witnessing Spirit or Consciousness, having really no concern with any enjoy­ment whatever?’

So says the śruti:

Who could perceive (It) directly, and who could declare whence born and why this variegated crea­tion? ’— (Tai. Br. 2-8-g).

The Lord has also said:

Wisdom is enveloped by unwisdom; thereby mortals are deluded.’—(v. 15).

The life of the impious.

Though I am thus eternal, pure, wise, and free by nature, Omniscient, the Self of all,

11. Fools disregard Me clad in human form, not knowing My higher being as the Great Lord of beings.

Shankara's commentary:

Fools, unable to discriminate, despise Me living among them with a human body, these fools not understanding My higher being,

—not knowing that I am the Supreme Self, that I am, like ākāśa, more intimately connected with things than even ākāśa, that I am the Great Lord, the very Self, of all beings.

Then by continually despising Me, these poor creatures are ruined.

How (is their condition pitiable)?

12. Of vain hopes, of vain actions, of vain knowledge, devoid of discrimination, partaking only of the delusive nature of Rākṣasas and Asuras.

Shankara's commentary:

They cherish vain hopes. The agnihotra and other actions performed by them are fruitless, because they insult the Lord, because they neglect their own Self. Even their knowledge is fruitless. They are devoid of discrimination.

They partake of the nature of Rākṣasas and Asuras. They see no self beyond the body and engage in cruel deeds, their rule of conduct being ‘cut, break, drink, devour, rob others’ property.’

The ways of the faithful devotees.

But, the faithful who are engaged in devotion (Bhakti) to the Lord, i.e., who walk in the path of moksha,

13. The Mahātmans, O son of Pritha, partaking of the nature of the Devas, worship Me with mind turned to no other, knowing (Me) as the imperish­able source of all beings.

Shankara's commentary:

Mahātmans: the high-souled.

The nature of the Devas (Gods) consists in their control over the body, mind and the senses, in kindness, in faith and the like. Beings: bhūtas, all living creatures as well as all elements of matter.

How (do they worship)?

14. Always talking of Me, strenuous, firm in vows, and reverent, they worship Me with love, always devout.

Shankara's commentary:

They always talk of Me, their Lord, the very Brahman.

They ever strive by way of subjugating the senses, by way of cultivating the virtues of self-control, kindness, innocence, and the like.

Firm in their vows, they worship Me in love, Me who am their very Self lying in the heart.

In what different ways do they worship?


15. Worshipping by the wisdom-sacrifice, others adore Me, the All-faced, in various ways, as One, as different.

Shankara's commentary:

Knowledge of the Lord is itself a sacrifice. Worshipping by this sacrifice of wisdom, others adore Me, having abandoned all other forms of worship.

And that knowledge varies thus:

-Some worship with the knowledge of the real truth that ‘One, verily, is the Para-Brahman.’  Some I worship with the knowledge that the Lord Vishṇu Himself exists as different beings, as the sun, the moon and the like.  

Others worship Him,—who exists in all forms—as the All-faced, thinking that the One Lord exists in all the different forms with his face on all sides.