Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Shankara | Discourse 12 verse 10-20

Service of the Lord.

10. (If) thou art not equal to practice either, then be thou intent on (doing) actions for My sake. Even doing actions for My sake, thou shalt attain perfection.

Shankara's commentary:

Even if thou doest mere actions for My sake without practising yoga, thou shalt attain perfection;

—thou shalt first attain purity of mind, then yoga or steadfastness, then knowledge, and then perfection (moksha).

Abandonment of the fruits of actions.

11. If thou art unable to do even this, then refuged in devotion to Me, do thou abandon the fruits of all actions, self-controlled.

Shankara's commentary:

If thou canst not even be intent on doing actions for My sake as thou hast just been taught, then do thou perform actions renouncing them all in Me, and abandon the fruit of those actions.

Now He extols the abandoning of the fruits of all actions.

12. Better indeed is knowledge than practice; than knowledge is meditation more esteemed; than meditation the abandonment of the fruits of actions; on abandonment, Peace follows immedi­ately.

Shankara's commentary:

Knowledge is better than practice accompanied with ignorance; better than that knowledge is meditation (dhyāna) with knowledge; better than meditation with knowledge is the abandonment of the fruits of actions.

From such an abandonment of the fruits of actions, accom­panied with the qualification mentioned above, cessation of saṁsāra and of the cause thereof follows immediately; it admits of no delay.

Abandonment of the fruit of all action is taught as a means to Bliss in the case of an ignorant person engaged in action, only when unable to tread the paths taught before, but not at first.

Wherefore the act of abandoning the fruit of all action is merely extolled by the declaration, in this verse, of the superiority of one over another; for it has been taught as the course to be adopted when a man is unable to follow the paths already taught.

In what way does it (the declaration) form a mere praise?

In the Kaṭhopanishad (vi. 14) it is said that immortality results from the abandonment of all objects of desire; and this is a truth quite familiar to all. And all objects of desire are fruits of actions enjoined in the śruti and in the smriti.

In the case of the enlightened person who is steadily engaged in contemplation, Peace immediately follows the abandonment of desires.

Now mere abandonment of desires constitutes a factor of even an ignorant man’s abandon­ment of the fruits of actions; and because of this point of similarity, mere abandonment of the fruits of all actions is praised

—with a view to create a desire to follow the course

—in the same way that, in saying that the ocean was drunk by the brāhmaṇa sage Agastya, even the brāhmaṇas of this age are praised for the mere reason that they too are brāhmaṇas.

Thus, it has been taught that Karma-yoga accompanied with the abandonment of the fruits of actions is a means to Bliss.

The life of the Akṣara-Upāsakas

Here, it is by presupposing a distinction between Īśvara and Ātman, the Lord and the Self, that Yoga—which con­sists in concentrating thought on the Lord, on the Universal Form,—and the performance of works for the sake of the Lord have been taught.

As it is hinted—in the words ‘If thou art unable to do this either’(xii. 11) —that Karma- Yoga is associated with ignorance (ajñāna),

we should understand that the Lord here means to say that Karma- yoga is not meant for the worshipper of the Akṣara, for him who sees no distinction (between the Lord and the Self).

Similarly, the Lord shows the impossibility of the worship of the Akṣara to a Karma-yogin.

To explain: Having— in the words ‘They reach Myself’ (xii. 3)

—declared that the worshippers of the Akṣara are independent as regards the attainment of liberation (kaivalya), the Lord (xii. 7) has shown—in the words ‘for them I become the deliverer’ (xii. 7)

—that the others are dependent on the Lord, on an external Being.

If these were deemed as the very Self of the Lord, they would be the very Akṣara themselves owing to their realisation of the identity; so that it would have been inappropriate to speak of them as persons to be delivered by the Lord.

Moreover, the Lord who is pre-eminently a well-wisher of Arjuna recommends to him only Karma-yoga (iv. 15) based on an idea of distinction and quite dissociated from right knowledge.

Nor would any man like to be subordinate to another after knowing him­self to be the Lord through proper sources of right know­ledge; for, the two are mutually opposed states. There­fore it is with reference to the worshippers of the Akṣara, to the sannyāsins who are devoted to right knowledge and have abandoned all desires,

that He proceeds to teach those attributes—such as ‘absence of hatred of any being’— which form the direct means to immortality .

13-14. He who hates no single being, who is friendly and compassionate to all, who is free from attachment and egoism, to whom pain and pleasure are equal,

who is enduring, ever content and balanced in mind, self-controlled, and possessed of firm conviction, whose thought and reason are directed to Me, he who is (thus) devoted to Me is dear to Me.

Shankara's commentary:

He hates nothing, not even that which causes him pain. He regards all beings as himself. He is friendly and com­passionate. He is full of compassion for the distressed; i. e., he has, offered security of life to all beings, he is a sannyāsin.

He does not regard anything as ‘mine’ and is free from egoism, from the notion of ‘I’.

Pain and pleasure do not cause in him hatred and attachment. He remains un­affected when abused or beaten. He is always content; he thinks he has enough whether he obtains or not the means of bodily sustenance.

He is also satisfied whether he comes by a good thing or not. He is a yogin, always steadfast in thought. He has a firm conviction regarding the essential nature of the Self.

This sannyāsin has directed to Me exclu­sively his Manas—purposes and thoughts—as well as his Buddhi—the faculty of determining.

Such a devotee is dear to Me. The same truth which was indicated in vii. 17—‘I am very dear to the wise man and he is dear to Me’—is here described at length.

15. He by whom the world is not afflicted and who is not afflicted by the world, who is free from joy, envy, fear and sorrow, he is dear to Me.

Shankara's commentary:

He: the sannyāsin. Joy consists in the elevation or exhilaration of the mind (antaḥ-kāraṇa) on attaining an object of desire, and is indicated by horripilation, tears, and so on.

16 He who is free from wants, who is pure, clever, unconcerned, untroubled, renouncing all undertakings, he who is (thus) devoted to Me is dear to Me.

Shankara's commentary:

He is indifferent to the body, the senses, the sense- objects and their mutual connections. He is possessed of purity both internal and external. He is able to decide rightly on the spot in matters demanding prompt attention.

He does not take the side of a friend and the like. He habitually renounces all actions calculated to secure objects of desire, whether of this world or of the next.


17. He who neither rejoices nor hates, nor grieves, nor desires, renouncing good and evil, he who is full of devotion is dear to Me.

Shankara's commentary:

He does not rejoice on attaining what is desirable. He does not fret on attaining what is undesirable. He does not grieve on having to part with a beloved object. He does not desire the unattained.

18-19. He who is the same to foe and friend, and also in honour and dishonour: who is the same in cold and heat, in pleasure and pain: who is free from attachment: to whom censure and praise are equal:

who is silent, content with anything, home­less, steady-minded, full of devotion: that man is dear to Me.

Shankara's commentary:

He has no attachment for objects of any kind. He is content with the bare means of bodily sustenance. It is said (in the Mahābhārata):

‘Who is glad with anything, who  is fed on any food, who lies down anywhere, him the Gods call a brāhmaṇa. (Śānti-Parva, Moksha-Dharma, 245- 12).

He has no fixed abode; he is 'houseless’ as has been said in another smriti. His thought is fixed steadily on the Supreme Reality.

The enumeration, which was commenced in xii.13, of the various attributes of the sannyāsins —the worshippers of the Akṣara who are constantly devoted to the knowledge of the Supreme Reality

— is concluded as follows:

20. They, verily, who follow this immortal Law described above, endued with faith, looking up to Me as the Supreme, and devoted, they are exceedingly dear to Me.

Shankara's commentary:

They: the sannyāsins. Immortal: as leading to immortality. Above: in the portion beginning with xii.13. Looking up to Me as the Supreme: whose highest unsurpassed goal is Myself, the Imperishable Self.

Devoted: Resorting to the highest devotion, which consists in the knowledge of the Supreme Reality.

What was implied in the words: ‘I am exceedingly dear to the wise man’ (vii. 12) has been explained at length and concluded here thus: ‘They are exceedingly dear to me.’

The meaning of the verse is:

Because he who follows the Immortal Law which has been now described becomes exceedingly dear to Vishṇu, the Supreme Lord,

therefore this Immortal Law should be zealously followed by every seeker of Liberation, by everyone who desires to attain to the Supreme Abode of Vishṇu.