Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Shankara | Discourse 2 verse 39-50


Worldly considerations have been adduced (ii. 31—38) to dispel grief and attachment; but they do not form the main subject of teaching.

On the other hand, it is the realisation of the Supreme Reality that forms the main subject of this portion (ii. 12, etc.) of the discourse;

and this, which has been treated of already (ii. 20 ct seq.), is concluded in ii.39 with a view to exhibit the division of the whole subject of the śāstra.

For, by making such a division of the whole subject of the śāstra as has been shown here, that portion of the work which will treat of the two paths later on (iii. 3) will proceed the more smoothly; and the hearers also will understand it the more easily for this division of the whole subject.

Hence says the Lord:

39. This, which has been taught to thee, is wisdom concerning Sānkhya. Now, listen to wisdom concerning Yoga, which possessing thou shalt cast off the bond of action.

Shankara's commentary:

This, which has been taught to you, constitutes wisdom (buddhi) concerning Sānkhya or the true nature of the Absolute Reality,

—that wisdom by which may be brought about the cessation of the evil which is the cause of saṁsāra,—of grief, attachment, and the like.

Now, listen to the teaching (which follows presently) concerning Yoga, which is the means of attaining wisdom concerning Sānkhya:

this Yoga, which constitutes the worship of Īśvara, consists in practising samādhi or in performing works with­out attachment, after killing all pairs of opposites (such as heat and cold).

Now He extols the wisdom concerning Yoga, in order to create an interest in it.

—When possessed of wisdom concerning Yoga, O son of Pritha, you will cast off the bond of action (karma), of dharma and a-dharma, of virtue and sin, of merit and demerit,

this severance of the bond being effected only on attaining to a knowledge of the Self through Divine Grace (Īśvara-prasāda).

Yoga, a safe course.


40. There is no loss of effort here, there is no harm. Even a little of this devotion delivers one from great fear.

Shankara's commentary:

Unlike agriculture, nothing that is attempted here—in this path to moksha, in this devotion by works—is entirely lost.

That is, there is no uncertainty regarding the result of any effort in the path of Yoga. Neither is there any chance of harm resulting from it, as it may sometimes result from medical treatment.

What is the result?

—Anything done, however little it be, in this Path of Yoga, saves one from great fear, from the fear of saṁsāra, of birth and death.

Wisdom is one.

The wisdom concerning Sānkhya and Yoga thus far described is of the following nature:

41. Here, O son of Kuru, there is one thought of a resolute nature. Many-branched and endless are the thoughts of the irresolute.

Shankara's commentary:

Here, O son of Kuru, in this path to Bliss, there is only one thought of a resolute nature, and it is subversive of all other many-branched thoughts opposed to it,—that thought having sprung from the right source of knowledge.

Those other thoughts which are opposed to it are various. By acting up to these many-branched thoughts, saṁsāra becomes endless and ever-spreading.

But when, owing to discrimination produced by the right source of knowledge these thoughts of endless variety cease, saṁsāra also ceases.

Owing to variety in each of their branches, the thoughts of the irresolute—of those who are not possess­ed of the discrimination produced by the right source of knowledge—are endless.

No wisdom possible for the worldly - minded.

As regards those who have no conviction of a resolute nature,

42-44. No conviction of a resolute nature is formed in the mind of those who are attached to pleasures and power, and whose minds are drawn away by that flowery speech which the unwise—

enamoured of Vedic utterances, declaring there is nothing else, full of desire, having svarga as their goal—

utter, ( a speech ) which promises birth as the reward of actions and which abounds in speci­fic acts for the attainment of pleasure and power, O son of Pritha.

Shankara's commentary:

They are unwise; they are wanting in discrimination. They are enamoured of the Vedic passages composed of many a praise (to gods) and unfolding various ends and means.

They say that there is nothing else besides works which are the means of attaining svarga, cattle, and other such objects of desire. They are full of desires and are ever in pursuit of them. Their chief and final goal is svarga.

They talk words, fine like a flowery tree, very pleasant to hear. Their speech holds out births as the reward of works, and treats of specific acts wherewith to secure svarga, cattle, progeny and the like, and wherewith to attain pleasures and power.

Thus talking these foolish people wander in the saṁsāra. They regard pleasure and power as necessary; they are in love with them and have identified themselves with them.

Their intelligence and wisdom are blinded (as it were) by this speech abounding in specific acts.

In their mind—samādhi, the buddhi, the antaḥ-kāraa, in which are gathered together all objects of enjoyment for the puruṣa, the individual soul

—no conviction of a resolute nature, no wisdom concerning Sānkhya or Yoga will arise.

Advice to the Yogin.

The Lord now speaks of the result accruing to those lust­ful persons who are thus wanting in discrimination:

45. The Vedas treat of the triad of the guas.

Be, O Arjuna, free from the triad of the guas, free from pairs, free from acquisition and preservation, ever remaining in the Sattva (Goodness), and self-possessed.

Shankara's commentary:

The Vedas treat of the triad of the guṇas; saṁsāra | is their subject. You, on the other hand, had better be free from the triad of the guṇas, i. e., be without desires.

Be free from pairs (dvandvas), from all mutually opposed objects which are the causes of pleasure and pain. Take your stand ever in the Sattva: practise purity.

To him who is anxious to acquire what has not been acquired and to preserve what has been already acquired, practice of virtue is impossible; wherefore be not anxious about new acqui­sitions or about the preservation of the old ones.

Be also self-possessed: be guarded.

This is the advice you have to follow when engaged in the performance of duty.


(Question):—If all those endless advantages which are said to result from the Vedic rituals are not to be sought after, to what end are they to be performed and dedicated to the Īśvara?

[Answer):—Listen to what follows:

46. What utility there is in a reservoir (as compared) with an all-spreading flood of water, the same (utility) there is in all Vedas for an enlightened Brāhmaa.

Shankara's commentary:

Whatever utility—of bathing, drinking, and the like— is served by a well, a tank, and many other small reservoirs of water etc., all that utility is only as much as the utility which is served by an all-spreading flood of water; that is, the former utility is comprehended in the latter.

So also, whatever utility there is in all the Vedic ritual, all that is comprehended in the utility of the right knowledge possess­ed by a Brāhmaṇa who has renounced the world and has completely realized the truth concerning the Absolute Rea­lity; this knowledge corresponding to the all-spreading flood of water.

The śruti says:—“Whatever good thing is done by people, all that is possessed by him who knows what he (Raikva) knew.” (Chh. Up. 4-1-4).

The same thing will also be said here (iv. 33).

Wherefore, for a man who is qualified for works it is necessary to perform works (which stand in the place of wells and tanks) before he becomes fit for the path of knowledge.

And as for you,

47. Thy concern is with action alone, never with results. Let not the fruit of action be thy motive, nor let thy attachment be for inaction.

Shankara's commentary:

You are qualified for works alone, not for the path of knowledge.

And then, while doing works, let there be no desire for the results of works under any circumstances whatever. If you should have a thirst for the results of works, you will have to reap those fruits.

Therefore let not your motive be the fruits of your action. When a person performs works thirsting for the results of those works, then he will be subject to rebirth as the result of action.

Neither may you be attached to inaction, thinking: “Of what avail are these painful works if their fruits should not be desired?”

If a man should not perform works urged by a desire for their results, how then are they to be performed?

The reply follows:

48. Steadfast in devotion do thy works, O Dhananjaya, casting off attachment, being the same in success and failure. Evenness is called Yoga.

Shankara's commentary:

Steadfast in devotion (Yoga) perform works merely for God’s sake, casting off even such attachment as this, “May God be pleased,” and being equanimous in success and failure.

Success (siddhi) consists in the attainment of knowledge (jñāna) as the result of mind (Sattva) attaining purity when works are done by one without longing for their fruits; and failure results from the opposite course.

What is that devotion (Yoga) to which Arjuna has been exhorted to resort in performing works?

The reply is this:

—Evenness of mind in success and failure is called devotion (Yoga).

In comparison with action thus performed in the service of the Īśvara with evenness of mind,

49. Verily action is far inferior to devotion in wisdom (buddhi-yoga), Dhananjaya. In wisdom (buddhi) seek thou shelter. Wretched are they whose motive is the fruit.

Shankara's commentary:

Action done by a seeker of its reward is far inferior to devotion in wisdom, i.e., to action performed with evenness of mind; for, the former is the cause of birth and death, O Dhananjaya.

Wherefore, seek shelter in the wisdom of Yoga, or rather in the wisdom of Sānkhya, which latter arises when Yoga attains maturity.

That is, seek refuge in the knowledge of the Supreme Reality. For, wretched are they who resort to inferior action, who are incited to action by thirst for its fruit.

The śruti says:

“O Gārgī, wretched is he who departs from this world without knowing the Akṣara, the Imperishable.” (Bri. Up. 3-8-13).

The merit of Wisdom.

Now, learn as to what result he attains who performs his own duty with evenness of mind:

50. He who is endued with wisdom casts off here both good deeds and bad deeds. Wherefore apply thyself to devotion. In regard to actions devotion is a power.

Shankara's commentary:

The man that has evenness of mind casts off in this world both merit and sin (sukrita and dushkrita, puṇya and pāpa) through attaining mental purity and knowledge.

Wherefore apply yourself to devotion with equanimity.

For devotion is a power,—devotion being the equanimity of mind in success and failure on the part of him who is engaged in the performance of his own duties, his mind resting on the Īśvara all the while.

It is indeed a power, because works which are of a binding nature lose that nature when done with evenness of mind. Wherefore be equanimous.