Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Shankara | Discourse 5 verse 15-29

Wisdom and Unwisdom.

In reality,

15. The Lord takes neither the evil nor even the good deed of any; wisdom is enveloped by un­-wisdom; thereby mortals are deluded.

Shankara's commentary:

Of any: even of His devotees.

(Question):—With what object then is done by devotees any meritorious act,—an act of worship, sacrifice, or charity, the offering of an oblation into the fire, or the like?

(Answer):—The Lord says in reply:

Discriminative knowledge is enveloped by ignorance. Thereby the ignorant mortal creatures in saṁsāra are deluded and think, “I act, I cause to act, I shall enjoy, I cause to enjoy,” and so on.

16.  But to those whose unwisdom is destroyed by wisdom of the Self, like the sun wisdom illumi­nates that Supreme.

Shankara's commentary:

When that un-wisdom by which the mortals are enveloped and deluded is destroyed by wisdom or discriminative knowledge of the Self, then, as the sun illuminates all objects, so wisdom illuminates the whole of the Knowable, the Supreme Reality.

The sage has no more births.

The Supreme Reality having been illuminated by wisdom,

17. With their consciousness in That, their Self being That, intent on That, with That for their supreme goal, they go never again to return, their sins shaken off by means of wisdom.

Shankara's commentary:

Fixing their consciousness in Brahman and realising that the very Supreme Brahman is their Self, they renounce all actions and dwell in Brahman alone,

—the Supreme Brah­man being their highest goal, their delight being solely in the unconditioned Self.

In the case of such men, all sins and other causes of mundane existence (saṁsāra) are destroyed by wisdom described above, and they depart from here, never returning to embodied life.

The sage sees the One in all beings.

How do those wise men see truth whose ignorance of the Self has been removed by knowledge?


18.  In a Brāhmaa endued with wisdom and humility, in a cow, in an elephant, as also in a dog and in a dog-eater, the wise see the same.

Shankara's commentary:

Humility is tranquillity, the condition of a well-disciplined soul.

Of the creatures mentioned, the highest is the brāhmaṇa who is spiritually regenerated and highly Sāttvic (i.e., in whom the energy of Sattva predominates).

Next comes the cow, not spiritually regenerated, and Rājasic (i.e., in which the energy of Rajas predominates). Last come the elephant, etc., which are purely Tāmasic (the energy of Tamas predominating).

In all of them the sages see the same, the One who is immutable in Himself and quite un­touched by Sattva and other energies, or by the tendencies born of those energies, whether Sāttvic, Rājasic, or Tāmasic.

The sage is liberated while still on earth.

(Objection):—They (the sages just spoken of) are sinful persons, whose food should not be eaten by others. For, the Law says:

“Where one’s equals are honoured in a different manner, and where persons who are not one’s equals are honoured in the same manner as oneself, a dinner must not be eaten.” (Gautama’s Institutes, xvii.20.)

(Answer):—They are not sinful; for,

19. Even here birth is overcome by them whose mind rests on equality. Spotless, indeed, and equal is Brahman; wherefore in Brahman they rest.

Shankara's commentary:

Even while living here on earth, birth has been brought under control by those sages who see the One, and whose intuition (antaḥ-kāraṇa) rests unwavering on the equality (i. e., homogeneity) of Brahman in all creatures.

Though, to the ignorant, Brahman in such impure bodies as those of dog-eaters and the like appears to be contaminated by their impurities, yet He is unaffected by them and is therefore spotless.

Further, He is not heterogeneous either, owing to any heterogeneous attributes inherent in Himself; for, consciousness (chaitanya) has no attributes.

And the Lord speaks of desire and the like as the attributes of the Kshe­tra—of the body, of the not-Self (xiii 6),—and He speaks also of the Self as beginningless and without attributes (xiii.31).

Nor are there what are called ultimate particu­lars (antyaviseshas)’ as the basis of individual distinctions in the Self, since no evidence can be adduced to prove their existence in relation to the several bodies.

Hence Brahman is homogeneous and one. Wherefore they (the sages) rest in Brahman only.

Not in the slightest can blemishes of bodies affect them, since they have no egotism and do not identify themselves with the aggregate of the body and the like.

It is only to those who are egotistic and who identify the Self with the aggregate of the body and the like, that the institute quoted above is applicable, since it refers to persons who are the objects of honour.

In honouring and giving gifts, some special qualifications are taken into account, such as knowledge of Brahman, knowledge of the six auxiliary sciences (aṅgas), a knowledge of the four Vedas and the like.

But Brahman is free from all attributes, good and bad. Hence the statement ‘they rest in Brahman.’

Moreover, the institute quoted above is taken from a section which is concerned with works (Karma), whereas this portion of the Gītā (from v. 13 to the end of the adhyāya) is a section treating of renunciation of all works.  

The sage is free from grief and rejoicing.

Because Brahman, the Self, is blemishless and homoge­neous, therefore,

20. He who knows Brahman can neither rejoice on obtaining the pleasant, nor grieve on obtaining the unpleasant,—steady-minded, undeluded, resting in Brahman.

Shankara's commentary:

Pleasant and unpleasant objects can cause pleasure and pain to them only who regard the body as the Self, not to him who sees the pure Self, since the latter never comes by pleasant and unpleasant objects.

He is undoubtingly conscious that the Self is one, homogeneous, and spotless in all creatures. He is free from delusion. He rests in Brahman described above; that is, he does no action, he has renounced all action.

The sage’s infinite joy.

Moreover, resting in Brahman,

21. With the self unattached to external con­tacts, he finds the joy which is in the Self; with the Self engaged in the contemplation of Brahman he attains the endless joy.           

Shankara's commentary:

When his intuition (antaḥ-kāraṇa) is uncontaminated by attachment to things contacted by the senses, to the sound and other sense-objects which are all external (to the Self), the sage realises the joy which there is in the Self.

When his intuition (antaḥ-kāraṇa) is engaged in Yoga, in Samādhi, in a deep and steady contemplation of Brahman, then the sage attains the imperishable bliss.

Therefore, he who seeks for the endless joy of the Self should withdraw the senses from the momentary pleasure of external objects.

For the following reason also he should withdraw (the senses from external objects):—

22. For, those delights which are born of contacts are only generators of pain, having a beginning and an end, O son of Kuntī; a wise man rejoices not in them.

Shankara's commentary:

The pleasures that are caused by contacts of the senses with sense-objects are only generators of pain, since those delights are caused by nescience (avidya).

We do find that all troubles arising in the body (ādhyātmika), etc., are tra­ceable to them (delights) only. As in this world, so in the other,—as the word ‘only’ indicates.

Seeing that there is no trace of joy in the saṁsāra, the devotee should withdraw the senses from the mirage of sense-objects. Not only do the delights cause pain, but also they have a beginning and an end.

The contact of a sense with its object marks the beginning of a pleasure, and their separation its end. Delights are temporary, occurring in the moment of interval (between the origin and the end).

A man who possesses discrimina­tion and who has realised the Supreme Reality does not re­joice in them. It is only quite ignorant persons that are, like cattle and the like, found to rejoice in the sense-objects.

The path of Nirvana.

And there is also a wicked thing, an enemy on the path to Bliss, a most difficult thing to deal with, the source of all evil, very difficult to ward off, so that, very mighty efforts should be made, says the Lord, to repel the enemy:

23. He that is able, while still here, to with­stand, before liberation from the body, the impulse of desire and anger, he is a Yogin, he is a happy man.

Shankara's commentary:

While still here: while yet living.

Before liberation from the body: up to the point of death.

By thus marking death as the limit, the Lord teaches that the impulse of desire and anger is unavoidable during life, since its causes are in­numerable, and that till the very moment of death it should not be trusted.

Desire (Kāma) is the longing for a pleasure- giving agreeable object of our experience when coming with­in the ken of our senses, heard of, or remembered;

and anger (krodha) is the aversion for the disagreeable, for the cause of pain, when being seen, heard of, or remembered.

The impulse of desire (karṇa) is the agitation of the mind (antaḥ-kāraṇa) as indicated by hairs standing on end and by a joyful countenance;

and the impulse of anger is the men­tal agitation indicated by the trembling of the body, by perspiration, lip-biting, fiery eyes, and the like.

He who can withstand the impulses of desire and anger is a Yogin, and he is a happy man here on earth.

What sort of a man resting in Brahman attains Brah­man?

—The Lord says:

24. Whoso has his joy within and his pastime within, and whoso has his light within only, that Yogin attains Brahman’s bliss, himself becoming Brahman.

Shankara's commentary:

Within: in the Self. He attains the bliss (nirvana) in Brahman,—i.e., he attains moksha,—while still living here on earth.


25. The sages attain Brahman’s bliss,—they whose sins have been destroyed and doubts remov­ed, who are self-controlled and intent on the welfare of all beings.

Shankara's commentary:

Sages (Rishis): men of right knowledge and renuncia­tion. Intent, etc.: injuring none.


26. To the devotees who are free from desire and anger, who have controlled their thought, and who have known the Self, Brahman’s bliss exists everywhere.

Shankara's commentary:

Those who have renounced all actions and attained right knowledge are liberated, whether living or dead.

Realisation of the Lord by Dhyāna-Yoga.

It has been said that those who, renouncing all actions, remain steady in right knowledge obtain instant liberation.

It has often been and will be declared by the Lord that Karma-Yoga, which is performed in complete devotion to the Lord and dedicated to Him, leads to moksha step by step:

first the purification of the mind, then knowledge, then renunciation of all actions, and lastly moksha.

And now, with a view to propound at length the Dhyāna-Yoga, the proximate means to right knowledge, the Lord teaches the Dhyāna-Yoga in the following few aphoristic verses:

27-28. Shutting out all external contacts and fixing the sight between the eye-brows, equalising the out-going and the in-going breaths which pass through the nostrils,

controlling the senses, mind and intellect, having moksha as his highest goal, free from desire, fear and anger,—the sage who ever (remains thus) is verily liberated.

Shankara's commentary:

The sound and other sense-objects enter the mind within through the respective organs. These objects which are external are kept outside when a man does not think of them.

A sage (muni) is one who is given to contemplation (manana) and who renounces all actions. Keeping the body in the posture described, he should always look up to moksha as his supreme goal.

When the sage leads constantly this kind of life, renouncing all, he is no doubt liberated: he has nothing else to do for liberation.

What has he—he whose mind is thus steadily balanced— to know and meditate upon in the Dhyāna-Yoga?

29. On knowing Me,—the Lord of all sacrifices and austerities, the Great Lord of all worlds, the Friend of all beings,—he goes to Peace.

Shankara's commentary:

I am Nārāyaṇa, the Lord of all sacrifices and austerities, both as their author and as their Devatā (i. e., as the God whose grace is sought by their means). I am the Friend of all, doing good to them without expecting any return for it.

Lying in the heart of all beings, I am the dispenser of the fruits of all actions and the witness of all cognitions. On knowing Me, they attain peace, the cessation of all saṁsāra.