Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Shankara | Discourse 8 verse 14-28

No re-birth on attaining to the Divine Being.


14. Whoso constantly thinks of Me and long, to him I am easily accessible, O son of Pritha, to the ever-devout Yogin.

Shankara's commentary:

He who thinks of Me, the Supreme Lord, long—i. e., not for six months or a year, but uninterruptedly throughout life,

—to that Yogin who is ever steadfast in thought, I am easily accessible. This being so, therefore, without thinking of another, one should ever dwell steadfast in Me.

It may be asked: “What if Thou art easily accessible?”

— Listen; I shall tell you of what use is My being thus easily accessible:

15. Having attained to Me, they do not again attain birth, which is the seat of pain and is not eternal, they having reached highest perfection.

Shankara's commentary:

Having attained to Me, the Īśvara, having reached My being, they are not again subject to birth. Birth here is the seat of all pain arising from the body, etc., and is of an ever- changing nature.

Having reached the highest stage called moksha, they do not attain birth again. Those, on the other hand, who do not attain to Me, return again (to the earth).

Do those again return who have reached any other being than Thyself?


16. (All) worlds including the world of Brahma, are subject to returning again, O Arjuna; but, on reaching Me, O son of Kuntī, there is no rebirth.

Shankara's commentary:

The Day and the Night of Brahma.

Why are all the worlds including the world of Brahma subject to returning?

—Because they are limited by time.

— How?

17. They—those people who know day and night—know that the day of Brahma is a thousand yugas long and the night is a thousand yugas long.

Shankara's commentary:

Brahma is the Prajāpati, the Virāj. Those persons who know how to compute Time know that Brahma’s day is a thousand yugas long, and that His night is of the same duration as His day.

Because the worlds are thus limited by time, therefore they return again.

What takes place during the Prajāpatis day and what takes place during His night will now be described:

18. From the Unmanifested all the manifesta­tions proceed at the coming on of day; at the coming on of night they dissolve there only, in what is called the Unmanifested.

Shankara's commentary:

The Unmanifested (Avyakta) is the sleeping condition of the Prajāpati who is asleep.

Out of That, all manifestations (vyaktis), all creatures, unmoving and moving (sthāvara and jaṇgama), are manifested at the coming on of day, i.e., when Brahma awakes.

So, at the coming on of night, i. e., when Brahma goes to sleep, all the manifestations dissolve there only, in what is called Avyakta, the one already spoken of.

With a view to avoid the fallacious implication that a man reaps the fruits of what he has not done, or that he does not reap the fruits of what he has done,

with a view to show that the teaching of the scripture concerning bondage (bandha) and liberation (moksha) has a purpose to serve,

and with a view further to teach detachment from saṁsāra by show­ing that, as the effect of karma caused by avidya (nescience) and other sources of evil, all creatures involuntarily come into being again and again and dissolve,

the Lord says:

19. This same multitude of beings, having come into being again ana again, is dissolved at the coming on of night, not of their will, O son of Pritha, and comes forth at the coming on of day.

Shankara's commentary:

This multitude of beings comprising those that move as well as those that do not— the same multitude that existed in the preceding Kalpa or age, and no other

— involuntarily comes into being at the coming on of day, and is dissolved again at the coming on of night, at the close of the day.

Again, at the coming on of day, it involuntarily comes into existence.

The Highest Goal—how reached.

In viii.13, etc., has been shown the way, by which to reach the Imperishable (Akṣara) described above.

Now, with a view to indicate the nature of the Akṣara, with a view thus to specify that so and so is the thing to be reached by this path of Yoga, the Lord proceeds as follows:

20. But that other eternal Unmanifested Be­ing, distinct from this Unmanifested (Avyakta), — He does not perish when all creatures perish.

Shankara's commentary:

‘But’ indicates that the Akṣara who is to be described now is distinct from the Avyakta. Being: the Supreme, the Para-Brahman, called the Akṣara.

Though distinct from the Avyakta, one may suppose that He is of the same nature as the Avyakta. To remove this impression, the Lord qualifies Him by ‘other’, meaning thereby that He is of a different nature from the Avyakta.

He is unmanifest­ed, imperceptible to the senses. He is distinct from the Avyakta mentioned above, which is Avidya itself, the seed of the whole multitude of created beings;

that is to say, He is of quite a different nature from the Avyakta. He does not perish when all beings from Brahma downwards perish.

21. What is called the Unmanifested and the Imperishable, That, they say is the highest goal; which having reached none return. That is My highest place.

Shankara's commentary:

That: that Avyakta which is called Akṣara, the Imper­ishable, the Unmanifested Being. Having reached that state, none has returned to saṁsāra, the mundane life. That is My (i. e. Vishṇu’s) Supreme Abode.

The means of attaining to that state will now be pointed out:

22. Now, that Highest Purusha, O son of Pritha, within Whom all beings dwell, by Whom all this is pervaded, is attainable by exclusive devotion.

Shankara's commentary:

Purusha is so called because He rests in the body, or because He is full. Than Him none is higher. He is at­tained by exclusive devotion, i. e., by jñāna or knowledge of the Self.

All the created beings abide within the Purusha; for, every effect rests within its cause; and by that Purusha the whole world is pervaded.

The Paths of Light and Darkness.

Now it is necessary to speak of the Uttarā mārga, ‘the " Northern Path’, the Path of Light by which the Yogins just spoken of attain to Brahman,

—those Yogins who meditate here on Brahman as inhering in the Prāṇavā, in the syllable ‘Om’, and who attain to moksha later on.

And this will be taught in the section beginning with viii. 23.

The path of return is also described, only with a view to extol the other path.

23. Now, in what time departing, Yogins go to return not, as also to return, that time will I tell thee, O chief of the Bhāratas.

Shankara's commentary:

‘In what time’ should be construed with ‘departing.’

‘To return’ means to be reborn—‘Yogins’ stand for those who are engaged in meditation (i. e., those who are properly called Yogins) as well as for Karmins, i. e., those who are engaged in karma or action.

The latter are spoken of as Yogins only by courtesy; and they are so spoken of in iii. 3.—I shall tell you, when dying the Yogins are not born again, and when dying they will be born again.

He speaks of that time:

24. Fire, light, day-time, the bright fortnight, the six months of the northern solstice,—then de­parting, men who know Brahman reach Brahman.

Shankara's commentary:

‘Fire’ is the deity presiding over time; so also is ‘light’ a deity presiding over time.

—Or, it may be that ‘fire’ and ‘ light ’ are the deities so called; the reference, however, to the path as a whole by the expressions ‘in what time’ and ‘that time’ being due to the predominance of the deities presiding over ‘time.’

—The ‘day-time’ is the deity presid­ing over the day-time, the ‘bright fortnight’ is the deity presiding over the bright fortnight.

The six months of the northern solstice: here also, it is the deity that forms the path. The principle on which this interpretation of the passage is based has been established elsewhere.

Those who die, having been engaged in the contemplation of Brahman, reach Brahman by this path.

The expression “in course of time” should be understood after ‘reach’; for, those -who are firm in devotion to right knowledge and attain to immediate liberation have no place to go to or to return from.

25. Smoke, night-time, and the dark fortnight, the six months of the southern solstice,—attaining by these to the lunar light, the Yogin returns.

Shankara's commentary:

‘Smoke,’ ‘night time’ the ‘dark fortnight,’ and the ‘six months of the southern solstice,’ are all deities presiding over smoke and periods of time spoken of.

By this path, the Yogin—the Karmin who performs sacrifices (to Gods) and other works—attains to the lunar light, and, on the exhaustion thereof, returns again to earth.

26. These bright and dark Paths of the world are verily deemed eternal; by the one a man goes to return not, by the other he returns again.

Shankara's commentary:

The one is bright because it illumines knowledge; the other is dark because it is wanting in that light.

The two paths are open to those only in the world who are engaged in action or devoted to knowledge; they are not open to the whole world. They are eternal, because saṁsāra is eternal.

By the one: by the bright one.

27. Knowing these paths, O son of Pritha, no Yogin is deluded: wherefore at all times be stead­fast in Yoga, O Arjuna.

Shankara's commentary:

The Yogin who knows that one of the two foregoing paths leads to saṁsāra and that the other leads to moksha is no longer deluded.

Excellence of Yoga.

Now, hear of the greatness of that Yoga:

28. Whatever fruit of merit is declared to accrue from the Vedas, sacrifices, austerities and gifts,—beyond all this goes the Yogin on knowing this; and he attains to the Supreme Primeval Abode.

Shankara's commentary:

Whatever fruit of merit is declared by the scriptures to be attainable when the Vedas are properly studied, when the sacrifices are performed in all their parts, when austerities are well practised,

—beyond all this multitude of fruits rises the Yogin who rightly understands and follows the teaching imparted (by the Lord) in His answers to the seven questions,

and he then attains to the highest abode of Īśvara— which existed even in the beginning;—He attains Brahman, the Cause.