Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Shankara | Discourse 9 verse 16-34

All worship goes to the Lord.

If they worship in so many different ways, how do they (as Thou sayest) worship Thee only?

—The Lord says:

16. I am Kratu, I am yajña, I am svadhā, I am aushadha, I am mantra, Myself the butter, I am fire, I the act of offering.

Shankara's commentary:

Kratu is a class of Vedic sacrifices. Yajña is the worship enjoined in the smriti. Svadhā is the food offered to ancestors (Pitris). The aushadha means plants in general, including rice and barley, eaten by all living beings.

— Or, svadhā is food in general, and aushadha is the medical (food) serving to alleviate sickness.

—I am the mantra, the chant with which the oblation is offered to the Pitris and the Devatās. I am the fire into which the offering is poured.


17. I am the father of this world, the mother, the dispenser, and grandsire; I am the knowable, the purifier, the syllable ‘Om,’ and also the Rik, the Sāman, and the Yajus also.

Shankara's commentary:

The dispenser: of the fruits of action.


18. I am the Goal, the Sustainer, the Lord, the Witness, the Abode, the Shelter and the Friend, the Origin, Dissolution and Stay; the Treasure-house, the Seed imperishable.

Shankara's commentary:

I am the goal, the fruit of action… I am the witness of what is done and what is not done by all living beings. I am the abode wherein all living beings dwell. I am the shelter for the distressed; I relieve from distress those who come to Me.

I am the Friend: I do good without ex­pecting any return. I am the source of the world. I am that in which it is dissolved, and that in which it stays.

I am the treasure-house, that which living beings shall enjoy in a future period. I am the imperishable seed, that which causes the growth of all things that germinate, and which endures as long as the world (saṁsāra) endures.

Nothing indeed springs up without a seed; and since growth is con­stant, it is understood that continuity of the seed never fails.


19. I give heat, I hold back and send forth rain, I am the immortality as well as death, exist­ence and non-existence, O Arjuna.

Shankara's commentary:

As the sun I give heat by some powerful rays; by certain rays I send forth rain; and having sent it forth I take it back by certain rays during eight months, and again send it forth in the rainy season.

I am the immortality of the gods (devas) and the death of the mortals.

I am existence, (the manifested, the effect), which manifests itself in relation (to the cause); and I am the reverse, the non-existence (the unmanifested, the cause).

—Indeed the Lord can never be altogether non-existent; nor (can it be said) that the effect is existence and the cause is non-existence.

The fruits of interested acts of Vedic ritual.

Those men of wisdom who are devoted to Me, adoring Me by the sacrifices mentioned above, leading lives of Retirement in various forms described above, and regarding Me as One or as different,

—they reach Myself according to their knowledge.

But as regards those who are ignorant and who long for objects of desire,

20. Men of the three Vedas, the soma-drinkers, purified from sin, worshipping Me by sacrifices, pray for the goal of heaven; they reach the holy world of the Lord of the Gods and enjoy in heaven the heavenly pleasures of the Gods.

Shankara's commentary:

Men who know the three Vedas, the Rik, the Sāman and the Yajus; who drink Soma and are thereby purified from sins; who worship Me as the Vasus and other gods by sacrifices such as the Agniṣṭoma; who seek for Svarga as the reward of their sacrifices;

—they go to the world of Indra who had performed a hundred sacrifices, and there enjoy supernatural (a-prākṛta) pleasures.

21. They, having enjoyed that spacious world of Svarga, their merit (puya) exhausted, enter the world of the mortals; thus following the Dharma of the Triad, desiring (objects of) desires, they attain to the state of going and returning.

Shankara's commentary:

The Dharma of the Triad: mere Vedic ritual (karma) that which is enjoined by the three Vedas. They have to go and return, and never attain independence anywhere.

The Supreme watching over His devotees’ interests.

Now, as regards those men of right knowledge who are free from desires,

22. Those men who, meditating on Me as non­-separate, worship Me all around,—to them who are ever devout, I secure gain and safety.

Shankara's commentary:

'Those men of renunciation (sannyāsins) who worship Me all around, ever meditating on Me, regarding themselves as non-separate,—i. e., looking upon the Supreme God, Nārāyaṇa, as their own Self,

—to these who see the Reality, who are ever devout, I secure gain. I secure to them what is not already possessed; and I secure to them safety, i.e., preservation of what is already possessed.

As said in vii. 17, 18, they form My very Self and are dear to Me.

(Objection):—To other devotees also the Lord secures gain and safety.

(Answer):—True, He undoubtedly secures (to them gain and safety); but there is this difference:

while other devo­tees work themselves also for their own gain and safety, those who see nothing as separate from themselves do not work for their own gain and safety.

Indeed these latter never cherish a desire for life or death; the Lord alone is their refuge. Wherefore the Lord Himself secures to them gain and safety.

Other devotees do but worship the Supreme in ignorance.

(Objection):—If other gods (Devatās) are Thyself only, their devotees also worship Thyself.

(Answer):—Just so, indeed:

23. Even those who, devoted to other Gods, worship Them with faith, worship Myself, O son of Kuntī, in ignorance.

Shankara's commentary:

With faith: believing in the efficacy (of the worship of those Gods).

Why dost Thou say that they worship in ignorance?

— For,

24. I am indeed the Enjoyer, as also the Lord, of all sacrifices; but they do not know Me in truth; whence they fail.

Shankara's commentary:

As the Devatā (i. e., as the God to whom sacrifices are offered) I am the Enjoyer and the Lord of all sacrifices enjoined in the śruti and the smriti.

I am indeed the Lord of yajña or sacrifice, as said in viii, 4. So they do not know Me as I am; whence, having worshipped in ig­norance, they fail to attain the fruit of the sacrifice.

The fruit of sacrifice certainly accrues to them also who, devoted to other gods, worship Me in ignorance.

— How?—

25. Votaries of the Gods go to the Gods; to the Pitris go the votaries of the Pitris; to the Bhūtas go the worshippers of the Bhūtas; My worshippers come to Myself.

Shankara's commentary:

The votaries of the Gods, those whose devotion and vows are directed to the Gods, go to the Gods.

The votaries of the Pitris such as the Agniṣvāttas, engaged in performing śraddhā and other rites in devotion to the Pitris, go to the Pitris. The Bhutas are the Vināyakas, the hosts of Mātṛis, the four Bhaginīs and the like.

My worshippers, i.e., Vishṇu’s votaries, come to Myself.

Notwithstanding the equality of trouble, people do not worship Me alone, because of their ignorance. Wherefore they attain very small results.

Facility in Devotion to the Supreme.

Not only do My devotees attain an endless result, i.e., attain a state from which there is no return to this world, but it is also easy for them to worship Me.


26. When one offers to Me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, water,—that I eat, offered with devotion by the pure-minded.

Because it is so, therefore,

27. Whatever thou doest, whatever thou eatest, whatever thou sacrificest, whatever thou givest, in whatever austerity thou engagest, do it as an offering to Me.

Shankara's commentary:

Whatever thou doest of thy own accord (i.e., not enjoined in the śāstra) and whatever thou offerest in sacrifice as enjoined in the śruti or the smriti,

whatever thou givest— such things as gold—to the brāhmaṇas and others, all that as an offering to Me.

Now listen as to what will accrue to you doing thus:

28. Thus shalt thou be liberated from the bonds of actions which are productive of good and evil results; equipped in mind with the Yoga of renunciation, and liberated, thou shalt come to Me.

Shankara's commentary:

Thus: when you thus offer everything to Me. This (act of offering everything to Me) constitutes the Yoga of renun­ciation. It is renunciation inasmuch as everything is offered to Me; and it is also Yoga inasmuch as it is an action (karma).

Thus, with mind equipped with Yoga and renun­ciation, thou shalt be liberated from bonds while yet living; and when this body is dead, thou shalt come to Me.

The impartiality of the Supreme.

(Objection):—Then the Lord has love and hatred, since He bestows His grace on His devotees, not on others.

(Answer):—Not so:

29. The same I am to all beings; to Me there is none hateful or dear; but whoso worship Me with devotion, they are in Me, and I am also in them.

Shankara's commentary:

I am like fire: just as fire does not ward off cold from those who are at a distance and wards it off from those who go near it, so I bestow My grace on My devotees, not on others.

Those who worship Me, the Lord, with devotion are in Me, as a matter of course, but not owing to any attach­ment on My part. In them also I am, only as a matter of course, not in others.

By this behaviour, I cannot (be said to) hate the latter.

Even the low-born attain salvation by Devotion.

Now I shall tell you how excellent a thing devotion to Me is:

30. If one of even very evil life worships Me, resorting to none else, he must indeed be deemed righteous, for he is rightly resolved.

Shankara's commentary:

He is rightly resolved: he is a man of good resolution.

By abandoning evil ways in his external life, and by the power of his internal right resolution,

31. Soon he becomes righteous and attains eternal peace; do thou, O son of Kuntī, proclaim that My devotee never perishes.

Shankara's commentary:

Listen, this is the real truth: thou mayest proclaim that He who is devoted to Me in his inner soul never perishes.

32. For, finding refuge in Me, they also who, O son of Pritha, may be of a sinful birth—women, Vaiṣyas as well as Śūdras,—even they attain to the Supreme Goal.

The Yoga of Devotion.

33. How much more then the holy brāhmaas and devoted royal saints. Having reached this transient joyless world, do thou worship Me.

Shankara's commentary:

Holy: of pure birth. This world: the world of man, human birth which is the means of attaining spiritual aspirations (puruṣārtha), and which is very hard to attain.


34. Fix thy mind on Me, be devoted to Me, sacrifice to Me, bow down to Me. Thus steadied, with Me as thy Supreme Goal, thou shalt reach Myself, the Self.

Shankara's commentary:

Me: Vāsudeva. Steadied: in thought (chitta). I am the Self of all beings, and I am the Supreme goal.