Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 14 verse 11-27

sarva dvāreṣu dehe’smin prakāśa upajāyate |
jñānaṃyadātadāvidyād vivṛddhaṃsattvam ityuta || 11 ||

11. When the light of wisdom radiates from all the gateways (senses) of the body, then, one should know that Sattva prevails.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

When the light of jñāna or knowledge is seen to be dominate in all the channels of the body and the senses such as seeing and hearing; then an accurate perception of reality as it is naturally occurs.

Lord Krishna confirms that this is indicative that sattva guṇa or the mode of goodness is predominant.

lobhaḥpravṛttir āraṃbhaḥkarmaṇām aśamaḥspṛhā|
rajasyetāni jāyante vivṛddhe bharatarṣabha || 12 ||

12. Greed, activity, undertaking of projects, restlessness and craving — these arise, O Arjuna (Bull of the Bhāratas), when Rājas is ascendant.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna now describes what is indicative of passion with the following words.

The word lobha means greed, avarice, parsimony regarding wealth.

The word pravṛtti means restlessness with no specific purpose or reason.

The word āraṁbhaḥ means engaging in fruitive activities.

The word aśamaḥ means agitation of the senses.

The word spṛhā means craving for sense gratification.

All of these qualities manifest when raja guṇa or the mode of passion is predominant.

aprakāśo’pravṛttiśca pramādo moha eva ca |
tamasyetāni jāyante vivṛddhe kuru-nandana || 13 ||

13. Non-illumination, inactivity, negligence and even delusion —these arise, O Arjuna (Joy-of the Kurus), when Tamas prevails.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Here Lord Krishna explains what is indicative of tama guṇa or the mode of ignorance.

The word aprakāśa means devoid of illumination, nescience, ignorance. The word apravṛttiḥ means inertia, lethargy, absence of effort.

The word pramāda means madness, fragmentation, propensity for sinful activities. The word moha means illusion, distortion, misinterpretation of reality.

When tamas is predominant then delusion and perversion are seen to be rampant in society.

yadāsattve pravṛddhe tu pralayaṃyāti deha-bhṛt |
tadottama vidāṃlokān amalān pratipadyate || 14 ||

14. If the embodied entity meets with disintegration when Sattva predominates, then it proceeds to the pure realms of those who know the highest Truth.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna explains that when the jīva or embodied being is in sattva guṇa or mode of goodness at the time of death then numerous blessed regions are reached where the knowers of ātma tattva or knowledge of the immortal soul are residing.

The word amalān means pure, exempt from blemish, denoting devoid of ignorance.

The understanding is that the fate of a jīva who dies under the influence of sattva guṇa would be so beneficial that it would predetermine that the next birth would take place in the environment of pious and holy people that have realised ātma tattva

and so combined with an inner impulse to pursue this way of life and with opportunity in abundance one would continue in sattva guṇa purifying one's existence by performing spiritual activities until one achieves perfection.

rajasi pralayaṃgatvākarma saṅgiṣu jāyate |
tathāpralīnas tamasi mūḍha-yoniṣu jāyate || 15 ||

15. Meeting with disintegration when Rājas predominates one is born among those attached to action. Similarly, one who has met with disintegration when Tamas prevails, is born among species lacking in intelligence.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Now Lord Krishna describes that when a jīva or embodied being dies while in raja guṇa or the mode of passion, one takes birth among those who perform activities out of desire for rewards

and having been born as such will endeavour mightily to accomplish works that would be rewarded by immense wealth and power even up unto the heavenly spheres.

Similarly if one dies while under the influence of tama guṇa or the mode of ignorance then such jīvas will be born from the wombs of animals such as pigs and dogs where one would be completely incapacitated to perform any activity that would give any spiritual benefit.

karmaṇaḥsukṛtasyāhuḥsāttvikaṃnirmalaṃphalam |
rajas-astu phalaṃduḥkham ajñānaṃtamasaḥphalam || 16 ||

16. The result of a good deed, they say, is pure and is of the nature of Sattva, but the result of Rājas is suffering; and that of Tamas is ignorance.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Thus result of those situated in sattva guṇa or mode of goodness at the moment of death is birth in a family of enlightened transcendentalists who are ātma tattva or knowledgeable of the immortal soul.

Such a virtuous being performs all actions without any motive for rewards but only for devotion to the Supreme Lord Krishna. The result of such actions is only increasing one's bhakti or exclusive loving devotion to the Supreme Lord.

Purity means the absence of any pain, so say sages who are in a position to know such matters.

The result of those situated in raja guṇa or the mode of passion at the moment of death is birth among those prodigious families who only perform activities desirous of rewards.

They actually engage in actions with the sole intent of enjoying the results themselves and gratifying their dependents and then again and again embarking on more and more ventures developing more and more passion as they do.

Hence do they perpetuate a mountain of karma or reactions to actions, some good giving pleasure and some bad giving pain. Thus they perpetuate themselves permanently into samsāra, the perpetual cycle of birth and death.

Similarly the result of those situated in in tama guṇa or the mode of ignorance at the moment of death is inertia, nescience, darkness of knowledge.

sattvāt sañjāyate jñānaṃrajaso lobha eva ca |
pramāda-mohau tamasobhavato’jñānam eva ca || 17 ||

17. From Sattva, wisdom arises, and from Rājas greed, from Tamas arise negligence and delusion, and indeed, ignorance.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

What Lord Krishna is stating about those situated in sattva guṇa or the mode of goodness increase their wisdom to fruition then ātma tattva or realisation of the immortal soul becomes a reality.

When raja guṇa or the mode of passion increases in intensity more and more avid appetites are incited to enjoy the fruits of.

Similarly when tama guṇa or the mode of ignorance increases, it manifests as perverted understanding and the proclivity to be influenced by wickedness from which more and more tama is begotten.

Thus all development of intelligence is blocked and neutralised.

ūrdhvaṃgacchanti sattvasthāmadhye tiṣṭhanti rājasāḥ|
jaghanya guṇa vṛttisthāadho gacchanti tāmasāḥ|| 18 ||

18. Those who persist in Sattva rise upwards; those who abide in Rājas remain in the middle; and those, remaining in the lowest tendencies of Tamas go downwards.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Now Lord Krishna reveals that those who are situated in sattva guṇa or the mode of goodness ascend upward in spiritual development and eventually achieve mokṣa or liberation from material existence.

Those who are situated in raja guṇa or the mode of passion have the desire for rewards for the cause of actions engage in activities that give them the results they wish to exploit and enjoy.

Maintaining this mentality they engage fully in such fruitive activities life after life and are born again and again to engage in more and more works. Hence since it insures a constant reoccurrence of material births it is full of misery.

Those who are situated in tama guṇa or the mode of ignorance are engaged in degenerative behaviour and descend downwards doing more and more despicable inhuman activities.

Such beings development is in retrograde and after becoming the lowest types of humanity such as cannibals and perverts of bestiality they sink into the animal species themselves.

After that, due to the reactions from their heinous activities, they become worms and maggots and then they even descend into the lowest of plants to become stationary creepers and fungus.

So Lord Krishna has revealed how the jīva or embodied being rises in evolution and how it descends.

All those who adopt and maintain a strict vegetarian diet as detailed in chapter 6, verse 17 and chapter 17 verse 8 and who perform activities as a matter of duty without impetus for rewards, gradually become fully situated in sattva guṇa and eventually ascend performing all activities for the satisfaction for the Supreme Lord.

nānyaṃguṇebhyaḥkartāraṃyadādraṣṭānupaśyati |
guṇebhyaśca paraṃvetti madbhāvaṃso’dhigacchati || 19 ||

19. When the enlightened one perceives no agent of action other than the Guṇas, and knows that which transcends the Guṇas, then one attains to My state.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Thus by eating foods situated in sattva guṇa or the mode of goodness, such as milk, cream, butter, fruits, rice, grains and vegetables,

and performing activities exclusively for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His 55 authorised avatars or incarnations and do this never considering remuneration or rewards has been duly delineated by Lord Krishna Himself,

Then all traces and residue of raja guṇa or mode of passion and tama guṇa or mode of ignorance will be completely dissolved and eradicated.

When the aspirant becomes knowledgeable in the mechanisms of the three guṇas or modes of material nature and realises that they actually are performing all actions themselves according to their respective qualities, then they see that they are not the doer but only the observer.

When such a one further perceives the localised ātma or immortal soul within the etheric heart as being eternally a part of paramātma or the Supreme Soul within the etheric heart of all sentient beings everywhere in creation; then one attains a state of consciousness like unto the Supreme Lord.

The understanding is that the ātma or immortal soul is eternal and transcendental to all aspects of material nature and thus free from any influence or karma or reactions to actions that may come to the jīva or embodied being due to its association with the three guṇas within material existence.

The ātma itself is of the nature of infinite expanding consciousness.

All ātmas are feminine and when the ātma is thus realised then a jīva qualifies to have eternal association in the spiritual worlds with Lord Krishna. This is what He means by the words mad bhāvan meaning attains a consciousness like Mine.

So in conclusion after cognising and realising the absolute nature of the actionless ātma, which is completely beyond the purview of the material, the association of the Supreme Lord is attained.

guṇān etān atītya trīn dehīdeha samudbhavān |
janma mṛtyu jarāduḥkhair vimukto’mṛtam aśnute || 20 ||

20. Transcending these three Guṇas from which the body arises, the embodied Self, freed from birth, death, old age and suffering, attains immortality.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The three guṇas or modes of material nature all arise from prakṛti or the material substratum pervading physical existence from which the physical body manifests.

When the jīva or embodied being transcends them all and realises the ātma or immortal soul which is of the nature of infinity, such a being attains mokṣa and is liberated from samsāra or the perpetual cycle of birth and death and all misery and sorrows associated with material existence.

At the time one achieves ātma-tattva or soul realisation, one assumes a spiritual body that is immortal. This is what Lord Krishna is declaring.

arjuna uvāca
kair-liṅgais trīn guṇān etān atīto bhavati prabho |
kim ācāraḥkathaṃcaitāṃs trīn guṇān ativartate || 21 ||

Arjuna said:

21. What are the indications of one who has transcended the three Guṇas? How does one behave? And how does one overcome the three Guṇas?

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word liṅgais means symptoms. By what symptoms can a liberated being be perceived? What distinguishes them from others?

The word ācāraḥ means conduct. By what means does such a liberated being conduct themselves? How does one transcend the three guṇas or modes of material nature?

These questions will be answered by Lord Krishna next.

śrībhagavan uvāca
prakāśaṃca pravṛttiṃca moham-eva ca pāṇḍava |
na dveṣṭi saṃpravṛttāni na nivṛttāni kāṅkṣati || 22 ||

The Blessed Lord said:

22. Illumination, activity and even delusion, O Arjuna, [he] resents not, while these prevail, nor longs for them when they are absent,

udāsīnavad āsīno guṇair yo na vicālyate |
guṇāvartanta ityeva yo’vatiṣṭhati neṅgate || 23 ||

23. He is said to transcended the Guṇas, who remains like one indifferent, undisturbed by the Guṇas; and who, knowing that it is the Guṇas that are active, remains stable and does not act;

sama duḥkha sukhaḥsvasthaḥsama loṣṭāśma kāñcanaḥ|
tulya priyāpriyo dhīras-tulya nindātma saṃstutiḥ|| 24 ||

24. One who is poised in pleasure and pain, who focuses within, to whom a clod, a stone and piece of gold are of equal value, who remains the same towards the pleasant and the unpleasant and who is intelligent, and regards both censure and praise of himself as equal;

mānāpamānayos tulyas tulyo mitrāri pakṣayoḥ|
sarvārambha parityāgīguṇātītaḥsa ucyate || 25 ||

25. one who is the same in honour and dishonour, and the same to friend and foe, and who has abandoned all enterprises —such a person is said to have transcended the Guṇas.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word prakāśa means illumination, lucidity, the brightness of disposition and are the effects of sattva guṇa or the mode of goodness.

The word pravṛtti means enthusiastic effort or the disposition to endeavour actively and are the effects of raja guṇa the mode of passion.

The word moha means delusion, bewilderment or having a distorted perception.

All things external to the ātma or immortal soul are of two categories: One is what causes attraction and the second is what causes aversion.

The fundamental symptom of discerning who is beyond the three guṇas or modes of material nature is that such a being neither desire to accept anything nor does such a one desire to reject anything.

Whatever the Supreme Lord Krishna designates to come, such a one remains equipoise in all situations.

Such a one is udāsīnavad or unconcerned with external circumstances because of being enraptured within by ātma tattva or realisation of the immortal soul. Therefore one is naturally indifferent to anything external.

One who is never agitated by attraction and aversion which arise from the three guṇas and who lucid and tranquil reflects within that it is natural for the impulses of the three guṇas to occasionally parade themselves in one's consciousness, is never deluded by them into being impelled to act as the qualities might provoke one to respond.

The word sama means equanimity or keeping oneself equipoise in both joy and distress.

The word svasthaḥ means solidly situated, established firmly within on the immortal ātma, filled with rapture and bliss by its communion.

Such a one is never even distracted by external things let alone influenced by them. Even when exposed to great events of joy or catastrophic events of grief, such a one is undisturbed and does not succumb to delusion or illusion.

To such a one a clod of earth or a precious jewel or a nugget of gold all are looked upon alike as merely modifications of prakṛti. So there is nothing in material existence which such a one has any special attraction or aversion towards.

The word dhīra means sober and denotes the wisdom of one who is knowledgeable of the distinction between prakṛti or the material substratum pervading physical existence and the eternal ātma or immortal soul.

Hence such a one remains equanimous in both praise and censure.

It is the desire for praise and adulation that shows the consequence of egotism which abides in the mind and is erroneously mistaken for the ātma and deludes one into thinking that it is a great honour to be praised.

Similarly aversion to being ridiculed and censured is also the consequence of same egotism which makes one think it is ignoble and shameful to receive such infamy.

But both conceptions are the results of delusion and one who is established in ātma tattva or realisation of the immortal soul is never implicated in illusion

as such a being is unlimited in consciousness knowing that all material designations are all transcended by communion with the ātma.

In the same way that egotism is alienated from the ātma what pertains to egotism such as honour and disgrace, friends and enemies, praise and censure does not affect the ātma.

One who is illuminated by ātma tattva is unconcerned and indifferent to worldly matters.

Similarly, since such a one comprehends that all efforts of activity are the cause and perpetuation of physical embodiment, such a one abandons all efforts not related to the ātma.

Such a person is known to be a conqueror of the three guṇas.

Next the primary means to overcome them will be given.

māṃca yo’vyabhicāreṇa bhakti yogena sevate |
sa guṇān samatītyaitān brahma-bhūyāya kalpate || 26 ||

26. And by serving Me with unswerving devotion, one transcends the Guṇas, and becomes fit to attain the state of Brahman.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

So from this verse it can be understood that not by only comprehending the relationship between matter and spirit, the physical body and the soul in meditation does one achieve the desired goal.

For can one surmount the three guṇas by mere reflection and contemplation which is always liable to be violated by the obstacles of old habits inimical to them by the mind which has been contracted out in service to them for countless lifetimes.

Māṃ=unto Me the infallibly willed, the infinitely loving, the ocean of mercy to His devotees.

avyabhicāreṇa means without adulteration, interruption or error in exclusive devotion.

Bhakti yoga means communion with the Supreme Lord through intense loving emotions. Only the devotee of bhakti yoga will be able to surmount the guṇas and attain Lord Krishna

Brahma-bhūyāya = Brahma bhāvaya or eligibility and qualification for realising the Brāhman.

The Brāhman is the spiritual substratum pervading all existence. Although it is eternal and imperishable it is only the impersonal aspect of the Supreme Lord Krishna, manifesting from the effulgence emanating from His inconceivable spiritual form.

It also contains elements of the nature of the ātma or the localised immortal soul as well as paramātma the omnipresent Supreme Soul within the etheric heart of all sentient beings in all dimensions and manifestations of creation in existence.

brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhā’ham amṛtasyāvyayasya ca |
śāśvatasya ca dharmasya sukhasyaikāntikasya ca || 27 ||

27. Verily, I am the ground of Matter as well as the immortal and immutable [Self], of everlasting Dharma and of perfect bliss.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word hi means indeed, in as much, when propitiated by never erring bhakti yoga or intense loving devotion, the Supreme Lord Krishna personally manifests Himself to His surrendered devotee who has no other refuge but Him.

The words śāśvatasya dharmasya mean the sublime exquisite spiritual happiness that comes in association with the Supreme Lord and His devotees.

Although the concept of dharma usually means the eternal spiritual principles promulgated in the Vedic scriptures implying the means to accomplish a goal, in this verse it is the goal

as it occurs between two other expressions of goals one being brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhā’ham which refers to the ātma or realising the soul and the other being sukhasya aikāntikasya -realising the Supreme Lord.

The words aikāntikasya sukhasya means the absolute nature of never ending bliss with the Supreme Lord which is the natural result of bhakti yoga.

The essence is that exclusive loving devotion unto the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised avatāras as revealed in Vedic scriptures is the only way to transcend the three guṇas or modes of material nature

and sincere prayers offered to Him from hearts overflowing with love is the essential means for Him to reciprocate and grace us with His mercy.

hariḥ oṃ tatsat
iti śrīmad bhagavad gītāsūpaniṣatsu
yoga-śāstre śrīkṛṣṇārjuna saṃvāde guṇa-traya-vibhaga-yogo nāma

Thus in the Upanishads of the Glorious Bhagavad Gita
The science of the Eternal, the Scripture of Yoga
The dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna
Ends the fourteenth discourse entitled
“The threefold division of the modes of Material Nature”