Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 18 verse 45-63

sve sve karmaṇy-abhirataḥsaṃsiddhiṃlabhate naraḥ|
svakarma nirataḥsiddhiṃyathāvindati tacchṛṇu || 45 ||

45. Through dedication to one's own duties, one attains perfection. How dedication to one's own duty achieves perfection listen now:—

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Every human achieves saṃsiddhiṃ or self-realisation by perfectly executing their own natural prescribed duty according to qualification as ordained by Vedic scriptures.

How this is accomplished is explained next by Lord Krishna.

yataḥpravṛttir bhūtānāṃyena sarvam idaṃtatam |
svakarmaṇātam abhyarcya siddhiṃvindati mānavaḥ|| 46 ||

46. By worshipping the One from whom all beings have evolved and by whom all this is pervaded —through the performance of one's own vocational Dharma —perfection is attained.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

It is natural that those spiritually intelligent human beings, who worship the source of their very existence, Lord Krishna who is the root, the foundation from whence all creation originates and by whom all existence is pervaded, will certainly receive His grace and achieve the perfection of self-realisation.

The Supreme Lord's position has already been established in chapter 7, verses 6 and 7 where Lord Krishna confirms:

“He alone is the origin of all as well as the demise of all. There is nothing superior to Lord Krishna for all creation depends upon Him.”

In chapter 9, verse 4 He states: “In an unperceivable manner He pervades all existence yet everything is in Him but He is not in it.”

In chapter 9, verse 10 He states: “That His external energy manifests all moving and stationary jīvas or embodied beings according to His direction”

and in chapter 10, verse 8 He reveals: “That every aspect of creation, maintenance and existence as well as the Vedic scriptures has Him alone as the sole source.”

Such examples are unique to Lord Krishna exclusively and unprecedented.

śreyān svadharmo viguṇaḥpara-dharmāt svanuṣṭhitāt |
svabhāva niyataṃkarma kurvan-nāpnoti kilbiṣam || 47 ||

47. Better is one's own Dharma, even when imperfectly done, than the Dharma of another well performed. When one practices the Dharma ordained by one's own nature, one incurs no fault.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

To adhere to one's own natural path of dharma or righteousness is what is being emphasised by Lord Krishna here. It is not as if one must follow the path of another.

Everyone is entitled to perform those activities that are appropriate for their rank and station in life in constituting their propitiation to the Supreme Lord; but one must eliminate all sense of doership and desire for rewards.

Such karma yoga or actions facilitating communion with the Supreme absolute expressed in visible activities which conform to the inherent nature of the individual manifest easily and naturally.

Thus karma yoga performed in this manner is factually one's own path of dharma albeit destitute of merit.

By another's dharma is meant jñāna yoga or facilitating communion with the Supreme absolute by knowledge which depending on time and circumstance may or may not be helpful.

Perfection in jñāna yoga demands the consistent ability to completely control the mind and conquer the senses which is a lifetime endeavour and fraught with danger of lapses in constancy.

So karma yoga is more fortuitous as the risks are minimal and chances for succeeding are greater even though jñāna yoga is on a superior platform.

A jīva or embodied being ensconced in a physical body with an appropriate mind and senses finds it normal to act in accordance with the natural impulses instigated by the senses.

This is karma yoga and fulfilling activities in this manner if they do not contradict the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures or disregard the prohibitions thereof incur no sin, for actions speak for themselves.

Whereas in jñāna yoga once control of the mind and mastery of the senses has been achieved, they must be kept controlled and mastered,

otherwise one will fall down from their position and subjected again to mundane desires and the influence of objects, the senses which propels one to sin and locks one in samsāra the perpetual cycle of birth and death.

So by clearly elucidating the fact that karma yoga is indeed safer and more sure of success, Lord Krishna further corroborates what He previously had promulgated in chapter three.

sahajaṃkarma kaunteya sadoṣam api na tyajet |
sarvārambhāhi doṣeṇa dhūmenāgnir ivāvṛtāḥ|| 48 ||

48. One should not relinquish one's natural vocational skills [Karma] O Arjuna, though they may be imperfect; for, all undertakings are enveloped by imperfection like fire by smoke.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The conclusion Lord Krishna gives for this subject is that actions that are initiated naturally and easily executed and are beset with no difficulties should be done even if there may be some fault or defect.

The inner purport is that even those situated in jñāna yoga or facilitating communion with the Supreme absolute by knowledge, they too should adopt the path of karma yoga or facilitating communion with the Supreme absolute by actions.

All endeavours in the material world are accompanied by some sort of fault or defect and all living beings must perform actions to exist but the following of one's own natural path is not in the least difficult or beset with unpredictable dangers.

Whereas the standard of jñāna yoga being higher, the possibility of mistake and the chance of defect is greater, as well as the demerit incurred.

So karma yoga is encouraged.

asakta buddhiḥsarvatra jitātmāvigata spṛhaḥ|
naiṣkarmya siddhiṃparamāṃsanyāsenādhigacchati || 49 ||

49. One who is completely unattached, who is self-controlled and is free from desires —attains by renunciation the supreme perfection of liberation from all activity.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna explains that when buddhi or spiritual intelligence is unfettered, meaning unattached to desires and rewards and the mind is controlled and senses conquered,

with no conceptions of doership, established in renunciation even while performing prescribed Vedic activities,

one attains the supreme serene state of bhakti or exclusive loving devotion unto the Supreme Lord by dhyāna or meditation in communion with Him internally

as well as propitiation to Him with one's physical body externally such as japa or chanting His divine, holy names in ecstasy and promulgating His glories everywhere one goes throughout creation.

By the wonderfulness of bhakti the mind and senses are already controlled and conquered quite easily and have surpassed the limits of jñāna yoga or facilitating communion with the Supreme Lord by knowledge.

siddhiṃprāpto yathābrahma tathāpnoti nibodha me |
samāsenaiva kaunteya niṣṭhājñānasya yāparā|| 50 ||

50. Learn from me in brief, O Arjuna, how one who has achieved perfection, attains Brahman (Self-realisation), which is the supreme consummation of wisdom.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The perfection achieved by consistent performance of karma yoga or facilitating communion with the Supreme Lord by prescribed Vedic activities allows one to attain dhyāna or meditation on Lord Krishna or any of His authorised incarnations and expansions as revealed in Vedic scriptures with bhakti or exclusive loving devotion.

Lord Krishna is inviting one to learn how, in what manner and by what conduct one attains the ātma or immortal soul

and the pure, consciousness of the Brāhman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence which are the two manifestations of the Supreme Lord, who is the paramount of attainment and the goal of all endeavours.

buddhyāviśuddhayāyukto dhṛtyātmānaṃniyamya ca |
śabdādīn viṣayāṃs-tyaktvārāga-dveṣau vyudasya ca || 51 ||

51. Endowed with a purified intellect, subduing the mind by steadfastness, relinquishing sound and other objects of the senses and abandoning attraction and aversion;

dhyāna yoga paro nityaṃvairāgyaṃsamupāśritaḥ|| 52 ||

52. Resorting to solitude, eating moderately, restraining speech, body and mind, perpetually engaged in the Yoga of meditation and practicing dispassion;

ahaṅkāraṃbalaṃdarpaṃkāmaṃkrodhaṃparigraham |
vimucya nirmamaḥ śānto brahma-bhūyāya kalpate || 53 ||

53. Forsaking self-affirmative ideation, power play, arrogance, desire, anger and property, free from the notion of possessiveness and tranquil —one becomes worthy of the state of Brahman.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Buddhi is spiritual intelligence the consciousness which exclusively focuses on the ātma.

Manas refer to the mind, senses and body which acting in such a way discourages desires for sense gratification and encourages reflection on the Supreme Lord.

Vairāgyaṃ-samupāśritaḥ means renouncing the objects which the senses hanker for and indifference to mundane pursuits. It is while chasing such pursuits that occasionally friendship or enmity transpires so ceasing from these pursuits would free one from raga-dveṣa, attraction and repulsion.

Vivikta- sevī is seeking solitude in remote places aloof from disturbances to meditation.

Dhyāna- yoga means internally performing continuous bhakti or exclusive loving devotional service unto the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His avatars or incarnations and expansions as authorised in Vedic scriptures.

Ahaṁkāra is egoistic conceptions that considers the body to be all in all and cannot discern that they are not their physical body.

Balaṃ is lust for power, darpaṃ is vain conceit which is derived from it and nirmamaḥ is the notion one possesses what is not one's own.

Śāṅtaḥ is tranquillity peacefulness, the serenity of bliss acquired by constant reflection and meditation upon the Supreme Lord,

qualifies one to achieve realisation of the Brāhman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence and achieving Mokṣa or liberation from material existence, to attain ātma tattva or soul realisation and enter into the bliss of communion with the Supreme Lord.

brahma-bhūtaḥprasannātmāna śocati na kāṅkṣati |
samaḥsarveṣu bhūteṣu mad-bhaktiṃlabhate parām || 54 ||

54. Having realised the state of Brahman, full of joy, neither grieving nor craving, being the same to all beings, one attains supreme devotion to Me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna gives further characteristics of the spiritually qualified. The words brahma-bhūtaḥ means comprehending the eternal nature of the ātma or immortal soul, the infinite nature of its consciousness and its essential relationship with the Supreme Lord.

This essential relationship consists in realising that one is dependent upon the Supreme Lord in every aspect of existence and to be grateful to Him for everything.

The word prasanna means pure hearted, lucid and clear internally, uncluttered by turbid and painful experiences.

Na śocati means - does not grieve. Na kāṅkṣati means does not crave.

Since all the love that such an aspirant feels is totally and exclusively for the Supreme Lord, the only grief such an aspirant ever experiences is separation from Lord Krishna and the only craving such an aspirant ever experiences is communion with Lord Krishna.

Samaḥ means equanimity and as such looks at all jīvas or embodied beings equally, knowing the ātma resides equally in all.

It also can manifest as an attitude of indifference to anything not related directly to the Supreme Lord, avoiding mundane actions and shunning worldly attachments.

Mad- bhaktiṃ means exclusive loving devotion unto the Supreme Lord Krishna in the form of sublime and exquisite bliss, occasioned by the ātmas rapturous communion with Him, the Supreme Lord of all lords.

bhaktyāmām abhijānāti yāvān yaścāsmi tattvataḥ|
tato māṃtattvato jñātvāviśate tad anantaram || 55 ||

55. By [such] devotion, one realises Me and knows who I am in reality —Knowing Me thus in truth, through devotion one thereafter enters into Me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“Through such devotion, one comes to understand My essential nature and My attributes and sovereign glory. After obtaining this realisation of the Ultimate Truth through loving devotion, one then enters into Me —attains unification with Me”.

The meaning is that one attains Krishna by means of ardent Bhakti which develops after the direct vision of the divine nature, attributes and glory of the Lord as they really are.

The term 'through devotion' indicates the Bhakti which is the cause of unification; as stated in the text;—

'But by exclusive devotion it is possible to truly know, see and enter into Me' (11.54).

Thus the culmination of the sequence which started from the performance of obligatory (nitya) and periodic (naimittika) duties without desire for rewards, but performed as service to the Supreme Being has been described.

Śrī Krishna now explains that even actions directed at attaining material benefit (Kāmya-karmas) culminate in the same attainment as those described above, provided they too are done as service to the Divine.

sarva karmāṇyapi sadākurvāṇo mad vyapāśrayaḥ|
mat prasādād avāpnoti śāśvataṃpadam avyayam || 56 ||

56. Constantly engaged in all works, taking refuge in Me, through My grace, one attains the eternal and immutable state.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

All prescribed Vedic activities even the ones that are performed out of kāmya or craving a result, if offered as worship of the Supreme Lord with full faith in Him, understanding that He alone is the Supreme controller,

will inevitably attain the Supreme state of eternal communion with Lord Krishna which is śāśvataṃ timeless and avyayam infinite.

cetasāsarvakarmāṇi mayi saṃnyasya mat paraḥ|
buddhi-yogam upāśritya mac-cittaḥsatataṃbhava || 57 ||

57. Mentally dedicating all works to Me, thinking of Me as the Supreme Goal, and resorting to the Yoga of Discrimination (Buddhi-Yoga), focus your mind on Me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna and His manifestations are constantly in the thoughts of His devotees in His impersonal form as the Brāhman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence,

as paramātma the Supreme Soul pervading within the etheric hearts of all living entities simultaneously and in His original two armed blackish form bedecked with peacock feather and attended by flute as well as in His authorised incarnations and expansions.

Dedicating all efforts and actions unto the Supreme Lord with devotion, considering Him as the sole goal and ultimate reward, constitutes the essence of consciousness and the apex of attainment.

mac-cittaḥsarva durgāṇi mat-prasādāt tariṣyasi |
atha cettvam ahaṅkārān na śrosyasi vinaṅkṣyasi || 58 ||

58. Focusing your mind on Me, you shall, by My grace, surmount all obstacles. If, however, out of self-conceit, you do not heed Me, you shall be ruined.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Offering one's mind and heart in total surrendered unto the Supreme Lord along with all actions all worldly obstacles and impediments shall be overcome by His grace.

But if one acts contrary to these unequivocal instructions, choosing to abide with erroneous ideas of knowing what is better than the Vedic scriptures and instead disregard the instructions that the Supreme Lord is giving, Then one will be assured of certain failure,

for verily there is no one superior to Lord Krishna amongst all the infinite myriad of created beings nor is there any other creator other than He.

yad ahaṅkāram āśritya na yotsya iti manyase |
mithyaiṣa vyavasāyaste prakṛtis-tvāṃniyokṣyati || 59 ||

59. If out of self-conceit, you think; “I will not fight,” your resolve is futile —Nature will compel you.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna in a chastising mood reinforces the theme that if out of ahaṁkāra or egoism, the delusion of ignoring His instructions is entertained and assumption of independence is embraced, and one decides to artificially oppose their own natural path disregarding His mandate to the contrary,

Such independent resolve will end in disappointment due to the reality that the predominant guṇa or mode of material nature will compel one to act in spite of all resistance.

The mode itself will coerce one to acquiescence beyond their control.

svabhāvajane kaunteya nibaddhaḥsvena karmaṇā|
kartuṃnecchasi yan mohāt kariṣyasy-avaśo’pi tat || 60 ||

60. O Arjuna (Kaunteya), bound by your own Karma inborn in your own nature, having no self-control, you will be compelled to do that very thing which, through delusion, you now desire not to do.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

It is a natural tendency for the kṣatriyas or royal warriors to be heroically predisposed to fight for a righteous cause.

In the case of mohad out of delusion having the false notion to abstain from fulfilling their natural duty, so strong is it that one will definitely be compelled to plunge into battle even against one's own will,

when one has been hurled the bitter sting of insults and deprecations of cowardice from one's opponents.

Indeed all jīvas or embodied beings are bound by the indomitable laws of karma or reactions from past actions assuming various physical bodies to invariably adhere to the influence of the predominant guṇa or mode of material nature.

īśvaraḥsarva bhūtānāṃhṛddeśe’rjuna tiṣṭhati |
bhrāmayan sarva-bhūtāni yantrārūḍhāni māyayā|| 61 ||

61. The Lord abides in the heart of every being, O Arjuna, spinning them round and round, by His power, as if they were mounted on a machine.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Īśvaraḥ is the all-pervading Supreme Lord as the indwelling monitor within hṛd deśe, the core of the heart, which is the source of all consciousness, the basis of all actions - pravṛtti or passive and Nivritti or energetic.

The Supreme Lord abides simultaneously in the etheric heart of every jīva or embodied being in a subatomic form known as paramātma the Supreme Soul.

Once so installed the Supreme Lord activates, energises and animates the physical body of the jīva or embodied being.

Māyā, the external illusory potency bombasts and buffets the jīvas interminably in the material existence in accordance to and consistent with the guṇa or mode of material nature which is predominate.

The Brihadaranyaka Upaniṣad III.VI.XV beginning yah sarvesu bhutesu tisthan states:

“The Supreme Lord abides in all beings and controls all living entities internally.”

tam-eva śaraṇaṃgaccha sarva-bhāvena bhārata |
tat prasādāt parāṃ śāntiṃsthānaṃprāpsyasi śāśvatam || 62 ||

62. Take refuge in Him alone, O Arjuna (Bharata), with your whole being. By His grace, you shall obtain supreme-peace and the eternal abode.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Take refuge with all your might (Sarva bhāvena), that is surrender mentally and emotionally to Śrī Krishna, the ruler of all and you will attain supreme peace here and the eternal abode hereafter.

iti te jñānam ākhyātaṃguhyād guhyataraṃmayā|
vimṛśyaitad aśeṣeṇa yathecchasi tathākuru || 63 ||

63. Thus I have taught you that knowledge which is the greatest of all mysteries. Reflecting on it thoroughly, do what you will.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Since the word jñānam or knowledge is linked to guhyataraṃ, meaning most confidential, it denotes wisdom, the conclusion of knowledge which is indispensable to an aspirant and the most valuable for it is the final conclusion for the entire Śrīmad Bhagavad-Gita.

Lord Krishna instructs to examine, analyse and contemplate the teachings of the three paths known as karma yoga or facilitating communion with the Supreme Lord by actions. Bhakti yoga or facilitating communion with the Supreme Lord by exclusive loving devotion and by jñāna yoga or facilitating communion with the Supreme Lord by empirical knowledge.

After thoroughly reflecting on how each may be implemented into the reality of daily life one should harmonise them and act accordingly.