Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 2 verse 32-50

yadṛcchayācopapannaṁsvarga dvāram apāvṛtam |
sukhinaḥkṣatriyāḥpārtha labhante yuddham īdṛśam || 32 ||

32. Happy are the Kshatriyas, O Arjuna, to whom a war such as this comes of its own accord; it opens the gates to heaven.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The impending war is happening by itself, on its own, without any solicitation on the part of Arjuna.

Thus when it happens he and his brothers will be fighting on the side of righteousness which constitutes the means for acquiring heavenly happiness without obstacles.

Such a war can only be fought by the most fortunate of kṣatriyas and Arjuna should understand his good fortune.

atha-cet tvam imaṁdharmyaṁsaṅgrāmaṁna kariṣyasi |
tataḥsva-dharmaṁkīrtiṁca hitvāpāpam avāpsyasi || 33 ||

33. But if you do not fight this righteous war, you will be turning away from your duty and honour, and will be incurring blame.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

If through injudicious sentiment or bewildered ignorance Arjuna should fail to perform his prescribed duty as a kṣatriya by fighting for the sake of righteousness;

he would lose a most excellent opportunity of attaining the heavenly spheres, he would lose his reputation as a hero and he would have to accept great sinful reaction.

akīrtiṁcāpi bhūtāni kathayiṣyanti te’vyayām |
saṁbhāvitasya cākīrtir maraṇād-atiricyate || 34 ||

34. Furthermore, people will for ever recall your everlasting disgrace, and for an honourable man, dishonour is worse than death.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Not only will happiness and fame elude him if he disregards his duty as a kṣatriya but the world opinion of those competent to judge and those incompetent as well will chastise him and speak of his act of disgrace public and privately.

They will say Arjuna was a coward for when the battle was about to begin he gave only excuses and retreated hastily from the battlefield.

The Supreme Lord Krishna is telling him that forever history will brand him for cowardice.

If Arjuna was to reply that what the public think is of no consequence to him, the Supreme Lord neutralises that

by stating that for a person of honour possessing the qualities of heroism, determination, puissance, courage etc. which are all contrary to cowardice to have to accept infamy is worse than death.

If he was to acquire disgrace of this kind death for him would certainly be much better.

If reasoning further one was to present the question of how ignominy could attach itself to one who is already a renowned hero and whose resignation from the battle field is prompted only by motives of respect for elders and compassion to friends and relatives then the next verse 34 neutralises that argument.

bhayād raṇād uparataṁmansyante tvāṁmahārathāḥ|
yeṣāṁca tvaṁbahu-mato bhūtvāyāsyasi lāghavam || 35 ||

35. The great warriors will think that you have fled from the battle in fear. These men who held you in high esteem will then speak disparagingly of you.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Whereas Arjuna had been known as a mighty warrior and renown hero, a worthy opponent for any of the valiant warriors of the Kaurāvas such as Karna, Duryodhana etc.

If Arjuna were to retire from the fight on the eve of battle they would all consider him a coward and they immediately would assume that Arjuna had abstained from battle due to feeling dread at their prowess.

For Arjuna to think that he would be vindicated by his abstention from battle by motives of fraternity and familial ties would be wrong for these sentiments are not considered sanctions for heroes towards belligerents.

avācya vādāṁśca bahūn vadiṣyanti tavāhitāḥ|
nindantas tava sāmarthyaṁtato duḥkhataraṁnu kim || 36 ||

36. Your enemies, slandering your prowess, will use words which should never be uttered. What could be more painful than that?

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Moreover, your enemies will make many slanderous and disparaging remarks about your ability, saying —

'How can this Arjuna stand before heroes like us, even for a moment? His [boasted] skill should be displayed anywhere else other than in our presence.'

Can there be anything more painful to you than this? You yourself will understand that death is preferable to being subjected to such disparagement.

hato vāprāpsyasi svargaṁjitvāvābhokṣyase mahīn |
tasmād uttiṣṭha kaunteya yuddhāya kṛta-niścayaḥ|| 37 ||

37. If slain, you shall gain heaven; if victorious, you shall enjoy the earth. Therefore, arise O Arjuna and resolve to fight.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

If in fighting for righteousness Arjuna is slain in the battle then he will attain superior bliss in the heavenly spheres; but if he is victorious in battle by the slaying the miscreants then he will find himself in the position of unrivalled enjoyment and rulership of earthly royalty.

Dividing and conquering, defending and ruling are the natural duties of kṣatriya royalty. Discharging these duties with no anticipation for the fruits of the results will be the means by which Arjuna attains unparalleled bliss.

So Arjuna should properly prepare his mind for war by fortifying himself with the firm conviction that embarking on the course of a righteous war

is the guaranteed means for him to achieve mokṣa or final salvation which means precisely the embodied soul becoming eternally liberated from the fetters of material existence and which is without a doubt the great hurdle to be overcome in human existence.

Arjuna is called here Kaunteya to remind him that such conduct is indeed representative as a son of the great devotee Queen Kuntī.

Next will be revealed the apropos mentality of a living entity aspiring for salvation.

sukha-duḥkhe same kṛtvālābhālābhau jayājayau |
tato yuddhāya yujyasva nainaṁpāpam avāpsyasi || 38 ||

38. Considering pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat to be the same, prepare yourself for the battle. Thus, you shall not incur any blame

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“Thus, knowing the Self to be eternally different from the body and unaffected by all its physical qualities,

you should remain indifferent to pleasure and pain resulting from the inevitable blows of weapons etc., also be indifferent to gain and loss of wealth, victory and defeat,

and remaining free from attachment to heaven and other such results, begin the battle considering it merely as your incumbent duty —thus, you will not incur blame.”

In this context 'pāpa'[blame] means the results of injury to others — continuation of transmigratory existence which is misery. The purport is that one will be liberated from the bondage of reincarnation [through the unattached performance of one’s dharma].”

eṣāte’bhihitāsāṅkhye buddhir yoge tvimāṁ śṛṇu |
buddhyā-yukto yayāpārtha karma-bandhaṁprahāsyasi || 39 ||

39. This knowledge which has been taught to you [so far] concerns Sānkhya . Now listen to the teaching concerning Yoga, endowed with which, O Arjuna, you shall cast off the bonds of Karma.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

'Sānkhya' here means 'intellect'; and the truth about the Self, which is ascertainable by the intellect, is known as 'Sānkhyam'.

The immortal soul as an eternal principle must be understood.

That understanding by which to comprehend it has already been given to Arjuna so he would know it in the previous verses in this chapter being verse 12 never at all was that I and verse 30 therefore thou has no cause to grieve for any creature.

As for the use of the word yoga meaning karma yoga which is the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the Ultimate Consciousness through actions without desiring fruitive results.

It is to be understood that the spiritual intelligence acquired by following this yoga of actions when based on Sānkhyam or knowledge of the soul is the path which leads to salvation.

This precise understanding is what is declared further in this chapter in verse 49; but in the next verse learn just what spiritual knowledge is to be gained by this karma yoga;

Imbibing the wisdom from it, cut asunder the bonds of karmic reactions from all actions. The virtue of actions performed in this way will subsequently be given in verse 40.

nehābhikrama-nāśo’sti pratyavāyo na vidyate |
svalpam apyasya dharmasya trāyate mahato bhayāt || 40 ||

40. In this [practice], there is no wasted effort, nor any harm [transgression]. Even a little of this practice [Dharma i.e. Karma Yoga] protects one from the great terror.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

In this practice of Karma Yoga there is no loss of initial effort. 'Abhikrama' means invested effort. 'Nāśa' means the loss of potential to succeed.

In the practice of Karma Yoga, if some activity is begun and left unfinished, and the continuity is thus broken, it does not remain fruitless, as in the case of works undertaken expressly for their rewards.

There is no negative result if the work is not continued. Even a little of this practice known as Karma Yoga or Niṣkāma Karma (actions done without desire for any reward) gives protection from the great fear, i.e., the fear of [the continuation of] transmigratory existence.

The same purport is explained later thus:—

'Neither in this world nor the next, O Arjuna, is one annihilated'(6;40).

But in other works, religious and secular, when there is interruption, not only do they fail to produce results, but actually produce demerit.

vyavasāyātmikābuddhir ekeha kuru-nandana |
bahu-śākhāhyanantāśca buddhayo’vyavasāyinām || 41 ||

41. In this [Karma Yoga], O Arjuna, the resolute mind is one-pointed; the thoughts of the irresolute are many-branched and endless.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The Supreme Lord Krishna is reaffirming that the science of yoga rather than the various methods of action prescribed in the Vedic scriptures is the one path that has guaranteed certainty.

The word vyavasāya derived from niṣchāyā means certainty. The unshakeable conviction one has of such a decisive nature is that which the aspirant of salvation possesses and which can be understood by the actions they perform.

The strength of this unshakeable conviction is directly connected to one's understanding of the eternal reality of the soul's immortality.

Fragmented and not evolved is that mind which entertains ideas of performing actions for the reaping of results.

People of this type vaguely know that the soul exists, although mistakenly attributing it as being part of the body and no more knowledge is required in their case

as their material wishes for wealth and fame and even heaven can be obtained without having accurate, precise knowledge of the actual transcendental position of the eternal soul.

But on the other hand the conviction of certainty is unique in its singleness of purpose and focused aim.

All actions executed by such a living entity have for its sole objective salvation and the means is yoga which is the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the Ultimate Consciousness.

This is the essence of the Vedic scriptures which lead to this conclusion and such being the case there can arise only one unshakeable conviction to one possessing spiritual insight.

For the fulfilment of one single attainment being salvation all actions are dedicated by one fixed in the firm resolve for salvation.

Hence as the primary objective of the Vedic scriptures is one, the firm resolve as regarding the purpose of all actions can be but one as in the case for example of the six different kinds of rituals called Darsa-purnamasa.

Three rituals are to be performed on the new moon and three are to be performed on the full moon:

In their performance they all differ in regards to execution yet they may be said to constitute a single aim for when all are directed to obtaining a single fruit all there separate differences may be understood as part of a whole.

Whereas in the case of those with fragmented and unfocused minds who engage in various activities each intended to acquire some result such as heaven, wealth, fame, power and so forth and so on the schemes are endless as the desires are endless.

Even the results are diverse as in the case again of the Darsa-purnamasa, for although the rituals are directed to be performed for the obtainment of a specific goal, yet they confer minor benefits as well such as good health, vigour and long life.

Thus it is stated that the mentality of those not evolved is endless and ramifying.

The conclusion of this verse is that all nitya or daily rites and all naimittika or occasional rites for specific times prescribed in the Vedic scriptures shall be performed with the sole aim of ultimate salvation as the purpose.

Although each rite individually is capable of giving its own temporary, material reward; but all such rewards are to be ignored while holding focus solely on salvation.

As for fruitive rites and rituals desiring some material benediction, these shall be performed in the manner prescribed for the four varṇas or classes of cultured life being brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, Vaiṣya, and Śūdra in the four āśramas or stages of cultured life being brahmacharya or celibate life, Gṛihastha or married life, Vānaprastha or renounced life and sannyāsa or dedication and focus solely on the Supreme Lord.

Accordingly they should also resign the acquired results of their efforts in favour of salvation.

In the next three verses will be seen that those who engage solely in fruitive activities are condemned.

yām imāṁpuṣpitāṁvācaṁpravadanty-avipaścitaḥ|
veda-vāda-ratāḥpārtha nānyad astīti vādinaḥ||42 ||

42. Flowery speech, O Pārtha is uttered by the unwise who rejoice in the words of the Vedas, declaring "there is nothing superior to this"!

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The ignorant, having little understanding, and being motivated only by the attainment of pleasure and power, speak grandiloquent language consisting of ‘flowers’ only and no fruit; appearing very impressive but lacking substance.

They delight in talking about the Vedas —they are attached to heaven and such other results [promised in the Karma-khāṇḍa section of the Vedas]

and thus they consider that there is nothing else, that is, owing to their intense attachment to these results, they declare that there is no goal superior to heaven etc.

kāmātmānaḥsvarga-parājanma-karma-phala-pradām |
kriyā-viśeṣa bahulāṁbhogaiśvarya gatiṁprati || 43 ||

43. They are full of desires and have heaven for their goal. They teach rebirth as the result of actions and engage in various specific rites for the attainment of pleasure and power.

bhogaiśvarya prasaktānāṁtayāpahṛta cetasām |
vyavasāyātmikābuddhiḥsamādhau na vidhīyate || 44 ||

44. Those who cling to pleasure and power are attracted by these teachings [offering heavenly rewards] and are unable to develop the resolute will of a concentrated mind.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

With regard to those who crave pleasure and power and whose understanding is led astray by that grandiloquent speech about sense-gratification and controlling power,

the attitude of determination mentioned earlier, will not arise in their minds [Samādhi]. Samādhi in this context means the [clear] mind in which enlightenment arises.

These minds cannot develop the insight that all Vedic rituals are a means to attain Mokṣa when based on the conviction of the real nature of the Self. Hence, an aspirant for Liberation should not be attached to rituals from a desire to attain material goals.

It may be questioned why the Vedas, which have more love for the jīvas than thousands of parents, and which are endeavouring to Liberate the jīvas, should thus prescribe rites which have trifling results and which produce only rebirth.

It can also be asked if it is proper to abandon what is revealed in the Vedas.

Śrī Krishna replies to these questions:—

trai-guṇya viṣayāvedānistrai-guṇyo bhavārjuna |
nir-dvandvo nitya satvastho nir-yoga kṣema ātmavān || 45 ||

45. The Vedas deal with the three Modes of Material Nature (Guṇas), O Arjuna. You must free yourself from these three Guṇas and from the pairs of opposites. Abide in pure Sattva; never care to acquire things and to protect what has been acquired, but be established in the ātman.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Here we see the word traiguṇya indicating the three qualities of material nature being goodness, passion and ignorance. This term refers to the three groups of living entities characterised under the influence of these three aforementioned qualities.

If the Vedic scriptures did not address these three classes according to their predilections by prescribing the appropriate method for attainment of the heavenly spheres,

then those living entities under the influence of passion and ignorance would be adverse to goodness unwittingly hindering their own progress.

Also they would be in the dark as to how to advance themselves from their present position and being lost compounded by being full of desires they would fall into degradation falsely fancying it to lead the way to their goal; and in vain they would be ruined.

Hence the Vedic scriptures contain all that the threefold classification of living entities possessing different qualities could desire.

But ideally one should free themselves from passion and ignorance and devote oneself to increasing the quality of goodness fully. This increase should be pure without any dilution of passion and ignorance; all intermixture should be fully purged.

The word nirdvandvah means free from duality, devoid of any influence of material nature. Nitya-sattva- sthah is one who is ever wedded to increasing goodness without any trace of passion and ignorance.

How is this to be accomplished?

By being nir-yoga- ksema meaning one is completely unconcerned about acquiring any other advantage apart from the realisation of the soul and the means to effect that end. By this method one becomes ātmavan or established in the soul.

If one conducts oneself in this manner and remains fixed, the influence of passion and ignorance will cease and goodness will become predominant.

yāvān artha udapāne sarvataḥsaṁplutodake |
tāvān sarveṣu vedeṣu brāhmaṇasya vijānataḥ|| 46 ||

46. For a Brahmin who knows the Self, the Vedas are of as much use as a flooded water reservoir for a thirsty person.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

All that is taught in the Vedas is not suitable to be practiced by everyone.

A reservoir, which is completely overflowing with water is constructed for all kinds of purposes like irrigation etc. The thirsty person will only use enough to quench his thirst and not the entire content.

Likewise, an enlightened aspirant seeking liberation will only take from the Vedas that which contributes directly to Liberation, and nothing else.

karmaṇy-evādhikāras te māphaleṣu kadācana |
mākarma phala hetur bhūmāsaṅgo’stva karmaṇi || 47 ||

47. To work alone you have the right, and not to the fruits. Do not allow rewards to be your motive for action. Nor be attached to inaction.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

As regards obligatory, periodic and desiderative acts taught in the Vedas and associated with some result or other, you, the aspirant established in Sattva, have the right only to perform them [as duty].

You have no right to the rewards known to be derived from such acts. It is works done with a motivation for some reward which is the cause of bondage.

But acts done without motivation are a form of worship and a means for Liberation. Do not initiate works with the idea of reaping their fruits.

Even when you, who are established in pure Sattva and are desirous of Liberation, perform acts, you should not look upon yourself as the agent.

Likewise, you should not regard yourself as being the cause of even appeasing your own hunger and other such physical necessities.

Later on it will be taught that both the idea of being an agent and the results of action, should be considered as belonging to the Modes of Material nature (Gunas) or to Me who am the Lord of all —This is the attitude one should have towards all work.

With regard to inaction, i.e., abstaining from performance of duties, let there be no attachment to such inaction. Śrī Krishna makes this clear in the following verse:—

yogasthaḥkuru karmāṇi saṅgaṁtyaktvādhanañjaya |
siddhy-asiddhyoḥsamo bhūtvā samatvaṁyoga ucyate|| 48 ||

48. Abandoning attachment and established in Yoga, perform works, viewing success and failure with an even mind. Equipoise is said to be Yoga.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Abandoning the attachment to kingdom, relatives etc., establish yourself in Yoga, engage in your prescribed duties and other such activities.

Perform these with equanimity as regards success and failure resulting from victory or defeat which are inherent in them. Yoga is defined in this verse as "equanimity with regard to success and failure.”

Śrī Krishna explains why He constantly repeats this teaching: —

dūreṇa hyavaraṁkarma buddhi-yogād dhanañjaya |
buddhau śaraṇam anvicchakṛpaṇāḥphala-hetavaḥ|| 49 ||

49. Action with attachment [to results] is far inferior, O Arjuna, to action done with equanimity. Seek refuge in wisdom. Miserable are they, who act motived by reward.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Actions performed with fruitive motivations are far inferior to actions performed as a matter of duty. The mind of those whose actions are performed as a matter of duty are not disturbed or unbalanced by delusions of rewards gained or lost.

The activities performed in spiritual intelligence removes all suffering in the world and leads to liberation from the material existence. Contrarily activities performed for the acquisition of rewards assuredly results in suffering and affliction in the material existence.

Phala-hetavah are those whose sole motivation is dictated be the prospects of reward.

It should be understood that such living entities are krpanah or pitiable due to the fact but acting in this way they are imprisoned in the material existence unable to attain their spiritual nature.

buddhi-yukto jahātīha ubhe sukṛta duṣkṛte |
tasmād yogāya yujyasva yogaḥkarmasu kauśalam|| 50 ||

50. Endowed with wisdom [equanimity] one discards here and now [the results] of good and evil deeds. Therefore devote yourself to Yoga —Yoga is skilful action

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Those whose activities are inherently protected under the secure guidance of spiritual intelligence are released from the bondage of continuous rebirth in the material existence.

Hence one should undeviatingly remain steadfast in spiritual intelligence. Although cultivating spiritual intelligence indeed takes enormous effort to achieve, once attained is not difficult to maintain.

All actions performed from the platform of spiritual intelligence are not binding and the mind is preserved in a perfectly equipoised state which can be compared to a state of a blissful genius sometimes experiences which is very wonderful.