Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 5 verse 15-29

nādatte kasyacit-pāpaṃna caiva sukṛtaṃvibhuḥ|
ajñānenāvṛtaṃjñānaṃtena muhyanti jantavaḥ|| 15 ||

15. The all-pervading Self appropriates neither the demerit nor even the merit of any. Knowledge is enveloped by ignorance, thereby beings are deluded.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The ātma or eternal soul never accepts anyone's sins or mitigate anyone's misery or suffering although the person may be dearly beloved. Nor does the ātma take the pious merit and happiness which may come to a person that is hated.

The ātma is transcendental to material nature and not limited to the physical body. The ātma knows not the relationship of the amity of friendliness nor the enmity of antagonism.

All conceptions of friend and foe are material designations caused by vāsanā which is physical instincts created from material association.

How then is it that the ātma is thus shrouded by this vāsanā?

Lord Krishna reveals that it is because of ignorance. It is ignorance which shrouds and obscures spiritual knowledge. Ignorance and nescience is that which is opposed to spiritual knowledge and wisdom.

By the shrouding of ignorance due to reactions from past actions the consciousness of the ātma becomes obscured and the intelligence compromised

allowing the living entity to enter the perilous predicament of believing they are the enjoyer of the rewards of actions thereby recipients of the reactions.

Thus by the karma or the reactions from attachment to actions one forges a material link in the appropriate physical body.

This love of one's body forges links with other bodies kindling an ironclad infatuation for the bodily conception. This infatuation maturing becomes vāsanā which constitutes the seed for further births in the material creation.

This perpetuates more and more actions and reactions and infatuations for bodily connections and more seeds and more increased vāsanā which perpetually keeps an embodied being locked in the material existence engendering unlimited births and rebirths.

Next Lord Krishna propounds the topic of spiritual intelligence.

jñānena tu tad-jñānaṃyeṣāṃnāśitam ātmanaḥ|
teṣām ādityavad-jñānaṃprakāśayati tat param || 16 ||

16. But to those whose ignorance is destroyed by Self-realisation, their enlightenment is supreme and illumines like the sun.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

In the case of the enlightened ones, their delusion is destroyed by wisdom. This enlightenment arises from [studying] the teachings about the real nature of the ātman, and is then realized by daily practice.

The purity of this wisdom is unsurpassed, and in the case of those Jīvas who regain the expansive consciousness that is natural to them, it is found to be unlimited and un-contracted and illumines everything like the sun.

Refutation of the Doctrine of the Absolute Unity of the Jīva

The essential plurality of the Jīvas in their original state is expressly mentioned in connection with the enlightened or fully realized ones by the expression 'those' in the above text.

In the beginning (Gita 2:12) it was said —

There never was a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor any of these kings of men. Nor will there be any time in future when all of us shall cease to be

— this statement is clarified here.  

Moreover, this plurality [of Jīvas] cannot be due to limiting factors imposed on a single universal ātman [as taught by the Advaitins].

For, as stated here, there is no residual trace of such limiting adjuncts (such as ignorance) for those that are fully enlightened, and yet still, they are described [by Krishna] as a plurality.

Here consciousness is taught as an attribute inseparable from the essential nature of the Self, because a difference between the Self and its consciousness is indicated by the statement, 'Knowledge, in their case illuminates like the sun’.

By the illustration of the sun, the relationship of the knower to its knowledge is likened to the luminous object and its luminosity.

Therefore, it is appropriate to consider that one’s consciousness contracts through Karma, in the condition of Samsāra (transmigration) and expands in the stage of Mokṣa(liberation).

tad-buddhayas tad-ātmānas-tan-niṣṭhās tat-parāyaṇāḥ|
gacchanty-apunarāvṛttiṃjñāna nirdhūta kalmaṣāḥ|| 17 ||

17. Those who intellectually pursue That (ātman), whose minds are absorbed in That, who strive for That, and who hold That as their supreme goal, have their karmic hindrances destroyed by wisdom and go whence there is no return.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna uses the compound word tad-buddhayas meaning intelligence in the Supreme is referring to those who have their intelligence, intellect and consciousness fixed in meditation of ātma tattva or realisation of the soul.

The compound word tad- ātmānas means with mind in the Supreme refers to those who make the ātma or soul the singular focus of loving reflection. The intellect is merely the machinations of the mind but consciousness includes emotion which facilitates loving devotion within the heart.

The compound word tad-nishṭhas means those who have complete faith in the Supreme refer to those who enthusiastically follow the Vedic culture and perform all that is necessary to attain the Supreme.

The compound word tat- parāyaṇāḥ means those whose sole noble aim is devotion to the ātma. The cultivation of Vedic knowledge gradually develops consciousness and removes all taint and dross.

Those possessing the before stated qualifications when perfecting them attain the ātma which is irrevocable and which when once realised insures there is no reverting back to conditioned and restrictive levels of consciousness which are of the nature of nescience and ignorance.

vidyāvinaya saṃpanne brāhmaṇe gavi hastini |
śuni caiva śvapāke ca paṇḍitāḥsama-darśinaḥ|| 18 ||

18. The sages regard with equality one well-endowed with learning and humility, a Brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The name Brāhmaṇa refers to the saintly and spiritual class in India possessed of moral conduct and Vedic knowledge.

The mention along with them of a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcaste person who eats dog is to illustrate the great differences in the physical bodies of all the various species of life in which the embodied ātma or soul resides in.

The variegated appearances of different species of life are due to prakṛti or material nature not the ātma.

The compound word sama- darśinaḥ meaning equal vision is how those in ātma tattva or soul realisation regard all the ātmas residing in unlimited bodies as being equal due to the ātmas essential nature of being eternal and of being an infinitesimal part of the Supreme Lord Krishna.

ihaiva tair-jitaḥsargo yeṣāṃsāmye sthitaṃmanaḥ|
nir-doṣaṃhi samaṃbrahma tasmād-brahmaṇi sthitāḥ|| 19 ||

19. Even here and now Samsāra is overcome by those whose minds rest in equanimity. For the Brahman (individual Self), when uncontaminated by Prakṛti, is the same everywhere, therefore they are established in Brahman.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word ihaiva means even here in this very life while engaged in karma yoga or the performance of prescribed Vedic activities

followed by the words jitaḥ sargo meaning conquers creation in the form of terminating samsara or the endless cycle of birth and death in the material existence.

This is the result for one situated in the equanimity of perceiving the ātma or soul as equal in all living entities, they become fixed in the ātma itself.

Then one becomes established in the Brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence which is indeed victory over samsara.

Lord Krishna's purport is that those who have realised the eternal ātma within themselves and within all living entities are indeed enlightened beings and have attained mokṣa or liberation from material existence.

How one performing karma yoga becomes eligible to achieve this apex ascending omniscience of ātma perception is revealed next.

na prahṛṣyet priyaṃprāpya nodvijet prāpya cāpriyam |
sthira-buddhir-asaṃmūḍho brahma-vid brahmaṇi sthitaḥ|| 20 ||

20. One who having learnt of the Brahman (ātman) seeks to abide in Brahman, one whose mind is steadfastly fixed on That (ātman), undeluded —neither rejoices at gaining what is pleasant, nor grieves on obtaining what is unpleasant.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Agreeable and disagreeable situations occur in accordance to the physical body one happens to dwell in and the karma or reactions to past life actions an embodied being is subjected to which both exemplify the grave risks of material existence.

A person who would seek to scale the heights of spiritual knowledge should remain equipoised at all times and not feel elation at receiving something agreeable nor feel dejection at receiving something disagreeable.

How is this possible?

It is possible for one who is sthira-buddhir meaning steadfast intelligence. Such a person plants his mind and will in the stability of the ātma or soul.

The word asaṃmūḍho means “not subject to delusion”. If one is saṃmūḍho they are inflicted with delusion in the form of confusing the stable eternal ātma with the unstable temporary body.

How can one escape this delusion?

If a person is brahma- vid or a knower of the spiritual substratum pervading all existence from instruction and brahmani sthitah or perceiving and experiencing the spiritual substratum pervading all existence every moment.

The meaning Lord Krishna is conveying is that those who receive instructions from the bona fide spiritual preceptor in one of the four authorised sampradāyas or lines of disciplic succession shall learn the exact nature and means of attainment of the eternal ātma.

This is brahma-vid. Such a one through diligent and sincere application of this spiritual knowledge, always remembering and honouring the spiritual preceptor who mercifully gave such knowledge, in due course of time will achieve ātma tattva or realisation of the soul

and in such an elevated position one will blissfully commune internally with the eternal ātma and the eternal spiritual preceptor as well and from thenceforth nothing in the external world will ever again be perceived as being agreeable or being disagreeable.

bāhya-sparśeṣv-asaktātmāvindaty-ātmani yat sukham |
sa brahma-yoga-yuktātmāsukham akṣayam aśnute || 21 ||

21. With the mind  detached from external contacts, one finds happiness in the Self — with the mind engaged in the contemplation of Brahman [ātman] one enjoys endless bliss.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Here Lord Krishna describes the reality for the person who desists from attachments to anything except the ātma or eternal soul and who derives all pleasures exclusively from their internal relationship with the ātma

relinquishing all desires for sensuous material enticements and instead delighting in brahma-yoga or the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the Ultimate Consciousness by realising the spiritual substratum pervading all existence.

Such a person attains sukham- akṣayam or imperishable happiness.

Next it will be illustrated how desire for material sense gratification can be easily abandoned.

ye hi saṃsparśajābhogāduḥkha-yonaya eva ca|
ādy-antavantaḥkaunteya na teṣu ramate budhaḥ|| 22 ||

22. Those pleasures that arise from contact (with external factors) are sources of suffering. They have a beginning and an end, O Arjuna, the wise do not rejoice in them.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word saṃsparśajā means contact of the senses with their objects - this precipitates anticipation for material pleasures which gives the illusion of happiness by such contact which actually is but a source of misery, pain and suffering.

Lord Krishna is stating that because they are temporary having a time of beginning and a time of ending, contact with sense objects is shunned by those of spiritual intelligence who know such contacts are of a transitory nature.

śaknotīhaiva yaḥsoḍhuṃprāk-śarīra vimokṣaṇāt |
kāma krodhodbhavaṃvegaṃsa yuktaḥsa sukhīnaraḥ|| 23 ||

23. One who is able, even here, before one is released from the body, to resist the impulses arising from desire and anger, is a Yogi (competent for Self-realization); and a happy person.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The point Lord Krishna is emphasising is that even before the demise of the physical body if the aspirants for mokṣa or liberation follow this procedure they will meet with success.

This means that whoever is able to gratefully glean any experience of the ātma or soul and by this is able to thwart the onslaught of kāma or lust and krodha or anger can be considered to be yuktah or in harmony with the Supreme Consciousness

and qualified to perform yoga or the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness and by this becomes immersed in the bliss of the ātma upon departing from the physical body.

yo’ntaḥsukho’ntarārāmas-tathāntar jyotir-eva yaḥ|
sa yogībrahma-nirvāṇaṃbrahma-bhūto’dhigacchati || 24 ||

24. One who is joyful within, whose pleasure is within, and similarly is illumined within —that Yogi, who having become the Brahman, attains the bliss of the Brahman.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The words yo’ntaḥsukho means one who internally happy by ātma tattva or realisation of the eternal soul. This happens after one has neutralised and evaporated all desire for external pleasure of objects of the senses.

The word antarārāmas is one who delights internally meaning that ātma tattva has the capacity by its inherent qualities to enhance spiritual bliss.

One who is thus illumined from within by the eternal ātma is a yogi or one following the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness

and such a being is situated in the Brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence and surely achieves mokṣa or liberation from the material existence.

labhante brahma-nirvāṇam ṛṣayaḥkṣīṇa kalmaṣāḥ|
chinna-dvaidhāyatātmanaḥsarva bhūta hite ratāḥ|| 25 ||

25. The sages who are free from the pairs of opposites, whose minds are well directed and who are devoted to the welfare of all beings, become cleansed of all impurities and attain the bliss of the Brahman.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The compound word chinna-dvaidha means those who are no longer influenced by dualities such as pleasure and pain, praise and ridicule, acceptance and rejection.

The word yatātmanaḥ means those who have conditioned their minds to focus on the ātma or soul.

The words sarva bhūta hite ratāḥ means those who always wish for all living beings the same happiness and righteousness as they would wish for themselves.

The word ṛṣayaḥ refers to the saintly sages who are focused and intent on obtaining ātma tattva or realisation of the soul. Those of this category abandon all impurities that are opposed to ātma realisation and by doing so they shortly attain the bliss of the ātma.

That the eternal ātma is very accessible and can be easily reached Lord Krishna will explain next.  

kāma krodha viyuktānāṃyatīnāṃyata-cetasām |
abhito brahma-nirvāṇaṃvartate viditātmanām || 26 ||

26. To those who are free from desire and anger, who aspire [for realisation] whose minds are controlled, and who have attained self-mastery —the Great Nirvana is close at hand.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

To those aspirants free from kāma or lust and krodha or anger who are yatinam or renounced sannyāsins who are celibate brāhmins devoting themselves exclusively to the service of the Supreme Lord Krishna and His authorised incarnations.

Such being perceiving the Brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence realise mokṣa or liberation from material existence everywhere in every action.

Now the subject of karma yoga or the performance of prescribed Vedic activities which has as its aim ātma tattva or soul realisation is now concluded.

sparśān kṛtvābahir-bāhyāṃś-cakṣuś-caivāntare bhāvoḥ|
prāṇāpānau samau kṛtvānāsābhyantara cāriṇau || 27 ||

27. Shutting out all external contacts, focussing the gaze between the eye-brows, harmonizing the flow of the breath —inspiration and expiration,

yatendriya mano-buddhir-munir mokṣa parāyaṇaḥ|
vigat-ecchābhaya krodho yaḥsadāmukta eva saḥ|| 28 ||

28. —having controlled the senses, mind and intellect, the sage who is intent on Liberation as the final goal, freed forever from desire, fear and anger —is indeed liberated forever.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Stopping all activities of the external senses prepares one to qualify for practising meditation:

Sitting in an erect posture, focusing the eyes half closed between the eyebrows or the tip of the nose, equalising the breath until suspended rendering the mind and sense incapable of moving to any other location except to the ātma or soul.

Due to fulfilling the above meditation one is automatically freed from desire, fear and doubts, whose sole goal and aim is mokṣa or liberation.

Determinedly intent on achieving ātma tattva or soul realisation such a person is considered to be liberated even before fully accomplishing the goal as it is a certainty it will be achieved.

The ease which this karma yoga or selfless performance of prescribed Vedic activities with its nitya or daily duties and its naimittika or occasional duties having yoga or the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness will next be revealed.  

bhoktāraṃyajñātapasāṃsarva loka maheśvaram |
suhṛdaṃsarva-bhūtānāṃjñātvāmāṃ śāntim-ṛcchati || 29 ||

29. Knowing Me as the enjoyer of all sacrifices and austerities, as the Supreme Lord of all the worlds, as the Friend of every being, one attains peace.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Who knows Lord Krishna to be bequeather of all rewards for all actions, the sovereign lord of all existence, the intimate friend within all beings and well-wisher of all beings - attains mokṣa or liberation from material existence.

What this means is that if karma yoga or the selfless practice of prescribed Vedic activities is performed consciously as offerings of worship to Lord Krishna then this in itself is enough to grant mokṣa.

This is the easiest and most practical as it is so simple to do.

Moreover, who would not be inclined to offer such service to a dear friend especially when this friend is such a universal benefactor existing within and without every living being throughout all of creation.

hariḥ oṃ tatsat
iti śrīmad bhagavadgītāsupaniṣatsu
brahma-vidyāyāṃyogaśāstre śrīkṛṣṇārjuna saṃvāde
karma-sanyāsa yogo nāma pañcamo’dhyāyaḥ

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 fifth discourse entitled
“Communion through Renunciation”