Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 7 verse 16-30

catur-vidhābhajante māṃjanāḥsukṛtino’rjuna |
ārto jijñāsur arthārthījñānīca bharatarṣabha || 16 ||

16. Four types of benefactors worship Me, O Arjuna (Bull of the Bhāratas). These are the distressed, the seekers after knowledge, the ambitious, and the wise.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Benefactors’ —people of good deeds, are those who have meritorious Karmas to their credit, and who take refuge and worship Krishna alone.

They too are divided into four categories according to the degree of their good deeds, each subsequent type being better than the preceding, because of the [increasing] positivity of their good deeds and their knowledge.

1. The distressed —are those who have lost status and prosperity, and who wish to regain them.

2. The ambitious —are those who aspire for prosperity which they have never had. Between them the difference is only nominal, as both of them seek prosperity alone.

3. The seekers after knowledge —are those who wish to know the real nature of the Self [in its pure state] as an entity different from the Prakṛti.

They are called ‘the seekers after knowledge,’ because consciousness alone is the essential nature of the Self.

4. The wise —are those who know that the essential nature of the Self is to find happiness only in the acceptance of being the śeṣa (dependant) of the Lord, as taught in the verse 7:5.

The wise are not satisfied with the knowledge that the Self is different from Material Nature, but desire to attain the Lord —considering that the Lord alone is the highest goal.

teṣāṃjñānīnitya-yukta eka bhaktir-viśiṣyate |
priyo hi jñānino’tyartham ahaṃsa ca mama priyaḥ|| 17 ||

17. Of these, the wise, being ever steadfast and devoted to the One only, are the foremost; for I am inexpressibly dear to the wise and he too is dear to Me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Of these four, ‘the wise’ is the foremost. Why?

Because of being constantly attached to Krishna and being single-minded in devotion to Him alone. The wise person has only one goal, to attain Krishna, the focussed devotion being the unifying force.

As for the others, they are mindful of Krishna only until the fulfilment of their desires. Their only goal is the attainment of their cherished objects, and devotion is seen as a means to that end.

Hence the wise alone are the foremost.

Here in the expression ‘athyartham’ (inexpressibly), the term ‘artha’ denotes that which cannot be adequately expressed.

That is, even Krishna the omniscient and omnipotent, is unable to express the degree of love between Himself and the Jñānin, since there is no such limit to this love —such is the meaning.

As in the case of Prahlāda, the foremost among the wise, it is said: —

But he, with thoughts firmly fixed on Krishna while being bitten by the great serpents, felt no pain from the wounds, being immersed in rapturous mindfulness of Him.” (V.P. 1.17.39).

udārāḥsarva evaitaṃjñānītvātmaiva me matam |
āsthitaḥsa hi yuktātmāmāmevānuttamāṃgatim || 18 ||

18. Noble indeed, are all these, but I deem the wise to be My very Self; for he, being fully integrated, is devoted exclusively to Me as the highest goal.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“Because they worship Me alone, all these are noble i.e., magnanimous. For, those who accept anything from Me, however small, I consider them as contributing everything to Me [and thus as My benefactors].

But I consider the wise to be My very Self —I consider Myself to be dependent on the wise for My support.

How come?

Because the wise consider Me to be the highest and find it impossible to support themselves without Me; I also find it impossible to be without them.”

bahūnāṃjanmanām ante jñānavān māṃprapadyate |
vāsudevaḥsarvam iti sa mahātmāsudurlabhaḥ|| 19 ||

19.  At the end of many births, the enlightened one takes refuge in Me, realising that ‘Vāsudeva is everything’—It is very hard to find such a great-person.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

This is the ultimate achievement of innumerable good births —namely taking refuge in Krishna:

After passing through countless good births, one obtains the insight:—

I find my ultimate joy in being a dependant (śeṣa) of Vāsudeva. I am such that my essence, existence and activities are completely under His control. He is superior to all others because of His innumerable auspicious attributes.”

After realising this, one takes refuge in Krishna, i.e., meditates on Him, with the understanding —

Vāsudeva alone is my highest goal and also the means for attaining it, and whatever other desire remains in my mind, He alone, is all that for me too.”

Refutation of the doctrine of Identity of the ātman with Brahman

Vāsudeva alone is the highest goal and also the means for attaining it is the only possible meaning of the statement — “Vāsudeva is all”,

because the topic started with the statements: — “For I am very dear to the wise” (7.17) and “being fully integrated, [he] is devoted exclusively to Me as the highest goal.” (7.18).

This conclusion is validated also because that enlightened one described here, possesses the same qualities as the wise one described earlier.

It  has already been taught that the two Natures (Prakṛti-Puruṣa) — the sentient and the insentient, have their raison d’etre in being the dependants (śeṣa) of the Supreme Being in the two verses (4 & 5)

beginning with “Earth, water, fire, air, .......” and ending with .”........ But, O mighty-armed One, know that My Superior Nature is different. It is the life-principle [Jīva bhūtā], by which this universe is sustained.”

Then take the section beginning with —

Therefore, I am the origin and, dissolution of the whole universe. There is nothing higher than Myself, O Arjuna” (7:6-7), and ending with—“Know that all those states of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas have their origin in Me alone. But I am not in them; they are in Me.“ (7.12).

It has been declared in these texts that the two Natures (Prakṛti-Puruṣa), both in their states of cause and effect, depend upon Krishna for their essence, existence and activities and that the Supreme Being Krishna is superior to everything in all respects.

Therefore the one who knows this truth alone can be called an enlightened one or one realising that — “All this is Vāsudeva.”

kāmais tais tair hṛta-jñānāḥprapadyante’nya-devatāḥ|
taṃtaṃniyamam āsthāya prakṛtyāniyatāḥsvayā|| 20 ||

20. Controlled by their inherent nature, and deprived of insight by various desires, the worldly-minded resort to other gods, observing various disciplines.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Everyone is conditioned by their own nature which is comprised of the psychological tendencies (vāsanās) resulting from an involvement with material nature.

Their insight into the Divine Nature is blurred by various desires (kāmas) which are conditioned by the subliminal activators (saṁskāras) created by their previous actions (karmas), in accordance with the three Guṇas.

In order to fulfil these various kinds of desires they take refuge in, that is, resort to and worship other deities who are regarded as different from Krishna, such as Indra and others, doing spiritual exercises which are meant to propitiate these deities.

yo yo yāṃyāṃtanuṃbhaktaḥ śraddhayārcitum icchati |
tasya tasyācalāṃ śraddhāṃ tām-eva vidadhāmy-ahaṃ|| 21 ||

21. Whichever manifestation (of the Divine) any devotee desires to worship with faith —that faith I make unshakeable and firm.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

These divinities too are Krishna’s manifestations as taught in the Vedic texts.

“Although an individual may choose to worship some deity such as the Sun with faith, unaware that all deities are My manifestations, I understand that he is worshipping Me alone, and therefore I make his faith firm and unflinching, that is, free from hindrances.”

sa tayā śraddhayāyuktas tasyārādhanam īhate |
labhate ca tataḥkāmān mayaiva vihitān hi tān || 22 ||

22. Endowed with that faith, one engages in the worship of that [particular] manifestation and thence obtains the desired objects, which are in fact bestowed by Me alone.

antavattu phalaṃteṣāṃtad bhavaty-alpa medhasām |
devān devayajo yānti mad-bhaktāyānti mām api || 23 ||

23. But verily the reward gained by these persons of limited understanding is finite. The worshippers of the gods will go to the gods but My devotees will come to Me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“The results obtained by their worship are trivial and limited. Why?

The devotees of devas like Indra go to them; and Indra and other devas possess limited joy and are conditioned by time and space. So if they attain equality of enjoyment with them, they also fall down along with them in due course.

But My devotees, fully mindful of the fact that all their acts are being done as worship of Me, renouncing attachment for finite rewards, and acting in order to please Me alone, reach Me. That is, they never again return to the cycle of transmigration [Samsāra].

avyaktaṃvyaktim āpannaṃmanyante mām abuddhayaḥ|
paraṃbhāvam ajānanto mamāvyayam anuttamam || 24 ||

24. Not knowing My higher nature, immutable and unsurpassed, the ignorant think of Me as an unmanifest entity who has now become manifest.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Ignorant people do not know that it is Krishna, who is the ultimate receiver of all worship:

That He who is the Lord of all, and whose nature is incomprehensible and inexpressible, has incarnated in human form without compromising His Divinity, out of consummate compassion and solicitous love for all beings to be a source of refuge for all.

They consider Me as only a worldly prince who has just now born due Karma and has secured a special form. Therefore, they do not take refuge in Me, nor do they worship Me.

nāhaṃprakāśaḥsarvasya yoga māyāsamāvṛtaḥ|
mūḍho’yaṃnābhijānanti loko mām ajam avyayam || 25 ||

25. Veiled by Māyā, I am not clearly evident to all. This deluded world does not recognise Me as the unborn and immutable.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“Concealed by the deluding potency (Māyā) called ‘Yoga’ (‘union’ or association with material nature), I am associated with a human form and other generic structures which are characteristic of individual Selves. Because of this, My true nature is not apparent to all.

The foolish, by seeing merely the human or the other generic structures that I have adopted, do not know that My powers are greater than those of Vāyu and Indra, that My lustre is more brilliant than that of sun and fire,

that though [presently] visible to all, I am unborn, unchangeable, the cause of all the worlds, the Lord of all, and that I have assumed a human form, so that all those who want to, can take refuge in Me.”

vedāhaṃsamatītāni vartamānāni cārjuna |
bhaviṣyāṇi ca bhūtāni māṃtu veda na kaścana || 26 ||

26. I know all beings, O Arjuna, that have been in the past, those now in the present and those yet to come; but no one knows Me.

icchā-dveṣa samutthena dvandva mohena bhārata |
sarva bhūtāni saṃmohaṃsarge yānti paraṅtapa || 27 ||

27. By the phantasm of the pairs of opposites arising from desire and aversion, O Arjuna, all beings are subject to delusion as soon as they are born.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Desire for pleasure and aversion from suffering is the dichotomy caused by the Guṇas.

They have their origin in the experiences of previous births.

These experiences create subtle impressions (saṁskāras) in the mind and manifest again, in every succeeding birth as an instinctive attraction and aversion towards those similar objects.

These mental habitual tendencies (vāsanās) are a delusive force acting from the very moment of birth.

One develops an inherent fondness or aversion for specific [material] things, instead of feeling joy in communion with Krishna and misery at separation from Him —as does the wise.

yeṣāṃtvanta-gataṃpāpaṃjanānāṃpuṇya-karmaṇām |
te dvandva-moha-nirmuktābhajante māṃdṛḍha-vratāḥ|| 28 ||

28. But the doers of virtuous deeds, whose sins have ceased, are freed from the delusion of the pairs of opposites. They worship Me, steadfast in their determination.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

However, there are some people whose demerit, which has accrued from beginningless time, and which causes an attraction or aversion to the pairs of opposites and which hinders the development of devotion, has come to an end, i.e., has become attenuated  through the accumulation of merit in numerous births.

They take refuge in Krishna, and freed from the delusion produced by the Guṇas, they worship Krishna alone in proportion to the excellence of their Karma (accumulation of merit) previously described.

In order to attain deliverance from old age and death and for acquiring the ultimate goal of reaching Him, they remain steadfast in their vows; that is —they remain determined.

jarā-maraṇa-mokṣayāmām-āśritya yatanti ye |
te brahma tad viduḥkṛtsnam adhyātmaṃkarma cākhilam || 29||

29. Those who take refuge in Me and strive for liberation from old age and death, fully understand Brahman [ātman], Self-realisation, and Karma.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Brahman is the Self in its immaculate and essential state.

Self-realisation is freedom from the identification with Material Nature —Prakṛti.

Karma are those activities leading to rebirth.

sādhibhūtādhidaivaṃmāṃsādhi yajñāṃca ye viduḥ|
prayāṇa kāle’pi ca māṃte vidur yukta cetasaḥ|| 30 ||

30. And those who know Me associated with the Adhibhuta, Adhidaiva and the Adhiyajña, they too, with their minds fixed in meditation, know Me even at the hour of death.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Here, other practitioners distinct from those already mentioned in the previous verse are to be understood, because of the repetition of the term ‘those’ (ye).

The declaration — “those who know Me as being associated with the higher material entities’ (Adhibhuta) and ‘with that which is superior to the gods’ (adhidaiva) that is, the ātman in its sovereignty “—appears to be a repetition, but it is really an injunction, because there is no other way of understanding it.

The statement of knowing Krishna as being ‘connected with the sacrifice’ (Adhiyajña) is also a clear injunction directed at all the three classes of spiritual aspirants (1. the distressed, 2. the ambitious and 3.  the seekers of knowledge)  without any exception, because of the perpetual nature of the subject (i.e. the sacrifice).

None of these three types of aspirants should ever give up the performance of the Five Great Sacrifices (pañca-mahā-yajña) as well as the daily and periodical ritual obligations.

They will realise Me also at the hour of death’ —in a way corresponding with their desired objectives.

Because of the use of the term ‘ca’(too) in ‘they too’ —those who have been mentioned before in the previous verse as ‘striving for release from old age and death’ are also included among those knowing Krishna at the hour of death.

By this it may be understood that even the wise (Jñānin) know Krishna as associated with the sacrifice on account of the subject of discussion (i.e., sacrifice).

hariḥ oṃ tatsat
iti śrīmad bhagavadgītāsupaniṣatsu
brahma-vidyāyāṃyogaśāstre śrīkṛṣṇārjuna saṃvāde
jñāna vijñāna yoga nāma

Thus in the Upanishads of the Glorious Bhagavad Gita
The science of the Eternal, the Scripture of Yoga
The dialogue between Śrī Krishna and Arjuna
Ends the seventh discourse entitled
“Communion through Knowledge & Realisation”