Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 9 verse 1-19

Chapter 9
Rāja-vidyā Rāja- guhyā Yogaḥ
The Regal Science & the Royal Secret

Summary of the Teaching

In the previous chapter the details about the differences among the various kinds of devotees have been dealt with. Now, after investigating the eminence of the Supreme Being who is the focus of devotion, the nature of meditation [upāsanā], in the form of Loving Devotion [bhakti], is taught. The superiority of the wise [jñāni] is also elaborated upon.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca
idaṃtu te guhyatamaṃpravakṣyāmy-anasūyave |
jñānaṃvijñāna sahitaṃyat-jñātvāmokṣyase’śubhāt || 1 ||

The Blessed Lord said:

1. I shall declare to you, who do not cavil, this most secret knowledge together with its practical application, knowing which you shall be freed from that which is unhelpful.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

This most secret knowledge — upāsana(meditation), which consists of bhakti(loving devotion). In other words —“I have told you about My pre-eminence, which is distinct from all other forms of greatness and is unlimited in its expression. You should be convinced by now of this, and so, being thus prepared, I shall now teach you that knowledge by acquiring which, and applying it, you will be freed from all things that stand in your way and prevent you from attaining Me.”

rāja-vidyārāja-guhyaṃpavitram idam uttamam |
pratyakṣāvagamaṃdharmyaṃsu-sukhaṃkartum avyayam || 2 ||

2. This is the regal science, a regal mystery, the supreme purifier. It is realised by direct experience. It is in accord with Dharma, it is easy to practice and is abiding.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

This teaching is the greatest among all sciences; and the greatest among mysteries.

Alternatively “regal science” may also mean the science known and practiced by kings, and indeed kings are those who have broad and profound minds. In other words this is the science of great minds. This is a great mystery, because the great-minded alone are skilled in keeping secrets. This is the “supreme purifier”; for it removes completely all karmic obstructions which obstruct the attainment of the Supreme Being.

It is realised by “direct perception” — avagama is that which is apprehended: the subject of knowledge —the meaning is that Krishna, when meditated upon with loving devotion, becomes immediately directly perceptible.

Even so, it is inseparable from Dharma. Dharma here indicates that which constitutes the means for attaining the highest good. Though meditation (upāsana) is of itself, supremely good, as it brings about the vision of the Supreme Being, yet it is also the means for completely attaining Him, which is the final goal and the Supreme Beatitude.

Because of these reasons, it is “easy to practice”; and pleasurable to perform. It is “abiding” or imperishable because it does not perish even after leading to the attainment of Krishna.

That is, Krishna gives Himself totally to one who performs this form of meditation; even then it appears to Krishna that He has done nothing for the devotee —such is the meaning.

aśraddadhānāḥpuruṣādharmasyāsya parantapa |
aprāpya māṃnivartante mṛtyu-saṃsāra vartmani || 3 ||

3. Those who have no faith in this Dharma, O Scorcher-of-foes, ever remain in this cycle of death (Samsara), without ever attaining Me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Some people may attain the level of spiritual evolution which enables them to engage in the practice of this Dharma called upāsana even then, they may still lack faith in it; in other words they are lacking an eagerness for liberation based upon confidence in this Dharma.

They will not attain Krishna but continue in the cycle of births and deaths. “O how strange it is —this obstruction caused by negative Karma!” —such is the meaning.

“Listen then to My inconceivable glory for I am the goal to be attained”:

mayā tatam idaṃsarvaṃjagad avyakta mūrtinā|
mat-sthāni sarva bhūtāni na cāhaṃteṣv-avasthitaḥ|| 4 ||

4. This entire universe is pervaded by Me, in an unmanifest form. All beings abide in Me, but I do not abide in them.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

This entire universe —composed of both sentient and insentient beings, is pervaded by Me —the inner controller whose essential nature is unmanifest. The meaning is that all this universe is pervaded by Krishna the Principal (śeṣi) so that He may sustain and manage it.

This [doctrine of] universal pervasion by an inner controller, who is invisible to all beings, is taught in the Antaryāmī-Brāhmaṇa.

So also Krishna’s primacy over everything is taught.

na ca mat-sthāni bhūtāni paśya me yogam aiśvaram |
bhūta-bhṛnna ca bhūtastho mamātmābhūta-bhāvanaḥ|| 5 ||

5. And yet beings do not abide in Me. Behold My divine Yoga, I am the upholder of all beings and yet I am not in them. My will alone causes their existence.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“I am not in them” means —“I do not depend on them for My existence. I do not need any help from them to exist. And yet beings do not abide in Me, as I do not support them as a jug or any other kind of vessel supports the water contained in it. How then are they contained? By My will. Behold My divine Yogic Power, namely, My wonderful Divine qualities, unique to Me alone and having no comparison elsewhere. What are these qualities? I am the sustainer of all beings and yet I am not in them —My will alone keeps them in existence.”

The gist is that Krishna is the supporter of all beings, and yet He derives no personal assistance whatever from them. His will alone projects, sustains and controls all beings.

Śrī Krishna gives an illustration to show how all beings depend on His will for their existence and activity;

yathākāśa-sthito nityaṃvāyuḥsarvatrago mahān |
tathāsarvāṇi bhūtāni mat-sthānīty-upadhāraya || 6 ||

6. As the mighty wind moving everywhere, ever remains in space, even so, know that all beings abide in Me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The mighty wind exists and moves everywhere in space without any perceivable support.

So it has to be admitted that the powerful air-current is dependent on Me for its existence and is being upheld by Me alone. Even so, know that all entities abide in Me, who am invisible to them, and that they are upheld by Me alone. The Vedic sages declare thus: —

The origin of clouds, the waters of the ocean remaining within bounds, the phases of the moon, the strong movements of the gale, the flash of lightning and the movements of the sun—all these are marvellous manifestations of the power of Vishnu. (?)

The meaning is that they are all the marvellous miracles which are unique to Vishnu. The Vedas and other texts also declare likewise:

‘Verily O Gārgī, at the command of that imperishable One, the sun and the moon stand apart’ (Br. Up., 3.8.9,)

‘Through the fear of Him the wind blows, through the fear of Him the sun rises, through the fear of Him Agni and Indra perform their duties’ (Tai. Up., 2.8.1).

It has been declared that the existence and activity of all beings originate by the will of the Supreme Being, who is totally independent. Now Śrī Krishna declares that the origin and dissolution of all entities also are accomplished by His will only:—

sarva bhūtāni kaunteya prakṛtiṃyānti māmikām |
kalpa-kṣaye punas-tāni kalpādau visṛjāmy-aham || 7 ||

7. All beings, O Arjuna, are assimilated into My Nature (Prakrti) at the end of a cycle of time (kalpa). Again I send them forth at the beginning of a new cycle.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

All the mobile and immobile entities enter into Krishna’s Being (Prakrti) at the end of a cycle, of Brahma’s life. This Prakrti (Nature), constituting the Divine Being, is described by the term Tamas, as it cannot be differentiated into name and form. Manu also concurs:

‘This universe became Tamas.... by an act of [divine] will. He produced it out of His body’ (Manu, 1.5.8).

The Vedas also declare this: —

‘He whose physical nature is Unmanifest’ (Sub. Up., 7);

‘The Unmanifest (avyakta) merges into the Imperishable (akṣara), the akṣara into (Darkness) Tamas’ (Ibid., 2);

and also —

‘There was Darkness (Tamas); consciousness was in the beginning concealed by Darkness (Tamas)’ (Tai. Br. ii:8-9)

prakṛtiṃsvām-avaṣṭabhya visṛjāmi punaḥpunaḥ|
bhūta-grāmam imaṃkṛtsnam avaśaṃprakṛter-vaśāt || 8 ||

8. Animating my own Nature [Prakṛti], I send forth again and again all this multitude of beings, helpless under the sway of Prakṛti.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“I develop it eightfold and send forth this fourfold aggregate of beings; gods, animals, humans and inanimate things, time after time. All these entities are helpless, being under the sway of Prakṛti comprising the three Gunas which cause delusion.”

If this is so, it may be argued that the inequalities of creation are due to the Lord being cruel or partial etc. To this, the Lord answers: —

na ca māṃtāni karmāṇi nibadhnanti dhanañjaya |
udāsīnavad-āsīnam asaktaṃteṣu karmasu || 9 ||

9. But these actions do not bind Me, O Dhanañjaya, for I remain detached from them, remaining like one indifferent.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“But results like the inequality of creation do not bind Me. I cannot be accused of such negative qualities as cruelty, partiality etc, because the differences of conditions like being born as a god, human being, animal or vegetable are all caused by the previous actions (Karmas) of individual Jīvas themselves. I am unaffected by these inequalities.”

Accordingly, the author of the Vedanta-sutras says: —

‘There is no partiality or lack of compassion in Him, because creation is dependent on Karma, for so Scripture declares’ (Br. Sutra., 2.1.34),


‘If it be said that there can be no Karma on account of non-distinction [between Jīvas and Brahman prior to creation], it is replied that this is incorrect, because both the Jīvas and Karma are beginningless....’ (Ibid. 2.1.35).

mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥsūyate sacarācaram |
hetunānena kaunteya jagad viparivartate || 10 ||

10. Under My supervision, Prakṛti produces all beings that move and move not. Indeed, because of this, O Kaunteya, does the world revolve.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Behold in this wonderful phenomena the cosmic dominion inherent in Krishna,  and personal characteristics such as sovereignty, true resolve and being free from cruelty and similar defects! So declare the Vedas:—

‘The possessor of Maya [the Lord] projects this universe out of this [Prakrti in its subtle state]. Another [the individual Self] is confined by Maya in the world. One should know the Maya to be the Prakrti. And the possessor of Maya to be the Mighty Lord’ (Sve. Up., 4;9-10)

avajānanti māṃmūḍhāmānuṣīṃtanum-āśritam |
paraṃbhāvam ajānanto mama bhūta-maheśvaram || 11 ||

11. Fools disregard Me, appearing in a human form, not knowing My transcendental nature, as the Supreme Lord of all beings.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“I am in fact the Supreme Lord of all beings, the Omniscient One, who is completely self-determining, who has taken a human body out of great compassion so that I might become the refuge of all. They do not realise My true disposition of unlimited compassion, magnanimity, condescension and maternal solicitude which is the reason for My appearing in a human form. But without understanding this, the ignorant consider Me as of the same nature as other beings, because I have assumed the human form.”

moghāśāmogha-karmāṇo mogha-jñānāvicetasaḥ|
rākṣasīm-āsurīṃcaiva prakṛtiṃmohinīṃ śritāḥ|| 12 ||

12. Of vain hopes, of vain works and vain knowledge and insensible, verily they have a deceitful nature like that of the night-wanderers (Rakṣasas) and jealous-gods (Asuras).

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“Disregarding My transcendental disposition of supreme compassion etc., when I appear as a human; they yield to the deceptive lower drives of brutish beings. Their hopes remain futile, their enterprises remain ineffectual, and their knowledge is unproductive. This is due to their mistaken perception which fails to recognise that all things, mobile and immobile, belong to Me. They are ignorant because of the lack of knowledge of the all-pervading Truth. Whatever they do regarding Me, the Lord of all, is done with an attitude that I am an ordinary mortal. So their efforts are all worthless.” —this is the meaning.

mahātmān-astu māṃpārtha daivīṃprakṛtim-āśritāḥ|
bhajanty-ananya-manaso jñātvā-bhūtādim-avyayam || 13 |

13. But the magnanimous ones, O Arjuna, who share My divine nature, adore Me with a single mind, knowing Me to be the immutable source of beings.

satataṃkīrtayanto māṃyatantaśca dṛḍha-vratāḥ|
namasyantaśca māṃbhaktyānitya-yuktāupāsate || 14 ||

14. Always glorifying Me, striving with steadfast resolution and prostrating to Me in devotion, aspiring for eternal communion with Me, they adore Me.

jñāna yajñena cāpyanye yajanto mām-upāsate |
ekatvena pṛthaktvena bahudhāviśvato-mukham || 15 ||

15. Others, too, besides offering the sacrifice of wisdom, worship Me as One, who is characterised by diversity in various ways, and is multiform (in My Cosmic aspect).

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The purport is this: —the Lord Vasudeva, [in the state of Cosmic Dissolution] takes a form (śarīra) comprised of all the Jīvas and material substance of the universe in an extremely subtle state, incapable of being distinguished by name and form. He then resolves by His perfect power of will: —

“May I become embodied in gross animate and inanimate entities, distinguished variously by name and form.” He then transmogrifies into the variegated cosmos comprised of gods, animals, humans and insentient matter —which exists as His corporeal manifestation (śarīra). Adoration of Krishna [through the sacrifice of wisdom] is done by contemplating in this manner.

Therefore Śrī Krishna declares:—‘I, having the universe for My body, alone abide’.

ahaṃkratur-ahaṃyajñāḥsvadhāham aham auṣadham |
mantro’ham aham-evājyam aham-agnir-ahaṃhutam || 16 ||

16. I am the Kratu; I am the Yajña; I am the offering to the manes; I am the herbs; I am the Mantra; I alone am the clarified butter; I am the fire; I am the act of oblating.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

I am the Kratu; which is the category of all the Vedic sacrifices such as the Jyotiṣṭoma and all the others. I am the Yajña —this refers to the fivefold daily sacrifices. I am the offering to the manes(Svadhā) —the libation offered to nourish the hosts of manes (Ancestors). I am the herbs —the grains that are offered into the fire. I am the Mantra —the formulae with which offerings are made. I alone am the clarified butter —which also implies other examples of offering too, such as the oblation of Soma juice etc. I am the fire —the three

ritual Vedic fires known as Āhavaṇiya, Gārhapatya and Dakṣiṇā. I am the act of oblation—the act of offering liquid into fire.

pitāham-asya jagato mātādhātāpitāmahaḥ|
vedyaṃpavitram oṃkāra ṛk-sāma yajur-eva ca || 17 ||

17. I am the father, mother, mid-wife and grandfather of this universe. I am the object of knowledge; I am the purifier. I am the syllable Om and also the Rigveda, Sāmavēda and the Yajurveda.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Here the term Dhātri (creator) stands for a person other than the parents, who helps in one’s birth (i.e. a mid-wife). Whatever the supreme goal is, that is taught by the Vedas and is [mentally] purifying, “I alone am that. I am the syllable AUM, which is the origin of knowledge and is the seed of the entire Veda comprising of the three divisions —Rik, Saman and Yajus.”

gatir-bhartāprabhuḥsākṣīnivāsaḥ śaraṇaṃsuhṛt |
prabhavaḥpralayaḥsthānaṃnidhānaṃbījam avyayam || 18 ||

18. I am the Goal, the Supporter, the Lord, the Witness, the Abode, the Refuge and the Friend [of the universe]. I am the Seat of origin and dissolution, that which is preserved and the imperishable seed.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The Goal —that which is reached; it means that ultimate state to which all paths lead. The Supporter —one who upholds. The Lord —the one who rules the universe. The Witness —one who directly perceives everything that is going on. The Abode —that in which one resides such as a house etc. The Refuge —the intelligent being who has to be resorted to, who leads one to the attainment of desirable things and avoidance of evils. The Friend —one who desires one’s welfare. The Seat —that focal point [substrata] in which origin and dissolution takes place. That which is preserved (nidhanam) —that which comes into being and is again dissolved. The imperishable seed —that supreme cause which is never extinguished.

tapāmyaham ahaṃvarṣaṃnigṛhṇāmy utsṛjāmi ca |
amṛtaṃcaiva mṛtyuśca sadasac-cāham arjuna || 19 ||

19. I give heat; I am the rain which I send forth and hold back; I am immortality as well as death, O Arjuna, I am being, and also non-being.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“In the form of fire and the sun it is I alone that send out heat. I alone am both that by which the world lives and dies. Why say more? I am being and non-being.” —Being is that which exists in the present time. Non-being is that which existed in the past and that which may exist in the future, but does not exist at the present moment.

The gist is that, “I alone am existent, all the entities exist as My self-expression; all sentient and insentient beings existing in all states, constitute My corporeal manifestation. In this way, they (the wise) adore Me, contemplating upon My essential unity with the entire universe distinguished by names and forms and characterised by varied pluralities —all the diversities being only modalities of My self-expression.”

Thus, after illustrating the character of the noble-minded whose only enjoyment consists of the experience of the Lord, and in order to emphasise their greatness, Śrī Krishna describes the behaviour of ignorant men who are enrapt by the objects of desire.