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Bhagavat Gita - Song Celestial

( Originally Published 1939 )

Arjuna Asks, How Can He Kill Good Men in Battle?

HOW can I, in the battle, shoot with shafts On Bhishma, or on Drona, O thou Chief! Both worshipful, both honourable men?

Better to live on beggar's bread

With those we love alive,

Than taste their blood in rich feasts spread, And guiltily survive!

Ah! were it wors,who knows? To be Victor or vanquished here,

When those confront us angrily

Whose death leaves living drear?

In pity lost, by doubtings tossed,

My thoughts distracted turn To Thee, the Guide I reverence most,

That I may counsel learn:

I know not what would heal the grief Burned into soul and sense,

If I were earth's unchallenged chief A god and these gone hence!

Krishna Answers

Thou grievest where no grief should be! thou speak'st

Words Iacking wisdom ! for the wise in heart Mourn not for those that live, nor those that die, Nor I, nor thou, nor any one of these,

Ever was not, nor ever will not be,

For ever and for ever afterwards.

All, that doth live, lives always ! To man's frame As there come infancy and youth and age, So come there raisings-up and layings-down Of other and of other life-abodes,

Which the wise know, and fear not.


THE soul that with a strong and constant calm Takes sorrow and takes joy indifferently, Lives in the life undying! That which is

Can never cease to be; that which is not Will not exist. To see this truth of both Is theirs who part essence from accident, Substance from shadow. Indestructible,

Learn thou ! the life is, spreading life through all; It cannot anywhere, by any means,

Be anywise diminished, stayed, or changed.

Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;

Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!

Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit for ever;

Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems !

Nay, but as when one layeth

His worn-out robes away,

And, taking new ones, sayeth,

"These will I wear today!" So putteth by the spirit

Lightly its garb of flesh, And passeth to inherit

A residence afresh.

I SAY to thee weapons reach not the Life; FIame burns it not, waters cannot o'erwhelm, Nor dry winds wither it. Impenetrable, Unentered, unassailed, unharmed, untouched, Immortal, all-arriving, stable, sure,

Invisible, ineffable, by word

And thought uncompassed, ever all itself,

Thus is the Soul declared! How wilt thou, then, Knowing it so, grieve when thou shouldst not


How, if thou hearest that the man new-dead Is, like the man new-born, still living man --One same, existent Spirit wilt thou weep? The end of birth is death; the end of death

Is birth; this is ordained ! and mournest thou, Chief of the stalwart arm! for what befalls Which could not otherwise befall? The birth Of living things comes unperceived; the death Comes unperceived; between them, beings perceive:

What is there sorrowful herein, dear Prince?



THIS Life within aII living things, my Prince! Hides beyond harm; scorn thou to suffer, then, For that which cannot suffer. Do thy part! Be mindful of thy name, and tremble not ! Nought better can betide a martial soul

Than Iawful war; happy the warrior

To whom comes joy of battle comes, as now, GIorious and fair, unsought; opening for him A gateway unto Heav'n. But, if thou shunn'st This honourable fielda Kshattriya

If, knowing thy duty and thy task, thou bidd'st Duty and task go by that shall be sin! And those to come shaII speak thee infamy From age to age; but infamy is worse

For men of noble blood to bear than death! The chiefs upon their battle-chariots

Will deem 'twas fear that drove thee from the fray.


HEAR now the deeper teaching of the Yog, Which holding, understanding, thou shalt burst Thy Karmabandh, the bondage of wrought deeds. Here shall no end be hindered, no hope marred, No loss be feared : yea, a little faith

Shall save thee from the anguish of thy dread. Here, Glory of the Kurus! shines one rule --One steadfast rule while shifting souls have laws Many and hard

Specious, but wrongful deem The speech of those ill-taught ones who extol The letter of their Vedas, saying, "This Is all we have, or need;" being weak at heart With wants, seekers of Heaven : which comes they say

As "fruit of good deeds done;" promising men Much profit in new births for works of faith; In various rites abounding; foIIowing whereon Large merit shall accrue towards wealth and power;

Albeit, who wealth and power do most desire Least fixity of soul have such, least hold

On heavenly meditation. Much these teach From Veda, concerning the "three qualities;"

But thou, be free of the "three qualities," Free of the "pairs of opposites," and free From that sad righteousness which calculates Self-ruled, Arjuna! simple, satisfied!

Look! like as when a tank pours water forth To suit all needs, so do these Brahmans draw Text for all wants from tank of Holy Writ.

But thou, want not! ask not! Find fuII reward Of doing right in right! Let right deeds be Thy motive, not the fruit which comes from them.

And live in action! Labour! Make thine acts Thy piety, casting all self aside,

Contemning gain and merit; equable In good or evil: equability Is Yog, is piety!

RIGHT THOUGHT YET, the right act Is Iess, far Iess, than the right-thinking mind. Seek refuge in thy soul; have there thy heaven! Scorn them that follow virtue for her gifts! The mind of pure devotion even here Casts equally aside good deeds and bad, Passing above them. Unto pure devotion Devote thyself; with perfect meditation

Comes perfect act, and the right-hearted rise --More certainly because they seek no gain Forth from the bands of body, step by step, To highest seats of bliss. When thy firm soul Hath shaken off those tangled oracles Which ignorantly guide, then shall it soar

To high neglect of what's denied or said, This way or that way, in doctrinal writ. Troubled no longer by the priestly lore, Safe shall it live, and sure; steadfastly bent On meditation. This is Yog and Peace!

When one, 0 Pritha's Son! Abandoning desires which shake the mind - Finds in his soul full comfort for his soul,

He hath attained the Yog that man is such! In sorrows not dejected, and in joys

Not overjoyed; dwelling outside the stress Of passion, fear, and anger; fixed in calms Of lofty contemplation; such an one Is Muni, is the Sage, the true Recluse!

He who to none and nowhere overbound By ties of flesh, takes evil things and good Neither desponding nor exalting, such Bears wisdom's plainest mark!Yet may it chance,

O Son of Kunti! that a governed mind

Shall some time feel the sense-storms sweep, and wrest

Strong selfcontrol by the roots. Let him regain His kingdom! let him conquer this, and sit On Me intent. That man alone is wise

Who keeps the mastery of himself! If one Ponders on objects of the sense, there springs Attraction; from attraction grows desire, Desire flames to fierce passion, passion breeds

Recklessness; then the memory , all betrayed Lets noble purpose go, and saps the mind, Till purpose, mind, and man are all undone.


BUT, if one deals with objects of the sense Not loving and not hating, making them Serve his free soul, which rests serenely lord, Lo! such a man comes to tranquillity

And out of that tranquillity shall rise The end and healing of his earthly pains, Since the will governed sets the soul at peace.

And like the ocean, day by day receiving

FIoods from all lands, which never overflows; Its boundary-line not Ieaping, and not Ieaving,

Fed by the rivers, but unswelled by those;

So is the perfect one! to his soul's ocean

The world of sense pours streams of witchery, They leave him as they find, without commotion, Taking their tribute, but remaining sea.


THOU whom all mortals praise, Janardana! If meditation be a nobler thing Than action, wherefore, then, great Kesava!

Dost thou impel me to this dreadful fight? Now am I by thy doubtful speech disturbed! Tell me one thing, and tell me certainly; By what road shall I find the better end?

Krishna Answers:

I told thee, blameless Lord! there be two paths Shown to this world; two schools of wisdom.--First

The Sankhya's, which doth save in way of works Prescribed by reason; next, the Yog, which bids Attain by meditation, spiritually;

Yet these are one! No man shall 'scape from act By shunning action; nay, and none shall come By mere renouncements unto perfectness. Nay, and no jot of time, at any time,

Rests any actionless; his nature's law

Compels him, even unwilling, into act;

(For thought is act in fancy). He who sits Suppressing all the instruments of flesh,

Yet in his idle heart thinking on them,

Plays the inept and guilty hypocrite:

But he who, with strong body serving mind, Gives up his mortal powers to worthy work, Not seeking gain, Arjuna! such an one Is honourable.

Do thine allotted task! Work is more excellent than idleness;

The body's life proceeds not, lacking work.

There is a task of holiness to do,

Unlike world-binding toil, which bindeth not The faithful soul; such earthly duty do

Free from desire, and thou shalt well perform Thy heavenly purpose.

He that abstains

To help the rolling wheels of this great world, Glutting his idle sense, lives a lost life, Shameful and vain. Existing for himself, Self-concentrated, serving self alone,

No part hath he in aught; nothing achieved, Nought wrought or unwrought toucheth him; no hope

Of help for all the living things of earth

Depends from him. Therefore, thy task pre-scribed

With spirit unattached gladly perform,

Since in performance of plain duty man

Mounts to his highest bliss.

Arjuna Asks:

Yet teII me, Teacher! by what force doth man Go to his ill, unwilling; as if one

Pushed him that evil path?

Krishna Answers:

Kama it is! Passion it is! born of the Darknesses,

Which pusheth him. Mighty of appetite, Sinful, and strong is this! man's enemy!

As smoke blots the white fire, as clinging rust Mars the bright mirror, as the womb surrounds The babe unborn, so in the world of things Foiled, soiled, enclosed in this desire of flesh. The wise fall, caught in it; the unresting foe It is of wisdom, wearing countless forms, Fair but deceitful, subtle as a flame.

Sense, mind, and reason these, 0 Kunti's Son! Are booty for it; in its play with these

It maddens man, beguiling, blinding him. Therefore, thou noblest child of Bharata! Govern thy heart! Constrain th'entangled sense!

Resist the false, soft sinfulness which saps Knowledge and judgment! Yea, the world is strong,

But what discerns it stronger, and the mind Strongest; and high o'er all the ruling Soul. Wherefore, perceiving Him who reigns supreme, Put forth full force of Soul in thy own soul! Fight! vanquish foes and doubts, dear Hero! slay What haunts thee in fond shapes, and would



Needs must one rightly meditate those three --Doing, not doing, and undoing. Here Thorny and dark the path is! He who sees

How action may be rest, rest action he Is wisest 'mid his kind; he hath the truth! He doeth well, acting or resting. Freed

In all his works from prickings of desire, Burned clean in act by the white fire of truth, The wise call that man wise; and such an one, Renouncing fruit of deeds, always content.


THE sacrifice

Which Knowledge pays is better than great gifts Offered by wealth, since gifts' worth -- 0 my Prince!

Lies in the mind which gives, the will that serves: And these are gained by reverence, by strong search,

By humble heed of those who see the Truth

And teach it. Knowing Truth, thy heart no more

Will ache with error, for the Truth shall show All things subdued to thee, as thou to Me.

The flame of Knowledge wastes works' dross away !

There is no purifier like thereto

In all this world, and he who seeketh it

Shall find it being grown perfect in himself. Believing, he receives it when the soul

Masters itself, and cleaves to Truth, and comes Possessing knowledge to the higher peace,

The uttermost repose. But those untaught, And those without full faith, and those who fear Are shent; no peace is here or otherwhere,

No hope, nor happiness for who so doubts.

He that, being self-contained, hath vanquished doubt,

Disparting self from service, soul from works, Enlightened and emancipate, my Prince ! Works fetter him no more! Cut then atwain With sword of wisdom, Son of Bharata!

This doubt that binds thy heart-beats! cleave the bond

Born of thy ignorance! Be bold and wise! Give thyself to the field with me! Arise!


Arjuna Asks:

YET, Krishna! at the one time thou dost laud Surcease of works, and, at another time,

Service through work. Of these twain plainly tell

Which is the better way?

Krishna Answers:

To cease from works Is well, and to do works in holiness

Is well; and both conduct to bliss supreme; But of these twain the better way is his Who working piously refraineth not.

'Tis the new scholar talks as they were two, This Sankhyan and this Yoga : wise men know Who husbands one plucks golden fruit of both! The region of high rest which Sankhyans reach Yogins attain. Who sees these twain as one Sees with clear eyes !


RELIGION is not his who too much fasts Or too much feasts, nor his who sleeps away An idle mind; nor his who wears to waste His strength in vigils. Nay, Arjuna! call That the true piety which most removes Earthaches and ills, where one is moderate In eating, and in resting, and in sport; Measured in wish and act sleeping betimes, Waking betimes for duty.


WHEN mind broods placid, soothed with holy wont,

When Self contemplates self, and in itself

Hath comfort; when it knows the nameless joy Beyond all scope of sense, revealed to soul Only to soul ! and, knowing, wavers not, True to the farther Truth; when, holding this, It deems no other treasure comparable,

But, harboured there, cannot be stirred or shook

By any gravest grief, call that state "peace," That happy severance Yoga; call that man The perfect Yogin!


Bur, as often as the heart

Breaks wild and wavering from control, so oft

Let him recurb it, let him rein it back To the soul's governance; for perfect bliss Grows only in the bosom tranquillised,

The spirit passionless, purged from offence, Vowed to the Infinite. He who thus vows His soul to the Supreme Soul, quitting sin, Passes unhindered to the endless bliss

Of unity with. Brahma. THE UNATTAINING

Arjuna Asks:

AND what road goeth he who, having faith, Fails, Krishna! in the striving; falling back From holiness, missing the perfect rule?

Is he not lost, straying from Brahma's light, Like the vain cloud, which floats 'twixt earth and heaven

When lightning splits it, and it vanisheth? Fain would I hear thee answer me herein,

Since, Krishna! none save thou can clear the doubt.

Krishna Answers:

He is not lost, thou Son of Pritha! No!

Nor earth, nor heaven is forfeit, even for him, Because no heart that holds one right desire Treadeth the road of loss ! He who should fail, Desiring righteousness, cometh at death Unto the Region of the Just; dwells there Measureless years, and being born anew, Beginneth Iife again in some fair home Amid the mild and happy. It may chance He doth descend into a Yogin house

On Virtue's breast; but that is rare! Such birth Is hard to be obtained on this earth, Chief! So hath he back again what heights of heart He did achieve, and so he strives anew To perfectness, with better hope, dear Prince! For by the old desire he is drawn on.

Unwittingly; and only to desire

The purity of Yog is to pass

Beyond the Sabdabrahm, the spoken Ved.

But, being Yogi, striving strong and long, Purged from transgressions, perfected by births FoIIowing on births, he plants his feet at last Upon the further path. Such an one ranks Above ascetics, higher than the wise, Beyond achievers of vast deeds! Be thou Yogi Arjuna! and of such believe,

Truest and best is he who worships Me With inmost soul, stayed on My Mystery!


OF many thousand mortals, one, perchance, Striveth for Truth; and of those few that strive Nay, and rise high one only here and there Knoweth Me, as I am, the very Truth.

Earth, water, flame, air, ether, life, and mind, And individuality those eight Make up the showing of Me, Manifest.

These be my lower Nature; learn the higher, Whereby, thou Valiant One! this Universe Is, by its principle of life, produced;

Whereby the worlds of visible things are born As from a Yoni. Know! I am that womb; I make and I unmake this Universe; Than me there is no other Master, Prince!

No other Maker! All these hang on me As hangs a row of pearls upon its string. I am the fresh taste of the water; I the silver of the moon, the gold o' the sun, The word of worship in the Veda, the thrill That passeth in the ether, and the strength Of man's shed seed.

I am the good sweet smell Of the moistened earth, I am the fire's red light, The vital air moving in all which moves, The holiness of hollowed souls, the root Undying, whence hath sprung whatever is;

The wisdom of the wise, the intellect Of the informed, the greatness of the great The splendour of the splendid.


THERE be those, too, whose knowledge, turned aside

By this desire or that, gives them to serve

Some lower gods, with various rites, constrained By that which mouldeth them. Unto all such Worship what shrine they will, what shapes, in faith 'Tis I who give them faith! I am content! The heart thus asking favour from its God, Darkened but ardent, hath the end it craves, The Iesser blessing but 'tis I who give!

Yet soon is withered what small fruit they reap: Those men of little minds, who worship so,

Go where they worship, passing with their gods.


BUT Mine come unto me! Blind are the eyes Which deem th' Unmanifested manifest, Not comprehending Me in my true Self! Imperishable, viewless, undeclared,

Hidden behind my magic veil of shows, I am not seen by all; I am not known Unborn and changeless to the idle world. But I, Arjuna! know all things which were,

And all which are, and all which are to be, Albeit not one among them knoweth Me!

The minds untaught mistake Me, veiled in form;

Nought see they of My secret Presence, nought Of My hid Nature, ruling all which Iives. Vain hopes pursuing, vain deeds doing; fed On vainest knowledge, senselessly they seek An evil way, the way of brutes and fiends.


BUT My Mahatmas, those of noble soul Who tread the path celestial, worship Me

With hearts unwandering, knowing Me the Source,

Th' Eternal Source, of Life. Unendingly They glorify Me; seek Me; keep their vows Of reverence and love, with changeless faith Adoring Me. Yea, and those too adore, Who, offering sacrifice of wakened hearts, Have sense of one pervading Spirit's stress, One Force in every place, though manifold! I am the Sacrifice! I am the Prayer! I am the Funeral-Cake set for the dead! I am the healing herb! I am the ghee,

The Mantra, and the flame, and that which burns! I am of all this boundless Universe --The Father, Mother, Ancestor, and Guard! The end of Learning! That which purifies In IustraI water! I am OM! I am Rig-Veda, Sama-Veda, Yajur-Ved;

The Way, the Fosterer, the Lord, the Judge, The Witness; the Abode, the Refuge-House, The Friend, the Fountain and the Sea of Life Which sends, and swallows up; Treasure of Worlds And Treasure-Chamber! Seed and Seed-Sower, Whence endless harvests spring! Sun's heat is mine;

Heaven's rain is mine to grant or to withhold; Death am I, and Immortal Life I am,

Arjuna! Sat and Asat, Visible Life, And Life Invisible!


I AM alike for all ! I know not hate,

I know not favour! What is made is Mine! But them that worship Me with love, I love; They are in Me, and I in them!

Nay, Prince! If one of evil Iife turn in his thought

Straightly to Me, count him amidst the good; He hath the high way chosen; he shall grow Righteous ere Iong; he shall attain that peace Which changes not. Thou Prince of India!

Be certain none can perish, trusting Me! O Pritha's Son! who so will turn to Me!

Though they be born from the very womb of Sin,

Woman or man; sprung of the Vaisya caste Or IowIy disregarded Sudra, all

Plant foot upon the highest path; how then The holy Brahmans and My Royal Saints? Ah! ye who into this ill world are come Fleeting and false set your faith fast on Me! Fix heart and thought on Me! Adore Me! Bring Offerings to Me! Make Me prostrations! Make Me your supremest joy! and, undivided,

Unto My rest your spirits shall be guided.


HUMBLENESS, truthfulness, and harmlessness,

Patience and honour, reverence for the wise, Purity, constancy, control of self, Contempt of sense-delights, self-sacrifice, Perception of the certitude of ill

In birth, death, age, disease, suffering, and sin; Detachment, lightIy holding unto home, Children, and wife, and all that bindeth men; An ever-tranquil heart in fortunes good And fortunes evil, with a will set firm To worship Me Me only! ceasing not; Loving all solitudes, and shunning noise Of foolish crowds; endeavours resolute To reach perception of the Utmost Soul, And grace to understand what gain it were So to attain, this is true Wisdom, Prince! And what is otherwise is ignorance!

Who so thus knows himself, and knows his soul PURUSHA, working through the qualities

With Nature's modes, the light hath come for him!

Whatever flesh he bears, never again Shall he take on its load. Some few there be By meditation find the Soul in Self.

Self-schooled; and some by long philosophy And holy life reach thither; some by works: Some, never so attaining, hear of Iight

From other lips, and seize, and cleave to it Worshipping; yea! and those to teaching true Overpass Death!


SATTWAN, Rajas, and Tamas, so are named The qualities of Nature, "Soothfastness," "Passion," and "Ignorance." These three bind down.

The changeless Spirit in the changeful flesh, Whereof sweet "Soothfastness," by purity Living unsullied and enlightened, binds

The sinless Soul to happiness and truth;

And Passion, being kin to appetite,

And breeding impulse and propensity,

Binds the embodied Soul, 0 Kunti's Son! By tie of work. But Ignorance, begot

Of Darkness, blinding mortal men, binds down Their souls to stupor, sloth, and drowsiness.

Yea, Prince of India! Soothfastness binds souls In pleasant wise to flesh; and Passion binds By toilsome strain; but Ignorance, which blots The beams of wisdom, binds the soul to sloth. Passion and Ignorance, once overcome,

Leave Soothfastness, 0 Bharata! Where this With Ignorance are absent, Passion rules; And Ignorance in hearts not good nor quick. When at all gateways of the Body shines The Lamp of Knowledge, then may one see well Soothfastness settled in that city reigns.

Where Ionging is, and ardour, and unrest, Impulse to strive and gain, and avarice,

Those spring from Passion Prince engrained; and where

Darkness and dulness, sloth and stupor are, 'Tis Ignorance hath caused them, Kuru Chief!

Moreover, when a soul departeth, fixed In Soothfastness, it goeth to the place

Perfect and pure of those that know all Truth. If it departeth in set habitude

Of Impulse, it shall pass into the world Of spirits tied to works; and if it dies

In hardened Ignorance, that blinded soul Is born anew in some unlighted womb.

The fruit of Soothfastness is true and sweet; The fruit of lusts is pain and toil; the fruit Of Ignorance is deeper darkness. Yea!

For Light brings light, and Passion ache to have; And gloom, bewilderments, and ignorance Grow forth from Ignorance. Those of the first Rise ever higher; those of the second mode Take a mid place; the darkened souls sink back To Iower deeps, loaded with witlessness!


Arjuna Asks:

Oh, my Lord!

Which be the signs to know him that hath gone Past the Three Modes? How liveth he? What way Leadeth him safe beyond the threefold Modes?

Krishna Answers:

He who with equanimity surveys

Lustre of goodness, strife of passion, sloth Of ignorance, not angry if they are,

Not wishful when they are not: he who sits A sojourner and stranger in their midst Unruffled, standing off, saying serene When troubles break, "These be the Qualities!' He unto whom self-centred grief and joy Sound as one word; to whose deep-seeing eyes The clod, the marble, and the gold are one; Whose equal heart holds the same gentleness For IoveIy and unlovely things, firm-set, Well-pleased in praise and dispraise; satisfied With honour or dishonour; unto friends And unto foes alike in tolerance;

Detached from undertakings, he is named Surmounter of the Qualities!


WHEN in this world of manifested life, The undying Spirit, setting forth from Me, Taketh on form, it draweth to itself

From Being's storehouse, which containeth all Senses and intellect.

The Sovereign Soul Thus entering the flesh, or quitting it,

Gathers these up, as the wind gathers scents, Blowing above the flower-beds. Ear and Eye, And Touch and Taste, and Smelling, these it takes,

Yea, and a sentient mind; linking itself To sense-things so.


FEARLESSNESS, singleness of soul, the will Always to strive for wisdom; opened hand And governed appetites; and piety,

And Iove of Ionely study; humbleness, Uprightness, heed to injure nought which lives, Truthfulness, slowness unto wrath, a mind That lightly letteth go what others prize And equanimity, and charity

Which spieth no man's faults; and tenderness Towards all that suffer; a contented heart, FIuttered by no desires; a bearing mild,

Modest, and grave, with manhood nobly mixed, With patience, fortitude, and purity;

An unrevengefuI spirit, never given To rate itself too high; such be the signs, O Indian Prince! of him whose feet are set On that fair path which leads to heavenly birth!


THE HE gift IovingIy given, when one shall say "Now must I gladly give!" when he who takes Can render nothing back; made in due place, Due time, and to a meet recipient,

Is gift of Sattwan, fair and profitable. The gift selfishly given where to receive

Is hoped again, or when some end is sought, Or where the gift is proffered with a grudge, This is of Rajas, stained with impulse, ill.

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