Here is the second half of the Self-Governed Sage from Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad-Gita:

“He who attendeth to the inclinations of the senses, in them hath a concern; from this concern is created passion, from passion anger, from anger is produced delusion, from delusion a loss of the memory, from the loss of memory loss of discrimination, and from loss of discrimination loss of all! But he who, free from attachment or repulsion for objects, experienceth them through the senses and organs, with his heart obedient to his will, attains to tranquility of thought. And this tranquil state attained, therefrom shall soon result a separation from all troubles; and his mind being thus at ease, fixed upon one object, it embraceth wisdom from all sides. The man whose heart and mind are not at rest is without wisdom or the power of contemplation; who doth not practice reflection, hath no calm; and how can a man without calm obtain happiness? The uncontrolled heart, following the dictates of the moving passions, snatcheth away his spiritual knowledge, as the storm the bark upon the raging ocean. Therefore, O great-armed one, he is possessed of spiritual knowledge whose senses are withheld from objects of sense. What is night to those who are unenlightened is as day to his gaze; what seems as day is known to him as night, the night of ignorance. Such is the self-governed Sage!

Your thoughts, questions and comments please.

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What does it mean to make the "heart obedient to his will"? And what is tranquility of thought? Again is this related to the concept of contentment?


When studying sacred books that were written in Sanskrit, we always face questions of translation. These phrases are from verse 64 of chapter 2. For "heart obedient to his will," the Sanskrit is apparently (the translation is somewhat loose) vidheya-ātmā, literally, "he whose self (ātmā) is subdued (vidheya)." Other translators give this as "the disciplined self" (Annie Besant), "a man of disciplined mind" (S. Radhakrishnan), "he, governing his self" (Franklin Edgerton), "the self-controlled man" (Swami Chinmayananda), etc.

For "tranquility of thought," the Sanskrit is prasādam, translated as "peace" (Annie Besant), "purity of spirit" (S. Radhakrishnan), "tranquillity" (Franklin Edgerton), "peace" (Swami Chinmayananda), etc. Many other translations of this text are available, and it is always helpful to compare a few.


This is extremely helpful.  Do others have translations they like concerning this phrase Tamiko is pointing to: "Heart obedient to his will"?


rāgadveṣaviyuktais tu viṣayān indriyaiś caran
ātmavaśyair vidheyātmā prasādam adhigacchati

I believe this is the full Sanskrit of the verse (64). A few other translations:

"But who among things of sense uses his powers, freed from lust and hate, and controlled by the Soul, with soul well-disposed, he enters into peace." (Charles Johnston)

"But by perceiving objects with the organs that are free from attraction and repulsion, and are under his own control, the self-controlled man attains serenity." (Swami Gambhirananda)

"But the disciplined soul, moving among sense-objects with the senses
weaned from likes and dislikes and brought under the control of Atman, attains
peace of mind." (Mahatma Gandhi)


I think, looking at several translations, we can come to the heart of what is being said, and each find his own words to describe it. For me:

When we are able to use our power of perception without it being driven by our lower desires, which cause us to be attracted to or repulsed by what we perceive, and having that power of perception under the control of our higher Self (guided by the highest in us), we will find peace within.

I would imagine this "peace" to be a state of "ease", an "at-ease-ment" in any condition, because the outer conditions (and our desires for or against them) aren't what is driving our state. So we're depending on that which is within us, instead of that which is without us, so to speak.


To expand on Nicholas'  post, I would like to add the following, also from Sankaracharya; coming from 2.67;

"For, the mind which yields to the roving senses carries away his knowledge, as the wind (carries away) a ship on the water."

"For, the mind which yields to the senses engaged in their respective objects, i.e., the mind which is altogether engrossed in the thought of the various objects of the senses, destroys the devotee's discriminative knowledge of the Self and the not-Self. — How? — As the wind carries away a ship from the intended course of the sailors and drives her astray, so the mind carries away the devotee's consciousness from the Self and turns it towards sense-objects." [Sankaracharya]

So is it then pure devotion*, and nothing but devotion drives this ability to not become deviated due to the senses and sense objects?

*I know it may seem a little misleading, but devotion is the only word that comes to mind... I can only recognize this concept as a feeling. I dont mean to create any misconceptions by using the word devotion, but I believe we are dealing with a state of being at this point. Any ideas?


[I forgot to add one last thought, please take note]:
Remembering that compassion is a law and not an attribute, how can we fit this into the topic for this particular discussion?


Kristan, there is the great saying about the Wise Ones from Shankaracharya that speaks to your compassion reference in regards to the Self-Governed Sage.

"The Great and Peaceful Ones, live regenerating the world, like the coming of the spring. Having crossed the ocean of embodied existence themselves, the freely aid all others who seek to cross it.  The very essence and inherent will of Mahatmas is to remove the suffering of others, just as the ambrosia-rayed moon of itself cools the earth heated by the intense rays of the sun."    -from the Crest Jewel of Wisdom


Devotion is an interesting word, and I think I understand what you're getting at. We're dealing with an inward power or force of will directed in a certain way, I imagine. I would tend to look at devotion as perhaps something akin to "spiritual focus", or even perhaps something like "moral concentration". Perhaps we could say: a self-directed concentration upon the inward heart of all things—so as to constantly be consciously rooted in the oneness of the SELF (and to see that SELF in all things, and thus not get carried away by mayavic divisions, or likes and dislikes, etc.)?

Perhaps this idea of devotion also relates to Sankara's "fourth attainment": the "longing for liberation"? Perhaps in the "devotee" the attempt at this kind of "devotion" is experienced as a longing for that which is not yet fully realized (the SELF), but in the awakened sage it is experienced as peace, bliss, joy, tranquility, etc.?


Exactly Jon, exactly.  "Spiritual focus" and "moral concentration" are probably the best words to describe what I am getting at.  I am glad you understood!!

I believe HPB and Sankaracharya both introduce this aspect of devotion in The Voice of the Silence and Crest- Jewel of Wisdom.


What really leaps out to me in this selection is a handful of terms with one key similarity:

"tranquility of thought", "tranquil state", "at ease", "at rest", "calm", and from the first half of the selection: "content", "undisturbed", "happy", etc.

In the current selection, these come from two sanskrit terms: prasādam and śānti. And these seem to be used to exemplify the state of the sage.

And this is contrasted with the state of the "non-sage", with terms like:

"concern", "passion", "anger", "delusion", and from the first half of the selection: "anxiety", "fear", etc.

Now, we can look around us and see people who seem tranquil and at ease and peaceful, and we can see those who are passionate, angry, fearful, and so on. I'm sure we've all had days when we feel calm and peaceful, and days when we find ourselves angry or full of anxiety. So my question is: what is it that makes the sage's tranquility, ease, peace, calm, contentment, etc., greater than those glimpses we all have or see around us? Is it a difference in degree? Or a difference in kind? Or both?


In athletics you have the idea of being in the zone.  Great players have extraordinary moments when they are totally in tune with the game and play at the highest level.  But they can do it only momentarily and it slips away. Lesser players have a taste of this from time to time. So here you have the idea of a matter of degree and not of kind.

I suspect Sages have tuned all the instruments such that what they make look easy, maintaining harmony, is the result of immense practices.  

Take the highest states of mind that we have experienced, take the best golden moments and string them all together for a lifetime and we might have a glimmer of what being a Sage would be like.

The great guitarist Andres Segovia once said that people don't realize the thousands of hours of practice that goes into making his playing look easy.

Perhaps we could say the Sage is in constant touch with the Hidden Heart of Life while most of mankind is cut off from it through their own past actions.

"Alas, alas, that all men should possess Alaya, be one with the Great Soul, and that possessing it, Alaya should so little avail them!"  - The Voice of the Silence


What do you think about this chain reaction?

He who attendeth to the inclinations of the senses, in them hath a concern; from this concern is created passion, from passion anger, from anger is produced delusion, from delusion a loss of the memory, from the loss of memory loss of discrimination, and from loss of discrimination loss of all!

Sound familiar?

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Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on November 27, 2013 at 12:08pm

Sounds like the monkey mind, as you put it before Gerry, a well known story that we can all relate to.  

The translation I have reads as follows:

62. When a man thinks of objects, attachment for them arises.  From attachment arises desire; from desire arises wrath.
63.  From wrath arises delusion; from delusion, failure of memory; from failure of memory, loss of conscience; from loss of conscience he is utterly ruined.

Now it seems like by the loss of discrimination or conscience, our moral decisions may be drastically altered.  We've all experienced blinding emotions, if it be sorrow, grief, jealously, envy, anger, and so on, so it is not too hard to imagine what is meant by "the loss of discrimination" or "the loss of conscience."   Conscience is an interesting word used here, for when we understand what conscience means according to Websters, it holds; "The consciousness of the moral goodness or badness of ones acts or motives; a feeling of obligation to do what one holds to be right and avoid what is wrong."

Sounds like a by losing hold of that discriminative ability, the mind tends to sway towards the desire natures, and further away from "right knowledge."  Is this what it means to be "utterly ruined" ?

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 27, 2013 at 3:37pm

That's a good possibility, Kristan.   I wonder if the "ruin" might also refer to the fact that even the wise man who has made progress on the path can be undone if the mind is allowed to chase after objects of the senses.  This would refer back to the earlier verse:

II, 60: The turbulent senses, O son of Kunti, violently carry off the mind even of a wise man striving for perfection.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on November 28, 2013 at 8:44am

Conscience is indeed an interesting word here, which I see comes from the 1897 translation by Alladi Mahadeva Sastry. The Sanskrit word behind "conscience" or "discrimination" here is buddhi. This is a Sanskrit word that we know from our Theosophical studies on the seven human principles. For me, knowing what the Sanskrit word is is a necessity, because the English translations can vary considerably from one another.

The translation of the Bhagavad Gita by S. Radhakrishnan gives the Sanskrit verse in roman letters, and I used to use this to try to see what Sanskrit word was being used. Later, after learning the devanagari script, I used the Annie Besant translation that includes word by word meanings by Bhagavan Das. The word by word meanings given by Bhagavan Das are the most carefully done that I have ever seen, in the forty or so English translations of the Bhagavad Gita that Nancy and I have collected. He tries to give the basic meaning of the word whenever possible, even if it is given a more contextual meaning in Besant's translation. He also tries to give the corresponding grammatical form whenever possible. That is, when the Sanskrit word is a past passive participle, he tries to give for it an English past passive participle. He also gives the traditional analysis or construal of the Sanskrit compounds that Sanskrit pandits use. We have not found this elsewhere. This book is a wonderful tool for learning Sanskrit.

The Besant/Das translation gives the Sanskrit words only in devanagari script, not in roman script. Torkom Saraydarian once said that it is easy to learn devanagari: just take one letter per day. We followed his advice, and found that it is true. But actually we usually took two related letters a day: the short and long forms of a vowel, or the unaspirate and aspirate forms of a consonant.

For those who do not wish to learn the devanagari script, there are three English translations that give word by word meanings and give the Sanskrit in both devanagari and roman script. These are by Swami Chidbhavananda, by Swami Chinmayananda, and by Winthrop Sargeant. The Sargeant translation also gives grammatical information. However, after seeing too many errors in this grammatical information, we stopped using this book. The Swami Chidbhavananda translation is a single book of over a thousand pages. I see that some copies are available, listed on, and they are inexpensive. The Swami Chinmayananda translation that has the word by word meanings is not the single volume that is widely available. It is a set of 15 slim paperbound volumes. The whole set can be had at the bargain price of $25 from Chinmaya Publications ( There are three or four different spellings of the title on the books themselves. You must look it up on their website under "Bhagavad-Gita (Chapters Set)" where it is item no. AG17.

There is no such thing as a definitive translation of the Bhagavad Gita, for the simple reason that we do not have in English straight across equivalents for such words as buddhi.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 28, 2013 at 11:07am

David thank you for all this. 

For the reasons you have so clearly stated we cannot and should not become too doctrinaire in our interpretations of the Gita.  We absolutely must maintain some flexibility of perspective to accommodate the varieties of meaning that are necessary to more fully understand Sanskrit terms.  Sanskrit is a spiritual language, it is after all 'the language of the gods'.   English is by and large a commercial language focused upon the machinations of the physical world.  The great English poets and the inspired work of men like Whitman and Emerson in the Americas, has helped to bend the language back towards inner realms.  But I am sure it is a paltry paint set compared to the parent language of Sanskrit.

I am certain that terms like Atman, Buddhi, Manas, Manvantara, Pralaya, Mahatma, Karma etc., although familiar to many a student, have depths of meaning that we are only just beginning to understand.  Yet for many of us it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that many years of being familiar with these terms gives us sufficient understanding of them.  It  does not.  The test of our knowledge is in its use, like the evidence of skill in a sport is in the playing.

It will be in the use of these ideas that we will discover the holes in our understanding.

For these reasons I believe it is crucial for the student of theosophy to work hard to gain a grasp of all the core principle ideas and push them deeper and deeper into the metaphysical dimension while looking for their relevance to living a human life. We have a wealth of assistance in gaining a foothold in metaphysical meanings of ancient philosophical ideas, Sanskrit or otherwise, in the work of people like HPB and Judge.  There are others too but these two have done so much to clarify the richness of meaning of the key ideas of the East.

I believe the more well rounded our study is, the more we see the pieces of the philosophy fit into a single whole pattern, the more we recognize that the Gupta Vidya is the hidden wisdom behind the universe and ourselves,  the better equipped we become to plumb the depths of these rich Sanskrit and spiritual terms.

It is a privilege to pursue this study with all of you. It makes me want to give thanks to everyone in the group who is participating.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on November 28, 2013 at 4:54pm

Gerry, I surely do agree with your reasoning here:

"For these reasons I believe it is crucial for the student of theosophy to work hard to gain a grasp of all the core principle ideas and push them deeper and deeper into the metaphysical dimension while looking for their relevance to living a human life. We have a wealth of assistance in gaining a foothold in metaphysical meanings of ancient philosophical ideas, Sanskrit or otherwise, in the work of people like HPB and Judge."

I think we have a clear example of this in what Judge wrote in his "Antecedent Words" to his translation of the Bhagavad Gita. His seems to have been the eighth English translation of this text to be published. As far as I know, he was the first translator to point out that the Bhagavad Gita can be interpreted as the story of the evolutionary journey of the soul through the warring of the lower nature with the higher nature. It is a wonderful text as it is, but it is even more valuable with the Theosophical interpretation. Judge wrote:

"This quotation from Thomson's edition gives the student a brief statement of what is more or less mythological and allegorical, but if the story of theMahabharata be taken as that of Man in his evolutionary development, as I think it ought to be, the whole can be raised from the plane of fable, and the student will then have before him an account, to some extent, of that evolution.

"Thus looking at it from the theosophical point of view, the king Dhritarashtra is the human body which is acquired by the immortal monad in order to go through the evolutionary journey; the mortal envelope is brought into existence by means of Tanha, or thirst for life. He is blind because the body without the faculties within is merely senseless matter, and thus is "incapacitated for governing," and some other person is represented in theMahabharata as being the governor of the state, the nominal king being the body — Dhritarashtra. As the theosophical scheme holds that there is a double line of evolution within us, we find that the Kurus spoken of in the poem represent the more material side of those two lines, and the Pandava princes, of whom Arjuna is one, stand for the spiritual side of the stream — that is, Arjuna represents the immortal Spark."

His valuable comments continue for a few more paragraphs, which can now easily be read online:

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on November 28, 2013 at 7:33pm

Thanks, Nicholas, for this link. Glad to see that there is an online version giving the Sanskrit in roman script and word by word meanings. Among the publications that give word by word meanings, there are different ways of doing so. Here, they are made to pretty much follow the given translation of the verse, rather than the basic meaning of the words themselves.

Thus, in chapter 2, verse 62, the given translation has the phrase, "from attachment desires are born." In the Sanskrit, however, this is singular, "desire is born." In the word by word, the singular kāmaḥ is given as "desires," and likewise the singular verb is given as plural, "are born." This is no problem in terms of the idea expressed, but it is a problem if a person is trying to learn Sanskrit by using this source.

In verse 64 of chapter 2, the given translation has the phrase, "while amidst objects of the senses." In the word by word, "while amidst" is given as the meaning of the Sanskrit word caran. This word, however, is a present participle, which means "moving." Since verb-forms such as this are not given in Sanskrit dictionaries, a student might have difficulty in trying to figure out what this word is from the meaning, "while amidst." Bhagavan Das, Swami Chinmayananda, and Swami Chidbhavananda all give "moving" for it in their word by word meanings.

As noted here earlier, the word prasādam in verse 64 has been translated as "tranquility of thought," "peace," "purity of spirit," "serenity," etc. In the translation under discussion, this word is given as: "the precious mercy of the Ultimate Personality."

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 29, 2013 at 9:01pm

We also have multiple translations and links, including links to the gita in devanagri and romanized sanskrit on our UT site:

Bhagavad Gita

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on November 27, 2013 at 2:44pm

Is this chain reaction something we go through every time we lose our temper, or become overcome by fear, or lose our perspective on what is important by succumbing to anxiety? (Anxiety, fear and anger are all mentioned in the passage.)  If so it appears that the chain begins by an excessive attention to externals. The Buddha teaches to guard against this with mindfulness.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 29, 2013 at 9:13pm

I imagine it's a chain-reaction we can all relate to in our own lives. We pay attention to something (whether it be the news, or someone's story, or something on social-media, etc.), and we have a reaction to it (either bothered by it, or perhaps elated by it, or anything in between), and that reaction causes us to respond emotionally to the issue. That emotional response clouds our judgment, even if the "delusion" caused is simply to fall back into the false-idea that other people are separate from us (and maybe they're "evil", or maybe they're the most wonderful human ever, in our minds; in either case we separate ourselves from them). That may be the "loss of memory" mentioned: i.e. we lose the memory of our oneness with others, or our oneness with that which we are observing, etc.. From this loss of memory we're then acting from a place of ignorance and separation and emotion and our discrimination is lost. Maybe we unwisely praise someone or put them on a pedestal; maybe we lash out against someone. And in acting in this way we lose all, because we lose our Self.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on November 30, 2013 at 1:24pm

The challenge appears to be where the mind tends to go.  If it goes to externals then desires are triggered. Perhaps you cannot ignore the original problem of identifying with a separative self and a mind focused on "externals" (I wonder if there are externals for the SGS?) I found this passage from the Dhammapada helpful:

"By sustained effort, mindfulness, discipline and self-control, let the wise man make for himself an island which no flood can engulf.

The ignorant and foolish indulge in heedlessness; the wise man guards his mindfulness as his greatest resource."      Mindfulness 5 and 6

Permalink Reply by barbaram on December 1, 2013 at 5:06pm

Maintaining mindfulness is a challenge.  If we can control the mind, we can control desire, since thought precedes desire. 

I hope there is the possibility that even we focus on the externals, our consciousness can still stay in the SELF.  Perhaps, if we change our paradigm relating to life as you versus me or subject versus object to viewing all life as the manifestation of the One, then, our awareness will always remain in SELF.