Here are some passages from the first part of Chapter 2. Please comment, raise questions or make correlations. 

Abandon, O tormenter of thy 
foes, this despicable weakness of thy heart, and stand up.”

"Arjuna having thus spoken to Krishna, became silent, saying: “I shall not fight, 
O Govinda.” Krishna, tenderly smiling, addressed these words to the prince 
thus standing downcast between the two armies:"

" I myself never was not, nor thou, nor all the princes of the earth; nor shall we ever hereafter cease to be. As the lord of this mortal frame experienceth therein infancy, youth, and old age, so in future incarnations will it meet the same. One who is confirmed in this belief is not disturbed by anything that may come to pass."

"These finite bodies, which envelop the souls inhabiting 
them, are said to belong to Him, the eternal, the indestructible, unprovable 
Spirit, who is in the body: wherefore, O Arjuna, resolve to fight."

"As a man throweth away old garments and putteth on new, even so the dweller in the 
body, having quitted its old mortal frames, entereth into others which are new. 
The weapon divideth it not, the fire burneth it not, the water corrupteth it not, 
the wind drieth it not away; for it is indivisible, inconsumable, incorruptible, 
and is not to be dried away: it is eternal, universal, permanent, immovable; it is 
invisible, inconceivable, and unalterable; therefore, knowing it to be thus, thou 
shouldst not grieve."

"This spirit can never be destroyed in the mortal frame which it inhabiteth, 
hence it is unworthy for thee to be troubled for all these mortals. Cast but thine 
eyes towards the duties of thy particular tribe, and it will ill become thee to 
tremble. A soldier of the Kshatriya tribe hath no duty superior to lawful war, 
and just to thy wish the door of heaven is found open before thee, through this 
glorious unsought fight which only fortune’s favored soldiers may obtain."

Read the whole chapter in the Mr. Judge version  here.  Please compare with other versions if you will.

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We've added the second chapter of the Gita to the homepage on Universal Theosophy, for students to use while we engage in our study. Here's the link:

Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2


" I myself never was not, nor thou, nor all the princes of the earth; nor shall we ever hereafter cease to be. As the lord of this mortal frame experienceth therein infancy, youth, and old age, so in future incarnations will it meet the same. One who is confirmed in this belief is not disturbed by anything that may come to pass."  (Ch2:12-13)

The starting point of Krishna's teaching is the differentiation between the Real and the unreal - between that which is permanent in our constitution and that which undergoes change.  


This is a good way of looking at it - from the point of unity manifesting into duality.


" Some regard the indwelling spirit as a wonder, whilst some speak and others hear of it with astonishment; but no one realizes it, although he may have heard it described. This spirit can never be destroyed in the mortal frame which it inhabiteth, hence it is unworthy for thee to be troubled for all these mortals." 


How might we define the indwelling spirit Krishna is talking about here?


And why do you suppose he starts there?


If the battle ground - whether 'within' or 'without' - is about the reestablishment of Dharma or universal law it would be important to know just what is the foundation on which all things rest.  What is Imperishable and therefore worth fighting for or striving towards? What is merely evanescent, continually undergoing change and not worth clinging too?  How will Arjuna know what is the right action to take if he does not know the difference between these too? So, I suppose this could be one reason why Krishna makes this the starting point for his teaching.


“The unwise, delighting in the controversies of the Vedas, tainted with worldly lusts, and preferring a transient enjoyment of heaven to eternal absorption, whilst they declare there is no other reward, pronounce, for the attainment of worldly riches and enjoyments, flowery sentences which promise rewards in future births for present action, ordaining also many special ceremonies the fruit of which is merit leading to power and objects of enjoyment. But those who thus desire riches and enjoyment have no certainty of soul and least hold on meditation. The subject of the Vedas is the assemblage of the three qualities. Be thou free from these qualities, O Arjuna! Be free from the ‘pairs of opposites’ and constant in the quality of Sattva, free from worldly anxiety and the desire to preserve present possessions, self-centered and uncontrolled by objects of mind or sense. As many benefits as there are in a tank stretching free on all sides, so many are there for a truth-realizing Brahman in all the Vedic rites."


Could we say that the struggle Krishna encourages Arjuna to undertake is the human struggle to climb out of matter and ascend to spirit?  If this be the case there is a natural tropism for the status quo that each one of us must break out of.  There is the tropism of the mind to flit for place to place.  There is the tropism of the will to rest and not engage.  There is the tropism of the heart to set a limit to one's sympathies.  All of these we have to struggle with if we are to climb spiritually.  Focusing the mind requires a struggle.  Engaging the will to act is a struggle.  Expanding our sympathies is a struggle. And the struggle if sincere brings meaning and nobility to a human life.


"As a man throweth away old garments and putteth on new, even so the dweller in the body, having quitted its old mortal frames, entereth into others which are new. The weapon divideth it not, the fire burneth it not, the water corrupteth it not, the wind drieth it not away; for it is indivisible, inconsumable, incorruptible, and is not to be dried away: it is eternal, universal, permanent, immovable; it is invisible, inconceivable, and unalterable; therefore, knowing it to be thus, thou shouldst not grieve."


Page 16 Judge Edition  Chapter 2

“Let, then, the motive for action be in the action itself, and not in the event. Do not be incited to actions by the hope of their reward, nor let thy life be spent in inaction. Firmly persisting, in Yoga, perform thy duty, O Dhananijaya, and laying aside all desire for any benefit to thyself from action, make the event equal to thee, whether it be success or failure. Equal-mindedness is called Yoga.


What does it mean to find the motive for an action in the action itself?

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Permalink Reply by Peter on January 11, 2014 at 4:24am

This would entail doing our duty for its own sake and not for any reward that comes to ourselves as a result of such action.  This part of chapter 2 of the Gita (from verses 39 onwards) is concerned with karma-yoga, which is about being free of the results of karma, whether 'good' or 'bad' - both of which chain us to the cycle of becoming and personal egoity.

Verses 11 through to 30 of Chapter 2 deal with sankhya yoga (knowledge of Reality i.e., the Self, Atma) and also come under the heading of jnana-yoga.  (The term sankya does not refer to the Sankhya philosophy of Kapila.)

    "O Partha, this wisdom has been imparted to you from the standpoint of Self-realisation. But listen to this (wisdom) from the standpoint of Yoga, endowed with which wisdom you will get rid of the bondage of action."   (verse 39)

    "Your right is for action alone, never for the results. Do not become the agent of the results of action. May you not have any inclination for inaction.  By being established in Yoga, O Dhananjaya (Arjuna), undertake actions, casting of attachment and remaining equipoised in success and failure."  (verses 47 & 48)

It might be useful to keep in mind that as well as having a general application, karma-yoga in the Gita also has reference to the rites and duties (karma-kanda) as stipulated in the Vedas.  Vedantin's and Sankara in particular argue that karma-yoga by itself does not lead to Liberation, which is Knowledge of Reality (i.e. Jnana).  However, karma-yoga can purify the mind making it ready for jnana-yoga.  Karma-yoga and Jnana-yoga are taught more fully by Krishna in the next chapters.

From a theosophical perspective we might see karma-yoga as doing our duty as best we understand it, seeking to live our lives in harmony with Universal Law and trusting in the Law of Karma to adjust all the effects to their causes.  

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 11, 2014 at 1:12pm

It seems that since the orientation of consciousness for most of us is the incarnated personality the motivation for action is reward or pleasure.  We do something to get something.  If we take an entirely ethical point of view one might say we do something because it is needed and not for its reward.  The more we investigate this ethical point of view (Kierkegaard called this the ethical perspective or stage, a step beyond the aesthetic stage) the more we recognize the need for wisdom since we so infrequently actually know what is due another, what is needed by others.

This shift in focus, at least looked at from a psychological standpoint suggested by the renunciation of the fruit of action, could be simply put as a shift from "what's in it for me", to "what is due or needed by you".  I realize this is a simple way of looking at this idea but I think it throws a little light on the subject. It also suggests a link between altruism and the renunciation idea which we will explore further in up coming chapters.

Permalink Reply by Peter on January 12, 2014 at 12:32am

Gerry, I think what you have said about action and altruism is profound rather than just simple. 

The question is whether Krishna is teaching Arjuna about altruistic action at this stage or about equal-mindedness in the face of success or failure. Such equal-mindedness requires detachment with regards to the fruits (results) of action.  Arjuna is encouraged by Krishna to fulfil his duty (dharma) whatever that may be and not grieve over the results, knowing that in truth what is Real (the Self) is beyond the realm of cause and effect.

Bringing in the notion of jnana yoga and karma-yoga does introduce a complexity to the teachings, yet this is what Krishna himself introduces in this second chapter.  We see at the beginning of the next chapter this causes Arjuna to protest along the lines of, ‘First you told me that Knowledge of the Real is what matters and that Knowledge or Wisdom is superior to the Path of Action; then you tell me that I should act and engage in the battle before me!  Which is it to be? Which of the two paths should I take?’

In response Krishna tells him, “Verily, no one can remain for an instant without doing work. For, driven by the gunas [sattva, rajas and tamas] born out of Prakriti, everyone is made to act, in spite of himself.” (3. 5)

The teaching by Krishna on Karma-yoga (rest of chapter 3) and then on Jnana-yoga (chapter 4) follows.

In his commentary to this verse, Sankara states that “no one” refers to the ignorant man still governed by the gunas - that means us and Arjuna. The Sage, established in Wisdom, is not governed by the gunas.  However, the rest of us need to learn ‘skill in action’ which will eventually prepare us for the reception of Wisdom.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on January 12, 2014 at 2:28pm

Buddha emphasized on the need of detachment because any forms of attachment ties us to this world.  It is through equanimity can we achieve steadiness and balance.  To live in this state of equal -mindedness requires Wisdom or a deep understanding of Reality.   

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on January 13, 2014 at 1:43pm

Very helpful.  One of my favorite quotations from the Buddha is "contentment is the greatest wealth." Can we draw a correlation between Krishna's equal-mindedness and Buddha's contentment?

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on January 13, 2014 at 7:01pm

There is a Sanskrit phrase, "Netti Netti," (not this, not this) that is often found in the Upanishads, namely the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad concerning understanding Reality, or what is constant, by "process of elimination."  

This idea (netti- netti; not this, not this) seems to be echoed in the following slokas from this chapter (2):

12.  "Never did I not exist, nor thou, nor these rulers of men; and no one of us will ever hereafter cease to exist.
13.  Just as in this body the embodied (Self) passes into childhood and youth and old age, so does He pass into another body.  There the wise man is not distressed.
14.  The sense-contacts it is O son of Kunti, which causes heat and cold, pleasure and pain; they come and go, they are impermanent. Them endure bravely, O descendent of Bharata."

Further in the Gita, (Ch. VII) we can read the following:

6.   Know that all beings have their birth in these*.  So, I am the source and dissolution of the whole universe.
[* These, My inferior Nature (Prakriti) and My superior Nature (Prakriti), matter (kshetra) and spirit (kshetrajna) are the womb of all creatures.  I am the origin and the end of the whole universe. That is to say, through this twofold Prakriti, I, the omniscient Isvara, am the cause of the universe. - sankaracharya]
7.   There is naught else higher than I, O Dhananjaya: in Me all this is woven as clusters of gems on a string.
[* There is no other cause besides Me, the Supreme Lord I alone am the cause of the universe. Wherefore all beings as well as the whole of this universe are woven in Me, as a cloth in the warp, clusters of beads on a string. - sankaracharya]

Here, we have two main ideas, what Is and what is not, as introduced.  What can we gather from what Krshna says in chapter 7, and what has been said in chapter two? How can this help us understand attachment, modification, action, renunciation and perhaps ourselves?

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on January 15, 2014 at 1:44pm


I like the idea you bring - 'not this, not this (either)'..  Humorous, and really so interesting.  I think it applies to what Krishna is attempting to tell Arjuna - that the truth is not found with familiar things, places or ideas, but rather may be 'nothing' (no place, no idea).  Not associated with the known.   

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 16, 2014 at 4:21pm

Yet another way of looking at this has to do with the concept of the Whole. When you specify something you exclude others.  By saying not this and not that you are holding out for the whole, the One.  The Supreme has no boundaries so what ever you say about it only serves to limit it.  Hence, Neti, Neti, not this not that.

Put another way: No thing (No particular thing), rather than Nothing.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on January 16, 2014 at 6:43pm

G.II.20:  He is not born, nor does He ever die; after having been, He again ceases not to be; nor the reverse.  Unborn, eternal, unchangeable and primeval, He is not slain when the body is slain.

How can we relate this sloka, along with what has been said of neti-neti, and apply to a practical understanding of the upadhis?  We can see a breakdown in the Taittiriya Upanisad, and in SD.1.157.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on January 17, 2014 at 1:11am

This relates directly with our recent discussions in the Key to Theosophy about what reincarnates.  Please check into the comments made there pertaining to this excellent question.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on January 18, 2014 at 2:08pm

Practically speaking, neti-neti could be used as a very effective practice.  Whenever we find ourselves attached to the material side of things, we can say or remind ourselves of neti-neti.   If we always keep this in the back of our mind, it would help us to withdraw from the allurement of phenomena. This approach applies the force of negation and, as said in the teachings, the energy of attraction and repulsion plays a major role in our universe.    

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 24, 2014 at 12:07pm


When you say practical understanding, what are you asking for?  Might you elaborate on what you mean by that?

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Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on January 24, 2014 at 2:09pm

Allow me to phrase it this way;  what is use of the knowledge about the Linga Sarira or Pranamaya-Kosa alone?  What is the use of any knowledge about a specific upadhi alone if we do not understand the meaning of all pervasive consciousness- "That I am." ?  

For instance, what is the Linga Sarira or Pranamaya-Kosa but another upadhi?  The way I see this in regards to a practical understanding is that all of these upadhis (5 or 7) are just a reminder of what we aren't [neti-neti].  Knowledge about the nature of the upadhis is very useful in understanding them as what they are and their purpose, only to unveil what Is. However, it is the identification with the specific upadhi that will put us back in the same boat sailing the choppy sea of attachment and sorrow.  Should we dwell on the workings of the astral body?  Should we focus all our attention on the five pranas; apana, prana, vyana. samana, udana and so on losing sight of what Is?

This is what I was aiming towards... I hope this makes my last post clear regarding the sloka [G.II.20].

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 25, 2014 at 12:36pm

If what you are saying is we need to start the process of disentangling our identification with the vestures then yes I see your point.  But I do think it is hard enough to stop identifying with just the physical body!  Stand on a precipice in the mountains or on a building and you will quickly discover how deeply identified with one's body one is.

Tougher still not to identify with the thought patterns we repeat over and over.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on January 25, 2014 at 3:52pm

Hi Kristan:

I share your view about dis-identifying oneself with our vestures, and I think using neti-neti is a good tool to disengage from the illusory plane and withdraw into the world of essence.  However, I also believe there are values to studying the upadhis.  For some like myself, it is through understanding which allows me to pierce through the unreality and eventually transcend the forms.  Knowing the vestures by themselves is incomplete but looking at them as a part of the Whole or as expression of the One is very meaningful. 

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on January 25, 2014 at 7:22pm

Both really good replies from you two, Barbra and Gerry.

Gerry, I'd like to expand on what you said a lot, because within what that may lay of of the  messages of chapter two... depending on how thin we split the hairs.  This is what I think was meant, "welcome to chapter two, where you'll spend the rest of your life."

"Stand on a precipice in the mountains or on a building and you will quickly discover how deeply identified with one's body one is."

Is this because of fear, and if so,  where does fear come from? The body, the senses, the sense organs only respond, for they alone can not recognize fear or danger... So what is it within us that recognizes, discerns from harmful and harmless?

Some say that fear is an instinct, a means of survival.  Well perhaps so, but how about the families living up in the isolated mountains of Nepal or Peru, where scaling cliffs and traversing through chasms is a daily activity.  They simply have no fear of their common surroundings, they were born into it, they know no other land but that.  Personally, I love hiking in the mountains, but when it comes to climbing some of the "presidentials" up in NH/ME, my legs grow shaky, and fear begins to arise when I take notice of the height while scaling a cliff.   It may be a survival instinct to remove myself from that situation, but then again, fear can be overridden, same with instinct when it is no longer necessary or applicable.  I do have a choice, and I am aware of it...

Yogis have been scientifically proven to consciously control organs, such as the heart, that were said to operate automatically, instinctually.   When we gain the ability toreason we have the ability to choose, this is manas.  By being able to reason, our instincts grew less and less due to proper discernment. 

"Tougher still not to identify with the thought patterns we repeat over and over."
Thought patters become conditioning.  I have heard an Acharya say, "by using the mind, we can observe the mind and find that we are not the mind."  This can only be done through effort, dare we also say it becomes a conditioning in due time? 

["He who would acquire steadiness of right knowledge (prajna) should first bring the senses under control.  For, if not controlled, they will do harm"-Sankaracharya
G.II.60  The dangerous senses, O son of Kunti, forcibly carry away the mind of a wise man, even while striving (to control them).

We all are aware of the difficulty of this- not identifying with any particular upadhi- especially when it becomes more spiritually evolved. But wouldn't it stand to reason that by questioning our natural survival instincts is the first step? 

"Knowing the vestures by themselves is incomplete but looking at them as a part of the Whole or as expression of the One is very meaningful. "

Absolutely Barbra! I consider that it is the bodies that follow consciousness.  Knowledge is only helpful, if used.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on January 26, 2014 at 5:54am

One more thought about instinct, and what has been said about Arjunas 'kinsmen.'

The following is from the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad. II.ii.1;

"He who knows the calf with its abode, its special resort, its post and its tether kills his seven envious kinsmen: the vital force in the body is indeed the calf; this body is its abode, the head its special resort, strength its post, and food its tether."

I wont go into all the commentary, however, I would like to point something out that may echo with the Gita regarding the 'kinsmen' Arjuna must slay.  

Sankaracharya says;

" .......He kills his seven envious kinsmen.  Kinsmen are of two kinds, those who envy and those who do not; here the former are meant.  The seven organs
 [the eyes ears nostrils and mouth]- instruments for preceiving objects- that are in the head, that is to say, the attachment to sense-objects which they cause, are called kinsmen, since they are born with a person.  Because they turn his vision from the Self to the sense-objects, there for they are envious kinsmen- since they hinder him from perceiving the inner Self."

Does this apply to the topic, regarding Arjunas duty?  How can we practice this daily?  We must listen to our hearts no doubt, but how many times have our instincts been 'off'?  I know mine have.

Permalink Reply by Peter on January 26, 2014 at 9:45am

Kristan:  The following is from the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad. II.ii.1;


That's a great link and reference between the two works, Kristan.  Yes, it does seem to have a bearing on the first chapter of the BG.  It leaves me wondering a bit more as to why Sankara didn't write a commentary on the first chapter.

Good find.  Thanks.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 26, 2014 at 1:18pm

We have the ancient idea of 'tanha" or clinging or desire for incarnated life.  One would imagine that we are entangled with elementals impressed with outward pulling (material) tendencies. Fear of bodily death or physical pain might be connected to this force of tanha somehow.  It is a good question.  From where does fear arise?  What we do know is that fearlessness is a quality of the sage.  This comes straight out of the Self-Governed Sage section of chapter 2.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 26, 2014 at 1:21pm

You will get no disagreement about the value of studying the upadhi's.  I think it leads  the student into a state of mind that the personal consciousness and all its decorations and possessions are part of a mask.  Persona,   ancient greek for mask.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 26, 2014 at 1:24pm

One recommended practice that Mr. Judge communicates is the daily discipline of saying to oneself " I am not my body", "I am not my name", " I am not my circumstances" etc. etc. upon waking and before sleep every day.  This is a neti-neti spiritual discipline.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on January 14, 2014 at 5:31pm

from page 17

"Yoga is the skill in the performance of actions: therefore do thou aspire to this devotion."

"When thy mind once liberated from the Vedas shall be fixed immovably in contemplation, then shalt thou attain to devotion.:

Permalink Reply by Peter on January 16, 2014 at 5:12am

"Yoga is the skill in the performance of actions: therefore do thou aspire to this devotion."

"When thy mind once liberated from the Vedas shall be fixed immovably in contemplation, then shalt thou attain to devotion.:

The above two statements come from verses 50 and 53, respectively. The use of the term “devotion” above might lead to misunderstanding here without seeing the context.   Also, some translators use the term devotion, others use instead, “strive for” or "attain". For example in verse 50:

“Therefore devote yourself to (karma) yoga.” (Trans: Gambhiranada) or 
“Therefore strive for yoga.” (Trans: Nikhilananda)

Or again in verse 53:

“…then you will attain Yoga that arises from discrimination.” (Trans: Gambhirananda)
“…Then you will have attained yoga”  (Trans: Nikhilananda)

For those people not familiar with the Bhagavad Gita it may help to see the above verses in context, where Krishna - for the purposes of His teaching - defines Yoga as equanimity or evenness-of-mind.

2.48: By being established in Yoga, O Dhananjaya (Arjuna), undertake actions, casting off attachment and remaining equipoised in success and failure. Equanimity is called Yoga.

2.49: O Dhananjaya, indeed, action is quite inferior to the yoga of wisdom. Take resort to wisdom. Those who thirst for rewards are pitiable.

2. 50: Possessed of wisdom, one rejects here both virtue and vice. Therefore devote yourself to (Karma-) yoga. Yoga is skilfulness in action.

2. 51: Because, those who are devoted to wisdom, (they) becoming men of Enlightenment by giving up the fruits produced by actions, reach the state beyond evils by having become freed from the bondage of birth.

2. 52: When your mind will go beyond the turbidity of delusion, then you will acquire dispassion for what has to be heard and what has been heard.

2. 53: When your mind that has become bewildered by hearing will become unshakeable and steadfast in the Self, then you will attain Yoga that arises from discrimination.

(Trans: Gambhirananda.)

It's valuable, at least in my view, to consult with a number of translations of the Bhagavad Gita as an aid to get beneath the surface meaning of the words. 

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 17, 2014 at 12:49am

It is interesting that the term Yoga in many of the Gita translations goes untranslated.  It is a mysterious term which a wide range of meanings.  It has great depth like many other Sanskrit terms like dharma, satya and mahatma.  In many ways the term is untranslatable and scholars have discovered a certain western familiarity with the term and therefore choose to leave it as is in western translations. It has been thought of as merely physical postures and exercise by many and as the strictest of adherence to a lofty moral code by others.   So it is a good concept to ponder.

Mr. Judge adds to this equation the mysterious term devotion.  And over the years I have asked myself and fellow students why he might have leaned so heavily upon it in his recension of the Gita. He heads each chapter as Devotion to or by something.

A couple of thoughts about this.  Perhaps this focus on devotion is intended to encourage us to see the practice of Yoga, however perceived, as all encompassing, a total commitment of heart and mind, so to speak.  Additionally I think he wants to nudge us in the direction of the heart quality in addition to the intellectual one.  Both are crucial to the practice. And in modern times it is difficult for us to understand such an all consuming mental posture.  To love something with one's whole heart, to dedicate your life to something, to be willing to sacrifice any comfort or personal advantage on behalf of it are all suggested in the beautiful English term devotion and whispers to our intuition the ancient idea of Yoga.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on January 17, 2014 at 1:31am

In the Dhammapada in the chapter on the Thousands it says:

"13. Better a single day in the life of one who is energetic and resolute than a life of a hundred years in idleness and lassitude."

This says something about devotion.

Permalink Reply by Peter on January 17, 2014 at 8:18am

I’m not sure if “yoga” is a mysterious term. You may be right, Gerry, I just don’t know. What does seem to be the case is that it is a term that is used in a number of ways in the Bhagavad Gita, and the meaning given to it depends on the context in which it is used. It’s sometimes used in a general sense to mean mastery, skill or a discipline. Karma-yoga is ‘skill in action’, according to Krishna (v50). Krishna has already explained to Arjuna that this “skill” consists of equanimity or evenness of mind as to results (v48). This Karma-yoga is linked with Buddhi-yoga (see v49-51) in that only those who have some understanding of the nature of the Ultimate Reality are fully able to fully cast off all attachment to results. Perhaps, the Buddhi-yoga aspect is what makes our actions impersonal rather than personal, universal rather than based around the separative self?

Later on in the Gita Krishna will teach Arjuna about abhyasa-yoga where yoga (discipline/skill/mastery) relates to that form of meditation which involves the repetition or holding on to one thought or idea without wavering. See Chapter VIII:8

We even have the term yoga-maya in the Gita referring to the union of the three gunas (sattvas, rajas and tamas tied together) resulting in the veiling of Krishna (the obscuration of the Self/Atman) from the vision of us ignorant mortals.

VII:25 ‘Being enveloped by yoga-maya, I do not become manifest to all. This deluded world does not know Me who am birth-less and undecaying.”

I rather like Judge’s use of the term devotion. It does evoke a more heart-felt quality. Other translators use it too. I think that once again it’s just a case of seeing this word in context wherever Judge or the other translators use it. I can be devoted to my lover, devoted to a life of making money, devoted to sport or music, devoted to action, devoted to Wisdom and so on. To say a person has devotion only tells us part of the story unless we knows what that person is ‘devoted to’.

Krishna highlights two main forms of devotion at the beginning of Chapter 3.

“In this world a twofold path was taught by Me at first, O sinless one; that of Sankhya by devotion to knowledge, and that of Yogins by devotion to action.” (III:3) (trans: Abhinava)

The above isn’t a contrast between intellectual study and action. Sankaracharya explains that the wisdom of Sankhya (of the Ultimate Reality) is for the elite, those mature souls with pure minds and free of attachment to self, the senses, the results of actions etc. Such knowledge is aparoksha jnāna which HPB refers to in the passages I quoted yesterday. See:

Sankaracharya states that Karma-yoga really covers all those yogas that have to do with purifying the mind and making it ready for aparoksha jnana, hence it includes the way of action, bhakti-yoga, dhyani-yoga (I.e. Meditation), Patanjali’s yoga with it culmination in samadhi & so on. So it’s not a question of choice as in Jnana Yoga vs Karma Yoga. From this perspective Karma-yoga is the necessary preparation prior to the attainment of Wisdom (jnāna), the realisation of the Self. As HPB writes:

“Jñâna is Wisdom certainly, but even more, for it is the spiritual knowledge of things divine, unknown to all but those who attain it—and which saves the Jivanmuktas who have mastered both Karmayoga and Jñânayoga.” (CW XI 474)

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on January 17, 2014 at 9:47am


Thanks, and agreed, it seems that we (I know I do) may be misunderstanding a greater intention behind certain words in the Gita; words which are familiar to us ('devotion' is one such word), as well as Sanskrit terms ('Yoga') which have been translated to English.     

I agree with you, read slowly, and read with our heart and mind (intuition?) which brings us closer to the 'union' referred to in Yoga practice.   

Permalink Reply by Peter on January 18, 2014 at 5:31am

Hi Don,

I'm sure we all have a misunderstanding that needs correcting when we read the Gita and similar teachings.  I guess there would be no need to study them at all if that weren't the case.  I can't see an end to my own studies.

You and Gerry are quite right to bring out the approach of reading slowly with heart and mind.  It may also be valuable to try and get a sense of the overall picture before going back and focusing in on certain passages, phrases or even single words.  It regularly happens in theosophy study groups that a puzzling statement or term that we ponder in depth for some considerable time would have been solved or clarified if we had only turned the page and read on.  What seems a mysterious term on one page may turn out to have quite a straight forward meaning later on, just as the term or phrase we passed by as insignificant may turn out later to be the one we should have looked into a little more deeply.

I think it can prove helpful to be able to dip back and forth between the two approaches - learning to switch our focus back and forth between the whole and the part.  Intuition can bring to light both the meaning or intention behind the word and the interconnectedness of the broader intent of the teaching.

By way of clarification to you and Gerry - my comments on the term devotion were to do with the possibility of misunderstanding its meaning when we take a single statement from the Gita out of context.  There's no issue here as to whether or not it is the correct term to use.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 18, 2014 at 11:18am

I see the value of what you say here.  The benefit of a group study is looking at things from new and different points of view.  Each individual adds to the tapestry.

Moving back and forth from differing perspectives is extremely helpful in creating a well rounded view of things.  Not to mention the benefit of gaining skill in looking at things through the eyes of others.

The Gita is a multi-faceted diamond. I believe the proper study of it requires these varieties of approach Peter advocates.

Lastly one grows weary of one's own limitations of thought and becomes hungry to break out and see things from new vistas and group study affords us this opportunity.

Permalink Reply by Peter on January 16, 2014 at 5:21am

Below are some passages from HPB which pertain to this second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita where both Jnana Yoga and Karma Yoga are outlined by Krishna:

     The only scientific basis of morality is to be sought for in the soul-consoling doctrines of Lord Buddha or Sri Sankarâchârya. The starting point of the “pantheistic” (we use the word for want of a better one) system of morality is a clear perception of the unity of the one energy operating in the manifested Cosmos, the grand ultimate result which it is incessantly striving to produce, and the affinity of the immortal human spirit and its latent powers with that energy, and its capacity to co-operate with the one life in achieving its mighty object.

     Now knowledge or jnâna is divided into two classes by Adwaitee philosophers,—Paroksha and Aparoksha. The former kind of knowledge consists in intellectual assent to a stated proposition, the latter in the actual realization of it. The object which a Buddhist or Adwaitee Yogi sets before himself is the realization of the oneness of existence and the practice of Morality is the most powerful means to that end, as we proceed to show. The principal obstacle to the realization of this oneness is the inborn habit of man of always placing himself at the center of the Universe. Whatever a man might act, think or feel, the irrepressible “I” is sure to be the central figure. This, as will appear, on the slightest consideration, is that which prevents every individual from filling his proper sphere in existence, where he only is exactly in place and no other individual is. The realization of this harmony is the practical or objective aspect of the GRAND PROBLEM. Practice of morality is the effort to find out this sphere; and morality indeed is the Ariadne’s clue in the Cretan labyrinth in which man is placed.

     From the study of the sacred philosophy preached by Lord Buddha or Sri Sankara, paroksha, knowledge (or shall we say belief?) in the unity of existence is derived, but without the practice of morality that knowledge cannot be converted into the highest kind of knowledge or aparoksha jnâna, and thus lead to the attainment of mukti. It availeth naught to intellectually grasp the notion of your being everything and Brahma, if it is not realized in practical acts of life. To confuse meum and teum in the vulgar sense is but to destroy the harmony of existence by a false assertion of “I,” and is as foolish as the anxiety to nourish the legs at the expense of the arms. You cannot be one with ALL, unless all your acts, thoughts and feelings synchronise with the onward march of nature. What is meant by the Brahmajnâni being beyond the reach of Karma, can be fully realized only by a man who has found out his exact position in harmony with the One Life in nature; that man sees how a Brahmajnâni can act only in unison with nature and never in discord with it: to use the phraseology of our ancient writers on Occultism a Brahmajnani is a real “co-worker with nature.”

     Not only European Sanskritists but also exoteric Yogis, fall into the grievous mistake of supposing that, in the opinion of our sacred writers, a human being can escape the operation of the law of Karma by adopting a condition of masterly inactivity, entirely losing sight of the fact that even a rigid abstinence from physical acts does not produce inactivity on the higher astral and spiritual planes. Sri Sankara has very conclusively proved, in his Commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, such a supposition is nothing short of a delusion. The great teacher shows there that forcibly repressing the physical body from working does not free one from vâsana or vritti—the inherent inclination of the mind to work. There is a tendency, in every department of nature, of an act to repeat itself; so the Karma acquired in the last preceding birth is always trying to forge fresh links in the chain and thereby lead to continued material existence; and that this tendency can only be counteracted by unselfishly performing all the duties appertaining to the sphere in which a person is born—that alone can produce chitta suddhi, without which the capacity of perceiving spiritual truths can never be acquired.

CW V 337-338

Theosophy is synonymous with the Jnana-Vidyâ, and the Brahma-Vidyâ of the Hindus, and again with the Dzyan of the trans-Himâlayan adepts, the science of the true Râja-Yogis, who are much more accessible than one thinks. This science has many schools in the East, but its offshoots are more numerous, each one ultimately separating itself from the parent stem—the Archaic Wisdom—and modifying its form.

CW VI 271

Jñâna is Wisdom certainly, but even more, for it is the spiritual knowledge of things divine, unknown to all but those who attain it—and which saves the Jivanmuktas who have mastered both Karmayoga and Jñânayoga.

CW XI 474

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on January 17, 2014 at 12:58am

The Description of the Sage in Sir Edwin Arnold's translation of the Gita

What is his mark who hath that steadfast heart,
Confirmed in holy meditation? How
Know we his speech, Kesava? Sits he, moves he
Like other men?

When one, O 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 exulting, such
Bears wisdom’s plainest mark He who shall draw
As the wise tortoise draws its four feet safe
Under its shield, his five frail senses back

Under the spirit’s buckler from the world
Sacred Texts Series
Which else assails them, such an one, my Prince!
Hath wisdom’s mark! Things that solicit sense
Hold off from the self-governed; nay, it comes,
The appetites of him who lives beyond
Depart, – aroused no more. Yet may it chance,
O Son of Kunti that a governed mind
Shall some time feel the sense-storms sweep, and wrest
Strong self-control 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.
The soul of the ungoverned is not his,
Nor hath he knowledge of himself; which lacked,
How grows serenity? and, wanting that,
Whence shall he hope for happiness?
The mind
That gives itself to follow shows of sense
Seeth its helm of wisdom rent away,
And, like a ship in waves of whirlwind, drives
To wreck and death. Only with him, great Prince!
Whose senses are not swayed by things of sense-
Only with him who holds his mastery,
Shows wisdom perfect. What is midnight-gloom
To unenlightened souls shines wakeful day
To his clear gaze; what seems as wakeful day
Is known for night, thick night of ignorance,
To his true-seeing eyes. Such is the Saint!
And like the ocean, day by day receiving
Floods from all lands, which never overflows;
Its boundary-line not leaping, and not leaving,
Fed by the rivers, but unswelled by those;-
So is the perfect one! .....

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on January 26, 2014 at 1:36pm

Thanks, Gerry.  It's difficult to not dwell in or identify with the five senses.. They excite and stimulate our thoughts, and our thoughts carry us farther and farther into 'more of the same'.  A seductive, recurring cycle that we notice (more or less), but have difficulty breaking. 

How does one break the cycle of attraction(s) to these five senses?  I think we all sense that beyond these sensations is something more fundamentally sound and true.  Yet, here we remain..


Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 28, 2014 at 12:11pm

That is a good question:  What compels us to climb out of the limitations of the five sense and look for distant vistas?  What role does compassion play in this?