The Bhagavad-Gita: Chapter 16 Devotion Through Discriminating Between Godlike And Demoniacal Natures

The Bhagavad-Gita Chapter 16

Devotion Through Discriminating Between Godlike And Demoniacal Nature

Views: 261

 Reply to This

Upload Files

Stop Following – Don't email me when people reply

Replies to This Discussion



“Fearlessness, sincerity, assiduity in devotion, generosity, self-restraint, piety, and alms-giving, study, mortification, and rectitude; harmlessness, veracity, and freedom from anger, resignation, equanimity, and not speaking of the faults of others, universal compassion, modesty, and mildness; patience, power, fortitude, and purity, discretion, dignity, unrevengefulness, and freedom from conceit — these are the marks of him whose virtues are of a godlike character, O son of Bharata. Those, O son of Pritha, who are born with demoniacal dispositions are marked by hypocrisy, pride, anger, presumption, harshness of speech, and ignorance. The destiny of those whose attributes are godlike is final liberation, while that of demoniacal dispositions, born to the Asuras’ lot, is continued bondage to mortal birth; grieve not, O son of Pandu, for thou art born with the divine destiny. There are two kinds of natures in beings in this world, that which is godlike, and the other which is demoniacal; the godlike hath been fully declared, hear now from me, O son of Pritha, what the demoniacal is.


The list of godlike qualities seems to be an elaboration of the portrait of the Self-Governed Sage that we get in the second chapter.  These qualities could also apply to the idea of the ideal student.


I believe they are linked to the portion of the second discourse.  

Do you think that one must form and develop these qualities, or are these qualities are already inherent in the student?  By striving for the higher and universal life, do the dregs of the personal ego begin to flake off like dead skin, thus exposing ones truer and universal nature?


That is a really interesting question.  Like our fellow student Pierre, likes to say, many answers to sincere philosophical (and theosophical) questions is both yes and no.  These godlike qualities are natural to the immortal soul and come forward when not blocked by the imposition of lower consciousness. In that sense they are inherent. We still have to "develop" these qualities by effort which from the point of view of the personal consciousness feels like creating something anew.  Music is natural to us but to play it we must train the organs so to speak.  We can feel the grandeur of the music but to perform it we must go through persistent practice for it to come through.  That is one take on your question, I am sure there are many others.


I feel like the "yes and no" answer is a very important aspect to the study of Occultism.  It allows for a very multi-dimensional way of understanding major complexities of human condition. I think I remember reading in a Theosophical Article which in it was indicated that this process is not so much about doing, but rather not doing.  It is an interesting perspective.

Your musical analogy reminds me of the potential diamond hidden in the block of coal or raw stone, or perhaps the churning of wood which exposes its very essence, fire.  

"we must go through persistent practice for it to come through"

Yes, persistent practice is needed.  We often fall short of our Ideals, this is to be expected.  The human condition and bound natures are very difficult to transmute, or rather train and guide.  I've considered it is far better to constantly fall short from the Ideal then to reduce it. 



Perhaps it is like a seed.  The qualities lie dormant in the seed awaiting nourishment for its unfoldment.


The Sage is nothing other than a very good student.


We see two sides of nature represented in the first five slokas of this discourse, Light and Dark, or God like qualities, and qualities of Demoniacal nature.  These, as every student knows, are the eternal ways of Nature.  With out one, the other would cease, if exist at all.  Both are found within us.

Considering the two as forces, neither of them can be classified as "good" or "bad" ultimately. However, to the student of occultism,  we see that these two are the centripetal and centrifugal forces that occur in ones own self.  This is what the common definition of the two are held in the scope of modern physics;

Centrifugal force (Latin for "center fleeing") describes the tendency of an object following a curved path to fly outwards, away from the center of the curve. It's not really a force; it results from inertia — the tendency of an object to resist any change in its state of rest or motion. 

Centripetal force is a real force that counteracts the centrifugal force and prevents the object from "flying out," keeping it moving instead with a uniform speed along a circular path.

Are not these two tendencies found in all aspects of Life? Is not the Moral Self constantly swayed and swindled by the ever fluctuating emotional mind which depends on the senses and sense objects. Consider the emotional mind to be dual, positive and negative- each emotional response rides on the the back of corresponding entities, which the Moral Self attracts depending on its emissions.

Judge places a very interesting word in the second sloka, " resignation."  What can be gathered upon this only?  I believe this to be a very important word, implying a bit of deep meaning. 


Resignation is a term we all come across when studying Esoteric Philosophy.  The student is asked by his own Self to resign from the investment in outward life.  This however is not to be understood in its literal meaning, but indicates a deeper more meaningful sense of resignation, to which one initiates the taking of austerity on the inner planes, such as mental austerity as this dedicates outer actions and uncontrollable emotional manipulation. 

Resignation can also mean acceptance.  This is a very interesting idea that a word such as this can indicate a leaving and renouncing, but yet, an acceptance.  One feels as if this center of resignation is almost a point of equilibrium.  It reminds me of a beautiful quote from the Voice;

"Be like the Ocean which receives all streams and rivers. The Ocean's mighty calm remains unmoved; it feels them not."



*determines rather than dedicates;

" ... such as mental austerity as this determines our outer actions and uncontrollable emotional manipulation. 


This is very beautiful Kristan.  Thank you. Resignation is something we do from ourself to ourself.  It seems to be part of the deepest urge to live a larger life, to break out and be part of something larger and grander than a separate self.  The separate self must give way for the Universal Self, the immortal Self.  The lower self resigns control to the higher Self, which is a ethical shift.  From Egotism to Altruism. But it does not happen without a fight and that is what Arjuna has discovered.


Krishna's characterization of these two aspects of human nature seem to have a very strong ethical connotation.  Using Kristan's centrifugal and centripetal correlation we might say that the Godlike Nature tends in the direction of Altruism and Demonic in the direction of Egotism.  We have a group of quotes on this subject in the Theme for the Week which we are also discussing in the Art of Living Group.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on July 14, 2015 at 12:57pm

Precisely so Tamiko.

"The lower self resigns control to the higher Self, which is a ethical shift"

The Ethical shift you speak of is the calling of the Higher Self.  I strongly believe that not a single step on the path of spirituality can be done without cultivating a center of moral and ethical fundamentals.  I believe it would be far too dangerous otherwise, as all the Great Masters have indicated.  

This has a very powerful message that can very easily tie into the discussion in the Art of Living group as Gerry mentioned.  It reminds me of a line in Light on the Path;

"The self-righteous man makes for him self a bed of mire. Abstain because it is right to abstain—not that yourself shall be kept clean."

There is sanskrit word, Mahaasmashana, which is the sacred cremation grounds.  It is on these grounds which in the aspirant must make the ultimate sacrifice, offering the ego- the individual self- on the sacrificial alter to which it will be reduced to ash, kindled by the Fire of Truth, Wisdom, and pure Altruism.  Then, they are able to smear the ashes-representing purity- for they are born again (ie. twice born) "electrified by the Song of Life."

Ethics and Morality have a great power behind them.  Can we not see these are bing a Universal Current of spiritual/human reform?

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on July 29, 2015 at 9:52pm

Perhaps it only when the centrifugal and the centripetal are balanced one to the other that we achieve harmony.  We must withdraw and we must manifest, we have our feet straddling the two worlds.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 6, 2015 at 11:18am

From the Johnston Translation

Valor, cleanness of heart, steadfast union with illumination, generous giving, control, sacrifice, study, fervor, righteousness,

Gentleness, truth, freedom from anger, detachment, peace, loyalty, pity for all beings, an unlascivious mind, mildness, modesty, steadfastness,

Fire, patience, firmness, purity, good-will, absence of conceit, these belong to him who is born to the godlike portion, O descendant of Bharata!

Hypocrisy, pride, vanity, anger, meanness, unwisdom, these, O son of Pritha, are his, who is born to the demoniac portion.

The godlike portion makes for liberation, and the demoniac for bondage. But grieve not, son of Pandu!Thou art born to the godlike portion. (5)

There are two ways of beings in this world: the godlike and the demoniac. The godlike has been declared at length; hear now from Me the demoniac, O son of Pritha.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 17, 2015 at 11:00pm

Next Paragraph from Judge rendition

“Those who are born with the demoniacal disposition — of the nature of the Asuras — know not the nature of action nor of cessation from action, they know not purity nor right behavior, they possess no truthfulness. They deny that the universe has any truth in it, saying it is not governed by law, declaring that it hath no Spirit; they say creatures are produced alone through the union of the sexes, and that all is for enjoyment only. Maintaining this view, their souls being ruined, their minds contracted, with natures perverted, enemies of the world, they are born to destroy. They indulge insatiable desires, are full of hypocrisy, fast-fixed in false beliefs through their delusions. They indulge in unlimited reflections which end only in annihilation, convinced until death that the enjoyment of the objects of their desires is the supreme good. Fast-bound by the hundred cords of desire, prone to lust and anger, they seek by injustice and the accumulation of wealth for the gratification of their own lusts and appetites.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on July 18, 2015 at 9:46am

"Fast-bound by the hundred cords of desire, prone to lust and anger, they seek by injustice and the accumulation of wealth for the gratification of their own lusts and appetites."

What can others say about this line?  How is one able to gradually refrain from the temptations of the senses, the desires of the body without creating more harm. Unjust abstinence ultimately leads to a perverted twisted mind conditioned by an improper impulse; aversion.

There is a stark difference between abstinence and aversion, the latter seems far more demoniacal than sense gratification, does it not?

Permalink Reply by barbaram on July 19, 2015 at 4:39pm

Hi Kristan:

I think your question has to do with the best ways to overcome desires.  Clearly, succumbing to desires only strengthen its roots and aversion to desires bring forth its own negative consequences.  

In the VOS pg 16, it states - kill thy desires, Lanoo, make thy vices impotent, ere the first step is taken on the solemn journey.  Struggle thy sins, and make them dumb for ever.   

As I was flipping through Light on the Path, I came across this verse which seems to hold the key, pg 23

"Learn from sensation and observe it, because only so can you commence the science of self-knowledge and plant your foot on the first step of the ladder."

I think knowing and understanding our nature, good and bad, is the first step in overcoming the temptations of the senses.  Eventually, we begin to "see through" the desires, hence the power over us begin to diminish.   We then become detached and can choose ways of handling them when (and if) they ever arise.  It is through understanding, seeing, and transcendence, will our vices become impotent.   

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on July 19, 2015 at 5:23pm

Agreed.  Beautiful selections by the way, the VOS quote is one of my personal favorites.

You mention a very important key that appears to be one of the underlying themes of the Gita, detachment.  It is so very important to understand detachment prior to attempts at self-restraint.  I've always considered detachment to be a starving kama manas, until it becomes weakened and the will is removed, or rather elevated to another center or godliness focus.  

Nevertheless, as you pointed out, knowledge of human nature seems to be a fundamental.  I suppose the yoga of impersonality will only aid the student.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 19, 2015 at 5:58pm

Might we think of detachment, at least one angle on it, as non-identification with the persona?  I am not my body, my desires, my personal history, my roles in life etc.  I am responsible for these things but they are not "I".  What do students think of this angle on detachment?

Permalink Reply by barbaram on July 19, 2015 at 6:24pm

It is an effective practice - non-identification with our vehicles - to detachment.  We all have experiences that we become detached when we have outgrown something.  Detachment is being unmoved and not breaking fixity of the mind. 

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 19, 2015 at 9:48pm

Fixity of mind corresponds with our theme for the week: One-Pointedness. I think it is related to detachment but I would hesitate to say they are the same. Perhaps you are not saying that.  You would need to have detachment from likes and dislikes, pain and pleasure, desires and aversions before you could establish fixity of mind it seems to me.  So in that sense they are related.  Detachment is a prerequisite for Ekagrata: One-pointedness.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on July 20, 2015 at 4:02am

"... have detachment from likes and dislikes, pain and pleasure, desires and aversions before you could establish fixity of mind it seems to me. ... Detachment is a prerequisite for Ekagrata: One-pointedness."

Agreed, detachment is a prerequisite, it seems.  The second discourse of the Gita, there are many slokas to be sited, start with this crucial point.  We may view the following discourses of the Gita (ie., sankhya yoga, karma yoga, jnana yoga, samnyasa yoga, dhyana yoga, vijnana yoga, abhyasa yoga)  to be methods of coming to Absolute Truth.   This, as you had suggested, corresponds to fixity of mind, in my opinion.  (see Patañjali 3.11-12)

As Barbara said in one of her posts in the Art of Living group quoting HPB, "Occultism requires all or nothing," this can easily be understood in this context of the Bhagavadgita.  

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 20, 2015 at 3:05pm

Yes and much easier to say than to do.  How much does it take to throw a person off balance?  How quickly do the irritations come when things don't go our way?  How much latitude do we give to others when they are acting badly? Detachment is not easy to come by.  Calmness under pressure is a good gauge.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on July 20, 2015 at 5:35pm

Of corse.  Though do you agree that simply by observing this "inner mutiny" the student has already begun to see deeper into the human condition and corresponding natures?  We might lose it when oblivious people slam doors in our faces, or stop dead in their tracks to check their iphone etc etc., but it takes one moment of impersonal observation to recognize the soon to be emotional and personal results.  

It takes time, but I do believe recognition is the first step towards lifetimes of work.  The body will follow when the mind is stilled, it has been said. 

Any given individual has endowed a  human elemental- an expression of Nature- with the ability to become fully Self conscious. This is the ideal, the rest is ancient history.  Given the self discipline and restraint one is able to exercise (perhaps establish amongst these tendencies), with time, one is able to develop the ability to deeply recognize this microcosm of life called the human being.  

Calmness, I feel, can be had by one who is able to overshadow, stand on high, and simply observe.  It is difficult, but can be done.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 19, 2015 at 5:51pm

Yes Barb, aversion and desire are two sides of the same coin both capture the mind and make it a slave to the object in question.  Usually people decrying one sin or another in society will have been found to be participating in it at some time or another.  Why?  Because in both cases the mind is dwelling on the object.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 19, 2015 at 5:47pm

Perhaps it goes back to this statement made in the Self-Governed Sage section of the Second Chapter:

“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!"

Once the desire mind becomes fixed on its object of desire it becomes relentless in the pursuit and loses contact with logic, reason, etc.  It becomes demonical.  History and our own lives are full of examples of this.  If you have ever had a toddler in a grocery store while passing by the candy section you will appreciate the idea.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on July 19, 2015 at 5:52pm

Very true, Gerry.  I had this sloka in mind.  

May we consider the first 6 rules in Light on the Path in connection to this particular topic?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 19, 2015 at 1:54pm

Next Section by Johnston

Those of demoniac nature know not right action nor right abstinence; nor purity nor discipline nor truth are found in them.

This world, say they, is without truth or firm foundation, without a Lord; not ruled by mutual law, driven only by wilfulness.

Resting in this view, self-destroying, of little wisdom, they come forth violent and hostile, for the destruction of the world.

Taking their refuge in desire insatiable, following after hypocrisy, vanity, madness, through delusion grasping after thoughts of evil, they follow unclean lives; (10)

Given to limitless imaginings stopped only by death, they yield themselves up to the enjoyment of their desires, persuaded that there is nothing else;

Bound by a hundred meshes of expectation, filled with lust and wrath, they seek, for the enjoyment of their desires, to heap up wealth unjustly:

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 24, 2015 at 10:55pm

More from Judge Rendition

‘This today hath been acquired by me, and that object of my heart I shall obtain; this wealth I have, and that also shall be mine. This foe have I already slain, and others will I forthwith vanquish; I am the lord, I am powerful, and I am happy. I am rich and with precedence among men; where is there another like unto me? I shall make sacrifices, give alms, and enjoy.’ In this manner do those speak who are deluded. Confounded by all manner of desires, entangled in the net of delusion, firmly attached to the gratification of their desires, they descend into hell. Esteeming themselves very highly, self-willed, full of pride and ever in pursuit of riches, they perform worship with hypocrisy and not even according to ritual 1, but only for outward show. Indulging in pride, selfishness, ostentation, power, lust, and anger, they detest me who am in their bodies and in the bodies of others. Wherefore I continually hurl these cruel haters, the lowest of men, into wombs of an infernal nature in this world of rebirth. And they being doomed to those infernal wombs, more and more deluded in each succeeding rebirth, never come to me, O son of Kunti, but go at length to the lowest region.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on July 29, 2015 at 6:47pm

"Wherefore I continually hurl these cruel haters, the lowest of men, into wombs of an infernal nature in this world of rebirth. And they being doomed to those infernal wombs, more and more deluded in each succeeding rebirth, never come to me, O son of Kunti, but go at length to the lowest region."

Would one say this is the severance from ones own Logos?  Being cast off and dissolved into the current of nature, i.e., matter?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 31, 2015 at 11:13am

Well I don't know I would go that far.  All of us are on this plane of existence for karmic reasons, meaning we have a lot to learn. Some of us keep mistaking the unreal for the real until we suffer enough to reverse the process.  Severance from ones inner "Logos" would be a very rare and extreme event from my reading of what The Secret Doctrine has to say on the subject.  There is redemption for even the worst cases, but no escape from the karmic consequences.  We have to pay up so to speak.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on July 31, 2015 at 11:46am

I would agree.

Looking back at it, I might have been thinking of a worst case scenario.  Although, while we are on the topic, I would like to draw attention to what Krsna says;

"...into wombs of an infernal nature in this world of rebirth."

What can we understand regarding the infernal wombs?  Are we supposing that the body becomes degraded and compromised due to the lowly and poor moral and ethical character of the individual?  

There is that saying, "once a man, always a man" which is very true, however, what then about the body, the form?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 31, 2015 at 12:17pm

This might sound odd but I think Krishna is referring to us, those incarnating on earth during Kali Yuga.  It is a commentary on the state of humanity, meaning most all of us.  He is not just talking about the worst cases.  Remember our standards are very low.  What if being normal or human meant loving all of humanity unconditionally?  How many of us could claim that?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 30, 2015 at 3:27pm

Last Section Judge Rendition

“The gates of hell are three — desire, anger, covetousness, which destroy the soul; wherefore one should abandon them. Being free from these three gates of hell, O son of Kunti, a man worketh for the salvation of his soul, and thus proceeds to the highest path. He who abandoneth the ordinances of the Scriptures to follow the dictates of his own desires, attaineth neither perfection nor happiness nor the highest path. Therefore, in deciding what is fit and what unfit to be done, thou shouldst perform actions on earth with a knowledge of what is declared in Holy Writ.”

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 30, 2015 at 3:28pm

Last Section Johnston

“This have I gained to-day; this desire shall I obtain; this much I have, and this shall I have of further wealth.

“This foe has been slain by me, and I shall slay yet others. I am a lord, I am master of feasts, I have won success and might and happiness;

“I am wealthy and well-born, what other is like unto me? I shall sacrifice, I shall give gifts, I shall exult;” thus say they, deluded by unwisdom, (15)

Wandering in many imaginings, enmeshed by the nets of delusion, fastened to the feasts of their desires, they fall into the impure pit of hell.

Puffed up with self-conceit, vain, following after the pride and intoxication of wealth, their offerings are no true offerings, full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Clinging to self-conceit, violence, pride, lust, wrath, hating Me in themselves and in others, and full of cavilling;

Them, full of hate, cruel, basest of men in the world, I cast down quickly in their impurity into demoniac wombs.

Entering demoniac birth, deluded in birth after birth, not finding Me, O son of Kunti, they go the lower way. (20)

Threefold is this door of soul-destroying hell: lust, wrath, and greed are its doors; therefore let him shun these three.

The man who gets free from these three doors of darkness, O son of Kunti, reaches happiness of soul, and thenceforth goes the higher way.

He who, scorning the scriptural law, does according to his own lusts, reaches not perfection, nor happiness, nor the higher way.

Therefore the scripture is thy rule, to establish what shall be done, what left undone. Knowing the work appointed to thee by the scripture, deign thou therefore to perform it.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on August 1, 2015 at 11:52am

From Mr. Judge's rendition


“What is the state of those men who, while they neglect the precepts of the Scriptures, yet worship in faith, O Krishna? Is it of the sattva, the rajas, or the tamas quality?”


“The faith of mortals is of three kinds, and is born from their own disposition; it is of the quality of truth — sattva, action — rajas, and indifference — tamas; hear now what those are.

“The faith of each one, O son of Bharata, proceeds from the sattva quality; the embodied soul being gifted with faith, each man is of the same nature as that ideal on which his faith is fixed. Those who are of the disposition which ariseth from the prevalence of the sattva or good quality worship the gods; those of the quality of rajas worship the celestial powers, the Yakshas and Rakshasas; other men in whom the dark quality of indifference or tamas predominates worship elemental powers and the ghosts of dead men. Those who practice severe self-mortification not enjoined in the Scriptures are full of hypocrisy and pride, longing for what is past and desiring more to come. They, full of delusion, torture the powers and faculties which are in the body, and me also, who am in the recesses of the innermost heart; know that they are of an infernal tendency.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on August 1, 2015 at 11:57am

From Mr. Johnston rendition


They who, neglecting the scripture ordinance, nevertheless sacrifice full of faith, what is their basis, is it Substance, Force or Darkness?


Faith is of three kinds; it is according to the innate character of embodied beings, either of Substance, or of Force, or of Darkness. Hear it thus:

Everyone is according to the nature of his faith, O descendant of Bharata. For man is formed of faith; what his faith is, that verily is he.

Those of Substance worship bright deities; those of Force, deities greedy and passionate; the others, the men of Darkness, worship the hosts of darkness, the spirits of night.

They who submit themselves to penance not appointed by scripture, and terrible, their hearts full of hypocrisy and vanity, following after lust, rage, violence, (5)

Foolishly afflicting the lives that dwell within their bodies, and Me also within their inner selves, know these to be of demoniac mind.