top of page


We shall now have three triads of shlokas, one for j~nAna (#s 20, 21, 22), one for karma (#s 23, 24, 25) and one for kartA (#s 26, 27, 28). Each is shown into its three facets, sattva, rajas and tamas. In each case, the sattva classification shloka (shown by their numbers in bold, above and also shown as five-star shlokas below) is to be well  assimilated  into  our system, if necessary, by getting by heart, these shlokas.

*****20.सर्वभूतेषु येनैकं भावमव्ययमीक्षते।अविभक्तं विभक्तेषु तज्ज्ञानं विद्धि सात्विकम्॥

21.पृथक्त्वेन तु यज्ज्ञानं नानाभावान् पृथग्विधान्।वेत्ति सर्वेषु भूतेषु तज्ज्ञानं विद्धि राजसम्॥

22.यत्तु कृस्त्नवदेकस्मिन् कार्ये सक्तमहैतुकम्।अतत्त्वार्थवदल्पं च तत्तामसमुदाहृतम्॥

#20 depicts a true knowledge of the One-ness of all things. This is sAtvika j~nAna.

Actually it means: That by which (yena)  one sees (Ikshhate) the one indestructible reality (ekaM avyayaM bhAvaM) in all beings (sarva-bhUteshhu), not separate  (avibhaktaM) in all that is separate (vibhakteshhu) that knowledge (taj-j~nAnaM)  is to be understood as sAttvic (viddhi sAtvikam).  Recall also this is one of the basic three Vedantic Truths of the Gita, ----  already highlighted  as II-16, IV-24 and XVIII-20 in our appendix on Tallest searchlights of the Gita.


#21 depicts one with only an imperfect knowledge which did not go beyond the plurality on the surface. This j~nAnaM is of the rAjasa kind. The shloka means:

But that knowledge  (yaj-j~nAnaM) which sees the multiplicity of things  (nAnabhAvAn pRRithagvidhAn) only in their separateness (pRRithaktvena)  and variety of operation in all these existences (sarveshhu bhUteshhu), that knowledge should be understood as rAjasic.

#22 shows what  a totally false knowledge that spared  no eye for the real nature of things is. The shloka means: That knowledge which clings to one body (ekasmin kArye saktaM) as if it were the whole (kRRitsnavat)  and which is irrational (ahaitukaM), has no real object (atattvArthavat) and is trivial (alpaM) , is known as Tamasic. This is so much of an Ignorance that shloka 22 does not even use the word

jnAnaM’ here.

All the scriptures keep on saying that the right vision is that which sees the One-ness amidst the plurality of experience. Perception of difference arises because of the recognition of name and form. The enlightened one sees the tile, the stone, and the golden brick, all in the same way. ‘sama-loShTAshma-kAnchanaH’ (14-24). Also 5-18:

विद्या-विनय-सम्पन्ने ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि।शुनि चैव श्वपाके च पण्डिताः समदर्शिनः॥

vidyA-vinaya-sampanne brAhmaNe gavi hastini /

shuni caiva shvapAke ca panDitAH samadarshinaH //


This equanimity of vision is the ultimate goal of all spirituality. When a wooden elephant is presented to a child the child is carried away by imaginations about the elephant. But we shall be only children spiritually if we cannot see the wood for the elephant. The normal human being is distracted by the multiplicity of appearances and is still, as it were, in a dream state, where he refuses to believe there is a more real world outside of his dream. Because, no dreamer realizes, while dreaming, that he is dreaming. He cannot rise beyond the glamour of the plurality that confronts him and does not perceive there is an essential unity in all that he sees. This kind of knowledge sees the multiplicity of things only in their separateness and variety of operation.

#21  looks at the jumble of pieces of knowledge as if they are forcefully put together -- just as a high-school kid learning mathematics would think of algebra, geometry and trigonometry as so many different pieces of skills of manipulation, or a college junior thinking of each discipline like Mathematics or Physics as a splintered collection of sub-disciplines.

 Still another kind of knowledge is a small and narrow way of looking at things which has no eye for the real nature of the world. It is fanatic in its faith and in its values.  It clings to one moment, routine or movement as if it were the whole, (kRRitsnavadekasmin –18-22) without a comprehensive foresight or intelligence and revels in this 'knowledge'. It is circumscribed by the importance it gives to itself.  It is like the wave saying: ‘Where is the Ocean? I am the Ocean!’ This is the kind of knowledge which cannot see God in the idol of worship or the soul in the live body.  It sees only the effect, not the cause.


The scriptures prescribe, on the other hand, that perception wherein whatever you see, you see only the Lord's presence in it; whatever you hear, it is the melody of His music, Krishna-flute-like; whatever you taste, it is the sweetness of the nectar flowing from His Grace; whatever you smell, it is the fragrance of the dust of His feet; and whatever you touch, it is the touch of the divine hand of Fearlessness (abhaya-hasta). Persons with this perception seek unity in their lives, unity of the physical and the mental, of the emotional and the intellectual. They respond to values that are beautiful, moral and good.

*****23. नियतं सङ्गरहितं अरागद्वेषतः कृतम्।अफलप्रेप्सुना कर्म यत्तत्सात्विकमुच्यते॥

24. यत्तु कामेप्सुना कर्म साहंकारेण वा पुनः | क्रियते बहुलायासं तद्राजसमुदाहृतम्॥

25.अनुबन्धं क्षयं हिम्सां अनवेक्ष्य च पौरुषम्। मोहादारभ्यते कर्म यत्तत् तामसमुच्यते॥

23. An action which is rightly pescribed (niyataM), performed (kRRitaM) without attachment (sangarahitaM) , without liking or disliking (for its spur or its drag) (arAga-dveshhataH)  done by one who is not desirous of the fruit of the action (aphalaprepsunA) , that action is called sAtvic.

24.That action by one who covets rewards (kAmepsunA) , done with an egoistic attitude (sAhamkAreNa)  with great strain (bahulAyAsaM) is said to be rAjasic.

25. That action, which is undertaken (Arabhyate) out of delusion (mohAt) , without consideration (anapekshhya)  of its consequence (anubandhaM) , loss (kshhayaM) , harm (himsAM)  and ability (paurushhaM), is said to be tAmasic.

An action undertaken from delusion in mechanical obedience to the instincts and  impulsion, in utter disregard to the strength, capacity, consequences, waste of effort or injury to others is the lowest type of action. It loses all its vitality very soon because it was begun by a temporary fancy that turns out to be a misconception of the goal.  Also that action which a man undertakes under the domination of desire with an egoistic sense of one's personality in the action and which is done with inordinate effort with a great heaving and straining of the personal will to get at the object of desire -- like an excited teenager while playing a gambling game  or an over-anxious mother while straining to teach her school-going son too much at too close a time to the examination --  that action is a vain one. On the other hand, an action which is regulated as prescribed, performed without attachment, without a liking for its spur or dislike for its drag, done without the hankering for the fruit, that action is the best. It should better be a labour of love rather than  an act for the sake of the law; an act of Grace rather than an act of obligation. Ultimately it would become the highest impersonal action, dictated not by our intellect, but by the spirit in us. It is in that sense wise men say: Work is Worship.

*****26.मुक्तसङ्गोऽनहंवादी  धृत्युत्साहसमन्वितः।सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्योर्निर्विकारः कर्ता सात्विक उच्यते॥

27.रागी कर्मफलप्रेप्सुः लुब्धो हिम्सात्मकोऽशुचिः।हर्षशोकान्वितः कर्ता राजसः परिकीर्तितः॥

28.अयुक्तः प्राकृतः स्तब्धः शठो नैष्कृतिकोऽलसः।विषादी दीर्घसूत्री च कर्ता तामस उच्यते॥

26. The doer who is free from attachment (muktasangaH) , who is not saying ‘I am the doer’ (anahaMvAdI) ,who is full of fortitude and diligence (dhRRiti utsAha-samanvitaH), who is unperturbed by success and failure (siddhy-asiddhyor-nirvikAraH), is said to be a sAtvic kartA.

27. The doer who is full of attachment (rAgI), seeks the fruit of actions (karmaphalaprepsuH) and is greedy  (lubdhaH) and also oppressive by nature (himsAtmakaH)  and of impure conduct (ashuciH), and is affected by joy and sorrow (harshhashokAnvitaH) – he is the one who is known as Rajasic kartA.

28.  Lacking piety and self-control (ayuktaH), uncultured (pRkRRitaH), arrogant (stabdhaH)  deceitful (shaThaH), inclined to rob others of their livelihood (naishkritikaH) , slothful (alasaH) , down-hearted (vishhAdI) , and procrastinating (dIrgha-sUtrI ) , such a doer is Tamasic.

The right doer is humble and resolute. He does not seek something for himself. His contentment always shows up. The moon is not affected by the vibrations of its reflections in a lake. Clouds bump into other clouds and create great thunder and lightning; but the space in which all this happens is always the same. The big waves swallow the small waves; but the ocean remains the same. Where there is sun, there is no darkness; the sun never meets darkness, the right doer never indulges in the opposite of righteousness. Just as the ocean does not distinguish between its waters, whether they originate from this river or that river, so also the right doer does not distinguish between his actions, whether this or that is to his liking. He has the necessary personal warmth, enthusiasm, insight and originality. He is like the ideal nurse in a hospital, who brings her entire personality into the picture and works with dedication irrespective of the ‘success’ or ‘failure’.  He genuinely enjoys helping others and takes his work seriously.

On the other hand, the greedy doer is constantly thinking of this reward or that consequence. In fact such a doer is the fertile ground for all the desires of the world; and, full of these desires, he becomes malignant in what he does. He has such a fierce independence as will repudiate any kind of subordination. He himself engages in what seems to his colleagues as suicidal brinkmanship. He is not ignorant, but he is a passionate go-getter irrespective of the means he adopts.

The ignorant kind, however, makes no improvement on his nature.  He has no control over himself, no vitality to meet the challenges of life. He is so stubborn in error and obstinate in stupidity that even his attempted good actions give only the opposite results. In addition he is so mediocre that his mediocrity increases by every action of his -- just as garbage heaps up by more garbage. In this way he sets up a pattern for himself that the good things that others may do for him rebound from him as a virus that hurts and destroys. And he takes a foolish pride in this doing of his.


bottom of page