Publisher’s Note: The translation of the Gita presented here was compiled mainly from Sri Aurobindo’s “Essays on the Gita”. It first appeared in “The Message of the Gita”, edited by Anilbaran Roy, in 1938. Sri Aurobindo approved this book for publication; however, he made it clear in one of his letters that the translations in the Essays were “more explanatory than textually precise or cast in a literary style”. Many of them are paraphrases rather than strict translations.
Sri Aurobindo also wrote that he did not wish extracts from the Essays “to go out as my translation of the Gita”. This should be borne in mind by the reader as he makes use of this translation, which has been provided as a bridge between the Gita and Sri Aurobindo’s Essays.
1. Arjuna said: I desire, O mighty-armed, to know the principle of Sannyasa and the principle of Tyaga, O Hrishikesha, and their difference, O Keshinisudana.
2. The Blessed Lord said: Sages have known as Sannyasa the physical depositing (or laying aside) of desirable actions; Tyaga is the name given by the wise to an entire abandonment of all attached clinging to the fruit of works.
3. “All action should be relinquished as an evil”, declare some learned men, “acts of sacrifice, giving and askesis ought not to be renounced”, say others.
4. Hear my conclusions as to renunciation (Tyaga), O best of the Bharatas; since renunciation of works, O tiger of men, has been explained as threefold.
5. Acts of sacrifice, giving and askesis ought not to be renounced at all, but should be performed, for they purify the wise.
6. Even these actions certainly ought to be done, O Partha, leaving aside attachment and fruit.
7. Verily, renunciation of rightly regulated actions is not proper, to renounce them from ignorance is a tamasic renunciation.
8. He who gives up works because they bring sorrow or are a trouble to the flesh, thus doing rajasic renunciation, obtaineth not the fruit of renunciation.
9. He who performs a rightly regulated action, because it has to be done, without any attachment either to the action or to the fruit of the action, that renunciation is regarded as sattwic.
10. The wise man with doubts cast away, who renounces in the light of the full sattwic mind, has no aversion to unpleasant action, no attachment to pleasant action.
11. Nor indeed can embodied beings renounce all works; verily he who gives up the fruit of action, he is said to be a renouncer.
12. The three kinds of result, pleasant, unpleasant and mixed, in this or other worlds, in this or another life are for the slaves of desire and ego; these things do not cling to the free spirit.
13. These five causes, O mighty-armed, learn of Me as laid down by the Sankhya for the accomplishment of all works.
14. These five are the body, the doer, the various instruments, the many kinds of efforts, and last, the Fate.
15. These five elements make up among them all the efficient causes, karana, that determine the shaping and outcome of whatever work man undertakes with mind and speech and body.
16. That being so, he verily who, owing to ignorant understanding, looketh on the pure Self as the doer, he, of perverted intelligence, seeth not.
17. He who is free from the ego-sense, whose intelligence is not affected, though he slay these peoples, he slayeth not, nor is bound.
18. Knowledge, the object of knowledge and the knower, these three things constitute the mental impulsion to work; there are again three things, the doer, the instrument and the work done, that
hold the action together and make it possible.
19. Knowledge, work and doer are of three kinds, says the Sankhya, according to the difference in the Gunas (qualities); hear thou duly these also.
20. That by which one imperishable being is seen in all becoming, one indivisible whole in all these divisions, know thou that knowledge as sattwic.
21. But that knowledge which sees the multiplicity of things only in their separateness and variety of operation in all these existences, that knowledge know thou as rajasic.
22. The tamasic knowledge is a small and narrow way of looking at things which has no eye for the real nature of the word; it clings to one movement or one routine as if it were the whole (without foresight or comprehending intelligence).
23. All action which is rightly regulated, performed without attachment, without liking or disliking (for its spur or its drag), done by one undesirous of fruit, that is called sattwic.
24. But that action which a man undertakes under the dominion of desire, or with an egoistic sense of his own 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), that is declared to be rajasic.
25. The action undertaken from delusion (in mechanical obedience to the instincts, impulsions and unseeing ideas), without regarding the strength or capacity, without regarding the consequences, the waste of effort or injury to others, that is declared to be tamasic.
26. Free from attachment, free from egoism, full of a fixed (impersonal) resolution and a calm rectitude of zeal, unelated by success, undepressed by failure, that doer is called sattwic.
27. Eagerly attached to the work, passionately desirous of fruit, greedy, impure, often violent and cruel and brutal in the means he uses, full of joy (in success) and grief (in failure) such a doer is known as rajasic.
28. One who acts with a mechanical mind (who does not put himself really into the work), is stupid, obstinate, cunning, insolent, lazy, easily depressed, procrastinating, that doer is called tamasic.
29. Reason as also persistence are of three kinds according to the qualities; hear them related, unreservedly and severally, O Dhananjaya.
30. That which sees the law of action and the law of abstention from action, the thing that is to be done and the thing that is not to be done, what is to be feared and what is not to be feared, what binds the spirit of man and what sets it free, that understanding is sattwic, O Partha.
31. That by which one knows awry right and wrong and also what should or should not be done, that understanding, O Partha, is rajasic.
32. That which, enveloped in darkness, takes what is not the true law and upholds it as the law and sees all things in a cloud of misconceptions, that understanding, O Partha, is tamasic.
33. That unwavering persistence by which, through Yoga, one controls the mind, the senses and the life, that persistence, O Partha, is sattwic.
34. But that, O Arjuna, by which one holdeth fast right and justice (Dharma), interest (Artha) and Pleasure (Kama), and with great attachment desires for the fruits, persistence, O Partha, is tamasic.
35. That by which one from ignorance doth not abandon sleep, fear, grief, depression, and also pride, that persistence, O Partha, is tamasic.
36-37. And now the threefold kinds of pleasure hear thou from Me, O bull of the Bharatas. That in which one by self-discipline rejoiceth and which putteth an end to pain; which at first is as poison but in the end is as nectar; that pleasure is said to be sattwic, born of the satisfaction of the higher mind and spirit.
38. That which is born from the contact of the senses with their objects, which at first is as nectar, but in the end is like poison, that pleasure is accounted rajasic.
39. That pleasure of which delusion is the beginning and delusion is the consequence, which arises from sleep, indolence and ignorance, that is declared tamasic.
40. There is not an entity, either on the earth or again in heaven among the gods, that is not subject to the workings of these three qualities (Gunas), born of nature.
41. The works of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras are divided according to the qualities (gunas) born of their own inner nature.
42. Calm, self-control, askesis, purity, long-suffering, candour, knowledge, acceptance of spiritual truth are the work of the Brahmin, born of his swabhava.
43. Heroism, high spirit, resolution, ability, not fleeing in the battle, giving, lordship (ishwara-bhava, the temperament of the ruler and leader) are the natural work of the Kshatriya.
44. Agriculture, cattle-keeping, trade inclusive of the labour of the craftsman and the artisan are the natural work of the Vaishya. All work of the character of service falls within the natural function of the Shudra.
45. A man who is intent on his own natural work attains perfection. Listen thou how perfection is won by him who is intent on his own natural work.
46. He from whom all beings originate, by whom all this universe is pervaded, by worshipping Him by his own work, a man reacheth perfection.
47. Better is one’s own law of works, though in itself faulty, than an alien law well wrought out. One does not incur sin when one acts in agreement with the law of one’s own nature.
48. The inborn work, O son of Kunti, though defective, ought not to be abandoned. All actions (in the three gunas) indeed are clouded by defects as fire by smoke.
49. An understanding without attachment in all things, a soul self-conquered and empty of desire, man attains by renunciation a supreme perfection of naishkarmya.
50. How, having attained this perfection, one thus attains to the Brahman, hear from me, O son of Kunti, – that which is the supreme concentrated direction of the knowledge.
51-53. Uniting the purified intelligence (with the pure spiritual substance in us), controlling the whole being by firm and steady will, having renounced sound and the other objects of the senses, withdrawing from all liking and disliking, resorting to impersonal solitude, abstemious, speech, body and mind controlled, constantly united with the inmost self by meditation, completely giving up desire and attachment, having put away egoism, violence, arrogance, desire, wrath, the sense and instinct of possession, free from all I-ness and my-ness, calm and luminously impassive – one is fit to become the Brahman.
54. When one has become the Brahman, when one, serene in the Self, neither grieves nor desires, when one is equal to all beings, then one gets the supreme love and devotion to Me.
55. By devotion he comes to know Me, who and how much I am and in all the reality and principles of My being; having thus known Me he entereth into That (Purushottama).
56. And by doing also all actions always lodged in Me he attains by My grace the eternal and imperishable status.
57. Devoting all thyself to Me, giving up in thy conscious mind all thy actions into Me, resorting to Yoga of the will and intelligence be always one in heart and consciousness with Me.
58. If thou art one in heart and consciousness with Me at all times, then by My grace thou shalt pass safe through all difficult and perilous passages; but if from egoism thou hear not, thou shalt fall into perdition.
59. Vain is this thy resolve, that in thy egoism thou thinkest, saying “I will not fight”; thy nature shall appoint thee to thy work.
60. What from delusion thou desirest not to do, O Kaunteya, that helplessly thou shalt do bound by thy own work born of thy swabhava.
61. The Lord, O Arjuna, is seated in the heart of all beings turning all beings mounted upon a machine by his Maya.
62. In him take refuge in every way of thy being and by his grace thou shalt come to the supreme peace and the eternal status.
63. So have I expounded to thee a knowledge more secret than that which is hidden; having reflected on it fully, do as thou wouldst.
64. Further hear the most secret, the supreme word that I shall speak to thee; beloved art thou intimately of Me, therefore will I speak for thy good.
65. Become my-minded, my lover and adorer, a sacrificer to Me, bow thyself to Me, to Me thou shalt come, this is my pledge and promise to thee, for dear art thou to Me.
66. Abandon all dharmas and take refuge in Me alone. I will deliver thee from all sin and evil, do not grieve.
67. Never is this to be spoken by thee to one without askesis, not to one that is not devoted and not to him who does no service; nor yet to him who despises and belittles Me (lodged in the
68. He who with the highest devotion for Me, shall declare this supreme secret among My devotees, without doubt he shall come to Me.
69. And there is none among men that does more than he what is most dear to Me; and there will be none else dearer to Me in the world.
70. And he who shall study this sacred discourse of ours, by him I shall be worshipped with the sacrifice of knowledge.
71. The man also who, full of faith and uncarping, listens to this, even he, being liberated, attains to the happy worlds of the righteous.
72. Hath this been heard by thee, O son of Pritha, with a concentrated mind? Has thy delusion, caused by ignorance, been destroyed, O Dhananjaya?
73. Arjuna said: Destroyed is my delusion, I have regained memory through Thy grace, O Infallible One. I am firm, dispelled are my doubts. I will act according to Thy word.
74. Sanjaya said: I heard this wonderful discourse of Vasudeva and of the great-souled Partha, causing my hair to stand on end.
75. Through the grace of Vyasa I heard this supreme secret, this Yoga directly from Krishna, the divine Master of Yoga, who himself declared it.
76. O King, remembering, remembering this wonderful and sacred discourse of Keshava and Arjuna, I rejoice again and again.
77. Remembering, remembering also that most marvellous form of Hari, great is my wonder. O King, I rejoice, again and again.
78. Wherever is Krishna, the Master of Yoga, wherever is Partha, the archer, assured are there glory, victory and prosperity, and there also is the immutable Law of Right.
as translated by