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. Sanjaya said: To him thus invaded by pity, his eyes full and distressed with tears, his heart overcome by depression and discouragement, Madhusudana spoke these words.
2. The Blessed Lord said: Whence has come to thee this dejection, this stain and darkness of the soul in the hour of difficulty and peril, O Arjuna? This is not the way cherished by the Aryan man: this mood came not from heaven nor can it lead to heaven, and on earth it is the forfeiting of glory.
3. Fall not from the virility of the fighter and the hero, O Partha! it is not fitting in thee. Shake off this paltry faintheartedness and arise, O scourge of thine enemy!
4. Arjuna said: How, O Madhusudana, shall I strike Bhishma and Drona with weapons in battle, they who are worthy of worship?
5. Better to live in this world even on alms than to slay these high-souled Gurus. Slaying these Gurus, I should taste of blood-stained enjoyments even in this world.
6. Nor do I know which for us is better, that we should conquer them or they conquer us, – before us stand the Dhritarashtrians, whom having slain we should not care to live.
7. It is poorness of spirit that has smitten away from me my (true heroic) nature, my whole consciousness is bewildered in its view of right and wrong. I ask thee which may be the better – that tell me decisively. I take refuge as a disciple with thee, enlighten me.
8. I see not what shall thrust from me the sorrow that dries up the senses, even if I should attain rich and unrivalled kingdom on earth or even the sovereignty of the gods.
9. Sanjaya said: Gudakesha, terror of his foes, having thus spoken to Hrishikesha, and said to him, “I will not fight!” became silent.
10. To him thus depressed and discouraged, Hrishikesha, smiling as it were, O Bharata, spoke these words between the two armies.
11. The Blessed Lord said: Thou grievest for those that should not be grieved for. yet speakest words of wisdom. The enlightened man does not mourn either for the living or for the dead.
12. It is not true that at any time I was not, nor thou, nor these kings of men; nor is it true that any of us shall ever cease to be hereafter.
13. As the soul passes physically through childhood and youth and age, so it passes on to the changing of the body. The self-composed man does not allow himself to be disturbed and blinded by this.
14. The material touches, O son of Kunti, giving cold and heat, pleasure and pain, things transient which come and go, these learn to endure, O Bharata.
15. The man whom these do not trouble nor pain O lion-hearted among men, the firm and wise who is equal in pleasure and suffering, makes himself apt for immortality.
16. That which really is, cannot go out of existence, just as that which is non-existent cannot come into being. The end of this opposition of ‘is’ and ‘is not’ has been perceived by the seers of essential truths.
17. Know that to be imperishable by which all this is extended. Who can slay the immortal spirit?
18. Finite bodies have an end, but that which possesses and uses the body is infinite, illimitable, eternal, indestructible. Therefore fight, O Bharata.
19. He who regards this (the soul) as a slayer, and he who thinks it is slain, both of them fail to perceive the truth. It does not slay, nor is it slain.
20. This is not born, nor does it die, nor is it a thing that comes into being once and passing away will never come into being again. It is unborn, ancient, sempiternal; it is not slain with the slaying of the body.
21. Who knows it as immortal eternal imperishable spiritual existence, how can that man slay, O Partha, or cause to be slain?
22. The embodied soul casts away old and takes up new bodies as a man changes worn-out raiment for new.
23. Weapons cannot cleave it, nor the fire burn, nor do the waters drench it, nor the wind dry.
24. It is uncleavable, it is incombustible, it can neither be drenched nor dried. Eternally stable, immobile, all-pervading, it is for ever and for ever.
25. It is unmanifest, it is unthinkable, it is immutable, so it is described (by the Srutis); therefore knowing it as such, thou shouldst not grieve.
26. Even if thou thinkest of it (the self) as being constantly subject to birth and death, still, O mighty-armed, thou shouldst not grieve.
27. For certain is death for the born, and certain is birth for the dead, therefore what is inevitable ought not to be a cause of thy sorrow.
28. Beings are unmanifest in the beginning, manifest in the middle, O Bharata, unmanifest likewise are they in disintegration. What is there to be grieved at?
29. One sees it as a mystery or one speaks of it or hears of it as a mystery, but none knows it. That (the Self, the One, the Divine) we look on and speak and hear of as the wonderful beyond our comprehension, for after all our learning from those who have knowledge, no human mind has ever known this Absolute.
30. This dweller in the body of everyone is eternal and indestructible. O Bharata: therefore thou shouldst not grieve for any creature.
31. Further, looking to thine own law of action thou shouldst not tremble; there is no greater good for the Kshatriya than righteous battle.
32. When such a battle comes to them of itself like the open gate of heaven, happy are the Kshatriyas then.
33. But if thou dost not this battle for the right, then hast thou abandoned thy duty and virtue and thy glory, and sin shall be thy portion.
34. Besides, men will recount thy perpetual disgrace, and to one in noble station, dishonour is worse than death.
35. The mighty men will think thee fled from the battle through fear, and thou, that wast highly esteemed by them, will allow a smirch to fall on thy honour.
36. Many unseemly words will bespoken by thy enemies, slandering thy strength; what is worse grief than that?
37. Slain thou shalt win Heaven, victorious thou shalt enjoy the earth; therefore arise, O son of Kunti, resolved upon battle.
38. Make grief and happiness, loss and gain, victory and defeat equal to thy soul and then turn to battle; so thou shalt not incur sin.
39. Such is the intelligence (the intelligent knowledge of things and will) declared to thee in the Sankhya, hear now this in the Yoga, for if thou art in Yoga by this intelligence, O son of Pritha, thou shalt cast away the bondage of works.
40. On this path no effort is lost, no obstacle prevails; even a little of this dharma delivers from the great fear.
41. The fixed and resolute intelligence is one and homogeneous, O joy of the Kurus; many-branching and multifarious is the intelligence of the irresolute.
42-43. This flowery word which they declare who have not clear discernment, devoted to the creed of the Veda, whose creed is that there is nothing else, souls of desire, seekers of Paradise, – it gives the fruits of the works of birth, it is multifarious with specialities of rites, it is directed to enjoyment and lordship as its goal.
44. The intelligence of those who are misled by that (flowery word), and cling to enjoyment and lordship, is not established in the self with concentrated fixity.
45. The action of the three gunas is the subject-matter of the Veda; but do thou become free from the triple guna, O Arjuna; without the dualities, ever based in the true being, without getting or having, possessed of the self.
46. As much use as there is in a well with water in flood on every side, so much is there in all the Vedas for the Brahmin who has the knowledge.
47. Thou hast a right to action, but only to action, never to its fruits; let not the fruits of thy works be thy motive, neither let there be in thee any attachment to inactivity.
48. Fixed in Yoga do thy actions, having abandoned attachment, having become equal in failure and success; for it is equality that is meant by Yoga.
49. Works are far inferior to Yoga of the intelligence, O Dhananjaya; desire rather refuge in the intelligence; poor and wretched souls are they who make the fruit of their works the object of their thoughts and activities.
50. One whose intelligence has attained to unity, casts away – even here in this world of dualities – both good doing and evil doing. Therefore strive to be in Yoga; Yoga is skill in works.
51. The sages who have united their reason and will with the Divine renounce the fruit which action yields and, liberated from the bondage of birth, they reach the status beyond misery.
52. When thy intelligence shall cross beyond the whirl of delusion, then shalt thou become indifferent to Scripture heard or that which thou hast yet to hear.
53. When thy intelligence which is bewildered by the Sruti, shall stand unmoving and stable in Samadhi, then shalt thou attain to Yoga.
54. Arjuna said: What is the sign of the man in Samadhi whose intelligence is firmly fixed in wisdom? How does the sage of settled understanding speak, how sit, how walk?
55. The Blessed Lord said: When a man expels, O Partha, all desires from the mind, and is satisfied in the self by the self, then is he called stable in intelligence.
56. He whose mind is undisturbed in the midst of sorrows and amid pleasures is free from desire, from whom liking and fear and wrath have passed away, is the sage of settled understanding.
57. Who in all things is without affection though visited by this good or that evil and neither hates nor rejoices, his intelligence sits firmly founded in wisdom.
58. Who draws away the senses from the objects of sense, as the tortoise draws in his limbs into the shell, his intelligence sits firmly founded in wisdom.
59. If one abstains from food, the objects of sense cease to affect, but the affection itself of the sense, the rasa, remains; the rasa also ceases when the Supreme is seen.
60. Even the mind of the wise man who labours for perfection is carried away by the vehement insistence of the senses, O son of Kunti.
61. Having brought all the senses under control, he must sit firm in Yoga, wholly given up to Me; for whose senses are mastered, of him the intelligence is firmly established (in its proper seat).
62. In him whose mind dwells on the objects of sense with absorbing interest, attachment to them is formed; from attachment arises desire; from desire anger comes forth.
63. Anger leads to bewilderment, from bewilderment comes loss of memory; and by that the intelligence is destroyed; from destruction of intelligence he perishes.
64-65. It is by ranging over the objects with the senses, but with senses subject to the self, freed from liking and disliking, that one gets into a large and sweet clearness of soul and temperament in which passion and grief find no place; the intelligence of such a man is rapidly established (in its proper seat).
66. For one who is not in Yoga, there is no intelligence, no concentration of thought; for him without concentration there is no peace, and for the unpeaceful how can there be happiness?
67. Such of the roving senses as the mind follows, that carries away the understanding, just as the winds carry away a ship on the sea.
68. Therefore, O mighty-armed, one who has utterly restrained the excitement of the senses by their objects, his intelligence sits firmly founded in calm self-knowledge.
69. That (higher being) which is to all creatures a night, is to the self-mastering sage his waking (his luminous day of true being, knowledge and power); the life of the dualities which is to them their waking (their day, their consciousness, their bright condition of activity) is a night (a troubled sleep and darkness of the soul) to the sage who sees.
70. He attains peace, into whom all desires enter as waters into the sea (an ocean of wide being and consciousness) which is ever being filled, yet ever motionless – not he who (like troubled and muddy waters) is disturbed by every little inrush of desire.
71. Who abandons all desires and lives and acts free from longing, who has no “I” or “mine” (who has extinguished his individual ego in the One and lives in that unity), he attains to the great peace.
72. This is brahmi sthiti (firm standing in the Brahman), O son of Pritha. Having attained thereto one is not bewildered; fixed in that status at his end, one can attain to extinction in the Brahman.
as translated by
in: SABCL, volume 13 “Essays on the Gita, with Sanskrit Text and Translation of the Gita” pages 588-605
published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Pondicherry