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: What is tad brahma, what adhyatma, what karma, O Purushottama? And what is declared to be adhibhuta, what is called adhidaiva?
2. What is adhiyajna in this body, O Madhusudana? And how, in the critical moment of departure from physical existence, art Thou to be known by the self-controlled?
3. The Blessed Lord said: The Akshara is the supreme Brahman: swabhava is called adhyatma; Karma is the name given to the creative movement, visarga, which brings into existence all beings and their subjective and objective states.
4. Adhibhuta is ksharobhava, adhidaiva is the Purusha; I myself am the Lord of sacrifice, adhiyajna here in the body, O best of embodied beings.
5. Whoever leaves his body and departs remembering Me at his time of end, comes to my bhava (that of the Purushottama, my status of being); there is no doubt of that.
6. Whosoever at the end abandons the body, thinking upon any form of being, to that form he attains, O Kaunteya, into which the soul was at each moment growing inwardly during the physical life.
7. Therefore at all times remember me and fight; for if thy mind and thy understanding are always fixed on and given up to Me, to Me thou shalt surely come.
8. For it is by thinking always of him with a consciousness united with him in an undeviating Yoga of constant practice that one comes to the divine and supreme Purusha, O Partha.
9-10. This supreme Self is the Seer, the Ancient of Days, subtler than the subtle and (in his eternal self-vision and wisdom) the Master and Ruler of all existence who sets in their place in his being all things that are; his form is unthinkable, he is refulgent as the sun beyond the darkness; he who thinketh upon this Purusha in the time of departure, with motionless mind, a soul armed with the strength of Yoga, a union with God in bhakti and the life-force entirely drawn up and set between the brows in the seat of mystic vision, he attains to this supreme divine Purusha.
11. This supreme Soul is the immutable self-existent Brahman of whom the Veda-knowers speak, and this is that into which the doers of askesis enter when they have passed beyond the affections of the mind of mortality and for the desire of which they practise the control of the bodily passions; that status I will declare to thee with brevity.
12-13. All the doors of the senses closed, the mind shut in into the heart, the life-force taken up out of its diffused movement into the head, the intelligence concentrated in the utterance of the sacred syllable OM and its conceptive thought in the remembrance of the supreme Godhead, he who goes forth, abandoning the body, he attains to the highest status.
14. He who continually remembers Me, thinking of none else, the Yogin, O Partha, who is in constant union with Me, finds Me easy to attain.
15. Having come to me, these great souls come not again to birth, this transient and painful condition of our mortal being; they reach the highest perfection.
16. The highest heavens of the cosmic plan are subject to a return to rebirth, but, O Kaunteya, there is no rebirth imposed on the soul that comes to Me (the Purushottama).
17. Those who know the day of Brahma, a thousand ages (Yugas) in duration, and the night, a thousand ages in ending, they are the knowers of day and night.
18. At the coming of the Day all manifestations are born into being out of the unmanifest, at the coming of the Night all vanish or are dissolved into it.
19. This multitude of existences helplessly comes into the becoming again and again, is dissolved at the coming of the Night, O Partha, and is born into being at the coming of the Day.
20. But this unmanifest is not the original divinity of the Being; there is another status of his existence, a supracosmic unmanifest beyond this cosmic non-manifestation (which is eternally self-seated, is not an opposite of this cosmic status of manifestation but far above and unlike it, changeless, eternal), not forced to perish with the perishing of all these existences.
21. He is called the unmanifest immutable, him they speak of as the supreme soul and status, and those who attain to him return not; that is my supreme place of being.
22. But that supreme Purusha has to be won by a bhakti which turns to him alone in whom all beings exist and by whom all this world has been extended in space.
23. That time wherein departing Yogins do not return, and also that wherein departing they return, that time shall I declare to thee, O foremost of the Bharatas.
24-25. Fire and light and smoke or mist, the day and the night, the bright fortnight of the lunar month and the dark, the northern solstice and the southern, these are the opposites. By the first in each pair the knowers of the Brahman go to the Brahman; but by the second the Yogin reaches the “lunar light” and returns subsequently to human birth.
26. These are the bright and the dark paths (called the path of the gods and the path of the fathers in the Upanishads); by the one he departs who does not return, by the other he who returns again.
27. The Yogin who knows them is not misled into any error, therefore at all times be in Yoga, O Arjuna.
28. The fruit of meritorious deeds declared in the Vedas, sacrifices, austerities and charitable gifts, the Yogin passes all these by having known this and attains to the supreme and sempiternal status.
as translated by
in: SABCL, volume 13 “Essays on the Gita, with Sanskrit Text and Translation of the Gita”
pages 656- 663
published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Pondicherry