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. The Blessed Lord said: With its original source above (in the Eternal), its branches stretching below, the Ashwattha is said to be eternal and imperishable; the leaves of it are the hymns of the Veda; he who knows it is the Veda-knower.
2. The branches of this cosmic tree extend both below and above (below in the material, above in the supraphysical planes), they grow by the gunas of Nature; the sensible objects are its foliage, downward here into the world of men it plunges its roots of attachment and desire with their consequences of an endlessly developing action.
3-4. The real form of it cannot be perceived by us in this material world of man’s embodiment, nor its beginning nor its end, nor its foundation, having cut down this firmly rooted Ashwattha by the strong sword of detachment, one should seek for that highest goal whence, once having reached it. there is no compulsion of return to mortal life; I turn away (says the Vedantic verse) to seek that original Soul alone from whom proceeds the ancient sempiternal urge to action.
5. To be free from the bewilderment of this lower Maya, without egoism, the great fault of attachment conquered, all desires stilled, the duality of joy and grief cast away, always to be fixed in a pure spiritual consciousness, these are the steps of the way to that supreme Infinite.
6. There we find the timeless being which is not illumined by sun or moon or fire (but is itself the light of the presence of the eternal Purusha); having gone thither they return not; that is the highest eternal status of My Being.
7. It is an eternal portion of Me that becomes the Jiva in the world of living creatures and cultivates the subjective powers of Prakriti, mind and the five senses.
8. When the Lord takes up this body (he brings in with him the mind and the senses) and in his going forth too (casting away the body) he goes taking them as the wind takes the perfumes from a vase.
9. The ear, the eye, the touch, the taste and the smell, using these and the mind also, he enjoys the objects of mind and sense as the indwelling and overdwelling Soul.
10. The deluded do not perceive him in his coming in and his going forth or in his staying and enjoying and assumption of quality; they perceive who have the eye of knowledge.
11. The Yogins who strive, see the Lord in themselves; but though they strive to do so, the ignorant perceive Him not, as they are not formed in the spiritual mould.
12. The light of the sun that illumines all this world, that which is in the moon and in fire, that light know as from Me.
13. I have entered into this form of earth (and am the spirit of its material force) and sustain by My might these multitudes. I am the godhead of Soma who by the rasa(the sap in the earth-mother) nourishes all plants and trees.
14. I, having become the flame of life, sustain the physical body of living creatures, and united with Prana and Apana. digest the four kinds of food.
15. I am lodged in the heart of all; from Me are memory and knowledge and their absence. And that which is known by all the Vedas (and by all forms of knowing) am I; and I indeed the knower of Veda and the maker of Vedanta.
16. There are two Purushas (spiritual beings) in this world, the immutable (and impersonal) and the mutable (and personal); the mutable is all these existences, the Kutastha (the high-seated consciousness of the Brahmic status) is called the immutable.
17. But other than these two is that highest spirit called the supreme Self, who enters the three worlds and upbears them, the imperishable Lord.
18. Since I am beyond the mutable and am greater and higher even than the immutable, in the world and the Veda I am proclaimed as the Purushottama (the supreme Self).
19. He who undeluded thus has knowledge of Me as the Purushottama, adores Me (has bhakti for Me) with all-knowledge and in every way of his natural being.
20. Thus by Me the most secret shastra (the supreme teaching and science) has been told, O sinless one. Absolutely to know it is to be perfected in understanding and successful in the supreme sense, O Bharata.
as translated by
in: SABCL, volume 13 “Essays on the Gita, with Sanskrit Text and Translation of the Gita”
pages 724- 729
published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Pondicherry