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: This imperishable Yoga I gave to Vivasvan (the Sun-God), Vivasvan gave it to Manu (the father of men), Manu gave it to Ikshvaku (head of the Solar line).
2. And so it came down from royal sage to royal sage till it was lost in the great lapse of Time, O Parantapa.
3. This same ancient and original Yoga has been today declared to thee by Me, for thou art My devotee and My friend; this is the highest secret.
4. Arjuna said: The Sun-God was one of the firstborn of beings (ancestor of the solar dynasty) and Thou art only now born into the world; how am I to comprehend that Thou declaredst it to him in the beginning?
5. The Blessed Lord said: Many are my lives that are past, and thine also, O Arjuna; all of them I know, but thou knowest not, O scourge of the foe.
6. Though I am the unborn, though I am imperishable in my self-existence, though I am the Lord of all existences, yet I stand upon my own Nature and I come into birth by my self-Maya.
7. Whensoever there is the fading of the Dharma and the uprising of unrighteousness, then I loose myself forth into birth.
8. For the deliverance of the good, for the destruction of the evil-doers, for the enthroning of the Right, I am born from age to age.
9. He who knoweth thus in its right principles my divine birth and my divine work, when he abandons his body, comes not to rebirth, he comes to Me, O Arjuna.
10. Delivered from liking and fear and wrath, full of me, taking refuge in me, many purified by austerity of knowledge have arrived at my nature of being (madbhavam, the divine nature of the Purushottama).
11. As men approach Me, so I accept them to My love (bhajami); men follow in every way my path, O son of Pritha.
12. They who desire the fulfilment of their works on earth sacrifice to the gods (various forms and personalities of the one Godhead); because the fulfilment that is born of works (of works without knowledge) is very swift and easy in the human world.
13. The fourfold order was created by Me according to the divisions of quality and active function. Know Me for the doer of this (the fourfold law of human workings) who am yet the imperishable non-doer.
14. Works fix not themselves on Me, nor have I desire for the fruits of action; he who thus knoweth Me is not bound by works.
15. So knowing was work done by the men of old who sought liberation; do therefore, thou also, work of that more ancient kind done by the ancients.
16. What is action and what is inaction, as to this even the sages are perplexed and deluded. I will declare to thee that action by the knowledge of which thou shalt be released from all ills.
17. One has to understand about action as well as to understand about wrong action and about inaction one has to understand; thick and tangled is the way of works.
18. He who in action can see inaction and can see action still continuing in cessation from works, is the man of true reason and discernment among men; he is in Yoga and a many-sided universal worker (for the good of the world, for God in the world).
19. Whose inceptions and undertakings are all free from the will of desire, whose works are burned up by the fire of knowledge, him the wise have called a sage.
20. Having abandoned all attachment to the fruits of his works, ever satisfied without any kind of dependence, he does nothing though (through his nature) he engages in action.
21. He has no personal hopes, does not seize on things as his personal possessions; his heart and self are under perfect control; performing action by the body alone, he does not commit sin.
22. He who is satisfied with whatever gain comes to him, who has passed beyond the dualities, is jealous of none, is equal in failure and success, he is not bound even when he acts.
23. When a man liberated, free from attachment, with his mind, heart and spirit firmly founded in self-knowledge, does works as sacrifice, all his work is dissolved.
24. Brahman is the giving, Brahman is the food-offering, by Brahman it is offered into the Brahman fire, Brahman is that which is to be attained by samadhi in Brahman-action.
25. Some Yogins follow after the sacrifice which is of the gods; others offer the sacrifice by the sacrifice itself into the Brahman-fire.
26. Some offer hearing and the other senses into the fires of control, others offer sound and the other objects of sense into the fires of sense.
27. And others offer all the actions of the sense and all the actions of the vital force into the fire of the Yoga of self-control kindled by knowledge.
28. The offering of the striver after perfection may be material and physical (dravyayajna, like that consecrated in worship by the devotee to his deity), or it may be the austerity of his self-discipline and energy of his soul directed to some high aim, tapo-yajna, or it may be some form of Yoga (like the Pranayama of the Raja-yogins and Hatha-yogins, or any other yoga-yajna), or it may be the offering of reading and knowledge.
29. Others again who are devoted to controlling the breath, having restrained the Prana (the incoming breath) and Apana (the outgoing breath) pour as sacrifice Prana into Apana and Apana into Prana.
30. Others having regulated the food pour as sacrifice their life breaths into life-breaths. All these are knowers of sacrifice and by sacrifice have destroyed their sins.
31. They who enjoy the nectar of immortality left over from the sacrifice attain to the eternal Brahman; this world is not for him who doeth not sacrifice, how then any other world?
32.Therefore all these and many other forms of sacrifice have been extended in the mouth of the Brahman (the mouth of that Fire which receives all offerings). Know thou that all these are born
of work and so knowing thou shalt be free.
33. The sacrifice of knowledge, O Parantapa, is greater than any material sacrifice. Knowledge is that in which all this action culminates (not any lower knowledge, but the highest self-knowledge and God-knowledge), O Partha!
34. Learn that by worshipping the feet of the teacher, by questioning and by service; the men of knowledge who have seen (not those who know merely by the intellect) the true principles of things, will instruct thee in knowledge.
35. Possessing that knowledge thou shalt not fall again into the mind’s ignorance, O Pandava; for by this, thou shalt see all existences without exception in the Self, then in Me.
36. Even if thou art the greatest doer of sin beyond all sinners, thou shalt cross over all the crookedness of evil in the ship of knowledge.
37. As a fire kindled turns to ashes its fuel, O Arjuna, so the fire of knowledge turns all works to ashes.
38. There is nothing in the world equal in purity to knowledge, the man who is perfected by Yoga, finds it of himself in the self by the course of Time.
39. Who has faith, who has conquered and controlled the mind and senses, who has fixed his whole conscious being on the supreme Reality, he attains knowledge; and having attained knowledge he goes swiftly to the supreme Peace.
40. The ignorant who has not faith, the soul of doubt, goeth to perdition; neither this world, nor the supreme world nor any happiness is for the soul full of doubts.
41. He who has destroyed all doubt by knowledge and has by Yoga given up all works and is in possession of the Self is not bound by his works, O Dhananjaya.
42. Therefore arise, O Bharata, and resort constantly to Yoga, having cut away with the sword of knowledge this perplexity born of ignorance.
as translated by
in: SABCL, volume 13 “Essays on the Gita, with Sanskrit Text and Translation of the Gita”
published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Pondicherry