Baghawat Geeta, Class 74 Chapter 5, Verses 15 to 17


Greetings All,

नादत्ते कस्यचित्पापं चैव सुकृतं विभुः
अज्ञानेनावृतं ज्ञानं तेन मुह्यन्ति जन्तवः।।5.15।।

The mighty Being accepts nobody’s sin or merit. Knowledge is shrouded in ignorance; therefore are living beings deluded.

Continuing his teaching of Gita, Swami Paramarthananda said, after talking about karma yoga as the first stage of sadhanas, now Sri Krishna is talking about Gyana yoga, as the second stage of sadhanas. In Karma yoga, we have something to do and in Gyana yoga, we have something to know. We should know the difference very clearly. Gyanam is only the knowledge of Atma. In Vedanta, however, Gyanam means jivatma paramatma aikyam.

Karma Yoga also requires knowledge. It is a different type of knowledge related to Karma, Karma phalam etc. It is not knowledge of Atma. Here, we are discussing about Atma and not Karma.

So, we have to obtain knowledge about Karma and then practice karma yoga and then come Gyana Yoga. Gyanam gives us Advaita Gyanam as well as jivatma paramatma aikya gyanam. It is the jivatma paramatma aikya gyanam that is bring discussed from Shloka # 13 to # 21 in this chapter.

Now, talking about Atma, Sri Krishna says, it is our higher Self. Our lower self is the ahamkara. The higher Self is an akarta, an abhokta, thus free from punyam and papam as well as the Samsara. Sri Krishna says all our problems are due to our ignorance about our higher Self. We are like the man in the dream who is wandering the streets in hunger, harassed by people. All that he has to do is wake up to discover that he is not at all suffering, rather, that he is sleeping in an air conditioned room with all the comforts. So, the dream suffering belongs to the unreal lower self, the Waker is my higher nature, which is free from all suffering. And from vedantic angle, the Waker himself is the lower self, compared to which we have a still higher self, which is identical with Ishvara himself. Shankaracharya tells in his Manisha panchakam that I am that param-brahma, which has created this whole universe and which has also created this small physical body. Having created this world and the body, I have chosen to come down and identify with this body to play a drama. In fact, we are all avatharams of Lord. We have created this world and this body and we have chosen to identify with the body and play a drama. However, what has happened is, the drama has become so serious that we have even forgotten the fact, that we alone are responsible for all this drama. We are like the person suffering in the dream who has forgotten the fact that I, the Waker, have created this dream.

 Sri Krishna says, all our problems are due to our ignorance about our higher Self. Krishna calls all such ignorant people animals (Jantavaha), as we are subject to repeated births and deaths. Whereas the wise person knows he is beyond life and death.

Sri Krishna diagnosing our Samara Rogaha says identification with the body has consequences. They include the desire for wishing to travel, as, I feel I am a finite entity.

Also, I mistake myself to be the body, resulting in a wish not to die and to survive. Even at deathbed, I wish to live one more day. I do not wish mortality. Therefore identification with body leads to spatial and time-wise limitations. Sri Krishna calls all of them as mohaha or as delusions.

So, what is the solution to this delusion? Swamiji says the next two shlokas 16 and 17 are very important ones in this context.

Shloka # 16:

ज्ञानेन तु तदज्ञानं येषां नाशितमात्मनः
तेषामादित्यवज्ज्ञानं प्रकाशयति तत्परम्।।5.16।।

For them ignorance has been destroyed by knowledge, that very knowledge, like the sun, illumines the supreme reality.

 Here the solution is discussed. The problem was identified as ignorance of the higher Self. Therefore, the solution is to remove the ignorance. How to remove ignorance? Gyanam is the only solution to removing ignorance. Shankaracharya says darkness can be removed only by light. How many methods are there to remove darkness? Only light can remove darkness. Shankaracharya says, action is not opposed to ignorance, as such it cannot remove ignorance. Thus puja, archana and all such karmas cannot remove ignorance.  For this I have to study. Ignorance alone is Samsara Karanam.  Gyanam alone can liberate.  There are many paths to purify the mind, but only one path for Gyanam. Which knowledge is this Gyanam?  It is only through Self-knowledge that ignorance goes. How to obtain Self-knowledge? Sri Krishna has already mentioned it in chapter # 4, shloka # 34, that it is the systematic consistent study of Vedas for a length of time under a competent Guru. This is called Gyana Yoga.  What will this do? This knowledge will reveal the higher nature of that self. It is a wonderful higher nature.  In this higher nature you are ever pure, secure, full and complete. In fact, whatever things you seek in life; they are within you. You seek love; you realize you are the embodiment of love. If someone says, I do not love you; I can happily say that it is your problem. I still love you and just you, but everyone in the world. Self- knowledge will reveal you are this wonderful Self, that higher Self.

It is like sun at dawn when it still dark. When the sun rises, I suddenly see everything. I don’t fall (due to darkness) any more. The falling is a figurative way to express stress, worry and anxiety. There is no more fall because the life is well lit up.

Shloka # 17:

गच्छन्त्यपुनरावृत्तिं ज्ञाननिर्धूतकल्मषाः।।5.17।।

With intellect set on It as the Self, perceiving It as the Self, devoted to It, It being the supreme abode, the sages, their sins routed by knowledge, proceed to that status whence there is no return.

This is another beautiful shloka. Here again Sri Krishna talks about various stages of sadhana.

I am ego or Ahamkara. It is dependent on external factors. Anything can upset me. As my family expands more opportunities for getting upset arise. Some people even use Swamiji to influence others such as their children. At the age of ninety I learn I cannot change others. I should be happy and secure in spite of external problems. In fact, this inner free self is called moksha; this independence is called Brahman. Do not think moksha is going to forest; or moksha is some event happening after death. Moksha is the capacity to be comfortable even when the situations are not to my expectations. And, therefore, the advantage is, I am not afraid of my future. Future does not bother me.

The ocean does not depend on the river for fulfillment. Rather, the ocean knows, it is the one supplying the rivers through the rainfalls. I am like the ocean, while experiences are like rivers. I am ever poornaha. Once I understand this, I will not try to change people or the world. Rather, I will try to change myself. I then come to scriptures and come to know the higher nature of mine.

The next stage, even after knowing my higher nature, I am still identified with the lower Self. I am still in love with my body mind complex and my individuality. Like the slum dweller who when offered a nice house by the government, rents the new house and goes back to his thatched hut, I also keep coming back to this body. I am addicted to this body mind complex also called senses or Vasanas. I have to shift my identification from lower Self (father, brother, son, husband, devotee) to higher Self.

What is the next sadhana; I have to train myself to switch my identification from the lower individuality, the father I, the wife I, the mother I, the husband I, the Phd I, the devotee I, all these are egotistic I’s.

The sharira abhimana has to leave me. Ego will not leave easily. We have to shift identification. Dropping abhimana is not easy. Sanyasashrama’s goal is to facilitate the shift in identification. All relationships have a corresponding ego. Thus, wife invokes husband ego; son invokes parent ego; parent invokes son ego; and every relationship thus invokes an ego. Each is an ego and they have to be dropped.

This does not mean you go home today and say that you are no more wife or husband. Rather, having understood the higher nature, you decide to play the role of a husband; you decide to play the role of a wife; role of a brother; and thus convert every action into role-playing; this is called nidhidhyasanam. So during day I can play the roles but at night on my own I should remember that all this was only playing a role.

So, identify with higher Self. Having identified with higher Self convert every action into a “Role play”. This role-playing is called Nidhidhyasanam. Shankaracharya’s shloka “Chidannada roopa shivoham shivoham” is about the role-playing and nidhidhyasanam.  This body is an incidental instrument that I use. “I” am not the instrument. I am the consciousness behind it.

Internal change takes time. When we are given sanyasa we are given a new name as well. The external change happens quickly, but the internal transformation takes time; and when the transformation is complete, it is called tannishthaha. Thus, one gets established in his higher nature.

Thus the four stages of knowledge are:

  1. First value the discovery of the higher self.
  2. Then the next stage is discovering the higher self.
  3. Then the next stage is learning to identify with the higher self and gradually dis-identify from the lower self.
  4. And then the fourth and final stage is the identification with the higher self becomes natural.

And such people are called brahma nishtaha, Gyana nishtah and gyananirdhutakalmashah. They are free from all the impurities. All impurities are gone washed off by knowledge. A variety of impurities exist within us. They include:

  • ignorance of higher Self
  • doubts after studying the scriptures


Such person is called gyananirdhutakalmaṣhah. They are free of all impurities including ignorance. Doubts are all gone.  Vasanas or habitual body identification are wiped out. Knowledge brings Jivan mukti. Once Prarabhda karma is over, the body falls. They don’t have rebirth. This is Videha mukti.

Take Away:

  1. We cannot change others. We have to change ourselves. The root cause of all problems is our expectations of others. When they do not meet our expectations it causes us anger.
  2. Nidhidhyasanam means playing a role. Thus, we should play our role as father, brother, son etc., always keeping our mind on the higher Self. When we go back to the green room we are not the role we play. We are our true self, the Atma.

With Best Wishes

Ram Ramaswamy