[Advaita-l] BG 2.45: nirguNa or saguNa?

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Wed May 25 14:19:07 CDT 2005

A curiosity in the GItA 2.45:

traiguNyavishhayA vedA nistraiguNyo bhavArjuna .
nirdvandvo nityasattvastho niryogakshema AtmavAn.h ..

"The three Gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas) are the subject matter
of the Vedas. Remain free of the three Gunas, Arjuna. Be free of
dualities, of acquisition and protection, and be ever
established in the sattva (Guna)."

Krishna first advises Arjuna to be free of the three Gunas, and
then advises him to be established in the Sattva Guna. Is this
not contradictory advice?

Shankara interprets the word "nistraiguNyaH" to mean "niShkAma"
or free from desires. The reason is that when Krishna speaks of
the subject matter of the Vedas being the 3 Gunas, He is
obviously referring to the Karma Kanda portion of the Vedas.
Hence the advice is to remain free of desires that may spring
from following the Karma Kanda (that has a desire-filled aim,
i.e. heaven). But the advice should not be taken to mean "do not
perform your obligated Karma", since renouncing action without
qualifications leads to sin. Therefore, Krishna is asking Arjuna
to remain free of desires and stick to the Sattva Guna.

Here is the English Translation of Sri Sankaracharya's Sanskrit
Commentary by Swami Gambhirananda, obtained from the Gita
Supersite ( http://www.gitasupersite.iitk.ac.in/ ):

2.45 To those who are thus devoid of discriminating wisdom, who
indulge in pleasure, [Here Ast. adds 'yat phalam tad aha, what
result accrues, that the Lord states:'-Tr.] O Arjuna, vedah, the
Vedas; traigunya-visayah, have the three qualities as their
object, have the three gunas, [Traigunya means the collection of
the three qualities, viz sattva (purity), rajas (energy) and
tamas (darkness); i.e. the collection of virtuous, vicious and
mixed activities, as also their results. In this derivative
sense traigunya means the worldly life.] i.e. the worldly life,
as the object to be revealed. But you bhava, become;
nistraigunyah, free from the three qualities, i.e. be free from
desires. [There is a seeming conflict between the advices to be
free from the three qualities and to be ever-poised in the
quality of sattva. Hence, the Commentator takes the phrase
nistraigunya to mean niskama, free from desires.] (Be)
nirdvandvah, free from the pairs of duality -- by the word
dvandva, duality, are meant the conflicting pairs [Of heat and
cold, etc.] which are the causes of happiness and sorrow; you
become free from them. [From heat, cold, etc. That is, forbear
them.] You become nitya-sattvasthah, ever-poised in the quality
of sattva; (and) so also niryoga-ksemah, without (desire for)
acquisition and protection. Yoga means acquisition of what one
has not, and ksema means the protection of what one has. For one
who as 'acquisition and protection' foremost in his mind, it is
difficult to seek Liberation. Hence, you be free from
acquisition and protection. And also be atmavan, self-collected,
vigilant. This is the advice given to you while you are engaged
in your own duty. [And not from the point of view of seeking

Do you Yahoo!? 
Yahoo! Small Business - Try our new Resources site

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list