Daily Readings from the Works of Swami Venkatesananda

Bhagavad Gita - Song of God - Chapter 18: 20-22

December 2, 2019

™sarvabhūteṣu yenai ’kaṁ bhāvam avyayam īkṣate
avibhaktaṁ vibhakteṣu taj jñānaṁ viddhi sāttvikaṁ (XVIII-20)
™pṛthaktvena tu yaj jñānaṁ nānābhāvān pṛthagvidhān
vetti sarveṣu bhūteṣu taj jñānaṁ viddhi rājasaṁ  (XVIII-21)
™yat tu kṛtsnavad ekasmin kārye saktam ahaitukaṁ
atattvārthavad alpaṁ ca tat tāmasam udāhṛtaṁ (XVIII-22)

XVIII/20. That by which one sees the one indestructible reality
in all beings, not separate in all the separate beings – know
thou that knowledge to be sāttvika.

XVIII/21. But that knowledge which sees in all beings various
entities of distinct kinds as different from one another – know
thou that knowledge to be rājasa.

XVIII/22. But that which clings to one single effect as if it were
the whole, without reason, without foundation in truth, and
trivial – that is declared to be tāmasa.

Swamiji's Commentary

      This doctrine can be applied to religion, speculative philosophy, sociology, human relations and ethics generally. One can meditate upon these three verses and derive a wealth of meaning and inspiration from them.

      Since the ultimate reality is one, the wise man, the sāttvika person sees the one reality in all; the perception of the all being the inevitable consequence of the perceiver’s limitation as the individual. The eyes have neither microscopic nor telescopic vision and cannot, therefore, perceive the grand unity. Even if that were possible, there would still exist the distinction between the perceiver and the perceived ‘unity’. The sāttvika knower, however, intuitively feels the unity that underlies the diversity.

     Rājasa knowledge confers on this diversity not an apparent but a real existence. It enables us to realize that there are others, other paths and so on, and leads us to ‘live and let live’ policy.

     Tāmasa knowledge does not recognize any but its own point of view. It is the ‘frog in the well’. It is dogmatic. It is a wonder that people who call themselves knowledgeable assert that there is only one viewpoint! Have they actually ascertained that there are no others? How can one assert that his religion or concept of God alone is true, till he knows how many religions there are (which is of course impossible)? Everyone’s viewpoint is valid, but especially valid for himself. We should recognize the validity of others’ viewpoints and ultimately the one that runs through all.

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