Daily Readings from the Works of Swami Venkatesananda

Song of God (Bhagavad Gita) - Chapter 18: 30-32

December 6, 2018

™pravṛttiṁ ca nivṛttiṁ ca kāryākārye bhayābhaye
bandhaṁ mokṣaṁ ca yā vetti buddhiḥ sā pārtha sāttvikī (XVIII-30)
™yayā dharmaṁ adharmaṁ ca kāryaṁ cā ’kāryam eva ca
ayathāvat prajānāti buddhiḥ sa pārtha rājasī (XVIII-31)
™adharmaṁ dharmam iti yā manyate tamasā ’vṛtā
sarvārthān viparītāṁś ca buddhiḥ sā pārtha tāmasī (XVIII-32)

™XVIII/30. That which knows the path of work and that of
renunciation, what ought to be done and what ought not to
be done, fear and fearlessness, bondage and liberation – that
intellect is sāttvika (pure), O Arjuna.

™XVIII/31. That by which one wrongly understands dharma
and adharma and also what ought to be done and what
ought not to be done – that intellect, O Arjuna, is rājasa (middling).

™XVIII/32. That which, enveloped in darkness, sees adharma as
dharma and all things perverted – that intellect, O Arjuna, is
tāmasa (stupid).

Swamiji's Commentary

     No one can lay down a universal ‘do’s and don’ts’ code in great detail. The ‘guiding light’, knowledge, is universal but the code of morals is not. It is based on the divine law, but adapted to time, place and circumstance. This is what we call tradition, or dharma in its restricted sense. The tradition concerning the path of work (household life) and that concerning the path of renunciation are different. One should know them. Tradition has great use: it keeps a society together and organized, thus freeing each one from the unnecessary task of carrying another’s burden and from being weighed down by little cares and petty anxieties. A sage rises above tradition, but does not willfully abandon it.

      The man with the middling intellect, in the heat of passionate dynamism, misunderstands the moral law and the tradition, but can be taught and trained to give these wrong notions.

      But not so the last category! The man of tāmasa buddhi is not so much a sinner as an un-evolved brute – stupid and ignorance-ridden. His ‘permitted actions’ are deluded actions, thus he deliberately violates moral law and tradition. It is in this respect that laws which approve of exploitation of man by man, divorce and so on, on the plea that they are in conformity with ‘changed times’, are immoral. Even if all of us tell lies, it is still unrighteous.

     Recognition of this leaves the door open for the abandonment of these notions.

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