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The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 2: Sankhya Yoga

Sanjaya said:
To him who was thus overcome
By pity, and whose eyes were filled
With tears, downcast and despairing,
Madhusudana1 spoke these words: (1)

The Holy Lord said:
Whence has come this faintheartedness
Of yours in the time of danger
Ignoble, not leading to heav’n,
But to disgrace, O Arjuna? (2)

At no time should you entertain
Such cowardice–unsuitable.
Abandon this faintheartedness
And stand up, O Scorcher of Foes! (3)

Arjuna said:
But how can I in battle fight
With arrows, Madhusudana,
Against Bhishma and Drona, too,
Who are worthy of reverence? (4)

Better that I eat the food of beggary
Instead of my slaying these great-souled gurus.
If I kill them my enjoyments in this world
Of wealth and desires will all be stained with blood. (5)

Indeed, I cannot tell which will be better,
That we should conquer them or they conquer us.
The sons of Dhritarashtra stand facing us–
After whose slaying we would not wish to live. (6)

Weakness and pity overcome my being,
With mind in confusion I supplicate You,
O say decidedly what is my duty.
I am Your disciple, do You direct me. (7)

I see nothing that can remove this sorrow
That dries up my senses, though I should attain
The unrivalled and prosperous dominion
Over the earth, and mast’ry over the gods. (8)

Sanjaya said:
Having said this to Govinda,
Arjuna, scorcher of his foes,
Then further said “I shall not fight,”
And fell into a silence deep. (9)

To him who thus was despondent
In the midst of the two armies,
O Bharata, as though smiling
Hrishikesha then spoke these words: (10)

The Holy Lord said:
You have been mourning for those who
Should not be mourned for, though you speak
Words of wisdom–for the wise grieve
Not for the living or the dead. (11)

Truly there never was a time
When I was not, nor you, nor these
Lords of men–nor in the future
A time when we shall cease to be. (12)

As to the embodied childhood,
Youth and old age arise in turn,
So he gets another body–
The wise are not confused by this. (13)

Truly material contacts
Produce cold, heat, pleasure, and pain.
Impermanent, they come and go,
Learn to endure them, Bharata. (14)

He whom these things do not afflict,
The same in pain or in pleasure,
That wise one, O Leader of Men,
Is fit for immortality. (15)

The unreal never comes to be,
The real does never cease to be.
The certainty of both of these
Is known to those who see the truth. (16)

That by Which all is pervaded–
Know That is indestructible.
There is none with the power to
Destroy the Imperishable. (17)

These bodies inhabited by
The eternal embodied Self
Are declared to come to an end.
Therefore now fight, O Bharata.2 (18)

He who thinks the Self is slayer
And he who thinks the Self is slain–
Neither of the two understands;
The Self slays not, nor is it slain. (19)

Neither is the Self slain, nor yet does it die,
Nor having been will it e’er come not to be,
Birthless, eternal, perpetu’l, primeval,
It is not slain whene’er the body is slain. (20)

In what way can he who knows this–
Indestructible, eternal,
Birthless and imperishable–
Slay or cause another to slay? (21)

Even as a man casts off his worn-out clothes
And then clothes himself in others which are new
So the embodied casts off worn-out bodies
And then enters into others which are new. (22)

This self by weapons is cut not;
This self by fire is burnt not;
This self by water is wet not;
And this self is by wind dried not. (23)

This self cannot be cut, nor burnt,
Nor wetted, nor dried: ’tis changeless,
All-pervading and unmoving,
Immovable, eternal self. (24)

Unmanifest, unthinkable,
This Self is called unchangeable.
Therefore, knowing this to be such,
You surely ought never to mourn. (25)

And if you think this self to have
Constant birth and death–even then,
O mighty-armed, you should not be
Impelled for this reason to grieve. (26)

Of that which is born, death is sure,
Of that which is dead, birth is sure.
Over the unavoidable,
Therefore you never should lament. (27)

All beings are unmanifest
In their beginning, Bharata,
Manifest in their middle state,
Unmanifest then in their end.3 (28)

Someone perceives this self as being wondrous,
Another speaks of it as being wondrous,
Another hears of it as being wondrous,
And another, hearing, does not understand. (29)

This indweller in all bodies
Is ever indestructible.
Therefore you should not, Bharata,
Ever mourn for any creature. (30)

And looking at your own dharma,
You surely ought never waver,
For there is nothing better than
A righteous war for Kshatriyas. (31)

Fortunate are those Kshatriyas,
Who thus are called, O Arjuna,
To fight in a battle like this,
That comes to them as heaven’s gate. (32)

But if you refuse to engage
In righteous warfare, Arjuna,
Then forfeiting your own dharma
And honor you shall incur sin. (33)

The world will also ever hold
You as a craven reprobate.
To the honored such disrepute
Is surely worse even than death. (34)

The great car-warriors will believe
You shrink back from battle through fear.
And you will be lightly esteemed
By those who have thought much of you. (35)

Your enemies, then cavilling
At your great prowess, then will say
Of you things not to be uttered.
What could be greater pain than this? (36)

By dying you attain heaven;
Conquering, you enjoy the earth.
Therefore, O son of Kunti, rise,
In strength of heart resolved to fight. (37)

Make pain and pleasure, gain and loss,
victory and defeat the same,
Then engage now in this battle.
This way you shall incur no sin. (38)

This buddhi yoga4 by Sankhya5
Is now declared to you–so heed!
Joining this insight to your will,
You shall be rid of karma’s bonds. (39)

In this no effort is wasted,
Nor are adverse results produced.
E’en a little of this dharma
Protects you from the greatest fear. (40)

There is a single, resolute
Understanding here, Arjuna.
The thoughts of the irresolute
Are many-branched, truly endless. (41)

They, the ignorant ones, proclaim
Their flow’ry speech, O Pritha’s son,
Delighting in the Veda’s word,
And saying: “There is nothing else.” (42)

Filled with desires, intent on heav’n,
Off’ring rebirth as actions’ fruit,
Addicted to so many rites,
Whose goal is enjoyment and pow’r. (43)

Attached to pleasure and power
Their minds are drawn away by this
Speech, and to them is not granted
The insight from meditation. (44)

The Vedas deal with the gunas;
Free yourself from them, and be free
From the pairs of opposites, and
Eternally fixed in the self.6 (45)

For the Brahmin who knows the self
The Vedas are of no more use
Than a reservoir of water
When there is a flood ev’rywhere. (46)

Your right is to action alone,
Not to its fruits at any time.
Never should they move you to act,
Or be attached to inaction. (47)

Then being steadfast in yoga,
Without attachment do actions
Heedless of success and failure–
Evenness of mind is yoga. (48)

Action’s inferior by far
To Yoga of Intelligence.7
Seek refuge in enlightenment,
Abhor action done from desire. (49)

Joined to enlightenment, cast off
In this world good and evil deeds;
Therefore to yoga yoke yourself!
For skill in action is yoga. (50)

Those whose minds are joined to wisdom,
Having abandoned action’s fruit,
Are freed from bondage to rebirth
And go to the place free from pain. (51)

When your intelligence crosses
Beyond delusion’s confusion,
Then you shall be indifferent
To the heard and the to-be-heard. (52)

When your intellect stands, fixed in
Deep meditation, unmoving,
Disregarding Vedic doctrine,
You’ll attain self-realization. (53)

Arjuna said:
What, Krishna, is the description
Of the man of steady wisdom,
Steadfast in deep meditation–
How does he speak, or sit, or walk? (54)

The Holy Lord said:
When he completely casts away
All the desires of the mind,
His self satisfied by the self,
He is called “of steady wisdom.” (55)

Unshaken by adversity,
And freed from desire for pleasures,
Free from passion, fear, and anger,
Steady in thought–such is a sage. (56)

Without attachment on all sides,
In the pleasant or unpleasant
Not rejoicing or disliking,
His wisdom is seen to stand firm. (57)

And when he withdraws completely
The senses from the sense-objects,
As the tortoise draws in its limbs,
His wisdom is established firm. (58)

Sense-objects turn away from the
Abstinent, but the taste for them
Remains, but that, too, turns away
From him who has seen the Supreme. (59)

Know this indeed, Son of Kunti:
The turbulent senses carry
Away forcibly the mind of
E’en the striving man of wisdom. (60)

Restraining all senses, he should
Sit disciplined, intent on Me;
He whose senses are thus controlled–
His wisdom stands steadfast and firm. (61)

Dwelling on objects of senses
Engenders attachment to them;
From attachment desire is born;
And from desire8 anger is born. (62)

From anger ’rises delusion;
From delusion, loss of mem’ry;
From loss of mem’ry, destruction
Of intelligence: All is lost. (63)

Desire and loathing banishing,
Moving amongst objects of sense,
By self-restraint, the self-controlled
Thus attains to tranquility. (64)

In tranquility all sorrows
Cease to arise for him, indeed;
For the tranquil-minded at once
The intellect becomes steady. (65)

For the undisciplined there is
No wisdom, no meditation,
For him who does not meditate
There is no peace or happiness. (66)

When the mind is guided by the
Wandering senses, it carries
Away the understanding, as
The wind a ship on the waters. (67)

The wisdom of him whose senses
Are withdrawn from objects of sense
On all sides, O mighty-armed one,
Will be found firmly established. (68)

The man of restraint is awake
In what is night for all beings;
That in which all beings awake
Is night for the wise one who sees. (69)

As the ocean, becoming full,
Yet remains unmoving and still,
He in whom all desires enter
And yet remains, unmoved, has peace.9 (70)

He who abandons all desires
Attains peace, acts free from longing,
Indifferent to possessions
And free from all egotism.10 (71)

This is the divine state–having
Attained this, he’s not deluded.
Fixed in it at the time of death,
He attains Brahmanirvana.11 (72)

Om Tat Sat
Thus in the Upanishads of the glorious Bhagavad Gita, the science of the Eternal, the scripture of Yoga, the dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, ends the second discourse entitled: Sankhya Yoga.

Read the next Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita: The Yoga of Action


1) Destroyer of the Demon Madhu (properly an epithet of Vishnu)–Krishna [Go back]

2) Literally: “These bodies inhabited by the eternal, indestructible, immeasurable, embodied Self are said to come to an end. Therefore fight, Bharata!” [Go back]

3) To maintain the meter, there was no room for the final phrase: “What lamentation can there be over this?” [Go back]

4) Buddhi Yoga is the Yoga of Intelligence which later came to be called Jnana Yoga, the Yoga of Knowledge. [Go back]

5) Sankhya: One of the six orthodox systems of Hindu philosophy whose originator was the sage Kapila, Sankhya is the original Vedic philosophy, endorsed by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. (Gita 2:39; 3:3,5; 18:13,19. Also, the second chapter of the Gita is entitled: Sankhya Yoga.). The Ramakrishna-Vedanta Wordbook says: “Sankhya postulates two ultimate realities, Purusha and Prakriti. Declaring that the cause of suffering is man’s identification of Purusha with Prakriti and its products, Sankhya teaches that liberation and true knowledge are attained in the supreme consciousness, where such identification ceases and Purusha is realized as existing independently in its transcendental nature.” Not surprisingly, then, Yoga is based on the Sankhya philosophy. [Go back]

6) “The Vedas deal with the three gunas. Be free, O Arjuna, from the triad of the gunas, free from the pairs of opposites, ever-balanced, free from [the thought of] getting and keeping, and established in the Self.” [Go back]

7) Buddhi yoga [Go back]

8) That is, thwarted desire. [Go back]

9) The literal translation is: “Like the ocean, which becomes filled yet remains unmoved and stands still as the waters enter it, he whom all desires enter and who remains unmoved attains peace; not so the man who is full of desire.” [Go back]

10) Pronounced as three syllables. [Go back]

11) Nirvana is the state of liberation from the bondage of karma and the wheel of birth and death that comes from knowing Brahman. Brahman is the Supreme Reality, the Absolute Consciousness that is God. [Go back]

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Text of the Bhagavad Gita for Singing:

  1. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 1: The Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna
  2. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 2: Sankhya Yoga
  3. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 3: The Yoga of Action
  4. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 4: The Yoga of Wisdom
  5. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 5: The Yoga of Renunciation of Action
  6. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 6: The Yoga of Meditation
  7. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 7: The Yoga of Wisdom and Realization
  8. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 8: The Yoga of Imperishable Brahman
  9. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 9: The Yoga of the Kingly Science and Kingly Secret
  10. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 10: The Yoga of Divine Glories
  11. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 11: The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form
  12. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 12: The Yoga of Devotion
  13. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 13: The Yoga of the Distinction Between the Field and the Knower of the Field
  14. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 14: The Yoga of the Division of the Three Gunas
  15. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 15: The Yoga of the Supreme Spirit
  16. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 16: The Yoga of the Division between the Divine and the Demoniacal
  17. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 17: The Yoga of the Division of Threefold Faith
  18. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 18: The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation

The Bhagavad Gita—The Song of God A new Translation by Abbot George Burke

  1. Bhagavad Gita Chapter One: The Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna
  2. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Two: Sankhya Yoga
  3. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Three: The Yoga of Action
  4. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Four: The Yoga of Wisdom
  5. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Five: The Yoga of Renunciation of Action
  6. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Six: The Yoga of Meditation
  7. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Seven: The Yoga of Wisdom and Realization
  8. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eight: The Yoga of Imperishable Brahman
  9. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Nine: The Yoga of the Royal Science and Royal Secret
  10. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Ten: The Yoga of Divine Glories
  11. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eleven: The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form
  12. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Twelve: The Yoga of Devotion
  13. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Thirteen: The Yoga of the Distinction Between the Field and the Knower of the Field
  14. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Fourteen: The Yoga of the Division of the Three Gunas
  15. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Fifteen: The Yoga of the Supreme Spirit
  16. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Sixteen: The Yoga of the Division between the Divine and the Demonic
  17. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Seventeen: The Yoga of the Division of Threefold Faith
  18. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eighteen: The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation

Read the Maharshi Gita, an arrangement of verses of the Bhagavad Gita made by Sri Ramana Maharshi that gives an overview of the essential message of the Gita.

Read the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening, a full commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri).

Visit our e-library page for Free Downloads of this and other ebooks in various formats.

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