The Deity said:
Again I will declare (to you) the highest knowledge, the best of (all sorts of) knowledge, having learnt which, all sages have reached perfection beyond (the bonds of) this (body). Those who, resorting to this knowledge, reach assimilation with my essence, are not born at the creation, and are not afflicted at the destruction (of the universe). The great Brahman is a womb for me, in which I cast the seed. From that, O descendant of Bharata! is the birth of all things. Of the bodies, O son of Kuntī! which are born from all wombs, the (main) womb is the great Brahman, and I (am) the father, the giver of the seed. Goodness, passion, darkness, these qualities born from nature, O you of mighty arms! bind down the inexhaustible soul in the body. Of these, goodness, which, in consequence of being untainted, is enlightening and free from (all) misery, binds the soul, O sinless one! with the bond of pleasure and the bond of knowledge. Know that passion consists in being enamoured, and is produced from craving and attachment. That, O son of Kuntī! binds down the embodied (self) with the bond of action. Darkness (you must) know to be born of ignorance, it deludes all embodied (selfs). And that, O descendant of Bharata! binds down (the self) with heedlessness, indolence, and sleep. Goodness unites (the self) with pleasure; passion, O descendant of Bharata! with action; and darkness with heedlessness, after shrouding up knowledge. Passion and darkness being repressed, goodness stands, O descendant of Bharata! Passion and goodness (being repressed), darkness; and likewise darkness and goodness (being repressed), passion. When in this body at all portals light (that is to say) knowledge prevails, then should one know goodness to be developed. Avarice, activity, performance of actions, want of tranquillity, desire, these are produced, O chief of the descendants of Bharata! when passion is developed. Want of light, want of activity, heedlessness, and delusion, these are produced, O descendant of Kuru! when darkness is developed. When an embodied (self) encounters death, while goodness is developed, then he reaches the untainted worlds of those who know the highest. Encountering death during (the prevalence of) passion, he is born among those attached to action. Likewise, dying during (the prevalence of) darkness, he is born in the wombs of the ignorant. The fruit of meritorious action is said to be good, untainted; while the fruit of passion is misery; and the fruit of darkness ignorance. From goodness is produced knowledge, from passion avarice, and from darkness heedlessness and delusion and ignorance also. Those who adhere to (the ways of) goodness go up; the passionate remain in the middle; while those of the qualities of darkness, adhering to the ways of the lowest quality, go down. When a right-seeing person sees none but the qualities (to be) the doers (of all action), and knows what is above the qualities, he enters into my essence. The embodied (self), who transcends these three qualities, from which bodies are produced, attains immortality, being freed from birth and death and old age and misery.
What are the characteristics, O lord! of one who has transcended these three qualities? What is his conduct, and how does he transcend these three qualities?
The Deity said:
He is said to have transcended the qualities, O son of Pāndu! who is not averse to light and activity and delusion (when they) prevail, and who does not desire (them when they) cease; who sitting like one unconcerned is never perturbed by the qualities; who remains steady and moves not, (thinking) merely that the qualities exist; who is self-contained; to whom pain and pleasure are alike; to whom a sod and a stone and gold are alike; to whom what is agreeable and what is disagreeable are alike; who has discernment; to whom censure and praise of himself are alike; who is alike in honour and dishonour; who is alike towards the sides of friends and foes; and who abandons all action. And he who worships me with an unswerving devotion, transcends these qualities, and becomes fit for (entrance into) the essence of the Brahman. For I am the embodiment of the Brahman, of indefeasible immortality, of eternal piety, and of unbroken happiness.
Footnotes and references:
I. e. 'are not destroyed,' Madhusūdana; 'do not fall,' Śaṅkara; are not born,' Śrīdhara, and apparently Rāmānuja.
I. e. the 'nature' spoken of before.
These constitute nature. We must understand nature, with Professor Bhāṇḍārkar, as the hypothetical cause of the soul's feeling itself limited and conditioned. If nature is understood, as it usually is, to mean matter, its being made up of the qualities is inexplicable. Interpreted idealistically, as suggested by Professor Bhāṇḍārkar, the destruction of it spoken of at the close of the last chapter also becomes intelligible. By means of knowledge of the soul, the unreality of these manifestations is understood and nature is destroyed.
Pleasure and knowledge appertain to the mind, not the self, hence they are described as constituting bonds, when erroneously connected with the self, Śaṅkara and Śrīdhara. They constitute 'bonds,' because the self when brought into contact with them, strives to obtain them, Rāmānuja.
Carelessness about duty, owing to being intent on something else. Cf. Sutta Nipāta, pp. 51-91; Dhammapada. stanza 21; Kaṭhopaniṣad, p. 152.
The effects of each quality assert themselves, when the other two are held in check.
I. e. the senses of perception.
Activity = always doing something or another; performance, &c. = rearing large mansions, &c. want of tranquillity = perpetual agitation of mind, 'this I will do now, then, that, and next the other;' desire = to obtain everything that one comes across.
I. e. doing absolutely nothing.
The highest manifestations of Brahman, viz. the Hiraṇyagarbha, &c., say Śrīdhara and Madhusūdana. Nīlakaṇṭha also suggests that 'those who know the highest' means gods.
Lower creation, such as birds, beasts, &c.
Cf. Sutta Nipāta, p. 16.
I. e. are born as gods, &c., middle,' as men, &c.; 'down,' as brutes, &c.
I. e. what has been called Kṣetragña before, the supervising principle within one.
Bodies are developments of the qualities, say the commentators, which is not incompatible with the explanation of qualities given above. As to transcending qualities, cf. p. 48 supra.
Cf. as to what follows what is said in chapter II about 'one whose mind is steady.'
I. e. who does not feel troubled, for instance, thinking now I am actuated by a motive of passion or darkness, and so forth.
So as to lose all discrimination.
I. e. from his determination to pursue truth, by worldly pleasures or pains.
Cf. p. 55 supra.
Intent on the self only.
For the whole passage, cf. p. 101 supra.
Nīlakaṇṭha interprets this to mean 'the ultimate object of the Vedas.' I here Kṛṣṇa. Śrīdhara suggests this parallel, as light embodied is the sun, so is the Brahman embodied identical with Vāsudeva.