Ch. 16 Yoga of Distinction Between āsurī and daivī qualities (Part 5)

This article is part 91 of 131 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga

Therefore, it does not mean that belief in śāstra means that the buddhi is going to stop working. In the sixth chapter, Bhagavān himself has explained how important the buddhi is.

buddhi-grāhyam atīndriyam ॥

The nature of the ātmā is beyond the senses and the manas. The Upaniṣat says —

yanmanasā na manute yenāhur-mano matam ॥


yato vāco nivartante । aprāpya manasā saha ॥

Taittiriyopaniṣat, brahmānanda-vallī 9.1

Thus, the inability of the senses and manas are shown. The buddhi can grasp more subtleties than the manas

Manastu parā buddhir-yo buddheḥ paratastu saḥ ।

(BG 3.42)

Among the human means to obtain knowledge, the one closest to the paratattva is the buddhi. If that does not work properly, it is as if there is no loop in the rope used to draw water from a well. The tattva is not obtained without the effort of the buddhi. What do we mean when we say that the buddhi should work? It should face the supreme tattva — work with the firm purpose of understanding it. That is śraddhā. If that is not done — if it turns its back to the tattva, the buddhi might harm us instead of helping. The crux here is that the buddhi should work in accordance with the essence of śāstra. The main principle of śāstra is beyond the senses and beyond the world. We do not have any resort other than śāstra if we are to understand the basic, fundamental principles. Therefore, it is imperative that we understand what śāstra says. However, understanding śāstra is impossible without the effort of the buddhi. Maharṣi Manu says -

pratyakṣaṃ cānumānaṃ ca śāstraṃ ca vividhāgamam ।
trayaṃ suviditaṃ kāryaṃ dharmaśuddhim abhīpsatā ॥
ārṣaṃ dharmopadeśaṃ ca veda-śāstrāvirodhinā ।
yastarkeṇanu-sandhatte sa dharmaṃ veda netaraḥ ॥ 


“1. The knowledge of the world that is seen and experienced directly (pratyakṣa) 2. The aspects that are understood when these are examined (anumāna) 3. Religious texts that help in the understanding of the Vedas, such as smṛtis and purāṇas — those who desire to obtain pure dhārmic knowledge should depend on all the above three”.
“Only the one who uses his buddhi to logically establish the instruction of ṛṣis without misconstruing its fundamental concepts will understand dharma, not others”.

kevalaṃ śāstramāśritya na kartavyā viniścayaḥ ।
yukti-hīna-vicāre tu dharma-hāniḥ prajāyate ॥


Thus, the necessity of the buddhi is clearly demonstrated. The pramāṇas outlined above — pratyakṣa, anumāna and āgama are all the works of the buddhi.
If a surgeon is asked to perform surgery without cutting away the neck of the patient, does it mean that we are hampering his freedom to treat his patients? If we ask a teacher to correct a student without harming him physically, are we taking away his freedom to teach? If we ask someone to donate money without borrowing from others or begging, does it mean that we are preventing him from exercising his freedom to perform dāna? Similarly, if one is asked to be careful to not hit at the roots of the tree of dharma it does not mean that the dirt and rot in its branches should not be cleaned[1]. The purport of this discussion is that the buddhi should follow śāstras in its deliberations. The same is said in a verse, supposedly written by Srī Śankarācārya.

dustarkāt suviramyatāṃ śrutimatas-tarko’nusandhīyatām ॥


It is not possible for even the greatest buddhi to independently perceive the parabrahma that is beyond senses and all understanding. It has to be understood only through the help of the Vedas. Barring this one restriction, the buddhi is free to work unconstrained. Not only that, it is required to work.

Along with the material for deliberation, the buddhi also acquires eligibility to work — only because of śāstra. The saṃskāras, etc that are ordained by śāstras such as smṛti purify the manas. Worldly desires, greed, infatuation and hatred are eroded and sensual impulses are reduced. As āsurī nature in the senses reduces, daivī nature takes its place in the manas. When the manas starts paying attention to the divine, the buddhi becomes capable of understanding the philosophy of the parabrahma. Thus, the buddhi derives even the capability to perceive the Brahma through śāstra, along with the material for reflection.

The buddhi and śāstra are both needed by each other. One needs the help of the other to be meaningful. Śāstra cannot be understood without the help of the buddhi. When there is no śāstra there is no material for the buddhi to ponder about. The object that has to be understood here is beyond the realm of understanding of this world, beyond the senses. If this has to be explained to the world, at least some basic instructions should be there as a basis. Just as foundation is to a building, the Vedas are to the study of the parabrahma. However, the foundation is not the house itself. The explanations and elucidations that come out of man’s buddhi are like the house. Let us change this simile a little. If we think of the Vedas as the Earth, which is the basis of all life, we can say that various religions and philosophies are the buildings that stand on this basic premise that is the Earth. There is no house without the Earth. There is no fulfilment for the earth without houses. Thus, the words of the śāstra and human discernment are symbiotic.
A cautionary word seems to be in place here. One should not consider anything and sundry written in the Saṃskṛta language as śāstra. Only that which has traditionally been passed down from generations as the word of learned sages is śāstra. Others cannot be given the respectful place of pramāṇa. It is true that one should be subservient to the words of śāstra. However, one should also be able to distinguish between real śāstra and mere pleasant words. It is possible to see that some parts of the Veda are more authoritative and authentic than others. Therefore, even within the Vedas, it is necessary to understand the subtle differences between various expressions and examine the other pramāṇas from the basis of the greatest pramāṇa one can find. Therefore, even subservience to śāstra requires the effort of the buddhi. This is why the commentators on smrtis say -

īti-kartavyatā-bhāgaṃ mīmāṃsā pūrayiṣyati ॥


Thereby agreeing that the buddhi has a role to play in the search for the supreme truth.

anṛtāt-satyam-upaimi । mānuṣāt daivam upaimi ॥

Let this be our constant prayer.

daivāsuraṃgaḻa raṇaraṃgavò nara
jīvita-bhūmi tāneṃduṃ ।
jīvamūlava nenedākaḍè matiyanu
ḍhāvippa nītiyè cendaṃ ॥

Battlefield of divine and demonic gunas
This earth is, know that, now and always
Remember the root of jiva, and move to it.
This is meritorious conduct.

bhūvaibhavaṃgaḻiṃdātmava marèyipu-
dāsurāhaṃbhāva-baṃdhaṃ ।
daivapathaṃ dharma-śramakāri-yādòḍaṃ
mānuṣyātītadānandaṃ ॥

The fetters of ego and other āsurī qualities
Make a man forget himself in the splendour of the world.
Even if the path to the divine
Is difficult to traverse, it brings great joy.


āditya daitya-saṃpad-
bhedaṃgaḻ manuja-cittamaṃ bhramegoḻisal ॥
Vedamè kāryākārya-vi-
bodhanegādhāram-èndu ṣoḍaśagītaṃ ॥

daivī and āsurī qualities confuse
And confound the human mind.
In such a state, the Veda itself is the basis for determining dos and don’ts —
That is the essence of the sixteenth chapter.

kusumaviśikha-tātaṃ satyabhāmā-niketaṃ[2]
rasika-hṛd-anubhūtaṃ pārtha-saubhadra-dūtaṃ ॥
bhava-jala-nidhi-potaṃ dvaṃdva-megha-pravātaṃ
bhuvana-vidhi-vidhātaṃ dharma-saṃgrāma-gītaṃ ॥

The father of the flower-arrowed deity, the refuge of Satyabhāmā
Understood by the hearts of the devotee, the one who heralded auspiciousness to Arjuna.
The ferryman of the ocean of saṃsāra, a stormy wind to clouds of dualities,
The author of universal rules, one who gave us the battle-song of dharma[3].

To be continued...

The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.


[1]The question "what is the root of dharma?" can only be answered by examining the context, with a thorough understanding of Vedanta.

[2]Satyabhāmā can also be understood as satyasya bhāyāh mā - the personified splendour of Truth, therefore satyabhāmā-niketa is one in whom Truth finds refuge.

[3]This was probably the intended meaning. However, this word itself means “one who was eulogised in the battle that was fought for dharma



Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.



Engineer. Lapsed blogger. Abiding interest in Sanskrit, religion, and philosophy. A wannabe jack-of-all.


Mother of two. Engineer. Worshiper of Indian music, poetry, and art.

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