Scripture Study: Bhagavad Gita, book three verses 31-33

We are doing a scripture study together: reading along through some scriptures and discussing the passages. Here are all of the posts on the previous verses for the Gita: Bhagavad Gita Study

From the Winthrop Sargeant translation of The Gita

31. Men who constantly practice
This teaching of Mine,
Believing, not sneering,
Are also released from the bondage of actions.

32. But those who, sneering at this,
Do not practice My teaching,
Confusing all wisdom,
Know them to be lost and mindless.

33. One acts according to one’s own material nature.
Even the wise man does so.
Beings follow their own material nature;
What will restraint accomplish?

Notes on the Sanskrit

Teaching is matam “thought, doctrine.”

Practice is anutishthanti “they practice, they follow, they carry out.”

Believing is sraddhavantas “believing, full of faith.”

Not Sneering is Anasuyantas “not sneering, not spiteful, not envious.” Envious is an interesting element to that sneering.

released from actions. The literal Sanskrit does not seem to have “bondage of” actions.

Lost is nastan “lost, destroyed.”

One acts according to one’ s own nature. Acts is “acts, stives, moves, struggles.” One struggles according to one’s own nature is an intriguing translation.

material nature is prakriti

Commentaries of Gurus

They are a ruined lot who scorn this doctrine and refuse to conform to it. They are deluded in respect to all forms of knowledge. They lack discrimination.  Why don’t they shrink from transgressing these commandments?

But all living creatures conform to their nature, so what can repression avail?

Nature means impressions of work, righteous and unrighteous, done already, which manifest themselves in the present life and later. Nature is hard to repress. Even one who has knowledge behaves according to nature.

Bhagavad Gita Bhaasya of Sri Shankaracharya

 

My Thoughts

“Commandments” is a weird word to have here. I’m not sure on the translation of that one. I got that part from the book of Sri Shankaracharya commentary and that one does not break down the Sanskrit. The Sanskrit is there but I can’t find and analyze what word this is. I think the translation as “teachings” is better. It makes more sense with the way Krishna guides. He doesn’t say “Do this because I said so or else.”

It sounds like “nature” is sanskara (karma), the results of all previously done actions, so basically habit. What you’ve done before becomes what you are likely to do in the future.

At times in these verses is seems like “nature” is what we are born to, what we are because of the body we have been born into.But Sri Shankaracharya clarifies that nature is not necessarily destiny. It is the built up habit of what we have done before, which strongly biases us towards behaving  the same in the future. But we are not required to. We can repress those habits. We can make a new nature for ourselves.

What will it accomplish to subdue and control one’s material nature?

What a fascinating question. I look forward to hearing the answer in the next verses!

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