Bhagvad Gita Q/A with Shri V.S.

Before we proceed into the subject matter of this document, I would like to briefly introduce to the lay reader as to who Shri V.S. Iyer was and then explain the outline of this document. Who is Shri V.S. Iyer? He was born on 15th April 1969, Salem, Tamil Nadu as V. Subramaniya Iyer, the first child to Shri Venkataramana Iyer and Shrimati Rukmini Ammal. He had his early education in Bangalore and later studied in Madras Christian College with special focus on Math and Physics. He was employed as the registrar of the University of Mysore (1919-1927) He assumed discipleship under Swami Sachidananda Sivabhinava Bharathi (Head of the then Shringeri Shankar Mutt). Under his Holiness’ tutelage, he blossomed into an expert in Vedanta, especially Mandukya Upanishad (along with Shri Gaudapada Karika and Shri Shankara's commentary). He compared all new thoughts - scientific, religious, mystical, philosophical, with Advaita Vedanta and arrived at a profound personal assessment of Vedanta, in light of the modern and ancient world. In 1920 he was called upon to be the reader of the then Maharaja of Mysore, his Excellency Shri Krishnaraja Wadiyar, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. He accompanied the “Philosopher” Maharaja to England/Europe in 1936 and met with several leading thinkers of the time. During his presidential address in the World Philosophical Congress - Indian Section, held in Paris 1937, he remarked that "It is India's meaning of truth and her method of approach through the three states (waking, dream, and deep-sleep) still unknown to the rest of the world, that could be thought worthy of the world's consideration". Along these lines he has made several lectures which brought the significance of Shri Gaudapada and Shri Shankara’s unrelenting philosophical reasoning, to the attention of the World. A most significant event during his life time was starting the famous Mysore study circle along with the Swamis of the Shri Ramakrishna Mission. He was a great admirer of Shri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, as is evident from several of his quotes. The Maharaja also encouraged the idea that the Swamis of Shri Ramakrishna Math (who would spread the message of Vedanta throughout the world) should benefit by a study of Vedanta, in light of western science, as expounded by Shri Iyer. Several

monks of the Shri Ramakrishna Order like Swami Siddheswaranandaji, Swami Nikhilanandaji & Swami Ranganathanandaji were among Shri Iyer's study circle. In a letter received by Shri V.S. Iyer from Swami Siddheswaranandaji, the Swamiji quotes “If today I am privileged to present Vedanta to the University of France I owe entirely all the knowledge to you”(Reference: "Tattva Vichara or An Inquiry into Truth" page 201 first edition, see footnote 1). Paul Brunton, a famous author (and western admirer of the Advaita tradition and masters, was also positively influenced by Shri Iyer’s lectures and discussions (See footnotes 1 & 2).

What is this document about?
In the book titled “Tattva Vichara or An inquiry into Truth” [See footnote 1] published by the family of V.S Iyer and edited by notable scholar and philosopher T.M.P Mahadevan, pages 135-138 (3 pages) are filled with 41 interesting questions raised by Shri Iyer. He chose to answer those questions not with words but with appropriate chapter and verse number in the Bhagavad Gita. So in an attempt to bring out this information published in those 3 pages and in the process “fill in the blanks”. I have typed those questions (with minor edits/paraphrasing) and provided not just the chapter/verse number but also typed in English translation of those verses. I resorted to English translations by revered Swami Ghambhiranandaji and revered Swami Tapasyanandaji, for this purpose. For Question 41, I "cut/copy/paste" stuff out of Shri Swami Ghambhiranandaji's engligh translation of Shri Shankara Gita Bhasyam. The format of the information below, is Question, <next line> Chapter/Verse Number, <next line> English Translation of the Verse. I hold Shri V.S. Iyer in very high regard and consider him one of the most uncompromisingly

honest philosophers in the modern era. This and the fact that he is a Vedantin, makes his views/words on things spiritual and worldly, worthwhile. I hope this document proves useful to you
and encourages the reader to go through Shri V.S. Iyer’s life & work.

1: Title An inquiry into truth, or, Tattva vicāra: a collection of speeches and writings / by V. Subramaniya Iyer; edited by T.M.P. Mahadevan; Pub Info: Salem, K. Subrahmanian, [1982] 2: Ref: 3: “His scholarship was excellent, after all, though in his writing he deliberately forsook the academic style. He had the benefit of in-depth practice, study, and dialogue with many great teachers—including Ramana Maharishi, V.S. Iyer, Atmananda, M. Hiriyanna and T.M.P. Mahadevan among the Hindus and Ananda Metteya among the Buddhists.” – )


What faculty leads to knowledge of Sankya (which deals with parmartha vastu)? II 39

O Arjuna! What has been declared to you is the Truth according to the Sankya (the path of knowledge). Listen now to the teaching of Yoga (the path of selfless action combined with devotion) by practicing which the bondage of Karma is overcome. 2 What is the chief characteristic of a resolute seeker? II 41

O Arjuna! In those following this path, the Buddhi (the understanding) that has the nature of producing conviction, is directed towards a single objective. In those without any spiritual conviction, the understanding gets scattered and pursues countless ends. 3 What should a seeker finally find refuge in? II 49

O Arjuna, mere action (with attachment) is far inferior to action done with the mind poised in evenness. Seek shelter in this state of unperturbed evenness (which can arise only in a desire less mind in communion with the Divine). Those who work for selfish gains are indeed pitiable. 4 II What enables one to free oneself, even in this world, from the effects of actions? 50

One endowed with this unperturbed evenness of mind abandons the effects of both good and bad actions even here itself. Therefore strive for this state of Yoga. Yoga is skill in action. 5 What enables one to attain to that in which there is no evil? II 51

Wise men, established thus in the unperturbed evenness of mind, abandon the fruits of action, free themselves from entanglement in the cycle of births and deaths, and attain to the state of freedom from all sorrow (liberation). 6 What enables one to overcome delusion? II 52

When you have overcome the delusions of your understanding sprung from selfcentered attachment, and then you attain to a state of indifference towards all the past experiences and the others yet to be had.


What enables one to remain steady amidst perplexities? II 53

When your intellect, fed up with the bewildering scriptural doctrines and their interpretations, settles (finally) in steady and unwavering introspection, then you will attain to real Yoga. 8 What, if lost, Man is utterly ruined? II 63

Anger generates delusion, and delusion results in loss of memory. Loss of memory brings about the destruction of discriminative intelligence, and loss of discriminative intelligence spells ruin to a man. 9 What does tranquil-mindedness influence most in securing peace? II 65

On attaining tranquility all one's sorrows come to an end. For soon does the intellect of a tranquil person become steady. 10 II What is indispensable to attain peace and happiness in this world? 66

A man of uncontrolled senses has no spiritual comprehension. He has no capacity for meditation either. For the unmeditative there is no peace. And where is happiness for one without peace of mind? 11 What is superior to all kinds of actions? III 1

O Janardana, if, according to Thee, discriminative insight is superior to action, why dost Thou enjoin on me this terrible action (of engagement in war)? 12 What is needed for the removal of one’s confusion? III 2

By seemingly conflicting words, Thou art confusing my understanding. Speak to me only about that which will definitely lead to my highest good.


What one faculty in the ignorant should on any account be unsettled? III 26

An enlightened man should not cause confusion in the minds of ignorant people (by his conduct), Himself working with equanimity, he should make them interested in all activities. 14 What is the supreme among the faculties in a man? III 42

The senses are great, they say. Superior to the senses is the mind, and superior even to the mind is the intellect. What is superior even to the intellect is He, the Atman. 15 What is that faculty in man that is nearest to God? III 16 42

What is necessary to reach God? III 43

Thus knowing Him who is superior even to the Buddhi, and controlling the lower self with the higher, kill that tough enemy in the form of lust, O mighty-armed Arjuna! 17 What is the benefit of the knowledge of action and inaction? IV 18

He who sees work in 'no work' and 'no work' in work, he is wise among men. Even while doing all work, he remains established in Yoga. 18 What is that which enables one to purge one's sin? V 17

Those who think of That always, who are ever at one with That, who are deeply devoted to That, and who look upon That as their goal, get purified of their sins by divine knowledge and go to the state from which there is no return to worldly life. 19 Which helps one best to fix one's mind on God? V 17


What is that which can grasp the infinite joy of Tattva (Reality)? VI 21

In which he (the Yogi) experiences that endless bliss which is beyond the ken of the senses but is intuited by the purified intellect; wherein established, one does not waver from the Truth. 21 What enables one step by step to establish oneself in Highest? VI 24-25

Abandoning imagination - born longings in their entirety, restraining all the senses with the mind on every side, and setting that mind firmly on the Self under the direction of a steadfast intellect, one should practice tranquility little by little, and abstain from every kind of thought. 22 What is that one faculty which grows with man's passage from birth to birth? VI 43

There, O scion of the clan of Kurus! he will regain the spiritual discernment of his previous birth, and then he will strive harder than ever for perfection. 23 What characterizes the best among the most intelligent? VII 10

Know me, O Partha! to be the eternal seed of all beings. In the wise I am their wisdom and in puissant men, their prowess. 24 What is that in man which can be compared with even the Lord? VII 25 10

What is the without which the Lord's supreme nature remains unknown? VII 24

Without any insight into My transcendental nature, unique and immutable, men of little understanding look upon Me as a mere human individual, having come into manifestation from an unmanifested state. 26 What ranks the highest amongst the attributes of the mind? X 4

Intelligence, wisdom, non-delusion, forgiveness, truth, control of the external organs, control of the internal organs, happiness, sorrow, birth, death and fear as also fearlessness


What is the most valuable God given award to his best devotee? X 10

To them who are ever devoted and worship Me with love, I grant that possession of wisdom by which they reach Me. 28 What should one have recourse to that one may always live in the Lord? XII 8

Fix the mind on Me alone; in Me alone rest the intellect. There is no doubt that hereafter you will dwell in Me alone. 29 What makes one above all else, dear to the Lord? XII 14

He who is ever content, who is a yogi, who has self-control, who has firm conviction, who has dedicated his mind and intellect to Me-he who is such a devotee of Mine is dear to Me. 30 What is that in man in which "the light of lights is implanted”? XIII 17

The self-luminous light of consciousness revealing even all that is luminous. He is beyond obscuration by the darkness of ignorance. He, the light of knowledge. He, the quest of knowledge. He, the way to whom is knowledge - in the innermost recess of all beings is He established. 31 What is that in which the 'knowledge' (constituting knowledge, knowable, and the goal of knowledge) is implanted? XIII 32 17

What in man is considered by the Lord as his worthy seat? XV 15

I am seated in the hearts of all. From Me are memory, knowledge and their loss. I alone am the object to be known through all the Vedas; I am also the originator of the Vedanta, and I Myself am the knower of the Vedas 33 What does one become when one knows the most secret of all sciences ? XV 20

O sinless one, this most secret scripture has thus been uttered by Me. Understanding this, one becomes wise and has his duties fulfilled, O scion of the Bharata dynasty


What is that which when warped makes one see, wicked ways? XVI 7, 8, 9

7. Men of demoniac nature know not what should be done and what should be avoided. Neither purity, nor good conduct, nor truthfulness is found in them. 8. According to them nothing is ultimately real in this world. It is Godless and without any moral basis. Being born of sexual union, what else but lust can be said to be its cause? 9. Holding such views, these lost souls - these men of little understanding- given, as they are, to cruel deeds opposed to general well-being, appear as agents for the destruction of the world. 35 What is that which if perverted one cannot see the truth? XVIII 16

Anyone, who, owing to the imperfection of his intellect, perceives the absolute Self as the agent, that man does not perceive (properly), and has a perverted intellect 36 What is that if not tainted, keeps one pure though one commit the crime of killing? XVIII 17

He who is ever established in the feeling 'I am not the agent' and whose mind is consequently unsullied by attachments - he kills not really, nor is he bound, even though he annihilates all these beings. 37 What is that which enables one to know liberation from bondage? XVIII 30

O Partha, that intellect is born of sattva which understands action and withdrawal, duty and what is not duty, the sources of fear and fearlessness, and bondage and freedom. 38 What should remain unattached so that one may know true renunciation? XVIII 49

He whose intellect remains unattached to everything, who has conquered his internal organs and is desire less, attains through monasticism the supreme perfection consisting in the state of one free from duties


What is the supreme importance in attaining the highest knowledge? XVIII 50

Now hear from Me in brief how one, who is established in the perfection of transcendence of work, attains to Brahman, the highest consummation of knowledge. 40 What is that one should finally resort to that one may attain the supreme? XVIII 57

Mentally surrendering all actions to Me and accepting Me as the supreme, have your mind ever fixed on Me by resorting to the concentration of your intellect.


What is Buddhi? See Shankara's commentary



Verse: The unreal can never come into existence, and the real can never cease to be. The wise philosophers have known the truth about these categories (of the real and the unreal).
Shri Shankara's Commentary: Since 'the unreal has no being,' etc., for this reason also it is proper to bear cold, heat, etc. without becoming sorrowful or deluded. Asatah, of the unreal, of cold, heat, etc. together with their causes; na vidyate, there is no; bhavah, being, existence, reality; because heat, cold, etc. together with their causes are not substantially real when tested by means of proof. For they are changeful and whatever is changeful is inconstant. As configurations like pot etc. are unreal since they are not perceived to be different from earth when tested by the eyes, so also are all changeful things unreal because they are not perceived to be different from their (material) causes, and also because they are not perceived before (their) origination and after destruction.

Objection: If it be that [Here Ast. has the additional words 'karyasya ghatadeh, the effect, viz pot etc. (and)'.-Tr.] such (material) causes as earth etc. as also their causes are unreal since they are not perceived differently from their causes, in that case, may it not be urged that owing to the nonexistence of those (causes) there will arise the contingency of everything becoming unreal

[An entity cannot be said to be unreal merely because it is non-different from its cause. Were it to be asserted as being unreal, then the cause also should be unreal, because there is no entity which is not subject to the law of cause and effect.]?

Vedantin: No, for in all cases there is the experience of two awarenesses, viz the awareness of reality, and the awareness of unreality. [In all cases of perception two awarenesses are involved: one is invariable, and the other is variable. Since the variable is imagined on the invariable, therefore it is proved that there is something which is the substratum of all imagination, and which is neither a cause nor an effect.] That in relation to which the awareness does not change is real; that in relation to which it changes is unreal.

Thus, since the distinction between the real and the unreal is dependent on awareness, therefore in all cases (of empirical experiences) everyone has two kinds of awarenesses with regard to the same substratum: (As for instance, the experiences) 'The pot is real', 'The cloth is real', 'The elephant is real' - (which experiences) are not like (that of) 'A blue lotus'.

[In the empirical experience, 'A blue lotus', there are two awarenesses concerned with two entities, viz the substance (lotus) and the quality (blueness). In the case of the experience, 'The pot is real', etc. the awarenesses are not concerned with substratum and qualities, but the awareness of pot,of cloth, etc. are superimposed on the awareness of 'reality', like that of 'water' in a mirage.]

This is how it happens everywhere. [The coexistence of 'reality' and 'pot' etc. are valid only empirically -according to the non-dualists; whereas the coexistence of 'blueness' and 'lotus' is real according to the dualists.] Of these two awareness, the awareness of pot etc. is inconstant; and thus has it been shown above. But the awareness of reality is not (inconstant). Therefore the object of the awareness of pot etc. is unreal because of inconstancy; but not so the object of the awareness of reality, because of its constancy.

Objection: If it be argued that, since the awareness of pot also changes when the pot is destroyed, therefore the awareness of the pot's reality is also changeful? Vedantin: No, because in cloth etc. the awareness of reality is seen to persist. That awareness relates to the adjective (and not to the noun 'pot'). For this reason also it is not destroyed. [This last sentence has been cited in the f.n. of A.A.- Tr.]

Objection: If it be argued that like the awareness of reality, the awareness of a pot also persists in other pots? Vedantin: No, because that (awareness of pot) is not present in (the awareness of) a cloth etc. Objection: May it not be that even the awareness of reality is not present in relation to a pot that has been destroyed? Vedantin: No, because the noun is absent (there). Since the awareness of reality corresponds to the adjective (i.e. it is used adjectively), therefore, when the noun is missing there is no possibility of its (that awareness) being an adjective. So, to what should it relate? But, again, the awareness of reality (does not cease) with the absence of an object. [Even when a pot is absent and the awareness of reality does not arise with regard to it, the awareness of reality persists in the region where the pot had existed. Some read nanu in place of na tu ('But, again'). In that case, the first portion (No...since...adjective. So...relate?) is a statement of the Vedantin, and the Objection starts from nanu punah sadbuddheh, etc. so, the next Objection will run thus: 'May it not be said that, when nouns like pot etc. are absent, the awareness of existence has no noun to qualify, and therefore it becomes impossible for it (the awareness of existence) to exist in the same substratum?'-Tr.]

Objection: May it not be said that, when nouns like pot etc. are absent, (the awareness of existence has no noun to qualify and therefore) it becomes impossible for it to exist in the same substratum? [The relationship of an adjective and a noun is seen between two real entities. Therefore, if the relationship between 'pot' and 'reality' be the same as between a noun and an adjective, then both of them will be real entities. So, the coexistence of reality with a non-pot does not stand to reason.]

Vedantin: No, because in such experiences as, 'This water exists', (which arises on seeing a mirage etc.) it is observed that there is a coexistence of two objects though one of them is non-existent. Therefore, asatah, of the unreal, viz body etc. and the dualities (heat, cold, etc.), together with their causes; na vidyate, there is no; bhavah, being. And similarly, satah, of the real, of the Self; na vidyate, there is no; abhavah, nonexistence, because It is constant everywhere. This is what we have said. Tu, but; antah, the nature, the conclusion (regarding the nature of the real and the unreal) that the Real is verily real, and the unreal is verily unreal; ubhayoh api, of both these indeed, of the Self and the non-Self, of the Real and the unreal, as explained above; drstah, has been realized thus; tattva-darsibhih, by the seers of Truth. Tat is a pronoun (Sarvanama, lit. name of all) which can be used with regard to all.

And all is Brahman. And Its name is tat. The abstraction of tat is Tattva, the true nature of Brahman. Those who are apt to realize this are tattva-darsinah, seers of Truth. Therefore, you too, by adopting the vision of the men of realization and giving up sorrow and delusion, forbear the dualities, heat, cold, etc. - some of which are definite in their nature, and others inconstant --, mentally being convinced that this (phenomenal world) is changeful, verily unreal and appears falsely like water in a mirage.

This is the idea. What, again, is that reality which remains verily as the Real and surely forever? This is being answered in, 'But know That', etc.



Verse: They say that the organs are superior (to the gross body); the mind is superior to the organs; but the intellect is superior to the mind. However, the one who is superior to the intellect is He
Commentary: The learned ones ahuh, say; that indriyani, the five [Five sense-organs: of vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch; five motor-organs: hands, feet, speech, and for excretion and generation-these latter five are also understood in the present context.] organs-ear etc., are parani, superior, to the external, gross and limited body, from the point of view of subtlety, inner position, pervasiveness, etc. So also, manah, the mind, having the nature of thinking and doubting;

[Sankalpa: will, volition, intention, thought, reflection, imagination, etc. vikalpa:doubt, uncertainly, indecision, suspicion, error, etc.-V.S.A.] is param, superior; indriyebhyah, to the organs. Similarly, buddhih, the intellect, having the nature of determination; is Para, superior; manasah, to the mind. And yah, the one who is innermost as compared with all the objects of perception ending with the intellect, and with regard to which Dweller in the body it has been said that desire, in association with its 'abodes' counting from the organs, deludes It by shrouding Knowledge; sah, that one; is tu, however; paratah, superior; buddheh, to the intellect- He, the supreme Self, is the witness of the intellect.

[The portion, 'with regard to which Dweller...the supreme Self,' is translated from Ast. Which has the same reading here as the A.A. The G1. Pr. Makes the "abode'' counting from the organs' an adjective of 'the Dweller in the body', and omits the portion, 'is tu, however...buddheh, to the intellect'.- Tr.]