The Bhagavad Gita | Study Guide


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The Bhagavad Gita | Chapter 15 : The Ultimate Person | Summary



Krishna describes "the realm of sorrow" as a tree, with the branches fed by the gunas and the roots by action. The leaves represent the sacred hymns. Krishna instructs Arjuna to cut this tree down "with the sharp-edged ax of detachment" and search for God, or "the primal Person" that is the essence of the universe. When Krishna inhabits a body, he is not attached to the sensations of it but enjoys them and lets them pass like scents on the wind. People who have self-discipline and follow the path of yoga recognize God in themselves as their Self.

Beings have two different levels of existence, and Krishna explains that "all beings are transient as bodies, / but eternal within the Self." Krishna reveals that the "Ultimate Person" mentioned in the scriptures is actually him. This is secret knowledge he is passing to Arjuna.


The term Ultimate Person, which Krishna introduces into his dialogue, is the English translation for the Sanskrit word purusha. Purusha appears throughout important Hindu texts, including the Vedas, to which Krishna often alludes. The important point is that purusha, or "cosmic person" or "Ultimate Person," is also another name for Krishna's ultimate form. This is a significant distinction for those studying the Hindu texts because many distinct terms are used in the conversation about God, Self, and ultimate reality. Terms such as purusha, Brahma (a specific god, but also written as brahma or brahman to refer to the underlying reality of the universe), atman (the Self), and so forth are often used interchangeably or sometimes in similar contexts. To avoid confusion, Krishna states, in this text these terms are all different names for himself.

In verse 8 Krishna gives another explanation of the relationship between God, the Self, and nature/the gunas. This explanation is particularly succinct and helps clarify the relationship. He states that the soul of a person is "one fragment of [himself], becoming / an eternal soul in the world." This indicates that the soul, or Self, of a person is a fragment of Krishna. This soul then "draws to itself the mind / and the other five Nature-born senses." Once this piece of Krishna becomes embodied in the world, it attracts the gunas to itself. When nature and the body surround the Self, a person can become deluded that those things are one and the same.

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