The Bhagavad Gita | Study Guide


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The Bhagavad Gita | Chapter 16 : Divine Traits and Demonic Traits | Summary



Krishna describes the characteristics that belong to wise men versus "men with demonic traits." The divine traits are those of the enlightened person or the person with the potential to become a sage. These traits include purity of heart, integrity, compassion, courage, and a loving heart. Krishna considers the traits of ignorance, hypocrisy, anger, and conceit demonic qualities. According to Krishna, Arjuna has the divine traits. Krishna explains that a man born with demonic traits may think "the universe has no moral / order, no truth, no God." These people enter hell by allowing themselves to be controlled by their endless desires. These men are reborn again and again into "demonic wombs" and become trapped in hell as a result.


Krishna gives Arjuna another framework for understanding the difference between people with the potential for achieving true wisdom and those reborn many times into lives with suffering. Krishna describes as "divine" the character traits necessary for a person to come to understand the nature of God and the Self. The traits that keep individuals attached to their senses and their bodies are "demonic" traits. People ruled by demonic traits move from one lustful or sensory experience to the next, never satisfied or aware of the true nature of God or existence. Those with demonic traits often lack belief in God or in any order to the universe.

Interestingly, Krishna actually says that he keeps causing people to be reborn into "demonic wombs" as compensation for being controlled by their desires. He adds they are "deluded in birth after birth." They "never reach [God] / but sink to the lowest state." These lines often puzzle readers. Krishna seems to be saying he purposefully causes certain people to be born into "demonic" incarnations again and again. These unfortunates are without the hope of attaining release from the cycle or of union with God. The contradiction is this: if people are born only into "demonic" incarnations, they can never gain the "divine" qualities needed to move upward. This situation could seem like an endless trap that relegates some people into a permanent hell and thus seems inconsistent with Krishna's teachings in the Gita thus far: that most beings at some point are able to rise from the depths to move toward better incarnations and toward God.

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