The Power of Self-Determination is Greater Than All Other Powers


Chapter II, Verse 8

Sri Nerode’s Translation:


I do not know what would heal my grief which has burned into my soul and senses even if I were to have unchallenged dominion over the earth or mastery over the shining gods.

Helpful Translation:

When through spiritual effort the senses “dry up”, the devotee Arjuna confesses that even with power over heaven and earth he cannot face the task of self-determination that has been given to him.


When a slave loses a master, the slave must assume the responsibility for his own life. The average human is a slave to the senses. The blind mind and the intellect that is bound to the senses cannot conceive of an existence of unlimited power if the senses no longer exist in their current forms.

Progress in meditation is like developing immunity for disease and the antidote for poison. The opposite pole in this advancement ensures that a similar cure for “health” and a solvent for “incorruptibility” is also established. As the end of “good” and “bad” becomes the reality of sensual experiences, the devotee questions the use of power over the material resistances and physical elements.

From another perspective, the meditating yogi advances and has experiences in the “higher” realms. The blind intellect notes that all experiences both the physical and the subtle (astral) are phenomenal. Why would a yogi choose to kill one set of phenomena to experience another?

The devotee has a body, that is apparent. Shouldn’t he enjoy the material experiences the body offers? Arjuna uses even his states of expanded awareness of other realms of existence to rationalize the value of sensory experiences.

“Unchallenged dominion over the earth” refers to supreme self-control over the external senses.

“Mastery over the shining gods” refers to taking command of the subtle (astral) centers of conscious energy, also known as chakras.

The anthropomorphizing of the shining gods makes them easier to understand. An advancing devotee may have the experience of engaging in internal conversations with the chakras. Chakras can be considered to be symbiotic energy-organisms that have a distinct and defined independence under the command of the soul.

Knowing that sense habits and their experiences are “sticky” allows the devotee to forgive his faults during the journey to higher states of consciousness. Rather than saying “I can’t do it,” a devotee can note that over the years there has been a slow improvement in self-mastery.

Meditate daily and keep at it. In time, the senses will transmute into something more spiritual.

Easter Eggs:

Easter Eggs (hidden references to deeper meanings) in the original version of this this verse include:

Rajyam – Sanskrit term (not incorporated in the translations above) which in this context refers to the phenomenal powers reserved for the Kshatriya caste.

In the future text explaining the Bhagavad Gita as a Sanskrit primer, the seemingly negative connotation of Sanskrit terms in this verse will be compared with similar positive connotations of the same terms used elsewhere. By comparison, the student will understand how to utilize the positive and negative aspects of the same root sounds.

Verses 5, 6, 7, and 8 switch meter in the Sanskrit poem. Each line contains eleven syllables verses the usual eight. Significant when using the Gita as a Sanskrit primer but also notable superficially for slowing the pace of the thoughts expressed – highlighting the importance of these lines.

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