Divine & Demonic Virtues: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 16, Verse 1 (164)


Lesson 164 states that purpose of Chapter 16 is to complete and solidify the self-knoweldge learned in CH13-15. We also learn about the first two divine qualities; Fearlessness and Mental Purity.

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 16, Intro + Verse 1

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 16 INTRODUCTION:

  • Title name: Divine and Demonic Nature within a Person: Daiva-Āsura-Sampat-Vibhāga-Yogaḥ.
  • Human being by birth is endowed with 3 capacities: To Know, To Desire, To Do (jnana-iccha-kriya shakti).
    • Meaning human can think independently, unlike animal (which is programmed and subject to further programming).
      • EG: Chimp can be trained to ride a motorbike, but lacks ability to think independently, like stopping for 5 minutes for some sight-seeing and refreshments.
    • Whereas human is also programmed by birth with certain tendencies (samskaras), but the programming is not fixed (unlike animals).
    • Meaning human being is given a special GIFT (self-conscious intellect) that’s capable of programming it’s own value system.
      • Because of this GIFT, the intellect can adopt any value system. And because of this, Lord says, if this faculty of reason is used to give up old unhealthy ways and adopt new healthy ways (in light of the scriptures)… that being will become divine.
  • However there is a complication, despite being given a self-conscious intellect:
    • In childhood, our reasoning is under-developed. So we have no choice but to follow values of parents, teachers, society.
      • EG: “Don’t lie. Don’t raise your voice. Don’t take other’s belongings, Don’t drink alcohol, Show him whose the man!, etc”.
    • Then in adulthood, most don’t give these values a second thought. So we do them to oblige the society, parents. Meaning they remain unassimilated (meaning we haven’t converted them into our personal values).
      • Because they remain unassimilated, we cast our childhood values aside the moment our likes/dislikes blossom. Meaning what the person wants & doesn’t want in respect to each situation, it overrides consideration-for-the-whole (which is an intrinsic system built into all living beings).
    • What does assimilated value mean?
      • Suppose you’re hungry for 3 days. Would you pick food out of garbage and eat it? No.
        • But not because you’re obliging the health industry by adopting their proven-principles of hygiene. It’s because you have an assimilated value for eating only clean, fresh food.
      • Similarly, we voice out what we feel (truthful speak), and avoid inducing discomfort in others (ahimsa)… not as result of childhood conditioning, but because you’ve understood the worth and benefit it has onto yourself, by following the injunctions.
          • You’ve understood that each time the ACTOR (mouth) says one thing, while the thinker (brain) thinks another… it creates an ACTOR/thinker split. Then one day, the thinker says “wake up at 6am”, but the ACTOR doesn’t obey next morning.
            • Then one notices, if the ACTOR in me can’t even follow up on small things, how will it ever reach the ocean of infinite, eternal Love … which requires living a certain lifestyle and self-inquiring.
          • One notices, “I want to live happily. Meaning my neighbour also wants to live happily, because from their standpoint, I am a neighbour to them”. Consequently, one becomes sensitive to needs of others.
          • If you assimilate this one value of ahimsa, all others follow. Like if pull one leg (value) of table, three other legs follow.
  • Whereas those who don’t assimilate these divine-values (daivi-sampad), and rely on childhood programming, they’ll eventually start compromising with demonic qualities (asura-sampad). They’ll spiritually fall, and plunge themselves into deep misery for many lifetimes.
    • “Demon” (āsura) doesn’t mean canine teeth. But behind a pleasing form, one can be vulgar in speech, inconsiderate, manipulative, and motivated by distorted values.
  • Purpose of assimilating daivī-sampat (divine qualities)? In V5, Krishna says, only divine-qualities can hold self-knowledge long enough, until there’s an irreversible identity shift; stopping rebirth. But also they ensue a meaningful, absorbed and content life.


  • Chapter 16 is divided into 5 sections:
    • PART 1: Verse 1-3: Qualities of daiva-sampad (Divine Dispositions).
    • PART 2: Verse 4-6: General intro to āsura-sampad (Demonic/Unrighteous Dispositions).
    • PART 3: Verse 7-21: Detailed descriptions of āsura-sampad (Oriented towards adharma).
      • Verse 13-15: Inner thoughts of an āsura.
    • PART 4: Verse 22-24: Conclusion.
  • Krishna feels self-knowledge (in CH13-15) is incomplete without following it up with a compatible way of life. If CH13-15 are the seeds, CH16 is the water, and CH17 is the fertilizer.
  • And way of life requires a certain personality type. Krishna categorizes all personalities types throughout the universe, into 3 fold:
    1. Rakshasa: Dislikes (dvesha) are dominant.
      • Tama-guna dominant.
      • Some traits (generalizations, not definitive):
      • Complains a lot. About parents, economy, people, prime minister, God.
      • Much anger suppressed which results in short tempers, hard to please, passive aggressive.
      • Causes discomfort to others (himsa).
      • Leads to spiritual regression.
    2. Asura: Likes (rāga) are dominant.
      • Raja-guna dominant.
      • Some traits (generalizations, not definitive):
      • Attachment oriented. Surrounds oneself with security and pleasure.  
      • Philosophy = life is for enjoyment.
      • They don’t harm others (unlike Rakshasa), because they’re busy achieving.
      • Religion/spirituality is considered unnecessary to life. And even outdated/dangerous.
      • Leads to spiritual stagnation (neither moves up, nor down).
    3. Daiva: Considers spiritual knowledge the goal of life.
      • Sattva-guna dominant.
      • They’re not against materialism, business, self-promotion, money. But puts knowledge #1.  
  • These 3 personality traits are compared to persons wealth. Hence we can contrast them to our traits and make adjustments.

PART 1: Verse 1-3: Qualities of daiva-sampat (Divine Dispositions)

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 16 Verse 1:

abhayam sattva-saṃśuddhiḥ jñāna-yoga-vyavasthitiḥ ।
dānam damaḥ ca yajñaḥ ca svādhyāyaḥ tapaḥ ārjavam ॥ 16-1॥

Fearlessness (abhayam), Mental purity (sattvasaṃśuddhiḥ), Steadfastness in jnana and yoga (jñāna-yōga-vyasthitiḥ), Charity (dānam), Sense control (damaḥ), Worship (yajñaḥ), Scriptural study (svādhyāyaḥ), Austerity (tapaḥ), Straightforwardness (ārjavam) — all these are there for the one who is born to the wealth of devas.

  • abhayam: Fearlessness.
    • MEANING 1: An objective/detached mind.
      • Universe is not unpredictable, but works via cause-effect mechanics. What I sow is what I reap. This removes fear of tomorrow or of the unknown.
      • Because Isvara is impersonal. Noone is excused from foolishness.
        • EG: Pandu cursed when ‘accidentally’ struck with bow sage/wife, mistaking them for a deer. Knowing this, one takes each happening as Isvara-prasada.
        • EG: Bhagavatam, Canto 3.16: When Jaya and Vijay (Lord Vishnu’s own guards) did wrong, they had to take three births in a lower-body. Indicating Lord does not set aside His rules even for His dearest devotees.
      • SUMMARY:
        • 1st cause of fear: Thinking universe is unpredictable.
        • 2nd cause of fear: Your identity is not aligned with what you’re supposed to be doing (svadharma).
          • EG:
            • Lion cub brought up in flock of sheep, will run away from fox. When realizes his Identity as lion; fear goes. Hence concrete knowledge of one’s identity removes apprehension/hesitation.
            • Family man assuming identity of a “lion tamer”, has no anxiety in reference to lions.
    • MEANING 2: Courage to walk the path alone that’s riddled with obstacles.
      • If accept that more obstacles are headed your way this very moment, then we’re able to deal with them more calmly and intelligently when they come.
      • Accordingly, you may consider improvising how you’ll respond when that person at home/work/future triggers your values. But also, accepting that it’s ok that your spiritual path may involve less socialising, or not. Eitherway, come to terms that there will be moments of dis-ease.
  • sattva-saṃśuddhiḥ: Mental purity.
    • Thoughts that keep mind positive, creative, expanded. Maintain.



Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya), Paramarthananda & Chinmaya Mission.

Recorded 29 March, 2022



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