Bhagavad Geeta Chapter 16 (Daivasura Samadvibhaga)

Bhagavad-Geeta Chapter 16Daivasura Samadvibhaga Yoga (Yoga of the difference between Divine and Demonical).

Bhagavad-Geeta explains Chapter 16 – Sri Krishna said: The divine (daiva-guna) traits are:

  • Divinity is fearlessness, purity of heart, steadfast awareness of the Self and Yoga, being generous and keeping senses under control. It is also performing required sacrifices, studying scriptures, being austere and straightforward.
  • Also, such people avoid causing harm, are truthful, without anger, renunciate, peaceful, not crooked, and compassionate to all beings. They are not covetous. Contrarily, they are gentle, modest and not fickle.
  • Finally, they are filled with vigour (tejas), are forgiving and with fortitude, clean, with enmity to none and without pride.
  • These are those divine qualities.
  • The divine nature is fit for liberation, the demoniacal leads to bondage.

The demoniac (asura-guna) traits:

  • The qualities of the demoniacal are hypocrisy, arrogance, pride, anger, harshness and ignorance. Also, the demoniacal don’t know how to deal with people. They are unaware of what to do and what not to do. They know not purity or right conduct, and are neither truthful nor moral. Hence, they denounce the existence of God and claim that all creation is born out of lust.
  • Their actions, petty and aggressive are generally destructive. In fact, they are filled with insatiable desires, hypocrisy, pride and arrogance and act with malicious intent. Therefore, they regard lust as the highest gratification, their endless desires end only with death. Consequently, held by bonds of hope, passion and anger they strive to satiate their sensual desires through wealth obtained by unjust means.
  • Their attitude is – This has been gained by me. I will fulfil this desire. This wealth shall be mine in future. I am rich and well-born, better than others. Hereafter, I will perform sacrifices give alms and rejoice.
  • Such people are deluded by ignorance. Consequently, they chase fancies, are enmeshed in a snare of delusion, addicted to gratification of their passions and they go to hell.
  • Also, they are beset by thoughts of achievement (ahamkara), obsessed with control and power, haughty, full of passion, anger and hate the thought of having any divinity in their body and in others.

School of Yoga explains how divine and demonic traits manifest:

  • First, there is nothing. This is the Brahman.
  • Then, from Brahman emerges Purusha (primordial Soul, experience or identity) and Prakriti (Primordial manifestation) of Purusha.
  • The motility of Purusha is consciousness (chitta) which carries the experience of the identity. However, Prakriti manifests as guna (attributes).
There are three gunas (attributes) are;

Tamas (inertia): This aspect is characterised by fear, laziness, indolence, confusion, delusion etc. A person with a predominance of this state is generally vacillatory, lethargic, prone to giving excuses and, indecisive. 

Rajas (passion): This state governs nearly all forms of passion and is driven primarily by desire. As a result, a person in this state would typically focus on personal achievement and gratification, be result oriented, dominating, aggressive, impatient etc.

Sattva (harmony): This state is characterised by harmony. It is demonstrated when a person tries to balance result with resource or process, task with quality and relationships etc. A person in this state avoids confrontation, but in a conflict situation, is calm, absorbs emotional outburst and remains objective.

Why is the concept of divine (deiva) and demonic (asura) important?

  • It is a reality that no one has any one trait. Each of us is a mix of these traits.
  • But it would seem that Sri Krishna is attempting to reinforce the need for a person to actively identify his or her demonic (asuraic) traits and try to either subdue or overcome it with divine (deivic) traits.
The characteristics:
  • When sattva is predominant, the person demonstrates level-headedness, harmony, emotional intelligence, patience and such divine qualities. In this quality, the balance between Purusha and Prakriti is equal. 
  • While Sri Krishna has clubbed both tamas and rajas as asura-guna, these can be subdivided into asura-guna when tamas predominates over sattva or rajas and raakshasa-guna when rajas predominates over the other two.
  • In asura-guna, where tamas (indolence, laziness and confusion) predominates, this means that Purusha (Identity) predominates over Prakriti (manifestation). As a result, the person keeps reflecting on the consequence of his or her action on the sense of Identity/ self-worth and becomes defensive.
  • Consequently, the person exhibits behaviour that is predominantly delusional, weak in self-esteem, with a lust for sexual gratification, beset by anxiety and filled with laziness / indolence.
  • In rakshasa-guna, Purusha (Identity) is weak as compared with Prakriti (manifestation). This makes the person outward looking with a need to gratify its sense of self-worth/ identity (Purusha).
  • Hence, the person keeps reaching out to gratify Purusha by material gain, possessions, passion and power. So, where rajas overshadows the other two, desire, anger, ambition, jealousy and lust for power are predominant behavioural characteristics. 
  • Finally, it is important to remember that a person can exhibit all three gunas (deiva, asura and rakshasa) in varying proportions depending on the situation and state of self-esteem/ self-worth (Purusha). 

Can a person increase divine qualities and become a purushottama (perfect person)?

The Performance code of ancient India was a simple but complete system which conditioned society and the individual into a cohesive lifestyle system called “dharma”.  This is was called rta or Code of excellence.

Introduction to the performance code of India or rta:

During the Trojan wars (around 1000 BC), hero Achilles refused to fight in the early days, alleging that King Agamemnon had faulted the Law of arête, the ancient Greek law of excellence. Arête defined that men or women of Arête were people of the highest effectiveness, who used their capabilities to achieve tangible results.

Arête is a cognate of Sanskrit “rta”, a cognate of the Persian word “asa” which, in Avestan means righteousness and a cognate of the Latin word “ariete” which means battering ram – which breaks down obstacles and ensures effectiveness of purpose.

Obviously, the ancient world lived by a common, well-defined and codified ideal of performance, which subsequent civilisations found unfashionable and subjugated. In India, rta was woven into the fabric of ancient Indian society at a people and personal level, as dharma or what is today known as righteousness.

Concept of rta:

The basis of rta came from the assumption that performance comes from sacrifice or yagnya. 

Yagnya was considered to have three components;

  1. Truth or satya – the objective, vision or focus of the sacrifice.
  2. The sacrifice itself or homa
  3. Communication or vaq – that critical component, which kept the sacrifice together and enabled achievement of the objective.

1-     Truth, vision, or objective (satya)

The first component of rta is recognising what needs to be done and why. Once a person is able to discriminate between truth and perception, clarity of goal is achieved and effort is maximised to achieve the goal.

First and foremost, all projects need a sponsor. A sponsor is one who determines the need, provides the resources and defines the system.  The sponsor is called yajaman (the sponsor of the sacrifice) in rta. 

Example: In the case of a football team, the yajaman or sponsor is one who pays the bills and under whose colours the team plays. The yajaman decides where league the team shall play. Obviously, if the estimation is incorrect, the team will either lose or not play to its full potential.

2-      The sacrifice itself (homa)

Once the yajaman decides on the activity to be performed, the execution of the sacrifice can start…

  • Appointment of a manager (Guru):  Often, the sponsor or yajaman would not have the capability or capacity to manage the activity directly. The sensible thing to do would be to appoint someone who has the requisite experience and expertise – a Guru.Guru can be defined as “the weighty one or anchor” or “he that sheds light on darkness”. Today, such an individual might be called SME (Subject Matter Expert).

Clearly, the quality of outcome would depend on the competence of the Guru who would need to know how to manage a project or sacrifice (yagnya).

Example: Continuing with the above example, once the sponsor or yajaman forms a football team, the key to its success of the team would be the quality and capability of the Team Manager or Coach.

The homa process:

  • Making a commitment – Sankalpa – (taking the vow):

Firstly, the sponsor (yajaman) and guru would need to bring the members together and explain to them, the objectives of the activity (yagnya). This will bring the team members into alignment with the goal and enable focus for a successful completion of the activity.

  • Conversion from intent to outcomeagama (conversion technique):

Once the team has been selected and aligned to the goal, the conversion of intent to outcome requires the following inputs;

  1. Methodology, process or skill-sets – shastra (knowledge): The coach of any football team should knowledge on football rules, strategy, competitive assessment, weather, health and fitness etc. Obviously, all these skill-sets, including specialist skills, training and development should also be resident in the team to make it effective. This is kshetragnya (awareness of the region).
  2. Resources (dravyam): No activity can be completed without adequate resources, these are called dravyam (components) – right resource, tools and capital required to perform the sacrifice. For a football team, this is – right players for each position, a practice location, administration facilities, technology support etc.
  3. The activity itself – agni (fire): the moment of truth occurs when the activity is performing and the outcomes become visible. Fire (agni) is the transformation agent. In the case of football, this is the match! The match decides whether integration of all the elements in the region (kshetra) has worked. For instance, the match shows whether the sponsor has set the correct goals and provided proper resources as requested by the coach. Similarly, it demonstrates whether the coach has recruited and trained the correct team, estimated the opposition or co-ordinated the correct strategy. Most importantly, whether the assumptions and hard work lead to victory or achievement of the goals.
  4. Sharing the prize – prasada (fruits of the sacrifice) – the successful team shares the fruits of a successful completion of the activity. This could be credits, profits etc. In the case of the football match, this could mean bonuses, advertising contracts etc.
  5. Thanksgiving or kaayenavacha – The activity is completed by the sponsor bringing the team together and thanking them for supporting the successful completion of the activity.

3-     Communication or vaq

Communication is the lifeblood of any activity. Instructions cannot be passed and feedback cannot be received without communication. Clearly, no activity can be successful if there is a breakdown in communication between the team members. This consists of;

  • Communication between the sponsor or yejaman and the officiating manager or Guru (officiator of the sacrifice) on the intent of the sacrifice and periodic appraisal of progress.
  • Communication between manager or Guru and various participants of the activity is critical for team effectiveness. This includes recruitment, training, performance monitoring and remuneration of team members.

Rta acts hierarchically. Firstly, the yejaman becomes the initiator and employs the Guru. Next, the Guru becomes the yejaman for the next level, but becomes a role model in addition to being a sponsor. This is then carried to the next level until finally, there was no one left to instruct. This is very similar to today’s organisational structure. 

Integration of rta into society:

The ancients realised that quality and motivation had to be conditioned into every activity and individual for ensuring performance. These elements had to be made the highest ideals worth aspiring for, the existential lifeblood or dharma of their society.

Rta is derived from the syllable “hr” which means dynamism, vibrancy, seasoning and ownership. The derived noun “hrtam” means order, rule or divine law. To make rta an unassailable concept, the ancients equated it with divinity (deivam).

They gave rta a mythical status and equated it with a role model of impeccable standing – the Sun. Rta was equated with the Sun’s rays or ushas to make it the part of their existence dharma (existential natural state).


In conclusion, by codifying rta, ancient South Asian cultures institutionalised and integrated purpose, quality and commitment to every activity. Even today, 6000 years on, the principle of rta are valid, reinforcing the sagacity of the ancient ancestors of the land. 

School of Yoga posits views that may be contrary to accepted positions: 

  • There is a problem with Chapter 16. The logic is not completely alignment with the rest of the Bhagavad-Geeta.
  • To start, is there anything called divine and demonical at all?
  • Divine and demonical often depend on which side of the conditioning (dharma) fence one sits. For example – during the Cold War, the West portrayed the Soviets as demonical and theselves as divine while the Soviets narrated an opposite position. Neither side was either divine or demonical, so the above chapter has unresolved structural issues.
  • The next question is, can people and societies move from one state to another? The Soviets have gone, but Russia exists. Is there any change? If yes, then who has changed and to what extent? Is the West still the same or has it changed?
  • The ability to change comes from awareness (pragnya), which comes from conditioning (dharma). Consequently, dharma drives our self-worth (asmita) which crimps our ability to think freely and act without fear.
  • The reality seems to be that karma is acting independent of individuals, we have the rise of China and a Covid-19 pandemic. Can anyone say that they have controlled reality?
  • So, chapter 16 needs to be read with scepticism.

Rta is a concept that part of Rg-Veda Book. Over time, this concept has atrophied and is no longer mainstream thought. Also, there is no direct linking between Truth (satya), sacrifice (yagnya) and communication (vaq), but when one looks at various Shouryam (Sun worship) practices, there are indications that satya, yagnya and rta were intimate woven with each other. For example, in Rg-Veda 10.179.3, the rishees declare “susrutam-manya-tad-rtam-naviyaha which translates to “that which is well cooked is rta”. 

The object of the above article is not to prove the veracity of rta, but to try and bring out the subtlety in thought of the ancient indigenous people of the South Asian sub-continent and try to bring divine qualities in behaviour.

School of Yoga explains the lesson learned in Chapter 16

  • Three elements which destroy the Self are passion, anger and greed and these should be avoided. Once avoided, the practitioner begins walking the path of development
  • Scriptures guide the person to self-development and one should follow them, not cast them aside.

The Transliteration of The Bhagavad Geeta – Chapter 16 follows:

The Sanskrit words are in red italics and meaning, before the words, are in black.

(1-3) Sri Krishna said – Fearlessness, balanced internal purity, steadfast in yoga of wisdom, charity, control of the senses, sacrifice and introspection, austerity and straightforwardness (abhayam-sattva-samshuddih-jnaana-yoga-vyavasthitham-daanam-damah-cha-yagnyaha-cha-svadhyaaya-tapaha-aarjavam). Non-injury, truth, non-anger, renunciation, tranquillity, absence of crookedness, compassion towards creation, non-covetousness, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness (ahimsa-satya-akrodhaha-tyaagaha-shaantihi-apoushunam-daya-bhooteshu-aloluptvam-maardavam-hree-achaapalam). Vigour, forgiveness, fortitude, purity, absence of hatred, not too much pride are the qualities of divine born (tejaha-kshamaa-dhritihi-shoucham-adrohah-na-atimaanitaa-bhavanti-sampadam-deivam-abhijaatasya).

(4) Hypocrisy, arrogance, self-conceit and wrath, harshness also and ignorance are the qualities of the demonic born (dambhaha-darpaha-abhimaanaha-cha-krodhaha-paarushyam-eva-cha-ajnaanam-cha-abhijaatasya-sampadam-aasureem).

(5-6) Divine state is deemed for liberation; the demonical state is deemed fit for bondage (deivi-sampat-vimokshaya-nibandaaya-aasuri-mata). Two types of creations in this world are divine and demonical and divine has been described at length, hear from me about demonical (dvou-bhoota-sargou-loke-asmin-deivaha-aasura-eva-cha-deivah-vistaarasah-proktaha-aasuram-me-shrnu).

(7-8) Action and inaction and people the demonical do not cognise, not purity also, right conduct or truth is in them (pravrittim-cha-nivrittim-cha-janah-na-viduh-aasuraaha-na-shoucham-na-api-cha-aachaaraha-na-satyam-teshu-vidhyate). Without Truth, without value, they say that there is no Eeshwara and the world was brought about by mutual union with desire as the cause (asatyam-apratishtitam-te-jagat-aahu-aneeshvaram-aparaspara-sambhootam-kim-anyat-kaamahaitukam).

(9-10) Holding this view, ruined soul of fickle intellect come forth with fierce deeds of destruction as enemies of the world (etaam-drishtim-avasatabhya-nashtaatmaanaha-alpabudhyaha-prabhaavanti-ugra-karmaaNaha-kyaaya-jagataha-ahitaaha). Holding insatiable desires, full of hypocrisy, pride, arrogance, delusion, holding malicious ideas they work with impure resolve (kaamam-aashritya-dushpooram-damma-maana-madha-anvitaaha-mohaat-grheetva-asadgraahaan-pravartante-ashuchivrtaaha).

(11-12) With immeasurable cares that end only in death, regarding gratification of desire as the highest goal, that is all that they are sure of (chintaam-aparimeyaam-cha-pralayaantaam-upasritaah-kaama-upabhoga-paramaah-etaavat-iti-nishchitaah). Bound by hundred expectations, bound completely by desire and anger they strive for materiality of desire by unjust hoarding of material (aashaa-paasha-shathaihi-baddhaaha-kaama-krodha-paraayaNahaaha-ihante-kaamabhoga-artham-anyaayena-artha-samchyaan).

(13-14) Today, by me this has been gained, I shall fulfil this desire. this is mine, this wealth shall also be mine (idam-adya-mayaa-labdam-idam-prapyasye-manoratham-idam-asti-idam-api-me-bhavishyati-punah-dhanam). That enemy has been slain by me, I shall slay others also. I am Eeshwara, I am the enjoyer, I am perfect, powerful and happy (asou-mayaa-hathaha-shatru-hanishye-cha-aparaan-api-eeshwaraha-aham-aham-bhogi-siddhaha-aham-balavaan-sukhi). 

(15-16) I am rich and wellborn, who else is equal to me? I will sacrifice, I will give charity, I will rejoice, thus deluded by ignorance (aaDhya-abhijanavaan-asmi-kah-anyaha-asti-sadrshaha-mayaa-yakshye-daasyaami-modishye-iti-ajyaana-vimohitaaha). Bewildered by many options, caught in the web of delusions, addicted to gratification of desire, they into foul torment (aneka-chitta-vibhraantaha-moha-jaala-samaavrtaaha-prasaktah-kaama-bhogeshu-patanti-narake).

(17-18) Absorbed in themselves, stubborn, intoxicated by wealth, full of arrogance, they perform sacrifices out of hypocrisy without understanding of the concepts (aatma-sambhaavitaaha-sthabdaaha-dhana-maana-madh-anvitaaha-naamayagnouhu-te-dambena-aviddhi-poorvakam). Thoughts of being the doer, addicted to power, haughtiness, desire, wrath and obsessed with “me” and others, constantly judging and envious (ahamkaaram-balam-darpam-kaamam-krodham-cha-samsritaaha-maam-aatmapara-dehe-pradivisantaha-abhyasooyakaaha).

(19-21) Those that hate, are cruel in society, wretched, I throw them in perpetuity only in the vicious wombs of demons (taan-aham-dvishtaaha-krooraan-samsaareshu-naaaraadhamaan-kshipaami-ajasram-ashubham-aasureeshu-eva-yonishu). Entering into demonical wombs, deluded birth after birth, not attaining me ever, thereafter they fall into lower states (aasureem-yoneem-aapannaha-moodhaha-janmani-janmani-maam-apraapya-eva-tataha-yaanti-adhmaam-gatim). These three gates of hell destroy the Self, desire, anger and greed and these three should be abandoned (trividham-narakasya-idam-dvaaram-naashanam-aatmanam-kaamah-krodhaha-thatha-lobhah-tasmaat-etat-triyam-tyajet).

(22-24) When a person gets freed from the gates of darkness by practice of these three that are good, then he goes to the supreme goal (etaihi-vimuktaihi-tamodvaaraihi-tribhihi-naraha-aacharati-aatmanaha-shreyaha-tataha-yaati-param-gatim). He that acts without understanding of process but is driven by impulsive desires, he does not attain perfection or happiness or the supreme goal (yah-shaastr-viddhim-utsrjya-vartate-kaamakaarataha-na-saha-siddhim-avaapnoti-na-sukham-na-paramgatim). Therefore, follow standard operating procedures to know what should be done and ought not to be done. After understanding the standard operating procedures, perform all your actions (tasmaat-shaastram-pramaaNam-te-kaarya-akaarya-vyavasthitou-jnyaatva-shaastra-vidhaan-uktam-karma-kartum-iha-aharsi).

Editor at School Of Yoga
School Of Yoga is a single point resource for all aspects of Classical Yoga practise. We try to achieve this by placing Yoga's traditional methodology in front of the reader and eliciting his or her experience. We value everyone's Yoga experience and would like you to share and enrich other practitioners so that everyone benefits.
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