māḿ ca yo ’vyabhicāreṇa
sa guṇān samatītyaitān
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 14.26
One who engages in full devotional service, unfailing in all circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
This verse is a reply to Arjuna’s third question: What is the means of attaining to the transcendental position? As explained before, the material world is acting under the spell of the modes of material nature. One should not be disturbed by the activities of the modes of nature; instead of putting his consciousness into such activities, he may transfer his consciousness to Krishna activities. Krishna activities are known as bhakti-yoga—always acting for Krishna. This includes not only Krishna, but His different plenary expansions such as Rama and Narayana. He has innumerable expansions. One who is engaged in the service of any of the forms of Krishna, or of His plenary expansions, is considered to be transcendentally situated. One should also note that all the forms of Krishna are fully transcendental, blissful, full of knowledge and eternal. Such personalities of Godhead are omnipotent and omniscient, and they possess all transcendental qualities. So if one engages himself in the service of Krishna or His plenary expansions with unfailing determination, although these modes of material nature are very difficult to overcome, one can overcome them easily. This has already been explained in the Seventh Chapter. One who surrenders unto Krishna at once surmounts the influence of the modes of material nature. To be in Krishna consciousness or in devotional service means to acquire equality with Krishna. The Lord says that His nature is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge, and the living entities are part and parcel of the Supreme, as gold particles are part of a gold mine. Thus the living entity, in his spiritual position, is as good as gold, as good as Krishna in quality. The difference of individuality continues, otherwise there would be no question of bhakti-yoga. Bhakti-yoga means that the Lord is there, the devotee is there and the activity of exchange of love between the Lord and the devotee is there. Therefore the individuality of two persons is present in the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the individual person, otherwise there would be no meaning to bhakti-yoga. If one is not situated in the same transcendental position with the Lord, one cannot serve the Supreme Lord. To be a personal assistant to a king, one must acquire the qualifications. Thus the qualification is to become Brahman, or freed from all material contamination. It is said in the Vedic literature, brahmaiva san brahmapy eti. One can attain the Supreme Brahman by becoming Brahman. This means that one must qualitatively become one with Brahman. By attainment of Brahman, one does not lose his eternal Brahman identity as an individual soul.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
In this verse, the Lord answers the third question about the method of surpassing the gunas. Ca in this verse means eva: “only”. He who serves only me (mama ca) in my form as Syamasundara, the Supreme Lord, by bhakti yoga, he alone is qualified for becoming brahman, or realizing brahman (brahma bhuyaya kalpate). This statement is supported by the use of the adjective ekaya in the statement bhaktyaham ekaya grahyah: I can be attained by bhakti alone. And in the statement mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te, from use of the word eva (only), it is confirmed that without bhakti (to the Lord only), realization of brahman cannot be attained. It cannot be attained by any other method.
What type of bhakti yoga is this? It should be without deviation (avyabhicarena). That means it is without mixture of karma, jnana or other elements, because there are statements rejecting niskama karma, and statements rejecting even jnana by the jnani in his final stage, jnanam ca mayi sannyaset: One should renounce jnana to me. But there are no statements about the rejection of bhakti yoga anywhere. Thus, by bhakti yoga, after giving up even jnana yoga, just as he has given up karma yoga, even the jnani surpasses the gunas. There is no other means. However, the ananya bhakta is already beyond the gunas, as understood from the statement in the eleventh canto nirguno mad apasrayah: one who surrenders to me is beyond the gunas. SB 11.25.26
Here is the principle.
sattvikah karako ‘sangi ragandho rajasah smrtah
tamasah smrti-vibhrasto nirguno mad-apasrayah
A worker free of attachment is in the mode of goodness; a worker blinded by person
al desire is in the mode of passion, and a worker who has completely forgotten how to tell right from wrong is in the mode of ignorance. But a worker who has taken shelter of Me is understood to be transcendental to the modes of nature. SB 11.25.26
It is understood that those who are free from attachment are practicing either karma yoga or jnana yoga on the level of sattva. And the person, who is beyond the gunas, having taken shelter of the Lord, is practicing sadhana bhakti. The jnani, having reached the perfection of jnana, by then giving up the level of sattva, becomes transcendental to the gunas. But the devotee, even at the beginning stage as a sadhaka, is beyond the gunas. This is the meaning of the verse.
Sridhara Svami also says that ca gives the meaning of limitation, “only”. Madhusudana Sarasvati says the meaning is “He who serves only me, the Lord, Narayana, by undeviating bhakti yoga as described in the twelfth chapter, qualifies for liberation.”
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
14.26 The state of transcendence of Gunas is not attained merely by reflecting on the difference between the Prakrti and the self as declared in the text such as, ‘When the seer beholds no agent of action other than the Gunas, then he transcends the Gunas, for it is liable then to be sublated by contrary subtle impressions (Vasanas) which have continued from beginningless time. He who, with unswerving Bhakti Yoga, namely, one-pointed Bhakti Yoga, serves Me of true-resolve, supremely compassionate and the ocean of parental affection for supplicants — such a man crosses over the Gunas of Sattva etc., which are otherwise invincible. He becomes worthy for brahmabhuya, the state of brahman i.e., he becomes qualified for the state of brahman. The meaning is that he attains the self as It really is, immortal and immutable.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
In this verse Lord Krishna is specifically answering how such a jiva or embodied being transcends the three gunas or modes of material nature. One who is exclusively devoted to the Supreme Lord alone without cessation by bhakti yoga or the attaining the communion of the individual atma or immortal soul with the Supreme Lord through exclusive loving devotion is able to completely transcend all influences of the three gunas and achieving the state of the brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence becomes worthy of moksa or liberation from material existence and ultimately attains the Supreme Lord Krishna. The word avyabhicarena meaning without fail emphasizes these assertions.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Even when attaining the state of the brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence from where prakriti or the material substratum pervading physical existence arises and subsequently manifests the three gunas or modes of material nature. Still no jiva or embodied being is as dear to the Supreme Lord as Sri Laksmi the goddess of fortune. This is stated in the Padma Purana. The word bhuyaya means elevated, the state of perfection denoting similarity in qualities to the Supreme Lord. The Pravritti text states that whoever is able to surmount the myriad of eternal obstacles created by Sri Laksmi is verily duly worthy and wise and is known as one who has transcended the gunas. Even more than surmounting the gunas; one who attains the association of the Supreme Lord Krishna in the eternal spiritual realms is known to even surpass transcendence. Like the one who crosses the minister has access to the emperor direct. The compound word brahmi bhuyaya denotes a state of consciousness similar in devotion to Sri Laksmi’s devotion to the Supreme Lord. In this verse Sri Laksmi is referred to as the brahman and prakriti. Thus she is being eulogised in three forms including her original form. By her grace a devotee of the Supreme Lord attains the Supreme Lord.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Thus after presenting the characteristics and conduct of one who transcends the three gunas or modes of materual nature; now Lord Krishna reveals the unfailing method to insure success in a comprehensive manner. Mere discrimination and contemplation of the gunas is not sufficient enough to overcome them. This is because the removal of their effects which have germinating for unlimited lifetimes needs an equally powerful means to remove their emeshed fettering in the senses and the subtle consciousness that have been prevalent since time immemorial. Now the omnipotent and omniscient Supreme Lord Krishna the bestower of fearlessness through yoga or the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness through bhakti yoga or exclusive loving devotion to Him. Being most benevolent, merciful and compassionate to His surrendered devotees who have no other shelter but Him; He explains that although the three gunas are practically insurmountable one can transcend them by bhakti yoga and reaching the absolute state of the brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence one will be elligible to attain Him. Thus by qualification all ones sins will be dissolved, one will become omniscient, one will be bestowed an imperishable spiritual body and relish association with the Supreme Lord that is consistent with one’s eternal nature. The particle ca is used to emphasize and express ascertainment of this. The word anyabhicarena meaning unadulterated denotes devotion to the Supreme Lord exclusively. For the worship of other, lesser gods is equivalent to lack of faith in the Supreme Lord Krishna and His teachings of the Bhagavad- Gita which are paramount and superior to all of the teachings of all other gods combined. Such faithlessness in the Supreme Lords teaching which are for the benefit of all jivas or embodied beings is the most heinious of sins and such a one becomes their own worst enemy blocking all opportunity for spiritual advancement. As is stated in the Brahmanda Purana: One who worships anything other then the Supreme Lord Krishna or His authorised incarnations revealed in Vedic scriptures will never attain moksa or liberation from material existence and samsara the perpetual cycle of birth and death. The Narada Pancaratra states; That one who out of ignorance or infatuation considers the Supreme Lord krishna as equal to any other god is indeed a jiva of the lowest order even if not born in the lowest order and the Kurma Purana states: That one who thinks of the Supreme Lord as equal to lesser gods is considered a heinious offender and such a most wretched jiva is elligible for the fiery hellish realms.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
14.26 And he-be he a monk or a man of action (rites and duties)-, yah, who; sevate, serves; mam, Me, God, Narayana residing in the hearts of all beings; avyabhicarena, through the unswerving-that which never wavers-; bhakti-yogena, Yoga of Devotion-devotion [Bhakti (devotion), supreme Love, through which one becomes united (with God) is yoga.] itself being the Yoga-; sah, he; samatitya, having transcended; etan, these; gunan, qualities as described; kalpate, qualifies, i.e. becomes fit; brahma-bhuyaya,-bhuyah is the same as bhavanam-, for becoming Brahman, for Liberation. How this is so is being stated:
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
14.26 Mam ca etc. By this [verse the Lord] teaches the basic means. Here the word ca has been used in the sense of affirmation in exclusion of all other things. [So the meaning is] : ‘He, who serves Me exclusively’. Hence, craving for fruits etc. [of action], whosoever takes hold of that fruit as his principal aim, but Me (the Supreme) as a subsidiary one-he is excluded by this interpretation. Because the devotion of this person is not unfailing. For, he has consideration for fruit [alone]. On the other hand, he who does not entertain any desire for any fruit; who, even when questioned [by somebody as] ‘Why do you under-take this desagreeable (foolish) act ?’ would give reply by silence alone, shedding tears that roll on his both the eyes wide open, and having shake in body and bodily hair thrilled-[all] due to his internal organ, agitated on account of being struck by the incessant devotion towards the Bhagavat-it should be born in mind that this person alone, not anybody else, in purified by the unfailing devotion which is (nothing but) the foremost Energy (Grace) of the Bhagavat, the Supreme Lord.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
mam ca yo ’vyabhicarena
sa gunan samatityaitan
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
mam — unto Me; ca — also; ya? — a person who; avyabhicare?a — without fail; bhakti-yogena — by devotional service; sevate — renders service; sa? — he; gu?an — the modes of material nature; samatitya — transcending; etan — all these; brahma-bhuyaya — elevated to the Brahman platform; kalpate — becomes.