śamo damas tapaḥ śaucaḿ
kṣāntir ārjavam eva ca
jñānaḿ vijñānam āstikyaḿ
brahma-karma svabhāva-jam

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 18.42

Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness—these are the natural qualities by which the brahmanas work.

Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

No commentary by Srila Prabhupada.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

This verse describes the natural activities of the brahmana who has a predominance of sattva. Control of the inner sense organ (samah), control of the external senses (damah), austerity of body, mind and words, jnana and vijnana, which arise from understanding the scriptures, and firm faith in the purport of the scriptures (astikyam) are the activities of the brahmana arising from his nature.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

18.42 ‘Sama’ is the control of the external sense-organs. ‘Dama’ is the control of the mind. ‘Tapas’ is the chastisement of the body by controlling enjoyments, as enjoined by the Sastras. ‘Sauca’ is fitness for performing acts as enjoined by the Sastras. ‘Ksanti’ is preserving the composure of the mind, though injured by others. ‘Arjava’ is straightforwardness expressing itself in correct outward manifestation to others in consonance with one’s own mind. ‘Jnana’ is knowledge about the real nature of the higher and lower truths. ‘Vijnana’ is the knowledge pertaining to exceptional attributes belonging to the Supreme Reality. ‘Astikya’ or faith is firm conviction in the truth of all things enjoined in the Vedas. The meaning is that it is unshakable by any reason whatever. ‘Astikya’ is positive conviction in the truth to the following effect: (1) The Lord Vasudeva, the Supreme Person, is signified by the term, Supreme Brahman. (2) He is devoid of even the slightest trace or evil. (3) He possesses countless hosts of auspicious and excellent attributes such as knowledge, strength etc., boundless and natural. (4) To reveal His nature is the sole purpose of the whole of Vedas and the Vedanta and He can be known only through them. (5) He is the sole cause of the universe (6) He is the foundation of the entire universe. (7) He is the actuator of all. (8) All actions taught in the Vedas form His worship. (9) When worshipped through them, He confers fruits known as Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksa. That such is the meaning has been declared in the following text: ‘Indeed I am to be known from all the Vedas’ (15.15); ‘I am the origin of all; from Me proced everything’ (10.8), ‘All this is strung on Me’ (7.7), ‘Knowing me as the enjoyer of all sacrifices and austerities … he attains peace’ (10.29), There is nothing greater than myself, Arjuna (7.7) ‘He from whom proceeds the activity of all beings and by whom all this is pervaded — by worshipping Him with his duty, will a man reach perfection’ (18.46); and ‘He who knows Me as unborn, without a beginning and the great Lord of the worlds …’ (10.3) Such are the duties of the Brahmana arising from his inherent nature.

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

The natural duties of a brahmin or priestly class are given by Lord Krishna. Serenity is control of the mind. Self-control is controlling the impulses of the external senses. Purity is internal and external cleanliness. Forbearance is forgiveness. Straightforwardness means without duplicity. Knowledge is understanding the Vedic scriptures. Realisation is experiencing direct cognition. Faith is the conviction that the Supreme Lord Krishna is the supreme controller of all. All these duties of brahmins are born of their nature in sattva guna the mode of goodness.

Now Lord Krishna commences a new theme with this verse explaining that the duties of the different classes of Vedic society such as brahmana or priestly class, ksatriya or royal and warrior class, vaisya or agricultural and mercantile class as well as sudra or menial worker class which is the only one not qualified to take part in any Vedic activity as they serve the other three classes. The duties enjoined for all the classes are clearly delineated and itemised with distinct divisions. The typical duties of all the four classes will be described according to the predominating influence of the three gunas which manifest the corresponding nature determined by the tendencies acquired in past lives and the impressions from the attendant karma or reactions to actions. The brahmins have a predominance of sattva guna, the ksatriya’s a predominance of raja guna with a little sattva guna, the vaisyas with raja guna mixed with tama guna and the sudras with a predominance tama guna and a little raja guna.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

Lord Krishna first elaborates on the duties of Brahmins according to their respective natures based upon the inherent quality of sattva guna the mode of goodness. Control of the mind and senses, engaging in austerities such as fasting and restraint as enjoined in Vedic scriptures, external purity by being physically clean and internal purity by free of desire and animosity. Forgiving those who have been ungrateful and hateful, devoid of duplicity having mutual concordance in body, speech and mind. Firm, unshakeable faith in the Vedic scriptures. Knowledge of what is real and what is illusory. Realisation of the essence of the Vedic scriptures by understanding the actual non-contradictory conclusions of the seemingly contradictory anomalies in various Vedic scriptures. Such are the duties of Brahmins.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

18.42 Svabhavajam brahma-karma, the natural duties of the Brhamanas, of the Brahmana caste; are samah, control of the internal organs; damah, control of the external organs-these bear the meanings as explained earlier (see 6.3, 10.4, 16.1); tapah, austerity-bodily austerity, as explained before (17.14); saucam, purity, as already explained (in 13.7, 16.3); ksantih, forgiveness; arjavam, straightforwardness, simplicity; jnanam, knowledge; eva ca, as also vijnanam, wisdom; astikyam, faith, the idea of truth [Truth of the scritpures, existence of God, etc. In place of asti-bhavah Ast reads astika-bhavah, the feeling of conviction with regard to the existence of God and the other world. Tr.] respect for the teaching of the scriptures. By svabhavajam (natural) is conveyed the very same idea as was expressed in ‘classified according to the gunas born from Nature’ (41).

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

18.41-60 Brahmana – etc. upto avasopitat. Surely the intrinsic nature of the Brahmanas etc., does not voilate what has been difined (above) by way of classifying their duties. Therefore, as far as you are concerned, you have the intrinsic quality of the Ksatriya (warrior), and your nature i.e., intrinsic quality, does, without fail, assume the part of the inciter of yourself, even though you don’t like it. For, a person who acts simply being incited by that (natural condition), there is the strong bondage of the merit or demerit. Therefore, perform actions following the means of correct knowledge, taught by Me. In that case, the bondage would disappear. The intention of the principal sentence (statement of the entire passage under study) is to help to get this idea. The meaning of the subordinate sentences (statements) is evident. Briefly (verse 50) : in short. Knowledge : i.e. the one which has been explained earlier. Nistha conveys, avoiding verbal jugglary, the meaning ‘what has been determined’. He who is endowed with intellect totally pure etc. : All this has been almost explained already. Hence, no more trouble is taken [to comment upon it].

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

samo damas tapah saucam
ksantir arjavam eva ca
jñanam vijñanam astikyam
brahma-karma svabhava-jam

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

śamaḥ — peacefulness; damaḥ — self-control; tapaḥ — austerity; śaucam — purity; kṣāntiḥ — tolerance; ārjavam — honesty; eva — certainly; ca — and; jñānam — knowledge; vijñānam — wisdom; āstikyam — religiousness; brahma — of a brāhmaṇa; karma — duty; svabhāva-jam — born of his own nature.