eṣā te ‘bhihitā sāńkhye
buddhir yoge tv imāḿ śṛṇu
buddhyā yukto yayā pārtha
karma-bandhaḿ prahāsyasi

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 2.39

Thus far I have described this knowledge to you through analytical study. Now listen as I explain it in terms of working without fruitive results. O son of Pritha, when you act in such knowledge you can free yourself from the bondage of works.

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

According to the Nirukti, or the Vedic dictionary, sankhya means that which describes things in detail, and sankhya refers to that philosophy which describes the real nature of the soul. And yoga involves controlling the senses. Arjuna’s proposal not to fight was based on sense gratification. Forgetting his prime duty, he wanted to cease fighting, because he thought that by not killing his relatives and kinsmen he would be happier than by enjoying the kingdom after conquering his cousins and brothers, the sons of Dhritarashtra. In both ways, the basic principles were for sense gratification. Happiness derived from conquering them and happiness derived by seeing kinsmen alive are both on the basis of personal sense gratification, even at a sacrifice of wisdom and duty. Krishna, therefore, wanted to explain to Arjuna that by killing the body of his grandfather he would not be killing the soul proper, and He explained that all individual persons, including the Lord Himself, are eternal individuals; they were individuals in the past, they are individuals in the present, and they will continue to remain individuals in the future, because all of us are individual souls eternally. We simply change our bodily dress in different manners, but actually we keep our individuality even after liberation from the bondage of material dress. An analytical study of the soul and the body has been very graphically explained by Lord Krishna. And this descriptive knowledge of the soul and the body from different angles of vision has been described here as Sankhya, in terms of the Nirukti dictionary. This Sankhya has nothing to do with Sankhya philosophy of the atheist Kapila. Long before the imposter Kapila’s Sankhya, the Sankhya philosophy was expounded in the Srimad-Bhagavatam by the true Lord Kapila, the incarnation of Lord Krishna, who explained it to His mother, Devahuti. It is clearly explained by Him that the purusha, or the Supreme Lord, is active and that He creates by looking over the prakriti. This is accepted in the Vedas and in the Gita. The description in the Vedas indicates that the Lord glanced over the prakriti, or nature, and impregnated it with atomic individual souls. All these individuals are working in the material world for sense gratification, and under the spell of material energy they are thinking of being enjoyers. This mentality is dragged to the last point of liberation when the living entity wants to become one with the Lord. This is the last snare of maya, or sense gratificatory illusion, and it is only after many, many births of such sense gratificatory activities that a great soul surrenders unto Vasudeva, Lord Krishna, thereby fulfilling the search after the ultimate truth.

Arjuna has already accepted Krishna as his spiritual master by surrendering himself unto Him: shishyas te ’ham sadhi mam tvam prapannam. Consequently, Krishna will now tell him about the working process in buddhi-yoga, or karma-yoga, or in other words, the practice of devotional service only for the sense gratification of the Lord. This buddhi-yoga is clearly explained in Chapter Ten, verse ten, as being direct communion with the Lord, who is sitting as Paramatma in everyone’s heart. But such communion does not take place without devotional service. One who is therefore situated in devotional or transcendental loving service to the Lord, or, in other words, in Krishna consciousness, attains to this stage of buddhi-yoga by the special grace of the Lord. The Lord says, therefore, that only to those who are always engaged in devotional service out of transcendental love does He award the pure knowledge of devotion in love. In that way the devotee can reach Him easily in the ever-blissful kingdom of God.

Thus the buddhi-yoga mentioned in this verse is the devotional service of the Lord, and the word Sankhya mentioned herein has nothing to do with the atheistic sankhya-yoga enunciated by the imposter Kapila. One should not, therefore, misunderstand that the sankhya-yoga mentioned herein has any connection with the atheistic Sankhya. Nor did that philosophy have any influence during that time; nor would Lord Krishna care to mention such godless philosophical speculations. Real Sankhya philosophy is described by Lord Kapila in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, but even that Sankhya has nothing to do with the current topics. Here, Sankhya means analytical description of the body and the soul. Lord Krishna made an analytical description of the soul just to bring Arjuna to the point of buddhi-yoga, or bhakti-yoga. Therefore, Lord Krishna’s Sankhya and Lord Kapila’s Sankhya, as described in the Bhagavatam, are one and the same. They are all bhakti-yoga. Lord Krishna Said, therefore, that only the less intelligent class of men make a distinction between sankhya-yoga and bhakti-yoga (sankhya-yogau prithag balah pravadanti na panditah).

Of course, atheistic sankhya-yoga has nothing to do with bhakti-yoga, yet the unintelligent claim that the atheistic sankhya-yoga is referred to in the Bhagavad-gita.

One should therefore understand that buddhi-yoga means to work in Krishna consciousness, in the full bliss and knowledge of devotional service. One who works for the satisfaction of the Lord only, however difficult such work may be, is working under the principles of buddhi-yoga and finds himself always in transcendental bliss. By such transcendental engagement, one achieves all transcendental understanding automatically, by the grace of the Lord, and thus his liberation is complete in itself, without his making extraneous endeavors to acquire knowledge. There is much difference between work in Krishna consciousness and work for fruitive results, especially in the matter of sense gratification for achieving results in terms of family or material happiness. Buddhi-yoga is therefore the transcendental quality of the work that we perform.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

In this verse, Krishna concludes the jnana yoga which he has just taught. Sdnkhya means “that by which true knowledge of things (vastu tattvam) is perfectly (samak) revealed (khyayate).” In other words, sankhya means a perfect process of knowing. The intelligence (esa) resulting from that process has been explained. Now hear about the intelligence resulting from bhakti yoga (yoge) which will now be explained. Equipped with this intelligence which is absorbed in the subject of bhakti yoga, you will give up samsara (karma bandham).

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

2.39 ‘Sankhya’ means ‘intellect,’ and the truth about the Atman, which is determinable by the intellect, is ‘Sankhyam’. Concerning the nature of the self which has to be known, whatever Buddhi has to be taught, has been taught to you in the passage beginning with, ‘It is not that I did not exist’ (II.12) and ending with the words, ‘Therefore, you shall not grieve for any being’ (II.30). The disposition of mind (Buddhi) which is required for the performance of works preceded by knowledge of the self and which thus constitutes the means of attaining release, that is here called by the term Yoga. It will be clearly told later on, ‘Work done with desire for fruits is far inferior to work done with evennes of mind’ (II. 49). What Buddhi or attitude of mind is required for making your act deserve the name of Yoga, listen to it now. Endowed with that knowledge, you will be able to cast away the bondage of Karma. ‘Karma-bandha’ means the bondage due to Karma i.e., the bondage of Samsara. Now Sri Krsna explains the glory of works associated with the Buddhi to be described hereafter:

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

A brief introduction as to the correct understanding concerning the eternality of the immortal soul that has just been described is now concluded and the path of actions known as karma yoga which is the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the Ultimate Consciousness is now being introduced.

That by which the nature of reality is determined is deemed as sankhya which is analytical knowledge and that by which the nature of the eternal soul is revealed is also sankhya. The proper understanding one must utilise in respect to this has just been imparted to Arjuna. If in spite of all these unequivocal instructions regarding the nature of the eternal soul one is still unable to realise it then one should with determination seek to realise the eternal soul by the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the Ultimate Consciousness through actions without any hankering for fruitive rewards. This will allow a living entity to attain purity of mind and spiritual intelligence. By the manifestation of spiritual intelligence one will understand how to surrender all actions in righteousness to the Supreme Lord. The cessation of seeking and yearning for fruitive results effectively neutralises any fruitive reactions before they even materialise. Since it is ones own fruitive desires that causes fruitive actions and subsequent reactions, by renouncing the desire for any fruitive results and performing actions as a matter of duty a living entity is automatically freed from any fruitive reactions.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

The wisdom of sankhya being the ability to understand the distinction of spirit from matter leads to the realisation of the eternal soul and is in essence the sankhya philosophy has been given in smriti. The yoga method of the individual consciousness perceiving and then subsequently attaining communion with the Ultimate Consciousness and the accompanying state which manifests has been revealed in the Bhagavad Purana. Other than these nothing else has been referred to as the sankhya philosophy or the science of yoga ; but in other contexts the word karma yoga has been used and along with Pancaratra has been named as a method for liberation.

In the Vedic scriptures there is always a holistic understanding and comprehensive appreciation present, thus there is no contradiction unless one is in possession of faulty perceptions. It is sometimes seen that due to partial understanding an incorrect interpretation is made due to not acquiring sufficient knowledge. In the Citra Shikhandi Sastra the similarity between Pancaratra and the Vedas has been well documented. Also in all cases the sankhya philosophy and the science of yoga have been similarly described as methods for liberation from the material existence. This is quite proper because spiritual knowledge is the only means of salvation and various methods have been delineated in the Vedic scriptures regarding this. If attainment of salvation can become known by any method than that in itself is spiritual knowledge. By whatever way the sankhya system comes to be known that is the distinction of spirit from matter by that way it has been explained.

Now begins the summation.

Equal importance is also given to both jnana knowledge and sankhya. By yoga both these 2 become united; therefore yoga is the means. Seekers of truth have determined that yoga is the precursor to sankhya as given in the Sabda Nirnaya.

Brahma Tarka is a dialectical method propounded by Visnu incarnation Kapiladeva in his discourse to Devahuti on the original sankhya philosophy which is fully theist in the Bhagavat Purana. The nyaya philosophy of Gautama, the vaisesika philosophy of Kanada and the imitation sankhya philosophy which is athiestic of Kapila Muni are all but dialectical arguments not dialectical methods for attaining the Ultimate Truth. Mayavadi and Pasupata doctrines are considered profane. The mimamsaka philosophy of Jaimini is threefold concerning rituals, brahman and the Supreme Lord. The original sankhya philosophy of Kapiladeva and the mimamsaka of Jaimini are both dialectical methods for the Ultimate Truth. The perfect wisdom of the Vedic scriptures is the only complete source of spiritual knowledge. Those who have realised this eternal truth do not follow anything else. Other philosophies such as tantra or even the astanga yoga system of Pantanjali should not be followed according to the Narada Purana.

The atheist sankhya philosophy as has been stated earlier is a dialectical argument but here in Bhagavad-Gita it is being explained in its original theistic ontology as a dialectical method. The original sankhya philosophy as well as the astanga yoga system both declare that killing causes undesirable reactions.

In the Bhagavad-Gita war is recommended as desirable for upholding dharma or righteousness and in this way according to prescribed duties of a ksatriya is a means for salvation when it is said karma bandham prahasyasi. So it should be understood in this light and there should be no discrepancy between what has been intended in the original sankhya philosophy or the astanga yoga system and what has been related in Bhagavad-Gita as there is factually no contradiction.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

Having instructed the true knowledge of the soul as being distinctly different from the physical body and seeing that this knowledge has still not been firmly embedded in Arjunas heart, Lord Krishna reiterates this truth again in order to illustrate that this knowledge never becomes firmly embedded without practice of the means which is yoga. To do this He introduces the yoga path of selfless actions as the means to this end. Thus the reality is to perform all actions under the direction of ones mind well cultivated by the aid of spiritual knowledge from the Vedic scriptures exclusively. Although this spiritual knowledge is scientific Arjuna is still unsteady in its application due to lack of practice in assimilation. So Lord Krishna explains that by practice in the performance of actions by the renunciation of their rewards Arjuna will be completely freed from transmigration in the material existence.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

2.39 Partha, O son of Prtha (Arjuna); esa, this; buddhih, wisdom, the Knowledge which directly removes the defect (viz ignorance) that is responsible for sorrow, delusion, etc. [Mundane existence consists of attraction and repulsion, agentship and enjoyership, etc. These are the defects, and they arise from ignorance about one’s Self. Enlightenment is the independent and sole cause that removes this ignorance.] constituting mundane existence; abhihita, has been imparted; te, to you; sankhye, from the standpoint of Self-realization, with regard to the discriminating knowledge of the supreme Reality. Tu, but; srnu, listen; imam, to this wisdom which will be imparted presently; yoge, from the spandpoint of Yoga, from the standpoint of the means of attaining it (Knowledge) — i.e., in the context of Karma-yoga, the performance of rites and duties with detachment after destroying the pairs of opposites, for the sake of adoring God, as also in the context of the practice of spiritual absorption. As as inducement, He (the Lord) praises that wisdom: Yuktah, endowed; yaya, with which; buddhya, wisdom concerning Yoga; O Partha, prahasyasi, you will get rid of; karma-bandham, the bondage of action — action is itself the bondage described as righteousness and unrighteousness; you will get rid of that bondage by the attainment of Knowledge through God’s grace. This is the idea.

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

2.39 Esa te etc. And this knowledge in th form of determination has been declared [to you] for your sankhya, i.e., perfect knowledge. Now, how the self-same determinate knowledge is also taught for the Yoga i.e., dexerity in action – in that manner only you must listen to by means of which determinate knowledge you shall avoid the binding nature of the actions. Truely, the actions do not themselves bind as they are insentient. Hence, it is the Self which binds Itself by means of the actions in the form of mental impressions.

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

esa te ‘bhihita sankhye
buddhir yoge tv imam srnu
buddhya yukto yaya partha
karma-bandham prahasyasi

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

eṣā — all this; te — unto you; abhihitā — described; sāńkhye — by analytical study; buddhiḥ — intelligence; yoge — in work without fruitive result; tu — but; imām — this; śṛṇu — just hear; buddhyā — by intelligence; yuktaḥ — dovetailed; yayā — by which; pārtha — O son of Pṛthā; karma-bandham — bondage of reaction; prahāsyasi — you can be released from.