jñānena tu tad ajñānaḿ
yeṣāḿ nāśitam ātmanaḥ
teṣām āditya-vaj jñānaḿ
prakāśayati tat param

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 5.16

When, however, one is enlightened with the knowledge by which nescience is destroyed, then his knowledge reveals everything, as the sun lights up everything in the daytime.

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

Those who have forgotten Krishna must certainly be bewildered, but those who are in Krishna consciousness are not bewildered at all. It is stated in the Bhagavad-gita, sarvam jnana-plavena, jnanagnih sarva-karmani and na hi jnanena sadrsam. Knowledge is always highly esteemed. And what is that knowledge? Perfect knowledge is achieved when one surrenders unto Krishna, as is said in the Seventh Chapter, 19th verse: bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate. After passing through many, many births, when one perfect in knowledge surrenders unto Krishna, or when one attains Krishna consciousness, then everything is revealed to him, as everything is revealed by the sun in the daytime. The living entity is bewildered in so many ways. For instance, when he unceremoniously thinks himself God, he actually falls into the last snare of nescience. If a living entity is God, then how can he become bewildered by nescience? Does God become bewildered by nescience? If so, then nescience, or Satan, is greater than God. Real knowledge can be obtained from a person who is in perfect Krishna consciousness. Therefore, one has to seek out such a bona fide spiritual master and, under him, learn what Krishna consciousness is, for Krishna consciousness will certainly drive away all nescience, as the sun drives away darkness. Even though a person may be in full knowledge that he is not this body but is transcendental to the body, he still may not be able to discriminate between the soul and the Supersoul. However, he can know everything well if he cares to take shelter of the perfect, bona fide Krishna conscious spiritual master. One can know God and one’s relationship with God only when one actually meets a representative of God. A representative of God never claims that he is God, although he is paid all the respect ordinarily paid to God because he has knowledge of God. One has to learn the distinction between God and the living entity. Lord Sri Krishna therefore stated in the Second Chapter (2.12) that every living being is individual and that the Lord also is individual. They were all individuals in the past, they are individuals at present, and they will continue to be individuals in the future, even after liberation. At night we see everything as one in the darkness, but in day, when the sun is up, we see everything in its real identity. Identity with individuality in spiritual life is real knowledge.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

As ignorance or avidya covers the knowledge of the jiva, superior energy called vidya destroys ignorance and reveals knowledge. By the vidya sakti (jnanena), avidya (ajnanam) is destroyed, and knowledge of the jivas is produced. Just as the glow of the sun destroys darkness and reveals objects like pots and cloth, so vidya destroys avidya and reveals the spiritual (param) knowledge in which the jiva is convinced of his spiritual nature. Thus, the Lord does not bind anyone nor does he liberate anyone, but vidya and avidya which are qualities of prakrti liberate and bind the jiva. The qualities of prakrti are the causes of bondage in the form of instigating the jiva to become the doer and the enjoyer, and they are the causes of liberation in the form of such qualities as detachment and peace.

The respective qualities of prakrti are awakened by the Supreme Lord functioning in the capacity of Supersoul. He is only the initiator of prakrti’s functions through this amsa or expansion. Thus, he does not show any injustice or cruelty towards the jiva.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

5.16 While all these selves are thus deluded, in the case of enlightened souls, their delusive ignorance — which envelops knowledge and which is of the form of accumulated, beginningless and endless Karma — is destroyed by knowledge. As already described this knowledge is produced by the teachings of the scriptures about the real nature of the self, which are enriched by daily practice. The purity of this knowledge is unexcelled. And in the case of those selves who regain the knowledge that is natural to Them, it is found that it is unlimited and uncontracted and illumining everything like the sun. Plurality of the selves in Their essence is expressly mentioned in the case of those whose ignorance is overcome, in the expression ‘for those’ in the text. What was stated at the commencement, ‘There never was a time when I did not exist’ (2.12) is expressed here with greater clarity. Moreover, this plurality is not due to limiting adjuncts imposed on a single universal self. For, as stated here, there cannot be any trace of such adjuncts for those whose ignorance is destroyed, and still They are described as a plurality. Hence knowledge is taught as an attribute inseparable from the essential nature of the self, because a difference between the self and its knowledge is made out in the statement, ‘Knowledge, in their case illuminates like the sun’. By the illustration of the sun, the relation of the knower to his knowledge is brought out to be similar to the luminous object and its luminosity. Therefore, it is appropriate to understand that knowledge contracts by Karma in the stage of Samsara and expands in the stage of Moksa (release). [In this system the Atman has two forms of Jnana or Knowledge — Dharmi-Jnana (self-awareness) and Dharma-bhuta-Jnana (awareness of objects other than itself). It is the latter that is contracted by ignorance and expands by knowledge. See Intrdocution.]

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

Here Lord Krishna is emphasising that persons whose spiritual knowledge has become awakened do not become deluded in the material existence. They are able to discriminate between the mundane material knowledge and the divine spiritual knowledge by knowledge of the atma or soul and knowledge of the Supreme. This spiritual knowledge destroys all ignorance and manifests illumination of the Supreme Lord within the etheric heart of a human being just as the sun destroying darkness and illuminates all things.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

Vedic knowledge alone destroys spiritual ignorance that is why Lord Krishna uses the word jnana or knowledge referring to knowledge of the Vedas which gives actual awareness of the ultimate reality. Here the word jnana denotes a supra-consciousness experience it does not mean expertise in intellectual empirical knowledge nor does it mean proficiency in mundane analytical knowledge.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

Knowledge is of two types mundane and transitory and transcendental and eternal; but why is it that all those whose minds have been enveloped in ignorance since time immemorial are so infatuated while others are able to free themselves from delusion? It is do to the Supreme Lords grace through the mercy of His devotee that those are able to free themselves from the infatuation of delusion. Only be the grace of the Supreme Lords devotee is one able to reverse the envelopment of ignorance constituted by the mindset fashioned from reactions to one’s actions and flow towards the eternal nature of the atma or soul which is realised by continuous reflection, contemplation and meditation upon the teachings of the Vedic scriptures received through the mouth of the spiritual master and the following of His instructions who has himself realised the essence of the Vedic scriptures and who has achieved atma tattva or realisation of the soul and has attained the Supreme Being which is completely transcendental to all things material and is like the rising of the sun illuminating the consciousness in all directions to those who have knowledge of . This is why such beings do not get infatuated and become deluded.

With the statement in the possessive case adityavit jnanam meaning true knowledge shining like the sun and the statement prakasayati tat param meaning reveals the supreme being, Lord Krishna refutes the adherents of absolute monism because it is not possible to have even an iota of contact with it because of the plural inference of the word atmanah meaning souls even after their ignorance is dispelled. This refutes those who deny that knowledge is different from its nature and also refutes those who propound oneness of the quality and the qualified trying to establish a relation with the knower and knowledge like light and its source. Because it is known that knowledge is distinctively different from the nature of the atma or soul. This infers that gross and subtle embodied beings created in the material existence due to reactions from past life activities obscures knowledge into a lesser quality like the light of a lamp is lessened when covered by a shaded glass although it does not change its nature. Contrarily when one has achieved atma tattva then in the state of moksa or liberation the destruction of the physical and subtle bodies reveals the knowledge of the atmas quality as the light of a lamp is more illuminating when the shaded glass cover is removed; yet there is no difference in its nature but only in its perception. As by the removal of the impurities obscuring a jewel allows its radiance to be seen; in the same way when the impurity of undesirable mundane qualities like lust and fruitiveness are removed and abandoned then the transcendental qualities of wisdom, renunciation and compassion reveal themselves in all their splendour. These qualities are always present without being created because they are eternally manifest as qualities of the atma.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

5.16 Tu, but; yesam, in the case of those creatures; of whom tat ajnanam, that ignorance; atmanah, of theirs-being covered by which ignorance creatures get deluded-; nasitam, becomes destroyed; jnanena, by knowledge, by discriminating knowledge concerning the Self; tesam, their; jnanam, knowledge; adityavat, like the sun; prakasayati, reveals, in the same way as the sun reveals all forms whatever; tat-param, that supreme Reality, the Reality which is the highest Goal, the totality of whatever is to be known.

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

5.16 Jnanena etc. When however the Illusion is destroyed by knowledge, then the natural capacity of knowledge, in illuminating itself and other things starts to work automatically just as the sun does when the darkness is lost. Indeed when the doubt [of poison] is completely rooted out, the nectar does the work of the nectar just automatically. But this is possible for those who have their intellect and mind gone to This [Self] and have abandoned [all] other activities. To make this idea clear [the Lord] says –

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

jñanena tu tad ajñanam
yesam nasitam atmanah
tesam aditya-vaj jñanam
prakasayati tat param

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

jñānena — by knowledge; tu — but; tat — that; ajñānam — nescience; yeṣām — whose; nāśitam — is destroyed; ātmanaḥ — of the living entity; teṣām — their; āditya-vat — like the rising sun; jñānam — knowledge; prakāśayati — discloses; tat param — Kṛṣṇa consciousness.