brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 5.18
The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
A Krishna conscious person does not make any distinction between species or castes. The brahmana and the outcaste may be different from the social point of view, or a dog, a cow, and an elephant may be different from the point of view of species, but these differences of body are meaningless from the viewpoint of a learned transcendentalist. This is due to their relationship to the Supreme, for the Supreme Lord, by His plenary portion as Paramatma, is present in everyone’s heart. Such an understanding of the Supreme is real knowledge. As far as the bodies are concerned in different castes or different species of life, the Lord is equally kind to everyone because He treats every living being as a friend yet maintains Himself as Paramatma regardless of the circumstances of the living entities. The Lord as Paramatma is present both in the outcaste and in the brahmana, although the body of a brahmana and that of an outcaste are not the same. The bodies are material productions of different modes of material nature, but the soul and the Supersoul within the body are of the same spiritual quality. The similarity in the quality of the soul and the Supersoul, however, does not make them equal in quantity, for the individual soul is present only in that particular body whereas the Paramatma is present in each and every body. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person has full knowledge of this, and therefore he is truly learned and has equal vision. The similar characteristics of the soul and Supersoul are that they are both conscious, eternal and blissful. But the difference is that the individual soul is conscious within the limited jurisdiction of the body whereas the Supersoul is conscious of all bodies. The Supersoul is present in all bodies without distinction.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Those who are beyond the gunas have no desire to see any object made of the gunas in comparative terms of better or worse. They have equal intelligence. They do not see those in the mode of sattva such as brahmanas and cows, those in the mode of passion such as the elephant and those in the mode of ignorance such as dogs and dog eaters as superior or inferior. Being learned, they see equally. Equally (sama) means that they are beyond the gunas, so they do not see the particular distinctions due to the gunas. They have the ability to see only brahman which is beyond the gunas.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
5.18 The sages are those who know the real nature of the self in all beings. They see the selves to be of the same nature, though they are perceived in extremely dissimlar embodiments such as those of one endowed with learning and humility, a mere Brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, a dog-eater etc., because they all have the same form of knowledge in their nature as the Atman. The dissimilarity of the forms observed is due to Prakrti (body) and not to any dissimilarity in the self; consequently they, the wise, perceive the self as the same everywhere, because all selves, though distinct, have the same form of knowledge.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
Now the question may arise being what kind of persons are those who achieve moksa or liberation? Lord Krishna uses the word panditah or the wise. Who are the wise? Those with the inner eye of wisdom who perceive the Brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence in things that appear dissimilar. The example of a humble, learned brahmin and an outcaste dogeater shows dissimilarity in conduct and the examples of a cow and an elephant show dissimilarity in species but the spiritually awakened sees all with equal vision.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Due to this supra-conscious awareness illuminating one’s intelligence atma tattva or realisation of the soul is attained and once this happens then one realises the soul, as a manifestation of the Supreme Lord existing equally in all living beings. This is purport Lord Krishna is giving in this verse.
Now begins the summation.
Even though there are external differences in the forms among embodied beings including humans, aquatics, animals and plants, the Supreme Lord Krishna is ever present in each and every being as a witness energising them all as the Supreme Soul and from whom a minuscule portion comprises the eternal individual soul.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna uses the word panditah meaning wise or learned, for those who perceive the reality as it is and beholds the nature of the atma or soul equally in all beings. From a Brahmin endowed with spiritual knowledge and a cow the best of all animals both being in the mode of goodness as well as a dog and an outcaste person of the lowest order, all are seen with an equal vision. The purport is that the apparent unevenness between the highest and the lowest is the characteristics of their bodily designation which is the product of material nature but never reflective of the eternal, pure state of the atma. Such a wise being always perceives the intrinsic nature of the soul as it is, unaffected by the degradation of any bodily conception.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
5.18 Panditah, the learned ones; sama-darsinah, look with equanimity; brahmane, on a Brahmana; vidya-vinayasampanne, endowed with learning and humility-vidya means knowledge of the Self, and vinaya means pridelessness-, on a Brahmana who has Self-knowledge and modesty; gavi, on a cow; hastini, on an elephant; ca eva, and even; suni, on a dog; ca, as well as; svapake, on an eater of dog’s meat. Those learned ones who are habituated to see (equally) the unchanging, same and one Brahman, absolutely untouched by the qualities of sattva etc. and the tendencies created by it, as also by the tendencies born of rajas and tamas, in a Brahmana, who is endowed with Knowledge and tranquillity, who is possessed of good tendencies and the quality of sattva; in a cow, which is possessed of the middling quality of rajas and is not spiritually refined; and in an elephant etc., which are wholly and absolutely imbued with the quality of tamas-they are seers of equality. Objection: On the strength of the text, ‘A sacrificer incurs sin by not adoring equally one who is an equal, and by adoring equally one who is an equal, to himself’ (Gau. Sm. 17.20), are not they sinful, whose food should not be eaten? Reply: They are not open to the charge. Objection: How?
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
5.18 Vidya-etc. So, regarding a Brahmana these men of Yoga entertain no such veiw as ‘I shall become a man of merit by serving him’ and so on; regarding a cow, no [idea] like ‘It is purifying and sacred’ and so on; regarding an elephant, no thought of wealth and so on; regarding a dog, no conviction that it is impure, mischievous and so on; and with regard to a dog-cooker no opinion that he is a sinner, is impure and so on. That is why it is said that ‘they look equally [upon these]’ and not that ‘they act equally [with them]. This has been said as – The Self, which is of the nature of pure Consciousness, [shines] in he bodies of all; no discriminating factor exists anywhere. Hence, the person who has conquered the cycle of birth-and-death, remains consdering all as fully absorbed in That (Consciousness) (VB, verse 100). Here too nothing but this stream of thought has been mentioned by ‘remains considering’. The proper mental disposition of a man of wisdom, says [the Lord], would be like this :
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
brahmane gavi hastini
suni caiva sva-pake ca
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
vidyā — with education; vinaya — and gentleness; sampanne — fully equipped; brāhmaṇe — in the brāhmaṇa; gavi — in the cow; hastini — in the elephant; śuni — in the dog; ca — and; eva — certainly; śva-pāke — in the dog-eater (the outcaste); ca — respectively; paṇḍitāḥ — those who are wise; sama-darśinaḥ — who see with equal vision.