śukla-kṛṣṇe gatī hy ete
jagataḥ śāśvate mate
ekayā yāty anāvṛttim
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 8.26
Although the devotees know these two paths, O Arjuna, they are never bewildered. Therefore be always fixed in devotion.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Krishna is here advising Arjuna that he should not be disturbed by the different paths the soul can take when leaving the material world. A devotee of the Supreme Lord should not worry whether he will depart by arrangement or by accident. The devotee should be firmly established in Krishna consciousness and chant Hare Krishna. He should know that concern over either of these two paths is troublesome. The best way to be absorbed in Krishna consciousness is to be always dovetailed in His service, and this will make one’s path to the spiritual kingdom safe, certain and direct. The word yoga-yukta is especially significant in this verse. One who is firm in yoga is constantly engaged in Krishna consciousness in all his activities. Sri Rupa Gosvami advises, anasaktasya visayan yatharham upayunjatah: one should be unattached in material affairs and do everything in Krishna consciousness. By this system, which is called yukta-vairagya, one attains perfection. Therefore the devotee is not disturbed by these descriptions, because he knows that his passage to the supreme abode is guaranteed by devotional service.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Knowledge of these two paths produces a sense of discrimination. This verse praises such discrimination. Therefore at all times you should have a concentrated mind (yoga yuktah).
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
8.26 The bright path is characterised by the terms ‘starting with light.’ The dark path is characterised by the ‘terms starting with smoke.’ By the bright path a man goes to the plane of no-return, but he who goes by the dark path returns again. In the Sruti both the bright and dark paths are said to be eternal in relation to Jnanis and doers of good actions of many kinds. This is corroborated in the text: ‘Those who know this and those who worship with faith do Tapas in the forest etc., they go to the light’ (Cha. U., 5.10.1), and ‘But those who in the village perform Vedic and secular acts of a meritorious nature and the giving of alms — they pass to the smoke’ (ibid., 5.10.3).
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
The explanation of the two paths: the path of light characterised by jyotih or illumination and the path of darkness characterised by dhumah or smoke is now being concluded by Lord Krishna. The path of light is for those qualified by knowledge and the path of darkness is for those qualified by actions both paths are eternal without beginning; but of the two by the path of light one returns not to samsara the perpetual cycle of birth and death and by the path of darkness one must return and be reborn in material existence.
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 describing the two paths as eternal concludes by reiterating that those who practice the path of knowledge take the route of light presided over by the all effulgent Agni the demigod of fire and those who practice the path of action take the route of darkness presided over by the demigod of smoke. Both are eternal and beginingless. Preceding by the route of light the qualified yogi or one perfecting the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness is not reborn again in the world of mortals but eventually achieves moksa or liberation from material existence. The aspirant who performs meritoious activities with the desire for rewards in this life and the hereafter must return to material existence and take birth again.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
8.26 Ete, these two; gati, courses; jagatah, of the world; which are sukla-krsne, white and black [The Northern Path (the path of the Gods), and the Southern Path (the Path of the Manes) respectively.]-white because it is a revealer of Knowlege, and black because there is absence of that (revelation); are hi, verily; mate, considered; sasvate, eternal, because the world is eternal. These two courses are possible for those who are qualified for Knowledge and for rites and duties; not for everybody. This being so, ekaya, by the one, by the white one; yati, a man goes; anavrttim, to the State of Non-return; anyaya, by the other; avartate, he returns; punah, again.
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
8.26 Sukla-krsne etc. By the first of these two courses the non-return i.e., the liberation is attained, and by the other, the enjoyment [of the mundane life].
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
sukla-krsne gati hy ete
jagatah sasvate mate
ekaya yaty anavrttim
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
śukla — light; kṛṣṇe — and darkness; gatī — ways of passing; hi — certainly; ete — these two; jagataḥ — of the material world; śāśvate — of the Vedas; mate — in the opinion; ekayā — by one; yāti — goes; anāvṛttim — to no return; anyayā — by the other; āvartate — comes back; punaḥ — again.