rāja-vidyā rāja-guhyaḿ
pavitram idam uttamam
pratyakṣāvagamaḿ dharmyaḿ
su-sukhaḿ kartum avyayam

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 9.2

This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.

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

This chapter of Bhagavad-gita is called the king of education because it is the essence of all doctrines and philosophies explained before. Among the principal philosophers in India are Gautama, Kanada, Kapila, Yajnavalkya, Sandilya and Vaisvanara. And finally there is Vyasadeva, the author of the Vedanta-sutra. So there is no dearth of knowledge in the field of philosophy or transcendental knowledge. Now the Lord says that this Ninth Chapter is the king of all such knowledge, the essence of all knowledge that can be derived from the study of the Vedas and different kinds of philosophy. It is the most confidential because confidential or transcendental knowledge involves understanding the difference between the soul and the body. And the king of all confidential knowledge culminates in devotional service.

Generally, people are not educated in this confidential knowledge; they are educated in external knowledge. As far as ordinary education is concerned, people are involved with so many departments: politics, sociology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, engineering, etc. There are so many departments of knowledge all over the world and many huge universities, but there is, unfortunately, no university or educational institution where the science of the spirit soul is instructed. Yet the soul is the most important part of the body; without the presence of the soul, the body has no value. Still people are placing great stress on the bodily necessities of life, not caring for the vital soul.

The Bhagavad-gita, especially from the Second Chapter on, stresses the importance of the soul. In the very beginning, the Lord says that this body is perishable and that the soul is not perishable (antavanta ime deha nityasyoktah saririnah). That is a confidential part of knowledge: simply knowing that the spirit soul is different from this body and that its nature is immutable, indestructible and eternal. But that gives no positive information about the soul. Sometimes people are under the impression that the soul is different from the body and that when the body is finished, or one is liberated from the body, the soul remains in a void and becomes impersonal. But actually that is not the fact. How can the soul, which is so active within this body, be inactive after being liberated from the body? It is always active. If it is eternal, then it is eternally active, and its activities in the spiritual kingdom are the most confidential part of spiritual knowledge. These activities of the spirit soul are therefore indicated here as constituting the king of all knowledge, the most confidential part of all knowledge.

This knowledge is the purest form of all activities, as explained in Vedic literature. In the Padma Purana, man’s sinful activities have been analyzed and are shown to be the results of sin after sin. Those who are engaged in fruitive activities are entangled in different stages and forms of sinful reactions. For instance, when the seed of a particular tree is sown, the tree does not appear immediately to grow; it takes some time. It is first a small, sprouting plant, then it assumes the form of a tree, then it flowers and bears fruit, and, when it is complete, the flowers and fruits are enjoyed by persons who have sown the seed of the tree. Similarly, a man performs a sinful act, and like a seed it takes time to fructify. There are different stages. The sinful action may have already stopped within the individual, but the results or the fruit of that sinful action are still to be enjoyed. There are sins which are still in the form of a seed, and there are others which are already fructified and are giving us fruit, which we are enjoying as distress and pain.

As explained in the twenty-eighth verse of the Seventh Chapter, a person who has completely ended the reactions of all sinful activities and who is fully engaged in pious activities, being freed from the duality of this material world, becomes engaged in devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. In other words, those who are actually engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Lord are already freed from all reactions. This statement is confirmed in the Padma Purana:

aprarabdha-phalam papam
kutam bijam phalonmukham
kramenaiva praliyeta

For those who are engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, all sinful reactions, whether fructified, in the stock, or in the form of a seed, gradually vanish. Therefore the purifying potency of devotional service is very strong, and it is called pavitram uttamam, the purest. Uttama means transcendental. Tamas means this material world or darkness, and uttama means that which is transcendental to material activities. Devotional activities are never to be considered material, although sometimes it appears that devotees are engaged just like ordinary men. One who can see and is familiar with devotional service will know that they are not material activities. They are all spiritual and devotional, uncontaminated by the material modes of nature.

It is said that the execution of devotional service is so perfect that one can perceive the results directly. This direct result is actually perceived, and we have practical experience that any person who is chanting the holy names of Krishna (Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare) in course of chanting without offenses feels some transcendental pleasure and very quickly becomes purified of all material contamination. This is actually seen. Furthermore, if one engages not only in hearing but in trying to broadcast the message of devotional activities as well, or if he engages himself in helping the missionary activities of Krishna consciousness, he gradually feels spiritual progress. This advancement in spiritual life does not depend on any kind of previous education or qualification. The method itself is so pure that by simply engaging in it one becomes pure.

In the Vedanta-sutra (3.2.26) this is also described in the following words: prakasas ca karmany abhyasat. “Devotional service is so potent that simply by engaging in the activities of devotional service one becomes enlightened without a doubt.” A practical example of this can be seen in the previous life of Narada, who in that life happened to be the son of a maidservant. He had no education, nor was he born into a high family. But when his mother was engaged in serving great devotees, Narada also became engaged, and sometimes, in the absence of his mother, he would serve the great devotees himself. Narada personally says,

ucchista-lepan anumodito dvijaih
sakrt sma bhunje tad-apasta-kilbisah
evam pravrttasya vishuddha-cetasas
tad-dharma evatma-rucih prajayate

In this verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.25) Narada describes his previous life to his disciple Vyasadeva. He says that while engaged as a boy servant for those purified devotees during the four months of their stay, he was intimately associating with them. Sometimes those sages left remnants of food on their dishes, and the boy, who would wash their dishes, wanted to taste the remnants. So he asked the great devotees for their permission, and when they gave it Narada ate those remnants and consequently became freed from all sinful reactions. As he went on eating, he gradually became as pure-hearted as the sages. The great devotees relished the taste of unceasing devotional service to the Lord by hearing and chanting, and Narada gradually developed the same taste. Narada says further,

tatranvaham krishna-kathah pragayatam
anugrahenasrnavam manoharah
tah shraddhaya me ’nupadam vishrinvatah
priyasravasy anga mamabhavad rucih

By associating with the sages, Narada got the taste for hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord, and he developed a great desire for devotional service. Therefore, as described in the Vedanta-sutra, prakasas ca karmany abhyasat: if one is engaged simply in the acts of devotional service, everything is revealed to him automatically, and he can understand. This is called pratyaksha, directly perceived.

The word dharmyam means “the path of religion.” Narada was actually a son of a maidservant. He had no opportunity to go to school. He was simply assisting his mother, and fortunately his mother rendered some service to the devotees. The child Narada also got the opportunity and simply by association achieved the highest goal of all religion. The highest goal of all religion is devotional service, as stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje).

Religious people generally do not know that the highest perfection of religion is the attainment of devotional service. As we have already discussed in regard to the last verse of Chapter Eight (vedesu yajnesu tapahsu caiva), generally Vedic knowledge is required for self-realization. But here, although Narada never went to the school of the spiritual master and was not educated in the Vedic principles, he acquired the highest results of Vedic study. This process is so potent that even without performing the religious process regularly, one can be raised to the highest perfection. How is this possible? This is also confirmed in Vedic literature: acaryavan purusho veda. One who is in association with great acaryas, even if he is not educated or has never studied the Vedas, can become familiar with all the knowledge necessary for realization.

The process of devotional service is a very happy one (susukham). Why? Devotional service consists of shravanam kirtanam visnoh [SB 7.5.23], so one can simply hear the chanting of the glories of the Lord or can attend philosophical lectures on transcendental knowledge given by authorized acaryas. Simply by sitting, one can learn; then one can eat the remnants of the food offered to God, nice palatable dishes. In every state devotional service is joyful. One can execute devotional service even in the most poverty-stricken condition. The Lord says, patram puspam phalam toyam: He is ready to accept from the devotee any kind of offering, never mind what. Even a leaf, a flower, a bit of fruit, or a little water, which are all available in every part of the world, can be offered by any person, regardless of social position, and will be accepted if offered with love. There are many instances in history. Simply by tasting the tulasi leaves offered to the lotus feet of the Lord, great sages like Sanat-kumara became great devotees. Therefore the devotional process is very nice, and it can be executed in a happy mood. God accepts only the love with which things are offered to Him.

It is said here that this devotional service is eternally existing. It is not as the Mayavadi philosophers claim. Although they sometimes take to so-called devotional service, their idea is that as long as they are not liberated they will continue their devotional service, but at the end, when they become liberated, they will “become one with God.” Such temporary time-serving devotional service is not accepted as pure devotional service. Actual devotional service continues even after liberation. When the devotee goes to the spiritual planet in the kingdom of God, he is also engaged there in serving the Supreme Lord. He does not try to become one with the Supreme Lord.

As will be seen in Bhagavad-gita, actual devotional service begins after liberation. After one is liberated, when one is situated in the Brahman position (brahma-bhuta), one’s devotional service begins (samah sarveshu bhutesu mad-bhaktim labhate param). No one can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead by executing karma-yoga, jnana-yoga, ashtanga-yoga or any other yoga independently. By these yogic methods one may make a little progress toward bhakti-yoga, but without coming to the stage of devotional service one cannot understand what is the Personality of Godhead. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is also confirmed that when one becomes purified by executing the process of devotional service, especially by hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam or Bhagavad-gita from realized souls, then he can understand the science of Krishna, or the science of God. Evam prasanna-manaso bhagavad-bhakti yogatah. When one’s heart is cleared of all nonsense, then one can understand what God is. Thus the process of devotional service, of Krishna consciousness, is the king of all education and the king of all confidential knowledge. It is the purest form of religion, and it can be executed joyfully without difficulty. Therefore one should adopt it.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

Moreover, this knowledge (bhakti) is the king of knowledge, the king of worship. There are various types of bhakti and this is the king, or in the highest position, exceeding all others. The usage of raja vidya is similar to the word raja danta or front teeth. As in the usage raja danta (front teeth: king of teeth), there is reversal of the normal order of the elements of the compound word. This is permitted according to the rule raja-dantaditvad  (Panini 2.2.31) Of all secrets, it is the highest. Bhakti of any type is very secret, and of all the types of bhakti this is the king, the most secret (raja guhyam).

It is most purifying (pavitram uttaman), because it is the atonement for all sins. It is more purifying than knowledge of the soul (tvam). According to Madhusudana Sarasvati since it uproots immediately all the sinful reactions spread over many thousands of lifetimes situated in the gross and subtle bodies, and the cause of all sins, ignorance, it is the most purifying of all things.

It is directly realized (pratyaksavagamam):

bhaktih paresanubhavo viraktir
anyatra caisa trika eka-kalah
prapadyamanasya yathasnatah syus
tustih pustih ksud-apayo ‘nu-ghasam

Devotion, direct experience of the Supreme Lord, and detachment from other things—these three occur simultaneously for one who has taken shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in the same way that pleasure, nourishment and relief from hunger come simultaneously and increasingly, with each bite, for a person engaged in eating. SB 11.2.42

From this verse, it is understood that the realization is proportional, since the attainment of realization is in accordance with the intensity of worship.

It does not deviate from dharma (dharmyam). Though one may fail to perform all dharmas or religious duties, bhakti is the perfection of dharma. This is understood from the statement of Narada:

yatha taror mula-nisecanena
trpyanti tat-skandha-bhujopasakhah
pranopaharac ca yathendriyanam
tathaiva sarvarhanam acyutejya

As pouring water on the root of a tree energizes the trunk, branches, twigs and everything else, and as supplying food to the stomach enlivens the senses and limbs of the body, simply worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead through devotional service automatically satisfies the demigods, who are parts of that Supreme Personality. SB 4.31.14

Unlike karma, jnana and other processes, there are no extreme pains to the body, voice or mind (by renunciation of the senses), since bhakti makes use of the ears and other senses as a principal element in hearing chanting and other processes (susukham kartum).

Because it is beyond the gunas, the process of bhakti is eternal (avyayam), unlike such processes as karma and jnana, which are temporary.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

9.2 This is a ‘royal science’, the king among sciences; ‘the royal mystery’, the king among mysteries. Or royal science may also mean the science known and practised by kings. Indeed kings are those who have broad and profound minds. The meaning is that this is the science of great minds. This is a mystery, because the great-minded alone are skilled in keeping mysteries. This is ‘supreme purifier’; for it removes completely all blemishes opposed to the attainment of Myself. It is realised by ‘direct perception’. Avagama’ is that which is apprehended — the subject of knowledge. It is that knowledge which has become direct perception, so that its object is directly apprehended. The import is that I, when worshipped in the spirit of Bhakti, become perceptible to the worshipper immediately. Even so, it is in ‘accord with Dharma’ or inseparable from Dharma. What is called Dharma is that which constitutes the means for the highest good. Though it is of the nature of supreme good, as it brings about the vision of Myself, yet it is also the means for completely attaining Me, which is the end unsurpassed and the final good. Because of this, it is ‘pleasurable’ to practise; its adoption is a matter of supreme love. It is ‘abiding’, imperishable. It does not perish even after leading to My attainment. That is, I give Myself up to one who performs this form of worship; even then it appears to Me that I have done nothing for him. Such is the meaning.

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

Lord Krishna emphasizes the paramount position of this knowledge by a metaphor using the word raja meaning king. The king is the highest authority in the kingdom and this spiritual vidya or wisdom is the highest authority of all knowledge. The word guhyam means confidential and among all confidential knowledge this wisdom is the highest. The word raja is placed before the secondary words vaidya and guhyam to place emphasis of this on each. This wisdom is supremely holy, completely sanctifying and directly experienced by those whose senses are directed to the Supreme Lord in bhakti or pure loving devotion. The results of this wisdom is incomparable as one will never deviate from righteousness and it includes the merits of all virtuous acts prescribed in the Vedic scriptures. It is easy to practice being simple to perform and it is imperishable because its result is everlasting.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

Hari OM! In this chapter Lord Krishna clarifies what He has already revealed in the seventh chapter. Sovereign wisdom is primal wisdom. The word pratyaksavagaman is that which is experienced by direct realization of the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence. That which is established in each of the sense organs individually is known as pratyaksa. The Moksa Dharma states: That which is established in the breath is different from the primal breath of the presiding deity. The presiding deity will not know him but he is like the body of the Supreme Lord. Similarly are the presiding deity of speech and the presiding deity of sight etc. The Supreme Purusa or supreme personality who is the size of a thumb is abiding in the etheric space within the heart. He is also established in the mind, the moon, space, the sun, etc. In the Vavravya section of the Sama Veda is stated: Having established each of the presiding deities as the perceiver of the sense organs, the Purusa being the archetype of the senses is also known as pratyaksa. One who understands the Purusa as such is endowed with wisdom. The word dharmyam means eternal righteousness and is representative of the Supreme Lord. All his activities are always established in eternal righteousness. Whatever is spoken about Him or written about Him from the Vedic scriptures concerning Him or any of authorized avatar’s or incarnations and His and their activities are always without exception established in eternal righteousness. He maintains and sustains the entire material creation therefore He is the foundation of dharma. Being the sole upholder of all dharma the Supreme Lord is revered as the apex and ultimate personality. Preserving and supporting all existence thereby all beings in creation are supported as well. The Sama Veda reveals: In the beginning only the Supreme Lord as dharma existed, neither the Earth, the wind or space, nor Brahma, nor Shiva, nor the demigods, nor the sages. The word pratyaksavagaman also denotes one of the ways to experience supernatural reality.

Now begins the summation.

What Lord Krishna stated in chapter seven is being explained in more detail here.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

Moreover this divine spiritual knowledge is raja-vidya or a sovereign science because it destroys all vestiges of nescience and it is raja-guhyam or a sovereign secret because it is unattainable to those who never practiced bhakti or pure loving devotion to Lord Krishna or any of His Vedically authorised avatar`s or incarnations and expansions even after thousands of lifetimes. Because without bhakti one can never receive His grace and without His mercy no one can ever escape samsara the perpetual cycle of birth death. Some scholars and logicians may argue that the words raja-vidya and raja-guhyam are grammatically wrong by Panini’s rule II.II.XXX that instructs that in a compound word the primary word which in this case is raja takes the secondary position. But the fact is according to the even more dominant rule of Panini’s II.II.XXXI which states that any form of the word rajan which means sovereign ruler or king should always occupy the first position and so consequently neutralises this argument. This divine spiritual knowledge is supremely sacred like expiatory vows which destroys manifold sins. The vestiges of sins destroyed from expiatory vows remain in their subtle forms and by their influence may induce one to commit gross sins again. But to the contrary this most sacred spiritual knowledge completely exterminates all sins in their gross and subtle forms which have been accumulating for thousands and thousands of lifetimes. So this divine spiritual knowledge is pavitram idam uttamam the topmost in purity and pratyaksavagamam directly realised. The Supreme Lord Krishna becomes the direct realisation of His devotees aspirations. This is attained by this divine spiritual knowledge imparted by a bonafide spiritual master in authorised discipic succession as revealed in the Vedic scriptures, who also instructs and imparts bhakti or pure, loving devotion for Lord Krishna which must be accompanying any effort as well. Such a one’s actions are never devoid of punya or piety and dharma or righteousness which are essential.

This divine and sacred spiritual knowledge is naturally virtuous also because it was able to be achieved as a result of selfless actions without attachment or desirous of rewards performed for thousands and thousands of lifetimes and because it is the indispensable means of reaching and attaining the Supreme Lord it is the paramount of all knowledge. Because of the nature of bhakti, the love one feels in their heart for the Supreme Lord makes it su-sukham kartum or very joyful and easy to perform without any difficulty. It is practiced by righteous determination and the conscious cultivation of the teachings of the Vedically bonafide spiritual master while simultaneously dedicating all activities to the Supreme Lord. It is also avvayam imperishable because it causes no demerits by non- committance caused by defective practice so its meritorious results are permanent and are not subject to being dissolved even after bestowing the ultimate reward of attaining the Supreme Lord.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

9.2 And that is raja-vidya, the Sovereign Knowledge, the kind among sciences because of the abundance of its radiance. Indeed, this knowledge of Brahman shines most brilliantly among all kiinds of learning [The word raja means a king, or figuratively, the greatest; or, derived from the root raj, to shine, it may mean shining.-Tr.] So also, idam, this; is raja-guhyam, the Sovereign Profundity, the kind among profundities; uttamam, the best; pavitram, sanctifier. This knowledge of Brahman, which sanctifies all things that purify, is the greatest. Shine it reduces to ashes in a moment (the results of) all actions-righteous, unrighteous and others-together with their roots, accumulated over many thousands of births, therefore, what to speak of its sanctifying power! Besides, it is pratyaksavagamam, directly realizable, directly perceivable like happiness etc. Even though possessed of many qualities, a thing may be noticed to be contrary to righteousness. The knowledge of the Self is not opposed to righteousness, in that way, but it is dharmyam, righteous, not divorced from righteousness. Eeve so, it may be difficult to practice. Hence the Lord says it is susukham, very easy; kartum to practise, like the knowledge of the distinction among jewels. It is seen (in the world) that, actions which require little effort and are accomplished easily yield meagre results, whereas those that are difficult to accomplish yield great results. Thus the contingency arises that this (knowledge of Brahman), however. which is easily attained, perishes when its result gets exhausted. Therefore the Lord says it is avyayam, imperishable. From the point of view of its result, it is not perishable like (the results of) actions. Hence the knowledge of the Self should be highly regarded.

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

9.2 Raja-etc. Shines : that which illumines in the midst of all sciences. Here [in the Gita] itself it is said ‘The science of the Self [is the chief] among the sciences’. Here in this science kings like Janaka etc., have a right and pervilege (adhikara) [to learn]. It is their secret, as it is much protected (by them) by heroism easy for the Ksatriyas. As they do not waver [in their mind] because of their heroic nature that is common in the members of the warring class, it is very easy to do i.e., to observe. Imperishable : Unlike other actions this action of worshipping Brahman does not perish through the enjoyment of [its result].

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

raja-vidya raja-guhyam
pavitram idam uttamam
pratyaksavagamam dharmyam
su-sukham kartum avyayam

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

rāja-vidyā — the king of education; rāja-guhyam — the king of confidential knowledge; pavitram — the purest; idam — this; uttamam — transcendental; pratyakṣa — by direct experience; avagamam — understood; dharmyam — the principle of religion; su-sukham — very happy; kartum — to execute; avyayam — everlasting.