Srimad Bhagavad-gita Study Group

 - Chapter 16 -


The Godly and Ungodly Natures

Chapter Summary

The Supreme Lord, Krishna describes the qualities of the godly and demoniac. The godly qualities emancipate while the ungodly bind the soul. Correspondingly these two types of natures are embodied by two different type of living beings, the godly and the ungodly. The godly are prone to self-control and moderation while the ungodly are indulgent and seek sensual gratification, are impure in body and mind and consider the world nothing but the product of sexual union with no ultimate purpose other than mundane enjoyment and is clearly devoid of God. Holding this view, the godless incite the destruction of the world by their nefarious actions. Addicted to sensuality, their minds distracted and enthralled by ephemera they doom themselves to perdition. Self-obsessed, indolent, proud of their material wealth, accomplishments and so-called position in the world they perform sacrifice and give charity only in name disregarding any scriptural regulations or honesty. The three doors leading to hellish consciousness are lust, anger and greed and those who desire their eternal benefit must shun these by all means and rise above. The fundamental path to transcendence is to lead a purely devotional life in obedience to the Scriptures for the sole purpose of satisfying the Lord. Whoever acts according to their own whims and dictates of their mind, ignoring the advices of the saints, never attains true success, happiness or the supreme destination.

Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:


The dog is an unpredictable animal. Though widely acclaimed as man’s best friend, the dog also has a reputation for brutal, unprovoked attacks. Such contradictory behaviour is a sign of our times. In previous ages, the distinction between divine and demoniac people was very clear – they lived at a distance from each other and rarely mixed. In modern times, however, the dividing line has disappeared to the extent that the divine and demoniac coexist within the same individual! In Chapter Sixteen, Krishna describes the qualities of saintly persons and the weaknesses of the demoniac, systematically exposing attitudes and behaviours that destroy one’s spirituality.

D Divine or Demoniac

O Opinions & Outlook of Demons

G Gates to hell

D – Divine or Demoniac (Verses 1-6) - On the “tree of the material world”, divine qualities are said to elevate us whereas demoniac qualities result in degradation. These are the result of nature and nurture. While we undoubtedly carry impressions from previous lives, our willpower, determination and activities in this life can significantly alter that nature. Krishna describes 26 divine qualities and the six major demoniac qualities.

O – Opinions & Outlook of Demons (Verses 7-20) - To reassure Arjuna that he is of divine nature, Krishna distinguishes the activities, mentality and qualities of one who has demoniac propensities. Such miscreants are cast into repeated births in undeveloped, lower species of life. While this may sound like the harsh and judgmental God of dogmatic religion, Krishna explains how such treatment is the most progressive course of action to gradually uplift such individuals. Demoniac philosophy, mentality and activities generate immeasurable anxiety for the individual and cause great disruption in the wider society. It is a case of hate the disease not the diseased.

G – Gates to hell (verses 21-24) - Krishna warns that lust, anger and greed are the three root qualities that lead one to hell. Such hellish planes are not eternal prisons for the errant soul, but places of reformation where stern lessons help one to realign their vision. For one who wants to avoid such shock treatment, the scriptures act as a guidebook for gradual purification and ultimate perfection. They recommend a regulated lifestyle by which one can easily transform selfishness to selflessness, lust to love and quarrel into cooperation.

Questions on Chapter 16

Chapter 16 slokas to learn: 

tri-vidhaṁ narakasyedaṁ dvāraṁ nāśanam ātmanaḥ

kāmaḥ krodhas tathā lobhas tasmād etat trayaṁ tyajet [21]

idam tri-vidham–These three kinds of; dvāram–doors; narakasya–of hell; ātmanaḥ nāśanam–lead to self-destruction: kāmaḥ–lust; krodhaḥ–anger; tathā lobhaḥ–and greed; tasmāt–so; etat trayam–these three; tyajet–must be abandoned. [21]

21 Lust, anger, and greed are the three doors of hell leading to self-destruction, so they must be abandoned.

etair vimuktaḥ kaunteya tamo-dvārais tribhir naraḥ

ācharaty ātmanaḥ śreyas tato yāti parāṁ gatim [22]

(he) kaunteya–O Kaunteya; naraḥ–a person; vimuktaḥ–liberated; etaiḥ–from these; tribhiḥ tamaḥ-dvāraiḥ–three doors of darkness; ācharati–acts; śreyaḥ–for the benefit; ātmanaḥ–of the soul. tataḥ–By that; yāti–he reaches; parām–the supreme; gatim–goal. [22]

22 O Kaunteya, one who is liberated from these three doors of darkness strives for the benefit of the soul, by which he attains the supreme destination.