Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 69 – Inversion of day and night

The Bhagavad Gita in Chapter 2, Verse 69 describes an enigmatic reversal of day and night in the life of a Yogi.


ya nisha sarva-bhutanam tasyam jagarti samyami
yasyam jagrati bhutani sa nisa pasyato muneh

That which is day to the many is night to the sage,
That which is night to the many is day to the sage.

In ordinary life, the five senses in Man seek to alleviate their thirst by participating in social life. In such cases, the waking consciousness is the day (i.e. the place of activity) while the inner worlds are dark like the night.

In case of a Yogi/Yogini, the situation becomes inverted when the doorways to the subtle worlds are opened because then the inner worlds burn brightly and are full of activity (i.e. the day) while the waking state seems dull and boring (i.e. the night).

Sri Aurobindo’s exposition of this verse:

The status he reaches is the Brahmic condition; he gets to firm standing in the Brahman, brāhmī sthitih. It is a reversal of the whole view, experience, knowledge, values, seeings of earth-bound creatures. This life of the dualities which is to them their day, their waking, their consciousness, their bright condition of activity and knowledge, is to him a night, a troubled sleep and darkness of the soul; that higher being which is to them a night, a sleep in which all knowledge and will cease, is to the self-mastering sage his waking, his luminous day of true being, knowledge and power. They are troubled and muddy waters disturbed by every little inrush of desire; he is an ocean of wide being and consciousness which is ever being filled, yet ever motionless in its large poise of his soul; all the desires of the world enter into him as waters into the sea, yet he has no desire nor is troubled. For while they are filled with the troubling sense of ego and mine and thine, he is one with the one Self in all and has no “I” or “mine”. He acts as others, but he has abandoned all desires and their longings. He attains to the great peace and is not bewildered by the shows of things; he has extinguished his individual ego in the One, lives in that unity and, fixed in that status at his end, can attain to extinction in the Brahman, Nirvana, – not the negative self-annihilation of the Buddhists, but the great immergence of the separate personal self into the vast reality of the one infinite impersonal Existence.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Yoga of the Intelligent Will

Sri Aurobindo has also described this reversal in his epic poem Savitri

A vision lightened on the viewless heights,
A wisdom illumined from the voiceless depths:
A deeper interpretation greatened Truth,
A grand reversal of the Night and Day;
All the world’s values changed heightening life’s aim;
A wiser word, a larger thought came in
Than what the slow labour of human mind can bring,
A secret sense awoke that could perceive
A Presence and a Greatness everywhere.


Sri Aurobindo, Savitri – I: The Yoga of the King: The Yoga of the Soul’s Release


17 thoughts on “Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 69 – Inversion of day and night

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  7. Al

    Very important verse, thank you.

    या निशा सर्वभूतानां
    तस्यां जागर्ति संयमी ।
    यस्यां जाग्रति भूतानि
    सा निशा पश्यतो मुनेः ॥२.६९॥
    yā niśā sarvabhūtānāṁ
    tasyāṁ jāgarti saṁyamī
    yasyāṁ jāgrati bhūtāni
    sā niśā paśyato muneḥ (2.69)

    yā — which; niśā — void; sarvabhūtānāṁ — all ordinary people; tasyāṁ — in this; jāgarti — is perceptive; saṁyamī — the sense-controlling person; yasyāṁ — in what; jāgrati — is exciting; bhūtāni — the masses of people; sā — that; niśā — is void; paśyato = paśyataḥ — of the perceptive; muneḥ — of the sage
    “The sense-controlling person is perceptive of that which is void to the ordinary people. What is exciting to the masses of people is void to the perceptive sage.” (2.69)

    This is also said to chastise Arjuna for his indecision. Arjuna affected a contrary position in wanting to go to the forest as an ascetic, speaking high sounding words, but acting like an ordinary person who avoided the challenges of life as they pertained to his dharma. This is a continuation of Verse 2.11 when Krishna told Arjuna:

    प्रज्ञावादांश्च भाषसे ।
    नानुशोचन्ति पण्डिताः ॥२.११॥ śrībhagavānuvāca
    prajñāvādāṁśca bhāṣase
    nānuśocanti paṇḍitāḥ (2.11)
    śrī-bhagavān — the Blessed Lord; uvāca — said; aśocyān — that which should be regretted; anvaśocas — mourned; tvaṁ — you; prajñāvādāṁś — intelligent statements; ca — and; bhāṣase — you express; gatāsūn — departed souls; agatāsūṁś — those not departed; ca — and; nānuśocanti = na — not + anuśocanti — mourn; paṇḍitāḥ — educated men
    “The Blessed Lord said: You mourned for that which should not be regretted. And you expressed intelligent statements, but the educated persons mourn neither for the embodied or departed souls.” (2.11)

    Here, as in verse 2.69, Arjuna talked like a Pandit ot Muni, but behaved like a commoner.

    Regarding the allegory of night and day, it is interesting to notice the interpretation of verse 2.69 by Winthrop Sargent (p. 154), using mostly Ramanuja’s commentary, as follows:

    “the sage who sees perceives the light of the atman, which is dark as night to others, while the others see the light of the senses which is dark as night to the sage.”

  8. mw

    The Illusion of Action

    Men have a feeling that if they are not all the time running about and bursting into fits of feverish activity, they are doing nothing. It is an illusion to think that all these so-called movements change things. It is merely taking a cup and beating the water in it; the water is moved about, but it is not changed for all your beating. This illusion of action is one of the greatest illusions of human nature. It hurts progress because it brings on you the necessity of rushing always into some excited movement.

    . . . In peace, in silence and in quietness the world was built; and each time that something is to be truly built, it is in peace and silence and quietness that it must be done. It is ignorance to believe that you must run from morning to night and labour at all sorts of futile things in order to do something for the world.

    Once you step back from these whirling forces into quiet regions, you see how great is the illusion! Humanity appears to you like a mass of blind creatures rushing about without knowing what they do or why they do it and only knocking and stumbling against each other. And it is this that they call action and life! It is empty agitation, not action, not true life.
    The Mother [CWM1, 3:66–67]

    To them (those so busy and active in the world) a person who is silent, calm, peaceful, are regarded as lazy, laggards (even anti-social). Those busy people hold in high regard only those who are busier than they themselves. In effect are we not traitors to their cause? What I see in the world day-in and day-out appears to be what we all should be doing only because it appears to be the dominant course of action. There was a time in my life when I did not question it and I worked hard to keep apace. Now it is like being locked outside of that whirl-wind of theirs.

      1. Sandeep Post author

        Events arrange themselves around you, to fulfill a Greater Power, despite other people’s calculations.

      2. MW

        sandeep, thank you and that’s really amazing, like an alternate reality.

        I believe what is happening falls along these:

        “The tamasmic doer of action is one who does not put himself really into his work, but acts with a mechanical mind, or obeys the most vulgar thought of the herd, follows the common routine or is wedded to a blind error and prejudice. He is obstinate in stupidity, stubborn in error and takes a foolish pride in his ignorant doing; a narrow and evasive cunning replaces true intelligence.”

        Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Gunas, Mind and Works

        “Life, State, society, family, all surrounding powers seem to be in a league to lay their yoke on our spirit, compel us into their moulds, impose on us their mechanical interest and rough immediate convenience. We become parts of a machine; we are not, are hardly allowed to be in the true sense, manusya, purusa, souls, minds, free children of the spirit empowered to develop the highest characteristic perfection of our being and make it our means of service to the race. It would seem that we are not what we make ourselves, but what we are made. …the functions of a man ought to be determined by his natural turn, gift and capacities. The individual who develops freely in this manner will be a living soul for the service of the race. …Whatever a man’s work and function in life, he can, if it is determined from within or if he is allowed to make it a self-expression of his nature, turn it into a means of growth and of a greater inner perfection. …This machinery of ego , this tangled complexity of the three Gunas, mind, body, life, emotion, desire, struggle, thought, aspiration, endeavor, this locked interaction of pain and pleasure, sin and virtue, striving and success and failure, soul and environment, myself and others, is only the outward imperfect form taken by a higher spiritual Force in me which pursues through its vicissitudes the progressive self-expression of the divine reality and greatness I am secretly in spirit and shall overtly become in nature.”

        Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: Swabhava and Swadharma

        “Destroyed is the illusion of the mind; the soul’s memory of its self and its truth concealed so long by the misleading shows and forms of life has returned to it and become its normal consciousness: all doubt and perplexity gone, it can turn to the execution of the command and do faithfully whatever work for God and the world may be appointed and apportioned to it by the Master of our being, the Spirit and Godhead self-fullfilled in Time and universe.”

        Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Supreme Secret

        “In India an “ashram” is normally a spiritual or religious community whose members are gathered around a Master and have renounced the world to devote themselves to meditation, concentration, and yogic exercises, in order to attain “liberation.” As we can imagine, Sri Aurobindo’s ashram had little to do with this definition, except for the fact that the disciples were gathered around a Master and Mother. … Each one had to find his own truth, which is not the same as the next man’s. … Every conceivable human activity was represented. It was a microcosm. One could be a baker, or wash dishes, or try ones hand at carpentry, if one believed in the virtues of simple work. But there was no hierarchy among those activities; none of them was remunerated, nor was any of them considered superior to another. … The only real task was to discover the truth of one’s being, for which the outer was but a means. It was remarkable also to observe people changing activities as the consciousness awakened; very soon, all the values attached to the former professions fell away, and because money no longer had any meaning, one who thought he was a doctor, say, found himself more comfortable as an artisan, while a man with no particular education suddenly discovered he had a talent for poetry or painting, or immersed himself in the study of Sanskrit or Ayurvedic medicine. It was a complete recasting of outer values to the one inner criterion. When a disciple one day asked Mother about the best way of collaborating in the superamental transformation, he was given this answer: “It is always the same thing: to realize one’s own being, in whatever form, by whatever means–it doesn’t matter–but that is the only way. Each person carries in himself a truth; it is with this truth that he must unite, this truth that he must live; when he does that, the path he follows to join and realize this truth is also the path that brings him the closest to the Transformation. That is, the two are inseparably connected: personal realization and transformation. Perhaps it is even that multiplicity of approaches that will yields the Secret and open the door, who knows?”” Satprem, The Adventure of Consciousness, pp. 355-358

        *I had posted these (above) a few years ago under:

      3. MW


        “Our ideas and experiences and efforts are mental images only of greatest things which would be done more perfectly, directly, freely, largely, more in harmony with the universal and eternal will by that Power itself in us if we could only put our selves passively as instruments in the hands of a supreme and absolute strength and wisdom. That power is not separate from us; it is our own self one with the self of all others and at the same time a transcendent Being and an immanent Person. Our existence, our action taken up into this greatest Existence would no longer, as it seems to us now, individually our own in mental separation. It would be the vast movement of an Infinite and an intimate ineffable Presence; it would be the constant spontaneity of formation and expression in us of this deep universal self and this Transcendent spirit. The Gita indicates that in order that that may wholly be, the surrender must be without reservations; our Yoga, our life, our state of inner being must be determined freely by this living Infinite, not predetermined by our mind’s insistence on this or that dharma or any dharma. The divine Master of the Yoga, yogesvarah krsnah, will then himself take up our Yoga and raise us to our utmost possible perfection, not the perfection of any external or mental standard or limiting rule, but vast and comprehensive, to the mind incalculable. It will be a perfection developed by an all seeing Wisdom according to the whole truth, first indeed of our human Swabhava, but afterwards of a greater thing into which it will open, a spirit and power illimitable, immortal, free and all transmuting, the light and splendour of a divine and infinite nature.”

        Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Supreme Secret

        “As soon as we have abolished within us, even for a moment, all egoistic desires, all personal and selfish aims, we can surrender to this inner spontaneity, this deep inspiration which will enable us to commune with the living and progressive forces of the universe.

        The conception of our work will inevitably grow more perfect as we grow more perfect as we grow more perfect ourselves; and to realise this growing perfection, no effort to exceed ourselves should be neglected, but the work we perform must become always more and more joyful and spontaneous, like water welling from a pure spring.”

        The Mother, Words of Long Ago: 14 May 1912

  9. arya

    I’ve been thinking about this long before I came across this post. In SA’s system, everything is happening in accordance with the will of a higher power. But how do we find out why or how a certain event is occurring. Do we just take it as a matter of faith? Let’s say I am without a job (actually I am lol)…. how do I interpret such a mundane event as part of a larger divine plan? What I mean is, how do I see my personal situation in line with the larger divine purpose?

    1. Sandeep Post author

      If you stay jobless long enough, you will automatically merge with the Divine who sits back and watches the play of manifestation 🙂

      There is no overarching Divine Will which watches over every Atman. Every Amsha (part of the Divine) has been given its own free will to act in Manifestation. As we become more conscious of our Divine essence, we begin to act in tune with the Divine Will. This awakened Divine Will may guide us to a certain individual or place to undertake some action. Until then, we are just fumbling around based on our strengths and weaknesses.

      There is no Divine Will which states that such and such event must occur at this time. It is not a central controller but more like a dynamic equilibrium between its various elements. It works out possibilities based on the inherent potential of the entities involved.

      In the current state of Ignorance or separation from Divine Will, there is no way to know the reason behind a certain event. It is also unwise to speculate because the mind can get excited or rigid and start making unrealistic assumptions. Only when one is sufficiently advanced in Yoga can one get a glimpse for the reason behind some event. That led sages to hint at something called Karma but then the common man got involved and made that Karma also a rigid policy like “reward good; punish bad”.

      Read Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine for more answers to this question


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