Bhagavad-gītā 4.40 says:

अज्ञश्चाश्रद्दधानश्च संशयात्मा विनश्यति।
नायं लोकोऽस्ति न परो न सुखं संशयात्मनः।।4.40।।

ajñaścāśraddadhānaśca saṅśayātmā vinaśyati.
nāyaṅ lōkō.sti na parō na sukhaṅ saṅśayātmanaḥ ৷৷ 4.40 ৷৷

One who is ignorant and faithless, and has a doubting mind perishes. Neither this world nor the next nor happiness exists for one who has a doubting mind.

So if one asks a lot of questions on Hinduism.SE, does that make them a saṁśayātmā (doubting mind) according to BG?

And we should be asking less and less questions? How will we learn if we don't ask questions?

  • 1
    Most of the questions are already answered through your very own experience. You post it here to share your experience so that others up vote/agree with you. Just don't go complex. The more complex you go, more mind will be used. At the end, whatever you were analyzing deeply on would have been vanished in no time. The unseen life is complicated. – Manoj Kumar Dec 16 '16 at 6:17

The word संशयात्मा does not literally mean doubting mind. But it has an inner meaning. Samshayatma means a cynic who does not agree with the scriptures.

If we consider only shloka you are quoting, there may be some misinterpretations and doubts. Therefore, we should also consider the shlokas which precede the 40th shloka.

śraddhāvāllabhate jñānaṃ tatparaḥ saṃyatendriyaḥ |
jñānaṃ labdhvā parāṃ śāntim acireṇādhigacchati || 39 ||

One who has faith, who is dedicated to it, and who has controlled the senses, attains enlightenment. Having attained enlightenment, one obtains Supreme Peace.

Now coming to the shloka you have quoted,

ajñāś-cāśraddhānaśca saṃśayātmā vinaśyati |
nāyaṃ loko’sti na paro na sukhaṃ saṃśayātmanaḥ|| 40 ||

The ignorant, the faithless and the cynic perish; for the cynic there is neither this world, nor that beyond, nor happiness.

This shloka is explained by Shri Ramanujacharya as follows:

'The ignorant' is one that has not received knowledge through instruction, 'the faithless' is one who does not develop any faith in this teaching i.e., who does not strive for immediate improvement, and the cynic is one who is full of skepticism in regard to the teaching — such persons perish, they are lost. When this teaching about the real nature of the Self is treated with skepticism, then one fails in this material world as also the spiritual world. The meaning is that the goals of human endeavor, such as Dharma (right living), Artha (prosperity) and Kāma (pleasure) which constitute the material goals or aims of life [in this world], are not fully achieved by such a cynic. How then can the Supreme Goal — Moksha (liberation) be achieved by him? For all the goals of life can be achieved by doing the works which are prescribed by the Shastras, but their correct performance requires the firm conviction that the Self is different from the body. Therefore, even a little happiness cannot be achieved by one who has doubts concerning the true nature of the Self.

We should be asking less and less questions? How will we learn if we don't ask questions?

No asking questions does not make you samshayatma and ignorant. It is the way of learning what you don't know. Krishna classifies devotees into four classes in Bhagavat Gita 7.16.

catur-vidhā bhajante māṃ janāḥ sukṛtino’rjuna |
ārto jijñāsur arthārthī jñānī ca bharatarṣabha || 16 ||

Four types of benefactors worship Me, O Arjuna (Bull of the Bharatas). These are the distressed, the seekers after knowledge, the ambitious, and the wise.

  1. Arta (the distressed) Example: Gajendra, draupadi
  2. Artharti (Devotees with certain wishes or ambitious) Example: Dhruva
  3. Jigyasu (Knowledge Seeker) Example: Arjuna
  4. jñānī (self realised) Example : Hanuman.

Knowledge seeking is not as same as cynical or doubt minded. Having faith on the knowledge and not questioning the authority of the scriptures is what Shri Krishna is saying.

Also seeking knowledge in a prescribed manner (from authorized sources) is also important.

  • @Pandya Could you please show me some site where Sri Ramanuja's sansayatma is translated as cynical? The source is not cited and independent of the source, the translation is wrong as doubtful and cynic are never the same. – user17294 Feb 25 at 5:40
  • @Partha Why do you mention Pandya under my answer? It doesn't notify hiim. A cynic is a person who does not believe some easily, finds faults and also questions genuine good motives. Not only Sanskrit, English also has words which have different meanings in different context. What do you mean the source is not cited? There are Bhagavad Gita shlokas. Translation is also accurate one which fits the situation Krishna is speaking. The site doesn't allow only one or two translations. Samshayatma is translated as different words by different translators and commentators. – Sarvabhouma Feb 26 at 1:25
  • pandya had a comment there thats now deleted.No, samsayatma can never mean a cynical person.i checked the nenowned commentaries and dictionaries. – user17294 Feb 26 at 3:05
  • @Partha Cynic has many synonyms and meanings. Disbeliever, pessimist, skeptic minded, satirist etc., thesaurus.com/browse/cynic . and dictionary.com/browse/cynical Here Samshayatma means always doubts good attitudes also. You haven't checked all the commentaries and dictionaries. It doesn't only mean doubtful. We can quote any translation which fits and explains the answer well and not limited to renowned commentators. It is subjective term I think. BTW, this is from Srimatham. – Sarvabhouma Feb 27 at 3:40
  • i have checked Sri Ramanuja's sanskrit commentary.Doubtful in the correct translation and that has been used in IIT site.Cynic is not samsayatma but much more negative than that. – user17294 Feb 27 at 3:45

What does Shree Krishna mean by Samshayatma (doubting mind)?

Here Shree Krishna is actually telling Arjuna that, a person who does not believe in shastras or authoritative spiritual science books & who doesn't have faith in "shastras" perishes. Such a person doesn't get satisfaction or experience pleasure in this world or in this life, nor in other worlds, i.e., "Paramarth".

If we look at the previous shloka:

श्रद्धावाँल्लभते ज्ञानं तत्परः संयतेन्द्रियः।
ज्ञानं लब्ध्वा परां शान्तिमचिरेणाधिगच्छति।।4.39।।

śraddhāvāḻ labhate jñānaṁ tat-paraḥ saṁyatendriyaḥ jñānaṁ labdhvā parāṁ śāntim acireṇādhigacchati

A faithful man who is dedicated to transcendental knowledge and who subdues his senses is eligible to achieve such knowledge, and having achieved it he quickly attains the supreme spiritual peace.

BG 4.39

We can see that here Shree Krishna is talking about transcendental knowledge or divine knowledge and divine peace, not actually the materialistic pleasures or materialistic knowledge. In that context, if we interpret verse 4.40, we can say that, a doubtful person never progresses materialistically nor spiritually in this or other worlds.

Here the message for us is to keep the faith on "shastras" & to accept their authority. So asking valid questions with proper faith is suggested. But asking questions without proper faith is not recommended.

And we should be asking less and less questions? How will we learn if we don't ask questions?

No. IMO, asking lots of questions is actually a good thing, but with proper faith. Even Arjuna was in doubt about war, its outcome, his duty etc., but Shree Krishna cleared those doubts from Arjuna's mind. He too asked lots of questions & then got satisfied about his duty.

So, in conclusion, asking lots of questions with proper faith on shastras for clearing any doubts is the right thing.


So if one asks a lot of questions on Hinduism.SE, does that make them a saṁśayātmā (doubting mind) according to BG?

And we should be asking less and less questions? How will we learn if we don't ask questions?

Let me first clarify Gita's position on questions being asked. Gita respects human beings too much to forbid asking questions. This is clear from this shloka.

Thus have I imparted to you wisdom which is more secret (profound) than all that is secret (profound). Reflecting over this whole teaching, do as you think fit.

Gita 18.63

Gita in fact as is clear from the above shloka encourages the reader to ask as many questions as he wants. If a reader of the Gita does not ask questions then he is clearly not reflecting on the entire teaching.

Now let us look at the shloka mentioned in the question:

An ignorant man without any positive faith, who knows only to doubt, goes to ruin. To such a doubting soul there is neither this world nor the world beyond. There is no happiness for him.

Gita 4.40

The key to understanding this shloka is the phrase 'who knows only to doubt'. What Gita means here is that a person fails to reap the benefits of the Gita if he doubts so much that he does not even try to do the recommended spiritual practices like Yoga to test the claims made by the Gita. The reason for this Gita position is made clear from this shloka:

Therefore cutting asunder the skeptical tendency of the heart by the sword of divine knowledge, betake yourself to Yoga (communion through sacrificial action) and arise, O scion of the Bharata race!

Gita 4.42

Gita acknowledges that skepticism is a very natural thing. The only way to cut this skeptical tendency is however through anubhava or experience of the divine. Those who are ultra-skeptical, who know only to doubt, will obviously not even try the recommended spiritual practices and will thus never have the necessary anubhava and will thus remain trapped in their skepticism. Such a state will lead to non-attainment of moksha.


I posted the same question on a different website and this is the answer I received there. Since it's a totally copy-paste answer, I'm making it a wiki for people to vote if they like it.

ajñaścāśraddadhānaśca saṅśayātmā = ajñaḥ ca śradda adhānaḥ ca saṅśaya+ātmā

Note the sequence:

ajñaḥ - not knowing, lack of knowledge
aśradda - lack or without faith
dhānaḥ - receptacle, seat
saṅśaya+ātmā = saṁśaya + ātmā
saṁśaya = uncertainty, irresolution, hesitation, doubt
ātmā = ātman = the individual, the person

(fyi) ca = and

This says, not knowing + the lack of faith becomes the receptacle or seat for uncertainty and doubt for the individual.

The lack of knowledge is the basis for the lack of faith which will gain or make a seat for doubt and uncertainty.

You see why the sequence is of key import?

Now to answer your question:

So if one asks a lot of questions on a website like this, does that make them a saṁśayātmā (doubting mind) according to Gita?

Finding out, knowing, asking questions is an approach to eradicating (or at least mitigating) ajñaḥ.

Since we're in chapter 4.40 of the śrīmad bhāgavad gītā, we need to back-up two śloka-s to 4.38:

न हि ज्ञानेन सदृशं पवित्रमिह विद्यते।
na hi jñānēna sadṛśaṅ pavitramiha vidyatē.

truly there is nothing in the world so purifying as knowledge.

If one looks to the top of this forum's page, this śloka is called out and a main principle of this site.

One also needs to be mindful of different degrees of knowledge... there is pure knowledge (Self), that of undifferentiated Being, and there is relative knowledge. Our upaniṣad-s have much to say about this, but that will take us off this beacon path.

But that said, full or whole knowledge is knowledge + experience (experience of pure awareness which is perfect knowledge).

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