This Chapter describes Deva - Asura vibhgam [देवा असुर वीभागम]. The Lord classifies some as Devas and others as Asuras! In Gitartha Sangraha, Swami Alavandar summarizes this Chapter 16:
dev¯asura vibh¯agokti p¯urvik¯a ´s¯astrava´syat¯a |
tattv¯anus.t.h¯ana vij˜n¯anasthemne s.od.a´sa ucyate || (20)
He says that these were told in Chapter 16: that to gain tatva gyana and practice well, such persons were Devas and others were Asuras. Like this the Lord made a classification. In the pasuram 5.9.9. kazhalvalai poorippa yam kandu [கழல் வளை பூரிப்ப யாம் கண்டு], Alwar, by worshipping the Lord with folded hands [கை கூப்பி], found the bangles got enlarged with happiness! Alwar is performing saranagati, and so he is raising folded hands to show 'nama: [नम:]'. He says that the humming sound of bees in the garden in this place, is like or better than the music of flute and veena instruments! He is eagerly expecting the blessings of the Lord Sri Vallabha, Who is holding the rotating discus in His right hand! The auspicious quality, which the Lord exhibited here to Alwar is krupa [कृपा கிருபை] or mercy! 'Meliyilum semam kolvikkum krupai innagarile nityam [மெலியும் சே(க்ஷே)மம் கொள்விக்கும் கிருபை இந்நகரிலே நித்யம்!]' says Swami Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar in Acharya Hrudayam! Alwar has become thinner because of separation from the Lord. He was so weak that he was not able to cross the garden and enter the temple! Earlier, Alwar worshiped Sri Aravamuda in Thirukkudanthai [Kumbakonam]. From there he proceeded to Thiruvallavazh in Malayala Desam. In the Fifth Century of Thiruvaimozhi, Alwar performed saranagati at Four places consecutvely: In 5.7 [notra nonbilen nunnarivilen நோற்ற நோன்பிலேன் நுண்ணறிவிலேன்!], he performed saranagati at the Divine feet of Sri Deiva Nayaka in Vanamamalai [aka Srivara Mangala Nagar]. Next, in 5.8 [aara amude! adiyen udalam! ninpaal anbaye! ஆரா அமுதே! அடியேன் உடலம் நின்பால் அன்பாயே!], he performed saranagati at the Diveine feet of Sri Sarngapani in Thirukkudanthai. Then in 5.9, he came running to this place, Thiruvallavazh, and performed saranagati at the Divine feet of Sri Vallabha. His efforts did not yield results. Here, Alwar tried to present him in woman's form to attract mercy of the Lord. 'She' was standing in the garden and had not entered the temple. 'She' thought that 'her' weakness was so much that 'she' could not go near Him! Lamenting 'her' bad luck, Alwar performed saranagati. Alwar felt that because of 'her' past Karma, 'she' had thinned and was very weak, not able to go near Him. This feeling is reflected in all the pasurams in this decade. But the Lord is pacifying that even if 'she' became thinner, He would protect. That is His mercy or Krupa is exhibited here. His mercy is not of recent origin, it is very ancient. That is why, Swami Nayanar says it is 'nityam' or permanent! In 5.9.5, Alwar laments as to when he would see the Lord. The smoke raised in the homam performed by Brahmins here, had clouded the place from view! So, when 'she' could ever see 'her' Lord, Who is like Amrut, Sugar candy and sweet fruit! After this saranagati, Alwar then performed saranagati at the Divine feet of the Lord in Sri Krishna Avatar, in the decade 5.10 starting with 'pirandavarum, valarndavarum, periya bharatam kai seidhu .. [பிறந்தவாறும், வளர்ந்தவாரும், பெரிய பாரதம் கை செய்து..]'. All these [Four] saranagati did not yield the desired result and so after another 100 pasurams in 6.10., Alwar again performed saranagati at the Divine feet of the Lord Sri Srinivasa in Tirumala [agalagillen enriraiyum alarmel mangai urai marbha அகலகில்லேன் என்றிரையும் அலர் மேல் மங்கை உறை மார்பா] and succeeded - un adik keezh amarndhu pugundene! உன் அடிக் கீழ் அமர்ந்து புகுந்தேனே!]. Now we will see the summary of Chapter 16. Swami Alavandar says in Gitarta Sangraha, tatva jnana anushtana - the knowledge about Bhagavan, the Lord. To reinforce this knowledge and to know the means to reach Him, the Lord mentions the classification of persons as Devas and Asuras. This Gyana about Bhagavan, can be acquired only from Vedas. So, one should follow Vedas. Such people are Devas and those who do not act according to or follow Vedas, are Asuras. We should not imagine that Asuras mean persons would be having frightening faces, with horns on the heads, etc; also Devas do not imply those in upper worlds. Anyone not acting as per Vedas is Asura and anyone following Vedas implicitly, is Deva! With this classification, the Lord advises everyone to follow Shastras! Now we will see sloka 1 of Chapter 16. We will see why was it necessary to classify people as Devas and Asuras. The Lord explained Chit, Achit and Iswara in the Three Chapters 13, 14 and 15, respectively. We saw how an atman was bonded in a body and vairagyam axe was needed to cut off the samsaram; the axe could be obtained only by saranagati at His Divine feet. The Lord is pervading in every atman without any exception. Vedas preach to take asylum at His feet. Only the Lord Sri Krishna was described Vedas and in full. After this we have to now know who were following Vedas and who did not. What means are prescribed by Vedas to reach Him. Devas are those who follow Vedas and Asuras are those who violate Vedas. Therefore, this Chapter is called Devaasura vibhaga. We should take efforts to be classified as Devas and not Asuras. Sloka 1 of Chapter 16:
abhayaṃ sattvasaṃśuddhir jñānayogavyavasthitiḥ
dānaṃ damaś ca yajñaś ca svādhyāyas tapa ārjavam 16.1
These qualities are going to be continued in the First Three slokas. Abhayam = fearless, sattvasamsuddhi = purity of mind [because of increased] sattva quality [and decreased rajas and tamas qualities], jnana yoga vyavathithi = thoughts about atman [necessary for performing Karma yoga, Gyana yoga and Bhakti yoga], danam = donation [of rightfully earned wealth to deserving persons], damas ca = and control [of external sense organs and internal mind], yajna = performing Yagna [ pancha maha yagna - worshiping God, feeding guests, feeding ancestors, animals and birds, etc.], svadyaya = chanting [Vedas with enthusiasm], tapas = ritualistic [following Ekadasi fasting, etc., as prescribed in Vedas], arjavam = honest living [by mind, by words and by action]. These are the identities of Devas. Fearless means not anticipating any misery. Satva quality should always be prominent. Asura thinks about body, while Devas think about atman. Atman gyana only would help in Karma, Gyana and Bhakti yogas! Earning in illegal way and donating the wealth, will not come under Dhanam. Neither we should disrespect the reciever nor donations should be careless. We should not grant unwanted things. We should not follow rituals unspecified by Vedas and inflict self sufferings. Now we will take leave of this Kshetram.