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Books > Hindu > Srimad Bhagavad Gita with Commentary by Sridhara Swami
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Srimad Bhagavad Gita with Commentary by Sridhara Swami
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Srimad Bhagavad Gita with Commentary by Sridhara Swami
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Publisher's Note to the Revised Second Edition

We are to place the revised edition of Swami Vireswarananda's English translation of Srimad Bhagavad Gita with the gloss (Tika) of Sridhra Swami. The previous edition, with its simple and lucid language, was quite well-received by scholars as well as general readers. That edition, however, had only the translation of the gloss. The present edition contains the original Sanskrit Tika in devanagari script too, fulfilling a long-felt need of all serious students of the Gita.

In addition, this edition also provides the references (verse number, chapter and the name of the source book) to the quotations cited in the Tika, along with their translations. All references to the Gita verses appearing in the Tika are also suitably cited. In order to facilitate search, an index to the Gita verses and the words appear in the Gita verses in Sanskrit has been added at the end.

Bhagavad Gita, has a timeless relevance. Hope the readers will continue to drink deep at this spring of nectar presented through these pages.

 

Preface

The Bhagavad-Gita is a most, if not the most, popular Hindu Scripture. It is regarded as one the three scriptures, the other two being the Upanishads and the Brahma-Sutras. All the great Acharyas or founders of new sects among the Hindus have written commentaries on these three. Among them the Gita has largest number of expositions, for a good many of the followers of the different sects have written glosses on the main commentaries of their great Acharyas. It can be stated without nay hesitation that there is no other Hindu Scripture which has been so frequently commented upon.

Sridhra Swami, whose commentary we are giving here in English, was born at Balodi in Gujarat, about six centuries ago, and chronological he comes immediately after Vopadeva, the great grammarian. He was a disciple of Paramananda Puri and his chosen Deity was Nrisimha (the fourth of the ten Incarnations in Hindu mythology). Besides this scholium on the Gita, Sridhra has written commentaries on the Bhagavata and the Vishnupurana, known as, Bhavarthadipika and Atmaprakasa respectively. Sridhra's present commentary on the Gita is called Subodhini. It is, as the name implies, very lucid, and at the same time brief. Though Sridhara belong to the commentary says, "After scrutinizing according to my light the words of his expounders, yet his leaning towards devotion as opposed to knowledge is so very marked that the orthodox section at first refused to accept his commentary as authoritative. For a decision, the commentary was placed before the Lord Visweswara (according to some, before the Lord Bindumadhava) in Banaras, and tradition says that the Lord appeared in a dream and gave the verdict thus;

-"I know the true teaching of the Scriptures, and so does Suka. Vyasa may or may not know. But Sridhara knows everything through the grace of the Lord Nrisimha." After that the orthodox section withdrew their objection.

Sridhara's commentary on the Gita though well known in Sanskrit, is not available in English. We have therefore translated it to make it accessible to the English-knowing public, except in a few places, where the text of other.

 

The Bhagavad Gita Its Synthetic Character

The Bhagavad Gita is now a most, if not the most, popular Hindu scripture. It is regarded as one of the three main scripture-the prasthana-trayas, as they are called, the other two being the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras. There is no other scripture which has been so frequently commended upon, for it has been a perennial source of spiritual inspiration, and rightly so for, in it we find different system of philosophy, ethics and religion suited for different temperaments. This universality of the Gita has, however, puzzled some scholars. In this variety of ideals they find contradiction; for instance, between monism and dualism, knowledge, action and devotion, Samkhya and Vedanta, and even between Personal God and Impersonal God. These themes, they think, are pieced together without much attempt at reconciliation. To explain these contradictions, they assume that there have been interpolations in the Gita, which must have undergone revision like other parts of the Mahabharata, of which it forms a part. However plausible these theories may look, we think these critics have missed the master-key which alone would have helped them to open this 'jewel-casket' of Indian culture, viz., the spirit of synthesis.

The Indo-Aryans were never dominated rigidity of thought at any time in any sphere of their national life. This freedom of thought helped them to evolve a synthetic outlook, a spirit of seeing unity behind variety. This synthetic outlook is predominantly noticeable in the field of religion. One of the Vedic seers taught their followers, 'That which exists is one, sages call it by various manes.'(Rg Ve. 1.164.46; 10.115.5.) The discovery of this great truth has hasped the history of civilization in this country, and sages have reiterated it at different periods in our history, with the result that it has gone deep into the subconscious mind of the nation. The Hindus have therefore accepted different religions, systems of philosophy and spiritual cultures as being suited to different temperaments, and as supplementing one another. In keeping with this spirit is the message of Sri Krsna in the Bhagavad Gita. He was a great harmonizer of ideals and institutions, and hence he did not reject any of the ideals extant at the time, but gave a proper place to each one of them, inasmuch as they were suited to the spiritual progress of particular people. If man is to progress spiritually, he most have religious ideal suited to him. Forcing him to follow ideals for which he is not fit will only result in harm and spiritual death. Therefore 'the wise man should not unsettle the faith of the ignorant' (3.26,29). 'By whatsoever way man worship Me, even so do I accept them; (for) in all ways, O Partha, men walk in My path., (4.11) Guided by this spirit, the Gita has beautifully harmonized the various ideals prevalent at the time.

 

Synthetic of Action And Knowledge

The Bhagavad Gita has not much esteem for the reward-seeking religion of Vedic sacrifices. it critizes (2.42-46) the views of the Mimamasakas, who think that ritualism is the whole of religion and is capable of leading man to mukti (liberation). According to the Gita, sacrifices are merely a means to power and enjoyment and they cause rebirth: by means of them people no doubt get the result coveted; viz. heaven, where they enjoy the pleasures of the gods; but when their merit is exhausted they have to return to this mundane world. Thus, following the injunctions of the Vedas, seeking pleasure and enjoyment, they come and go. The votaries of the various gods go to the gods. It is only the devotees of the supreme Lord that go to Him and attain liberation. Even those who worship the gods as such, in reality worship the one supreme God; yet, as they are not conscious of the fact that these gods are but forms of the one God, who is this enjoyer and Lord of all sacrifices, they return to the mortal world (9.20-25). But if they are conscious of the fact that they are worshipping the one God through the different deities, then these very sacrifices will lead them to liberation. Thus, in keeping with the Upanisadic teachings, the Gita declares that it is knowledge alone that leads to liberation, and not mere ritualistic observance. Hence the exhortation to Arjuna to go beyond the gunas, i.e., the world which is the sphere of rituals (2.45).

The Gita, however, realizes that for those who are full of desires and want enjoyment, these sacrifices are useful; for such people must have some enjoyment, and have their desires fulfilled to a certain extent, before they can tread the path of desirelessness, which is the goal of spiritual life. It is desire that covers knowledge and it has therefore to be destroyed by controlling its seats-the senses, the mind and the intellect (3.30-41). But this highest ideal cannot be followed by all. Ideals have to vary according to the capacity of the aspirants, so that they may be followed with faith; for that is a surer way to progress then aspiring after a higher ideal. Confusion of ideals is detrimental to individual and social welfare. By performing works prescribed by scriptures, though with desire at first, one gradually progresses and finally attains the state of desirelessness. But works prohibited by the scriptures are never helpful and so one should abide by the scriptural ordinances and not be prompted by inordinate desires prohibited by them (16.23-24). Even in enjoyment there should be some discrimination. Otherwise it would bring us down to the level of the brute.

It looks like a paradox to say that sacrifices performed with desire will lead to desirelessness or absolute unselfishness. But then, in all sacrifices, though performed with desire, the performer offers something which he possesses to his chosen deity, who thus propitiated, bestows on his devotee the desired fruit. Thus man learns to renounce and to be unselfish even through these selfish sacrifices, and gradually, as he progresses, he finds that he is in duty bound to offer to the gods the gifts that are bestowed on him by them, and not do so is sinful. Selfishness slowly recedes to the background, and duty becomes the guiding principle of these sacrifices. The Gita stresses this idea of obligatoriness on the part of the ordinary man to perform sacrifices (3.10-16).

Having stressed the duty aspect in sacrifices, the Gita next amplifies the narrow and restricted meaning of the words 'duty' (dharma) and 'sacrifice' (yajna) that was current at the time. According to the Gita, duty is not merely ritualistic acts prescribed by the Vedas, but it includes whatever we are obliged to do by birth and status in society (2.31,33; 18.41-44). In this sense, there can be no definition of duty which will be universally binding on all men and under all circumstances. It would necessarily vary with persons, and, with the change of circumstances, even for the same person. The only criterion to fix it is to see whether a particular act takes a person Godward or not. If it does, then it is his duty (dharma); otherwise it is a sin (dharma) for him. Duties are fixed for us by the inner law of our being, by the samskaras, or tendencies acquired by us in previous births, with which we are born; and working them out is the only way to proceed Godward. Consequently, there is no unchartered freedom in the choice of our duties, nor can the duty of one be the duty of another endowed differently. Doing duties thus determined by his nature, a man incurs no sin. Though they may be defective, he should not relinquish them; for, after all, any undertaking is attended with evil of some sort or other. Performance of one's duties is the only way to salvation (18.45-48). Similarly, sacrifice does not mean merely ritualistic worship performed by offering material things in the fire, but it includes all kinds of spiritual culture. Thus, acts of charity, giving up of desires, control of the senses and of the breath, muttering of mystic syllables and God's names, are all conceived as sacrifices (4.25-30; 10.25). in fact, according to the Gita, sacrifice includes all acts whatsoever, done unselfishly; for the main idea in a sacrifice is the offering of something in the fire to the deity. So any act done without selfishness can be regarded as n offering, and therefore all such acts are sacrifice. With this changed meaning of the words 'sacrifics', the statement of the Mimamsakas, 'This world is bound by action other than that done for a sacrifice,' become more significant, for knowledge-sacrifice is superior to material sacrifices (4.33). That is why Sri Krsna repeats this sake of sacrifice alone; for by performing work as sacrifice, one's entire action melts away (4.23). Sacrifice being understood in this sense, the principle underlying Vedic ritualism is accepted; but a new meaning has been assigned to it, which makes it universally applicable.

Next Sri krsna takes Arjuna one step higher and says that even this idea of duty is on a lower plane. For duty generally leaves ample scope for our desires and egoism. Arjuna might have the battle with the motive of gaining name, fame and a kingdom. Outwardly everyone would have been satisfied that he has done his duty well; still it would not have helped him to progress spiritually and attain liberation, as his selfishness would still have been there-the attachment or desire for the result of the work-and it is this attachment that binds. So the only duty we have is to work in a non-attached way and not to get ourselves identified with the work.

How is non-attachment to be obtained? The Gita prescribes two ways to attain it: the way of knowledge for the meditative type of men and the way of selfless action for men of action (3.3). Sri Krsna is aware of the fight between the adherents of knowledge and the adherents of action, viz., the Kapila Samkhyas and Vedantins ranged against the Mimamsakas. The latter insist that work should be performed, while the former declare that all works should be given up as evil (18.3). The adherents of knowledge say that action belong to the sphere of ignorance, and that all actions are overlaid with defects as fire by smoke; so it is futile to strive for liberation through action. The way to freedom lies in preventing the mind and the senses from going outward on the Self (Kath. UP. 4.1). But woks distracts and externalizes our mind and senses; so all work should be renounced. Sri Krsna, however prescribes a middle path. He says that work should not be given up, but should be performed without attachment and desire for their fruit (18.5-6). Renunciation and performance of action both lead to liberation, for they are not different, but one. Of the two, however, performance is superior, because it is easier and therefore suited for vast majority, while renunciation of action is difficult to attain (5.2-6). Only a few extraordinary souls can follow the way of knowledge. The goal is to attain naiskarmya (complete inaction), and it cannot be attained by merely giving up work externally and continuing to think of sense-objects; for such thinking is also action and capable of binding the soul; the reason being that attachment and desire, the main causes of bondage, still liger in the mind. Further it is not possible for the embodied being to give up work completely (3.4-6). So that is not the way Sri Krsna prescribes for Arjuna. He asks him to perform his duties as a soldier, absorbed in Yoga, (2.48) for that is the secret of work (2.50). Yoga is equanimity, indifference to success and failure (2.48). and one attains it when one's mind is free from desire for enjoyment and is firmly established in the Self (2.53). Arjuna is therefore asked to fight with his mind established in the Self, and not to identify himself with his action, for they are in reality done by the gunas of Prakrti (Nature's constituents), and it is only through delusion that a man identifies himself with them (3.27). He is asked to transcend the gunas and hold himself aloof as a witness of the doings of Prakrti, and not to be attached to them (3.28). When one works with this attitude of mind, there is no consciousness of being a 'doer', and one gets non-attached (13.29). Work then loses its binding effect and becomes equal to no-work. If a man sees inaction in action (4.18), then even in the midst of intense activity he experiences the eternal calmness of the soul, which in not ruffled, come what may. He is not affected by good and evil, happiness and misery, and in all conditions he remains the same, he becomes a sthitapranja, a man of steady wisdom. The Gita describes at some length (2.55-71) the nature of such a man who has perfected himself by the practice of selfless action. This is the Brahmic state or having one's being in Brahman; and, attaining it, one is no longer deluded, but gets merged in Brahman (2.72). The Gita thus asks us to Perform our duties disinterestedly, combining the subjective attitude of the man of knowledge with outward action, that is to say, having an attitude of mind toward the performance of duties which is similar to that of a man of Self-realization with respect to the normal functions of the body like seeing, hearing, smelling, eating and sleeping (i.e., being free from the idea of agency). Knowledge and action are harmonized thereby, and the statement (5.4) that knowledge (samkhya) and action (yoga) are not different, but one, is justified by this explanation. The result attained is also identical, for that which is gained by knowledge, viz., everlasting peace (5.29), is also attained by the man of selfless action (5.12). Ritualism as the highest idea is condemned, but as a stepping-stone to absolute unselfishness, it is worthy to be followed by persons who have desire.

 

Action And Devotion

From the description of selfless action (Karma yoga) given above, we may infer that it is not always necessary for a votary of it to have faith in God. But if he believes in a personal God, there is an easier method for him a attain non-attachment; by looking upon works as worship of the Lord, and by offering to Him its fruit, he makes his path smooth. Thus there is a much easier path suited to those who possess some faith and devotion. Worshiping Him through one's own duties (18.46), by performing work for the Lord (12.10), and by dedicating it to Him (5.10) one attains liberation. From Him proceeds the activity of all being (18.46). He is the ultimate source of all power and as such He is the agent; we are but tools in His hand, mere machines. As He directs us, so we do. He is the inner Ruler directing all; failing to see this, we think we are doing all action and get ourselves bound. Though devotion man ultimately realizes this fact, surrenders himself to the Lord, works out His will and thus becomes absolutely unattached. There is no more compulsion to perform duties; nay, there is no idea even of duty, and the devotee does what is expected of him spontaneously, out of love for God. Arjuna realized all this with the vision of the Lord's cosmic form. He got rid of his delusion, regained memory of his true nature, and surrendered himself to the Lord, saying 'I will carry out your behest' (18.73). Here we have a beautiful synthesis of action and devotion and that in an inseparable manner.

 

Kapila Samkhya And The Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita given great prominence to the Samkhya system and accepts all that is valuable in it. The Samkhya philosophers say: Prakrti is the primordial non-differentiated material substance made up of three constituents – sattva, rajas, and tamas. The differentiated universe evolves out of the mingling of these constituents (gunas) in various ways at the beginning of a cycle, and it is merged again in this undifferentiated Prakrti at the end of a cycle. This cyclic process goes on eternally. Prakrti is unmanifest (avyakta), not perceptible to the senses, while all object evolved out of it are manifest (vyakta) to the senses or the mind. Prakrti is changefully eternal, while its products are mutable, in the sense that their perceptible form it destroyed in the evolutionary process. Beyond this Prakrti, separate from it, and of a different nature, is the Purusa (soul). While Prakrti is material and insentient, Purusa is sentient and immaterial. Unlike Prakrti, he is changeless. Prakrti produces the body and the senses and is responsible for all activity, but the Purusa is not a doer. He is indifferent, a mere witness of Nature's activities. Through ignorance, however, the gets identified with Nature and thus experiences pleasure and pain. This union of the Purusa and Prakrti is responsible for this mundane existence. The bondage of the Purusa is apparent and not real, and when he realizes that he is separate from Prakrti, he gets liberated. All this the Gita accepts (7.18-19; 13.19-23,26.28), but it disagrees with Samkhya philosopher when they say that the Purusa and Prakrti are self-existing independent entities, that there an infinite number of souls, and that there is no God, the creator of the universe. The Gita works out a further synthesis and says that this whole universe is one. It enunciates a third principle: Purusottama (the highest Being) or Isvara (God) (15.17-18), who is beyond both matter and spirit, and who is the very basis of this universe. This one Being manifests Himself as this universe, both sentient and insentient. He is both the efficient and the material cause of the universe. Thus Prakrti and Purusa are dependent on God. Prakrti with its twenty-four categories is lower nature (7.4-5) while the soul, which is a part of him (15.7), is His higher nature (7.5). As the soul animates the individual body, so God animates the whole universe. There is nothing higher than God. All this visible universe is strung on him like gems on a string (7.7). Presiding over His Prakrti, He projects the entire aggregate of being (9.8,10). Prakrti is the mother of the universe, and He is the father (14.4). Resorting to His Prakrti He takes birth, or manifests Himself (4.6). Thus Prakrti is not an independent entity, but belong to Him. Though the Gita accepts the multiplicity of individual souls, which are but parts of God, whether real or apparent, it declares there is only one (supreme) Purusa. Who is not only the onlooker, the approver, and supporter of the activity of Prakrti, but also the great Lord of Prakrti (13.22). Thus Prakrti is not an independent entity, but subservient to Him, and it is He who, through Prakrti, is the cause of creation, and not Prakrti independent. The supreme Being is the one Reality to be known, and knowing Him truly one enters into Him (18.55). Liberation is therefore not merely discrimination between Prakrti and Purusa, but also union with God. Thus a new synthetic between the dualism of Samkhya and the monism of the Upanisads is established.

 

God, Personal And Impersonal

We find in the Bhagavad Gita various descriptions of the ultimate Reality. He is described as having no from or attribute, as having attributes but formless, and again as having both form and attributes – which shows that He is both impersonal and personal and yet beyond both, for we cannot limit Him and say He is this much, since the Infinite can never be an object of finite knowledge. In this impersonal aspect He is Brahman, the highest imperishable principle (8.3), the unmanifest beyond the other manifest, viz., Prakrti (8.18,20). This unmanifest, imperishable Brahman is the supreme goal, attaining which one does not return (8.21). This Brahman is neither being nor non-being. Being beyond the range of the senses, It has no phenomenal existence. It is not non-being either, for It makes Itself felt through the function of the various senses as the driving force behind them. It is bereft of all sense-organs, for otherwise It would be limited like ordinary being; therefore the attribution of the sense-organs (13.13) to it is only figurative and not real. It is unattached, yet sustains everything as its substratum, being existence itself. It is without attributes, yet the energizer of all attributes. It is far and yet near, as our very soul. It is undivided in beings, yet remains as if divided. All these apparent contradiction (13.12-16) are resolved if we remember that Brahman is both transcendent and immanent. Brahman has become this universe and yet transcends it. When the transcendent Brahman appears as this universe, it become subject, as it were, to certain limitations which do not belong to it, but to the phenomenal world; hence this paradoxical description through affirmation and negation. It is the Light of lights and beyond darkness or ignorance (13.17). The sun does not illuminate It, nor the moon, nor the fire (15.6). This Brahman is the one Reality to be known in order to attain immortality (13.12). To those whose ignorance is description of the Impersonal, we have an echo of the Upanisads.

Though the Gita accepts this impersonal aspect of the Godhead, yet it is predominantly theistic in its teachings. It is a peculiarity of the Gita that it always lays stress on the ideal which is suited to the vast majority of mankind, as against any other, however perfects, which may be suited only for the exceptional few. So in the Gita the personal God is given more prominence than the impersonal. 'personal' does not mean merely 'having form', it means also the formless aspect with attributes, the Isvara, as He is called in the Gita. The terms 'personality' refers to a self-conscious being capable of knowing, feeling, willing, loving and satisfying man's longing for a personal relationship. All human qualities are attributed to the divine personality, but they are free from all human limitations. Thus, He not only knows, but he is omniscient. The Impersonal is beyond thought; so when the mind tries to conceive It, it naturally superimposes some of its own limitations on it, and we have the personal God, the Isvara. That is the highest reading of the Impersonal by the finite mind of man. So long as we are limited being, we have this triple entry-soul, nature and God. It is the Impersonal that appears as all these. But when be attain the superconscious state, where the 'I' ceases to exist, all these three entities vanish, and God is no longer personal. He is experienced as pure Consciousness. Thus, these two-the impersonal and the personal, the absolute and the relative – are but two aspects of the same Godhead. The absolute implies the relative, and vice versa. They are not two separate entities, even as fire and its burning capacity are not different, and we cannot think of the one without the other. When we think of God as inactive, He is impersonal and when He is active He is called Isvara, the personal God, the creator, preserver and destroyer of the universe, the father, mother, friend, Lord, supporter, abode, refuge and goal (9.17-18). This universe is pervaded by Him in His unmanifest form (9.4). He exists supporting the whole universe with a portion Himself (10.42). Thus He is both immanent and transcendent. He is seated in the heart of all being, controlling them from within (18.16). There is nothing higher than He (7.7). Just as He supports this whole universe as its cause, even so He supports the differentiated thing as their very essence. He is thus the moisture in water, lustre in the sun and the moon, heat in the fire, sound in ether, odour in earth etc. All being are in Him, but He is not in them; nor are the being really in Him. That is His divine mystery (9.4-5). This mystery of maya veils Him from ordinary mortals, but those who surrender themselves to Him surmount this maya. Those who take refuge in Him and strive for liberation know that supreme Brahman, the Impersonal through the grace of the Lord (7.14,25,29; 10.10-11). Again, this universe of sentient and insentient being is the manifest form of the formless Isvara, for He has become all this. It is His universal form which was shown to Arjuna, and which only the fortunate few have been able to see through the undivided devotion (11.54). This universe being the manifest form the Lord, He is immanent in all thing, and as such they are symbols of God. In certain things, however, the manifestation of His power is greater, which makes them far superior to other object of that class. Such extraordinary things are mentioned in chapter ten as pratikas or symbols for meditating on God. From such statements we easily understand that this immanence can be manifest in an extraordinary degree in a human form, which gives us an Incarnation of God. There is no difference between God as unmanifest and God as manifest in such a human form. He takes such human form and incarnates Himself in this world at critical periods in its history, to destroy the wicked and establish righteousness (4.6-8). It is very difficult to recognize God when He incarnates Himself in human form, for He behaves so like ordinary mortals that people are deluded into thinking that He is just one of them. 'the ignorant deride Me who have taken a human form, not knowing My higher nature as the great Lord of beings' (9.11). It is only a few great souls that recognize God when He appears in human form, but the vast majority take Him for an ordinary mortal born subject to his own past karma (7.24,25). He who truly knows the divine birth and work of an Incarnation attains liberation after death (4.9).

 

Knowledge And Devotion

In many places in the Gita, devotion to both the Impersonal and the Personal aspects of God has been prescribed for attaining liberation. In stanzas 2-8 of chapter three, corresponding to these two aspects, two paths, namely, the way of knowledge and the way of devotion, are usual reason that it is easier of the two and, therefore, suited to the generality of mankind, while the path of knowledge is difficult and suited only to a very few of exceptional spiritual caliber. In this path of knowledge the aspirant has to realize that the world is illusory and Brahman alone is real. He has to get a firm conviction through reasoning that Brahman is not this universe, nor the mind nor the intellect nor the senses, neither happiness nor misery, and so on, till by this process he finally comes to the core of things and realizes the Absolute. Merely an intellectual grasp of the illusory nature of the world will not help him; He has to be established in this knowledge even in the midst of the worst possible calamities. For ordinary mortals, to whom the world of the senses is real, it is very difficult indeed to be established in this knowledge. Hence the Lord dissuades Arjuna from this path and prescribes for him the easier path of devotion to His personal aspect. In this path a man has not to give up his passion, feelings, etc., but has to switch them into God. Instead of having worldly thing for their objects, they are directed solely to God. He merely disconnects them from the worldly objects and connects them with God, and if this is done successfully, he attains liberation. The chief motive in both ideals id to get rid of this little 'I' by merging it in the infinite 'I', the self, or in the infinite 'Thou', that is , God. The net result is the same – attainment of freedom. 'One worship saying, "I am thyself", while another saying, "I am Thine"; though there is a slight difference is between the two, the ultimate result is the same.' The difference is only in language, but the content of the spiritual languages is the same, namely, elimination of the 'I' and 'mine', which are bondages of the soul. The devotee gets rid of them by constant remembrance of and service to God, and in the highest state of devotion he forgets himself entirely and sees his Beloved everywhere and in everything, even as the man of knowledge, comes to the final conclusion, 'All this indeed is Vasudeva (the Lord)' (7.19). Again, 'By devotion he knows me truly, how much and what I am' (18.55); that is, he realizes the Lord's impersonal aspects as pure Consciousness. Further, a devotee, through unswerving devotion to the Lord, transcends the gunas and becomes fit for merging in Brahman (14.26). In like manner, unswerving devotion is prescribed as a means to knowledge (13.10); and conversely, when a man realizes Brahman, the impersonal aspects of God, he gets devotion to His personal aspects also (18.54). Thus knowledge and devotion get merged in each other .

 

Synthesis of The Four Yogas

Commentators on the Gita often give prominence to one of these four paths taught in the book, viz., action, knowledge, devotion and meditation, and relegate the others to a secondary position, as preparatory disciplines to the one, which they think, is the true way to God-realization. Such a thing, however is not justified by the Gita with its synthetic outlook. According to it, each of these paths is equally efficacious and capable of leading the soul to freedom. 'Some see the Self in the body by the mind through meditation, others by the path of knowledge, and some others by the path of selfless action (13.24).' That this interpretation is correct, is further borne out by the descriptions given in the Gita of men who have attained perfection in each of these paths. These texts show that the various aspirants reach the same state, for similar qualities are manifest in their character. In fact, the Gita clearly states they all reach the Brahmic state or become one with Brahman – Brahmabhuta (2.72, 6.27, 14.26, and 18.53-54).

The Gita though it recognizes the efficacy of each of these paths to lead the soul to freedom, yet recommends an harmonious combination of all four paths. The predominant one gives the name to that particular path, while the other three are combined with it as feeders to strengthen the main spiritual current. Thus, we find the path of selfless action combined in the first place with knowledge; for the aspirant has to perform work externally, having the subjective attitude of the Samkhya internally. He is to work, established in yoga, wit an even mind, and this equanimity is not possible till one's mind is free from the distraction of the senses and desires. The senses have to be controlled, if one is to practise selfless action efficiently, and this can be attained not by merely abstaining from sense-objects, but by meditation on the Lord (2.16). Thus with action are combined knowledge, meditation and devotion. Similarly, devotion, in its paths, is combined with the other three. The spirant is to have a knowledge of the nature of Isvara and His glories, for devotion is possible only after that. Then the aspirant is asked to offer all his actions to the Lord (9.27), and also to worship Him through the performance of his duties. His devotion has also to be constant and unswerving; it must be a continuous remembrance of the Lord, which is meditation. So with devotion are combined knowledge, action and meditation. Again, in the path of knowledge, discrimination between the Self and not-Self is the main aim. One has to discriminate and give up the idea that matter is real. The self alone is real, and all else is illusory. Constantly remembering our true nature is the way to separate the Self from the not-Self. Work also has to be performed and should not be give up, but it should be done without desire for results; for work is purifying and helpful to us to rise from tamas to rajas and hence to sattva, and finally to transcend the gunas and become gunatita, when full knowledge dawns. Unswerving devotion to the Lord is a means to this attainment of knowledge, and has therefore to be adopted. Thus with knowledge are combined meditation, action and devotion, though knowledge is the main note in this symphony. So the Gita views spiritual life as an organic whole, and recommends a harmonious blending of the four yoga, which would result in an all-round development of the human personality.

 

Social Synthesis

One of the great tasks that Sri Krsna sets himself to was to weld the different races and civilizations in India in his time into an integral society of an all-India character, so the peace and harmony could reign in the land. To bring about this social synthesis, he first held out to them a common idea. He taught that union with God was the supreme end of life, and that this worldly life was all vanity. 'Having attained this transient joyless world (i.e., human birth) worship Me' (9.33) – the was his behest to Arjuna and through him to all the warning nations of the time. He based the whole social structure on this solid foundation, viz., that the supreme reality and the only thing of value was God. All life, according to him, had a meaning in so far as it culminated in a union with God. This become the dominant note of the whole social fabric, round which Indian society was sought to be organized. The different racial and ethnic group in the country, Aryan and non-Aryan, with their different traits, were stamped with this fundamental principle of Aryan life; and this helped to integrate them into one society with a common ideal, which became the bond of unity among them. As a corollary to this main principle, he also preached the harmony of religious ideals, showing thereby that various religious ideals were equally efficacious to lead man to the ultimate goal. In his delineation of the four yogas, he enunciated the fundamentals of spiritual life, and thereby made it possible for the Aryan faith to assimilate the alien cultures and religions within its fold. This also helped to bring about a unity amidst diversity, all these ideals being synthesized as parts or facets of an integral whole. Again, God according to the Gita, as we have already seen, is both transcendent and immanent. So in striving to attain union with God, the aspirant is filled with love for His immanent aspect also, and his love, therefore embraces the whole humanity. He is ever engaged in the good of all creatures (5.25; 12.4), and he judges of pleasure and pain of all creatures by the same standard as he applies to himself (6.32). the same God exists equally in all beings, and the aspirant realizing this truth does not injure anybody in any way and thus goes to the Supreme (12.27-28). He breaks through the Superficial difference between man and man – racial or other – and reaches his inner essence which is God. The vision was thus directed towards the unity at the back of the inevitable differences between man and man, and in that unity all these differences were eliminated.

A great barrier, however, in the way of attaining this social synthesis was the hereditary caste prevalent at the time among the Aryans, which kept non-Aryan races outside Aryan society. Sri Krsna introduced social liberalism within the Aryan Society by changing the basis of this division of society, and made it possible to assimilate non-Aryan to the Aryan Social fold. He did not reject the fourfold division of society, but accepted it as God-ordained (4.13), for the destruction of caste would have led to the social organization. Any society that is strong and progressive, necessarily welcome variety into its structure; for when variations cease to be produced, death results. So Sri Krsna accepted the fourfold division of society, based on the qualities of the individuals and on their fitness to live a particular mode of life suitable to serve society in a particular way. The division was functional, and each individual was expected to do that kind of service to society for which he was best quipped according to his guna and karma, or his moral, spiritual and intellectual endowments as determined by his previous births and actions (4.13; 8.41). It was a question of service, and not that of rights or privileges which are the bane of all societies. This put the right man in the right place, and there was no waste of energy nor want of efficiency, which would otherwise have resulted from an indiscriminate division of labour removed competitions between individuals in society. The performance of one's duties, if done as worship of the Lord, opened the gates of liberation, which was the goal of life according to the Gita (18.46). spiritual progress depended not on the nature of the work performed, but on the attitude of the mind, and the efficiency with which it was performed. The way to freedom was open to all irrespective of the caste to which they belonged, and so far as the attainment of their goal in life was concerned, all were equal and had equal opportunities. The ritualistic Vedic religion was the monopoly of the two higher caste, the Brahmans and the Ksatriyas; the Vaisyas and Sudras, and even the Brahmana women, had no access to it, since they lacked the necessary classical study for taking part in it. The simple religion of faith and devotion to the Lord threw open the gates of liberation to every one, and put all, irrespective of their caste, sex and learning, on an equal footing.

Incarnation come not to destroy, but to fulfil, and this statement is particular true of Sri Krsna. He did not break off from accepted traditions, though he completely changed their significance and bearing. He interpreted old ideals in a new light to make them suitable to the conditions of life in society and to give it a further push towards progress and perfection. Conflicts between ideals were resolved in a new synthesis which made life smooth both for the individual and society as a whole. This is the fundamental note in the message of the Gita – the spirit of harmony, the finding of unity in diversity; and from this point of view all apparent contradictions in it are resolved.

 

Contents
  Publisher's Note to the Revised Second Edition iii
  Preface iv
  Key to Transliteration and Pronunciation vi
  List of Abbreviations vii
  The Bhagavad Gita: Its Synthetic Character xiii
CHAPTER    
1. THE DESPONDENCY OF ARJUNA 1
2. THE WAY OF DISCRIMINATION 26
3. THE WAY OF ACTION 81
4. THE WAY OF KNOWLEDGE 118
5. RENUNCIATION OF ACTION 155
6. THE WAY OF CONTEMPLATION 180
7. THE WAY OF KNOWLEDGE AND REALIZATION 214
8. THE WAY TO THE SUPREME SPIRIT 237
9. THE WAY OF ROYAL KNOWLEDGE AND ROYAL SECRET 262
10. MEDITATION ON THE DIVINE GLORIES 289
11. THE VISION OF THE UNIVRSAL FROM 316
12. THE WAY OF DEVOTION 354
13. DISCRIMINATION BETWEEN NATURE AND SOUL 367
14. THE SEPARATION OF THE THREE GUNAS 397
15. THE WAY TO THE SUPREME PERSON 418
16. THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN DIVINE AND DEMONIAC ATTRIBUST 436
17. THE SEPARATION OF THE THREE KINDS OF FAITH 453
18. THE WAY OF RENUCIATION 475
  Index-Slokas 537
  Index-Selected Works of thIndex-Generale Slokas 548
  Index-General 584

 

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Srimad Bhagavad Gita with Commentary by Sridhara Swami

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Publisher's Note to the Revised Second Edition

We are to place the revised edition of Swami Vireswarananda's English translation of Srimad Bhagavad Gita with the gloss (Tika) of Sridhra Swami. The previous edition, with its simple and lucid language, was quite well-received by scholars as well as general readers. That edition, however, had only the translation of the gloss. The present edition contains the original Sanskrit Tika in devanagari script too, fulfilling a long-felt need of all serious students of the Gita.

In addition, this edition also provides the references (verse number, chapter and the name of the source book) to the quotations cited in the Tika, along with their translations. All references to the Gita verses appearing in the Tika are also suitably cited. In order to facilitate search, an index to the Gita verses and the words appear in the Gita verses in Sanskrit has been added at the end.

Bhagavad Gita, has a timeless relevance. Hope the readers will continue to drink deep at this spring of nectar presented through these pages.

 

Preface

The Bhagavad-Gita is a most, if not the most, popular Hindu Scripture. It is regarded as one the three scriptures, the other two being the Upanishads and the Brahma-Sutras. All the great Acharyas or founders of new sects among the Hindus have written commentaries on these three. Among them the Gita has largest number of expositions, for a good many of the followers of the different sects have written glosses on the main commentaries of their great Acharyas. It can be stated without nay hesitation that there is no other Hindu Scripture which has been so frequently commented upon.

Sridhra Swami, whose commentary we are giving here in English, was born at Balodi in Gujarat, about six centuries ago, and chronological he comes immediately after Vopadeva, the great grammarian. He was a disciple of Paramananda Puri and his chosen Deity was Nrisimha (the fourth of the ten Incarnations in Hindu mythology). Besides this scholium on the Gita, Sridhra has written commentaries on the Bhagavata and the Vishnupurana, known as, Bhavarthadipika and Atmaprakasa respectively. Sridhra's present commentary on the Gita is called Subodhini. It is, as the name implies, very lucid, and at the same time brief. Though Sridhara belong to the commentary says, "After scrutinizing according to my light the words of his expounders, yet his leaning towards devotion as opposed to knowledge is so very marked that the orthodox section at first refused to accept his commentary as authoritative. For a decision, the commentary was placed before the Lord Visweswara (according to some, before the Lord Bindumadhava) in Banaras, and tradition says that the Lord appeared in a dream and gave the verdict thus;

-"I know the true teaching of the Scriptures, and so does Suka. Vyasa may or may not know. But Sridhara knows everything through the grace of the Lord Nrisimha." After that the orthodox section withdrew their objection.

Sridhara's commentary on the Gita though well known in Sanskrit, is not available in English. We have therefore translated it to make it accessible to the English-knowing public, except in a few places, where the text of other.

 

The Bhagavad Gita Its Synthetic Character

The Bhagavad Gita is now a most, if not the most, popular Hindu scripture. It is regarded as one of the three main scripture-the prasthana-trayas, as they are called, the other two being the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras. There is no other scripture which has been so frequently commended upon, for it has been a perennial source of spiritual inspiration, and rightly so for, in it we find different system of philosophy, ethics and religion suited for different temperaments. This universality of the Gita has, however, puzzled some scholars. In this variety of ideals they find contradiction; for instance, between monism and dualism, knowledge, action and devotion, Samkhya and Vedanta, and even between Personal God and Impersonal God. These themes, they think, are pieced together without much attempt at reconciliation. To explain these contradictions, they assume that there have been interpolations in the Gita, which must have undergone revision like other parts of the Mahabharata, of which it forms a part. However plausible these theories may look, we think these critics have missed the master-key which alone would have helped them to open this 'jewel-casket' of Indian culture, viz., the spirit of synthesis.

The Indo-Aryans were never dominated rigidity of thought at any time in any sphere of their national life. This freedom of thought helped them to evolve a synthetic outlook, a spirit of seeing unity behind variety. This synthetic outlook is predominantly noticeable in the field of religion. One of the Vedic seers taught their followers, 'That which exists is one, sages call it by various manes.'(Rg Ve. 1.164.46; 10.115.5.) The discovery of this great truth has hasped the history of civilization in this country, and sages have reiterated it at different periods in our history, with the result that it has gone deep into the subconscious mind of the nation. The Hindus have therefore accepted different religions, systems of philosophy and spiritual cultures as being suited to different temperaments, and as supplementing one another. In keeping with this spirit is the message of Sri Krsna in the Bhagavad Gita. He was a great harmonizer of ideals and institutions, and hence he did not reject any of the ideals extant at the time, but gave a proper place to each one of them, inasmuch as they were suited to the spiritual progress of particular people. If man is to progress spiritually, he most have religious ideal suited to him. Forcing him to follow ideals for which he is not fit will only result in harm and spiritual death. Therefore 'the wise man should not unsettle the faith of the ignorant' (3.26,29). 'By whatsoever way man worship Me, even so do I accept them; (for) in all ways, O Partha, men walk in My path., (4.11) Guided by this spirit, the Gita has beautifully harmonized the various ideals prevalent at the time.

 

Synthetic of Action And Knowledge

The Bhagavad Gita has not much esteem for the reward-seeking religion of Vedic sacrifices. it critizes (2.42-46) the views of the Mimamasakas, who think that ritualism is the whole of religion and is capable of leading man to mukti (liberation). According to the Gita, sacrifices are merely a means to power and enjoyment and they cause rebirth: by means of them people no doubt get the result coveted; viz. heaven, where they enjoy the pleasures of the gods; but when their merit is exhausted they have to return to this mundane world. Thus, following the injunctions of the Vedas, seeking pleasure and enjoyment, they come and go. The votaries of the various gods go to the gods. It is only the devotees of the supreme Lord that go to Him and attain liberation. Even those who worship the gods as such, in reality worship the one supreme God; yet, as they are not conscious of the fact that these gods are but forms of the one God, who is this enjoyer and Lord of all sacrifices, they return to the mortal world (9.20-25). But if they are conscious of the fact that they are worshipping the one God through the different deities, then these very sacrifices will lead them to liberation. Thus, in keeping with the Upanisadic teachings, the Gita declares that it is knowledge alone that leads to liberation, and not mere ritualistic observance. Hence the exhortation to Arjuna to go beyond the gunas, i.e., the world which is the sphere of rituals (2.45).

The Gita, however, realizes that for those who are full of desires and want enjoyment, these sacrifices are useful; for such people must have some enjoyment, and have their desires fulfilled to a certain extent, before they can tread the path of desirelessness, which is the goal of spiritual life. It is desire that covers knowledge and it has therefore to be destroyed by controlling its seats-the senses, the mind and the intellect (3.30-41). But this highest ideal cannot be followed by all. Ideals have to vary according to the capacity of the aspirants, so that they may be followed with faith; for that is a surer way to progress then aspiring after a higher ideal. Confusion of ideals is detrimental to individual and social welfare. By performing works prescribed by scriptures, though with desire at first, one gradually progresses and finally attains the state of desirelessness. But works prohibited by the scriptures are never helpful and so one should abide by the scriptural ordinances and not be prompted by inordinate desires prohibited by them (16.23-24). Even in enjoyment there should be some discrimination. Otherwise it would bring us down to the level of the brute.

It looks like a paradox to say that sacrifices performed with desire will lead to desirelessness or absolute unselfishness. But then, in all sacrifices, though performed with desire, the performer offers something which he possesses to his chosen deity, who thus propitiated, bestows on his devotee the desired fruit. Thus man learns to renounce and to be unselfish even through these selfish sacrifices, and gradually, as he progresses, he finds that he is in duty bound to offer to the gods the gifts that are bestowed on him by them, and not do so is sinful. Selfishness slowly recedes to the background, and duty becomes the guiding principle of these sacrifices. The Gita stresses this idea of obligatoriness on the part of the ordinary man to perform sacrifices (3.10-16).

Having stressed the duty aspect in sacrifices, the Gita next amplifies the narrow and restricted meaning of the words 'duty' (dharma) and 'sacrifice' (yajna) that was current at the time. According to the Gita, duty is not merely ritualistic acts prescribed by the Vedas, but it includes whatever we are obliged to do by birth and status in society (2.31,33; 18.41-44). In this sense, there can be no definition of duty which will be universally binding on all men and under all circumstances. It would necessarily vary with persons, and, with the change of circumstances, even for the same person. The only criterion to fix it is to see whether a particular act takes a person Godward or not. If it does, then it is his duty (dharma); otherwise it is a sin (dharma) for him. Duties are fixed for us by the inner law of our being, by the samskaras, or tendencies acquired by us in previous births, with which we are born; and working them out is the only way to proceed Godward. Consequently, there is no unchartered freedom in the choice of our duties, nor can the duty of one be the duty of another endowed differently. Doing duties thus determined by his nature, a man incurs no sin. Though they may be defective, he should not relinquish them; for, after all, any undertaking is attended with evil of some sort or other. Performance of one's duties is the only way to salvation (18.45-48). Similarly, sacrifice does not mean merely ritualistic worship performed by offering material things in the fire, but it includes all kinds of spiritual culture. Thus, acts of charity, giving up of desires, control of the senses and of the breath, muttering of mystic syllables and God's names, are all conceived as sacrifices (4.25-30; 10.25). in fact, according to the Gita, sacrifice includes all acts whatsoever, done unselfishly; for the main idea in a sacrifice is the offering of something in the fire to the deity. So any act done without selfishness can be regarded as n offering, and therefore all such acts are sacrifice. With this changed meaning of the words 'sacrifics', the statement of the Mimamsakas, 'This world is bound by action other than that done for a sacrifice,' become more significant, for knowledge-sacrifice is superior to material sacrifices (4.33). That is why Sri Krsna repeats this sake of sacrifice alone; for by performing work as sacrifice, one's entire action melts away (4.23). Sacrifice being understood in this sense, the principle underlying Vedic ritualism is accepted; but a new meaning has been assigned to it, which makes it universally applicable.

Next Sri krsna takes Arjuna one step higher and says that even this idea of duty is on a lower plane. For duty generally leaves ample scope for our desires and egoism. Arjuna might have the battle with the motive of gaining name, fame and a kingdom. Outwardly everyone would have been satisfied that he has done his duty well; still it would not have helped him to progress spiritually and attain liberation, as his selfishness would still have been there-the attachment or desire for the result of the work-and it is this attachment that binds. So the only duty we have is to work in a non-attached way and not to get ourselves identified with the work.

How is non-attachment to be obtained? The Gita prescribes two ways to attain it: the way of knowledge for the meditative type of men and the way of selfless action for men of action (3.3). Sri Krsna is aware of the fight between the adherents of knowledge and the adherents of action, viz., the Kapila Samkhyas and Vedantins ranged against the Mimamsakas. The latter insist that work should be performed, while the former declare that all works should be given up as evil (18.3). The adherents of knowledge say that action belong to the sphere of ignorance, and that all actions are overlaid with defects as fire by smoke; so it is futile to strive for liberation through action. The way to freedom lies in preventing the mind and the senses from going outward on the Self (Kath. UP. 4.1). But woks distracts and externalizes our mind and senses; so all work should be renounced. Sri Krsna, however prescribes a middle path. He says that work should not be given up, but should be performed without attachment and desire for their fruit (18.5-6). Renunciation and performance of action both lead to liberation, for they are not different, but one. Of the two, however, performance is superior, because it is easier and therefore suited for vast majority, while renunciation of action is difficult to attain (5.2-6). Only a few extraordinary souls can follow the way of knowledge. The goal is to attain naiskarmya (complete inaction), and it cannot be attained by merely giving up work externally and continuing to think of sense-objects; for such thinking is also action and capable of binding the soul; the reason being that attachment and desire, the main causes of bondage, still liger in the mind. Further it is not possible for the embodied being to give up work completely (3.4-6). So that is not the way Sri Krsna prescribes for Arjuna. He asks him to perform his duties as a soldier, absorbed in Yoga, (2.48) for that is the secret of work (2.50). Yoga is equanimity, indifference to success and failure (2.48). and one attains it when one's mind is free from desire for enjoyment and is firmly established in the Self (2.53). Arjuna is therefore asked to fight with his mind established in the Self, and not to identify himself with his action, for they are in reality done by the gunas of Prakrti (Nature's constituents), and it is only through delusion that a man identifies himself with them (3.27). He is asked to transcend the gunas and hold himself aloof as a witness of the doings of Prakrti, and not to be attached to them (3.28). When one works with this attitude of mind, there is no consciousness of being a 'doer', and one gets non-attached (13.29). Work then loses its binding effect and becomes equal to no-work. If a man sees inaction in action (4.18), then even in the midst of intense activity he experiences the eternal calmness of the soul, which in not ruffled, come what may. He is not affected by good and evil, happiness and misery, and in all conditions he remains the same, he becomes a sthitapranja, a man of steady wisdom. The Gita describes at some length (2.55-71) the nature of such a man who has perfected himself by the practice of selfless action. This is the Brahmic state or having one's being in Brahman; and, attaining it, one is no longer deluded, but gets merged in Brahman (2.72). The Gita thus asks us to Perform our duties disinterestedly, combining the subjective attitude of the man of knowledge with outward action, that is to say, having an attitude of mind toward the performance of duties which is similar to that of a man of Self-realization with respect to the normal functions of the body like seeing, hearing, smelling, eating and sleeping (i.e., being free from the idea of agency). Knowledge and action are harmonized thereby, and the statement (5.4) that knowledge (samkhya) and action (yoga) are not different, but one, is justified by this explanation. The result attained is also identical, for that which is gained by knowledge, viz., everlasting peace (5.29), is also attained by the man of selfless action (5.12). Ritualism as the highest idea is condemned, but as a stepping-stone to absolute unselfishness, it is worthy to be followed by persons who have desire.

 

Action And Devotion

From the description of selfless action (Karma yoga) given above, we may infer that it is not always necessary for a votary of it to have faith in God. But if he believes in a personal God, there is an easier method for him a attain non-attachment; by looking upon works as worship of the Lord, and by offering to Him its fruit, he makes his path smooth. Thus there is a much easier path suited to those who possess some faith and devotion. Worshiping Him through one's own duties (18.46), by performing work for the Lord (12.10), and by dedicating it to Him (5.10) one attains liberation. From Him proceeds the activity of all being (18.46). He is the ultimate source of all power and as such He is the agent; we are but tools in His hand, mere machines. As He directs us, so we do. He is the inner Ruler directing all; failing to see this, we think we are doing all action and get ourselves bound. Though devotion man ultimately realizes this fact, surrenders himself to the Lord, works out His will and thus becomes absolutely unattached. There is no more compulsion to perform duties; nay, there is no idea even of duty, and the devotee does what is expected of him spontaneously, out of love for God. Arjuna realized all this with the vision of the Lord's cosmic form. He got rid of his delusion, regained memory of his true nature, and surrendered himself to the Lord, saying 'I will carry out your behest' (18.73). Here we have a beautiful synthesis of action and devotion and that in an inseparable manner.

 

Kapila Samkhya And The Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita given great prominence to the Samkhya system and accepts all that is valuable in it. The Samkhya philosophers say: Prakrti is the primordial non-differentiated material substance made up of three constituents – sattva, rajas, and tamas. The differentiated universe evolves out of the mingling of these constituents (gunas) in various ways at the beginning of a cycle, and it is merged again in this undifferentiated Prakrti at the end of a cycle. This cyclic process goes on eternally. Prakrti is unmanifest (avyakta), not perceptible to the senses, while all object evolved out of it are manifest (vyakta) to the senses or the mind. Prakrti is changefully eternal, while its products are mutable, in the sense that their perceptible form it destroyed in the evolutionary process. Beyond this Prakrti, separate from it, and of a different nature, is the Purusa (soul). While Prakrti is material and insentient, Purusa is sentient and immaterial. Unlike Prakrti, he is changeless. Prakrti produces the body and the senses and is responsible for all activity, but the Purusa is not a doer. He is indifferent, a mere witness of Nature's activities. Through ignorance, however, the gets identified with Nature and thus experiences pleasure and pain. This union of the Purusa and Prakrti is responsible for this mundane existence. The bondage of the Purusa is apparent and not real, and when he realizes that he is separate from Prakrti, he gets liberated. All this the Gita accepts (7.18-19; 13.19-23,26.28), but it disagrees with Samkhya philosopher when they say that the Purusa and Prakrti are self-existing independent entities, that there an infinite number of souls, and that there is no God, the creator of the universe. The Gita works out a further synthesis and says that this whole universe is one. It enunciates a third principle: Purusottama (the highest Being) or Isvara (God) (15.17-18), who is beyond both matter and spirit, and who is the very basis of this universe. This one Being manifests Himself as this universe, both sentient and insentient. He is both the efficient and the material cause of the universe. Thus Prakrti and Purusa are dependent on God. Prakrti with its twenty-four categories is lower nature (7.4-5) while the soul, which is a part of him (15.7), is His higher nature (7.5). As the soul animates the individual body, so God animates the whole universe. There is nothing higher than God. All this visible universe is strung on him like gems on a string (7.7). Presiding over His Prakrti, He projects the entire aggregate of being (9.8,10). Prakrti is the mother of the universe, and He is the father (14.4). Resorting to His Prakrti He takes birth, or manifests Himself (4.6). Thus Prakrti is not an independent entity, but belong to Him. Though the Gita accepts the multiplicity of individual souls, which are but parts of God, whether real or apparent, it declares there is only one (supreme) Purusa. Who is not only the onlooker, the approver, and supporter of the activity of Prakrti, but also the great Lord of Prakrti (13.22). Thus Prakrti is not an independent entity, but subservient to Him, and it is He who, through Prakrti, is the cause of creation, and not Prakrti independent. The supreme Being is the one Reality to be known, and knowing Him truly one enters into Him (18.55). Liberation is therefore not merely discrimination between Prakrti and Purusa, but also union with God. Thus a new synthetic between the dualism of Samkhya and the monism of the Upanisads is established.

 

God, Personal And Impersonal

We find in the Bhagavad Gita various descriptions of the ultimate Reality. He is described as having no from or attribute, as having attributes but formless, and again as having both form and attributes – which shows that He is both impersonal and personal and yet beyond both, for we cannot limit Him and say He is this much, since the Infinite can never be an object of finite knowledge. In this impersonal aspect He is Brahman, the highest imperishable principle (8.3), the unmanifest beyond the other manifest, viz., Prakrti (8.18,20). This unmanifest, imperishable Brahman is the supreme goal, attaining which one does not return (8.21). This Brahman is neither being nor non-being. Being beyond the range of the senses, It has no phenomenal existence. It is not non-being either, for It makes Itself felt through the function of the various senses as the driving force behind them. It is bereft of all sense-organs, for otherwise It would be limited like ordinary being; therefore the attribution of the sense-organs (13.13) to it is only figurative and not real. It is unattached, yet sustains everything as its substratum, being existence itself. It is without attributes, yet the energizer of all attributes. It is far and yet near, as our very soul. It is undivided in beings, yet remains as if divided. All these apparent contradiction (13.12-16) are resolved if we remember that Brahman is both transcendent and immanent. Brahman has become this universe and yet transcends it. When the transcendent Brahman appears as this universe, it become subject, as it were, to certain limitations which do not belong to it, but to the phenomenal world; hence this paradoxical description through affirmation and negation. It is the Light of lights and beyond darkness or ignorance (13.17). The sun does not illuminate It, nor the moon, nor the fire (15.6). This Brahman is the one Reality to be known in order to attain immortality (13.12). To those whose ignorance is description of the Impersonal, we have an echo of the Upanisads.

Though the Gita accepts this impersonal aspect of the Godhead, yet it is predominantly theistic in its teachings. It is a peculiarity of the Gita that it always lays stress on the ideal which is suited to the vast majority of mankind, as against any other, however perfects, which may be suited only for the exceptional few. So in the Gita the personal God is given more prominence than the impersonal. 'personal' does not mean merely 'having form', it means also the formless aspect with attributes, the Isvara, as He is called in the Gita. The terms 'personality' refers to a self-conscious being capable of knowing, feeling, willing, loving and satisfying man's longing for a personal relationship. All human qualities are attributed to the divine personality, but they are free from all human limitations. Thus, He not only knows, but he is omniscient. The Impersonal is beyond thought; so when the mind tries to conceive It, it naturally superimposes some of its own limitations on it, and we have the personal God, the Isvara. That is the highest reading of the Impersonal by the finite mind of man. So long as we are limited being, we have this triple entry-soul, nature and God. It is the Impersonal that appears as all these. But when be attain the superconscious state, where the 'I' ceases to exist, all these three entities vanish, and God is no longer personal. He is experienced as pure Consciousness. Thus, these two-the impersonal and the personal, the absolute and the relative – are but two aspects of the same Godhead. The absolute implies the relative, and vice versa. They are not two separate entities, even as fire and its burning capacity are not different, and we cannot think of the one without the other. When we think of God as inactive, He is impersonal and when He is active He is called Isvara, the personal God, the creator, preserver and destroyer of the universe, the father, mother, friend, Lord, supporter, abode, refuge and goal (9.17-18). This universe is pervaded by Him in His unmanifest form (9.4). He exists supporting the whole universe with a portion Himself (10.42). Thus He is both immanent and transcendent. He is seated in the heart of all being, controlling them from within (18.16). There is nothing higher than He (7.7). Just as He supports this whole universe as its cause, even so He supports the differentiated thing as their very essence. He is thus the moisture in water, lustre in the sun and the moon, heat in the fire, sound in ether, odour in earth etc. All being are in Him, but He is not in them; nor are the being really in Him. That is His divine mystery (9.4-5). This mystery of maya veils Him from ordinary mortals, but those who surrender themselves to Him surmount this maya. Those who take refuge in Him and strive for liberation know that supreme Brahman, the Impersonal through the grace of the Lord (7.14,25,29; 10.10-11). Again, this universe of sentient and insentient being is the manifest form of the formless Isvara, for He has become all this. It is His universal form which was shown to Arjuna, and which only the fortunate few have been able to see through the undivided devotion (11.54). This universe being the manifest form the Lord, He is immanent in all thing, and as such they are symbols of God. In certain things, however, the manifestation of His power is greater, which makes them far superior to other object of that class. Such extraordinary things are mentioned in chapter ten as pratikas or symbols for meditating on God. From such statements we easily understand that this immanence can be manifest in an extraordinary degree in a human form, which gives us an Incarnation of God. There is no difference between God as unmanifest and God as manifest in such a human form. He takes such human form and incarnates Himself in this world at critical periods in its history, to destroy the wicked and establish righteousness (4.6-8). It is very difficult to recognize God when He incarnates Himself in human form, for He behaves so like ordinary mortals that people are deluded into thinking that He is just one of them. 'the ignorant deride Me who have taken a human form, not knowing My higher nature as the great Lord of beings' (9.11). It is only a few great souls that recognize God when He appears in human form, but the vast majority take Him for an ordinary mortal born subject to his own past karma (7.24,25). He who truly knows the divine birth and work of an Incarnation attains liberation after death (4.9).

 

Knowledge And Devotion

In many places in the Gita, devotion to both the Impersonal and the Personal aspects of God has been prescribed for attaining liberation. In stanzas 2-8 of chapter three, corresponding to these two aspects, two paths, namely, the way of knowledge and the way of devotion, are usual reason that it is easier of the two and, therefore, suited to the generality of mankind, while the path of knowledge is difficult and suited only to a very few of exceptional spiritual caliber. In this path of knowledge the aspirant has to realize that the world is illusory and Brahman alone is real. He has to get a firm conviction through reasoning that Brahman is not this universe, nor the mind nor the intellect nor the senses, neither happiness nor misery, and so on, till by this process he finally comes to the core of things and realizes the Absolute. Merely an intellectual grasp of the illusory nature of the world will not help him; He has to be established in this knowledge even in the midst of the worst possible calamities. For ordinary mortals, to whom the world of the senses is real, it is very difficult indeed to be established in this knowledge. Hence the Lord dissuades Arjuna from this path and prescribes for him the easier path of devotion to His personal aspect. In this path a man has not to give up his passion, feelings, etc., but has to switch them into God. Instead of having worldly thing for their objects, they are directed solely to God. He merely disconnects them from the worldly objects and connects them with God, and if this is done successfully, he attains liberation. The chief motive in both ideals id to get rid of this little 'I' by merging it in the infinite 'I', the self, or in the infinite 'Thou', that is , God. The net result is the same – attainment of freedom. 'One worship saying, "I am thyself", while another saying, "I am Thine"; though there is a slight difference is between the two, the ultimate result is the same.' The difference is only in language, but the content of the spiritual languages is the same, namely, elimination of the 'I' and 'mine', which are bondages of the soul. The devotee gets rid of them by constant remembrance of and service to God, and in the highest state of devotion he forgets himself entirely and sees his Beloved everywhere and in everything, even as the man of knowledge, comes to the final conclusion, 'All this indeed is Vasudeva (the Lord)' (7.19). Again, 'By devotion he knows me truly, how much and what I am' (18.55); that is, he realizes the Lord's impersonal aspects as pure Consciousness. Further, a devotee, through unswerving devotion to the Lord, transcends the gunas and becomes fit for merging in Brahman (14.26). In like manner, unswerving devotion is prescribed as a means to knowledge (13.10); and conversely, when a man realizes Brahman, the impersonal aspects of God, he gets devotion to His personal aspects also (18.54). Thus knowledge and devotion get merged in each other .

 

Synthesis of The Four Yogas

Commentators on the Gita often give prominence to one of these four paths taught in the book, viz., action, knowledge, devotion and meditation, and relegate the others to a secondary position, as preparatory disciplines to the one, which they think, is the true way to God-realization. Such a thing, however is not justified by the Gita with its synthetic outlook. According to it, each of these paths is equally efficacious and capable of leading the soul to freedom. 'Some see the Self in the body by the mind through meditation, others by the path of knowledge, and some others by the path of selfless action (13.24).' That this interpretation is correct, is further borne out by the descriptions given in the Gita of men who have attained perfection in each of these paths. These texts show that the various aspirants reach the same state, for similar qualities are manifest in their character. In fact, the Gita clearly states they all reach the Brahmic state or become one with Brahman – Brahmabhuta (2.72, 6.27, 14.26, and 18.53-54).

The Gita though it recognizes the efficacy of each of these paths to lead the soul to freedom, yet recommends an harmonious combination of all four paths. The predominant one gives the name to that particular path, while the other three are combined with it as feeders to strengthen the main spiritual current. Thus, we find the path of selfless action combined in the first place with knowledge; for the aspirant has to perform work externally, having the subjective attitude of the Samkhya internally. He is to work, established in yoga, wit an even mind, and this equanimity is not possible till one's mind is free from the distraction of the senses and desires. The senses have to be controlled, if one is to practise selfless action efficiently, and this can be attained not by merely abstaining from sense-objects, but by meditation on the Lord (2.16). Thus with action are combined knowledge, meditation and devotion. Similarly, devotion, in its paths, is combined with the other three. The spirant is to have a knowledge of the nature of Isvara and His glories, for devotion is possible only after that. Then the aspirant is asked to offer all his actions to the Lord (9.27), and also to worship Him through the performance of his duties. His devotion has also to be constant and unswerving; it must be a continuous remembrance of the Lord, which is meditation. So with devotion are combined knowledge, action and meditation. Again, in the path of knowledge, discrimination between the Self and not-Self is the main aim. One has to discriminate and give up the idea that matter is real. The self alone is real, and all else is illusory. Constantly remembering our true nature is the way to separate the Self from the not-Self. Work also has to be performed and should not be give up, but it should be done without desire for results; for work is purifying and helpful to us to rise from tamas to rajas and hence to sattva, and finally to transcend the gunas and become gunatita, when full knowledge dawns. Unswerving devotion to the Lord is a means to this attainment of knowledge, and has therefore to be adopted. Thus with knowledge are combined meditation, action and devotion, though knowledge is the main note in this symphony. So the Gita views spiritual life as an organic whole, and recommends a harmonious blending of the four yoga, which would result in an all-round development of the human personality.

 

Social Synthesis

One of the great tasks that Sri Krsna sets himself to was to weld the different races and civilizations in India in his time into an integral society of an all-India character, so the peace and harmony could reign in the land. To bring about this social synthesis, he first held out to them a common idea. He taught that union with God was the supreme end of life, and that this worldly life was all vanity. 'Having attained this transient joyless world (i.e., human birth) worship Me' (9.33) – the was his behest to Arjuna and through him to all the warning nations of the time. He based the whole social structure on this solid foundation, viz., that the supreme reality and the only thing of value was God. All life, according to him, had a meaning in so far as it culminated in a union with God. This become the dominant note of the whole social fabric, round which Indian society was sought to be organized. The different racial and ethnic group in the country, Aryan and non-Aryan, with their different traits, were stamped with this fundamental principle of Aryan life; and this helped to integrate them into one society with a common ideal, which became the bond of unity among them. As a corollary to this main principle, he also preached the harmony of religious ideals, showing thereby that various religious ideals were equally efficacious to lead man to the ultimate goal. In his delineation of the four yogas, he enunciated the fundamentals of spiritual life, and thereby made it possible for the Aryan faith to assimilate the alien cultures and religions within its fold. This also helped to bring about a unity amidst diversity, all these ideals being synthesized as parts or facets of an integral whole. Again, God according to the Gita, as we have already seen, is both transcendent and immanent. So in striving to attain union with God, the aspirant is filled with love for His immanent aspect also, and his love, therefore embraces the whole humanity. He is ever engaged in the good of all creatures (5.25; 12.4), and he judges of pleasure and pain of all creatures by the same standard as he applies to himself (6.32). the same God exists equally in all beings, and the aspirant realizing this truth does not injure anybody in any way and thus goes to the Supreme (12.27-28). He breaks through the Superficial difference between man and man – racial or other – and reaches his inner essence which is God. The vision was thus directed towards the unity at the back of the inevitable differences between man and man, and in that unity all these differences were eliminated.

A great barrier, however, in the way of attaining this social synthesis was the hereditary caste prevalent at the time among the Aryans, which kept non-Aryan races outside Aryan society. Sri Krsna introduced social liberalism within the Aryan Society by changing the basis of this division of society, and made it possible to assimilate non-Aryan to the Aryan Social fold. He did not reject the fourfold division of society, but accepted it as God-ordained (4.13), for the destruction of caste would have led to the social organization. Any society that is strong and progressive, necessarily welcome variety into its structure; for when variations cease to be produced, death results. So Sri Krsna accepted the fourfold division of society, based on the qualities of the individuals and on their fitness to live a particular mode of life suitable to serve society in a particular way. The division was functional, and each individual was expected to do that kind of service to society for which he was best quipped according to his guna and karma, or his moral, spiritual and intellectual endowments as determined by his previous births and actions (4.13; 8.41). It was a question of service, and not that of rights or privileges which are the bane of all societies. This put the right man in the right place, and there was no waste of energy nor want of efficiency, which would otherwise have resulted from an indiscriminate division of labour removed competitions between individuals in society. The performance of one's duties, if done as worship of the Lord, opened the gates of liberation, which was the goal of life according to the Gita (18.46). spiritual progress depended not on the nature of the work performed, but on the attitude of the mind, and the efficiency with which it was performed. The way to freedom was open to all irrespective of the caste to which they belonged, and so far as the attainment of their goal in life was concerned, all were equal and had equal opportunities. The ritualistic Vedic religion was the monopoly of the two higher caste, the Brahmans and the Ksatriyas; the Vaisyas and Sudras, and even the Brahmana women, had no access to it, since they lacked the necessary classical study for taking part in it. The simple religion of faith and devotion to the Lord threw open the gates of liberation to every one, and put all, irrespective of their caste, sex and learning, on an equal footing.

Incarnation come not to destroy, but to fulfil, and this statement is particular true of Sri Krsna. He did not break off from accepted traditions, though he completely changed their significance and bearing. He interpreted old ideals in a new light to make them suitable to the conditions of life in society and to give it a further push towards progress and perfection. Conflicts between ideals were resolved in a new synthesis which made life smooth both for the individual and society as a whole. This is the fundamental note in the message of the Gita – the spirit of harmony, the finding of unity in diversity; and from this point of view all apparent contradictions in it are resolved.

 

Contents
  Publisher's Note to the Revised Second Edition iii
  Preface iv
  Key to Transliteration and Pronunciation vi
  List of Abbreviations vii
  The Bhagavad Gita: Its Synthetic Character xiii
CHAPTER    
1. THE DESPONDENCY OF ARJUNA 1
2. THE WAY OF DISCRIMINATION 26
3. THE WAY OF ACTION 81
4. THE WAY OF KNOWLEDGE 118
5. RENUNCIATION OF ACTION 155
6. THE WAY OF CONTEMPLATION 180
7. THE WAY OF KNOWLEDGE AND REALIZATION 214
8. THE WAY TO THE SUPREME SPIRIT 237
9. THE WAY OF ROYAL KNOWLEDGE AND ROYAL SECRET 262
10. MEDITATION ON THE DIVINE GLORIES 289
11. THE VISION OF THE UNIVRSAL FROM 316
12. THE WAY OF DEVOTION 354
13. DISCRIMINATION BETWEEN NATURE AND SOUL 367
14. THE SEPARATION OF THE THREE GUNAS 397
15. THE WAY TO THE SUPREME PERSON 418
16. THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN DIVINE AND DEMONIAC ATTRIBUST 436
17. THE SEPARATION OF THE THREE KINDS OF FAITH 453
18. THE WAY OF RENUCIATION 475
  Index-Slokas 537
  Index-Selected Works of thIndex-Generale Slokas 548
  Index-General 584

 

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