About the Book:
Adi Sankara's is the earliest extant commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. The text of the Gita as cited by him has come down the centuries as the authentic text and this commentary of his has proved to be of seminal value ever since. Later commentators may differ from him on textual and even metaphysical interpretation but the spiritual well-being flowing into us on reading the Gita-Bhashya of Sankaracharya is universally acknowledged. One has only to read it to feel it.
This book contains the original Sanskrit text of the Gita in Devanagari followed by its translation as also the translation of Sankara's Gita Bhashya in English by Alladi Mahadeva Sastri. The translation has stood the test of time since its first publication in 1897, being the best available English translation of Sankaracharya's commentary.
The learned translator has added in the form of foot-notes (marked A) explanations mostly extracted from Anandagiri's Tika, which is always the clearest and most to the point and is almost indispensable for a proper understanding of some important portions of the Bhashya.
About the Author:
Alladi Mahadeva Sastry, the savant, was born in May, 1861 at Pudur near Nayudupeta, Nellore District, Andhra. He had his education in Telugu, Sanskrit and the traditional recitation of the Vedas in his village. He studied at the High School at Kurnool and passed the Matriculation examination of the Madras University. He graduated from the Presidency College, Madras in 1883. He continued his study of Sanskrit all these years equipping himself for his future scholarly work of editing Sanskrit manuscripts and translating some of them.
He started his career as a teacher in a High School at Vellore and at the Hindu High School, Nellore, till he assumed charge as the first Curator of the Mysore Oriental Library in May 1891. After his excellent work in Mysore he joined the Adyar Library as Director of its Oriental section in 1916 and retired a few months before his death. He was a member of the Theosophical Society from its early days in India and was Fellow of the Society till the end of his life.
His translation of the Gita Bhashya of Sri Sankaracharya received wide appreciation from scholars all over the world. Swami Vivekananda wrote to him thus: "The Gita-Bhashya, in the opinion of many, is the most difficult of the Acharya's works, and I am glad to find that you have undertaken a most difficult task and performed it so well." Sri Sastry followed it up with the Introduction to the study of Upanishads by Vidyaranya 1899, Minor Upanishads Vols I and II 1899 , The Taittiriya Upanishad with the commentaries of Sankaracharya, Sureshvaracharya and Sayana (Vidyaranya) 1903 which are now available in Samata Editions. His other works include a few tracts on Vedic Religion and two booklets Bharat Samaj Ritual of Worship and Bharat Samaj Marriage Ritual. He worked for the reform of Hindu society and edited the Dharma Prachar a short-lived Journal.
Sri Sankaracharya's is the earliest extant commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. He explained the need for his commentary thus:-
"This famous Gita-Sastra is an epitome of the essentials of the whole Vedic teaching; and its meaning is very difficult to understand. Though, to afford a clear view of its teaching, it has been explained word by word and sentence by sentence, and its import critically examined by several commentators, still I have found that to the laity it appears to teach diverse and quite contradictory doctrines. I propose, therefore, to write a brief commentary with a view to determine its precise meaning."
The text of the Gita as cited by Sankara has come down the centuries as the authentic text and this commentary of his has proved to be of seminal value ever since.
Its translation into English by Sri Alladi Mahadeva Sastri has stood the test of time since its first publication in 1897, being the best English translation of Sankara's Gita Bhashya available for nearly 100 years.
It is a privilege and a Blessing to have published this Great Book as the first in the Samata Series of Spiritual Classics now in its fourth printing in seven years.
[This is a pauranic verse speaking of the Antaryamin, the Inner Guide and Regulator of all souls. It is quoted here bv the commentator in order that he may begin his important work, after the orthodox fashion, with the con. templation of his favourite God (Ishra-Devata), namely, NA- rayana, and further with a view to shew that the Purana (archaic history), the Itihasa (ancient tradition) and the Gita. teach one and the same doctrine. Narayana is, in th e popular conception, the Creator who was brooding over the waters just before the beginning of Creation. Cf. Manu I. 10. According to a subtler conception, Narayana is the Antaryamin , the Divine Being in whom all embodied souls have their being. He is not a creature of the Avyakta, but far transcends it. It is the Avyakta, -the Avyakrita, Maya the undifferentia- ted matter,-out of which, when in apparent union with Isvara, is evolved the principle of Hiranyagarbha, here spoken of as Anda or the Mundane Egg, which is composed of the five simple rudimental elements of matter. An intermingling of the five rudimental elements of matter gives rise to the prin- ciple of the Viraj, of which are formed the Earth and all the
The Lord created the universe, and wishing to secure order therein He first created the Prajapatis" (Lords of creatures) such as Marichi and caused them to adopt the Pravritti-Dharma, the Religion of Works. He then created others such as Sanaka and Sanandana and caused them to adopt the Nivritti- Dharma, the Religion of Renunciation, characterised by knowledge and indifference to worldly objects . It is the twofold Vedic Religion of Works and Renunciation that maintains order in the universe. This Religion which directly leads to liberation and worldly prosperity has long been practised by all castes and religious orders (varna-asrama) -from the brahmanas downwards,-who sought welfare.
When, owing to the ascendancy of lust in its votaries, religion was overpowered by irreligion caused by the vanishing faculty of discrimination, and irreligion was advancing,-it was other lokas or inhabited regions -(A nandagiri). The seven Dvlpas or insular continents are Jambu, Plaksha, Kusa. Krauncha, Saka, Salmala and Pushkara. For further parti- culars regarding these, see Wilson's Vishnupurana, Vol. 1, p. 109 ff.]
then that the original Creator (Adi-karta), Vishnu, known as Narayana, wishing to maintain order in the universe, incarna- ted" Himself as Krishna. begotten in Devaki by Vasudeva. for the preservation of the earthly Brahman' ,of spiritual life (Brahmanatva) on the earth. For it was by the preserva- tion of spiritual life that the Vedic Religion could be preserved, since thereon depend all distinctions of caste and religious order. The Lord, al ways possessed as He is of (infinite) knowledge, supremacy, power, strength, might and vigour, controls the Maya.-belonging to Him as Vishnu,-the Mula- prakriti, the First Cause, composed of three Gunas § or ener, gies, and He appears to the world as though He is born and embodied and helping the world at large: whereas really He is unborn and indestructible, is the Lord of creatures, and is by nature Eternal, Pure, Intelligent and Free.
[The special stress laid here on Maya as belonging to and being under the control of the Isvara is chiefly intended to impress the idea that Maya does not exist or act independ- ently of Brahman, the Isvara, He is quite independent of Maya, unlike the individual souls who are subject to its influ- ence. The fol1owers of the historical school of the Sankhya- darsana hold, on the other hand, that Matter and Spirit, Prakriti and Purusha, are two distinct principles, the former being as real as the latter and acting in unison with it.-(A.]
Without any interest of His own, but with the sole inten- tion of helping His creatures) He taught to Arjuna, who was deeply plunged in the ocean of grief and delusion,'the- towfold Vedic Religion, evidently thinking that the Religion would widely spread when accepted and practised by men of high character.
It is this Religion, which was taught by the Lord, that the omniscient and adorable Veda- Vyasa (the arranger of the Vedas) embodied in the seven hundred verses called Gitas.
This famous Gita-Sastra is an epitome of the essentials of the whole Vedic teaching; and its meaning is very difficult to understand. Though, to afford a clear view of its teaching, it has been explained word by word and sentence by sentence, and its import critically examined by several commentators, still I have found that to the laity it appears to teach diverse and quite contradictory doctrines. I propose, therefore, to write a brief commentary with a view to determine its precise meaning.
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