The Bhagavadgita holds an assured place among the world's great scriptures. It is one of the most brilliant and pure gems of our ancient sacred books. It would be difficult to find a simpler work in Sanskrit literature or even in all the literature of the world than the Gita, which explains to us in an unambiguous and succinct manner the deep and sacred principles of the sacred science of the Self (Atman), etc.
It is a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, narrated in the Bhisma Parva of the Mahabharata. It comprises eighteen discourses of a total of 701 verses. Sri Krishna, during the course of His most instructive and interesting talk with Arjuna, revealed profound, sublime and soul-searching spiritual truths, and expounded the rare secrets of Yoga, Vedanta, Bhakti and Karma.
There are many English translations of the Gita of various scholars along with their personal views expressed in introductions. These introductions present different analysis by different scholars. Of these introductions, only five are included in the present volume which bear a sound academic value. The savants whose introductions included here are: KT Telang, Balgangadhar Tilak, M.K. Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo Ghosh and Dr. S. Radhakrishnan. Hope, scholars, students as well as general readers will get pleasure going through this golden treasure.
About the Author
Professor (Dr.) Brajakishore Swain (b. 1954) teaches Dharmasastra in the Post-Graduate Department of Dharmasastra, Sri Jagannath Sanskrit University, Puri. He is credited with twenty-five books and more than sixty research papers in Sanskrit, English, Oriya and Hindi. He is a regular columnist of newspapers in Oriya. At present he is the President, Utkal Sanskrit Research Society, Puri; General Secretary, Praci Cult Research Centre, Tulasipur, Puri; and Director, Centre of Advanced Research in Sanskrit, Sri Jagannath Sanskrit University, Puri, He edits Journal of Indology (Sri Jagannath Jyoti), Puri Orientalist and Digdarsini (Quarterly Sanskrit Journal).
The Bhagavadgita is a part of the Mahabharata. Sri Krsna- dvaipayana Vedavyasa has composed it in eighteen chapters (yoga-s) incorporating the analysis of Upanisads made by Sri Krsna,
Besides Nilakantha's Bharatabhavadipa commentary on the Mababharata, a galaxy of scholars right from Sri Sankara to Srimad Baladeva Vidya Bhusana have exercised their intellect and utilised their sharp brilliance to find out the real purport of Sri Krsna enshrined in the Sanskrit text of Vyasadeva at the result of which a series of. commentaries were composed with exegetical acumen generating their religio-philosophical schools.
At present we find many English translations of various scholars along with their personal views expressed in introductions. As a matter of fact, we see a number of introductions of translators in which we come across many a horizontal and vertical analysis. Of those introductions, only five are included in the present compilation which bear a sound academic value. On account of this reason the nomenclature of this work is determined as: The Bhagavadgita-An Introductory Analysis.
In this compilation, introduction of Justice K.T. Telang i given at the outset. He has analysed, first, the general character of the Gita and mode of handlings of it subject; secondly, the character of its style and language; thirdly, nature of the versification of the Gita; fourthly, attitude of the Gita towards the Vedas and towards caste, its allusions to other systems of speculation and other matters of the like nature.
Lokamanya Balgangadhar Tilak, in his introduction has tried to investigate what is the moral involved in the Gita. He is of view that the Gita is called Bhagavadgita or the Upanisad sung by the Blessed Lord. He maintains that proper preaching in the Gita would be of Energism (pravrtti) and that, as all other things are only supporting Energism, that is, as they are all auxiliary, the purport of the Gita religion must also be to support Energism, that is, to support action.
M.K. Gandhi's introductory view in third sequence of this compilation is noteworthy. He is of view that the Samkhya doctrine of gunas as the constituents of prakrti has been worked out elaborately by the Gita. It has been adopted by all the Smrti works. It has taken such a hold of the Hindu mind that the words sattva, rajas and tamas and their derivatives sattvika, rajasika and tamasa are common terms of the Hindu vocabulary in every Indian language and immediately convey their ethical connotation even to an unlettered peasant. As a matter of fact, ethically, sattvika state is pure, rajasa is alloyed and tamasa is impure. It is understood that sattva binds man to his body by conscious happiness and knowledge, rajasa by restlessness and misery, tamas by headlessness, lethargy and sleep. This is the main intention of the Gita informed to the humanity.
According to Aurobindo's vision, which comes in fourth sequence in this compilation, in the Gita there is very little that is merely local or temporal. Its spirit is so large, profound and universal that even this little can easily be universalised without the sense of the teaching suffering any diminution or violation; rather by giving an ampler scope to it than belonged to the country and epoch, the teaching gains in depth, truth and power.
While expatiating importance of the Gita, Dr. Radha- krishnan interprets its academic as well as socio-religious value. In the fifth sequence in this compilation, he says that the Bbagavadgita is more a religious classic than a philosophical treatise. It is not an esoteric work designed for and understood by the specially initiated but a popular poem which helps even those who wander in the region of the many and variable. It gives utterance to the aspirations of the pilgrims of all sects who seek to tread the inner way to the City of Gods.
This way five introductory analysis of five savants namely Telang, Tilak, Gandhi, Aurobindo and Radha- krishnan are included in this volume. I hope scholars, students as well as general readers would get pleasure going through this golden treasure. I thank Shri Harish Chandrajee of Akshaya Prakashan, New Delhi who took keen interest to publish it very shortly.
It has become quite a literary commonplace, that-to borrow the words of Professor Max Muller in one of his recent lectures-history, in the ordinary sense of the word, is almost unknown in Indian literature. And it is certainly a remarkable irony of fate, that we should be obliged to make this remark on the very threshold of an introduction to the Bhagavadgita; for according to the eminent French philosopher, Cousin.? this great deficiency in Sanskrit literature is due, in no inconsiderable measure, to the doctrines propounded in the Bhagavadgita itself. But however that may be, this much is certain, that the student of the Bhagavadgita must, for the present, go without that reliable historical information touching the author of the work, the time at which it was composed, and even the place it occupies in literature, which one naturally desires, when entering upon the study of any work. More especially in an attempt like the present, intended as it mainly is for students of the history of religion, I should have been better pleased, if I could, in this Introduction, have concentrated to a focus, as it were, only those well ascertained historical results, on which there is something like a consensus of opinion among persons qualified to judge. But there is no exaggeration in saying, that it is almost impossible to lay down even a single proposition. respecting any important matter connected with the Bhagavadgita, about which any such consensus can be said to exist. The conclusions arrived at in this Introduction must, therefore, be distinctly understood to embody individual opinions only, and must be taken accordingly for what they are worth.
The full name of the work is Bhagavadgita. In common parlance, we often abbreviate the name into Gita, and in Sanskrit literature the name occurs in both forms. In the works of Sankaracarya, quotations from the Gita are introduced, sometimes with the words 'In the Gita', or 'In the Bhagavadgita', and sometimes with• words which may be rendered 'In the Gitas', the plural form being used' In the colophons to the MSS. of the work, the form current, apparently throughout India, is, 'In the Upanishads sung (Gitas) by the Deity'. Sankaracarya, indeed, sometimes calls it the Isvara Gita, which, I believe, is the specific title of a different work altogether. The signification, however, of the two names is identical, namely, the song sung by the Deity, or, as Wilkins translates it, the Divine Lay.
This Divine Lay forms part of the Bhisma Parvan of the Mahabharata-one of the two well-known national epics of India. The Gita gives its name to a subdivision of the Bhisma Parvan, which is called the Bhagavadgita Parvan, and which includes, in addition to the eighteen chapters of which the Gita consists, twelve other chapters. Upon this the question has naturally arisen, is the Gita a genuine portion of the Mahabharata, or is it a later addition? The question is one of considerable difficulty. But I cannot help saying, that the manner in which it has been generally dealt with is not altogether satisfactory to my mind. Before going any further into that question, however, it is desirable to state some of the facts on which the decision must be based. It appears, then, that the royal family of Hastinapura was divided into two branches; the one called the Kauravas, and the other the Pandavas, The former wished to keep the latter out of the share of the kingdom claimed by them; and so, after many attempts at an amicable arrangement had proved fruitless, it was determined to decide the differences between the two parties by the arbitrament of arms. Each party accordingly collected its adherents, and the hostile armies met on the 'holy field of Kurukshetra', mentioned in the opening lines of our poem. At this juncture, Krsna Dvaipayana, alias Vyasa, a relative of both parties and endowed with more than human powers, presents himself before Dhrtarastra, the father of the Kauravas, who is stated to be altogether blind. Vyasa asks Dhrtarastra whether it is his wish to look with his own eyes on the course of the battle; and on Dhrtarastra's expressing his reluctance, Vyasa deputes one Samjaya to relate to Dhrtarastra all the events of the battle, giving to Samjaya, by means of his own super-human powers, all necessary aids for performing the duty. Then the battle begins, and after a ten days' struggle, the first great general of the Kauravas, namely Bhisma, falls At this point Samjaya comes up to Dhrtarastra, and announces to him the sad result, which is of course a great blow to his party. Dhrtarastra then makes numerous enquiries of Samjaya regarding the course of the conflict, all of which Samjaya duly answers. And among his earliest answers is the account of the conversation between Krsna and Arjuna, at the commencement of the battle, which constitutes the Bhagavadgita. After relating to Dhrtarastra that 'wonderful and holy dialogue', and after giving an account of what occurred in the intervals of the conversation, Samjaya proceeds to narrate the actual events of the battle.
With this rough outline of the framework of the story before us, we are now in a position to consider the opposing arguments on the point above noted. Mr. Talboys Wheeler writes on that point as follows'': 'But there remains one other anomalous characteristic of the history of the great war, as it is recorded in the Mahabharata, which cannot be passed over in silence; and that is the extraordinary abruptness and infelicity with which Brahmanical discourses, such as essays on law, on morals, sermons on divine things, and even instruction in the so- called sciences are recklessly grafted upon the main narrative. Krsna and Arjuna on the morning of the first day of the war, when both armies are drawn out in battle- array, and hostilities are about to begin, enter into a long and philosophical dialogue respecting the various forms of devotion which lead to the emancipation of the soul; and it cannot be denied that, however incongruous and irrelevant such a dialogue must appear on the eve of battle, the discourse of Krsna, whilst acting as the charioteer of Arjuna, contains the essence of the most spiritual phases of Brahmanical teaching, and is expressed in language of such depth and sublimity, that it has become deservedly known as the Bhagavadgita or Divine song.... Indeed no effort has been spared by the Brahmanical compilers to convert the history of the great war into a vehicle for Brahmanical teaching; and so skilfully are many of these interpolations interwoven with the story, that it is frequently impossible to narrate the one, without referring to the other, however irrelevant the matter may be to the main subject in hand.' It appears to me, I own, very difficult to accept that as a satisfactory argument, amounting, as it does, to no more than this- that interpolations', which must need be referred to in narrating the main story even to make it intelligible, are nevertheless to be regarded 'as evidently the product of a Brahmanical age', and presumably also a later age, because, forsooth, they are irrelevant and incongruous according to the 'tastes and ideas of the time, be it remembered, when the 'main story' is supposed to have been written, but-of this enlightened nineteenth century. The support, too, which may be supposed to be derived by this argument from the allegation that there has been an attempt to Brahmanize, so to say, the history of the great war, appears to me to be extremely weak, so far as the Gita is concerned. But that is a point which will have to be considered more at large in the sequel.
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