Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak had intended to publish an English translation of his monumental work Gita-Rahasya written originally in Marathi. It has his desire that the interpreatation put by him on the doctrine preached by the Bhagavadgita, should come before the eyes of learned philosophers, scholars and alumni, all the world over, he had made an attempt in his lifetime to get the work translated in English. But he was unable to see the work through on account of his lifetime to get the work translated in English, But he was unable to see the work through on account of his numerous activities. He suddenly fell ill and breathed his last without seeing the realization of his desires.
After his demise his sons tried to carry out his long-cherished desire and entrusted the translation to Shri B.S. Sukthankar who took all the pains to complete the translation within a comparatively short space of time. It is our duty to acknowledge thanks due to him. The first edition of the English translation thus was printed and published on 1st Augest 1935 on the 15th Death Anniversary of Lok. B. G. Tilak.
At the time of publishing the twelfth edition of the English translation, we requested Dr. V. D. Divekar to go through the original translation of Shri Sukthankar and revise it whereever he found it to be neccessary. The present publication, therfore, appears as the 'revised edition. Our sincere thanks are due to Dr. Divekar.
It is very natural that this monumental work of a recognized oriental scholar like Lok. Tilak received all the recognition from the internationally reputed orientalists and a common man from this country groping in the darkness, looked to this book for light. There is no more beautiful work in which the more enlightened find greater spiritual comfort.
To meet the growing demand from all over our country and also from abroad, we are taking out this twelfth revised edtition. The printing of the first two editions was done by the Servants of India Society at the Bombay Vaibhav Press and the Aryabhusan Press at Pune. The printing of this edition has been done by the Kesari Printers and for this our sincere thanks are due to partners of the Kesari Press.
Lok. Tilak's work really requires no introduction of presentation of foreword. His name and his commentary on Bhagavadgita will be remebered and read assiduosly so long as the country has pride in its past and hope for its future.
We are ending this foreword voicing sentiments similar to those expressed by our revered great –grandfather Lok. Tilak in his preface to the original book in Marathi.
"Go little brooke from this my solitude;
I cast thee on the water, go thy ways;
And if, as I beleive, thy tone be good;
The world will find thee after many days."
I only reeated the words already uttered by Saints!
How else can an insignificant man like me know This?
There are in exitence many Sanskrit Commentaries, or Criticisms, or Prakit translations, or exhaustive and universally accepted expositions of the Srimad Bhagavadgita. Yet, there is no better place than a Preface for explaining all such things as cannot be included in the discussion of the subject-matter of the book itself. The first of these things is about the author himself.
It is now nealy forty –three years since I made my first acquaintance with the Bhagavadgita. In the year 1972, during the last illness of my father. The task of reading out to him a Prakrit commentay on Bhagavadgita called Bhasa-vivrti fell to my lot. At that date, that is, when I was only 16 years old.
It was not possible for me to fully understand the import of the Gita. Still, as the impressions made on the mind in young age are lasting, the liking for the Bhagavadgita which then generated did not extinguish. When i had later on made further studies in Sanskrit and English. I had occasion to read from time to time the Sanskrit commentaries and other criticisms, as also the expositions by many learned scholars on the Gita. I was then faced by the doubt as to why the Gita, which was expounded in order to induce to Arjuna the fight, who was dejected by the Idea that it was sin to war with one's own realtives, should contain an Exposition of the manner in which Release could be obtained by relatives, should contain an Exposition of the manner in which Release could be obtained by Knowledge (Jnana) or by Devotion (Bhakti), that is to say, only of the 'moksa –marga' That doubt gradually gained ground because, I could not find a satisfactory answer to that question in any commentary on the Gita. It is quite possible that others too might have felt the same doubt. When a person is engrossed in studying the various commentaries he cannot find a different solution, though he may feel now and then, that the one expounded in the commentary under study is not satisfactory.
I, therefore, pure aside all criticisms and commentaries, and independently and thoughtfull read the Gita over several times. I then got out of the clutches of the commentators, and was convinced taht the original Gita did not preach the Philosophy of Renunciation (nivrtti), but of energism (Karma –Yoga); and that possibly, the single word 'yoga' used in the Gita had been used in the Gita had been used to mean Karma –Yoga. That conviction was strengthed by the study of the Mahabharta, the Vedanta –Sutras, the Upanisads and other Sanskrit and English treatises on Vedanta. Beleiving that by publishing that opinion, there would be a fuller discussion on the subject, and that it would pave the way for arriving at the truth. I delivered public lectures on the subject on four or five occasions at different times. One of these was delivered at Nagpur in January 1902, and the other one at the Sankesvara Matha in Augest 1904 in the presence of Jagadguru Sri Samkaracarya of the Karvira and Sankesvara Matha. The summary of the lecture delivered at Nagpur was published in the newspaper at the time. With the same object, I also disscussed the matter from time to time privately, whenever I had leisure, with some of my learned friends. One of these was the late Mr. Shripati Buva Bhingakar. In his company, i had occasion to see some Prakrit treatises pertaining to the Bhagavata cult, and some of the ideas explained in the Gita –Rahasya were first fixed in the disscusions between the Buva and myself. It is a matter of deep regret that he is not to see this work in print.
Though my opinion that the creed preached in the Gita was one of Action, had in this way, become quite definite, and though I had decided to reduce it to writing, many years went by. But I thought that a considerable amount of misunderstanding would arise if I merely wrote in a book form, this moral of the Gita, without assigning any reason as to why I was unable to accept the conclusions arrived at by the former commentators. The work of dealing with the opinions of all the commentators, and exposing with reasons their incompleteness and of comparing the philosphy expounded in the Gita wiht other philosphies entailed, however, great labour. It was not possible for me to complete it satisfactory within treatise on the Gita. Yet seeing that the material in hand was not sufficient, I went on putting off the work of writitng this book from Pune to Mandalay. The draft of this book was first made in the Mandalay Jail in the winter of 1910- 1911 (between Kartik Shuddha 1st and Falgun Vadya 30th of the Saka Year 18320). Thereafter, the draft was improved upon from time to time, and those protions which had remained incomplete due to the nonavailablity of certain necessary books in Jail. Were completed after my release. Nevertheless, it cannot be said even now that this work is complete in every respect. Principles of Release (moksa) and Moral Philosophy are abstruse. They have been expounded by ancient and modern scholars. It is really difficult to decide correctly which such expositions ought to be incorporated in this book and which to be excluded. My physical condition is also now becoming weak. As described by the great Marathi poet Moropata.
White Flag of old age is already unfuried
My weary body can no longer battle.
So, having come to the conclusion that I should place before the public the information which I have gathered, and the ideas which have occurred to me, I am publishing this treatise now. Someone else possessed by the same inspiration (samnadharma will be born in the future, and develop this idea further.
I am not prepared to accept the opinion that the Gita gives only exposition of the paths of Renunication, such as, the Knowledged of the Brahman 'or 'Devotion'. The wordly Action is not inferir and negligible. However, I do not also say that there is no exposition at all in the Bhagavadgita of the path of obtaining Release. Nay; I too have shown in this book, that according to the philosophy of the Gita, it is the primary duty of every human being in this world, to acquire the Knowledge of the pure form of the Paramesvara, and thereby to cleanse out and purify his own Reason as far as possible. But, that is not the principal subject –matter of the Gita. At the commencement of the war, Arjuna was greatly confused about what his duty was, destruction of his won clan etc, was he not committing a blunder to fight? And I am of the opinion that in order to clear this doubt, the Gita has propounded the device of performing Action in such a way that one ultimately attains Release without committing sin, namely, the Karma-Yoga founded on Knowledge, in which Devotion is the principal factor. (Rahasya). There exist the various paths of attaining Release according to pure Vedanta Philosophy. But no man is free from Action. This exposition of Action and Non –Action, or of Morality and Immorality is termed as 'Ethnics' by modern purely Materialistic philosophers. It is not that I could not have made this exposition by following the usual procedure, and explained how this principle has been established by the Gita, by commenting on the gita stanza by stanza. But, unless one is thoroughly conversant with the various philosophical doctrines, arguments and deductions pertaining to Vedanta, Mimamsa, Samkhya, the doctrine of Causality (karma –vipaka) and Devotion, on the authority of which the doctrine of Karma –Yoga has been established in the Gita, and the reference to which is sometimes very succinct, the full purport of the exposition made in the Gita could not have been clearly understood.
I have, therefore, divided various subjects or doctrines, which one comes across in the Gita, into chapters, and briefly expounded them, together with the most important logical arguments relating to them, I have at the same time, consistently, with the critical methods of the present day, compared in brief, the most important doctrines propounded in the Gita, with the doctrines propounded in other philosophies. It may thus be said that the essay 'Gita-Rahasya' (the Secret or Esoteric import of the Gita), which is published at the beginning of this book, is by itself an independent, though a small, book on the doctrine of 'Action' (Karma-Yoga). But, in any case, it was not possible to consider fuly, each individual stanza of the Gita in a general exposition of this kind. I have, therefore, at the end of the book, translations in different places, in order to explain the context; or, in order to show how former commentators have streched the meaning of some of the stanzas of the Gita, to support their own doctrines (See Gita3. 17-9; 6.3 and 18.2) I have also shown various doctrines enunciated in the Gita –Rahasya as they appear how and where in the Gita. It is true that due to this method, there has been repetition of some ideas, I feel convinced that I could not in any other way fully dissipate the misunderstanding, which now exists in the mind of the common reader as regards the import of the Gita. I have therefore seperated the exposition of the Gita –Rahasya (Escorteric Import of the Gita) from the translation itself; and thereby, it has become easy for me (i) to show with authorities, where and in what manner, the doctrines of the Gita with reference to Vedanta Mimamsa, Devotion etc., have appeared in the Bharta, the Samkhya sustem, the Vedanta –Sutras, the Upanisads, teh Mimamsa and other original texts, (ii) Renunciation (samanyasa) and Action (Karma –Yoga), as also (iii) to expound importance of the Gita from the point of view of practical Action, by comparing the Gita with other religious opinions or philosophies.
If there had not been all sorts of commentaries on the Gita, and if various had not interpreted the import of the Gita, each in a different way, it would have been totally unnecessary for me to quote the original Sanskrit authorities which go to support the prepositions laid down by me in my book.
But such a thing cannot be done in the present situation. Some may doubt the correctness of the import of the Gita or of the propositions, laid down by me. I have, therefore, everywhere pointed out the authorities which support what I say, and in important places. I have given the original Sanskrit Indications of the authorities. As many of these are usually accepted as proved truths in books on Vedanta, readers should get acquainted with them in the course of reading, and find it, easier on that account to remeber the doctrines embodied in those statements. But, it is not likely that all readers will be knowing Sanskrit.
I have arranged my book on the whole in such a way that, even if any reader who does not understand Sanskrit ; reads the book, skipping the Sanskrit stanzas, there will not be any interruption anywhere in the sense. In many places, I have given mere summary of the Sanskrit Stanza, instead of giving a literal translation of it. But as the original stanza is given in each case, there is no risk of any misunderstanding arising as a result of following this procedure.
It is said about the Kohinoor diamond that after it was taken from India to England , it was again cut there, and on that account; it began to shine more brilliant. This law, which is true in the case of a diamond, also applies to a jewel in the shape of truth. The religion propounded by the Gita is true and invincible. But, as the time at which, and the form in which, it was propounded, and other attendent circumstances have considerably changed, it does not appear to some to be as much brilliant as before. The Gita propounded at a time, when 'whether to act or renounce' was itself considered a question of great imporatance, before arriving at a decision as to which act was good and which bad. Many people look upon it as now unnecessary, But, there are indeed commentaries supporting the Path of Renunciation. The exposition of Karma-Yoga contained in the Gita has become very difficult to understand for many in the present age. Besides, some of our new scholars are of the opinion that as a result of the present growth of the Material sciences in the West, the deductions laid down in ancient times with reference to the Karma –Yoga, cannot possibly be fully applicable to modem conditions. In order to prove that this idea is Wrong, I have breifly mentioned in various places in my exposition of the Gita –Rahasya, the doctrines of Western Philosphers, which are similar to those in the Gita.
Really, the exposition of Ethics in the Gita is r,o way fortified by such a comparison. Yet, those people whose eyes are dazzled by the present unheard of growth of the Material sciences, or who have learnt to consider the Science of Ethics, only externally, that is to say, only in its Material aspect, will be made to see clearly by means of this comparision that, not only has human knowledge not going on these questions in the West. And the opinions of these Metaphysicians are not materially different from the doctrines laid down by the Gita. This fact will be clearly borne out by the comparative exposition appearing in the different chapters of the Gita –Rahasya. However, I must explain here, with reference to the summaries of the opinions of Western philosphers which I have given at various palces.
That, as my principal object has been only to expound the import of the Gita. I have accepted as authoritative the doctrines laid down by the Gita, and have mentioned the Western opinions only so far as was necessary in order to show to what extent the doctrines of Western moral philosphers or scholars tally with the doctrines in the Gita, and this too has been done only to such an extent that the ordinary reader does not experience any difficulty in following them. it cannot, therefore be disputed that those who wish to ascertain the minute differences between the two-and these differences are many –or to see the full argumentative exposition out of these theorems, must examine the original Western books themselves. Western scholars say that the first systematic treatise on the discrimination between the Right and the Wrong Action or on Morality was written by the Greek philosopher Aristotle.
Brahma Sutras (81)
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