Uddhava (also known as Pavanayadhi) is a character from the Puranic texts of Hinduism, who is the friend and counsellor of Krishna the Avatar. He plays a significant role in the Bhagavata Purana, being taught the processes of yoga and bhakti directly by Krishna. The principle of these discussions is often referred to as the Uddhava Gita, similarly to the Bhagavad Gita wherein Krishna instructs Arjuna. According to some texts Uddhava was also Krishna's cousin, being the son of Devabhaga, who was the brother of Vasudeva, Krishna's father. His physical appearance was so like that of Krishna's that in some instances he is temporarily mistaken for the latter.
Message to Vrindavan
In the Bhagavata Purana, after Krishna had defeated Kamsa, Uddhava came to see him, much to Krishna's pleasure. Krishna then requested Uddhava to visit Vrindavan with a message on his behalf to the Gopis and other residents of the village, who were missing his company. The content of the message and the feelings aroused by it when heard by the residents of Vrindavan constitute the highest understanding of love of God in the tradition of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
Krishna spoke the Uddhava Gita (also referred to as Hamsa Gita) to Uddhava shortly before he left the world in order to help console Uddhava after his forthcoming departure. It commences with Uddhava's perplexity after he saw the impending destruction of the Yadava community, in which Krishna was also born.
Uddhava was famous as devotee and a dear friend of Krishna but even he could not fathom why he had not prevented the destruction from happening. Brahma, the creator, and the celestials implored Krishna to return to his divine abode after the purpose of his descent was over.
Krishna then explained why the Yadavas had to be finished, "Made insolent by prowess, heroism and fortune, and inclined to take possession of the whole world, this celebrated race of Yadu has been kept in check by Me as the ocean by its shore. If I depart (from this world) without destroying the huge race of the Yadus, who have grown insolent the entire humanity will meet its destruction..." Greatly saddened by this Uddhava approached Krishna and beseeched him to take him also. In reply Krishna then expounds the Uddhava Gita.
- Krishna instructs Uddhava (vedabase.net)
- The Uddhava Gita (Hindu.com)
- Krishna Explains the Yoga System to Sri Uddhava (srimadbhagavatam.com)
The Bhagavad Gītā (Sanskrit: भगवद्गीता, IPA: [ˈbʱəɡəʋəd̪ ɡiːˈt̪aː], Song of God), also more simply known asGita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text. It is considered among the most important texts in the history of literature andphilosophy. The teacher of the Bhagavad Gita is Lord Krishna, who is revered by Hindus as a manifestation of God (Parabrahman) Himself, and is referred to within as Bhagavan, the Divine One.
The context of the Gita is a conversation between Lord Krishna and the Pandava prince Arjuna taking place on the battlefield before the start of the Kurukshetra War. Responding to Arjuna's confusion and moral dilemma about fighting his own cousins who command a tyranny imposed on a captured State, Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna his duties as a warrior and prince, and elaborates on different Yogic and Vedantic philosophies, with examples and analogies. This has led to the Gita often being described as a concise guide to Hindu theology and also as a practical, self-contained guide to life. During the discourse, Lord Krishna reveals His identity as the Supreme Being Himself (Svayam Bhagavan), blessing Arjuna with an awe-inspiring vision of His divine universal form.
The direct audience to Lord Krishna’s discourse of the Bhagavad Gita included Arjuna (addressee), Sanjaya(using Divya Drishti (or divine vision) gifted by the sage Veda Vyasa to watch the war and narrate the events toDhritarashtra), Lord Hanuman (perched atop Arjuna’s chariot) and Barbarika, son of Ghatotkacha, who also witnessed the complete 18 days of action at Kurukshetra.
The Bhagavad Gita is also called Gītopaniṣad, implying its having the status of an Upanishad, i.e. a Vedantic scripture. Since the Gita is drawn from the Mahabharata, it is classified as a Smṛiti text. However, those branches of Hinduism that give it the status of an Upanishad also consider it a śruti or "revealed" text. As it is taken to represent a summary of the Upanishadic teachings, it is also called "the Upanishad of the Upanishads". Another title is mokṣaśāstra, or "Scripture of Liberation".
It has been highly praised by not only prominent Indians such as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi but also Aldous Huxley, Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Carl Jung and Herman Hesse.
Date and text
The Bhagavad Gita occurs in the Bhishma Parva of the Mahabharata and comprises 18 chapters from the 25th through 42nd and consists of 700 verses. Its authorship is traditionally ascribed to Vyasa, the compiler of theMahabharata. Because of differences in recensions, the verses of the Gita may be numbered in the full text of theMahabharata as chapters 6.25–42 or as chapters 6.23–40. According to the recension of the Gita commented on byShankaracharya, the number of verses is 700, but there is evidence to show that old manuscripts had 745 verses. The verses themselves, using the range and style of Sanskrit meter (chhandas) with similes and metaphors, are written in a poetic form that is traditionally chanted.
As with all of the Mahabharata, the text of the Gītā cannot be dated with certainty. Astrologers calculate the Bhagavad Gita traditionally being given circa 3000 BCE based purely on Sri Krishna's horoscope without any scientific support.The entire epic went through a lengthy process of accumulation and redaction during roughly the 5th century BCE to the 5th century CE. Scholarship has tended to place the composition of the Gītā within the earlier phase of this period, between roughly the 5th and the 2nd century BCE. The mainstream assumption of a pre-Christian date has been widely repeated, e.g. by Indian President Radhakrishnan. More recent scholarship has tended to cast doubt the early date of the Gītā, with some scholars preferring to place it in the early centuries of the Common Era instead. Thius, John Brockington (1998) argues that the Gītā can be placed in the first century CE. Based on claims of differences in the poetic styles, some scholars like Jinarajadasa have argued that the Bhagavad Gītā was added to the Mahābhārata at a later date.
Within the text of the Bhagavad Gītā itself, Lord Krishna states that the knowledge of Yoga contained in the Gītā was first instructed to mankind at the very beginning of their existence. Therefore, the history and choronology of Bhagavad Gita may be taken to be clear from the text itself, by its adherents. Although it may seem to some that the original date of composition of the Bhagavad Gita is not clear, its teachings are considered timeless and the exact time of revelation of the scripture is considered of little spiritual significance by religiously-motivated scholars such as Bansi Pandit, and Juan Mascaro. Swami Vivekananda dismisses concerns about differences of opinion regarding the historical events as unimportant for study of the Gita from the point of acquirement of Dharma.
The Mahabharata centers on the exploits of the Pandavas and the Kauravas, two families of royal cousins descended from two brothers, Pandu and Dhritarashtra, respectively. Because Dhritarashtra was born blind, Pandu inherited the ancestral kingdom, comprising a part of northern India around modern Delhi. The Pandava brothers were Yudhishthira the eldest, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva. The Kaurava brothers were one hundred in number, Duryodhana being the eldest. When Pandu died at an early age, his young children were placed under the care of their uncle Dhritarashtra who ascended the throne since the Pandavas were minors.
The Pandavas and the Kauravas were brought up together in the same household and had the same teachers, the most notable of whom were Bhishma and Dronacharya. Bhishma, the wise grandsire, acted as their chief guardian, and the Brahmin Drona was their military instructor. The Pandavas were endowed with righteousness, self-control, nobility, and many other knightly traits. On the other hand, the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra, especially Duryodhana, were endowed with negative qualities and were cruel, unrighteous, unscrupulous, greedy, and lustful. Duryodhana, jealous of his five cousins, contrived various means to destroy them.
When the time came to crown Yudhisthira, eldest of the Pandavas, as prince, Duryodhana, through afixed game of dice, exiled the Pandavas into the forest. On their return from banishment the Pandavas demanded the return of their legitimate kingdom. Duryodhana, who had consolidated his power by many alliances, refused to restore their legal and moral rights. Attempts by elders and Krishna, who was a friend of the Pandavas and also a well wisher of the Kauravas, to resolve the issue failed. Nothing would satisfy Duryodhana's inordinate greed.
War became inevitable. Both Duryodhana and Arjuna requested Krishna to support them in the war, since he possessed the strongest army, and was revered as the wisest teacher and the greatest yogi. Krishna offered to give his vast army to one of them and to become a charioteer and counselor for the other, but he would not touch any weapon nor participate in the battle in any manner. While Duryodhana chose Krishna's vast army, Arjuna preferred to have Krishna as his charioteer. The whole realm responded to the call of the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The kings, princes, and knights of India with their armies assembled on the sacred plain ofKurukshetra. The blind king Dhritarashtra wished to follow the progress of the battle. The sage Vyasa offered to endow him with supernatural sight, but the king refused the boon, for he felt that the sight of the destruction of those near and dear to him would be too much to bear. Thereupon, Vyasa bestowed supernatural sight on Sanjaya, who was to act as reporter to Dhritarashtra. The Gita opens with the question of the blind king to Sanjaya regarding what happened on the battlefield when the two armies faced each other in battle array.
The Bhagavad Gita begins before the start of the climactic battle at Kurukshetra, with the Pandava prince Arjuna becoming filled with doubt on the battlefield. Realizing that his enemies are his own relatives, beloved friends, and revered teachers, he turns to his charioteer and guide, Krishna, for advice.
In summary the main philosophical subject matter of the Bhagavad Gita is the explanation of five basic concepts or "truths":
- Ishvara (The Supreme Controller)
- Jiva (Living beings/the individualized soul)
- Prakrti (Nature/Matter)
- Dharma (Duty in accordance with Divine law)
- Kaala (Time)
Krishna counsels Arjuna on the greater idea of dharma, or universal harmony and duty. He begins with the tenet that the soul (Atman) is eternal and immortal. Any 'death' on the battlefield would involve only the shedding of the body, whereas the soul is permanent. Arjuna's hesitation stems from a lack of accurate understanding of the 'nature of things,' the privileging of the unreal over the real. His fear and hesitance become impediments to the proper balancing of the universal dharmic order. Essentially, Arjuna wishes to abandon the battle, to abstain from action; Krishna warns, however, that without action, the cosmos would fall out of order and truth would be obscured.
In order to clarify his point, Krishna expounds the various Yoga processes and understanding of the true nature of the universe. Krishna describes the yogic paths ofdevotional service, action, meditation and knowledge. Fundamentally, the Bhagavad Gita proposes that true enlightenment comes from growing beyond identification with the temporal ego, the 'False Self', the ephemeral world, so that one identifies with the truth of the immortal self, the absolute soul or Atman. Through detachment from the material sense of ego, the Yogi, or follower of a particular path of Yoga, is able to transcend his/her illusory mortality and attachment to the material world and enter the realm of the Supreme.
Krishna does not propose that the physical world must be forgotten or neglected. Rather, one's life on Earth must be lived in accordance with greater laws and truths, one must embrace one's temporal duties whilst remaining mindful of timeless reality, acting for the sake of service without consideration for the results thereof. Such a life would naturally lead towards stability, happiness and, ultimately, enlightenment.
To demonstrate his divine nature, Krishna grants Arjuna the boon of cosmic vision (albeit temporary) and allows the prince to see his 'Universal Form' (this occurs in the eleventh chapter). He reveals that he is fundamentally both the ultimate essence of Being in the universe and also its material body, called the Vishvarupa ('Universal Form').
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna refers to the war about to take place as 'Dharma Yuddha', meaning a righteous war for the purpose of justice. In Chapter 4, Krishna states that he incarnates in each age (yuga) to establish righteousness in the world.
War as allegory
There are many who regard the story of the Gita as an allegory; Swami Nikhilananda, for example, takes Arjuna as an allegory of Ātman, Krishna as an allegory of Brahman, Arjuna's chariot as the body, etc.
Mahatma Gandhi, in his commentary on the Gita, interpreted the battle as "an allegory in which the battlefield is the soul and Arjuna, man's higher impulses struggling against evil." Swami Vivekananda also said that the first discourse in the Gita related to war can be taken allegorically. Vivekananda further remarks, "this Kurukshetra War is only an allegory. When we sum up its esoteric significance, it means the war which is constantly going on within man between the tendencies of good and evil."
In Sri Aurobindo's view, Krishna was a historical figure, but his significance in the Gita is as a "symbol of the divine dealings with humanity", while Arjuna typifies a "struggling human soul." However, Aurobindo rejects the interpretation that the Gita, and the Mahabharata by extension, is "an allegory of the inner life, and has nothing to do with our outward human life and actions":
|“||...That is a view which the general character and the actual language of the epic does not justify and, if pressed, would turn the straightforward philosophical language of the Gita into a constant, laborious and somewhat puerile mystification....the Gita is written in plain terms and professes to solve the great ethical and spiritual difficulties which the life of man raises, and it will not do to go behind this plain language and thought and wrest them to the service of our fancy. But there is this much of truth in the view, that the setting of the doctrine though not symbolical, is certainly typical...||”|
Overview of chapters
The Gita consists of eighteen chapters in total:
- Arjuna requests Krishna to move his chariot between the two armies. When Arjuna sees his relatives on the opposing army side of the Kurus, he loses morale and decides not to fight.
- After asking Krishna for help, Arjuna is instructed that only the body may be killed, as he was worried if it would become a sin to kill people (including his gurus and relatives), while the eternal self is immortal. Krishna appeals to Arjuna that, as a warrior, he has a duty to uphold the path of dharma through warfare.
- Arjuna asks why he should engage in fighting if knowledge is more important than action. Krishna stresses to Arjuna that performing his duties for the greater good, but without attachment to results, is the appropriate course of action.
- Krishna reveals that he has lived through many births, always teaching Yoga for the protection of the pious and the destruction of the impious and stresses the importance of accepting a guru.
- Arjuna asks Krishna if it is better to forgo action or to act ("renunciation or discipline of action"). Krishna answers that both ways may be beneficent, but that acting in Karma Yoga is superior.
- Krishna describes the correct posture for meditation and the process of how to achieve Samādhi.
- Krishna teaches the path of knowledge (Jnana Yoga).
- Krishna defines the terms brahman, adhyatma, karma, atman, adhibhuta and adhidaiva and explains how one can remember him at the time of death and attain his supreme abode.
- Krishna explains panentheism, "all beings are in me" as a way of remembering him in all circumstances.
- Krishna describes how he is the ultimate source of all material and spiritual worlds. Arjuna accepts Krishna as the Supreme Being, quoting great sages who have also done so.
- On Arjuna's request, Krishna displays his "universal form" (Viśvarūpa), a theophany of a being facing every way and emitting the radiance of a thousand suns, containing all other beings and material in existence.
- Krishna describes the process of devotional service (Bhakti Yoga).
- Krishna describes nature (prakrti), the enjoyer (purusha) and consciousness.
- Krishna explains the three modes (gunas) of material nature.
- Krishna describes a symbolic tree (representing material existence), its roots in the heavens and its foliage on earth. Krishna explains that this tree should be felled with the "axe of detachment", after which one can go beyond to his supreme abode.
- Krishna tells of the human traits of the divine and the demonic natures. He counsels that to attain the supreme destination one must give up lust, anger and greed, discern between right and wrong action by discernment through Buddhi and evidence from scripture and thus act correctly.
- Krishna tells of three divisions of faith and the thoughts, deeds and even eating habits corresponding to the three gunas.
- In conclusion, Krishna asks Arjuna to abandon all forms of dharma and simply surrender unto him. He describes this as the ultimate perfection of life.
Scripture of Yoga
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The Gita addresses the discord between the senses and the intuition of cosmic order. It speaks of the Yoga of equanimity, a detached outlook. The term Yoga covers a wide range of meanings, but in the context of the Bhagavad Gita, describes a unified outlook, serenity of mind, skill in action and the ability to stay attuned to the glory of the Self (Atman) and the Supreme Being (Bhagavan). According to Krishna, the root of all suffering and discord is the agitation of the mind caused by selfish desire. The only way to douse the flame of desire is by simultaneously stilling the mind through self-discipline and engaging oneself in a higher form of activity.
However, abstinence from action is regarded as being just as detrimental as extreme indulgence. According to the Bhagavad Gita, the goal of life is to free the mind and intellect from their complexities and to focus them on the glory of the Self by dedicating one's actions to the divine. This goal can be achieved through the Yogas of meditation, action, devotion and knowledge. In the sixth chapter, Krishna describes the best Yogi as one who constantly meditates upon him – which is understood to mean thinking of either Krishna personally, or the supreme Brahman – with different schools of Hindu thought giving varying points of view.
Krishna summarizes the Yogas through eighteen chapters. Three yogas in particular have been emphasized by commentators:
- Bhakti Yoga or Devotion,
- Karma Yoga or Selfless Action
- Jnana Yoga or Self Transcending Knowledge
While each path differs, their fundamental goal is the same – to realize Brahman (the Divine Essence) as being the ultimate truth upon which our material universe rests, that the body is temporal, and that the Supreme Soul (Paramatman) is infinite. Yoga's aim (moksha) is to escape from the cycle of reincarnation through realization of the ultimate reality. There are three stages to self-realization enunciated from the Bhagavad Gita:
- Brahman – The impersonal universal energy
- Paramatma – The Supreme Soul sitting in the heart of every living entity.
- Bhagavan – God as a personality, with a transcendental form.
Major themes of yoga
The influential commentator Madhusudana Sarasvati (b. circa 1490) divided the Gita's eighteen chapters into three sections, each of six chapters. According to his method of division, the first six chapters deal with Karma Yoga, which is the means to the final goal, and the last six deal with the goal itself, which he says is Knowledge (Jnana). The middle six deal with bhakti. Swami Gambhirananda characterizes Madhusudana Sarasvati's system as a successive approach in which Karma yoga leads to Bhakti yoga, which in turn leads to Jnana yoga.
Karma Yoga is essentially Acting, or doing one's duties in life as per his/her dharma, or duty, without attachment to results – a sort of constant sacrifice of action to the Supreme. It is action done without thought of gain. In a more modern interpretation, it can be viewed as duty bound deeds done without letting the nature of the result affect one's actions. Krishna advocates Nishkam Karma (Selfless Action) as the ideal path to realize the Truth. The very important theme of Karma Yoga is not focused on renouncing the work, but again and again Krishna focuses on what should be the purpose of activity. Krishna mentions in following verses that actions must be performed to please the Supreme otherwise these actions become the cause of material bondage and cause repetition of birth and death in this material world. These concepts are described in the following verses:
- "Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed, otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kuntī, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage."
- "To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction"(2.47)
- "Fixed in yoga, do thy work, O Winner of wealth (Arjuna), abandoning attachment, with an even mind in success and failure, for evenness of mind is called yoga"(2.48)
- "With the body, with the mind, with the intellect, even merely with the senses, the Yogis perform action toward self-purification, having abandoned attachment. He who is disciplined in Yoga, having abandoned the fruit of action, attains steady peace..."
In order to achieve true liberation, it is important to control all mental desires and tendencies to enjoy sense pleasures. The following verses illustrate this:
- "When a man dwells in his mind on the object of sense, attachment to them is produced. From attachment springs desire and from desire comes anger."(2.62)
- "From anger arises bewilderment, from bewilderment loss of memory; and from loss of memory, the destruction of intelligence and from the destruction of intelligence he perishes"(2.63)
According to Catherine Cornille, Associate Professor of Theology at Boston College, "The text [of the Gita] offers a survey of the different possible disciplines for attaining liberation through knowledge (jnana), action (karma) and loving devotion to God (bhakti), focusing on the latter as both the easiest and the highest path to salvation."
In the introduction to Chapter Seven of the Gita, bhakti is summed up as a mode of worship which consists of unceasing and loving remembrance of God. As M. R. Sampatkumaran explains in his overview of Ramanuja's commentary on the Gita, "The point is that mere knowledge of the scriptures cannot lead to final release. Devotion, meditation and worship are essential."
As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita:
- "And of all yogins, he who full of faith worships Me, with his inner self abiding in Me, him, I hold to be the most attuned (to me in Yoga)."
- "After attaining Me, the great souls do not incur rebirth in this miserable transitory world, because they have attained the highest perfection."
- "... those who, renouncing all actions in Me, and regarding Me as the Supreme, worship Me... For those whose thoughts have entered into Me, I am soon the deliverer from the ocean of death and transmigration, Arjuna. Keep your mind on Me alone, your intellect on Me. Thus you shall dwell in Me hereafter."
- "And he who serves Me with the yoga of unswerving devotion, transcending these qualities [binary opposites, like good and evil, pain and pleasure] is ready for liberation in Brahman."
- "Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, offer service to Me, bow down to Me, and you shall certainly reach Me. I promise you because you are My very dear friend."
- "Setting aside all meritorious deeds (Dharma), just surrender completely to My will (with firm faith and loving contemplation). I shall liberate you from all sins. Do not fear."
Jnana Yoga is a process of learning to discriminate between what is real and what is not, what is eternal and what is not. Through a steady advancement in realization of the distinction between Real and the Unreal, the Eternal and the Temporal, one develops into a Jnani. This is essentially a path of knowledge and discrimination in regards to the difference between the immortal soul (atman) and the body.
In the second chapter, Krishna’s counsel begins with a succinct exposition of Jnana Yoga. Krishna argues that there is no reason to lament for those who are about to be killed in battle, because never was there a time when they were not, nor will there be a time when they will cease to be. Krishna explains that the self (atman) of all these warriors is indestructible. Fire cannot burn it, water cannot wet it, and wind cannot dry it. It is this Self that passes from body to another body like a person taking worn out clothing and putting on new ones. Krishna’s counsel is intended to alleviate the anxiety that Arjuna feels seeing a battle between two great armies about to commence. However, Arjuna is not an intellectual. He is a warrior, a man of action, for whom the path of action, Karma Yoga, is more appropriate.
- "When a sensible man ceases to see different identities due to different material bodies and he sees how beings are expanded everywhere, he attains to the Brahman conception."
- "Those who see with eyes of knowledge the difference between the body and the knower of the body, and can also understand the process of liberation from bondage in material nature, attain to the supreme goal."
In Sanskrit editions of the Gita, the Sanskrit text includes a traditional chapter title naming each chapter as a particular form of yoga. These chapter titles do not appear in the Sanskrit text of the Mahabharata. Since there are eighteen chapters, there are therefore eighteen yogas mentioned, as explained in this quotation from Swami Chidbhavananda:
All the eighteen chapters in the Gita are designated, each as a type of yoga. The function of the yoga is to train the body and the mind.... The first chapter in the Gita is designated as system of yoga. It is called Arjuna Vishada Yogam – Yoga of Arjuna's Dejection.
In Sanskrit editions, these eighteen chapter titles all use the word yoga, but in English translations the word yoga may not appear. For example, the Sanskrit title of Chapter 1 as given in Swami Sivananda's bilingual edition is arjunaviṣādayogaḥ which he translates as "The Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna". Swami Tapasyananda's bilingual edition gives the same Sanskrit title, but translates it as "Arjuna's Spiritual Conversion Through Sorrow". The English-only translation by Radhakrishnan gives no Sanskrit, but the chapter title is translated as "The Hesitation and Despondency of Arjuna". Other English translations, such as that by Zaehner, omit these chapter titles entirely.
Swami Sivananda's commentary says that the eighteen chapters have a progressive order to their teachings, by which Krishna "pushed Arjuna up the ladder of Yoga from one rung to another." As Winthrop Sargeant explains, "In the model presented by the Bhagavad Gītā, every aspect of life is in fact a way of salvation."
Message of the Gita
There are 6 arishadvargas, or evils that the Gita says one should avoid: kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobh (greed), moha (deep emotional attachment), mada or ahankar (arrogance) and matsarya (jealousy). These are the negative characteristics which prevent man from attaining moksha (liberation from the birth and death cycle).
The Gita centers on the revelation of Vaishna monotheism, offering the alternative of just war, even against relatives, provided the aggression is in the "active and selfless defence of dharma", to the pacifist Hindu concept of non-violence.
Some commentators have attempted to resolve the apparent conflict between the proscription of violence and ahimsa by allegorical readings. Gandhi, for example, took the position that the text is not concerned with actual warfare so much as with the "battle that goes on within each individual heart". Such allegorical or metaphorical readings are derived from the Theosophical interpretations of Subba Row, William Q. Judge and Annie Besant. Stephen Mitchell has attempted to refute such allegorical readings.
|“||He who does work for Me, he who looks upon Me as his goal, he who worships Me, free from attachment, who is free from enmity to all creatures, he goes to Me, O Pandava.||”|
"I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from me. The Wise who fully realize this engage in my devotional service and worship me with all their hearts." (10.8)
Ramakrishna said that the essential message of the Gita can be obtained by repeating the word several times, "'Gita, Gita, Gita', you begin, but then find yourself saying 'ta-Gi, ta-Gi, ta-Gi'. Tagi means one who has renounced everything for God."
According to Swami Vivekananda, "If one reads this one Shloka — क्लैब्यं मा स्म गमः पार्थ नैतत्त्वय्युपपद्यते । क्षुद्रं हृदयदौर्बल्यं त्यक्त्वोत्तिष्ठ परंतप॥ — one gets all the merits of reading the entire Gita; for in this one Shloka lies imbedded the whole Message of the Gita.
|“||Do not yield to unmanliness, O son of Prithâ. It does not become you. Shake off this base faint-heartnedness and arise, O scorcher of enemies! (2.3)||”|
Mahatma Gandhi writes, "The object of the Gita appears to me to be that of showing the most excellent way to attain self-realization" and this can be achieved by selfless action, "By desireless action; by renouncing fruits of action; by dedicating all activities to God, i.e., by surrendering oneself to Him body and soul." Gandhi called Gita, The Gospel of Selfless Action.
Eknath Easwaran writes that the Gita's subject is "the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious", and "The language of battle is often found in the scriptures, for it conveys the strenuous, long, drawn-out campaign we must wage to free ourselves from the tyranny of the ego, the cause of all our suffering and sorrow".
The Bhagavad Gita's emphasis on selfless service was a prime source of inspiration for Mahatma Gandhi.
J. Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist and director of the Manhattan Project, learnedSanskrit in 1933 and read the Bhagavad Gita in the original, citing it later as one of the most influential books to shape his philosophy of life. Upon witnessing the world's first nuclear test in 1945, he later said he had thought of the quotation "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds", verse 32 from Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita.
In a heterogeneous text, the Gita reconciles facets and schools of Hindu philosophy, including those of Brahmanical (orthodox Vedic) origin and the parallel ascetic and Yogictraditions. It had always been a creative text for Hindu priests and Yogis. Although it is not strictly part of the 'canon' of Vedic writings, almost all Hindu traditions draw upon the Gita as authoritative. For the Vedantic schools of Hindu philosophy, it belongs to one of the three foundational texts Prasthana Trayi (lit. "three points of departure"), the other two being the Upanishads and Brahma Sutras.
Commentaries and translations
Traditionally the commentators belong to spiritual traditions or schools (sampradaya) and Guru lineages (parampara), which claim to preserve teaching stemming either directly from Krishna himself or from other sources, each claiming to be faithful to the original message. In the words of Mysore Hiriyanna, "[The Gita] is one of the hardest books to interpret, which accounts for the numerous commentaries on it – each differing from the rest in an essential point or the other."
Different translators and commentators have widely differing views on what multi-layered Sanskrit words and passages signify, and their presentation in English depending on the sampradaya they are affiliated to. Especially in Western philology, interpretations of particular passages often do not agree with traditional views.
The oldest and most influential medieval commentary was that of the founder of the Vedanta school of extreme 'non-dualism", Shankara (788–820 A. D.), also known as Shankaracharya (Sanskrit: Śaṅkarācārya). Shankara's commentary was based on a recension of the Gita containing 700 verses, and that recension has been widely adopted by others. There is not universal agreement that he was the actual author of the commentary on the Bhagavad Gita that is attributed to him. A key commentary for the "modified non-dualist" school of Vedanta was written by Ramanujacharya (Sanskrit: Rāmānujacharya), who lived in the eleventh century A.D.Ramanujacharya's commentary chiefly seeks to show that the discipline of devotion to God (Bhakti yoga) is the way of salvation. The commentary by Madhva, whose dates are given either as (b. 1199 – d. 1276) or as (b. 1238 – d. 1317), also known as Madhvacharya (Sanskrit: Madhvācārya), exemplifies thinking of the "dualist" school. Madhva's school of dualism asserts that there is, in a quotation provided by Winthrop Sargeant, "an eternal and complete distinction between the Supreme, the many souls, and matter and its divisions." Madhva is also considered to be one of the great commentators reflecting the viewpoint of the Vedanta school.
Other classical commentators include Nimbarka (1162 CE), Vallabha(1479 CE)., Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486 CE), while Dhyaneshwar (1275–1296 CE) translated and commented on the Gita in Marathi, in his book Jñāneshwari or Dhyāneshwari .
In modern times, notable commentaries were written by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi, who used the text to help inspire the Indian independence movement. Tilak wrote his commentary while in jail during the period 1910–1911 serving a six-year sentence imposed by the British colonial government in India for sedition. While noting that the Gita teaches possible paths to liberation, his commentary places most emphasis on Karma yoga. No book was more central to Gandhi's life and thought than the Bhagavadgita, which he referred to as his "spiritual dictionary". During his stay in Yeravda jail in 1929, Gandhi wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita in Gujarati. The Gujarati manuscript was translated into English by Mahadev Desai, who provided an additional introduction and commentary. It was published with a foreword by Gandhi in 1946. Mahatma Gandhi expressed his love for the Gita in these words: "I find a solace in the Bhagavadgītā that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount. When disappointment stares me in the face and all alone I see not one ray of light, I go back to the Bhagavadgītā. I find a verse here and a verse there and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming tragedies – and my life has been full of external tragedies – and if they have left no visible, no indelible scar on me, I owe it all to the teaching of Bhagavadgītā."
Hindu revivalism and Neo-Hindu movements
Dayananda Saraswati (Chinmaya Mission) of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam wrote the most extensive commentary on the Gita, based on 363 lectures he delivered, spanning over 2000 pages. Swami Vivekananda, the follower of SriRamakrishna, was known for his commentaries on the four Yogas – Bhakti, Jnana, Karma and Raja Yoga. He drew from his knowledge of the Gita to expound on these Yogas. Swami Sivananda advises the aspiring Yogi to read verses from the Bhagavad Gita every day. Paramahamsa Yogananda, writer of the famous Autobiography of a Yogi, viewed the Bhagavad Gita as one of the world's most divine scriptures. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, wrote Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is, a commentary on the Gita from one of many perspectives of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. The work became the principal text for the modernHare Krishna movement.
The first English translation of the Bhagavad Gita was done by Charles Wilkins in 1785. In 1981, Larson listed more than 40 English translations of the Gita, stating that "A complete listing of Gita translations and a related secondary bibliography would be nearly endless" (p. 514). He stated that "Overall... there is a massive translational tradition in English, pioneered by the British, solidly grounded philologically by the French and Germans, provided with its indigenous roots by a rich heritage of modern Indian comment and reflection, extended into various disciplinary areas by Americans, and having generated in our time a broadly based cross-cultural awareness of the importance of the Bhagavad Gita both as an expression of a specifically Indian spirituality and as one of the great religious "classics" of all time." (p. 518)
The Gita has also been translated into other European languages. In 1808, passages from the Gita were part of the first direct translation of Sanskrit into German, appearing in a book through which Friedrich Schlegel became known as the founder of Indian philology in Germany.
Philip Glass retold the story of Gandhi's early development as an activist in South Africa through the text of the Gita in the opera Satyagraha. The entire libretto of the opera consists of sayings from the Gita sung in the original Sanskrit. In Douglas Cuomo's Arjuna's dilemma, the philosophical dilemma faced by Arjuna is dramatized in operatic form with a blend of Indian and Western music styles.