Sankara’s Gita Bhasyam

Recovered from :

Here I will try to give my commentary on the upAdghAta (introduction) of Adi Sankara’s Commentary on the Gita.

Purusha, Avyakta, Brahmanda :

Narayana is beyond the avyakta (undifferentiated) :

vyakta or’ the differentiated’ refers to the matter-energy universe that we see manifested all about us.

The avyakta could refer to the priomordial particle soup, or some as yet unmanifested part of the Universe…. or dark matter or.. such like.

The ‘egg’ (brahmAnDa)  was born of the avyakta.

Our legends tell us that the brahmAnDa burst open at the beginning of creation and this sounds a lot like the big bang!

In this anDa, are all these worlds,  the seven dwIpas (islands or 2 banked land masses), and medinI (the earth)!

Pravritti, Nivritti, Vedokta, Dharma:

That dispenser of fortunes, having created this world and desiring its preservation (stability) created marIci and other prajApatIs at first and He gave them  the vedOkta dharma of pravRtti lakshaNam. Then having created the others Sanaka Sanandana and others he gave them the dharma of nivtti lakshaNam with the attributes of gnyAna and vairAgya. These two vEdOkta dharmas of pravRtti and nivRtti are the cause for the stability of the world.

bhagavan or nArAyaNa created this world with its prajApatis whose duty it was to propagate he human race. So to them he gave the dharma of pravRtti or work.

Just as karma comes from the verb root kR “to do”., dharma comes from the verb root  ”dhR” – meaning “to bear” or “to carry”. dharaNi or mother earth bears the weight if all of us. vastra dhAraNam means wearing clothes.

In modern Hindi dharam is taken to mean religion – so some translators inconveniently translate dharma as religion, which is both limited and misleading in a sanskrit context.

However, some translators use the better word “righteousness” for dharma. yat dhArayEt tat dharma. It is ethics, it is justice, it is charity.. it is all the good that one must do.

veda ukta dharma is the dharma that the vedas teach. The vedas teach two kinds of dharma.. one is towards the circles of work and the other is away from them.  One is leads to karma and the other leads to sanyAsa, to tyAga, to withdrawal. Sri Krishna mentions this in chapter 3.

That Dharma was to be practiced by all brahmanas and other varnas, by all aśramas, because it leads to the progress and welfare of all living beings.  But over a long period of time, as dharma  was dominated by adharma, caused by the feelings of desire which destroyed the knowledge of the wise ones. With the rise of adharma, that Primal Cause, known as nArAyaNa, the omnipresent (viSNu), desiring to restore dharma, to protect the brahmans (those engrossed in contemplating the brahman) as well as brAhmaNatva (spirituality) of the world, became Krishna, the  fraction (ams’a)  (son) of dEvaki by vasudEva.

Over time people neglected both vEdOkta dharmas and by dwApara yuga, the situation was alarming enough for nArAyaNa to become Krishna, in order to resurrect dharma in the society.

This makes me wonder whether dwApara yuga was worse than kaliyuga.. since it merited an avatAr of Sri Krishna’s level.

By the protection of brAhmaNatva (spirituality), vAidIka dharma was protected, and there from, the categories of varnas (4 categories encompassing some 4000 castes (kulas/jathis) ) and As’ramas (4 life stages).

Vivekananda and Gandhiji also believed that the salvation of or country would be through the spiritual strength of our people. Nehru believed in industrialisation as any 20th century prAjApati may have done.

I offer another interpretation also for you. Narayana is antaryami.. your “jivatama=paramatama”. When your mind strays way off course from Dharma, your consciousness enters into your mind as divinity and rescues your mind from chaos and deterioration. It teaches you dharma and helps you to do the right karma in a detached way…

Purusha Lakshanas, Prakruti, 700 verses by Vyasa :

And that dispenser of fortunes, (bhagavAn), who is always endowed with the six attributes of gnyAna (knowledge), ais’warya (wealth and prosperity),  s’akti (competence), bala (strength), vIrya (valour), tEjah (brilliance), who is without birth (aja), who is unchanging, who is the Is’vara (the master according to whose will the world acts), whose own nature (svabhAva) is eternally pure, knowledgeable and free,

having taken under his control (vas’IkRtya), his mAya (illusion), the mUla prakRti (the primordial force), vaiSNavI, whose self is the three guNAs,

by his own mAya was born as if he was one with a body, with an intention to grace the world.

  • To identify an avataar of bhagavAn we need to see how many of the 6 lakshaNAs they possess and to what extent. An avataar like Sri Krishna who possesses all the 6 qualities in their entirety is considered a pUrNa avataar or puruSOttama.
  • In the Devi Bhagavatham, in the story vatapatrasAyi as well as Hayagriva, we are told that Vishnu is under the influence of Devi. But in the Bhagavad Gita, we are taught that it is the puruSa who is in control of prakRti (mAya). Sankaracharya takes the view of the Gita and not that of the Devi Bhagavatham.

Even though there is nothing that he had to gain by it, in order to benefit the world, he taught the dual vaidIka dharmAs to Arjuna, who was drowning in the great ocean of sorrow and illusion, because  a dharma that is accepted and practiced by a man of high qualities (adhika guna),  will attain heights.

  • This is like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who waited for a student like Swami Vivekananda.
  • The dual dharmas as discussed in the earlier sections are pravRtti and nivRtti

That dharma, as taught by bhagavAn, was bound into the seven hundred verses known as the Gita, by the all knowing vEda vyAsa.


Gita : Vyasa or Sri Krishna : Did Ancient Indians talk to each other in poetry?

Why ask such a question?

We read the discussions between Draupadi and Dharmaraja in the Mahabharatam, it does not occur to us for a minute that they talked to each other in poetry. We think they spoke in prose and Vyasa rendered it into poetry so that we would never forget the event!

However when it comes to the Bhagavad Gita, we believe that it is Sri Krishnena kathitam and Vyasena grathitam., ie Sri Krishna spoke the Gita in those exact words and metre and that Vyasa merely recorded it for posterity.

Some gurus say that Gita was a spiritual transmission and that no one waited for such a long time to start fighting. There are those, who say that it was all a later addition. And those who say that some chapters of the Gita that were added later.What do I think?

Certainly Arjuna had his doubts about fighting and certainly Sri Krishna advised him to fight summarising various philosophies and why Karma Yoga was the way to go. Anyone who thinks no one waited for the conversation to end before the war., has not waited on Indian roads for two passing bus/lorry drivers to finish their on-duty conversation before the rest of us can go to work etc.

A conversation between Krishna and Arjuna that might avert the war would be something that both sides would be willing to wait for..

The Gita gives the essence of Veda Artha : meaning of the Vedas :

Then, this gItA s’Astram, which is the proper compilation of  the essence of the entire vedArtha (meaning of the Vedas),

which is difficult to understand,

for the purpose of getting at its meaning,

as a word by word meaning, sentence meaning and nyAya (purport?) has been attempted by many people,

resulting in multiple extremely contradictory interpretations,

I set forth, vivEkatah (using good discrimination),

for the purpose of determining the meaning,

I give a brief explanation.

  • Two very interesting ideas emerge from this statement.
  • One is that the Gita gives the right essence of the meaning of all the Vedas.
  • The second is that before Sankara, many people had attempted the word by word translation of the Gita and had failed to impress him. This is the situation even today. No one takes anyone else’s interpretation of the Gita as the “right” one and every human mind that dwells on it comes up with at least one new interpretation and sometimes several.

This is one of the reasons why I advocate studying the Gita before getting into Vedic studies, though the norm is Vedas first and Vedanta, Vedartha later!

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