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Bhagavat Gita

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Bhagavat Gita

For other uses, see Bhagavad Gita (disambiguation).
"Gita" redirects here. For other uses, see Gita (disambiguation).

The Bhagavad Gita (Sanskrit: श्रीमद् भगवद् गीता, Śrīmad bhagavad gītā) (Sanskrit: [ˈbʱəɡəʋəd̪ ɡiːˈt̪aː]), The Song of the Bhagavan, often referred to as simply the Gita, is a 700-verse scripture that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. This scripture contains a conversation between Pandava prince Arjuna and his guide Lord Krishna on a variety of theological and philosophical issues.

Faced with a fratricidal war, a despondent Arjuna turns to his charioteer Krishna for counsel on the battlefield. Krishna, through the course of the Gita, imparts to Arjuna wisdom, the path to devotion, and the doctrine of selfless action.[1] The Gita upholds the essence and the theological tradition of the Upanishads.[2] However, unlike the rigorous monism of the mukhya, the earlier Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita also integrates dualism and theism.

Numerous commentaries have been written on the Bhagavad Gita with widely differing views on the essentials, beginning with Adi Sankara's commentary on the Gita in the eighth century CE and including Dnyaneshwari. Commentators see the setting of the Gita in a battlefield as an allegory for the ethical and moral struggles of the human life. The Bhagavad Gita's call for selfless action inspired many leaders of the Indian independence movement including Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who referred to the Gita as his "spiritual dictionary".

Composition and significance

The epic Mahabharata is traditionally ascribed to the Sage Ved Vyasa; the Bhagavad Gita, being a part of the Mahabharata, is also ascribed to him.[3] Theories on the date of composition of the Gita vary considerably. Scholars accept dates from fifth century to second century BCE as the probable range. Professor Jeaneane Fowler, in her commentary on the Gita, considers second century BCE to be the likely date of composition.[4] Kashi Nath Upadhyaya, a Gita scholar, on the basis of the estimated dates of Mahabharata, Brahma sutras, and other independent sources, concludes that the Bhagavad Gita was composed between fifth and fourth centuries BCE.[5] It is generally agreed that "Unlike the Vedas, which have to be preserved letter-perfect, the Gita was a popular work whose reciters would inevitably conform to changes in language and style," so the earliest 'surviving' components of this dynamic text are believed to be no older than the earliest 'external' references we have to the Mahabharata epic, which may include an allusion in Panini's fourth century BCE grammar. It is estimated that the Sanskrit text probably reached something of a "final form" by the early Gupta period (about the 4th century CE). The actual dates of composition of the Gita remain unresolved.[3]

Bhagavad Gita comprises 18 chapters (section 25 to 42)[6] in the Bhishma Parva of the epic Mahabharata and consists of 700 verses.[7] Because of differences in recensions, the verses of the Gita may be numbered in the full text of the Mahabharata as chapters 6.25–42 or as chapters 6.23–40.[8] According to the recension of the Gita commented on by Adi Shankara, a prominent philosopher of the Vedanta school, the number of verses is 700, but there is evidence to show that old manuscripts had 745 verses.[9] The verses themselves, using the range and style of Sanskrit Anustup meter (chhandas) with similes and metaphors, are written in a poetic form that is traditionally chanted.[10]

Due to its presence in the Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita is classified as a Smṛiti text or "that which is remembered". Śruti texts, such as the Upanishads, are believed to be revelations of divine origin, whereas Smṛitis are authored recollections of tradition and are therefore fallible. As a Smṛiti, the scriptural authority of the Gita is dependent on the Upanishads (Śruti).[1] However, those branches of Hinduism that give it the status of an Upanishad also consider it to be a Śruti or "revealed text".[11][12] Even though the Bhagavad Gita is in many respects different from the Upanishads in format and content,[1] it is still taken to represent a summary of the Upanishadic teachings and is thus called "the Upanishad of the Upanishads".[13] Advaita Vedanta (monistic conclusion of the Vedas) school of philosophy uses the Bhagavad Gita in conjunction with the Upanishads and Brahma sutras to arrive at its message of non-duality.[14]

Content


Background

In the epic Mahabharata, Sanjaya, counsellor of the Kuru king Dhritarashtra, after returning from the battlefield to announce the death of Bhisma begins recounting the details of the Mahabharata war. Bhagavad Gita forms the content of this recollection.[15] The Gita begins before the start of the climactic Kurukshetra war, where the Pandava prince Arjuna is 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. Responding to Arjuna's confusion and moral dilemma, Krishna explains to Arjuna his duties as a warrior and prince, elaborating on a variety of philosophical concepts.[1]

Characters

  • Arjuna, one of the Pandavas
  • Krishna, Arjuna's charioteer and guru
  • Sanjaya, counsellor of the Kuru king Dhritarashtra
  • Dhritarashtra, Kuru king.

Overview of chapters

The Bhagavad Gita is divided into eighteen chapters.[16] The Sanskrit editions of the Gita name each chapter as a particular form of yoga. However, these chapter titles do not appear in the Sanskrit text of the Mahabharata.[8] Swami Chidbhavananda explains that each of the eighteen chapters is designated as a separate yoga because each chapter, like yoga, "trains the body and the mind". He labels the first chapter "Arjuna Vishada Yogam" or the "Yoga of Arjuna's Dejection".[17] Sir Edwin Arnold translates this chapter as "The Distress of Arjuna" [18]


Gita Dhyanam: (contains 9 verses) The Gita Dhyanam is not a part of the main Bhagavad Gita, but it is commonly published with the Gītā as a prefix. The verses of the Gita Dhyanam (also called Gītā Dhyāna or Dhyāna Ślokas) offer salutations to a variety of sacred scriptures, figures, and entities, characterise the relationship of the Gītā to the Upanishads, and affirm the power of divine assistance.[19] It is a common practice to recite these before reading the Gita.[20][21]
  1. Arjuna–Visada yoga (The Distress of Arjuna [18] contains 46 verses): Arjuna has requested Krishna to move his chariot between the two armies. His growing dejection is described as he fears losing friends and relatives as a consequence of war.[22]
  2. Sankhya yoga (The Book of Doctrines[18] contains 72 verses): After asking Krishna for help, Arjuna is instructed into various subjects such as, Karma yoga, Gyaana yoga, Sankhya yoga, Buddhi yoga and the immortal nature of the soul. This chapter is often considered the summary of the entire Bhagavad Gita.[23]
  3. Karma yoga (Virtue in Work[18] contains 43 verses): Krishna explains how performance of prescribed duties, but without attachment to results, is the appropriate course of action for Arjuna.[24]
  4. Gyaana–Karma-Sanyasa yoga (The Religion of Knowledge[18] contains 42 verses): 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.[25]
  5. Karma–Sanyasa yoga (Religion by Renouncing Fruits of Works[18] contains 29 verses): Arjuna asks Krishna if it is better to forgo action or to act ("renunciation or discipline of action").[26] Krishna answers that both are ways to the same goal,[27] but that acting in Karma yoga is superior.
  6. Dhyan yoga or Atmasanyam yoga (Religion by Self-Restraint[18] contains 47 verses): Krishna describes the Ashtanga yoga. He further elucidates the difficulties of the mind and the techniques by which mastery of the mind might be gained.[28]
  7. Gyaana–ViGyaana yoga (Religion by Discernment[18] contains 30 verses): Krishna describes the absolute reality and its illusory energy Maya.[29]
  8. Aksara–Brahma yoga (Religion by Devotion to the One Supreme God[18] contains 28 verses): This chapter contains eschatology of the Bhagavad Gita. Importance of the last thought before death, differences between material and spiritual worlds, and light and dark paths that a soul takes after death are described.[30]
  9. Raja–Vidya–Raja–Guhya yoga (Religion by the Kingly Knowledge and the Kingly Mystery[18] contains 34 verses): Krishna explains how His eternal energy pervades, creates, preserves, and destroys the entire universe.[31] According to theologian Christopher Southgate, verses of this chapter of the Gita are panentheistic.[32]
  10. Vibhuti–Vistara–yoga (Religion by the Heavenly Perfections[18] contains 42 verses): Krishna is described as the ultimate cause of all material and spiritual existence. Arjuna accepts Krishna as the Supreme Being, quoting great sages who have also done so.[33]
  11. Visvarupa–Darsana yoga (The Manifesting of the One and Manifold[18] contains 55 verses): On Arjuna's request, Krishna displays his "universal form" (Viśvarūpa),[34] a theophany of a being facing every way and emitting the radiance of a thousand suns, containing all other beings and material in existence.
  12. Bhakti yoga (The Religion of Faith[18] contains 20 verses): In this chapter Krishna glorifies the path of devotion to God. Krishna describes the process of devotional service (Bhakti yoga). He also explains different forms of spiritual disciplines.[35]
  13. Ksetra–Ksetrajna Vibhaga yoga (Religion by Separation of Matter and Spirit[18] contains 35 verses): The difference between transient perishable physical body and the immutable eternal soul is described. The difference between individual consciousness and universal consciousness is also made clear.[36]
  14. Gunatraya–Vibhaga yoga (Religion by Separation from the Qualities[18] contains 27 verses): Krishna explains the three modes (gunas) of material nature pertaining to goodness, passion, and nescience. Their causes, characteristics, and influence on a living entity are also described.[37]
  15. Purusottama yoga (Religion by Attaining the Supreme[18] contains 20 verses): Krishna identifies the transcendental characteristics of God such as, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.[38] Krishna also describes a symbolic tree (representing material existence), which has 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.
  16. Daivasura–Sampad–Vibhaga yoga (The Separateness of the Divine and Undivine[18] contains 24 verses): Krishna identifies the human traits of the divine and the demonic natures. He counsels that to attain the supreme destination one must give up lust, anger, greed, and discern between right and wrong action by discernment through Buddhi and evidence from the scriptures.[39]
  17. Sraddhatraya-Vibhaga yoga (Religion by the Threefold Kinds of Faith[18] contains 28 verses): Krishna qualifies the three divisions of faith, thoughts, deeds, and even eating habits corresponding to the three modes (gunas).[40]
  18. Moksha–Sanyasa yoga (Religion by Deliverance and Renunciation[18] contains 78 verses): In this chapter, the conclusions of previous seventeen chapters are summed up. Krishna asks Arjuna to abandon all forms of dharma and simply surrender unto him and describes this as the ultimate perfection of life.[41]

Themes


Dharma

Main article: Dharma

The first reference to dharma in the Bhagavad Gita occurs in its first verse, where Dhritarashtra refers to the Kurukshetra as the 'Field of dharma'. Fowler believes, that dharma in this verse refers to the sanatana dharma or the eternal order and duties which pervades the whole cosmos and is ultimately true and right. Therefore, 'Field of action' implies the field of righteousness, where truth will eventually triumph. However, both Sri Aurobindo, a freedom fighter and philosopher, and Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, a philosopher and the second president of India, see the 'Field of action' as the world (Bhavsagar), which is a "battleground for moral struggle".[42]

Early in the text, responding to Arjuna's despondency, Krishna asks him to follow his swadharma. Swadharma literally means work born out of one's nature and in this verse, is often interpreted as the varna dharma or in the case of Arjuna, the duty of a warrior. Eighteenth chapter of the Gita examines the relationship between Swadharma (Self Observed Duties) and swabhava (Character) or essential nature. In this chapter, the swadharma of an individual is linked with the guṇas (Qualities or attributes) or tendencies arising out of one's swabhava. The idea that an individual's dharma was based on their essential nature allowed Aurobindo to deduce his doctrine that "the functions of a man ought to be determined by his natural turn, gift, and capacities". Gandhi found in the concept of swadharma (your own duties or religion), the basis for his idea of swadeshi. To him, swadeshi was "swadharma applied to one's immediate environment".[43]

Moksha: Liberation

Main article: Moksha

Liberation or moksha in Vedanta philosophy is not something that can be acquired or reached. Ātman (Soul), the goal of moksha, is something that is always present as the essence of the self, and can be revealed by deep intuitive knowledge. While the Upanishads largely uphold such a monistic viewpoint of liberation, the Bhagavad Gita also accommodates the dualistic and theistic aspects of moksha. The Gita, while occasionally hinting at impersonal Brahman as the goal, revolves around the relationship between the Self and a personal God or Saguna Brahman. A synthesis of knowledge, devotion, and desireless action is given as a prescription for Arjuna's despondence; the same combination is suggested as a way to moksha.[44] Winthrop Sargeant further explains, "In the model presented by the Bhagavad Gītā, every aspect of life is in fact a way of salvation."[45]

Allegory of war

Unlike any other religious scripture, the Bhagavad Gita broadcasts its message in the centre of the battlefield.[46] The choice of such an unholy ambience for the delivery of a philosophical discourse has been an enigma to many commentators. 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",[47] 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."[48] Swami Nikhilananda, takes Arjuna as an allegory of Ātman, Krishna as an allegory of Brahman, Arjuna's chariot as the body, and Dhritarashtra as the ignorance filled mind.[49] Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, in his commentary on the Gita,[50] interprets the battle as "an allegory in which the battlefield is the soul and Arjuna, man's higher impulses struggling against evil".[51]

Swami Vivekananda also emphasised that the first discourse in the Gita related to the war could be taken allegorically.[52] Vivekananda further remarked, "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."[53] In Aurobindo's view, Krishna was a historical figure, but his significance in the Gita is as a "symbol of the divine dealings with humanity",[54] while Arjuna typifies a "struggling human soul".[55] However, Aurobindo rejected 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":[55]

According to Vivekananda, "If one reads this one Shloka, one gets all the merits of reading the entire Gita; for in this one Shloka lies imbedded the whole Message of the Gita."[56]

Swami Krishnananda regards the characters and the circumstances depicted in the Bhagavad Gita as symbolic of various moods, vicissitudes, and facets of human life.[57] He highlights the universal applicability of the Gita to human life by saying that "It is not the story of some people that lived sometime ago but a characterisation of all people that may live at any time in the history of the world."[58] Swami Chinmayananda writes, "Here in the Bhagavad Gita, we find a practical handbook of instruction on how best we can re-organise our inner ways of thinking, feeling, and acting in our everyday life and draw from ourselves a larger gush of productivity to enrich the life around us, and to emblazon the subjective life within us."[59]

Yoga

Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita refers to the skill of union with the ultimate reality or the Absolute.[60] In his commentary, Zaehner says that the root meaning of yoga is "yoking" or "preparation"; he proposes the basic meaning "spiritual exercise", which conveys the various nuances in the best way.[61] Sivananda's commentary regards the eighteen chapters of the Bhagavad Gita as having a progressive order, by which Krishna leads "Arjuna up the ladder of Yoga from one rung to another."[62] The influential commentator Madhusudana Sarasvati divided the Gita's eighteen chapters into three sections of six chapters each. Swami Gambhirananda characterises Madhusudana Sarasvati's system as a successive approach in which Karma yoga leads to Bhakti yoga, which in turn leads to Gyaana yoga:[63][64]

  • Chapters 1–6 = Karma yoga, the means to the final goal
  • Chapters 7–12 = Bhakti yoga or devotion
  • Chapters 13–18 = Gyaana yoga or knowledge, the goal itself

Karma yoga

Main article: Karma yoga

According to Fowler, since it is impossible for living beings to avoid action all together, the Bhagavad Gita therefore offers a practical approach to liberation in the form of Karma yoga. The path of Karma yoga upholds the necessity of action. However, this action is to be undertaken without any attachment to the work or desire for results. Bhagavad Gita terms this "inaction in action and action in inaction (4.18)". The concept of such detached action is also called Nishkam Karma, a term not used in the Gita.[65] Krishna, in the following verses, elaborates on the role actions, performed without desire and attachment, play in attaining freedom from material bondage and transmigration:

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

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. (2.47-8)[66]

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. (5.11)[67]

Mohandas Karamchand 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.[68] 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:[69]

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.

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. (2.62-3)[69]

Bhakti yoga

Main article: Bhakti yoga

The introduction to chapter seven of the Bhagavad Gita explains bhakti as a mode of worship which consists of unceasing and loving remembrance of God. Faith (Śraddhā) and total surrender to a chosen God (Ishta-deva) are considered to be important aspects of bhakti.[70] Theologian Catherine Cornille writes, "The text [of the Gita] offers a survey of the different possible disciplines for attaining liberation through knowledge (Gyaana), action (karma), and loving devotion to God (bhakti), focusing on the latter as both the easiest and the highest path to salvation."[71] M. R. Sampatkumaran, a Bhagavad Gita scholar, 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."[72] Ramakrishna believed that the essential message of the Gita could be obtained by repeating the word Gita several times,[73] "'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." In the following verses, Krishna elucidates the importance of bhakti:

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). (6.47)[74]
... 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. (12.6)[75]

Radhakrishnan writes that the verse 11.55 is "the essence of bhakti" and the "substance of the whole teaching of the Gita":[76]

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.

Gyaana yoga

Main article: Gyaana yoga

Gyaana yoga is the path of wisdom, knowledge, and direct experience of Brahman as the ultimate reality. The path renounces both desires and actions, and is therefore depicted as being steep and very difficult in the Bhagavad Gita. This path is often associated with the non-dualistic Vedantic belief of the identity of the Ātman with the Brahman. For the followers of this path, the realisation of the identity of Ātman and Brahman is held as the key to liberation.[77]

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. (13.31)[78]
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. (13.35)[79]

Influence

Main article: Influence of Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita has been highly praised not only by prominent Indians such as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi but also by Aldous Huxley, Henry David Thoreau, Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer,[80] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Carl Jung, and Herman Hesse.[13][81] The Gita's emphasis on selfless service was a prime source of inspiration for Gandhi,[68] who said "When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-Gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. My life has been full of external tragedies and if they have not left any visible or invisible effect on me, I owe it to the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita."[82]

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, commented on the Gita, "The Bhagavad-Gita deals essentially with the spiritual foundation of human existence. It is a call of action to meet the obligations and duties of life; yet keeping in view the spiritual nature and grander purpose of the universe."[83]

J. Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist and director of the Manhattan Project, learned Sanskrit 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.[80][84]

A 2006 report suggests that the Gita is replacing the influence of The Art of War (ascendant in the 1980s and 1990s) in the Western business community.[85]

Commentaries

Classical commentaries

Bhagavad Gita integrates various schools of thought like Vedanta, Samkhya, Yoga, and other theistic schools. Therefore, it remains a popular text for commentators belonging to various philosophical schools. However, its composite nature also leads to varying interpretations of the text. 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 one essential point or the other."[86]

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. The oldest and most influential medieval commentary was that of the founder of the Vedanta school[87] of extreme "non-dualism", Adi Shankara (788–820 A. D.),[88] also known as Shankaracharya (Sanskrit: Śaṅkarācārya).[89] Shankara's commentary was based on a recension of the Gita containing 700 verses, and that recension has been widely adopted by others.[90] Ramanujacharya's commentary chiefly seeks to show that the discipline of devotion to God (Bhakti yoga) is the way of salvation.[91] Madhva, a commentator of the Vedanta school,[92] whose dates are given either as (1199–1276 CE)[93] or as (1238–1317 CE),[45] also known as Madhvacharya (Sanskrit: Madhvācārya), wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, which exemplifies the thinking of the "dualist" school.[89] Winthrop Sargeant quotes a dualistic assertion of the Madhva's school that there is "an eternal and complete distinction between the Supreme, the many souls, and matter and its divisions".[45] His commentary on the Gita is called Gita Bhāshya. It has been annotated on by many ancient pontiffs of Dvaita Vedanta school like Padmanabha Tirtha, Jayatirtha, and Raghavendra Tirtha.[94]

In the Shaiva tradition,[95] the renowned philosopher Abhinavagupta (10–11th century CE) has written a commentary on a slightly variant recension called Gitartha-Samgraha. Other classical commentators include Nimbarka (1162 CE), Vidyadhiraja Tirtha, Vallabha(1479 CE)., Madhusudana Saraswati, Raghavendra Tirtha, Vanamali Mishra, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486 CE),[96] while Dnyaneshwar (1275–1296 CE) translated and commented on the Gita in Marathi, in his book Dnyaneshwari.[97]

Independence movement

At a time when Indian nationalists were seeking an indigenous basis for social and political action, Bhagavad Gita provided them with a rationale for their activism and fight against injustice.[98] Among nationalists, notable commentaries were written by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi, who used the text to help inspire the Indian independence movement.[99][100] 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.[101] While noting that the Gita teaches possible paths to liberation, his commentary places most emphasis on Karma yoga.[102] No book was more central to Gandhi's life and thought than the Bhagavadgita, which he referred to as his "spiritual dictionary".[103] During his stay in Yeravda jail in 1929,[103] 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.[104][105] 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."[106][107]

Other modern commentaries

Among notable modern commentators of the Bhagavad Gita are Aurobindo, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and Chinmayananda who took a syncretistic approach to the text.[108][109]

Paramahansa Yogananda's two volume commentary on the Bhagavad Gita called God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita was released 1995. Exploring the Gita’s psychological, spiritual, and metaphysical depths, Yogananda reveals the innermost essence of this majestic scripture while presenting an enlightening and deeply encouraging guide to who we are, why we were created, and our place and purpose in the vast cosmic scheme of things.[110]

Eknath Easwaran has also written a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. It examines the applicability of the principles of Gita, to the problems of modern life.[111]

Other notable commentators include Jeaneane Fowler, Ithamar Theodor, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.[112][113][114]

Hindu revivalism and Neo-Hindu movements


Although Vivekananda did not write any commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, his works contained numerous references to the Gita, such as his lectures on the four yogas – Bhakti, Gyaana, Karma, and Raja.[115] Through the message of the Gita, Vivekananda sought to energise the people of India to claim their own dormant but strong identity.[116] Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay thought that the answer to the problems that beset Hindu society was a revival of Hinduism in its purity, which lay in the reinterpretation of Bhagavad Gita for a new India.[117] Aurobindo saw Bhagavad Gita as a "scripture of the future religion" and suggested that Hinduism had acquired a much wider relevance through the Gita.[118] Sivananda called Bhagavad Gita "the most precious jewel of Hindu literature" and suggested its introduction into the curriculum of Indian schools and colleges.[119] In the lectures Chinmayananda gave, on tours undertaken to revive of moral and spiritual values of the Hindus, he borrowed the concept of Gyaana yajna, or the worship to invoke divine wisdom, from the Gita.[120] He viewed the Gita as a universal scripture to turn a person from a state of agitation and confusion to a state of complete vision, inner contentment, and dynamic action. Teachings of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a Gaudiya Vasihnava religious organisation which spread rapidly in North America in 1970s and 1980s, are based on a translation of the Gita called Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is.[121]

Scholarly translations

The first English translation of the Bhagavad Gita was done by Charles Wilkins in 1785.[122][123] 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"[124]: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."[124]:518 Sanskrit scholar Barbara Stoler Miller produced a translation in 1986 intended to emphasize the poem's influence and current context within English Literature, especially the works of T.S. Eliot, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.[125] The translation was praised by scholars as well as literary critics[126] and became one of most continually popular translations to date.[127]

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.[128] Swami Rambhadracharya released the first Braille version of the scripture, with the original Sanskrit text and a Hindi commentary, on 30 November 2007.[129] The former Turkish Scholar-Politician, Bulent Ecevit translated several Sanskrit scriptures including the Gita into Turkish language. Mahavidwan R. Raghava Iyengar translated the Gita in Tamil in sandam metre poetic form. [130]

Adaptations

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 (1979). The entire libretto of the opera consists of sayings from the Gita sung in the original Sanskrit.[131] In Douglas Cuomo's Arjuna's dilemma, the philosophical dilemma faced by Arjuna is dramatised in operatic form with a blend of Indian and Western music styles.[132] The 1993 Sanskrit film, Bhagavad Gita, directed by G. V. Iyer won the 1993 National Film Award for Best Film.[133][134]

See also

References

Citations

Sources

External links

  • DMOZ

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