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Thread: Bhagavad Gita Based On Sri Adi Shankaracharya's Commentary

  1. #1

    Bhagavad Gita Based On Sri Adi Shankaracharya's Commentary


    Hi Friends,

    This is my attempt to study Bhagavad Gita based on Sri Adi Shankaracharya's commentary. Though I would not go about typing down the entire shankara bhasyam, I will try to bring out the essence as I assimilated form my guru ji's teachings. I hope, sharing it on a public forum can be found useful for one and all.

    Sri Adi Shankaracharya's starts with a short introduction in the first chapter and then he starts explaining from chapter 2 verse 10. I will follow a similar structure. I will not delve deeply into chapter 1.

    The Prayer and the Meaning of Sradha

    Shankaracharya's Prayer verse:

    naaraayaNaH paro.avyaktaat aNdamavyaktasambhavam |
    aNdasyaantastvime lokaaH saptadviipaa cha madinii ||

    नारायणः परोऽव्यक्तात् अण्दमव्यक्तसम्भवम्।
    अण्दस्यान्तस्त्विमे लोकाः सप्तद्वीपा च मदिनी॥

    Narayana is beyond the unmanifest; The cosmic egg is born of the unmanifest. Within the cosmic egg are these worlds, the earth and all the seven islands.

    Sri Adi Shankaracharya starts by remembering Narayana. If we want to assimilate the teachings of Bhagavad Gita, we should be devotees of Sri Krishna. Unless we approach the text with devotion we cannot assimlate the teachings and we will not be able to understand what the teaching is all about. A student should have "sradha".

    Sradha is losely translated as faith, but it really means "srat dadathi iti sradha", srat is sat-nama, another name of Self. Sradha means that the student should have an attitude which allows him to discover the Truth or Self. What is this attitude ?

    1. When I approach a saint or a guru for the teaching, I should have an open mind. Which means I try to see what the guru is saying, rather than jump to my own conclusions.

    2. And when the guru says something that is not clear, we do not "reject" that straight away but enquire into it and find out if it is correct or not.

    When I have such an attitude, I am a good student. Traditionally when a disciple goes to a guru to learn a scripture, its a custom to start their study with a prayer. The objective of the prayer is to invoke sradha in the student and the teacher towards the teaching. Both the student and the teacher respect the teaching and the teacher uses the teaching to reveal some facts to the Student.

    Lets take a simple example to see this point better. A student wanted to know what the moon is and the teacher took him to his window and showed him the moon by saying: "My son, do you see the white thing thats between the two branches of that tree there ? Thats the moon.". The student got it! The teacher was effective in communicating the Truth to the student. And then someone noted this down in a book. Decades later, there were students who were always looking for the moon between those two branches of the tree -- but none of them could see for the obvious reasons.

    The teachings of the scriptures are pointers towards the moon. A guru should be the one who has "seen the Truth" or who had "SAT-DARSHANAM". And so the guru can now communicate the Truth to the Student using the pointers used in the scripture. While the guru explains it, the student should have the proper attitude [Sradha] to see what the guru is pointing towards. If the student simply keeps chanting what the guru told and does not "See" what is pointed to -- the student fails. Thats why Sradha is not blind faith. The aim of the prayer verse is to invoke Sradha.

    The Two LifeStyles

    Sri Adi Shankaracharya starts his introduction by saying that the Creator, God, having created this world, imparted knowledge of the laws corresponding to two kinds of lifestyles : the pravritti marga and the nivritti marga.

    When we buy an electronic equipment we are provided with a manual. This is like that. The lord has provided with the details about the laws or his order as it is. For example, if I put my finger in fire, it burns. That's a law -- which is observable and arrive-able through certain experiments. Here Shankara says that the lord has provided us with two kinds of laws. One category is instructed to prajapathis like marichi etc and the other category he instructed to renunciates like sanaka , sananda etc. These people are like custodians for that knowledge.

    Shankara does not delve into these dharmas in his introduction. As the text unfolds, these lifestyles are explained in greater detail. The purpose in mentioning them is to elaborate the reason for Sri Krishna's Avatara. Again, to understand what an Avatara is, we will have to wait for the text itself to unfold. Shankara says, these two fold dharma, as time progressed, lost its hold amongst the people and Sri Krishna, who is the Lord Himself, took birth in a human body to reestablish this Dharma.

    The way Shankara describes Sri Krishna's taking birth is indeed very interesting, he says:
    "By his own maya, "as if embodied", he was born"

    Come up, O Lions, and shake off the delusion that you are a sheep

  2. #2

    Re: Bhagavad Gita Based On Sri Adi Shankaracharya's Commentary

    Gita Is the Essence of The Vedas:

    Having explained how Sri Krishna "as if" took birth to reestablish the law that is good for the world, Shankara now starts to give a prelude as to what is contained in Bhagavad Gita and why he decided to write a commentary on Bhagavad Gita.

    Shankara says:


    "This gita shastram is the essence of all Vedas, but its meaning is difficult to grasp."

    There are some people who believe that one should study Gita all by themselves without the aid of a guru or without referring to these commentaries by the saints. The above statement of Shankara explains why such an endeavor is likely to not give good results. Even in Shankara's time he felt that the essential teaching of the Gita is not easy to grasp. Obviously its not going to be an easy task for a modern thinker to just pick up the book and gain a true insight without the aid of a commentary or without reaching out to a guru.

    To Grasp the meaning of Bhagavad Gita is not easy, because there is a scope for some confusion: its easy for people to get distracted without the aid of a proper teacher. There is so much confusion because there are lot of scriptural texts and each one has its own way of presenting the Truth!

    Its important to get an authoritative guide that summarizes the whole teaching and provides us exactly with what we need. But there is a problem here as well... Because of the diverse views, everyone tries to mould the meaning of the teachings of Gita to suite their own perspective. Instead of trying to understand what Gita is saying, people tend to get their own meaning out of it. This should not be done because Gita is a summarization of the upanishadic teachings. There are some verses that correspond directly with upanishadic verses and so one needs to be very careful not to give a meaning that would contradict what the upanishads are teaching! Thats why a Shankara is needed to explain to us the real meaning, because one has to make sure that the upanishads, Brahma Sutras and the Gita teachings are in synchronization. When we read some of the modern interpreters we will be able to see how their teachings get contradicted at other places.

    One should have the earnestness to learn what the Gita teaches rather than a tendency to mould what it says to suite our own ideas! When earnestness is lacking one would tend to twist the teachings of Gita to one's own convictions and beliefs - even though such twisting would expose a lot of cracks in the arguments. This twisting is possible because the shastra's being a summarization, bringing out the essence of a much larger work, can be misunderstood or taken out of context.

    Shankara substantiates his claim that the meaning of Gita is not easily graspable, providing some examples.
    Last edited by silence_speaks; 16 August 2013 at 08:13 PM.
    Come up, O Lions, and shake off the delusion that you are a sheep

  3. #3
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    Re: Bhagavad Gita Based On Sri Adi Shankaracharya's Commentary

    hari o
    Quote Originally Posted by silence_speaks View Post
    Hi Friends,

    This is my attempt to study Bhagavad Gita based on Sri Adi Shankaracharya's commentary. Though I would not go about typing down the entire shankara bhasyam, I will try to bring out the essence as I assimilated form my guru ji's teachings.
    I am happy you wish to offer us your understanding and insights that come from your post... May I ask that you consider the following:

    It is said there are 4 indispensible elements to any śāstra. I list 5 below which is more of accounting then any difference of opinion
    • prayojaa - a purpose or aim ( of the śāstra)
    • adhikārī - one competent to learn or study this knowledge; Note that this infers there is an adhikārin possessing authority, entitled to, or fit to teach the student.
    • abhidheya - meaning 'that which is expressed or referred to' i.e. the subject at hand, the subject matter to learn. What are we to learn ?
    • abhidhāna - a name , title ; lexicon - the meaning of the title of the śāstra - in this case , the bhāgavad gītā
    • sambandha - binding together, joining, close connection. But of what? the connection between the title of the śāstra and the subject matter i.e. The title (abhidhāna) and the subject matter (abhidheya).
    Would you care to take a stab at offering these points as it relates to the bhāgavad gītā ? This I think will also bring out more knowledge.

    iti śiva
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva


  4. #4

    Re: Bhagavad Gita Based On Sri Adi Shankaracharya's Commentary

    Dear yajvan,
    Thanks for the inputs.

    Indeed its important to establish the anubandhas for the study of any vedanta text. Here, as I have mentioned, I am following Shankara's Bhasyam. Though I am not following it to the letter, I am following it in spirit and in sufficient detail.

    So, Shankara's whole introduction is for the purpose of establishing the vishaya, prayojana, adhikari and sambandha. This is still in progress as I am describing, so you will have to wait. As you can see we have already discussed the vishaya, which is the two fold dharma here. Shankara says that the subject matter of Gita is not easy to grasp and there are also many wrong ideas prevalent. So he first illustrates these and then establishes what is he ultimate prayojanam [parama prayojanam].

    So this is still coming up,

    Come up, O Lions, and shake off the delusion that you are a sheep

  5. #5

    Thumbs Up Re: Bhagavad Gita Based On Sri Adi Shankaracharya's Commentary

    Dear Gita-vidyarthis


    Sri Shankara writes in the introduction that his purpose in writing a Bhashyam to the Gita is to refute the then existing Bhashyas that project Jnana-Karma Samucchaya as the fundamental principle of the Gita. Sri Shankara typically stood against any kind of such coexistence between the two. In his view Jnana is to Karma as light is to darkness. So how can the Lord incarnate preach such an incongruous doctrine? And yet - the Lord‘s message is most essential to the world - As “He incarnated in a maanusha Bhava to protect Braahmanatvam in the world“ since by protecting Brahmanatva the whole Sanatana Dharma is protected. Hence Sri Shankaracharya has given his Bhashya in terms of Adhikaari Bheda.

    The Axis of Sri Shankara‘s arguments is the Gita verse “Dve Nishtaa puraa proktaa... Jnanayogena Sankhyanaam Karmayogena Yoginaam“.

    Towards the end of the Bhashyam Sri Shankara enters into an extensive debate with the opponents (Purva pakshins) on whether Nitya Karma (like Sandhyavandanam͵ Brahma yajnam͵ Agnihotram) leads one to Moksha. Sri Shankara proves that Nitya karma gives us its results viz. heavenly pleasures but does not lead one to Brahman.

    I have tried to jot a few points from my memory of having read this Bhashyam in the past. Kindly point out/excuse/correct mistakes if any.

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