Gita as the multifaceted text

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Gita as the multifaceted text

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Thu Feb 28, 2013 10:15 am

In Hinduism, three tattvas (or principles) of Satya (Absolute or the ultimate reality) are the co-eternals: Brahman, soul (purusa) and the world of matter or nature (prakrti). The last two (soul and the world of matter) are jointly called Srshti or Samsara (Creation). Thus Satya or Absolute comprises essentially Brahman (God) and Samsara (Creation).

The Gita (or Bhagavad Gita) is one of those rare books which can be characterized in several ways. For example,

(1) Sruti: It is called the Gita-Upanishad (Gitopanishad) because of its elaborate revelation and commentary on Brahman and soul: (Appendix 1).

(2) Scripture: It advocates concepts of morality (Appendix 2), works, and paths to salvation, Gita (Ch. 16, 17, 18).

(3) Itihasa: Gita (Ch. 1) as part of the Mahabharata: (Appendix 3)

(4) Philosophy: Gita as a philosophy:

(a) Samkhya: Gita (Ch. 13, 14) describes the dynamic prakrti (nature or body) as the dominant force in the universe. Realizing that the purusa (soul) is separate from the prakrti leads to liberation (Ch. 2) according to the Samkhya (yoga of Vision or Jnana). Note, both the Buddhism and the Jainism (where the prakrti is considered the dominant force) relate very closely to the Samkhya.
Note: A significant contribution to the Samkhya darshana (philosophy) includes ancient works of Rsi (sage) Kapila.

(b) Yoga: Gita (Ch. 5) indicates that the Yoga and the Samkhya lead basically to the same outcome and that liberation (involving the separation of Purusa from prakri) according to the Yoga is achieved through Yogic methods (e.g. Ch. 6 -- by focusing the citta on God) involving yoga of Action or Karma.
Note: A significant contribution to the Yoga darshana (philosophy) includes ancient works of Rsi (sage) Patanjali.

(c) Purva Mimamsa: Gita (Ch. 3) describes the use of various sacrificial acts.
Note: A significant contribution to the Purva Mimamsa darshana (philosophy) includes ancient works of Rsi (sage) Jaimini.

(d) Vedanta or Uttar Mimamsa: Gita (Ch. 10,11 and 12) describes Brahman to be the supreme power. Note that this is one of the greatest features of the Gita to reconcile at the same place (book) two opposing philosophies on the nature of basic dynamic force (the Vedanta with Brahman and the Samkhya with prakrti).
Note: A significant contribution to the Vedanta darshana (philosophy) includes ancient works of Rsi (sage) Badarayana.

(e) Vaisesika or Atomistic Pluralism: Gita (e.g. Ch. 7.4, 7.5) relates the sentient and the insentient.
Note: A significant contribution to the Vaisesika darshana (philosophy) includes ancient works of Rsi (sage) Kanada.

(f) Nyaya or Logicism: Gita (Ch. 2.49, 18.63, 18.72) puts a great emphasis on logic and reasoning, even in matters of spirituality and religion.
Note: A significant contribution to the Nyaya darshana (philosophy) includes ancient works of Rsi (sage) Gautama.

Reference: Inter-relatedness of Brahmanical philosophies
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APPENDIX 1


(1) Is Gita a Sruti or a Smriti

Sruti texts represent the Veda, meaning literally the knowledge, that arose or evolved in the beginning and have come down over generations in the oral or sruti tradition. Various Srutis (several Vedas and Upanisads) are generally in agreement with the Rig Veda, the most ancient among Hindu texts and having the highest precedence. The knowledge contained in the Sruti texts is quite ancient, but still valid, and therefore considered as timeless (truth) and sanatana (eternal).

Smritis on the other hand are texts that belong to or represent historical events and traditions and generally bear the mark of time. Smritis rank in a lower category than the Srutis in terms of their significance, and Smritis can be overruled whenever they are in conflict with the Srutis.

A few people consider Gita (the Bhagavad Gita) a Smriti because of its setting in the Mahabharata battlefield (Ch. 1) --- (Appendix 3)

On the other hand, vast majority of people consider Gita mainly a Sruti based on its Upanisadic content, as the Gitopanisad (Chs. 2-18).

In any case, labeling the Gita as a Sruti is more appropriate because its contents, Upanisadic in nature, were already known before the battle of Mahabharata. If such were not the case, then Gita’s author (who so ever) would not be able to use them (Gita’s Upanisadic contents) in the battle setting during lecture to Arjuna. This indicates that the Gita, especially the knowledge in it, is quite ancient.

Incidentally, Ch. 4 of the Gita indicates in the beginning that the knowledge in the Gita is very ancient and used to be transmitted in oral tradition, implying that Gita is truly an Upanisad and therefore a Sruti.

(2) Some important points about the age and contents of Gita


Gita (as the Upanisad) started as a sruti (orally transmitted text). Thus, guessing its age on the basis of its writing style is not valid, because its writing style might have changed a number of times before it appeared in its latest written version.

Regarding references to Vedanta, Vedanta sutra and Braham sutra in the Gita (Ch. 13 and 15 etc.), the Vedanta (end of the Veda), Vedanta philosophy, Vedanta sutra (or Braham sutra) were available in their archaic form long before Badarayana because they were in the making for a long time. Badarayana mainly compiled the Braham sutra in the present form. In other words, the present form of Braham sutra etc. (based on Badarayana living more than 2000 yrs. ago) is not the right indicators of the age of Gitra. Gita and Braham sutra are quite old / ancient.

In addition, the elements of Brahm sutra were in making for a long time (even before Badarayana) and were known as such (Braham sutras). Thus the Gita referring to them, especially in relation to the Vedanta, is quite natural, and the cross-referencing between the two (Gita and the Braham sutra) cannot be used to ascertain the age of the Gita. Similarly, several Acharyas (Samkra, Ramanuja et al.) later referring to the Braham Sutra during their commentaries on the Gita, specifically in relation to Vedanta, is quite expected.

Buddhi (not the Buddha) is the basic word in Ch. 2 of the Gita (verses 55 etc.), and buddhi refers to intellect (logic and reasoning) and it has nothing to do with Buddha of Buddhism. Btw Buddha's name itself is derived from buddhi or intellect to which Ch. 2 refers.

The Braham-nirvana (the state of moksha or union in God / Braham), referred to in the Gita verses 2.72 and 5.25 etc., is associated with the Yoga (philosophy and practice) and not related to the Buddhism.

It is helpful if the reader of Gita has some understanding of philosophies of Vedanta, Samkhya, Yoga and Mimamsa (Purva Mimamsa). A familiarity with the Vaisesika and Nyaya can also be useful.

The references to Krishna in the Gita (Chs. 2 - 18) reflect the narrator speaking in the capacity of Brahman (Nirguna and Saguna).

Message in the Bhagavad Gita relates to many things, including moral teachings (Ch. 16) and equality of everyone (Ch. 9 – V. 29, Ch. 16 – V. 15, 16). In addition, the messenger (Krishna) directly represents the message or truth (Ch. 9 – V. 3), speaks in the first person as God (the real source of message, in Ch. 2 through 18) and absolves the sin (Ch. 9 – V. 32, Ch. 18 – V. 66).
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APPENDIX 2


(1) Sin and virtue

One of the important points made in the Gita (chapter 2) is on the concept of paapa (sin) and punya(virtue).
There is enormous confusion among people (including some 'scholars') as to what really is paapa and what is punya, and how to avoid the former (paapa) and how to achieve the latter (punya). There are even religious rituals prescribed by some people to that end.

But Gita gives a simple explanation. It mentions in Ch 2 that forsaking one's dharma (right or required duty) results in paapa (sin) and adhering to one’s dharma leads to punya.

In other words, the outcome of dharma is punya and the outcome of adharma is paapa.

(2) The Bhagavad Gita (Ch. 16) – Vedic Ethics (summary)

Nature of the Good and the Bad


1. Freedom from fear, purity of heart, constancy in sacred learning and contemplation, generosity, self-harmony, adoration, study of the scriptures, austerity, righteousness;
2. Non-violence, truth, freedom from anger, lack of over-attachment, serenity, aversion to fault-finding, sympathy for all beings, peace from greedy cravings, gentleness, modesty, steadiness;
3. Energy, forgiveness, fortitude, purity, a good will, freedom from pride. These are the treasures of the person who is born for heaven.
4. Deceitfulness, insolence and self-conceit, anger and harshness and ignorance - these belong to a person who is born for hell.
5. The virtues of heaven are for liberation (of the soul) but the sins of hell are the chains (captivity) of the soul. Grieve not, Arjuna, for heaven is your final end.
6. There are two natures in this world: the one (good) is of heaven, the other (bad) is of hell. The heavenly nature has been explained; hear now of the evil of hell.
7. Evil persons know not what should be done or what should not be done. Cleanliness or purity (internal and external) is not in them, nor good conduct, nor truth.
8. They say: ‘This world has no truth, no moral foundation, no God. There is no law of creation: what is the cause of birth but lust?’
9. Firm in this belief, these persons of dead souls, of truly little intelligence, undertake their work of evil: they are the enemies of this fair world, working for its destruction.
10. They torture their soul with insatiable desires and full of deceit, insolence, and pride, they hold fast their dark ideas, and they carry on their impure work.
11. Thus they are beset with innumerable cares (worries) which last long, all their life, until death. Their highest aim is sensual (material) enjoyment (fulfillment), and they firmly think that this is all.
12. They are bound by hundreds of vain hopes. Anger and lust is their refuge; and they strive by unjust means to amass wealth for their own cravings.
13. They say: ‘I have gained this today, and I shall attain this desire. This wealth is mine, and that shall also be mine.’
14. They say: ‘I have slain that enemy, and others also shall I slay. I am a lord, I enjoy life, I am successful, powerful and happy.’
15. ‘I am wealthy and of noble birth (class or caste): who else is there like me? I shall pay for religious rituals, I shall make benefactions (charitable contributions), I shall enjoy myself.’ Thus they say in their darkness of delusion.
16. Led astray by many wrong thoughts, entangled in the net of delusion, enchained to the pleasures of their cravings, they fall down into a foul hell.
17. In their haughtiness of vainglory, drunk with the pride of their wealth, they offer their wrong sacrifices for ostentation (public display), against divine law.
18. In their chains of selfishness and arrogance, of violence and anger and lust, these malignant persons hate me (God): they hate me in themselves and in others.
19. In the vast cycles of life and death, because of their bad Karma or actions, I (God) inexorably hurl them down to destruction: these the lowest of human, cruel and evil, whose soul (nature) is hate.
20. Reborn in a lower life, in darkness birth after birth, they come not to me, Arjuna; but they go down the path of hell.
21. Three are the gates to this hell, the death of the soul: the gate of lust, the gate of wrath, and the gate of greed. Let a person shun the three (lust, wrath and greed).
22. When a person is free from these three doors of darkness (lust, wrath and greed), he does what is good for his soul, and then he enters the Path Supreme.
23. But the person who rejects the words of the Scriptures and follows the impulse of desire attains neither his perfection, nor joy, nor the Path Supreme to God.
24. Let the Scriptures (the Gita / Sruti) be therefore your authority as to what is right and what is not right. Know the words of the Scriptures, and do in this life the work to be done.
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APPENDIX 3


Gita in the Mahabharata setting

Gita (Bhagvad Gita or Lord's song, also known as Gitopanisad) is an Upanisad, basically a form of sruti or oral exchange (transfer of knowledge during ancient times) involving a guru (teacher) and his shishya (student). The teacher in this case is Krishna (a charioteer) and the student is Arjuna (a prince and a warrior). Moreover, the setting for this exchange is in the battlefield, in stead of a religious retreat, as Arjuna tries to forsake his duty (fight) by alluding to potential negative consequences to his family (such as a lack of salvation for the dead and a rise of sin etc. in society, as mentioned in Ch. 1) that might result because of his killing the kin in war. Krishna refutes such illogical reasoning by Arjuna by defining the ethics and shedding light on salvation, human body, soul and God. Krishna, in addition to being Arjuna’s charioteer and guru, also represents or speaks in the capacity of Brahman (Saguna and Nirguna). Gita deals with a vast variety of topics and does not just represent a religious or spiritual text alone.

by: Dr. Subhash C. Sharma

Ref.: http://www.geocities.ws/lamberdar/gita.html

Seva Lamberdar

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