Ācārya Śankarā’s Preface

Nārāyaṇa is superior to Prakṛti[13]

The world’s ovum, is in Prakṛti’s belly

The ovum capsules the seven worlds

And the earth too with its seven islands.

Bhagavān, He caused the birth of Marīci and other Prajāpatis etc., and set them forth on the Vēdic dharma[14] of pravṛtti[15] Later he created Sanaka – Sanandana etc., and set them forth on the Vēdic dharma of nivṛtti.[16]

It is thus that there are two approaches in the Vēdic dharmas – pravṛtti and nivṛtti. Both are causative factors for the existence of this world. Dharma is the direct cause for progress as well as salvation, of all souls. From the desire for emancipation, came into vogue, the varṇas of brahmaṇa and others and the aśramas[17] of brahmacarya etc.

It continued thus, for a long period of time. Several yugas[18] passed by. Man’s greed grew. Prudence and right knowledge eluded all observances. As a consequence, unrighteousness assumed pompousness and righteousness was enfeebled. Unrighteousness went around in merriness, with its head held high. Nārāyaṇa who adorns the form of Viṣṇu, desired to set the world in order. Desiring thus to protect Vēdic practices as well as brāhmaṇya[19], of his own accord, he incarnated through the parentage of Vasudēva – Dēvaki as their son, Kṛṣṇa.

Protection of brāhmaṇya means protection of Vēdic dharma and thereby, protection of varṇāśrama[20] dharma.

Such a Bhagavān symbolized the six fold qualities of ज्ञान (Jñāna – knowledge), ईश्वरभाव (īśvarabhāva – lordship), शक्ति (śakti – force), बल (bala – strength), वीर्य (vīrya – valour) and तेजस् (tējas – resplendence). He commands over His वैष्णवीमाया (vaiṣṇavīmāyā) who as Mūla Prakṛti (primordial nature) controls the three-fold qualities of satva, rajas and tamas i.e., He is untouched by birth and death. He is the Lord of the entire animate world; the form of pristine knowledge; a form that is eternally unbound. Despite all these, through his mysticism, he seems to assume bodily forms, and appears as One that is born, for the benefaction of the world.

Despite it not being of any utility for Himself, desiring the emancipation of all living beings, he proceeded with the instructing of the Vēdic dharmas of pravṛtti and nivṛtti to Arjuna who was submerged in a vast ocean of sorrow and delusion; this was done so that, when good people listen to it, understand and practice it, such dharma is quickly assimilated by the world.

The dharma which was thus instructed by Kṛṣṇa was strung together, verbatim, into the 700 verses of Gītā, by the omniscient Bhagavān Vyāsa. This Gītā scripture condenses the meaning of all Vēdas. It is not easy to comprehend. Many people have attempted to explain the meaning of its verses, words and sentences. Despite this, as there are several extremely contradictory enumerations in these and it has led to confusion amongst common people. Observing this, I am offering, a concise elucidation, in order to contemplate and arrive at the true meaning of this work.

Briefly, the benefits from such a Gītā scripture, is the complete deliverance from all material bonding in this world to achieve the highest bliss of emancipation. Such emancipation is possible only from a devoted self realisation, that emanates from the dharma in renunciation oriented performance of all actions. In relation to this dharma of Gītā, Bhagavān): ‘स हि धर्मः सुपर्याप्तो ब्रह्मणः पदवेदने – sa hi dharmaḥ suparyāptō brahmaṇaḥ padavēdanē’ (The path of dharma that Gītā propagates suffices to attain emancipation). propagates suffices to attain emancipation). propagates suffices to attain emancipation).

There is another statement there, ‘नैव धर्मी न चाधर्मी नचैव हि शुभाशुभी । यः स्यादेकासने लीनः तूष्णीं किंचिदचिंतयन् – naiva dharmī na cādharmī nacaiva hi śubhāśubhī । yaḥ syādēkāsanē līnaḥ tūṣṇīṁ kin̄cidacintayan,’ (one who is not blemished by righteous – unrighteous, good – bad; not filled with other thoughts but simply immersed and focussed on the spritualism of the self). ‘ज्ञानं संन्यासलक्षणम् – jñānaṁ sann’yāsalakṣaṇam’ (renunciation of the fruits of all actions is the path of true knowledge), is also another saying from the same source.

Here too finally he tells Arjuna ‘सर्वधर्मान् परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज – sarvadharmān parityajya māmēkaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja,’ (renounce all pravṛtti dharmas and surrender exclusively to me).

Progress that results from treading the path of pravṛtti dharma as part of the varṇāśrama system, even if it is solely towards attainment of heaven, can also result in the purification of the mind, when pursued without any desire for fruits and wholly dedicated to Bhagavān knowledge. In such a state, performance of karma leads to the path of knowledge and supports the attainment of mokṣa. With this opinion in mind, Śrī Kṛṣṇa says, ‘ब्रह्मण्याधाय कर्माणि यत चित्त जितेन्द्रियाः । योगिनः कर्म कुर्वन्ति संगं त्यक्त्वात्मऽऽशुद्धये – brahmaṇyādhāya karmāṇi yata citta jitēndriyāḥ । yōginaḥ karma kurvanti saṅgaṁtyaktvātmaऽऽśud’dhayē.’ (Even karmayogis,[21] performing all their karmas by dedicating them to Bhagavān, controlling their sense/ action organs and mind and ridding themselves of any desire for fruits from their karmas, do so for purifying their minds)..

Thus, the two dharmas which lead man to glory along with the highest truth named Vāsudēva who is the form of Parabrahman, is exclusively brought into light by this scripture of Gītā, which shapes a special subject for a special purpose. Therefore, when one understands its purport, all the puruṣārthas[22] are attained with ease. Therefore, my effort here is to elucidate it, for the above purpose.

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[13] primeval nature

[14] righteousness

[15] worldliness

[16] renunciation

[17] The four stages of brahmacarya, gṛhastha, vānaprastha and saṁnyāsa, which were broadly age/ life stage based progressions

[18] Measure of time period; epoch; known as the combination of yugas viz., kali(4.32), dwāpara(8.64), trēta(12.96) and kṛta or satya(17.28) in each time cycle known as yuga cakra (figs in parenthesis are in lakh i.e. hundred thousand years).

[19] The state or rank of a brāhmaṇa, the priestly / learned class

[20] vocational pursuits(āśrama) aligned with varṇa i.e. aptitude, systematisation thereof.

[21] Karma yogis pursue the path of action; Sānkhya yogis pursue the path of knowledge

[22] The fourfold aims namely dharma, artha(weath), kāma(desires) and mokṣa

About Dr. Bannanje Govindacharya