Bhagavad Gita (Topic-wise) Part 1

Table of contents- Annexure at the end                                          Part 2


Bhagavad Gita (Gita, in short) has an important place in Advaita Vedanta teaching. It is one of the Trai-Prasthanas, the other two are Upanishads and Brahma-sutra. Trai means three and Prasthana means to go. It is held that to know the truth one must take recourse to the said three scriptures. Upanishad is Sruti (revealed) Prasthana, Gita is Smriti (remembered) Prasthana and Brahma-sutra is logic (Nyay) Prasthana. Brahma-sutra provides the logical foundation for Upanishadic teachings.

Gita is the teaching imparted by Sri Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield of Mahabharata. It was occasioned because Arjuna declined to fight as he was overwhelmed with grief and sorrow by the prospect of fighting his own family members including revered Bhisma and Acharya Drona. The first chapter of Gita is titled Arjuna Vishad (Melancholy of Arjuna). Chapters 2 to 17 are the Vedantic teaching given by Sri Krishna to Arjuna. Gita does not have independent teaching. It is based on the Upanishads. It is said figuratively that the Upanishad is a cow, Gita is the milk and Sri Krishna is the milkman. 18 chapters of Gita are chapters 23 to 40 of Bhisma Parva of Mahabharat. Parva means book. The title Bhisma Parva relates to the period of battle when Bhisma was the commander of the Kaurava army. Bhisma Parva is followed by Drone Parva and so on. Sanjay, the charioteer of Dhritarashtra, blessed by sage Vyasa with divine eyesight narrates the battle scenes to Dhritarashtra. Sri Krishna delivers Gita teachings to Arjun on the first day of the 18-day battle of Mahabharat.

Out of many Upanishads, 10 are considered major ones because Shankaracharya has written commentaries on them. For a common man, it is not possible to read the Upanishads and the commentaries. Therefore, one is advised to read the Gita and follow its teachings to gain spiritual growth while leading a meaningful and purposeful worldly life. It is necessary to get rid of the prevailing mistaken notion that the Gita is meant for sanyasis (monks) and not for those who lead a family (Grihastha) life. In fact, Gita is essentially for those who lead family lives. Another important facet of Gita is that with intent and effort, it is not difficult to understand. 18 chapters are divided into three parts. A part has 6 chapters. Further division is in two manners. Each part bears a name depending on the manner of division and the main theme of the part. In one type of division, karma yoga is chapters 1 to 6, bhakti yoga is chapters 7 to 12, and jnana yoga is chapters 13 to 18. In the second type, chapters 1 to 6 deal with Jiva, chapters 7 to 12 with Isvara, and chapters 13 to 18 deal with the identity of Jiva and Isvara.

A human being finds that there is another entity, a world, besides himself and his life is the interaction between the two entities resulting in dual experiences: joy and sorrow, heat and cold, success and failure, likes and dislikes, and so on. He has two options. To lead a life of dualities or search for stable happiness and overcome suffering. The former is a materialistic life, and the latter is a spiritual life. Scriptures (Shastra) say that God is the third entity which is the source of happiness. Reaching God is freedom from suffering. It is Moksha. Thus, a spiritual life comprises knowledge of a human being (Jiva), the world (Jagat), God (Isvara), and bondage (Bandha) in the form of suffering and freedom (Moksha) from suffering. Bhagavad Gita (BG) is a Moksha Shastra and deals with the five topics and sub-topics. A topic or a sub-topic is not in one place; it is across many chapters. One reason is that a topic has more than one contextual relevance. Another reason is that repetition is a necessity and a quality when a topic is complex. It may be an interesting idea to arrange and discuss all verses relating to a topic in one place. X (Y, Z) denotes verses Y and Z of chapter X.

2 Jiva 2(10 to 12,18),13(20),14(5),15(8 to 10)

A human being is called jiva made up of mind and body and it is a sentient entity. A common person identifies himself with gross body, and for him, ‘I’ means gross body. An intellectually grownup person identifies himself with the mind-body system (MBS), i.e., ‘I’ means MBS. Both the subtle mind and gross body are made of inert matter. A curious mind would like to know the source of sentiency in a jiva and other living beings. Science would say that consciousness has arisen in complex organisms during evolution. But it fails to answer: how matter can give rise to an entirely different and opposite entity, i.e., consciousness. Advaita Vedanta claims that consciousness exists separately and is different from matter. It is pervasive and makes the mind sentient as though it is reflected in the mind. The conscious mind in turn makes the gross body and sense organs conscious. The conscious MBS transacts in the world. A jiva, a conscious MBS, is a combination of consciousness principle and matter principle. A conscious mind has thought of self. Therefore, consciousness is the source of self or ‘I’ thought that arises in the mind when it mixes with reflected consciousness. It follows that consciousness is the original ‘I’. It is Self or Atma and embodied (reflected) consciousness is jiva-atma. MBS is inert and it is only because of consciousness that it functions. It is explained by the metaphor of the sun and its reflections in different pots containing water.  The sun is the consciousness, water in different pots represents the minds of different jivas and different reflections of the sun represent reflected consciousness in the minds of different jivas. As the quality of the sun’s reflection depends on the quality of water, the quality of reflected consciousness depends on the quality of the mind. To avoid confusion, the consciousness that is reflected is called Original Consciousness (OC), and reflected consciousness is RC. Mind is the reflecting medium (RC). Atma, Self, and OC are identical. Whereas OC is the same for all jivas, RC is different for different jivas. It can be extended to other living beings. Whereas Atma is unchanging, mind and body are changing. An ignorant jiva identifies himself with the changing mind and body and consequently suffers. A Jnani identifies himself with Atma and enjoys freedom. Sri Krishna tries to make Arjuna realize that he talks like a wise person, yet he justifies his decision not to fight. He almost ridicules Arjuna and says that he grieves for those who are not to be grieved. A wise person does not grieve for the dead or living because the real nature of Jiva is Atma who does not die. As unchanging Atma, one is immortal, i.e., existed in the past, exists in the present, and will exist in the future. By giving sentiency, Atma sustains MBS. Sri Krishna to Arjuna: think like a wise person and join the battle. The matter principle of a jiva is born out of sattva, rajas, and tamas qualities of nature and the modifications in the matter principle are also constituted of three qualities. Atma though always free is thought by an ignorant person to be bound by the matter principle of three qualities. At death, leaving behind the dead gross body, Atma takes away subtle mind and subtle sense organs like the wind carries away fragrance from their receptacles and assumes a new body, and a new jiva is born. The new jiva enjoys sensory objects through sense organs and the mind blessed by Atma in the new body. Atma is homogeneous, has no parts, and is free of attributes. It is seemingly bound by a body constituted of three qualities. An ignorant person not having a pure mind does not know the indwelling, enjoying, and departing Atma; a wise person knows.


                                                  Table of contents   

Table of Contents                                                                         

 1 Introduction                                                                                                                       2 Jiva                                                                                                                                   3 Jagat                                                                                                                                 4 Isvara                                                                                                                               4-1 Avatara                                                                                                                       4-2 Visvarupa                                                                                                                  4-3 Vibhuties of Isvara- Divine Glory                                                                                 4-4 Viswarupa darshan (Yoga of cosmic vision)                                                                 5 Bandha                                                                                                                             5-1 Introduction                                                                                                                   5-2 Arjuna Vishad                                                                                                             5-3 Ignorance and consequence                                                                                         5-4 Non-discrimination                                                                                                        5-5 Karmi                                                                                                                            5-6 Gunas                                                                                                                         5-7Ajnani                                                                                                                           6 Moksha- Preparation, Jnana, Jnani, and Jnana-Phala                                                  6-1 Preparation                                                                                                                    6-1-1 Preparatory Knowledge                                                                                          6-1-1-1 Precursor to Action                                                                                                6-1-1-2 Three types of Action                                                                                              6-1-1-3 Discrimination                                                                                                        6-1-1-4 Brahma-Loka, Krama-Mukti                                                                                  6-1-1-5 Mind at the time of death                                                                                         6-1-1-6 OM TAT SAT                                                                                                           6-1-1-7 Varna system                                                                                                         6-1-1-8 Yog-bhrasta                                                                                                             6-1-2 Preparatory Actions                                                                                                   6-1-2-1 Meditation                                                                                                               6-1-2-2 Controlling the mind                                                                                             6-1-2-3 Virtues                                                                                                                 6-1-2-4 Daivi Sampati                                                                                                       6-1-2-5 Asuri Sampati                                                                                                       6-1-2-6 Rituals                                                                                                                    6-1-2-7 Self-effort                                                                                                                 6-1-2-8 Karma yoga                                                                                                             6-1-2-9  Isvara-Arpan and Isvara-Prasada                                                                       6-1-2-10 Sanyas and Tyaga                                                                                               6-1-2-11 Dharma and Harmony                                                                                            6-1-2-12 Natural duties (Swadharma)                                                                                6-1-2-13  Devotee of Cosmic-form                                                                                     6-1-2-14 Sacrifices                                                                                                             6-1-2-15 More on preparatory disciplines                                                                         6-1-2-16 Guru                                                                                                                     6-2 Jnana, Jnani, and Jnana-Phala                                                                                     6-2-1 Atma                                                                                                                           6-2-2  Brahm, Para-Prakriti                                                                                                 6-2-3  Six definitions                                                                                                         6-2-4 Jiva and Paramatma                                                                                               6-2-5Jnani                                                                                                                           6-2-6 Action, inaction, non-action                                                                                       6-2-7 Karma yoga vis-a-vis Jnana yoga                                                                          6-2-8 Karma Sanyas                                                                                                             6-2-9 Sagun vs Nirgun                                                                                                       6-2-10 Uprooting world-tree                                                                                                 6-2-11 Two goals                                                                                                                 6-2-12 Gunatita                                                                                                                   6-2-13 Stithiprajna                                                                                                             6-2-14 Nidhidhyasana                                                                                                         6-2-15 Jnana-Phala                                                                                                             6-2-16 Duties of Jnani                                                                                                         6-2-17 Jnani is the greatest devotee                                                                                 6-2-18 Glory of knowledge                                                                                               6-2-19 Glory of Gita Teaching                                                                                         6-2-20 Three-pronged approach                                                                                               7          Summary                                                                                               


2 thoughts on “Bhagavad Gita (Topic-wise) Part 1

  1. Thank you, Bimal, for a great idea. Clearly a lot of work but very worthwhile – I don’t believe I have encountered a Gita version which presents the material by topic (and I have over 30 versions). Introduction very interesting, too.

    Just a couple of minor points. You say that “Advaita Vedanta claims that consciousness exists separately and is different from matter.” This is actually the position of Sankhya philsophy, a dualistic one. And the Gita can certainly be interpreted in a dualistic way (the Bhaktivedanta Parbhupada – dvaita- version sells tens of thousands of copies with each edition, and must now be on at least the 25th edition!)

    The other thing is a request that maybe you could separate your material into more paragraphs? It makes it difficult to read when topics run on into each other.

    Best wishes,

  2. Dear Dennis,
    Your suggestion for more paragraphs is noted. In Sankhya Philosophy, consciousness and matter are of the same order of reality. In Advaita Vedanta, they belong respectively to a higher and lower order of realities. In this sense, consciousness is stated to exist separate from the matter. It may as well be taken as interim stage of teaching. In the final stage, there is consciousness only, and matter is mithya. That will come later.
    Best wishes

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