Shankara differentiates what might be called ‘ordinary’ or ‘intellectual’ knowledge (j~nAna) from ‘transformative’ knowledge (vij~nAna). The knowledge becomes transforming – i.e. making it efficacious in conveying the status of jIvanmukti – when the gaining of it has been preceded by successful sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti. In his bhAShya on muNDaka upaniShad 2.2.8, he says:
“Wise, discriminatory people (dhIrA) see through vij~nAna; vij~nAna is a special (vishihtena) knowledge (j~nAna), born out of the teaching of shAstra and AchArya (shAstra AchArya upadesha janitam), and received in a specially prepared mind, born (udbhutena) out of total detachment (vairAgya), having control of inner and outer organs (shama and dama), and which is therefore capable of upAsanA to begin with and later of nididhyAsana which together are called meditation (dhyAna). Through such a vij~nAna, wise people realize that the nature of the Atman (Atmatatvam) is non-different from the nature of Brahman (brahmatatvam)…” (Ref. 10)
‘Who am I?’ in communication
Who are we speaking of when we use the words ‘I’ and ‘you’ in writing and speech?
Since we are Advaitins, there are actually three possibilities:
‘I’ could mean Atman/Brahman, if used from the ‘as if’ pAramArthika viewpoint;
‘I’ could mean the reflected Consciousness (chidAbhAsa);
‘I’ could mean the usually understood ‘named person’.
There are very many versions of the Bhagavad Gita in print, although you will have to look to Indian bookstores to obtain most of these. This can be very worthwhile. Not only are they a lot cheaper there but it is not necessarily the case that the best versions are those which are most popular and are therefore available through Amazon.
You really need to look at each of them yourself to decide which ones appeal most. I can make a few general observations but only you know what your priorities are. (It goes without saying, of course, that the Bhagavad Gita is a ‘must read’ for anyone seriously interested in Advaita!) If you want to see original Devanagari, you are restricted in choice. If you want Romanised transliteration, again not all will provide this.
If you want word-by-word translations, only a few give this (see Refs. 1 – 3 below). If you are interested in the Sanskrit – parts of speech and which verses contain which words, you want Ref. 16 (but this contains neither the text nor a commentary).
If you want the most comprehensive, understandable commentary and expense and time are no hindrance, then Ref. 15 is a no-brainer!
Finally, there is the all-Devanagari version with Shankara’s bhAshya (Ref. 18). This is a huge, hardback book, beautifully produced but, of course, totally useless unless you can read Sanskrit very well indeed. I have a spare copy of this and hereby offer to send it to anyone in the UK free of charge (or anyone elsewhere in the world if they pay the postage) in exchange for the following: you agree to be available to provide a literal translation of any (short) text by email from time to time if I need this for my writing. Email me if you are interested in this offer. Continue reading →