Commentaries on the Gita
October 08, 2020, 02:03 PM IST
Books of divine knowledge naturally invite several commentaries to be written on them. These commentaries serve to elucidate the eternal edicts they contain. This is just as countries have their respective law books, such as the constitution, etc. In addition, there are commentaries published by lawyers that assist in studying these books. Similarly, commentaries on the scriptures help in bringing forth the gems of knowledge embedded in these holy books. Due to its vast popularity, the Bhagavad Gita has had hundreds of commentaries written on it. Some of the important commentators in history have been Jagadguru Shankaracharya, Jagadguru Ramanujacharya, Jagadguru Madhvacharya, Jagadguru Nimbarkacharya, and Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharya, who were all founders of major Vedantic traditions. In the Shaiva tradition, the renowned philosopher Abhinavgupta wrote a commentary, with a slightly variant rescension, called “Gitarth Samagraha.” The beauty about divine knowledge is that the more it is churned the more nectar it produces, and hence the world has undoubtedly been enriched by these insightful commentaries. Simultaneously, we must be aware that commentaries by the great pontiffs conform to their respective life missions. These great acharyas preached the Absolute Truth according to time, place, and circumstance, always with the aim of wellbeing of humankind. Thus, they maintained a missionary zeal to propagate their favorite ideas, and portray their respective perspectives in all the verses of the Bhagavad Gita. While according full respect to their accomplished works, we should bear in mind that Shree Krishna was not an Advaita vādī (non-dualist), Viśhiṣhṭ advaita vādī (qualified non-dualist), Dwait vādī (dualist), or Dwait advaita vādī (dual non-dualist). He was beyond the polemics of philosophers and so was His message. Thus, we see how the principles of theism, asceticism, dualism, pragmatism, karm, jñana, bhakti, haṭha, sānkhya, etc. are all woven into His teachings. We must therefore be wary of limiting the meaning of the Bhagavad Gita within the perspective of one philosophic tradition, and instead view it as a window to the whole Absolute Truth. This is the manner of thinking of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj, who freely quotes from the works of wisdom of all the famous Indian saints and even Western ones, without getting mired in any one sampradāya (religious tradition) or paramparā (disciplic succession). When he is asked which of the four Vaiṣhṇav sampradāyas does he belong to, he humbly points out that the Absolute Truth is one, and it does not restrict itself to any particular sampradāya. All genuine sampradāyas have begun from God. So if there is only one sampradāya, which is the sampradāya of God, then why should we divide them into four? And if we choose to divide the Truth in this manner, the divisions will only keep multiplying. This is exactly what has happened to the sampradāyas, as each of the four original ones has further divided into branches and sub-branches, all claiming sole ownership over the entire region of the Absolute Truth. This tendency has partitioned the one Sanātan Dharma (Eternal Religion) into numerous sāmpradāyic fragments. As boundaries in the world break down and the flow of information amongst people enhances, the idea that one creed, race, sect, or religion is the sole guardian of the Universal Truth is getting fewer and fewer buyers. Let us align ourselves with this surge of broad-mindedness of the intellect, and permit the shining light of knowledge from the Bhagavad Gita illumine the whole indivisible, untainted Truth. This is, after all, the original pristine purpose of not only the Bhagavad Gita, but all the Vedic scriptures.