Is gItA an Upanishad?

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Jun 26 19:31:58 CDT 2000

Vivek Anand Ganesan <v_ganesan at YAHOO.COM> wrote:

>Hello all :
>    Going by the enumeration of the upanishads and
>their classification as shruti as accepted by tradition,
>why is gItA not considered an upanishad even though it
>refers to itself as an upanishad?  Is it just because it
>occurs as part of MahAbhAratam?

We must distinguish between a generic usage of the word
upanishad and the specific meaning of the word as referring
to Sruti. In the concluding verses in the first verse chapter
of upadeSasAhasrI, Sankaracarya refers to his own work as an
"upanishad." This does not make this text Sruti, and no one,
even among the most ardent followers of Sankara, has ever
claimed that upadeSasAhasrI is Sruti. Since everybody views
this text as one written by a human being, no matter how highly
venerated, this text is not given the status of Sruti.

So, what does this mean for the gItA? When it is called an
upanishad, it is in the generic sense, meaning "body of teaching
or doctrine" or "text to be studied". And yes, since the gItA is
part of the mahAbhArata, it is classified as smRti, and not as

> ).  Why is it that ShrI BhagavatpAda chose only the
>Bhagavad gItA to comment on?  The reason I ask is because
>the VaishNava-s claim the text as their own.  So, why would
>ShrI BhagavatpAda who espouses equanimity to various

The sectarian claims for the gItA came later. When Advaitins say,
"tad vaishNavaM padam" to refer to the state of moksha, that does
not make them sectarian Vaishnavas. As you note, even the Kashmiri
Saiva author wrote a commentary on it. This author is Abhinavagupta,
by the way. Others from the Advaita tradition have written
commentaries on or quoted from the various other Gitas.

The Bhagavad Gita is simply the most important text to be taken
into account. In the brahmasUtras, whenever a reference to smRti
comes up, the text quoted most often is the Bhagavad Gita. And it
really serves as the model for most of the other Puranic Gitas too.
If you study Sankara's texts closely, you will notice that he has
a way of being concise and to the point. If the reference is to a
text X, he will not quote texts Y and Z that are similar. If the
reference is to a particular term or concept, he won't wander into
discussions of things that are only peripherally related. He gives
you the essence, without going into other things. So, if he has not
referred to a text, that does not mean that he was unaware of it,
nor does it mean that he did not recognize its validity.

Best wishes,

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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