Translation Series - Gita Bhashya - Preface

Vidyasankar vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Jul 24 13:44:15 CDT 2002

July 24 2002, Wednesday, 11:45 AM, Pacific Standard Time.
Posted by Vidyasankar

This is the introductory posting for the translation series on the
commentary of Shri Shankara Bhagavatpada on the Bhagavad Gita. The current
plan is to make, on the average, three or four postings per month (one in
approximately every ten days). In each post in this series, I will divide
the text and commentary into convenient units for translation, trying to
keep a logical trend of continuity within each. I will be giving the
Sanskrit original (kindly entered in ITRANS format by Sri Sundaraman V.
Subrahmanian), followed by a translation in English. The goal of this effort
is mainly to study the commentary on the Gita. In the process, I hope to
provide a readable translation for the benefit of other readers.

I had started a translation project a few years earlier, but had to suspend
it for a long time. This is a fresh start, from the very beginning, all over
again. List members may be interested in reading about the background of the
Gita in the following archived post, which relates it to the Mahabharata
epic in which the text is found -

The Bhagavad Gita has eighteen chapters, with approximately seven hundred
verses in all. Shri Shankara Bhagavatpada is the earliest known commentator
on this text. For some of the key verses, he provides introductory comments
of varying lengths, depending on context. I will be following the commentary
closely in the translation of the Gita verses themselves.

As today is Guru Purnima, the first day of the Chaturmasa vrata, which
begins with Vyasa Puja, it is particularly appropriate to begin this series
today. May it proceed to completion without interruptions!

giitaadhyaanam - Invocation to the Gita

                         .. OM ..

 paarthaaya pratibodhitaaM bhagavataa naaraayaNena svayaM
 vyaasena grathitaaM puraaNamuninaa madhyemahaabhaaratam.h .
 advaitaamR^itavarshhiNiiM bhagavatiimashhTaadashaadhyaayiniiM
 amba tvaamanusandadhaami bhagavadgiite bhavedveshhiNiim.h ..

 Taught to the son of Prithu (= Partha = Arjuna) by Lord Narayana himself,
 Written down by Vyasa, the ancient sage, as part of the Mahabharata,
 The Goddess, who showers the nectar of non-duality in eighteen chapters,
 I study you, Mother, Bhagavad Gita, the enemy of transmigratory existence.

 sarvopanishhado gaavo dogdhaa gopaala nandanaH .
 paartho vatsaH sudhiirbhoktaa dugdhaM giitaamR^itaM mahat.h ..

 The cows are all the Upanishads; the milkman is Gopala; the calf, Arjuna,
 of good intellect, drinks the milk, the great nectar called the Gita.

 vasudevasutaM devaM ka.nsachaaNuuramardanam.h .
 devakiiparamaanandaM kR^ishhNaM vande jagad.hgurum.h ..

 I bow to Lord Krishna, the teacher of the world, the son of Vasudeva, the
 delight of Devaki, and the slayer of Kamsa and Chanura.

Notes -
There are many other verses traditionally recited as part of the invocation
to the Gita, but I have picked only two among them. These give an idea of
the important place of the Gita in the Advaita Vedanta tradition, as the
Smriti text that presents the essence of the Upanishads. For the other
invocation verses, please check

shrii gurubhyo namaH - Salutations to the Guru

 naaraayaNa samaarambhaa shaN^karaachaarya madhyamaa .
 asmad aachaarya paryantaa smaryaa guru paramparaa ..

 The lineage of teachers is to be remembered, beginning with Narayana, with
 Shankaracharya in the middle, ending with our own Acharya(s).

 vyaasaM vasiShThanaptaaraM shakteH pautramakalmaSham.h .
 paraasharaatmajaM vande shukataatam taponidhim.h ..

 I bow to Vyasa, the taintless one, the repository of penance
 (tapas), the great-grandson of Vasishtha, the grandson of Shakti,
 the son of Parashara and the father of Shuka.

Notes -
The first verse above succinctly salutes the entire lineage of Gurus. The
second verse above is usually recited as part of the invocation to the
Vishnu Sahasranama, but I have included it here, as it gives the lineage of
the Rishis of the Advaita tradition. The full verse on the guru paramparaa
from Narayana onwards is available at

With these salutations we start this translation series. The commentary by
Shri Shankara Bhagavatpada on the Gita has an introductory chapter, which
gives us a summarized view of all the teachings found in this text and also
to whom these are applicable. There is no commentary on the entire first
chapter of the Gita (called arjuna viShaada yoga), and on the first ten
verses of the second chapter. It seems like the commentator wants to
immediately get to the crux of the teaching imparted in the text, and
therefore, instead of commenting upon what is spoken by Arjuna, he jumps to
the first words spoken by Shri Krishna on the Kurukshetra battlefield.

As the goal is to translate the commentary on the Gita, I will not be
translating the first chapter of the Gita. The introductory chapter of the
commentary will be taken up in the next posting in this series, to be
followed by the introductory comments on verse 2.11.

To be continued ...

>From  Thu Jul 25 09:15:02 2002
Message-Id: <THU.25.JUL.2002.091502.0700.>
Date: Thu, 25 Jul 2002 09:15:02 -0700
Reply-To: venky at
To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
From: "Venkatesh ." <venky at OREKA.COM>
Subject: Weekly page from Hindu Dharma: Buddhism and Indian Society

This week's page from Hindu Dharma (see note at bottom) is "Buddhism and Indian Society" from "Mimamasa - Karmamarga". The original page can be found at

Next week, you will be emailed "Sankara and Non- Vedantic Systems" (from "Mimamasa - Karmamarga")

Best regards

(this email is being sent on an automated basis)

Buddhism and Indian Society
from Mimamasa - Karmamarga, Hindu Dharma

      In my opinion at no time in our history did Buddhism in the fullest sense of that religion have a large following in India. Today a number of Hindus, who are members of the Theosophical Society, celebrate our festivals like other Hindus and conduct marriages in the Hindu way. There are many devotees of Sri Ramakrsna Parmahamsa practising our traditional customs. Sri C. Ramanujacariyar, "Anna" (Sri N. Subramanya Ayyar) and some others are intimately associated with the Ramakrsna Mission but they still adhere to our traditional beliefs.

 When great men make their appearence people are drawn to them for their qualities of compassion and wisdom. In the organisations established after them our sanatana dharma is followed with some changes. But a large number of the devotees of these men still follow the old customs and traditions in their homes.

 Many regard Gandhiji as the founder almost of a new religion (Gandhism), and look upon him as one greater than avataras like Rama and Krsna. But in their private lives few of them practise what he preached- for instance, widow marriage, mixing with members of other castes, and so on. People developed esteem for Gandhiji for his personal life of self-sacrifice, truthfulness, devotion and service to mankind. But applying his ideas in actual life was another matter.

 It was in the same way that the Buddha had earned wide respect for his lofty character and exemplary personal life. "A prince renounces his wife and child in the prime of his youth to free the world from sorrow": the story of Siddhartha, including such accounts, made an impact on people. They were moved by his compassion, sense of detachment and self-sacrifice. But it did not mean that they were ready to follow his teachings. They admired the Buddha for his personal qualities but they continued to subscribe to the varnasrama system and the ancient way of religious life with its sacrifice and other rites. Contrary to what he wished, people did not come forward in large numbers to become monks but continued to remain householders adhering to Vedic practices.

 Emperor Asoka did much to propagate Buddhism; but in society in general the Vedic dharma did not undergo any change. Besides, the emperor himself supported the varnasrama dharma as is evident from his famous edicts. But for the Buddhist bhiksus(monks), all householders followed the Vedic path. Though they were silent on the question of Isvara and other deities, some book written by great Buddhist monks open with hymns to Sarasvati. They also worshipped a number of gods. It is from Tibet that we have obtained many Tantrik works relating to the worship of various deities. If you read the works of Sriharsa, Bilhana and so on in Sanskrit, and Tamil poetical works like that of Ilango Adigal, you will realise that even during times when Buddhism wielded influence in society, Vedic customs and varnasrama were followed by the generality of people.

 Reformists today speak in glowing terms about Vyasa, Sankaracarya, Ramanujacarya and others. But they do not accept the customs and traditions I ask people to follow. Some of them, however, come to see me. Is it not because they feel that there is something good about me, because they have personal regard for me, even though they do not accept my ideas? Similarly, great men have been respected in this country for their personal qualities and blameless life notwithstanding the fact they advocated views that differed slightly from the Vedic tradition or were radically opposed to it. Our people any way had long been steeped in the ancient Vedic religion and its firmly established practices and, until the turn of the century, were reluctant to discard the religion of their forefathers and the vocations followed by them. Such was our people's attitude during the time of the Buddha also. When his doctrines came under attack from Udayanacarya and Kumarilabhatta even the few who had !
first accepted them returned to the Vedic religion.

Hindu Dharma is a translation of two volumes of the well known Tamil Book "Deivatthin Kural", which, in turn, is a book of 6 volumes that contains talks of His Holiness Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Mahaswamiji of Kanchipuram. The entire book is available online at .

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