[Advaita-l] Bhagavad GIta - 745 Verses

Sunil Bhattacharjya sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Wed Nov 21 19:31:15 CST 2012


Yes, there is no real need to speculate about how there could have been two versions of the Bhagavad Gita. Further no serious scholar ever doubted the genuineness of the 700 verses.

As regards the fetching of the copy of the Bhagavad Gita I read somewhere quite sometime ago that at first Adi Sankaracharya wanted to write a bhshya on the Lalita Trisati and he asked someone to get him a copy of that manuscript but that person got him a copy of the Bhagavad Gita. Adi Sankaracharya thought it to be God's will that he should write a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. Accordinghly he wrote his first bhashya on the Bhagavad Gita. Whether the story is correct or not, it is my personal feeling that he had chosen to write on it first  as he gave special value to  the Bhagavad Gita. 

As regards why Adi Sankaracharya did not write verse by verse commentary of the first chapter and the intial few verses of the second chapter, the reason is  not far to seek. Bhagavad Gita is important for the spiritual knowledge that the Lord imparted to Arjuna and Adi Sankaracharya rightly started his commentary from the time the Lord came in to talk. All the earlier verses can be clubbed together as preamble. Adi Sankaracharya did not write the commentary to show his scholarship. He did  it to make the Lord's message understandable to us.  

As regards the Vakya bhashya of the Kena upanishad nobody seems to be really bothered as to why Adi Sankaracharya  singled out the Kena upanishad for that distinction. Let us hope some serious scholar would do some work on it in future.

Sunil KB

 From: Vidyasankar Sundaresan <svidyasankar at hotmail.com>
To: Advaita List <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> 
Sent: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 3:44 PM
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Bhagavad GIta - 745 Verses


I just don't understand what is the point of all the speculation that you seem to favor so much. One should not talk about manuscripts and how the commentaries came to be written in such a glib fashion. Somewhere along the line of transmission of the mahAbhArata, there has been a divergence in the content of the gItA. That is all. One cannot say for certain whether 45 verses got lost in one stream or were added later in another stream and so one cannot say for certain what is the original version and what is the later version. It is what it is. Nothing much more can be said about it. Such differences in pATha are seen all the time even in Sruti texts. It is no big deal really.

For example, the kANva and the mAdhyandina versions of the bRhadAraNyakopanishat have clear variations between them and Sankara bhagavatpAda is aware of both. No traditional author rushes to judgement about this and nobody claims that only kANva pATha is original or that only mAdhyandina pATha is original.

As for how Adi Sankara wrote the gItA commentary, do you think he relied upon a written manuscript for his source text at all? What is all this about someone fetching him a copy? Don't you think he had to have known the gItA by heart, backwards and forwards, before he even started writing his commentary? What is much more likely is this - whatever version of the gItA was taught to him by his gurus, that was the text he commented upon, period. What this means is simple. The divergence between the 700 verse version and the 745 verse version happened before the time of Sankara bhagavatpAda and he was taught the 700 verse version. Someone fetched him a copy of the 700 verse version, later he discovered the 745 verse version, therefore he wrote another bhAshya on the kenopanishat - all of this guesswork is just completely unnecessary, and in my frank opinion, totally meaningless. Sorry.

For that matter, do you think Sankara bhagavatpAda sat down with a heap of birch bark or cloth and a stylus with a large pot of ink to write his commentaries? Remember, there were no pens or pencils or paper back then. Or did he simply teach his disciples, some of whom made notes that they compiled later on? Or did he call a professional scribe to sit down with him and dicate his bhAshya? We just don't know how the process worked. Perhaps different commentaries came into being in different ways. Perhaps all the above processes may have been in play at different times, depending on whether a scribe was available or not, whether writing materials were available or not, which disciples were with him at the time etc, plus other possibilities that I haven't spelt out. Some of these natural course of events in the life of a teacher like Sankara can easily explain why there is a padabhAshya and a vAkyabhAshya on the kenopanishat. We don't have to add our own
 confusion and speculatio
n into the picture. How can we be sure how the commentaries were first written down so many centuries ago?

Regarding another comment that has been made in this thread: Yes, when introducing verse 2.10, the SAnkarabhAshya makes a collective reference to the verses from 1.2 to 2.9 ("dRshTvA tu pANDavAnIkam" ityArabhya yAvan "na yotsya iti govindam uktvA ..."). However, this does NOT mean that the first verse of the gItA can be excluded from the verse count in the SAnkara bhAshya. Please read the introduction chapter of the bhAshya carefully. It concludes with an explicit reference to the verse beginning with dharmakshetre kurukshetre. So, as far as counting verses are concerned, we can be 100% certain that the one verse spoken by dhRtarAShTra is part of the gItA too, according to the bhAshya.

As such, if at all we can say anything about uncertainty in verse count in the SAnkara bhAshya, it is only this - we don't know exactly how many verses he may have counted between the one beginning "dRShTvA tu pANDavAnIkam" in the first chapter and the one beginning "na yotsya iti" in the second chapter. His single, comprehensive reference to this portion of the text does not give us a number. The rest of the bhAshya, and consequently the verse count that it corresponds to, is firmly set. And as far as I can see, the flow of the bhAshya is continuous. There is no evidence of any gaps in the commentary that may correspond to where one or more of the 45 verses may be accounted for in the source text.

To clarify yet again, this does not mean that I am discounting the validity of the 745 verse version. I'm only saying that Sankara bhagavatpAda was aware only of the generally accepted version of the gItA, which has around 700 verses. Nothing more and nothing less.


> Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2012 12:03:59 -0800
> From: sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
> To: rajaramvenk at gmail.com; advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
> Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Bhagavad GIta - 745 Verses
> I think this is a good observation. Thousand need not necessarily mean only one thousand exactly just like Shata need not mean exactly hundred as everything is God. God is everything and everything belongs to him. I too think that Adi Shankara could have made a general statement about 700 odd verses of the Bhagavad Gita and this could mean 745 verses as well. Vaishampayana told the Bharata to  Janemjaya and he refers to the Bhagavd Gita having 745 verses. It could be that while retelling that to the rishis in Naimisharanya Sauti could as well have omitted 45 verses from the Bhagavad Gita. It could then also be that when Adi Sankaracharya wanted to write a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita he asked someone to fetch him a copy of that and he  was supplied the version of the  Bhagavad Gita with 700 verses at that time. Later on Adi Sankaracharya found the original version. The original Bhagavad Gita has several verses common with the Kena upanishad and
> that may also be the reason why Adi Sankaracharya could have written the additional Vakya-bhashya on the Kena upanishad.
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