The first time I heard about Swami Tyagishanandaji was from an old neighbor who was living not far from my home. This was long before I joined the Ramakrishna Mission. This old gentleman had retired from I.C.S. and was a former student of the Vivekodayam School at Trichur, in the 1920s, when Krishna Menon (who later became Swami Tyagishananda of the Ramakrishna Order) was the headmaster. This gentleman was never tired of praising the great Swami's Sanskrit scholarship and saintly character. (The late Swami Chinmayananda also was a student of this same school at about the same time).
The book before us is the compilation of classes by Swami Tyagishananda, an illustrious monk of the Ramakrishna Order, belonging to an older generation. It is the result of much painstaking labour and diligence on the part of Swami Sukhatmananda who prepared the manuscript as a mark of indebtedness and as a token of respect for the great Swami - an act of fulfillment of Rishi-Rina or the acknowledgment of our debt to the ancient line of spiritual teachers. In the process he has done a valuable service to all serious students of the great spiritual classic, Bhagavad Gita.
There are many translations of the Bhagavad Gita and there are any number of interpretations, both modern and traditional, of its philosophy, teachings, and spiritual ideas. The present work does not fit into any of these categories.
Swami Tyagishanandaji (Krishna Menon, as he was known during his pre-monastic days) influenced a large number of monks during his initial years in Trichur where he founded the Sri Ramakrishna Gurukulam in 1927, for the backward community living in a village about five miles away from Trichur town. This later developed into a full-fledged branch of the Ramakrishna Order. After taking charge of the Bangalore Ashrama in 1938 during a very difficult time in the history of that Ashrama, he steadily built up the Ashrama as an ideal spiritual institution. During the thirteen years of his ministry as the head of Bangalore Ashrama he was widely recognized to be one of the pre-eminent th spiritual and intellectual figures of the city. He was an unusual combination of to scholar, saint and teacher. Swami Tyagishananda bore his scholarship lightly, but a brief conversation with him was enough for any serious student of Indian philosophy and traditional scriptures to get a glimpse of the vast scholarship which could not be concealed by his sweet simplicity and asceticism. Many young men were inspired by his scholarship and spiritual personality and several of them joined the Ashrama as Brahmacharins. He molded them to into ideal monks of the Ramakrishna Order. He is still remembered for his th scholarly exposition of scriptures in his regular classes. His exposition of the Narada Bhaktisutras is considered to be the most authentic interpretation of Nerada’s philosophy of Bhatia in English.
It is said that the work of a saint will not go in vain. His greatness may not always be understood or appreciated when he is alive. Swami Tyagishanandaji may not have ever imagined that his class lectures, often delivered to small in groups of monastics in Bangalore Ashrama, would ever he published as a book.
The author quotes extensively from philosophical schools and commentaries try of not only Sri Sankaracharya but also of Ramanuja, Madhya, Vallabha, and urn Western philosophers, the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, besides the religious of scriptures of other faith systems such as the Bible, Koran and so on. But here consistently interprets his views in accord with the central teachings of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.
Swami Tyagishananda was essentially an Advaitin and had great admiration be for Sri Sankaracharya, though he did not hesitate to express his disagreement in hi certain contexts. But still, there are certainly some areas in which many other en traditional scholars may find it hard to fully endorse the author's views. For it example, while explaining an important point in Sankara's Advaita philosophy under the sub-heading 'Becoming a Sannyasin is a preliminary stage of realization: (According to Sankara: p.257)' the author observes: Sankara finds difficulty in reconciling this very plain statement with his own doctrine of Sannyasa which emphasizes giving up of work.' (p.257, ref: BG: VI.1)
It should be kept in mind that Sankara uses the word 'Karma' only in its is very limited sense in which the Mimamsakas were using that word, i.e., in reference to the various rites laid down in the Srutis and Smritis, unless specifically mentioned otherwise. This was so because he was, at that time, us debating mainly with the Mimamsakas on this very subject. So, when he says of lie, an yip it his: he of lot am I all) k. is ha, pus he Sri on in tar or by of do of it’s in sis tee, yes
that Sannyasa means giving up work (Karma) what he means is that a Sannyasi totally gives up all the Srauta and Smarta Karmas which were mostly Kamya-Karmas or rites normally performed everyday by householders and which are part of the forty Samskaras, i.e. Soma-yajnas, havir-yajnas which also include nitya-Karmas and Naimittika-Karmas. When the Mimamsakas under the leadership of Kumarila Bhatta and Prabhakara defeated the Buddhists around the fifth or sixth century A.D., Jaimini's interpretation of vaidika-karma came to be universally accepted as the meaning of the word 'Karma'. Karma-yoga in the broader sense of that word as expounded by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita some 4000 years earlier was almost forgotten. This was the situation even when Buddha had to preach against the ritualism of the Mimamsakas in sixth century B.C.
The Mimamsakas propagated only the ritualism of the Vedas. So far as they were concerned, the central theme of the entire Vedic literature consisted of the injunctions for performing Yajnas, yagas and so on. Shankara's immediate task was to refute this doctrine and rescue the spiritual philosophy of the Vedic tradition by building a compact spiritual and philosophical system which upholds spiritual realization and liberation as the ultimate goal of the Vedic way of life, without totally rejecting the place of rituals for those who are not yet ready for the highest liberation. For that was the need of the hour. So, when we talk about Sankara's concept of Karma we should never forget this historical perspective. It was left to Swami Vivekananda in the 19th century A.D. to bring back the concept of 'Karma' to its original universal implication in which Lord Krishna used it in about 3000 B.C. In short, the view that interprets Sankara as emphasizing that a Sannyasi should give up all Karmas, both Smarta-Srauta rites as well as all secular activities is not an accurate observation.
But in an important book like this these minor aberrations do not in any way reduce its value or importance.
It is impossible to read a book of this kind with an unprejudiced mind without being struck by the profound scholarship, clarity of expression, impartiality of judgement and sheer authenticity of the author's conviction. It enables us to understand the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita with a special focus on certain important fundamental tenets of the text.
In the light of what we are witnessing today, with the proliferation of superficial and non-authentic interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita, artificially linking the great spiritual classic to subjects like marketing technology and
The Gita contains 18 Chapters and consists of Chapters 25 to 43 of the *1b41-14, although the' itself begins from the thirteenth chapter. As the text has come down to us it is in the words of Sauti, but it purports to be narrated as it was first given to Janamejaya by Vaishampayana, who simply narrates as he heard it from Vyasa. Vyasa presents the text as narrated by Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra. So the Gita, as it stands purports to be the words of Sanjaya as he reports the various incidents of the battlefield. Most probably the actual wording in which the teaching is conveyed might have been only that of either Sanjaya or Vyasa or even of the subsequent narrators, Vaishampayana or Swill. Only the ideas belong to Krishna, the form and language being that of the poet or bard. That is why in the first shloka of the Gita invocation it is only said व्यासेन ' thereby showing that even according to tradition the 'VW or text is in Vyasa's words although the ideas are traditionally accepted as what was actually given to Arjuna directly by Bhagavan himself as suggested by the First line- पार्थाय प्रतिबोधितां भगवता नारायणेन स्वयं
The present authorized version of the Gita coming down from the time of Sankaracharya and accepted by the later acharyas as authoritative consists only of 700 verses. Vide Sankara's words in the गीताभाष्यः - 'सप्तभिः श्लोकशतैः उपनिबबंधा Fhese words also show that even Sankara thought that the 700' shlokas are the composition of the rishi. Among these 700, one is by Dhritarashtra, 40 by Sanjaya, 84 by Arjuna and 575 by Krishna. At the beginning of the fourth Chapter in the Gita, the statement that the original teaching of Krishna was lost by lapse of time may perhaps indicate that the present text, took its shape only after a long period had elapsed from the date of its original composition by Vyasa. As Vyasa, Krishna, Dhritarashtra and Arjuna are all Vedic figures and as the Vedic language is far different from the language of the present text it is quite possible that the present version is a modernized version of an older text which might have been in the Vedic language and this representation in the language of a later day might have been, due to the desire to make it intelligible to the masses. Even the present language seems to be pre-Paninian, as many grammatical forms are against Panini's rules and therefore it may be safe to take even the present text as older than Panini.
In any case it must be earlier than Buddha as in his time Sanskrit had already become a dead language, and as it is likely that some reference could have been found in the text to Buddhism if it were a post-Buddhistic presentation. Even among the later commentators we find differences in readings and some have some additional shlokas alSo which are not found in Sankara. The ideas in relation to the context must be taken as more important, and the teaching should be understood more in the light of the fact, of its having removed Arjuna's dejection on the battlefield on account of his attachment to his kith and kin and made him do his swadharma. without caring for results. 'Many are of opinion', says Sw. Vivekananda in C.W V.247 (4), 'that the Gita was not written at the time of M.bh. but was subsequently added to it. This is not correct. The special teachings of the Gita are to be found in every part of the M.bh., and if the Gita is to be expunged as forming no part of it, every other part of it which embodies the same teachings should be similarly treated. Such similarity in doctrine may be found in
1) Devotion to Vasudeva.
2) The idea of the worship of the other deities amounting to worship of Vasudeva.
3) Devotees being of four kinds.
4) Devotees must perform their duties and keep going the cycle of yagya)
5)Acceptance of a twenty-sixth tattvam i.e. God over and above the 25 categories of Sankhya and the doctrine that release comes only after the realization of this twenty-sixth principle.
6) The mention of the two old paths, Sankhya and Yoga and their synthesis.
7) The superiority of Karma to AKarma)
8) The doctrine that human beings and 747 were created at the same time.
9) No sin in doing swadharma.
10) The description of Creation.
12) Diversity of world phenomena due to triguna etc. This similarity of the Gita and the main body of the M.bh. may be either explained as due to the Gita containing the essential teachings of the Mahabharata or the Mahabharata itself being an illustration of the teaching of the Gita. In either case there is an organic unity between the two. Taking
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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