The Srimad-Bhagavad-Gita has long been recognized as an Upanisad, as it is a text that presents the knowledge of Brahman. It is a scripture that can help human beings realize the spiritual reality within. The 700 verses of this text form part of the Bhisma Parva of the Mahabharata. Though given in the form of a dialogue between Sri Krsna and Arjuna, it is actually a divine revelation for all humanity, and it is considered to be one of the basic scriptures of the Vedic religion. This dialogue took place when Sri Krsna's friend and disciple Arjuna faced a critical moment in his life. The instructions were put into their present form by Krsnadvaipayana Vyasa.
Such is the importance of the Bhagavad-Gita that over the centuries the word Gita has developed around it an aura of sacredness-so much so that more than one hundred other holy texts, short and long, have also assumed the name Gita. We find, for example, the Isvara-Gita (a part of the Kurma Purana), the Uddhava-Gita (a part of the Srimad Bhagavatam), the Rama-Gita (a part of the Adhyatma Ramayana), the Vyadha-Gita (a part of the Mahabharata), etc. but the Bhagavad-Gita is considered to be the principal Gita, and all other holy texts bearing this name are considered subsidiary to it.
Again, of all the texts bearing the name Gita, three of them-namely the Bhagavad-Gita, the Anu-Gita, and the Uttara-Gita-form a special group, popularly known as the Krsna-Gitas, in which Sri Krsna is the teacher and Arjuna is the student. According to the Anu-Gita, after the Kuruksetra war Arjuna wanted to refresh his memory of the basic teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita. This then provides the occasion for the exposition of the Anu-Gita.
However, the text of the Uttara-Gita does not provide a context or introduction of any kind, nor does it refer at the end to Arjuna's response to the teachings of Sri Krsna Still, a tradition regarding this text has developed on its own. According to this story, while enjoying the wealth and power of his kingdom Arjuna became attached to the materialistic world, but later as he became older, detachment awakened in him. He then approached Kesava to impart to him the knowledge of Brahman, knowing which he will be released at once from samsara. The abrupt beginning and end suggest that it had perhaps been composed as an auxiliary work. But it is also considered to be in the class of independent texts-that is, a text untraced to any known epic or Purana. Other such texts include the Astavakra-Gita, Avadhuta-Gita, and the Pandava-Gita.
Assuming there is some relation between the Bhagavad-Gita and the Uttara-Gita, we may take the word Uttara to mean 'later'-that is, later than the Bhagavad-Gita. The text of the Uttara-Gita focuses on the yogic method of the attainment of Brahman. In the Bhagavad-Gita the word 'yoga' has been mentioned several times, but such detailed instructions on this subject are not presented there as they are in the Uttara-Gita. So it is supplementary to the Bhagavad-Gita in that the element of yoga has been elaborated in the Uttara-Gita. However, this point has been contested on the grounds that the approach to yogic practices given in the Uttara-Gita does not seem to be quite systematic. Though the teachings regarding Pranayama of astanga yoga of the Yoga-Sutras by Patanjali have been incorporated in an abridged form in the text, these teachings follow a style of their own. Again, at the end there is a brief discussion on kundalini yoga.
Throughout the entire text of the Uttara-Gita, the name Krsna does not occur at all. The names Kesava and Visnu are used instead, but these names are invariably identified with the Atman or Brahman. Here Arjuna is advised to seek union with (the highest) Brahman. Divided into three chapters, the Uttara-Gita gives answers to Arjuna's questions on the nature of Brahman, the knowledge of which will release him from the bondage of life and death. According to the Lord, the Knowledge of Brahman can be realized with the help of bhakti, vairagya, and yoga, and by constant meditation on Tat, which transcends all pluralities and attributes.
Traditional scholars claim that the Uttara-Gita has taken as its source the Asvamedha Parva of the Mahabharata. However, in one chapter of the Bhisma Parva there is a section of approximately fifty slokas that is popularly known as the Gitasara. Much of this section bears a marked resemblance to the text of the Uttara-Gita. In the 1950s, Mrs S.V. Oka of the Research Department of the Bhandarkar Oriental Institute, Pune, did some valuable research on this text. She found eight manuscripts of commentaries on the Uttara-Gita, five of which have been ascribed to Gaudapada. Some believe that this is the same Gaudapada who was the preceptor of Sankaracarya.
The translator of the present work, Dr Minati Kar (D. Litt., P.R.S., Kavya-Vedantatirtha), was formerly Professor of Sanskrit at Visva Bharati, Santiniketan, and is presently Visiting Professor of Sanskrit at the Department of Indological Studies of this Institute. She has authored a number of books and quite a few articles. While translating this work into English, she has carefully compared the text, as also Gaudapada's commentary, against other available editions. I hope this work will be well received by all lovers of Vedanta.
The three Krsna-Gitas are Srimad Bhagavad-Gita, Anu-Gita and Uttara-Gita. In all three Krsna, the Supreme Lord is the teacher and Arjuna is the pupil.
In the Bhagavad-Gita Sri Bhagavan said, 'I proclaimed the perennial wisdom of yoga to Vivasvan (Surya), he passed it on to Vaivasvata Manu. Manu taught it to Iksvaku. Then it was handed down to the king sages but due to lapse of time it was lost. That secret I will declare it to you.'
Bhagavad-Gita has vividly described karmayoga, bhaktiyoga, jnanayoga, but the yogic way to attain Brahman is not described in detail. In Uttara-Gita Sri Bhagavan describes in a rather cryptic manner the way of yoga which leads to the state of final beatitude.
Brahman is Pure Consciousness, self luminous. It is described as void (sunya) as it is not limited by space and time. It is also proclaimed to be full (purna) because it is all pervasive. It is not born, neither does it die. It is through illusion that Brahman is thought to be associated with body and mind. Because of its subtlety it is not grasped by the sense-organs.
Brahman is also denoted by pranava or omkara. The three letters A, U and M in the syllable Om represent the gorss, subtle and causal elements. After the final dissolution (pralaya) all that remains is Pure Consciousness.
Gaudapada says: The objective world is determined by words, words are composed of letters, letters are in the form of pranava, pranava is in the form of bindu, bindu is in the form of nada, nada is of the form of kala which is of the place where Brahman is meditated, hence everything is synthesized in Brahman. Therefore Brahman is beyond bindu, nada and kala.
Sri Bhagavan stresses that one-pointedness of mind is necessary to realize the Supreme Brahman. After a long course of self-discipline, when the mind is purged of all its impurities, the yogins realize him in deep meditation.
Without the realization of Brahman when the jiva departs from the body, the samskaras or impressions are carried along with the subtle body, and the jiva roams from birth to birth being entrapped in the eternal labyrinth of samsara.
Direct knowledge of Brahman is obtained through the indirect knowledge by the aid of antahkarana. 'A man needs a boat to cross to the other shore, but once the other shore is reached, the boat is no longer required.' Sri Ramakrishna also said that one needs the stairs to climb to the rooftop but once the roof is reached the stairs are no longer necessary. Antahkaranavrtti is a necessary means to know the Supreme Brahman. After a long discipline of the mind through sravana, manana and nididhyasana, antahkaranavrtti rises in the form of all-pervading infinite Brahman. With the dawn of Brahman knowledge, the means of knowledge which is the effect of avidya is burnt by the fire of knowledge. In this state the yogin becomes a jivanmukta being free from the fetters of avidya.
The yogic way to realization has been described in the Uttara-Gita. Of all the yoganga pranayama or breath control is very important.
The nadis pervade the body. Of all the nadis, Ida, Pingala and Susumna are most important. Ida represent the lunar and the Pingala represents the solar aspect. Susumna is the subtlest nadi in between Ida and Pingala. It rises from Muladhara and piercing the other cakras, reaches to Sahasrara. Therefore it is necessary to know the cakras. The Susumna nadi is also known as Kundalini-Sakti, on its tip is the luster of Brahman called Brahmajyoti. It is said in the Upanisad, tasyante susiram suksmam tasmin sarve pratisthitam. There are other nadis through which the vital air moves. When the yogin cleaning the nine bodily apertures is able to direct the vital air through the Susumna nadi withdrawing from Ida and Pingala he is able to realize Brahman. When the prana dissolves, the state of Manonmani arises and upon this follows this dissolution of Manas.
Sri Bhagavan proclaims: Whatever is present in panda (microcosm) is also present in the Brahmanda (macrocosm); therefore the yogin imagining the whole universe in his body gains the highest bliss.
One who has studied the sastras but has not realized the Supreme Brahman is like a donkey carrying a load of sandalwood unaware of its value and essence.
Sri Bhagavan says that the two words mama and nirmama give the clue to bondage and release. When one thinks the objective world as mama or mine one is tied to the chain of samsara, but one who breaks the chain by thinking everything as nirmama or not mine, is released from samsara. When the mind looses its mindness, one is established in Brahman.
The text of the Uttara-Gita is composed in verses which are not complicated but inner meaning can be quite abstruse. Without being conversant with techniques of Vedanta, Yoga and Tantra it is difficult to decipher the underlying meaning of many of the verses.
In rendering the Sanskrit text into English I have tried to be literal as far as practicable. Explanatory word meanings are incorporated wherever necessary after the translation of the verse according to the famous commentary of Gaudapada. Gaudapada's commentary is adjoined at the end. I have re-edited the commentary and set it in paragraphs for easy perusal of the readers. The commentary will be advantageous for understanding the text. Important words are explained in the glossary, and the cakras are shown in a chart.
I am grateful to revered Swami Prabhanandaji for giving me the opportunity to translate the text with an introduction. I thank Swami Sarvabhutanandaji for his help and I also thank my student Jesse Knutson for his suggestions.
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