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Introduction by Narayana Maharaja
Shrimad Bhagavad-gita is a part of Shri Mahabharata, whose author is Shrimad bhagavata-avatara, jagadguru Shri Shrimad Krishna Dvaipayana Veda-Vyasa. Bhagavad-gita contains eighteen chapters, which comprise Chapters Twenty-five to Forty-two of the Bhishma-parva of Shri Mahabharata. The speaker of Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavan Shri Krishna Himself, directed His words at Arjuna, His eternal associate and dear friend. In this way. He blessed the whole of humanity with these extremely valuable and essential instructions, so that conditioned souls can cross the ocean of birth and death, and attain service to His lotus feet. Conditioned souls are gripped by the delusion of maya, whereas Arjuna, being Shri Krishna's eternal associate, is free from delusion. However, in order to deliver the conditioned souls, Shri Krishna caused Arjuna to act as if he was deluded, and to ask questions from the viewpoint of the deluded jivas. While Shri Bhagavan was answering Arjuna's questions. He dispelled all sorts of doubts, and conclusively explained the proper sequence of systematic practice by which the jivas can become free from the bewilderment of the material energy.
Snmad Bhagavad-gita is also called Gitopanishad. It is the most important Upanishad in Vedic philosophy, for it contains the essence of all Vedic knowledge. If one constantly studies this shastra, accepting the shelter of the lotus feet of guru, sadhu and Vaishnavas, he will easily he able to discern its inner intentions. As a result, he will cross the ocean of birth and death in a simple and natural way, attain para bhakti unto the lotus feet of Shri Krishna, and become qualified to receive Krishna prema. There is no doubt about this.
We see in India nowadays that great philosophers, those who are knowledgeable, and people of all sects respect this king of shastras and have faith in it. Many famous politicians and thoughtful people of all countries throughout the world have proclaimed the glories of Bhagavad-gita.
Many commentaries have been written on the Gita since ancient times. Those of monists (kevala-advaita-vadis) such as Shri Shankaracarya, Shri Anandagiri and Shri Madhusudana Sarasvati are particularly well-known. Indeed, most people have studied and taught Gita only from these commentaries. Some people study the commentary on Bhagavad-gita written by the vishishta-advaita-vadi Shri Ramanujacarya, others study the commentary by Shrila Shridhara Svami, who was a shuddha-advaita-vadi, and others again study the commentary written by Shriman Madhvacarya, who is the acarya of shuddha-dvaita-vada. Some understand Gita through the explanations written by modern political personalities such as Shri Lokamanya Tilaka, Gandhiji and Shri Aravinda. Very few people have the opportunity to constantly study the commentaries of Shri Gaudiya Vedantacarya Shrila Baladeva Vidyabhushana and Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, who is the crest jewel of Shri Gaudiya Vaishnava acaryas, both of whom are well versed in the principles of acintya-bheda-bheda. This good fortune is very rarely attained within the lives of most people.
Rupanuga-vara, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the Seventh Gosvami of the Shri Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya, has published two editions of the Gita in Bengali. His explanations in these editions are enriched with tattva and favourable to the development of shuddha-bhakti, and they are in line with shri rupanuga conceptions. The content of these two editions is based on the commentaries written by Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and Shrila Baladeva Vidyabhushana. We cannot estimate the spiritual welfare that these two great editions offer to humanity Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has established in his commentary the eternality, universality and supremacy of bhakti. In this way, he has performed the highest welfare for those sadhakas who are seeking the realm of shuddha-bhakti.
Nowadays, unauthorized people are publishing a variety of speculative commentaries on the Gita. They shamelessly present their imaginative opinions, which are devoid of accurate conclusions. These so-called commentaries are irrational, for they fail to discriminate between conscious (cit) and inert (acit) entities. Their authors attempt to deride the eternality of shuddha-bhakti, and they generally state that the objective of the Gita is only karma or else mayavada in the form of nirvishesha-jnana. Common people have soft and pliable faith (shraddha), and when they hear and study these commentaries, they are deviated from the path of truth.
The nigama shastras (Vedas) are very extensive, and in different places they give instructions on karma, sankhya-jnana and also on bhagavad-bhakti. The question then arises, "How are these processes related to each other, and what is the criteria for giving up one process and engaging in the next?" Shastra explains the proper sequence of practices, and the qualifications required to practice each one. However, jivas born in Kali-yuga have narrow intelligence, and they do not live very long. It is therefore difficult for them to complete a study of the shastras, and determine their own qualifications (adhikara) by thorough deliberation. For this reason, it is essential to read a simple, scientific summary of these practices,
Most people at the end of Dvapara-yuga could not understand the real conclusions of the Vedic shastras, so there were different conclusions as to the final objective. Some said that it is karma, others that it is sense enjoyment, sankhya-jnana, logic, or undifferentiated monism (abheda-brahmavada); all these different commentators began to propagate their own conclusions according to their respective viewpoints. Just as unchewed foodstuff causes pain in the stomach, so these divergent opinions, which were based on incomplete, speculative knowledge, started to cause pain and disturbance in the Indian society at that time. This was the reason that the supremely compassionate Bhagavan Shri Krishnacandra, spoke this Bhagavad-gita, which is the essence of all the Vedas. His instructions to His dear associate and sakha, Arjuna, are for the highest benefit of the jivas of the whole world.
Gita-shastra is the crest jewel of all Upanishads. It describes the mutual relationships between various processes of self-realization, and establishes supremely pure hari-bhakti as the jivas one and only supreme objective. Karma-yoga, jnana-yoga, and bhakti-yoga appear to be separate processes, but in fact, they are respectively the first, second and third steps of the same yogic process. The conclusion of all the Upanishads, as well as Brahma- sutra and Bhagavad-gita, is that one should engage completely in shuddha-bhakti. Although, in certain places these shastras give elaborate explanations of karma, jnana, mukti and the attainment of brahma, if we examine them carefully, we see that they all establish suddha-bhakti as the only supreme goal.
Readers of this Gita-shastra fall into two categories: those who accept the gross or external meanings (sthula-darshi), and those who accept the subtle inner meanings (sukshma-darshi). Sthula-darshi readers only accept the external meanings of the Gita, and draw their conclusions accordingly, but sukshma-darshi readers are not satisfied by such external interpretations, and they investigate the deeper conclusions concerning tattva. The sthula-darshi readers study Gita from beginning to end, and come to the superficial conclusion that the Gita prescribes karma. This is because Arjuna concluded at the end of the Gita that it would be beneficial for him to engage in the battle. Sukshma-darshi readers are not satisfied by such an external understanding. They see that the essential teaching of the Gita is on brahma-jnana or para bhakti, and that Arjuna's engagement in battle was just an example of his adhikara-nishtha, adhering to his own level of qualification and is not the supreme import. Arjuna understood that he should only perform his varnashrama-dharma without any desire to enjoy the results (nishkama-karma), and since he was a kshatriya, fighting was the karma for which he was specifically qualified.
A man's qualification to perform a particular activity (karma-adhikara) comes from his nature. As he secures his livelihood by engaging in the activity for which he is qualified, he also gradually attains tattva-jnana, so karma is the means both of maintaining oneself and also of acquiring knowledge of the truth (tattva-darshana). Since it is difficult for a person to get tattva-jnana unless he performs karma, it is imperative in the initial stages for him to perform prescribed duties (sat-karma) in accordance with his particular aptitude for work (varna) and socio-spiritual status (ashrama). However, according to the Gita, even when a person adheres to his prescribed duty, he should in any case only perform selfless action and offer the results to Bhagavan. This is called bhagavad-arpita nishkama-karma, which, according to the Gita, is the only way to perform karma; besides this nothing else is accepted. This nishkama-karma gradually purifies one's heart so that one attains tattva-jnana. Ultimately, it is only by bhagavad-bhakti that Bhagavan is attained.
In order to understand the supreme objective established by Bhagavad-gita, we must accept the instructions of its speaker, Bhagavan Shri Krishna Himself. He is referred to as Bhagavan on every page of the Gita, and out of His causeless mercy, Shri Krishna Has Himself declared in many places that He is Bhagavan, the Supreme Absolute Reality, para-tattva.
aham sarvasya prabhavo
mattah sarvam pravartate
iti matva bhajanate mam
mattah parataram nanyat
kincid asti dhananjaya
mayi sarvam idam protam
sutre mani-gana iva
aham hi sarva-yajnanam
bhokta ca prabhur eva ca
na tu mam abhijananti
tattvenatash cyavanti te
Besides this, Shri Krishna is also described as Svayam-Bhagavan in other shastras:
ete camsha-kalah pumsah
krishnas tu bhagavan svayam
mridayanti yuge yuge
ishvarah paramah krishnah
anadir adir govindah
aho bhagyam aho bhagyam
purnam brahma sanatanam
It is worth noting here that, whereas other avataras of Bhagavan have not clearly introduced their Supreme position (bhagavatta), Bhagavan Shri Krishna has very clearly established His supremacy in the Gita, and has also specified sharanagati and bhakti to Him as the highest sadhana for the jivas.
(i) mam eva ye prapadyante (Gita 7.14)
(ii) te 'pi mam eva kaunteya (Gita 9.23)
(iii) mam ekam sharanam vraja (Gita 18.66)
Shri Krishna, who is the very form of Absolute Truth in the three phases of time (past, present and future) has established His supremacy in these shlokas by stating mam eva, mam eva and mam ekam. He has also established that Krishna bhakti is the topmost spiritual practice (sadhana) and goal (sadhya) at all times. Krishna Himself has declared this, and great sages and perfected saints such as Dcvarshi Narada, Asita, Devala and Vyasa have also confirmed this fact. Arjuna also accepts this supreme truth (parama-tattva) from the very beginning of the Gita.
It is essential that those who read or hear Gita-sastra become free from doubts, and accept the supreme truth (param satya) that the speaker of the Gita, Shri Krishna, is Svayam Bhagavan, and that every one of His instructions is true. In Gita (4.3) Shri Krishna tells Arjuna that this Gita is an eternal shastra:
sa evayam maya te 'dya / yogah proktah puratanah
bhakto 'si me sakha ceti / rahasyam hy etad uttamam
"I first instructed this to Vivasvan (Surya-deva) billions of years ago. Surya instructed it to Manu, and Manu instructed it in turn to Ikshavaku. In this way, this system of yoga remained in the world through the medium of the guru-parampara, but this parampara disappeared in due course of time. You are My ekantika bhakta. My dear friend and direct disciple, so I am bestowing this supremely confidential knowledge upon you." One cannot understand the deep and grave tattva of the Gita without becoming a bhakta.
It is said in the beginning, middle and end of Bhagavad-gita that no one can embrace or realize its import without engaging in bhakti. Bhaktya tv ananyaya shakya, "One can have darshana of Me in this svarupa only by ananya bhakti." (Gita 11.54). Idam te natapaskaya, "The tattva of Gita should only be instructed to bhaktas, not to non-devotees." (Gita 18.67). It is apparent from this statement, that Bhagavad-gita has been spoken specifically for the bhaktas.
The Gita deals with three kinds of sadhaka: the jnani. the yogi and the bhakta. Here, the words jnani and yogi do not refer to mayavadis or to those who believe in the unmanifest, undifferentiated, formless brahma. Rather, these terms refer to those jnanis and yogis who are endowed with bhakti. Shri Krishna has very clearly stated that the only real jnani is one who is surrendered unto Him, and who possesses ananya bhakti to Him. Such great souls are very rare: bahunam janmanam ante (Gita 7.19). There is also a similar instruction for the yogis: yoginam api sarvesham (Gita 6.47). It is apparent, then, that people who are devoid of bhakti can never attain the adhikara to hear the Gita and embrace its import. It is therefore imperative to hear the tattva of the Gita from the lips of a parama bhakta who is situated in a bona fide guru-parampara, and who has realized the truth (tattva-darshi). One should realize that Shri Krishna is Svayam Bhagavan, and having done so, one should surrender completely unto His lotus feet. Otherwise, one's heart cannot embrace the imports of Gita.
According to the Gita, Shri Krishna's svarupa, which is full of opulence (aishvarya) and sweetness (madhurya), is the sole and ultimate worshipful tattva for the jivas. The topmost sadhana and sadhya is that bhakti which attracts Shri Krishna. Ignorant people cannot properly understand bhakti-tattva. This is because they conceive of the gross body as 'I' and things related with their body as 'mine'- Thus they remain bewildered, and can neither understand nor practice the constitutional occupation of the true self (atma-dharma). Since they have mundane intelligence (sthula-buddhi), they remain attached to mundane activities, which they consider to be the only reality. Such people generally become entrapped in one of two ways. Either they become engrossed in the mundane activities prescribed in the Vedas, in which they follow the dictates of their minds; or else they are allured by the concept of kevala-advaitavada or mayavada. Shri Krishna inspired Arjuna to question Him about the essence of these mundane religions so that He could prove their insignificance, and establish the supremacy of bhakti-tattva.
Of the eighteen chapters of this Gita-shastra, the first six establish the svarupa vaishishtya (unique characteristic) of karma-yoga, the middle six establish bhakti-yoga, and the last six establish jnana-yoga. The reason for this particular order is that karma and jnana cannot give their results independently, without the assistance of Bhakti-devi. Bhakti-devi can give her shelter to both karma and jnani when she is thus situated between them. It is only with the assistance of bhakti that karma and jnana can grant their fruits.
Karma—Shri Krishna Himself told Arjuna that unless one performs karma for the pleasure of Bhagavan, karma becomes the cause of bondage. In the shloka: yajnarthat karmano 'nyatra (Gita 3.9), the word yajnarthato means offering unto Vishnu, Shri Krishna states in Gita 5.29: bhoktaram yajna tapasam, confirming that karma should be performed only for the pleasure of Vishnu. Furthermore He says in Gita 3.30: mayi sarvani karmani, "Every action (karma) that you perform should be offered to Me.' And in Gita 9.27 He says, "Whatever you do, do only for My pleasure, and offer everything to Me only." Hence we see that Shri Krishna instructs those who are only qualified to perform karma, to engage in selfless action offered to Bhagavan (nishkama-bhagavat-arpita karma) and not simply karma alone.
The word karma actually means karma performed with bhakti.That karma in which bhakti predominates and karma is subordinate is called karma-mishra-bhakti or pradhani-bhuta-bhakti. Real karma is actually the performance of karma in which the only goal is the pleasure of Bhagavan. Tat karma hari-tosham yat (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 4.29.49). Therefore, it is said in Gita (11.55):
mat-karma-krin mat-paramo /mad-bhaktah sanga-varjitah
nirvairah sarva-bhuteshu / yah sa mam eti pandava
"No one attains Me except those who perform karma only for My pleasure."
Jnana—Shri Krishna has explained that some people surrender to Bhagavan because they are distressed (artta), some because they are inquisitive (jijnasu), some for want of wealth (artharthi), and some because of their knowledge (Jnani). Amongst all of these, the jnanis are best. What type of jnanis are they? Tesham jnani nitya-yuktn eka-bhaktir vishishyafe (Gita 7.17). "They are jnanis who have ekantika (exclusive) bhakti, and are always united with Me." This sloka does not refer to nirvishesha brahmavadi jnanis, who are devoid of bhakti. Shri Krishna makes His statement clearer in Gita (7.19): bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate, "Such great jnani-bhaktas, who see Vasudeva everywhere, who are surrendered unto Me, and whose minds are firmly situated in bhakti, are extremely rare." The word jnana means knowledge in which bhakti does not predominate. That jnana which leads to prema'bhakti is called jnana-mishra-bhakti. When jnana is overwhelmed by an abundance of prema, it becomes dormant and vishuddha (supremely pure) kevala-bhakti or prema-bhakti manifests.
Yoga—Shri Bhagavan has specifically praised yogis at the end of the Sixth Chapter, where He declares that they are superior to karmis, tapasvis and jnanis. He instructs Arjuna to become a yogi: tapasvibhyo 'dhiko yogi(Gita 6.46), and in the next shloka (6.47), He explains what kind of yogi he should become; yoginam api sarvesham mad-gatenantaratmana. "The best of all the different types of yogis are those who faithfully perform My bhajana from the core of their hearts". Here the word 'My' refers to Shri Krishna Himself. Therefore, when Gita uses the weird yogi, it refers only to those yogis whose bhajana is completely devoted to Shri Krishna alone. It does not refer to those who follow the Patanjali yoga system, or to karmis, yogis, tapasvis or atheistic yogis who are all devoid of bhakti.
Bhakti—Shri Krishna shows Arjuna His vishvarupa and makes him an instrument to whom He can direct his instructions. He then says: bhaktya tv ananyaya shakya (Gita 11.54). "One can have darshana of My svarupa only by ananya bhakti. You are able to see this svarupa because you are My ananya premi-bhakta". Furthermore, bhaktya mam abhijanati (Gita 18.55), "It is only by ananya bhakti that one can have darshana of Me, know Me in truth (tattva), enter into My dhama, and attain prema mayi seva unto Me".
In Gita, Shri Krishna gives confidential instructions on brahma-jnana, more confidential instructions on paramatma or ishvara-jnana and His most confidential instructions on bhagavata-jnana. In conclusion. He speaks the shloka: sarva-dharman parityajya / mam ekam sharanam vraja (Gita 18.66), in which He instructs Arjuna to abandon all types of mundane dharma, and to surrender to Him. This shows clearly that bhakti is the only means to attain Bhagavan, and the only way to realise His complete svarupa. Bhakti is of two kinds; (a) kevala (exclusive) and (b) pradhani-bhuta (where bhakti predominates but does not exist in full). Kevala-bhakti is unalloyed and independent, and is completely free from any scent of karma, jnana etc. Pradhani-bhuta-bhakti is of three types: (i) karma-pradhani-bhuta (in which bhakti is mixed with karma), (ii) jnana-pradhani-bhuta (in which bhakti is mixed with jnana), and (iii) karma-jnana-pradhani-bhuta (in which bhakti is mixed with both karma and jnana). Pradhani-bhuta-bhakti refers to karma or jnana in which bhakti predominates. When bhakti is present in karma or jnana, but the function of bhakti does not predominate, then it is simply known as karma and jnana.
It is true that we find instructions on pradhani-bhuta-bhakti (mixed bhakti) here and there in Bhagavad-gita, but even in these instructions there is an indication of kevala bhakti. It is extremely difficult to know or attain Bhagavan through pradhani-bhuta-bhakti. "I am attainable only by kevala-bhakti." In order to establish this clearly, Shri Krishna has very elaborately stated in Gita (8.14):
ananya-cetah satatam / yo, mam sm'arati nityashah
tasyaham sulabhah partha / nitya-yuktasya yoginah
"I am easily attainable for those nitya-yogis who arc constantly united with Me, who are endowed with ananya bhakti, and who constantly remember Me and engage in My bhajana." Bhagavan is attained and also controlled by the ekantika prema-mayi seva of bhaktas who are endowed with ananya bhakti. Krishna explains this in Gita (9.22); ananyash cintayanto mam, "I personally carry yoga-kshema to those bhaktas who constantly engage in My bhakti with ananya bhava, and who worship Me in every respect."
Bhagavan Shri Krishna has said in various places in Gita that He can only be attained by ananya bhakti. Bhaktya labhyas tv ananyaya (Gita 8-22), bhajanty ananya-manaso (Gita 9.13), bhaktya tv ananyaya shakya (Gita 11.54) and finally sarva-dharman parityajya (Gita 18.66). In these shlokas we see that the jivas' ultimate goal is indeed supremely pure ananya or kevala bhakti. How should one perform this ananya bhakti? In this regard, Krishna instructs Arjuna:
satatam kirttayanto mam / yatantash ca dridha-vratah
namasyantash ca mam bhaktya / nitya-yukta upasate
In this shloka, Shri Krishna has stated that sankirtana alone is the best way of worshipping Him. Here sankirtana means loudly performing kirtana of the nama, rupa, guna and lila of Bhagavan. It also indicates navadha-bhakti (the nine-fold process of shravanam, kirtanam etc.).
Many people impudently claim to understand Gita, and they teach their mundane conclusions to others, although they do not understand that Gita is aprakrita (beyond material knowledge, logic and intelligence). The fact is that one cannot comprehend aprakrita subject matter through mundane qualities such as conceit, shrewdness, courage and scholastic abilities. One can only understand it by the mercy of Bhagavan, and through the medium of surrender (sharanagati). Therefore the shrutis say: nayam atma pravacanena labhyo (Mundaka Upanishad 2.3.3) and: tesham satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam dadami buddhi-yogam tarn (Gita 10.10). "I bestow buddhi-yoga on those sadhakas who are constantly united with Me through bhakti, and that is the means by which they easily attain Me."
In order to ascertain the import of any shastra, it is important to deliberate upon its: (i) beginning (upakrama) and conclusion (upasamhara), (ii) repeated practice (abhyasa}, (iii) purpose (apurvata), (iv) result (phala) and (v) praise (arthavada) and motive (upapatti). Unless one does this, the real import remains elusive. Those who study Shri Gita-shastra scrutinizingly, keeping these six limbs in mind, will easily be able to understand that the ultimate import of Bhagavad-gita is shuddha-bhakti alone. These days, common people do not consider these limbs very seriously; instead, they derive meanings according to their speculative whims, and fulfil their selfish interests. This is why they cannot embrace the author's actual import within their hearts.
It is currently common to compare the respective values of different schools of jnana (knowledge), vijnana (science), politics and so on. However authors and speakers hesitate to use the same comparative approach when they deliberate on the subject of religion, or dharma. They think that this would increase tension between different sectors of the community, and that the resulting disturbances would obstruct the development of society and the world at large. Therefore, they want to establish friendship amongst different groups, and they think that they can achieve this by instituting harmony and equality (samanvaya), instead of comparative gradations. In the field of religion, this viewpoint implies that the only way to create peace and mutual friendship between all the religions is to avoid pointing out differences, and instead to work on the basis of harmony and similarities. It is true that the political arena shows the dangers of value judgement; evaluation of the specific policies of various parties creates political differences, and the resultant quarrels can cause great damage to society and the country. Consequently, many people are afraid that the assessment of higher and lower grades of dharma will also lead to differences between factions, resulting in quarrels and riots.
Taking these considerations into account, it is still true that we need to decide how to evaluate jnana and dharma. Indeed, samanvaya (harmony) is itself an important issue to consider. What is the meaning of samanvaya? Suppose that, in our attempts to create harmony, we use the same scale to measure good and bad, conscious and inert, a diamond and coal, a thief and a saint, justice and injustice and so forth. If we then declare that they are all one or identical, where is the evidence of any serious deliberation? This cannot be called samanvaya at all; it is mere ignorance.
The breakdown of the word samanvaya is samayak (thorough and proper) and anvaya (the natural or grammatical order of words in a sentence, or the logical connection of cause and effect). In other words, samanvaya means thorough and proper anvaya. If we want to create samvanvaya in a sentence, then we must adjust the subject, object, verb and other components, and put them in the appropriate places. How can we hope to get the correct anvaya if we put the verb in place of the subject, the object in place of the verb, and some other component in place of the object? How can we achieve samanvaya (thorough anvaya) if we cannot even make basic anvaya? The real application, union and consistency of any sentence can only be achieved bv correct samanvaya. We cannot achieve samanvaya by putting everything in the same position, without evaluating its qualification or disqualification and considering whether it is good or bad. If we are afraid of people becoming dissatisfied with us, we may declare that everything is equal, hoping that we can keep everyone satisfied somehow or other in this way. However, this will not lead to genuine samanvaya. "To try to please everybody is to please nobody."
Currently some so-called samanvaya-vadis (those who promote irrational compromise on the basis of false equality) assert that Gita presents karma, jnana, yoga and bhakti as being equal. However, Shri Bhagavan has clearly established in the Gita that jnana is superior to karma, and yoga to jnana; and ultimately. He has declared that bhakti is superior to yoga. Sakama-karma, that is fruitive activities performed in accordance with the shastras, is prescribed for jivas who are deluded by maya. Those who are a little more advanced are instructed to engage in bhagavat-arpita nishkama-karma. Sadhakas who are even more advanced are instructed to cultivate tattva-jnana, and above all, the supremacy of suddha-bhagavat-bhakti has been described. In Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna Himself establishes bhakti as the ultimate objective. This is the actual samanvaya of the Gita, and it is based on the scientific gradation which Bhagavan Himself has explained. It is complete foolishness to give up this authentic samanvaya, and to use one's own limited intelligence to search independently for some other samanvaya in the Gita. Bhagavan Shri Krishna has defined para-tattva, the Supreme Absolute Reality, by describing brahma-jnana as confidential, paramatma-jnana as more confidential, and para-bhakti as the most confidential subject of the Gita. This is the real samanvaya of Gita.
Some modern commentators assert that worship of the devas and devis is the same as worshipping Shri Bhagavan. But the shloka: ye 'py anya-devata-bhakta (Gita 9.23) explains that deva worship is against the prescribed rules. Those who worship the devas attain deva-loka, where they enjoy celestial pleasures, and then they return to the mortal world. Those who worship Bhagavan attain prema-mayi-seva in bhagavat-dhama, and never return to this world. It is distinctly stated in the sastra: yas tu narayanam devam rudradi-daivataih . . . vishnu sarvesvareshi va naraki sah (Padma Purana), that those who consider devas such as Rudra to be the same as Shri Narayana, are wicked and go to hell.
Some people explain the shloka: ye yatha mam prapadyante (Gita 4.11) quite incorrectly. They conjecture that everyone will reach the same abode, no matter what worship they perform; people may follow numerous paths but their destination is one. However, if we deliberate carefully on this shloka, we will understand that this conclusion is incorrect. It actually means that Krishna bestows results according to the degree of one's sharanagati, surrender to Him. If the result one attains depends on the karma that one performs, how can everyone achieve the same result? Neither this shloka nor any other shloka of the Gita states that those who are surrendered attain the same result as those who are not.
There is another reason to reject this conjecture as false. Different people have different reasons for accepting Bhagavan's shelter. Karmis accept it in order to enjoy sense objects, jnanis to achieve mukti, yogis to attain various mystic perfections and bhagavad-bhaktas to attain ekantika prema-mayi-seva to Bhagavan. Since their desires, their sadhana, and their purposes are all different, they cannot possibly all achieve the same result. Many people think that the second half of this shloka means that everyone is advancing in every respect on the path to attain Bhagavan. This implies that thieves, dacoits, rogues, and those who indulge in illicit sex are also following the path to attain Bhagavan. Is such logic correct? No, never! This shloka really means that karma, jnana, yoga and bhakti are the only paths prescribed by Bhagavan.
The outcome of a person's efforts will depend on his qualification and the path that he follows. We must accept that different sadhana produces different results. There is a clear distinction between the thoughts and sadhana of Buddhists, Shankarites, Jains, Shaivites, shaktas (worshippers of Goddess Durga), and Vaishnavas. Since they all adopt different processes to fulfil their different desires, it is quite illogical to say that they will all get the same result and arrive at the same destination. The shunyavadis (Buddhists) want nirvana, merging in the void. Advaita-vadis want brahma-sayujya (to become one with brahma), shaktas want to enjoy sense objects, and Shaivites chant so' ham or shivo' ham to get moksha. Furthermore, Buddhists do not accept the Vedas at all, whereas advaita-vadis accept only the Vedas to be apaurusheya (of supramundane origin). Shaktas accept maha-maya to be the primal, foremost potency (adya-shakti), and Shaivites accept Umapati Shiva as the para-tattva. They all have different opinions, different sadhanas, different purposes and intentions, and different worshipful deities. Consequently, it is nothing but foolishness to say that they all will attain the same result; this conclusion is certainly not approved of in Gita.
A Brief Life Sketch of Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura
The crown jewel of Shri Gaudiya Vaishnava acaryas, maha mahopadhyaya Shri Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, is the author of the famous Sarartha-varshini commentary on Shrimad Bhaghavad-gita. He appeared in a family of brahmanas from the community of Radhadesha, in the district of Nadia, West Bengal, and was celebrated by the name Hari Vallabha. He had two older brothers named Ramabhadra and Raghunatha. In his childhood, he first studied Sanskrit grammar in a village named Devagrama, and afterwards went to a village named Shaiyadabada in the district of Murshidabada, where he studied the bhakti-shastras at the home of his guru. While he was still undergoing his studies in Shaiyadabada, he wrote three books; Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu-bindu, Ujjala-nila-mani-kirana, and Bhagavatamrita-kana. Shortly afterwards, he renounced his household life and went to Vrindavana, where he wrote many books and commentaries.
Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura wrote a commentary on Shrimad-Bhagavatam entitled Saratha-darshini. At the beginning of the five chapters describing Shri Krishna's rasa-lila (rasa-pancadhyaya), he has written the following shloka:
natva gurun urupremnah
shrila narottama natha shri
gauranga prabhum naumi
Here the name Shri Rama refers to Shri Radha-ramana, Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura's Gurudeva. 'Krishna' refers to Shri Krishna-carana, his grand-spiritual master (parama-gurudeva). 'Ganga-carana' is the name of his great grand-spiritual master (paratpara-gurudeva), and 'Narottama' is Shrila Narottama Thakura, his great-great grand spiritual master (parama-paratpara-gurudeva), and the word natha refers to Shri Lokanatha Gosvami, the spiritual master of Shrila Narottama Thakura. In this way, he has offered obeisances to his guru-parampara up to Shriman Mahaprabhu.
Distinguished Service to the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya
When Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura was very old, he spent most of the time in antar-dasha (fully internal state) and ardha-bahya (semi-external consciousness), deeply absorbed in bhajana. At that time a debate broke out in the state of Jaipur, between the Gaudiya Vaishnavas and Vaishnavas who supported the doctrine of svakiyavada (marital love). The antagonistic Vaishnavas led King Jai Singh II of Jaipur, to believe that shastra does not support the worship of Shrimati Radhika as the consort of Shri Govinda Deva. They contended that Shrimati Radhika's name is not mentioned anywhere in Shrimad-Bhagavatam or in the Vishnu Purana, and that She was never legally married to Krishna according to Vedic rituals.
Another objection was that the Gaudiya Vaishnavas did not belong to a recognized line of disciphc succession (sampradaya). There are only four lines of Vaishnava sampradayas which have descended from time immemorial: the Shri Sampradaya, Brahma Sampradaya, Rudra Sampradaya, and Sanaka (Kumara) Sampradaya. The principal acaryas of these four sampradayas in the age of Kali are: Shri Ramanuja, Shri Madhva, Shri Vishnusvami and Shri Nimbaditya respectively. Since the Gaudiya Vaishnavas did not have their own commentary on the Brahma-sutra, they could not be accepted as a bona fide Vaishnava sampradaya with a pure lineage.
Maharaja Jai Singh knew that the prominent Gaudiya Vaishnava acaryas were followers of Shrila Rupa Gosvami, and he summoned them to Jaipur to take up the challenge from the Vaishnavas in the line of Shri Ramanuja, Since Shri Cakravarti Thakura was very old, and was immersed in the transcendental bliss of bhajana, he sent his student Gaudiya Vaishnava Vedantacarya maha-mahopadhyaya (the great one among great teachers) pandita-kula-mukuta (the crown of the assembly of learned scholars) Shripada Baladeva Vidvabhushana to Jaipur to address the assembly. He also sent his disciple Shri Krishnadeva along with Shripada Baladeva Vidyabhushana.
The caste gosvamis had completely forgotten their connection with the Madhva sampradaya, and were also disrespectful to the Vaishnava-Vedanta, so they created a great disturbance for the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Shrila Baladeva Vidyabhushana used irrefutable logic and powerful shastric evidence to prove that the Gaudiya sampradaya was a pure Vaishnava sampradaya coming in Madhva's line. The name of this sampradaya is the Shri Brahma-Madhva Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya. Our previous acaryas such as Shrila Jiva Gosvami, Kavi Karnapura and others accepted this fact. The Gaudiya Vaishnavas accept Shrimad-Bhagavatam as the natural commentary on the Vedanta-sutra. For this reason, no separate commentary on the Vedanta-sutra was written in the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya.
Shrimati Radhika's name is mentioned in various Puranas, where it is stated that She is the personification of the hladini (pleasure giving) potency and the eternal beloved of Shri Krishna. She is mentioned in a very concealed manner in several places in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, and specifically in the Tenth Canto in connection with the description of rasa-lila. This confidential mystery can only be understood by rasika and bhavuka bhaktas who are conversant with the conclusions of shastra.
Shrila Baladeva Vidyabhushana refuted all the arguments and doubts of the opposing party in the learned assembly in Jaipur. He solidly established that the worship of Radha-Govinda is authentic, and that the Gaudiya Vaishnavas follow the line of disciplic succession descending from Madhva. The opposition was silenced by his presentation, but they still maintained that the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya was not a pure line of vaishnava disciplic succession, because there was no Gaudiya Vaishnava commentary on Vedanta-sutra.
Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushana then wrote Shri Govinda-bhashya, the famous Gaudiya commentary on the Brahma-sutra. The worship of Shri Radha-Govinda began once again in the temple of Shri Govinda Deva, and the validity of the Shri Brahma-Madhva Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya was firmly established. It was only on Shri Cakravarti Thakura's authority that Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushana Prabhu was able to write the Shri Govinda-bhasya and prove the connection of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas with the Madhva sampradaya. There should be no doubt in this regard. This achievement of Shri Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura on behalf of the sampradaya will be recorded in golden letters in the history of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
Re-establishing the Doctrine of Parakiyavada
While Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura was in Shri Vrindavan Dhama, there was a slight decline in the influence of the Six Gosvamis, and a controversy arose regarding the doctrines of svakiyavada (marital love) and parakiyavada (paramour love). In order to dispel the misconceptions regarding svakiyavada, Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura wrote two books, named Raga-vartma-candrika and Gopi-premamrita, which are full of wonderful shastric conclusions. After that, in his Ananda-candrika commentary on the 'laghutvam atra' shloka of Ujjvala-nilamani (1:21), he used shastric evidence and irrefutable arguments to refute the theory of svakiyavada soundly, and to establish the conception of parakiyavada. He also gave strong support to parakiya-bhava in his Saratha-darshini commentry on Shrimad-Bhagavatam.
It is said that there were some panditas who opposed Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura's worship in the parakiya mood. Unable to defeat his profound scholarship and powerful arguments, they resolved to kill him. Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura used to go out before dawn to perform parikrama of Shri Vrindavan Dhama, and the panditas made a plan to kill him at that time in some dense, dark grove.
Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura came to the grove where his adversaries were waiting, but when they looked in his direction, they saw that he had disappeared. In his place, they saw a beautiful young Vrajavasi girl picking flowers with two or three friends. The panditas inquired from the girl, "Dear child' A great bhakta came here just a moment ago. Did you happen to see him? Do you know where he went?" The girl replied, "I saw him, but I don't know where he went."
The panditas were captivated by the girl's astonishing beauty, her sidelong glances, her graceful feminine manner, and her gentle smile. All the impurity in their minds was vanquished, and their hearts softened. They requested the girl to introduce herself, and she replied, "I am a maidservant of Svamini Shrimati Radhika. She is at Her mother-in-law's home at Yavata at the moment, and she sent me to pick flowers." Having said this, she disappeared, and in her place the panditas saw Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura once again. They fell at his feet and begged him to forgive them, which he did.
The life of Shri Cakravarti Thakura is full of such astonishing events. It is very important for the Gaudiya Vaishnavas that he refuted the theory of svakiya-vada and established the truth of pure parakiya, for this not only protected the integrity of the Shri Gaudiya Vaishnava dharma, but also re-established its influence in Shri Vriindavana. Anyone who evaluates this accomplishment is sure to be struck with wonder by his uncommon genius. The Gaudiya Vaishnava Acaryas have composed the following shloka in praise of his extraordinary work:
vishvasya natharupo 'sau bhakti vartma pradarshanat
bhakta-cakre varttitatvat cakravartty akhyaya bhavat
"He is known by the name Vishvanatha, the Lord of the universe, because he indicates the path of bhakti, and he is called Cakravarti (he around whom a circle or assembly turns) because he always remains in the assembly (cakra) of suddha bhaktas."
When Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura was about one hundred years old, he entered into aprakata (unmanifest) Vrindavana in Shri Radha-Kunda while absorbed in his internal state of transcendence. This took place on the fifth day of the light phase of the moon in the month of Magha (January-February) in the year 1676 Sakabda. His samadhi can be found today just next to the temple of Shri Gokulananda in Shri Dhama Vrindavan.
Literatures composed by Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura.
We are presenting below a list of Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura's books, commentaries and stavas (prayers) which are a storehouse of matchless wealth of Gaudiya Vaishnava bhakti literature.
(1) Vraja-riti-cintamani; (2) Camatkara-candrika; (3) Prema-samputam (Khanda-kavyam—a poetic work which displays only partial characteristics or ornamentation or poetry); (4) Gitavali; (5) Subhodhini (Alankara-kaustubha tika);(6)Ananda-candrika(Ujjvala-nilamani tika); (7) tika on Shri Gopala Tapani; (8) Stavamrita-lahari (Waves of Nectarean Prayers, included in which are the following) (i) Shri Guru-tattvashtakam, (ii) Mantra-datri-guror-ashtakam, (iii) Parama-guror-ashtakam, (iv) Paratpara-guror-ashtakam, (v)Parama-parat-para-guror-ashtakam, (vi) Shri Lokanathashtakam, (vii) Shri Shachinandanashtakam, (viii) Shri Svarupa-caritamritam, (ix) Shri Svapna-vilasa-amritam, (x) Shri Gopala Devashtakam, (xi) Shri Madana-mohan-ashtakam, (xii) Shri Govindashtakam, (xiii) Shri Gopinathashtakam (xiv)Shri Gokulanandashtakam, (xv) Svayam-bhagavad-ashtakam, (xvi) Shri Radha-Kundashtakam, (xvii) Jagan-mohanashtakam, (xviii) Anuraga-vali, (xix) Shri Vrinda Devyashtakam, (xx) Shri Radhika-dhyanamritam, (xxi) Shri Rupa-cintamanih, (xxii) Shri Nandishvarashtakam, (xxiii) Shri Vrindavanashtakam, (xxiv) Shri Govardhanashtakam, (xxv) Shri Sankalpa-kalpa-drumah, (xxvi) Shri Nikunja-virudavali (Virut-kavya, laudatory poetry), (xxvii) Surata-kathamritam, (xxviii) Shri Shyama-Kundashtakam;(9) Shri Krishna-bhavanamritam Mahakavyam; (10) Shri Bhagavatamrita-kana; (11) Shri Ujjvala-nilamani-kirana; (12) Shri Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu-bindu; (13) Raga-vartma-candrika; (14) Aishvnrya-kadambini (unavailable); (15) Shri Madhurya-kadambini; (16) Shri Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu tika; (17) Dana-keli-kaumudi tika; (18) Shri Lalita-madhava--nataka tika; (19) Shri Chaitanya-caritamrita tika (incomplete); (20) Brahma-Samhita tika; (21) Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita Sarartha-varshini tika; and (22) Shrimad--Bhagavatam Saratha-darshini tika.
The present edition of Bhagavad-gita includes the following features in order: the original devanagari shloka, the transliteration, the anvaya, the translation of the shloka, Shrila Cakravarti Thakura's Sarartha-varshini bhashya commentary, its bhavanuvada and the Saratha-varshini prakashika vritti, which has been written by this poor and lowly servant. The Sarartha-varshini bhashya is not simple or easy to understand, unless one has some knowledge of Sanskrit.
I have written Sarartha-varshini prakashika vritti in line with the thoughts of the Shri Rupanuga Gaudiya Vaishnava Acaryas in order to make Shrila Cakravarti Thakura's Sarartha-varshini bhashya simpler and easier to understand. May the merciful readers forgive me for my impudent act.
My worshipful Godbrother, parivrajakacarya Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Vamana Maharaja is the present acarya and president of Shri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti, and is a dear and intimate servant of Shri Gurupada-padma. He is very attached to para-vidya (bhakti). By his mercy he has repeatedly encouraged and directed this worthless servant to fulfil the innermost intentions (manobhishta) of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's associates by publishing a natural, easy and comprehensive Hindi edition of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita along with the commentaries of Shrila Cakravarti Thakura. I humbly pray at his lotus feet that he may bestow his blessings upon me, and fulfil Shrila Gurudeva's manobhishta by offering into his lotus hands this Shrimad Bhagavad-gita, which includes his favourite Saratha-varshini commentary.
I am specifically indebted to astottara-saia Shri Shrimad Bhakti Viveka BharatT Maharaja and ashtottara-shata Shri Shrimad Bhakti Shri Rupa Siddhanti Maharaja. Both of them were surrendered at the lotus feet of nitya-lila-pravishta-jagad-guru ashtottara-shata Shri Shrimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, and they have benefitted the world unlimitedly bv translating and publishing a Bengali edition of Shrila Cakravarti Thakura's commentary, and the Rasika-ranjana bhashya of the Seventh Gosvami, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. I have systematically studied this edition and have quoted some portions from it herein. I offer my prostrated obeisances at the lotus feet of these two shiksha gurus of mine, time and again. May they both be pleased with me.
I am completely confident that readers who are hankering for bhakti will receive this book well and give it all honour, and that faithful readers will enter into the realm of shuddha-bhakti after reading this literary work. We hope that spiritually astute readers will mercifully forgive any mistakes and discrepancies which have occurred as a result of composing this book in a short time, and that they will oblige us by accepting its essence.
Finally, in a distressed mood, I pray at the lotus feet of my most worshipful Shri Guru-pada-padma nitya-lila pravishta om vishnupada ashtottara-shata Shri Shrimad Bhakti Prajnana Keshava Gosvami Maharaja, who is the concentrated embodiment of Bhagavan's compassion. May he shower profuse mercy and blessings upon me, so that this poor, lowly servant may attain more and more qualification to render mano bhishta seva to him.
Praying for a particle of the mercy of Shri Hari, Guru
the humble and insignificant,
Shri Bhaktivedanta Narayana.
Shri Keshava-ji Gaudiya Matha
Vyasa-puja of Shri Shri Gurupada-padma
25th February 1997