It gives me much pleasure to write this foreword to Shri V. Panoli’s work Gita in Sankara’s Own Words Shri Panoli’s earlier work the voice of Valmiki ahs been deservedly praised and it is only to be expected that this English rendering of sankara’s Bhashya on the Gita would be done with competence.
Adi Sankara was the author of the immortal commentaries on the Prasthanathraya namely the Gita the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras. In these commentaries sankara reveled his relentless logic subtle reasoning and terse expression. Indeed it has been opined that as philosophical writings they are unique. The establishment of Adviata on firm foundations is regarded our own people there is much confusion as to the real significance of Sankara’s Advaita which a proper study and understanding of his Bhashyas can do much to clear. However there have been some difficulties in the way of such study and understanding. In the first place the tradition that the Bhashyas of Sankara should be studied only after gaining mastery of Sahitya Vyakarana Nyaya and Mimamsa has sometimes hundred and obscured comprehension of the commentaries. Another difficulty experienced by students is that in his commentaries. Sankara dealt with many important subjects but the topics are not arranged according to any the systems to which we are accustomed. As an erudite scholar has observed. The fundamental propositions of Sankara which are his own contributions to the Indian philosophical thought lie like a needle in a haystack. Therefore to quote again. It would be a service to world of religion and philosophy if these thoughts are picked up and given in a systematic manner in his own words.
This is precisely what Shri Panoli sets out to do. He ahs approached his subject in a mood of prayer humility and reverence as he regards Gita the essence of the Vedas as Divine and no less. He has brought to bear considerable labor devotion and scholarship on his task which he views as a sacred pilgrimage. If Shri Panoli’s pilgrimage can lead our understanding nearer to the concept of the Supreme spirit not as theoretical speculation but as a reality of direct apprehension and experience then indeed we shall have profited immeasurably and succeeded in realizing the central truth of Sankara’s teachings as summed up in the Mahvakya Tat Tvam Asi.
There are a number of commentaries on the Gita each an Endeavour in its own way to explain to the reader the quintessence of the sacred book. Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti the truth is one though sages call it by various names. Naturally sankara’s Bhashya on the Gita takes priority over the others as a classic on the subject. By his endeavors Shri Panoli is making Sankara’s Commentary easily intelligible to the Layman and providing a useful to the scholar who is constantly engaged in the quest of the why and wherefore of this world.
Life is real; life is divine. The goal of every thinking man consists in realizing the reality and divinity of life. But without some sort of awakening, a conscious effort in this direction is not possible.
The peacock waits in the egg; the peepul sleeps in the seed. Even so, death hides in every breath, paving the path to the grave.
Death unweaves the web of life, giving place to birth to rowcave it. Thus human existence is made endless by a neverceasing process of weaving, unweaving and reweaving of its web.
Is there no escape from this endless helpless trap in which the human soul is caught? This quest is as old as the hills, as old as humanity itself.
Hero is the most ancient document about the helpless wandering of the soul, before it finally returns to its moorings. Here is again the most valid document interpreting the oneness of the soul in a unique manner and showing the royal path to the final in a unique manner and showing the royal path to the final release from bondage. By the expression ‘ancient document’, the ten principal Upanishads are meant here, and by ‘valid document’, the Bhashyas of the great Acharya Sri Sankara on them. Both these combine to constitute the encyclopedia of the ancient Purusha by realizing whom man shall become free from his eternal wanderings, from the pangs of birth and death. Then ceases the endless process of weaving and unweaving the web of life. Then, and then alone, can the reality and divinity of life be experienced.
When I was introduced to His Holiness Maharshi Mahesh Yogi by justice Sri V.R Krishna Iyer in Madras on 11-11-1979, there was not even the slight indication that it would lead to any significant event. A few months later, there came information from Justice Iyer that I should go over to Rishikesh and meet Maharshiji. Accordingly I reached Rishikesh on 18-04-1980.
Maharshiji was extremely kind when he, pointing to my earlier work, ‘Gita in Sankara’s Own Words’, remarked, ‘I have read your book; you have done a good work.” Then, to my utter surprise, there came from him the suggestion, “Why not you now bring out ‘Upanishads in Sankara’s Own Words’ in the same manner?” This suggestion from his lips came as an utterance of benediction. What reply could I give? The blessed punyabhmi where the suggestion was made was ‘Rishikesh’. The garden of peace where Poojyapada Maharshi and I then sat to discuss these matters bore the name ‘Sankaracharya Nagar’. The whole force of he discussion was brought to bear upon ‘how to popularize the teaching of the great Acharya Sri Sankara’. And the one who made the suggestion was none other than the world-renowned, venerable personage, His Holiness Maharshi Mahesh Yogi himself. Could I give then a reply in the negative? God forbid! I was aware of my limitations, for I know I am stuffed only thinly with the stuff that is fine. Yet I could not but ascertain from Maharshiji whether he mean all the ten principal Upanishads. He replied in the affirmative.
For a split second joy took wings to flutter. Anxiety followed. Can this hazardous task be fulfilled? The stupendous system of monistic thoughts generally known as Prasthanatraya (the three institutions) rests mostly on the ten principal Upanishads, viz Isa. Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Aitareya, Taittiriya, Chhandogya and Brihadaranyaka, which alone, being the srutis (revealed thoughts), enjoy the exclusive privilege of having svatapramanya (the unquestionable right to be the authority by themselves). The other two institutions, viz the Gita and the Brahmasutras, cannot claim the above privilege, for, as far as the Advaita philosophy is concerned, the Gita is treated only as a smriti, and the Brahmasutras as one of the six principlal Darsanas. All the ten Upanishads in their entirely have to be brought into this work, incorporating the commentaries of Sri Sankara on them, together with the Gaudapada Karika on the Mandukya Upanishad, in the original Sanskrit, and providing the English translations, explanatory notes and footnotes.
With the grace of the Lord, the work was started in May 1980. It was nothing short of a pilgrimage to go through the naïve utterances of the Upanishads again and again, accompanied by the soul-stirring, hair-splitting interpretations of the great Acharya on them, although various difficulties had to be encountered with, while covering the entire area from the Isavasya to the Brihadaranyaka. With the mercy of the Lord, all the difficulties on the path could also be converted into pilgrim’s joy.
As already pointed out, the texts of the ten Upanishads, the Karika of Sri Gaudapada (on the Mandukya Upanishad), and the Bhashya of Sri Sankara on the Upanishads and Karika, have been provided in the Devanagari character. To understand and realize the beauty and depth of Sri Sankara’s thoughts, his own words will be very much helpful. A mere translation without the Bhashya in the original Snaskrit may not inspire a student Sanskrit to the extent it does, as when the original is provided with the translation. Even in the case of an aspirant who has only a partial knowledge of Sanskrit, it is possible that he may pick up inspiring words, phrases or utterances, here and there, which might in the long run help him for further unfoldment and development, provided he is persistent in his effort. Exhaustive explanatory notes and footnotes have also been provided, wherever necessary, with a view to reducing the difficulties in understanding the essence of the teaching. Care has been taken to avoid all sorts of intellectual pirouetting and somersaulting, for such attempts will tend to defeat the purpose in view which insists on making the whole text as simple as possible without losing the essence.
This humble little work took me eight and a half years for chiseling and modeling. I don’t claim it is free from errors; omissions and the like, for these are unavoidable in a work which goes on for years at a stretch.
God’s ways are mysterious. When he himself is a mystery of mysteries, how can his ways be different? The longest pilgrimage of life has come to its final stage. There were before me insuperable difficulties that seemed to scatter on dust what little I have done. But the eternal deity removed all of them in mysterious and miraculous ways.
I have only prayers to offer together with my soul’s devotion to that eternal deity who made my path smooth.
I must also offer prayers to my departed master, Sahityakesari Pandit P. Gopalan Nair (Kollengode) at whose feel I had laid my soul in devotion and whose living touch I feel on all my limbs even today, twenty-six years after his leaving the mortal coils.
The Acharya’s sententious style of writing, his tersely aphoristic expressions and his intrepid arguments- all this and all these make his writings a wonder for all time, not only in the sphere of Advaita Vedanta, but also in the vast field of the world’s literature, for such is the rare gift of the right word he possessed together with the acutest intellect.
As already stated, this longest pilgrimage went on for a space of eight and a half years during which the scripts could be brought into a complete shape. The work took another three and a half years for printing. Undivided attention had to be bestowed again on it continually during this period for making corrections and alterations. It goes without saying that a work which runs into 3400 pages in four volumes, and which necessitates the use of five different types in Sanskrit and English, demands one’s constant watch. Thus this little work took in all twelve years for assuming its final shape.
In this esoteric work the author interprets to us the actual text of Sankara Bhashya on the world’s most ancient and lofty attestation of the science of the self, which combines the eternal rules that govern the phenomenal universe and the intangible cosmos, too rational to be rejected by infidels, too experiential to be ignored by scientists, too rebelliously truthful to be bound by priestly rituals. This book, which is the valuable product of a life-long study and research, can well claim the merit of offering unerring guidance to any sincere student of Indian philosophy.
This work is significant in being the product of a single-minded pursuit and undivided devotion and in completing it with success the author has immortalized himself. The peculiar characteristic of this hole-hearted dedication is that it hasn’t got the least trace of any commercial intent, nor is the strenuous effort motivated by any personal gain.
All the major Upanishads are great books, godly books; But the Brihadaranyaka is the Upanishad among the Upanishads. It belongs to the Sukla Yajur Veda, especially to the portions constituting its Madhyamdina and Kanva branches. Being the biggest in size, it is called Brihad, and since this grat message was delivered in the forest, it is called Aranyaka. Of ail the commentaries on the Upanishads written by Sri Sankaracharya, that on the Brihadaranyaka will lead one to think that none, nobody of man, could ever write a more exhaustive and excellent treatise than this, for the highly inspired utterances of the Upanishad, coupled with the tersely aphoristic expressions of the great Acharya, will speak volumes to any sincere student of philosophy
This Upanishad is presented in three main Kandas called the Madhukanda, the Yajnavalkya-kandas (or the Muni-kanda) and the Khila-kanda. Again, each of the three kandas is divided into two Adhyayas. Thus there are six Adhyayas consisting of forty-seven Brahmanas in all. While the first Kanda holds in its bosom the principles of Advaita in their pristine purity, the second proclaims the infallibility of the teachings and the third describes the process of meditation.
It goes without saying that there never was an Indian theologian whom the Brihadaranyaka had not inspired or who had not quoted a few passages from it in support of his views, and there shall never be one in future. Elsewhere it has been pointed out how it went so far as to inspire the renowned poet T.S. Elliot who hastened to incorporate the teaching of the Brihadaranyaka in his celebrated work The Waste Land’.
It is impossible for anyone to pick up all the telling utterances of this Upanishad and invite the attention of the readers to their import, for it is so vast as will cover countless pages. But one should not fail to make mention here of a few of those oft-quoted utterances such as, Asato ma sadgamaya (Lead me from unreality to reality), Atmaivedamagra asit (In the beginning this was nothing but the self), Yatha pasurevam sa Devanam (As is cow to us, so is man to the gods), Nava are patyuh kamaya pati priyo bhavati (The husband is dear, not for husband’s sake, but for the self’s sake), which are capable of waking up the sleeping soul.
The dialogues between Gargya and Ajatasatru, Yajnavalkya and his wife maitreyi, and his disciple Janaka, and the impartation of a unique message in one syllable viz. da by Prajapati to the Devas, Manushyas and Asuras, and several other discussions, debates etc. Which find a place in this Upanishad, will certainly open new vistas of thoughts before us.
The Brahmasutra composed by Sri Badarayana Acharya is not only a great book but also a goldy book. The terse aphorisms which the text holds in its bosom are clothed in the bhashya of which the style is climically precise and the approach rigorously logical. The bhashyakara Sri Sankara has immortalized these sutras by his superb interpretation which reveals the Acharya himself as critically intelligent and intelligently critical from one end of the bhashya to the other.
This is the one text which often reminded me of my limitation. Certainly in the vast range of philosophy the Brahmasutra is the hardest nut to crack. What is the objective of this work? Of course it is to establish the Advaita Vedanta as a flawless system of thought. In order to accomplish it the whole force is brought to bear upon establishing the following:
(a) The Darsanas other than the Advaita Vedanta are faulty with errors beyond reconciliation and hence they cannot stand to reason.
(b) Some of the Statements or declarations in the Vedanta texts themselves which are seemingly contradictory are not contradictory at all in the light of discriminative thinking and pure reason.
(c) The Claims made with regard to moksha (liberation) by the authors of other systems are not acceptable in as they fail to satisfy reason.
Moreover the Brahmasutra refutes all the doctrines that contradict the right knowledge and establishes the true sense of the Vedanta texts.
Now the facts mentioned above will serve as a pointer to the import of the text. There is a statement in the Jaimini sutras that the Veda is meant to enjoin rites and that the other parts (of the Veda) are useless. This has been refuted by Sri Badarayana. Similarly the followers of the Sankhya system hold that the unintelligent Pradhana is the cause of the universe. This is discussed in 1-1-15 of the Brahmasutra and in the end it has been settled that Pradhana cannot be the cause. Again the sankhyas point out that Pradhana is equivalent to Avyakta which is spoken of in the katha Upanishad. This is refuted in Brahmasutra.
In the Svetasuvatara Upanishad Sankhya and yoga have been spoken of as means of realization. The exact sense conveyed by the above Upanishadic text has been explained in Brahmasutra and it goes against the theories of the Sankhyas and yogins. Similarly the argument of the sankhyas that the word ajaa which represents Pradhana (of their doctrine) is found used in the Upanishad in the same sense that the sankhya theory therefore enjoys the sanction of the Veda has been in Adhikarana 9 and 10 of 1,4-2 of the Brahmasutra. The refutation advances still further as explained below:
The fourth pada (of the first Adhyaya) ends with the following observation of the acharya
Because of seeing (thinking) Pradhana does not constitute the cause because it is disagreeable to the scripture>
Beginning with the above sutra the doctrine of Pradhana was brought forward and refuted again and again by the Sutras themselves. This became necessary because the Vedanta texts have in them certain passages bearing semblances of interferential marks which may appear to the opponents as supporting their doctrine. Since that doctrine admits the non difference of cause and effect it comes very near to the views of the Vedanta texts. Great pains have therefore been taken in refuting it. But such has not been the case in repudiating the atomic theory (of Kanada) as the cause. These theories are to be refuted since they are opposed to the doctrine of Brahman as the cause some Vedic connotations may appear to the opponents as supporting their doctrine. Hence the same arguments are directed towards them also. Badarayana acharya opposes the origination of the Jiva for it has not source.
This book which is designed for the advanced study in philosophy makes mention of the views of such thinkers as Asmaratya oudulomi and Kasakrishan who do not generally figure in minor texts of philosophy.
Asmaratya admits non difference between the individual self and the supreme self. His efforts consisted in bringin in the relationship existing between a cause and its effect whereas oudulomi holds that the declaration of non difference between Jiva and Paramatman appears at the outset because the soul on leaving the body finds identity with the supreme self. His views is in harmony with that thou art. According to this view immortality results from the knowledge of the self. But if he individual self is a modification as held by Asmaratya in as much as the modification gets itself lost on becoming dissolved in its cause the attainment of immortality through knowledge does not stand to reason. Kasakrishna advocates that the supreme Lord in his unmodified state is the individual self and nothing else.
Coming to the present volume it may be said that six padas (i.e. four padas of the first Adhyaya and the two of the second) have only been covered by it. In order to facilitate the grasp of these padas a gist is given before the commencement of each pada.
As regards the method of the bhashya, it may be stated that the bhashya presents short statements which it again explains as warranted by contexts. What is most peculiar to the bhashya is that there is an imaginary disputant to whom it is addressed directly. This imaginary disputant actually plays the role of an opponent the objections raised by whom are given as Purvapaksha and the replies to these objections as Samadhana.
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