Discussion on the gItA

Hemant reachhemant at ETH.NET
Tue Jan 8 07:34:25 CST 2002

Hemant> Again the Bhagawan does not preach karma sannyasa like Sankara but exhorts
> Arjuna to action.

SVS>Sri Sankara, in his bhAshyam on the famous verse "karmaNyEvAdhikArastE ...",
starts by saying:

karmaNi eva adhikAraH, na jnAna nishTAyAm te (tava)

He indicates that Arjuna at that point is not fully fit for receving jnAna dixA
and hence should perform karma yoga.  If you see Sri Sankara's comments on
previous verses too, he says till one is really fit to enquire (jnAna), one
should perform pious acts like building tanks etc.

>From my limited understanding, he does not preach karma sanyAsa as cure-all for
everybody.  Infact he urges people to participate in karma till one is ready
for receiving the final knowledge.

Can you clarify where exactly Sankara exhorts students karma-sanyAsa in his
interpretation of gItA?

The gItA   is a very important text of the Hindu tradition. Not only Sankara but many other philosophers have commented on it. Sankara reads his philosophy in it, rAmAnuja sees viSishtAdvaita in it and Madhva, his own school in it. abhinavagupta of Kashmir Saivism, which claims to be a more thorough-going Monism than Sankara advaita interprets it allegorically; the battle of Kurukshetra being the inner battle in a human being. Tilak sees in it a gospel of works. 
                 Unfortunately, this sacred text has become a tool for dialectical warfare. The observations of  the AcAryas are theory-laden. In order to understand Sankara's interpretation one has first to understand advaitic theory. The underlying assumptions 
are as follows :
a) jnAna and only jnAana is the means for the highest release. This has the implication that karma and bhakti while helpful on the way are basically the devices of unripe souls not yet ready for the highest knowledge.
b) The doctrine of mAyA and, it's practical complement,
c) Karma sannyAsa 

Viewed in the light of these assumptions Sankara's interpretation assumes logical coherence. If you have a pro-jnAna temperament Sankara's interpretation is for you. In the Sloka you cite, Sankara invokes adhikAra bheda to explain Sri kRshna's advise to arjuna. He often takes recourse to this device to assert the supremacy of jnAna over others (see Sankara's interpretation of the IsavAsya ).
Somebody has said with telling effect that interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art. The gItA is first poetry and only next philosophy. Consider the characters of the mahAbhArata; arjuna is rajasosAttvika by nature .He is neither full of rAjasic energy like bhIma nor of the disposition of calm reflection like the sAttvika yudhishthira.  Compared with the sage-like vidura he definitely appears inferior as an adhikAri for the BhagavAn's  upadeSa. Yet it is neither yudhishthira nor vidura but arjuna who is the chosen instrument of the Lord. This is because he is the priya of the lord and one to whom he reveals his viSva rUpa. In the tenth chapter (vibhUtiyoga X.37) Sri kRsna declares, "Of the vRishnI's  I am vAsudeva, of the pandavAs I am dhananjaya."
         At the end of the gIta sri bhagavAna declares, " he who will study the sacred dialogue between us, will be sacrificing to Me through the knowledge sacrifice; this is my opinion."(XVIII.70) So you see the highest secret has been revealed to arjuna inspite of his being considered a non adhikAri by Sankara. Since this web site is meant primarily for the advaitic sAdhana we would do well to familiarize ourself with the basic teachings of  Sri Sankara and only next go to the interpretations which have the element of subjective bias. If you are interested in discussing gItA we can do it privately.  My address is reachhemant at eth.net
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