The Status Of The Bhagavadgita In Hindu Literature

Krishna and Arjuna

by Jayaram V

Notes: I have translated the Bhagavadgita twice. The first one was a loose translation. The second one was a word to word translation with a detailed commentary. The commentary is however different from what you will find here. In this section I will share with you my thoughts about the knowledge, philosophy and wisdom of the Bhagavadgita as I understand it from my perspective. Jayaram V

A lot of Hindus might have heard of the Bhagavadgita. Some of them might have read it and a few of them may actually follow it. Many people are not naturally inclined to read scriptures, because they do not offer much excitement to the nerves.

Perhaps more people would read the Bhagavadgita if they find in it ready-made solutions to their immediate problems. The book does offer solutions, but to understand them you have to read the verses and apply your intelligence. Once you understand its wisdom, you will find in it many solutions to your problems and you can even customize it according to your own needs and understanding.

The Bhagavadgita is not considered a sruti (the heard ones). Only the four Vedas qualify for that status. It is not traditionally associated with any Veda as an Upanishad. You cannot equate it with the Yogasutras of Patanjali because it goes beyond the knowledge of the classical yoga. Then what is the true status of the Bhagavadgita in Hinduism?

The answer is found in the scripture itself. Each chapter in the Bhagavadgita ends with a particular verse, which speaks about the nature of the Bhagavadgita and the title of the chapter. Its wording is the same in all chapters except for the title description. For example, the first chapter ends thus:

"iti srīmadbhāgavadgītāsupanisatsu brahmavidyāyām yogasāstre srikrisnārjunasamvāde arjunavisādayogo nāma prathamo 'dhyayah.1"

This verse states that the Bhagavadgita is an Upanishad, a subject about Brahman, a yoga scripture and dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna. The Bhagavadgita is an Upanishad because it contains the essence of all the Upanishads. It is a subject about Brahman (Brahma vidya) because Brahman is its source and goal.

Each Brahma vidya (there are about 30-40 of them) is traditionally used in contemplation upon Brahman. It is a scripture on yoga (yoga sastram) because you learn from it about various yogas, not just the classical yoga, which is also suggested briefly in some verses.

Indeed, every chapter in the Bhagavadgita is about some yoga. Finally, the book is not the monologue of a spiritual teacher, but a conversation (samvadam) between a human being and a divine teacher. Thus, like the Asvattha tree mentioned in the Upanishads, the Bhagavadgita is like a tree having its roots high in the heaven and its branches spread into the mortal world.

<< Previous   Next>>

Share This

Suggestions for Further Reading


Thus ends the first chapter named the Yoga of Arjuna's Sorrow, in the Upanishad of the sacred Bhagavadgita, the knowledge of the Absolute Brahman, the scripture on yoga, and the debate between Lord Krishna and Arjuna.