76. Who Should or Should Not be Taught the Bhagavadgita?


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. I am currently working on a revised edition with even more in-depth 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

In the Bhagavadgita (18.68) Lord Krishna says that of all the devotees, the teachers who teach the supreme secrets of his teaching are the dearest, and doubtlessly they attain him only. He also says that there are none who serve him better than them or dearer to him than them. He further says that in his opinion those who study the scripture should be deemed as worshipping him through the sacrifice of knowledge (jnana yajna), and those who listen to the discourse with complete faith would attain the same world as those who perform meritorious deeds. Thus teaching, studying and listening to the scripture is highly beneficial and is deemed acts of worship and devotion. It is not obligatory. However, those who engage in these actions with faith and devotion qualify to earn the love and grace of the Supreme Being.

Lord Krishna also clearly states that the knowledge of the Bhagavadgita is not suitable for everyone and should not be taught to everyone. The law books declare that charity should be given only to worthy recipients according to their worth, capacity or merit. Lord Krishna followed the same principle when he identified people who were unworthy of knowing the secrets of the Bhagavadgita. The knowledge of the Bhagavadgita is not just a secret, but the utmost secret (guhyati guhya). Hence, he advised teachers to avoid people who possessed four negative traits. They are those who are irreligious and do not practice austerities, who are not devoted to God, who are not inclined to do selfless service and who are envious or hateful towards him.

He gave no leniency while giving this advice, using the expression, ‘kadacana,’ meaning at any time. In other words, a teacher should not initiate students into the study of the Bhagavadgita or speak to them its knowledge or secrets if they possessed these traits at anytime in their lives. It means that if a student was irreligious or lacked devotion or was disrespectful to God at anytime in his life, he should not be admitted into the teaching at all. Although it is not explicitly stated, since the next verse (18.67) is addressed to teachers, we can conclude that the instructions are especially meant for teachers who initiate students into the study or the secret knowledge of the Bhagavadgita. They have to be careful in choosing their students to avoid the sin of teaching the sacred knowledge to the unworthy and unqualified.

In today’s world, it is extremely difficult to find people who are completely flawless and do not possess one or more of these traits. If we have to go by the standards, probably no one will qualify for the initiation. However, in my opinion these rules apply only to those who take initiation from a guru or teacher and engage in the study of the Bhagavadgita under their personal guidance. They do not apply if someone wants to learn the knowledge through self-study or self-effort. That would be considered fate or the will of God (daiveccha). Similarly, if people attend a speech or seminar on the Bhagavadgita or join a Congregation of devotees to listen to it, without the explicit permission from the teacher or the speaker who participates in it, it would not be deemed a violation since the teacher has not given his or her explicit permission and played no role in that happening.

Bhagavadgita is a Yoga Shastra and an Upanishad. It is also a scripture on the knowledge of Brahman (Brahmavidya). All the three shastras are meant to be taught only to worthy students who possess purity, spirituality, egolessness, devotion, faith, fear of God and righteousness. Since, the Bhagavadgita represents all the three, a teacher should be even more careful while imparting knowledge or initiating students. The same rules can be followed by a guru while choosing his successor. Just as oblations are meant to be poured into the sacred fire rather than the burnt ashes, knowledge should be poured into the hearts and minds of worthy students who possess sattvic resolve, faith and devotion.

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