The Eclectic School represented by the Bhagavad-gītā.

 Sir Monier Monier-Williams, KCIE (12 November 1819 – 11 April 1899) was the second Boden Professor of

 Sanskrit at Oxford University, England.  A Comparative Study of Bhagavadgita and the Bible.

Presentation by Veeraswamy Krishnaraj

As a fitting conclusion to the subject of Indian philosophy let me endeavour to give some idea of one of the most interesting and popular works in the whole range of Sanskrit literature, called Bhagavad-gītā, the Song of Bhagavat — that is, the mystical doctrines (Upanishadaḥ1) sung by 'the adorable one' — a name applied to Krishna when identified with the supreme Being. This poem,

abounding in sentiments borrowed from the Upanishads, and commented on by the great Vedāntic teacher Śaṅkarāćārya, may be taken to represent the Eclectic school of Indian philosophy. As the regular systems or Darśanas were more or less developments of the Upanishads, so the Eclectic school is connected with those mystical treatises ►►


1At the end of each chapter the name of the chapter is given in the

plural; thus, Iti sri-bhagavad-gītāsu upanishatsu, &e. See note 1, p. 138.



►►through the Śvetāśvatara Upanishad1 of the Black Yajurveda (see p. 45). This latter is doubtless a comparatively modern work, but whether composed before or after the Bhagavad-gītā, certain it is that the design of both appears to be the same. They both aim at reconciling the conflicting views of different systems, and both do so by attempting to engraft the Sānkhya  and Yoga upon Vedānta  doctrines2 . Although, therefore, the order of creation and much of the cosmogony and other Sānkhya 

views are retained in both, the paramount sovereignty of the supreme Soul of the universe (Brahma) as the source and ultimate end of all created things, and yet wholly independent of all such creations, is asserted by both.  

Some extracts from the Śvetāśvatara, describing the character and attributes of this supreme Being, who is everything and in everything, have already been given at p. 45. The following are additional extracts from the first and third chapters (Boer, pp. 50, 55, 58):  

This (absolute Brahma) should be meditated on as eternal and as abiding in one's own soul for beside him there is nothing to be known (nātaḥ paraṃ veditavyaṃ hi kiṅćit). As oil in seeds (tileshu), butter in cream, water in a river, and fire in wood, so is that absolute Soul perceived within himself by a person who beholds him by means of truth and by austerity.


1The name of this Upanishad is derived from a sage, Śvetāśvatara,

who, at the end of the work (VI. 21), is said to have taught the doc-

trine of Brahma to the most excellent of the four orders. It has been

translated by Dr. Roer into English, and nearly all by Professor "Weber

into German (Indische Studies I. 422-429). The author must have been

a Śaiva (not a Vaishṇava, like the author of the Bhagavad-gītā), as he

identifies Rudra with the supreme Being. According to Wilson, Śveta,

‘white, ’Śvetāśva, 'white-horsed,' Śveta-śikha, 'white-haired,’ and

Śveta-lohita, ’white-blooded,’ were names of four disciples of Śiva. Weber

suspects here a mission of Syrian Christians, and thinks that both the

Upanishad and the Gītā, the latter especially, may have borrowed ideas

from Christianity.

2See Dr. Boer's introduction for a full explanation of this.




He is the eye of all, the face of all, the arm of all, the foot of all.

Thou art the black bee (nīlaḥ patangaḥ), the green bird with red-colored eye, the cloud in whose womb sleeps the lightning, the seasons, the seas. Without beginning thou pervadest all things by thy almighty power for by thee are all the worlds created.  

The following, again, is an example of a passage occurring in the fourth chapter (5), which is decidedly Sānkhyan in its tone:

The one unborn (individual soul), for the sake of enjoyment, lies close to the One unborn (Prākṛti), which is of a white, red, and black color [answering evidently to the three Sānkhyan Guṇas], which is of one and the same form, and produces a manifold offspring. Then the other unborn (or eternal soul) abandons her (Prākṛti) whose enjoyment he has enjoyed.  

Let us now turn to the Bhagavad-gītā. The real author of this work is unknown. It was at an early date dignified by a place in the Mahā-bhārata, in which poem it lies imbedded, or rather inlaid like a pearl1 contributing with other numerous episodes to the mosaic-like character of that immense epic. The Bhagavad-gītā, however, is quite independent of the great epic and it cannot be questioned that its proper place in any arrangement of Sanskrit literature framed with regard to the continuous development and progress of Hindu thought and know- ledge should be at the close of the subject of philosophy. The author was probably a Brahman and nominally a ►►


1It has been interpolated into the Bhīshma-parvan of the Mahā-bhārata

and is divided into eighteen chapters or into three sections, each containing six lectures, commencing at line 830 of the twenty-fifth chapter of

the Parva, and ending at line 1532. Such is the estimation in which

the work is held both in Asia and Europe, that it has been translated

into Hindi, Telugu, Kanarese, and other Eastern languages, and is also

well known by European translations, of which that of Sir C. Wilkins,

published in London in 1785, was the first. Mr. J. C. Thomson's edition

and translation, published, with an elaborate introduction, by Stephen

Austin in 1855, is, on the whole, a very meritorious production, and

I am glad to acknowledge my obligations to it.




►►Vaishnava, but really a philosopher whose mind was cast in a broad and comprehensive mould. He is supposed to have lived in India during the first or second century of our era1. Finding no rest for his spirit in any one system of philosophy, as commonly taught in his own time, much less in the corrupt Brahmanism which surrounded him, he was led to make a selection from the various schools of rationalistic and dogmatic thought, so as to construct a composite theory of his own. This he did

with great perspicuity and beauty of language, inter- weaving various opinions into one system by taking, so to speak, threads from the Sānkhya , Yoga, and Vedānta , as well as from the later theory of Bhakti or 'faith in a supreme Being2.’ With these threads he weaves, as it were, a woof of many-coloured hues of thought, which are shot across a stiff warp of stern uncompromising panthe- istic doctrines, worthy of the most decided adherent of the Vedānta  school3. Of these cross threads the most

conspicuous are those of the Sānkhya  system, for which the author of the Gita has an evident predilection. The whole composition is skilfully thrown into the form of a dramatic poem or dialogue, something after the manner ►►


1Some consider that he lived as late as the third century, and some

place him even later, but with these I cannot agree..

2The Aphorisms of Śāṇḍilya, the editing of which was commenced by

Dr. Ballantyne and continued by Professor Griffith, his successor at

Benares, deny that knowledge is the one thing needful, and insist on the

subjection of knowledge to the higher principle of Bhakti, ’faith in God,’

The first Aphorism introduces the inquiry into the nature of faith, thus, Athāto bhakti-jijṅāsa. Professor Weber and others think that the introduction of iria-Tis and aycnrr) into the Hindu system is due to the influence of Christianity.

3The predominance of pantheistic doctrines, notwithstanding the

attempt to interweave them with portions of the Sānkhya  and Yoga

systems, is denoted by the fact that the Vedāntists claim this poem as an exponent of their own opinions.



►►of the book of Job or a dialogue of Plato1. The speakers are the two most important personages in the Maha- bharata, Arjuna and Krishna. Arjuna is perhaps the real hero of that epic. He is the bravest, and yet the most tender-hearted of the five sons of Pandu. The god Krishna, who is identified with Vishnu2, and in this philo- sophical dialogue is held to be an incarnation of the supreme Being himself, had taken human form as the son of Devaki and Vasudeva, who was brother of Kunti, wife of Pandu. Hence the god was cousin of the sons of Pandu, brother of Dhṛitarāshṭra, the sons of these brothers being of course related as cousins to each other. In the great war which arose between the two families, each contending for the kingdom of Hastinapura3 , Krishna refused to take up arms on either side, but consented to act as the charioteer ►►



1It is, however, styled an Upanishad, or rather a series of Upanishads, because, like the Upanishads, it reveals secret and mystical doctrines. For instance, at the close of the dialogue (XVIII, 63), Krishna says, ’I have thus communicated to you knowledge more secret than secret itself (iti me jṅānam ākhyātaṃ guhyād guhyataraṃ mayā).

2Professor Weber (Indische Studien I. 400) thinks that Brāhmans may have crossed the sea to Asia Minor at the beginning of the Christian era, and on their return made use of Christian narratives to fabricate the story of their deified hero, Krishna, whose very name would remind them of Christ. The legends of the birth of Krishna and his persecution by Kansa, remind us, says Weber, too strikingly of the corresponding Christian narratives to leave room for the supposition that the similarity is quite accidental. According to Lassen, the passages of the Mahā-bhārata in which Krishna receives divine honours are later interpolations, and the real worship of Krishna is not found before the fifth or sixth century. Dr. Lorinser, as we shall presently see, thinks he can trace the influence of Christianity throughout the Bhagavad-gītā. The legend of Śveta-dvīpa in the Mahā-bhārata (XII. 12703) certainly favours the idea of some intercourse with Europe at an early date. The legends relating to Krishna are found detailed at full in the tenth book of the Bhāgavata-purāṇa and its Hindi paraphrase, the Prem Sagar.

2See the epitome of this great epic in a subsequent Lecture.



►►of Arjuna and to aid him with his advice. At the commencement of the BHAGAVAD-GĪTĀ the two contending armies are supposed to be drawn up in battle array, when Arjuna, struck with sudden compunction at the idea of fighting his way to a kingdom through the blood of his kindred, makes a sudden resolution to retire from the combat, confiding his thoughts to Krishna thus (I. 28-33):


Beholding these my relatives arrayed

Before my eyes in serried line of battle,

Preparing for the deadly fray, my limbs

Are all relaxed, my blood dries up, a tremor

Palsies my frame, the hairs upon my skin

Bristle with horror, all my body burns

As if with fever, and my mind whirls round,

So that I cannot stand upright, nor hold

The bow Gāṇḍīva slipping from my hand.

I cannot — will not fight — mighty Krishna.

I seek not victory, I seek no kingdom.

"What shall we do with regal pomp and power,

What with enjoyments or with life itself,

When we have slaughtered all our kindred here?


Krishna's reply to this speech is made the occasion of the long philosophical and theological dialogue which, in fact, constitutes the BHAGAVAD-GĪTĀ, the main design of which undoubtedly is to exalt the duties of caste above all other obligations, including the ties of friendship and affection, but at the same time to show that the practice of these duties is compatible with all the self-mortification and concentration of thought enjoined by the Yoga philo- sophy, as well as with the deepest devotion to the supreme Being, with whom Krishna claims to be identified1. As ►►


1There is a sect among the Hindus called Ganapatyas, who identify

Ganapati or Gaṇeśa with the supreme Being. Their doctrines are embodied

in the Gaṇeśa -purāṇa, but they have a poem called the Ganesa-gītā, which is identical in substance with the Bhagavad-gītā, the name of Gaṇeśa being substituted for that of Krishna.



Arjuna belongs to the military caste, he is exhorted to perform his duties as a soldier. Again and again is he urged to fight, without the least thought about consequences, and without the slightest question as to the propriety of slaughtering his relations, if only he acts in the path of duty. Hence we have the following sentiments repeated more than once (III. 35, XVIII. 47, 48):


Better to do the duty of one's caste1,

Though bad and ill-performed and fraught with evil,

Than undertake the business of another,

However good it be. For better far

Abandon life at once than not fulfil

One's own appointed work another's duty

Brings danger to the man who meddles with it.

Perfection is alone attained by him

"Who swerves not from the business of his caste.

(III. 35, XVIII. 47, 48


Remembering the sacred character attributed to this poem and the veneration in which it has always been held throughout India, we may well understand that such words as these must have exerted a powerful influence for the last 1800 years tending, as they must have done, to rivet the fetters of caste-institutions which, for several centuries preceding the Christian era, notwithstanding the efforts of the great liberator Buddha, increased year by year their hold upon the various classes of Hindu society, impeding mutual intercourse, preventing healthy interchange of ideas, and making national union almost impossible.


Before proceeding to offer further examples, we may remark that as the BHAGAVAD-GĪTĀ is divided into three sections, each containing six chapters, so the philosophical teaching is somewhat distinct in each section.

1Compare Śakuntalā, verse 133,’Verily the occupation in which a

man is born, though it be in bad repute, must not be abandoned. ‘The

words used (saha-jaṃ karma) are the same as those in the Bhagavad-gītā. 



The first section dwells chiefly on the benefits of the Yoga system, pointing out, however, as we have already observed, that the asceticism of the Yoga ought to be joined with action and the performance of regular caste duties, and winding up with a declaration that the grand end and aim of all asceticism is to attain that most desirable pantheistic state which enables a man to see God in every-

thing and everything in God. Arjuna is exhorted as a member of the soldier-caste to dismiss all doubt about the propriety of fighting and killing his relations, by an argument drawn from the eternal existence of the soul, which is nobly expressed thus (II. 1 1, &C.)1:


The wise grieve not for the departed, nor for those who yet survive.

Ne'er was the time when I was not, nor thou, nor yonder chiefs, and ne'er

Shall be the time when all of us shall be not as the embodied soul

In this corporeal frame moves swiftly on through boyhood, youth, and age,

So will it pass through other forms hereafter — be not grieved thereat.

The man whom pain and pleasure, heat and cold affect not, he is fit

For immortality whatever is not cannot be, whatever is

Can never cease to be. Know this — the Being that spread this universe

Is indestructible. Who can destroy the Indestructible?

These bodies that inclose the everlasting soul, inscrutable,

Immortal, have an end but he who thinks the soul can be destroyed,

And he who deems it a destroyer, are alike mistaken it

Kills not, and is not killed it is not born, nor doth it ever die

It has no past nor future — unproduced, unchanging, infinite he

"Who knows it fixed, unborn, imperishable, indissoluble,

How can that man destroy another, or extinguish aught below?

As men abandon old and threadbare clothes to put on others new,

So casts the embodied soul its worn-out frame to enter other forms.

No dart can pierce it flame cannot consume it, water wet it not,

Nor scorching breezes dry it — indestructible, incapable

Of heat or moisture or aridity, eternal, all-pervading,

Steadfast, immovable, perpetual, yet imperceptible,

Incomprehensible, unfading, deathless, unimaginable2.


1I have endeavoured to give a more literal version than the well-known

one of Dean Milman, though I have followed him in some expressions.

2 Compare the passage from the Katha Upanishad, translated p. 44.



 The duty of Yoga or 'intense concentration of the mind on one subject ‘(viz. the supreme Being, here identified with Krishna), till at last the great end of freedom from all thought, perfect calm, and absorption in the Deity are obtained, is enjoined with much force of language in the second and sixth books, from which I extract the following examples, translated nearly literally, but not quite, according to the order of the text:


That holy man who stands immovable,

As if erect upon a pinnacle1

His appetites and organs all subdued,

Sated with knowledge secular and sacred,

To whom a lump of earth, a stone, or gold2,

To whom friends, relatives, acquaintances,

Neutrals and enemies, the good and bad,

Are all alike, is called 'one yoked with God.'

The man who aims at that supreme condition

Of perfect yoking3 with the Deity

Must first of all be moderate in all things,

In food, in sleep, in vigilance, in action,

In exercise and recreation. Then

Let him, if seeking God by deep abstraction,

Abandon his possessions and his hopes,

Betake himself to some secluded spot4 ,

And fix his heart and thoughts on God alone.

There let him choose a seat, not high nor low,

And with a cloth or skin to cover him,

And Kusa grass beneath him, let him sit

Firm and erect, his body, head, and neck

Straight and immovable, his eyes directed

Towards a single point5, not looking round,


1Kūṭa-sthaḥ (VI. 8) may mean ‘standing erect like a peak.’

2Tersely expressed in Sanskrit by sama-loshṭāśma-kāṅćanaḥ VI. 8.

3I use these expressions as kindred words to the Sanskrit yuhta and

Yoga. 'Joined' and 'junction' are also cognate expressions.

4Cf. Matt. vi. 6, But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet,

and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret.’

5The text (VI. 1 3) says, ‘fixing his eyes on the tip of his nose ‘(sam-

prekshya nāsikāgram).►► See p. 103.




►►Devoid of passion, free from anxious thought,

His heart restrained, and deep in meditation.

E'en as a tortoise draws its head and feet

Within its shell, so must he keep his organs

Withdrawn from sensual objects. He whose senses

Are well controlled attains to sacred knowledge,

And thence obtains tranquility of thought.

Without quiescence, there can be no bliss.

E'en as a storm-tossed ship upon the waves,

So is the man whose heart obeys his passions,

Which, like the winds, will hurry him away.

Quiescence is the state of the Supreme.

He who, intent on meditation, joins

His soul with the Supreme, is like a flame

That flickers not when sheltered from the wind.

Notes by Krishnaraj: The above is from Bhagavadgītā Chapter 6.


I pass now to the second division of this poem, in which the pantheistic doctrines of the Vedānta  are more directly inculcated than in the other sections. Krishna here in the plainest language claims adoration as one with the great universal Spirit, pervading and constituting the universe. I extract portions from different parts of this section without observing the order of the text, which contains such tautology, as well as repetitions of similar ideas in different language:


Whate'er thou dost perform whate'er thou eatest,

Whate'er thou givest to the poor, whate'er

Thou offerest in sacrifice, whatever

Thou doest as an act of holy penance,

Do all as if to me, O Arjuna (IX. 27)1.


1Compare 1 Cor. x. 31,’Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.’Dr.Lorinser, expanding the views of Professor Weber and others concerning the influence of Christianity on the legends of Krishna, thinks that many of the sentiments of the BHAGAVAD-GĪTĀ have been directly borrowed from the New Testament, copies of which, he thinks, found their way into India about the third century, when he believes the poem to have been written. He even adopts the theory of a parallel in the names of Christ and Krishna. He seems, however, to forget that fragments of truth are to be found in all religious systems, however false, and that the Bible, though a true revelation, is still in regard to the human mind, through which the thoughts are transfused, a thoroughly Oriental book, cast in an Oriental mold, and full of Oriental ideas and expressions. Some of his comparisons seem mere coincidences of language, which might occur quite naturally and independently. In other cases, where he draws attention to coincidences of ideas — as, for example, the division of the sphere of self-control into thought, word, and deed in chap. XVII. 14-16, &c, and of good works into prayer, fasting, and alms-giving — how could these be borrowed from Christianity, when they are also found in Manu, which few will place later than the fifth century b. c.? Thus a Tri-ḍaṇḍin (Manu XII. 10) is explained to mean ‘a triple commander,’ who commands his thoughts, words, and actions (see note 3, p. 133); the same division is found in Manu II. 192, 236. Professor Cowell has pointed out that it occurs still earlier than Manu, in the Black Yajur-veda VI. 1. 7, and its Āraṇyaka X.1.10, and in the Aitareya-Brāhmaṇa III. 28. Plato also has the same in his Protagoras (p. 348), and it is found in the Zand Avastā (Gāthā Ahunavaiti III. 3). Nevertheless, something may be said for Dr. Lorinser's theory. His German translation (1869) is rich in notes, pointing out parallels. See also the 'Indian Antiquary ‘for October 1873. 




I am the ancient sage1, without beginning,

I am the Ruler and the All-sustainer2,

I am incomprehensible in form,

More subtle and minute than subtlest atoms3

I am the cause of the whole universe

Through me it is created and dissolved

On me all things within it hang suspended,

Like pearls upon a string4. I am the light

In sun and moon, far, far beyond the darkness5

I am the brilliancy in flame, the radiance

In all that's radiant, and the light of lights6,



1Kaviḥ purāṇaḥ VIII. 9. ‘Kavi‘ in Vedic Sanskrit means ‘wise, ‘and

is an epithet applied to most of the gods, especially to Agni. The mean-

ing ‘poet ‘belongs to later Sanskrit.

2Sarvasya dhāta VIII. 9.

3Anor aṇīyān VIII. 9. Compare p. 82 of this volume.

4VII. 7. Dr. Lorinser compares Rom. xi. 36,’Of him, and through

him, and unto him, are all things, ’John 1.3,’All things were made by

him and without him was not anything made that was made.’

5Prabhāsmi śaśi-sūryayoḥ VII. 8. Tamasaḥ parastāt VIII. 9. Cf.

1 John 1.5,’God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. ‘See

Ṛig-veda I. 50. 10.

6 Jyotishāṃ jyotiḥ XIII. 17. Cf. Bṛihad-āraṇyaka Upanishad, quoted

p. 39 of this volume.




The sound in ether, fragrance in the earth,

The seed eternal of existing things1,

The life in all, the father, mother, husband,

Forefather, and sustainer of the world,

Its friend and lord. I am its way2 and refuge,

Its habitation and receptacle,

I am its witness. I am Victory

And Energy I watch the universe

With eyes and face in all directions turned3.

I dwell, as "Wisdom, in the heart of all4.

I am the Goodness of the good, I am

Beginning, Middle, End, eternal Time,

The Birth, the Death of all5. I am the symbol A

Among the characters6. I have created all

Out of one portion of myself. E'en those

Who are of low and unpretending birth7,

May find the path to highest happiness,

If they depend on me how much more those

Who are by rank and penance holy Brahmans

And saintly soldier-princes like thyself.

Then be not sorrowful from all thy sins



1Sarva-bhūtānm vījam VII. 10, X. 39. Cf. John 1.3,’All things

were made by him.’

2Gati IX. 18. Cf. John xiv. 6,’I am the way.’

3Viśvato-mukha,’facing in all directions,’ IX. 15.

4Jṅānaṃ hṛidi sarvasya nishṭhitam XIII. 17. Cf. 2 Cor. iv. 6.

5Compare Rev. i. 17, 18,’I am the first and the last; and have the

keys of hell and of death.’Mr. Mullens draws attention to parallel descrip-

tions of the supreme Ruler in the Greek Orphic hymns: 'Zeus was the

first and Zeus the last; Zeus is the head; Zeus, the centre; from Zeus

have all things been made Zeus is the breath of all things Zeus is the

sun and moon,’ &c. See his Essay, p. 193, and cf. note 1, p. 116. Cf.

also an inscription said to exist in a temple of Athene,’Eyco elju ttclv to

yeyovos kcu bv Kai ecrofievov.

6Aksharāṇām a-kāro 'smi X. 33. Compare Rev. 1.8,’I am Alpha and Omega.’

7Pāpa-yonayaḥ,’base-born,’IX. 32. The text states who these are,

viz. Women, Vaiśyas, and Śūdras. This is significant in regard to the

Hindu estimate of the female sex. A woman's religion is thought to

consist in obedience first to her father and then to her husband, with

attention to domestic duties. See Manu II. 67. But the joining of

Vaiśyas with Śudras is curious (cf. p. 159. 6). Brahmans, Kshatriyas, and

Rājarshis, i.e. holy personages — half princes, half saints — are by birth and

rank fitted for religious exercises, and more likely to reach heaven.



I will deliver thee1 Think thou on me,

Have faith in me, adore and worship me2,

And join thyself in meditation to me

Thus shalt thou come to me, Arjuna

Thus shalt thou rise to my supreme abode,

Where neither sun nor moon have need to shine,

For know that all the lustre they possess is mine3.



I come now to chapter XI, called ‘the Vision (or Revelation)of the Universal Form' (viśva-rūpa-darśanam. Arjuna filled with awe at the discovery of the true nature of Krishna, acting as his charioteer, addresses him thus:


Most mighty Lord supreme, this revelation

Of thy mysterious essence and thy oneness

With the eternal Spirit, clears away

The mists of my illusions. Show me then

Thy form celestial, most divine of men4,

If haply I may dare to look upon it.


1ahaṁ tvāṃ sarva-pāpebhyo mokćayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ 18.66 Cf. Bible Matt. ix. 2,

‘Be of good cheer thy sins be forgiven thee. ’A sense of original cor-

ruption seems to be felt by all classes of Hindus, as indicated by the

following prayer used after the Gāyatrī by many religious persons:

Pāpo 'ham pāpa-karmāham pāpātmā pāpa-sambliavaḥ,

Trāhi mām, puṇḍarīkāhsha sarva-pāpa-hara Hare,

‘1 am sinful, I commit sin, my nature is sinful, I am conceived in sin,

Save me, thou lotus-eyed Hari, the remover of sin.’


2The original is, Man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yūjī māṃ namas-

kuru IX. 34. Cf. Bible Prov. xxiii. 26,’My son, give me thine heart.’


3Na tad bhāsayate sūryo na Śasānkaḥ XV. 6. Yad āditya-gataṃ tejo

yać ćandramasi tat tejo viddhi māmakam XV. 12. Cf. Bible Rev. xxi. 23,

‘The city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for

the glory of God did lighten it.’Cf. also Mahā-bhārata III. 1745, &c,

Na tatra sūryāḥ somo vā dyotate na ca pāvakaḥ, Svayaiva prabhayā tatra

dyotante puṇya-labdhayā,’there (in Indra's heaven) the sun shines not,

nor the moon nor fire there they (righteous men) shine by their own

glory acquired by their own merit.’


4Purushottama,’most excellent of men,’ a common name for Kṛishṇa.



To this Krishna replies:

Thou canst not bear to gaze upon my shape

"With these thy human eyes, son of Pandu,

But now I gift thee with celestial vision

Behold me in a hundred thousand forms,

In phases, colors, fashions infinite.


Here follows the description of Krishna's supernatural transformation1:

Thus having said, the mighty Lord of all

Displayed to Arjuna his form supreme,

Endowed with countless mouths and countless eyes,

With countless faces turned to every quarter,

With countless marvelous appearances,

With ornaments and wreaths and robes divine,

With heavenly fragrance and celestial weapons.

It was as if the firmament were filled,

All in an instant, with a thousand suns,

Blazing with dazzling luster, so beheld he

The glories of the universe collected

In the one person of the God of gods2.


Arjuna, with every hair on his body bristling with awe, bows his head at this vision, and folding his hands in reverence, gives utterance to a passionate outburst of enthusiastic adoration, which I here abridge:

I see thee, mighty Lord of all, revealed

In forms of infinite diversity.

I see thee like a mass of purest light,

Flashing thy luster everywhere around.


1The idea of this, Dr. Lorinser considers borrowed from the Gospel

narrative of the transfiguration. It is certainly very instructive to con-

trast the simplicity of the Gospel scene: ‘His face did shine as the sun,

and his raiment was white as the light,’ Matt. xvii. 2, Mark ix. 3.


2In the Udyoga-parva of the Mahā-bhārata (4419-4430) Krishna

reveals his form in the same way to the assembled princes, who are

obliged to close their eyes at the awful sight, while the blind Dhrita-

rashtra is gifted with divine vision that he may behold the glorious

spectacle (4437).




I see thee crowned with splendor like the sun,

Pervading earth and sky, immeasurable,

Boundless, without beginning, middle, end,

Preserver of imperishable law,

The everlasting Man1; the triple world

Is awe-struck at this vision of thy form,

Stupendous, indescribable in glory.

Have mercy, God of gods the universe

Is fitly dazzled by thy majesty,

Fitly to thee alone devotes its homage.

At thy approach the evil demons flee,

Scattered in terror to the winds of heaven.

The multitude of holy saints2 adore thee —

Thee, first Creator3, lord of all the gods,

The ancient One4, supreme Receptacle

Of all that is and is not, knowing all,

And to be known by all. Immensely vast,

Thou comprehendest all, thou art the All (XI. 40).

To thee earth's greatest heroes must return,

Blending once more with thy resplendent essence,

Like mighty rivers rushing to the ocean (XI. 28).

To thee be sung a thousand hymns of praise

By every creature and from every quarter,

Before, above, behind. Hail! Hail! thou All!

Again and yet again I worship thee.

Have mercy, I implore thee, and forgive,

That I, in ignorance of this thy glory,

Presumed to call thee Friend and pardon too

Whate'er I have too negligently uttered,

Addressing thee in too familiar tones.

Unrivalled God of gods, I fall before thee

Prostrate in adoration, thou the Father


1Sanātanaḥ purushaḥ (XI. 18) maybe translated 'the eternal Spirit,’

2Maharshis, great saints and Siddhas, XI. 21. Cf. parts of the Te Deum. The Siddhas are semi-divine beings supposed to possess great purity, called Sādhyas in the earlier mythology (Manu l.22). Siddhas and Sādhyas are sometimes confused, though mentioned separately in the text.

3Cf. John viii. 58,’Before Abraham was, I am.’

4Purushah purāṇaḥ, ’the most ancient person,’ XL 38. Cf. Daniel vii. 9,’The Ancient of days did sit.’



Of all that lives and lives not have compassion,

Bear with me, as a father with a son,

Or as a lover with a cherished one.

Now that I see thee as thou really art,

I thrill with terror! Mercy! Lord of lords,

Once more display to me thy human form,

Thou habitation of the universe1.


1XI. 45, 46. Dr. Lorinser compares the awe of our Lord's disciples, Matt. xvii. 6,’They fell on their face, and were sore afraid.’ Also of Simon Peter, Luke v.8, ’When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus knees, saying, Depart from me for I am a sinful man, Lord.’


Many other remarkable passages might be adduced in connection with the first two divisions of the subject-matter of the BHAGAVAD-GĪTĀ. I note the following:


He who has brought his members under subjection, but sits with foolish mind thinking in his heart of sensual things, is called a hypocrite (mithyāćāra). (III. 6. Cf. Matt. v. 28.)

New International Version Matt 5:28
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Many are my births that are past many are thine too, Arjuna. I know them all, but thou knowest them not. (IV. 5. Cf. John viii. 14.)

New International Version  John 8:14
Jesus answered, "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going.

For the establishment of Ṛighteousness am I born from time to time. (IV. 8. Cf. John xviii. 37, 1 John iii. 3.)

New International Version John 18:37
"You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

New International Version John 3:3
Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again."


I am dearer to the wise than all possessions, and he is dear to me. (VI. 17. Cf. Luke xiv. 33, John xiv. 21.)

New International Version Luke 14:33
In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

New International Version John 14:21
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them."

The ignorant, the unbeliever, and he of a doubting mind perish utterly. (IV. 40. Cf. Mark xvi.16.)

New International Version Mark 16:16
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

In him are all beings, by him this universe was spread out. (VIII. 22. Cf. Acts xvii. 28.)

New International Version Acts 17:28
For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

Deluded men despise me when I have taken human form. (IX. 11. Cf. John 1.10.)

New International Version John 1:10
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.

In all the Vedas I am to be known. (XV. 15. Cf. John v.39.)

New International Version John 5:39
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,

As many uses as there are in a reservoir filled with waters coming from all parts (for bathing, washing, or drinking), so many does a knowing Brahman find in all the Vedas. (II. 46. Mr. Thomson compares the

various uses made of texts from our own sacred Scriptures.)


The next is suggestive of the doctrine that the condition of the soul for a future state is determined before death:

Whatever a man's state of mind be at the moment when he leaves the ►►



►►body to that condition does he always go, being made to conform to that. (VIII. 6. Cf. Eccles. xi. 3. This is the dying Saṉskāra which delays the passage to heaven.)

New International Version. Eccles.XI.3

If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.

A similar passage occurs in the Ćhāndogya Upanishad: Man is a creature of intelligence (kratu-maya), whatever ideas he forms in this life, he becomes so when he departs to another, therefore he should reflect (on God, III.14.1).

The next is a paraphrase of XVI. 12-16. It may be compared with Luke xii. 17-20:


Bhagavadgītā 16:12-16

Bible Luke XII.17-20

16:12:  Bound by hundreds of fetters of hope, taking refuge in lust and anger, they strive to accumulate illegal wealth for gratifying their desires.

  Asā: hope.  Pāsa: string, bond, fetter. Parāyanā: engrossed by, taking refuge, intent on.

Verses 13 to 18 give the detailed characterization of a person with darkness and delusion.

  16:13:  “I gained this today.” “I will fulfill this desire (tomorrow).” “I have this wealth.” “Moreover, I am going to gain this later.” "Riches will come to me again."

16:14:  “I killed this enemy.”  “I shall kill others too.” “I am the Lord.” “ I am the enjoyer.” “I am perfect, strong, and happy.”

16:15:  “I am rich and of noble descent.”  “There is nobody equal to me.” “I shall (perform) sacrifice.” “I shall give to charity.” “I shall rejoice.” They think thus deluded by ignorance.

            Garuda Purana (1.114.67) states that stolen and ill-gotten wealth, though used for charity, takes a man to hell and earns merit for the victim of robbery.  

            Delusion by ignorance leads to ostentatious piety by way of rituals, ceremonies and charity.  

  16:16:  Disorientated by many thoughts, (caught up or) tangled up in the net of delusion, and addicted to sense satisfaction, they fall into unclean Naraka (hell).  

New International Version Luke 12.17
He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'

New International Version Luke 12.18
"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.

New International Version Luke 12.19
And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."'

New International Version 12.20
"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'



Entangled in a hundred worldly snares,

Self-seeking men, by ignorance deluded,

Strive by unrighteous means to pile up riches.

Then, in their self-complacency, they say,

‘This acquisition I have made today,

That I will gain tomorrow so much pelf

Is hoarded up already, so much more

Remains that I have yet to treasure up.

This enemy I have destroyed, him also

And others in their turn I will dispatch.

I am a lord I will enjoy myself

I'm wealthy, noble, strong, successful, happy;

I'm absolutely perfect no one else

In all the world can be compared to me.

Now I will offer up a sacrifice,

Give gifts with lavish hand and be triumphant,’

Such men, befooled by endless, vain conceits,

Caught in the meshes of the world's illusion,

Immersed in sensuality, descend

Down to the foulest hell of unclean spirits.


I add a few lines from chapter III, in which Krishna exhorts Arjuna to energetic action by an argument drawn from the example set by himself in his own everlasting exertions for the good of the world (cf. John v. 17). The order of the text is not observed in the following version, and the sentiment in lines 6, 7, is from chapter II.47:


Perform all necessary acts, for action

Is better than inaction, none can live

By sitting still and doing nought it is

By action only that a man attains



Immunity from action. Yet in working

Ne'er work for recompense let the act's motive

Be in the act itself. Know that work

Proceeds from the Supreme. I am the pattern

For man to follow know that I have done

All acts already, nought remains for me

To gain by action, yet I work for ever

Unweariedly, and this whole universe

Would perish if I did not work my work (III. 19).


The third division of the poem, comprising the six last chapters, aims particularly at interweaving Sānkhya  doctrines with the Vedānta, though this is done more or less throughout the whole work. It accepts the doctrine of a supreme presiding Spirit (called Param Brahma or Adhyātmam, XIII.12, VIII.1), as the first source of the universe, but asserts the eternal existence of Prākṛti and Purusha

— that is, of an original eternal element and soul — both emanating from the supreme Being (then regarded as Parā Prākṛti, ’supreme Prākṛti'). It maintains the individuality and personality of souls, and affirms that the body (kshetra = kṣetra) and all the world of sense is evolved out of Prākṛti by the regular Sānkhyan process, through Buddhi, Ahan-kāra, the five subtile elements, the five grosser elements, and the eleven organs, including mind. Thus, in XIII. 19 and in VII. 4-6, we read:


Learn that Prākṛti and Purusha also are both of them without beginning. And know that the Vikāras, or ‘productions,’ and the Guṇas (see p. 95) are sprung from Prākṛti.


Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect, and egoism, into these eight is my Prākṛti divided. This Prākṛti is the inferior one, but learn my superior Prākṛti to be other than this. Understand that all things are produced from this other Prākṛti.


Again, in VII.12-14, Krishna, speaking of the three Guṇas, says:


Know that all the three Guṇas, whether Sattva, Rajas, or Tamas (cf. p. 94), proceed only from me. I am not in them, but they in me.


All this universe, deluded by these three conditions consisting of the ►►



►►Guṇas, does not recognize me, the imperishable Being, superior to them all. For this divine illusion [Māyā, i.e. 'illusory creation'), consisting of the three Guṇas, caused by me, is difficult to be passed over. Those only are delivered from it who have recourse to me.

The eclecticism of the BHAGAVAD-GĪTĀ will be sufficiently apparent from these examples. I close my brief survey of this celebrated poem by three or four passages (taken from chapter III. 27, chapter XIII. 29, 31), which form a fit conclusion to the subject, as they contain the gist of the whole argument, viz. that it is Arjuna's duty as a soldier to act like a soldier and to do the work of his caste, regardless of consequences and that this may be done consistently with adhesion to the Vedāntic dogma of the soul's real inactivity and state of passionless repose:


All actions are incessantly performed

By operation of the qualities

Of Prākṛti deluded by the thought

Of individuality, the soul

Vainly believes itself to be the doer.

The soul existing from eternity,

Devoid of qualities, imperishable,

Abiding in the body, yet supreme,

Acts not, nor is by any act polluted.

He who perceives that actions are performed

By Prākṛti alone, and that the soul

Is not an actor, sees the truth aright.

Krishna's last advice may be thus summed up:

Act then and do thine own appointed task,

In every action my assistance ask,

Do all with heart and soul absorbed in me,

So shalt thou gain thine end and be from trouble free.

Arjuna's conclusion may be thus paraphrased:

Eternal One! thy glory just beheld

Has all illusion from my soul dispelled

Now by thy favor is my conscience clear,

I will thy bidding do and fight without a fear.


To anyone who has followed me in tracing the outline ►►


►►of this remarkable philosophical dialogue, and has noted the numerous parallels it offers to passages in our sacred Scriptures, it may seem strange that I hesitate to concur in any theory which explains these coincidences by sup- posing that the author had access to the New Testament or that he derived some of his ideas from the first propa- gators of Christianity. Surely it will be conceded that the probability of contact and interaction between Gentile systems and the Christian religion in the first two cen- turies of our era must have been greater in Italy than in India. Yet, if we take the writings and recorded sayings of three great Roman philosophers, Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius, we shall find them full of resemblances to passages in our Scriptures, while there appears to be no ground whatever for supposing that these eminent Pagan writers and thinkers derived any of their ideas

from either Jewish or Christian sources. In fact, the Rev. F. W. Farrar, in his interesting and valuable work, ‘Seekers after God,’ has clearly shown that ‘to say that Pagan morality kindled its faded taper at the Gospel light whether furtively or unconsciously, that it dissembled the obligation and made a boast of the splendor, as if it were originally her own, is to make an assertion wholly un- tenable.’ He points out that the attempts of the Christian Fathers to make out Pythagoras a debtor to Hebraic wis-

dom, Plato an 'Atticizing Moses,’ Aristotle a picker up of ethics from a Jew, Seneca a correspondent of St. Paul, were due (in some cases to ignorance, and in some to a want of perfect honesty in controversial dealing,’   Atticizing = adopting; to make conformable to Attic usage


His arguments would be even more conclusive if applied to the BHAGAVAD-GĪTĀ, the author of which was probably contemporaneous with Seneca. It must, indeed, be admitted that the flashes of true light which emerge from the mists of pantheism in the writings of Indian philosophers, must spring from the same source of light as the Gospel ►►



►►itself but it may reasonably be questioned whether there could have been any actual contact of the Hindu systems with Christianity without a more satisfactory result in the modification of pantheistic and anti-Christian ideas. In order that the resemblances to Scripture in the writings of Roman philosophers may be compared with those just noted, I subjoin (append) a few instances from 'Seekers after God,’and Dr. Ramage's 'Beautiful Thoughts:'


1. Seneca. ‘God comes to men: nay, what is nearer, comes into men.’‘A sacred spirit dwells within us, the observer and guardian of all our evil and our good.’Cf. 1 Cor. iii. 16. ‘Let him who hath conferred a favor hold his tongue.’ ’In conferring a favor nothing should be more avoided than pride.’Cf. Matt. vi.3. 'If you wish to be loved, love.’ ’Expect from another what you do to another.’ ’"We are all wicked therefore what- ever we blame in another we shall find in our own bosom.’ ’A good man is God's disciple and imitator and His true offspring, whom that magnifi- cent Father doth, after the manner of severe parents, educate hardly.’‘God is nigh to thee, He is with thee, He is in thee.’ ’Temples are not to be built for God with stones piled on high; He is to be consecrated in the breast of each.’ ’What a foolish thing it is to promise ourselves a long life, who are not masters of even tomorrow !’ 'Live with men as if God saw you.’ ’Other men's sins are before our eyes our own behind our back.’ ’The greater part of mankind are angry with the sinner and not with the sin.’ ’The severest punishment a man can receive who has injured another, is to have committed the injury.’


2. Epictetus. ‘If you always remember that in all you do in soul or body God stands by as a witness, in all your prayers and your actions you will not err and you shall have God dwelling with you.’ ’How

should a man grieve his enemy? By preparing himself to act in the noblest manner.’Cf. Rom. xii.20.


3. Marcus Aurelius. 'The best way of avenging thyself is not to become like the wrong-doer.’ ’Men exist for the sake of one another. Teach them or bear with them.’Cf. 2 Thess. iv.15, Col. iii.13. 'In the morning when thou risest unwillingly let these thoughts be present, "I am rising to the work of a human being. "Why, then, am I dissatis- fied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I as brought into the world?" Dost thou exist, then, to take thy pleasure, and not for action or exertion? Dost thou not see the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees working together to put in order their several parts of the universe?’ Cf. Prov. vi. 6.