The Eclectic School represented by the Bhagavad-gītā.
Monier Monier-Williams, KCIE (12
November 1819 – 11 April 1899) was the second Boden
Sanskrit at Oxford
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,
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 ►►
the end of each chapter the name of the chapter is given in the
thus, Iti sri-bhagavad-gītāsu
upanishatsu, &e. See note 1, p. 138.
ECLECTIC SCHOOL — BHAGAVAD-GĪTĀ. 135
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
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.
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.
name of this Upanishad is derived from a sage, Śvetāśvatara,
the end of the work (VI. 21), is said to have taught the doc-
Brahma to the most excellent of the four orders. It has been
by Dr. Roer into English, and nearly all by Professor "Weber
German (Indische Studies I. 422-429). The author must have been
(not a Vaishṇava, like the author of the Bhagavad-gītā), as he
Rudra with the supreme Being. According to Wilson,
’white-blooded,’ were names of four disciples of Śiva. Weber
here a mission of Syrian Christians, and thinks that both the
and the Gītā, the latter especially, may have borrowed ideas
Dr. Boer's introduction for a full explanation of this.
INDIAN WISDOM, 136
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
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 ►►
has been interpolated into the Bhīshma-parvan of the Mahā-bhārata
divided into eighteen chapters or into three sections, each
containing six lectures, commencing at line 830 of the twenty-fifth
and ending at line 1532. Such is the estimation in which
is held both in Asia and Europe, that it has been translated
Hindi, Telugu, Kanarese, and other Eastern languages, and is also
by European translations, of which that of Sir C. Wilkins,
in London in 1785, was the first. Mr. J. C. Thomson's edition
translation, published, with an elaborate introduction, by Stephen
1855, is, on the whole, a very meritorious production, and
I am glad
to acknowledge my obligations to it.
ECLECTIC SCHOOL — BHAGAVAD-GĪTĀ. 137
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
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
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 ►►
consider that he lived as late as the third century, and some
even later, but with these I cannot agree..
Aphorisms of Śāṇḍilya, the
editing of which was commenced by
Ballantyne and continued by Professor Griffith, his successor at
deny that knowledge is the one thing needful, and insist on the
of knowledge to the higher principle of Bhakti, ’faith in God,’
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.
predominance of pantheistic doctrines, notwithstanding the
interweave them with portions of the Sānkhya and Yoga
is denoted by the fact that the Vedāntists claim this poem as an
exponent of their own opinions.
INDIAN WISDOM. 138
the book of Job or a dialogue of Plato1.
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
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 ►►
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).
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.
the epitome of this great epic in a subsequent Lecture.
ECLECTIC SCHOOL — BHAGAVAD-GĪTĀ. 139
►►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):
these my relatives arrayed
eyes in serried line of battle,
for the deadly fray, my limbs
relaxed, my blood dries up, a tremor
frame, the hairs upon my skin
with horror, all my body burns
As if with
fever, and my mind whirls round,
So that I
cannot stand upright, nor hold
Gāṇḍīva slipping from my hand.
I cannot —
will not fight — mighty Krishna.
I seek not
victory, I seek no kingdom.
shall we do with regal pomp and power,
enjoyments or with life itself,
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.
is a sect among the Hindus called Ganapatyas, who identify
or Gaṇeśa with the supreme Being. Their doctrines are embodied
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.
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,
Better to do the duty of one's caste1,
and ill-performed and fraught with evil,
undertake the business of another,
good it be. For better far
life at once than not fulfil
appointed work another's duty
danger to the man who meddles with it.
is alone attained by him
swerves not from the business of his caste.
XVIII. 47, 48
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
Śakuntalā, verse 133,’Verily the occupation in which a
born, though it be in bad repute, must not be abandoned. ‘The
(saha-jaṃ karma) are the same as those in the Bhagavad-gītā.
ECLECTIC SCHOOL — BHAG AVAD-GITA. 141
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-
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:
grieve not for the departed, nor for those who yet survive.
the time when I was not, nor thou, nor yonder chiefs, and ne'er
the time when all of us shall be not as the embodied soul
corporeal frame moves swiftly on through boyhood, youth, and age,
So will it
pass through other forms hereafter — be not grieved thereat.
whom pain and pleasure, heat and cold affect not, he is fit
immortality whatever is not cannot be, whatever is
cease to be. Know this — the Being that spread this universe
indestructible. Who can destroy the Indestructible?
bodies that inclose the everlasting soul, inscrutable,
have an end but he who thinks the soul can be destroyed,
And he who
deems it a destroyer, are alike mistaken it
and is not killed it is not born, nor doth it ever die
It has no
past nor future — unproduced, unchanging, infinite he
it fixed, unborn, imperishable, indissoluble,
that man destroy another, or extinguish aught below?
abandon old and threadbare clothes to put on others new,
the embodied soul its worn-out frame to enter other forms.
can pierce it flame cannot consume it, water wet it not,
scorching breezes dry it — indestructible, incapable
Of heat or
moisture or aridity, eternal, all-pervading,
Steadfast, immovable, perpetual, yet imperceptible,
Incomprehensible, unfading, deathless, unimaginable2.
have endeavoured to give a more literal version than the well-known
Dean Milman, though I have followed him in some expressions.
Compare the passage from the Katha Upanishad, translated p. 44.
INDIAN WISDOM. 142
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
appetites and organs all subdued,
knowledge secular and sacred,
To whom a lump of earth, a stone, or gold2,
friends, relatives, acquaintances,
and enemies, the good and bad,
alike, is called 'one yoked with God.'
The man who aims at that supreme condition
Of perfect yoking3
with the Deity
of all be moderate in all things,
in sleep, in vigilance, in action,
exercise and recreation. Then
if seeking God by deep abstraction,
Abandon his possessions and his hopes,
Betake himself to some secluded spot4
his heart and thoughts on God alone.
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,
(VI. 8) may mean ‘standing erect like a peak.’
expressed in Sanskrit by
sama-loshṭāśma-kāṅćanaḥ VI. 8.
use these expressions as kindred words to the Sanskrit
'Joined' and 'junction' are also cognate expressions.
Matt. vi. 6, But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet,
thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret.’
text (VI. 1 3) says, ‘fixing his eyes on the tip of his nose
See p. 103.
ECLECTIC SCHOOL — BHAGAVAD-GĪTĀ. 143
of passion, free from anxious thought,
restrained, and deep in meditation.
E'en as a
tortoise draws its head and feet
shell, so must he keep his organs
from sensual objects. He whose senses
controlled attains to sacred knowledge,
obtains tranquility of thought.
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,
like the winds, will hurry him away.
is the state of the Supreme.
intent on meditation, joins
with the Supreme, is like a flame
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:
thou dost perform whate'er thou eatest,
thou givest to the poor, whate'er
offerest in sacrifice, whatever
Thou doest as an act of holy penance,
Do all as if to me, O Arjuna (IX. 27)1.
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
(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.
INDIAN WISDOM. 144
I am the ancient sage1,
I am the Ruler and the All-sustainer2,
incomprehensible in form,
More subtle and minute than subtlest atoms3
I am the
cause of the whole universe
it is created and dissolved
On me all
things within it hang suspended,
Like pearls upon a string4.
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,
purāṇaḥ VIII. 9. ‘Kavi‘ in Vedic Sanskrit means ‘wise, ‘and
epithet applied to most of the gods, especially to Agni. The mean-
‘belongs to later Sanskrit.
dhāta VIII. 9.
aṇīyān VIII. 9. Compare p. 82 of this volume.
7. Dr. Lorinser compares Rom. xi. 36,’Of him, and through
unto him, are all things, ’John 1.3,’All things were made by
without him was not anything made that was made.’
śaśi-sūryayoḥ VII. 8. Tamasaḥ parastāt VIII. 9. Cf.
1.5,’God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. ‘See
I. 50. 10.
Jyotishāṃ jyotiḥ XIII. 17. Cf. Bṛihad-āraṇyaka Upanishad, quoted
p. 39 of
ECLECTIC SCHOOL — BHAGAVAD-ClTA. 145
in ether, fragrance in the earth,
The seed eternal of existing things1,
in all, the father, mother, husband,
Forefather, and sustainer of the world,
Its friend and lord. I am its way2
habitation and receptacle,
I am its
witness. I am Victory
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
Middle, End, eternal Time,
The Birth, the Death of all5.
I am the symbol A
Among the characters6.
have created all
Out of one
portion of myself. E'en those
Who are of
low and unpretending birth7,
the path to highest happiness,
depend on me how much more those
Who are by
rank and penance holy Brahmans
saintly soldier-princes like thyself.
not sorrowful from all thy sins
vījam VII. 10, X. 39. Cf. John 1.3,’All things
IX. 18. Cf. John xiv. 6,’I am the way.’
in all directions,’ IX. 15.
hṛidi sarvasya nishṭhitam
XIII. 17. Cf. 2 Cor. iv. 6.
Rev. i. 17, 18,’I am the first and the last; and have the
hell and of death.’Mr. Mullens draws attention to parallel descrip-
the supreme Ruler in the Greek Orphic hymns: 'Zeus was the
Zeus the last; Zeus is the head; Zeus, the centre; from Zeus
things been made Zeus is the breath of all things Zeus is the
moon,’ &c. See his Essay, p. 193, and cf. note 1, p. 116. Cf.
inscription said to exist in a temple of Athene,’Eyco elju ttclv to
kcu bv Kai ecrofievov.
a-kāro 'smi X. 33. Compare Rev. 1.8,’I am Alpha and Omega.’
32. The text states who these are,
Women, Vaiśyas, and Śūdras. This is significant in regard to the
estimate of the female sex. A woman's religion is thought to
obedience first to her father and then to her husband, with
to domestic duties. See Manu II. 67. But the joining of
with Śudras is curious (cf. p. 159. 6). Brahmans, Kshatriyas, and
i.e. holy personages — half princes, half saints — are by birth and
fitted for religious exercises, and more likely to reach heaven.
INDIAN WISDOM. 146
I will deliver thee1
Think thou on me,
Have faith in me, adore and worship me2,
thyself in meditation to me
thou come to me, Arjuna
thou rise to my supreme abode,
neither sun nor moon have need to shine,
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:
mighty Lord supreme, this revelation
mysterious essence and thy oneness
eternal Spirit, clears away
of my illusions. Show me then
Thy form celestial, most divine of men4,
If haply I
may dare to look upon it.
tvāṃ sarva-pāpebhyo mokćayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
Matt. ix. 2,
good cheer thy sins be forgiven thee. ’A sense of original cor-
seems to be felt by all classes of Hindus, as indicated by the
prayer used after the Gāyatrī by many religious persons:
pāpa-karmāham pāpātmā pāpa-sambliavaḥ,
puṇḍarīkāhsha sarva-pāpa-hara Hare,
sinful, I commit sin, my nature is sinful, I am conceived in sin,
thou lotus-eyed Hari, the remover of sin.’
original is, Man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yūjī māṃ namas-
34. Cf. Bible Prov. xxiii. 26,’My son, give me thine heart.’
tad bhāsayate sūryo na Śasānkaḥ XV. 6. Yad āditya-gataṃ tejo
ćandramasi tat tejo viddhi māmakam XV. 12. Cf. Bible Rev. xxi. 23,
had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for
of God did lighten it.’Cf. also Mahā-bhārata III. 1745, &c,
sūryāḥ somo vā dyotate na ca pāvakaḥ, Svayaiva prabhayā tatra
puṇya-labdhayā,’there (in Indra's heaven) the sun shines not,
moon nor fire there they (righteous men) shine by their own
acquired by their own merit.’
excellent of men,’ a common name for Kṛishṇa.
ECLECTIC SCHOOL — BHAGAVAD-GlTA. 147
To this Krishna replies:
not bear to gaze upon my shape
these thy human eyes, son of Pandu,
But now I
gift thee with celestial vision
in a hundred thousand forms,
colors, fashions infinite.
Here follows the description of Krishna's supernatural transformation1:
having said, the mighty Lord of all
to Arjuna his form supreme,
with countless mouths and countless eyes,
countless faces turned to every quarter,
countless marvelous appearances,
ornaments and wreaths and robes divine,
heavenly fragrance and celestial weapons.
It was as
if the firmament were filled,
All in an
instant, with a thousand suns,
with dazzling luster, so beheld he
glories of the universe collected
In the one person of the God of gods2.
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:
thee, mighty Lord of all, revealed
of infinite diversity.
I see thee
like a mass of purest light,
thy luster everywhere around.
idea of this, Dr. Lorinser considers borrowed from the Gospel
of the transfiguration. It is certainly very instructive to con-
simplicity of the Gospel scene: ‘His face did shine as the sun,
raiment was white as the light,’ Matt. xvii. 2, Mark ix. 3.
the Udyoga-parva of the Mahā-bhārata (4419-4430) Krishna
his form in the same way to the assembled princes, who are
close their eyes at the awful sight, while the blind Dhrita-
gifted with divine vision that he may behold the glorious
INDIAN WISDOM. 148
I see thee
crowned with splendor like the sun,
earth and sky, immeasurable,
without beginning, middle, end,
of imperishable law,
The everlasting Man1;
awe-struck at this vision of thy form,
Stupendous, indescribable in glory.
mercy, God of gods the universe
dazzled by thy majesty,
thee alone devotes its homage.
approach the evil demons flee,
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,
that is and is not, knowing all,
And to be
known by all. Immensely vast,
comprehendest all, thou art the All (XI. 40).
earth's greatest heroes must return,
once more with thy resplendent essence,
mighty rivers rushing to the ocean (XI. 28).
To thee be
sung a thousand hymns of praise
creature and from every quarter,
above, behind. Hail! Hail! thou All!
yet again I worship thee.
mercy, I implore thee, and forgive,
That I, in
ignorance of this thy glory,
to call thee Friend and pardon too
have too negligently uttered,
thee in too familiar tones.
God of gods, I fall before thee
in adoration, thou the Father
maybe translated 'the eternal Spirit,’
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
John viii. 58,’Before Abraham was, I am.’
purāṇaḥ, ’the most ancient person,’ XL 38. Cf. Daniel vii. 9,’The
Ancient of days did sit.’
ECLECTIC SCHOOL — BHAGAVAD-GĪTĀ. 149
that lives and lives not have compassion,
me, as a father with a son,
Or as a
lover with a cherished one.
Now that I
see thee as thou really art,
with terror! Mercy! Lord of lords,
display to me thy human form,
Thou habitation of the universe1.
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.’
remarkable passages might be adduced in connection with the first two
divisions of the subject-matter of the BHAGAVAD-GĪTĀ. I note the
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
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
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
"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
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
In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have
cannot be my disciples.
New International Version
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
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
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
New International Version
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
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
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 ►►
INDIAN WISDOM. 150
►►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.
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
A similar passage occurs in the Ćhāndogya Upanishad: Man is a creature of
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.
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
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.
(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
Delusion by ignorance
leads to ostentatious piety by way of rituals, ceremonies and
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
New International Version
He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my
New International Version
"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
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
"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
in a hundred worldly snares,
Self-seeking men, by ignorance deluded,
unrighteous means to pile up riches.
their self-complacency, they say,
acquisition I have made today,
will gain tomorrow so much pelf
up already, so much more
that I have yet to treasure up.
I have destroyed, him also
in their turn I will dispatch.
I am a
lord I will enjoy myself
wealthy, noble, strong, successful, happy;
absolutely perfect no one else
In all the
world can be compared to me.
Now I will
offer up a sacrifice,
with lavish hand and be triumphant,’
befooled by endless, vain conceits,
the meshes of the world's illusion,
in sensuality, descend
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:
all necessary acts, for action
than inaction, none can live
still and doing nought it is
only that a man attains
ECLECTIC SCHOOL — BHAGAVAD-GĪTĀ. 151
from action. Yet in working
for recompense let the act's motive
Be in the
act itself. Know that work
from the Supreme. I am the pattern
For man to
follow know that I have done
already, nought remains for me
To gain by
action, yet I work for ever
Unweariedly, and this whole universe
perish if I did not work my work (III. 19).
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:
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
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.
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.
universe, deluded by these three conditions consisting of the ►►
INDIAN WISDOM. 152
►►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:
actions are incessantly performed
operation of the qualities
deluded by the thought
individuality, the soul
believes itself to be the doer.
existing from eternity,
the body, yet supreme,
nor is by any act polluted.
perceives that actions are performed
alone, and that the soul
Is not an
actor, sees the truth aright.
last advice may be thus summed up:
and do thine own appointed task,
action my assistance ask,
with heart and soul absorbed in me,
thou gain thine end and be from trouble free.
conclusion may be thus paraphrased:
One! thy glory just beheld
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 ►►
ECLECTIC SCHOOL BHAGAVAD-GĪTĀ. 153
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
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 ►►
INDIAN WISDOM. 154
►►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
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
‘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.
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.