Bhagavad-Gita: 18 Chapters in Sanskrit
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Bhagavadgita Pages in English, Chapters 1 to 18
Veeraswamy Krishnaraj: Tolerance with love is to speak in tongues of all faiths, hold in the heart the Truth of all faiths and see all faiths in the face of humanity.
From the book: 'Ramanuja's Teachings in his own words' by M. Yamunacharya.
This is a book report, which gives the essence of the book, not necessarily in the words of the book. Some passages are excerpts from the book.
Page 1: Alwars are saints and poets, a springhead of devotion or Bhakti. Acharyas are philosopher-sages. Alwars and Acharyas are imbued with love and knowledge of God. In his commentary on Brahmasutras, Ramanuja implores that his knowledge of sacred texts will morph into devotional love of God. Philosopher-sages know God and the saint-poets love God. Bhagavat Kainkarya, service to God, is the common ground for both. Ramanuja was the syncretic alchemist to fuse Jnana and Bhakti and gave meaning to Purushartha's goal of life.
Life of Ramanuja was written in Manipravala, a fusion language product made of Sanskrit and Tamil compared to an ornament made of gem and coral. The work was titled The Guruparampara Prabhava by Jeeya Perumal Jiyar.
Pages 2-3: Guruparampara is a lineage of Gurus or Acharyas to which Ramanuja claims allegiance. Nathamuni arranged the poems of Alwars in music form and brought them to the aural delight of the public. The hymns of Alwars are known as Divyaprabhandam.
Nathamuni's grandson, Yamuna or Alavandar, an all-round scholar in the course of instruction on Bhagavad-Gita by Rama Misa was overwhelmed with the desire to realize God. Misra pointed to the Carama Sloka, the 66th verse in chapter eighteen of Bhagavad- Gita.
सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज ।
अहं त्वां सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः ॥१८- ६६॥
sarvadharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
parityajya2 = abandoning; sarva-dharmān1 = all duties; mām3 = to Me; ekam4 = only; śaraṇam vraja5 = take refuge; aham6 = I; mokṣyayiṣyāmi9 = shall deliver; tvā7 = you; sarva-pāpebhyaḥ8 = from all sins; ma10 = do not; śucaḥ11 = worry.18.66
Copyright © 2009 Veeraswamy Krishnaraj
Infused with Bhakti and self-surrender to God, Alavandar's body, mind and soul bent like a sheaf of ripe paddy. Misra seeing the transformation morphing young Yamuna took him to Srirangam temple. Lord Ranganatha's repose and presence, as Misra pointed to the Lord, brought tears of joy and spiritual vision of Lord Ranganatha. Yamuna, as if overcome by spontaneous welling impulsion from his soul, regretted the pursuit of worldly pleasures until then and fortified himself into living a life of service to the Lord. he is known for Stotra-ratna, Siddhi Traya and Agamapramanya expounding Vishistavita Vedanta.
Ramanuja's encounter and fallout with Yadava in Kanchi, extract from the book.
He found (Acharya) one in Yadavaprakasa. Here he joined the group of other students learning under that teacher. In the course of his lesson, Yadaka came across the passage "Satyam Jnanam Anantam Brahma" in the "Taittiriya Upanisad. He explained it in a way which did not appeal to Ramanuja. Challenged by the teacher to furnish a better explanation Ramanuja argued that the passage meant not that Brahman is "Satyam, Jnanam and Anantam" but that Brahman has them as its qualities and that they are attributes which could coexist in Brahman without mutual contradiction, just as redness, softness and perfume could harmoniously coexist in the flower. Therefore to try to postulate an attributeless Brahman or a Brahman in whom different attributes cannot coexist is neither logical nor consistent with the affirmatory character of the Vedic passage in question. After hearing this, Yadava simply said in disdain "Thou, to argue with me?" and kept silent.
[In Vaishnava theology, Brahman has attributes. Attributeless Brahman is anachronism. In Advaita there two Brahmans: Nirguna or attributeless Brahman and Saguna Brahman or one with attributes.]
Another day, Yadava began to comment on the verse 'Tasya Yathā kapyāsam pundarīkam evam akṣiṇī' of the Chhandogya Upanisad (1.6.7) and said that it meant that Brahman had his eyes like the posteriors of a monkey. When Ramanuja heard this, he felt a pang shooting across his heart to find that he should hear noble Vedic passages thus interpreted. His grief was so keen that a hot tear stained his cheeks. Ramanuja said, "I am grieved that those beautiful Vedic lines are so awkwardly construed". "What is thy interpretation then?" angrily asked Yadava. "Sir", cried Ramanuja, "can you not see that Ka means water and pibati signifies drinking. Kapi means that which drinks water, the sun or the lotus stalk. āsa is to open. Pundarika is the lotus. And therefore the import of the passage is that God has eyes like the lotus which blooms before the morning sun". Yadava heard this and flared up saying "Haughty Youth: if thou canst accept my teaching, thou must leave". Ramanuja spoke not a syllable in reply but took his departure. The teacher and the disciple became thence forward estranged.
Tasya Yathā kapyāsam pundarīkam evam akṣiṇī' of the Chhandogya Upanisad (1.6.7) = "His eyes are even as a red lotus flower." By Dr. Radhakrishnan.
kapyāsam = buttocks of an ape;
Aging Yamunacharya in Srirangam was longing to meet Ramanuja and was explaining to his pupils the importance of being a prapannan. A Prapanna is he who has resigned himself absolutely to God. He is sure of his soul's safety in the keeping of the Lord. he is divested himself of all concern with regards to his soul or body. That resigned attitude of the mind amounts to Prapannan (பிரபன்னன் = He who accepts God as his sole refuge.) We are in Him and he is in us. It means, he is bound by His Gace to save us and we trust Him wholly for our welfare.
Pages 7: Yamunacharya continues his instructions. We are His instruments. We do His bidding. We serve His purpose. There is no purpose for us that is apart from His. He is our Master and Proprietor and has the right to dispose us-- the vassals-- as He wills. The means to attain Him are your saviors and goals. Tirumantra is the temple of Bliss, Carama Slokam (BG18) the temple of flowers and Dvaya the temple of duty. Make no difference between Narayana and the devotees of Narayana Himself --Bhagavān and Bhāgavata. The fruits of your service below to the Master, Bhagavan. The service done to the devotees are conveyed to the Lord by the saints and sages.
Page 8. Lord Ranganatha is your aim and goal--ultima Thule. You worship your Gurus, Bhaktas and the Lord. Alavandar/Yamuna was reaching final hours of earthly sojourn, paid homage to the Lord and the devotees and sent for Ramanuja in Kanchi. Alavandar's disciple Mahapurna left for Kanchi to fetch Ramanuja. Alavandar's demise was approaching fast. having realized the imminence of his departure, he assumed Padmasana pose and concentrated his mind on the Lotus Feet of the Lord.
Page 9. Ramanuja arrived too late to see a living and breathing Yamunacharya. Ramanuja found three of his five fingers were closed and two were open and extended. Not knowing the significance, he asked the fellow mourners, who said that he had three wishes continued. 1) Gratitude to the memory of Krishnavyasa and Parasara; 2) Tribute of love to Nammalvar; 3) Commentary of Brahma-Sutras to expound Vishistadvaita precepts.
Page 10. Ramanuja honored by these requests prayed to God for His Grace in the fulfillment of Yamunacharya's wishes. Immediately the three fingers opened and extended. Ramanuja left for Kanchi. Kanchipurna, the disciple of Yamuna, advised Ramanuja to assume the seat vacated by Yamuna.
Ramanuja invites Kanchipurna, a Sudra and a Great accomplished spiritual soul for a meal. His wife frustrates his egalitarian outlook.
Page 11. Ramanuja requested Kanchipurna to teach him Bharadvaja Samhita which stated, "Yogis are born among all castes and so caste odium shall not hold in their cases, for they have seen their soul's Lord." Ramanuja in his magnanimous gesture invited Kanchipurna to his house for a meal, since he felt that Kanchipurna's caste has no bearing in the context of the high status of his soul. Ramanuja felt that caste ought to be disregarded in the case of such spiritually advanced souls as Kanchipurna. He therefore resolved 'he next day to invite Purna to his house for a repast. The invitation was accepted. Ramanuja rejoiced at the prospect of obtaining the remnants of food eaten by a spiritual elder albeit he belonged to nonbrahmana class. Going home, he ordered his wife to prepare a good meal (or a distinguished guest. And he himself bathed, performed all the ceremonies ordained for the householder and performed worship to his household Deity and left home to bring his guest to his door. He went by the south street, and turned west towards the retreat of purna. But Purna had already left his place, taken another direction and had proceeded to the cottage of Ramanuja. Not finding him at home, he begged the wife to give him food immediately as he had to return to the temple for urgent service. She did so and he left. She then pushed away the leaf. from which Purna had eaten, by means of a stick, purified the place with water and cow dung and considering herself impure by \his act, bathed again. Ramanuja finding that his wife had bathed for the second time asked her "why"? She said: "Sir, your non-brahmin guest came and having eaten is gone. Being a low caste man, I have purified the place where he' ate and have myself bathed •• ·. "Ignorant woman' cried he in anger "what hast thou done? How thou hast frustrated my plans" Having said this, Ramanuja again betook himself to Purna's cloister and begged him for forgiveness.
Page 12. One day he wanted him to teach him a few great truths after obtaining them from Lord Varada himself by putting himself in communion with Him. Lord Varada revealed these truths to Kanchipurna for the benefit of Ramanuja.
(1) I am the Superme Truth (ahameva param tatvam).
(2) My view is distinction (darśanam bhepamevaca),
(3} By faith shall men reach Me, their salvation . (Upāyesu prapattissyāt).
(4) Thought of me at time of death is not compulsory (antima smriti varjanam),
(5) Release from Bondage follows immediately on death of the body (dehāsvasāne mokṣańca).
(6) Choose Mahāpūrna for your Ācārya (Mahāpūrnam samāśraya).
After death of Alavandar, Srirangam devotees sought the help of Mahapurna to find a successor. He said that it was Alavandar's wish that Ramanuja must be the successor. Mahapurna left for Kanchi to bring Ramanuja to Srirangam. Even before Mahapurna could reach Kanchi, Ramanuja left for Srirangam with his wife to accept Mahapurna as his Acharya. Fortuitously, both of them met in Maduranthakam near Kanchi.
Page 13. Ramanuja begged Mahapurna ( a Sudra by birth) to accept him as his disciple and teach him all that was good for the soul. Mahapurna obliged, initiated Ramanuja as his disciple with Mantraratna and ordained him to become the successor to Yamuna-Alavandar. He taught him Dvayamantra, which explained the dual nature of God as father and mother. Ramanuja took Mahapurna home, kept him there as his guest for six months, sat at his feet and learnt from him all that was to be known about Sri Vaishnava secrets and doctrines.
Pages 13 and 14: Once Ramanuja's wife told the poor people at the door that she had no food. Ramanuja found out that there was plenty of food and his wife told a lie to the poor people. He was angry at his wife for refusing to feed the poor people.
One day Kanchipurna's wife and Ramanuja's wife went to the local well for drawing water. R's and M's wife had an argument about the purity and sanctity of the pot held by M's wife, a Sudra woman. Mahapurna observing the altercation decided to leave Kanchi for Srirangam to avoid any more unpleasantness. Ramanuja coming to know of this incident chided his wife for three willful, vain and discriminatory acts against Mahapurna and hungry people: 1) Removal of the plantain leaf-plate of Sudra Mahapurna with a stick and thereby treating it as polluted and unholy. 2) Refusal to feed the hungry poor people, when food was available. 3) Raucous argument over the ritual purity of the pot held by Sudra Mahapurna's wife.
Ramanuja could not tolerate the worldliness of his wife, picking a fight with his venerable teacher's wife and lack of spiritual inclinations. Calling her a shrew and a scold, he quoted the scriptures," When house-keeping suits not, enter the monastery."
Page 15: Ramanuja immediately dispatched her back to her parents' place. That is the beginning of Sannyasa for Ramanuja. he fell at the holy feet of God Varada and sought to become the Vaishnava ascetic. Lord Varada in an unmistaken firm voice told him," O Ramanuja, though shall don the robe of Sannyasin and serve Me." Thus commanded by Varada, R took upon himself to fulfill the wishes of Yamuna. He took two disciples: Dasarathi and Kuresa. Dasarathi was his sister's son.
Page 16:. Kuresa was a fabulously rich man. He fed the poor and the hungry, gave away his wealth and accompanied R with his wife Andal through a forest. Andal not accustomed to walking in the jungle in the night tremulously queried her husband Kuresa about any fear in the night of dense jungle. Kuresa said, " Andal, if you have expensive articles hidden on you, you have something to fear. Fish dine on water-worms; fowls feed on earth-worms; Death feeds on life; thieves feed on riches. If you have something thieves want, shed it now and for ever." The duteous wife responded," My dear Hubby, I brought your golden cup for quenching your thirst" Thus saying she unwrapped the glittering cup from the folds of her sari and handed it to her husband, who flung it far over the canopy of the thick jungle and said to his wife, " My darling jewel of a Lady, our fear has been cast aside in the jungle." Ramanuja was approaching Srirangam. His pupils rushed ahead to receive him with all ritual splendor that was due to an Acharya.
Page 17: Ramanuja took another disciple in his fold: Govinda, a neo-convert from Saivism to Vaishnavism. Ramanuja went to Mahapurna and begged for forgiveness for the uncouth behavior of his wife towards his wife. M in his magnanimous gesture said that there was no offence taken and no pardon needed. M went ahead and taught R the intricacies of Dvaya Mantra: 1) There is only one God. 2) He is Mercy Incarnate. 3) He is the way. 4) He is omniscient and omnipotent. 5) The ultima Thule of the soul is eternal service at His lotus feet.
With this preparation, M sent R to Acharya Gosthipurna. R went to G living in a humble hut. R prostrated at his feet and asked to teach him. G without hesitation said to R, “What have I to tell and to whom.” G behaved as if he was ignoring him. R fell at his feet again and left for Srirangam. R made eighteen visits to G and received rebuff eighteen times.
Page 18: This was the ordeal of ‘novitiate probation.’ A disciple of Gosthipurna informed his Acharya that R was pining for instruction from him. Knowing the immediacy of the situation, G arranged for Ra to come to him with his staff and pennant. R came to him with Dasarathi and Kuresa and fell at his feet. Upon seeing two more persons without the staff and pennant, G questioned R for the absence of staff and pennant. R said that Dasarathi was his staff and Kuresa was his pennant and that he was never without them at any time. Moved by his answer, Gosthipurna revealed the hidden truth about Tirumantra. Pranava is the first, Namas the middle, and Narayana the last. The Mantra is 8-syllabled and 3-worded, the grantor of every boon, promoter of devotion and dispassion and giver of eternal bliss.
Page 19-20: Ramanuja is not the jealous guardian of the secret Mantra. In an act of compassion for people, R divulged it from the top of the tower (Gopuram) to anyone who would listen. G did get angry with him and cursed him to go to hell. R was the least affected and told that he would gladly go to hell, help people get salvation and let G accumulate all the merit derived from the Mantra G divulged to R and the people. G acknowledged that the idea never entered his mind to salvage humanity and named R Emperumanar. R returned to Srirangam and initiated Kuresa and Dasarathi into Carama Sloka of the Gita.
Page 21: Upon introduction of R to Maladhara by Gosthipurna, R became his student in the study of Prabhandams. R exceeded in the understanding of the Prabhandams.
Page 22-23: R wrote three works: Gadyatraya or The Three Prose Poems, Nitya the Worship Manual and Commentary on Bhagavadgita. These three works established the central theme that Narayana of Taittiriya Upanishad forms the unity of God-head. Thus began the ministry of R, who as a mendicant-monk according to tradition and Yatidharma did not cook his food, did not own any possessions and begged for food. R took charge of Srirangam temple and tried to eradicate corruption in the corridors of the temple. The corrupted and entrenched priests, jealous of R, made nefarious arrangements with a man of a house on the begging route frequented by R. The man forced his wife serve R with poisoned food. The woman served food to R with shaking hands and downcast eyes. R immediately knew the intent and cast the poisoned food in the Cauvery river.
Page 24: Kadāmbiāchān one among his many disciples decided to cook the food for R. R's school of disciples grew. He taught Vedanta and Prabhandams to his students. Anatasuri, a disciple of his volunteered to go to Tirupati to to tend a flower garden and offer flowers daily to the Lord of the Hills. R made a trip to Tirupati and on his way two disciples Yagnesa and Varadarya joined him.
Page 25-26: R visited Varadarya in his hut. he was not there because he himself went begging for food. His wife did not want to come out of the hut to meet R because she did not have a stitch to cover her upper body. She clapped her hands so that R would not leave until her husband returned. R threw his piece of cloth that covered his head through the window. Yagnesa, the rich man had an amorous eye on her. She thought that she would lend her body to the rich man, get grains and vessels from him in exchange for her body and cook for R. She went to the rich man who gave all she needed with the prospect that he can have her at a later date. She came home and cooked for R Her husband upon hearing her predicament praised her because she was willing to lose her honor to entertain a mendicant-monk, who stayed with them for some time. R remained ignorant of the woman's predicament. The husband and wife went to the rich man's house with R's Prasada and Tirtha (sacred food and water) and told him that he can demand his end of the bargain and do what he wants with the woman. A transformation came upon the rich man and he showed reverence, respect and worship towards the wife of Varadarya.
Page 27: He addressed the woman as father and mother, regretted his past attitude, begged for forgiveness and wanted to walk the path of righteousness. The pair took him to Ramanuja. The penitent fell at the feet of R and begged for forgiveness. R coming to know of the incident was surprised and glad. The merchant became the disciple and put all his wealth at the disposal of R, who advised him to give up pride and abandon fame, name and profit. Yagnesa, the penitent asked and received forgiveness from R. As a mark of penitence, Ra advised Yagnesa to wash the clothes of the devotees and earn his own salvation. (Washing the clothes entails removal of dirt, euphemism for expiation for the sins.) R left Astasahasra Grama fro Kanchi on his way to Tirupati. R climbed the seven hills trembling at the prospect of desecrating the abode of Lord of the Hills with his feet. He enjoyed the scenic beauty and fell prostrate at the gate of the temple.
Page 28: R was enjoying the sights and sounds on the hill and obtained vision of the blissful image of Srinivasa within. After thre days in the hill, he went down to the town of Tirupati in the foothills. He stayed as a guest of Srisailapurna for a year. One day he saw his maternal cousin Govinda put his finger in a cobra's mouth. Govinda said that he saw a thorn in the mouth of the snake and so removed it. R spent his time reading Ramayana.
Page 29: Before R finished with the reading of Ramayana, he took permission to leave Tirupati from Purna for Srirangam and Govinda tagged along. One day R heard Govinda's mother within his earshot that Govinda's wife attained puberty. Govinda's mother pressured R to tell Govinda to settle down and lead marital life with his wife. On the nuptial night Govinda and his wife were led to the nuptial room by his uncle R and left there. On the nuptial bed, Govinda harangued to his wife sermonizing on the intricacies of God realization. Govinda's mother faced his son on the morning after and enquired about his sermon on the nuptial bed. Govinda told his mother he could not think or do anything else with God in his heart. Ramanuja heard about this, pulled Govinda aside and told him that he passed the most difficult test that a soul could take and that he could not be a man of the world. Immediately Govinda asked to R to induct him into Sannyasa. It was done.
Page 30: R told his disciples that devotion to God led to emancipation of the soul. Vedana, Dhyana, Upasana, and Bhakti meant love of God. Vedic knowledge on God and good works are not efficacious in obtaining Moksa. Love of God (Bhakti) secures release. Kuresa was given the assignment to take down the dictation on Sribhasya, Vishistadvaita philosophy and commentary on Brahma Sutra without any hesitation as long as he agreed with his views. Once he disagreed, he should stop writing. R said that soul is consciousness and its only distinguishing attribute is cognition.