praṇamyāhaṁ pravṛtto’smin nityānandaṁ sa śaktikam
sammude baṅga-bhāṣāyāṁ gītānuvāda karmaṇi
“Offering respects unto the Lord who possesses a form of eternal bliss, and who is endowed with supreme potency, I begin to translate this Bhagavad-gītā into Bengali, in order to bring joy to the sādhus.”
The Vedic śāstras are extremely vast. Within them, some sections describe dharma, some sections describe karma, some sections describe yoga, some sections describe the knowledge of sāṅkhya and some sections elaborately advise bhakti to Bhagavān. What is the relationship between all these systems, and when should one move from one system to another – such kind of knowledge in regards to inclinations is found in successive stages within that śāstra. In some places it is seen. However, for the short-lived and narrow-minded jīvas born in Kali-yuga, a study and an analysis of the vast expanse of the śāstra would be necessary. Determining duty is exceedingly difficult. Therefore, a brief and simple scientific judgment concerning all these systems is absolutely necessary. Up to the end of Dvāpara-yuga, even those persons endowed with intellectual prowess were unable to comprehend the actual purport of the Veda-śāstra. Some pointed to karma, some to yajña, some to sāṅkhya-jñāna, some to tarka, and some to the philosophy of non-differentiated Brahman as the sole ideology to be accepted. Thereafter, in the land of Bhārata, such incomplete philosophies based upon fragmentary knowledge caused various disturbances, just like undigested food within the stomach.
When these disturbances became extremely powerful on the eve before the advent of Kali-yuga, the truthful and compassionate Bhagavān Kṛṣṇacandra revealed the śāstra, Śrī Śrī Bhagavad-gītā, the essence of all Vedic philosophies and the means of deliverance from this mundane world, to His close friend, Arjuna. Thus, the Gītā-śāstra is the radiant crest-jewel amongst all the upaniṣads. The interrelationship of all different philosophical systems and their ultimate goal being pure hari-bhakti as the eternal duty of all jīvas is taught in the Gītā. Some paṇḍitas who are fond of rhetoric have decided to refer to the Gītā as an abheda-brahmavāda-mata-poṣaka-śāstra (‘a śāstra that cultivates the philosophy of non-differentiated Brahman’). They have established this doctrine by heeding their ideal basis – the commentary on the Bhagavad-gītā prepared by Śrīmad Śaṅkarācārya, who like them, has promoted this.
All those texts that expound karma or jñāna as the ultimate goal, are beneficial to the adherents of those theories. In order to produce faith in that process, such systems have been referred to as the ‘highest process.’ If it were not thus specified, there is a possibility that the followers of those processes would become extremely unfortunate by abandoning it and follow another system. With this in mind, the karma-śāstra claims that karma is best, and the jñāna-śāstra states that jñāna is the best. Whether this type of strategy should be adopted is not our concern at this point, but it should be known that this strategy has been followed by many śāstras. Those texts that teach the gradual process of karma-jñāna-pradhānabhūtā-bhakti (the path of karma or jñāna predominated by bhakti) which eventually results in unconditional prīti (divine love) are the most beneficial for all jīvas. The Upaniṣads, the Brahma-sūtras, and the Bhagavad-gītā are all śāstras delineating pure bhakti. In all these śāstras, according to certain situations, there are specific discussions on the subjects of karma, jñāna, mukti, the attainment of the Absolute etc. However in regards to the ultimate philosophy, nothing is taught except for pure bhakti.
Readers of the Gītā-śāstra can be divided into two sections. One division is called sthūla-darśī (gross observers) and the other is called sūkṣma-darśī (acute observers). The reader who is a sthūla-darśī arrives at conclusions simply based upon word meanings. The reader who is a sūkṣma-darśī searches for the philosophical import of the śāstra. After reading the Gītā from beginning to end, sthūla-darśī readers conclude that the activities prescribed according to varṇāśrama are eternal, thus after hearing the entire Gītā, Arjuna accepted kṣatriya dharma in regards to fighting. Therefore, the purport of Gītā–śāstra is to take shelter of that karma prescribed by one’s varṇa. The sūkṣma-darśī readers are not satisfied with such mundane conclusions. They consider either brahma-jñāna (knowledge of the Absolute) or parā-bhakti (pure bhakti) to be the objective of the Gītā. They state that Arjuna’s acceptance to fight is merely an example of his steadiness in regards to his position (as a kṣatriya) and not the ultimate purpose of the Gītā. Human beings are naturally inclined towards karma (action), and they will gradually attain philosophical knowledge in life while performing their activities. If one does not take refuge in action, one cannot continue to maintain one’s life in a correct manner. If one’s life is not maintained properly, then tattva-darśana (perceiving the Absolute Truth) is not easy to achieve. Thus, in relation to the connection between karma and varṇa-dharma, there is a distant relationship between them. As long as the jīva is not free from bondage, that relationship is essential. The inherent nature found in Arjuna was the kṣatriya-dharma of fighting. Therefore, although Arjuna vowed to fight after hearing the Gītā, it is understood that if a person who has the inherent nature of a brāhmaṇa hears the Gītā, he may leave home, like Uddhava. Thus, the esoteric significance of the Gītā is that a person has certain inclinations according to his intrinsic nature. It is one’s duty in life to search for the Supreme Truth (para-tattva) while engaging in work according to one’s inclination. This is most beneficial. There is no possibility of a bound jīva attaining the highest truth by abandoning his natural inclinations.
At this point, the question may arise, “Is the great Vaiṣṇava Arjuna not perfected in his inherent spiritual nature?” The answer is that Arjuna is yuktātmā (a self-realised soul), however at the time when Bhagavān descended to the material world, in order to assist Him in His līlā, Arjuna descended and accepted the mood of a kṣatriya. His temporary nature was the inclination of a kṣatriya. Being aware of his nature, Bhagavān has taught the world the knowledge of adhikāra-tattva (the fundamental truth concerning inherent inclinations) – only this needs to be understood.
When discussed with a simple mind, the materially bound state of the jīva must be considered to be a deplorable condition. It is imperative that some means be adopted to attain a benevolent state of mind. We may call this pure state upeya (the aim) or prayojana (necessity). The way to attain that is called upaya (the means). Amongst those with knowledge of śāstra, some consider yajñā, some consider yoga, some consider tarka (rhetoric), some consider puṇya (pious activities), some consider vairāgya (renunciation), some consider tapasya (austerities), some consider dharma-yuddha (religious war), some consider īśvaropāsana (worship of the Supreme), some consider dharma (religious principles), some consider gurupasatti (surrender to the guru), some consider prayaścitta (atonement), and some consider dāna (charity) as the upeya for achieving the prayojana. In this way, there are innumerable unscientific methods going under various names. In time, when science intervened in these processes, a number of these methods decreased. It turns out that all those processes are subject to three different theories; the names of these three categories are karma, jñāna and bhakti.
Through the self-evident abilities of the ātmā and pure discrimination, it can be concluded that the perfect existence of the jīva is spiritual. When he becomes conditioned in the material state, he descends into the womb of a mother. There is no reason or possibility other than the influence of the Lord’s potency which is inconceivable and beyond mundane reasoning, and the will of Bhagavān that cit-tattva (spiritual substance) comes in contact with matter. This is not within the limits of rational human intellect. Therefore, the jīvas are of two kinds of states – these two classifications are mukta (liberated) and baddha (bound). There are two kinds of mukta-jīva, namely those jīvas that were never bound (known as nitya-mukta), and those jīvas that have been freed from bondage (known as baddha-mukta). Both types of mukta-jīva are beyond the śāstras. The distinctions of karma, jñāna, and bhakti are only characterised in baddha-jīvas, and not in mukta-jīvas. The inclination towards prema takes on the upādhi (superimposition) of karma or jñāna (in regards to the baddha-jīvas). The conditioned state is when this upādhi comes in contact with prema, which is the eternal dharma of the jīva. In such a conditioned state, due to this upādhi, the jīva becomes averse to Bhagavān and his inclination towards prema is distorted – then dharma (karma) takes on one kind of form, and jñāna especially takes on another type of form. Sādhana-bhakti is the third type of inclination. Amongst these, the form of sādhana-bhakti is the sign of the baddha-jīva’s health, and the other two forms (karma and jñāna) are signs of his materially related disease.
While existing within a material body, action is essential. Amongst all the activities performed in order to maintain the physical body, those that create inauspiciousness for the world are called vikarma or ku-karma, that which gives material auspiciousness is called karma, and the performance of no material activity is known as akarma. All these are karma (activities), but those that create material auspiciousness are all called karma. There are four kinds of karma – physical, mental, social, and spiritual. Every karma is associated with a respective result; just as the result of eating is the nutrition of the body, and the result of marriage is begetting progeny. Respective results are easily noticed, however from a scientific point of view, peace is the ultimate consequence of all those results. If we take science a little further, we will see that ultimate peace is gradual liberation from material suffering and service to Bhagavān. Many types of social, physical and mental activities such as activities to maintain the body, yajṇa, vratas, aṣṭāṅga-yoga etc. have been prescribed for eating, recreation, exercise, sleep, cleanliness etc. Amongst them, in aṣṭāṅga-yoga, yama, niyama, āsana, and prāṇāyāma are the four kinds of physical yoga. Pratyāhāra, dhyāna and dhāraṇā – these are mental yoga, and samādhi is spiritual yoga. All these are physical, mental and spiritual activities. The Vedas, the Manus etc. have given twenty-two Dharma-śāstras that provide all kinds of social activities such as yajña, dāna, vrata and varṇāśrama. In the śāstras that present the processes for all these activities, the respective results of these deeds are mentioned, but in the ultimate conclusion of those śāstras there is no sign of any result concerning peace. In the Aṣṭāṅga-yoga Śāstra, various forms of opulence are the respective results spoken of in the Vibhutipāda section, and in the Kaivalyapāda section, only peace is defined as the result. Initially, all activities promise to award results in the form of bliss, but in the end, by showing the impermanence of such happiness, kaivalya (impersonal liberation) points to the bliss of peace as being superior. The bliss of kaivalya is greater than sense-enjoyment, but it is only the negation of misery – it is not bliss in and of itself. Then some kind of transcendental bliss is sought through spiritual knowledge. When the happiness of service to Bhagavān is experienced after overcoming all immediate results up to the bliss of impersonal Brahman, then karma becomes bhakti. Therefore bhakti is the ultimate purpose of the activities of a jīva. Those activities that do not serve the ultimate purpose are said to be averse to Bhagavān. If one is engaged in service to Bhagavān, that activity is called sādhana–bhakti and it is not called karma.
Even though jīvas are bound by matter, their innate condition is transcendental, therefore, cultivating knowledge is inherent in them. The cultivation of knowledge is of four types, namely jaḍīya-jñānālocana (the perception of gross knowledge), laiṅgika-jñānālocana (the perception of subtle knowledge), jaḍa-laiṅgika-vyatitreka-jñānālocana (the perception of that knowledge which has no connection to gross or subtle) and śuddha-jñānālocana (the perception of pure knowledge). Hearing philosophies that propound knowledge of the physical elements is jaḍīya–jñāna. Knowledge pertaining to the mental sphere such as dhyāna (meditation) and dhāraṇā (concentration) which is full of imaginative embellishments is called laiṅgika-jñāna. If gross and subtle knowledge is suspended by the process of samādhi which comes from aṣṭāṅga-yoga, or by the process of eliminating the negative misery found in the sāṅkhya yogī, then one attains kuṭa-samādhi (false samādhi) in the form of knowledge which is devoid of gross and subtle🙏 elements. It is at this point that Śañkara’s abheda-brahmavāda (philosophy of non-differentiated Brahman) or Pātañjalī’s īśvara-sāyujya-kaivalyavāda (philosophy of attaining liberation by merging into the Supreme) appears. In the pure state of nirupādhika-cit-tattva (transcendental truth without any superimpositions), in other words, when thoughts of direct gross or subtle experiences or kuṭa-samādhi are absent, then pure transcendental truth spontaneously manifests. The name of this is sahaja–samādhi (spontaneous samādhi) or śuddha-jñāna. This knowledge nourishes bhakti. By the cultivation of knowledge, the bound jīva first accumulates knowledge regarding the different objects of this material world. Later, when material characteristics and objects all combine, and all those characteristics arise, he becomes aware of all those things. By discussing all those objects and characteristics, he will eventually seek Īśvara, the creator and protector of all, and show a kind of rational devotion towards Him; or understanding that the world is temporary, he will practice renunciation and create the fanciful doctrine of non-differentiated Brahman and associate himself with a reality which is indescribable and beyond the physical world. By constantly hating the existence of material objects, claiming that non-existence and nirvāṇa are happiness, he strives to attain that. Whatever form the discussion may take, knowing that the thoughts of oneness and nirvāṇa are insignificant, the jīva eventually accepts the shelter of the principle of Paramātmā. When adherence to that becomes apparent, it becomes bhakti. Therefore, bhakti alone is the ultimate goal of the result of jñāna for the jīvas. The respective results of karma, and the respective results of bhakti and jñāna are to be understood as mukti – it is the ultimate result of both. If the ultimate result of jñāna is not aimed at attaining bhakti, then such knowledge is polluted and averse to Bhagavān, and where jñāna is driven by bhakti, such jñāna can be called sādhana-bhakti.
Many people think that bhakti is not an eternally perfected state – it is only karma. Bhakti may be called a state of purity, but jñāna is the state of liberation – such a conclusion is erroneous. Paṇḍitas who are sukṣma-darśīs state that the pure ātmā’s propensity for relishing transcendence is known as kevalā (exclusive), akiñcana (detached) or ananya-bhakti (one-pointed bhakti). Another name for this is prema. The direction and execution of the jīva’s faculty of perception is called jñāna. The deficiency of relishing transcendence often leads to anarthas in the form of the doctrines of non-differentiated Brahman or nirvāṇa. Relishing transcendence is the principle inherent quality of the jīva. Mere analyse alone is to deviate from one intrinsic nature. When jñāna is directed towards prema, then it is called jñāna-miśra-bhakti (bhakti mixed with jñāna). When the inclination for jñāna is terminated by a prevalence for prema, then kevalā–bhakti (exclusive bhakti) manifests.
The existence of the jīva is eternal, therefore his proclivity for perception is also eternal. If the proclivity for perception, then his activity must therefore also be eternal. The function of the jīvas in the liberated state and the bound state are of two types, namely nirupādhika (without material designations) and sopādhika (with material designations). Due to his contact with matter, the jīva attains the superimposition of a false material identity.
That superimposition gradually produces the physical body which becomes dependent upon mundane things and gives birth to the conceptions of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ – this is the jīva’s jaḍābhimāṇa (false identification with matter) or dehābhimāna (false identification with the mundane body). The activities of the bound jīva is sopādhika. The activities of those that are not bound by matter, or are free from matter by the power of Bhagavān’s mercy is nirupādhika. Bhagavat-sevā (service to Bhagavān) is the name given to the nirupādhika activities of a pure ātmā, and the name given to the sopādhika activities of an ātmā bound by matter is karma. When the jīva becomes freed from matter, his activities become nirupādhika. While the jīva remains in the sopādhika stage, the performance of karma is essential. The true identity of the jīva is prema–sevā (loving service to the Supreme) which is his innate nature. Thus, this nature is also present in the conditioned state of the jīva. However, it is almost extinct due to the intensity of his averse activities. By good association, all of the jīva’s apathy to the Lord gradually diminishes and a predominance in the inclination for service arises in the jīva. Then this is called karma-miśra-sādhana-bhakti (sādhana–bhakti mixed with karma). When this inclination for service becomes stronger, one gradually abandons one’s averse propensity in the form of karma. This then ends in kevalā-bhakti.
The activities of humans are not devoid of knowledge like mundane machines. The existence of knowledge is found in their actions. A human being’s cultivation of knowledge is never devoid of action. Cultivation is the very life of knowledge. Such cultivation is also an activity. That is why persons with gross intelligence consider karma and jñāna to be equal. From the analytical perspective, the characteristics of karma and jñāna are separate. Similarly, even though bhakti cannot be described as ‘separate’ from karma and jñāna when it is being executed, from the analytical view, the difference between bhakti in relation to karma and jñāna is proven.
Transcendental nirupādhika prema-sevā is the perfected form of bhakti. Although it is not easy to point this out to those who are in the material state of bondage, it is easily perceived by those persons within whom śraddhā has manifested. Only those who have a taste for cultivating bhakti-tattva and have no appreciation for useless arguing can understand the principles of bhakti.
Bhakti is of two types – kevalā (exclusive) and pradhānībhūtā (adulterated). Kevalā-bhakti is independent and devoid of any trace of karma or jñāna. The śāstra has also given it the names nirupādhika-prema (prema free from any mundane superimposition), nirupādhika-sevā (transcendental service devoid of any mundane superimposition), ananya-bhakti (one-pointed bhakti) and akiñcana-bhakti (bhakti devoid of any material attachments) etc. Pradhānībhūtā-bhakti has three categories, namely karma–pradhānībhūtā (mixed with karma), jñāna–pradhānībhūtā (mixed with jñāna) and karma-jñāna-pradhānībhūtā (mixed with karma and jñāna). Bhakti is called pradhānībhūtā-bhakti when bhakti predominates karma or jñāna, and it is observed that karma and jñāna are subservient to bhakti, and the inclination towards bhakti is mixed with karma or jñāna. When karma or jñāna are not predominated by the inclination for bhakti, in other words when it is observed that karma or jñāna predominate and bhakti only serves as the slave of karma or jñāna, then that karma and jñāna are simply called karma and jñāna. Such karma or jñāna cannot be called bhakti. Karma, jñāna and bhakti are intrinsically different from one another. Thus, karma–kāṇḍa, jñāna–kāṇḍa and bhakti have been separated by philosophical analysis.
The Gītā-śāstra has eighteen chapters. Within it, the first six chapters concerning karma, the second six concerning bhakti and the third six chapters concerning jñāna are all discussed separately, yet ultimately the superiority of bhakti is indicated. Bhakti is an extremely confidential subject. However, the topic of bhakti has been inserted in the middle six chapters because it is the very life and meaning of karma and jñāna.
At the end of the Gītā in the śḷoka, ‘sarva-dharmān parityajya,’ it will be understood that bhagavat-śaraṇāpatti (surrender to Bhagavān) is the most confidential teaching. Readers should recite the Gītā-śāstra repeatedly along with the commentary of Śrīla Cakravarti-Mahāśaya with hearts full of pure bhakti in order to make their lives successful.
Unfortunately, almost all the commentaries and Bengali translations of Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā that have been published so far have been written by those that follow the doctrine of impersonalism. Commentaries or translations in accordance with pure bhakti to Bhagavān are generally not published. Śaṅkara’s and Ānandagiri’s commentaries are completely full of impersonalism. Although Śrīdhara Svāmī’s commentary is not completely impersonal, it does have a trace of the sectarian doctrine of Śuddhādvaita. The commentary of Śrī Madhusūdana Sarasvatī is replete with words that nourish bhakti, but its ultimate teachings do not provide anything beneficial. The commentary of Śrī Rāmānuja Svāmī is completely in agreement with bhakti. But in our land, if no commentary on the Gītā is published based upon Lord Śrī Gaurāṅga’s teachings on acintya-bhedābheda, the bliss of those who relish pure prema–bhakti will not increase. Due to this, we have carefully published the Gītā-śāstra with a Bengali translation called Rasika-rañjana after referring to the commentary written by the crest-jewel amongst devotees, mahāmahopadhāya Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī Mahāśaya, the follower of Śrī Gaurāṅga. There is also a Gītā commentary written by Śrī Baladeva-Vidyābhūṣaṇa according to the teachings of Śrī Mahāprabhu. Baladeva’s commentary is full of analytical philosophy, but Cakravartī Mahāśaya’s commentary is full of both analytical philosophy and prīti–rasa (the mellows of divine love). In particular, since the commentary on Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā by Cakravartī Mahāśaya has been widely circulated and revered everywhere, I have only published Cakravartī Mahāśaya’s commentary for the time being. Cakravartī Mahāśaya’s explanation is simple and his Sanskrit language is clear. Ordinary readers can easily understand it.
Rasika-rañjana was written in as simple a language as possible. The meaning of all the difficult words that are originally used have been explained in the commentary. Earlier translators, while trying to express the meanings of those words and the expertise of the words used by the Sanskrit commentators, have made their translations incomprehensible. We have taken special care to avoid that defect. If the readers are pleased with our translation of the Gītā-śāstra then we will also publish many Vedāntika texts in line with pure bhakti such as the Vedānta–sūtra commentary and commentaries on the Upaniṣads in a similar manner.