Posted by: adbhutam | January 16, 2010

The Shortest Ever ‘Commentary’ on the Veda-s

श्रीगुरुभ्यो नमः

The Veda itself felt the need to segregate Knowledge, VidyA, into parA and aparA, Ultimate and secondary.  This distinction, the Veda feels, is inevitable since human endeavor is generally concentrated on acquiring, pursuing, the secondary knowledge and not the primary, ultimate one.  This is again driven by the inherent nature of man that compels him to look outside rather than look within.  The Kathopanishad 2.1.1 portrays this situation in a very telling manner:

पराञ्चि खानि व्यतृणत् स्वयम्भूः तस्मात् पराङ्पश्यति नान्तरात्मन् ।

कश्चिद्धीरः प्रत्यगात्मानमैक्षत् आवृत्तचक्षुः अमृतत्वमिच्छन् ॥

The Creator Lord cursed/damned the sense organs to be outward-turned and therefore they always experience the inert world and never the Innermost Atman.  Some rare, daring aspirant, with the resolve to attain the Immortal, withdraws his attention from the outside world and succeeds in realizing the Upanishadic pratyagAtman.

The outward looking tendency of man is due to his being overpowered by Prakriti, a term translatable as ‘nature’.  PrakRti is named Maayaa, for instance, by the Shvetashvatara Upanishad:

मायां तु प्रकृतिं विद्यात्, मायिनं तु महेश्वरम्

[Know PrakRti to be none other than MAyA,  and Ishwara to be the Maayin, the wielder of MAyA.]

The composition of MAyA, a synonym for the term PrakRti, is the three guNa-s: sattva, rajas and tamas.  The Bhagavadgita says: sattva is the cause of pleasure, sukha, rajas the cause of activity, duhkha, misery, and tamas is causative of sloth, indolence, delusion, etc.  Also, all these guNa-s operate in the field of duality, dvaita.  The sukha born of sattva too is not permanent and only lapses into duhkha, misery.

The endeavor of the Upanishads is to free man from this natural orientation of prakRti and confer upon him his native state of liberation.  All dvaita, duality, being the characteristic of MAyA, prakriti, keeps man in misery, bondage. Jaya and Vijaya were situated very close to Lord Vishnu in Vaikuntha.  Yet, they suffered separation from the Lord’s proximity.  This proves that nothing short of Absolute Advaitic Identity is secure  howsoever exalted the dvaita is.  Since man’s tendency is to look outside of himself, a product of mAyA, through the instruments of body-senses-mind, also a product of mAyA, he is helplessly caught in this circle and can never free himself unless through divine, superhuman, intervention.  He has to be shown the state of Advaita, sukha, that is mAyAteeta, beyond prakRti so that he can come out of dvaita, duhkha, misery, mAyAdheena, subject to prakriti.  With this avowed aim the Upanishads proceed to chalk out a path for man.

Even here the Upanishads are forced to make a distinction between the Veda pUrva, the ‘earlier’ part of the Veda and the veda anta, the latter part of the Veda.  The ‘earlier’ and ‘latter’ are not distinctions based on chronology of their occurrence but on their relevance to man.  In the natural, prakriti-bound state only the veda pUrva is relevant for man.  How is this so?  The Veda takes upon itself the task of showing man a better means of satisfying his bodily needs.  Instead of taking to un-vedic, un-holy means of gratifying his urges, if he turns to the vedic means, he is on better grounds, for he gets better samskaras.  But even this is in the field of dvaita alone, being characterized by the three gunas.  And gunas means samsara. And samsara is misery. The Lord says this in the Gita 7.14:

दैवी ह्येषा गुणमयी मम माया दुरत्यया

[This divine mAyA of Mine is made of guNa-s and is extremely difficult to transcend..]

He says in 9.33:

अनित्यमसुखं लोकमिं प्राप्य भजस्व माम्

(Having come to this ephemeral, miserable world/samsara, endeavour to attain Me.)

As a means to this He also teaches:

जन्ममृत्युजराव्याधिदुःखदोषानुदर्शनम् (13.8)

(One has to constantly contemplate upon the misery attached to birth, death, decrepitude and disease.)

ये हि संस्पर्शजा भोगा दुःखयोनय एव ते (5.22)

(All enjoyments arising from sense-contacts are verily sources of misery.)

The cause of all the above misery is characterized by the deluded vision involving subject-object duality.

As a corollary, we see that the Lord, by saying this, is also stating that MAyA, prakriti, dvaita, needs to be transcended, albeit difficult.  The Taittiriya Upanishad declares that Brahman is Satyam, Jnanam…That shows that Brahman alone is True, Real, and all else is mithyA.  If Maya, Prakriti were real, there would be no need for Bhagavan to teach that it is to be transcended. He could have very well shown Prakriti as the goal.

When man turns to the Vedas to fulfill his needs, he needs guidance on how to use the Vedas.  He has to know what portions, what specific injunctions are relevant for him.  For example the duties of a householder are different from those of a celibate, student.  Specific rituals have to be correctly understood so as to enable him to perform them correctly.  This requires a commentary on the Vedas.  Even though the Veda-angas namely nirukta, etc. are there, even to study them one needs guidance.

The vedic tradition in the present times has one commentary, of that of SAyanAchArya, who has commented on ALL the four Vedas.  There is no other commentary, post-Shankaracharya, that is as all-encompassing as that of Sayana’s, both in volume and quality of content.

// 4. Sayanacharya

If anyone has written a commentary on the Vedas after Yaskacharya it is none other than Sayanacharya. It is because of which that the latter is glorified everywhere. He has written commentaries on all the Vedas. In the preface to the Taittiriya Sanhita when indicating as to the Veda about which He wrote the commentary initially, He says, “The Yajurveda is like a wall and the pictures drawn on it represent the Rugveda and the Samaveda. That is precisely why I am discussing the Yajurveda first.” When writing a commentary on every branch of the Veda He does it in different style. He also has commentaries on the Shatpath, Aitareya, Taittiriya and all the Brahman holy texts of the Samaveda to His credit.

Commentators who preceded Sayanacharya are Bhattabhaskarmishra, Venkatmadhav, etc. and those who followed Him are ones like Uvvat and Mahidhar. Nevertheless they have written commentaries on any one Vedasanhita, all of them being in Sanskrut and focussing on the central theme of sacrificial fires (yadnya) in the Vedas.’(4)    //

While this is one ‘type’ of commentary, an elaborate one on the vast vedic literature, we have another that is unsurpassed, unsurpassable, unique in size and content and quality:  that of Lord Krishna’s.  In the Bhagavadgita 2.45 the Lord gives out this three-word commentary for the entire Vedic pUrva bhAga:

त्रैगुण्य-विषया वेदाः निस्त्रैगुण्यो भवार्जुन ।

This means:  The veda-s, the veda-pUrva, that excludes the veda-anta, have for their subject matter the dvaita duhkha bearing three guNa-s: sattva, rajas and tamas.  This is because the means to be employed and the fruit to be obtained are all in the dualistic realm of subject-object. Acquiring the means is pain, employing them is pain, waiting for their fruit is pain, enjoying them is pain and finally when they expire, pain alone subsists. This is because there is the inevitable duality of seeker-sought, seeker-means, seeker-fruit, seeker-enjoyer-enjoyment. As long as this duality persists, samsara is inevitable.  Whether one enjoys fruits in this world or other superior worlds like Vaikuntha, the misery-borne subject-object dvaita is the characteristic. The Gita has several verses to substantiate this. The Chandogya Upanishad 8.1.6 declares:

तद्यथेह कर्मजितो लोकः क्षीयते, एवमेव अमुत्र पुण्यजितो लोकः क्षीयते

[Just as what is wrought by action in this world dissipates, so too, what is earned through puNya, merit, dissipates in the other worlds.]

Nowhere can we find this kind of a commentary to the veda-pUrva.  The great worth of this commentary can be appreciated when we see what the Lord Himself says in the next quarter of this very verse which constitutes the shortest ever commentary for the Veda anta bhAga:

निस्त्रैगुण्यो भव अर्जुन  2.45

O Arjuna, therefore, [because the veda-pUrva operates in the field of samsara, duality, dvaita, misery] do thou transcend it by attaining the Advaita sukha that is beyond the three guNas that is duality.  The Mandukya Upanishad mantra 7 calls this state: prapanchopashamam, shAntam, Shivam, Advaitam [free of the dvaita prapancha, the material world of three gunas, is Peace, is Auspicious, and which is the non-dual nirguna Turiya, none other the Atman].

Thus, in one go, in just half a verse, the Lord states the cause of bondage and the remedy: being in the realm of dvaita (guNa-s, mAya, prakriti, duhkha, misery, all being aliases of dvaita) is the cause and characteristic of bondage, samsara.  Transcending it by realizing the non-dual Truth and getting established in one’s native infinite blissful nature is the cause and characteristic of moksha, liberation, Advaita, Ananda. The Taittiriya Upanishad says: आनन्दं ब्रह्मणो विद्वान्, न बिभेति कुतश्चन (He who realizes as his own Atman, the Ananda of Brahman, transcends fear) This very Upanishad says: उदरं अन्तरं कुरुते, अथ तस्य भयम् भवति (He who sees a wee bit of difference between himself and Brahman, is ever attacked by fear).  The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.2 too reiterates this: द्वितीयाद् वै भयं भवति (In duality, dvaita darshana, verily there is fear).  When the Atman, Brahman is realized as one’s own self, sage Yajnavalkya declares addressing Janaka in this Upanishad (4.2.4) itself: अभयं वै जनक प्राप्तोऽसि (O Janaka, you have attained That which is fearless).  अतोऽन्यदार्तम् (3.4.2, 3.5.1, 3.7.23) (Anything other than Brahman is misery/miserable). This shows that if one were to hold that the jiva and the jagat is different from Brahman, that jiva and jagat are indeed miserable. Thus there is no escape from samsara as long as dvaita darshana persists. The Br.Up. does not seem to be tired of repeating that apart from the Non-dual Atman, everything else is misery; it says this three times in close succession!! Thus, repeatedly the Upanishads criticize the vision of dvaita as the source of misery and fear and bondage and teach the knowledge/vision of Advaita, Non-duality as the remedy to the natural affliction of dvaita.

Teaches the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:

यत्र हि द्वैतमिव भवति तदितर इतरं पश्यति……यत्र त्वस्य सर्वमात्मैवाभूत् तत् केन कं पश्येत्…In the vision of even the semblance of duality one sees another…..when everything has become Atman in one’s vision, with what can one see another? (2.4.14 & 4.5.15)

अन्योऽसौ, अन्योऽहं इति न स वेद (He who knows he is different and the deity is different, does not really know; he is indeed cattle for the Deva-s). (1.4.10) This sentence occurs in the context of the teaching of ‘अहम् ब्रह्मास्मि’, Aham Brahmasmi.

नेह नानास्ति किञ्चन मृत्योः स मृत्युमाप्नोति य इह नानेव पश्यति (There is not a wee bit of duality/multiplicity here.. Whoever sees duality as it were goes from death to death. Br.Up. 4.4.19 and Kathopanishad 2.1.11)

By using the particle इव ‘as it were’ in these two sentences, the Upanishad says in unmistakable terms that dvaita is only an appearance, not the reality. However, the dualistic schools have found it a great discomfiture to handle this ‘इव” particle and give some completely irrelevant, artificial, out-of-context meaning to avoid the straightforward Nondualistic purport.

And where does the Scripture extol the Non-dualistic vision?

In the IshAvAsyopanishad, for example, we have a mantra:

यस्मिन् सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मैवाभूद्विजानतः ।

तत्र को मोहः कः शोकः एकत्वमनुपश्यतः ॥ 7 ॥

When to the man of realization all things have verily become the Self: what delusion, what sorrow, can there be for him who beholds that oneness?

This mantra explicitly speaks of the fruit of Advaitic vision: 1. Freedom from delusion and 2. Freedom from sorrow.  From this and the other Upanishadic statements quoted in the foregoing we conclude that the dualistic vision is characterized by 1. Delusion and 2. Misery/perpetual samsara. The case of Narada, taken up in the sequel, is a glaring lesson on this contrast between the dualistic and the non-dualistic visions spoken of by the Upanishads.

In fact, this half a verse of the Gita 2.45 is a commentary of the entire Vedic lore: the first half of this line is a commentary on the veda-pUrva and the second half is an unmatched commentary on the veda-anta.  No wonder that this kind of a commentary can come only from Him, for, has He not said, in the Gita itself, वेदैश्च सर्वैः अहमेव वेद्यः, वेदान्तकृत् वेदविदेव चाहम्  15.15 [ I am the Goal to be Known through all the Vedas; I am the Initiator of the sampradaya of teaching the purport of the Vedanta, and I am the Knower of the Veda.]?

How do we know that possessing any knowledge that is only objective, in the dvaita realm, is misery, duhkha?

The Case of Narada

In the Chandogya Upanishad 7th Section there is the dialogue between Narada, the aspirant and Sanatkumara, the Teacher.  Narada approaches the Acharya with this plea:

Part Seven

Chapter I — Dialogue between Narada and Sanatkumara

// 1.   Om. Narada approached Sanatkumara as a pupil and said:  “Venerable Sir, please teach me.”  Sanatkumara said to him: “Please tell me what you already know.  Then I shall tell you what is beyond.”

2.   Narada said: “Venerable Sir, I know the Rig—Veda, the  Yajur—Veda, the Sama—Veda, the Atharva—Veda as the  fourth Veda, the epics (Puranas) and ancient lore (Itihasa) as  the fifth, the Veda of the Vedas (i.e. grammar), the rules of the  sacrifices by which the Manes are gratified, the science of  numbers, the science of portents, the science of time, logic,  ethics, etymology, Brahma—vidya (i.e. the science of  pronunciation, ceremonials, prosody, etc.), the science of  elemental spirits, the science of weapons, astronomy, the  science of serpents and the fine arts. All this I know, venerable Sir.

3.   “But, venerable Sir, with all this I know words only; I do not know the Self. I have heard from men like you that he who knows the Self overcomes sorrow. I am one afflicted with sorrow. ’सोऽहं भगवः शोचामि’ Do you, venerable Sir, help me to cross over to the other side of sorrow.”  Sanatkumara said to him: “Whatever you have read is only a name.”  //

[This expression of Narada: I am one afflicted with sorrow. ’सोऽहं भगवः शोचामि’ can be contrasted with the Advaitic vision of the Isha Upanishad: तत्र को मोहः कः शोकः एकत्वमनुपश्यतः]

In the above dialogue we can see the big list of sciences Narada knew.  The terms ‘astronomy’ etc. can be comparable to modern astronomy, cosmology, cosmogony, etc.  We exclaim at the developments modern science has achieved in these fields.  True, they are no mean achievements.  Yet, they are not capable of giving the knower the ultimate peace and satisfaction.  The feeling of fulfillment never comes from such achievements.  Why?  It is because all these achievements are in the realm of anaatma, the non-self, dvaita.  Why is it non-self?  Because it requires the subject, the knower, to say ‘this exists’; they depend on the conscious observer.  In the absence of the knower, the subject, I, the known, the object has no existence even. Being dependent on me, the conscious observer, the observed has no independent, swatantra, reality.  Like the superimposed serpent has no independent existence of itself and has only a dependent, paratantra, existence on the substratum rope, all that is dependent on something else for its very reality is mithyA.  And that which is ‘real’, whether prakRti or jiva, need not and will not and cannot depend on anything else for anything.  It is only the ‘unreal’, insentient, element in the jiva, for example, the body, mind, etc. that depend on something, someone else. When a son is said to be dependent on his father, it is only the body-mind of the son that is dependent; the Atman of the son is ever independent. Thus, apart from the rope-snake example there exists no example whatsoever to substantiate the dvaita metaphysics of Swatantra-paratantra.  But what is essentially real, the Consciousness, in the jiva, does not depend on anything, such as the PrakRti /anyone, just as the Paramatma, for anything.   What is not real cannot give us true peace.  On the contrary it can give us only misery.  Sage Yajnavalkya says this to Maitreyi in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:  प्रियं त्वां रोत्स्यति, ‘If you are attached to anything other than the Atma, that very thing will make you weep.’  Thus dvaita-darshana involving subject-object duality is the cause of misery, says Yajnavalkya.  Narada’s experience corroborates this.  Hence Narada despite knowing what all could be known in the objective universe was bereft of true joy; he experienced positive sorrow:  I am one afflicted with sorrow, सोऽहं भगवः शोचामि says he.  Why is the anAtma a source of misery?  Because the only source of unmixed joy is the Self, the Atma, also called ‘pratyagAtma’ by the Kathopanishad quoted above.  Atma can never be miserable, ‘अहेय अनुपादेय’ says Shankaracharya in the Sutra bhashya: तत्तु समन्वयात्. This means: that which cannot be rejected nor can be acquired.  It cannot be rejected because it is one’s own self, Atma.  It cannot be rejected because one can never reject his self.  One can and should reject the ego that is a superimposition, which goes by the name jivatma, and is born of prakriti.  But one can never reject his own self.  Therefore anything other than the self is a source of misery: अतोऽन्यदार्तम् says the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:  ‘Anything other than the Atman, Brahman, is laden with misery.’   One cannot also acquire Atman because one is already the Atman.

In the run-up to remove this sorrow born of dvaita-darshana, Sage Sanatkumara teaches Narada the ‘bhUma vidya’ the knowledge of the infinite. This section of the Chandogya Upanishad demonstrates the contrast between the realm of Non-duality, BhUmA, Infinite, and the field of duality, alpam, finite.  The teaching of the BhUmaa results in Narada realizing it and becoming blissful.

// Chapter XXIV — The Infinite is Bliss

1.   “The infinite is bliss. There is no bliss in anything finite. Only the Infinite is bliss. One must desire to understand the Infinite.”  “Venerable Sir, I desire to understand the Infinite.”

Chapter XXIV — The Infinite and the Finite
1.   “Where one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, understands nothing else—that is the Infinite. Where one sees something else, hears something else, understands something else—that is the finite. The Infinite is immortal, the finite mortal.”  “Venerable Sir, in what does the Infinite find Its support?”  “In Its own greatness—or not even in greatness.”
2.   “Here on earth people describe cows and horses, elephants and gold, slaves and wives, fields and houses, as ‘greatness.’ I do not mean this,” he said, “for in such cases one thing finds its support in another. But what I say is:

Chapter XXV — Instruction about the Infinite

1.   “That infinite, indeed, is below. It is above. It is behind. It is before. It is to the south. It is to the north. The Infinite, indeed, is all this.  “Next follows the instruction about the Infinite with reference to ‘I’:  I, indeed, am below. I am above. I am behind. I am before. I am to the south. I am to the north. I am, indeed, all this.  //

As against this, even if one were to discover celestial bodies, distant galaxies, etc., those observed bodies are only finite compared to the observing consciousness.  The observed might be awesome, pleasurable, beautiful and all that.  But there will come a time when they can no longer be observed, remembered and recounted to others.  But the Atman will never cease to be; being Sat, Existence, Satyam, Reality.

The above study was undertaken to conclude that prakriti, being dependent on the conscious observer, is anAtma, dualistic in nature being filled with variety and differences, and therefore miserable and unreal.  Contrasted with this is the Atma, the observer consciousness is non-dual in nature, with no differences of any kind whatsoever and therefore blissful and the only Real.

The Mandukya teaches that the dvaita is mithya as well:

मायामात्रमिदं द्वैतं, अद्वैतं परमार्थतः [This dvaita is verily maayaa, unreal, having only a phenomenal existence.  Contrasted with this, Advaitam is the Absolutely Real.]

It is this prakriti/maya that constitutes the subject matter of the veda-pUrva.  Any philosophy that has its basis in the veda-pUrva will only enunciate the reality of the world of duality. Such a philosophy cannot lay claims to the Veda-anta, the Upanishads. Conversely, every system that holds the world of duality, the triguNatmika PrakRti produced world, as real has its basis only in the Veda pUrva.   Sri Krishna vehemently denounces this kind of philosophy when He says: त्रैगुण्यविषया वेदा, निस्त्रैगुण्यो भवार्जुन Gita 2.45.  The pronouncement of Sri Krishna is verily the view of Veda Vyasa and the Upanishadic Seers, Rishis.  The dualistic philosophy based on the Veda pUrva and according reality to the observed world is akin to that of the Mimamsakas who (also) hold the world to be real.  The only difference between them and the dvaita-based systems is that while the former did not admit of an Ishwara, the latter subscribe to theism of the Puranas and pancharatra.

Contrary to this, Shankaracharya, totally faithful to the view of Sri Krishna, Veda Vyasa and the Upanishadic Rishis, has based the Advaitic system on the bedrock of the Vedanta.  While the veda purva is dealing with matter, the Vedanta has the spirit for its subject. True moksha is possible only through the Vedanta and hence Sri Krishna rejects the philosophy of the duality-based veda purva as a direct means to moksha.

Does this mean that Shankaracharya, Sri Krishna and Veda Vyasa have no value at all for the veda pUrva?  No, not at all.  Sri Krishna explicitly states the true worth of the Veda pUrva in verse 18.5:

यज्ञदानतपःकर्म न त्याज्यं कार्यमेव तत् ।

यज्ञो दान्ं तपश्चैव पावनानि मनीषिणाम् ॥ 18.5

Vedic sacrifices, gifts and austerities ought not to be given up; they have to be necessarily performed.  Why?  They purify the performer.

एतान्यपि तु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा फलानि च ।

कर्तव्यानीति मे पार्थ निश्चितं मतमुत्तमम् ॥ 18.6

With what attitude should one engage in them?  Being unattached to the action and their fruit one should perform these veda-prescribed actions.  This is My firm stand.  The Lord has said in 3.8:

यज्ञार्थात् कर्मणोऽन्यत्र लोकोऽयं कर्मबन्धनः  ।

तदर्थं कर्म कौन्तेय मुक्तसङ्गः समाचरः ॥

All actions not done as an offering to the Lord will be only binding the doer.  Hence perform all prescribed actions as an offering to Him, O Arjuna, with detachment.

Shankaracharya, in the commentary to this verse quotes a Yajurvedic passage: yajno vai vishnuH यज्ञो वै विष्णुः (Taittiriya Samhita 1.7.4) ‘The term ‘yajna’ verily means VishNu.’  For Vishnu’s sake perform all prescribed actions without attachment to the doership and the fruit of the action.

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (4.4.22) too says: तमेतं वेदानुवचनेन ब्राह्मणा विविदिषन्ति, यज्ञेन दानेन तपसा अनाशकेन  ‘By reciting the veda, by engaging in sacrifices, gifts and austerities those pure-hearted Brahmanas develop the thirst for knowing the Supreme Spirit.’  This indeed is the real purpose of the veda-pUrva.

Thus Shankara, in keeping with the Upanishads, the Lord and Veda Vyasa, invokes the veda purva only to the barest minimum; just what is necessary to convey its real purpose/purport and no more. Not being based predominantly on the veda-pUrva, Shankara’s system does not become subject to the Lord’s censure.

What Sri Krishna, Veda Vyasa and Shankara mean is this:  The Veda pUrva has a place, relevance, a role, in a certain situation.  Once that is accomplished, it ceases to be a direct means for Vedantic Non-dualistic enquiry.  Once a person has made its appropriate use, one has to transcend it, move on to the higher Advaitic realm.  That is the view with which Krishna denounces dvaita-drishti throughout the Gita.

Comments Shankara for the mantra 8 of the Ishavasyopanishad:

न हि शास्त्रविहितं किञ्चिदकर्तव्यतामियात्

//…and this is so because, nothing enjoined by the scriptures can be unworthy of performance.//

The Veda,when prescribing something, it addresses that to a particular individual; it is person-specific.

The verse 2.45 has deeper meanings as well.  The expression  त्रैगुण्य-विषया वेदाः is a crisp commentary on dvaita.  The expression  निस्त्रैगुण्यो भव अर्जुन  is a short commentary on Advaita.  While the former is a call to give up, transcend, dvaita, the latter is an exhortation to Arjuna to elevate himself to the Non-dual phase of sadhana.  Of course, the next half of the verse: निर्द्वन्द्वो नित्यसत्त्वस्थो निर्योगक्षेम आत्मवान् is an elucidation of the Advaitic state: freed of all dualities, dvaita, which are only misery, constantly resorting to Sattva, the hallmark of Non-duality, and characterized by not seeking anything from the dvaita-prapancha for one’s ultimate peace and security. ‘yoga’ is acquiring something and ‘kshema’ is preserving it.  The Vedantic Advaita Jnani does not depend on the dvaita prapancha for any of these things in the real sense.  The Gita 3.18 states this.

The verse 2.45 that is the subject matter of this study has much more to convey.  The portion  त्रैगुण्य-विषया वेदाः is a commentary on the first three pada-s of the Mandukya Upanishad. This is the world, the dvaita duhkhAtmaka samsara as per the Gita 9.33 (quoted above) consisting of the three states of waking, dream and sleep.  The expression: निस्त्रैगुण्यो भव अर्जुन is a commentary on the 7th mantra of the Mandukya Upanishad which categorically negates the dvaita prapancha by the word: prapanchopashamam and establishes the Turiya, dvaita-free Atman as Advaitam.  Thus the two expressions of the Gita 2.45 can be viewed as a concise commentary of the entire Mandukya Upanishad.  The dvaita – advaita contrast is also beautifully brought out by Bhagavan Krishna and Veda vyAsa through this one half of the verse. Of course, this is based on the Upanishads, especially noticeable in the Mandukya Upanishad structure.

Again, this verse is a treatise on the method of the Vedanta.  The traditional method of the Vedanta is quoted by Shankara in the Gita bhAshya as:

अध्यारोप-अपवादाभ्यां निष्प्रपञ्चं प्रपञ्च्यते .  By the method of AdhyAropa, deliberate superimposition and apavAda, its subsequent negation, the dvaita world-free Advaita Brahman is taught.  Shankara introduces this verse with the words: संप्रदायविद आहुः ‘thus say the knowers of the sampradAya, the method of imparting, disseminating, Brahmavidyaa’.  According to the Vedanta sampradaya established by Veda Vyasa, Sri Krishna and the Upanishad Rishis, the method of teaching is: first allude to the delusion-caused, misery-ridden, dvaita-vision and formulate a ground for practicing all the necessary preparatory steps for Brahmavidya.  This is possible only in the dvaita world.  The devotee-deity duality is a must for this initial step.  This is the adhyAropa, the deliberate superimposition done by the Veda.  The Veda pUrva is the subject matter here. All the dualistic schools of philosophy have a place in this realm which is the preparatory stage for the higher Non-dual stage of sadhana. The Gita 2.45 expression: त्रैगुण्य-विषया वेदाः is the explanation for the term ‘अध्यारोप’ adhyAropa.  When the sufficient training in the veda pUrva is had, one has to give it up and graduate to the advaita sadhana.  This transition is expressed as   निस्त्रैगुण्यो भव अर्जुन by Lord Krishna and Veda VyAsa.  This is the equivalent of the technical term अपवाद ‘apavaada’ characterized by the negating of / giving up of the veda pUrva dvaita.  There is no such concept called the Vedanta dvaita. The Mandukya Upanishad teaches the Turiya as prapanchopashamam, Advaitam. The first of the two terms negates all dvaita, duality in Vedanta and the second term declares the Vedantic Ultimate as Advaitam.

A Synopsis of the Gita 2.45 study:

  • The Gita 2.45 can be seen as a crisp commentary on the Veda consisting of the pUrva and anta, uttara bhAga-s.
  • The realm of the pUrva is the three guNa-s, born of prakriti, maya.
  • This realm is characterized by samsara, dvaita, duhkha.
  • The realm of the vedAnta is the transcendence of the three gunNas.
  • This realm is typified by moksha, advaita, sukha.
  • The message of the Gita verse is: grow in (karma yoga) and transcend dvaita and launch yourself to Advaita (jnana yoga) and get established there, becoming free.
  • This message of the Gita is the message of Veda Vyasa, Bhagavan Krishna and the Upanishads, elucidated elaborately by Sri Shankaracharya in His commentaries.
  • Any system that accords absolute reality to Prakriti / Maya (either as a dependent reality or as something that is ‘as real as Brahman’) constituted by the three guNa-s is un-vedic ab initio, let alone being just un-vedAntic.  For, even though the veda-pUrva alludes to duality, a seemingly created world, scope for performing veda-enjoined actions, etc., the ultimate purport / purpose of these lies in the non-dual domain of VedAnta where नैष्कर्म्यम्, actionlessness, is the characteristic. Even if there are just the two – the jiva and Brahman/Ishwara, the ‘action’ of the jiva being the observer and Brahman being the observed object, is inevitable. Even a depender jiva – dependent Ishwara is a mockery of Vedanta.  It will be like a book placed on and supported by a table. Consciousness that the jiva is cannot ‘depend’ on Consciousness that is Brahman. Consciousness Brahman cannot ‘support’ Consciousness that is the jiva. Consciousness can just ‘Be’ with no difference whatsoever as jiva and Ishwara.  By maintaining such a difference of the jiva being an observer, Brahman is reduced to an insentient object, like a pot.  I an observer can see, touch, feel, etc. an insentient object.  But I cannot make Atman, me, an object at all. If I say Brahman is different from me and a knowable, seeable, I am treating Brahman as a jaDa vastu.  Do I not see and interact with other ‘people’ who are sentient? Yes, I see and interact only with their bodies/mind/intellects, sense organs and never with the One Atman which is indwelling everyone and which can never become an object. The Kathopanishad 2.3.9 makes it very clear that the Atman is never an object for the visual or any sense organ. So also the Kenopanishad 1.3. This is the fundamental principle of Vedanta conveyed by the very first sentence of the adhyAsa Bhashya of Shankaracharya, inviolable by anyone.
  • And action involves the role of Prakriti / mAyA. This means that mAyA has not been transcended.  Transcending prakriti is a sine qua non for liberation. The Gita 14th chapter has this message.
  • Thus, the veda pUrva is a particular case, a stepping stone, for the Non-dual VedAnta. Even in this scheme, the veda-pUrva or the vedAntic passages describing creation, etc. is not a pramANa for duality.  A pramANa is that which is a means to know something that is not already known through the usual means of pratyaksha (perception) and anumAna.  Since duality, multiplicity, difference, misery is already known through these means, the Veda does not constitute a / the pramANa for dvaita.  It has only the role of ‘anuvAdaka’, an alluding/restating agent of duality.
  • The entire 14th Chapter of the Bhagavadgita is a treatise on the three guNa-s of prakriti/maya and the means to transcend it: guNAteeta गुणातीत.  Only a guNAteeta is a mukta.  There are no guNa-s that are outside the realm of prakRti.




  1. Dear Sir,

    Excellent summarisation of relevant contents of Bhagvad Gita and Upanishads,reinforcing Advaita in its entirety. Grateful for providing me a deeper insight of Vedanta. With warm regards,
    Ved Prakash

    • Thank you Ved Prakash. I am glad that you found the post useful.

  2. Very nice blog!!! Thanks!

    The Mandukya teaches that the dvaita is mithya as well:
    मायामात्रमिदं द्वैतं, अद्वैतं परमार्थतः [This dvaita is verily maayaa, unreal, having only a phenomenal existence. Contrasted with this, Advaitam is the Absolutely Real.]

    THERE IS NOTHING MENTIONED in this verse about MITHYA. Only Maya is mentioned. and Maya is daiva not mithya!

    • The word ‘mAyA’ itself means ‘something that does not exist’ – ‘yA mA sA mAyA’. That which does not exist really but only appears to exist is mithyA.

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