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Dhyānam is prayer. Before entering the study of Gīta, or before starting any study, practice or activity, it is customary to do dhyānam. It is a state, where all stirrings of the mind are quietened and the mind is centred round one thought. The first step is to get our mind focus on Gīta sāstra. The dhyāna ślōkās help us do that. They also make us imbibe the importance of Gīta and realise its place in sanātana dharma. A proper reading of them helps remove many doubts and misunderstandings about Gīta. Therefore let us listen to Gīta dhyānam in brief.
What is known as Gīta dhyānam are nine ślōkās starting with “Pārthāya pratibōdhitām” and ending with “Dēvāya tasmai namah”. It is not possible to say for certain who the author is. What can be certain is that it is not Vyāsa, because it does not find a place in the Mahābhārata and it contains praise of Vyāsa. Nor is it by Śankarāchārya because, he has not shown them or quoted from them in his Bhāshya. The ślōkās are so apt that if he had written them or had access to them he would certainly have included them or referred to them in his bhāshya. Therefore we can conclude that these were written after his time. They are not seen in the interpretations of Gīta by eminent Swāmis like Śankarānanda Saraswathy, Ānandagiri or Śreedhara. But in the interpretation of Madhusūdana Saraswathy they find a place. Therefore many have attributed these verses to him. Let us go into them.
The first is an introductory ślōka speaking of the greatness of Bhagavad Gīta and its writer, Vyāsa. Then the writer pays homage to the Gīta-mother and vows to follow her.
Bhagavatā nārāyañēna svayam
Vyāsēna grathitām purāñamuninām
Amba tvāmanusandadhāmi Bhagavad Gītē
6.parthāya – for Pārtha (Arjuna)
5.pratibōdhitām – spoken, advised
7.bhagavatā – by Bhagavān (God)
8.nārāyañēna – by Nārāyanňa (God)
12.Vyāsēna – by Vyāsa
10.grathitām – written
11.purāñamuninām – by the ancient sage
14.madhyē – in the middle
15.Mahābhāratam – of Mahābhārata
17.advaitāmrutavarshiņīm – one who rains down the amruta (nectar) of advaita (non duality)
16.bhagavatīm – the goddess
13.ashtādaśadhyāyinīm – with eighteen chapters
1.amba – oh, mother
4.tvām – you
3.anusandadhāmi – I follow
2.Bhagavad Gītē – oh, Bhagavad Gīta
18.Bhavadvēshinīm – the destroyer of births and deaths
Oh, mother, oh Bhagavad Gīta, I follow you. You, who were advised for Arjuna by Bhagavān Narāyaña himself and written in eighteen chapters by the ancient sage Vyāsa in the middle of Mahābhārata. You, who are the goddess who rain down the amrita (nectar) of advaita (non duality) and destroy births and deaths.
Here, Srimad Bhagavad Gīta is addressed as mother. Vēda is mother to us – sruti mother. Just like the mother nurtures us, vēda gives us growth and well being. Bhagavad Gīta is the essence of that sruti-mother. Gīta sāstra is the guiding light for the aspirants in their spiritual journey.
The word Bhagavad Gīta means that which is sung by Bhagavān or God. “Bhagavatā gāyatē iti” in Sanskrit. Bhagavān here is Srīkrishña. After addressing Gīta thus, the poet describes its main attributes . We have to read each attribute with the words “I follow you”.
The first attribute is that Gīta is spoken or advised for Pārtha by Bhagavān Nārāyaña himself. Partha is the son of Pritha, which is another name of Kunti, the mother of Arjuna. Gīta is advised for Arjuna who was on the horns of a dilemma in the battlefield of Mahābhārata as his sense of dharma got mixed with his filial affections. The advice was given by Srīkrishña the Lord himself. Srīkrishña is Bhagavān Narāyaña. The word Narāyña is a combination of nāran and ayanam. Nāran has humanity and jnāna (wisdom) as its chief meanings. Ayanam means direction towards destination or final recourse. Thus Narāyaña is the final destination for humanity or the one to whom we can reach through jnāna. He abides in the minds of humanity. What we reach through devotion is Him. He is the one who resides in the causal waters after creation, sustenance and dissolution.
Bhagavān is one who has bhaga. Vishnu purañam (6.5.74) gives six attributes of bhaga: all round prosperity, dharma, fame, nobility, a desireless state and mōksha. By describing Srīkrishña as Bhagavān and Nārāyaña, it is indicated that Gita is advised by the ultimate paramātma who has taken the form of māya for the sake of protecting dharma. [The concept of māya will come up later. Briefly, it is to say that the world is an illusion, the reality being the paramātma.] By stating that the Bhagavān himself has advised this, any doubt about authenticity is removed.
But still the doubt remains whether in the battlefield when the legions are all set to begin, such a lengthy advice is possible. Are we to believe that everyone waited till the seven hundred slōkas were spoken? The answer is, Vyāsa, the ancient sage put it in writing. This suggests that though the Bhagavān himself gave the advice, it attained this length when Vyāsa put it in book form. It was the same Vyāsa who wrote all the purañās keeping always in mind God consciousness. Later, in Chapter 10 when Bhagavān describes himself as the best of each object and person we know of, He says that among sages He is Vyāsa. Such a sage will not take the role of an interpolator.
Gīta is advised in the middle of Mahābhārata. It means both in the middle of the battle of Mahābhārata and in the book by that name. The first suggests that it is a guidepost to us who face situations similar to the one faced by Arjuna and the second, that it is a summary of vēda as Mahābhārata was written to explain the principles of vēda.
The next attribute of Gīta is ‘the one who rains down the amrita of advaita’. Amrita, though usually translated s nectar, really stands for the state of mōksha beyond births and deaths. This amrita is possible only through the realisation of the Self as one and not dual. Vēda’s ultimate advice is this principle. The physical or even spiritual views of life that entangle our mind in multifarious things do not bring about amrita. Only the singular and non dual realisation of Truth will cause amrita. It is this amrita that Gīta pours down line after line. Each slōka and each advice takes us to the advaita-principle. It is truly a rain of that nectar.
Gīta is then addressed as Bhagavaty or Goddess. [This word in Sanskrit is the feminine gender of Bhagavān.] As the song that teaches us bhagavtva or Godhood, advised by Bhagavān Srikrishña and written by Bhagavān Vyāsa, Gīta is Bhagavaty. Sruti is Bhagavaty to us. And Gīta being the essence of sruti is certainly Bhagavaty. All the attributes of Bhagavān mentioned previously are attributable to Bhagavaty.
The next description of Gīta is as the one with eighteen chapters. Starting with the chapter called Arjuna Vishāda Yōga and ending with Mōksha SanyāsaYoga, Gita has eighteen chapters.
‘Bhavadvēshini’ is the last attribute. Bhavam means whatever is happening – whatever gets born in the cycle of births and deaths. This cycle is called samsāra. Dveshinīm is one who destroys samsāra or the sorrow that is always there in this world. Getting release from this sorrow is mōksha. Thus if you put in practice the teachings of Gīta, it will release you from the sorrows of the world. ‘I follow you’. Oh mother Gīta, I promise to hear you, study you, imbibe you and practice your teachings in my life.
Having made this promise, the poet pays homage to Vyāsa in the next slōka.
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