Purports by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Text rendered into verse
by Hayagriva Das Brahmachary
(Sri Shankaracharyaor Shankarais considered to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva, according to Padma Puranam. Appearing in India in the 6th century A.D., he single-handedly drove the Buddhist philosophy out of India and re-established Vedic culture, all in his short lifetime of 32 years. Although he took up the impersonalist guise to better battle the Buddhists-impersonalism is much akin to Buddhism-the commentary rendered below, as well as other writings, reveal him to be, in actuality, devoted to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna. Shankara's most famous treatise is Vivekachudamani, and his other words include Sarirak Vhasya and Prayers for Krishna.)
O Bhagavad Gita,
Through Thy eighteen chapters
Thou showers upon Man
The immortal nectar
Of the Wisdom of the Absolute
O Blessed Gita
By Thee Lord Krishna Himself
Afterward, the ancient sage Vyasa
Included Thee in the Mahabharata
O Loving Mother,
Destroyer of Man's rebirth
Into the darkness of this mortal world,
Upon Thee I meditate.
Salutations to thee, O Vyasa.
Thou art of mighty intellect,
And thine eyes
Are large as the petals
Of the full-blown lotus.
It was thou
Who brightened this lamp of Wisdom,
Filling it with the oil
Of the Mahabarata.
Srimad Sankaracharya was an impersonalist from the materialist point of view. But he never denied the spiritual form known as Sat-Chit-Ananda Vigrata or the Eternal all-blissful Form of Knowledge which existed before the material creation. When he spoke of Supreme Brahman as impersonal he did not mean that the Lord's Sat-Chit-Ananda Form was to be confused with a material conception of Personality. In the very beginning of his commentary on the Gita, he maintains that Narayana, the Supreme Lord, is transcendental Personality, and He has nothing to do with the material Personality. Lord Krishna is the same Supreme Personality and has no connection with the material body. He descends in His spiritual eternal Form, but foolish people mistake His body as like unto ours. Sankara's preaching of impersonalism is especially meant for teaching foolish persons who consider Krishna to be an ordinary man composed of matter.
No body would care to read the Gita if it had been spoken by a material man, and certainly Vyasadeva wouldn't have even bothered to incorporate it into the history of the Mahabharata. According to the above verses, Mahabharata is the History of the Ancient World and Vyasadeva is the writer of this great epic. Bhagavad Gita is identical with Krishna; and because Krishna is the Absolute Supreme Personality of Godhead, there is no difference between Krishna and His words. Therefore the Gita is as worshipable as Lord Krishna Himself, both being Absolute. One who hears Bhagavad Gita "as is" actually hears the words directly from the lotus lips of the Lord. But unfortunate persons say that the Gita is too antiquated for the modern man who wants to find out God by speculation or meditation.
I salute Thee, O Krishna,
O Thou, Who art the refuge
Of ocean-born Lakshmi
And all who take refuge
At Thy lotus Feet.
Thou art indeed
The wish-fulfilling tree
For Thy devotee.
Thy one hand holds a staff
For driving cows,
And Thy other hand is raised
The thumb touching the tip
Of Thy forefinger,
Indicating Divine Knowledge.
Salutations to Thee, O Supreme Lord,
For Thou art the Milker
Of the ambrosia of the Gita.
Srimad Sankaracharya explicitly says, "You fools, just worship Govinda and that Bhagavad Gita spoken by Narayana Himself," yet foolish people still conduct their research word to find out Narayan; consequently they are wretched and waste their time for nothing. Narayana is never wretched nor Daridra; rather, He is worshipped by the Goddess of Fortune, Lakshmi, as well as all living entities. Sankara declared himself to be "Brahman," but he admits Narayana or Krishna to be the Supreme Personality Who is beyond the material creation. He offers his respects to Krishna as the Supreme Brahman or Param Brahman because He (Krishna) is worshipable by everyone. Only the fools and enemies of Krishna who cannot understand what Bhagavad Gita is (though they make commentaries on it) say, "It is not personal Krishna to whom we have to surrender ourselves utterly, but to the unborn, beginningless Eternal who speaks through Krishna." Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Whereas Sankara, the greatest of the impersonalists, offers his due respects to Krishna and His book Bhagavad Gita, the foolish say that "it is not to the Personal Krishna." Such unenlightened people do not know that Krishna is Absolute and that there is no difference between His inside and outside. The difference between inside and outside is experienced in the dual material world. In the Absolute World there is no such difference because in the Absolute everything is spiritual (Sat-Chit-Ananda) and Narayana or Krishna belongs to the Absolute World. In the Absolute World there is only the factual Personality, and there is no distinction between body and soul.
Are as a herd of cows,
Lord Krishna, Son of a cowherd,
Is their Milker,
Arjuna is the calf,
The supreme nectar of the Gita
Is the milk,
And the wise man
Of a purified intellect
Is the drinker.
Unless one understands spiritual variegatedness, one cannot understand the transcendental pastimes of the Lord. In the Brahma Samhita it is said that Krishna's Name, Form, Quality, Pastimes, Entourage and Paraphernalia are all anandachinmoyarasain short, everything of His transcendental association is of the same composition of spiritual bliss, knowledge and eternity. There is no end to His Name, Form, etc., unlike the material world where all things have their end. As stated in the Bhagavad Gita, only fools deride Him, whereas it is Sankara, the greatest impersonalist, who worships Him, His cows and His pastimes as the Son of Vasudeva and pleasure of Devaki.
Thou Son of Vasudeva,
Destroyer of the demons Kamsa and Chanura,
Thou Supreme Bliss of Mother Devaki,
O Thou Guru of the Universe,
Teacher of the Worlds,
Thee, O Krishna, I salute.
Sankara describes Him as the Son of Vasudeva and Devaki. Does he mean thereby that he is worshipping an ordinary material man? He worships Krishna because he knows that Krishna's birth and activities are all supernatural. As stated in the Bhagavad Gita (4th Chapter), Krishna's birth and activities are mysterious and transcendental and therefore only the devotees of Krishna can know them perfectly. Sankara was not such a fool that he would accept Krishna as an ordinary man and at the same time offer Him all devotional obeisances, knowing Him as the son of Devaki and Vasudeva. According to Bhagavad Gita, only by knowing the transcendental birth and activities of Krishna can one attain liberation by acquiring a spiritual form like Krishna. There are five different kinds of liberations. One who merges into the spiritual auras of Krishna, known as impersonal Brahman effulgence, does not fully develop his spiritual body. But one who fully develops his spiritual existence becomes an associate of Narayana or Krishna in different spiritual abodes. One who enters into the abode of Narayana develops a spiritual Form exactly like Narayana (four-handed) and one who enters into the highest spiritual abode of Krishna, known as Goloka Vrindaban, develops a spiritual Form of two hands like Krishna. Sankara, as an incarnation of Lord Shiva, knows all these spiritual existences, but he did not disclose them to his then Buddhist followers because it was impossible for them to know about the spiritual world. Lord Buddha preached that void is the ultimate goal, so how could His followers understand spiritual variegatedness? Therefore Sankara said Brahma Satya Jagat Mithya, or material variegatedness is false but spiritual variegatedness is fact. In the Padma Puranam Lord Shiva has admitted that He had to preach the philosophy of Maya or illusion in the Kaliyuga as another edition of the "void" philosophy of Buddha. He had to do this by the order of the Lord for specific reasons. He, however, disclosed his real mind by recommending that people worship Krishna for no one can be saved simply by mental speculations composed of word jugglery and grammatical maneuvers. Shankara instructs further: Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja Govindam Mudhamate; Prapte sannihite khalu marane nahi nahi, raksati du krim karane. "You intellectual fools, just worship Govinda, just worship Govinda, just worship Govinda. Your grammatical knowledge and word jugglery will not save you at the time of death."
Of that terrifying river
Of the battlefield of Kurukshetra
Over which the Pandavas victoriously crossed,
Bhishma and Drona were as the high banks,
Jayadratha as the river's water,
The King of Ghandara the blue water-lily,
Salya the shark, Kripa the current,
Karna the mighty waves,
Ashvatama and Vikarna the dread alligators,
And Duryodhana the very whirlpool
But Thou, O Krishna, wast the Ferryman!
May the spotless lotus of the Mahabharata
That grows on the waters
Of the words of Vyasa
And of which the Bhagavad Gita
Is the irresistably sweet fragrance
And its tales of heroes
The full blown petals
Fully opened by the talk of Lord Hari,
Who destroys the sins
And on which daily light
The nectar-seeking souls,
As so many bees
May this lotus of the Mahabharata
Bestow on us the Highest Good.
Salutations to Lord Krishna,
The Embodiment of Supreme Bliss,
By Whose grace and compassion
The dumb become eloquent
And the lame scale mountains
Him I salute!
Foolish followers of foolish speculators cannot understand the meaning of offering salutations to Lord Krishna, the embodiment of Bliss. Sankara himself offered his salutations to Lord Krishna so that some of his intelligent followers might understand the real fact by the example set by their great Master Sankara, the incarnation of Lord Shiva. But there are many obstinate followers of Sankara who refuse to offer their salutations to Lord Krishna, and instead mislead innocent persons by injecting materialism into Bhagavad Gita and confusing innocent readers by their commentaries and consequently the readers never have the opportunity to become blessed by offering salutations to Lord Krishna, the cause of all causes. The greatest disservice to humanity is to keep mankind in the darkness about the science of Krishna or Krishna Consciousness by distorting the sense of the Gita.
Salutations to that Supreme Shining One
Whom the creator, Brahma, Varuna,
Indra, Rudra, Marut and all divine beings
Praise with hymns,
Whose glories are sung
By the verses of the Vedas,
Of Whom the singers of Sama sing
And of Whose glories the Upanishads
Proclaim in full choir,
Whom the Yogins see
With their minds absorbed
In perfect meditation,
And of Whom all the hosts
Of gods and demons
Know not the limitations.
To Him, the Supreme God Krishna, be all salutations
Him we salute! Him we salute! Him we salute!
By recitation of the ninth verse of his meditation quoted from Srimad Bhagavatam, Sankara has indicated that Lord Krishna is worshipable by one and all, including himself. He gives hints to materialists, impersonalists, mental speculators, "void" philosophers and all other candidates subjected to the punishment of material miseries-just offer salutations to Lord Krishna, Who is worshipped by Brahma, Shiva, Varuna, Indra and all the other demigods. He has not mentioned however the name of Vishnu because Vishnu is identical with Krishna. The Vedas and the Upanishads are meant for understanding the process by which one can surrender unto Krishna. The yogins try to see Him (Krishna) within themselves by meditation. In other words, it is for all the demigods and demons who do not know where the ultimate end is that Sankara teaches, and he especially instructs the demons and the fools to offer salutations to Krishna and His words, the Bhagavad Gita, by following his footprints. Only by such acts will demons be benefited, not by misleading their innocent followers by so called mental speculations or showbottle meditations. Sankara directly offers salutations to Krishna as if to show the fools, who are searching after light, that here is the light like the sun. But the fallen demons are like owls that will not open their eyes on account of their fear of the sunlight itself. These owls will never open their eyes to see the sublime light of Krishna and His words the Bhagavad Gita. They will, however, comment on the Gita with their closed owl-eyes to mislead their unfortunate readers and followers. Sankara however discloses the light to his less intelligent followers and shows that Bhagavad Gita and Krishna is the only source of light. This is all to teach the sincere seekers of Truth to offer salutation to Lord Krishna and thus surrender unto Him without misgivings. That is the highest perfection of life and that is the highest teaching of Sankara, the great learned scholar whose teachings drove the void-philosophy of Buddha out of India, the land of knowledge. Om Tat Sat