By Swami Harshananda
Gitārthasaṅgraha literally means ‘an abridgement of the essentials of the Gītā’.
Though the Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta philosophy has been expounded and elaborated by Rāmānuja (A. D. 1017-1137), the contribution of his predecessors was considerable. Among them Yāmunācārya (A. D. 918-1038) was the most celebrated. He wrote three works in Sanskrit, out of which the Gītārthasañgraha is also the one.
Gītārthasañgraha has only 32 ślokas or verses summarizing the whole Bhagavadgītā. On this scripture, two commentaries are also available:
- Gitārthasañgraha raksā by Vedānta Deśika (A. D. 1268-1370)
- Gītārthasañgraha dīpikā by Varavara Muni (A. D. 1370-1443)
This verse declares that God, the Supreme, is Nārāyaṇa and he can be attained by only bhakti or devotion.
These verses state that the Gītā can be divided into three ṣaṭkas or triads of 6 chapters each.
This ṣaṭka comprises of chapters 1-6. It states that ātmānubhuti or self-realization can come through the performance of:
- Desire less action - niṣkāma karma
- Knowledge - jñāna
- Meditation - yoga
It states that Bhaktiyoga results from Karmayoga and Jñānayoga. It is the means for realizing God and gives some details about it.
It deals with the rest of the relevant topics which serve the previous two ṣaṭkas. It gives some details of:
- Pradhāna or prakṛti - matter
- Puruṣa - the individual self
- Īśvara - God
- Disciplines related to jñāna - knowledge
- Disciplines related to bhakti - devotion
- Disciplines related to karma - work
The verses 5 to 22 very briefly gives the gist of the eighteen chapters of the Gītā. It explains the gist of each chapter individually.
The ideas spread over the rest of these ten verses can be summarized as follows:
- Karmayoga is performing austerity (tapas), undertaking pilgrimages (tīrtha-yātrā), doing sacrifices and other similar activities.
- Bhaktiyoga is meditation on God with love.
- Obligatory (nityakarma) and occasional (naimittika-karma) works are associated with all the yogas.
- Removal of nescience (ajñāna) leads to the realization of the Self (the ātman).
- Practicing supreme devotion (parābhakti) towards God will help the aspirant to attain the world of God.
- Bhaktiyoga can give the aspirant whatever he wants, temporary prosperity or eternal salvation (kaivalya).
- The man of supreme knowledge is also a man of supreme devotion since they coalesce in the final stage.
- All his activities are directed only to please God under all circumstances.
- The perfect being finds his supreme satisfaction in several acts connected with devotion to God such as:
- Speaking about him
- Bowing down to him
- Singing his praises
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore