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DNYANESHWARI
(The Philosophical Part)


 

PROLOGUE

This translation of Dnyaneshwari contains only the philosophical part of the text. When Dnyaneshwar Maharaj wrote Bhavarthadeepika, now known as Dnyaneshwari, seven hundred years ago for the common man, general educational levels were not as comprehensive as today, there was no printing press and books had to be transcribed by hand. Dnyaneshwar Maharaj used many similes and examples from human society as well as nature to explain the points made in the Gita. Dnyaneshwar Maharaj belonged to Nath Sect where Guru is worshipped more than any deity and Dnyaneshwari contains a lot of text dedicated to the praise of and obeisances to his Guru Nivruttinath (who was also his elder brother, elder by only two years), besides obeisances to several other deities as is traditional in Hindu religious literature. These similes and examples are no longer necessary for today's rader who is better read and informed and in fact it is the experience that too many of these distract the reader from the main flow of thought. In this translation, these parts are omitted except where necessary. The text involving obeisances also has been omitted as it is also extraneous to the philosophical part. The intention in adopting this approach is to make an edited translation available to an intellectual reader. The pious readers can always use the half a dozen verse by verse translations avaolable in bookshops.

Due to differences in the structure of Marathi and English, verse by verse translations pose difficulty in colating the verses to make a single long sentence. In this translations, a set of consecutive verses have been grouped together to make sentences and paragraphs with cogent meaning and the paragraphs are given sub-headings for easy reference and meaning. Thus this translation can claim to assist a rader in faster reading. By this approach the text was shortened to 5752 verses out of the total of 9032 verse (ovis).

INTELLECTUAL  APPEAL

This translation, thus truncated, is intended more for an intellectual reader rather than the pious. It is the intellectuals who hold executive and professional positions in today’s socio-economic world and are the ones who can influence the society positively or negatively. But their world is a world of perpetual haste and cannot afford long winded texts of the old days. Thus a shortened version of Dnyaneshwari is most suited for this class in order to turn their influence on the positive side.

There is a subconscious respect for God in the hearts and minds of everybody and a professional or an executive is no exception. It only needs to find a way out. Intelligence and spirituality seem to be well associated mutually. Greatest spiritual persons were people of high intelligence who were curious enough to ask themselves the question "Who am I?" and in looking for the answer, took to spiritual path; or they were persons who had a natural attraction towards the spiritual path.  Some renounced the world and became sanyasis.  But contrary to what many believe even today one need not forsake his family life in order to take up a spiritual path. There have been many saints, St Eknath for example, with regular family life. The reader will find it stated in the Dnyaneshwari that it is not necessary to give up your normal life in order to search for God. You have a choice of paths which ultimately end, according to the Indian philosophy and the experience of the spiritual masters, into Self-realisation i.e. a realisation that you are no different from the Almighty. That is why every intelligent person should read Dnyaneshwari.

There are many reasons why intelligent persons should turn to  spiritual path. Intelligence like other qualities is a gift of God. It is not a personal  achievement and therefore, instead of being proud about one's intelligence the correct attitude should be that of gratitude towards the Almighty for possessing it. Having this gift of God, one may expect an intelligent executive or professional to utilise that gift to experience Self-realisation besides working for public good.  Many  seem to realise this and become spiritual seekers. A large number of people joining the various spiritual institutions like the Ramakrishna Ashram, the order of Samarth Ramdas at Sajjangad in Maharashtra and many others are persons of high academic achievement. For many intellectuals however there are many initial problems and mental hurdles to be overcome before he becomes a seeker.

The first hurdle is the misconception that one has to renounce the world and be a Sanyasi for taking up the spiritual path. The Gita (and naturally Dnyaneshwari) teaches us otherwise and considers Sanyas as unnecessary.

The second  hurdle is the fear that spiritual exercises would divert the mind from the duties of the office and impede success. This is also not correct. Spiritual exercises instill a discipline into one’s person, remove fear and make one more efficient. In fact, many yoga and meditation techniques have been adapted for pacifying the mind and instilling  a positive approach to life. Many executives pay high fees to attend such courses and workshops where these techniques are taught and find then beneficial. Even big commercial companies send their executives to such courses. The philosophy of the Gita goes much beyond that.

The Third hurdle is the mental impediment about the availability of time.  This again is baseless, for one can always find a few minutes in a day, even while travelling to work, to ponder over spiritual matters or read about it.

The Fourth hurdle is the problem of how to go about it. Who would guide and tell whether the path taken is correct or not? and so on. The Gita answers many of these questions and suggests many paths which one may choose from depending upon one’s personality.

Executives and professionals, by virtue of the nature of their work are constrained to practice a materialistic approach to life. They are therefore subject to all the stresses derived therefrom. The stresses and the resultant problems of health can be avoided and one can have a happy life if one understands and follows the basic philosophy of the Gita/Dnyaneshwari. The changes in attitude give happiness and lay a foundation for the current life as well as life after retirement. The changes are transmitted to one's  family  who also become happy. A few can pursue the spiritual path while leading a normal life and attain experience of God.

Thus this translation which concentrates on the philosophy of Gita as interpreted by Saint Dnyaneshwar is eminently suitable for the intellectual class.

THE GITA - SOME HISTORICAL INFORMATION

The Gita is considered as a part of the Epic Mahabharata. Traditional belief is that the Gita comprises of the advice given by Lord Krishna to a disheartened Arjuna when the armies of Pandavas and Kauravas were standing face to face on the Kurukshetra battlefield. On the first day, Arjuna saw all his elders whom he revered as well as his cousins and friends against whom he would be fighting and was unnerved by the thought that so many people would be killed during the war. He therefore refused to fight. This was a shock to Shri Krishna who was his charioteer. Shri Krishna then gave a profound advice to Arjuna which is now known as the Gita. The pious strongly believe that the dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna really did occur. They also believe that even during his lifetime, Shri Krishna was known as an avatar of Lord Vishnu.
However, an intellectual is bound to get several doubts in his mind regarding the veracity of this legend and therefore applicability of the philosophy discussed in the Gita. Common sense would tell that the advice in the Gita in the present form could not have been was given on the battlefield as stated. Even in verse form it takes about two hours for recitation of the 700 shlokas (verses) of the Gita. In prose it would take much longer. Can the armies wait on the battleground for such a long time? Besides, when one reads the Gita, it is quite clear that Arjuna would have understood his folly after what was said in the early part of the second chapter. There would not be any need to go into the details of Sankhya and Vedanta philosophy and philosophy of the paths of action and of devotion, topics which have no relevance under the circumstances. The Gita therefore must have been a peacetime composition.

Historical reaearch does trace the philosophy of Gita to Shri Krishna, however it also casts doubts on many of the traditional beliefs as will be seen in the following.

The text of Mahabharata has had many additions made to it over the two millenia it has been in existence. A critical edition of Mahabharata has been prepared by the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune and is considered as reliable version of the epic. Today it contains about 100,000 verses. Its study has revealed that over the ages five persons have contributed to the text. This may be confirmed from the research made by Mr M. R. Yardi presented in his book titled "Mahabharata, Its Genesis and Growth, a Statistical Study" published by the Bhandarkar Institure.. Mr Yardi, a. eminent administartor and scholar now in Pune, is the author of similar analytical books on Ramayana and the Gita. He is also well known for his translations of Dnyaneshwari in Marathi prose, Hindi and English, (published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan). The essence of his study is as follows: (I am grateful to Mr Yardi for making his analytical publications available to me.)
The original version named Jaya composed immediately after the great Mahabharata war (which took place a little earlier than 1000 BC according to western scholars and much earlier according to some Indian scholars) was written by the great Rishi Vyas. It mainly described the family feud and the war. This composition is now lost. But a generation later, in around 950 BC, Rishi Vaishampayana retold the events to King Janamejaya, great-grandson of Arjuna during the Snake sacrifice (Sarpayajna) performed in order to avenge the killing of his father Parikshita by Takshaka the King of snakes. This narration was known as Bharat. Additions to this version were made much later in about 450 BC by Suta and his son Sauti who were well-known Puraniks (Mythological story-tellers) This was known as Mahabharata.  Further additions were made by one Harivanshakara in the second century BC and still later by Parvasangrahakara in the first century BC. Haivanshkara also added Haivansha, a biography of Shri Krishna which is considered to be part of Mahabharata today.

Through a statistical analyses of the Anushtup metre used in the Shlokas (stanzas) of the epic Mahabharata, Mr Yardi has been able to separate the contribution of each of the additions as follows: Original Jaya by Vyas had 8,800 shlokas; Bharat by Rishi Vaishampayana had 21,,162 shlokas; Suta contributed 17,284 shlokas and his son Sauti 26,728 shlokas; Harivanshakara added 9,053 shlokas and Parvasangrahakara 1369 shlokas. This makes a total of 75596 Shlokas and together with Harivansha which has 6,073 Shlokas the total size of the Mahabharata Epic is 81,670 Shlokas. Different copies of Mahabharata give different numbers of Shlokas. Yardi has used the Critical Edition by Sukhatankar (1944) available with the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute Pune.

The analysis also shows that the Gita was added to Mahabharata by Sauti who lived around 450 BC. Shri Krishna was deified and considered as an avatar of Lord Vishnu some centuries after he died but before Sauti’s time thus enabling him to present Shri Krishna as the Supreme God.

In his scholarly book "The Bhagvadgita as a Synthesis", Yardi gives the following interesting information related to Shri Krishna and the source of the philosophies presented by Sauti through his lips in the role of the Supreme God:

There is sufficient evidence in Mahabharata to show that in his time Shri Krishna was considered as a human being and not an avatar. The deity worshipped in those times was Lord Shiva whom Shri Krishna also worshipped. He had propitiated Lord Shiva to obtain a boon of a son from Rukmini and again from another wife Jambavati. After he received the boon Uma, wife of Lord Shiva was delighted by his devotion to Lord Shiva and she too granted him boons addressing him as amaraprabhava i.e. one possessed of prowess equal to that of an immortal. Also, during a dialogue with Bhishma regarding the glory of Lord Shiva, Shri Krishna refers to himself as a mere human being and therefore not in a position to know that great God who was the final goal of all good men. However Shri Krishna was credited with high degree of spiritual power and was recognised by the Vrishni clan (to which Shri Krishna belonged) as a human god. In the days of Sauti he came to be recognised as a partial avatar of Vishnu. Though he is referred to as a cowherd in Suta-Sauti’s version of the Epic, the stories of his being a child-god in Gokul and his playing with Gopis occur only in the additions by Harivanshakara. The legends which connect him with Radha, his favourite gopi, occurs for the first time in 900 AD. Radha is not at all mentioned either in Mahabharata, not even in the Harivanshakara’s additions to it though the latter primarily deals with the biography of Shri Krishna.

Some scholars belonging to the Varshni clan, though they themselves followed the Panchratra (same as Bhagwat or Bhakti) path worshipping Vishnu, showed an interest in the Vedanta philosophy of the Upanishads. Shri Krishna, belonging to the Varshni tribe must have also shown such interest and gone to the Rishi Ghora Angiras for receiving instructions in the subject. Now, Shri Krishna’s ancestor was Yadu, the son Yayati by Devayani who was the daughter of the Asura priest Shukracharya. (She was cursed by Kacha that she will not marry a brahmin and married the Kshatriya Yayati). Shukrachraya (also known as Ushanas) himself was the grandson of Rishi Bhrigu. The Bhargava clan must have held Shri Krishna in high regard because of this connection to Bhrigu and therefore preserved his philosophical teachings. Shaunaka muni, himself a Bhargava, must have known about these teachings and prevailed upon Sauti, whom he met during the twelve year yajna session conducted by him in the Naimisha forest, to incorporate them in Mahabharata. Thus, though the scene depicted by Sauti about Shri Krishna advising Arjuna on the battlefield is a fiction written to fit the text, the philosophy itself is what Shri Krishna had learnt from Ghora Angiras.

Sauti must have been a mental giant to have stringed together a spiritual guide that is Gita presenting us with a synthesis of the Vedanta philosophy with other philosophies known in Sauti’s time namely the Sankhya, Yoga and Bhakti (devotion) and the various paths like the path of knowledge, yoga, action and devotion, for different kinds of personalities.

One intriguing aspect of the Gita relevant to modern times concerns the caste system prevalent in India. One cannot blame Sauti for his views on the caste system because that was the belief current in those days. It is one of the basis of Dharma or code of conduct and is intriguing because it is difficult to explain how God, the creator of all, should differentiate between his children and why a Divine edict was practised only in India is prevailing only in India. The caste system got a temporary knock after Buddhism spread and many subsequent sects like Nath Panth and Mahanubhava Panth did not bother about the caste system or even religion. But that was only temporary.

Thus we see that the philosophy of Gita is what Shri Krishna was very much familiar with and passed on to Sauti. It must be noted from the above analysis what an unusual person Shri Krishna must have been, a warrior, a diplomat, a philosopher, a strategist, a moralist, a family person and a yogi and undoubtedly worthy of being considered as an avatar with all the Divine manifestations mentioned in the tenth chapter of the Gita.

The pious of course are not much bothered about the historical aspects. And for a spiritual seeker, it does not really matter, for all spiritual paths  use the impermanent material objects  like the body to reach the permanent Soul or Brahman or God.

REFERENCES
Mahabharata, Its Genesis and Growth, a Statistical Study, by M.  R.  Yardi, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Inst, Pune.  (1986).  254pp.
The Bhagvadgita as a Synthesis, by M.  R.  Yardi, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Inst, Pune. (1991) 376pp.
   Retrieval of History from Puranic Myths, P.L.Bhargava, D.K. Printworld Pvt Ltd, New, Delhi (1998) 146pp


 


                        ORIGINALLY UPLOADED  FEBRUARY 2000 - LAST REVISION  November  2009
 

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Copyright  V. V. Shirvaikar       email:  vshirvaikar@yahoo.com

Address:  Dr V.V.Shirvaikar,  A-23 Yashodhan Soc.  Chintamaninagar 2,  Bibwewadi, Pune 411037  INDIA    
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