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Bhagavad Gita, Scripture

Analysis Bhagavad Gita 13.13

From time to time I will attempt to analyse various verses from the Bhagavad Gita with the interpretations of selected commentators.

ज्ञेयं यत्तत्प्रवक्ष्यामि यज्ज्ञात्वामृतमश्नुते। अनादिमत्परं ब्रह्म न सत्तन्नासदुच्यते॥ १३-१३॥
jñeyaṁ yattatpravakṣyāmi yajjñātvāmṛtamaśnute | anādimatparaṁ brahma na sattannāsaducyate || 13-13||

jñeyaṁ – has to be known, yat – which, tat – that, pravakṣyāmi – I shall describe yaj – which, jñātvā – by knowing amṛtam – immortality, aśnute  – attains, anādimat – beginningless, paraṁ – supreme OR anādi – beginningless, matpara – having me as the supreme, brahma  – reality, na – not,  sat – being/truth, na – not, asat – non-being/untruth, ucyate – is called.

I shall describe that which has to be known, knowing which one attains to immortality, the beginningless Supreme Brahman. It is called neither being nor non-being.

This verse appears in the thirteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita where the discussion is primarily based on several topics regarding nature, Purusha, field, the knower of the field, knowledge and what should be known. What is interesting to note though is that verse one of chapter thirteen is not founded in older versions of commentarial works on the text by either Shankara and Ramanuja.

The main contention of the above verse is the interpretation of anādimatparaṁ. Shankara, Madhva, Madhusudana Sarasvati as well as Sridhara Swami have all translated and broken the word into mainly two, deducing the word as anādimat, beginningless, paraṁ, supreme. However A.C Bhakitvedanta Swami following the deduction of the word of Ramanuja breaks the word as anādi, + matparaṁ.

However though Ramanuja disagrees with the deduction of anādimatparaṁ with other commentators, he does however agree that anādimatparaṁ does refer to and equate to Krishna, or in this case supreme Brahman (param brahma). Ramanuja translates matparaṁ’  as ‘having me (Krishna) as the highest’ whereas A.C Bhaktivedanta on the other hand translates ‘mat-param’ to mean ‘subordinate to Me (Krishna)’, thus classifying Brahman a lower level in the hierarchy of divinity.

This however of interpretating ‘mat-param’ to mean ‘subordinate to Me (Krishna)’ is incorrect. If we consider the breaking of mat-param we would achieve mat to mean ‘me’ who in this case is Krishna and param translated fairly confidently as ‘supreme’, thus the idea of using the word ‘subordinate’ does not exist. Further what is interesting to note that earlier in A.C Bhaktivedanta Gita commentarial work in chapter 11 verse 55, he translates ‘mat-paramo’ which is fundamentally the same as ‘mat-param’ as ‘considering Me to be the highest’.

Another interesting point to note is that both Shankara and Madhusudana Sarasvati recognise that earlier commentaries before that did conclude on the ground that ‘mat-param’. Shankara refused to entertain this due to the context of the chapter relating to discussing Brahman and as Brahman can only be known be negation of attributes it would be illogical to assign Brahman as a personal being of Krishna. Though Madhusudana follows this same line of thinking what he suggests is that ‘mat-param’ is translated to mean ‘superior to Me’ thus concluding a higher entity of Brahman greater than Krishna.

About Makwana

A student of Sanatan Vedic Dharma

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