Among the three prasthanams--Upanishad prasthanam, Sutra prasthanam and the Gita prasthanam -- albeit its chronological third place, the Gita prasthanam enjoys the greatest importance. It is venerated by almost all sections of the Hindus as one of the most sacred religious works and a large number of commentaries have been written on it by the adherents of different schools of thought, each interpreting the contents of the Gita in its own way. However all the interpretations almost uniformly exhorted the greatness of the work.
It is remarkable that many celebrities - Eastern as well as Western - have written commentaries on it. Mahatma Gandhi has called the Gita " the universal mother whose door is wide open to any one who knocks ". William von Humboldt calls it " the most beautiful, perhaps the only true philosophical song existing in any known tongue ".
The Gita is the essence of all the Upanishads. The puranas personify Krishna as the milk drawer, the Upanishads as the milch cattle and the Gita as the milch. Continuing the simile, the puranas liken Arjuna to the tender calf and the milk consumer to Supreme Intellect.
सर्वोपनिषदो गाव: दोग्धा गोपालनन्दन:|
पार्थो वत्स: सुधीर्भोक्ता दुग्धं गीतामृतं महत् ||
Though the Gita was part of the Mahabharata, it has a uniquely independent status . Our tradition went to the extent of saying that Vedavyasa wrote the Mahabharata to unfold the philosophy of the Gita to jnana - seekers just as a medicine is covered with sugar to enable one to swallow it. The Gita begins with the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna., and teaches practical wisdom. It paves the way for transformation from humanity to divinity. The Gita can be treated as a very treasure house of solutions for the problems of humanity, both physical as well as non physical. Moreover, it is not sectarian and does not belong to any particular outfit. Though the Bhagavadgita preaches many philosophical concepts, its central idea is believed to be the concept of advaita and the following sloka supports this view.
पार्थाय प्रतिबोधितां भगवता नारायणेन स्वयं
व्यासेन ग्रथितां पुराणमुनिना मध्ये महाभारतम् |
मम्ब! त्वामनुसन्दधामि भगवद्गीते भवद्वेषिणीम्
[Taught by the blessed Narayana Himself to Arjuna, compiled by Vyasa, the ancien seer, and part and parcel of the Mahabharata, Oh Mother, Oh Mahabharata, the eighteen- chapter verse , the bestower of non-dualistic wisdom , the destroyer of the turbulent cycle of births and deaths, I bow to thee ]
To a crestfallen Arjuna, confounded at the prospect of decimating his near and dear ones if war brock out , Krishna comes to his rescue . And in a highly exalted posture, he imparts the supreme knowledge, i.e., the knowledge of self. The elements of the Gita are well-known : Arjuna's disenchantment anticipating the battle and its terrible fallout, knowledge of Yoga , nature of self less action, the greatness of devotion, the characteristics of yogis the glory of the Supreme Being, the characteristics of true disciples and God-realized souls, Jnana and Vijnana as means of self-realizaon and the nature of complete surrender.
Sankara's Bhashya is probably the earliest commentary extant, although there are sporadic claims of the existence of other commentaries. From the philosophical point of view, the Gita represents a unique synthesis of Karma,
Bhakti and Jnana. It tries to build up a philosophy of Karma based on Jnana which is also supported by Bhakti in a rational manner. Here Sankara declares that liberation can be obtained through right knowledge combined with the performance of right duties. He also maintains that all duties are good if only they are performed in a sort of absolute detachment. This idea approaches Advaita and simultaneously blasts dualism. Advaita literally means non-dualism. The identity of Jiva with Brahman is the supreme knowledge. When this knowledge dawns, ignorance automatically quits. This is the true sense of Advaita.
According to Sankara, liberation is not merely the absence of all misery that arises from the illusory sense of distinction between the self and God . It is conceived to be a state of bliss [the supreme ananda], because Brahman is bliss and liberation is identity with Brahman. Sankara, while interpreting the Gita, argues that though the liberated soul, being perfect, has no ends to achieve, can still work without any fear of future bondage. Work causes bondage only if it is performed with attachment. But one, who has obtained perfect knowledge and perfect satisfaction , is free from attachment. He can work without any hope of gain and is not , therefore, bothered by success or failure. Sankara attaches great importance to Nishkamakarma. For one, who has not yet obtained perfect knowledge, such work is necessary for self-purification, because it is not through inactivity but through the performance of selfless action that one can gradually free oneself from the yoke of the ego and its petty interests. Even for one who has obtained perfect knowledge or liberation, selfless activity is necessary for the good of those who are still in bondage.
The liberated man is the ideal of society and his life should be worthy of emulation by the people at large. Inactivity or activity that would mislead them should, therefore, be avoided. Social service is not, therefore, thought by Sankara to be incompatible with the perfect life but, rather, desirable. In his own life Sankara follows this ideal. This ideal is also advocated by modern philosophers like Swami Vivekananda and Lokamanya Bala Gangadhar Tilak.
COMMENTARIES IN SANSKRIT :
1.Sankaracharya's commentary on the Gita.
2. Anandagiri's commentary on the commentary of Sankaracharya. His commentary is known as Gitabhashyavivechanam
3.Upanishadbrahmendrayogi's commentary on the Gita. His commentary is known as Arthaprakasika.
4.Bellamkonda Ramarayakavi's commentary named Bagavadgitabhashyarkaprakasika.
These great commentaries are highly scholarly and influenced the later writers to a great extent Besides the above Sanskrit commentaries composed by Telugu authors, there are some written in Telugu proper.
Sri Krishnarjuniyam ----- Mikkili Mallikarjunakavi
Bhagavadgitasastram ----- Gopinathuni Venkatakavi
Bhagavadgitasaramu ----- Madhavayya
Andhra Bhagavadgita ----- Somayya Bhagavadgitamanjari ----- Kavuri Pattabhiramasarma
Sri Bhagavadgita ---- Bacchu Papayyasresthti.
Sri Hanumatbhagavadgita ---- K Hanumantharayasarma
Srimadbhagavadgita ---- Adipudi Somanatharao
Andhra Bhagavadgita ---- G Veeraswamy
Gitasaptasati ---- Challa Lakshmi Narayana Sastry
Gitageyamu ---- Aluri Rajeswarakavi
Gitardhasaramu ---- Nedunuri Gangadharam
Andhra Bhagavadgita ---- Pisupati Narayana Sastry
Andhra Bhagavadgita ---- Koranti Kuppuswamayya Gitamritam ---- Vasireddy Durga Visweswara Prasad
Andhra Bhagavadgita ---- Patibanda Suryanarayanamatyudu
Gitabodhini ---- Ravulapati Bhaktaramadasu
Gitamakarandamu ---- Swamy Vidyaprakasanandagiri
Sankarabhashyatatvabodhini---- Bulusu Appanna Sastry
Telugu Gita ---- Charla Ganapathi Sastry
Prachina Bhagavadgita ---- Anubhavananda
Bhagavadgita ---- Nori Srinadhavenkata Somayaji
Gitakaumudi ---- Vidya Sankara Bharati
Besides the part played by the traditional Mutts in propagating the philosophy of Bhagavatgita among the masses, there are various Ashramas which produced voluminous literature on the Gita : The Sukabrahmasrama of Kalahasti; Vyasasrama of Erpedu and the Chinmaya Mission and Ramakrishna Missions.
The essence of the Gita has percolated even into folklore enabling even the illiterates to be acquainted with its fundamentals. Periodic literary assemblies are held to search for the knowledge of Bhagavadgita among participants attending from far and near. These sessions have proved highly popular and, at the same time, it is gratifying to note that, even among modern youth, there are a surprisingly large number of individuals who are well-versed with the Gita.