Bhagavat Gita and Vedanta

Categories : Spirituality

The Vedas have been compiled into four parts: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sam Veda and Atharva Veda. The Rig Veda has been declared a world heritage by UNESCO.

Each Veda has been further divided into 4 sections: Sanhita, Brahman, Aranyak and Upanishad. These four sections stand for special purposes.

Sanhita: Sanhitas are collections of Vedic hymns mostly as Sukta / mantra. Prose forms also occur in Yajur Veda. These formed the syllabi for studies.

Brahmans: Brahmans constitute written instructions for performing Vedic sacrifices. They may be regarded as detailed descriptions in prose attached to all the different Vedas as appendices. They constitute the compendium of Karma Kand (Rituals). The main Brahmans are as follows.

Rig Veda: Aiatareya and Kaushitaki

Yajur Veda: Taittiriya and Satpath

Sam Veda: Panchavinsha, Sadvinsha Advut and Jaimini

Atharva Veda: Gopath

Aranyaks: These constitute the philosophical discourse of people in the forest in the Briddhashram stage or renunciant stage. Some surviving Aranyaks are Aiatareya, Shankhayan, Jaimini, Brihadaranyak Chhandogya and Taittireya.

Upanishads: These are discourses of a philosophical and spiritual nature which form the last part of the Vedas. Since these form the antim (last section) of the Veda, they are known as Vedanta also. These constitute the compendium of Gyankand and are attached as appendices to different Vedas. The exact number of Upanishads is not known but the main of them are listed below.

Rig Veda:

  1. Kaushitaki
  2. Aiattareya

Sam Veda:

  1. Chhandogya
  2. Ken

Krishna Yajurveda:

  1. Taitteriya
  2. Katha
  3. Svetasvatar
  4. Maitrayani

Shukla Yajurveda:

  1. Brihadaranyak
  2. Isopanishad

Atharva Veda:

  1. Mundak
  2. Prasna
  3. Mandukya

All of the above-noted Vedic Scriptures are regarded as eternal, apaurusheya (non-human) and Shruti (revealed). Two philosophical doctrines originating in India constitute the most authentic source of knowledge. The two schools related to these are as detailed below.

Mimansa or Poorva Mimansa (Enquiry, Analysis):

Since the Mimansa school is concerned mainly with the Brahman section of the Vedic Scriptures which forms an earlier part, it is called Poorva Mimansa. The Brahmans are related to step-by-step instructions for the performance of sacrifices. They are thus the main compendium of rituals (Karma Kand). The objective of Mimansa was to establish the superiority of Karma Kand (Rituals) provided by Brahmans contrasted to Gyan Kand (Knowledge) provided by Upanishads.

Jaimini founded the philosophy in about the second century BCE. The philosophy says that the careful performance of rituals is the only way to attain Moksha. Therefore, this school emphasises Karma Kanda certified by Vedic scriptures. Its first principles were propounded in the Mimansa Sutra of Jaimini. The school was followed by Sabarsvarni (6th Century CE) who was the greatest scholar of Mimansa school. By the time of Kumarila in the 8th Century CE, this school began merging with Vedantic philosophy. The school divides Karma into 3 types.

  1. Obligatory: These are the daily rituals related to meditation worship etc. plus other necessary household works.
  2. Optional: These may include selective works like pilgrimage etc.
  3. Prohibited: All Karmas not considered virtuous must be avoided at all costs.

Vedanta or Uttara Mimansa:

This philosophy began with the composition of the Brahma Sutra by Badrayan in about the 1st Century CE, Badrayan is identified with Ved Vyas who was the compiler of Vedas. He was regarded as the incarnation of Vishnu’s cognitive energy. Vedanta relating to the last section of the Vedic Scriptures was the main philosophical discourse relating to Nirgun Brahma and the Sagun Universe (creation). This school is still very much alive and is regarded as the philosophy of Hindu intellectuals. For others, Hinduism is just a way of life.

Since the Upanishads constitute the last section of Vedic Scriptures, the philosophy is known as Vedanta (Uttar Mimansa). It has a long list of illustrious followers.

  1. Shankaracharya (788-820 CE) founder of Advaita Vedanta (Strict Monism)
  2. Ramanujacharya (1017-1137 CE) founder of Vishishta Advaita (Qualified Monism)
  3. Nimbraka (Contemporary of Ramanuja) founder of Bheda-Abheda
  4. Madhavacharya (1238-1317 CE) founder of Dvaita (Dualism)
  5. Vallabhacharya (1479-1531 CE) who founded the school of Shuddha Advait (Pure Monism)
  6. Rama Krishna Paramhansa (1836-1886 CE)
  7. Vivekanand (1863-1902 CE)
  8. Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950 CE)
  9. S. Radhakrishnan (1888-1975 CE)

Foundations of Vedantic Philosophy:

The Upanishads, the Bhagavat Gita and the Brahma Sutra are the foundations of Vedanta Known as Triple canons (prasthan-traya). The Upanishads are the revealed texts (composers not known) which constitute the top philosophical statements of the Vedas.

Bhagavat Gita enjoys the same status as Upanishads which is an embodiment of the teachings of Sri Krishna. It is also called Gitopanishad. Teachings contained in it are found in a separate chapter in the Bhishma Parva of Mahabharat. It is a compendium of knowledge which forms the foundations of Vedanta along with the Upanishads.

The Brahmasutra composed by Badarayan sets forth the teachings of Vedanta in a logical order. This work is also known as Vedanta Sutra, Sariraka Sutra, Bhiksu Sutra, Uttar Mimansa Sutra etc. The texts are in short aphoristic forms, are related to soul and super soul, and can be well understood by Sanyasi only. The Sutras relate to the last section of Vedas known as Upanishads.

Among the Upanishads, the Brihadaranyak, Chhandogya, Katha etc. have attempted to establish the concept of Brahma / Supersoul in which Vedantis believe. The Atma of the individual is just a small part of the said Brahma, has also been established. The following shloka which is only half shloka of Brihadaranyak Upanishad (5-1-1) also included in Isopanishad as ‘Shanti Path’ exhibits the nature of Brahma succinctly.

पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पूर्णमुदच्यते

 पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते

शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः

Om Puurnnam-Adah Puurnnam-Idam Puurnnaat-Puurnnam-Udacyate |

Puurnnasya Puurnnam-Aadaaya Puurnnam-Eva-Avashissyate ||

Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||


Om All this is full, all that is full from fullness, fullness comes. When fullness is taken from fullness fullness still remains. Om! Peace! Peace! Peace!

Brahma is both transcendent and immanent. The birth or the creation of the universe does not in any manner affect the integrity of Brahman.

Bhagavat Gita speaks about both the Nirguna and Sagun forms of Brahma. However, Krishna advises concentration on the Sagun form. It combined Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga and Gyan yoga admirably. The shlokas which refer to almighty, omnipresent and omniscient Brahma in the Bhagavat Gita have been selected carefully and are given below.

Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 9, Verse 15

ज्ञानयज्ञेन चाप्यन्ये यजन्तो मामुपासते |

एकत्वेन पृथक्त्वेन बहुधा विश्वतोमुखम् || 15||

jñāna-yajñena chāpyanye yajanto mām upāsate

ekatvena pṛithaktvena bahudhā viśhvato-mukham


Others, engaging in the yajna of cultivating knowledge, worship Me by many methods. Some see Me as undifferentiated oneness that is non-different from them, while others see Me as separate from them. Still others worship Me in the infinite manifestations of My cosmic form.

Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 10, Verse 20

अहमात्मा गुडाकेश सर्वभूताशयस्थित: |

अहमादिश्च मध्यं भूतानामन्त एव || 20||

aham ātmā guḍākeśha sarva-bhūtāśhaya-sthitaḥ

aham ādiśh cha madhyaṁ cha bhūtānām anta eva cha


O Arjun, I am seated in the heart of all living entities. I am the beginning, middle, and end of all beings.

Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 13, Verse 31

यदा भूतपृथग्भावमेकस्थमनुपश्यति |

तत एव विस्तारं ब्रह्म सम्पद्यते तदा || 31||

yadā bhūta-pṛithag-bhāvam eka-stham anupaśhyati

tata eva cha vistāraṁ brahma sampadyate tadā


When they see the diverse variety of living beings situated in the same material nature, and understand all of them to be born from it, they attain the realization of the Brahman.

Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 14, Verse 27

ब्रह्मणो हि प्रतिष्ठाहममृतस्याव्ययस्य |

शाश्वतस्य धर्मस्य सुखस्यैकान्तिकस्य || 27||

brahmaṇo hi pratiṣhṭhāham amṛitasyāvyayasya cha

śhāśhvatasya cha dharmasya sukhasyaikāntikasya cha


I am the basis of the formless Brahman, the immortal and imperishable, of eternal dharma, and unending divine bliss.

Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 15, Verse 15

सर्वस्य चाहं हृदि सन्निविष्टो मत्त: स्मृतिर्ज्ञानमपोहनं |

वेदैश्च सर्वैरहमेव वेद्यो वेदान्तकृद्वेदविदेव चाहम् || 15||

sarvasya chāhaṁ hṛidi sanniviṣhṭo mattaḥ smṛitir jñānam apohanaṁ cha

vedaiśh cha sarvair aham eva vedyo vedānta-kṛid veda-vid eva chāham


I am seated in the hearts of all living beings, and from Me come memory, knowledge, as well as forgetfulness. I alone am to be known by all the Vedas, am the author of the Vedant, and the knower of the meaning of the Vedas.

द्वाविमौ पुरुषौ लोके क्षरश्चाक्षर एव |

क्षर: सर्वाणि भूतानि कूटस्थोऽक्षर उच्यते || 16||

dvāv imau puruṣhau loke kṣharaśh chākṣhara eva cha

kṣharaḥ sarvāṇi bhūtāni kūṭa-stho ’kṣhara uchyate


There are two kinds of beings in creation, the kṣhar (perishable) and the Akshar (imperishable). The perishable are all beings in the material realm. The imperishable are the liberated beings.

उत्तम: पुरुषस्त्वन्य: परमात्मेत्युदाहृत: |

यो लोकत्रयमाविश्य बिभर्त्यव्यय ईश्वर: || 17||

uttamaḥ puruṣhas tv anyaḥ paramātmety udāhṛitaḥ

yo loka-trayam āviśhya bibharty avyaya īśhvaraḥ


Besides these, is the Supreme Divine Personality, who is the indestructible Supreme Soul. He enters the three worlds as the unchanging Controller and supports all living beings.

यस्मात्क्षरमतीतोऽहमक्षरादपि चोत्तम: |

अतोऽस्मि लोके वेदे प्रथित: पुरुषोत्तम: || 18||

yasmāt kṣharam atīto ’ham akṣharād api chottamaḥ

ato ’smi loke vede cha prathitaḥ puruṣhottamaḥ


I am transcendental to the perishable world of matter, and even to the imperishable soul; hence I am celebrated, both in the Vedas and the Smṛitis, as the Supreme Divine Personality.

यो मामेवमसम्मूढो जानाति पुरुषोत्तमम् |

सर्वविद्भजति मां सर्वभावेन भारत || 19||

yo mām evam asammūḍho jānāti puruṣhottamam

sa sarva-vid bhajati māṁ sarva-bhāvena bhārata


Those who know Me without doubt as the Supreme Divine Personality truly have complete knowledge. O Arjun, they worship Me with their whole being.

इति गुह्यतमं शास्त्रमिदमुक्तं मयानघ |

एतद्बुद्ध्वा बुद्धिमान्स्यात्कृतकृत्यश्च भारत || 20||

iti guhyatamaṁ śhāstram idam uktaṁ mayānagha

etad buddhvā buddhimān syāt kṛita-kṛityaśh cha bhārata


I have shared this most secret principle of the Vedic scriptures with you, O sinless Arjun. By understanding this, a person becomes enlightened and fulfils all that is to be accomplished.

Posted on the occasion of Gita Jayanti on Agahan (Margshirsha) Shukla Paksha Ekadasi on 23rd December 2023.


  1. Bhagavat Gita
  2. Brihadaranyak and Isopanishad
  3. Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sankaracharya translated by Swami Gambhirananda
  4. The Wonder That Was India – A. L. Basham
  5. Ancient and Medieval India – Poonam Dayal Dahiya
  6. Prachin Bharat Ka Itihas Tatha Sanskriti – K. C. Srivastava