Debunked Pseudoscience & Religion

Hindu Revisionism: Was Shankaracharya Deceptive Or Just Ignorant?

The complete series, The Truth About The Bhagavad Gita, By Dr. Prabhakar Kamath, can be accessed here.

In the previous chapter we studied how Brahmins of ancient India destroyed both the Upanishadic and Bhagavata revolution by resorting to extreme editing of the text of the Bhagavad Gita, and corrupting Bhakti by eliminating Yoga and attaching Yajna to it in disguised form.

In this article we will study how Shankaracharya further contributed to this process by means of his commentary in which he obfuscated, misinterpreted and misrepresented the revolutionary shlokas of the Bhagavad Gita. By a typical Brahmanic sleight of hand, he singlehandedly revived Brahmanism from its deathbed. Biography of Shankaracharya makes very interesting reading, but is beyond the scope of this article. 

1. Three Basic Tactics Of Latter Day Acharyas

In the course of next few centuries since the Bhagavata revolution, the latter day Brahminic Acharyas came up with three ingenious, self-serving tactics to conceal the Upanishadic and Bhagavata revolutions to overthrow Brahmanism.

A. The need to study under a Brahmanic Guru: They declared that all those who wanted to study the Bhagavad Gita must do so under the tutelage of a Brahmanic Acharya. This was in keeping with the dictum that all Upanishadic secret doctrines should be studied only under the tutelage of a learned Guru (BG: 4:34; Mundaka Up: 1:2:12-13). This gave Brahmins the opportunity to deliver soporific discourses to their bewildered listeners. They obfuscated the all-round anti-Brahmanic diatribe in the Bhagavad Gita by means of ample verbosity, high-sounding Sanskrit words, and quotations from obscure and latter day scriptures such as Puranas.

B. Hanging on to Arjuna Vishada context: They hid the historical-revolutionary context by explaining all anti-Brahmanic shlokas in the Arjuna Vishada context only. This required them to indulge in much tongue-twisting verbosity and mind-bending logic. When they could not explain an anti-Brahmanic shloka in Arjuna Vishada context, they just gave its literal meaning in total isolation. Thus the later generation of Acharyas did not learn the true meaning or context of anti-Brahmanic shlokas. Like their Gurus, each generation of Acharyas faithfully passed on to their students their ignorance of the historical-revolutionary context.

C. Writing long-winded commentaries: They wrote long-winded commentaries in which they obfuscated, misinterpreted and misrepresented the meanings of anti-Brahmanic shlokas. This made already complicated matters even worse. We will read below several examples of this tactic.

2. The Three Great Acharyas Who Destroyed The Bhagavad Gita

Over the past twelve hundred years, numerous commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita have been written both by Brahmanic loyalists and Western authors. During the medieval times, three great Brahmanic Acharyas wrote lengthy and “authoritative” commentaries (Bhashya) on the Bhagavad Gita, all of which glorified Krishna while systematically undermining every one of his fundamental teachings: Give up rituals; give up Gunas and Karma; and give up class system based on them. These three Acharyas were Shankaracharya (788-820 A. D.), Ramanujacharya (1017-1137 A. D.) and Madhvacharya (1238-1317 A. D.). It is possible that these Brahmanic commentators were not aware of the historical-revolutionary context at all as evidenced by their tendency to view the Bhagavad Gita as a monolithic text written in one stretch by one author, its only context being Arjuna Vishada. Very often their commentaries on the same shloka are extremely divergent from each other’s.

To readers who are aware of the two distinct contexts of the Bhagavad Gita -Arjuna Vishada and Historical-Revolutionary- these great Acharyas come across in their commentaries as thoroughly confused. For example none of these Acharyas seemed to know, or they refused to acknowledge, the fundamental fact that the Upanishadic doctrines of Atman/Brahman and Buddhiyoga’s purpose was to transcend the doctrines of the Gunas of Prakriti and Law of Karma, and therefore, they are mutually exclusive terms. Krishna repeatedly tells readers that one must transcend all three Gunas in order to gain knowledge of Brahman (2:45; 14:20), and transcend Law of Karma to attain Nirvana (2:15, 51). Yet, these Acharyas keep promoting both the Brahmanic and Upanishadic doctrines at the same time. At times all three Acharyas are blatantly fraudulent when interpreting shlokas, as we will study below. After reviewing Shankaracharya’s interpretation below, let readers decide to which category Shankaracharya belongs.

3. Modern Day Nonsensical Commentaries

Imagine a pro-Confederacy author writing a commentary on President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, ignorant of, or unwilling to acknowledge, the fact that it was a speech delivered to dedicate thesankarabattlefield to soldiers who gave their lives to abolish slavery in the United States. To explain away Lincoln’s every laconic sentence, the pro-Confederacy author would have to cook up something to support the Southern Cause. He would interpret the phrase “All men are created equal” as meaning, “All white men are created equal” or, “All men are separately created equal.” The situation is identical with all Brahmanic commentators of the modern times. Ignorant of, or unwilling to acknowledge, the fact that the anti-Brahmanic shlokas in it are the evidence of a sectarian war between Brahmanism on one side and the Upanishadism and Bhagavatism on the other, they wrote mindboggling and nonsensical commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, applying all shlokas to Arjuna’s predicament on the battlefield.

Two popular modern “commentaries,” which fall into this category are ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is’ by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and ‘The Bhagavad Gita -God Talks With Arjuna’ by Sri Sri Paramahamsa Yogananda. Space does not permit me to go into details about the nonsense in these two commentaries. Let the reader be assured that other available commentaries are not any better. Skeptics among the readers of this article should compare my interpretation given below with those in currently available commentaries. Also, I recommend that readers encourage Brahmanic loyalists and scholars to read this article and encourage them to counter my thesis with sensible articles.

4. Five Upanishadic Shlokas and One Bhagavata Shloka

In this article I will discuss five anti-Brahmanic Upanishadic shlokas and one Bhagavata shloka in their historical-revolutionary context. The only goal of the first four Upanishadic shlokas shown below (2:47, 3:15; 4:31, and 4:32) is to eliminate Vedic Yajnas centered on Vedic gods and replace them with Upanishadic Yoga centered on Brahman. The goal of the fifth Upanishadic shloka (5:18) is to eliminate Varna system. The goal of Bhagavata shloka shown below (18:66) is to replace all Dharma of the land with Bhagavata Dharma centered on Krishna.

As we will read below, Shankaracharya’s goal was to completely neutralize the respective goals of these shlokas. People believed anything he said in keeping with the mindless Hindu tradition of uncritically accepting any nonsense uttered by a saffron-clad Sanyasi. This was even more so in the case of Shankaracharya, as he had gained great moral authority by means of his heroic deed of rescuing Brahmanism from the jaws of death.

5. Shloka 2:47: Kshatriyas’ Entitlement Is To Perform Yajna Only But Not To Its Fruit

Let us now examine the most quoted and utterly misunderstood shloka of the Bhagavad Gita:

2:47: Your entitlement is to Karma alone, and never at any time to its Phalam (fruits). Never be the cause of Karmaphalam. However, never become attached to inaction.

This shloka has no Arjuna Vishada context. In this shloka, Guru Krishna tells corrupt Kshatriyas indulging in Kamya Karma that whereas they have the entitlement to perform various Yajnas (Karma) as per the ordinances of scriptures, they have no right to Karmaphalam thereof. The Karmaphalam of Yajna belongs to the Devas. If they keep the Karmaphalam to themselves, they become thieves (3:12). Earning Karmaphalam condemns them to the eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth. So they should not indulge in Yajna, which earn them Karmaphalam. However, just because they have nothing to gain from Yajna, they should not become Sramanas who do nothing.

The key to understanding this shloka lies in the following six shlokas in which Krishna explains to corrupt Kshatriyas indulging in Kamya Karma the original purpose of Yajna:

3:10-11: Having created mankind in the beginning together with Yajna, the Prajapati (Brahma) said, “By this shall you propagate; this shall be the milch cow of your desires. Nourish the Devas with this (Yajna) and may those Devas nourish you (in return); thus nourishing one another, you shall reap the supreme welfare (of the society). Nourished by Yajna, the Devas shall bestow on you the enjoyments you desire.”

What happens to those who take away the fruits of Yajna for their personal use?

3:12-13: A thief verily is he who enjoys what Devas give him without returning them anything. The good that eat the remains of Yajna are freed from all sins (Karmaphalam); but the sinful ones who cook food only for themselves, they verily eat sin (earn Karmaphalam).

What is this quid pro quo between Vedic ritualists and Devas? Guru Krishna explains the Wheel of Yajna:

3:14: From food beings become; from rain food is produced; from Yajna rain proceeds.

3:16: He who does not follow on earth the Wheel (of Yajna) thus revolving, malicious and delighting in the Senses, he lives in vain.

The above shlokas condemn Vedic ritualists who corrupted Yajnas by stealing Karmaphalam for themselves as thieves, malicious and vain.

Now, to put the shloka 2:47 in proper perspective, let us now quickly review the eight revolutionary shlokas leading up to it. In 2:39 Guru Krishna introduces the doctrines of Knowledge of Atman and Buddhiyoga to replace the Brahmanic doctrine of the Gunas of Prakriti and Law of Karma. In 2:40, he explains the advantages of Buddhiyoga of Upanishadism over Kamya Karma of Brahmanism. In 2:41-44, he condemns Vedic ritualists as ignorant, desire-ridden and fickle-minded due to their obsession with earning Karmaphalam (pleasure, lordship and heaven) in Yajna. In 2:45, Guru Krishna recommends transcending all three Gunas and Law of Karma. In 2:46, he downgrades the Vedas as useless to enlightened people. Now in shloka 2:47, Guru Krishna lays down the law to the corrupt Vedic ritualists:

2:47: Your entitlement is to Karma alone, and never at any time to its Phalam (fruits). Never be the cause of Karmaphalam. However, never become attached to inaction.

So if these Kshatriyas gave up sinful Kamya Karma and not become inactive like Sramanas, what would they do to keep themselves occupied? Krishna, as the Upanishadic Lord of beings, tells them to become Karmayogis (3:7-9; 19-23), and willfully redirect their energies in guiding the masses:

3:25: As the unenlightened (Vedic ritualists) perform Yajna with attachment to Karmaphalam, O Bharata, so should the enlightened (Karmayogis) act (perform their obligatory Kshatriya duty) without attachment to Karmaphalam, desirous of the guidance of the masses.

What does Krishna advice Brahmins who want to continue to perform Yajna?

4:15: Having known thus (that Yajnas should be performed without motive for Karmaphalam) even the ancient seekers after liberation (from debt to the gods) performed Yajna. Therefore, you should perform Yajna (selflessly), as did the ancients in the olden times.

Krishna follows this advice by giving the fallen Brahmins a crash course on proper performance of Yajnas in 4:16-24.

Obviously, this shloka has nothing to do with Arjuna’s predicament whatsoever. Besides, the word Karma in this context does not mean Action, but Yajna. If one thinks that this shloka’s context is Arjuna Vishada and the word Karma means Action, the whole shloka’s meaning is distorted. This is exactly what Shankaracharya does in interpreting shloka 2:47:

“You have the right only to perform Karma and not to undertake the discipline of knowledge (You can practice Karmayoga but not Jnanayoga!). While doing works (Shankaracharya does not explain what the word ‘works’ means in this context), do not think you have the right to claim their fruits. Never, in any state of life whatsoever, should you crave for the fruits of your works (Can warrior follow this in reality?) -this is the idea.

Shankaracharya goes on: When you crave for the fruits of your works (such as your kingdom), you make yourselves liable to reap fruits; but you should never be the cause of such fruit-gathering, for when one works, impelled by the craving for fruits, one has to reap the fruits of such works, namely, birth in the world (Correct). ‘If the fruits of works are not to be desired, why should painful works (meaning war) be undertaken at all?’ This thought should not tempt you, Arjuna, to withdraw from all works, either (Clearly he is addressing Arjuna’s predicament and he does not explain what he meant by ‘all works’).”

Shankaracharya identifies Arjuna Vishada as the context of this shloka when he tells Arjuna that his entitlement is only to become a Karmayogi, and not a Jnanayogi! He did not know the fact that the call to become Karmayogi was directed to errant Kshatriyas in the historical context and not to Arjuna. Strangely, the great Acharya did not seem to realize that the ultimate goal of both Jnanayoga and Karmayoga was to attain Knowledge of Brahman. Jnanayogis attain it by giving up attachment to sense objects (Sanyasa), and Karmayogis attain it by giving up fruits of their action (Tyaga). In practice this meant giving up Kamya Karma: 18:2: Giving up Kamya Karma is Sanyasa; giving up fruits of all works is Tyaga. Telling Arjuna that his entitlement is only to Karmayoga and not to Jnanayoga is, to put it mildly, ignorant and childish as Krishna himself says:

5:4-5: Children, not the wise, speak of Sankhya (Jnanayoga) and Yoga (of action, Karmayoga) as different; he who is truly established in one obtains the fruits (Knowledge of Atman) of both. The state (of Brahmajnana) reached by the Jnanis is also reached by the Karmayogis. He sees who sees Jnana and Karmayoga as one. Obviously Shankaracharya did not see this or pretended like it.

Thirdly, even if we apply this shloka to Arjuna Vishada context, telling Arjuna that ‘his entitlement is only to fight but never, in any state of life whatsoever, should he crave for the fruits of his works’ makes the entire Mahabharata war a sham. If this were true, what was the point of waging the ghastly war? Isn’t this exactly what the Duryodhana had been telling Pandavas all along? “Listen, Pandavas. You can claim all the entitlement to wage this war against us, but you have no right to this kingdom!” What was the great Acharya thinking?

Fourthly, when it comes to fighting, no one could give Arjuna better advice than Brahmanic prince Krishna as he did in Arjuna Vishada:

3:37: Slain you will gain heaven; victorious you enjoy the earth. Therefore rouse up O son of Kunti, resolved to fight.

Who could improve upon this advice? Obviously, Shankaracharya did not know that the true context of this shloka was historical-revolutionary and its true purpose was to induce corrupt Kshatriyas to give up Kamya Karma. If he knew this fact, he chose not to reveal it to his audience. Now, that is duplicity.

6. Unfortunate Result Of Misinterpretation

One unfortunate result of such Brahmanic misinterpretation is that millions of Hindus wrongly believe that they have only the right to act but no right to expect results. Even eminent scholars such as A. L. Bhasham misunderstood this shloka to mean, “Your business is with the deed, and not with the result.” Imagine a surgeon whose only concern is with his deed and not the result! Again, imagine a man taking a bath in a dirty pond and claiming, “My business is to take the bath; not the result thereof.” This attitude makes all actions mere rituals. Not only should one do the best one could but also one must be result-oriented. The question is whether this much-quoted shloka has any relevance in our daily life.

First of all, the word ‘entitlement’ in this shloka has a very specific context. It refers to the entitlement granted to certain Kshatriyas by Brahmins to perform certain Yajnas as per the ordinances of scriptures (3:10-14). In our everyday life, with rare exceptions, no one has the ‘entitlement’ or ‘right’ to act. One acts only because one chooses to act as the situation demands. For example, if one donates money to a cause or lends money to a relative, or volunteers to help someone, he does so not because he is entitled to but because he chooses to.

Secondly, any person who acts without expecting results from his action is a fool. Even when we do volunteer work, we expect to get results from our service. However, almost all Hindus take this distorted meaning of shloka 2:47 without critical analysis.

However, this shloka could be applied to corrupt politicians (modern day Kshatriyas) and bureaucrats (modern day Brahmins) of India. The message to them is that they are entitled to perform their Karma (their works as politicians and bureaucrats) but they have no right expect fruits of their toil for themselves. The fruits (national progress) belong to the people. If they take bribes for their services, they become thieves. The other context in which this shloka could be applied in civilian life is in Social Activism.

Your entitlement as a Social Activist is only to serve the people, and never to benefit personally from its results (fruits), for fruits should go to the people you have chosen to serve. Never indulge in activities with motivation for personal gains. However, just because there is nothing in it for you personally, do not give up your Social Activism.”

Here we must assume that the Social Activist has earned his ‘entitlement’ by virtue of his expertise in, and dedication to, a particular cause. This dictum would make an ideal guide for Social Activists anywhere in the world. This is the essence of Karmayoga.

7. Shloka 3:15: Vedic Devas Are Out, Upanishadic Brahman Is In

3:15: Lord Krishna says: Know Karma (‘ritual works’) to have risen from Brahma (the Vedic god Prajapati, 3:10); Brahma arose from the Imperishable (Brahman the Supreme of the Upanishads). The all-pervading Brahman (not the Vedic gods) is, therefore, ever centered in Yajna.

The real purpose of this shloka is to appoint Brahman over the Vedic Lord of beings, Prajapati; to make Brahman as the object of worship in the place of the Vedic gods. The Upanishads describe how these Vedic gods “run away in terror” before Brahman (Katha. Up: 2:6:2-3). When Brahman becomes the object of Yajna, Yoga automatically becomes the modus operandi, for Brahman could be obtained only by Yoga (Sanyasa and Tyaga) and not by the sacrifices based on the Vedas (Mundaka. Up: 3:2:2).

Let us examine the context of this shloka. This shloka is in Chapter Three, titled Karma Yoga, which is dedicated to converting Kshatriyas performing Kamya Karma into Karmayogis performing Nishkama Karma. This shloka has no Arjuna Vishada context. In this shloka, Krishna, as the Upanishadic Lord of beings, decides to end Vedic Yajnas dedicated to the Vedic gods once and for all, because they earn Karmaphalam and thus perpetuate the evil of Samsara (9:20-21). He declares that the Upanishadic divinity Brahman should be the object of all Yajnas instead of the Vedic gods. His logic is this: All ritual activity arose from Brahma (Prajapati), Brahmanic Lord of beings (3:10); Brahma himself arose from the Upanishadic divinity Brahman the Supreme. This being the case, Brahman should be the center of all Yajna, not the Vedic gods. Once Brahman becomes the goal of Yajna, it becomes Nishkama Karma. Why? Well, to attain Brahman, one must first practice Sanyasa or Tyaga; that is, giving up desire for, attachment to and possessiveness of fruits of action.

Here is how Shankaracharya subverts this Upanishadic intent with a superb sleight of hand:

Know that this work (meaning Yajnas) is born of the Vedas (Not Brahma), and that the Vedas are born of the Imperishable Reality (Brahman). Therefore, the all-pervading Vedas are eternally rooted in sacrificial work.”

Shankaracharya follows this fraudulent interpretation with even more duplicitous commentary to embellish the Vedas:

Work is born of Brahman (Not Brahma), Brahman is the Veda. ‘Born of Veda’ means revealed by the Veda (Nowhere does it say born of the Veda). Work, in this context, is of this description. Again, Brahman or Veda is born of the Imperishable or Brahman the Supreme Self (Now Shankaracharya creates a Paramatma above Brahman). That Brahman here means the Veda is the sense. Since Brahman, the Veda, is directly derived from the Supreme Self, the all-revealing and eternal Veda is established for all times in sacrificial work, the latter being a dominant theme of the Vedas.”

Listen to the incredibly twisted and fraudulent logic of Shankaracharya: First of all, he does not even mention Brahma the Brahmanic Lord of being as the originator of Karma. Secondly, he straightaway declares that Vedas and Brahman are the same. Now this Brahman is derived from another Brahma above it -Paramatma. Now the “eternal Vedas are all-pervading.” How utterly nonsensical!

In all ancient scriptures, the term “all-pervading” applies only to Brahman the Supreme. Brahman and Paramatma are one and the same. The term “all-pervading” applies neither to Vedic god Brahma nor the Vedas. The Upanishads repeatedly pronounce the Vedas as the “lower knowledge” and that one could never obtain Brahman by means of the Vedas:

Mundaka Upanishad: 1:1:4-5: Two kinds of knowledge must be known, this is what all who know Brahman tell us, the higher and the lower knowledge. The lower knowledge is the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, Vyakarana (grammar), etc. etc.

Mundaka Upanishad: 3:2:3, Katha Upanishad: 1:2:23: Atman/Brahman cannot be gained by the Vedas, nor by understanding, nor much learning (study of the Vedas).

Guru Krishna declares in the Gita: 2:46: To an enlightened Brahmin (one who has gained Knowledge of Atman and Brahman) all the Vedas are as useful as a tank of water (meaning, they are practically useless) when there is flood (vast knowledge of Brahman) all around.”

Guru Krishna expresses even disgust with the Vedas: 2:52: When your Buddhi transcends the thicket of delusion (engendered by the doctrines of the Gunas and Karma) then you will be disgusted by Shruthis yet to be heard as well as Shruthis (Vedas) you have already heard.

In fact, the Upanishadic Lord Krishna declares: 6:44: Even he who merely wishes to know of Yoga rises superior to performer of Vedic rites.

Even Bhagavata Krishna declares: 11:48: Neither by the study of the Vedas, nor by Yajnas, nor by Dana, nor by rituals, nor by severe austerity can this form of Mine be seen in the world of men by anyone else but you (My Bhaktha), O hero of the Kuru.

It is obvious that the great Acharya he was deceitfully subverting the Upanishadic intent to overthrow Vedic sacrifices, or he had no clue that the purpose of appointing Brahman as the center of Yajna was to convert Yajna into Karmayoga. You decide which of these statements applies to him.

8. Shloka 4:32: Give Up Vedic Yajna And Take Up Upanishadic Yoga

4:32: Various Yajnas such as these are spread out before Brahman. Know them all to be born of Karma (‘selfless ritual works’); and knowing thus you shall be liberated (from bonds of Karma).

adi-shankaracharyaThe goal of this shloka is to replace Yajna, which binds people to Karmaphalam to Yoga, which liberates them from the bonds of Karma. To appreciate the extent of Shankaracharya’s duplicity in interpreting this anti-Brahmanic shloka into pro-Brahmanic one, we need to first thoroughly study the context of this shloka. This shloka is found in Chapter Four, which is titled: Yoga of Renunciation of Karma (Yajna) in Knowledge (Jnana). Obviously, this shloka has no Arjuna Vishada context. The goal of this shloka is to renounce Vedic Yajna (Karma) centered on Vedic gods and take up Upanishadic Jnana (Knowledge) Yajna centered on Brahman. Jnana Yajna is nothing but Jnanayoga in disguise. To refresh the memory of the readers: The goal of Vedic Yajnas was to please Vedic gods and earn Karmaphalam; the goal of Jnana Yajna is to gain Knowledge of Atman/Brahman.

Let us briefly review shlokas leading up to shloka 4:32:

In shloka 4:15, Krishna tells Brahmins to perform Yajnas selflessly like the ancients did. In 4:16-18, Krishna explains various types of Yajnas: Proper Yajna (selfless), improper Yajna (Kamya Karma) and non-Yajna.

In 4:19-23, he explains the basics of Jnanayoga: Renunciation of Sankalpa (design), desire (Kama) for and attachment (Sanga) to fruits.

Krishna explains in the following shlokas that when one renounces these impurities of the heart, one does not earn any Karmaphalam.

4:23: Of one unattached (to sense objects), liberated (from Dwandwam thereof), with mind absorbed in Knowledge (of Atman), performing work for Yajna alone (and not for personal gains), his entire Karmaphalam (both good and bad) melts away.

What are various constituents of the so-called Jnana Yajna (Knowledge Sacrifice) centered on Brahman?

4:24: The oblation is Brahman, the clarified butter is Brahman, offered by Brahman in the fire of Brahman; unto Brahman verily he goes who cognizes Brahman alone in his Karma (Yajna).

Obviously, Jnana Yajna is a metaphor for Jnanayoga. Unlike in Vedic Yajna, all constituents of the metaphoric Jnana Yajna -oblation, ghee (clarified butter), the offering person, fire, object of sacrifice- are all made up of all-pervading Brahman. Krishna recommends Brahmins to recognize “Brahman alone in Yajna.” There is a paradigm shift of the object of Yajna from Vedic gods to Brahman. All selfless Karma, with or without a fire, shall be known as Jnana Yajna from now onwards.

Who are various performers of Jnana Yajna? In 4:25-29, Krishna describes various types of Yogis who perform Jnana Yajnas in which they sacrifice impurities of heart and mind, and concludes:

4:30: All these (Yogis) are knowers of (Jnana) Yajna, having their sins (Karmaphalam) destroyed by (Jnana) Yajna.

In all these so-called Jnana Yajnas there is no altar, no fire, no sacrifice of materials such as food and animals. In these Yajnas one sacrifices or renounces one’s impurities (desire, attachment, etc.) residing in the Senses, the Mind and the Intellect. What remains after one has sacrificed his mental impurities in Knowledge Yajna?

4:31: The eaters of the immortal remnant of Jnana Yajna go to the Eternal Brahman. This world is not for non-sacrificer, how then the other (Abode of Brahman)? O best of the Kurus?

Whereas the remnant of Vedic Yajna is burnt food, the immortal remnant of Upanishadic Jnana Yajna is whatever remains after one has sacrificed the impurities of the heart and mind -Atman. One who gains Atman, the immortal nectar, gains Eternal Brahman.

These “Yajnas” are Yoga in disguise. Lord Krishna calls these Yogic renunciations Jnana (Knowledge) Yajna, for in this type of Yajna instead of gaining Karmaphalam one is liberated from the bonds of Karma, and one gains Knowledge of Atman. Having said all this, Krishna now comes to the point:

4:32: Various (Jnana) Yajnas such as these are spread out before Brahman (the Upanishadic divinity). Know them all to be born of Karma (‘selfless ritual works’); and knowing thus you shall be liberated (from bonds of Karma).

And Krishna concludes:

4:33: Jnana Yajna (Jnanayoga), O Scorcher of foes, is superior to Dravya (material) Yajna. All (Jnana) Yajnas in their entirety culminate in Jnana (of Atman).

With this background information let us now review how, by a sleight of hand, Shankaracharya neutralized shloka 4:32:

Thus have many sacrifices been spread out in the pages of the Veda (He decides the word Brahman means the Vedas). Know them all to be born of works (What kind of work?). Knowing thus will you be liberated (from what?).

Shankaracharya continues:

As stated, many sorts of sacrifice have been ‘spread out’ -set forth- in the Vedic path. Those, which are known by means of the Vedas are said to be ‘spread out’ in ‘the face’ of the Vedas; for example, “we sacrifice the vital breaths in speech” (Ait. A. 3:26). Know all of them to be born of works -born of exertions of the body, word and mind, and not of the Self. For the Self works not. Therefore, thus knowing, you will be released from evil. Knowing, “these are not my activities; I exert not, I am indifferent” -due to this right perception, you will be released from ‘evil’ or the bondage of empirical life. This is the idea.”

Here is how Shankaracharya subverts the whole shloka whose goal is to establish Brahman as the center of all Yajna and convert Kamya Karma, which earns bondage of Karma into Nishkama Karma, which does not.

  1. He interprets Brahmanomukhe -from the face of Brahman- into ‘the face of the Vedas’ and ‘Vedic path’, even though this shloka’s goal was to overthrow Vedic Yajna. The Upanishads repeatedly pronounce: One cannot obtain Brahman by the Vedas! He has no clue, or he refuses to acknowledge, that the “Yajnas” listed in 4:25-29 are not Vedic sacrifices at all but they are Upanishadic Jnana Yajnas. In his zeal to promote the Vedas, he does not even mention Brahman. His adherence is not to truth but to the Vedas. It is impossible to believe that Shankaracharya did not know the true meaning of this shloka.
  2. He then says that if a person fooled himself into believing, “these are not my activities” he will not earn Karmaphalam due to “right perception.” What he should have said was, “If you perform Karma (Yajnas) centered on Brahman in the spirit of Yoga, that is without the impurities such as Sankalpa, Kama and Sangas for fruits (4:23), then you would not earn any Karmaphalam, and therefore you will be liberated from the evil of Samsara. This is Jnana Yajna; this is Jnanayoga.”

How do we know that Shankaracharya was hell bent on preserving the Vedic Yajnas? Let us review his commentary on shloka 4:31, which we read above.

9. Shloka 4:31: Immortal Remnant Is Atman, Not Food

4:31: The eaters of the immortal remnant (Yajnashistamrita) of (Jnana) Yajna go to the Eternal Brahman. This world is not for non-sacrificer, how then the other (Abode of Brahman)? O best of the Kurus?

What is the remnant after one has sacrificed food and animals in Vedic material sacrifice? It is the remaining food (Yajnashista), which the sacrificer consumes at the end of Yajna as a sign of humility and gratitude. What is the remnant of Jnana Yajna after one has sacrificed impurities (desire, attachment, etc.) residing in one’s Senses, Mind and Intellect? That immortal remnant (Yajnashistamrita, nectar) of Jnana Yajna is Atman. Here Krishna is trying to show that the end result of Jnana Yajna (Jnanayoga) is attainment of Atman/Brahman and liberation from Samsara.

What is the meaning of the word Yajnashistamrita? This word means ‘immortal remnant.’ This is not just Yajnashista food of Vedic sacrifice (3:13). The clue to this word’s special status is in the word Amritham (nectar of immortality). Here is how Shankaracharya dismisses this profound shloka with a very superficial explanation:

The remains of sacrifices are what is left over; it is ambrosia. The sacrificer partakes of it. Having performed the sacrifices enumerated above, they eat, according to the Vedic injunctions, the ambrosial food and they repair to the Eternal Brahman, in case they seek liberation. From the logic of the situation it follows that this happens in course of time.

Obviously, the great Acharya completely missed the whole point of the above nine shlokas (4:23-30, 32), which is that these sacrifices are not Vedic (material) Yajnas but Jnana Yajnas of the Upanishads. As we read above, the nectar (Yajnashistamrita) mentioned in the above shloka has nothing to do with the leftover food of the Vedic (material) Yajnas (3:13). The word Yajnashistamrita is a metaphor for immortal Atman, which is the remnant of Jnana Yajnas. There is no real food here to “eat according to the Vedic injunctions” after Jnana Yajna, as there is no fire, no burnt offerings, and no ceremony. The great Acharya has no clue about this. And the phrase, “they repair to Brahman in case they seek liberation,” is indicative of this. He is simply not able to think outside his “Vedic box” even though he apparently knew the Upanishads inside out. This is because Shankaracharya mistakenly believed that the Vedas and the Upanishads are one and the same, not antagonistic to each other.

10. Shloka 5:18: Brahman The Equalizer

5:18: The sages perceive the same truth in Brahmins rich in knowledge and culture, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater.

In this shloka the point made is that an enlightened person sees the same Brahman in a highly cultured and educated Brahmin on the one extreme and an ignorant dog-eating outcaste on the other, and even in the animals owned by the lower classes in between. Here cow is the animal of Vaishyas; the elephant is the animal of Kshatriyas; the dog is the animal of Sudras. Conversely, when a person is deluded by even one of the three Gunas, he is not able to see the sameness or equality of all people.

The sole purpose of this Upanishadic shloka was to overthrow the Brahmanic Varna system based on unequal distribution of the Gunas and Karma (4:13) in the four classes, and replace it with an egalitarian system based on the equal distribution of Brahman in people of all classes (5:18-19).

Here is how Shankaracharya promotes supremacy of Brahmins while obfuscating the true intent of this shloka:

Knowledge and culture” -culture consists in restraint -rich in these is the Brahmana who knows and is cultured. In him, in a cow, elephant, dog and outcaste the sages behold the same Reality (True). In the Sattvika Brahmana (Here he hangs on to the Guna), endowed with knowledge and culture, who has the best latent impressions of life’s experiences, in an intermediate being like the cow that is Rajasic (Cow is not Rajasic; tiger is) without such impression, and in the low merely Tamasic beings like an elephant etc. the sages are trained to perceive the same single, and immutable Brahman, wholly unaffected by constituents like the Sattva and by the latent impression they generate.

In the above commentary, Shankaracharya does not seem to understand the fundamental fact that an enlightened sage does not see a Brahmin as Sattvic, a Kshatriya as Rajasic, Vaishya, Sudra, and an outcaste as Tamasic. All he sees in them is Brahman. One cannot attribute a Guna to a creature and see Brahman in it at the same time. The Gunas and Brahman are mutually exclusive entities. His ignorance of this fact is evident in his statement: “Sages are trained to perceive the same single and immutable Brahman, wholly unaffected by constituents like the Sattva and by the latent impression they generate.

11. Shloka 18:66: Abandon All Dharma

Let us take up Shloka 18:66, the Ultimate (Charama) Shloka of the Bhagavad Gita.

18:66: Abandon all Dharma and surrender unto Me alone; I shall liberate you from all sins. Do not grieve.

As we read the true purpose of this shloka in the article titled ‘God of Gods Enters The Battlefield To Fight Brahmanism.’ It encapsulates the essence of the entire text as well as the revolution to overthrow Brahmanic Dharma. This shloka has nothing to do with Arjuna Vishada context. After knocking off all other Dharmas of the land, Bhagavata Krishna declares himself as THE DHARMA (14:27), and asks everyone to abandon their Dharma and embrace his Dharma.

This Ultimate (Charama) shloka, asking everyone to abandon all Dharmas, has baffled all Brahmanic commentators as evidenced by their confusing, misleading and utterly nonsensical commentaries on it. It is obvious that they were not aware of the historical-revolutionary context and true intent of this shloka.

What is the correct meaning of the word Dharma in this context? The word Dharma has many meanings, such as religion, Law, righteousness, Duty, obligatory sacrificial duty (Kriya, Karya), a discipline of knowledge, a system, and the like. In the above shloka the word Dharma stood for religion or sect such as Brahmanism and Buddhism. If one took any one of these alternative meanings to the phrase ‘all Dharmas’ and applies it to the context of Arjuna Vishada, it means Arjuna should give up all Dharma -righteousness and performance of his obligatory duty as dictated by his Dharma. This is exactly what all Brahmanic commentators say in their commentaries. Here is what Shankaracharya says:

Giving up all Dharmas (acts of righteousness), seek refuge in Me alone; I shall liberate you from all sins; grieve not.

‘All Dharma or acts of righteousness’-Dharma (righteousness) here includes Adharma (unrighteousness) also. What is sought to be conveyed is the idea of freedom from all works (Dharma here means Karma).”

Shankaracharya wants Arjuna to give up all Karma- righteous as well as unrighteous! Unaware of the historical-revolutionary context of this shloka, the great Acharya thinks that the word Dharma in it means Karma, not religion or sect. He tries to back up this outlandish claim by fourteen pages of long-winded and inscrutable explanations quoting various scriptures, which no Ph. D. candidate of religious studies, leave alone a humble student, could digest. This is a classic example of baffling one with bullshit when one cannot dazzle one with his brilliance. It is obvious that the Acharya was baffled by Lord Krishna’s call for one to “give up all Dharma.” Without realizing that Lord Krishna’s call was not meant for Arjuna at all, but was directed toward all people of various diverse Dharmas in the turbulent post-Vedic society, he must have thought, “How could the Lord ask Arjuna to give up all Dharma? The Lord must have meant Karma when he said Dharma.” So, he said that Arjuna should “give up all Karma -righteous as well as unrighteous.”

If the Acharya had said, “perform righteous Karma but abandon all Karmaphalam” (2:50; 9:28) instead of saying “give up all Karma” he would have made better sense, even though that was not what Krishna meant here. His interpretation implies that Arjuna should give up even righteous Karma (fighting for a right cause). Arjuna had already said he wanted to do just that when he said in 2:9 “I shall not fight” knowing full well that his was a righteous cause. Prince Krishna did a splendid job of dissuading him from giving up his Dharma-designated Karma (2:31-37). Obviously, Shankaracharya’s interpretation of this shloka makes mockery of the Mahabharata war as well.

No religion, no matter how profound its philosophy might be, tells its followers to give up righteous Karma. In all the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, there is not one single call for anyone to give up righteous Karma though there is plenty of call to give up Adharma, namely Kamya Karma (2:47-49; 4:7), and fruits of Karma. However, one must perform his Karma with indifference to personal gain or loss of fruits (3:19) if he does not want to earn Karmaphalam. Krishna never gets tired of telling people how important it is to be active all the time:

3:8: Engage yourself in Dharma-bound action, for action is superior to inaction, and if inactive, even the mere maintenance of your body would not be possible.

The entire Bhagavad Gita is about performing Karma in a righteous manner, meaning doing the right thing but without selfish motive. All three Gitas attest to this wisdom.

  1. In Arjuna Vishada, prince Krishna asks Arjuna to perform his Karma as per his Dharma (2:37) giving up his self-centeredness failing which he would incur sin (2:33).
  2. In the Upanishadic Gita, Guru Krishna tells Arjuna to perform his obligatory Karma as per Kshatriya Dharma without Dwandwam (2:38) and for guidance of the masses (3:20).
  3. In the resurgent Brahmanic Gita, Lord Krishna tells people to selflessly do their duty as assigned by their class (18:45) and attain perfection.
  4. In the Bhagavata Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna to dedicate all Karma to him in order to free himself from the bondage of Karma (9:27-28). Even after showing Arjuna His Universal Form, Krishna says: 11:33: Arise and attain fame! By Me have your enemies been verily slain already. You be merely an outward cause, O Savyasachin! Lord Krishna did not tell Arjuna, “Give up all Karma and go home, for I have already killed them all!”

All this shows that shloka 18:66, in which Lord Krishna exhorts Arjuna to abandon all Dharma, was not applicable to Arjuna in the Mahabharata context at all, and that its real context was historical-revolutionary. Shankaracharya’s explanation of this shloka makes mockery of both the Mahabharata epic and all the fundamental teachings of the Bhagavad Gita: Never abandon the path of righteous Karma; but perform it with complete indifference to fruits.

12. How Could Hinduism Be Based On Misinterpretation Of Its Most Sacred Scripture?

Hinduism, or more correctly Brahmanism, as practiced today is largely based on Shankaracharya’s interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita. Like Shankaracharya did, every Brahmanic commentator misinterpreted all anti-Brahmanic shlokas of the Bhagavad Gita. Such erroneous, and often blatantly deceptive, interpretations of shlokas to shore up Brahmanism are the hallmark of all Brahmanic commentaries. All right-minded Hindus, who practically consider the Bhagavad Gita as the Handbook of Hindu Dharma, must ask, “How can we practice Hindu Dharma based on such erroneous and false interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita by Brahmanic Acharyas and Swamis whom we revere?”

In my next article, I will discuss the pernicious legacy of Brahmanism on modern India.

(To be continued)

Dr. Prabhakar Kamath, is a psychiatrist currently practicing in the U.S. He is the author of Servants, Not Masters: A Guide for Consumer Activists in India (1987) and Is Your Balloon About Pop?: Owner’s Manual for the Stressed Mind.

About the author

Prabhakar Kamath

Dr. Prabhakar Kamath, is a psychiatrist currently practicing in the U.S. He is the author of Servants, Not Masters: A Guide for Consumer Activists in India (1987) and Is Your Balloon About To Pop?: Owner’s Manual for the Stressed Mind.

Links to all articles in Dr. Kamath's earlier series on Heretics, Rebels, Reformers and Revolutionaries can be found here. Dr. Kamath' series on The Truth About The Bhagavad Gita can be found here.


  • I don’t understand at all where Shankaracharya has downgraded karma yoga in preference of jnana yoga, or decreed that jnana yoga is not for Kshatriyas.

    The character of Arjuna in the context of the Arjuna vishada refers not to the mythological character, but to the psychological concept known as the empirical self (the self that reasons about itself using words.. the feeling that a person gets when he looks at himself in the mirror).

    And Krishna himself represents the subtle self that is supposed to be universal, creates whimsical desires in everything, and basically runs the universe. So the context of Arjuna Vishada is very appropriate for a highly philosophical text like the Bhagavad Gita. You are correct that this text is also a social commentary, and tried its best to eliminate the social evils that arose due to ritualized Vedic sacrifices (people performing yagna, but desiring karmaphalam). But I think this is not the most important message from Bhagavad Gita. The primary message is about how the empirical self is consoled and guided by the universal self in the performance of its rightful duty. This message is what makes the Gita timeless. When understood in the right spirit, this message can be applied irrespective of the time / era one is living in.

    When Shankaracharya was attempting to reform Hinduism, the people of the land were mired in inaction : directly as a consequence of the message from Buddha, that “self is non-existent, and the karmic acts yield no good but only sorrow”. As everybody knows today, Shankaracharya had immense respect for Buddhism. In fact, his Advaita religion and Buddhism can be interpreted as two sides of the very same coin. What the Acharya tried to do at that time in history, was to get people out of their inaction, and pursue karma yoga. He used the revolutionary message of Krishna to attain this end, but he had to adapt it to change social realities. It was no longer the ritualized Vedic sacrifice that was the culprit, but complete inaction that comes by doubting the very existence of self.

    So, I think we should exonerate Shankaracharya from any crime whatsoever. His Bhashya on Gita was only meant for people living in his times. About his role in the resurgence of <hardened ritual (pooja / yagna) it is again unwarranted. Shankara did his best to pull people out of ritual mindsets. His famous poem Bhaja Govindam is a startling illustration. In his own life, he has professed that he learnt from the lowest of low classes (chandala). He hated the determination of caste professions by birth. India was very lucky to have a religious reformer of his mould at that time. Most importantly, Shankara brought 6 disparate popular religions (worship of Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti, Surya, Ganesha and Skanda) into a single mould of Advaita religion based on Upanishadic teaching. Due to this, I consider him to be one of the persons responsible for religious tolerance and pluralism in India.

    • vakibs,

      In future comments if you assert that you disagree with the thesis of the article, please address the claims made by that article first and then demonstrate clearly why they are wrong. You cannot state that the thesis is wrong and then not address/dispute/dismiss a single factual claim made in the article. We do enjoy the occasional exchange with the genuine truth seekers, but it gets tiring when those with an agenda are incessant in promoting their ideology tainted by confirmation bias.

      • You provide an excellent example of confirmation bias. The author asserts that “dictum that all Upanishadic secret doctrines should be studied only under the tutelage of a learned Guru gave Brahmins the opportunity to deliver soporific discourses to their bewildered listeners an that they obfuscated the all-round anti-Brahmanic diatribe in the Bhagavad Gita by means of ample verbosity, high-sounding Sanskrit words, and quotations from obscure and latter day scriptures such as Puranas” without providing any proof. And you accept that without argument.

          • I read the first article where he repeats the Aryan Invasion theory which has been thoroughly debunked. I need to do no furtheer reading as his basic premise is incorrect. Many of his assertions are just that, with no iota of proof. That said, whatever power Brahmins once had has been transferred to other castes and this talk of anti-Brahmaninism is like flogging a dead horse. This is like what Nazis tried to do. Hang all the problems of a society on a minority community and demonise them.

          • Your comment is the real example of confirmation bias. The author doesn’t talk about aryan invasion at all. In fact he clarifies in the comments that it is a migration. You just read that as “invasion” and took it as an excuse to outright dismiss everything.

  • Here is an apt story from the life of Shankaracharya

    One morning during his sojourn in Kasi or Varanasi, Adi Shankara and his disciples had gone down the Ghats of the Ganges to ablutions. Returning, they were faced with a Chandala, a low caste pariah, leading a pack of four dogs. When the seer asked the lowly man to step aside from their path, instead of abiding the Chandala is said to have responded with the wise words, “Like your own, my body too is made up of the material food that is consumed and performs the same biological functions as any Brahmin’s. My Atman or consciousness too is identical to the Suprame Brahman which is omnipresent and forms the composition of your soul as well and is totally unaffected by the bodily aspects. So which part of me do you ask to step aside, the body or the consciousness (Chaitanya)? And why do you do so, learned Brahmin?”

    These words were a direct reference to Adi Shankara’s own philosophy of Advaita Vedanta which sought to establish the existence of the one Supreme Brahman as the sole truth and all the remaining material substances as illusory. The seer was dumb struck and awed with the enlightenment of a lower caste man. Having gained humility from the communion, Adi Shankara prostrated to the Chandala and composed the ethereal shlokas “Manishapanchaka”.

    • I have read this story on the great Shankaracharya. I have always referred to Shankaracharya as Great. Shankaracharya does not need an advocate. Regarding the story of his encounter with a Chandala you said: The seer was dumb struck and awed with the enlightenment of a lower caste man. Having gained humility from the communion, Adi Shankara prostrated to the Chandala and composed the ethereal shlokas “Manishapanchaka”.

      Here is my response to the above story. It was admirable that Shankaracharya was humble enough to prostrate before an enlightened Chandala. (I am glad that Brahmanic narrators did not claim that this Chandala was Krishna in disguise.) That was just about all he did to gain even more credibility with the gullible. Beyond that he went back to shoring up Brahmins, the Vedas, the doctrines of the Gunas and Karma, Varna Dharma, Yajnas,and every single thing Upanishadists and Bhagavata condemned as I explained in my article. Had he used his great powers of persuasion, he could have brought about sea changes in Indian society. Instead, he strengthened caste system. Within two hundred years after his death, thousands upon thousands of low caste people abandoned Brahmanism and embraced Islam. In my next article I will expose how Brahmanism practically invited Islamic invasions by encouraging people to donate to temples all over India.Temples, bloated with incredible wealth from donations, became the magnets for greedy foreigners to loot. That, as we will read soon, will be a whole another story.

      You have not addressed a single one of the evidences I presented to prove my claims. For one thing, I never said that he has downgraded Karmayoga in preference to Jnanayoga. I don’t think you have read Shankaracharya’s original commentary in Enlgish and Sanskrit. If you had done so your comments do not reflect it. Regarding shloka 2:47: Here is what he said in Sanskrit: Karmani iti// Karmani eva adhikaraha// na jnananishtayam te tava// I gave six shlokas following this shloka to put the exact meaning of this shloka in proper historical context. The issue here is that he even said what he did without realizing that this shloka had nothing to do with Arjuna but was meant for corrupt Kshatriyas indulging in Kamya Karma. You do not even acknowledge this fact -that Shankaracharya had no clue about the true context of this shloka as explained by me.

      If you read my article on Ashoka the Great, you would find that the Original Gita, Arjuna Vishada was free from any philosophy. Its only purpose was to shore up Varna Dharma in order to attract abandoning Kshatriyas to return to the fold of Brahmanism and to snub Ashoka the Great. The term Ahamkara in Arjuna Vishada (3:27) was directed toward Ashoka as well as these renegade Kshatriyas. The Upanishadic philosophy was added later. If you read my articles carefully, articles that took painstaking research over fifteen years, you would not have written any of the things you did. You have failed to notice that there are three distinct Gitas embedded in the Bhagavad Gita. Please read all the articles in Nirmukta and post your counter arguments point by point rather than making generalized statements defending Brahmanism or Shankaracharya. Had I commented on commentaries by the other great commentators such as Ramanujacharya and Madvacharya,you would have fainted.

      • Dr. Kamath

        How certain are you with the chronology of events, with respect to Adhi Shankara’s life? I am not asking this question as a criticism, but with curiousity.

        Would it have been possible that, having propogated braminical views/ieas over the years and writing commenties on Vedas, he realised he was wrong. You and vakis are refering to Manishhaa Panchakam, which when I look at it closely appear to be a confession, an admission of guilt.

        A large aspect of his teaching ( Advaitam ) also appear to be atheistic in nature. He is denying the existance of God ( or a personal god) that contradicts with some his commentaries. I am even doubting if it is possible that some one mixed up work of two differnt authors?

        On an other note, I also wanted to know if you had a chance to look at the ISKON’s interpretation – Bhagavat Gita as it is- supposedly they took notes when Kirshna was lecturing in the middle of a battlefield. How credible is their commentry? ( again this is a curious question, not an assertion)

        • Question: How certain are you with the chronology of events, with respect to Adhi Shankara’s life?

          Answer: Unfortunately, Shankaracharya did not indicate when he wrote his Bhashya on the Bhagavad Gita. During his short life, he wrote a lot. So it is impossible to pinpoint the chronology. In fact, it is not certain when he was born or when he died. Rough estimate is 788-820 A. D.

          Question: Would it have been possible that, having propagated Braminic views/ideas over the years and writing commentaries on Vedas, he realised he was wrong.

          Answer: Shankaracharya did not write commentary on the Vedas. He wrote commentaries on ten Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and Brahmansutra. If he thought he was wrong in his conclusionsat a later date, all he had to do was to confess to it. He did not do so.

          Question: You and vakis are refering to Manishhaa Panchakam, which when I look at it closely appear to be a confession, an admission of guilt.

          Answer: I have no idea what is the significance of this incident. I am not even sure this was an actual event. Brahmins are great story tellers. If this event was true, and if he truly meant it, he should have immediately reversed his earlier teachings in which he promoted class and caste system, Yajnas, and supremacy of Brahmins (read his and my commentary on 5:18 above).

          Question: A large aspect of his teaching (Advaitam) also appears to be atheistic in nature. He is denying the existance of God (or a personal god) that contradicts with some his commentaries.

          Answer: He believed in the Upanishadic doctrines of Brahman the Supreme and Atman. In the Bhagavad Gita, Brahman was replaced by Ishwara/Krishna (10:12). Shankaracharya went along with the existence of Ishwara/Krishna.There is absolutely nothing to indicate that he was an atheist. He was a 100% Brahmin.

          I must admit, however, that before Sankhya and Yoga were corrupted by Brahmanism, they were both rational and atheist philosophies. By the time these philosophies appeared in the Bhagavad Gita, they had already been corrupted by Brahmins. Shlokas 2:40-53 were pure rational Yoga philosophy without divinity in them.

          Question: I am even doubting if it is possible that some one mixed up work of two differnt authors?

          Answer: When it comes to Brahmanic literature, anything is possible. The authenticity of EVERY SINGLE Brahmanic document is suspect including the Vedas and the Upanishads. This is because Brahmins never thought twice about corrupting a document if it served their interest. The Bhagavad Gita could not be altered or destroyed because Upanishadists and Bhagavatas declared that it came straight out of god’s mouth. That is why Brahmins resorted to extreme editing and other tactics such as altering shloka 9:20.

          Question: On another note, I also wanted to know if you had a chance to look at the ISKCON’s interpretation – Bhagavat Gita As It Is- supposedly they took notes when Kirshna was lecturing in the middle of a battlefield. How credible is their commentary? ( again this is a curious question, not an assertion).

          Answer: I have studied the Bhagavad Gita As It Is in great detail. The whole interpretation of this text is nothing but a hoax. Prabhupada did not know the fundamental issues of the Bhagavad Gita. Just to give you one example, just read his commentary on 2:50: He defines the term Buddhiyukta as “one who is engaged in devotional service.” This is utter nonsense. Buddhiyukta is an Upanishadic term, which means “the mind steadied when it is yoked to Buddhi as a result of detaching itself from sense objects, and thus having overcome Dwandwam.” He did not know that the Bhagavad Gita has embedded in it three Gitas promoting three distinct sects: Brahmanism, Upanishadism and Bhagavatism. To him, all shlokas were related to Bhagavatas! He was a thoroughly deluded man. And he did great disservice to Hinduism by his fraudulent teachings.

  • Just as a shloka in the Bhagavad Gita cannot be understood without its proper context, this article cannot be correctly understood unless one reads it in the context of all the previous articles. To make sense of my argument it is fundamental to accept the reality that the Bhagavad Gita has three distinct Gitas embedded in it: 1. the Brahmanic Gita consisting of two parts namely, A. Arjuna Vishada (the Original Gita) and 2. Pro-Brahmanic shlokas added later on to counter the Upanishadic revolution; 2. the Upanishadic Gita, which consists of shlokas meant to overthrow Brahmanism, and 3. the Bhagavata Gita, meant to replace all Dharmas of the land. I believe I have provided adequate proof from the Bhagavad Gita itself in my articles.

    Unless one first accepts the evidenced provided by me in my previous articles, all discussion about this article will result in two sides making meaningless noises. Therefore, before one rebuts my articles with esoteric terms such as empirical self and subtle self, I request them to read all my previous articles methodically and understand the evidence and logical conclusions therefrom.

  • I feel the sloka means to shed all dharma which implies all dharnas,convictions,right or wrong and submit himself to overall and ultimate concept of BRAHM,putting aside one’s treasure of karma to be accounted for in next appearance or remission by permanant exit,the moksha.The true union then may follow when synchronisation

    • Subhas said: I feel the sloka means to shed all dharma which implies all dharmas,convictions,right or wrong and submit himself to overall and ultimate concept of BRAHM,putting aside one’s treasure of karma to be accounted for in next appearance or remission by permanant exit,the moksha.The true union then may follow when synchronisation occurs.

      Response: The word Dharma does not mean conviction. This is a Bhagavata shloka. Brahman has already been superseded by Ishwara. Krishna does not say surrender to Brahman. Moksha is a Bhagavata concept. Nirvana is the Upanishadic concept. You do not explain the context of this shloka. Who is Krishna addressing here? Is it Arjuna or is it to people of post-Vedic society?

      Again, I recommend that you read this and previous articles more carefully.

  • Hinduism was a term constructed in the 18/19 century by a bramin-British collaboration in order to try to homogenize and organized eclectic fables into some sort of cohesion. The ‘vedic’ religion that is call Hinduism espouse hedonistic and discriminatory principles. ‘Hindu’ is derived from a Persian word that describe the inhabitants of the sub-continent rather than any religious philosophy. There is no real such thing as “Hinduism”. All your have in common with your fellow ‘Hindus’ is that you have been copulating with them over the last few thousand years. The passion for developing India into a ‘Hindu’ state is a dangerous nationalistic ideology which will invariable result in future atrocities committed by man on man.

  • Since I am new to this forum and a novice in scriptural interpretation, please pardon my generic statements about the Bhagavad Gita

    To be honest this article is too detailed for my aptitude to go thru extensively. But from a rationalistic view-point to debate whether this text is pro-Brahmanical or not is semantical hair-splitting.

    The moot point is whether metaphysical texts really contribute to any meaningful understanding of the phenomenon of existence or reality. Also the belief that Bhagavad Gita is a result of divine revelation not a product of human intellectual or philosophical exertion is in itself an impediment to a critical evaluation of its merit or applicability to practical philosophy

  • To know the real nature of Adi Shankaracharya, one has to simply look at the current Shankaracharyas. These guys have committed murders, rape and other crimes. In fact two of the Shankaracharyas even were sent to jail for their crimes including murder. Adi Shankaracharya was a businessman who wanted to earn easy money for his caste-men/clan-men. Hinduism provided him with this opportunity whereas Buddhism (that opposed the caste system) was a threat to his lively-hood. So in cahoots with his accomplices, Adi Shankaracharya was able to resurrect the business of religion and easy money for his clan/caste.

  • While I share Dr. Kamath’s outrage at the damage and ruin caused to Indian society and nation by Brahminical manipulation of religion and cultural practices, yet it is hard to accept there is anti-brahminic diatribe in the BG from the Upanishadic and Bhagavata thinkers.

    Upanishadic and Bhagavata ideologues were most probably Brahmins too and were probably engaging in some form of revisionism of their own on the prevailing dogmas of their times and trying some one-upmanship over the Mimanskas.

    To call this petty theological rivalry as marks of attempted reformist and revolutionary overthrow of medieval casteism and ritualism is to confer ill-deserved respectability on the duplicitous intellectuals and sophists of the Upanishadic and Bhagavata lineage.

    Coming to verse 5.18 of BG, which I have made fun of in my spoof of Chinmayananda’s commentary, if it is read along with verses 5.16 (object of another parody of mine on Chinmayananda’s commentary) and 5.17, this verse looks and sounds very pedestrian, with no scent or hint of any revolutionary intent. Cow in the late vedic and early upanishadic times was a measure of wealth and almost a currency. That being the case, to argue that Cow is not Rajasic and more a representative of Vaishya caste proxy, is more a quibble than a conclusive inference that can be gleaned from redactive speculation.

    If Adi Sankara twisted and manipulated the interpretation of this shloka, it is not surprising since that is the easiest thing to do with Sanskrit words that are so contextually dependent. What sort of elaborate context can you infer from a measly 2 line cryptic ‘sutra’.

    In the same vein, 18.66 of BG does not sound very revolutionary when read along with 18.61-65. It appears to be the culmination of the cues and calls to unthinking and blind surrender to devotional ritualism of the Bhagavata stripe.

    Battling with interpretations of the morse code type shlokas and sutras of vedic religion is like waging a futile battle in the slippery and shifting sands of theology and spiritualism.

  • If Jagatguru Adi Shankaracharya is right, and you are wrong then it does legitimize the need to study under a Brahminical Guru. If you are right, it does not make Shankaracharya wrong and your interpretation is just another exceptional stream of thought. The principle of Advaita revolves around the identity of Atman as the Brahman. The necessity of dualistic worship, rituals, daily practises, constant contemplation on the primary aphorisms as the absolute truth to help an individual discriminate between sat and asat etc. are all step towards the cleansing of the consciousness and are not steps for the identity itself. That identity requires the understanding of the scriptures without any doubt to unveil the Maya or ignorance that causes individuals to notice the differences instead of the unity. Now the various shlokas of Adi Shankara take you from bhakti to Jnana and when you attain the Jnana, the need for the rituals are minimized just as the need for the map is reduced after reaching the destination. Brahmins have done well to preserve it for you to read and interpret it as you see it. However the emphasis on Guru gains more relevance when such doubts arise and there is nobody to seek clarifications from the traditional standpoint. You may think why can’t they respond to me. They can if you go and learn from them starting with the basics.
    Otherwise your rhetoric is stemming from the rage born out of sufferings that your ancestors purportedly experienced due to the social conditions of their generation. You are making a mistake by accepting the British view for the reasons of our social conditions and blaming Brahmins when the rulers wers Kshatriyas and the wealthy were the Vaishya businessmen.

    • You are making a mistake by accepting the British view for the reasons of our social conditions and blaming Brahmins when the rulers wers Kshatriyas and the wealthy were the Vaishya businessmen.

      Recently there was a genetic study that confirmed what we’ve long suspected from what our scriptures implied and what other sources of evidence have strongly hinted at. That the caste system ossified way, way, way before the time of the Mughals and the British have set foot in India. What’s even more damning is that the aryan/daysu divide wasn’t just metaphorical but had roots in concrete reality. There were waves of aryan migration into India and their culture was at odds with those who had migrated into India much earlier. That the Vedas are a record of this whole business. So let’s drop this pretense of caste system being an invention of the Brits. Sure, they’ve amplified it, but the roots have already have spread in the subcontinent so widely that gene markers shout at the top of their voice that “Yes! caste endogamy was so prevalent that we’ve become distinct enough to show up in genetic studies.”

    • What’s even more damning is that the aryan/daysu divide wasn’t just metaphorical but had roots in concrete reality. There were waves of aryan migration into India and their culture was at odds with those who had migrated into India much earlier.

      Historian D.N.Jha speaks of the tussle between earlier and later immigrants here in the India Invented series. Some verses referring to Dasyus are listed here . He reviews a book by Irfan Habib on the waves of Aryan migration here .

      • Arvind,

        We should take care not to understand the Dasas/Dasyus as races though– Romila Thapar has argued that the distinction was linguistic and that many Dasas and Aryas switched ranks by learning languages. I’m thus skeptical at trying to link the Arya-Dasa divide as the precursor to varna, though I am aware that it has been some on the past via the racial interpretation.

  • First of all the Bhagavadgeetha is a vedic scriptures. It inherit all upanishads,Shastras,veda,vedantha every things. No doubt in that. As per the present situation I dont need to talk about Madvacharya and Ramanujacharya becoz first thing I dont know much about them.
    2nd thing is there whole summary of their philosophy contradicts the vedas and upanishads.

    Then Yes I too agree with what Sri shankracharya said give up the karmas. Its not the way for Mukthi.
    Then why vedas said about the Karma will be the main question? Did sri shankaracharya opposed vedas?

    First before answering to this question one thing I need to make clear is that What all sri shankaracharya said is all 100% right there is nothing called 99.99%.

    The karma is said by vedas becoz this is the one of the way which can make the “Manassu” “Paripakva”.
    The karma like anustana after doing the manassu will beocme more and more perfect so that it can gain the power and the Concentration to hold its thinking only on the parabrahman thathva.By doing karmas the first thing that develops is the bhakthi these two can only take us to the door of gnana. This gnana can only lead us to the Mukthi this is what the vedantha and upanishads told and this is what Sri shankaracharya told.

    Then why Karma alone cant lead us to liberation answer from Sri shankaracharya in “Maadhaveeya shankara digvijaya” Mandana Mishra samvada 85 shloka.
    The Karma give birth to a lasting thing like somayaga may fetch us swarga and all this swarga is also a lasting thing.So if the mukthi is attained by some Karma then It will be a lasting thing but as per veda and vedantha and everybody it is a unlasting thing. So it proves that the karma cant fetch us the mukthi.
    Now the gnana marga which done by holding and thinking of the parabrahman always 24*365 gives us mukthi here the maanasakriye is a katruthanthra and it cant be a karma.

    And even shocking thing is veda cant fetch us the mukthi but veda gnana can To get veda gnana we need to do upasana of veda this is vedantha.

    So sri shankaracharya is a man who didnt just say the philosophy but he practised it.And is he is opposing the karma marga then y should he bring the “Panchayathana pooja”?
    And one more thing at starting of the article some Abraham Licolns example is given its all are irrelevant becoz sri shankaracharya itself is sri krishna and sri krishna itself is sri shankaracharya. Dont wry about this becoz this is what advaitha says Parabrahman is in everybody.

    Any doubt about what I said above can be clarrified here itself thank you

  • And one more thing I forgot to say to the article writer If you have the Knowledge of shastra,meemamsa,veda,upanishad,nyaya,tarka every thing and if you are a scholar in that then only comment of Sri shankaracharya,Madhvacharya,Ramanujacharya.
    Else it will be like Blind commenting.
    Becoz to comment on those great peoples also the “yogyathe” is needed.

  • To the article writer,

    You seem to be of the Idea that the karma, jnana and Bhakti lead to some moksha sadhana, yes vedas said that but you have to give them all, then only you did truly realized the self. This is clearly explained in charama slokam.

    2nd I have respect for both Adi Shankaracharya and Ramanuja, to understand advaita you need to be completely aware of the self and the way you passed on your judgement on the great guru is laughable indeed and everything you understood is wrong

  • Honestly, there are so many dogmatic things everywhere in Gita and all the explnations and counter explanations. By the Gods, all these are rubbish. The entire Vedas, Upanishads, Gita are just waste of time. India will never progress if we keep discussing such things wasting our time in this world. If we all worry about how to clean our toilets, conserve precious resources and be good at heart, it will be great for humanity. India is a country which stinks at every place. Why are we discussing Gita? Whenever I try to read Gita, I come across this statement: “I, the God, created the 4 classes even I would not be able to change this”. Then I just close the book.

    I suggest everyone to read Thirukkural. Any translation is OK. But avoid any translation which tries to draw parallel to Gita, Upanishad and Vedas because Thirukkural is purely philosophy and code of conduct without dogmas and rituals.

    Here is one example: “Manathathu Maasaaha Maandaar Neeraadi Marainthu Ozhuhum Maanthar Palar” (Meaning: Keeping their hearts very unclean, people who go around taking ritual baths in the so called holy waters and present themselves as wise and “upper” ones. Such people are plenty”.

    Can anyone tell me why at all we need these Vedas and such books?


    • @GunzoGunzo

      The entire Vedas, Upanishads, Gita are are not a waste of time, if we try to learn them in the right earnest.

      Let me apply Vedanta to tell you why the sentence which causes you to close Bhagawad Gita is not correctly interpreted :-

      “I, the God, created the 4 classes even I would not be able to change this”.

      Shankara says the world, is an illusion- Maya, where you see things as many. It is in the empirical level of reality ( Vyavaharik level ) However, the level of reality irrefutable at all times, is the transcendental level of reality ( The Paramarthik level) At this level, there is ONLY Brahman. The ultimate reality, everything, everywhere, every time, always in equilibrium.Brahman is the eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious, love and pure consciousness.

      Human beings are in the second level. Man created the class/caste system. But Man and Brahman are no different in reality. Man’s soul Atman at the empirical level, is but ONE with Brahman of the Paramartik level. It is in this context that Krishna says ” I, created the class system “. Because, you, me, Krishna, Ram are all one with Brahman.
      Krishna is lord Krishna because he realized that he is one with Brahman.
      You and I, are ordinary mortals ” because ” we are still in a dream state of Maya.

      This class system, of course, will cease to exist if all of us were to realize the principle of ” Tat Twam Asi ” – The essence of Advaita Vedanta, derived from Upanishads and Bhagawad Gita.

      It is all about the right knowledge (Including interpreting the sacred texts in the right way) – The jyana marga – the path towards Moksha.
      Hope you pick up the Bhagawad Gita again 🙂

      • Sreejith,

        Funny how the none of the enlightened souls ever talked about caste privilege. That alone is evidence enough that realization of Brahman is pretty much useless when it comes to reforming social ills.

        • I think maybe meditation would be better off if we stop calling the “end point” enlightenment. Meditation, whether for attention or compassion, is repeatedly shown in studies to be beneficial. Sam Harris claims that he is an expert in a type of meditation that makes you realize how the self is an illusion. But whatever benefits such meditations bring, they do not bring knowledge of things like science or social ills– as Harris himself has said.

      • This Idealism is the basic cause of we Upper caste ppl’s accidie (irresp. of religion) towards suffering of our lower caste brethren. Avoid it

      • I agree any book is meant for reading, whether it is directly or indirectly given to one particular caste or race by god himself or his representative or his son or by anonymous. But in some cases, why did the caste/race put restriction for other people from reading it, i.e. low caste, and to the worst case, they went to the extent of pumping molten in the ear/ slaying/removing organ-tongue? To the contrary, why does they turning to the level of pleading with low caste for reading it now? Are they in the fear of losing masses? My opinion is that, if god is there, he would not be requiring any cheap publicity and selective translation and selective agents.

      • This class system, of course, will cease to exist if all of us were to realize the principle of ” Tat Twam Asi ” – The essence of Advaita Vedanta, derived from Upanishads and Bhagawad Gita.

        But since the so-called lower castes can’t read the Gita, due to past restrictions and present language and publication barriers, I guess they have to deal with the system for now, won’t they?

        I’m not saying there is nothing good in the Gita– though, as Ambedkar has said, what is good in it can be found elsewhere in better sources. But its defence of varna cannot go ignored.

      • Srijith,

        I do not mean offense. But, Everything presented in most religions are about life negation. In plain language, all religions ultimately say this: “The pie is in the sky and you get it when you die”.

        Humanity is progressing not because of Gita, Bible or the quran but in spite of them!

        A good set of code of conduct is taught in every family and it is within everybody is born. All this talk about “Mayai” is in itself a “Mayai”, just to hoodwink the listeners!

  • I can now completely understand the relevance of Adi Shankara or for that the other chiefly Brahmin monks/saints from South India and their influence in the revisionism of Brahmanism not just in South India but in the entire country. Among the other names we can include Madhavacharya and Ramanuja.

    Every religion to survive needs a few aspects:- chiefly-
    a. Rites/Rituals/Traditions/Superstitions
    b. Devotional Aspects.
    c. Philosophy.

    A. is pretty important but the core of the religion remains pretty superficial. For any religion to survive it would definitely need either b. and c. together or b. and c. as a single entity. Combining both b. and c. would make it very difficult for the progressives to make a dent into the religion.

    In the context of India, even though Manu Smriti and other Shastras had an impact in the minds of the Indian people it was yet to make a strong impact. We know from historical data that during the Gupta Empire and under Harshavardhana – more so under the latter, Buddhism not only did not disappear but continued to flourish all over India. As a force to reckon with we can safely say that Buddhism outperformed Brahmanism. The thing which was lacking for Brahmanism was philosophy.

    Manu Smriti is no philosophy. It is a barren book of rules and directions. I would imagine that it would have been very hard for the Brahmanic community to convince the native Indians of their religion without a stronger philosophy to accompany with it considering that Buddhism was still dominant in their heads.

    It is in this context that the emergence of Adi Shankara plays a very important role in the emergence of Brahmanism. Adi Shankara apparently seemed to have had an education and looks like he also did have an exposure of Buddhism and the relevant Buddhist Philosophy. It definitely looks like he plagiarized a few of the Buddhist aspects and included them in his philosophy of Advaita Vedanta which then it does look like he seems to have propagated all over India.

    Based on your blog it looks like he also did meddle with the existing Gita and most definitely gave his commentaries on it. We could now see the impact of this new phenomenon of philosophy along with the existing Brahmanic religion and on its revisionism and counter-revolution to Buddhism.

  • In entire discourse, the meaning of “phala” has been interpreted as result.
    This is incorrect. The actual meaning of “Phala” is “Reward”.
    When You interpret the saying ” Karmanye vaadhikaraste maa phaleshu kadachana”
    it just means, ” Do your duty or actions without expecting any rewards.” This is the basis of Nishkama Karma. Dr. Kamath, is interpreting it as, ” Do your actions without caring for results”. His simily is also weird, ” Taking a bath without cleaning yourself”., The incongruity is obvious. Sanskrit is a language based on the Principle, ” Language is a science of sound”
    and its true understanding is required before proceeding to comment.

  • Please stop slandering Adi Shankaracharya like this. He is the only one amongst the six Vedanta gurus to interpret Vedanta in its true form. All the others (Ramanuja, Madhva, Chaitanya, Nimbarka and Vallabha) tried to impose the Puranic Vishnu/Krishna on the Upanishadic Brahman and built up a religion around myths and rituals forgoing the Upanishadic dictum to become detached to the world. Only Shankara realized the that the Upanishads spoke of an apophatic God and desired non attachment.

    Remember that his Bhashya is directed towards his followers and when he says to detach ourselves from results he is not talking of Arjuna Vishada, Arjuna is a symbol for the religious seeker.

    I agree that Shankara was weak and did attempt to preserve the Brahmanic rites and let polytheism thrive but if he had not done so he would have been ceased to be Hindu. Do not forget that the orthodox definition of a Hindu is ‘he who believes in the Vedas’. Otherwise Buddhism would be indistinguishable from Hinduism. Ultimately in Advaita the Brahmanic rites are forgone and ‘Brahma Satya Jagan Mithya Jeevo Brahmiva Na Parah’ prevails.

  • if Sri Shankar could be commented the author could also improve thirukkural. How people overeavaluate their competence and write things in public domain is amusing and appalling.

  • LOL these guys are known as Shastranuragi. Only masters know the secret. As stuti says : Those ignorents fall in dark but full of knowledge falls in darker abode. Experience Docter Experience.

  • I think it is not Sankaracharya but author is making foolish interpretations.

    He says:- ” Imagine a surgeon whose only concern is with his deed and not the result! Again, imagine a man taking a bath in a dirty pond and claiming, “My business is to take the bath; not the result thereof.” This attitude makes all actions mere rituals.”

    Just see the isavasyopanishad. It always says Yastad vedobhayam saha meaning as prescribed in Vedas. No Vedic ritual is done like bathing in mud waters. There are strict rules on purity and other to guide it. If bathing is a Vedic ritual, noway one will bath in mud water if it is performed as prescribed in Vedas.
    And definitely they bear result. No karma goes without result.
    What Lord Krishna is saying us not to desire for result. When a Brahmin performs Vedic sacrifice as duty without desire, his sins are diminished and he attain salvation.

    Same Brahmin performing with desire, may get punya for that desire fulfilment and Swarga but again he is moving away from salvation.

    Exact meaning of Karmanyevadhikaraste in modern sense is a doctor concentrating on the surgical process rather than on the result trusting Lord. An impatient person always focusing on result may not perform well.

    Back to Brahman theme. First of all I want to say that the real name of God is not Brahman but Brahmam.

    Brahmam = supreme absolute truth or God beyond senses, space and time

    Brahmana or Bramhana = one who knows this Bramham (God) also known in english as Brahmin
    Brahma or Bramha = First Prajapati or creator God

    Braamhanam or Brahmanam = Part of Veda. Mostly Upanishads are derived from Braamhanam or aranyakam parts of Vedas and not Samhita part.

    Brahman or Bramhan – Chief priest in a vedic ritual. He controls the adhvaryu (yajur vedic), Udgitan (sama) and Hota(Rk)

    With above understanding one read Sankaracharya’s bhashyam of Gita or whatever there is no confusion

  • Hi Mr Kamath,

    Is there any commentary or translation of Geeta that you or any other readers here could suggest one to read other than Shankaracharya and such? The one that Mr Kamath thinks is more appropriate or true?

  • You said in your comments that Brahmanism invited islamic invasions….forget the article which is full of self invented fairy tales/bias against a group of people as well as totally misleading people about proper historical contexts,…..the statement which you gave that temples and donations invited mohemedans is so false and funny because mohemedans invaded middle east from southern tip of arabia and they went east and west and north upto china and morocco, so by your logic did brahmins build temples and took donations in china and morocco also? Were brahmins responsible for muhamedan invasions of egypt and syria and asia? This statement of yours shows how poor your understanding of proper history….Adi Shankaracharya is a Pillar of Fire….he is Jagatfuru, means teacher of the universe….I wont even comment on your false translations of vedic and bhagavad gita verses (shrutis/shrutavyas means which is heard, it does not necessarily refer to vedas in bhagavad gita context)… if temples and donations made muhamedans invade a country, then why did they invade all other countries including christian ones? did brahmins build churches too ? 😀

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