Death, ignorance and sorrow are the fundamental issues of human beings which are addressed by Bhagavad Gita. Against these, through all our pursuits we are trying to achieve immortality, awareness and everlasting and infinite happiness. In fact all the human pursuits are for these quests. Each one of us strives for survival and happiness. To achieve these, we desperately seek a variety of things hoping that ‘they’ will make our life sustainable, happy and meaningful. However, this seems to be an endless struggle.
All the fields of knowledge acknowledge these fundamental issues of death, ignorance and sorrow as real and try to offer solutions, which are inadequate. However, Bhagavad Gita reveals the True nature of a human being which is beyond death, ignorance and sorrow which is SatChitAnanda swaroopa, realizing which all the limitations, bondages and sufferings of a mortal, limited being are transcended.
While Bhagavad Gita reveals this vision of ultimate Truth, it also acknowledges the difficulty in realizing it and relating our day to day life with this vision. It gives a methodology of relating our day to day worldly life with this vision and systematically evolving to realize this real fundamental pursuit of a human being. It is only this realization which will truly satisfy us.
Thus, the Bhagavad Gītā reveals the knowledge of the ultimate goal of human life and the way to lead a purposeful, fulfilling life. Being the fundamental knowledge about our life, it will naturally be of great help if we know and clearly understand it at the earliest in our life.
This knowledge of the ultimate Truth is known and Brahmavidya and the methodology to realize it thorough our life is called the Yogasastra.
Gita and Vedanta
Vedānta is the field of knowledge which deals with enquiry into the Ultimate Truth. The Truth is where all that is perceivable finally resolves. This is spiritual knowledge.
This knowledge is known as Brahmavidyā. There are three main texts, dealing with this area of knowledge – the Bhagavad Gītā itself, the Upaniṣads and the Brahmasūtra.
Each Upaniṣad is a dialogue between the Sadguru (the teacher of the spiritual knowledge) and the disciple. In the course of the discussion, it unfolds the Ultimate Truth. There are several of these Upaniṣads. Various Upaniṣads appear at the end of each Veda. Vedas are ancient texts. There are four Vedas – the Ṛgveda, the Yajurveda, the Sāmaveda, and the Atharvaṇaveda (also known as Atharvaveda). The bulk of each Veda deals with worldly life and well-being. The first part of each Veda is called Karmakāṇda. Generally, this part is implied when reference is made to the Vedas. The last part of each Veda consists of the Upaniṣads, which transcend worldly life and deal with spiritual knowledge or the knowledge of the Ultimate Truth. This section of each Veda is called Jn᷉ānakāṇḍa or Vedānta.
This is a text written by the great sage Śrī Vyāsa (also known as Bādarāyaṇa). It discusses all the aspects of the Spiritual Truth through various methods of logical analysis and organizes the knowledge of the Upaniṣads.
Thus, the subject matter of each of these texts is the same – Spiritual Truth or the Ultimate Reality.
These three texts, the Bhagavad Gītā, the Upaniṣads and the Brahmasūtra are together referred to as the ‘Prasthānatraya. ‘Prasthāna means to proceed and ‘Traya means three. Prasthānatraya means the three texts, which help us to proceed to our goal – Mokṣa (liberation). ‘Prasthāna’ also means the highest place. These texts have the highest place among all the texts. Śrī Ādya Śaṅkarācārya has written commentaries on the Bhagavad Gītā, ten of the Upaniṣads and the Brahmasūtra. These commentaries are referred to by masters as the authentic explanations of these texts.
There are additional texts called Prakaraṇagrantha. In order to understand the Prasthānatraya better, great Ācāryas or masters such as Śrī Ādya Śaṅkarācārya have written certain additional texts like Tattva Bodha, Ātma Bodha etc., which are called Prakaraṇagrantha. These are introductory texts. They help the seeker to understand Vedānta and are very helpful to him in order to prepare for the study of the Prasthānatraya.
The Prasthānatraya are generally studied in the sequence given above, starting with the Bhagavad Gītā, then at least the ten Upaniṣads on which Śrī Ādya Śaṅkarācārya has written commentaries, followed by the Brahmasūtra. Some Prakaraṇagrantha are studied in the beginning while some are studied in between.
Upaniṣads are the most ancient; then came the Brahmasūtra, followed by the Bhagavad Gītā, which communicates all this knowledge.
The Bhagavad Gītā summarizes all the knowledge of the various Vedānta texts. Bhagavad Gītā is the essence of all Vedānta.
The Bhagavad Gītā Has Its Own Special Contribution
Generally, the Vedānta texts focus on and elaborate mainly the Brahmavidyā. It is also the main topic of the Bhagavad Gītā. However, in addition, an in-depth discussion of Yogaśāstra is the special contribution of the Bhagavad Gītā.
Arjuna appreciated the vision of the Ultimate Truth, but being a worldly person, he had a problem. He did not know how to achieve his goal and also had difficulty in reconciling the life he was living with this vision and wanted a solution. That is why Lord Kṛṣṇa elaborated the Yogaśāstra and showed him the way of living his day-to-day life and achieving the supreme goal.