Gitartha Samgraha (critical Study)

by Partha Sarathi Sil | 2020 | 34,788 words

This page relates ‘Karmashatka in the Gitarthasangraha’ of the study on Abhinavagupta’s Gitartha Samgraha commentary on the Bhagavad Gita: one of the core texts of Indian Philosophy. The Gitartha Sangraha is written in the light of Kashmir Shaivism and brings to Shaiva metaphysics and Yoga integrated in the Bhagavadgita. This study deals with Abhinava’s vision about the purpose of human existence and the accomplishment of salvation (i.e., self-realisation).

3. Karmaṣaṭka in the Gītārthasaṅgraha

Ācārya Abhinavagupta did not make any classification as ṣaṭka in his Gītārthasaṅgraha, an explanation of Bhagavadgītā. What can be noticed here is a combination of Jñāna and Karma. To tie a knot between Jñāna and Karma, appearance of Bhakti, Devotion becomes inevitable. That is why an attempt has been made to present the subject-matter of the Bhagavadgītā in chapter IV through the ṣaṭka.To discuss about ṣaṭka it is obviously necessary to cite the commentary named Gȗḍhārthadīpikā by Madhusūdana Sarasvati, an Ācārya of the non-dualistic Vedantic philosophy:

karmo'pāstistathājñnamiti kāṇḍatrayam kramāt /
tadrūpāṣṭādaśādhyāyairgītā kāṇatrayātmikā /
evamekena ṣaṭkena kāṇḍamatropalakṣayet /
karmoniṣṭhājñānaniṣṭhe kathite prathamāntyayoḥ/
yatoḥ samuccayo nāsti tayoraviradhataḥ /
bhagavadbhaktiniṣṭhā tu madhyame parikirttitā

That is, though an agreement between Jñāna and Karma is granted, it is clear that bhakti plays the role of binding force between two. In regard to the agreement between Jñāna and Karma Abhinavagupta commented in the 3rd chapter of Gītārthasaṅgraha[2]. Behind the inseparable relation between Jñāna and Karma, the role of Bhakti is clearly noticeable. In the 4th chapter while explaining the śloka “bhaktā’si me sakha” etc. Guptapāda mentioned with the help of an example “tena yathā bhikṣāṭane bhīkṣāṇāṃ prādhānyam”[3]. Thus a real yogin or devotee pursuing non-dual knowledge becomes capable to have the God’s grace by devotion (bhakti) which is attainable by way of performing good deeds. Then by the grace of Maheśvara his path of liberation widens through intense pulsating Śakti. So He can be realized by practicing devotion[4]. We know that all the sacrificial deeds end in knowledge, and the realization of ‘Śivo’ham’ free from defilement is experienced in the mind of the sādhaka, and thus knowing Brahman, one becomes Brahmavid. In the present dissertation the chapters of the Gītārthasaṅgraha has beeen discussed dividing them in three ṣaṭkas (each ṣaṭka having six chapters) in the light of the Karma (action), bhakti (devotion) and jñāna (knowledge).According to the scholars, the Gītārthasaṅgraha advocates the theory of the combination of jñānakarmasamuccaya. Some scholars, however, hold that it actually denotes the combination of jñāna, Karman and bhakti.

Abhinavagupta, in the description of the last śloka of the fifteenth chapter, has marked the end of the text. According to him, the next three chapters deal with the description of Arjuna’s fitness and spiritual, Daivi and demonical, āsurī[5]. However, if we first of all deal with six chapters following the karma-kaṇḍa, many information can be got by us. There are many division of Karman. Mention of nitya-naimittika-prāyaścitta, upāsanā, prayers etc. activities can be found in the Sanskrit literature. Here the topics of discussion are action with desire approved by the śāśtras, action without any desire approved by the śāstras, action without desire and sacrificing the fruit of action and with devotion approved by the śāstras, desire-free actions of yama, niyama, sadhana etc. and initiation of the activities by the emancipated alive Sādhaka for the welfare of the world. In the first chapter Dṛtarāṣṭra asked Saṅjaya to speak about the war. Saṅjaya narrated the battle. The twenty forth and twenty fifth ślokas of the first chapter state that Arjuna saw the opponent Kaurava warriors. Then finding the relatives and fellow people as opponents, Arjuna become engrossed in sorrow. He considered banishment favourable than enjoyment of the happiness of kingdom. Arjuna, the Paṇḍava hero, wanted to keep himself aloof from the sin to be produced by destruction of family members and he left the Gāṇḍīva off. The Second chapter is Sāṅkhya Yoga. Here the jñāna-kāṇḍa appears in the karmakāṇḍa. It has been shown here that the opponents appearing in front, are nothing but bodies. The Soul is imperishable, eternal and on the other hand the body is transient and perishable. In the massive form the body there gradually appear juvenility, youth, old age and death. The minute figure is a condition where some impressions are centred without knowing the nature of the Soul. Due to indiscrimination the massive body gets perplexed. Ātman is of the nature of the knowledge and it is imperishable. It changes the body like one changing one’s garments. So, fearing from the destruction of the enemy bodies, it is not desirable for Arjuna to take resort to sannyasa, renunciation leaving aside the duties of a kṣatriya out of infatuation. The śāstras prescribed by Manu and others also advised not to forsake the duties of a kṣatriya[6]. So, performance of duty here is, in fact the performance of own dharma. Desisting from battle generates defamation and a kṣatriya acquires sin. Kṛṣṇa says that the faculty of mental perception of the karma-yogin is one and firm, by the perceptions of desiring person are divided in many branches[7]. Kṛṣṇa advised Arjuna to keep aloof from the three Guṇas. Kṛṣṇa pertained the advise of desireless action and caused to realise that by it the mind becomes pure. Though people have the right to do work, but they have not right to do the fruits of their action[8]. So, leaving aside the desire of the fruit of action, one should perform the deeds prescribed by the śāstras. This is what is called karmayoga. Deeds without desire are greater than the deeds with desire. So, it is the duty to be engage in deeds having no desire and having connection with knowledge. In this way karma-yoga has been described on the second chapter. He is firm in conviction and wisdom who becomes self satisfied forsaking all mental desires. Such a condition is possible by making the sense organs controlled, because sensual appetite is the root of all destruction. Lord Kṛṣṇa showed Arjuna the path to attain the position of firmness in conviction and wisdom, and told him to get ready for battle leaving aside his impotence. The third chapter contains the praises of karma-yoga. This earth is governed by karman. Brahman himself created the subjects along with the sacrifice for performance of Karman. By the description of cloud, rice and food etc. karma-cakra has been established and thus the karma-yoga has been put on firmness. In responds to the query of Arjuna in respect of superiority between Karman and Jñāna, Lord Kṛṣṇa describes the greatness of Karman to him. With a view to performing this Karman, one has the requirement of yogic intelligence. But this one becomes freed from the bondage of Karman 50. As the Karman and Jñāna are combined together, the devotee should engage himself in the Karman that cultivates true knowledge for the purpose of knowing the mysterious śāstra[9]. It is not that the Karman is performed by the organs of action like hands etc., even the fool performs work by mind and comes under the grip of infatuation[10]. If someone performs work without any desire like a mechanical person, he is considered as a great yogin[11]. All the works, excepting the unavoidable ones, have been mentioned in the Gītārthasaṅgraha as bandhaka, barter[12]. Living beings can never live without action. Lord Brahman himself while creating this world, produced the living creatures along with Karman 55. The creatures engrossed in ignorance, enjoy the massive objects and they become captivated in the māyājāla, the network of insentient material power of good and bad works[13]. Primarily food, water and all other things are the parts of the soul. These nourish the ātman. Therefore, the all pervading Brahman is established on Karman which has been told by Abhinavagupta like other commentators. The Brahman is consisting of works, i.e. resulting from pulsation[14]. In many places of the Gītārthasaṅgraha karma and kriya are synonymous. He, who has been heightened to the position of his target by doing works admitted by the śāstras, can continue his works as suggested by the Gītā. Abhinavagupta has said that if he does not perform works after attainment of his target, there shall happen the slackness of sacrificial works etc. and in the earth vices shall be increased being the earth engulfed by sinful misfortune[15]. A fool always thinks that he is the performer of the works, but in fact it is a wrong idea[16]. Being influenced by the guṇas like sattva and others belonging to the nature, he, infatuated by ignorance, wants to claim himself as the performer of the deeds. On the other hand, a wise knows Prakṛti has been performing everything. In this way he advances towards the path of emancipation with his mental set up of non-performance of any deed[17]. The work done for the welfare of people by submission of oneself to the god, is the highest karmayoga. God has said that I appear in that from to the person who take my refuge having some aim with whatever conception in his mind. In this respect the sacrificial works like Jyotiṣṭoma and others are also a way to attain Him. These things happen at the will of the Parameśvara[18]. In is, however, very difficult to differentiate between work and non-work. Abhinavagupta, with the help a nice instance, has mentioned about the existence of sinful deed in the virtuous sacrifices like the Agniṣṭoma etc. and the existence of virtue in the sinful acts like killing of the ferocious animals like lion etc. for protecting the subjects[19]. That means the main thing of the karmayoga is the performance of activities leaving aside the ego and considering oneself as the non-doer of the work. The person whose mind is free from passions by the thought of non-dual is the real follower of the karma-yoga. That wise person, due to his complacent nature, considers the works done by him in respect of the improper works done by others[20]. Here he is complete in perspective of knowledge; so there remains no doubt about the enjoyment of the fruit of deeds by the sādhaka. The works, performed without any desire of consequences, turn to ashes in the fire of knowledge and the seed of work destroys[21]. The ignorant person bound up his soul also by doing material works[22]. The tranquil fire of the form of the Supreme knowledge is Brahmāgni here[23]. It is stated in the Gītārthasaṅgraha that as the gods perform sacrifice by the sacrifice, therefore the Supreme Brahman can be attained by the sacrificial materials also[24]. In all the sacrifices action is there. By performing this work through Karma-yoga one can be freed from the bondage of taking birth[25]. Excepting the Supreme Lord there is no other action, and there is no fruit relating to that action–it is the doctrine of Kashmir Śaivism[26]. It is vijñāna where different varieties of knowledge are available. The karma-yoga is called vijñāna[27]. When some devotee makes prayer to some other god for the fulfilment of his own desire, he actually prays the Parameśvara only. In such case the consequence of the prayer becomes perishable[28] because in those activities enhancement of the qualities rajas and tamas take place[29]. On the other hand if the devotee prays to the gods like Indra and others having no desire in mind, he attains the nature of the Parameśvara[30]. He, who merges with the Parameśvara, takes refuge to the god even before his death and after death he is liberated[31]. Prayer to Brahman never decays like earthly activities, because among all the vidyā, the Parameśvara is the spiritual vidyā[32].

In the twelfth chapter of the Gītā, Śri Kṛṣṇa has said that if someone being incapable practicing medication performs worship, mutters prayers[33]. Studies the Vedas and by these activities can submit to the god, his obstacles disappear. It is necessary to pray to the god for any wrong doing unintentionally; there devotional sublimity arises[34]. The Gītārthasaṅgraha has even mentioned about ultimate peace by giving up the fruit of deeds[35]. By performing sāttvika works men attain the heaven after death, by doing rājasika works they regain the human womb and the tāmasika works result in naraka, hell in the Gītārthasaṅgraha[36]. Egoistic works do not bring any good result, and the preparations of sacrifice for gaining fame, become fruitless[37]. It is because the ego and anger, in fact, hurt the all pervading Vāsudeva in someway or other[38]. Sensual desire, anger and greed are recognised as the door of hell. This is why it is prescribed in the Gītā to abide by the prescription of the śāstra so that one can understand what should be done and what should not[39]. Abhinavagupta says that this prescription of the śāstra manifests the intellect of the living beings[40]. Śrīmadbhagavadgītā has proclaimed the message of Karman which is void of desire starting from the first chapter until the last eighteenth chapter. Dividing the Gītā into ṣaṭkas if the first ṣaṭka is considered as meant for Karmayoga, and then only a partial knowledge of Karmayoga can be gained. Abhinavagupta has clarified in his commentary that it is necessary to perform desire-free Karmaṇ as prescribed by the Śāstras, because the worldly movement is completely dependent on Karman[41]. At the oldest of the commentary on the Karmayoga, Abhinavagupta has discussed both the Karma and Jñāna as he has mentioned Jñāna as the supreme power[42]. While dealing with control of sense organs he has referred to rahasyaśāstra. Abhinavagupta has referred to rahasyaśāstra also in dealing with Āgama śāstra, which establish the non-dual Śaivism. Details of non-dual Śaivism established by Abhinavagupta shall be discussed in proper place. According to Kashmir Śaivism, a detached person transcends the bondage of pious or non-pious deeds[43]. Ācārya Abhinavagupta has shown with citation from the Śivopaniṣad or the Vijñānabhairava how the Yogins concentrate their mind through Yoga-yajña and dissolve in Ātmāyoga with the help of unperplexed intellect[44]. In the eighteen chapter, Abhinavagupta has told about the Karmayoga that the sādhaka, devotee, who being situated in the qualities of rajas, transforms into tolerance, respect, happiness, query and non-query, makes the karmayoga[45]. In this way karmaṣaṭāka has been described in the entire Gītā being combined with Jñāna and Bhakti.

Footnotes and references:


Madhusūdana Sarasvatī, Guḍārthadīpikā.


jñānaṃ karmaṇā rahitaṃ na bhavati, karma ca kauśalopetaṃ jñānarahitaṃ na bhavati, ityekameva vastu jñānakarmaṇī | tathā coktaṃ’ na kriyārahitaṃ jñānaṃ na jñānarahitā kriyā | jñānakriyāviniṣpanna ācārya paśupāśahā ||’ Gītārthasaṅgraha, 3/5.


Gītārthasaṅgraha, 4/3.


tīvratarabhagavacchaktipātaṃ cirataraprasāditagurucaraṇānugrahaṃ ca vinā durlabhaḥ āveśaḥ | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 12/9.


yadvakṣyati’ mā śucaḥ saṃpadaṃ daivīm’ iti | ata eva pūrvaṃ vidyāvidyāsaṃghaṭṭanirūpaṇāvasare devāsurasaṃgrāmacchalena vidyāvidyayoḥ saṃgharṣa iti sūcitam | evaṃ ca śiṣyasvarūpe prādhānyena nirūpyamāṇe prasaṅgato'nyadapyuktam | ityadhyāyadvayaṃ bhaviṣyati | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 15/20.


anye'pi ye kāmamayāḥ kṣatriyasyāstairapi īdṛśaṃ yuddhaṃ svargahetutvānna tyajyam, Gītārthasaṅgraha, 2/31-33.


vyavasāyātmikā buddhirekaiva kurunandana |
bahuśākhā hyanantāśca buddho'vyavasāyinām || Gītārthasaṅgraha, 2/42.


buddhiyogātkila hetoravaraṃ duṣṭaphalaṃ riktaṃ karma dūrībhavati | atastādṛśyāṃ buddhau śaraṇamiccha prārthayasva, yena sā buddhirlabhate | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 2/51.


na kriyārahitaṃ jñānaṃ na jñānarahitā kriyā |
jñānakriyāviniṣpanna ācāryaḥ paśupāśahā || Gītārthasaṅgraha, 3/5.


karmendriyaścenna karoti avaśyaṃ tarhi manasā karoti | pratyuta mūḍhācāraḥ mānasānāṃ karmaṇāmatyantamaparihāryatvāt | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 3/6.


manaso'vyāpāre yantrapuruṣavatkarmaṇaḥ kriyamāṇatvāt | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 3/7.


yajñārthātkarmaṇo'nyatra loko'yaṃ karmabandhanaḥ, Gītā, 3/9.


bhogakriyā ca karmaṇaḥ kriyāśaktisvātantryabalāt, Gītārthasaṅgraha, 3/15


Gītārthasaṅgraha, 3/15.


kiṃ ca viditavedyaḥ karma cet tyajet tallokānāṃ durbheda evaikaprasiddhapakṣaśthilisthabandhatvenāprarūḍhilakṣaṇo jāyate | yataḥ karmavāsanāṃ ca na bhoktuṃ śaknuvanti jñānadhārāṃ ca nāśrayatum | atha ca śithilībhavanti | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 3/25.


prakṛtisaṃbandhibhirguṇaiḥ sattvādyaiḥ kila karmāṇi kriyante | mūḍhaścāhaṃ kartetyadhyavasya mithyaivātmānaṃ badhnāti | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 3/27.


guṇakarmavibhāgatattvavittu prakṛtiḥ karoti mama kimāyātam ityatmānaṃ mocayati | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 3/28.


ye yayaiva buddhyā māmāśrayante, tānprati tadeva svarūpaṃ gṛhṇastānanugṛhāmi...madīyaiva sā tathecchā | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 4/11.


karmākarmaṇorvibhāgo duṣparijñānaḥ | tathā ca vihitakarmaṇyapi madhye duṣṭaṃ karmāsti-agniṣṭoma iva paśuvadhaḥ | viruddhe'pi ca karmaṇi ca śubhamasti karma | tathāhi hiṃsraprāṇivadhe prajopatāpābhāvaḥ | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 4/13.


akarmasu ca parakṛteṣu ātmakṛtatvaṃ jānāti paripūrṇoditasvarūpatvena | sa eva sarvasya madhye buddhimān kārtsnyana sākalyenāsau karma karoti | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 4/18.


ataeva kāmyeṣu kāmyamāneṣu phaleṣu saṅkalpa vihāya kriyamāṇāni karmāṇi kathita kathayiṣyamāṇasvarūpe jñānāgnāvanupraviśya dahyante | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 4/19.


svayameva hi ātmā ātmānaṃ badhnāti phalavāsanākāluṣyamupādadāna ityarthaḥ | anyathā jaḍānāṃ karmaṇāṃ bandhane svātantryaṃ na tathā hṛdayaṃgamam | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 4/22.


brahmaṇi brahmasvabhāvadevatoddeśenārpaṇaṃ yasya tadeva bhūtaṃ yatbrahmakarma, tadeva samādhirātmasvarūpalābhopāyātvāt tena brahmakarmasamādhinā nānyaphalamavāpyate apitu brahmeveti | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 4/24.


duṣpure brahmāgnāvarpayanti iti dravyayajñā api paraṃ brahma yānti | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 4/15.


sarve caite yajñāḥ brahmaṇo mukhe dvāre upāyatve kathitāḥ teṣu karmaṇāmanugamo'sti | evaṃ jñātvā tvamapi bandhanāt mokṣameṣyasi | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 4/32.


iti na kartravasthatiriktaṃ kartṛtvaṃ kiṃcit | tadabhāvātkāni karmāṇi, tad sattve kasya phalam, ko karmaphalasambandhaḥ |....tasmāccetanaḥ svatantraḥ parameśvaraḥ eva tathā bhāti, iti na tadvyatiriktaṃ kriyātatphalādikamiti siddhāntaḥ | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 5/14.


jñānam abhrāntā buddhiḥ | vividhaṃ jñānaṃ yatra tadvijñānam prāgyuktyuditaṃ karma | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 3/8.


ato matta eva kāmaphalamupādatte | kintu tasya anto'sti nijayaiva vāsanayā parimitīkṛtatvāt | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 7/23.


Gitārthasaṅgraha, 8/13.


tena vidhipariprāpitendrādidevatoddeśeṣu sarveṣu sa svātmā viśvāvabhāsanasvabhāvaḥ taduddeśyadevatāvabhāsabhittisthanīyatayaivāhamikayā satatāvabhāsamānaḥ sraksūtrakalpaḥ satatoddiṣṭa iti yuktasiddhāntametat māmeva yajanti avidhipūrvakam | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 9/27.


ataeva yenaiva vastunā sadā bhāvitāntaḥkaraṇaḥ, tadeva maraṇasamaye smaryate tadbhāva eva ca prāpyate, iti sarvathā matparama eva matprepsuḥ syādityatra tātparyam | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 8/7.


rājate sarvavidyāmadhye dīpyate yā | ihaiva hyucyate’ ādhyātmavidyā vidyānām’ iti | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 9/2.


atastannāśāya karma pūjājapasvādhyāyahomādīn kuru | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 12/10.


tatsarvaṃ mayi saṃnyasyeḥ ātmanivedanadvāreṇetyaśayaḥ | amumevāśayamāśritya laghuprakriyāyāṃ mayaivoktaṃ -....
tatsarve mama sarveśa bhaktasyārtasya durmateḥ |
kṣantavyaṃ kṛpayā śaṃbho yatastvaṃ karuṇāparaḥ || ..
pārameśvareṣu hi siddhāntaśāstreṣu ātmanivedane'yamevābhiprāyaḥ || Gītārthasaṅgraha, 12/11.


karmaphalatyage ca ātyantikī śāntiḥ | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 12/12.


evaṃ janmābhyastarājasakarmaṇaḥ prayāṇāt vimiśropabhogāya mānuṣyāvāpi | tathā tenaiva krameṇa yadā samagreṇa janmanā tāmasameva karmābhyasyate tadā narakatiryagvṛkṣādideheṣūtpadyate | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 14/15.


nāmārthaṃ prasiddhyarthaṃ ye yajñāḥ yena yajñayājyayam iti vyapadeśo jāyate | te dambhapūrvakā eva na tu phalanti | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 16/18.


yataḥ kāmādikaṃ trayaṃ narakasyaiva dvāram, tasmādetattyajet | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 16/21.


śāstravidhiṃ tyajataḥ svamanīṣayaiva kāryākāryavicāraṃ kurvataḥ pratyuta narakapātaḥ | Gītārthasaṅgraha,16/24.


abodhe svātmabuddhyaiva kāryaṃ naiva vicārayet |
kintu śāstroktavidhinā śāstraṃ bodhavivardhanam || Gītārthasaṅgraha, Saṅgrahaśloka-16.


śāstrīyaṃ karma kuru śarīrayātrāmātrasyāpi karmādhīnatvāt | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 3/8.


karma uktaṃ jñānaṃ ca | tatra dvayoḥ prādhānyaṃ yuktamapitu jñānasya | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 3/2.


ayaṃ naḥ siddhāntaḥ -sarvathā muktasaṅgasya svadharmācāriṇo nāsti kaścit puṇyopāpātmako bandhaḥ | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 3/35.


taduktaṃ ca śivopaniṣadi’ bhāve'tyakte niruddhā cinnaiva bhāvāntaraṃ vrajet |
tadā tanmayabhāvena vikasayati bhāvanā ||iti yogayajñā vyākhyātā |(V.B, Ś loka-62), Gītārthasaṅgraha, 4/27.


pañcaite adhiṣṭhānādayaḥ sāmagrīrūpatāṃ prāptāḥ sarvakarmasu hetavaḥ | anye tu...dhṛtiśraddhāsukhavividiṣārūpapañcakapariṇāmikarmayogaśabdavācyamadhiṣṭhānaṃ kvacitprayatnaśabdenoktam | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 18/17.

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