Gitartha Samgraha (critical Study)

by Partha Sarathi Sil | 2020 | 34,788 words

This page relates ‘Abhinavagupta’s Gitarthasangraha: A linguistic discussion’ 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).

1. Abhinavagupta’s Gītārthasaṅgraha: A linguistic discussion

The Gītārthasaṅgraha was composed following the Kashmir version of the Mahābhārata. It is evident that reading of Bhagavadgītā as chosen by Abhinavagupta for commentary has various readings. SvamiLaksmanji says that Abhinavagupta has not changed any śloka according to his will. In the present dissertation attempt has been made to study the linguistic aspect of explaining the Bhagavadgītā in the Gītārthasaṅgraha in regard to the words employed and the linguistic style of analyzing the ślokas therein.

In the thirteenth chapter the speciality of devotion has been indicated by him in a different way in the statement–“paramātmano maheśvarādanyadaparaṃ na kiṃcidasti ityananyarūpo yo niścayaḥ sa eva yogaḥ, tena ca mayi bhaktiḥ[1]. In a different place he states–“yogaḥ śaktiḥ”, which means that the union of Śakti with Parameśvara, is also known as yoga. He has also established the absolute unconditioned (akhaṇḍa) in the Prakṛtvādaa through his writings[2]. He has also cited examples of the Vedic verses from the Upaniṣadas like Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad[3] etc. Here, some different readings of some Vedic citations are also available, as for example -kṣurasyadhārāviṣamāduratyayā[4]. By this we can understand the existence of different readings of the Upaniṣadas of that time. The word ‘sthitaprajña’ of the Bhagavadgītā appears as Stiraprajña in the Gītārthasaṅgraha[5]. While explaining this word Abhinavagupta states it is not an adjective for the yogins like the word ‘pācaka’ having a special as well as etymological and general meaning[6]. In this way Abhinavagupta has explained words in the light of accomplishment–explained the word in conventional sense where applicable, but rejected the other meaning where not applicable. To explain the word ‘anuvartante’ in the passage “mamavartmānuvartantemanuṣyā”[7] he says that here present tense (lṛṭ) has been used to mean potential (vidhiliṅ). In this context he has also cited the Vedic instance of “Atirātre ṣoḍaśinam gṛhananti”[8]. Here the meaning is–at the end of night a utensil containing sixteen parts should be taken. Similarly the meaning, ‘my path should be followed is also intended’. In courts of description of the lack of authoritative attitude of the sacrificers belonging to the gods like Indra and others as mentioned in the ninth chapter of the Bhagavadgītā, the word ‘yajanti’ in the śloka ‘yajantyavidhipūrvakam’[9] etc. is used in parasmaipadi termination and why this termination is employed, it has also been mentioned. Such grammatical discussion is available in the commentary[10]. The word ‘atha’ in the Śāstric sutras ‘athātodharmajijñāsā’[11], ‘athaśabdānuśāsanam’, gives us meaning as ‘anantara’, ‘adhikāra’. That the word ‘atha’ appearing in the śloka no thirty five[12] of the chapter four of the Bhagavadgītā, has been used as expletive[13] (pādapūraṇa), can be found in the Gītārthasaṅgraha. Contextually he has also dealt with grammatical elements like derivation of roots etc. As for example, why the great sage Vyāsa has used the ‘kṛtya’ suffix in the word ‘aśocyān’ in the second chapter, has been stated by him for having two meanings. Firstly, as the body is perishable, one should not grieve for long. Secondly, the soul being imperishable, it is not worthy to be grieved[14]. In ‘śreyāndravyamayādyajñād’ the use of ‘mayaṭ’ suffix is to mean the sense of ‘only’[15]. In the explanation of the śloka ‘kṣetrakṣetrajñayoḥ’ etc., he says that application of genitive in the nominative case has been done in the sense of accusative. Here the intention is to mean that I, the knowable to be known by knowledge[16]. Similarly, the word ‘tu’ in the part ‘sannyāsastumahāvāho’, is employed to mean ‘certainty’[17]. This can be known from the Gītārthasaṅgraha, the meaning of the word ‘eva’ employed in the fourteenth śloka of the seventh chapter, has been nicely presented by him[18]. In the explanation of the stanzathe meaning of the word ‘tad’ can be known as ‘bliss’, praśāntā devoid of action or non-action[19]. Elsewhere the use of the pronoun ‘tad’ is meant for general consideration ‘Om tad sad’[20].

In regard to the last śloka of the fifteenth chapter, he has stated that here the word ‘iti’ denotes the end of the śāstra and ‘ca’ stands for surprise[21]. In many other places he has explained the suffixes used in the Bhagavadgītā wherever necessary and presented the Kashmir Śaiva-tattvas and spiritual performances. In some places he says unfolded the meanings of the Bhagavadgītā in a very simple manner with terrestrial similes. For example, in the commentary of the śloka ‘sarvakarmāṇi manasā[22], he has shown the nature of ātman inside the body with a simile of a person residing in a tattered house compared to the significance of happiness enjoyed by a person keeping his mind under control and desisting from action related to sense organs[23]. Then he has expressed has his opinion declaring it as the doctrine of the Kashmir Śaivism that, the activities of a potter like movement of his daṇḍa, cakra etc. are not different from that of the potter himself[24]. Somewhere similes have been employed by citing vidhi and established the way of difference and differenced (Daṇḍī praiṣyānanubrūyāt) while discussing about self-controlled person, he coined the appropriate simile that without control over mind worship, devoid of devotion, cannot bring desired fruit as the grains of rice cannot sprout in autumn though there remain the elements like rain etc. The shower of spring alone possesses the sole property which is capable to sprout that seed and produce fruit[25]. In this way explaining the Bhagavadgītā by using the rhetorics like upamā etc., Abhinavagupta has shown his power of new outlook in almost every line in establishing the undivided self. In the recapitulated śloka of the sixth chapter he has said that the way the rainy season alone ripens the rice, likewise only remembrance of the name of God brings accomplishment[26].

In regard to the Vedic instruction, ‘manasāevaanudraṣṭavyam’ i.e., one should try to know the Supreme self by min, Abhinavagupta has expressed at a place of his commentary that the intention is to use the word mind for ātman. The mind has been considered here as the rescuer[27]. That Abhinavagupta was well versed in Mīmāṃsā philosophy also together with all other philosophical knowledge can be known from the attentive study of his commentaries. In a certain context he has stated that, ‘it is not an apūrvavidhi’ here the nature of the yogins has been described[28]. To negate some tattva (principle), it is necessary to have the knowledge of it. Here the knowledge of Mīmāṃsā is approved through negation. In other place while analysing a śloka of the seventh chapter–tīrtheśvapacagṛhe’, he said that, here there is indication of both the vidhi and anuvāda[29]. Moreover, references to the yogasūtra also can be noticed in many places of his commentary that he laid much importance on the Siddhāntaśāstra. In respect of protecting yoga has said that according to the Śaiva-siddhāntaśāstra, practicing yoga is the means to attain own soul[30]. He has mentioned the word ‘yogabhraṣṭa’[31] and along with praising the devotees, he has negated the śāśtras like mīmāṃsā etc. He has mentioned tactfully about comparatively temporary results of the karmakāṇḍa[32]. He has explained the word ‘yogabhraṣṭa’ elsewhere very nicely where the person deeply devoted to God and averse to other deeds, is ‘yogabhraṣṭa’, i.e. he is recognised as real yogin[33]. He has clearly mentioned the doctrine many times —“vāsudeva eva sarvam”[34] and at appropriate moment he has expressed the nature of the Trika doctrine in his weighty language[35].

In the Gītārthasaṅgraha the meaning of the word ‘saṃgraha’ requires some discussion. In the GītārthasaṅgrahaAbhinavagupta himself has meant the word ‘saṅgraha’ as ‘means’ while unveiling mysterious meaning of a śloka[36]. In the entire Gītārthasaṅgraha, he has composed eighteen saṅgraha -ślokas in all and each of these ślokas has been incorporated at the end of each of the chapters, These ślokas, according to Abhinavagupta, express the main themes of each of the chapters. His writing explicitly bears the influence of the upaniṣadas. Somewhere he has cited sentences from the upaniṣadas and in some places he has expressed the similes of the upaniṣadas in his own language[37]. He paid due honour to other Ācāryas in his writings and has quoted their opinions to make the sufficient understandable.

For example, in course of his citation from Ācārya Bhaṭṭanārayaṇa’ Stavacintāmaṇi he said–

“yadāhurācāryavaryāḥ nimiṣamapi yadyekaṃ kṣiṇadoṣe kariṣyasi |
padaṃ citte tadā śaṃbho kiṃ na saṃpādayiṣyasi iti

Apart from this he has mentioned his preceptors as proof while discussing about the practice of Yoga and expressed his own view[39]. Such type of presentation in the explanation represents his generosity. In other places where other commentators have different commentaries of the ślokas and differs with those commentators, he has first placed their views widely and then expressed his own views. He has stated that as he has considered those views not satisfactory, he has presented his own stand as per the śāstras and āgamas[40].

In regard to the discussion of kṣetra and kṣetrajña of the thirteenth chapter, he has said that though the sages have discussed it in many ways, I am explaining it in a nutshell in short span[41].

In the fifteenth chapter he has refuted the view of others and established his own view by staying–

“anye tu apohanaṃ, anenākṛtenedaṃ bhavati vyatirekabuddhiḥ[42].

Such statements expose not only his depth of knowledge, but also his exceptional power of the delivery of subject. He would know which of the ślokas are imaginary. He did not explain those ślokas. In this respect his statement is the proof[43]. His commentary has given the foremost place to the old śāstras and āgamas[44]. In respect of worship of God he has cited example in his commentary from Laghviprakriyā which is obsolete at present[45]. There is no barrier here for caste and race to offer prayers. In this world some perform worship considering knowledge as the supreme, some go by numbers or some are active to attain god by deeds. But according to Abhinavagupta, if someone listens to with devotion and desires to know the ultimate truth, can be able to transcend this mortal world[46]. It is very clear in his commentary that liberty for offering prayers in a necessity for all. Thus the linguistic study on Abhinavagupta’s style of composition establishes his knowledge in all the śāstras, his generosity and prudence.

Footnotes and references:


Gītārthasaṅgraha, 13/12.


sā caikaiva satī prakārāṣṭakena bhidyate iti prakṛtyarabdhatvādekameva viśvamiti prakṛtivāde'pyadvaitavādaṃ pradarśitam | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 7/5.


avināśī vā are'yamanucchittidharmā, Gītārthasaṅgraha, 2/17.


kṣurasya dhārā viṣamā duratyayā, Gītārthasaṅgraha, 18/37.


ātmanyeva kūrma iva aṅgāni kroḍīkaroti viṣayibhyo viṣayānnivārya, tadā tadā sthiraprajñaḥ | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 2/60.


na cāsya pācakavadyogarūḍhitvam, Gītārthasaṅgraha, 2/60.


Gītārthasaṅgraha, 4/11.


Gītārthasaṅgraha, 4/11


Gītārthasaṅgraha, 9/24.


tān prati kartrabhiprāyatvaṃ nāsti, apitu parimita dakṣiṇāsthanendriyādipadamātraprāptereva yājakavaccaritārthatvameṣāmiti prathayituṃ parasmaipadam | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 9/24-27.


Mi. Su, 1/1/1


yena bhūtānyaśeṣeṇa drakṣasyātmanyatho mayi | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 4/35.


athośabdaḥ pādapūraṇe, Gītārthasaṅgraha, 4/35.


ātmā tu nityaḥ yato'prameyaḥ | prameyasya tu jaḍasya pariṇāmitvaṃ na tu jaḍasya cidekarūpasya, svabhāvāntarāyogād |... tantreṇāyamekeḥ kṛtyapratyayo dvayorarthayormuninā darśitaḥ ‘aśocyān’ iti | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 2/19.


kevalatā ca mayaṭā sūcitā, Gītārthasaṅgraha, 4/33.


mameti karmaṇi ṣaṣṭhīḥ ahamanena jñānena jñeya ityarthaḥ, Gītārthasaṅgraha, 13/3.


tu śabdo'vadhāraṇe bhinnakramaḥ, Gītārthasaṅgraha, 5/6.


ato ye paramā ityevakārasyāśayaḥ, Gītārthasaṅgraha, 7/14.


tad padaṃ praśāntam, avyayaṃ tadeva | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 15/5.


Gītārthasaṅgraha, 17/27.


cakāro'dbhūtadyotakaḥ... iti śabdena śāstrasya samāptiḥ sūcitā | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 15/20.




yathā veśmāntargatasya puṃso na gṛhagatairjīrṇatvādibhiryogaḥ, evaṃ mama cakṣurādicchidragavākṣanavakālaṅkṛtadehagehagatasya na taddharmayogaḥ | Gītārthasaṅgraha,5/13.


daṇḍacakrapravartanādikriyā nānyā |na ca sā ghaṭaniṣpāditā saṃvidantarvartitvāt | tasmāccetanaḥ svatantraḥ parameśvaraḥ eva tathā tatā bhāti, iti na tadvyatiriktaṃ kriyātatphalādikamiti siddhāntaḥ | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 5/14.


na hi śaradi salilādisāmagrisaṃmarde'pi dhānyabījāni upyamānāni... preritamambhaḥ | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 15/11.


bhagavannāmasaṃprāptimātrātsarvamavāpyate |
phalitāḥ śālayaḥ samyagvṛṣṭimātre'valokite || Gītārthasaṅgraha, Saṅgrahaśloka-6.


atra ca nānyaḥ upāyaḥ apitu ātmaiva mana evetyarthaḥ | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 6/5.


na punareṣo'pūrvo vidhiḥ | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 6/32.


tasmādevaṃ vidhyanuvādau | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 8/7.


upāyān anekasiddhāntādiśāstravihitān saṃśritya.., Gītārthasaṅgraha, 6/37.


Gītārthasaṅgraha, 6/42.


na tasya yogabhraṣṭasya loke paraloke vā nāśo'sti anaṣṭaśraddhatvāditi bhāvaḥ |.. na ca tadagniṣṭomādivadavakṣayi, Ibid.




Gītārthasaṅgraha,7/13, 7/19.


kintu siddhānto'yamatra yaḥ kāmanāparihāreṇa....śuddhamuktabhāvena paryavasati, Gītārthasaṅgraha, 7/24.


samyag gṛhyate niścīyate'neneti saṃgrahaḥ upāyaḥ, Gītārthasaṅgraha, 8/11.


Gītārthasaṅgraha, 8/12.


Gītārthasaṅgraha, 8/14.


asmadguravastvāhuḥ sarvānugrāhakatayā madhye ābhyantarakālakṛtamutkrāntibhedamabhidhāya.. ityadinā | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 8/27.


iti sarvairvyākhyātam,.... tacca na hṛdayaṃgamam, Gītārthasaṅgraha, 8/16.


yadyapi ca ṛṣibhirbahudhā vedaiścoktametat tathāpi samāsenāhaṃ vyācakṣe iti | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 13/5.


Gītārthasaṅgraha, 15/15.


atra kecidasaṃbaddhāḥ ślokāḥ kalpitāḥ, punaruktatvātte tyajyā eva | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 14/20.


apitu anādi śāstramatra pramāṇamucyate | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 16/22.


ātmanivedanadvāreṇetyaśayaḥ | amumevāśayamāśritya ladhuprakriyāyāṃ mayyaivoktam | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 12/11.


īdṛśaṃ ca jñānaṃ pradhānaṃ kaiścidātmatayā upāyate | anyaiḥ prāguktena sāṃkhyanayena | aparaiḥ karmaṇā... te'pi mṛtyusaṃsāraṃ taranti | Gītārthasaṅgraha, 13/26.

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