Shiva Gita (study and summary)

by K. V. Anantharaman | 2010 | 35,332 words

This page is entitled “the pre-eminence of shiva gita over other gitas” contained in the Shiva Gita (Study and English comments by K. V. Anantharaman). The Shiva Gita is a philosophical text from the Padma-purana in the form of a dialogue between Lord Shiva and Shri Rama. It deals with topics such as Advaita metaphysics and Bhakti and consists of 768 verses.

Appendix 1 - The Pre-eminence of Śiva Gītā over Other Gītās

1.0 Gītā defined

Gītā is the name given to certain sacred writings in verse (often in the form of a dialogue) which are devoted to the exposition of particular religious and theosophical doctrines.[1]

2.0 Available Gītās.

A list of about sixty-four known Gītas is cited in the appendix. Out of these, sixteen of them are from Mahābhārata, twelve of them from Purāṇas and others are independent ones.[2]

3.0 Bhagavad Gītā and Prasthānatraya.

Of all the Gītas, Bhagavad Gītā became most popular because a commentary on it was written by Pūjya Śaṅkara Bhagavatpāda [Bhagavatpāda?] and it has become a practice that just the mention of word Gītā connotes to Bhagavad Gītā. It became part of the revered Prasthānatraya along with major Upaniṣads and Brahmasūtra, which form the bedrock of the illustrious Sanātana Dharma. ‘It may be pointed out that for the Vedānta philosophy, the Vedānta or Upaniṣads, the śruti is the primary authority and Brahma-sūtra and the Gītā though very profound and helpful, being the smṛti, are of secondary authority only and have to be interpreted in harmony with the primary authority. However Śrī Śaṅkara finds no contradiction in them since Brahman and personal Īśvara are not two different realities, but two aspects of one and the same reality. It is only those who do not accept the Upaniṣadic teachings and want to consider the personal Īśvara not only Abhijñāna Śākuntala the Highest but the only Reality that find contradiction. Śrī Śaṅkarā’s glory is that he systemized the Upaniṣadic thoughts and realization of the seers in such a way that it can accommodate, on the relative plane, all those aspects of the various philosophies of the past, present and future, including the Budhistic philosophy. Śrī Śaṅkarā’s philosophy, therefore, is neither Māyā-Vāda, Abhijñāna Śākuntala some would like to characterize it with an understandingless, derogatory overtone, or Īśvara vāda or even Brahma vāda. It includes all these and much more. If it be a vāda at all, it is primarily Ātma-vāda, which establishes the supremacy of the Ātman, which is identical with Brahman and is the only irrefutable Reality within the intuitive experience of all, at all times, Abhijñāna Śākuntala their very self.’[3]

4.0 A play of words.

All great religious reformers whether Advaitic, Dvaitic or Viśiṣṭādvaitic or others chose to gamer their required support from these exalted texts of Prasthānatraya, deriving the meaning from same verses Abhijñāna Śākuntala desired by them by their clever skill in word meaning manipulations. To quote Svāmi Śivānanda it is—“A play of words or lingual warfare, hair splitting, logical chopping and intellectual gymnastics.”[4]

5.0 Śiva Gītā—Torch bearer.

Although Śiva Gītā is not Abhijñāna Śākuntala popular Abhijñāna Śākuntala Bhagavad Gītā, in one sense it can be asserted that it is the forerunner of Bhagavad Gītā Abhijñāna Śākuntala Śiva Gītā is a treatise of dialogue between Lord Śiva and Śrī Rāma which took place in Kṛtayuga, while Bhagavad Gītā gives the dialogue between Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna which took place in the Kurukṣetra warfield in the subsequent Dvāparayuga.

5.1 Śiva Gītā occurs in Padma Purāṇa in Uttarakhaṇḍa and was written by Bhagavān Veda Vyāsa from whose pen flowed the great Mahābhārata in which Bhagavad Gītā occupies a pride of place. It is no wonder certain verses are verbatim reproductions, six in number to be precise, while there are thirty two ślokas which are very similar in content and project identical views.

5.2 Śiva Gītā, although a text of religious content of Saguṇa and Nirguṇa Upāsanā, places much importance on Advaita philosophy and can be termed Abhijñāna Śākuntala a super blend rasāyana of both. ‘Western philosophers consider knowledge, which is sought after in advaitic realization, Abhijñāna Śākuntala something to be discovered, whereas to the Indian, knowledge is something to be recovered. The self must know the not-self to know itself. The goal of human existence is to comprehend and apprehend the Oneness of things in eternal Spirit’.[5]

5.3 While teaching Rama to get over his anger (krodha), delusion (moha) and sorrow (śoka) on the loss of Sītā, his beloved wife, sequel to Rāvaṇā’s abduction, Lord Śiva also instructs Rāma highly philosophical truths and nature of true and genuine religion along with the advice on practical strategies of war against Rāvaṇa for rescuing Sītā.

5.4 During these teachings God’s attribute Māyā is freely discussed along with various yogās. The mystery of the connection between the unchanging One and changing many is what is called Māyā.

6.0 Various Yogās.

Māyā is a change and relativity. Māyā is made of name and form. Māyā is the very mind that attempts to divide the indivisible, to think the unthinkable, to limit the illimitable.” Turiya is “being” whereas the three states (waking, dream and deep sleep) indicate diverse level of “becoming.” Immortality is not the result of any spiritual discipline. It is a revelation. The watch word of Bhakti yoga of emotional mind is “Thy will be done”; of Karma yoga of active mind is “work is worship”; of Rāja yoga of mystical mind is “Know thyself’ and of Jñāna yoga of philosophical mind is “the self is Brahman”. Vedānta says—“He feels bad when things are good, lest he should feel worse when things become better.”[6]

7.0 Western philosophy and Vedānta.

Socrates defines man Abhijñāna Śākuntala “philosophical animal”; Plato Abhijñāna Śākuntala “political animal” and Aristotle Abhijñāna Śākuntala “rational animal” and Vedānta Abhijñāna Śākuntala “spiritual being”. Vedānta rejects the view that human brain is an appendage of genital gland and Philosophy teaches us to be happy intelligently.’[7]

8.0 Commentaries on Śiva Gītā.

The importance of Śiva Gītā can be guessed from the fact that Jagadguru Paramaśivendra Sarasvatī, the great 57th Pontiff of Kāñci Kāmakoṭipīṭham, from 1539-1586, wrote an exhaustive commentary on it and interestingly enough so too Abhinava Nṛsiṃha Bhārati Sannidhānam, the 24th Pontiff of Śṛṅgeri Pīṭham during 1599 -1622. Commentaries from two stalwarts in the course of a century speak volumes about the great importance attached to this work. Śiva Gītā in its sixteen chapters with a total of 768 verses gives prime importance to advaita metaphysics and also explains various modes of Upāsanā and Bhakti.

9.0 Śiva Gītā and Holy Ashes.

In the initial chapters Sage Agastya arrives, who becomes instrumental for Rāma to have Lord Śiva’s benign appearance and advice, and teaches Rāma the importance of vairāgya, treated separately in chapter IX and Virāja Dīkṣā also called Pāśupata vow. The Pāśupata vow is a sacrament of fire and ashes. When the doomsday fire breaks out of Śiva’s third eye, all creation is destroyed. Similarly, everything creaturely is destroyed in those who take upon themselves the Pāśupata-vow. It rests on the knowledge that existence is a relation of consumer and consumed. Fire is the consumer and Soma, the essence of life, is the stuff to be consumed. Ashes are the very potency of Śiva. Whatever has become ash has become sacred. By daubing the body with ashes and having controlled the anger and senses, all sins are destroyed and there will be no more rebirths.”[8]

10.0 Embryo development discussed in Śiva Gītā

Śiva Gītā provides a full chapter on Piṇḍotpatti kathana, a veritable treasure on the evolution of human being right from conception to various stages in life culminating in final beatitude or liberation. This treatise is quite unique, in contrast to Bhagavad Gītā and it is discussed in chapter verse comparing and contrasting it with the great Garbhopaniṣad, appearing in Atharva Veda. The graphic picture on embryonic development presented in the text is in conformity with modem medicinal advances.

11.0 Śiva Gītā—a forerunner of Bhagavad Gītā

An avid reader of Śiva Gītā is likely to project that the great teachings Śrī Rāma, an avatāra of Viṣṇu received from Lord Śiva, ie. from a Primary Godhead to a Pūrṇāvatāra; has been suitably modified Abhijñāna Śākuntala Bhagavad Gītā in another yuga by Viṣṇu in in his subsequent avatāra Abhijñāna Śākuntala Śrī Kṛṣṇa for enlightening the mankind for redeeming itself, through Arjuna.

12.0 Comparison with Aṣṭāvakra Gītā

Śiva Gītā has more in common with Aṣṭāvakra Gītā than Bhagavad Gītā in its philosophical content and appeal to final beautitude. ‘The major difference between Aṣṭāvakra Gītā, the Upaniṣads and the Bhagavad Gītā can be summarized. First Aṣṭāvakra stresses that the highest metaphysical reality is Ātman or self rather than Brahman, the Puruṣa or God. He also emphatically discards any polarity and contradiction between empirical self or Ātman governed by the guṇas and the Transcendent Self, often called Puruṣa or Brahman by the Upaniṣads and Paramātma by Bhagavad Gītā and Mahābhārata. This Aṣṭāvakra is the exponent of radical Ātmādvaita Vedānta’.[9]

12.1 ‘Ethically and philosophically, the Aṣṭāvakra Gītā and Bhagavad Gītā are poles asunder. The former presents an all sufficient ontology grounded in the cosmic mysticism of the self. The latter achieves a profound system of ontology, religion and ethics. The teaching about non -attachment is the same in two Gītās. But unlike the Bhagavad Gītā , Aṣṭāvakra Gītā altogether denies the efficacy of actions; for the self is neither doer nor enjoyer and is ever free and unstained. Aṣṭāvakra takes into cognizance only action resulting from the consequence of actions in previous births”.[10]

12.2 ‘The Bhagavad Gītā ’s grand reconciliation between Jñānayoga and Karma yoga through dedication of all goals and activities of life to the divine and through the assimilation of activity into Samādhi in the highest wisdom or Brahmatva does not interest Aṣṭāvakra. He is too absorbed in the absolute aloneness or impersonality of the non-dual self.[11]

12.3. Śiva Gītā in its exposition bridges the gap and advocates a coalesced Bhakti-advaitic syndrome. Rāmakṛṣṇa Paramahaṃsa clearly brings out the relation between jñāna and bhakti. He compares the former to a terrace and the latter to a staircase. Both are made of same materials. The terrace is the Absolute realized in samādhi, in which the self and the world are blotted out. The staircase is the world of names and forms -the manifestation of the Absolute to the human sense. One goes up and down, sometimes resting on the terrace, and sometimes on the steps of the staircase.

13.0 Samādhi Bhāṣā.

Just like Śiva Gītā, Uddhava Gītā too is disciple oriented with simplicity being its hallmark. Very much importance is stressed on the disciple’s background and capacity to follow the teachings unlike Bhagavad Gītā which adopts a very pedagogic style. Uddhava Gītā forms the major part of the Jñānaskaṇḍa of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Vallabhācārya, the founder of ‘Śuddhādvaita’ philosophy has given the name Samādhi Bhāṣa[12] (the language of the state of Super Consciousness) to Bhāgavatam. Profound meanings will be revealed if one meditates on each śloka.

13.1 It almost starts with the episode of the naked monk (Avadhūta) and his twenty four Gums. The story is symbolic. The one who could make the entire existence -a worm, a bee, an elephant, a bird, a serpent and even a prostitute Abhijñāna Śākuntala one’s Guru, required no other formal Guru. A Guru is a small window into the infinite. If one can learn from the river and the mountain, sun and the moon, the flora and fauna, the infinite itself would become his Guru[13].

13.2 Uddhava Gītā has not left untouched any important factor contributing to our progress in spirituality—e.g. Satsaṅga or holy company, Yoga, Jñāna, scientific analysis of bondage, mukti and sufferings or miseries, bhakti etc. The special feature is the short cuts in Sādhanā delineated by the compassionate Lord when Uddhava pointed out the difficulty in controlling the mind which was the main part of the sādhanā in the various types of paths.[14]

13.3 Abhijñāna Śākuntala the title Uddhava Gītā suggests, Lord Kṛṣṇa speaks from the level of the disciple in a language comprehensible to the seekers while, in Bhagavad Gītā, the Lord has talked from his supreme height. The main difference is that the Bhagavad Gītā (sung by Bhagavān) has been so titled Abhijñāna Śākuntala to emphasize that the author is Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa and the subject matter of the Gītā is also Bhagavān.[15]

13.4Śiva Gita and Uddhava Gītā have much in similarity in explaining esoteric messages with graphic anecdotes intelligible to an ordinary seeker.

14.0 Śiva Gītā—a Yoga Śāstra.

‘Both Bhagavad Gītā and Śiva Gītā are called Yoga Sāstras chiefly because its preponderant note is a synthesis of all ways of spiritual life, with their shifting emphasis laid alternatively on true insights (Jñāna), genuine devotion (Bhakti) and dedicated service (Karma), through all legitimate types of compromises.’[16]

15.0 Upaniṣadic teaching simplified.

“All the noble lessons that the Upaniṣads teach—eg. the identity of Self with the Supreme, the unreality of the world and so on -are treated of in this book in such a simple and lucid style of narration that an unlettered man having only little knowledge of Sanskrit could acquire in a very short space of time the knowledge which is attainable by erudite scholars with their ardent vision and practices acquired through diligent, methodical and systematic study. The mode of treatment adopted in this work is done in such a consummate manner Abhijñāna Śākuntala to convert even a sceptic into a God believing person accepting the scriptural authority and sincere in performing duties Abhijñāna Śākuntala ordained by Dhārmic codes.”[17]

15.1 It is befitting to recall the following verse relating to study of Śiva Gītā[18].

vedamārgamimaṃ muktvā mārgamanyaṃ samāśritaḥ |
hastasthaṃ pāyasaṃ tyaktvā lihetkūrparamātmanaḥ ||

15.2 Over and above the advaitic philosophy Lord Śiva instructs Rāma elaborately on the nature of the body, the vital airs, mind and intellect, the soul, the witness self, the world, self-less devotion to and meditation on Śiva Abhijñāna Śākuntala a means of Release.

16.0 Śiva defined


vyāsaḥ sākṣācchivajñānī śivasyaiva prasādataḥ |
tatprasādādahaṃ sākṣācchivajñānī na saṃśayaḥ || [19]

Vyāsa has become realiser of Śiva by Śiva’s blessings and by His blessings doubtless I too will transform to be realisor of Śiva.

16.2 “syāti pāpāniti śivaḥ[20]—Śiva alone cuts asunder all sins.

16.3 The word Śiva is supposed to have been derived irregularly from the root Vāś kāntān.[21] This would mean that Śiva always fulfils the desires of his devotees and all the more he is āśutoṣī: pleased with express speed.

17.0 Greatness of Śiva

17.1 On many aspects Śiva Gītā over shadows Bhagavad Gītā , with graphic description and in this sense they can be complimentary and supplementary. Śiva Gītā is really a work of synthesis.

17.2 Śiva Gītā is absolutely non-sectarian and clearly asserts that Śiva and Viṣṇu are one and the same.[22]

17.3 Also Abhijñāna Śākuntala Veda Vyāsa says

ye namasyanti govindaṃ te namasyanti śaṃkaram |
ye'rcayanti hariṃ bhaktyā te'rcayanti vṛṣadhvajam ||
ye dviṣanti virūpākṣaṃ te dviṣanti janārdanam |
ye rudraṃ nābhijānanti te na jānanti keśavam || [23]

17.4 All these vouch for Śiva—Viṣṇu harmony and what has occurred in later history creating rift is only perversion which has no scriptural sanction.

18.0 Instructions of Śiva Gītā

Śiva Gītā follows the ārṣa lores and instructs that “though intelligent, one should behave like a playful child. Even though he may be an expert, he should conduct himself like a moron. Though a scholar, he should babble like a mad man. Though well-versed in the mores, he should live like a cow, unconventional and uncivilized like eating directly from the plate. He should never get involved himself in arguments including on spiritual topics. He should never give the least offence to anybody else nor take offence from anybody. He should remain unconcerned whether he gets food and shelter or not and be satisfied with whatever comes to him of its own accord. A person whose dispassion has just been aroused and has practised self-control should approach a proper Guru and serve him Abhijñāna Śākuntala God himself, till he gets the knowledge of Brahman.”[24]

19.0 Nourishment from Upaniṣads

Śiva Gītā gets very much nourishment from various Upaniṣads like Kaivalya Upaniṣad, Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, Bṛhad Jābālopaniṣad, Rudrākṣa Jābālopaniṣad, Bhasma Jābālopaniṣad; Śiva Gītā also gets good feed from Kaṭhopaniṣad in portraying Ratha Kalpanā. On the whole we can assert that Śiva Gītā gives the juice of great Upaniṣadic thoughts in a very succinct and pleasing manner with no frills attached, in the form of a dialogue, easily comprehensible and adaptable. It can be considered Abhijñāna Śākuntala the vade mecum of a philosophy which combines Knowledge and Bhakti.

The prominence of Śiva is asserted at every step and concluded that prayer to any deity is ultimately, prayer to Śiva only.

yetvanyadevatābhaktā yajaṃte śraddhayānvitāḥ |
te'pi māmeva rājendra yajantyavidhipūrvakam || Śiva Gītā XII-3

Those devotees who worship with faith the gods other than Me, they too worship only Me without following the conventional rules, O the king of kings.

Footnotes and references:


Vide—The Student’s Sanskrit-English Dictionary by Vamana Shivram Apte.


Vide Śrīśivagītātātparyaprakāśikā -Introduction-p-VI

From Mahābhārata—i, Utathya Gītā; ii, Vāmadeva Gītā; iii, Ṛṣabha Gītā; iv, Ṣaḍaja Gītā; verse , Sampaka Gītā; vi, Māṅki Gītā; vii, Bodhya Gītā; viii, Vicaknu Gītā; ix, Harita Gītā; x, Vṛtra Gītā; xi, Parāśara Gītā; xii, Haṃsa Gītā; xiii, Brāhma Gītā; xiv, Anu Gītā; xv, Brāhmaṇa Gītā and xvi, Prapanna Gītā

From Purāṇas—i, Kapila Gītā; ii, Haṃsa Gītā; iii, Bhikṣu Gītā; iv, Devī Gītā; verse , Gaṇeśa Gītā; vi, Brahma Gītā; vii, Sūta Gītā; viii, Yama Gītā; ix, Śiva Gītā; x, Rāma Gītā; xi, Sūrya Gītā xii, Vāsiṣṭa Gītā


Vide—Ācārya Śaṅkara by Svāmi Mukyānanda p-65


Vide—Lord Śiva and his worship -p-50


Vide—Luminous Eye-p-2-chapter 1-Luminous Insight


Vide—Vedānta Way to Peace and Happiness—chapter Paths to the Goal-p-23-24


In the same place —p-42


Vide—The Presence of Śiva-p-334




Ibid p-16


Ibid p-17


Vide—A Quintessence of Uddhava Gītā-p-4




Ibid p-22


Ibid P-4


Vide Compromises in the History of Advaitic thought—p-14


Vide Translated forward to Sūta Saṃhita by R. Chandrasekhara Sastrigal


Vide Brahma Gītā verse -II-14


Vide—Yagnavaibhavakhaṇḍam—Sūta Saṃhitā 11-83


Vide. Śiva Liṅga by N.K. Singh p-72


Ibid p-72


Vide Tejobindu Upaniṣad —chap VII-verse -64


Vide Rudrahṛdayopaniṣad —verse -5 and 6


Vide—Quintessence of Uddhava Gītā—p-34

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