Appendix (Part 13)

This article is part 138 of 138 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga
  • We said in (5) that time is when existence is comprehended. Comprehension is the characteristic of the ātmā. That itself is ‘cit’ or ‘cicchakti’. Existence is also similarly a characteristic of ātmā. That is ‘sat’ or ‘sattā’ (sattva). Therefore we can say this: if cit is associated with sat, there is a sense of time. However, when have sat and cit ever been separated from each other? Never. Therefore, time is without any beginning and end, like the ātmā itself.
  • When time is applied to physical objects and activities, it is referred to as ‘space’ or ‘place’. Space is nothing other than the perceivable locus of imperceptible time. There is no space without time. Similarly, we can say that there is no time without space. To perceive time in our minds, shouldn’t there be a perceptible object or activity? For either an object or an activity to exist, there should be a physical area. Among the five primordial elements, it is said that ākāśa and vāyu are formless, without a body. We cannot see ākāśa, though it is all-pervading. Similarly, time is invisible, but present between objects with form, in every nook and corner. Thus, time that is immeasurable in any other way is perceived between objects that are measurable. Thus, space that has form becomes a locus for formless time. Thus, space and time are always together.
  • Sat and cit are the characteristics of Parabrahma. Ānanda is also similar. Unlimited and unfathomable are the strength and capability in the Brahman-consciousness. When Brahma employs its infinite and wondrous energy in its blissful līlā (pastime) to create the universe, the hitherto hidden space and time become manifested. Isn’t the universe said to be just an activity of name and form? Similarly, we can say that the universe is a product of the association of space and time -- of existence and knowledge. From the perspective of a jīva, space and time are limited, and are measurable; they can be divided and have already been divided. From the point of view of Brahma, they are limitless, immeasurable, undivided, and indivisible.
  • In summary, time is a part of the universe — an aspect of our experience of the universe. Time, a part of the universe, is related to Brahma in exactly the same way the universe is related to Brahma.
  • The above explanation is endorsed by the Śruti. In the Aruṇapraśna of the Taittirīyāraṇyaka, the process of the understanding of time as experienced by a man is described thus :

sūryo marīcim-ādhatte sarvasmāt-bhuvanādadhi ।
tasyāḥ pāka-viśeṣeṇa । smṛtaṃ kāla-viśeṣaṇam ।
nadīva prabhavāt-kācit । akṣayyāt syandate yathā ।
tāṃ nadyo’bhisamāyanti । sorussatī na nivartate ।
evaṃ nānā samutthānāḥ । kālās-saṃvatsaragṃ śritāḥ ।
aṇuśaśca mahaśaś-ca । sarve samavayantri tam ॥
“The Sun bestows his boon upon the world by spreading his rays out across it. Because of those rays, (plants, trees and all living beings, through germinating and growing) ripen. (Because of the change in the activity of the Sun), we learn about the special forms of time. A river flows out gurgling from an obscure perennial fount, becomes bigger as other rivers join it, and itself becomes a perennial flow that never dries up. Similarly, small and big chunks of time join together (as moments, days and months in different circumstances) and come together in a  saṃvatsara (a year) - a well known measurement of time.

Thus, the strategy of the Vedas is to pave the way from the familiar world to the unfamiliar beyond.

Musicality of the Gītā

The main impact of studying the Bhagavadgītā on the mind is that it attains peace and composure — it acquires courage, confidence, and tranquility due to deep belief. This is the rasa of peace or śānti-rasa.

Kāvya is literature by which rasa, a desirable sentiment, is experienced within the heart. Even if the topic is a difficult śāstra, it is a kāvya to the extent in which rasa is present. We have said earlier that the Bhagavadgītā is a śāstra-kāvya.
Rasa is the causal substance for pleasurable experiences. The taste and aroma of mango are its rasa. The scent of jasmine, the color of a rose are their rasa. The tenderness of the pongamia sprout is its rasa. When we see the variety of charm in these lovely and charming objects, we feel our hearts moist with tender feeling — we can experience a certain melting flow within ourselves. That is rasa.

Our ancients have categorized rasas into eight. These are Śṛṅgāra (amorous), vīra (courage), karuṇa (pathos), adbhuta (wonder), hāsya (humour), bhayānaka (fear), bībhatsa (disgust), raudra (anger). They all impact the mind and agitate it.
The rasa called śānti does not agitate the mind. It is indeed proper that the śānti-rasa is called an adhi-rasa — something that is beyond rasa. Śānti is pure, constant bliss without troubles and conflicts, worries or fear. Such changeless pleasure itself is ānanda. Śānti is the ultimate characteristic of ānanda. When there is śānti, there is not even an inkling of desire or disgust. This happy state of satisfaction is attained when all doubts and ambiguities are rooted out :

bhidyate hṛdaya-granthiḥ chidyante sarva-saṃśayaāḥ ।
kṣīyante cāsya karmāṇi tasmin dṛṣṭe parāvare ॥

-Muṇḍaka 3.2.9

The most important fruit of the the Bhagavadgītā, a veritable kalpavṛkṣa (the wish-fulfilling tree), is such an impact on the heart. The main rasa in this work is śānti-rasa. The karuṇa of Arjuna and adbhuta of the viśvarūpa-darśana are subordinate rasas that supplement the main rasa.

Having thus seen that the work is endowed with rasa, there is no doubt that it is musical, because adherence to a meter and the ability to be tuned in musical rāgas are natural vehicles for rasa. When both come together, a geya-kāvya is born.

That is gīta or song.

The playground of rasa is the heart, where the manas and buddhi harmonise together. Therefore, instructive literature is required to stimulate the buddhi whereas emotional content in literature is required to stimulate the manas. Music is required to embellish emotions. Upadeśa, rasa and the ability to be set to music — these three come together in the Bhagavadgītā. This is a special type of prabandha. There is no other prabandha except the Veda that can be compared to it.

In his poem “Bhaja Govindam”, Śaṅkarācārya says —

geyaṃ gītā ।

If so, in what rāgas[1] should the Bhagavadgītā be sung? In what styles? Should it be sung like Tyāgarāja’s kīrtanas? Or like Purandaradāsa’s devaranāmas? Or like Kṣetrajña’s padas? Or Tālavādhīśa’s cāvaḍis? Like Hindustani khayals? Should we add svaras and sangatis[2] to it? Should it be in tiśra-gati or chaturaśra-gati? All these questions will then arise! This author had not thought even of a possibility of such questions till very recently. A while ago, a distinguished gentleman sang a few verses from the Bhagavadgītā in peculiar and whimsical ragas. In that singing, there was quite a bit of rāgālāpana[3], swaying of notes and other musical ornamentation that the meaning of the verses got drowned in the music. Since I did not like listening to it, I feel like putting out some words of caution here.

Singing the Gītā should not become concert-singing. It should be sombre and reverential like the singing of the Vedas. Ornamentation and musical improvisation do not belong there.

Even the recitation of the Vedas is called gāna. That is also a song. One of the vedāṅgas, śikṣā, is all about the method of reciting the Vedas. Even though the Veda is a song, it is not improvised singing. There is no scope for the performer’s independent imagination here. The scheme of udātta, anudātta and svarita has been established by the maharṣis of yore. Whoever recites the Vedas should recite it in the same way. There, everyone follows tradition. No one should ever change a letter or a svara in the recitation of Veda. New tunes are not allowed. It should be repeated as it has been heard for time immemorial. The summary of this constraint is the following. If the words, letters, and svaras are pronounced in a certain way, there is a correspondingly unique effect on the listener’s mind through his ears. The goals of reciting the Vedas are to ennoble the mind, purity and bestow profundity. To preserve this, there should be a single way of reciting the Vedas.

The same principle holds for the singing of the Bhagavadgītā also. The tune should not be a sensuously pleasurable tune like those seen in dramas. It should be a noble ghanarāga[4]. Not only that, the presentation should not have much ornamentation or elaboration. The rāga and presentation should be favourable for śānti-rasa.

A large proportion of Veda mantras is in the anuṣṭup chandas (metre). A large part of the Bhagavadgītā too is in the same chandas. Our ancients recited the Gītā in the same way as they recited the Vedas. That is indeed proper. The beauty of rāga is proper where applicable. The coquetry and glamour of a beautiful belle is not proper in the pūjā-room where we are trying to contemplate upon and invoke the divine. Our infatuation for rāga should not distract our minds from the meaning of the Gītā’s expressions to some other thing. The rāgas should be employed minimally in a way that does not perturb the mind. If the method of singing is fixed, the mind gets used to it after listening to it multiple times. Subsequently, anything that is sung in the same manner immediately elevates the mind and calms it.

To be continued...

The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.

Footnotes

[1]Melodies

[2]Sangati is musical embellishment where the same line is sung in different ways.

[3]Bring forth the beauty of a raga without the constraints of words or beats.

[4]Ragas that lend themselves to exposition in the madhya-laya.

Author(s)

About:

Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.

Translator(s)

About:

Engineer. Lapsed blogger. Abiding interest in Sanskrit, religion, and philosophy. A wannabe jack-of-all.

About:

Mother of two. Engineer. Worshiper of Indian music, poetry, and art.

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Vanitakavitotsavah

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Vaiphalyaphalam

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Nipunapraghunakam

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Bharavatarastavah

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Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...

Bharatilochana

ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...