Although Bhagavad-Gita has always acquired the titles such as “The divine Song of God” or “The word of God” etc, but still a common man cannot visualize the changes and the influences of such changes which has been occurred and preached since the origin of Gita throughout the decades. History and literature reveal no particular date or incident of composition of Gita, what we learn from the ancient scholars’ literature is the assumed date 150 B.C. Bhagavad-Gita is close to the Vedic religion, in fact it is considered to be based upon the Vedas or ancient yoga. Such yoga revolves around the notion of ‘spirituality’ and teaches self discipline.
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Based upon the Sanskrit text, Gita has been translated into umpteen languages following many versions. With more than 2,000 versions of the Bhagavad-Gita published since 1785, the first European edition was printed in London. The compiler of an international bibliography of the Bhagavad-Gita, Jagdish Chander Kapoor, writes that he collected 6,000 citations, out of which he selected 2,795 entries in 50 different languages (Sinha, 1987, p. 61).
From the original Bhagavad-Gita to the present, one can easily see the alterations that have taken place throughout the passage of time. Even the minute of the changes occurred in Hindu society are based upon the debate which has taken place as a consequence of the change in Bhagavad-Gita. All the present Hindu conflicts and believes are based upon the doctrine, monotheism or polytheism.
It was a surreptitious plot to dismantle the whole intellectual edifice of Indian culture which had been built up over a thousand years. The changers not only stopped the tide of rationalism in Indian life but also seduced people into believing and accepting the false as genuine, alien as indigenous, religious as political, and mystical as rational (Sinha, 1987, p. 105). The consequences of this change on the Indian society and culture are manifested from the present-day morals of Hindus, who believe in the polytheism of God. This is in fact the most prominent change in Gita’s doctrine, theism or monism.
Hinduism when seen from the eyes of Gita, as perceived by Gita’s followers offers full potential to understand and explore through its myths and legends. The best example is that of the mythological stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata with the purpose to combat evil and promote goodness. Scholars often say that Gita is all about Gods incarnation in many forms. Gita tells us that God is but in different faces and shapes. Similarly, what people perceive is that the existence of God supports different purposes.
So, what Hindus believe is the God’s declaration whenever the forces of evil exceed goodness and virtue and wherever evil overcomes virtues; God manifests Himself (Balasubramanian, 2001). The main point is myths are what perceived from the people, not from Gita. Therefore, it has arrived from myths and ancient stories that support the notion of polytheism.
In chapter 1, section 1, topic 7 it is told that God is inside everybody but God is different (Badarayan, Verse 20-21). Chapter 1, Section II, Topic 4, the one inside i.e. God is logical in everybody and not physical in anyone (Badarayan, verse 13). That means God does not exist physically. According to chapter 1 section II topic 1 verse 8, if it negated that God is subjected to the physical or emotional experience as a result of unity, we say so, for there exists a difference (Badarayan, verse 13). That clearly indicates that God is different from His creation.
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The notion that Gita contains a polytheistic reading is what today scholars say. According to Merchant (2001), “In Hinduism, all gods and goddesses are representations of Divinity in the many qualities of consciousness in the manifest world. The Divine is One, the Infinite, Immortal, Eternal, The One Without a Second, but the names and forms of the Divine are many and diverse in the phenomenal world. They embody in the finite the imprint of the Infinite Spirit in the three hundred and thirty billion thousand of gods and goddesses which reveal the essence of Divinity in unique form” (Merchant, 2001). This is what Hindu writers and scholars say.
On the other hand, the original Bhagavad-Gita from the Hindu scriptures says “Those people whose intelligence is robbed by the material desires surrender them to demigods, thereby following the particular rules and regulations of worship that satisfy their own natures (Bhagavad-Gita, 7:20) That simply elucidates the doctrine that there are two categories of worshippers, those who worship the true God and those who worship other that the true God. From a different perspective, Bhagavad-Gita can be interpreted through the eyes of Upanishads (sacred scriptures by Hindus).
Consider this: “Ekam evadvitiyam”. Translation: “He is One only without a second.” (Chandogya Upanishad 6:2:1) Further, according to Upanishads: “Na casya kascij janita na cadhipah.” Translation: “Of Him there are neither parents nor lord.” (Svetasvatara Upanishad 6:9) He who knows Me as the unborn, as the beginning-less, as the Supreme Lord of all the worlds…” (Bhagavad-Gita 10:3) Brahma Sutra of Hinduism clearly states: “Ekam Brahm, dvitiya naste neh na naste kinchan”. Translation: “There is only one God, not the second; not at all, not at all, not in the least bit”. (Badarayan, 192:555)
Literature reveals that when the original Gita was altered, the interpolators also made changes in many other works of that time to establish textual support in their favor. It was for this reason that the interpolations were made in the Rig Veda, the Epics, Samkhya Karika, and Yoga Sutra.
Historical evidence suggests that Brahmans were the ones responsible for changing the original Gita and creating castes within the Hindu system. The new Brahmanic faith was organized at four different centres (mathas) during the time of Shankaracharya. These teachers received increasing political protection and patronage. At the same time, the national opponents of the new faith were forced into silence. In such an atmosphere, the people had to accept the doctrines of the new faith even when they did not agree with them.
This enforced obedience of the Indian people towards the newly coined doctrines and codes of behaviour which, though beneficial to the Brahmans as a caste, were disastrous to India as a nation, as a political entity, and as a culture. The repercussions of these changes have been embedded deep into the Hindu society and can be easily categorized under subheadings of political submissiveness; philosophical distortions; mystification of Yoga; and religious and cultural effects.
Sinha (1987) writes: “While reading the Bhagavad-Gita, I became disheartened and confused for the distortion I felt by its religious and mystical colouring in the Bhagavad-Gita. The reason for being confused was the countless contradictory assertions in the Bhagavad-Gita. At times, I wondered whether Indians had ever had the ability to think coherently! Thinking that I might be wrong in my understanding of the meaning or the content, I read it quite carefully again and again” (Sinha, 1987, p. 119).
It was during this phase of the critical reading of the Bhagavad-Gita that Sinha came to the conclusion that there was a separate Gita prior to this Bhagavad-Gita, which is called the ‘original Gita’. This is also evident from the fact that original Gita began with verse 28 (Ch. I) of the present Bhagavad-Gita. The text of the original Gita is intact within the first three chapters of the extant Bhagavad-Gita and fifteen new chapters were added to the original Gita when it was altered.
Twenty-seven verses were appended before verse 28 and numerous verses were inserted among the verses of the first three chapters to create a supportive link for the vast interpolations. The last but not the least that proves the alteration of Gita is the fact that original Gita was altered during the time of Brahminic revivalism around 800 A.D. to propagate the doctrine of nondualism (advaita) and Vedanta (the end of the Vedas) (Sinha, 1987, p. 12).
P.S. Quotes from the sacred texts could not be further changed, therefore please do not consider them plagiarized as proper citations are given.
Badarayan (Vyasa) Brahma Sutra, 192:555. Translated by Swami Gambhirananda: Advaita Ashram, Kolkatta.
Balasubramanian Radha, (2001). “Reading Bulgakov’s the Master and Margarita from the Perspective of Hinduism” In: International Fiction Review.
Bhagavad-Gita multimedia book: translated in English. International Sanskrit Research Academy Chandogya Upanishad 6:2:1. The Principal Upanishad by S. Radhakrishnan page 447 and 448.
Sacred Books of the East, volume 1 ‘The Upanishads part I’ page 93.
Merchant V. Vasant, (2001) “The One and the Many: Unity in Diversity” In: International Journal of Humanities and Peace. Volume: 17. Issue: 1 p: 109+.
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Sinha Phulgenda, (1987) The Gita as It Was: Rediscovering the Original Bhagavadgita: Open Court: La Salle, IL.
Svetasvatara Upanishad 6:9. The Principal Upanishad by S. Radhakrishnan page 745.
Sacred Books of the East, volume 15, ‘The Upanishads part II’ page 263..