Continued from Anugita(Part 1 of 2)
Anugita is meant as a follow up of the Bhagavad-Gita. While the Bhagavad-Gita is a very well known text having a huge following, the appeal of the Anugita is confined to scholars. This might be because the Bhagavad-Gita enjoys several advantages that the Anugita does not have. Those broadly relate to the context, content and the style of narration.
The context and setting of the Bhagavad-Gita is very dramatic and highly charged. On the first day of the great battle while the two armies are positioned face- to- face ready to take on each other, Arjuna is seized by a moral dilemma and an extreme despondency. His inaction or retreat then would have brought horrendous consequences to the Pandavas and their
supporters .Krishna through his teaching, clears the doubts and delusions of Arjuna; instills in him the commitment to his duty ; and inspires him to fight on.
The Anugita, in contrast is set in a rather lackadaisical situation. The war is won, the kingdom is regained and the Panadavas are at last settling down to enjoy their new – found affluence and authority . As Arjuna is relaxing in his palace , he admits that whatever Krishna lectured to him on Kurukshetra has gone out of his mind. He therefore requests Krishna to repeat his instructions. Krishna obviously is displeased with his disciple; nonetheless agrees to impart instructions that are similar, though not identical to his earlier teaching. The atmosphere is rather laidback and not stimulating.
The treatment and extent of Bhagavad-Gita covers vast areas of knowledge, devotion and life. The spread of the Anugita, comparatively, is rather restricted.
As regards the style of narration, the language of Bhagavad-Gita is smooth and lucid with suggestive imagery, which Anugita does not have.
Bhagavad-Gita is presented as a teaching direct from the Lord of the universe. It is in the form of messages or instructions handed down by the divine authority. Krishna then reveals his most magnificent all encompassing” Universe- form”. Anugita in contrast follows the old Upanishad method of elucidation; where eminent men and women engage in discussion and analysis to explore the dimensions of a subject. There is no divine intervention here.
Both Bhagavad-Gita and Anugita stress the need to gain control over the senses and both uphold the virtues of detachment and renunciation. However, Anugita does not preach devotion to a god and his powers to grant salvation; but emphasizes on human initiative and endeavor in realizing ones true nature and working out ones salvation.
Perhaps because these three elements (images, context, devotion) were not so well represented in Anigita and its dramatization was not so impressive, must have affected its popularity.
Anugita. Nevertheless, contains valuable discussions, unique points of view; and has some beautiful and expressive passages. The fact that it lays emphasis on human enterprise and effort rather on divine help, to attain salvation, I believe, is one of its strengths.
Yajna (sacrifices), Tapasya (penance) and Yoga .
The text its own way discusses the merits of Yajna (sacrifices), Tapasya (penance ) and Yoga.
Anugita views yajna at different levels. It does not have high regard for sacrifice in its physical or ritualistic sense. It says the sacrifices at best lead to the short-lived pleasures of celestial abode (swarga) and are therefore not the right means for attaining the ultimate human aspiration, the liberation .
Anugita, on the other hand, lays greater emphasis on the esoteric meaning of the Yajna, the internal Yajna. The Anugita, like the Upanishadsmakes use of a metaphorical system or device of establishing identities (for example, the eye is the sacrificer, the seen object is the sacrificial oblation, the eyesight is the fire that burns the offering), It extends the metaphor by symbolizing the sacrificial fire as the soul within. Anugita explains that by restraining the senses and the mind; and by offering the objects of those senses and the mind as libations into the sacred fire of the Soul within the body, one performs the true Yajna. The internal yajna takes place in the subtle body. It says “This Yajna is going on daily in this body and it is going on everywhere in the world, outside and inside”.
The text also talks about penance; where one deprives himself of food; one takes refuge alone in a forest or a mountain, for years if needed, and so on. Anugita, however, places the inner disciples of detachment and renunciation at a higher plane than the physical austerities and torments. It asks the seeker:
“Expelling all impressions and restraining the self in the Self, he understands that holy Brahman, than which nothing greater exists. …One who is alike to all beings; who is without attachment; who is without expectations, and who looks alike on everything can reach this goal. I have now declared everything to you. Act thus forthwith; then you will acquire perfection .”
It is however, the Yoga that Anugita values most. Yoga is beyond asceticism and sacrifice; yet, it does not exclude them, For the Yogin starts from asceticism that aims at mastering body, mind; and then offers in sacrifice the elements and the organs of senses into the fire of the soul .that leads him on the way to attain perfection or final emancipation. Thus, Yoga not only directs asceticism and sacrifices towards a higher aims but also expands their horizons .Yoga helps bind them together and enhances their spiritual qualities.
Anugita deals with these aspects much better than Bhagavad-Gita does. It also describes well the progression from a stage to another stage.
“I will teach you the wonders of yoga:
He who goes through its doors perceives the universal soul that resides inside him…
Disciplined, always concentrated, keeping himself and his senses as well under control, he who reaches perfect meditation, sees by himself the universal soul…
Mastering meditation, he bends the very divinity of the gods to his will…
Let him think of the region he knows from a long time, then let his mind turn to the inside of the town he lives in, forgetting the outside.
Inside the town, let him concentrate his mind on the house he lives in, its outside and its inside.
Having mastered his house in his mind, let him meditate on the body he lives in, neglecting the outside.
Having mastered all his senses in this silent and lonely retreat, let him meditate on the inside of his body, dealing only with that.
Let him focus his mind on his teeth, his palate, his tongue, his throat, his neck, his heart, and even on his heart’s veins … »
(Anugita-XIV, 19, 14)
Anugita discusses in detail the scheme of the three Gunas-Satva (the very fact of being -goodness), Rajas (the dust- passion) and Tamas (the darkness). It drives home the point that Satva-guna that is associated with the values of, goodness kindness, light, purity and happiness, might be the noblest virtue; But, it cannot exist on its own. It needs the support of the lesser two gunas in order to exist and to survive.
The gunas cannot be explained altogether distinctly from one another. Rajas, Satva, and Tamas are mixed up with one another. They are attached to one another, serve one another, they feed on one another. They all depend on one another, and likewise follow one another. They act, unperceived, by turns in the several places in several ways. Everything in the world is made of these three gunas. The creation of the gunas is eternal.
As long as there is goodness so long, darkness exists. And, as long as goodness and darkness exist, so long the passion exists. They perform their journey together, in union, and moving about collectively.
The Anugita takes a holistic and a neutral approach to the existence. Whatever there is in the world all that is made of these three gunas.
“The light of the sun- it is the Virtue (Satva), its heat the desire (Rajas), its eclipses the darkness (Tamas): in such a way, the three tendencies spread in all the stars.”
“The nature of the day is triple, triple the one of the night …
The nature of the giving is triple, triple the one of the sacrifice, and triple the worlds, triple the gods, triple the sciences and the ways to emancipation. The past, the present, the future … the ascending, descending and upward breaths, all are provided with the three tendencies “
( XIV, 39, 18-20).
The three tendencies are in us and weave our life. To remove one of them is impossible. He, who strives to move towards perfection, has to be fully aware of this position, in order” to reach the opposite bank “,
(XIV, 49, 28).
Treatment and presentation
The treatment and presentation of a subject is as in Upanishads. For instance, the message that all things are not comparable and some are unique; is presented in the following manner :
The mind and speech went to Brahma the Creator, and asked him:
“Take a doubt away from us: Which one of us is the first? “
The Lord answers that the mind is the first, but they are surprised:
“When speech did not yet exist, how could the goddess of speech, Sarasvatî, express herself? “
Then, the Lord mentions that speech is born into the body and is mobile, while mindis immobile. Thus, both, mind and speech are not comparable.
There is another passage where Brahma resolves the dispute among the mind, the senses and the organs. They all desire to know which of them is the greatest. Brahma replies through a beautifully worded passage which, could very well apply to any pluralistic situation, even in the modern day.
You are all greatest, and not greatest.
You are all possessed of one another’s qualities.
All are the greatest in their own spheres,
and all support one another.
Being friendly with one another,
and pleasing one another, go away happily.
Welfare be to you! Support one another.
The following metaphor compares the movement of time to the movement of a chariot. It also weaves in the movement of life with its misfortunes, feelings and groans .It beautifully binds together in one metaphor, the circular movements of time and of the life and teach us that they are comparable.
The wheel of the time has for hub the intelligence,
for axle tree the mind and for
spokes the senses.
It has for metallic rim the five elements,
and for hoop the instants.
It rolls with old age and sorrows,
and makes its way through adversity and illness.
It goes all over time and space,
and has for squeaking tiredness and grief…
It has for axle the words with their stress,
it turns at mind’s speed
There are many other passages of merit in Anugita.
Anugita is an intelligent part of the Mahabharata. It is a very valuable text as it presents a unique perspective of the ancient Indian philosophical themes. It drives home point that goodness though a coveted virtue, cannot exist on its own; it needs the support of the two lesser gunas. Anugita takes a rational view that the best a person can do while still in the loop of the world is to maximize the Satva and to keep under check the Rajas and Tama gunas. Further, the interpretation it provides for the Yajna through the internal processes in the subtle body is truly marvelous . Bhagavad-Gita too does not treat the subject better. There is also an exploration about the ideas of creation based on Samkhya philosophy. It beautifully integrates the three disciplines of penance, sacrifice and yoga; and demonstrates how Yoga elevates the other two disciplines to a higher spiritual plane and how they find their fulfillment in Yoga, which spearheads towards self-realization. Anugita encourages humans to think, analyze and workout their salvation rather than depend on external help or hope for divine intervention.
Presently there only two acclaimed ancient commentaries on Anugita and two translations into English (both in 19th century) and a recent one into French by Guy Vincent in collaboration with Gilles Scharffenberger. No full-length studies or commentaries on Anugita appear to have been written. Anugita deserves serious study by more scholars and greater attention by the general readers.