Shocking: The Gita is NOT What We Thought It Was

Why is it that India, having such vast resources of land and intelligence, still sinks into poverty and lack of education? I must do something to help it! –

Imagine saying that out loud?

Author Phulgenda Sinha did, and he is not just affecting those people of Indian nationality that may be reading his book, he is affecting ME.

Sinha assumes that a people come to be and act in a way that is in accordance to the brightest thinkers of its time and radius of influence.  And of those India has had a few.  For example in Kapila (author/compiler of the Samkhya philosophy), Patanjali (compiler of the Yoga Sutras) and Vyasa (the writer of the Gita).

The brightest people define the thinking mechanism and the people follow.  The most influential book in India is, the Gita.  But what if the Gita was not what we thought it was?

In his search for truth, the author does an extraordinary work at weaving the thoughts of these influential thinkers (and others like Buddha, and Mahavira).

He notes how because of their particular circumstances,  they were truly free-thinkers,  how their philosophies were conceived without any restriction by religious inclinations and in their more pure and rational form while pursuing the biggest quest of all.

Kapila, the mind behind Samkhya

What is the biggest quest of all? That of coming out of suffering and being happy, of course, The eternal golden grail we all want, but in a rational way, in a thoughtful yet free of touchy-feel connotations, in a real way.

We hear how in the system of Kapila (Samkhya) God played no part. And in the system of Patanjali, well, perhaps you heard all the controversy around the sutras that include isvara (God), well, the book refutes it:

It should be noted that the concept of God entered into Indian literature at the time of the revival of Bahmanism around 800 A.D. In our present study it has been shown that from the earliest time to the time of Patanjali, there is no mention of isvara as god in any Indian Literature. How then could Ptanjali talk of isvara, when the concept was unknown? [my bold]

Patanjali, compiler of the Yoga Sutras

Something Missing

The Gita, you see, was brought forth (following the book recollection) by a sage called Vyasa, who thought that it was all nice and good with Samkhya and its encouragement that we should seek right knowledge, and it was all nice and good with Patanjali who added a healthy body and mind to the mix, but he believed that there was still something missing.

What was missing was that in every day life sometimes we come across situations that are very difficult to resolve. The type where we are doomed if we do and doomed if we don’t.  What then?

He then set a stage in a Kingdom of North India where two cousins who had been brought up as brothers came into conflict with each other. Due to jealousy, one of the cousins was deprived of its land (for him and his people) after being promised such a thing if we went on exile for 11 years. Which he did. He then came back. And no land. So there was no way out, battle had to ensue.

What Krishna told Arjuna before the battle
 has been manipulated by lobbyist interests
since the year 800

Krishna, as you know, sides with the conflicted Arjuna who is confronted with the very ugly reality of having to kill those he grew up with, and the Gita starts.

But it is a VERY different Gita when the verses we read relate only to Samkhya and The Yoga Sutras. For starters it only has 86 verses which can be found within only the first three chapters.

It becomes very clear what verses are real Gita and which ones are not.  Because those that do not relate at all to Samkhya or Patanjali’s (like “Chapter VII… talks about God, faith, Maya (illusion), Brahman and spirituality…“)  are, well, ‘added’.

He provides an impressive list of verses that have been “interpolated”, meaning adding verses that are not so far off as to not seem authentic, yet with the intent to control the thinking and lead it towards a particular point of view, example:

“Chapter IV is entitled …Yoga of Knowledge Action, and Renunciation. The title suggests that one can expect to find some philosophical deliberations, but there is not a single verse which … containing any rational or philosophical thought. The whole chapter is concerned with the idea of incarnation, maya (illusion)… fourfold caste system, yajna (sacrifices), sin, faith…”

How did the caste system or the idea of sacrifices (related to Vedic ceremonies) come into play through Samkhya and Patanjali?  There is no mention of either in them.

What Went Wrong

India has a caste system, four of them.  I met a woman in my last trip to Mysore that belonged to the lowest of them. She did not know how old she was, she never looked me in the eye or accepted my thanks. She came, cleaned the floor and went back to her two sons and the depth of her poverty.

Brahmans in their quest for domination and maintaining their cast superiority added verses to the Gita to introduce Vedantic notes. According to the book this happened around the year 800 and on.

The only religious connotation in any of the major yoga philosophies, according to the book, was added then by a power struggle from the caste that rules India, the first, that of the Brahmins.  It was done to maintain the lower castes in their own status quo, without letting them raise.  You just continue doing what you do and leave all fruits to God, never question, lower your head, keep going.

This is how the author describes the national thought pattern of India today (book was first published in 1986):

  1. Work without caring for the results
  2. Act, but do not look for the fruits of action
  3. Desires cause sorrow therefore do not have them
  4. You only get what fate dictates
  5. Material wealth is inferior, spiritual life is superior
  6. You should strive to achieve unity with God for a happy life, to go to heaven and not be reincarnated
  7. Man is predestined and cannot do anything unless it is willed by God
  8. Sorrow, pain and misery can be removed only by God, not by human effort
The book provides a deep exploration at the issue of letting go of desires, and points out how desires are not bad, and actually striving for happiness IS part of the Samkhya philosophy and the Yoga Sutras, and even the Gita, when seen in the right light and read without modifications.  Action for the betterment of society must happen. But for the betterment, not just for action without having any say. In this light action does include looking towards a result, not being totally hopeless and reduced to whatever some external preconceived destiny dictates.  
Consider the last line of the Gita As It Was 
… Arjuna!, Mighty-armed, destroy this enemy which, like passion, is difficult to conquer
Which the author concludes means:

…Krishna advises Arjuna to fight the war and conquer the enemy who, like passion, is obscuring his knowledge and deceiving his wisdom” [my bold]
Just like the newest (post year 800) version of the Gita seems to do!

 —  Fascinating read.  Why does Amazon sell it for over one hundred and ninety dollars? I would not know. Good thing there are used copies available for fifteen!

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21 Responses to Shocking: The Gita is NOT What We Thought It Was

  1. Shanna December 22, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    This is not shocking at all. Anyone one who truly does research on the Bible will find that it was changed and altered to fit the political needs of those who put it together and possibly even those who wrote it. Doesn&#39;t surprise me that the Gita went through some stuff too.<br /><br />That is why it is important to live in the present moment and reconnect with the spirit within to live our

  2. Claudia December 22, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    Well, it was shocking to me… had no idea

  3. Musings on Meditation December 22, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    thanks fro the heads-up! my $15 copy is on its way.

  4. Nobel December 22, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    Very interesting, Claudia. Now I wonder how and and to what extent this traditional, non-Samkhya reading of the Gita influences the basic philosophy of Ashtanga practice, as taught by Guruji and Sharath; not to be disrespectful or anything, but they are, after all, Brahmins. Which makes me wonder if they may have interpreted the Gita and the practice in a certain way, perhaps without even being

  5. Grimmly December 22, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Exactly what i&#39;ve been thinking Noble, re the ideas of surrender and devotion.<br />I agree Claudia, it&#39;s like interweaving the little baby Jesus into Richard Dawkins&#39; The selfish gene ……kinda….. sort of ….Ok, not at all really but you know what I mean right?

  6. Claudia December 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    Musings on Meditation, cool, enjoy<br /><br />Nobel, Grimmly:<br /><br />I HAVE indeed been pondering, especially as I grabbed Yoga Mala again and when it came to the part of Bramacharia and how sex can be carried out in a Brahman way by a householder (by having sex only when the proper nostril is open, within the first 14 (or 16?) days after the period) etc… these do sound like very controling

  7. James Altucher December 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    Grimmly, do you mean how maybe the New Testament sort of &quot;evolved&quot; into how the later writers decided it should evolve (so they could remain in power) just like even the Pali Cannon evolved depending on who was doing the interpreting, who wanted to stay in power, etc. And even in Judaism, the writers of the Old Testament (probably during the time of Solomon) fashioned the history &quot;

  8. Grimmly December 22, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    I don&#39;t think I see the New testament evolving in quite that way, in the political sense, Nicaea perhaps but even then….<br /><br />Constantine embracing Christianity at &#39;just the right time&#39; possibly, and thus binding the eastern empire more closely together to confront the western, that might have some parallels with Simha suggesting the brahmin class embraced the puranas and

  9. Claudia December 22, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    I know you are not asking me , but following the chronology as explained in this research, the Gita came after so Patanjali would have had to recommend Samkhya.<br /><br />Should I make a t-shirt that says &quot;What Would Patanjali Do?&quot;

  10. Grimmly December 22, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

    Exactly : )

  11. tom December 23, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    Very timely post for me Claudia, thank you. I&#39;ve been getting into a pretty involved exploration of Patanjali with some of the folks I practice with, and am finding more and more that nearly all of the commentary on the sutras of Patanjali suffer from the same issues you mention with the Gita. Even Vyasa&#39;s reading seems flawed, though that gets complicated by how much of Vyasa&#39;s

  12. Claudia December 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    Tom, can you believe James and I were JUST talking about relating the conept of isvarah to the Tao? and then I read your message… coincidences!<br /><br />Now I am reading another book that Grimmly recommended a couple of months ago and which I had not been able to get to due to sickness (PRincenton 1950s) and it is interesting how this author thinks the Ishvara WAS there, but it has been

  13. tom December 23, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    Nice, I love those coincidences! I will be curious to hear what you think of the links…they are not without their own cultural bias but I do think they add a lot of perspective. Enjoy!!

  14. Frank Paske December 23, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    I have never been to India, but have studied the Gita a bit. And I came to a point I could see that parts of the Gita were added, but this seems to be a valid tradition in India we can see this in the Ramayana one of the longest poems in the world,and I&#39;m sure that the purpose was to uphold the ruleing class and I believe it&#39;s true with most scripture of the world.I was surprised to find

  15. Claudia December 24, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    Frank, I suppose that makes sense, if there is no prospect of change then why bother reading?

  16. Claudia December 30, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    Tom, thank you for the links, been reading and it has been an illuminating experience, wrote a post on it <br /><br /><br />:-)

  17. Scotty January 6, 2012 at 5:24 am #

    Bhagavad Geeta notes in Hindi <a href="; rel="nofollow"></a>.

  18. cheerscheers April 7, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    heyy…i am an 18 year old Indian….like i read a few of ur blogs and u r really doing a nobel thing Claudia!!!!<br />I&#39;ve never read Shri Bhagvad Gita(i do intend to) but i dn&#39;t think so it could be tempered bcoz there&#39;s not even a single day or time when any of the wisest Indian or anyone raised quetions on it!!!<br />and if it wud&#39;ve been tempered(or even if its news wud&#39;

  19. cheerscheerspart2(cheerscheers)lol April 7, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    or even it could be possible that these wise people Patanjali and all must&#39;ve thought that what they think could be a better thing for people&#39;s understanding and could&#39;ve been benefitted if written that way(not making much changes):):):):)<br /><br />P.S. i&#39;m thinking too much these days!!!lol<br /><br />Cheers!!!!

  20. Claudia April 7, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    I agree with you cheerscheers, the Gita is a fantastic tool for self realization. I suppose questioning and investigating does raise things like this once in a while, and in the end who knows? He is a scholar that worked on this project for most of his life, but then again, at the end of the day, I find that it is the practice that works for us and the text that works for us, or whatever helps

  21. Claudia August 22, 2013 at 4:36 am #

    Greetings from Mysuru,<br /><br />Interesting Topic, <br /><br />looking at India today, is looking at The Grand Canyon. How one sees layer and layers of sediments upon sediments all the way to the bottom and still going down. Only a cross section of India would be that much harder. It would be like logically grasping the concept of Brahman. But nevertheless a cross section worth doing to uncover