“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)
सर्वस्य चाहं हृदि सन्निविष्टो
मत्तः स्मृतिर् ज्ञानम् अपोहनं च
वेदैश् च सर्वैर् अहम् एव वेद्यो
वेदान्त-कृद् वेद-विद् एव चाहम्
sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham
Friend1: Like many people, my entryway into Vedic culture was reading Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Friend2: Explain what that is.
Friend1: A translation and commentary on the Bhagavad-gita. The title of the book can translate to “Song of God” in English. It is a song in the Sanskrit language, with the original content preserved. The translation is there to help us understand, to make the wisdom contained within more accessible.
Friend2: You won’t find too many people who speak Sanskrit these days.
Friend1: Let alone poetry. It is one thing to converse in a specific language, but poetical style is something different. That is why you have college classes for Shakespearean literature and the like.
Friend2: So the work you read is a basic translation?
Friend1: Along with commentary. Not based off speculation. There is something known as parampara. This is discplic succession. Passing down the information in a chain of transfer. No deviations. No weak links. No cheating in between; otherwise the knowledge gets lost.
Friend2: There is even a verse within the work that explains the parampara process:
इमं राजर्षयो विदुः
स कालेनेह महता
योगो नष्टः परन्तप
imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ
sa kāleneha mahatā
yogo naṣṭaḥ parantapa
“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.2)
Friend1: I love how the swami put the “As It Is” at the end of the title to the published work. It takes some audacity. He is essentially pointing the finger of accusation at previous efforts at translation.
“You were cheating. You were speculating. I am telling the truth. I am presenting the work in the right way.”
Friend2: And it’s true, you have to admit.
Friend1: The reason I bring this up today is that many people have a different introduction to the Vedas. They are more familiar with Vedanta. In fact, when I tell them that I read Vedic literature, they automatically assume that I am studying Vedanta.
Friend2: Sure. That is the more esoteric version of the same teachings. Aphorisms to help explain the world around us. Existence itself is difficult to ponder. Am I trapped inside of this body? If not for this body, would I exist at all? What is the influence of time? Where will I go in the future? If everyone is destined to leave, why did we appear here in the first place?
Friend1: What is the difference between the two, then? Is one superior to the other?
Friend2: Vedanta and Bhagavad-gita?
Friend2: Another name for Bhagavad-gita is Gitopanishad. This means that it is in the same category of the Upanishads, which are preferred by the Vedantists. Essentially, the Upanishads and Vedanta are the same.
Friend1: I see. Okay, if they are the same, then why have two versions?
Friend2: There isn’t just one Upanishad. Just because you have a single set of information and truths does not mean that variety will be lacking in the presentation. The Supreme is unlimited. He is everywhere and also not in the present vicinity. He is greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest. You can understand Him in a variety of ways.
Friend1: Vedanta is for those who are more philosophically inclined?
Friend2: Yes, just as the Puranas and Mahabharata appeal to those who learn through hearing stories. In professional development, you have people who like to learn through watching videos. Some prefer to read books. Others need a hands-on laboratory environment. It is similar with understanding the highest truths of an existence. It should also be mentioned that Krishna explains that He is the compiler of Vedanta. You are connecting directly with the author through Bhagavad-gita; hence there is nothing missing.
Two going by different name,
But at core understanding the same.
Through Bhagavad-gita shown,
Also as Gitopanishad known.
Vedanta and bhakti explained,
Drive towards liberation attained.
Learning in different way each,
Bhagavan with variety to teach.