Difference in Outlook of Shri Krishna & Sant Dnyaaneshwar – Difficulty in Interpreting the Bhagwat-Geeta

Sant Dnyaaneshwar is considered to be one of the earliest creators of the modern Bhakti Marg, or the path of Bhakti as a Way to Liberation . One of his great achievements was to translate the Bhagwat-Geeta into Marathi, then a language not of the elite but of the common people. He translated it verse by verse in public in front of his listeners. People came from all over to hear him and pronounced him as Dnyaan-Ishwar or the Ishwar of Knowledge.

Sant Dnyaan-Ishwar is one of the greatest men of all time and Shri Krishna is the Avataar of God on earth. As mere mortals and rather dumb ones at that, who are we to question either of these great personalities?

But upon reflection, we do notice a difference in the attitudes or teachings of Sant Dnyaan-Ishwar and Shri Krishna.

Upon finishing his work or वाक्-यज्ञ (Vaak-Yadnya) as he called it, Dnyaan-Ishwar asked the Universal God (विश्मातक देव = Viswaatmak Dev or God whose atma pervades the Universe) for a पसायदान (Pasaaya-Daan) or the gift of a blessing. The first blessing he asks is the following:

          जे खळांची व्यंकटी सांडो तया सतकर्मी रति वाढो
          Je Khalaanchee Vyankatee Sando, Tayaa Sat-Karmi Rati Vadho
          May the evil inside the bad people be shed, let their interests move to good deeds

In other words, Dnyaan-Ishwar made a distinction between the evil inside bad men from the men themselves. He asked for the removal of the evil inside bad men and prayed for their conversion in to people who do good deeds.

This became the hallmark of Bhakti Marg, the desire to see the people as essentially good and to focus energies on removing the bad parts by inserting good thoughts and good deeds.

About 650 years later, Gandhi took this same approach and called it हृदय-परिवर्तन (Hrudaya-Parivartan) or Changing the Heart of Rulers or Bad Men. He used this approach in his Civil-Disobedience against British rule. 

Dnyaan-Ishwar was a Bhakta or devotee of Shri Krishna and he translated the Bhagwat-Geeta. So let us see what the Creator of the Bhagwat-Geeta says about evil men. In Chapter IV, Shri Krishna tells Arjun:

           परित्राणाय साधुनाम विनाशायच दुष्कृताम
           Paritraanaya sadunaam vinashaayach dushkrutaam
           For the Protection of Good Men and For the Annihilation of Evil Doers

           धर्मं संस्थापनार्थ्य संभवामि युगे युगे
           Dharma Sansthaa-panaarthya Sambhavamee Yuge Yuge
           For the establishment of Dharma, I emerge in Yug (era) after Yug (era)
                      – Bhagwat-Geeta, IV.8

The key take away for our discussion is  विनाशायच दुष्कृताम or for the Annihilation of Evil Doers. In other words, Shri Krishna does not worry about changing the hearts of Evil Doers. He does not ask for the removal of the evil inside Bad People. He clearly states his purpose as Annihilation of Evil Doers. Allow us to point out that every major Indian festival is based on Annihilation of Evil and Victory of Good. So the approach of Shri Krishna seems more consistent with Indian Traditions.

So why this difference between the perspectives of Shri Krishna and Sant Dnyaan-Ishwar?

Does it have to do with their stage of life or the state of Society? Shri Krishna recited the Bhagwat-Geeta to Arjun at the beginning of the Great Mahaa-Bhaarat War. That was a time for action. It was the moment for achievement not renunciation.

In contrast, Sant Dnyaan-Ishwar had finished his life’s work and he was about to leave this earthly life at the age of 21 by taking Samaadhi. His mindset was very different. Another factor is that Dnyaan-Ishwar was not speaking to a warrior like Arjun. He was speaking to the common people who wanted to worship God in a spirit of devotion. And the concept of annihilation does not enter into Bhakti which is based on sublime peace and happiness that comes from for unquestioned surrender to God.

We note with interest that the approach of Shri Krishna has been adopted by the Dalai Lama, probably the greatest exponent of Ahimsa or Non-Violence in the world today. Recently he spoke about he challenge of Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. He stated that it was impossible and pointless to engage in हृदय-परिवर्तन (Changing the hearts) of these evil doers. In other words, Dalai Lama supported the Vinaash (Annihiliation) of the Al Qaeda Evil Doers, a radical departure from Gandhi. 

This reminds us of the ancient instruction from Bruhad-Devata (II.8) which states:

  • While interpreting a Mantra, one should take into account the dictionary meaning, the context, the reason and also the time and place of occurrence as well as the propriety that attaches to the utterances.

We shall have occasion to refer to this instruction again and again.

Getting back to the Bhagwat-Geeta, many interpret the word दुष्कृताम as referring to evil deeds and not evil doers. These thinkers argue that Shri Krishna is asking for the destruction of evil deeds and not evil doers. After all, the word Dush-Krutaam comes from root Dush-Krut or Evil Action. This interpretation sees no conflict between the approaches of Sant Dnyaan-Ishwar and Shri Krishna.

We humbly beg to differ. The grammatical distinction comes from Dush-Kru-Tam and Dush-Kru-Taam. The first refers to the deed and the second with the additional “a” to the doer. Secondly, the comparison is with the word Sadhunaam in the first part of the verse and there is no doubt that Sadhunaam refers to Good Men. The third, in our opinion, is related to the context, the reason, the time and place of occurrence – at the beginning of the Great Mahaa-Bhaarat War when Shri Krishna was getting Arjun ready to do battle.

But this little discussion shows how different people have interpreted the Bhagwat-Geeta over past millennia according to their own concepts. Our own approach will be to lay out all the interpretations we know and then leave it to the readers to choose.

Editor’s PS;
The Pasaaya-Daan is a beautiful composition. Below is the You-Tube clip of Lata Mangeshkar’s rendition with English translation.

Send your feedback to editor@eternal-dharma.org

2 responses

  1. Very thought provoking. Not having read either Dyaneshwari or Bhagwat Geeta, I wonder if it is possible to spot direct translation of the Geeta or whether Dyaneshwari is all interpretation. I do get the sense that the Geeta message is sharp and that Dyaneshwari is a softer gentler version.

  2. I do see how this gets confusing. Please let me explain the way I see this. The saint you quoted knew the truth. It is the evil or the sin that needs to be eliminated not the evil doer or the sinner. That is how God sees it. In BG Krishna is not talking about killing Kauravas, he is saying to Arjuna it is the action that is needed, with no guarantee that he would win the war. The message I get here is that I need to be deeply involved in the very action itself using my education, talent and skills. Period. No condition attached. The real meaning behind this is to act with no condition and the only unbinding and unconditional action is LOVE. Please contemplate on this powerful hidden message.

    Next you are questioning about BG 4 18
    Perhaps you have understood this literally. If this powerful God wants to finish off all the evil people why he cannot he do this in one shot? Are 10 avatars enough? Why does he let evil people to keep born to start the trouble ? My understanding is it is the evil thoughts every one of encounter in our daily life and once we realize God in us we can keep killing those evil things. We all believe God resides in each of us and we just need to recognize that.
    Now the wordings: Evil vs evil doers, God does not see evil doers and non evil doers differently. Geeta says one cannot kill the soul. Krishna reminds Arjuna that Kauravas were already killed by him! to the surprise of Drutarashtra Duryodana reached Heaven!

    These are all beautiful as long as we complement each other

    Love KT

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