At the end of each chapter in the Bhagavad Gita, three types of scriptures are mentioned:
Om tatsat iti srimadbhagavadgitaasupanishadsu Brahmavidyaayaam yogashaastre srikrishnaarjunasamavade . . .
Thus in the Upanishads of the glorious Bhagavad Gita, the science of the Eternal, the scripture of yoga, the dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna . . .
There are two types of knowledge, para and apara. Para means higher, transcendental. Apara means lower, not transcendental or na para.
The apara, the lower type of knowledge, is the material, sensorial, worldly knowledge related to the world of maya. Anything that happens in the realm of maya and prakriti is the non-transcendental knowledge, apara. Anything that takes one beyond the realm of maya and prakriti is known as the transcendental knowledge, para.
This transcendental knowledge which leads to the realization of one’s transcendental nature is known as the knowledge of Brahman, Brahma vidya. The word Brahman is derived from the Sanskrit root brihn, which means expansion. Therefore, Brahman means ever-expanding reality, ever-expanding awareness, ever-expanding perception, knowledge and wisdom.
Vidya is the knowledge of this ever-expanding reality, the permanent reality, the transcendental nature.
The Srimad Bhagavad Gita is classified as a literature of Brahma vidya, for it seeks to transcend and elevate the individual from the gross material nature to a higher spiritual realization where the omniscience, the omnipresence and the omnipotence of the transcendental reality is realized. That is the Brahma vidya complement of the Bhagavad Gita.
The Bhagavad Gita is also classified as an Upanishad. Up means near, close. Upanishad means an instruction that is given to someone at close quarter.
Sri Krishna gave the instruction to Arjuna, his disciple (2:7):
Pricchaami twaam dharmasammoodha chetaah;
Yacchreyah syaan nishchitam broohi tanme
Shishyaste’ham shaadhi maam twaam prapannam.
My heart is overpowered by the taint of pity, my mind is confused as to duty. I ask You: tell me decisively what is good for me. I am Your disciple. Instruct me who has taken refuge in You.
From the moment Arjuna surrendered, Sri Krishna took on the role of the guru. Prior to that, Arjuna was a patient who was complaining to the doctor about his problems.
There is a system of psychology called Transactional Analysis, TA, by which a situation of victim and master is described. A patient comes to the doctor and says, “Doctor, I have been suffering from my illness for so many years. I have visited every doctor in the city, and I have gone to every specialist and nobody has been able to help me. I know that you are the only one who can help me.” The patient comes as a victim and tells the doctor, “You are the only one who can help me.”
The doctor prescribes some medicines and tells the patient to come back after fifteen days. At home, maybe the patient is taking the medicine or maybe he is throwing them in the toilet. After fifteen days he comes back to the doctor and says, “Your medicine did not help me. I had placed all my trust in you, you had told me that this medicine would help.”
At this point, the doctor becomes the victim and the patient becomes the master. The roles change. The doctor prescribes better medicine with high potency for another fifteen days. After fifteen days, the same situation, the patient says, “Your medicine did not help me.” The doctor becomes more victim and the patient becomes the ruler over the doctor, telling him, “You have not helped me.”
This is the relationship that develops between patient and doctor, victim and master. Arjuna did the same thing, when for a long time he just kept saying, “This is happening and that is happening. I don’t know what to do and all my knowledge and understanding is failing me. Please help me and I surrender myself ultimately to you.”
Sri Krishna was not the normal doctor. He threw everything back on to Arjuna. He did not say to Arjuna, “I will save you.” He asked Arjuna, “Do you know where your obligations and duties lie?” Arjuna said, “No.” Then Krishna said time and again, “You have to fight, you have to fight, you have to fight.” He gave the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, yet in every chapter he said, “You have to fight.”
Sri Krishna is saying in every chapter, “You fight,” yet the philosophy that he is giving is of Purusha and Prakriti, of Brahma and vishwaroopa, of the trigunas, of karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga, jnana yoga and Samkhya yoga. He speaks on everything under the sun, yet in every chapter he says, “You fight,” thus putting the onus back on Arjuna.
Sri Krishna says, “It is your duty, your dharma to fight, not mine.” He was anticipating that if he gave the answers to Arjuna, Arjuna would say, “Why don’t you fight?” Sri Krishna was clever, “Arjuna, remember your dharma. You are the warrior, this is your dharma, however, remember the other aspect which is non–material and spiritual. There everything is different, it is not seen the way you perceive things now.” In that process he showed Arjuna the transcendental form – vishwaroopa darshan.
Even after showing the transcendental form, he says to Arjuna, “You fight.” Arjuna could have said at that time, “My Lord, why don’t you eat everybody? You can consume everybody in that universal form, and thus avoid the bloodshed. Just pounce on the enemy and all the Kauravas will be gone. Or just blow and they will all fly away.”
It is this close interaction between Krishna and Arjuna, that makes the Bhagavad Gita into an Upanishad. Only two people heard it. When Krishna was talking to Arjuna between the two armies nobody else heard it.
From that perspective, the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita is recognized as an Upanishad. From the perspective of informing someone about the transient nature of the world and identifying the transcendental nature, the Bhagavad Gita is Brahma vidya.
The third type of scripture is yoga shastra. The philosophy and systems that Sri Krishna gives to Arjuna to attain awareness of the self and mastery over one’s mind is the process of yoga. This yogic process is more a raja yoga process, for Sri Krishna does not speak of asana and pranayama. He speaks on the condition of managing the mind, the condition which Arjuna was facing. Arjuna was not having a physical problem, he was having a psychological problem.
For the management of psychology, he gave Arjuna instructions of raja yoga as the main yoga. Sri Krishna spoke on other yogas as well, like bhakti yoga and jnana yoga, to indicate the states of mind which one can acquire through a balanced approach to yoga.
The Bhagavad Gita is possibly the only book which has these three faces: Upanishad, Brahma vidya and yoga shastra.
—13 March 2016, Ganga Darshan, Munger