By Swami Harshananda
Anugitā literally means ‘following the Gitā’ and is the second of the three Gītās attributed to Kṛṣṇa. It is also a part of the epic Mahābhārata. It comprises of 1056 verses spread over 36 chapters.
The name ‘Anugitā’ is derived from the fact that it purports to follow (anu = following) the Gītā.
The Anugitā comprises chapters 16-51 of the fourteenth book of the Mahābhārata and is in the form of a dialogue between Srī Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna. Being eager to recapitulate the teachings of the Bhagavadgitā, Arjuna requests Srī Kṛṣṇa for the same. Srī Kṛṣṇa took Arjuna to task for forgetting the teachings so soon. Arjun confessed that he is not in a high state of yoga, hence Srī Kṛṣṇa gives him another set of teachings, mostly by reciting stories and dialogues that took place between sages of yore.
The topics dealt with in this gītā can be briefly indicated as follows :
- The travels and travails of the jīva or the individual soul
- Karma and rebirth
- Means of attaining mokṣa or liberation
- Jñānayajña or knowledge compared to a sacrifice
- A description of the prāṇas or vital airs
- The greatness of the antaryāmin or the inner controller
- Spiritual experience described with the allegory of a forest
- Story of Paraśurāma
- Description of the three guṇas and their effects
- Creation of the world
- Greatness of spiritual wisdom
- Duties of people in the four āśramas
- Individual and Supreme selves
- Nature of austerity
- Nature of ātman or Self
Having completed his task of restoring their kingdom to the Pāṇdavas so that they can rule according to dharma, Kṛṣṇa decided to return to Dvārakā. Wishing to take advantage of his spiritual wisdom before his departure, Arjuna asked him to once again teach him the great spiritual knowledge which he had taught at the beginning of the Kurukṣetra war.
The Anugitā follows this request and is done through ‘itihāsa’ or ancient stories.
Summary of teachings
The gist of the teachings are as follows:
- How the jīva gets out of the body and how he gets into another body after death
- How a human being can attain mokṣa or liberation.
- Anyone who has cultivated virtues like equanimity, intense desire for mokṣa, renunciation and self-control becomes fit for mokṣa.
- By adopting the path of yoga in which self-control, austerity, contemplation on the ātman or the Self within, desirelessness and peace are important sādhanas, one will be able to attain the Abode of Brahman.
- Dialogue between a brāhmaṇa and his wife. Hence it is also called as Brāhmaṇagitā. It comprises miscellaneous subjects like:
- Ātman-Brahman principle which is beyond the ken of the senses
- Meditating on the functioning of the senses and the mind as a yajña or sacrifice
- Importance of the pañcaprāṇas or the five vital airs
- The greatness of Janaka
- The king of Mithilā who had conquered mamakāra or the sense of possessions
- The state of a jivanmukta, one liberated even while living in the body
- Path that leads to mokṣa or liberation. Kṛṣṇa in his reply states that the Paramātman, or the Supreme Self, residing in the hearts of all. He is to be realized through tapas or austerity for which sanyāsa is the best means.
- Trying to see one Self in all and giving up all that obstructs this is a part of this discipline.
- The three guṇas, sattva, rajas and tamas and their products like ahaṅkāra (egoity) and the five elements like earth and water.
- Four āśramas or stages of life. They are:
- Other topics include
- Aśvamedhaparva, chs. 16 to 51
- Sanyāsa means the life of renunciation.
- Brahmavṛkṣa means actually the human body, compared to a tree.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore
The section comprising the chapters 20-34 is called Brāhmanagitā since it was taught by an enlightened brāhmaṇa to his wife.