BhG bhasya 2ndary sources

Shyam Ranganathan srangan at YORKU.CA
Tue Jul 20 20:03:04 UTC 2004

Dear Friends

I would recommend the following article: 

Mumme, Patricia Y., “Haunted by Sankara’s Ghost; The Srivaisnava Interpretation 
of Bhagavad Gita 18:66,” in *Texts in Context* J.R. Timm Ed.,  (SUNY 1992) 69-

While this article does not compare Sankara's and Ramanuja's reading of the 
Bhagavad Gita on all points, it does zero in on what seems to me to be the most 
important aspect: the moral implications. Sankara famously argues in his 
commentary on the Gita that even dharma can be an obstacle to moksa to the 
serious aspirant. And Gita 18:66 appears to confirm this (even though Krishna 
through out the whole book cannot stop emphasizing the importance of one's own 
dharma). Ramanuja famously resists this reading, and gives two ways of reading 
18:66 so as to avoid Sankara's gloss. 

It seems to me that this one issue is pivotal, for it reveals the vital 
difference between philosophical outlooks between the two thinkers. Sankara's 
anti realism is highlighted by his willingness to abandon dharma, while 
Ramanuja's staunch realism comes out in his refusal to treat dharma as 
something mutable. Naturally, the issue also touches on Sankara's and 
Ramanuja's conception of Brahman. For Sankara, Brahman is above most 
distinctions and qualities, while for Ramanuja, Brahman is the embodiment of 
moral and aesthetic perfections.  Thus, dharma cannot be absent in moksa for 
Ramanuja, though it is not to be found in Sankara’s Nirguna Brahman.

The article also highlights how the Southern school of Sri Vaisnavism appears 
to backtrack on Ramanuja’s argumentative gains. 


Shyam Ranganathan
Department of Philosophy, York University, Toronto ( 
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy ( 


Quoting Martin Gansten <Martin.Gansten at TEOL.LU.SE>:

> >Could anyone recommend a good article-length study of the commentaries of
> >Sankara and Ramanuja on the Bhagavadgita?  I’m looking for a source that
> would
> >be appropriate to give to an class of advanced undergraduates, without
> >presuming any knowledge of Sanskrit, thus nothing philological as such,
> rather
> >a piece of intellectual history.
> I would be very interested in this as well, so I hope any responses will be
> made on-list. The respective chapters of Arvind Sharma's 'The Hindu Gita',
> which I personally enjoyed very much, are probably both too long and too
> technical for your purposes.
> Although not exactly what you asked for, Patricia Mumme has an excellent
> essay (this would probably be about the right length, but it is not
> primarily about Sankara and Ramanuja, although they form the background)
> called 'Haunted by Sankara's Ghost' in 'Texts in Context' (Timm, 1991),
> illustrating the intimate connection between metaphysical models and
> interpretative strategies.
> Martin Gansten

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