Sankhya, Yoga and Vedanta
You know a question was raised just before my coming here, that the function of Buddhi and the question of making Buddhi ‘steady’ is not very clear. In fact, I had already planned to speak on this very precise subject today.
The 2nd chapter is one of the most difficult chapters of the Bhagavad Gita. That is because it is the first complete answer to the questions of Arjuna. In a sense it is said that the 2nd chapter contains almost…many things that are afterwards elucidated in the rest of these chapters of the Gita. It assumes a good deal of background knowledge, much of which was familiar to Arjuna, but much of which may not be familiar to us.
Secondly, even that which was familiar to Arjuna, was being expounded by Sri Krishna with a larger connotation, by expanding the current ideas, and introducing a system of synthesis. The current ideas of that time were not synthetical. The current ideas had left many questions unanswered; conflicting views were rampant: for example, there was the word used very often at that time: ‘Sankhya’; the word ‘Yoga’ was very often used; ‘Karmakanda’, was very much known; ‘Vedavada’ was also very well known. The schools of karmakāṇḍa and jñānakāṇḍa were in opposition to each other; the idea that renunciation is superior to everything else was also currently believed. The idea that everyone should follow one’s own Dharma and not escape from Dharma was also current. With regard to Dharma also there were certain ambiguities.
It is in that situation that this teaching is introduced, and as Sri Krishna tells us in the fourth chapter, that He was expounding a knowledge, which He had expounded earlier in an earlier birth, to the Sun, Vivasvan, and to Manu and that knowledge was lost in course of time, and now again, He was expounding to Arjuna, after long lapse. In other words Sri Krishna was expounding something that was new, departing from the current ideas. That is why many terms are used which are understood in the current language, but Sri Krishna was trying to give a wider connotation, and with regard to the concepts which are in conflict with each other, He was trying to synthesise them.
If you want to understand the 2nd chapter properly, we have to understand first three words properly: ‘Sankhya’, ‘Yoga’, and ‘Vedanta’. These three were very prominent schools of thoughts at that time. And the 2nd chapter synthesises the conflicts, which were present at that time between these three systems. Sri Krishna’s basic answer is that the questions that Arjuna had raised cannot be answered without presenting a very wide synthesis of knowledge, particularly the synthesis of Sankhya, Yoga, and Vedanta, and also the synthesis of Veda and Vedanta.