Why is the Gita called yoga-shastra?
Transcription By: Shalini Ahluwalia Mataji
Edited By: Murlidhar Prabhu (Murli Thundi)
Question: Why is the Bhagavad Gita called a yoga shastra? Does it teach Ashtanga yoga?
Answer: The Bhagavad Gita is called a yoga shastra because it teaches yoga. Yoga is currently thought of as Ashtanga Yoga butAshtanga Yoga is just one of the many types of yoga. Besides Ashtanga Yoga, there is Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Dhyana Yoga (Ashtanga Yoga), and Karma Yoga.
Today the word yoga is equated with Ashtanga Yoga but actually yoga is a generic word which means connection. This connection happens in many ways.So the Bhagavad Gita is called as yoga-shastra firstly because it teaches yoga. We will see that many of the chapters talk about yoga repeatedly; the word yoga appears 78 times in the Bhagavad Gita and in 15 of its 18 chapters. Only in the chapters 1, 15 and 17 is the word yoga not found.And the word yoga has related variants like the word yogi which is found 28 times in the Bhagavad Gita, and the word yukta which means connected. Yogi is one who practices yoga,Yukta is one who is connected.Yukta is found 49 times, thus the word yoga and its variants appear totally 155 times.Now out of 700 verses of the Gita, 155 times is more than 20%. So from the sheer frequency of the word yoga we can understand that it is a very central teaching of the Bhagavad Gita.
One is the frequency of the word yoga and second is the teaching. As discussed earlier it teaches various paths. The sixth chapter is about Ashtanga Yoga but there are also other paths like Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga being discussed.
Besides the above, we also see that the Bhagavad Gita enables Arjuna to do yoga. At the start of the Bhagavad Gita Krishna and Arjuna were connected, both were there for the same mission of establishing dharma but by the end of the first chapter because of seeing his relatives and thinking about how he would kill all of them, Arjuna became unnerved and there was viyoga (separation) so they became disconnected. Then at the end of the Bhagavad Gita they again came together when Arjuna after understanding Krishna said “karishivachanamtava” i.e. I will do whatever you tell me to.
Thus we see, from its essential message, from the frequency of the word usage and the effect on the hearer, the Bhagavad Gita is a yoga shastra, a scripture that teaches yoga.