Background To My Selection of Favourite Slokas of Hindu Scriptures
My interest in memorising verses from religious books started during my early school days in my native village. My grandfather was a teacher at Birlapur, near Calcutta in Bangal, which is now West Bengal after partition in 1947. He had been living alone there with one of my uncles. Once when he came during some vacation, he invited Shri Gangadyal Pandey, recently appointed government teacher of the village primary school to live with our family and be our tutor. Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas and another equally popular book those days, ‘Radheshyam Ramayan’ were available with us at home. We started reading and memorising some popular verses from them for the competition of the Antakshari, that Pandeyji would organise quite often with groups of school students. Interestingly, Radheshyam Ramayan was a handwritten one. My grandfather and some of his students had copied it in their own hand-writing . I wonder even now how difficult it would have been for them to complete such a huge book. My grandfather had told me once on my query that he did it to improve his own handwriting. I have a few pages of it even now with me. It was in very readable simple Hindi unlike the regional dialect Awadhi used by Tulsidas. I do not know if it is today available as printed book.
However, even in those days I got advice through a few Sanskrit slokas too. Our teachers and other elders used to quote them very frequently. I remember two:
काक चेष्टा बको ध्यानं, श्वान निद्रा तथैव च ।
अल्पहारी गृह त्यागी, विद्यार्थी पंच लक्षणं ॥
‘A student should be alert like a crow, have concentration like that of a crane and sleep like that of a dog that wakes up even at slightest of the noise. The student should eat too much. Also he should stay away from daily household affairs.’
As I remember, the other sloka started with ‘विद्यां ददाति विनयं’..विनयाद् याति पात्रताम्।..’ ‘Knowledge gives us humility, with humility comes merit.’ I do not know if the parents these days will vouch for that method for improving the conduct of their school going children.
In 1950, both myself and my uncle moved to Birlapur and got admitted into Birlapur Vidyalaya straight in class six and started regular education. My grandmother this time was with us. In those days, Sanskrit was a subject for the high school final examination. We had to study it for four years from class 7. I could hardly love it enough to pursue it after the school days to appreciate its richness. The ‘pandit-mosay’ teaching was too harsh on us. That might be the reason for my lost love. But I spent most of my student life till I became a qualified engineer with my grandfather. He kept on mending and motivating me with help of the verses of English and Sanskrit. Let me quote one English one first-“Early to bed and early to rise; That makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” He would also recite the famous shloka from Bhagwad Gita, “या निशा सर्वभूतानामं, तस्या जागर्ति संयमी”… (2.69) quite often and explain. Early sleeping and getting up got built into my lifestyle and still continues at 82+. All that I have studied or written, some available on my site or published, was done in early morning hours between 3 AM and dawn.
I vividly remember one day of 1957. I was appearing for my final examination of Intermediate Science from Presidency College, Calcutta. It was the day when I was very much confused and morose during the break time between the examination scheduled in two sessions. The first paper of Chemistry in the first half of the day was very tough. Many of my friends in Eden Hostel had decided to drop. In that break time, suddenly I found my grandfather entering my hostel room. He heard quietly my worry and then his advice came promptly this time too in a Gita sloka ,“कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा भलेषु कदाचन..(2.47). I appeared and succeeded with pretty good scores. Interestingly in IIT, Kharagpur, the Institute’s logo was ‘योग: कर्मसु कौशलम्’. My grandfather had only explained its source (the famous sloka of Bhagavad Gita, (2.50) in one of his regular visits to Kharagpur. I ponder now why someone out of the Institute’s faculties could not have done that in a pretty elaborate manner in the initial academic programme of orientation talks for the benefits of the fresh students. Perhaps, they did not find that necessary. All those good advice of the early years made me succeed in everything I pursued in my life till date and to overcome many hurdles in life.
I started my career at Hindustan Motors in 1961. I became engrossed in worldly means of enjoyment with friends and got totally distanced from our religious duties. Only the teachings of childhood helped me to dedicate myself to hard work and be successful in a professional career. In 1966, Yamuna, my wife, joined me at Hindustan Motors residential complex. I gradually returned to our religious practices, such as pujas, ‘vratas’, celebrations of festivals etc. at home. Over the years, we got three sons (hoping the third one to be a girl child, however that was not to happen). I had to be an example for my children and cousin brothers too. And one day, after a gala night function on occasion of a new year’s eve at HM club, I vowed to drop drinking and resort to vegetarian foods forever and that I have followed strictly till today.
I don’t remember exactly when I started regular morning puja before going to my work. I started with the reading of some portions of the Ramcharitmanas without fail in Yamuna’s puja room. This interest grew with time. I had seen my grandfather completing Ramcharitamanas every month (Masaparayana) and then even in nine days (Navaparayana) in two Navratri festival times in the year. By 1990, I also started doing that. And this interest grew more intensively over the years. I did carry on with that under all odd conditions. It continued even while travelling in the country or abroad too. Sometimes, I had to get up very early in the morning for that. That practice had become a routine part of my life at that time at Hindustan Motors till I shifted to live in our house in Salt Lake that was built.
In 1997, I retired from Hindustan Motors under the newly started rule of the then new young Chairman. I completed 37 years in Hindustan Motors, Uttarpara. Thereafter, I joined Harig Crankshaft as President. In late December 1999, I had a heart attack in the factory and had to undergo open-heart surgery at Escort Hospital, New Delhi in early 2000. Every routine got disturbed. After a month, I started going to work. However in October 2000, I found I was the same person working for 12-16 hours a day in HM. I decided to take full retirement from professional work yielding to my conscience that was welcomely consented by my children. I completed my last technical book, ‘Latest Trends in Machining’ available on http://www.drishtikona.com. I started giving more time for morning puja. After that, I focused more on long and regular morning walk and reading good latest books on current subjects, mainly on ancient Indian history and current topics, and biographies. We visited many places of tourist importance in India. But the puja continued with praying as the first thing after getting up in morning, followed by the reading of full ‘Sundarkand’ of Ramcharitmanas after the morning bath every day without fail.
On 24th April 2000, I came across, ‘The Curative Powers of the Holy Gita’- a book with about 33 Slokas of Bhagawad Gita compiled by one T. R. Seshadri* and bought it. Soon I started reading its all slokas in the early morning puja. The love story of Gita had started. Very soon, I added the whole passage on स्थिप्रज्ञता from chapter 2 of Gita and then some Slokas of Upanishads. All those were in a booklet published by the Gandhi’ ashram in my morning puja that I had for long time. Over a period, I memorised them.
All the three sons had got well-settled in the US. I saw my life is slowly inching towards the ‘van-prastha’ stage unknowingly that our ancient sages suggested.
COVID-Era brought a big change in living style
With the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2000 and its total lock out thereafter, when we got almost imprisoned in our apartment. I switched over to a serious study of Bhagwad Gita and thereafter major Upanishads. Over a period, I procured the commentaries of Gita and Upanishads authored by a number of reputed wisemen. (#)
Every day in the early morning, I spent hours on studying all the commentaries one by one and revisiting them again and again. I kept on noting down some good slokas of my liking in my yellow notebook and memorising them in day time. With my advanced age, isolation and perhaps maturity, I started appreciating the knowledge provided in them more and more. I enjoyed every bit of it as it threw some new light almost every time I picked up one of those slokas again. The culture of deep understanding of the issues imbibed during my hard work in different fields requiring different technical knowledge and it’s experiences helped me here too. The content of these scriptures became easier and I felt sometimes overjoyed when I looked back at my work life issues and even domestic issues. I can say honestly, many times only some divine solutions come in our mind and help in getting our worldly problems solved. It has happened many times with me.
My motivation behind this compilation of Best Slokas of Bhagavad Gita
As I went on studying different books, and commentaries on Gita, I came to know that few such attempts have already been made by some of our great wisemen in modern India.
- Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi (Born: 30 December 1879, Died: 14 April 1950.)
A visiting Pandit (wise man) once requested Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi to select the best slokas of Bhagavad, as the Gita as such contains a total of 700 slokas. That becomes very difficult if not impossible to keep in mind for a normal person. The selected ones must be just enough in number to remember and understand the message of the whole of Bhagavad Gita. Bhagavan Raman thereupon first mentioned only verse 20 of Chapter X verse saying it is one sloka that provides the essence of Bhagavad Gita.
अहमात्मा गुडाकेश सर्वभूताशयस्थितः ।
अहमादिश्च मध्यं च भूतानामन्त एव च ॥
हे अर्जुन! मैं सब भूतों के हृदय में स्थित सबका आत्मा हूँ तथा संपूर्ण भूतों का आदि, मध्य और अंत भी मैं ही हूँ॥
‘I am the Self, Oh Gudakesa (Arjun), dwelling in the Heart of every being; I am the beginning and the middle and also the end of all beings.’
Later on, Maharshi Ramana also selected forty-two verses that represented the whole of Gita that provides its essence and can easily be remembered by the interested ones. (http://brahmanisone.blogspot.com/2008/12/selected-verses-from-gita-by-ramana.html )
- Swami Sivanand (8 September 1887 – 14 July 1963)
Swami Sivanand of The Divine Society has advocated another one such sloka in his commentary on Bhagavad Gita and called it एकश्लोकीय गीता. That is the last sloka 18.78 of Bhagavad Gita, with which Sanjaya concludes Gita.
यत्र योगेश्वरः कृष्णो यत्र पार्थो धनुर्धरः ।
तत्र श्रीर्विजयो भूतिर्ध्रुवा नीतिर्मतिर्मम ॥
हे राजन! जहाँ योगेश्वर श्रीकृष्ण हैं और जहाँ गाण्डीव-धनुषधारी अर्जुन है, वहीं पर श्री, विजय, विभूति और अचल नीति है- ऐसा मेरा मत है.
Wherever is Krishna, the Lord of Yoga, wherever is Partha, the archer, there are prosperity, victory, happiness and sound policy; this is my conviction.
Swami Sivananda has also selected seven Slokas that contain the essence of the whole Gita and called it सप्तश्लोकी गीता with 7 Slokas (8-13,11-36,13-13,8-9,15-1,15-15,9-34).
There are more सप्तश्लोकी गीता recommended by wise men. Swami Dayanand Saraswati has selected ten most representative best Slokas of Gita. http://brahmanisone.blogspot.com/search/label/Collections%20of%20Gita%20Verses
- Swami Vivekanand (12 January 1863— 4 July 1902)
Vivekananda in ‘The Mission of Vedanta’ writes, “ …Aye, if there is anything in the Gita that I like most, is in these two verses, (XIII 27, 28) coming out strong as the very gist, the very essence, of Krishna’s teaching:
समं सर्वेषु भूतेषु तिष्ठन्तं परमेश्वरम्
विनश्यत्स्वविनश्यन्तं यः पश्यति स पश्यति ॥13.27॥
He who sees the supreme Lord dwelling in all beings, the Imperishable in things that perish, he sees indeed.
समं पश्यन्हि सर्वत्र समवस्थितमीश्वरम् ।
न हिनस्त्यात्मनात्मानं ततो याति परां गतिम् ॥13.28॥
For seeing the Lord as the same, everywhere present, he does not destroy the Self by the self, and thus he goes to the highest goal.”
- Swami Prabhupada, Founder of ISKON (1 September 1896-14 November 1977) A group of his learned disciples have published a collection of 108 best Slokas of Gita based on his commentary on Bhagavad Gita, published in 1972. One of my contemporary and engineer friend N S Ramakrishnan uses these for online management training tools.
My own attempt to select ‘My Best of Bhagavad Gita’ slokas.
Over the years, I have picked up about 250 Slokas of Bhagavad Gita now judging from my own experiential views. I have identified 150 Slokas of them (in dark italics with font size 16 in the collection) as an appropriate one that one can memorise easily if there is a strong will. I have memorised them and many more from the bigger collection as on today. If now at 82+, I have been able to memorise more than 250 including Upanishads in two years of lock out of COVID- pandemic, it should be possible for the interested persons to do it.
Very soon I lost my madness about the writings on political, social economic issues, reading newspapers, and wasting time on tv with useless serials. I also stopped watching news channels and hearing the fake news and useless debates through howling at each other by so-called representatives of the common people. Earlier I thought my writings on Facebook and blogs bring changes among highly politicised friends and acquaintances for having a society with its clear identity. I was just totally mistaken. Today the world has changed.Even for getting something published, you need a lot of contacts and different skills. I never had it.
The collection on my website should also help in understanding the universal messages of Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita without any price.
Another idea was to improve on my own spiritual strength and to train myself to work without a desire for any fruit, giving up as much as I can.
I still think as the devotee chants a name or a mantra, the repetition of the Slokas of Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita again may correct mine and others’ conduct and help in becoming good human beings.
I repeat the memorised Slokas as many times as I get the opportunity. I keep my mind busy while walking alone through repeating these Slokas. It gives me great personal satisfaction and happiness because of a hope that I shall succeed in the remaining years of my physical existence in this body form to be a better man, if not enlightened in this life.
After Gita I decided to include some slokas from the major four Upanishads- Isha, Kena, Katha, and Manduka in my favourite list of slokas in the yellow notebook.
My inspirations in selecting favourite slokas of Upanishads
Some great persons of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, whom we all know and highly respect, have often quoted some from Upanishads, as they truly represent the pinnacle of Hindu spiritual philosophy.
Vivekanand’s love for the following verse from Katha Upanishad is well known:
उत्तिष्ठत जाग्रत प्राप्य वरान्निबोधत ।
क्षुरस्य धारा निशिता दुरत्यया दुर्गं पथस्तत्कवयो वदन्ति ।।१.३.१४॥
Mahatma Gandhi’s view on the first sloka of Ishopanishad was eye-opener for me. I am giving that one for Mahatma Gandhi wrote:
ईशा वास्यमिदं सर्वं यत्किञ्च जगत्यां जगत्।
तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा मा गृधः कस्यस्विद्धनम् ॥1॥
“During the last few months (I have studied the Ishopanishad), and I have now come to the final conclusion that if all the Upanishads and all other scriptures would have been suddenly destroyed for some reason and if only the first verse of the Ishopanishad would have been in the memory of Hindus Even if this first Sloka was in the memories of some Hindus, Hinduism would have lived forever.”(“पिछले कुछ महीनों के दौरान (मैंने ईशोपनिषद् का अध्ययन) किया है, और मैं अब अंतिम निष्कर्ष पर पहुंचा हूं कि यदि सभी उपनिषद और अन्य सभी धर्मग्रंथ अचानक से किसी कारण से नष्ट हो गए होते और यदि ईशोपनिषद का केवल पहला श्लोक हिंदुओं की स्मृति में ज़िन्दा रहता, तब भी हिंदू धर्म हमेशा जीवित रहता।”)
Eknath Easwaran in his book, ‘The Upanishad’ has written, “ What Gandhi had in mind with his great tribute, he made clear in his reply to a journalist who wanted the secret of his life in three words: “Renounce and enjoy!” (tena tyaktena bhunjitah) from the same first verse.
(अमरीका में गीता, उपनिषद् आदि के विद्वान प्रोफ़ेसर भारतीय मूल के एकनाथ एश्वरन गांधी के उपरोक्त विचार के बारे में अपनी पुस्तक ‘Upanishads’ में लिखा है-“गांधी ने अपने पहले श्लोक के विचार को और स्पष्ट किया था एक पत्रकार के अपने पहले के प्रकट किये विचार संम्बन्धी सवाल के जवाब में. पत्रकार को जो उनके जीवन के रहस्य को तीन शब्दों में जानना चाहता था, गांधी ने जवाब दिया- “तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा” मेरे जीवन का रहस्य है जो ईशोपनिषद् के पहले श्लोक का अंश है।”)
The great creators of the constitution of India included a great phrase from Mandukopanishad:
सत्यमेव जयते नानृतं
सत्येन पन्था विततो देवयानः।
यत्र तत् सत्यस्य परमं निधानम् ॥३.१.६॥
My own preference go for one another sloka rom Ishopanishad:
यस्मिन् सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मैवाभूद् विजानतः।
तत्र को मोहः कः शोक एकत्वमनुपश्यतः ॥7॥
Upanishads though may appear different, but the main goal of the sages of the Upanishads was one. They all tell about how to realise the Self or Brahman, the Ultimate Reality in their own way.
These days I read my yellow note-book that has about 300 Slokas of Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads and some portions of Ramcharitmanas. After bath, I get back to the puja room and read the full Sunderkand before lunch. And in the evening I read with my wife Chapter 15 of Bhagavad Gita before our dinner. She blows a conch-shell at the end.
An essential note for readers
I tried to limit or exclude those slokas specifically giving the nature of persons with lower state of mind such as aasuri or tamasik, rajasik because of the actions in previous lives or because of getting into the bad company of people of lower nature in the early part of life or in the absence of a proper example or guide. The ultimate objective of Gita propounded is that any person though he may have a tamasik nature initially, must try to improve himself to rajsik and then to sattavik. In the same way, in varnas, the objective was to improve upon from the Surda to vaishya, then to kshatriya and then Brahmin.
However, for realising the the Ultimate Reality, Atman, Purushottam or Brahman used as synonyms in Upanishads and Gita as well one must go beyond sattvik level too and to become गुणातीत, ‘gunateeta’. Bhagavad Gita has given in great detail the shortcomings of Rajshik , Tamasik, and Aasuri nature in Chapter 14 , 16 and 18 . Anyone interested in knowing about them, can always go back to the Gita with original Slokas in Sanskrit and varying commentaries in all languages by many wise men. I have also included a few slokas giving Krishna views about the class of persons whom the pundits guiding the society over years had abandoned them totally. Refer to the slokas 9.29- 32 such as:
मां हि पार्थ व्यपाश्रित्य येऽपि स्यु पापयोनयः ।
स्त्रियो वैश्यास्तथा शूद्रास्तेऽपि यान्ति परां गतिम् ॥९.३२॥
These Hindu scriptures were and are for every human being of any caste, faith and country. Any can go through it freely, practise it and get benefitted.
- To give a total glimpse of the Hindu Ancient Scriptures I added just a few Slokas from Vedas. With these additions, I hope my collections will be more comprehensive.
I hope this compilation will be useful for my children and their friends in the US, who left this country much before they would have come to know about these scriptures and it’s basic philosophy. Even in India, over the years, the newer generations get educated in English media copying the western system and giving value to their norms. I am sure people will gradually get interested in studying the basics of spiritual knowledge too along with secular knowledge. Particularly after a particular time in life, as we age we start losing our interest in what we had been doing and need guidance or knowledge about something more than the secular knowledge that we keep on gaining over years in life. Life is more than enjoying life in getting wealth required for satisfying our sensual needs or in the preservation of wealth for the future generation. It has happened to me. Today I realise over time that I have wasted energy and money in collecting and their preservation for these worldly things in our life. But the end, though may be a very painful one sometimes, is unavoidable. All your favourite procured and preserved things with so much pain will be sold to kabadi only. When I look at my huge collections of books at different stages of life or the almirahs and boxes full of clothes and other items, mostly of my wife or by her, I feel really shocked and sad to think of its value now. I hope this collection will serve as an initiation in spiritual knowledge for everyone of all ages, and provide help to understand the need of simple life with minimal essential things. Unfortunately, till you are two, the wishes of one may not come true.
However before I end this introduction, I shall like to emphasise that those verses that are not part of this collection, may be equally important for some. I appeal to every serious interested person to do one customised collection like this one for himself and to leave it back as a legacy. Every Indian must keep a Bhagwad Gita and an Ishopanishad or Kathopanishad in their home library with commentaries in the language one is most comfortable with.
One understands, gets benefited, and enjoys Bhagwad Gita more if he treats himself as Arjuna and Shri Krishna as Self. I have tried and found its benefits. It will certainly help us in attaining integration of our personality- of the body, intellect, and soul or Self, and be a good person certainly by getting over some of our weaknesses such as greed, anger, desire, etc. and start respecting fellow beings over the years of the beginning of the reading and understanding it maturely. I wish I could have started seriously to go through the scriptures much earlier in my life.
I intend to keep some blank pages at the end of each main section of this collection so that the readers can replace and add some other verses too. I shall always like to get a comment on my email: email@example.com . Please do send.
*I came to know only February 2022 from a letter from Shri T S R Murthy, my close friend at Hindustan Motors and neighbour to Dr.T. R. Seshadri was his brother, had graduated from IIT, Kharagpur in 1958, and held many top positions in government organisations, and also wrote two books on engineering and beside the book I referred to, he also authored ‘Hinduism Revisited’ and passed away in January 2022.
Books that I studied to understand Bhagavad Gita after we got imprisoned in our apartment and I had to cook also for our survival. This was something that I had never done ever.
These books were all bought online. The names of the books are in order I laid my hand first and selected to go through and went through them one by one and then a number of time, to understand the content that was totally new to me but perhaps that existed there dormant because of the Here are the lists of books on Bhagavad Gita first, followed thereafter with those on Upanishads:
I started with ‘Bhagwad Gita as it is’ by A. C. Bhaktivedanta swami Prabhupada both Hindi and English versions
• Swami B. G. Narsingha
• Swami Chinmayananda The Holy Gita and Hindi translation by Swami Tejomayananda
• Bhagwad Gita for Daily Living by Eknath Easwaran
• Swami Sivananda, The Divine Society
• ‘God with Arjuna- Bhagavad Gita by Paramhans Yogananda and its Hindi translation.
• श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता गीता (साधक- संजीवनी) by Swami Ramsukhdas in Hindi, Gita Press
• Bhagavad Gita of Madhusudan Sarasvati With the Annotation ‘ Gudharthak Dipika, translated by Swami Gambhirananda, Advaita Ashrama
• Bhagavad Gita with the commentary of Sankracharya, translated by Swami Gambhiranand
• Swami Chidbhavananda Kindle edition
• Universal Message of the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Ranganathananda
Internet site 1. Aravinda: http://bhagavadgita.org.in/Chapters
Internet site of IIT, Kanpur: https://www.gitasupersite.iitk.ac.in
Ver recently I found a book in Hindi where all Gita slokas are translated in poem form in Hindi. (संस्कृति-संजीवनी श्रीमद्भागवत एवं गीता (मूल और पद्यानुवाद), पृष्ट १९१-२४७). हिन्दी प्रेमियों को देखना चाहिये।
I got introduced to Upanishads through Eknath Easwaran’s ‘The Upanishad’, JAICO Publishing House. That made me look into गीता प्रेस प्रकाशन के कल्याण पत्रिका के तेईसवें वर्ष के विशेषांक, ‘उपनिषद् अंक’ and I find interesting as well easy for me to understand in Hindi almost all major Upanishads. It was there in my personal library for many years.
Other books that I bought and went through were-
‘Eight Upanishads’ in two volumes with commentary of Sankracharya by Swami Gambhiranand.
‘The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad’ by Swami Sivananda with his wonderful commentary in English
‘The Upanishads’ (6 Upanishads- Ishavasya, Kena, Mandukya, Katha, Prashna, and Mundaka) in two volumes Sri M- with lucidly explained commentaries of Slokas.
‘The Upanishads’ in two volumes by Nikhilanada published Advaita Ashrama
‘The Mandukya Upanishads with Gaudapada’s Karika and Sankara’s commentary
‘ईशादि नौ उपनिषद्’– व्याख्याकार हरिकृष्णदास गोयन्दका, गीता प्रेस
‘The Message of the Upanishads by Swami Ranganathananda, Advaita Ashram
Kathopanishad- A Dialogue with Death; Isavasya Upanishad- God in and as everything; Mundakopanishad- Tale of Two Birds: Jiva and Isvara: commentary by Swami Chinmayanand and translated in Hindi by Swami Tejomayananda.
Two important Internet sites for Upanishads and Gita:
Paramahansa Yogananda – http://yogananda.com.au/upa/Upanishads01.html