Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The Lokamānya B. G. Tilak wrote a commentary on the Bhagavadgītā, which is called Śrimadbhagavadgītārahasya athava Karmayogaśāṣṭra but is popularly known as the Gītārahasya. In the Gītārahasya, Tilak often quotes three of the prominent saints of Mahārāṣṭra, namely, Jñāneśvar, Tukārām, and Rāmdās. A few scholars have indicated that there might be some influence of the theology of the prominent Maráthá saints on the Gītárahasya. But no one has studied this matter in detail and demonstrated the depth of their influence on the Gītārahasya. This thesis hopes to fill that gap in Tilak scholarship. In attempting to do that this thesis traces out how the religious, social, philosophical, and ethical ideas of Jñāneśvar, Tukārām, and Rāmdās influenced Tilak's religious, social, philosophical, and ethical thought in the Gītārahasya.
Tilak was a controversial leader in Mahãrãṣṭra. He opposed the 'Age of Consent Bill' introduced by Hindu social reformers and argued that social reform should be carried out within the frame of Hinduism. He opposed the Moderate party being allowed to hold its Social Conference in the Congress pandal and thus separated social reform from political reform. His opposition to the social reforms proposed by the social reformers was understood by many to mean that he was anti-reformist and pro-orthodox. How can a student of Tilak understand him? This thesis provides an answer to this problem, saying that Tilak took a middle position on questions of social reform and orthodoxy between the strict orthodox, who were completely opposed to social change, and the Hindu social reformers, who wanted to reform Hindu society on the basis of western values and culture. This thesis demonstrates that Tilak's middle position on those issues is best understood as an attempt to continue the position taken by the Marāthā saints on problems of social change and orthodoxy.
Tilak, being a nationalist, defended Hindu values and institutions. He defended the final authority of the Vedas. He defended the traditional Hindu social order, that is, the varṇa vyavasthã, in terms of the guna-karma theory (i.e. position of an individual in Hindu society is determined by his qualities and functions). He did not, however, justify social hierarchy in terms of birth. He was fully aware of the defects of the caste system and he wished to remove them. He expounded the message of the Bhagavadgītā along these lines.
Tilak argued that the Gītā teaches advaita Vedanta. Because of this he preferred the commentary (bhãsya) of Śamkaracārya on the Gītā over the commentaries written by other ācāryas. This might lead one to believe that Tilak's advaitic philosophy and Śamkara's a Vedanta were identical. This thesis, however, argues that Tilak's advaitic philosophy differs from Samkara's system in that Tilas follows the advaitic theology of the Maratha saints rather than that of Śamkara's system. Tilak's system in purna advaita (perfect or complete non-dualism) like that of the saints, rather than Śamkara's kevala advaita (pure or abstract non-dualism).
Tilak rejected all the bhāsyas on the Gītā because they proposed either jñanamārga or bhaktimãrga as the way of liberation and exhorted a liberated person to renounce society and take samnyāsa (renunciation of society). Tilak argued that the Karmayoga of the Gītā is a synthesis of knowledge (jñāna), devotion (bhakti), and action (karma) and its liberated person (jñāni or sthitaprajña) continues to act even after liberation. This is Tilak's unique position. This thesis argues that Tilak's distinctive position follows the activistic (pravrttipara) theology of the Maratha saints whose bhaktimārga was a synthesis of knowledge, action, and devotion and who asked a liberated person to continue doing his socio-religious duties for the welfare of others in the spirit of dedication and selflessness. Tilak followed the saints of Mahārāstra very closely in this regard.
In short, this thesis is an attempt to explain Tilak's religious, social, philosophical, and ethical ideas in the light of the saintly tradition of Mahārastra. It does not specifically deny that he was aware of western thought that he felt some loyalty to his Brahmanical heritage, or that he was responding creatively to the political and cultural pressures of his day. While each of these factors affected his thought, this thesis argues that he was determined to keep to the tradition of the Marāthā saints and that in the Gītārahasya he largely succeeded in that endeavour.
Rupwate, Daniel D., "The Lokamānya Bāl Gangādhar Tilak's Śrimadbhagavadgītā-rahasya in the Light of the Saintly Tradition of Mahārāstra" (1980). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3263.