The 23 rd Adhyaya of the 6th Parva of the Mahabharata is the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.
Today it is known by the name Arjuna Vishada Yoga. Sri Ramanujacharya has given a detailed prosaic summary of this chapter in his commentary. You can find it here : Bhagavad-gita :: Chapter 01 :: Ramanuja Bhasya.
Sankaracharya has not spent too much time on these slokas. He clubs them along with the first 9 slokas of the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, or the first 9 slokas of the 24th chapter of book 6 of the Mahabharata. You can find his commentary here: Bhagavad-gita :: Chapter 01 :: Sankara Bhasya. He summarises that s’oka and moha are the seeds of samsara. He says that Krishna used Arjuna‘s dilemna as an occassion for teaching the whole world about Dharma.
I think that the 2.1 to 2.9 slokas actually belong in chapter 1 along with 1.1 to 1.47, and I guess that they were carried over to the sankhya yoga chapter, because, that is how the adhyaya was divided in the original Mahabharata. Not because they have anything to do with Sankhya philosophy.
There are writers who believe that the Gita has been added to or subtracted from over the ages. But Sankara has commented on 700 verses which is the number we have today. The traditional date of Adi Sankara is 482 to 476 BCE. (This is the one I accept – you can click the link for the arguments.)
Sankara also said that the Gita had a large number of conflicting commentaries on it by his own time. Therefore we can take it that these 700 verses were what Sankara received as the Gita around 500 BCE. Taking the start of kaliyuga as 3102 BCE, in which year Veda Vyasa वेद व्यास began the composition of the Mahabharata, any subsequent editing of the Gita could have been done only between 3000 and 500 BCE., if it was done at all. At present I don’t think that any such editing was done in those 2500 years.
I think that the Chapter structure of the Bhagavad Gita simply followed the chapter structure of the Mahabharata and the chapter names in the Bhagavad Gita were given after the “most important ideas” in that chapter.
There are writers who say that Krishna was not identified with God initially and all such were interpolations. However, in those slokas which they count as original, they include 2.1 in which Krishna is called Madhusudana. It is universally known that it was Vishnu who was known as Madhusudana since He killed Madhu and Kaitabha. To call Krishna as Madhusudana is to identify him with Vishnu, with Purusha, with God. There was no doubt in the minds of Bhishma or Vyasa that Krishna was Vishnu, the Purushottama. Sankara himself is very clear that Krishna, the son of Devaki and Vasudeva was Vishnu incarnate and says so in his introduction. See : Sankara’s Gita Bhashyam – 0.2 (Purusha Lakshanas, Prakruti, 700 verses by Vyasa).
- From slokas 2.11 to 2.30, Krishna tells Arjuna that the eternal avyakta purusha is present in all beings and that it cannot be destroyed. This can be seen as the Sankhya Philosophy.
- From slokas 2.31 to to 2.36, Krishna tells Arjuna that if he does not do his duty and fight, then people will laugh at him. This is not Sankhya. It is an everyday fact. When Krishna left Mathura for Dwaraka, some people called him RanChod! And it could not have been fun for the Yadavas.
- In 2.38 , Krishna tells Arjuna to fight without attachment to victory or profit and that then no papam will accrue to him. Papam is not a sankhya concept!
- From 2.39 to 2.53, Krishna explains Yoga to Arjuna, which is essentially yagnya (karma or work) without any desire for phala (benefits). Today we call this Karma Yoga, but Krishna used the word “yoga” alone.
- From 2.54 to 2.72, Krishna explains how a sthitapragnya conducts himself and finally he defines brahmi sthiti. This is equally applicable to any of the yogas, gnyana, karma or bhakthi… as we label them today.
I would also like to specially draw your attention to these slokas :
“If however you think, that it lives and dies, then know that what is alive must die and what dies must be reborn.”
2.26 atha cainaṃ nityajātaṃ nityaṃ vā manyase mṛtam
tathāpi tvaṃ mahābāho naivaṃ śocitum arhasi
2.27 jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyur dhruvaṃ janma mṛtasya ca
tasmād aparihārye ‘rthe na tvaṃ śocitum arhasi
What Krishna first explains is that “This”, “enam” has no death, it is eternal, as “it is said” (in the upanishads)
2.25 avyakto ‘yam acintyo ‘yam avikāryo ‘yam ucyate
tasmād evaṃ viditvainaṃ nānuśocitum arhasi
Thus on authority of the upanishads, Krishna says that the This, the You, the I.. all these are eternal. Then he says.. if you choose to think that This is not eternal and that it can die, then know that it will be reborn.
For some reason, no one highlights this point at all.
Authorship and Copyright Notice : Satya Sarada Kandula