Chakra Discussions

All Glories to the Bhagavad Gita As It Is

by Premanjana das (Pranjal Joshi)

Posted June 17, 2011

The meaning is commonly given in dictionaries: Bhagavad Gita (Hinduism) the sacred "song of God" composed about 200 BCE and incorporated into the Mahabharata (a Sanskrit epic); contains a discussion between Krishna and the Indian hero Arjuna on human nature and the purpose of life. Also known more simply known as Gita, it is a Sanatana Dharma or Hindu scripture produced from the colloquy given by Shri Krishna to Arjuna during the Kurukshetra War. Its philosophies and insights are intended to reach beyond the scope of religion and to humanity as a whole.

TheBhagavad-gita, however, should not be taken just as a holy book of the Hindus, as a gem in Eastern philosophy or an an Indian ideology. This great scripture is the manual for every living entity and does not promote a sectarian outlook.

As Wikipedia points out, Charles Wilkins completed the first English translation of the Bhagavad-gita in 1785. "In 1981, Gerald Larson listed over 40 English translations, stating: 'A complete listing of Gita translations and a related secondary bibliography would be nearly endless.' He continued: 'Overall...there is a massive translational tradition in English, pioneered by the British, solidly grounded philologically by the French and Germans, provided with its indigenous roots by a rich heritage of modern Indian comment and reflection, extended into various disciplinary areas by Americans, and having generated in our time a broadly-based cross-cultural awareness of the importance of the Bhagavad-gita both as an expression of a specifically Indian spirituality and as one of the great religious classics of all time.'

"TheGita has also been translated into other European languages. In 1808, passages from the Gita were part of the first direct translation of Sanskrit into German, appearing in a book through which Friedrich Schlegel became known as the founder of Indian philology in Germany."

As I said, the Bhagavad-gita should not be mistaken as a Hindu book; the word 'Hindu' was bestowed by invaders who came to India. Though this great scripture had been long since introduced in the West, still the real revolution and changes in the lives of people came only after 1965 through the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who was the greatest exponent of Vedic wisdom in the west. The Hare Krishna movement became the most widespread spiritual culture in the world after the preaching of Srila Prabhupadai's great book.

Again according to Wikipedia, "Traditionally, commentators belong to spiritual traditions or schools (sampradayas) and Guru lineages (parampara), which claim to preserve teaching stemming either directly from Krishna himself or from other sources faithful to the original message. In the words of Mysore Hiriyanna, '[The Gita] is one of the hardest books to interpret, which accounts for the numerous commentaries on it — each differing from the rest in an essential point or the other.'

"Different translators and commentators have widely differing views on what multi-layered Sanskrit words and passages signify, and their presentation in English, depending on the sampradaya they are affiliated to. Especially in Western philology, interpretations of particular passages often do not agree with traditional views."

There was an old edition of the Bhagavad-gita by Gita Press, of Gorakhpur, in our house, but I never read it. This is probably the largest circulated edition in the Hindi language, owing to its cost, reputation and availability. Srila Prabhupada says in one of his Hindi lectures: "Everyone in India has the Gita in his house, but no one reads it; no one hears it; no one knows it. They are like donkeys." (I sometimes just keep thinking of these lines he said).

I am so fortunate that I never read any other edition than Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is." I know one devotee who'd read more than 40 versions of the work before coming in touch with Srila Prabhupada's. Though I have also seen Gitas by Swami Vivekanananda and others, I firmly believe in Srila Prabhupada's edition; in my opinion, there is no Krishna Prema in other editions. Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is is not the only bona fide one, as commentaries by Srila Vishwanath Chakravarti Thakura and other great acaryas, like Srimad Madhavacarya and Sripad Ramanujacharya also exist; however, I find Bhagavad-gita As It Is by Srila Prabhupada the greatest one.

"The Gitais as pure as milk," Prabhupada said, "but even milk becomes poisonous when touched by the lips of a serpent." There are a few editions which have only some chapters covered, which itself shows that they are incomplete and done by someone who is not a bona fide person. Generally, so-called scholars, politicians, philosophers and swamis, without perfect knowledge of KrI£sI£nI£a, try to banish or kill KrI£sI£nI£a when writing commentary on Bhagavad-gita.

"Such unauthorized commentary upon Bhagavad-gita is known as Mayavada-bhashya, and Lord Chaitanya has warned us about these unauthorised men. Lord Chaitanya clearly says that anyone who tries to understand Bhagavad-gita from theMayavadi point of view will commit a great blunder. The result of such a blunder will be that the misguided student of Bhagavad-gita will certainly be bewildered on the path of spiritual guidance and will not be able to go back to home, back to Godhead."

I feel sad for people who are drinking the "mayavadi poison" all the time; people prefer reading Bhagavad-gita from newspapers and works of Intellectuals that do not guide human society in the right direction. Gandhi used this book to promote his philosophy of ahimsa (non-violence); other writers conveyed their own personal views just using this book as their "authority." Many people have no idea of the Bhagavad-gita at all, and they just keep on giving their personal views on the subject matter. However, since it was Krishna who spoke the Gita, it should be the dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna (As It Is) and not a matter of personal discretion or any sort of other propaganda.

I would also like to thank the devotees who are taking such pains to distribute these great books of transcendental knowledge throughout the world; it is actually because of them that Shri Krishna has found a way into houses everywhere on the planet. It's Krishna himself, as a book personified. All glories to the book distributors of the world!

Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is is absolutely pure and full of Krishna Prema; these are the two things which I think are absent in all other editions of the Gita. This one is so special. The Sanskrit verses in the Gita are the same in all editions, but their translations and interpretations are not only different but also represent different ideologies. As I mentioned, some motivated people for many reasons have attempted to become famous or to establish a thought which was not presented by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna himself.

A lot of people in India make only one comment when it comes to the Gita: that it is preaching the philosophy of 'Karma,' without actually even knowing what it means. What it means is that we have to work for the satisfaction of Krishna and not for our own sense gratification (which animals are also doing): Ahara-Nidra-Bhaya-Maithun. Some people have just taken this part, interpreted it whimsically and gone ahead with the idea: "Just go ahead and keep working," without even thinking over what they are doing.

The word sometimes used for Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita is 'idiosyncratic', which means that it's just a way of promoting the 'Bhakti Cult,' whereas in the shastras (Vedic scriptures) very strong and long explanations have also been given to Karma Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Kriya Yoga and Jnana Yoga as well; since Srila Prabhupada's Gita promotes only Bhakti Yoga, "it is just presenting one cult." What we all need to understand, however, is that Bhakti Yoga is the highest Yoga; it is higher than all other yogas. Srila Prabhupada has also explained about the other yogic systems, he did not rule them out, and he put them in the context of becoming Krishna conscious (which is the only practical way in today's time to bring happiness into the lives of people).

I have seen it working. I just preached to someone on the phone, asking her to read the slokas loudly. She was having a lot of job-related problems; after reading a few slokas she started feeling "light and comfortable" for the moment. She started liking the book after that and promised me that she would read it on a regular basis. In fact she even told me that she was having a feeling which she never had in her life before.

In another incident, a lady was traumatized by her past love affair with someone, and she felt guilty about it. After reading some slokas every day, she just came out of it completely within one month and started chanting 16 malas every day. This kind of change can only occur if you have the Most Potent and Powerful with you — Krishna himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. These are examples of Phalena parichayate (an action is seen by its results).

A disciple of Srila Prabhupada told me that it's just like getting mangoes from the tree. Someone who is sitting on the top of a branch gives it to the one sitting on the branch below it, and so on. In this way we can be sure that it's the same knowledge which Krishna gave to Arjuna; each and every word is the same. That is our disciplic succession. That is the parampara (to hear the truth from a bonafide spiritual master who comes in one of the linkages mentioned in the holy books).

Hearing Bhagavad-gita from a self-realized spiritual master and following its message is what Hinduism is all about. It is the duty of every Hindu to read and follow the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures in one's day-to-day life, but many Hindus seem totally bewildered and do not capture the right knowledge. Lord Krishna was not a mystic hero or a fictional character but the Supreme Personality of Godhead himself.

Srila Prabhupada wrote his books in English, and if his books are faithfully translated into other languages with careful copy editing and proofreading then they are same as the ones in English. Although some fanatic followers believe that we should learn English first and then read his books in English, since this is the language in which he originally spoke, Krishna makes it completely clear in the Gita that becoming his devotee is the goal to which the text hopes to bring its readers: "Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend." (Chapter 18, verse 65). This sloka also happens to be the essence of the Gita.

Some of us have just heard about the Bhagavad-gita; some of us have neglected or dismissed it, but here is a chance for all of us to read the words spoken by the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna himself on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. We have the Raja-Vidya with us, and every individual who wants to take material advantages, who has spiritual assets, who is an inquirer of the absolute truth, or who is afflicted with any other misunderstanding or problems of the mundane material world, has the duty to bring the light of this great scripture into his or her life and give the soul what it has hankered for through millions of lives spent in sense gratification. Let's just spend one life for Krishna, and let it be this one, so that we can love and serve Krishna, who is our greatest well-wisher and friend, and go Back Home, Back to Godhead.

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