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by Premanjana Dasa (Pranjal Joshi)
The meaning of the Bhagavad Gita as given in dictionaries is as follows–
(Hinduism) the sacred `song of God’ composed about 200 BC 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.
The Bhagavad Gita (Song of God), also more simply known as Gita, 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. It is at times referred to as the “manual for mankind” and has been highly praised by not only prominent Indians.
The Bhagavad Gita however should not be taken just as a ‘Holy Book’ of the Hindus or ‘A Gem in Eastern Philosophy’ or an ‘Indian Ideology’.This Great scripture is the MANUAL for every living entity and does not promote a sectarian outlook.
The first English translation of the Bhagavad Gita was done by Charles Wilkins in 1785.In 1981, Larson listed more than 40 English translations of the Gita, stating that “A complete listing of Gita translations and a related secondary bibliography would be nearly endless” . He stated that “Overall… there is a massive translational tradition in English, pioneered by the British, solidly grounded philological 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.”
The Gita 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.
The Bhagavad Gita should not be mistaken as a ‘Hindu Book’ as the word Hindu was also given by the Muslims/Arabs invaders who came to India.Though this great scripture was introduced in the West long back but still the ‘Real Revolution and Changes in the lives of people came only after the year 1965 after they read the Bhagavad Gita As It Is by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada who was the greatest exponent but not the pioneer of Vedic Wisdom in the west.Hare Krishna movement became the most widespread ’spritual cult’ in the world after the preaching of Bhaktivedanta Swami’s great book.
Traditionally the commentators belong to spiritual traditions or schools (sampradaya) and Guru lineages (parampara), which claim to preserve teaching stemming either directly from Krishna himself or from other sources, each claiming to be faithful to the original message. In the words of Someone, “[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.
As far as drinking poison is concerned,there was an old edition of Bhagavad Gita by Gita Press Gorakhpur in our house but I never read it.This is probably the largest circulated edition of The Bhagavad Gita in Hindi language owing to its cost,reputaion and availability.Srila Prabhupada says in one of His Hindi lectures that everyone in India has the Bhagavad Gita in His house but noone reads it ,no one hears it, no one knows it ,they are like donkeys.(I sometimes just keep thinking of these lines He said).
As far as ‘reading poison’ is concerned,its true…but I am so fortunate that I never rad any other edition that Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita as it is….I know one devotee who read more than 40 Editions before coming in touch with Srila Prabhupada version.Though I have also seen the Bhagavad Gita As It Is by Swami Vivekanannda,Gita Pres Gorakhpur,Osho etc. but I firmly believe in Srila Prabhupada’s edition as there is no ‘Krishna Prema’ in other editions.Srila Prabhupada’s version of the Bhagavad Gita is however not the only bonafide one as the commentaries of Srila Vishwanath Chakravarti thakura and some other great acaryas like Srimad Madhavacraya and Sripad Ramanujacharya are also present,however,I find Bhagavad Gita As It Is by Srila Prabhupada the greatest book.“The Gita is as pure as milk,” he continued, “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 bonafide person. Generally the so-called scholars, politicians, philosophers, and swamis, without perfect knowledge of Kṛṣṇa, try to banish or kill Kṛṣṇa when writing commentary on Bhagavad-gītā. Such unauthorised commentary upon Bhagavad-gītā is known as Māyāvāda-bhāṣya, and Lord Caitanya has warned us about these unauthorised men. Lord Chaitanya clearly says that anyone who tries to understand Bhagavad-gītā from the Māyāvādī point of view will commit a great blunder. The result of such a blunder will be that the misguided student of Bhagavad-gītā will certainly be bewildered on the path of spiritual guidance and will not be able to go back to home, back to Godhead.
Also,I feel sad for the people who are drinking the ‘mayavadi poison’ all time;people prefer reading Bhagavad Gita from Newspapers and works of Intellectuals that do not guide the human society in the right direction.For example Gandhi used this book to promote His philosophy of ‘ahmisa’ (non-violence).Other writers conveyed their own personal views just using this book as its the ‘greatest authority’.People in India have no idea of Tha 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 Bhagavad Gita,it should be the dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna (As It Is) and not a matter of personal discretion are any sort of other propaganda.
I would also like to Thank the devotees who are taking so much pain in distributing these great books of transcendental knowledge throughout the world,its actually because of them that Shri Krishna as found a way in all houses on this entire planet.Its Krishna Himself as a book personified…so All Glories The Book Distributors in the world !
What makes Srila Prabhupada Edition of The Bhagavad Gita is that its ‘Absolutely Pure’ and full of ‘Krishna-Prema’,these are the two things which are absent in all other editions of The Bhagavad Gita As It Is.So this one is so special.Verses in the Bhagavad Gita are all same in all editions but their interpretations,Purports and Translations are not only different and unique but also represent different ideologies and also that people have used their own personal motives(for many reasons) to either become famous or establish a ‘Thought’ which was not pretended by the Supreme Personality Of Godhead — Shri Krishna Himself.
A lot of people in India make only one comment when it comes to the Bhagavad Gita that its preaching the philosophy of ‘Karma’ without actually even knowing what it actually 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’.So,people in India just took this part interpreted it whimsically and went 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 Bhagavad Gita is ‘idiosyncratic’,which means that its just a way of promoting the ‘Bhakti Cult’,whereas in the shastras(Vedic Scriptures), a very strong and long explanations have also been given to Karma Yoga,Hatha Yoga, Kriya Yoga ,Gyan Yoga etc. as well but since Srila Prabhupada Bhagavad Gita promotes only the ‘Bhakti Yoga’ so its just presenting one CULT.The point here which we all need to understand is that Bhakti Yoga is the highest Yoga,its higher than all other yogas , Srila Prabhupada has also explained about the other yogic system in His books,He never ruled them out and He put them in context of becoming ‘Krishna Consciousness’(which is the only possible way in today’s time to bring happiness in the lives of people).
I have seen it working,I just preached to someone on phone and asked Her to read slokas loudly,She was having a lot of job related problems in Her life…and just 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 will read it on a regular basis,in fact She even told Me that She was having a feeling which She never ever had in Her life before.
In another incidence,a lady was traumatised by her ‘past love affair’ with someone and She felt guilty about it,after reading some slokas everyday,she just came out of it within one month completely and started chanting 16 mala everyday and this kind of change can only occur if you have the ‘Most Potent and Powerful’ thing with you…that is Krishna Himself- The Supreme Personality Of Godhead’.These are examples of ‘Phalena-Parichayate’(an action is seen by its results).
I was told by a disciple of Srila Prabhupada personally that its 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 ,so in this way we can be sure that its the same knowledge which Krishna gave to Arjuna-in fact 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 his day to day life but the Hindus are totally bewildered and do not capture the right knowledge.Lord Krishna was not a mystic hero area fictional character but The Supreme Personality Of Godhead Himself.Srila Prabhupada wrote His books in English and if His books are translated into other languages with proof-reading’ (then they are same as the ones in English).However,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,Sloka 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 it becomes the duty of every individual who wants to take material advantages,spiritual assets,inquirer of the absolute truth or any other misunderstanding or problems of the mundane material world, that He brings the Light of this great scripture n His life and give the Soul what the Soul has been hankering for last millions of lives.We have spent millions of lives in doing sense gratification just spend one 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.