Bhagavad-Gītā as It Is

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Original front cover. Copyright BBT

Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is is a translation and commentary of the Bhagavad Gita by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). It is known amongst other translations of the Bhagavad Gita for its strong emphasis on the path of bhakti yoga above all others, in line with the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The book has been distributed primarily through promotion by the modern Hare Krishna movement. It was first published in 1968 by Macmillan Publishers, with an unabridged edition in 1972.[1][2][3] A second edition (edited from the 1972 original) is now published by The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust and is available in nearly six languages.[4][5]

Contents[edit]

Arjuna and Krishna as depicted on the 1980s cover of Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is

For each verse, the book (in complete editions) includes the Devanagari script, a Latin transliteration, word-for-word Sanskrit-English meanings, and English translation. An extensive commentary by Prabhupada is given throughout, based on various Gaudiya Vaishnava works, including: Ramanuja Bhasya (in Sanskrit); Sarartha-varsini-tika (Sanskrit) by Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura; Gita-bhusana-tika (Sanskrit) by Baladeva Vidyabhushana; and Bhaktivinode Thakur's Bengali commentaries.

Thus the book advocates the path of bhakti toward Krishna, who is seen as identical to Vishnu, in direct opposition to monistic interpretations. This has led to criticisms from a number of figures[who?] who disagree with Prabhupada's literal approach.

Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is is written in the tradition of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and the members of ISKCON consider the book authoritative and literally true (mukhya-vrtti). Like the majority of other Hindu traditions, Gaudiya Vaishnavism regards the Bhagavad Gita as the essence of the Vedic knowledge and the Upanishads.

Some editions of the Gita come with prefaces by Allen Ginsberg and Thomas Merton.

Distribution[edit]

This translation is probably the one most sold outside India, due to the efforts of the conspicuous Hare Krishna devotees on the streets, in airports, and in other public places. The book also enjoys brisk sales within India. It has been published in fifty-nine languages, including French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish, Russian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Latvian, Ukrainian, Macedonian, Hungarian, Georgian, Croatian, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Nepali, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Tamil, and Telugu.[5]

Varnashrama dharma[edit]

Socially, Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is suggests a way of life derived from the Manu Smriti and other books of Hindu religious and social law and applied for the contemporary Western world. In this way of life, ideal human society is described as being divided into four Varnas (brahmana - intellectuals, kshatriya - administrators, vaishya – merchants, shudra - workers). Within his writings Prabhupada supports the view that one becomes a member of one of the Varnas not by birth but by one's personal qualities (guna) and the type of work (karma) one actually performs (BG 4.13). Society is described as best ruled by a benevolent kshatriya sovereign, who is to govern according to rules set by scriptural tradition and preserved by self-controlled and pure-hearted spiritual leaders (brahmanas). The kshatriya sovereign (like courts in many democratic states) may also order capital punishment.

Brahmanas, elders, women, children and cows are said to deserve special protection, with animals, especially cows, being preserved from slaughter at all costs. Prabhupada encourages readers to adopt a lacto-vegetarian diet and gives agriculture as the ideal economic basis of society. Ultimately Prabhupada gives the conclusion that society should be "Krishna conscious" -- enlightened by devotion (bhakti) to Krishna (God).

Trial[edit]

In June 2011, a group linked to the Christian Orthodox Church had demanded a ban owing to an alleged "conflict of interests" between the Russian followers of Krishna and local authorities in the Siberian region of Tomsk. The case was dismissed by a federal judge on 28 December 2011.[6]

Russian ambassador Alexander M. Kadakin condemned the "madmen" seeking the ban, underlining that Russia was a secular country:[7]

15,000 Indians in Moscow, and followers of ISKCON in Russia asked the Indian government to intervene to resolve the issue.[8] The move triggered strong protests by Members of Parliament as they wanted the Indian Government to take up the matter strongly with Russia. The final hearing in the Tomsk district court was then scheduled on 28 December, with the court agreeing to seek the opinion of the Russian Ombudsman on human rights in the Tomsk region as well as Indologists from Moscow and St Petersburg.[9] The prosecutor's office filed an appeal against the judge's ruling, but on March 21, 2012, the appeal court upheld the decision of the lower court, rejecting the prosecutor's petition.[10]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Maheswar Neog Professor Maheswar Neog Felicitation Volume (1990)
  2. ^ Bhaktivedanta Swami, A. C. (1968). The Bhagavad-gita As It Is, first edition. New York: Macmillan.
  3. ^ Rosen, S. "The Macmillan Miracle". www.krishna.com. Archived from the original on 2008-06-06. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  4. ^ Cole & Dwayer 2007, p. 34
  5. ^ a b The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust offers a 2006 "summary PDF file showing which books have been translated into which languages.". www.krishna.com. Archived from the original on 28 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  6. ^ "Gita row: Russia court refuses to ban Bhagvad Gita". NDTV. 28 December 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  7. ^ "Declare Bhagavad Gita as national book, demands BJP". Hindustan Times. 20 December 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2011. 
  8. ^ "Gita row snowballs, India raises issue at 'highest levels'". The Economic Times. 20 December 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2011. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Gita ban: Russian court suspended verdict till 28 Dec". The Statesman. 19 December 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2011. 
  10. ^ "Russian court dismisses plea seeking ban on Gita". NDTV. Press Trust of India. 21 March 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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