Bhagavad-Gita: As It Is

‘Bhagavad-Gita As It Is’ by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON or the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is the most translated, and most widely used edition of the Gita, the holy book for the Hindus. This book conveys Lord Krishna’s profound message “as it is” and is regarded as “the first and the last word among all Gita translations.”

In most Indian homes you’ll find this translation of the Gita by Swami Prabhupada. It has been translated into almost all major Indian language and also available in Arabic, Chinese, Danish, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. Apart from the fact it is published by the ISKCON, the popularity of this edition of the Gita, is that it is complete, authentic and presented as it is.

As the author himself explains: “If personally I have any credit in this matter, it is only that I have tried to present ‘Bhagavad-Gita’ as it is, without adulteration…I give the original verse, its English transliteration, word-for-word Sanskrit-English equivalents, translations and purports. This makes the book very authentic and scholarly and makes the meaning self-evident.”

Although it’s a fat volume of 900 pages, the handbook-generation will love the second chapter of the book entitled “Contents of the Gita Summarized” very helpful. Collectors will value it for its scholarly value. The original Devangari text, Roman text, the Sanskrit pronunciation guide, and color illustrations can make it a great addition to your collection.

The 18 Chapters of Bhagavad-Gita, As It Is

1.  The Despondency of Arjuna: As the opposing armies stand poised for battle, Arjuna, the mighty warrior, sees his intimate relatives, teachers and friends in both armies ready to fight and sacrifice their lives. Overcome by grief and pity, Arjuna fails in strength, his mind becomes bewildered, and he gives up his determination to fight.

2.  The Yoga of Knowledge: Arjuna submits to Lord Krishna as His disciple, and Krishna begins His teachings to Arjuna by explaining the fundamental distinction between the temporary material body and the eternal spirit soul. The Lord explains the process of transmigration, the nature of selfless service to the Supreme and the characteristics of a self-realized person.

3.  The Yoga of Action: Everyone must engage in some sort of activity in this material world. But actions can either bind one to this world or liberate one from it. By acting for the pleasure of the Supreme, without selfish motives, one can be liberated from the law of karma (action and reaction) and attain transcendental knowledge of the self and the Supreme.

4.  The Yoga of Renunciation of Action in Knowledge:Transcendental knowledge — the spiritual knowledge of the soul, of God, and of their relationship — is both purifying and liberating. Such knowledge is the fruit of selfless devotional action (karma-yoga). The Lord explains the remote history of the Gita, the purpose and significance of His periodic descents to the material world, and the necessity of approaching a guru, a realized teacher.

5.  The Yoga of Action with Renunciation: Outwardly performing all actions but inwardly renouncing their fruits, the wise man, purified by the fire of transcendental knowledge, attains peace, detachment, forbearance, spiritual vision and bliss.

6.  The Yoga of Meditation: Astanga-yoga, a mechanical meditative practice, controls the mind and senses and focuses concentration on Paramatma (the Supersoul, the form of the Lord situated in the heart). This practice culminates in samadhi, full consciousness of the Supreme.

7.  The Yoga of Knowledge & Realization: Lord Krishna is the Supreme Truth, the supreme cause and sustaining force of everything, both material and spiritual. Advanced souls surrender unto Him in devotion, whereas impious souls divert their minds to other objects of worship.

8.  The Yoga of Imperishable Brahman: By remembering Lord Krishna in devotion throughout one’s life, and especially at the time of death, one can attain to His supreme abode, beyond the material world.

9.  The Yoga of Sovereign Science & Secret: Lord Krishna is the Supreme Godhead and the supreme object of worship. The soul is eternally related to Him through transcendental devotional service (bhakti). By reviving one’s pure devotion one returns to Krishna in the spiritual realm.

10.  The Yoga of Divine Manifestation: All wondrous phenomena showing power, beauty, grandeur or sublimity, either in the material world or in the spiritual, are but partial manifestations of Krishna’s divine energies and opulence. As the supreme cause of all causes and the support and essence of everything, Krishna is the supreme object of worship for all beings.

11.  The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form: Lord Krishna grants Arjuna divine vision and reveals His spectacular unlimited form as the cosmic universe. Thus He conclusively establishes His divinity. Krishna explains that His own all-beautiful humanlike form is the original form of Godhead. One can perceive this form only by pure devotional service.

12.  The Yoga of Devotion: Bhakti-yoga, pure devotional service to Lord Krishna, is the highest and most expedient means for attaining pure love for Krishna, which is the highest end of spiritual existence. Those who follow this supreme path develop divine qualities.

13.  The Yoga of Discrimination of the Kshetra and Kshetrajna: One who understands the difference between the body, the soul and the Supersoul beyond them both attains liberation from this material world.

14.  The Yoga of the Division of the Three Gunas: All embodied souls are under the control of the three modes, or qualities, of material nature: goodness, passion and ignorance. Lord Krishna explains what these modes are, how they act upon us, how one transcends them, and the symptoms of one who has attained the transcendental stage.

15.  The Yoga of the Supreme Self: The ultimate purpose of Vedic knowledge is to detach oneself from the entanglement of the material world and to understand Lord Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One who understands Krishna’s supreme identity surrenders unto Him and engages in His devotional service.

16.  The Yoga of Division between the Divine and the Demoniacal: Those who possess demoniac qualities and who live whimsically, without following the regulations of scripture, attain lower births and further material bondage. But those who possess divine qualities and live regulated lives, abiding by scriptural authority, gradually attain spiritual perfection.

17.  The Yoga of the Threefold Faith: There are three types of faith, corresponding to and evolving from the three modes of material nature. Acts performed by those whose faith is in passion and ignorance yield only impermanent, material results, whereas acts performed in goodness, in accord with scriptural injunctions, purify the heart and lead to pure faith in Lord Krishna and devotion to Him.

18.  The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation: Krishna explains the meaning of renunciation and the effects of the modes of nature on human consciousness and activity. He explains Brahman realization, the glories of theBhagavad-gita, and the ultimate conclusion of the Gita: the highest path of religion is absolute, unconditional loving surrender unto Lord Krishna, which frees one from all sins, brings one to complete enlightenment, and enables one to return to Krishna’s eternal spiritual abode.

~ Subhamoy Das