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167 of 201 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good for beginners, but cautiously recommended, October 4, 2006
This review is from: Bhagavad-Gita As It Is (Paperback) (Mass Market Paperback)
Several years back, this was one of the first few translations of the Bhagavad Gita that I read. Compared to other books I found the language of translation very simple to comprehend and I also loved the layout of the book. This book was certainly inspiring as any translation of Gita would be. However a word of caution!

People following the path of devotion or bhakti would find this book helpful. The Author beleives that Krishna is supreme god-head and in Kali yuga or dark age, worshipping krishna's form is the best and only path. However one is repeatedly distracted by the author's negative comments and attacks on those who meditate on the formless Brahman.

Not stopping with that the author would sometimes go to the extent of mis-translating the verses of the Gita if Krishna himself said anything positive about the absolute and formless conciousness i.e. Brahman.

For example for the verse 24, in chapter 4

The sanskrit verse is:

brahmarpanam brahma havir
brahmagnau brahmana hutam
brahmaiva tena gantavyam
brahma-karma-samadhina

The acceptable translation in most books is

"Brahman is the oblation,
Brahman is the clarified buttter,
The oblation is poured by Brahman into the fire of Brahman.
Brahman shall be realized by the one who considers everything
As an act of Brahman. "
(Meaning the actor, action, acted and act are all brahman, one who realizes this realizes brahman)

Whereas Prabhupada's Translation is
"A person who is fully absorbed in Krsna consciousness is sure to attain the spiritual kingdom because of his full contribution to spiritual activities, in which the consummation is absolute and that which is offered is of the same spiritual nature."

However the word-by-word translation by srila prabupada is closer to truth
"brahma--spiritual in nature; arpanam--contribution; brahma--the Supreme; havih--butter; brahma--spiritual; agnau--in the fire of consummation; brahmana--by the spirit soul; hutam--offered; brahma--spiritual kingdom; eva--certainly; tena--by him; gantavyam--to be reached; brahma--spiritual; karma--activities; samadhina--by complete absorption. "

Notwithstanding all of these shortcomings,a beginner might still benefit from reading of "Bhagavad-Gita as it is", as I myself did considering the very reasonable price, word-by-word meaning and simple language. So this is "cautiously recommended" for beginners.

Edit: Please note, that not all editions of 'Bhagavad-gita as it is' have word by word English translations and Sanskrit transliteration. I understand the hard cover edition does have the word-by-word translation, but some paperbacks editions don't.
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Tracked by 6 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 26 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 5, 2008 5:58:49 AM PST
Jill Ramos says:
On a level of devotion, both versions of verse 4-24 have the same meaning.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 18, 2009 2:19:28 PM PST
Hi, thanks for this great review this is my first Sanskrit translation an this is my version:

Worshiping Brahman cleanses the butter (when offering it to the Deity in the temple)
This butter is accepted by Brahman and impurities are burned in the fire of Brahman
(digested, meaning that the karma is a spiritual food for Visnu)
Be 100% sure that this contribution will reach the target
And the food is completely cleansed from the karma and becomes spiritual to consumer

I think this translation together with the Universal Form of the Brahman (lots of mouthes burning Arjunas opponents)
makes sense.

Posted on Oct 4, 2009 8:14:49 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 4, 2009 8:16:48 AM PDT
L. Moore says:
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada gave the translation in a correct manner via synonyms and further clarified via the translation and purport. To a Vaishnava, a Hare Krishna servant of the Lord, Srila Prabhubata's translation and purport is exactly what it means. The terms take on different meanings in different sects of Hinduism and beyond. There is no need to caution, we are free thinking people. Vaishnava life is very successful for many people. This planet has many people that take pride in destroying the lives of others for some materialistic desire of one upmanship. That is where the caution should be. Any society that bases its success on and sees the game of life as the failure of others is in a downward spiral of hoplessness even when it seems to be going up in some illusionary temporal "rally". Srila Prabhubata gave way to those that were doomed by a society that "kills the competition". Thus Srila Prabhubata through the words of Lord Krishna gives protection to those without protection, stuck in a world that finds spiritual violence acceptable. There is also the concept of divine inspiration that seems to have escaped this discussion. Give Peace a Chance, read the Bhagavad-Gita, as it is by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada today.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2009 3:46:16 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 26, 2009 3:46:39 PM PST
Jayakumar says:
@L.Moore ,
also you consider the other sect of hinduism as stupid. right?

In reply to an earlier post on May 18, 2010 10:41:18 AM PDT
pundit says:
L. Moore, I agree with you that "Any society that bases its success on and sees the game of life as the failure of others is in a downward spiral of hoplessness" however I must disagree when you say "To a Vaishnava ...". Most Hindus are Vaishnav and since most Vaishnavs are not ISKCON Gaudiya Vaishnav, there is room for other points of view. You have a right to see the works of your Guru as all perfect but the objective reality is that nothing in this world is ("every work is covered by some fault"), whether it is a product of "divine inspiration" or not.

Posted on Dec 25, 2010 1:33:12 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 13, 2011 5:41:10 PM PST
parkerjwill says:
"good for beginners" implies this text is not suitable for the "advanced". This is a misunderstanding and alludes to the reviewers pompous nature.

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda was and still is the foremost authority on the planet in terms of understanding these esoteric texts from India. His mission in coming to the West was simply to serve his spiritual master Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Gosvāmī Mahārāja Prabhupāda by relaying the original message of the Brahma-sampradāya and lineage in English.

Don't be fooled into thinking this text is only good for beginners. That seems to be an immature imposition on a timeless, spotless text. Even a self-realized soul can relish the nectar within this book over and over again. Such is the nature of the Absolute Truth. Śrīla Prabhupadā has made this transcendental knowledge accessible and relishable to all English-speaking audiences, beginner to advanced.

This book is not for those who are attached to mental or philosophical approaches to the Absolute. Prabhupāda makes it clear why it is not advisable to take this approach (jńāna-yoga). For one, such a yogī cannot hope to attain full realization of the Absolute Truth but is limited to impersonal conceptions of the Absolute Truth. So to say that this text is good for beginners is a giveaway that the one who stated such is neophyte in his understanding. Taking the path of a jńānī is troublesome and crippled, especially in this age.

Devotional service, bhakti-yoga, is so simple and sublime. At the same time, it's the most advanced. It is the path which fully self-realized souls take upon comprehending and assimilating Vedānta, the summary of Vedic knowledge. Bhakti is the essence of all yogas.

Hare Kṛṣṇa!

Posted on Mar 20, 2011 7:08:21 PM PDT
Yes the impersonal feature of Krishna is described by impersonalist philosophers as featureless, attributeless and without form and as the only feature of the Absolute. The personal form of God is denied and explained as an imagination and illusion, they say its only needed, because it is difficult to meditate on something without features and without form. This is why Swami Prabhupada is going against it, because the impersonalists can not explain and never explain how and why illusion appears from a featureless, formless and attributeless brahman, yet they make big propaganda against the form of God as an illusion and therefore their philosophy is very similar to Buddhism. To be truthful if they needed something to meditate on because they have difficulties to fix their minds on their zero version of the absolute, then why not just simply paint a black dot on a white wall? Therefore Krishnas tremedously amazing pstimes and His beautiful personal form is not an illusion and it is described within the Vedas that the Absolute Truth is realised in three stages, the impersonal brahman is only the first feature of realisation of the Absolute, second is Gods feature of the Paramatma, God within the heart and third His personal form as Bhagavan Sri Krishna. The impersonalists want to merge into the impersonal Brahman, thinking they become the Brahman, what they do not know is, that there is no merging in terms of loosing their individuality, this is not going to happen according to scripture and therefore they are on the wrong path and this is why Swami Prabhupada put so much effort into explaining this truth with many references from many bonafied Vedic texts. The impersonalist philosophers of couse become offended by this, but Swami Prabhupada takes no prisoners and cuts trough the jungles of atheism and impersonalism with great authority and vigor. Another great Bhagavad Gita is that by Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, which is equally powerful and easy to read. Devarsi

Posted on May 16, 2011 11:18:14 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 16, 2011 11:22:38 AM PDT
F. Geer says:
The most educated highly regarded sanskrit scholars of U.S. universities have endorsed the Bhagavad Gita As It Is by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as the best translation available in the English language. This translation is coming from the "bhakti" or 'devotional" tradition, as opposed to the impersonal idea of God as a non-person. It is argued by theists that we ourselves cannot be persons if God Himself is less than or not even a person. Can created beings be superior to their Creator? It is not logical to think so. Yet the impersonal Brahman, or Brahmajyoti (effulgence of God, aka White light) is considered by the mayavada impersonal philosophy to be the ultimate destination for yogis. That is not the case with the devotional tradition; the devotees are trying to develop their relationship with God himself, not merely enjoy or benefit from the effulgence of His Form. Devotees of Krishna want to purify their existence, and serve and come to love God Himself. That is the concept behind Bhagavad Gita As It Is by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.

BTW, if you want the word-for-word translation, do not get the "abridged" version, as that is the one which omits this option, to make it shorter for those who don't want or need that option. Some people don't use it and want the lighter weight book. The abridged version also comes in hardcover. Just look for "abridged" to make sure.

Posted on Nov 3, 2011 5:55:06 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 3, 2011 6:03:26 PM PDT
Very good review, and many great comments. I just wanted to say that what I felt was a main thrust of the reviewer's statement was something missed by the comments. What I feel like he was trying to draw attention to is the apparently negative, even hostile, attitude of Prabhupada's statements against those who worship impersonal Brahman.

Whether Prabhupada is wrong or right is not the issue, for what the reviewer seems to be saying is that the tone is the issue, and that it may express not only a "Bhakti" reading of the text, but mixes in with this an anti-impersonalist polemic. It is as if Prabhupada takes many opportunities to insult those he disagrees with, and is always "putting them in their place," so to speak. It makes Prabhupada hard to read sometimes, and also seems to undermine even considering a potential validity to the so-called "impersonalists," not to mention some sharp words towards Shankara, a person whose teachings are quite orthodox by Hindu standards.

Further, it seems to not merely be aimed at giving confidence in his Bhakti view, or to those who hold it, but actually descends into the insulting of another's religion, something which is against Hinduism.

Swami Prabhavananda and the Ramakrishna order seem to strike a much better balance between the "personalists" and the "impersonalists."

People who do not give any credit even to their "opponents" do not only show their opponent disrespect, but also themselves and their own cause, as well as those whom they are trying to convince, especially when the cause purports to be one of love. It is a slippery slope he treads, and the reviewer was 'right on' to notice it.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2011 8:57:27 PM PDT
Peter says:
There is a reason for Prabhupada to do so and in order to understand this one has to study what theVedas says about impersonalism, where it comes from and why. Prabhupada has actually much compassion for those who are attached to the impersonal feature of the absolute but he is very much in a position to chastise the followers sankaracharya. The reson for doing so is that ultimately to declare that everything is undifferenciated oneness also means to say I am God or we are all God. The Vedas declare that such persons are great offenders to Krishna who is declared everywhere in the Vedas as The Supreme Lord, it is for this reason that Prabhupada is "putting them into place" and also because mayavadism has spread beyond India and is a clear danger for those who are beginning in spiritual life and who could fall victim to its false philosophy. Sankaracharya has only given the first realisation of The Absolute, which is the Brahman and which is not the full understanding of The Absolute which has two more higher features. It is clearly said in the Vedas that those who become attached to the impersonal Brahman have no chance to move on to the personal understanding of The Absolute. The Vedas clearly state why Adi Sankara preached impersonal understanding of God and it is not true that Prabhupada has sharp words towards Adi Sankara, declaring Him actually as a direct incarnation of Lord Shiva whom Vaishnavas worship as the greatest devotee of Lord Krishna. There is a book called "Beyond Nirvana" by Bhaktivedanta Kesava Swami who also came in the same line of Srila Prabhupada which makes absolutely clear why Lord Shiva who prays to Krishna in many places of the Vedas and why Shiva, who knows the Absolute Truth, only gave partial truth accoroding to time and circumstance. As Sankaracharya He composed a beautiful poem "Bhaja Govindam" in which He glorifies Krishna and calles His own followers fools for not worshipping Krishna.
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