Scholars' Appreciations of Bhagavad-gita As It Is
"No work in all Indian literature is more quoted, because none is better loved in the West than Bhagavad-gita. Translation of such a work demands not only knowledge of Sanskrit but an inward sympathy with the theme and a verbal artistry. For the poem is a symphony in which God is seen in all things.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is, of course, profoundly sympathetic to the theme. He brings to it, moreover, a special interpretive insight, a powerful and persuasive presentation in the bhakti [devotional] tradition... The Swami does a real service for students by investing the beloved Indian epic with fresh meaning. Whatever our outlook may be, we should all be grateful for the labor that has led to this illuminating work."
- Dr. Geddes MacGregor
Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
University of Southern California
"Whether the reader be an adept of Indian spirituality or not, a reading of Bhagavad-gita As It Is will be extremely profitable, for it will allow him to understand the Gita as still today the majority of Hindus do. For many, this will be the first contact with the true India, the ancient India, the eternal India."
- Dr. Francois Chenique
Doctor of Religious Sciences
Institute of Political Studies, Paris
"There is very little question that this edition is one of the best books available on the Gita and on devotion. Prabhupada's translation is an ideal blend of literal accuracy and religious insight."
- Dr. Thomas J. Hopkins
Chairman, Dept. of Religious Studies
Franklin and Marshall College
"The Gita can be seen as the main literary support for the great religious civilization of India, the oldest surviving culture in the world.... The present translation and commentary is another manifestation of the permanent living importance of the Gita . Swami Bhaktivedanta brings to the West a salutary reminder that our highly activistic and one-sided culture is faced with a crisis that may end in self-destruction because it lacks the inner depth of an authentic metaphysical consciousness. Without such depth, our moral and political protestations are just so much verbiage."
- Thomas Merton
Late Catholic theologian, monk, author
"In this beautiful translation, Srila Prabhupada has caught the deep devotional spirit of the Gita and has supplied the text with an elaborate commentary in the truly authentic tradition of Sri Krishna Chaitanya, one of India's most important and influential saints."
- Dr. J. Stillson Judah
Emeritus Professor of the History of Religions and Director of the Library
Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley
"If truth is what works, as Pierce and the pragmatists insist, there must be a kind of truth in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, since those who follow its teaching display a joyous serenity usually missing in the bleak and strident lives of contemporary people."
- Dr. Elwin H. Powell
State University of New York
"Bhagavad-gita As It Is is a deeply felt, powerfully conceived and beautifully explained work... I have never seen any other work on the Gita with such an important voice and style. It is a work of undoubted integrity... It will occupy a significant place in the intellectual and ethical life of modern man for a long time to come."
- Dr. S. Shukla
Assistant Professor of Linguistics
(From the Foreword to the 1972 edition):
"The Bhagavad-gita is the best known and the most frequently translated of Vedic religious texts. Why it should be so appealing to the Western mind is an interesting question. It has drama, for its setting is a scene of two great armies, banners flying, drawn up opposite one another on the field, poised for battle. It has ambiguity, and the fact that Arjuna and his charioteer Krishna are carrying on their dialogue between the two armies suggests the indecision of Arjuna about the basic question; should he enter battle against and kill those who are friends and kinsmen?
"It has mystery, as Krishna demonstrates to Arjuna His cosmic form, It has a properly complicated view of the ways of the religious life and treats of the paths of knowledge, works, discipline and faith and their inter-relationships, problems that have bothered adherents of other religions in other times and places. The devotion spoken of is a deliberate means of religious satisfaction, not a mere outpouring of poetic emotion. Next to the Bhagavata-Purana, a long work from South India, the Gita is the text most frequently quoted in the philosophical writings of the Gaudiya Vaishnava school, the school represented by Swami Bhaktivedanta as the latest in a long succession of teachers.
"It can be said that this school of Vaishnavism was founded, or revived, by Sri Krishna-Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1533) in Bengal, and that it is currently the strongest single religious force in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent. The Gaudiya Vaishnava school, for whom Krishna is Himself the Supreme God, and not merely an incarnation of another deity, sees bhakti as an immediate and powerful religious force, consisting of love between man and God. Its discipline consists of devoting all one's actions to the Deity, and one listens to the stories of Krishna from the sacred texts, one chants Krishna's name, washes, bathes and dresses the murti of Krishna, feeds Him and takes the remains of food offered to Him, thus absorbing His grace; one does these things and many more, until one has been changed: the devotee has become transformed into one close to Krishna, and sees the Lord face to face.
"Swami Bhaktivedanta comments upon the Gita from this point of view, and that is legitimate. More than that, in this translation the Western reader has the unique opportunity of seeing how a Krishna devotee interprets his own texts. It is the Vedic exegetical tradition, justly famous, in action. This book is then a welcome addition from many points of view. It can serve as a valuable textbook for the college student. It allows us to listen to a skilled interpreter explicating a text that has profound religious meaning. It gives us insights into the original and highly convincing ideas of the Gaudiya Vaishnava school. In providing the Sanskrit in both Devanagari and transliteration, it offers the Sanskrit specialist the opportunity to re-interpret, or debate particular Sanskrit meanings--although I think there will be little disagreement about the quality of the Swami's Sanskrit scholarship. And finally, for the nonspecialist, there is readable English and a devotional attitude which cannot help but move the sensitive reader. And there are the paintings, which, incredibly as it may seem to those familiar with contemporary Indian religious art, were done by American devotees.
"The scholar, the student of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and the increasing number of Western readers interested in classical Vedic thought have been done a service by Swami Bhaktivedanta. By bringing us a new and living interpretation of a text already known to many, he has increased our understanding manyfold; and arguments for understanding, in these days of estrangement, need not be made."
- Professor Edward C. Dimock, Jr.
Department of South Asian Languages and Civilization
University of Chicago