By Yadavendra Das (acbsp).
By Krishna’s mercy, I had the morning of August 28th, 2013, the day preceding our most important Hare Krishna festivals along with Gaura Purnima, Sri Krishna Janmastami and Srila Prahupada’s appearance day, the following realizations regarding Bhagavad-Gita As It Is.
The first realisation I would like to share is as follows:
When we talk about Srila Prabhupada’s presentation of Bhagavad-Gita, we should take care to always vibrate “Bhagavad-Gita As It Is”, abbreviated BGAII, to create a totally new image of Bhagavad-Gita, the book that has otherwise been translated 650 times already. On book distribution Sankirtan, I have come across this expression “Bhagavad-Gita As It Is” vibrated by so-called outsiders, who have had contact with Iskcon (obviously). Besides pleasantly familiar, it struck me as both fully relevant and appropriate. Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-Gita As It Is rendition is unique. It cannot be compared to any other rendition. We should therefore be careful to create a distinctive identity for His BGAII.
In the preface Srila Prabhupada writes” If personally I have any credit in this matter, it is only that I have tried to present Bhagavad-Gita as it is, without any adulteration. Before my presentation of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, almost all the English editions of Bhagavad-Gita were introduced to fulfill someone’s personal ambition. But our attempt, in presenting Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, is to present the mission of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. Our business is to present the will of Krishna, not that of any mundane speculator like the politician, philosopher or scientist, for they have very little knowledge of Krishna, despite all their other knowledge.” We ought therefore to reflect this state of affairs in our designation of the book. It is also clever marketing.
In 760124let.Nitai, Srila Prabhupada Himself sets the standard:” Yes, Bhagavad-Gita As It Is should be studied from the beginning. There must be study from my books also.”
The second realization is also important.
Honesty is one of the keys to success in spiritual life. This is confirmed by shastra on many instances.
In the following passage of 760427Ar.NZ Srila Prabhupada mentions “honesty”, one of the brahmana’s qualities, twice. He does emphasizes it as “You must be very honest”:
“For enhancing devotional activities one must be very enthusiastic. That is the first proposition. Don’t be dull. Enthusiastic. Utsahan and dhairyat, patiently. Utsahan, dhairyat, niscayad. Niscayat means firmly convinced: “Yes, surely I shall meet Krishna and go to Him, back to home, back to…” Niscayat. Utsahan dhairyat niscayat tat-tat-karma-pravartanat. But you have to do the prescribed duties. Sato vritteh. You must be very honest and sadhu-sange, and in the association of devotees. Six: utsahan, dhairyat, niscayat, and tat-tat-karma-pravartanat, sadhu-sanga [Cc. Madhya 22.83], and being honest. If we follow these six principles, then it is sure. Sadbhir bhaktir prasidhyati.” Nectar of Instruction. Text three.
There is of course also Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, version 2, 18.42:
“Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness—these are the natural qualities by which the brahmanas work.”
In the word for word translations, “arjavam” is translated in both versions as “honesty”, elsewhere sometimes as “simplicity”, not in a pejorative way as in “simpleton” but as in “simple living, high thinking”. In Srimad Bhagavatam, 8.20.19, purport, it is translated as “simplicity or freedom from duplicity” as being a qualification of a brahmana and a Vaishnava.
In 740328BGAII.Bom Srila Prabhupada says:
Sadhu means honest, good behaved. They are called sadhu. There is description of sadhu. Sadhava sadhu-bhusanah. What are they, sadhu?
This is the description of sadhu. Sadhu does not mean for livelihood change the color of the garment or having big beard and become sadhu. No. Sadhu means devotee. Sadhu means first-class devotee.”
Therefore my second suggestion is to clearly state, in all honesty, which Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, we are quoting from, whether we are quoting from Bhagavad As It Is version one or Bhagavad-Gita As It Is version two. This is common practice in other religions. In the case of Christianity for example, to give direct and full designation of the Bible version one is quoting from, is common practice.
Let there be no misunderstanding on this point: To be attached to either one rendition of BGAII, means to have attained an exalted existential position in the evolutionary process from the lower material forms to advanced life in the spiritual sky. Neither is there any reason to quarrel as to which rendition is the best. None is the best, unfortunately! By Lord Krishna’s inconceivable arrangement, the best is yet to come.
We note in that respect 6.19 has reverted to original rendition with capital S for Self, as it refers to the Supersoul, not the individual soul. This is confirmed in the purport. As a form of meditation, self-meditation is also condemned in Krishna Book, “The Daily activities of Lord Krishna”, wherein Srila Prabhupada writes:” When He (Krishna) meditates, therefore, He meditates on Himself. Self-meditation by ordinary men, designated in Sanskrit as so ’ham, is simply imitation. Krishna may meditate on Himself because He is the complete whole, but we cannot imitate Him and meditate on ourselves. Our body is a designation superimposed upon our self, the soul. Krishna’s body is not a designation: Krishna’s body is also Krishna. There is no existence of anything foreign in Krishna. Whatever there is in Krishna is also Krishna. He is therefore the supreme, indestructible, complete existence, or the Supreme Truth. “
There are still too many unresolved questions, as to the best rendition of Srila Prabhupada’s glorious Bhagavad-Gita As It Is. But in all honesty, I must add that version two is still my personal favorite because a sincere attempt has been made to improve some muddled passages, as well as improve the quality of the English language throughout.
But version one clearly has its own superiorities. Chapter six, for example, remains “Sankhya Yoga”, as per Srila Prabhupada’s personal wishes and designation. Please see 721212Bgaii.Ahm for confirmation. There are also 690319let.Satsvarupa and 721108SB.Vrn. But most explicitly 690216Bgaii.La, wherein Srila Prabhupada’s first words are: Sankhya-yoga is the astanga-yoga. This sitting posture and meditation, this is called sankhya-yoga.”
It is always unwise policy to contradict the unequivocal orders of the bona fide Spiritual Master.
We also find plate 33: “Krishna delivers His unalloyed devotee from the ocean of birth and death”, perfectly illustrating the purpose of the human from of life, in version one only.
Otherwise my request is: Please hear Srila Pabhupada, please hear Srila Prabhupada, please hear Srila Prabhupada.
Thank you very much for reading me. Hare Krishna.