Published on October 20th, 2023 | by


Forward To The Bhagavad-gita As It Is

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.

[The following is the forward to the “Bhagavad-gita As It Is” by His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada]

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 Krsna 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 Krsna 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 Vaisnava school, the school represented by Swami Bhaktivedanta as the latest in a long succession of teachers.

It can be said that this school of Vaisnavism was founded, or revived, by Sri Krsna-Caitanya 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 Vaisnava school, for whom Krsna 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 Krsna from the sacred texts, one chants Krsna’s name, washes, bathes, and dresses the murti of Krsna, feeds Him and takes the remains of the 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 Krsna, 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 Krsna 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 which has profound religious meaning. It gives us insights into the original and highly convincing ideas of the Gaudiya Vaisnava 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 Vaisnavism, 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

Click here to Purchase Bhagavad-gita As It Is


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4 Responses to Forward To The Bhagavad-gita As It Is

  1. michelle mohan says:

    Hare Krishna Madhudvisa,
    Please accept my most humble respect to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev.
    I also put my younger brother in the Krishna connect newsletter today. I signed him up. His name is Nel and his email is He was happy to hear about your lecture about Krishna. Haribol, doing a podcast in Bhagavad-Gita was extremely awesome. I can always listen to it eventhough I closed my eyes, doing some housework and many more things. You came up with a very good idea. Thank you so much for doing the podcast and thank you so very much for your service love for our Lord Krishna. Please send me more podcast if you ever happen to do it again.
    Haribol, If you ever happen to do the podcast again, please speak a little bit louder and slower. I could’t hear your voice that much but it was great and nice presentation. You did a very wonderful job!!!!! Again thank you so much!!!!!! HARE KRISHNA!!!!!!!!!!

    Your servant,

  2. michelle mohan says:

    Hare Krishna Madhudvisa,
    Please accept my most humble respect to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev.
    Thank you so much for your reply. Right now I don’t have a job and I am planning to order the books, incense, and tulasi neck bead when I get the job, but I prayed to Krishna and He will be my first priority right now no matter what. Thank you for encouraging me to order the bhagavad-gita, yes I really need it and it will help me to understand Him more. I found my book that my uncle gave me when I was young. It is the Science of Self Realization. I started reading the book, and it was wonderful! I had learned that Spiritual life means voluntarily accepting some austerities for the sake of God realization. Wow!
    I was gladly and calm to find out that I didn’t offend Lord Jesus Christ everytime I am thinking and worshipping Krishna instead. Anyway you said that the people who believe in Jesus Christ and pray to God are making spiritual advancement. So when they die they cannot yet go to spiritual world but they go to Jesus Christ but what happen to them after that?
    I would like to share my dreams with you if you don’t mind. I dreamed that I was riding a chariot with Krishna and He was the driver. We are in the middle and thousands of armies surrounded us. I was fighting the armies without a doubt because Krishna is with me. Suddenly the surrounding became dark but me and Krishna had the only light. It was a very very bright light. Then I came out to the black book and I closed it. Then I saw Krishna in front of the cover of the black book. He is so bright, Krishna is very bright but I saw Him. Then I woke up. I don’t know what was that or what it means?

    Your servant,

  3. michelle mohan says:

    Hare Krishna Madhudvisa,
    Please accept my most humble respect to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev.
    Now I understand my real purpose here. No wonder I can’t get Him out of my mind. I forgot my real mission here. He wanted me to go back home, back to Godhead. So this is why people suffer more because they are still living in the material world? What about the devotees who is chanting everyday and follow the four regulative principles and living inside the temple, but I saw that some of them are still suffering more? What about also the karmis who is chanting everyday but they are not vegeatarin and living outside the temple, they are also suffering. So what is the difference? So you are saying that the only way to stop the suffering and sorrows, we have to get out in this material world and go back home to spiritual world. Is this the only way? What about those priests and pastors who are working very hard to preach the message of God to people. When they die for instance, where do you think they are going and why? Christ said in the bible, no one can come to my Father but by me first. The christian who are devoted to go to church every week and always pray the rosary and novena. Are they going back home, to Krishna? Anyway I apologized that I ask so many questions but I ask Krishna to give me His mercy so that I can be able to understand Him more. I am humbling myself to Krishna and to you haribol to help me see the truth about Krishna and Christ? When my relatives asked me to go church with them, I have to follow to stay out of the trouble. Inside the church, pastor is preaching but my mind and heart is focusing to Krishna. My concentration is not there. That’s why I don’t want to go church anymore because I am ashamed and guilty sometimes that I am fooling myself and relatives because no matter where I go or I do, I am screaming Krishna in my mind, especially in my heart. To be honest with you, I don’t know why?
    Do you think I offense Christ and I added more my sin? And so with Krishana?
    Well thank you so much for listening to me and I hope that I did not offense you in any way.

    Your servant,

    • Hare Krishna Michelle

      Thanks for the nice questions. All glories to Srila Prabhuapda!

      It is not that because we are devotees and chanting Hare Krishna that there will be no suffering in our lives. Suffering will be there. The devotees understand the nature of this material world is suffering. So from the bodily concept of life there will be suffering. A devotee’s body will get old and get sick and die, just like a karmi’s body.

      But the difference is that the devotee knows he is not the body but the spirit soul, he knows that the sufferings are only effecting the body, they do not touch him, the soul.

      The people who belive in Jesus Christ and go to the churches and pray to God are certainly making spiritual advancement.

      But going back home, back to Godhead, that is a very special and rare thing.

      You will certainly not offend Lord Jesus Christ by chanting Hare Krishna and worshiping Krishna.

      Krishna, Christ, Christos… These are all just variations on the same name. It is all referring to Krishna. Jesus is the son of Krishna.

      So he will be very happy with you when you worship Krishna.

      Chanting Hare Krishna is always good and Krishna consciousness is a science and we need to follow the scientific process that you will find as you read Srila Prabhuapda’s books more and more…

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy! [yes, you will be happy, but you can not expect that all the material sufferings will go away…]

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