CREDOS : Gita’s greatness — II

Arthur J Pais:

The philosophical treasures and literary beauty of the Bhagavad Gita (literally, “Song of God”) have spawned translations of the tract, originally in Sanskrit, into more than 24 Indian languages. English translations by such eminent Indian thinkers as C Rajagopalachari also abound.

In 1944, the distinguished poet and playwright Christopher Isherwood (his play “I Am a Camera” became the basis for “Cabaret”) and his guru Swami Prabhavanda published a translation in English with an introduction by Aldous Huxley, the novelist and essayist best known for his work “Brave New World.” Several translations have followed. “No work in all Indian literature is more quoted, because none is better loved in the West than the Bhagavad Gita,” wrote philosophy professor Geddes MacGregor, commenting on a new translation of the Gita by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1983.

There are reportedly over 5 million hardbound copies of the Gita in print in more than 45 world languages. Within the first decade of its publication, there were nearly 1 million copies of Prabhupada’s translations available in nearly 40 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Finnish, and Portuguese. The work has been hailed for the influence it had on such people like Mahatma Gandhi, who celebrated its call for righteous action without a thought of the outcome. To many of its admirers, the Gita’s eternal truths are useful for building religious ecumenism. But Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, wanted to keep the Gita from being reduced to a literary ethical tract. —