Bhagavān

Review of Śrī Babaji’s Bhagavad-Gītā

Śrī Babaji is well known all around the world for his priceless translations of the Sandarbhas. The Sandarbhas, with their exclusive focus on the Bhāgavata purāṇa, are the calling card of the Caitanya sampradāya.

In addition to the Bhāgavata purāṇa, the Bhagavad-Gītā occupies an important place in the tradition. Two prominent scholars of the Caitanya tradition, Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravarti Thākura and Śrī Baladeva Vidyabhusana, wrote scholarly commentaries on the Bhagavad-Gītā. Śrīdhar swami’s commentary on the Gītā is also given much importance in the tradition given his overall status as the main commentator on the Bhāgavata purāṇa. Śrī Jīva Goswami cited the Gītā numerous times in the Sandarbhas, where he consistently referred to it as the Gītopaniṣad, giving it the respect generally reserved for the Upaniṣads.

Śrī Babaji translated the Bhagavad-Gītā years ago in an easy to read, compact edition. For each verse, commentaries of Śrī Śrīdhar swami and Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravarti were consulted. A particularly helpful aspect of this translation is that the Sanskrit words are arranged in such a way that the corresponding meanings create a complete sentence. Arranging the words according to the sentence syntax is called ‘anvaya’ in Sanskrit, and is the traditional way of presenting the meaning.

An example of anvaya from the book can be seen in the famous first verse of the Gītā below. This is an extremely useful feature of the book. Sometimes words are inserted to complete the intended meaning in square brackets.

The book has extensive footnotes that explain difficult concepts or justify translations in a particular way. An example is below which justifies the translation of the word brahma-nirvāṇa as parabrahman in verse 2.72. The scholarship of Śrī Babaji is clearly evident. Further, each chapter is preceded by a particularly helpful summary.

Overall, this book is a masterly translation by a true Sanskrit scholar and a person steeped in the Caitanya tradition. The author does not indulge in unnecessary social commentary or court controversy in any way; his main concern is translating the Gītā with fidelity to the ācāryas. It is a refreshing change from the confusing and muddled translations currently in vogue. I highly recommend it!

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