The Bhagavad-gītā is universally renowned as the jewel of India's spiritual wisdom and the most widely read book of classic world literature. Spoken by Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead to His intimate disciple Arjuna, the Gita's seven hundred concise verses provide a definitive guide to the science of self realization. It contains knowledge of five basic truths: Krishna (God), the individual soul, the material world, action in this world, and time. No other philosophical or religious work reveals, in such a lucid and profound way, the nature of consciousness, the self, the universe and the Supreme.
What famous people say about Bhagavad-gītā
Albert Einstein: When I read the Bhagavad-Gita and reflect about how God created this universe everything else seems so superfluous.
Mahatma Gandhi: When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day.
Henry David Thoreau: In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer: The Bhagavad-Gita has a profound influence on the spirit of mankind by its devotion to God which is manifested by actions.
Sri Aurobindo: The Bhagavad-Gita is a true scripture of the human race a living creation rather than a book, with a new message for every age and a new meaning for every civilization.
Carl Jung: The idea that man is like unto an inverted tree seems to have been current in by gone ages. The link with Vedic conceptions is provided by Plato in his Timaeus in which it states..." behold we are not an earthly but a heavenly plant." This correlation can be discerned by what Krishna expresses in chapter 15 of Bhagavad-Gita.
Prime Minister Nehru: The Bhagavad-Gita deals essentially with the spiritual foundation of human existence. It is a call of action to meet the obligations and duties of life; yet keeping in view the spiritual nature and grander purpose of the universe.
Herman Hesse: The marvel of the Bhagavad-Gita is its truly beautiful revelation of life's wisdom which enables philosophy to blossom into religion.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad-gita. It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.
Rudolph Steiner: In order to approach a creation as sublime as the Bhagavad-Gita with full understanding it is necessary to attune our soul to it.
Adi Shankara: From a clear knowledge of the Bhagavad-Gita all the goals of human existence become fulfilled. Bhagavad-Gita is the manifest quintessence of all the teachings of the Vedic scriptures.
Aldous Huxley: The Bhagavad-Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of endowing value to mankind. It is one of the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed; hence its enduring value is subject not only to India but to all of humanity.
Ramanuja: The Bhagavad-Gita was spoken by Lord Krishna to reveal the science of devotion to God which is the essence of all spiritual knowledge. The Supreme Lord Krishna's primary purpose for descending and incarnating is relieve the world of any demoniac and negative, undesirable influences that are opposed to spiritual development, yet simultaneously it is His incomparable intention to be perpetually within reach of all humanity.
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati: The Bhagavad-Gita is not seperate from the Vaishnava philosophy and the Srimad Bhagavatam fully reveals the true import of this doctrine which is transmigation of the soul. On perusal of the first chapter of Bhagavad-Gita one may think that they are advised to engage in warfare. When the second chapter has been read it can be clearly understood that knowledge and the soul is the ultimate goal to be attained. On studying the third chapter it is apparent that acts of righteousness are also of high priority. If we continue and patiently take the time to complete the Bhagavad-Gita and try to ascertain the truth of its closing chapter we can see that the ultimate conclusion is to relinquish all the conceptualized ideas of religion which we possess and fully surrender directly unto the Supreme Lord.
Madhvacarya: The Mahabharata has all the essential ingredients necessary to evolve and protect humanity and that within it the Bhagavad-Gita is the epitome of the Mahabharata just as ghee is the essence of milk and pollen is the essence of flowers.
Commentary by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda
Bhagavad-gītā is the widely read theistic science summarized in the Gītā-māhātmya (Glorification of the Gītā). There it says that one should read Bhagavad-gītā very scrutinizingly with the help of a person who is a devotee of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and try to understand it without personally motivated interpretations. The example of clear understanding is there in the Bhagavad-gītā itself, in the way the teaching is understood by Arjuna, who heard the Gītā directly from the Lord. If someone is fortunate enough to understand Bhagavad-gītā in that line of disciplic succession, without motivated interpretation, then he surpasses all studies of Vedic wisdom, and all scriptures of the world. One will find in the Bhagavad-gītā all that is contained in other scriptures, but the reader will also find things which are not to be found elsewhere. That is the specific standard of the Gītā. It is the perfect theistic science because it is directly spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. (Bg 1.1 purport)
Originally I wrote Bhagavad-gītā As It Is in the form in which it is presented now. When this book was first published, the original manuscript was, unfortunately, cut short to less than 400 pages, without illustrations and without explanations for most of the original verses of the Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā. In all of my other books—Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, Śrī Īśopaniṣad, etc.—the system is that I give the original verse, its English transliteration, word-for-word Sanskrit-English equivalents, translations and purports. This makes the book very authentic and scholarly and makes the meaning self-evident. I was not very happy, therefore, when I had to minimize my original manuscript. But later on, when the demand for Bhagavad-gītā As It Is considerably increased, I was requested by many scholars and devotees to present the book in its original form, and Messrs. Macmillan and Co. agreed to publish the complete edition. Thus the present attempt is to offer the original manuscript of this great book of knowledge with full paramparā explanation in order to establish the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement more soundly and progressively.
Our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is genuine, historically authorized, natural and transcendental due to its being based on Bhagavad-gītā As It Is. It is gradually becoming the most popular movement in the entire world, especially amongst the younger generation. It is becoming more and more interesting to the older generation also. Older gentlemen are becoming interested, so much so that the fathers and grandfathers of my disciples are encouraging us by becoming life members of our great society, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. In Los Angeles many fathers and mothers used to come to see me to express their feelings of gratitude for my leading the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement throughout the entire world. Some of them said that it is greatly fortunate for the Americans that I have started the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement in America. But actually the original father of this movement is Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself, since it was started a very long time ago but is coming down to human society by disciplic succession. If I have any credit in this connection, it does not belong to me personally, but it is due to my eternal spiritual master, His Divine Grace Om Viṣṇupāda Paramahaṁsa Parivrājakācārya 108 Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Mahārāja Prabhupāda.
If personally I have any credit in this matter, it is only that I have tried to present Bhagavad-gītā as it is, without adulteration. Before my presentation of Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, almost all the English editions of Bhagavad-gītā were introduced to fulfill someone’s personal ambition. But our attempt, in presenting Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, is to present the mission of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. Our business is to present the will of Kṛṣṇa, not that of any mundane speculator like the politician, philosopher or scientist, for they have very little knowledge of Kṛṣṇa, despite all their other knowledge. When Kṛṣṇa says, man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru, etc., we, unlike the so-called scholars, do not say that Kṛṣṇa and His inner spirit are different. Kṛṣṇa is absolute, and there is no difference between Kṛṣṇa’s name, Kṛṣṇa’s form, Kṛṣṇa’s quality, Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, etc. This absolute position of Kṛṣṇa is difflcult to understand for any person who is not a devotee of Kṛṣṇa in the paramparā (disciplic succession) system. Generally the so-called scholars, politicians, philosophers, and svāmīs, without perfect knowledge of Kṛṣṇa, try to banish or kill Kṛṣṇa when writing commentary on Bhagavad-gītā. Such unauthorized commentary upon Bhagavad-gītā is known as Māyāvādī-Bhāṣya, and Lord Caitanya has warned us about these unauthorized men. Lord Caitanya clearly says that anyone who tries to understand Bhagavad-gītā from the Māyāvādī point of view will commit a great blunder. The result of such a blunder will be that the misguided student of Bhagavad-gītā will certainly be bewildered on the path of spiritual guidance and will not be able to go back home, back to Godhead.
Our only purpose is to present this Bhagavad-gītā As It Is in order to guide the conditioned student to the same purpose for which Kṛṣṇa descends to this planet once in a day of Brahmā, or every 8,600,000,000 years. This purpose is stated in Bhagavad-gītā, and we have to accept it as it is; otherwise there is no point in trying to understand the Bhagavad-gītā and its speaker, Lord Kṛṣṇa. Lord Kṛṣṇa first spoke Bhagavad-gītā to the sun-god some hundreds of millions of years ago. We have to accept this fact and thus understand the historical significance of Bhagavad-gītā, without misinterpretation, on the authority of Kṛṣṇa. To interpret Bhagavad-gītā without any reference to the will of Kṛṣṇa is the greatest offense. In order to save oneself from this offense, one has to understand the Lord as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as He was directly understood by Arjuna, Lord Kṛṣṇa’s first disciple. Such understanding of Bhagavad-gītā is really profitable and authorized for the welfare of human society in fulfilling the mission of life.
The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is essential in human society, for it offers the highest perfection of life. How this is so is explained fully in the Bhagavad-gītā. Unfortunately, mundane wranglers have taken advantage of Bhagavad-gītā to push forward their demonic propensities and mislead people regarding right understanding of the simple principles of life. Everyone should know how God or Kṛṣṇa is great, and everyone should know the factual position of the living entities. Everyone should know that a living entity is eternally a servant and that unless one serves Kṛṣṇa one has to serve illusion in different varieties of the three modes of material nature, and thus perpetually one has to wander within the cycle of birth and death; even the so-called liberated Māyāvādī speculator has to undergo this process. This knowledge constitutes a great science, and each and every living being has to hear it for his own interest.
People in general, especially in this age of Kali, are enamored by the external energy of Kṛṣṇa, and they wrongly think that by advancement of material comforts every man will be happy. They have no knowledge that the material or external nature is very strong, for everyone is strongly bound by the stringent laws of material nature. A living entity is happily the part and parcel of the Lord, and thus his natural function is to render immediate service to the Lord. By the spell of illusion one tries to be happy by serving his personal sense gratification in different forms which will never make him happy. Instead of satisfying his own personal material senses, he has to satisfy the senses of the Lord. That is the highest perfection of life. The Lord wants this, and He demands it. One has to understand this central point of Bhagavad-gītā. Our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is teaching the whole world this central point, and because we are not polluting the theme of Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, anyone seriously interested in deriving benefit by studying the Bhagavad-gītā must take help from the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement for practical understanding of Bhagavad-gītā under the direct guidance of the Lord. We hope, therefore, that people will derive the greatest benefit by studying Bhagavad-gītā As It Is as we have presented it here, and if even one man becomes a pure devotee of the Lord we shall consider our attempt a success.
[signed] A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
12 May 1971, Sydney, Australia