Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is
is a translation and commentary of the Bhagavad Gita
by A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
(ISKCON). It is known amongst other translations of the Bhagavad Gita for its strong emphasis on the path of bhakti yoga
above all others, in line with the Gaudiya Vaishnava
tradition of Caitanya Mahaprabhu
. The book has been widely distributed, largely through promotion by the modern Hare Krishna
movement. It was first published in 1968
by Macmillan Publishers
, with an unabridged edition in 1972
. It is now published by The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
and is available in nearly sixty languages.
For each verse, the book (in complete editions) includes the original devanagari script, a Roman transliteration, word-for-word Sanskrit-English meanings, and English translation. An extensive commentary by Prabhupada is given throughout, based on various Gaudiya Vaishnava works, including: Ramanuja Bhasya (in Sanskrit); Sarartha-varsini-tika (Sanskrit) by Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura; Gita-bhusana-tika (Sanskrit) by Baladeva Vidyabhushana; and Bhaktivinode Thakur's Bengali commentaries.
Thus the book advocates the path of bhakti toward Krishna, who is seen as identical to Vishnu, in direct opposition to monistic interpretations. This has led to criticisms from a number of figures who disagree with Prabhupada's literal approach. Sivarama Swami refutes its criticisms in his book Bhaktivedanta Purports: Perfect Explanation of the Bhagavad-Gita, ISBN 1-887089-12-8, Torchlight, 1998.
Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is is written in the tradition of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and the members of ISKCON consider the book authoritative and literally true (mukhya-vrtti). Like the majority of Hindu organisations, ISKCON regards the Bhagavad Gita as the essence of the Vedic knowledge and the Upanishads.
This translation is probably the one most sold outside India
due to the efforts of the conspicuous Hare Krishna
devotees on the streets, in airports, and in other public places. The book also enjoys brisk sales within India. It has been published in fifty-eight languages, including French
, and Telugu
Socially, Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is
suggests a way of life derived from the Manu Smriti
and other books of Hindu religious and social law and applied for the contemporary Western world. In this way of life, ideal human society is described as being divided into four Varnas
- intellectuals, kshatriya
- administrators, vaishya
– merchants, shudra
- workers). Within his writings Prabhupada supports the view that one becomes a member of one of the Varnas not by birth but by one's personal qualities (guna
) and the type of work (karma
) one actually performs (BG 4.13
). Society is described as best ruled by a benevolent kshatriya
sovereign, who is to govern according to rules set by scriptural tradition and preserved by self-controlled and pure-hearted spiritual leaders (brahmanas
). The kshatriya
sovereign (like courts in many democratic states) may also order capital punishment
Brahmanas, elders, women, children and cows are said to deserve special protection, with animals, especially cows, being preserved from slaughter at all costs. Prabhupada encourages readers to adopt a lacto-vegetarian diet and gives agriculture as the ideal economic basis of society. Ultimately Prabhupada gives the conclusion that society should be "Krishna conscious" -- enlightened by devotion (bhakti) to Krishna (God).