The theme of the Gita is the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage, to live a life that is meaningful, fulfilling and worthwhile.
It has been translated into every major language of the world — French, Italian, Greek, Spanish, German, Japanese, Russian — and into English by several formidable scholars. Of all the English renderings of The Bhagavadgita, P. Lal’s version fully preserves the dignity and grace of the original; it performs the exceptional feat of keeping the Gita fully alive in a western language.
Shorn of scholarly verbosity and sophisticated interpretations, this is a devoted work of literary beauty with moral and spiritual worth which readers will find deeply moving.
Purushottam Lal was born in Kapurthala, Punjab, and arrived in Calcutta (now Kolkata) as a young child. Educated at St Xavier’s College, he started teaching there after he graduated in 1953. By the time he retired, after four decades of teaching, he had become a legendary teacher, remembered for lectures that went beyond the syllabus and his willingness to nurture young student writers. After retirement he continued his academic career as an honorary professor at St Xavier’s and as a visiting professor at several universities abroad, including as Professor of Comparative Literature, Hofstra University New York, Ohio University, University of Illinois, Albion College and Western Maryland College amongst others.
He established the now legendary Writers Workshop but his energies were also devoted to a translation into English — a ‘transcreation’, as he preferred — of the 1,00,000 shlokas of the world’s longest poem, the Mahabharata, including its most famous and meditative section, the Bhagavadgita, in which Arjuna is steeled for his fight by the god Krishna.
He was honoured with the Padma Shri award in 1970.
Arjuna’s struggle in the Bhagavad Gita is acutely modern. He has lost his way on the battlefield of life and turns to find the path again by asking direct, uncompromising questions of his spiritual guide, Sri Krishna, the Lord himself. Krishna replies in 700 verses of sublime instruction on living and dying, loving and working, and the nature of the soul.
Easwaran shows the Gita’s relevance to us today as we strive, like Arjuna, to do what is right.
“No one in modern times is more qualified – no, make that ‘as qualified’ – to translate the epochal Classics of Indian Spirituality than Eknath Easwaran. And the reason is clear. It is impossible to get to the heart of those classics unless you live them, and he did live them. My admiration of the man and his works is boundless.” – Huston Smith, author of The World’s Religions.
After writing the Bhagavatam, Vyasa taught it to his son, Shukadeva Goswami, who later spoke the Bhagavatam to Maharaja Parikshit in an assembly of sages on the bank of the sacred Ganges River. Although Maharaja Parikshit was a great rajarshi (saintly king) and the emperor of the world, when he received notice of his death seven days in advance, he renounced his entire kingdom and retired to the bank of the Ganges to seek spiritual enlightenment. The questions of King Parikshit and Shukadeva Goswami's illuminating answers, concerning everything from the nature of the self to the origin of the universe, are the basis of Srimad-Bhagavatam.
This edition of Bhagavatam is the only complete English translation with an elaborate and scholarly commentary, and it is the first edition widely available to the English-reading public. This work is the product of the scholarly and devotional effort of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the world's most distinguished teacher of Indian religious and philosophical thought. His Sanskrit scholarship and intimate familiarity with Vedic culture combine to reveal to the West a magnificent exposition of this important classic.