Jump to Content Jump to Main Navigation

Hinduism Bhagavad Gita
by
Simon Brodbeck

Introduction

The Bhagavad Gita is one of the supreme works of Sanskrit and indeed of all world literature. It is the most well-known and widely translated part of the Sanskrit Mahābhārata (constituting chapters 6.23 to 6.40 in the Poona edition of the Mahābhārata). In the great Mahābhārata war, on the battlefield of Kurukṣetra (Kuru’s field), Kuru’s descendants, split into two sides, fight over the ancestral kingdom. Arjuna Pāṇḍava is the most brilliant warrior on the winning side, and his chariot driver is his maternal cousin, brother-in-law, and great friend Krishna Vāsudeva, who is also, as Arjuna comes to realize, the great god Vishnu Nārāyaṇa in human form. Just before the war commences, Arjuna asks Krishna to drive him out between the massed armies, and at the sight of those opposing him, he suffers an existential collapse and declares he will not fight. The Bhagavad Gita (Song of the Lord) consists mostly of Krishna’s response to Arjuna’s declaration; its eighteen chapters contain 700 verses, of which Krishna speaks 575. Krishna approaches Arjuna’s predicament from various angles, supplying him with a new understanding of himself and a new methodology of action. The turning point is Krishna’s revelation of his divine form to Arjuna—including as it does the future and the deaths of Arjuna’s principal adversaries—and Arjuna’s verbal response (Bhagavad Gita 11, Mahābhārata 6.33). At the end of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna declares that his crisis is over and that he will fight after all. The Bhagavad Gita’s popularity is due to the universality of Arjuna’s predicament, one in which different imperatives conflict, and of its solution, the method of acting without ego, without attachment to results, with awareness of the true, inactive self (ātman), and in a spirit of devotion. The text is beautiful poetry but also conveys core Hindu teachings that have been refreshed through new interpretations time and time again in the centuries since it was composed. The Bhagavad Gita’s importance is such that, for those with religio-philosophical ambitions, composing a commentary upon it has often seemed to be a required milestone accomplishment, and in modern times this has not just been the case within India. In many ways the Bhagavad Gita is as famous for the ways it has been interpreted as for its own sake; its champions have included Gandhi, Aurobindo, and Mandela.

General Overviews

The Bhagavad Gita is really too extraordinary for any full overview to be attained, as so many writers have found; but contained under this heading is a variety of general and typical scholarly side views drawn from different periods during the 20th and early 21st centuries. Lamotte 1929 and Heimann 1939 are reliable philological approaches to the text from the perspective of the history of ideas. Lamotte 1929 is a compact systematic monograph, and Heimann 1939 is a short but suggestive article. Bazaz 1975 is a much wider historical study of the text’s origin and destiny up to modern times and is passionately presented from a particular perspective in the wake of Indian national independence. Brodbeck 2003 is the introduction to a reprint of a popular English Bhagavad Gita translation. Sharpe 1985 and Robinson 2006 are overview surveys of the various engagements with the text in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Sharpe 1985 focuses on “Western images” of the Bhagavad Gita since it was published in English translation. Robinson 2006 is more international in scope and is particularly concerned with the relationship between Hinduism and the Bhagavad Gita.

  • Bazaz, Prem Nath. The Role of Bhagavad Gita in Indian History. New Delhi: Sterling, 1975.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A grand national tale in three parts: “The Rise and Decline of Indian Philosophy” (160 pages, setting the scene), “The Teachings of the Bhagavad Gita” (100 pages), and “The Influence of the Gita on Indian History” (425 pages). Particular focus on the colonial and postcolonial periods; critical of the Brahmans.

    Find this resource:

  • Brodbeck, Simon. “Introduction.” In The Bhagavad Gita. Translated by Juan Mascaró, xi–xxxii. London: Penguin, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Frames the reprint of Juan Mascaró’s popular poetic Penguin Classics translation. Introduces the text in the round, with particular attention to its philosophy and dramatic import.

    Find this resource:

  • Heimann, Betty. “Terms in Statu Nascendi in the Bhagavadgītā.” In A Volume of Indian and Iranian Studies Presented to Sir E. Denison Ross, Kt., C.I.E., on His 68th Birthday, 6th June 1939. Edited by S. M. Katre and P. K. Gode, 125–135. Bombay: Karnatak, 1939.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A sensitive paper discussing some of the text’s most important nouns, such as “bhakti,” “Yoga,” and yajña (sacrifice). Argues that overall they are not precise or technical terms, and that they are best understood by tracing them back to their respective verbal roots.

    Find this resource:

  • Lamotte, Étienne. Notes sur la Bhagavadgītā. Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1929.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Still one of the most elegant and trustworthy concise studies of the Bhagavad Gita, though like most studies it tends to treat jñāna-yoga, karma-yoga, and bhakti yoga as separable paths. The book is in three parts: “Le milieu d’éclosion,” “Les doctrines spéculatives,” and “Les doctrines morales.”

    Find this resource:

  • Robinson, Catherine A. Interpretations of the Bhagavad-Gītā and Images of the Hindu Tradition: The Song of the Lord. London: Routledge, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A broad and accessible overview of writings on the Bhagavad Gita analyzed under different categories in different chapters, including “Scholarly and Academic Writing” and “Social and Political Activism.” The book’s overall thesis is that the Bhagavad Gita has played a central and constitutive role in the construction of “the Hindu tradition.”

    Find this resource:

  • Sharpe, Eric J. The Universal Gītā: Western Images of the Bhagavadgītā; A Bicentenary Survey. London: Duckworth, 1985.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This popular book marked the two hundredth anniversary of Charles Wilkins’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita (the first to have survived in any European language); it takes stock of European adventures with the text during the intervening period, through the Romantics and theosophists to the gurus of the American counterculture.

    Find this resource:

Anthologies

Included here are volumes of collected essays on the Bhagavad Gita. Sharma 1987 and Sharma 1988 are diverse indications of a fertile period in Bhagavad Gita studies internationally. Sinha 1995 is also diverse and largely Canadian. The essays in Verma 1990 (from a seminar in Delhi) are shorter than those in the other anthologies mentioned here. Lipner 2000 and Rosen 2002 interrogate the Bhagavad Gita from an ethical perspective. Lipner 1997 is neatly structured to balance early-21st-century issues and the old puruṣārtha (human aims) scheme (dharma, artha, kāma, mokṣa), and Rosen 2002 focuses on the problematics of sacred violence.

  • Lipner, Julius J., ed. The Bhagavadgītā for Our Times. Essays from the inaugural conference of the Dharam Hinduja Institute of Indic Research, Cambridge University, 30 June–1 July 1995. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Proceedings of a conference in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Good slim volume containing seven essays structured around the four puruṣārthas (human aims). Culminates in Will Johnson’s excellent piece on mokṣa (freedom) and the Bhagavad Gita. First published as The Fruits of Our Desiring: An Enquiry into the Ethics of the Bhagavadgītā for Our Times (Calgary, AB: Bayeux Arts, 1997).

    Find this resource:

  • Rosen, Steven J., ed. Holy War: Violence and the Bhagavad Gita. Hampton, VA: Deepak Heritage, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Introduction and eleven essays concentrating on a theme that is of ongoing importance. Some deal with particular commentarial perspectives on the issue, others compare the Kurukṣetra war with, for example, the Islamic notion of jihad.

    Find this resource:

  • Sharma, Arvind, comp. New Essays in the Bhagavadgītā: Philosophical, Methodological, and Cultural Approaches. New Delhi: Books and Books, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of twelve essays that “offers a sample of the response the bicentennial commemoration of the first English translation of [the Bhagavad Gita] evoked among the students of that text in the academic world around the globe” (p. 1). Most contributors focus on the text itself rather than the history of its reception.

    Find this resource:

  • Sharma, Arvind, ed. Special Issue: Bhagavadgītā: On the Bicentennial of Its First Translation into English. Journal of South Asian Literature 23.2 (1988).

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ten varied essays by some leading figures of the day: Bolle, Eder, Sharpe, Hopkins, Nelson, Young, Nayar, Deshpande, Sinha, and Lele.

    Find this resource:

  • Sinha, Braj M., ed. The Contemporary Essays on the Bhagavad Gītā. New Delhi: Siddharth, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Twelve diverse essays by nine scholars, six of them based at Canadian universities. Berg, Bilimoria, and Sinha each contribute two essays. According to the book’s preface, the contributors “have approached the text in the spirit of critical reflection to discern new meanings and significance in the Bhagavad Gītā, in terms of its textual and contextual settings.”

    Find this resource:

  • Verma, C. D., ed. The Gita in World Literature. Papers presented at a seminar organized by the Hans Raj College, Delhi. New Delhi: Sterling, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Proceedings of an international seminar in Delhi. Introduction and twenty-two short essays on the Bhagavad Gita in the world of literature. Some discuss the text as a literary object in its own context and right, others discuss its influence upon T. S. Eliot (four essays), Walt Whitman, J. D. Salinger, and others. Includes B. K. Matilal’s “Caste, Karma, and the Gita.”

    Find this resource:

Bibliographies

Scholarship on the Bhagavad Gita is extremely plentiful, and the three bibliographies listed under this heading are vital for finding a way through the quantity and diversity of literature on the subject. All three include details of sources in a variety of languages. Callewaert and Hemraj 1982 is the most discursive of the three; it has real chapters. Kapoor 1983 is more complete, but its annotations are minimal. Singh 1984 is particularly strong on Bhagavad Gita criticism in Indian languages.

  • Callewaert, Winand M., and Shilanand Hemraj. Bhagavadgītānuvāda: A Study in Transcultural Translation. Ranchi, India: Satya Bharati, 1982.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A good bibliographical handbook focusing primarily on the issue of translation. Provides and discusses a variety of alphabetically arranged bibliographical lists: lists of translation aids, of textual editions, of Sanskrit commentaries, of supplementary interpretive sources (mostly in English), and of translations, with a separate list for each target language.

    Find this resource:

  • Kapoor, Jagdish Chander. Bhagavad-Gītā: An International Bibliography of 1785–1979 Imprints. New York: Garland, 1983.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Gives details of 2,795 sources of all types, numbered consecutively, in two parts (non-Indian languages first, then Indian ones), each part divided by language (English pp. 3–98, French pp. 98–107, etc.) and subdivided chronologically by year. Reprints constitute separate entries. Includes indications of which (predominantly North American) libraries have which books, plus an index of translators, an index of authors, commentators, editors, and revisers, and a general index. Introduction by George Hendrick.

    Find this resource:

  • Singh, Ram Dular. Bhagavad Gita Reference Guide: Bhagavad Gita Rendered in the Languages of the World. Calcutta: Bibliographical Society of India, 1984.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This bibliography provides an alphabetical list of translations and commentaries, with reprints included as separate entries. Also includes useful separate bibliographies of critical studies on the Bhagavad Gita. Indicates which major libraries have which books; for the key to the abbreviations used to indicate specific libraries, see Eder 1988 (cited under English Translations), p. 22.

    Find this resource:

The Text

Under this heading is a series of sources discussing or charting the Bhagavad Gita’s verbal constitution and several editions and translations. Schrader 1930 compares various versions of the Bhagavad Gita and discusses possible causes of their divergence. Gode 1938 discusses further clues about the constituents of early versions of the text. Divanji 1993 is a useful reference tool indexing the words of the text exhaustively, alphabetically. Belvalkar 1968 is the Bhagavad Gita episode in the critical edition of the Mahābhārata, which purports to chart the known manuscript tradition in every salient detail, arranged around a “reconstituted” text common to all manuscripts. Buitenen 1965 is an interesting discussion of some of the variant manuscript readings, with reference to quotations in early Sanskrit commentaries. Buitenen 1981 and Cherniak 2008 are dual-language editions (Sanskrit and English) of the Bhagavad Gita within varying quantities of its Bhīṣmaparvan surround. Buitenen 1981 follows Belvalkar 1968, and Cherniak 2008 follows the (remarkably similar) vulgate version commentated upon by Nīlakaṇṭha in the 17th century. Sargeant 2009 is a grammatically annotated translation that explains every word.

  • Belvalkar, Shripad Krishna, ed. The Bhagavadgītā: Being Reprint of Relevant Parts of Bhīsmaparvan from B.O.R. Institute’s Edition of the Mahābhārata. Poona, India: Bhandakar Oriental Research Institute, 1968.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Excerpted, as the title suggests, from the Bhandakar Oriental Research Institute edition of the Mahābhārata (this section first published in 1945). Contains the Sanskrit Bhagavad Gita as critically reconstituted from a representative cross-section of Mahābhārata manuscripts. Variant readings are listed as footnotes or appendices. Includes a philological introduction and critical notes.

    Find this resource:

  • Buitenen, J. A. B. van. “A Contribution to the Critical Edition of the Bhagavadgītā.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 85.1 (1965): 99–109.

    DOI: 10.2307/597711Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses Bhagavad Gita 1:10 and the commentaries thereon, suggesting that the text Bhāskara commented on was earlier than the text Śaṅkara commented on. Continues with a full philological comparison of Bhāskara’s text with the vulgate (sometimes weighing the “authenticity” of readings), comparing also Bhāskara’s text with the Kashmiri version (here he disputes Shripad Krishna Belvalkar’s argumentation).

    Find this resource:

  • Buitenen, J. A. B. van, trans. The Bhagavadgītā in the Mahābhārata. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Transliterated and italicized Sanskrit text and facing-page translation of the whole of the Bhandakar Oriental Research Institute reconstituted Bhagavadgītā upaparvan, which begins nine chapters before the Bhagavad Gita proper and ends one chapter after it. Good introduction. Translation in a style familiar from Buitenen’s translation of the Bhandakar Oriental Research Institute Mahābhārata Books 1–5.

    Find this resource:

  • Cherniak, Alex, trans. Mahā-bhārata Book Six: Bhisma; Volume One, Including the Bhagavad Gita in Context. New York: New York University Press, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Dual-language edition—English on recto pages, parallel transliterated Sanskrit (reformatted as per Clay Sanskrit Library convention) on verso pages—of the first half of the Bhīṣmaparvan. Follows the vulgate text commented on by Nīlakaṇṭha in the 17th century. Bhagavad Gita translation is accessible and in good English.

    Find this resource:

  • Divanji, P. C. Critical Word-Index to the Bhagavadgītā. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A complete grammatical analysis of the Bhagavad Gita arranged alphabetically, allowing the swift location of all occurrences of any given word, whether freestanding or within compounds. Contains separate sections dealing with the Kashmiri recension. First published in 1946 (Bombay: New Book).

    Find this resource:

  • Gode, P. K. “The Bhagavadgītā in the Pre-Śaṁkarācārya Jain Sources.” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 20 (1938): 188–194.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contributes to the question of the antiquity of different versions of the Bhagavad Gita by registering some apparent quotations from it in the works of Haribhadrasūri. Gode dates Haribhadrasūri to c. 750 CE and concludes that he “had before him some text of the Gītā which was different from the vulgate text” (p. 194).

    Find this resource:

  • Sargeant, Winthrop, trans. The Bhagavadgītā. Edited by Christopher Key Chapple. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The US Sanskrit students’ standard edition. Complete grammatical analysis, one page per verse. Includes contextualizing introduction. First published 1984; pocket edition 1994.

    Find this resource:

  • Schrader, F. Otto. The Kashmir Recension of the Bhagavadgītā. Stuttgart: Kohlhammar, 1930.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The Kashmiri recension has more than a dozen verses that are not in the vulgate edition and many variant readings of those that are. Schrader speculates about the two texts’ resemblance to a hypothetical earlier (“original”) text; in some cases he deems the Kashmiri variant superior to the vulgate.

    Find this resource:

Text-Separative Analysis

Most of these sources speculate historically about how and in what order the Bhagavad Gita’s text was built up into its known eighteen-chapter form in the Mahābhārata. Jacobi 1918 proposes that an early form of the Mahābhārata included only a small fragment of what we now consider to be the Bhagavad Gita, and Charpentier 1930 and Otto 1939 are proposals and discussions of different such hypothetical early forms of the text. Mahadevan 1952 is a brief rebuttal of such treatments of the Bhagavad Gita. Khair 1969 proposes that the text was built up by three authors at different times, and Simson 1969 suggests that an early form of the Mahābhārata had no Bhagavad Gita at all. Mislav Ježić adopts and extends Khair’s approach, distinguishing many different textual layers. Ježić 1979 is a study of one such layer, and Ježić 1986 is a concise statement of his refined text-separative method in light of previous work on the text.

  • Charpentier, Jarl H. R. T. “Some Remarks on the Bhagavadgītā.” Indian Antiquary 59 (1930): 46–50, 77–80, 101–105, 121–126.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Develops previous speculations in the secondary literature by constructing his own version of the heroic ur–Bhagavad Gita made up of selected verses from chapters 1, 2, and 18, the rest having been added later.

    Find this resource:

  • Jacobi, Hermann. “Über die Einfügung der Bhagavadgītā im Mahābhārata.” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morganländischen Gesellschaft 72 (1918): 323–327.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that most of Krishna the Lord’s song was added later onto his originally terse statement (jumping from Bhagavad Gita 2:37 to 18:73). Thereafter inseparable from the idea of the Mahābhārata as an old epic cycle about perhaps Indo-European warrior heroes, now changed almost beyond recognition by a catholic process of textual agglutination.

    Find this resource:

  • Ježić, Mislav. “The First Yoga Layer in the Bhagavadgītā.” In Ludwik Sternbach Felicitation Volume. Vol. 1. Edited by J. P. Sinha, 545–557. Lucknow, India: Akhila Bharatiya Sanskrit Parishad, 1979.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sequences component layers by which the Bhagavad Gita has allegedly been expanded since its early epic days (the largest layer, the “bhakti layer,” added last), then identifies and discusses the “first Yoga layer” of the title, that is, most of Bhagavad Gita 2:39–4:42, excluding some small later interpolations. Interesting on buddhi.

    Find this resource:

  • Ježić, Mislav. “Textual Layers of the Bhagavadgītā as Traces of Indian Cultural History.” In Sanskrit and World Culture: Proceedings of the Fourth World Sanskrit Conference of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies, Weimar, May 23–30, 1979. Edited by Wolfgang Morgenroth, 628-638. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1986.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Expounds a methodology for identifying interpolations, involving the word tasmāt (thus) as an end-of-layer marker, and the differentiation of “continuity repetitions,” which do not imply interpolation, from “duplication repetitions,” which do.

    Find this resource:

  • Khair, Gajānan Śrīpat. Quest for the Original Gītā. Bombay: Somaiya, 1969.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Influential book arguing that the text had three authors: the first before the 6th century BCE, the second (adding metaphysics and cosmology) about a hundred years later, and the third (adding devotional theism) in about the 3rd century CE. Ascribes each passage to its specific author. First published in Marathi in 1967.

    Find this resource:

  • Mahadevan, T. M. P. “The Original Gītā.” In Professor M. Hiriyanna Commemoration Volume. Edited by N. S. Sastry and G. H. Rao, 101–108. Mysore, India: Professor M. Hiriyanna Commemoration Volume Committee, 1952.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An elegant rejoinder to various analytically separative essays. “How can one and the same author be responsible for such incompatible doctrines? . . . No objective evidence, however, has been offered by the critics to show why they consider certain verses to be interpolated ones” (pp. 104–105).

    Find this resource:

  • Otto, Rudolf. The Original Gītā: The Song of the Supreme Exalted One; With Copious Comments and Notes. Edited and translated by J. E. Turner. London: Allen and Unwin, 1939.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compiled from the German Der Sang des Hehr-Erhabenen, Die Urgestalt der Bhagavad-Gītā, and Die Lehr-Traktate der Bhagavad-Gītā (Stuttgart, 1933, 1934, 1935, respectively). Dissects the text into an ur-text and a series of doctrinal interpolations. This ur-text covers thirteen pages and includes material from chapters 1, 2, 10, 11, and 18.

    Find this resource:

  • Simson, Georg von. “Die Einschaltung der Bhagavadgītā im Bhīṣmaparvan des Mahābhārata.” Indo-Iranian Journal 11.3 (1969): 159–174.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that there was once a Mahābhārata without even a heroic ur–Bhagavad Gita (Mahābhārata 6.42:2 following straight after 6.16:20). Charts the Bhagavad Gita’s first appearance within it, suggesting that the start of the Bhagavad Gita is an adapted reappearance of an earlier passage now found in Mahābhārata 6.47.

    Find this resource:

In the Twenty-First Century

These sources showcase the cumulating results of ongoing text-separative work on the Bhagavad Gita. Szczurek 2002 revisits the traditional concern with the supposedly earliest layer of the Bhagavad Gita, and Szczurek 2005 discusses the bhakti layer, which is often said to be one of the latest (if not the latest). Ježić 2009a explores the connections and borrowings between the Bhagavad Gita and two famous Upaniṣads, and Ježić 2009b reconstructs a hymn in triṣṭubh meter and argues that this was taken apart and its pieces—including the theophany of chapter 11—fitted into the expanding Bhagavad Gita.

  • Ježić, Mislav. “The Relationship between the Bhagavad Gītā and the Vedic Upaniṣads: Parallels and Relative Chronology.” In Epic Undertakings. Edited by Robert P. Goldman and Muneo Tokunaga, 215–282. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2009a.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Draws on previous work on the Bhagavad Gita’s intertextual relations with the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad and the Kaṭha Upaniṣad. Discusses the parallels under eight headings in philological detail. Briefly mentions also Krishna Devakīputra at Chāndogya Upaniṣad 3.17, and the chariot metaphor at Kaṭha Upaniṣad 3:3–9.

    Find this resource:

  • Ježic, Mislav. “The Triṣṭubh Hymn in the Bhagavadgītā.” In Parallels and Comparisons: Proceedings of the Fourth Dubrovnik International Conference on the Sanskrit Epics and Purāṇas, September 2005. Edited by Petteri Koskikallio, 31–66. Zagreb: Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 2009b.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that early in the Bhagavad Gita’s development a separate hymn to Krishna was composed in triṣṭubh meter, with the Bhagavad Gita’s narrative moment in mind, and that it was later incorporated, in various sections, into the Bhagavad Gita. Presents a tentative reconstruction of the hymn before its dismemberment and incorporation.

    Find this resource:

  • Szczurek, Przemysław. “Some Remarks on the So-called Epic Layer of the Bhagavadgītā.” In Stages and Transitions: Temporal and Historical Frameworks in Epic and Puranic Literature; Proceedings of the Second Dubrovnik International Conference on the Sanskrit Epics and Purāṇas, August 1999. Edited by Mary Brockington, 55–72. Zagreb: Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Summarizes previous speculations concerning the early “epic layer” (following Georg von Simson and Mislav Ježić), defines it as Bhagavad Gita 1:1–47 and 2:1–4, 9–10, 31–37, and discusses it as “an episode on kṣatriyadharma (the duty of a warrior; p. 68).” Juxtaposes Krishna’s two statements (at Bhagavad Gita 2:2–3 and 2:31–37), deeming the latter to be a development of the former.

    Find this resource:

  • Szczurek, Przemyslaw. “Bhakti Interpolations and Additions in the Bhagavadgītā.” In Epics, Khilas, and Puranas: Continuities and Ruptures; Proceedings of the Third Dubrovnik International Conference on the Sanskrit Epics and Purāṇas, September 2002. Edited by Petteri Koskikallio, 183–220. Zagreb: Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Expounds and defends the common supposition that the soteriology of bhakti—loyal devotion—was introduced into the Bhagavad Gita comparatively late; identifies and discusses various “bhakti interpolations” in chapters 1–6 and 13–18 and argues that they were introduced together (that is, they form one layer with chapters 7–12).

    Find this resource:

English Translations

Included here are a scholarly sample of the many dozens of English translations of the Bhagavad Gita, and two sources discussing some of the specific translational tactics used by the various translators. Arnold 2006 is a reprint of the best-selling 19th-century translation. Edgerton 1944, Prabhavananda and Isherwood 2002, Buitenen 1997, and de Nicolás 2004 are American translations from different periods in the 20th century. Johnson 2008 is the Oxford World’s Classics translation; Patton 2008 is the Penguin Classics translation. Larson 1981 surveys two hundred years of English Bhagavad Gitas and analyzes their range and types, and Eder 1988, among other things, discusses four translations from the 1970s and 1980s.

  • Arnold, Edwin, trans. The Bhagavad Gita: The Song Celestial, with Introduction and Notes. London: Watkins, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Enormously successful free verse translation (the longer meters in Sanskrit are rendered in rhyming English) by a popular English poet most widely known for his earlier poem, The Light of Asia, about the Buddha. First published in 1885 (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner). Indian edition published in 1989 (Bombay: Rajendra).

    Find this resource:

  • Buitenen, J. A. B., trans. The Bhagavad Gita. Shaftesbury, UK: Element, 1997.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reprint of the Bhagavad Gita translation from Buitenen’s dual-language The Bhagavadgītā in the Mahābhārata (Buitenen 1981, cited under The Text), with a new introductory essay (“The Philosophy of the Bhagavadgītā”) and notes by Alexander Piatigorsky, a distinguished semiotician. Introduction dwells particularly on the idea of time.

    Find this resource:

  • de Nicolás, Antonio T., trans. The Bhagavad Gita: The Ethics of Decision Making. 2d ed. Berwick, ME: Nicholas-Hays, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A close and poetic translation in nonrhyming verse. Introduction in a human developmental vein, with attention to the two hemispheres of the brain. First edition 1990; translation first published as part of Avatāra: The Humanization of Philosophy through the Bhagavad Gītā (New York: Nicholas Hays, 1976).

    Find this resource:

  • Eder, Milton. “A Review of Recent Bhagavadgītā Studies.” Journal of South Asian Literature 23.2 (1988): 20–46.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Assesses the state of play at the time of writing and provides perceptive reviews of three Bhagavad Gita bibliographies, three “critical studies in BG research” (p. 24), and four translations (those of Richard Gotshalk, Georg Feuerstein, Kees W. Bolle, and J. A. B. van Buitenen). The latter section is particularly useful, discussing a range of translation problems and various attempts to negotiate them.

    Find this resource:

  • Edgerton, Franklin, trans. The Bhagavad Gītā. 2 vols. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1944.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Volume 1 has transliterated Sanskrit with Edgerton’s close translation on the facing page. Each quarter verse is fitted on separate and corresponding lines in the Sanskrit and in the translation, so the parallel texts work together well. Volume 2 presents a ninety-page interpretive essay, then reproduces Edwin Arnold’s earlier translation, The Song Celestial (see Arnold 2006). Reprinted in one volume (omitting the Sanskrit text and Arnold’s translation) in 1964 (New York: Harper and Row).

    Find this resource:

  • Johnson, W. J., trans. The Bhagavad Gita. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Smooth, poetic, and superslim Oxford World’s Classics translation with a good brief introduction. Uses different font sizes for different meters, and in the first chapter the characters’ names are allocated to one massed army or the other by means of bold and italic type respectively. First published in 1994.

    Find this resource:

  • Larson, Gerald James. “The Song Celestial: Two Centuries of the Bhagavad Gītā in English.” Philosophy East and West 31 (1981): 513–541.

    DOI: 10.2307/1398797Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Introduces and lists over forty English translations and outlines their range in terms of continua of style, pedagogy, interpretation, and motivation. It then selects a sample of ten, locates them on these continua, and compares and critiques them in terms of their translations of three problematic passages.

    Find this resource:

  • Patton, Laurie L., trans. The Bhagavad Gita. London: Penguin, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    New Penguin Classics translation, replacing and improving on the previous one by Juan Mascaró. Each Sanskrit verse is translated into a nonrhyming English verse made up of eight short lines. Includes a useful fifteen-page bibliography.

    Find this resource:

  • Prabhavananda, Swami, and Christopher Isherwood, trans. Bhagavad-Gita: The Song of God. New York: Signet, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Influential translation by a modern Vedantic philosopher and an Anglo-American novelist. The introduction by Aldous Huxley expounds the “perennial philosophy.” Translation switches between prose and verse at will, and elides many vocatives. Includes the short essays “Gita and Mahabharata,” “The Cosmology of the Gita,” and “The Gita and War.” First published in 1944.

    Find this resource:

Bhagavad Gita in Mahābhārata Context

Since medieval times the Bhagavad Gita has often been viewed as if it were a freestanding text, but many scholars have maintained that it can only be understood through the Mahābhārata. Lévi 1918–1920 argues for the centrality of the Bhagavad Gita to the Mahābhārata, and Banerjee 1987 suggests that we view the Mahābhārata as the Bhagavad Gita’s commentary. Telang 1965 is a translation of the Bhagavad Gita alongside two other comparable Mahābhārata extracts, including the Anugītā, in which Krishna claims to reprise the gist of the Bhagavad Gita. Hejib and Young 1980 compares the Bhagavad Gita scenario with a passage in Book 4 of the Mahābhārata, in which Arjuna plays chariot driver to a lily-livered warrior. Deshpande 1990 relates the Bhagavad Gita’s message to the specifics of the battlefield situation, and Hudson 1996 follows the Bhagavad Gita’s narrative conclusions into the later books of the Mahābhārata. Malinar 2007 is a detailed historical commentary on the Bhagavad Gita with particular focus on the Mahābhārata’s monarchical theory. In recent decades the Bhagavad Gita has been presented in its narrative context in visual form. Carrière 1988 is the script of Peter Brook’s popular Mahābhārata adaptation for stage and screen, and Malinar 1995 discusses the Bhagavad Gita within the Indian television version of the Mahābhārata. For the Bhagavad Gita in narrative context, see also The Text.

  • Banerjee, Manabendu. “The Mahābhārata as a Commentary of the Bhagavadgītā.” In Philosophical Essays: Professor Anantalal Thakur Felicitation Volume. Edited by Rama Ranjan Mukhopadhyaya, et al., 88–99. Calcutta: Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Suggests that the Bhagavad Gita was always integral to the Mahābhārata and that the Mahābhārata should be our guide to the Bhagavad Gita. Argues that many Mahābhārata passages presuppose the Bhagavad Gita, giving examples of parallels between Bhagavad Gita verses and verses elsewhere in the Mahābhārata, especially in the Śāntiparvan (and then its Nārāyaṇīya section).

    Find this resource:

  • Carrière, Jean-Claude. The Mahabharata: A Play Based upon the Indian Classic Epic. Translated by Peter Brook. London: Methuen, 1988.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The terse but graceful script of Peter Brook’s theatrical (and later film) version of the Mahābhārata, which was influential in popularizing the Bhagavad Gita and its parent narrative but has sometimes been criticized as a colonial production. The Bhagavad Gita is on pp. 158–161. First published in French in 1985.

    Find this resource:

  • Deshpande, Madhav M. “The Epic Context of the Bhagavad Gītā.” Journal of South Asian Literature 23.2 (1990): 133–143.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the relation between the Bhagavad Gita’s philosophical content and its situational context, with particular emphasis on Arjuna’s initial uncertainty over the outcome of the war. Reprinted in Essays on the Mahābhārata, edited by Arvind Sharma (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2007), pp. 334–348.

    Find this resource:

  • Hejib, Alaka, and Katherine K. Young. “Klība on the Battlefield: Towards a Reinterpretation of Arjuna’s Despondency.” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 61 (1980): 235–244.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Takes its lead from Krishna calling Arjuna a klība (eunuch) early in the Bhagavad Gita. Compares other examples in which fainthearted warriors are jocularly scolded by way of encouragement for battle, including the example from the Mahābhārata’s Virāṭaparvan, where Arjuna is the scolder.

    Find this resource:

  • Hudson, Dennis. “Arjuna’s Sin: Thoughts on the Bhagavad-gītā in its Epic Context.” Journal of Vaishnava Studies 4.3 (1996): 65–84.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Begins with Arjuna’s initial statement of why he will not fight, interprets Krishna’s response as a promise to take on Arjuna’s sin, and discusses the following events in light of it. Slightly idiosyncratic but nonetheless provides a powerful angle of Bhagavad Gita interpretation in terms of what Krishna did next.

    Find this resource:

  • Lévi, Sylvain. “Tato Jayam Udīrayet.” Translated by L. G. Khare. Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 1 (1918–1920): 13–20.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the Mahābhārata’s introductory verse and also the refrain yataḥ kṛṣṇas tato jayaḥ (where Krishna is, there is victory). Suggests that the Bhagavad Gita is “the very heart and the kernel of the work.” First published in French in Commemorative Essays Presented to Sir Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, edited by S. K. Belvalkar (Poona, India: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1917), pp. 99–106.

    Find this resource:

  • Malinar, Angelika. “The Bhagavadgītā in the Mahābhārata TV Serial: Domestic Drama and Dharmic Solutions.” In Representing Hinduism: The Construction of Religious Traditions and National Identity. Edited by Vasudha Dalmia and Heinrich von Stietencron, 442–467. New Delhi: SAGE, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Introduces the political concerns of the Mahābhārata and of the Indian television Mahābhārata (1988–1990) and provides a precise, vivid, and tart description and interpretation of the latter’s Bhagavad Gita, “a rare example of a contemporary attempt to reconnect the Bhagavadgītā with the Mahābhārata proper” (p. 445). Strong on Duryodhana.

    Find this resource:

  • Malinar, Angelika. The Bhagavadgītā: Doctrines and Contexts. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Revised translation of Rājavidyā: Das königliche Wissen um Herrschaft und Verzicht. Studien zur Bhagavadgītā (Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 1996). Relates the Bhagavad Gita’s concerns to those of the Mahābhārata, especially the latter’s theorization of royal power, in historical context. The central chapter (pp. 54–225) is a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, including text-historical speculations.

    Find this resource:

  • Telang, Kâshinâth Trimbak, trans. The Bhagavadgîtâ, with the Sanatsugâtîya and the Anugîtâ. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1965.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An old translation (in the Sacred Books of the East series) juxtaposing the Bhagavad Gita with two of the Mahābhārata’s other compact religio-philosophical passages. Includes introductions to each of the three, and two indexes, one for English words and one for Sanskrit ones. Deems the Bhagavad Gita to predate Buddhism. First published in 1882 (Oxford: Clarendon).

    Find this resource:

Classical Commentaries

Since the late 1st millennium CE, many pundits have written Sanskrit commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita; there is a bewildering variety of philosophical positions that it has been said consistently to espouse. Schrader 1934 is an indicative contribution to the debates about when commentaries were composed and by whom. Sadhale 2000 presents eleven Bhagavad Gita commentaries in Sanskrit and also includes the root text and useful notes. Mahadeva Sastri 2009 is a translation of Śaṅkara’s commentary, and Buitenen 1968 is a condensed translation of Rāmānuja’s. These are the two most influential commentaries, and Lipner 1986 is a concise comparison of their interpretive methods. Mainkar 1969 is largely a critique of Śaṅkara’s arguments concerning the meaning of the text, and Hara 1999 studies Śaṅkara’s interpretations of one particular word. Sharma 1986 focuses on several Vedantic commentaries one by one, evaluating their methods and results.

  • Buitenen, J. A. B. van, trans. Rāmānuja on the Bhagavadgītā: A Condensed Rendering of His Gītābhāṣya with Copious Notes and an Introduction. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1968.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This translation is skillfully streamlined for the sake of accessibility. It omits digressions and repetitions, and shifts certain types of comment into footnotes. Includes a forty-page introduction and, as an appendix, the text and translation of Yāmuna’s Gītārthasaṃgraha, which was a critical influence on Rāmānuja. Originally published in 1953 (The Hague: H. L. Smits).

    Find this resource:

  • Hara, Minoru. “Ātman in the Bhagavadgītā as Interpreted by Śaṅkara.” In Composing a Tradition: Concepts, Techniques, and Relationships; Proceedings of the First Dubrovnik International Conference on the Sanskrit Epics and Purāṇas, August 1997. Edited by Mary Brockington and Peter Schreiner, 67–89. Zagreb: Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 1999.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The word ātman appears more than five dozen times in the Bhagavad Gita; if one includes its appearances within various compounds, the figure more than doubles. This vital paper sketches the word’s range, tabulates its usage, and discusses Śaṅkara’s glosses. Śaṅkara rarely interprets ātman as a “soul” or “spiritual principle.”

    Find this resource:

  • Lipner, Julius J. “Applying the Litmus Test: A Comparative Study in Vedāntic Exegesis.” In A Net Cast Wide: Investigations into Indian Thought in Memory of David Friedman. Edited by Julius Lipner with Dermot Killingley, 54–73. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Grevatt and Grevatt, 1986.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compares and contrasts the exegetical methods and metaphysical systems of Śaṅkara and Rāmānuja by focusing on their ontological interpretations of the word “Brahman” as it occurs in the Bhagavad Gita (Lipner calls it one of the Bhagavad Gita’s “control-words”). Provisionally suggests that Rāmānuja is truer to the text than Śaṅkara is.

    Find this resource:

  • Mahadeva Sastri, Alladi, trans. The Bhagavadgītā with the Commentary of Śrī Śaṅkarācārya. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Print-on-demand edition. First published 1897; second revised edition 1901 (Mysore, India). Reprinted often since 1918 (Madras: Vavilla Ramaswamy Sastrulu) and 1977 (Madras: Samata). Standard English edition of Śaṅkara’s Gītābhāṣya, which interprets the text, sometimes in a rather forced manner, in line with his nondualistic philosophy.

    Find this resource:

  • Mainkar, Trimbak Govind. A Comparative Study of the Commentaries on the Bhagavadgītā. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1969.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A short critique of at least one of the classical commentators. Mainkar’s task is to evaluate Śaṅkara’s commentary in particular—comparatively little attention is paid to Rāmānuja, Madhva, and others—but the book is admirable for pointing out many occasions where Śaṅkara’s interpretation departs from the text’s obvious meaning.

    Find this resource:

  • Sadhale, Gajanana Shambhu. The Bhagavad-gita, with Eleven Commentaries. 3 vols. Delhi: Parimal, 2000.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A standard sourcebook for commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, including those of Śaṅkara, Ānandagiri, Rāmānuja, Deśika, Madhva, Jayatīrtha, Hanumat, Veṅkatanātha, Vallabha, Puruṣottama, and Nīlakaṇṭha. Expertly edited, with all references traced to their sources. First published 1935–1938 (Bombay: Gujarati).

    Find this resource:

  • Schrader, F. Otto. “Ancient Gītā Commentaries.” Indian Historical Quarterly 10.2 (1934): 348–357.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Evaluates references to the philosopher and Bhagavad Gita commentator Bhāskara in ancient literature in light of B. N. Krishnamurti Sarma’s paper on the topic in the same journal a year earlier. Discusses many Bhagavad Gita commentators, including Śaṅkara and two Bhāskaras, one in the century after Śaṅkara, one in Kashmir two centuries later.

    Find this resource:

  • Sharma, Arvind. The Hindu Gītā: Ancient and Classical Interpretations of the Bhagavadgītā. La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1986.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    After an introduction and short chapters on the Anugītā (that is, Mahābhārata 14.16–50) and the Purāṇic Gītāmāhātmyas, this book discusses, with close textual analysis, the Vedantic commentaries of Bhāskara, Śaṅkara, Rāmānuja, and Madhva. Particularly useful for the chapters on Bhāskara and Madhva, whose commentaries are relatively inaccessible and little studied.

    Find this resource:

Modern Commentaries

In the 18th and 19th centuries the Bhagavad Gita became extremely widely known in India and across the world and came to be seen by many as the representative text of the Hindu tradition. Commentaries proliferated in the 20th century in particular. Hence, for the sake of convenience, this heading is chronologically subdivided into two smaller sections: Before Indian Independence and Since Indian Independence.

Before Indian Independence

In this period the Bhagavad Gita was often understood in various ways bearing upon the struggle against the British. Harder 2001 translates and discusses the Bhagavad Gita commentary of Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, an influential Bengali modernist. Tilak 1936 is the translated commentary of a famous Indian nationalist insurgent, and Ghose 1995 is a series of commentarial essays by an ex-revolutionary turned spiritual leader. Gandhi 2007 and Desai 2007 are concerned with Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings on the Bhagavad Gita. Gandhi 1998 is a series of commentarial discourses, and Desai 2007 is Gandhi’s translation of the text, annotated by one of his greatest colleagues. Hill 1928, included here by way of contrast, is an important scholarly commentary by a non-Indian.

  • Desai, Mahadev, trans. The Gospel of Selfless Action; or, The Gītā according to Gandhi. Ahmadabad, India: Navajivan, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authorized English translation of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Gujarati translation (as Anasaktiyoga) of the Bhagavad Gita. Includes Desai’s 120-page introduction, Gandhi’s ten-page introduction, and notes by both men. Desai’s notes, the more copious of the two sets, are in square brackets, and often include paraphrases or illustrations from Gandhi’s life and teachings. First published in 1946.

    Find this resource:

  • Gandhi, M. K. The Bhagavadgita. Delhi: Orient, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Gandhi’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, a text of which he was inordinately fond, in the form of daily discourses presented at the Satyagraha Ashram in Ahmadabad in 1926. Interprets the Kurukṣetra battle allegorically, as the battle between dharma and adharma within each and every person.

    Find this resource:

  • Ghose, Aurobindo. Essays on the Gita. Series 1 and 2. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Light, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    First published as two series in the journal Arya, 1916–1920. Series 1 first published as a book in 1922 (Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram), and series 2 in 1928. Both series published together in 1970. Each series consists of twenty-four essays on various Bhagavad Gita subjects. Infused with Aurobindo Ghose’s overall philosophy but informed by deep familiarity with the text.

    Find this resource:

  • Harder, Hans, trans. Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’s Śrīmadbhagabadgītā: Translation and Analysis. New Delhi: Manohar, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation and discussion of Bankim’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita—first published in Bengali in various periodicals (1886–1888), then posthumously as a book (1902)—which was intended to teach educated Bengalis “the meaning of the Gītā according to Western methods and with the help of Western ideas,” but broke off in the fourth chapter.

    Find this resource:

  • Hill, W. Douglas P., trans. The Bhagavadgītā: Translated from the Sanskrit with an Introduction, an Argument, and a Commentary. London: Oxford University Press, 1928.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In the title, “argument” has the sense of “narrative summary.” Before treating the text’s themes and doctrines, the introduction dwells on the possible origin of Krishna and his cult. The running commentary is by way of plentiful footnotes to the translation, often referring to previous commentators and translators.

    Find this resource:

  • Tilak, Bal Gangadhar. Śrīmad Bhagavadgītā Rahasya; or, Karma-Yoga-Śāstra. Translated by Bhalchandra Sitaram Sukthankar. Poona, India: Tilak, 1936.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Written in 1910–1911 in jail in Mandalay, Burma. Tilak, a religious nationalist, was imprisoned there for sedition by the British Indian government. Interprets Krishna’s message as a call to integral action (karma-yoga). Commentary is close and true, dwelling most particularly on Bhagavad Gita chapter 3.

    Find this resource:

Since Indian Independence

Included here are more recent commentaries and sources that look back over various earlier modern commentaries. Radhakrishnan 2005 is the commentary of a premier Indian intellectual who played an important role in mediating Hinduism internationally. Mahesh Yogi 1969 is the commentary of a spiritual teacher most famous for having attracted the interest of the Beatles. Prabhupāda 1972 is probably the best-known Bhagavad Gita commentary by dint of having been made freely available internationally by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Zaehner 1973 is a prominent and scholarly English commentary; Yogananda 1995 is an American commentary for personal application. Looking back over the variety of modern Indian commentaries, Minor 1986 is a useful and wide-ranging anthology; Thomas 1987 concentrates on the interpretations of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, and Aurobindo Ghose; and Agarwal 1993 surveys the Bhagavad Gita’s “social role” in modern times, with particular emphasis on its philosophy of disinterested action.

  • Agarwal, Satya P. The Social Role of the Gītā: How and Why. Delhi: Urmila Agarwal, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The first part of this book charts the expanding social role of the text through several “case studies on social applications of karmayoga” (that is, those of Roy, Vivekananda, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Aurobindo Ghose, and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi). The second part adds the “why” to this “how” by studying the concept of lokasaṃgraha, the holding-together of the world.

    Find this resource:

  • Mahesh Yogi, Maharishi, trans. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad-Gita: A New Translation and Commentary with Sanskrit Text; Chapters 1 to 6. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1969.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This commentary, by a disciple of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati and closely associated with the Transcendental Meditation movement, was successful across the world. Stops at the end of chapter 6. First published as Bhagavad-Gita: A New Translation and Commentary (London: International SRM, 1967).

    Find this resource:

  • Minor, Robert N., ed. Modern Indian Interpreters of the Bhagavadgita. Papers presented at a conference held at the University of Kansas, 7–8 October 1983. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An anthology of proceedings from a conference in Lawrence, Kansas. Includes ten essays, each focusing on a different interpreter or group of interpreters, from the theosophists to Swami Bhaktivedanta Prabhupāda. An extremely useful collection with a broad reach, some excellent analyses, and a good summative conclusion.

    Find this resource:

  • Prabhupada, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, trans. Bhagavad-Gītā as It Is: With Translations and Elaborate Purports. New York: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1972.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Very well-known edition with Gauḍīya Vaishnava commentary by the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Often combines translation and commentary, as when “Brahman” is rendered as “Krishna consciousness” (at Bhagavad Gita 4:24). Revised and enlarged edition (with additional Sanskrit text and word-by-word glosses) 1986.

    Find this resource:

  • Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli, trans. The Bhagavadgītā: With an Introductory Essay, Sanskrit Text, English Translation, and Notes. Noida, India: HarperCollins India, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Popular translation and commentary by the famous erstwhile president of India and Oxford professor. The approach is ecumenical; the commentary makes frequent reference to a wide variety of other texts and commentaries. First published in 1948 (London: Allen and Unwin); recent English edition printed in 1995 (Wellingborough, UK: Thorsons).

    Find this resource:

  • Thomas, P. M. 20th Century Indian Interpretations of Bhagavadgita: Tilak, Gandhi, and Aurobindo. Delhi: Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A two-hundred-page overview of the text’s ascent to national prominence in the early 20th century and the differing uses to which it was put by three key Indian figures. The section “The Gītā and Ideologies” discusses socialism, nationalism, revivalist Hinduism, and secular modernism.

    Find this resource:

  • Yogananda, Paramahamsa, trans. The Bhagavad Gita: God Talks with Arjuna; Royal Science of God-Realization. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Translation and commentary. Yogananda, late poet, spiritual teacher, and author of The Autobiography of a Yogi, was an exponent of Kriya Yoga meditation. Accessible psychological interpretation of the Kurukṣetra battle in the Gandhian mold. With the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit, and twenty color illustrations. See Volume 1 for chapters 1–5, and Volume 2 for chapters 6–18.

    Find this resource:

  • Zaehner, Robert Charles, trans. The Bhagavad-Gītā, with a Commentary Based on the Original Sources. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    First published in 1969. Solid, with excellent apparatus. Translates “buddhi” as “soul.” Commentary discusses other Sanskrit texts and commentaries but, like many European commentaries, is overly concerned with the question of theism.

    Find this resource:

Ideological Context

These sources are attempts to contextualize the Bhagavad Gita’s contents in terms of the history of Indian ideas. Buitenen 1957, Fitzgerald 1983, and Kuznetsova 2007 share a focus on the Bhagavad Gita’s philosophy of karma-yoga (the practice of disinterested action). Buitenen 1957 explores how that philosophy enables the text to negotiate the apparently opposed ideals of dharma (proper behavior) and mokṣa (spiritual freedom), Fitzgerald 1983 sees it as a vehicle for a Brahmanical revival centering on the theology of Vishnu, and Kuznetsova 2007 shows how it builds on the ideas of dharma visible in the earlier Vedic literature. Kosambi 1962 and Thakur 1982 are examples of broadly Marxist approaches to the Bhagavad Gita, the former seeking to explain the rise to prominence of the figure of Krishna, and the latter showing how the text’s ideas would have served various hypothetical interests of the ruling class of the time. Upadhyaya 1971 and Lindtner 1995 both explore commonalities between the text’s ideas and forms of Buddhism, Upadhyaya 1971 concentrating on the Buddhism of the Pāli Nikāyas, and Lindtner 1995 on early Mahayana Buddhism. Selvanayagam 1992 has allied concerns: it focuses on the text’s attitude toward violence, with particular reference to the inscriptions of King Aśoka Maurya, who is often linked to early Buddhism.

  • Buitenen, J. A. B. van “Dharma and Mokṣa.” Philosophy East and West 7 (1957): 33–40.

    DOI: 10.2307/1396832Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Useful brief exposition of the two titular concepts as the Bhagavad Gita’s ideological poles, geared to pravṛtti (turning onward) and nivṛtti (turning back) soteriologies, respectively. Calls the Bhagavad Gita’s karma-yoga “a most interesting doctrine, a hybridic construction attempting to achieve a compromise between two incompatibles” (p. 38). Followed in the journal by Daniel Ingalls’s essay of the same title.

    Find this resource:

  • Fitzgerald, James L. “The Great Epic of India as Religious Rhetoric: A Fresh Look at the Mahābhārata.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 51.4 (1983): 611–630.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the Bhagavad Gita’s Vaishnava Yoga of action as the Mahābhārata’s “ideological center” (p. 616). The Mahābhārata “argues a view of society rooted in the theistic and monistic ontology with which the Gītā accompanies its presentation of the karmayoga ethic” (p. 622); thus the Mahābhārata is “a dramatic new religious beginning for the Brahmin tradition” (p. 613).

    Find this resource:

  • Kosambi, Damodar Dharmanand. “Social and Economic Aspects of the Bhagavad-Gītā.” In Myth and Reality: Studies in the Formation of Indian Culture. By Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi, 12–41. Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1962.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Views the Bhagavad Gita as a reflection of its formative sociohistorical context, with particular attention to the figure of Krishna. Earlier versions published in Enquiry 2 (1959) and Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 4 (1960). For a critique, see “On D. D. Kosambi’s Interpretation of the Bhagavadgītā” by Greg Bailey, Indologica Taurinensia 12 (1984): 343–353.

    Find this resource:

  • Kuznetsova, Irina. Dharma in Ancient Indian Thought: Tracing the Continuity of Ideas from the Vedas to the Mahābhārata. Aylesbeare, UK: Hardinge Simpole, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Charts the changing meanings of the term “dharma” in ancient India, with one chapter on the Vedas and one on the Mahābhārata. Understands the Bhagavad Gita’s philosophy of karma-yoga as a synthetic consequence of earlier trends, and compares it with the Mahayana ideal of the bodhisattva.

    Find this resource:

  • Lindtner, Christian. “Lokasaṃgraha, Buddhism, and Buddhiyoga in the Gītā.” In Modern Evaluation of the Mahābhārata: Prof. R. K. Sharma Felicitation Volume. Edited by Satya Pal Narang, 199–220. Delhi: Nag, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that several Bhagavad Gita terms and passages are inspired by early Mahayana Buddhism, including in particular the Bhagavad Gita–specific term lokasaṃgraha. A sensitive discussion of a delicate subject. Includes discussion of untranslated secondary literature in Scandinavian languages.

    Find this resource:

  • Selvanayagam, Israel. “Aśoka and Arjuna as Counterfigures Standing on the Field of Dharma: A Historical-Hermeneutical Perspective.” History of Religions 32 (1992): 59–75.

    DOI: 10.1086/463306Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues for a historical perspective in textual interpretation, and discusses ancient Indian attitudes toward violence in terms of friction between the Vedic tradition and the shramana tradition. Focuses particularly on the violence inherent in kṣatriyadharma (the duty of a warrior), and compares King Aśoka Maurya with Arjuna Pāṇḍava in this regard.

    Find this resource:

  • Thakur, Vijay Kumar. “Social Roots of the Bhagavad-Gītā.” Indologica Taurinensia 10 (1982): 289–300.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explains the text as a tool for the justification of social inequality by the ruling class. Pays particular attention to the theory of karmic rebirth, and to the doctrine of bhakti as buttressing a hierarchical and segmentary social structure: “The Gītā clearly indicates the emergence of a feudal society” (p. 294).

    Find this resource:

  • Upadhyaya, Kashi Nath. Early Buddhism and the Bhagavadgītā. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1971.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Establishes the now almost universally held theory that the Bhagavad Gita postdates the Buddhism of the early Pāli Nikāyas; performs a detailed comparison of the two in terms of epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics. An interesting book whose core concerns have repeatedly been taken up by later scholars.

    Find this resource:

Theology

The theology of Krishna as expounded by Krishna himself in the Bhagavad Gita is perhaps best understood in terms of the religious ideas contained in the Mahābhārata as a whole. The selected sources discussed under the present heading are useful for an understanding of the Bhagavad Gita’s theology considered on the basis of the Bhagavad Gita itself, and they showcase some of the most important issues that have arisen in relation to it. Urquhart 1914 and Olivelle 1964 are examples, from different periods, of how the text’s theology has been viewed comparatively from the standpoint of a normative Christian theology. Garbe 1921 and Conger 1933 are both concerned, though in very different ways, with tracing (some of) the origins of the Bhagavad Gita’s theology. Garbe 1921 proposes that it developed through the deification of a historical local hero, and Conger 1933 casts light upon Krishna’s cosmic role by exploring its precursors in Vedic literature. Rao 1974 is a study, in historical context, of the role of faith in the Bhagavad Gita’s religious philosophy.

  • Conger, G. P. “Cosmic Persons and Human Universes in Indian Philosophy.” Journal and Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, n.s., 29 (1933): 255–270.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explains the macrocosmic-microcosmic analogy between the cosmos and the person in terms of the Brahmana heritage and the role of Prajāpati. Pays particular attention to the crucial mediating role of the sacrificial ritual (yajña).

    Find this resource:

  • Garbe, Richard. Die Bhagavadgītā. 2d ed. Leipzig: Haessel, 1921.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents a comparatively eccentric view of the Bhagavad Gita’s textual history whereby its theistic layer is the oldest. According to Garbe, before the text was overlaid with Vedantic elements identifying Krishna with Vishnu and Brahman, it would have borne witness to a deified local hero. First edition published in 1905.

    Find this resource:

  • Olivelle, Patrick. “The Concept of God in the Bhagavadgītā.” International Philosophical Quarterly 4 (1964): 514–540.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An explicitly comparative essay examining the Bhagavad Gita’s theology in light of Christian theology. Raises particular theoretical problems concerning Krishna Nārāyaṇa’s relation to the origin and the operation of the material world. The project turns on the role of prakriti, which has no real Christian equivalent.

    Find this resource:

  • Rao, K. L. Seshagiri. The Concept of Śraddhā in the Brāhmaṇas, Upaniṣads, and the Gītā. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1974.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Śrāddha means “faith” or “trust,” not to be confused with its derivative śrāddha, the rite of feeding the ancestors. Rao explores the textual history of the concept and argues, with exhaustive textual reference, that the Bhagavad Gita reinterprets and revalorizes it as part of its critical contextualization of Vedic soteriology.

    Find this resource:

  • Urquhart, W. S. “Theism and Pantheism in the Bhagavadgītā.” Calcutta Review 278 (1914): 467–490.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Views the Bhagavad Gita as pre-Buddhistic and originally theistic but with Vedantic elements added later. “We cannot acquiesce in a facile identification of God with the world, or a perhaps less facile merging of the world in God, if we are to have any secure foundation for morality, progress and religion” (p. 490).

    Find this resource:

Philosophy

Dasgupta 1922 and Patel 1991 are expositions of the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita as a whole; they share their title with a great many other sources not mentioned here. The remaining sources mentioned under this heading concentrate on specific aspects of Bhagavad Gita philosophy. Edgerton 1927 discusses the importance of the hour of death in the Bhagavad Gita and in other religious systems, and Brassard 1999 is an exposition of the role of the mental faculty of buddhi in the Bhagavad Gita’s philosophy of salvation. Jordens 1964 and Minor 1980 are differing approaches to the relationship between karman (action), jñāna (knowledge), and bhakti (devotion), which have often been said to constitute three separate religious methods. Jordens 1964 discusses the interrelationship between jñāna and bhakti with particular reference to the state of salvation, and Minor 1980 argues that the three are different aspects of one path.

  • Brassard, Francis. “The Concept of Buddhi in the Bhagavadgītā.” In Composing a Tradition: Concepts, Techniques, and Relationships; Proceedings of the First Dubrovnik International Conference on the Sanskrit Epics and Purāṇas, August 1997. Edited by Mary Brockington and Peter Schreiner, 91–98. Zagreb: Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 1999.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on one of the most crucial terms in Bhagavad Gita philosophy and suggests an interpretation, “a model of spiritual transformation that takes into account its contextual uses within the Bhagavadgītā” (p. 91). Clear, sensible, and discriminating, with a good eye for problems along the way.

    Find this resource:

  • Dasgupta, Surendranath. “The Philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gītā.” In A History of Indian Philosophy. Vol. 2. By Surendranath Dasgupta, 437–552. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1922.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A lucid survey of the text’s conceptual negotiations in historical context. Arranged under plain headings such as “Sāṃkhya and Yoga in the Gītā,” “Avyakta and Brahman,” and “Sense-Control in the Gītā.” Reprinted in 1975 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass).

    Find this resource:

  • Edgerton, Franklin. “The Hour of Death: Its Importance for Man’s Future Fate in Hindu and Western Religions.” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 8 (1927): 219–249.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses certain Bhagavad Gita verses that emphasize the soteriological importance of the final mental state. Mentions their potential precursors in Vedic literature, their parallels in other South Asian and Mediterranean literature, and their apparently karmically anomalous nature. Weak on the Ājīvikas.

    Find this resource:

  • Jordens, J. T. F. “The Bhagavadgītā: Jñāna and Bhakti, Their Relationship and ‘Nirguṇa’ Quality.” Journal of Asiatic Studies 7.3 (1964): 89–95.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Addresses itself, à la Rāmānuja, to the question of whether or not jñāna and bhakti would continue beyond samsara. Succeeds in illuminating the relationship between the two, but is less clear on the relationship (if any) between the three gunas and the quality of being nirguṇa (without qualities).

    Find this resource:

  • Minor, Robert N. “The Gītā’s Way as the Only Way.” Philosophy East and West 30.3 (1980): 339–354.

    DOI: 10.2307/1399192Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Employs a refreshingly casual attitude to the value of the classical commentators. Argues that the Bhagavad Gita teaches what it sees as the only path to mokṣa, which necessarily involves karman (action), jñāna, and bhakti, as well as guarding against attachment to any aspect of them. Makes sense of Bhagavad Gita chapter 16.

    Find this resource:

  • Patel, Ramesh N. Philosophy of the Gita. New York: Peter Lang, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Centers on a chapter-by-chapter translation of and commentary on the text, preceded by six chapters and followed by two more. Approaches the text from various philosophical angles and contextualizes it in various ways, with good attention to the Mahābhārata as a whole.

    Find this resource:

Philosophy of Action (Karman)

The Bhagavad Gita’s analysis of action is probably the most important aspect of its philosophy—at the very least it is the most practically pressing aspect from a human point of view—and it has attracted a massive amount of commentary. De Smet 1977 is a good general study of the topic, placing the Bhagavad Gita’s philosophy of action in the context of a constellation of such philosophies in ancient India. Jordens 1964 discusses the Bhagavad Gita’s philosophy of action with particular reference to the theology of Krishna Nārāyaṇa, upon which it depends. Kashap 1989 sensitively contrasts the text’s method of philosophical presentation with more systematic methods of philosophical analysis found in other texts. Hill 2001, one chapter of a book discussing such issues in the Mahābhārata as a whole, addresses the determinist elements of the Bhagavad Gita’s philosophy of action and the Sāṃkhya philosophy that it takes up and develops. Teschner 1992 is a radically determinist reading questioning whether intentionality is actually a factor in human action at all.

  • De Smet, Richard V. “A Copernican Reversal: The Gītākāra’s Reformulation of Karma.” Philosophy East and West 27 (1977): 53–63.

    DOI: 10.2307/1397700Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sets out the various—Vedic, Upanishadic, Jain, Buddhist—views of karman (action) current at the time of the Bhagavad Gita’s composition. Discusses the Bhagavad Gita’s view in contrast to them, as recentering human karman upon Krishna Nārāyaṇa, the only true actor.

    Find this resource:

  • Hill, Peter R. “The Bhagavadgītā: God’s Might and Man’s Freedom.” In Fate, Predestination, and Human Action in the Mahābhārata: A Study in the History of Ideas. By Peter R. Hill, 322–357. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Addresses the question of human freedom of action in the Bhagavad Gita as the culmination of a study of this issue in the Mahābhārata as a whole. Pays particular attention to the roles of buddhi and bhakti and to the Sāṃkhya metaphysical doctrines that act as a backdrop for human behavior.

    Find this resource:

  • Jordens, J. T. F. “The Bhagavadgītā: Karma Exorcised.” Milla Wa-Milla: The Australian Bulletin of Comparative Religion 4 (1964): 22–30.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the apparent friction between the mechanical law of karmic retribution and the soteriological role of Krishna Nārāyaṇa. Resolves it through the idea of bhakti, a new motivation for action, which prompts salvation through Krishna’s grace (prasāda). Probably overtheologizes the notion of prasāda in light of Christian heritage.

    Find this resource:

  • Kashap, S. Paul. “Reflections on the Concept of Action in the Gītā.” In Moral Dilemmas in the Mahābhārata. Edited by Bimal K. Matilal, 116–128. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1989.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Useful for its differentiation of philosophical interpretation from historical interpretation, and for its emphasis on the poetic and refractory manner in which the Bhagavad Gita’s authors presented philosophy. Focuses on the juxtaposition of “action” and “inaction” in Bhagavad Gita 4:16–18 but comes to a rather unlikely conclusion.

    Find this resource:

  • Teschner, George. “Anxiety, Anger, and the Concept of Agency and Action in the Bhagavad Gītā.” Asian Philosophy 2 (1992): 61–77.

    DOI: 10.1080/09552369208575353Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interprets Krishna’s method as a method of acting nonintentionally or automatically: “The Gītā is repudiating the intentionality and teleology of human action” (p. 69). A brave attempt to deconstruct intention as a narrative construct. Quotes Friedrich Nietzsche. Fails in the details, but does so very instructively.

    Find this resource:

Karma-yoga

As is well known, in the Bhagavad Gita Krishna proposes that Arjuna adopt a method of acting without desire or attachment, whereby he (and by implication any other human being) might allegedly act without any karmic consequences. Agrawal 1982 is a monograph—one of many of this type—that approvingly expounds the karma-yoga method from a variety of angles. Filipsky 1986 explores the concept of Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita as a whole, discussing in particular the relation between the different compound words that have “Yoga” as their final member. Appelbaum 1990 expounds the idea of nonattached action from a phenomenological perspective with particular reference to Edmund Husserl. Brodbeck 2003 explores Krishna’s claim that he is the paradigmatic exemplar of the method he urges Arjuna to adopt. Framarin 2009 discusses the idea of desireless action in the Bhagavad Gita and a variety of later Indian texts, and dismisses various interpretations whereby some desires would be permissible. Mathur 1974 and Brodbeck 2004 lay out the karma-yoga idea and critique it in different ways. Mathur 1974 does so in light of modern ethical theory, and Brodbeck 2004 on the basis that its determinism precludes any choice of how to act.

  • Agrawal, M. M. The Philosophy of Non-Attachment: The Way to Spiritual Freedom in Indian Thought. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1982.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Investigates Krishna’s method as a proposed real (that is, extratextual) soteriological possibility. Establishes that its postmortem results are uninvestigable, so the touchstone of the method must be its results in the world, and tries to envisage these under various headings on the basis of the text.

    Find this resource:

  • Appelbaum, David. “Tangible Action: Non-Attached Action in the Bhagavadgītā.” In Sanskrit and Related Studies: Contemporary Researches and Reflections. Edited by Bimal Krishna Matilal and Purusottama Bilimoria, 99–111. Delhi: Sri Satguru, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Begins by establishing, with reference to Gabriel Marcel’s work on the phenomenology of having, the conditions under which an action is “mine.” Then imagines Krishna’s method in practice, in philosophical terms, with particular reference to Edmund Husserl’s theory of kinesthesia. A powerful piece.

    Find this resource:

  • Brodbeck, Simon. “Kṛṣṇa’s Action as the Paradigm of Asakta Karman in the Bhagavadgītā.” In 2nd International Conference on Indian Studies: Proceedings. Edited by Renata Czekalska and Halina Marlewicz, 85–112. Krakow: Ksiegarnia Akademicka, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the idea that Krishna is the ultimate karma-yogi in terms of the human Krishna Vāsudeva, the divine Krishna Nārāyaṇa, and the avatar doctrine that connects the two. Argues that, despite the text’s apparent claims, Krishna Nārāyaṇa’s nonattachment is significantly incomparable with any possible human nonattachment.

    Find this resource:

  • Brodbeck, Simon. “Calling Kṛṣṇa’s Bluff: Non-Attached Action in the Bhagavadgītā.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 32.1 (2004): 81–103.

    DOI: 10.1023/B:INDI.0000014005.76726.eaSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Attempts to extract a transferable methodology of nonattached action from the Bhagavad Gita, without success. Takes the text’s causally deterministic suggestions seriously and concludes that although the text establishes the possibility of nonattached action, it does not explain how we might deliberately do it.

    Find this resource:

  • Filipsky, Jan. “The Concept of Yoga in the Bhagavadgītā.” In Sanskrit and World Culture: Proceedings of the Fourth World Sanskrit Conference of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies, Weimar, May 23–30, 1979. Edited by Wolfgang Morgenroth, 526–531. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1986.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Emphasizes at the outset the ambiguity of the word “Yoga” and the text’s poetical exploration of that ambiguity, then discusses the text’s soteriologico-metaphorical sense of Yoga in the round, focusing especially upon the centrality of buddhi. Argues that karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, and bhakti yoga are aspects of one proposed Yoga method.

    Find this resource:

  • Framarin, Christopher G. Desire and Motivation in Indian Philosophy. New York: Routledge, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Studies the concept of action without desire in the Bhagavad Gita and in other Sanskrit philosophical texts and commentaries. The book’s main achievement is its thorough dismissal of the “some desires interpretation,” whereby Krishna is said to allow the karma-yogi to be motivated by some types of desire but not others.

    Find this resource:

  • Mathur, D. C. “The Concept of Action in the Bhagvad-Gita.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 35.1 (1974): 34–45.

    DOI: 10.2307/2106599Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Describes the Bhagavad Gita’s idea of nonattached action as traditionally interpreted, and argues that it “suffers from two serious limitations which render it unsuitable for meeting the needs of changing and revolutionary times” (p. 35). Would perhaps wish to ethicize the teaching. Skeptical about the text’s ideologies of reincarnation and the status quo.

    Find this resource:

Specific Passages

Included under this heading is a variety of disparate sources, each discussing a specific section of the Bhagavad Gita. Schrader 1929 focuses on Bhagavad Gita 3:8–16 and its exposition of the “wheel of sacrifice,” whereby humans and gods sustain each other. Belvalkar 1952 discusses Bhagavad Gita 4:13 and 7:7–11 in light of earlier comments by others and proposes new interpretations. Szczurek 2007 deals in some depth with the repeated occurrence of the word ātman (oneself, or the “soul”) at Bhagavad Gita 6:5–6. Arapura 1975 focuses on the image of the upside-down tree at the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita’s fifteenth chapter, and Wezler 2000 on the dichotomy between daiva (divine) and āsura (demonic) qualities at the beginning of the sixteenth.

  • Arapura, J. G. “The Upside Down Tree of the Bhagavadgītā Ch. XV: An Exegesis.” Numen 22.2 (1975): 131–144.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses Bhagavad Gita 15:1–3. Critiques Robert Charles Zaehner’s interpretation of these verses. Includes the etymology and meaning of the aśvattha tree, plus useful comparisons with a similar passage in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad (where the meaning is slightly different), and a history of the motif in the Vedic texts.

    Find this resource:

  • Belvalkar, Shripad Krishna. “Two Mishandled Passages in the Bhagavadgītā.” In Professor M. Hiriyanna Commemoration Volume. Edited by N. S. Sastry and G. H. Rao, 1–11. Mysore, India: Professor M. Hiriyanna Commemoration Volume Committee, 1952.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The passages are Bhagavad Gita 4:13 and 7:7–11. The discussion of the latter is interesting with regard to desire and motivation, dwelling in particular on the range of the word kāmarāgavivarjitam at Bhagavad Gita 7:11 and arguing that it refers to buddhi and tejas in the previous verse as well as to balam.

    Find this resource:

  • Schrader, F. Otto. “The Sacrificial Wheel Taught in the Bhagavadgītā.” Indian Historical Quarterly 5.2 (1929): 173–181.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compares the “wheel of sacrifice” described at Bhagavad Gita 3:8–16 with similar passages in the Upanishads and in the Dharmashastras. Pays particular attention to verse 3:15, discussing and problematizing several possible interpretations and the arguments put forward by their various proponents.

    Find this resource:

  • Szczurek, Przemysław. “Juggling with Ātman: Remarks on the Bhagavad-gītā 6.5–6.” Rocznik Orientalistyczny 60.2 (2007): 212–238.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses Bhagavad Gita 6:5–6 and in particular the meanings of the word ātman, which occurs thirteen times there. Assesses the previous research and proposes a new interpretation, involving the Bhagavad Gita in polemics against certain passages in Jain and Buddhist texts on the value of asceticism and the (non)existence of the soul.

    Find this resource:

  • Wezler, A. “Sampad of Bhagavadgītā XVI Reconsidered.” In Harānandalaharī: Volume in Honour of Professor Minoru Hara on His Seventieth Birthday. Edited by Ryutaro Tsuchida and Albrecht Wezler, 433–455. Reinbek, Germany: Wezler, 2000.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on Bhagavad Gita 16:1–5, discussing various possible translations of the word sampad as it appears there. Attempts to arrive at a satisfactory solution (“group/aggregate [etc.] of qualities/characteristics [etc.]” p. 446) by comparing the word’s appearances in various other texts, particularly the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya.

    Find this resource:

LAST MODIFIED: 01/27/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195399318-0010

back to top

Article

Up

Down