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Re: REQUEST : Bhagavad Gita commentary

Posted By Rajan P. Parrikar (parrikar@spot.Colorado.EDU)
Sat, 11 Jan 1997 15:53:18 -0700 (MST)

In article <ghenE3toxn.3pw@netcom.com>,
Randy Leighton <leighton@hsc.usc.edu> wrote:

Thank you, Randy, for this foray. Maybe now we'll get somewhere and set
a discussion rolling.

>I'd read several translations of the Gita (Edgerton, LaFolet (or
>something like that), Hanumanprasad Podar and Sridhar Swami, just to
>name a few. None of them are logically consistent from start to
>finish, and none of them presents the Gita literally. They all try to
>'improve' upon the Bhagavad Gita, altering meanings, so that it
>corresponds to their own understanding of reality. This is not the
>case with A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami's translation and commentaries.

I should like to start off by saying that I have no negative opinion
of Prabhupada's translation. I have also read a few other translations
such as the ones by Radhakrishnan, Swami Nikhilananda etc and have
enjoyed them (the JnyAneshwari too!). My enjoyment primarily stemmed
from the clarity of their exposition and the efficacy with which the
central core and message of the Gita stood out.

Apropos of our issue - comparative and critical judgment of translations
calls for expertise in both Sanskrit and English and also perhaps a good
background in the tradition. I don't know Sanskrit very well and so I am not
competent to make these attempts since I have no way of definitively
ascertaining the literal adherence to the original. The people (ISKCON fellas,
to wit) who I knew and who alleged that the 'other` Gitas didn't quite cut
it were even less competent than I in that they didn't even know to read
Sanskrit much less understand it. Worse still, further inquiry would reveal
that most of them hadn't read any other version than P's. Yet curiously,
such considerations never came in the way of their pronouncements
(denouncements, really) of the 'other` Gitas. This should set the context
for my last post.

Now then, you have indicated that you have read across a wide spectrum
of available translations. I also presume you know Sanksrit very well.
Could you, then, please cite some specific shlokAs along with their
translations from the 'other` works and contrast them with Prabhupada so
that (a) it illuminates your points of the primacy of P's translation
and the errors in the rest (b) the experts on the net can comment, and
(c) the less-informed in such matters (such as myself) are educated
and edified and hence better equipped to make our own evaluation?

For once we will have something concrete to go on than merely bland assertions.
The matter of distortions in the 'other` Gitas should be easily demonstrable
if that is indeed the case and I, for one, will have no hesitation, if
presented with a reasonable amount of evidence, in coming around to your
point of view. I trust that you will go with the spirit of this request
and select 2/3 reasonably popular and canonical translations to tackle this
quodlibet. And that the sholkAs you choose to address will be such that
the distortions/inconsistencies/shortcomings in the 'other` Gitas will
emerge unambiguosly.

As it stands, merely asserting again and again that Prabhupada's translation
is the best and the most accurate while the others fall short is just that -
an unsubstantiated opinion. Proof by repetition isn't taken that seriously
around here.

Warm regards and Hari bol,

r

ps: If my presumption of your expertise of Sanskrit is false that would
be just fine, but then please indicate the basis for your claims.

>Understand, if we liked the truth, we'd know it. The reason we're in
>this materially conditioned state is that we don't like everything
>about the truth. Srila Prabhupada presents the Gita truthfully,
>without changing or adding to it's meaning. One may not like what
>Srila Prabhupada says, but it is the truth.
>
>The first edition I read was Frank Edgerton's version, which strives
>to maintain the Gita's poetic genre. That was in 1967. I first read
>Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is in 1970. I have read Gita
>more times than I can count since then. Srila Prabhupada's is, hands
>down, the best.
>
>Randy
>
>--
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