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The Bhagavad-Gita: A New Translation [Hardcover]

Georg Feuerstein , Brenda Feuerstein

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Book Description

Sept. 13 2011
The seven hundred verses of the Bhagavad-Gita have, for more than two millennia, served as a guide to liberation through a life of knowledge, devotion, and action without attachment to results. The influence of this most renowned of all the Hindu scriptures has spread far beyond its religion of origin to inspire figures as diverse as Mohandas Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Aldous Huxley, and C. G. Jung. This fresh translation stands out from all the others first of all for its careful faithfulness to the original language, but also for the extensive tools for understanding it provides, which include: detailed explanatory notes, the entire Sanskrit text on facing pages—both in the original Devanagari alphabet as well as in a romanized version that allows the reader to approximate the sounds (a pronunciation guide is provided)—a word-for-word translation for comparison, an exhaustive glossary, and a wealth of essays on the Gita’s background, symbolism and influence. This Gita is an excellent resource for serious students, but it’s also the perfect version for first-time readers who want to approach the text with understanding.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; 1 edition (Sept. 13 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159030893X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590308936
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.2 x 4.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 975 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #148,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

“Dr. Feuerstein’s new rendering is perhaps the most complete version of the more than one hundred English translations of the Gita to come our way in the last two-and-a-quarter centuries. This is a work for both scholars and serious laypersons, destined, I believe, to become the standard text for Yoga training programs in the English-speaking world.”—Richard Rosen, author of The Yoga of Breath and Pranayama beyond the Fundamentals

“A Bhagavad-Gita like no other! Never have its language and culture been so vividly etched, not only by the unrivaled precision of Feuerstein’s renderings, but also in a trove of companion materials unprecedented for their breadth and depth. There’s something here for everyone, from seeker to scholar to seer.”—Chip Hartranft, translator of The Yoga-Sutra of Patañjali


“Its timeless teachings on karma yoga and bhakti yoga make it a foundational text for modern yogis. Its compelling narrative, filled with iconic characters and colorful lessons about the spiritual journey, make it a pleasure to read. What makes the Feuersteins’ translation unique? It is packed with scholarly essays that help students understand the Gita’s historical and cultural context and its historical worldview before they read the text. Rich with footnotes and containing a helpful glossary, this book will serve serious yoga students and ambitious beginners alike.”—Yoga Journal

“It stands out both for its faithfulness to the original language and for its extensive tools for understanding the text.”—OM Magazine (UK)

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh and scholar translation of the Gita Oct. 3 2011
By G. A. BRAVO-CASAS - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The central episode of the greatest Oriental epic poem, the Mahabharata, is the Bhagavad-Gita. Gandhi and many scholars have said that the Gita and the Sermon on the Mount are the two most important moral teachings ever produced. Written almost 2400 years ago, this seminal work was the first major book ever translated from Sanskrit into a Western language; Sir Charles Wilkins did the translation into English in 1775. One of the central and paradoxical messages of the Gita is `to act, but without reflecting on the fruits of the action... forgetting desire and seeking detachment.' Some famous intellectuals, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, William James, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, and the director of the Manhattan Project, J. Robert Oppenheimer, found their inspiration in the Gita. The modern American composer, Philip Glass, wrote his opera Satyagraha (1980), based on Ghandi's life, and by using only the Gita texts in Sanskrit, he shows its relevance to modern life.

We have hundreds of translations of the Gita; do we need a new one? We have many good English translations. Some are very poetic, such as those by Sir Edwin Arnold (1899), Juan Mascaro (1962), and Barbara Stoler Miller (1986). Others deal with its psychological meaning (Swami Rama, 1985), or with its philosophical and spiritual character, including Eknath Easwaran (1985), and Swami Bhaktivedanta (1983); the last one used to be freely distributed by Hare Krishna monks at airports and subway stations.

Georg Feuerstein and his wife Brenda have finally published a long awaited rendition of the Gita. Feuerstein is one of the greatest yoga scholars today, a philosopher, Sanskrit scholar, historian, and prolific author. His Yoga Tradition (1998), and his translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra are seminal works and reflect the serious effort of a dedicated career. This translation "is far more literal than previous renderings ... [and] is based on my earnest effort to capture as much as possible of the spirit of this time-honored work and also to do justice to its language as best as I could, though realizing that my approach of textual and contextual fidelity cannot also at the same time reflect the Gita's melodious quality", says the author.

The first part of the book is a good preparation before stepping into the text; it summarizes in 76 pages the historical significance of the Gita, its spiritual and moral implications, and its relevance to deal with modern issues. It also has a good summary of the plot and of the various characters involved. The second part presents the Sanskrit text, its transliteration and the author's translation, with an abundant number of explanatory footnotes. The third part has a word-for-word translation of the 18 chapters that facilitates an easy comparison with other translations, thus constituting an invaluable source for anyone who would like to get a deeper meaning of the text. A selected bibliography, a glossary of select terms in the Gita, and a very comprehensive index are additional assets of this excellent rendition.

The Bhagavad-Gita and Patanjali's Yoga Sutra are the two most important philosophical references in the yoga literature and Feuerstein has provided us with splendid analyses and translations of these two masterworks. After reading the new translation, it becomes a joy to come back to any of the poetic renditions, or even, to watch the 15-minute version of the Gita that is included in the six-hour rendition of Peter Brook's Mahabharata, on DVD. It is expected that Shambhala will make soon a paperback edition at a more affordable price.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An admirable new edition Nov. 15 2011
By rick allen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There is a lot to like about this new translation of the Bhagavad Gita. As a reader with not a bit of Sanskrit I can't really judge the quality of the translation. But it is apparent that Feuerstein is emphasizing verbal accuracy. And I find that any translation with a parallel original text acts as a spur to pick up at least a few elements of the original.

In comparing this translation with those I already owned, of Edwin Arnold and Barbara Stoler Miller, I can appreciate the value of these different approaches. Arnold is quite consciously poetic and "Oriental." Miller displays a freer, more contemporary American style. In, for example, omitting almost all of the epithets for Krishna and Arjuna, Miller makes the text run swifter and smoother, but loses much of the richness (the same thing happens with translations of Homer).

With substantial introductory material, and frequent footnoting, this is a version that encourages close and careful reading. Though a Westerner, Feuerstein appears to rely as much on Indian as Western scholarship. And though he does have a particular approach as an exponent of Yoga, I don't perceive that this edition is excessively "sectarian."
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bhagavad Gita translated by Feuerstein and Flood Jan. 20 2013
By The Peripatetic Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Bhagavad Gita is perhaps, with the exception of the Lao Tzu , one of the most translated Eastern scriptures in history. For good reason; it compellingly, concisely, and succinctly crystallizes Vedanta philosophy, in beautiful verse. There are, on the other hand, literally hundreds of translations of this beautiful work. For this reason, it is surprising that recently, in the last year and a half, there have been new translations released by well-known Vedic scholars, Georg Feuerstein and Gavin Flood. Each of these releases deserve a place in the corpus of literature concerning the Gita.

In 2011, Feuerstein released his translation of the Gita. It is an attempt to deliver an academic translation, a piece of scholarship, and still remain true to the letter and spirit of the Gita. The translation begins with a seventy-page introduction, summarizing the factual background of the BG, dating the BG, and discussing other topics. Feuerstein is especially troubled by the "militaristic" nature of the Gita, an issue for which he arrives at no conclusion. It contains the Sanskrit text, roman transliteration, footnotes, detailed index, word-for-word translation, and, of course, a translation which strives to faithful to the letter and spirit of the original text.

In one of his introductory essays, Feuerstein comments on the difficulties in translating the Gita. Feuerstein explains that there are some Sanskrit words for which an exact English translation does not exist. Some words in the text have no exact English correlate and others have meanings which are difficult to render in English. This might account for the great diversity in the available translations, because the latitude for artistic license is so great. So in his translation, Feuerstein employs many translation methods:

1. Instead of choosing an English word for which he believes is inaccurate, Feuerstein will translate the text with the best English word he believes is appropriate and leave the Sanskrit word in parenthesis;

2. In some portions of his version he has translated the Sanskrit word with the most literal English word translation which exists and include the Sanskrit word such as bhava ("non-existence"), brahma ("world-ground"), div ("sky"), gunatitas ("qualifies"), prakriti ("cosmos, world"), purusa ("soul, spirit"), sama-darshana ("the same");

3. Other times, he simply uses the Sanskrit word without a translation for Sanskrit words which are common enough for English that non-Sanskrit reading readers will know the meaning, such as "yogin;"

4. At other times Feuerstein combines Sanskrit and English words. For example, he will use "tamas-nature", for tamasic, "sattva-nature", for sattvastic, and "rajas-nature", for rajastic;

5. And yet other times he will form a new word, for example, "wisdom-faculty" for "buddhi." 2.41, and "dharma-field" 1.1, or "primary qualities" for "gunas," 2.45;

6. Other times he will simply use the original Sanskrit word, for example, "buddhi-yoga," in 2.49, and Buddhi in 2.51. For the same Sanskrit word he later reverts to his manufactured word for buddhi, "wisdom-faculty." 2.53.
7. Yet other times he will borrow a word which is neither English nor Sanskrit. For example in 2.54 onwards he translated -- used -- the word "gnosis" for "prajna," explaining that the nearest English equivalent, wisdom, would be easily confused with Buddhi.

8. He will finally translate English words, verbatim, from Sanskrit, to correspond to a single Sanskrit word. For example, he will translate "guna" as "primary-quality" or "adhyatma" as "basis-of-self."

Thus, Feuerstein's translating style is highly eclectic. This is an approach which is really quite innovative and unique and succeeds in remaining true to the original and conveying the full letter and spirit of the Gita.

In 2012 Gavin Flood, with the assistance of Charles Martin, released their translation of the Gita. While there is an introductory essay preceding the translation, what they present is a simple, elegant, beautiful rendition of the poem. The translation is decidedly not academic, there is no pretense of educating an uninformed reader; the intent is simply to render a translation of the Gita as literature.

To present a comparison of the differences of translation styles, one could look no farther than the opening verse. In Feuerstein's translation, BG 1.1 reads:

"On the dharma field, the Kuru field, my [men] and the [five] sons-of-Pandu were assembled, eager to fight. What did they do, Samjaya?"

Flood's translation of BG 1.1 reads:

"Dhiratarashtra said,

"Having gathered, battle-hungry, on virtue's field, the field of Kuru, what did they do then, Sanjaya, my sons and the sons of Pandu?"

One translation is no better than the other. In Feuerstein's rendition, the reader is able to look at the English and Sanskrit and obtain a full meaning of the thought conveyed. It is therefore the best book to start for the reader unfamiliar with the Gita, or a familiar reader who wants to learn more about it and its background. Flood's translation can be enjoyed as a beautiful piece of literature. Both translations are deserving of the reader's attention.
5.0 out of 5 stars a different perspective on the Gita Oct. 16 2013
By stevenr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Love the way this is laid out. the sanskrit is still mysterious to me - but the approach to translation is excellent
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to Work With, Crowded, Sometimes Awkward April 20 2012
By Gary Weber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
i was excited when i heard that Georg had come out with a new Gita, as he is much respected for his scholarship. However, i was very disappointed with it when i received it from one of my students as a present. i have many different versions of the Gita, teach it, chant verses from it with my students and chant it as a daily practice. i confess a great love for the Gita, the beauty and elegance of its verses, poetry and metaphors, particularly in Sanskrit, and the continually unfolding depths of its timeless messages.

This is one of the least interesting and least useful versions of the Gita i have seen. The layout of the pages with five to seven verses of Devanagari packed together, with their translation on a facing page and transliteration grouped at the bottom, makes cross-referencing or parsing difficult even for someone skilled in Sanskrit, and impossible for folk unfamiliar with the text. This may not be Georg's doing, however, as it is likely the result of an editor trying to fit a lot of information into a book of a certain size. Whoever did it, it does serious damage to the presentation of what is obviously a lot of scholarly work on Georg's part.

i found some of the translations to be awkward and striking a bad balance; trying to be both scholarly and carring the beauty and "sense" of the "Song of God" - at times, both seem compromised. The "Word-for-Word Translation" which should be Georg's forte, is also awkwardly arranged, jammed together in the worst possible way - again this may be the editor.

There are more broadly useful and more accessible Gitas than this. There was hope that this would be THE tool for students of yoga and of the Gita, beginner and advanced practitioner alike, but IMHO, it was not successful.

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