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The Bhagavad Gita: The Original Sanskrit and an English Translation [Paperback]

Lars Martin Fosse

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Book Description

April 15 2007
At last, an edition of the Bhagavad Gita that speaks with unprecedented fidelity and clarity. It contains an unusually informative introduction, the Sanskrit text of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute'ss critical edition, an accurate and accessible English translation, a comprehensive glossary of names and epithets, and a thorough index. REL032000

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From the Publisher

From the Introduction

You are about to have the profound pleasure of reading one of the truly great books in the history of the world. Not only is it a spiritual monument--an essential scripture of Hinduism, recited daily for two millennia and to this very day, whose teachings have spread throughout Asia and around the globe--it is also a literary masterpiece, the linchpin of a great epic of war and peace, honor and disgrace, loyalty and betrayal. It is a book people everywhere in the world return to again and again throughout their lives for insight into the nature of reality.

Table of Contents

Introduction Arjuna's Despair Theory Action Knowledge, Action and Renunciation Renunciation Meditation Knowledge and Discernment The Liberating Brahman The Royal Science Power His Cosmic Form Devotion The Field and Its Knower The Three Properties The Supreme Spirit The Divine and the Demonic The Three Kinds of Faith Liberation and Renunciation Names and Nicknames Contributors Index

About the Author

Residing in Oslo, Norway, Lars Martin Fosse holds a master's and doctorate from the University of Oslo, and also studied at the Universities of Heidelberg, Bonn, and Cologne. He has lectured at Oslo University on Sanskrit, Pali, Hinduism, text analysis, and statistics, and was a visiting fellow at Oxford University. He is one of Europe's most experienced translators.


"This is a luminous translation that performs the exceptional feat of bringing the Gita fully alive in a Western language, combining accuracy with accessibility. In our troubled times, humanity needs the message of this sacred scripture as never before."

--Karen Armstrong, Author of The Great Transformation and A History of God

Inside This Book

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Dhritarashtra said, "When my troops and the sons of Pandu, eager to fight, were arrayed on the Kuru field, the field of law, what did they do, Sanjaya?" Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary translation of a great work of spirituality May 9 2007
By Dennis Littrell - Published on
The Bhagavad Gita has been translated into English numerous times. I have read and reviewed for Amazon the following six versions in English:

Bolle, Kees W. Bhagavadgita, The: A New Translation (1979)

Easwaran, Eknath. Bhagavad Gita, The (1985; 2000)

Edgerton, Franklin. The Bhagavad Gita (1944)

Miller, Barbara Stoler. Bhagavad Gita, The: Krishna's Counsel in Time of War (1986; 1991)

Mitchell, Stephen. Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation (2000)

Nikhilananda, Swami. Bhagavad Gita, The: Translated from the Sanskrit, with Notes, Comments, and Introduction by Swami Nikhilananda (1944; 6th printing 1979)

(I have yet to read the famous translation by Sir Edwin Arnold.)

The question might be, why bring out another? In the case of the people at YogaVidya, who published this translation by Lars Martin Fosse, the answer is apparent: they want to bring to the English speaking world great works of the yogic tradition. To this end they have previously published Brian Dana Akers' translation of Svatmarama's Hatha Yoga Pradipika (2002), James Mallinson's translation of The Gheranda Samhita (2004), and his translation of The Shiva Samhita (2007). (See my reviews at Amazon.)

The question for the reader might be which book should I buy? The answer depends on several factors. For the devout Hindu and yogi, a translation that stays as close to the original Sanskrit is no doubt to be preferred. Yet even between Hindu and yogi there can be a difference of opinion. The Hindu, especially if he or she is of a conservative bent, may prefer a translation that chooses English words that support a literal interpretation of this great spiritual work, while a yogi, especially if he or she is follower of Patanjali, might prefer a translation that emphasizes practice and study. A general reader might prefer a translation that makes the text readily accessible without having to delve too deeply into Vedic philosophy. A student of literature might prefer the most elegant and poetic translation. And so it goes. A poetic translation must of necessity sacrifice some literal meaning, while a strictly literal translation may make for difficult reading. There is a dictum to which I subscribe to the effect that when translating literature and in particular poetry, something is always lost in translation. Consequently, by this rule, if by no other, no single translation of the Gita will serve. Therefore we have many translations, and as English grows and our attitudes toward the world change, ever so subtly, there will arise a need for new translations.

I think that Fosse's book is distinguished by his clear and informative introduction to the Gita for the general reader. He does a good job of placing the work in the Hindu tradition and gives some idea of its history in English. There is a glossary of names (since Fosse uses the many epithets from the original in his translation) and an index. As with the other books from YogaVidya, the original Sanskrit is given along with the English translation, verse by verse.

What I don't think that Fosse does well is introduce the Gita in a spiritual and symbolic sense. The most important thing that the first time reader of the Gita should realize in my opinion is that it is a work to be taken symbolically. If you take it literally as the story of the personal god Krishna urging the reluctant warrior Arjuna to fight his enemies, you lose the essence of this great work. Better is to understand that the battle that Arjuna faces is not one of swords and arrows, but one of time, chance and circumstance. The central question that Arjuna asks is how to live and why. Krishna essentially tells him you have no choice; that it is a signal of failure and humiliation to give up. And then Krishna gives Arjuna four approaches to life and deliverance (i.e., samadhi): bhakti yoga, the path of love and devotion; karma yoga, the path of selfless work (mainly this); jnana yoga, the path of knowledge; and raja/hatha yoga, the path of discipline or force. It is said in the yogic tradition that when all else fails, the path of force will work if it is practiced with sincerity and regularity. For those of great faith, bhakti yoga leads easily to moksha.

Any translation that is not a work of art by a great poet at the height of his powers (we have no such translation as yet) will, to some extent, be untrue to this great work of spirituality. Just as Shakespeare can never be fully appreciated in translation, so it is with any poetic work. Fosse shows he understands this very well when he writes (p. xxiv) "...a translation is always an interpretation, but an interpretation is not always a translation. The only way to get a truly intimate understanding of a Sanskrit text is to learn Sanskrit." I think his sentiment also hints at why he chose not to write an interpretative introduction.

I have addressed specific problems and choices in translating the Gita in my other reviews, so I will skip them here. Bottom line: this is a fine addition to the list of excellent English translations of the Gita, handsomely presented as usual by YogaVidya, and a good choice for first time readers and for those who know Sanskrit.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great study edition March 9 2007
By Joanna D. - Published on
Though perhaps not lush in artwork and poetic in outlook, this is an easy-to-read study version of the Bhagavad Gita. The translation is no-nonsense, but not clunky-sounding either.

The introduction is worth the price alone--covering the history of the Mahabarata Epic, India's great contribution to mythological and religion writing. The translation goes verse by verse with the Sanskrit text of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute's critical edition. This makes a handy reference for the Sanskrit scholar. There is a comprehensive glossary of names and a good index. If you are studying this work for comparative religions, great books, mythology or other college work, you will find this a useful edition.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book For The Western Seeker Nov. 8 2012
By W. H. McDonald Jr. - Published on
To translate the original Sanskrit spiritual text of the Bhagavad Gita into English is a huge undertaking by itself - but to do so by someone for whom English may not be his native language is ambitious. I think Lars Martin Fosse does succeed and goes beyond the translating of Sanskrit text into readable English. His efforts make this book perhaps, much more accessible to western seekers than other translations. It is not an interpretation like Paramahansa Yogananda's wonderful classic book "God Talks With Arjuna - The Bhagavad Gita" or like those related books from others. It makes no claims to be in that category; however, it's aim is a much more simple approach which proves to be very direct and honest to the text. It doesn't get too deep poetically or philosophically which makes following it easier for a quick study. It lays it out the text in English but doesn't try to paint it with the translator's own personal views or insights.

The over-all the efforts of the translator comes off as philosophically true to text and is helpful - setting the stage for the more serious western seekers to further explore on their own any deeper personal interpretations into this text - if they are inspired to do so. It should be pointed out that the introduction is very solid and well done. It is as a good of introduction to the story the Mahabbarata as I have seen for novice western seekers.

How to rate this book was difficult - as I do not know of any truly deserving FIVE STAR ratings for any translations of this book by anyone else expect the original writer's of text which is all in Sanskrit - so, having said that, I feel that Lars Fosse has done a fair and balanced presentation of this sacred text into English. It is worthy of any truth seeker's time to read.

There is a whole series of helpful translated books by Yoga Vidya and I recommend them all.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Svatmarama; Akers, Brian Dana published by Hardcover

The Shiva Samhita

The Shiva Samhita

The Kamasutra
4.0 out of 5 stars Straight Forward But Disappointing for a Lay Reader Oct. 9 2012
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - Published on
This book's special niche is for those who want to read the book in Sanscrit and English at the same time.

Perhaps I have been spoiled by the excellence of The The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners that was recommended to me by Harrison Owen, himself the author of several books including Wave Rider: Leadership for High Performance in a Self-Organizing World. My review of the Gita for Westerners is a reflection of what I can get out of a book.

This one, while appreciated as a gift, and while also clearly a valuable contribution in terms of new twists on the English translation, is for me largely valuable for the ten page introduction.

I will say that the simplicity of the presentation (as in sparse sophistication demanding attention) focused my mind and I did draw out from this book the emphasis on non-attachment. In addition to the above two books, I would recommend The Zen Leader: 10 Ways to Go From Barely Managing to Leading Fearlessly, from which I drew the insight that I have been wasting time and energy trying to reform legacy systems that are too self-invested to every contemplate change, and that I should instead focus exclusively on "attracting the future" by being who I am, representing the constructive ideas that I do, and let others do with those ideas what they will.

Reading this book at a time when dark forces are conspiring to attack Iran and justify it with a variety of false flag attacks and the same kind of lies that led to the three trillion dollar war on Iraq, I try to FOCUS on the message in this book. Here is one example:

QUOTE (15): Know that this, on which all the world has been strung, is indestructible. No one can bring about the destruction of this imperishable being.

I have never been about rank or money, but I have had my ego involved in whether people, listen, learn, and do the right thing, and I see more value in the message -- do what you do for the right reasons, without expecting outcomes. The outcomes are for others to co-create by their own action.

QUOTE (21): You are only entitled to the action, never to its fruits. Do not let the fruits of action be your motive, but do not attach yourself to nonaction.

Bearing in mind that this book provides less than one percent of the content of the total Gita [the ten page introduction is certainly the highlight of the book for those of us that do not want to spend years studying these specific phrases], I confess to being a bit under-whelmed. For me, The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners is the one book to buy.

Other books I recommend to those seeking new spiritual balance include:
Your Spiritual IQ: Five Steps to Spiritual Growth
Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution
Empowering Public Wisdom: A Practical Vision of Citizen-Led Politics (Manifesto Series)
Society's Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science's Greatest Idea
Conscious Evolution: Awakening Our Social Potential
4.0 out of 5 stars A GOOD SUPPLEMENTARY EDITION Oct. 6 2012
By EMAN NEP - Published on
Which edition of the Bhagavad Gita should I read?

This is one of those questions that may face one in their study of Hinduism. Do I go with a translation that is more literal but hard to read? Or do I go with a translation that "flows" better but may compromise the original intent and meaning?

Having read only one other edition of the Gita (Easwaran), I'd have to say that this edition falls somewhere in the middle.


First and foremost, although I can't read a bit of Sanskrit, I always appreciate editions that include the text in its original language. If I ever did want to do a further study on, say, the origins or meaning of a specific word, I can now do so.
I also appreciate the absence of footnotes as it makes for a less jarring reading experience--having to stop every few seconds for more clarification is not my idea of fun reading.
As for the translation itself, I can't speak for how well or accurately it captures the sense of the original, but I can tell you that it was a very easy read, which most Hindu texts are not.
Finally, the glossary at the end is always a welcome sight.


Although I like the spartan style of this book, there were a couple areas where I felt improvements could have been made. For one, I wish there were little headings to indicate who was speaking--Arjuna or Krishna. Secondly, for the most part, I felt that this translation was easier to read than Easwaran, however, there were a few cases where the Easwaran translation simply had more "flow" or was easier to follow. Compare these two passages . . .

"The self is a friend to that self by which self the self has been conquered. But the self of a man with an unconquered self would act in hostility like an enemy."
--Meditation couplet 6; Lars Martin Fosse translation

"To those who have conquered themselves, the will is a friend. But it is the enemy of those who have not found the Self within them."
--Meditation couplet 6; Eknath Easwaran translation

Right away you can see how the Easwaran translation is much easier to follow in this instance.
Finally, I disliked the inclusion of the other names of Arjuna and Krishna. I really don't feel that they added much to my understanding of the Gita, in fact, I would say that it was detrimental in that one has to think twice as hard or consult the glossary to figure out who is being referred to.

Before giving my overall assessment I'll breakdown a brief comparison of this edition with the Easwaran translation.


--Easy to read
--Original Sanskrit text
--Introduction, glossary and index
--Simplistic layout


--Generally has more "flow" to it, but probably not as literal as the LMF translation.
--Introduction, chapter commentaries, glossary and index.
--Indicates who is speaking (Krishna, Arjuna, etc)


Between the two, I can't recommend one over the other. One should also bear in mind that with any translated text, it is wise to have MULTIPLE translations to refer to and not just one. For that reason, I think that the Lars Martin Fosse translation, while not perfect mostly on nitpicking grounds, is an excellent addition to one's collection of the Bhagavad Gita.

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