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The Bhagavad-Gͮt͢ * translated and elucidated by William Quan Judge (isbn 0911500278)

The Bhagavad-Gͮt͢ is a small piece of the Indian warrior-epos the Mah͢bh͢rata which is supposedly written by the Vy͢sa, but who he was and when he lived is unknown. The Gͮt͢ is usually regarded as the Bible of the Hindus, but this is only partly true.
The Gͮt͢ has been translated countless times in the last century and you can buy it in almost any bookshop nowadays. William Quan Judge was one of the founders of the Theosophical Society in the end of the 19th century and one of the earlier men to bring Eastern wisdom to the west. In my opinion he also made one of the better translations of the Gͮt͢ and this translation has been published again and again by Theosophical publishers.

The poem tells the story of Arjuna who stands on the battlefields of the Kurukshetra in the middle of the two hostile armies of the Pandavas and the Kurus. Arjuna fights an inner battle because his enemy is also his family and the doesn’t want to kill any of them. In short, this is the ground of his discussion with Krishna who -during the story- seems to be a personal god, a creator-god and the eternal Deity itself.
Most translations of the GÍ®tÍ¢ put too much focus on the outwardly story of the story, namely Arjuna who doesn’t want to fight in the beginning and Krishna giving him reasons why going into the battle won’t harm him by bringing bad Karma, etc. The actual purpose of the story is that Krishna teaches Arjuna to overcome the lower aspects of his personality by means of 17 forms of Yoga (this is why this translation is subtitled “The Book Of Yoga”), which form the ‘chapters’ of the book.

My Dutch translation opens with a genealogical tree, which is very helpfull, because many family names appear in the story and different names refer to the same person(s), etc. A good translation is very enjoyable to read if the poetic manner of writing is maintained. Judges translation is a good one. The chapters are divided in shlokas (verses) that are numbered and Judge had the practical idea to print the text itself on the right pages and the explanations not with footnotes, but just in reference to the shlokas on the left pages. For example, when he wants to explain the term “SvabhÍ¢va” from shloka 14 of chapter 5, the left page there will say “14 SvabhÍ¢va …”, so it is possible to just read the text and ignore the explanations if you like. What I personally also like about this translation, is that Judge didn’t try to find/make English words for untranslatable terms such as “Achyuta” or words that are better explained than replaced by an English ‘equivalent’ such as “KÍ¢la” which could be translated as “hell”, but this word in the sentence wouldn’t do much good. The Sanskrit terms stay in the text and they are explained on the left pages.

So, a book that I can recommand to those who are interested in some Eastern wisdom and interested enough not to just buy a cheap and bad translation, but a translation that is both beautiful and helpfull to understand what is (possibly) meant.

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