‘It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spoke to us … large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence’
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
‘What happiness could we ever enjoy, if we killed our own kinsmen in battle?’
A prince stands on a battlefield between two armies. He has relatives and friends in both. How can he fight against his own uncle, against men who taught him as a child? Gripped by despair, Prince Arjuna is ready to allow himself to be killed unresisting until his charioteer, who is the god Krishna on Earth, provides wise words of spiritual enlightenment. What follows is a hymn to selflessness, an exploration of the path to true duty and righteousness. Both Arjuna, and the reader, realise that this battle is one we all face within ourselves – a battle in which victory may lead to light, and defeat to inner darkness and turmoil: ‘My doubts are no more, my faith is firm; and now I can say: “Thy will be done”.’
Written over 2,000 years ago, The Bhagavad Gita is the cornerstone of the Hindu faith, ranking alongside the world’s greatest religious texts. It espouses tolerance, self-restraint and liberation achieved through knowledge, action and devotion to God. Gandhi revered it as expressing the guiding principles of his life, calling it ‘The Gospel of Selfless Action’ and his ‘spiritual dictionary’. As a secular text it has also inspired many others, from Aldous Huxley, Einstein and Emerson, to Yeats and Jung, and it continues to influence millions of new adherents around the world in its role as the central text to the philosophy of yoga.
The Bhagavad Gita is part of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata. Often called the ‘Upanishad of Upanishads’, it stands alone as a profoundly spiritual revelation and a beautiful work of Sanskrit poetry. This edition uses the translation by Juan Mascaró, acclaimed for its deeply sympathetic portrayal of the lyricism of the original, as well as a clarity of expression which enables us to understand its message. For this Folio edition, Anna Bhushan created a series of illustrations to be integrated with the text, and Amit Chaudhuri wrote a deeply considered introduction: both powerful testaments to the living power of the Gita.
‘When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad Gita and find a verse to comfort me’