Very recently I was invited to give an evening class on Bhagavad-gita and the subject matter was its PREFACE!
A preface is an opportunity for an author to write a few words about the book he has written.
A foreword contains words of appreciation from others, people who, ideally, enjoy a celebrated status. Both Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi appreciated Bhagavad-gita as a book of divine wisdom, the voice of God and a giver of peace in the midst of anxieties.
An introduction directly relates to the content of the book itself.
Together – the preface, foreword and introduction give information to the reader and in this way, create a selling appeal.
I was quite fascinated with the way Srila Prabhupada wrote his Gita preface. After the class, I was meditating on the theme of the preface and understood that :
(1) the six paragraphs of the preface deal with 6 aspects of Srila Prabhupada, and establish him as the most celebrated preacher of transcendental subject matter.
(2) Srila Prabhupada established Bhagavad Gita as translated by him is really Bhagavad Gita As It Is.
(Paragraph 1) His aspect of scholarship:
Enthused by the growing need for an authentic translation of Bhagavad-gita, Srila Prabhupada was requested by devotees and scholars to present Bhagavad-gita As It Is in a scholarly manner – beginning with the original Sanskrit verse, the English transliteration, the word-for-word meanings (Sanskrit to English), an English translation, and finally, purports that reveal the actual purpose of the Gita.
(Paragraph 2) His mood of gratitude
Many of the parents and grandparents of young disciples of Srila Prabhupada very much appreciated his efforts in founding ISKCON – the Krsna Consciousness Movement. Srila Prabhupada appreciates this and then passes on their words of gratitude by acknowledging Krsna as the original father of the movement and that it has come down through the guru-parampara. He then surrenders all credit for his efforts at the lotus feet of his spiritual master, His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
( Paragraph 3 ) His expertise in critically evaluating
Srila Prabhupada was an expert and fiery critic of Mayavada philosophy of scholars who declare a difference between Sri Krsna and His body. Due to a poor fund of knowledge that has not come down through the guru-parampara, Mayavadi commentators of the Gita fail to understand the absolute nature of Krsna’s name, form, qualities and pastimes. Srila Prabhupada states in his preface that all commentaries on Bhagavad-gita outside a bona-fide sampradaya are known as Mayavada-bhasya. He mentions the warning sounded by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu that anyone who listens to Mayavada philosophy will be baffled in his endeavour to go back home back to Godhead.
(Paragraph 4) His Moral Authority & Integrity
Unless one accepts Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead and surrenders unto Him just as Arjuna did, he will not understand the will of Krsna and His intention to guide the conditioned soul out of this world. Such a person will misinterpret Bhagavad-gita and misguide the conditioned souls, which will constitute the greatest offence. Bhagavad Gita As It Is guides the soul to understand the very purpose for which Krsna descends to earth once in a day of Lord Brahma.
(Paragraph 5) His expertise as a counsellor
When people are misguided by mundane wranglers, the dire need arises to guide them to the safe path so that they eventually attain the perfection of human form of life. Counselling means helping people understand who they are, who God is, and the science of establishing a relationship with God through devotional service. Counselling means to help people become aware of consequences of not doing so – wandering throughout the 8.4 million species of life in the repeated cycle of birth and death.
(Paragraph 6) His mood of compassion
In Srila Prabhupada’s last paragraph of his preface, he presents the philosophy of Krsna Consciousness in nutshell, gives emphasis to preaching in the ultimate mood of compassion for the suffering souls, and assures his readers that Bhagavad-gita As It Is will give the topmost benefit .
These six aspects are interwoven throughout the celebrated Bhaktivedanta purports in Bhagavad-gita As It Is
As members of ISKCON, we it is imperative that we take to heart Srila Prabhupada’s desire to preach the authentic message of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. In order to attain this goal, we need to undertake a systematic and analytical study of Bhagavad-gita beginning with its amazing preface!
Bhagavad Gita As It Is
Throughout the preface Srila Prabhupada has used the term “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” nine times, successfully establishing his Bhagavad Gita As It Is as fully bona fide.
(1) He presents a Gita devoid of adulteration (paragraph 3), the actual words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead as perfectly understood from authorities in bona fide disciplic succession.
(2) Bhagavad Gita As It Is acknowledges Lord Krsna’s supremacy, His divine will and purpose to guide the conditioned soul out of this world (paragraph 4), unlike editions of Gita written by impersonalists, which, no matter how scholarly, only cause bewilderment.
(3) Bhagavad Gita As It Is is presented on the basis of what Krsna wants from the conditioned soul (paragraph 6) and what He commands him to do. To this end, ISKCON is dedicated to preaching God’s pure purpose as outlined in Bhagavad-gGita As It Is.
Your humble servant
6 January, 2022