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The Hindu religion is filled with important texts that have influenced thought across the world, but the Bhagavad Gita is regarded by many as the single most influential philosophical text shaping spiritual thought and life.
Often referred to simply as the Gita, the Bhagavad Gita is a 700-verse portion of the epic Hindu work, the Mahabharate. Originally composed in Sanskrit, the Gita is a long monologue spoken by Lord Krishna to his devotee Arjuna as he prepares for battle. The Bhagavad Gita is Krishna’s counsel to Arjuna to fulfill his duty and achieve the Dharma. Because the battlefield setting is usually interpreted as an allegory for the ethical and moral struggles of life, the Bhagavad Gita serves an ultimate guide to self-realization. It reveals the essential nature of man, his environment, and his relationship with the Almighty, like no other work. The teaching of the Bhagavad Gita is said to free you from all sense of limitation.
Here are nine excellent books that will help you understand and appreciate the Bhagavad Gita as a classic work of spiritual literature.
Bhagavad-Gita As It Is
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
Of all editions of this immortal classic, this one by Swami Prabhupada, founder of ISKCON, conveys Lord Krishna’s profound message as it is. It includes the original Sanskrit text, Roman transliteration, English equivalents, translation, and elaborate explications. This is an excellent introduction to the Gita, and includes a glossary to make it even more helpful.
Bhagavad-Gita (Swami Prabhavananda)
This is regarded as one of the best English translations of the Gita. Aldous Huxley provides a brilliant introduction to the “Perennial Philosophy” that lies at the base of all major religions. Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood translate the themes with élan.
The Gospel of Selfless Action: The Gita According to Gandhi
The Gospel of Selfless Action: Or the Gita According to Gandhi by Mohandas Gandhi, Amazon
In this translation and commentary on Arjuna’s battlefield conversation with Krishna, presented to his followers at prayer meetings over a nine-month period in 1926, Gandhi addresses the concerns that most directly affect the spiritual lives of common people.
Bhagavad Gita and Its Message (Aurobindo)
Rishi Aurobindo is a master of Vedic philosophy who wrote extensively on the Gita. In this commentary and exposition, he analyzes the causes of human problems, and how to achieve peace. His interpretation of the Gita is unmatched.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad-Gita
Maharishi’s translation and commentary on the first six chapters of the Bhagavad-Gita is meant to be “a complete guide to practical life, that is needed to raise the consciousness of man to the highest possible level.” This is a useful pocket edition of the Gita.
Bhagavad Gita (Penguin Classics)
The Bhagavad Gita (Penguin Classics) by Anonymous (Author), Juan Mascaro (Translator), Simon Brodbeck (Introduction), Amazon
This edition by Juan Mascaro, a sensitive Sanskrit scholar, is aimed “to give, without notes or commentary, the spiritual message of the Bhagavad Gita in pure English.” A good translation that speaks clearly to the first-time reader.
The Bhagavad Gita (Eknath Easwaran)
The Bhagavad Gita (Easwaran’s Classics of Indian Spirituality) by Eknath Easwaran, Amazon
This is a translation by an author who thinks the Gita is “a handbook for self-realization and a guide to action” that “offers something to every seeker after God, of whatever temperament, by whatever path. The reason for this universal appeal is that it is basically practical…”
The Bhagavad Gita : A Walkthrough for Westerners
The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley, Amazon
Translator Jack Hawley uses everyday prose to walk the Western reader through the difficult concepts of the Gita, covering a wide range of topics, from healing inner pain to celebrating life. Engaging even for the cursory reader!
Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation (Stephen Mitchell)
Renowned for his innovative interpretations of classic spiritual texts, Stephen Mitchell here provides an artistic rendition of the Gita that will shed new light for modern Western readers. The book includes a short but enlightening introduction that explains the context and importance of the Bhagavad Gita in the canon of important spiritual texts.
Our Most Dear Friend: Bhagavad-Gita for Children
This unique version by Jean Griesser employs a simple story line, coupled with photographic montages and colorful paintings, to illustrate the concepts of the Gita for children above 4. A great way to introduce your children to the eternal values and virtues.