The best translation of the Gita is its translation into life
People interested in the Bhagavad-gita sometimes ask, “Which is its best translation?”
The best translation is its translation into life. That is, the Gita’s best translation will come from those who live it in their lives.
Mastery over a language doesn’t automatically imply mastery over everything written in that language. Just as English expertise alone wouldn’t qualify one to explain an English book on advanced quantum physics, so too Sanskrit expertise alone doesn’t qualify one to explain a Sanskrit book on advanced philosophy: the Gita.
The Gita is a book for healing – healing the human heart from the wound caused by its fracture from the divine heart.
What makes linguistic mastery further inadequate is that the Gita is not a theoretical book for abstract analysis; it is an action-calling book for practical living. It is a book for healing – healing the human heart from the wound caused by its fracture from the divine heart. This healing can fulfill forever our longing for love and happiness. For such healing, the Gita endorses bhakti-yoga as the best process.
In fact, the Gita (04.03) declares that devotion is the qualification for comprehending its message. To access its healing wisdom, we need to learn it from the great bhakti exponents who are themselves healed and have healed others.
Suppose an ancient Chinese medical book that contains cures for many deadly diseases was available in two English translations: one by a linguist adept in both Chinese and English and one by a doctor with a basic grasp of both languages who has practiced that medicine for decades and healed thousands.
Which translation would we choose?
If we were interested in its medical insights, we would choose the doctor’s translation. Similarly, if we wish to go beyond linguistic technicalities to the Gita’s life-transforming potencies, then the translation by those who have translated the Gita into their lives and the lives of others would be the best translation.
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