"There are two classes of men, namely the devotee and the demon" This is what Prabhupada writes about non believers in this book Bhagavad Gita As It Is, it is a translation and commentary by Prabhupada who was founder of International Society of Krishna Consciousnesses (ISKON). This book is one of the many translations of Bhagavad Gita available in English and has been translated in almost 60 or more languages. In complete editions of this book (almost 900 pages), for each verse from Gita it includes, the verse in Devanagari script, a Latin transliteration, word-for-word meanings (Sanskrit-English) and English translation of the verse. This is followed by extensive commentary by Prabhupada for most of the verses (purport). This book is extensively distributed by ISKON and is a central theme of their teachings and beliefs. ISKON members also believe this book to be authoritative and literally true. I started reading this book when I was looking for some reliable translation of Gita in English because my Sanskrit knowledge is very limited. Lack of knowledge of Sanskrit language can not be a hindrance to study and understand most of the Vedik knowledge today. There are many translations of these works available in English and many other languages, many of them are from very reliable sources, one can read them and compare to get essence of Vedik teachings (or any ancient philosophy).
This particular book about which I am writing today was recently in news; a group linked to Christian Orthodox Church had demanded a ban of this book. They claimed that the text was "extremist" literature full of hatred and insult to non-believers which promoted social discord. The case had drawn a flurry of criticism from Hindus across the world, even Indian parliament took note of this case and expressed its concern over 'ban on Gita'. Russian court finally dismissed that petition seeking a ban (very proper decision according to me). But I was not surprised to see this news of request a ban on this book. I am personally against the ban on any book or article or movie etc. Some how India (even though a democracy) has history of banning some books which carry some sensitive matter against some religion or iconic figures (like Gandhi, Ambedkar, Shivaji Maharaj, popular politicians, religious leaders, etc.). List of banned books include, The Satanic Verses, The Polyester Prince, Shivaji-The Hindu King in Islamic India and few more. I decided to study this book to see what people found 'extremist' or 'full of hatred' in this book. I knew that Bhagavad Gita is not in any way extremist or full of hatred, people can agree or disagree with things mentioned in Bhagavad Gita, but this is true with any religious scripture. So I was wondering how come people got this impression (that it propagates hatred) from its translation and that too translation by a person who founded society like ISKON which claims to teach Bhakti, love, non-violence and does some great philanthropic activities.
From preface itself I started to feel the aggressive tone of the author and his total dismissal of others work in same field. Prabhupad writes “Before my presentation of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, almost all the English editions of Bhagavad-gita were introduced to fulfill someone’s personal ambition.” I have nothing against aggressive tone or author praising his/her own work, but dismissing others work totally without any substantial evidence is completely wrong according to me, even great scientists or Nobel laureates don’t have such attitude towards their competitors. He further writes “Unfortunately, mundane wranglers have taken advantage of Bhagavad-geeta to push forward their demonic propensities and mislead people”
This was just beginning as I read more I found many more views like this expressed in this book. As I said nothing wrong in praising your own work, or highlighting good aspects of your philosophy/ideology but I don’t think it’s right to demean your fellow writers like this. Let’s see what views are expressed about women in the book,
Prakriti is female, and she is controlled by the Lord just as the activities of a wife are controlled by the husband. I am sure many husbands wish that this was true..:) now let's look at his other comment about women.
In purport of Text 1.40 (chapter 1, verse 40) he writes,
“As children are very prone to be misled, women are similarly very prone to degradation. Therefore, both children and women require protection by the elder members of the family. By being engaged in various religious practices, women will not be misled into adultery. According to Chanakya Pandiita, women are generally not very intelligent and therefore not trustworthy. So the different family traditions of religious activities should always engage them, and thus their chastity and devotion will give birth to a good population eligible for participating in the varnäsrama system. On the failure of such varnäsrama-dharma, naturally the women become free to act and mix with men, and thus adultery is indulged in at the risk of unwanted population.”
Seriously? Are you kidding me? in what way women are more prone to degradation than men? On what basis he agrees with the opinion that they are not very intelligent and trustworthy? Prabhupad might have had some bad experiences with women in his life but that doesn’t give him right to comment something like this about all women, that too in a book where he claims to teach Gita as it is. I am surprised that feminist people and groups are not up with arms against these statements (normally they are very good at it), may be they think it's not worth their attention.
Now let’s see what he writes about non-believers of his philosophy,
Purpot of Text 3.3
There are two classes of men, namely the devotee and the demon. There are a number of editions of this great book of knowledge. Some of them have commentaries by the devotees, and some of them have commentaries by the demons. Commentation by the devotees is real, whereas that of the demons is useless.
(So the world is conveniently divided in two type of people, one who believe in his teachings and philosophy and others DEMONS, very kind way to address your fellow human beings)
Purport of Text 3.4
That Krishna is the supreme authority is accepted by the whole world, not only at present but from time immemorial, and the demons alone reject Him.
(text 3.5) a nondevotee or a demon cannot understand this transcendental nature. Consequently these descriptions in the Gita cannot be understood by demonic brains.
If this is not Hatred about non-believers then I wonder what is it? World demon is used for non believers (even for other translators of Bhagavad Gita), it appears many times describing non-believers in this purport and also at different places in the book.
I can go on like this; there are many sentences in the book, which will make one wonder, whether author want to teach love or hatred towards other communities? How come Indian Government which is so sensitive towards minority's feelings didn't find this book offensive towards them who don’t believe in Krishna and his superiority? The objection (or demand of ban) was not on Bhagavad Gita as it was projected in media but was on this book which is more than 90% purports by Prabhupad but the book claims to tell us real meaning of Bhagavad Gita (very clever marketing trick). It’s the purports which constitute most of the book in complete edition (>90%). Translation part given in this book is good and mostly comparable with all other translations of Gita, but his interpretation of Gita verses in Prabhupad’s purports is the real problem. He propagates his own views and ideas in the name of Gita very aggressively (the same thing for which he blamed others). I request readers of my blog to read the book themselves and decide if I am right or wrong. It's definitely not Gita as it is but what Prabhupada wants it to be, his purports spoil this book completely. This book is not only about Gita but it’s mostly a promotion of Hare Krishna movement’s cult beliefs. Bhagavad Gita doesn't teach such fundamentalist sectarian narrow view, but if I am wrong please correct me.
Thanks a lot for reading and please share your comments.
1. http://vedabase.net/bg/ (for Bhagavad Gita- As it is)
[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]