The Bhagavad Gita is a book of life, not of death and the hereafter. It is a book for every day guidance, for men engaged in their usual vocations and not for recluses. It asks each man to do his duty for the good of the world, dedicating it to God and without hankering after its fruits. It preaches selfless work for the good of all created things for development of one's own complete personality.
The Gita gives profound insights which are valid for all times and for all religious life yet, as a great sage put it, it ought to be commented on, in every age in the spirit of that age, in order that the people of that age many understand it well.
This is what great commentators from Sankara down to Mahatma Gandhi have done, constructing a bridge between man and God on the firm foundations of the Gita.
The author in the present book of translation and commentary attempts to explain the scripture to the modern generation of laymen unacquainted with philosophical terms and technique and bring home to them the priceless and life-giving teachings of the Gita.
Justice A.S.P. Ayyar, M.A., I.C.S., F.R.S.L., Bar-at Law, was born at Aiylam Village in Palghta, Kerala State, on January 26th, 1899. He passes B.A. examination with double first class and a first in Madras University. He joined the Law College, Madras, in 1918, and proceeded to England for the coveted I.C.S. examination under Tata scholarship. He passed I.C.S. with high rank and also took his M.A. degree in Oxford.
On his return to India he started his career as Sub-divisional Officer but soon quit the Executive for the Judiciary because he did not wish to be privy to the lathi charging on fellow Indians during the Civil Disobedience Movement. After Independence he became a judge of the Madras High court when Shri Rajagopalchari was the Chief Minster. He was known for his impeccable style in delivering his judgments, which were often interspersed with a high sense of humour. He was noted for his acumen, absolute integrity and strong nationalistic views.
An amiable personality and a charming conversationalist, quick at repartee, Ayyar was also known for his literary eminence rare among the Service class.
He had a number of publications to his credit, which include fiction, drama, travelogue, biography, autobiography, literary criticism, religious writing and jurisprudence.
Bhavan's first edition of this book in two volumes and Sri Krishna: The Darling of Humanity were brought out at the request of his daughter Smt. Asokam S. Easwar.
Ayyar died on 11th April 1963.
My undertaking this humble Translation and Commentary is, needless to say, not in any spirit of competition with the great ones, like Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Dnyandev, Chaitanya, and Aurobindo, who have gone before me constructing a bridge between man and God on the firm foundations of the Gita. I have been impelled merely by my love for the Lord and His immortal teachings in the Gita which I want to spread, to the best of my ability, among the modern generation of laymen. Just as the small kapis (monkeys), and even the tiny squirrel, were impelled, by their love for Sri Rama, to aid in the construction of the great bridge across the ocean, which was being constructed by the illustrious Nala, son of viswakarma, I, of the kapi gotra, am impelled to undertake this work and aid the great ones in the construction of the bridge between man and God. The Lord, in His Infinite Grace, blessed even that tiny squirrel by stroking its back and leaving three immortal stripes for all time to come. Such is His Love! And he has declared, in Ch.XVIII, v.69, of the Gita, that he who spreads the teaching of the Gita is doing loving service to Him and is dear to Him. Many have the commentaries on the Gita written in these days of India's renaissance and newly-recovered independence. The great credit for reviving interest in the Bhagavad Gita among the Hindus themselves must go to the late Dr. Annie Besant and the Theosophical Society with its numerous scholarly and cheap editions and word-index, and to Sri Ramakrishna and Mahatma Gandhi. Among recent editions the clearest and simplest are those by Hill, Belvakar, Annie besant and Bhagavan Das, Swarupananda, Prabhavananda, Purohit Swami, Johnston, Radhakrishnan and D.S. Sarma; the most touching and revealing is by Mahatma Gandhi; the most challenging and controversial is by Otto; the most profound and stimulating is by Aurobindo; and the most daring and original, though written in very difficult and almost algebraical style, is by Gitananda. My plan is to cater to the layman, unacquainted with philosophical terms and technique, and bring home to him the priceless and life-giving teaching of the Gita.
This is the day of science and of laymen, when exclusive claims for any gospel as the only true gospel, or for any one as the only Son of God or the only true prophet, will not be accepted by the vast mass of thinking men, and where an all-embracing gospel, like the Gita, is sure to find a ready welcome. Mahatma Gandhi, by living the life of a karma yogin, and the Maharajah of Travancore, by emulating Janaka's lokasangraha karma and throwing open the age-old temples of his ancient kingdom to Harijan, regardless of all risks to his person or throne, have shown the remarkable hold of the Gita on the laymen of this generation, and have emboldened me, by their shining examples, in writing this book. Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi of Tiruvannamalai has also given me his gracious blessing in this enterprise though, of course, I alone am responsible for the views stated in it. If a single human being is drawn towards the Gita by this book, I am amply recompensed.
At the request of numerous friends, I have added a section called "The Direct Teachings of the Lord Sri Krishna, summarising the teaching of the Gita, and another section called "Sri Krishna, The Darling of Humanity," being a short account of the Great Incarnation Portions of these sections appeared in the Huaman Affairs of Udipi and the Madras Mail of Madras to the editors of which I offer my heartfelt thanks for allowing me to reproduce them in this book.
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