Introduction to the Second
The book you hold in
your hands stands by itself in the field of Bhagavad Gita commentary. Nataraja
Guru (1895-1973) has extricated the work from its historical and cultural
framework to present it as it was always intended to be appreciated: as a
universally applicable psychology and philosophy of life and living. This is
very much in keeping with the Guru’s lifelong task of revaluing and restating
India’s ancient wisdom heritage in terms acceptable and comprehensible to
intelligent modern human beings anywhere and at any time.
The story of the
gestation of this Gita commentary appears in the Preface. We can now add the
following reminiscence by Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati, Nataraja Guru’s chief
disciple, who was present at the time:
Nataraja Guru came [to Madras] again… a select group was invited to one of my
friend’s houses, Mr. N.C. Kumaran, the chief electrical engineer of Madras.
Among the audience was Dr. Ramakrishna Amma. She was an uncompromising woman of
great earnestness, and full of questions. She dragged Nataraja Guru into long
controversies. The Guru was inspired to write his classic commentary on the
Bhagavad Gita mainly to answer her questions. (Love and Blessings, p 161)
It is wholly fitting that
this magnificent elucidation arose out of a guru-shisya samvada (guru-disciple
dialogue) not unlike that between Krishna and Arjuna that comprises the
Bhagavad Gita itself.
concludes his preliminary remarks to the first edition by saying: “The reader
will be able to discern stray cases of error here and there. Inasmuch as they
are not so serious as to mislead the student and amenable to self-correction by
correct repetition of the same words elsewhere, with due apology they have been
left over as too late to rectify in this first edition itself.” Nearly half a
century and three substantial printings later, it is time to address these
errors and rectify them.
Great care was taken
in preparing the first edition, and the errors in question are almost entirely
trivial. One does not alter a great book lightly. I have mainly tinkered with
the phrasing and corrected spelling errors. By far the majority of the
corrections occurred in the use of commas, which was somewhat capricious in the
original. It is doubtful that anyone will consciously notice any difference,
other than increased ease in reading. Still, we feel we are offering an
improved version of what could well be considered the finest and most important
commentary on the Gita in modern times.
The index of the
first edition was in fact woefully inadequate and clearly hastily thrown
together after the monumental task of preparing the body of the text. I have
significantly expanded it, although it still falls short of completeness, a
task that remains for some enthusiastic soul should a third edition ever become
The publishers have
rendered the Sanskrit transliteration in two lines, while the original edition
had four. Both are correct, but keep this in mind, because occasionally there
is reference to the third or fourth line, which now share the second line. The
first and second lines are the first and second halves of the first line.
Simple enough. I have not changed the text to reflect this alteration.
In consequence, this
means that the regular lines are 16 rather than 8 syllables, and the exalted
lines are 22 rather than 11 syllables.
The publisher has submitted
the following explanation for the viraam and two viraams, which did not appear
in the first edition: “The reader may note the single or double strokes at the
end of Sanskrit verses. These are common in all Sanskrit books and are meant as
‘breaks’ or punctuations like one stroke for comma and two strokes for full
Beyond this we can
let the book stand on its own merits. Since its appearance hundreds of
commentaries on the Gita have appeared, with no more than one or two even
deserving consideration on the same plane as Nataraja Guru’s. His insights
remain unique and essential. Where others have tried to push their agenda by
ratifying it with a self-interested reading of the text, the Guru has revealed
the universality of the meaning of the work, against which all agendas may equally
When both science
and religion have become mature enough to surrender their turf wars to
something akin to the unifying vision of the ancient rishis of India, our
species will have made its greatest conscious stride toward a substantive peace
evincing universal justice and happiness. The doors of this type of perception
are wide open, thanks in part to the Guru’s revolutionary treatment of this
ancient masterwork of the human race.
Portland Gurukula, 2008