Bhagavad-gita: the highest intelligence (10.10)
Each week I select a verse from the Bhagavad-gita and compare/contrast four different translations. These translators all subscribe to the Gaudia-Vaisnava philosophy. This examination isn’t to prove one more superior to another, but to highlight the similarities and learn from the differences in ideologies.
The four Gitas are:
-Bhagavad-gita: As It Is by Srila Prabhupada (1972 edition)
-Bhagavad-gita: It’s Feeling and Philosophy by Tripurari Swami
-Srimad Bhagavad-gita by Narayana Maharaja
-Bhagavad-gita: The Beloved Lord’s Secret Love Song by Garuda dasa (Graham Schweig)
Though I’m hardly qualified to do so, I dissect each translation, sometimes interjecting my own unsolicited commentary. More on this can be found here.
For the month of March and for this Gaura Purnima time of year, I’ve decided to tackle the chatur shloki. The chatur shloki are the four verses that pretty well sum up the contents of the Bhagavad-gita. If you’re only going to read four verses from Bhagavad-gita, these are the four to read.
In the last two verses, Krishna reveals that He is the source of everything and those who are wise love Him because of that. The wise also enjoy enlightening each other with talk of Krishna.
This week’s verse explains what is given in return for that love.
Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 10, Verse 10
dadami buddhi-yogam tam
yena mam upayanti te
To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.
To those who are constantly devoted, who worship me with love, I give the power of discrimination by which they come to me.
Upon those who perform bhajana to Me with love, yearning for My eternal association, I bestow the transcendental knowledge by which they can come to Me.
-Narayana MaharajaFor them, who are constantly absorbed in yoga, who offer loving service with natural affection I offer that yoga of discernment by which they come close to me. -Garuda dasa (Graham M. Schweig)
Here again we have four good examples of how to say the same thing four different ways. From these four ways, we can learn not just one thing, but four different angles on that one thing.
The first line of this verse, tesam satata-yuktanam, Krishna refers to “the wise” from the two previous verses. With this referring, He adds another description: satata-yuktanam. Here is where four different translations can add four different levels of understanding.
Srila Prabhupada translates it as “always engaged” in his word-for-word section, but as “constantly devoted” in his verse translation. There is a definite difference between the two. In his word-for-word, he is usually very literal as to what the Sanskrit actually says. In his verses, however, he sometimes takes liberties, explaining rather than directly translating.
Possibly following the lead of Srila Prabhupada, Tripurari Swami uses “constantly devoted” in both cases. He supports this definition by quoting Madhusdana Saraswati, the Advaitist philosopher from late 1500′s Bengal, in his purport.
Narayana Maharaja hints at yoga (meaning “linking” or “connecting”) in his translation, using “who desire My eternal connection.” In his verse, he flips a couple of lines around, but says “Those who … [yearn] for My eternal association.”
Taking the yoga idea a step farther, Garuda dasa translates “who are constantly absorbed in yoga.” He is, I assume, referring to the definition of yoga meaning “to link with the divine” and not the physical exercise of yoga. His choice to use this Sanskrit word when that word doesn’t appear in the original Sanskrit is, to me, troublesome and potentially misleading.
Our second line, bhajatam priti-purvakam, is generally glossed as “those who worship with love.” Srila Prabhupada uses “devotional service in loving ecstasy” in his word-for-word.
Both Tripurari Swami and Narayana Maharama translate it to “those who worship me with love.”
Garuda dasa somewhat splits the difference with: “[For them,] who offer loving service with natural affection.” In the Sanskrit “natural affection” may be implied, however, our other translators do not acknowledge that it is.
After describing “the wise” in the first two lines, He now descries the exchange, dadami buddhi-yogam tam. In his purport, Srila Prabhupada describes buddhi-yogam in great detail. He refers to the Gita’s second chapter where Krishna explained buddhi-yoga, here described as “the process by which one gets out of the material world.” Also, he states that it is “action in Krishna consciousness” and “the highest intelligence.” There seems to be many ways to take buddhi-yoga.
In his word-for-word, he uses only “real intelligence.” For his verse, he translates the line as “I give the understanding…”
Narayana Maharaja’s take on it is similar. He glosses buddhi-yogam as “transcendental knowledge,” also using it in his verse.
Both Tripurari Swami and Garuda dasa seem to translate buddhi-yogam to mean “the power of discrimination” (or “yoga of discernment” in GD’s). Here, it’s easy to see why Garuda dasa used “yoga,” but it’s interesting that both use discrimination/discernment. In his purport, Tripurari Swami also translates it as “yoga of wisdom,” a nice call back to “the wise” from the previous two verses. Like Srila Prabhupada, Tripurari Swami remembers chapter two. “From his [Krishna's] use of the therm buddhi-yogam in this verse, it is apparent that Krishna’s use of the same term earlier in the second chapter, while overtly referring to niskama-karma-yoga, implies bhakti-yoga. The full sense of buddhi-yoga is bhakti.”
He describes this “discrimination” as a cognitive aspect of bhakti proper. Bhakti, according to Tripurari Swami’s glossary, is a “discipline of love and devotion to God.” This love and devotion gives us the power of discrimination, discernment. Tripurari Swami describes the uses for this power in his purport.
What that “real knowledge,” that “power of discrimination” gives us is told in the last line, yena mam upayanti te. All translators agree that it means “by which they can come to Me.” Narayana Maharaja glosses upayanti as “approach,” which gives a slightly expanded meaning when compared to Srila Prabhupada and Tripurari Swami’s choice of “they come.” Garuda dasa expands it also, using “come close.” It seems that upayanti implies not only the destination (Krishna), but the journey (devotion) as well.
Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura explains in his commentary (as translated by Narayana Maharaja) that buddhi-yoga cannot be achieved by individual effort. “It is bestowed by Me alone and only such loving bhaktas (devotes, lovers of God) are qualified to receive it.”
This verse is stated by Krishnadasa Kaviraja in his Caitanya-caritamrta (a biography of the life of Caitanya Mahaprabhu). Srila Prabhupada’s purport to this verse (Adi-lila 1.49) sums everything up very well.
The Lord declares that by enlightenment in theistic knowledge He awards attachment for Him to those who constantly engage in His transcendental loving service. This awakening of divine consciousness enthralls a devotee, who thus relishes his eternal transcendental mellow. Such an awakening is awarded only to those convinced by devotional service about the transcendental nature of the Personality of Godhead. They know that the Supreme Truth, the all-spiritual and all-powerful person, is one without a second and has fully transcendental senses. He is the fountainhead of all emanations. Such pure devotees, always merged in knowledge of Krishna and absorbed in Krishna consciousness, exchange thoughts and realizations as great scientists exchange their views and discuss the results of their research in scientific academies. Such exchanges of thoughts in regard to Krishna give pleasure to the Lord, who therefore favors such devotees with all enlightenment.