Krishna comes to the rescue of Bhagavad Gita As It Is in Russia

Bhagavad Gita cover illustration

Russian court rejects call to ban Bhagavad Gita

Reuters – Dec 28, 2011

A Russian court on Wednesday rejected prosecutors’ calls to ban the Bhagavad Gita, a case that provoked protests in India, by including it on a list of outlawed literature alongside Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

…After angry Indian lawmakers forced parliament to adjourn last week demanding the government protect Hindu rights, Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna condemned the case as “patently absurd” and told the body he had raised concerns with senior Russian officials.

Seeking to avert a diplomatic spat, Russia’s Foreign Ministry stressed that prosecutors had not attacked the holy book itself but a controversial preface written in 1968 by a founder of the Hare Krishna movement A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada entitled “As It Is”. The book was translated into Russian in 1984.

“I repeat this is not about the book per se, but about the unsuccessful translation and the preface written by the author,” spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in comments posted on the ministry’s website.Go to story

The definitive edition

Introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is
Bhagavad-gita is also known as Gitopanishad. It is the essence of Vedic knowledge and one of the most important Upanishads in Vedic literature. Of course there are many commentaries in English on the Bhagavad-gita, and one may question the necessity for another one. This present edition can be explained in the following way. Recently an American lady asked me to recommend an English translation of Bhagavad-gita. Of course in America there are so many editions of Bhagavad-gita available in English, but as far as I have seen, not only in America but also in India, none of them can be strictly said to be authoritative because in almost every one of them the commentator has expressed his own opinions without touching the spirit of Bhagavad-gita as it is. more

Personally, I find it amusing that the name of the Indian foreign minister who took on the job of contacting his Russian counterparts happens to be Krishna, namesake of the original speaker of the Bhagavad Gita.

But what’s up with the Russian prosecutors finding controversy in the preface written by Srila Prabhupada? Unfortunately, we do not have a copy of the Russian volume, so we are not able to check it for any offensive tract. The English edition of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita As It Is which was published by MacMillan in 1972 has a preface dated 1971, and there is nothing whatsoever that could be construed as incendiary. The earlier Collier edition published in 1968 has a different preface written by Rayarama das, and in fact is not called a preface at all. So we don’t know what the Russian devotees inserted as the preface to the Russian translation of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita As It Is, but certainly a thorough read of the book ought to dispel any reservations that the Russian officials might have.

On the other hand, there is no use in trying to enter into any kind of dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church, which has actively campaigned against every other religious or spiritual group in Russia, using high political connections to drive them out from property ownership and deprive them of the right to congregate and proselytize through distribution of literature.

India’s longstanding good relations with Russia does appear to carry more weight than the provincial relationship between the Orthodox Church and a prosecutor, and remarkably enough, it turns out that it is after all Krishna who saved the day for the Russian devotees and indeed, for the Russian people’s freedom of religion and access to the great wisdom of Krishna spoken to Arjuna for the benefit of the whole world.

And without a doubt the controversy is a good thing to bring Bhagavad Gita As It Is to the attention of the Russian people, many of whom might not have encountered it or taken interest in it before. We are also confident that even if the Bhagavad Gita were put on trial, no judge who is mentally competent and scrupulously honest could find in it any message — either hidden or overt — that could be interpreted as a threat to the peace and stability of society. Let everyone read Bhagavad Gita As It Is and come to his or her own conclusion!

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