The Uddhava Gita is Lord Krishna's most esoteric teaching, and although virtually unknown in the West, it is an important document in Hindu literature. In contrast to its cousin text, the Bhagavad Gita, there exist only five or six English translations of the Uddhava Gita, several of which are severely outdated and written in poor English with archaic commentaries. Happily, this new translation remedies the situation.
Krishna's Other Song: A New Look at the Uddhava Gita examines the entire Uddhava Gita in relation to other Hindu scriptures, especially the Bhagavad Gita, and shares its teachings in light of interreligious understanding and nonsectarian spirituality. This edition's elaborate commentary, written by a prominent American scholar of Hindu studies, who is also a practitioner, opens up the text's esoteric teaching to a Western audience for the first time, adding context and relevance that make the book accessible and its teachings practicable for a Western readership.
A foreword written by prominent Hinduism scholar Charles S. J. White joins the author's own introduction to lay out the Uddhava Gita's background, philosophical dimensions, and religious significance. This edition does not include the original Sanskrit, nor does it labor to translate each word verbatim. Rather, it gives the reader all 1,030 verses in plain English, offering accessible commentary that allows the meaning and relevance of the Uddhava Gita to unfold to one and all.
About The Author
Steven J. Rosen iss the author of numerous books, including Praeger's Krishna's Song: A New Look at the Bhagavad Gita and The Yoga of Kirtan: Conversations on the Sacred Art of Chanting.
The Uddhava Gita is virtually unknown in the West. In contrast to its cousin text, the Bhagavad Gita, which now claims more than 2,000 translations in some eighty languages (not counting those in various Indian dialects), it exists in only five or six translations, several of which are severely outdated, are written in poor English, with archaic commentaries (irrelevant in the West), and otherwise are inaccessible. In addition, at least three of these efforts are written from the Advaita Vedanta perspective, which tends to neglect the overall tenor of the Uddham Giita's message, that is, devotion to a personal Deity.
Just as the Bhagavad Gila is found in the Bhishma-parva section of the epic Mahabharata, a text that focuses on the worship of Lord Krishna, the Uddhara Gita shines forth from the Eleventh Book of the Bhagavata Parana, which emphasizes devotion to the Lord. In lieu of this simple fact, the Uddhava Gita properly unfolds only within a bhakti (devotional) context, which narrows down the existing translations to two: the work of (1) Bhumipati Dasa and that of (2) Hridayananda Dasa Goswami and the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
The former work is available mainly in India, and it is directed to an Indian audience, including two dense, traditional commentaries and the original Sanskrit for each verse. It is an unwieldy volume directed primarily to practitioners. The latter translation, completed by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami and his Sanskrit editor Gopiparanadhana Dasa, is the best of the few that do indeed exist. Complete with original Devanagari text, Roman transliteration, word-for-word synonyms, as well as lucid translation and commentary, this edition is recom-mended for serious students. But only for serious students: It is not published as a separate volume but only as part of the larger Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana)-with the Uddham Gita alone comprising four volumes at some 300 pages each. If the Bhumipati version is unwieldy, this version is downright intimidating.
Fnter Krishnas Other Song.-A New Look at the Uddhava Gita. Here the author augments existing translations by adding context and relevance, readability, and accessibility. This edition does not include the original Sanskrit, already available in other scholarly volumes, nor does it labor to translate each word verbatim. Rather, while giving the reader all of the text's 1,030 verses in plain English, it offers an accessible commentary, especially written for modern students of Hinduism and South Asian studies—as well as for those with a penchant for Indian spirituality.
The emphasis here is not on literal translation but on overall meaning and gist. In cases in which verses speak for themselves, no commentary clutters these pages. But if illumination is needed, in the sense of clarifying concepts, defining obscure Sanskrit words, or unpacking complex philosophical ideas, Krishna ‘s Other Song will offer words of wisdom. And so, in this new publication, Steven Rosen again shows that he is in the top rank of contemporary scholars of the Vaishnava-Hindu tradition, sharing with the world fresh and enlightening insights into the teachings of Lord Krishna.
Among ancient India's Sanskrit wisdom texts, the Bhagavata Purana stands out in terms of its poetic quality, coherent structure, and philosophical sophistication. The tradition itself sees the Bhagavata, as it is sometimes called, as the cream of all Vedic and post-Vedic writings. Accordingly, its twelve massive cantos, or "books," have been foundational for the Vaishnava tradition, and they continue to exert an unparalleled influence on popular Hinduism.
Just as the Bhagavad Gita, which is originally part of the illahabbarata, often has been published as a separate, stand-alone text, so, too, has the Uddhava Gila, which is part of the Bhagavata's Eleventh Book, been published as a sepa-rate volume. Despite this special attention, it has never enjoyed the popularity of the Bhagavad Gita, especially in the West. Among Vaishnavas and Hindus in general, however, the Uddhava Gita is one of the most frequently quoted sections of the Bhagavata. It is unmatched in its systematic development of Vaishnava theology on a wide range of topics—from the importance of detachment and the contemplative life to passionate love, from the organization of society to a theology of nature that is spiritually informed. Ultimately, it teaches the secrets of love of God.
The Uddhava Gita' is a profound philosophical dialogue between Lord Krishna, who is viewed in the Vaishnava tradition as God, and His intimate devotee Uddhava. The book is one of the many "gitas" associated with the pan-Hindu theistic tradition. Though the Bhagavad Gita is arguably the most famous of these gitas, the tradition offers us Gita Govinda, Gopi Gita, Venu Gita, Bhramara Gita, and many others. Gita simply means "song," and within the con-text of India's sacred literature, it refers to particularly mellifluous and blessed songs of divine truth, uttered by great devotees or by the Lord Himself.
Many say that the Uddhava Gita picks up where the Bhagavad Gita leaves off. At the very least, it augments the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita—one might even say that it functions as a cap on the gita tradition, with culminating knowledge and esoteric nuance not found in other wisdom texts. As His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes,
Undoubtedly, the Bbagamd Gila was spoken by the Lord on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra just to encourage Arjuna to fight, and yet to complete the transcendental knowledge of Bhagavad Gita, the I And instructed Uddhava. The Lord wanted Uddhava to fulfill His mission and disseminate knowledge that He had not spoken even in Bhagavad Gita.
It is not that Prabhupada is minimizing the significance of the Bkgarad Gita, which he elsewhere praises as being among the most spiritually uplifting and otherwise edifying works known to man. But he is saying something about the unique importance of the Uddhava Gita.
In fact, the Uddhava Gila may be the most important of the genre, for it focuses on Lord Krishna's final instructions before leaving the earthly plane. More, these instructions are delivered to Uddhava, who is recognized by the tradition as mahabhagavata, or "greatest amongst the devotees," and as muklyam krishna-parigahe, "foremost of those who are intimate with Krishna" (13h.P. 3.4.24). He is also Krishna's cousin, and practically His twin.
In addition, as opposed to the Bhagavad Gila, which Krishna originally spoke for Arjuna's benefit on the eve of what was to be a devastating battle, the Uddhava Gila was relayed to Uddhava for the purpose of enlightening sages—he was to go to the Himalayas and, once there, to brighten the light of those who already were set ablaze with transcendental knowledge. They, in turn, were to share this knowledge with the world.
For these reasons and others, it is curious that the Lddhara Gila has never enjoyed the fame of its cousin text, the Bbagavad Gila, with which it shares several verses in common. In certain ways, the Uddhava Gita goes beyond the Bhagavad Gita, illuminating its central teaching of devotion to Krishna and emphasizing the importance of seeing Krishna everywhere, in everyone, and at all times.
Who Is Uddhava?
In the epic Mababbarata Adi 186.18) we are introduced to Uddhava but without specifics. We are told that he was present at the marriage of Draupadi and, later (Adi 218.11), that he was an important guest at another celebration convened at Mount Raivata. We are told that he was a disciple of Brihaspati (the teacher of the gods) and that he possessed unequalled intelligence. It was he who brought the dowry for Subhadra's marriage to Arjuna and was a central figure at the wedding in Indraprastha (Ad/ 220.30). And when the power-mad Salva besieged Krishna's city of Dvaraka, Uddhava was the valiant hero who saved the day (Vana 15.9).
Moreover—and perhaps more relevant to our subject at hand—the great epic tells us that Uddhava was present just before Krishna left the mortal world, before the destruction of Dvaraka, the Lord's city. At that time, the Yadavas—with whom Uddhava was aligned—went to live at Prabhasa Tirtha, located on the western seacoast of India. The journey to Prabhasa is also described in the Bhagarata Purana, in the chapter immediately preceding the Uddbara Gita.
Anticipating Dvaraka's impending cataclysm, Uddhava left the Yadavas' association, knowing that Krishna was planning to terminate His own activities in the world of men (Mahabharata, Mausala Chapters 3 and 4). Still, although Uddhava is directly mentioned in the epic, he usually is discussed as part of a group, and his individuality is not yet developed.
It is not until we come upon the Bbagarata Purana that the personality of Uddhava really comes to life. We first cross his path in the Third Book—in a story that actually occurs out of sequence. (The Bhagavata rarely tells stories in chronological order.) Here, Uddhava meets Vidura, Dhritarastra's brother and supremely intelligent advisor, who asks Uddhava about his conversation with Krishna (Uddhava Gita), found later in the Eleventh Book, and also about Krishna's associates and family members.
Uddhava and Vidura meet on the bank of the Yamuna, a significant river in Vaishnava theology. At this point, the Bhagavatainforms us of Uddhava's si-gle-minded devotion, telling us that from the age of five he was absorbed in Krishna and nothing more (Bh.P. 3.2.2). It tells us of Uddhava's spirituality in terms of bodily symptoms, that is, that he visibly cried tears of love and that divine ecstasy emanated from his very being (Bh.P. 3.2.4-6). Clearly, Uddhava is no ordinary player, even in this most transcendental of dramas.
Uddhava begins to answer Vidura's questions by poetically telling him that "the sun of the world, Lord Krishna, has set, and our house has been swallowed by the great snake of time" (Bh.P. 3.2.7). After this, he recounts Krishna's many loving activities in Vraja (Braj), many of which took place near the very river where Vidura and Uddhava now sit. He further describes for Vidura the many divine activities that took place in Mathura and in Dvaraka as well.
Though Vidura, at this point, wants Uddhava to be his spiritual master—for the latter has proven to be well-versed in the science of Krishna—Uddhava is concerned about proper etiquette. Vidura is senior to him, and so, ultimately, he sends him to Maitreya, a wizened sage in whom Uddhava has great confidence.
According to the Bhagavata, Maitreya was present while Uddhava received instructions from Krishna, and so Maitreya, too, heard truth directly from the lips of the Lord. Hence Uddhava's certainty that Maitreya could ably guide Vidura. More important, in this portion of the Bhagavata, two significant verses about Uddhava (Bh.P. 3.4.30-31) are attributed to Lord Krishna Himself:
My work here is complete, and so I will now depart for My supreme abode. Know for certain that Uddhava, the foremost of My devotees, is the only one who can be directly entrusted with knowledge about Me. Uddhava is not inferior to Mc in any way because he is never affected by the modes of material nature—goodness, passion, or ignorance. He is always transcendentally situated. Therefore, he may remain in this world to disseminate specific knowledge about Me.
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