Back of the Book
"Surrender Unto Me" is drawn from the commentaries of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana and His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
The fruit of twenty-seven years of study, it is an attempt to understand and explain the philosophic progression of Bhagavad-gita -how the verses, sections and chapters fit together. Having an overview adds sastric structure to the counseling, managing and teaching that devotees do and thus is relevant for both practical preaching and applying the Gita to our own devotional life.
Only one out of many thousands of people even wants to leave the material world, and of those rare souls, hardly one knows how to do it. By the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, and without deserving it, we have received this most precious knowledge,. The key to our release from material entanglement is simply to take advantage of the association of Hari, guru, Bhagavata and Gita. The Supreme Person comes to us in His names, His murtis and His dear most devotees, and He gives us the essence of revealed scriptures, specially packaged for our easy consumption in this dull-minded age. Thus He provides us the solid tattva-jnana to understand how to correctly put aside maya and to approach him.
Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.16.6) explains that for anyone with a sense of his real self-interest the only discussions worth hearing are those that glorify God and His devotees. Kim anyair asadalapair ayuso yad asad-vyayah: "What is the use of topics which simply waste one's valuable life?" Srila Prabhupada said that krrsna-katha comes in two varieties: one spoken by Lord Krsna and the other spoken about Him. Of course, Srimad-Bhagavatam is not the only book about Krsna, and Bhagavad-gita is not the only Instruction spoken by Him. Many of the other Puranas have chapters describing Krsna's pastimes in Vrndavana, Mathura and Dvaraka, and Krsna spoke another wonderful Gita to Uddhava. Many Vaisnavas prefer to study Krsna indirectly in the Vedanta-sutra. Some persons worship demigods and like to read scriptures such as the Devi-bhagavata, while others prefer Time magazine. Therefore those who understand the prime importance of hearing constantly from the Bhagavatam and Gita are especially fortunate. They have received the very uncommon mercy of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the acaryas who are His servants. These fortunate devotees can understand that Srimad-Bhagavatam is ot just another Purana and that what Krsna and Arjuna said to each other at Kuruksetra is unique. Ekam sastram devaki-putra-gitam: In Sankaracarya's opinion, even if all the other scriptures in the world were to disappear, Bhagavad-gita alone would perfectly fulfill the needs in everyone's spiritual education.
What is so special about this one short book? In it Krsna does not explicitly reveal that much about Himself. He doesn't describe His intimate pleasure pastimes. He doesn't say anything about His eternal kingdom other than that there is no need of sunlight or electricity, and that whoever goes there never returns. But He does address Himself in His Gita to the conditioned souls in the material world, especially the spiritually unfit souls of the modern age, and tells them what they need to hear. He says in uncomplicated terms why they should not remain entrapped in the bodily concept of life, and how, step by step, they can become free and regain their real life. Anyone who is still a conditioned soul should be glad to hear these instructions on the science of liberation. Because they were spoken by the one person most competent to teach them, they have all potency to transform the life of anyone who hears them with a little faith.
Those who are already liberated also relish the Personality of Godhead's words on these essential topics and refer to them regularly while preaching. I was informed by a predecessor of mine in the BBT Sanskrit department of something that Srila Prabhupada once told him. Srila Prabhupada said that every devotee who wants to be a good preacher should become proficient in Bhagavad-gita. Even in his own morning Bhagavatam classes, Srila Prabhupada noted, most of the verses he cited were from the Gita.
It was Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the perfect instructions of the Supreme passed onto us by His perfect devotee, that made most of us decide to enter the Vaisnava path. Now that we have made a little progress, we shouldn't forget the book's importance; it is not just for beginners. Rather. It is the distilled essence of the Upanisads, of the exacting philosophy of Vedanta. it may have been placed by Srila Dvaipayana Vyasa within the entertaining Mahabharata, which is designated for the use of women, sudras and unqualified brahmanas, but its being hidden in that fashion does not at all diminish its real glory. Lord Krsna also effaces Himself in Mahabharata, taking a secondary role in deference to the Pandavas; but when he finally reveals Himself fully to Arjuna at a moment of crisis in the Bhisma-parva, we are freed from doubt as to who Krsna really is and who we are in relation to Him.
This new overview of the Bhagavad-gita, by His Grace Bhurijana Prabhu, is a welcome addition to the shelf of books by Srila Prabhupada's disciples. "Surrender Unto Me" offers valuable guidance in understanding the dynamic logic of the Gita, the thread of the conversation from verse to verse. We hear, from the great Gaudiya acaryas Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti and Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana, elucidations that bring us closer to a full understanding of Srila Prabhupada's explanation. Rather than distracting from the glories of the Bhaktivedanta purports in Bhagavad-gita as It is, "Surrender Unto Me" turns on them a spotlight. I have no doubt that after studying "Surender Unto Me" devotees will better appreciate and understand the Gita.
That Bhurijana Prabhu has been able to illuminate the Gita and Srila Prabhupada's purports so well is proof that he has satisfied Srila Prabhupada by his devotional service. We can also get that same mercy by giving careful attention to studying Bhagavad-gita and practicing what Krsna teaches. One episode in Srila Prabhupada's preaching, about which I once heard, my be spurious but apt: When a proud Indian gentleman announced, "Swamiji, I can recite the Bhagavad-gita in forty-eight minutes," Srila Prabhupada asked, "But can you live the Bhagavad-gita for forty-eight minutes?" Bhurijana Prabhu has been reading and living the Bhagavad-gita for more than a quarter of a century. Despite what he may say about himself in his humility, this is proof enough to me that he earned Srila Prabhupada's satisfaction and is fit to comment on these most confidential instructions of the blessed Lord.
Some people aren't satisfied unless they understand how a ting works. They must know how its pieces fit together and its parts move, and they question, feel dissatisfied and remain disturbed until they find out. I am one of those people.
As soon as I began studying Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is, when they purple-covered, abridged Macmillian edition was published in 1969, I almost immediately began to tinker and fiddle with the verses to discover their philosophical continuity. I began with the assumption that Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, had spoken His verses both logically and systematically.
Certainly Srila Prabhupada had made Krsna's goal ring clear in most every verse and purport of Bhagavad-gita. No one could misconstrue the universal form or formless Brahman to be the supreme realization. Nor could anyone misunderstand the actual process for advancement which Krsna recommended. That process was not altruism, austerity, meditation, charity, yoga asanas or renunciation. It was bhakti, His own devotional service. In other words, Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is neatly popped every possible bubble of misconception about Krsna's purpose in speaking the Gita.
Krsna, Srila Prabhupada transparently revealed, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the source of all. The living entities are not God, as I was imagining the first time I read Bhagavad-gita. Rather, hard as it is to swallow, we are simply His insignificant servants, meant to surrender and serve Him under the guidance of His representative, a spiritual master.
Despite personal limitations and my inability to perfectly execute bhakti-yoga, all the above-mentioned conclusions became quickly and unavoidably evident through Srila Prabhupada's powerful presentation. Yet I wasn't satisfied I wanted to understand the Gita's logic. "Surrender unto me" is the fruit of twenty-seven years of study. It is my attempt to understand and explain the philosophic progression in Bhagavad-gita how the verses, sections and chapters fit together.
While teaching Bhagavad-gita Overview courses in Vrndavana and other places around the world, I discovered that devotees not only appreciated the systematic presentation of the Gita's progression but were also practically helped by their study. I have placed into three categories the practical benefits of studying the Bhagavad-gita in overview:
1) A deepened understanding of the Bhagavad-gita increases our ability to apply sastra in our lives and increases our enthusiasm to preach. Generally, after a few years in the Hare Krsna movement, devotees consider the Gita a known book. After al, it covers our basic philosophy, the ABCs of spiritual understanding. Yet Srila Prabhupada requested that our understanding be more than basic. He said we should know the Bhagavad-gita backwards and forwards like the Christians know the Bible. Why? For preaching, certainly, but also because practical answers to most of life's questions can be found in Bhagavad-gita
When I began to assist other devotees in their study-verse by verse, and purport by purport-I discovered that we all had many questions. "Oh, I never understood that verse and purport before," was a phrase commonly heard in the class. "Surrender Unto Me," I hope, will answer unanswered questions and strengthen our philosophical foundation.
The Gita, when thoroughly understood, allows us to observe the modes of nature pushing and pulling everyone. We learn the difference between the unique way Krsna cares for His devotees and how He reciprocates with others. We hear Krsna's plea for all to come to Him. We learn the gradual steps of elevation on the path of bhakti we learn to recognize one fixed in transcendence, and we learn the qualities a devotee must cultivate to make advancement. Krsna explains His laws that govern the transmigration of souls. He clearly describes how each element within the Vedic culture, when carried to perfection, leads to His service. We hear arguments against atheism, impersonalism and Mayavada philosophy. We encounter stages of doubt. We hear of Krsna's opulence and power and learn various ways of seeing and remembering Him. We learn the essence of bhakti and how to act and not act-according to our actual position-so that our advancement in Krsna's service is nurtured. And we hear of the protection and deep commitment Krsna offers His devotees.
Equipped with answers to our own questions and confident of our ability to answer those of others, our own fresh enthusiasm about the Gita naturally encourages us to apply the teachings to ourselves and to teach them to others.
2) The Gita details progressive stages of advancement in bhakti. As our understanding of these stages increases, our ability to practically apply them is enhanced. As a gurukula teacher, I learned that effective instruction must necessarily be addressed to a student's actual stage of advancement. Instruction directed to what I wished or imagined to be the student's level, or to the group level of his classmates, proved counter-productive.
But how many devotees thoroughly understand the levels of advancement that Krsna describes in Bhagavad-gita? Without rigorous knowledge of those progressions, such as those describing the yoga ladder, we can sincerely err in our advice and instructions to others. If our understanding remains general and we prescribe one medicine, for example, "fully surrendered temple life," to all, we risk creating havoc and confusion among congregational members and temple devotees, celibates and householders. Or, conversely, if we fail to administer the correct medicine when appropriate, we also blunder into disservice. Having an overview of the levels of progress described in Bhagavad-gita can add sastric structure to our management, instruction and counsel. Realization of this knowledge is also most relevant in applying the Gita in our own lives.
At this point, I'd like to state the specific goal of my attempt in this book to clarify the steps of the yoga ladder. I do not promote a viewpoint that those practicing devotional service on the level of sakama-karma-yoga and niskama-marma-yoga are not devotees, nor am I arguing that only full bhaktas-those on the platform of pure transcendental devotional service-should be termed devotees. Rather, my aim in delineating the levels of yoga practice-supported by Srila Prabhupada's liberal view of all practioners as devotees-is to provide the vocabulary and the definitions to aid devotees in recognizing their own levels of advancement and to increase their abilities to serve others. The view of devotional service in this book is that all those desiring to serve Krsna and His devotees are devotees, yet all nevertheless practice devotional service, according to their advancement, on different levels.
3) Drawing from the commentaries of great Vaisnava acaryas connects us to our tradition. The Hare Krsna movement is not a new religion. Rather, it represents the grand tradition of Madhva-Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Srila Prabhupada, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana are our heroes, and we should get to know and respect the entirety of our brilliant heritage.
Indeed, it was a Bhagavad-gita commentary by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura that struck Srila Prabhupada and further fixed him in his determination to satisfy his spiritual master by preaching Krsna consciousness in the West:
I recommend keeping the Bhagavad-gita As It is open for reference while reading "Surrender Unto Me". I look forward to hearing from readers how they used this book to increase their knowledge and application of the Bhagavad-gita.
Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by Srila Prabhupada, with his Bhakti- vedanta purports, is so uniquely powerful that thousands and thousands of souls have reached the conclusion of Bhagavad- gita by reading it. Even those without the association of devo- tees have been touched by Srila Prabhupada's translation and purports and have surrendered at his lotus feet. Thus Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is, fully empowered by the disciplic succession, is certainly the prime edition to be read and distributed in the age of Kali.
Once, however, when asked what he would translate after the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada responded, "Oh , maybe Jiva Cosvami's Sat-sandarbha or Vedanta-sutra-there are so many-or Bhagavad-gita:"
Pradyumna Dasa relates (on a video, "Memories of Srila Prabhupada") that a devotee then spoke up: "Srila Prabhu- pada, you've already done the Bhagavad-gita:" Srila Prabhupada replied, "We did Bhagavad-gita, but there are so many commentaries. Srila Ramanujacarya, Srila Madhvacarya-everyone has given his Gita. We could do many Gitas, not just one."
This Bhagavad-gita overview is thus drawn from Srila Prabhupada's verse translations and purports and the com- mentaries of two great Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas, Sri Srimad Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, whose commentary is entitled Sarartha-varsani, and Sri Srimad Baladeva Vidyabhusana, whose commentary is called Gita-bhusana: In writing this overview I also took in to account the commentaries of SrI Srimad Sridhara Svami and Sri Srimad Ramanujacarya. This book, therefore, is for serious students, especially those who have deeply studied Bhagavad-gita As It Is and want to increase their understanding of its difficult concepts and how its verses, sections and chapters are connected. Srila Prabhupada wrote in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam l.l.2: "Within the past five hundred years, many erudite scholars and acaryas like Jiva Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, Vallabhacarya and many other distinguished schol- ars even after the time of Lord Caitanya made elaborate com- mentaries on the Bhagavatam. The serious student would do well to attempt to go through them to better relish the tran- scendental messages." As with the Bhagavatam, so also with Bhagavad-gita.
My relationship with Bhagavad-gita started before I began chanting Hare Krsna, My first reading of the book took place during my student years at the University of Buffalo. It was not srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita; his first Macmillan edition had not yet been published. I remember being so excited by the book that I not only stayed up all night reading it, but I also vowed to read it every night thereafter. I ap- preciated the Bhagavad-gita so much that I even named my cat after it! Yet despite my enthusiasm, I couldn't penetrate even a centimeter into the Gita’s purpose because I did not have Srila Prabhupada's translations and commentary. All I could think was that the book was wonderful-and wonder why Krsna had to insist that He was God.
Not long after, I met Srila Prabhupada's disciple Rupanuga Dasa, and I began to chant Hare Krsna. srila Prabhupada's Gita was published one year later, and I finished the Eighteenth Chapter in the university's stuffy library hall. Krsna's final in- structions were so thrilling that my breathing came fast and my hair stood on end. I ran out of the library a new man. My only desire was to surrender to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and to share His message with others. When I grad- uated in January 1969, Srila Prabhupada wrote me this letter: I am very pleased that you are graduating from college in a few days and are anxious to engage your labors in spreading this Krishna consciousness movement. Also I request you to study carefully the Bhagavad-gita As It Is because there is so much important service that an intelligent boy such as you can do in preaching work and spreading our movement around the world.
The Bhagavad-gita thus became "my" book. It was prac- tically all I studied from 1969 through 1985. Early in my stud- ies (1969), I decided to write an overview for myself in which I would attempt to trace the flow of philosophy and the con- nections between the verses. Soon after, when Back to God- head began publishing chapter summaries one by one, I became more inspired but suspended my work on an over- view. Those chapter summaries stopped, however, near the middle of the Gita, so I began again to work on my own overview.
My overview finally neared completion when I moved to Vrndavana in 1983. My studies were aided by a computer that Pratyatosa Dasa kindly donated. I sat hour after hour writing down the connections between the verses and boiling them down into concise chapter summaries. Finally, I wrote an eight- page overview of the eighteen chapters (which is included as an appendix in this book). When the Vrndavana Institute for Higher Education held its third semester during Kartika 1988, I taught my first Bhagavad-gita Overview course. As I taught I continued to study and to further refine my understanding. Still, the connections between several verses, sections and even chapters continued to elude me. After teaching and studying further on my own, I had the good fortune to hear the Bhagavad-gita commentaries of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana. The gaps in my understanding continued to lessen, as the acaryas often made a point of saying, "The next verses are about such-and-such a topic. "
I worked still further for years. Sections in Chapter Two, the yoga ladder, elements of Chapters Three and Four, the connection between Chapters Seven and Eight, the opening verses of Chapter Eight, the final section of Chapter Nine, the progression in Chapter Twelve, difficult verses and purports in Chapter Thirteen, the final section in Chapter Fifteen, ele- ments and connections in and between Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen and the summary connections in Chapter Eighteen continued to evolve and be refined as the book went into production. The publishing deadline placed the manuscript in the hands of a Sanskrit translator (Copiparanadhana Dasa, who translated all of the acaryas'comments used in this book), careful English editors (Tattvavit Dasa, Braja Bihari Dasa, Kaisori-devi Dasi) and scholarly readers (Romapada Swami and Bhakti Caitanya Swami).
While compiling the overview, I encountered the fact that Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, Srila Baladeva Vidya- bhusana and Srila Prabhupada sometimes presented differing analyses of verses or sections. In addition, many great Vaisnava acaryas, such as Srila Madhvacarya, Srila Ramanujacarya and Srila Sridhara Svami all wrote unique commentaries on Bhagavad-gita. Although their explanations in places concurred, in other places they differed.
In a conversation regarding the strong difference of opinion among the five great preachers who appeared in India- Buddha, Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva and Lord Caitanya-Srila Prabhupada explained that no actual contradictions exist. Ultimately, the conclusion expressed by the acaryasis consistent. In the following conversation with disciples on March 9, 1976, Srila Prabhupada explained that seemingly contradictory instructions may be given.
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