RELIGION & SPIRITUALITY

The Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God Retold in Simplified English

St. Martin’s. (Essential Wisdom Library). Jun. 2019. 128p. notes. ISBN 9781250204714. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250204721. REL
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The Bhagavad Gita, or the Song of God, is a devotional scripture that appears within the world’s longest epic poem, the Mahabharata. Viljoen has written a primer and abridged translation of the beloved Sanskrit scripture, successfully capturing the essence of the Gita, while retaining some of the poetic nature of the original in a readable and modern retelling. Viljoen’s admiration of the Gita is obvious, and he makes clear that this abridgement is not a replacement for translations of the full text. Rather, he intends to provide an introduction to the Gita’s position and role in the Mahabharata, as well as explaining the relationships among the poem’s central figures. The strongest chapters focus specifically on the Gita and the Mahabharata; the section attempting to explain devotion (bhakti) in the Hindu context is less successful. Viljoen provides a helpful list of resources, including his recommended full translations, in an appendix.
VERDICT Readers seeking an overview of one of the most beloved Hindu scriptures will find this an accessible and satisfying entry point.

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