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On the list of the greatest spiritual books of all time, the Bhagavad Gita resides permanently in the top echelon. This
poem of patently Indian genius sprouted an immense tree of devotional, artistic, and philosophical elaboration in the
subcontinent. The scene is a battlefield with the prince Arjuna pitted against his own family, but no sooner does the
poem begin than the action reverts inward. Krishna, Arjuna's avatar and spiritual guide, points the way to the supreme
wisdom and perfect freedom that lie within everyone's reach. Worship and be faithful, meditate and know reality--these
make up the secret of life and lead eventually to the realization that the self is the root of the world. In this
titular translation, Stephen Mitchell's rhythms are faultless, making music of this ancient "Song of the Blessed One."
Savor his rendition, but nibble around the edges of his introduction. In a bizarre mixture of praise and
condescension, Mitchell disregards two millennia of Indian commentary, seeking illumination on the text from Daoism and
Zen, with the Gita coming up just shy of full spiritual merit. Perhaps we should take it from Gandhi, who used the
Gita as a handbook for life, that it nourishes on many levels. --Brian Bruya