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Essence of the Bhagavad Gita (Wisdom of India) Paperback – 29 Dec 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Nilgiri Press (29 Dec. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586380680
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586380687
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 13.3 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 132,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Eknath Easwaran (1910-1999) is respected around the world as one of the twentieth century's great spiritual teachers and an authentic guide to timeless wisdom. Although he did not travel or seek large audiences, his books on meditation, spiritual living, and the classics of world mysticism have been translated into twenty-six languages. More than 1.5 million copies of Easwaran's books are in print.

His book Meditation, now titled Passage Meditation, has sold over 200,000 copies since it was first published in 1978. His Classics of Indian Spirituality - translations of The Bhagavad Gita, The Dhammapada, and The Upanishads - have been warmly praised by Huston Smith, author of The World's Religions, and all three books are bestsellers in their field.

A gifted teacher who lived for many years in the West, Easwaran lived what he taught, giving him enduring appeal as a teacher and author of deep insight and warmth.

Easwaran's mission was to extend to everyone the spiritual disciplines that had brought such rich benefits to his own life. For forty years he devoted his life to teaching the practical essentials of the spiritual life as found in every religion. He taught a universal message that although the body is mortal, within every creature there is a spark of divinity that can never die. And he taught and lived a method that any man or woman can use to reach that inborn divinity and draw on it for love and wisdom in everyday life.

Whenever asked what religion he followed, Easwaran would reply that he belonged to all religions. His teachings reached people in every faith. He often quoted the words of Mahatma Gandhi, who influenced him deeply: "I have not the shadow of a doubt that every man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith."

Eknath Easwaran (1910-1999) was born into an ancient matrilineal family in Kerala state, South India. There he grew up under the close guidance of his mother's mother, whom he honored throughout his life as his spiritual teacher. From her he learned the traditional wisdom of India's ancient scriptures. An unlettered village woman, she taught him through her daily life, which was permeated by her continuous awareness of God, that spiritual practice is something to be lived out each day in the midst of family and community.

Growing up in British India, Easwaran first learned English in his village high school, where the doors were opened to the treasure-house of English literature. At sixteen, he left his village to attend a nearby Catholic college. There his passionate love of English literature intensified and he acquired a deep appreciation of the Christian tradition.

Later, contact with the YMCA and close friendships within the Muslim and Christian communities enriched his sense of the universality of spiritual truths. Easwaran often recalled with pride that he grew up in "Gandhi's India" - the historic years when Mahatma Gandhi was leading the Indian people to freedom from British rule through nonviolence. As a young man, Easwaran met Gandhi and the experience of sitting near him at his evening prayer meetings left a lasting impression. The lesson he learned from Gandhi was the power of the individual: the immense resources that emerge into life when a seemingly ordinary person transforms himself completely.

After graduate work at the University of Nagpur in Central India, where he took first-class degrees in literature and in law, Easwaran entered the teaching profession, eventually returning to Nagpur to become a full professor and head of the department of English. By this time he had acquired a reputation as a writer and speaker, contributing regularly to the Times of India and giving talks on English literature for All-India Radio.

At this juncture, he would recall, "All my success turned to ashes." The death of his grandmother in the same year as Gandhi's assassination prompted him to turn inward.

Following Gandhi's inspiration, he became deeply absorbed in the Bhagavad Gita, India's best-known scripture. Meditation on passages from the Gita and other world scriptures quickly developed into the method of meditation that today is associated with his name.

Eknath Easwaran was Professor of English Literature at the University of Nagpur when he came to the United States on the Fulbright exchange program in 1959. Soon he was giving talks on India's spiritual tradition throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. At one such talk he met his future wife, Christine, with whom he established the organization that became the vehicle for his life's work. The mission of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, founded in 1961, is to change lives and build a better world by publishing Sri Eknath Easwaran's timeless words, preserving his legacy, and teaching his Eight Point Program of passage meditation.

After a return to India, Easwaran came back to California in 1965. He lived in the San Francisco Bay Area the rest of his life, dedicating himself to the responsive American audiences that began flowing into his classes in the turbulent Berkeley of the late 1960s, when meditation was suddenly "in the air." His quiet yet impassioned voice reached many hundreds of students in those turbulent years.

Always a writer, Easwaran started a small press in Berkeley to serve as the publishing branch of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation. Nilgiri Press was named after the Nilgiris or "Blue Mountains" in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where Easwaran had maintained a home for some years. The press moved to Tomales, California, when the Center bought property there for a permanent headquarters in 1970. Nilgiri Press did the preproduction work for his first book, Gandhi the Man, and began full book manufacturing with his Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living in 1975.

In thousands of talks and his many books Easwaran taught passage meditation and his eight-point program to an audience that now extends around the world. Rather than travel and attract large crowds, he chose to remain in one place and teach in small groups - a preference that was his hallmark as a teacher even in India. "I am still an educator," he liked to say. "But formerly it was education for degrees; now it is education for living." His work is being carried forward by the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation.

If you would like to find out more about Easwaran's teachings and the Center that he founded please visit us at www.easwaran.org, and read our blog www.easwaran.org/blog

Product Description

Review

"It is impossible to get to the heart of those classics unless you live them, and [Easwaran] did live them. My admiration of the man and his works is boundless." --H U S T O N S M I T H, author of "The World's Religions" (Reviewing Easwaran's translation, "The Bhagavad Gita")

About the Author

Eknath Easwaran (1910-1999) grew up in India and became a professor of English literature before settling in the West, where he taught the Gita for over 40 years.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DotB on 9 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are interested in Indian spirituality this is a very good starting point. Not too academic and most interesting.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 19 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
The Essence of Wisdom 4 Dec. 2011
By Steve - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From a small operation in Northern California, Eknath Easwaran and the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation continue to produce books of enormous importance. This latest addition to Easwaran's legacy is one of the most insightful to date. If you enjoy Easwaran's teachings, if you're yearning for ultra deep insights into this beloved Hindu scripture, or if you simply want to read elegant prose seasoned with delightfully modern, often amusing stories and analogies, you'll love this book.

Many Gita commentaries (including Easwaran's own three-volume set) explore the text passage by passage. Through these, we quickly discern that the battle described in the Gita is not physical but internal and that this battle is won using will power rather than firepower.

Beyond the individual words and passages, however, lies much more. Deftly wielding his little but powerful lamp, Easwaran leads us on a spelunking trip deep into the heart of the Gita. Along the way, we encounter wisdom from such varied sources as Shankara, Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, Spinoza, Jung, Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield, physiologist Hudson Hoagland and others. The journey is at once simple and profound.

The book begins by introducing the split in consciousness between our lower and higher selves that causes separateness and struggle. Easwaran explores the nature of reality and personality, explaining that we are not our bodies or our minds (!) and that identification with these imposters keeps us feeling separate from everyone and everything.

Beginning with chapter six, we move from theory to practice. Easwaran explains how to heal the split using a system of living that includes meditation, living deliberately and experimenting with our likes and dislikes. The words are practical and enormously compelling.

The final three chapters describe the journey of humanity toward its ultimate goal: self-realization. We have no choice but to fight this battle, Easwaran and the Gita insist. Putting our heads in the sand or playing with the toys of life only delays the battle and prolongs our misery. Ultimately, Easwaran's Gita tells us we will not only fight but also win and that this glorious day comes much more quickly when we seize the initiative and realize our potential.

This story could only be told by a lifelong student of the Gita, someone who has lived it each day and is now so familiar with it that its words pale against the underlying meaning. Even so, in the hands of a lesser writer, no one but an enlightened being could even understand how the meaning derives from the words. But Easwaran's ideas fit together so well and are so nicely supported by the sparsely used but powerful Gita verses that, by the end, it's utterly impossible to deny both the wisdom of this interpretation and the inevitability of its effect on us.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A clear explanation of how meditation heals our personalities 5 Dec. 2011
By NR - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is fabulous! An intricate tapestry of verses from the Gita woven together with a deeper understanding of how we can fight "the war within" - the war between our higher and lower selves - through a disciplined spiritual practice that includes meditation and selfless service.

The first few chapters describe in detail the split in our consciousness that keeps us from being who we really want to be. What is this split? Easwaran characterizes it as "the tension between the upward pull towards freedom from biological conditioning and the downward pull that holds us back." Through the use of compelling imagery, Easwaran helps us see that living at the top of this split - "the world of everyday experience" - can never be satisfying. We live in emotional turmoil, and then feel that there is nothing we can do about it.

As with all of Easwaran's writing, I love the fact that he makes this understanding immediately applicable in our own lives, if we're willing to put in the effort required - that is a spiritual practice that includes meditation and allied disciplines. Otherwise we cannot help reacting to the events in our lives. In chapters six through eight, he shows us how learning to train our attention and juggle our likes and dislikes can make our minds more even. "In whatever walk of life we may be engaged, once we take to meditation, life becomes vibrant with meaning because every moment we have a choice - if you like, between immediate personal gratification and personal growth, between personal desires and the welfare of all. It is this exercise of choice that slowly begins to transform all that is ugly in our life and consciousness into a work of art."

The subsequent chapters outlines how the split continues to heal at deeper and deeper levels in the later years of our practice. First, we are training our attention, then our will, and finally our desire. What a long journey into the depths of our consciousness - over lifetimes!

Nowhere have I found such a clear exposition of the path into deeper consciousness and how we can truly transform our personalities.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Seriously life-enhancing - I only wish there more stars to give it! 11 Dec. 2011
By P. Meadows - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has been produced posthumously from recorded talks. Guided by the author's specific instructions before his death, the editors (long-time students of his) have done a stunning job. (The material in this book has not been previously published.) I hope for at least a few more such posthumous books, and I believe they are in process.

The book displays Easwaran's usual graceful clarity of thought and word. But I think this is the deepest of Easwaran's books to date. This one goes deep, deep into the heart and mind of humanity. I've gained insights from this book which I have not gained from his prior books, even though I've studied them all. Maybe I just wasn't ready for these insights until now, I cannot tell for absolutely certain-sure. But I think this book is deeper.

I've just finished it; I will re-read it this week, slowly, and ponder its message. I've no doubt it will be read again and again, and become dog-eared rather quickly. It's a life-changing, seriously life-enhancing book, perhaps particularly for those individuals who are chasing material goods and/or power in the sad delusion that these will make them truly happy. But it would be life-enhancing for everyone.

In conclusion, I can do no better than copy a sentence from Nalini's review: "Nowhere have I found such a clear exposition of the path into deeper consciousness and how we can truly transform our personalities." This says it all.

Pat Meadows (who is deeply grateful to Easwaran and to the editors of this book - Thank you!)
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A Posthumous Book by Easwaran 24 May 2012
By Donna - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have longed admired the writings and life practices of Eknath Easwaran. I was thrilled to learn that there was a posthumous book recently released and eagerly began reading.

While there are many good points made as well as illuminating examples about how to live a more spiritual life, this book did not equal his previous books. This may be because it was put together by students of his 8-point program based on Easwaran's notes and he was not there to bring it all together in a more cohesive way as he had done so professionally with his other books. (His MEDITATION book is a favorite of mine. In fact, I've had to buy it several times over the years because any time I lend a copy, it's enjoyed so much that it doesn't come back! I also highly recommend his three-volume work, THE BHAGAVAD GITA FOR DAILY LIVING.)

One of the things I found disappointing is that someone who is new to Easwaran's work or to Indian Philosophy will be confused by the term "yoga." Yoga is explained, but the book would have been stronger if the book had explained clearly, right from the start, that this is not the yoga "exercise" that many Westerners associate with the word.

There were also errors in punctuation, grammar, and style. I came across several examples that were not attributed to the original source, such as "The Prayer of St. Francis" and a Bible passage, and at least one quote that was incomplete. Also, some examples were presented as if they were just being introduced, but were actually a repeat of earlier examples in the book. Something else that bothered me was that the book blurb included is about an earlier work of Easwaran's. The blurb on the back of the book should be about THAT book.

All this is not to say that the book is without merit. While I would not recommend it as an introduction to the BHAGAVAD GITA, it does reinforce many concepts present in Easwaran's other books, so it works fairly well as a review. Some excerpts:

"That which is infinite can be filled only with something infinite."

We "believe we are separate individuals when there is really only one Self in billions of forms."

"Nirvana" is "the blowing-out or extinction of all self-centered thought."

"...the cause of personal stress is not outside us but arises from our perception."

"Karma is essentially an opportunity to learn."

Finally, a passage from the BHAGAVAD GITA, whose passages are pure poetry:
"You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself--without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind."
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Panoramic View of the Gita's Truths 13 Dec. 2011
By SK - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In reading Eknath Easwaran's Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, you get the impression of someone who is located at the heart of this spiritual classic looking out while the rest of us are peering in through the outer panes. This can only be a result of Easwaran's scholarly knowledge of the Gita combined with "living the message" in his daily life.

From this still point, Easwaran uncovers for us the various layers of the Gita in a rich tapestry. He covers topics such as the nature of reality, levels of personality, our illusion of separateness from the rest of life, the meaning of yoga, healing the unconscious, and so on. These are woven together seamlessly, giving the reader a panoramic view of the Gita that few authors can provide. Easwaran's genius is his ability to describe the timeless truths of the Gita in language that is contextual and easy to comprehend. And yet, as the publisher's note points out, this book is a distillation of 40 years of teaching. Like any other distillation, it is concentrated and must be savored in small portions and repeatedly. That is certainly what I intend to do!
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