New from Vedanta Press 2023

The Song of God

Translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood
with an Introduction by Aldous Huxley

"This latest edition does not alter the work of Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood at all; but by providing the original verse numbers of the source text, it makes this translation of even greater value for students and scholars than it already was."

- Jeffery Long, Professor of Religion, Philosophy, and Asian Studies, Author of Hinduism in America

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Other Editions of  This Translation without Verse Numbers
Related Titles: Christopher Isherwood Reads Selections from The Bhagavad Gita
Christopher Isherwood Reads Two Lectures by Swami Vivekananda on The Bhagavad Gita  CD/DVD

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NEW Swami Sarvapriyananda Interviewed by Philip Goldberg about the 2023 Edition
Here is a link to the whole original 1 hour interview:


Translations come in many hues and fulfill different needs. Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God, the translation by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, cuts to the chase by focusing on the essential teaching in every verse—and does this in both poetry and prose that is as elegant as it is insightful. The book effortlessly captures the beauty and the rhythm of the Gita.

Swami Tyagananda, Hindu Chaplain, Harvard and MIT, 2022

The ageless wisdom of the Gita will never be brought into classic English prose with greater clarity, humanity and selflessness than in this priceless rendition. What a joy to have it brought to us afresh in this new edition, Isherwood’s rare elegance married to his beloved teacher’s wise command of the scriptures.

Pico Iyer, Author of Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, and
The Global Soul
. Contributor to Time, Harper's, New York Review of Books, and
The New York Times
.  He also taught at Harvard and Princeton, 2022


The eternal message of the Gita has been rendered into simple language which is devoid of technicalities of dogma and doctrine and rises into suitable poetry where the sublimity of thought requires it. Swami Prabhavananda’s name is a guarantee of the authoritative nature of the translation and its being faithful to the true spirit of the original.

Prabuddha Bharata, March, 1946

The book is self-contained. A complete stranger to the Hindu gospel can pick it up and in one or two evenings follow the poem from its terrific beginnings to its sublime end. …a version which, as Aldous Huxley says, “can be read…positively with enjoyment.”

 Francis Hackett, New York Times, December 23, 1944

DEMOCRACY would have been impossible without the dissemination of knowledge...For that reason alone this paper-back edition [1954] of one of the most profound books ever written, often compared to the Sermon on the Mount, is a publishing event of major importance. Here the common man...may make the acquaintance of perhaps the greatest clarity that mysticism has ever achieved...The ideas in this philosophical dialogue...are subtle, surprising, precise. The “Gita," however, is also a song. It develops its ideas rhapsodically, ecstatically...The “Gita” is one of the most beautiful books. It explains and it delights...It is presented in one of the outstanding translations of the day.

Gerald Sykes, The New York Times, March 28, 1954  

As World War II raged and the dissolution of the British Empire drew near, an Indian and an Englishman, both disillusioned radicals, collaborated in Hollywood on this singular translation. In Vedanta, they had found the peace and freedom that politics had failed to deliver. Christopher Isherwood could not read Sanskrit; he relied on detailed and intense discussions with Swami Prabhavananda to understand the meaning of each word. Then he cast the ancient Hindu text in a mixture of poetry and prose rooted in the English literary tradition reaching back to Medieval times. For clarity, economy and sheer excitement, their English rendering of the Bhagavad Gita has never been equaled.

Katherine Bucknell, editor of Christopher Isherwood's DIARIES and
Director of The Christopher Isherwood Foundation, 2023

Back in the late 1960s when many young Americans were interested in self-actualization via Asian religions, I (and thousands of others, I'm sure) were first drawn to study Vedanta after reading the Bhagavad-Gita as translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood. The former deeply understood the message of the text and the latter knew how to convey that message in masterful English. The mixture was captivating, leading many to start on a life-long quest to dig deeper into the substance of Vedanta. This is a literary rather than a literal translation, for reasons mainly related to the flow of the text and making the message clear in English, to an English speaking audience; I find the true teachings to be fully intact, so the appeal is there for a new audience in modern times. Moreover, this new edition includes the verse references that were missing from the original 1944 edition, a welcome and necessary addition, for comparison to other translations and scholarly study.

Dana Sawyer, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, Maine Arts College
Author of
Huston Smith: Wisdomkeeper, the authorized biography, and author of Aldous Huxley: A Biography

To preserve the everlasting simplicity of the Gita’s words…Isherwood…and his teacher [Swami Prabhavananda] have collaborated on this latest translation…the result is a distinguished literary work…simpler and freer than other English translations…It may help U.S. readers to understand not only the Gita itself, but also its influence on American letters through one of its greatest U.S. admirers, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Time Magazine, February 12, 1945

For many Westerners, their introduction to Hinduism came not from yoga or a respected guru, but from a boyish British author, Christopher Isherwood, a Renaissance man of letters, writing plays, short stories, screenplays, poems, novels and nonfiction. Though he is perhaps best known as the author of such works as The Berlin Stories (later made into the hit play and movie, “Cabaret”), his involvement in the Vedanta movement in California from the 1940s through the 1980s left a permanent imprint on the cultural landscape...The English version of the Song of God: Bhagavad Gita was Isherwood’s crowning achievement.

Mark Hawthorne, Vedanta’s Western Poet, Hinduism Today, September 1, 1999

The Bhagavad Gita–or simply the Gita, for those who know and love it well–is of course a classic of Indian literature, and of world spiritual literature, as well as being a sacred text for Hindus. This particular translation of the Gita, by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, is itself a classic in the genre of Gita translations. It has been, for many, a gateway to Hindu thought and to the profound philosophy of Vedanta. Beautifully and clearly written, it was designed specifically with an American audience in mind. But it has proven to be an accessible introduction to this text for readers around the world, even within India itself. This latest edition does not alter the work of Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood at all; but by providing the original verse numbers of the source text, it makes this translation of even greater value for students and scholars than it already was. It is a most welcome addition to any library, personal or public, and it will no doubt continue to open minds to the message of the Gita well into the twenty-first century and beyond.

Jeffery D. Long, Author Hinduism in America, Professor of
Religion, Philosophy, and Asian Studies, Elizabethtown College  

[From a critique concerning translations] A translation of literary worth...seemed preferable to a simon-pure translation...As a master translator, Edward Fitzgerald, put it: “Better a live sparrow than a stuffed eagle.” …In violation of this principle, Mr. Y. has decided to use the Edwin Arnold translation of the Bhagavad Gita rather than—say—the Christopher Isherwood-Swami Prabhavananda version. In my opinion…there is no comparison between the ponderous cadences of the first, and the clean lucidity of the second.

The New York Times, November 11, 1956

The translation, in poetry and prose, is the celebrated one by Christopher Isherwood and Swami Prabhavananda…the very purpose of life in Hindu terms becomes luminously clear.

Paul Kresh, The New York Times, May 10, 1981

I first became aware of the Bhagavad Gita in the mid-1960s. I was in college then, and taking my first tentative steps onto the spiritual path that would virtually define my life ever since. Instead of my assigned textbooks, which not only bored me but irritated me with their lack of profundity, I was reading about Eastern philosophy, mostly from secondary sources. Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist ideas had just entered the counterculture bloodstream, and it seemed that every author and scholar I admired—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Aldous Huxley, Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts, J.D. Salinger—wrote with great admiration of the Gita

Thoreau apparently read it every day of his famous retreat on Walden Pond: “In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita … in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seems puny and trivial.”... With endorsements like that, and the sublime passages the authors extracted from the Gita itself, I had to get myself a copy.

...I eventually found a copy at Weiser Antiquarian Books on lower Broadway, which is known as “the oldest occult bookstore in the United States.” I purchased the translation and commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood because I recognized the latter as a celebrated writer of fiction...I read it start to finish that evening.

It was mind-bogglingly new and heartwarmingly familiar at the same time, as if I were being fed the same revelations I’d imbibed in the past and forgotten. I went to bed knowing my life would never be the same. And it was not. Because Swami Prabhavananda was in the lineage of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, and Isherwood was his disciple at the Los Angeles Vedanta Society, their Gita quickly led me to the other books published by the Vedanta Press and, eventually, to the Upanishads, the Yoga Sutras, some of Adi Shankaracharya’s works and other treasures of Sanatana Dharma...My first Gita, with its tattered cover, torn and yellowed pages, underlined passages and scribbled-in margins, sits on a shelf with a dozen other translations and commentaries. I compare them whenever an opportunity arises, their nuanced differences never failing to intrigue me and the verses themselves never failing to illuminate and inspire.

...I know I’ll return to the Gita again and again, because every time I do I discover something new. At the risk of closing with a cliché, it is a gift that keeps on giving.

Philip Goldberg, The Gita and Me, Sutra Journal, August 2015

Huston Smith holds up the 1951 Mentor Religious

Huston Smith holds up the 1951 Mentor Religious Classic edition of this translation on his groundbreaking 17-part 1954 NET TV series, The Religions of Man. (Video of the series can be viewed at For many Americans it was their first introduction to Asian religions and mysticism. The TV series became the basis for the best-selling book of the same name, later retitled The World's Religions, which became a standard textbook for religious studies.


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