Q: There are many versions of Gita available. Which one is the correct one? How do we learn Gita in the right way?
All versions are correct. Gita is for all – each one sees it differently. Each one looks at Gita with his own eyes, mind and vasanas. They understand it according to their capacities.
Gita remains the same though different people have written commentaries on Gita. Everyone is right. If you like one commentary read it, but don’t stop there. Create that enquiry mind until it gives the ultimate answer till no more doubt remains in you. Whichever Gita you read/follows, the importance should be given to this enquiry lead mind. Question every aspect until you are clear.
Gita remains as it is, pure. It is like a river. Some poets sit and write about the river, some use it for irrigation, some uses to wash cloths, some take bath in it, some drink it, there are people who spit and abuse the sanctity of the river. Similarly, Gita is the same. You can take whatever from Gita accordingly. Gita is taught to children, householders, Sannyasins etc. As we grow, as our awareness grows, we experience different realms of Gita, though the words are the same.
Many have written commentaries according to the needs and situation of the society at those time. You reflect and meditate upon it – over time you will understand. Acharyas like Madhva, Ramanuja and Sankara have written commentaries upon Gita. They had their own agenda, but Sri Krishna’s words remain the same. Listening directly from Sri Krishna, Arjuna didn’t accept whatever Krishna said, Arjuna never stopped questioning Krishna. Unless he is convinced, he was never ready to accept. Similar, enquiry mind should be there. Ask questions with the mind to know. Invoke the attitude of enquiry within and not to get carried away with commentaries.
Most of us do not know Sanskrit and hence need to depend on someone who translated it to English. It should be noted that it is not enough just to understand Sanskrit to translate. We need to understand the context, setting, the society, language constraints in order to get the correct meaning.
Max Muller learned Sanskrit and wrote commentaries on Vedas without even visiting India. How could he possibly understand the culture, society prevailing in India at that time? And hence his perspectives are not reflective of the truth. One word used in one sloka might be used in another sloka with a different meaning. Word is the same, but the meaning is different according to the context. A google translation cannot give you the correct import of the slokas. Hence, whichever Gita you read, the importance should be given to an enquiry lead mind and learn it from a Master who can explain you the diff contexts.