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I would like to give you, dear reader, some background on how this book came about. In August and September of 1984, there were extensive riots in South India. There were shootings not far from Sai Baba's ashram and the ashram gates were locked. Armed soldiers were patrolling outside and escorting the college students into the ashram for the evening meetings. For 34 days during the height of the tension, Sai Baba spoke in daily discourses to the students on the Gita. He spoke in Telugu, his native language. These talks form the chapters of this book.
I was living in Baba's ashram at the time and teaching in his university. With Baba's permission, I used these powerful Gita teachings over the years as the basis for my scheduled talks to visitors who came to the ashram from all over the world. It has been my good fortune to work with this material now for almost 9 years. Every moment spent on it has brought new light and depth of understanding, and, as has happened to many others, these teachings have unalterably transformed my life.
Five years ago, I had the chance to publish this Gita in India, from the edited translations of Baba's talks. 12,000 copies in English were printed and distributed, and translations were published in a number of European and Asian languages. The original manuscript was presented to Sai Baba on the stage of the auditorium during the Christmas function in 1987, and he graciously blessed it and signed the title page. That work contained extensive Sanskrit phrases and references to traditional Indian themes, which were familiar to Indian devotees.
In the intervening years, the Indian English edition has gone out of print. With the intention of making these teachings widely available without need for the reader to have an extensive background in Sanskrit or Indian philosophy or prior knowledge of the characters and stories that fill Baba's talks, this book was prepared in the present edition. Here, the majority of Sanskrit terms have been deleted and incorporated in their English equivalents into the body of the text. Also, the chapters have been freely edited to clarify any difficult passages or obscure references and to convert the spoken words into easily readable text. Every chapter has been arranged to stand on its own, with the effect that you can turn to any chapter whose subject matter particularly interests you, without first having to study all the previous chapters in the book.
In editing the text my primary focus was on clarity in conveying Baba's teachings to the Western reader, rather than on literal translation. I acknowledge the grave responsibility of editing the avatar's words and urge scholars to study the tapes of Baba's Gita discourses in Telugu.