W. Douglas P. Hill

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W. Douglas P. Hill (1884 – 9 April 1962) was a British Indologist noted for his scholarly translation of the Bhagavad Gita.


The Bhagavadgītā (1973)[edit]

Hill, W. Douglas P., tr. com. (1928). The Bhagavadgītā. Oxford University Press: Second abridged edition (1953). Fourth impression (1973).

Introduction: The cult of Kṛiṣṇa Vāsudeva
  • The Bhagavadgītā presents the doctrine that Kṛiṣṇa Vāsudeva, who helped the Pāṇḍava princes at the battle of Kurukṣetra as Arjuna's charioteer, was Supreme God, a descent of the Absolute into the world of men. Kṛiṣṇa is called Bhagavat, and the poem is a product of the Bhāgavata or Vāsudeva sect, which at the time of its composition was beginning to identify Kṛiṣṇa with Viṣṇu.
    • p. 1. (1. Problems)
Introduction: The Bhagavadgītā
  • There seems to be a general consensus of opinion among modern scholars that the Bhagavadgītā, as it now appears in the Epic, is not an original poem composed by a single hand, but an ancient work, rewritten and enlarged. But all are not agreed as to the history of the poem's composition.
    • p. 18. (12. The composition of the Bhagavadgītā)
Introduction: The doctrine of the Bhagavadgītā
  • Kṛiṣṇa says (vii. 19) that the man of knowledge affirms that Vāsudeva is All. This is the central doctrine of the Bhagavadgītā. Kṛiṣṇa Vāsudeva is one with Brahman, the ultimate unity that lies behind this manifold universe, the changeless truth behind impermanent appearance.
    • p. 24. (14. Kṛiṣṇa is Brahman)
  • God descends with a purpose. From the earliest times sacrifice (yajña) had been accounted the most important work, and in the Gītā so imperative a work is sacrifice considered that we are told that 'ever on sacrifice firm-founded is Brahman all pervading'.
    • p. 34. (19.(c) Kṛiṣṇa as avatāra has a definite work to do)
  • The universe is a puppet-show; Brahman is sole producer, Brahman is scenery and players, Brahman is sole spectator. The universe is Brahman, sportively self-deluded, taking delight in itself. The means of production is the power of delusion, or māyā; scenery and puppets are Brahman, self-stamped with 'name and form', its 'lower nature'—prakṛiti; as spectator it is puruṣa, retaining its proper nature.
    • p. 35. (20. Kṛiṣṇa-Brahman and the Universe)
  • The author of the Gītā is interested in man and his destiny; for man is the centre of creation. Brahman, it is true, dwells equally in every living creature; but to man is given a gift denied even to the Lords of Heaven—man alone in all creation's scale can win release.
    • p. 43. (23. Man)
  • On the empiric plane the Gītā teaches theism; it is not, then, surprising to find—still on the empiric plane—an emphasis on ethics absent from the earlier Upaniṣads. Krishna is never weary of telling Arjuna to be virtuous; his own sympathies are decidedly on the side of righteousness; it is to reestablish right when wrong prevails that he takes birth as man.
    • p. 45. (24. Good and Evil)
  • Just as the distinction between good and evil is valid only on the empiric plane, so on that plane alone man's will is free to choose, man is responsible for sin. In actual fact, where man is God and personal being a delusion the question of real freedom and responsibility cannot arise. It is this double view of truth —the higher and the lower—that explains the apparent weakness of Hindu doctrine in general (with its incurable inclination to pantheism), and the much-blamed 'inconsistency' of the Gītā, on the subject of freewill.
    • p. 47. (25. Freewill)
  • If the aim of life is to escape from life, the watchword of life must be Control. For if the wandering senses are allowed to dwell unchecked on objects of sense, attachment to those objects will arise and cause continual rebirth. The evil must be checked at its source; mind and sense must be restrained. Control, or balance of character, is called Yoga.
    • p. 52. (27. Yoga)
The Bhagavadgītā: Reading the First
  • Guarded by Bhīṣma, this our force is all too weak; and all too strong that force of theirs, by Bhīma guarded.
    • p. 75. (10.)
  • If Dhṛtarāṣṭra's men, with weapons in their hands, should slay me in the fight, unresisting and unarmed, that were happier for me!
    • p. 81. (46.)
  • Thus spoke Arjuna on the field of battle, and sat down upon the chariot seat, dropping his arrows and his bow, his soul o'erwhelmed with grief.
    • p. 81–82. (47.)
The Bhagavadgītā: Reading the Third
The Bhagavadgītā: Reading the Fourth
  • To Vivasvat I expounded this immutable doctrine of control; to Manu did Vivasvat declare it; Manu told it to Ikṣvāku.
    • p. 103. (1.)
  • The order of the four castes was created by me, with due distribution of Strands and works; I did that work indeed; yet know me as no worker and immutable.
    • p. 104. (13.)
The Bhagavadgītā: Reading the Fifth
  • But for those in whom that ignorance of Self is by knowledge destroyed, their knowledge like the sun illumines That Supreme.
    • p. 114. (16.)
The Bhagavadgītā: Reading the Sixth
  • For the saint who seeks to scale the heights of control work is said to be the means; when that same man has scaled the heights of control, quietude is said to be the means.
    • p. 117. (3.)
  • More excellent than the austere, more excellent even than men of knowledge is the Ascetic deemed; more excellent than workers is the Ascetic; therefore be thou Ascetic, Arjuna.
    • p. 123–24. (46.)
The Bhagavadgītā: Reading the Seventh
  • The senseless think that I am the unmanifest that has come to manifestation;(the meaning of 24 is most uncertain; commentators vary widely in their interpretations...) they do not know my higher being, immutable, supreme.
    • p. 129. (24.)
The Bhagavadgītā: Reading the Ninth
  • By me, in form unmanifest, is all this universe pervaded; all beings dwell in me, but I dwell not in them.
    • p. 139. (4.)
  • Fools scorn me when I dwell in human form: my higher being they know not as Great Lord of beings.
    • p. 141. (11.)
The Bhagavadgītā: Reading the Eleventh
  • Doom am I, that causes worlds to perish, matured and here come forth to destroy the worlds; even apart from thee (i.e. even without thine action. Th. (J. C. Thomson, 1855) translates: 'except thee,' and complains that the prophecy was not fulfilled.) not one of the warriors drawn up in ranks opposing shall survive.
    • p. 163. (32.)
The Bhagavadgītā: Reading the Twelfth
  • For better is knowledge than constant practice; and than knowledge meditation is more excellent; than meditation, abandonment of the fruit of work; after abandonment, peace ensues.
    • p. 169–70. (12.)
The Bhagavadgītā: Reading the Eighteenth
  • Better a man's own duty, though ill-done, than another's duty well-performed; if a man do the duty his own nature bids him, he incurs no stain.
    • p. 209. (47.)
  • O son of Kuntī, bound by thine own duty born of thine own nature, that thing which thou desirest not to do by reason of delusion thou shalt do, even against thy will.
    • p. 211. (60.)
  • The Lord, O Arjuna, dwells in the heart of every being, and by his delusive power spins round all beings set on the machine.
    • p. 211. (61.)
  • Where Kṛiṣṇa is, Lord of Control, where is the bowman, son of Pṛithā, there—so I hold—are fortune, triumph, welfare sure, and statesmanship.
    • p. 214–15. (78.)

Quotes about Hill[edit]

  • W. Douglas P. Hill, who in 1928 gave us the most outstanding English rendering of the text, was quite conscious of the difference between good and bad translations. He noted in his "Bibliographical Notes" that in the eighteen eighties and nineties the Bhagavadgītā had become "the playground of western pseudo-mystics." He did not appreciate the attempts that he grouped together as "Theosophical Versions"; he referred to the greater part of other works on the Gītā as comparatively worthless," and he added: "Hundreds of vernacular editions have found a home in the Indian Office Library, and still continue to encumber its reluctant shelves."

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