Monday, December 14, 2015

Book Review : My Gita

Title : My Gita
Author : Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher : Rupa
ISBN : 978-81-3770-8

From the time when things started to register in mind and make sense, Bhagvad Gita has always intrigued me and inspired me. I enjoy reading Devdutt Pattanaik, is perhaps an understatement. So when these two got together, it was a combination that I had to pick up to read.

Devdutt has used a unique style to unravel the mystery behind Gita. He has adopted thematic rather than sequential approach so as to make it easily understandable and logical for contemporary readers. Related verses are picked up across eighteen chapters of Gita and are explained supported by related stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata, comparisons with other religious beliefs and folklores.

Author's beautiful articulation is at display right from the inside of the cover page where he succinctly talks about our indulgence for argument over dialogue (vi-vaad over sam-vaad) and how we are isolating self at the cost of ignoring the common co-existence. He gently reminds the readers, 'we forget that we live in an ecosystem of others, where we can nourish each other with food, love and meaning, even when we fight.' Hence he wishes to 'let My Gita inform your Gita'.

The eighteen themes are categorised as - Karma, Dharma, rebirth, self and other (jiv-atma and parmatma), attachment-detachment(moha-moksha), maya and so on. The Greek and Arabic mythological texts have also been brought in for comparison and for different interpretations of the same terms and themes through out the narrative. The book is abound with Devdutt's signature illustrations, maps and flow charts which work as great aids for understanding.

While My Gita tries to simplify the Gita, it is very high on philosophical content which makes it a slow read. However, I feel, it does solve the purpose for which it is written - it gently nudges the readers to introspect and bring in mindfulness to every action and every thought, while on various occasions, it liberates the readers from unnecessary and imaginary shackles. And that is exactly what the Gita does to a thinking mind.

Though every verse of the Gita is overflowing with wisdom and intelligence that can help one sail through the vicissitudes of life comfortably, yet one can pick and adopt just one to begin with. If I have to pick, then it has to be the one which brings focus on 'informed action' and 'detached action'. The combination of the two teaches us that the opposite or contrary forces are actually complimentary, which may appear to be quite divergent. 
The author brings this out beautifully in the following passage:

"Arjun asks whether Krishna values knowledge over action. Krishna replies that he values informed action. Arjun asks if Krishna values action over renunciation. Krishna replies that he values detached action. Informing the mind about the exchange and detaching action from the expectation of results demand that Arjun take an inner journey."

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