Saturday, February 13, 2016

Book Review: My Gita by Devdutt Pattnaik

The great epic Mahabharata has many versions to it. It has been told and retold throughout the history of mankind. Similarly, decoding Bhagavadgita too has been attempted by a numerous people. It was told by Krishna to Arjuna in the battlefield. Sanjay through his divine sight told what he saw to Dritharashtra. Since this is part of Mahabharata, Vyasa told this to all. Or Lord Ganesha put it in written format as he heard from Vyasa. This can go on but what is important is the message of the Gita. The circumstance was the highly skilled warrior Arjuna had got into a dilemma in the middle of the battlefield. Krishna succeeded in convincing him to pursue the war through his message which became a foundation stone for survival and revival of the Hindu religion since time unknown. From Adi Shankara to Swami Vivekananda have their own interpretations of the Gita. So is author of this book too, so he names this book “My Gita”. This is not a verse to verse translation or commentary like the majority of the books handle the subject but to explain the underlying themes to modern audience who do not have a deeper understanding of Hinduism and Vedanta or similar subject lines.

It has eighteen chapters to cover, each explaining a theme in a simple language with lots of charts, figures, decision tree, and flow diagrams etc. which help the reader to get the concept and logic right. I am giving the names of the first five chapters here which would help the reader to understand how it is arranged.

  • You and I do not have to judge
  • You and I have been here before
  • You and I experience life differently
  • You and I seek meaning
  • You and I have to face consequences

So goes the flow. There are enough examples (mostly taken from Mahabharata, Ramayana and Purana) to explain each theme in detail. For those who agree with the Gita, it can offer a great relief from mental trauma. Since we do not have to judge, and cannot control the outcome of our actions, we are neither the cause or the source of grief. We are responsible only for our actions but not the results. It also restricts from taking the wrong path too. Since it says we have to face the consequences of our actions in this life or next (though we may not remember of our previous life in the next birth), one needs to acquire good Karma through their actions to earn a better life. Until the soul is cleansed clean, birth-death cycle continues. It can be viewed either as a great philosophy or as a nice brain wash. I am not sure if this is a message of the God or creation of a human intellect, but I see great efforts in putting this together in explaining the whole life and things beyond it, in a logical way. Hindu’s believe this the rock bed of their religion and for right reasons. Earlier I was thinking it does not matter if you have read Gita or not but not anymore. Now I believe and suggest everyone to read Gita, irrespective of whether they are Hindu’s or Indians. This is meant for those seeking the meaning of the life. Gita would answer most (or all) of your questions and take away the burden of emotional stress, if you had any. You neither brought any thing to this world nor take it away. You can make cosmetic changes in this world but the spiritual aspects would never alter and is not affected by time. So the message of the Gita had remained same from time immemorial and would remain so forever, though interpretations may acquire different forms.

Devdutt Pattnaik is a popular author and a columnist. He demystifies mythology and brings forward the message hidden in them in an appreciable manner. I have been reading his columns for many years and reading this book of his did really help to improve my understanding of the Gita. Now I believe synthesis of two great epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata along with the Gita would open the doors to the spiritual world. They are the essence of all Veda and Upanishads but in the form of stories.