Publisher: Rupa Publications
Price: 295 INR
“Can you and I participate in a relationship without seeking to control the behaviour of the other?
Can we help each other outgrow our hungers and fears? Then we are on the path of brahma-nirvana. When we derive joy from within, not from achievements outside, we are on the path of atma-rati.”
‘My Gita’ is the way Devdutt Pattnaik chooses to inform your Gita. It is a rather comprehensive interpretation of the discourse that Krishna has with Arjuna on the battle field of Kurukshetra during the Mahabharata. Pattnaik analyses all the different aspects and elements that Krishna talks about by paraphrasing the shloka or the verses in the Bhagavata Gita and explains them by narrating some interesting stories.
He divides his book into eighteen chapters and simplifies them. Never before has the Gita been read as a piece of fine ancient Indian literature that presents solutions to dilemmas in three different ways: Karma Yoga (action), Bhakti Yoga (renunciation) and Gyana Yoga (knowledge). This book is not a retelling or a mere translation of the Gita. It sets itself apart because it discusses the philosophy that Krishna tries to impart to Arjuna.
The author discusses the relation between identity and property. Mostly, people associate their identity with their property, take that away and they feel violated. He explains this with an anecdote about how the Buddha’s disciples after his death cremate his body but collect his hair, teeth, nails and bones and place them in stupas as relics to be worshipped. His disciples did not identify themselves with the Buddha’s teachings but with his bodily presence.
Throughout the book, Pattnaik reinstates that the Gita is the doctrine of the householder and not the hermit that chooses to withdraw from the material world. And that it seeks to strike a balance between the material and austere, is complex to understand but is clarified when the writer narrates the story of how the Pandavas were born in the forest, then they return for the first time when their life is threatened by the Kauravas, for the second time after they are banished from Hastinapur and for the third and final time after they have won the war and ruled the kingdom for several years. They are wiser and more connected each time they return.
Though an enjoyable read, the ideas presented in this book may not instantly be understood because of the writer’s tendency to metaphorise everything. The anecdotes are refreshing without which the book would be dry and complicated. Each chapter is simplified by Pattnaik’s interesting pen drawings.
‘My Gita’ is a very subjective interpretation, yet it does not take any sides. The book urges the reader to re-evaluate his/her beliefs by not placing biases on the so called right or wrong. In a time where religion is placed above reason, Devdutt Pattnaik has struck the right chord by engaging with Krishna’s teachings rather that blindly choosing to follow them.
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