Book: My Gita
Author: Devdutt Patnaik
Publishers: Rupa Publications
Genre: Non fiction/ philosophy
Devdutt Patnaik is a master story-teller no doubt. He narrates mythological stories in easy and simple to understand words with apt and crisp illustrations along with the text. The two books “Jaya” and “Sita” that I read, showcase his amusing takes on mythological stories.
With a limited knowledge of Gita and its verses, I wanted to read Devdutt Patnaik’s version. I finally could lay my hands on his recent offering “My Gita”. After reading the first few pages I realised that keeping in mind to not ruffle any feathers of vigilante moral brigade of the country, he has titled the book as “My Gita” and reasoned that it is not the translation of much revered original text but his understanding of the most popular book of Hindus. “Let my Gita inform your Gita” he says.
He has attempted to simplify by not writing it in sequence as the original book but has reorganised it according to themes. The book is divided into eighteen themes like the concept of rebirth (Atma), our deeds and their reaction (Karma), our conduct (Dharma) similar to the eighteen chapters of The Gita. The book also has a brief history to understand the timeline when the original text was written. Citing examples from other beliefs and faiths, namely Jainism and Buddhism, the author has brought out difference in meaning of words like soul and atma, moksha and nirvana.
The Abrahmic and Greek concepts have also been cross-referenced throughout to emphasise on different thought processes like the concept of rebirth and gaining knowledge rather than changing the world and placing one’s value in the achievements of the lifetime.
I, for one, had a peek within. I learnt that my “fear of losing opportunities, fear of achievement, fear of abandonment is all because of lack of conceptual clarity” I need to believe in myself and have more faith and realize that I too make the world meaningful, then I could be free of all worries because lack of faith results in hopelessness and rage…..That I can only control what I do but not other person’s reaction to my action or the outcome of my efforts and I must just act to best of my capabilities without expectations… nishkama karma.
Author has paraphrased the verses in simpler words to let each person understand as per his or her own capacity. So in a way Devdutt Patnaik’s Gita has managed to inform ‘my’ Gita.
Though author has tried best to simplify, but the book is not an ordinary read to breeze through. With lot of philosophy involved, at times I got little confused and my attention was lost and that is the reason that the book needs to be understood in an un-hurried way. Those who have read the original verses of the The Gita may not completely agree with the author’s ideas.
Though I find it easier and faster to read stories in English but somehow for this book I wished it was in native language Hindi to feel closer to and understand the words deha, atma, samvad, vivad, yoga, viyog, dharma etc.
And yet I would read this book again at much slower pace to understand author’s viewpoint properly.