Devdutt Patnaik’s “My Gita”

Book: My Gita

Author: Devdutt Patnaik

Publishers: Rupa Publications

Genre: Non fiction/ philosophy

My GitaDevdutt 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.

Krishna: The Master Illusionist

Many may have heard about Hindu God Lord Krishna and his message to civilization in form of ‘Gita Updesh‘. ISCON (International Society for Krishna Conciousness) formed in 1966 in New York and works on principles of Gita of selfless actions  has many followers in Eastern Europe besides India.

Krishna, Lord Vishnu’s incarnation, is known as ‘Leela Purushottam’ besides many other names as ‘makhan chor’ or the butter thief, ‘chitchor’ or the one who steals hearts, ‘chhaliya’ or the one who dupes.

Leela‘ means game or illusion. ‘Purush‘ is man and ‘uttama‘ is the supreme. According to mythological stories, Krishna, all his life, created many illusions to make humans understand the rights and wrongs of the society. He bent the accepted rules and norms of society challenging their usefulness. Since his birth, he created illusions to bring order in the world and punish those who troubled the weak and innocent. Hence the name ‘Leela Purushottama‘.

Krishna’s maternal uncle King Kansa of Mathura imprisoned his pregnant sister and brother-in-law because of a prophecy which warned Kansa that he would be killed by the son of his sister. Kansa killed all the new born babies of his sister. However, when Krishna was born, the jail guards miraculously dozed off and Krishna’s father escaped the jail, crossed a flooded river and delivered the new-born safely to a friend’s home. It was Krishna’s leela or illusion which prevented Kansa to find out about the escape

As a kid, Krishna played in the mud and put it in his mouth. His mother, lovingly scolded him and asked what he had in his mouth. His mother realised, as soon as Krishna opened his mouth, that her son was no ordinary human being but an incarnation of God Vishnu because there in his mouth, she could see the universe, the sun, moon, stars and earth.

Krishna was brought up among cow-herdsmen. He played melodious flute when he took the cows to graze. The cows and humans were enchanted with him and his flute. The milkmaids, loved this dark and handsome young man who played the flute so beautifully. Everyone worshipped and wished Krishna to be for each one of them. To make all his devotees happy, he would create an illusion where each milkmaid felt his presence and danced in trance.

During one of the 18 days war of Mahabharata when he gave the sermon of ‘Gita’ to the prince Arjuna, he created the illusion of dusk which called for the warring sides to end the particular day’s fighting. By creating such an illusion he prevented the ill-intentioned and corrupt and cheating  Kaurava  princes from being unfair to the Pandav princes, thus changing the fate of the doomed war in favor of Pandav princes who followed every rule of war.

Why did Krishna create illusions? Did he want the unfair ones have a taste of their own designs?

He made sure that the rules which made some people of the society powerful, were challenged to protect the weaker people of society and for that he created such occasions where the unfair were brought to book.

KThis post is also for A to Z Challenge.

Poem : Tum Kab Aaoge(when will you come?)

अधर्म  हो चला है अब सहन से परे,
दुर्योधन, दुशासन हैं अब हर ओर खड़े,
कहीं कोई चीर करे हरण,
कहीं चरित्र करे कोई हनन,
अग्नि परीक्षा देकर भी,
नारी के ही भर आयें नयन
कर हर आयु की मर्यादा का उल्लंघन,
आज का रावण लगा रहा हर जीवन पर ग्रहण,
अरे कृष्ण , तुमने कहा था ….
करने रक्षा और स्थापित करने धर्म ,
हर युग में आओगे लेकर जन्म,
किन्तु है, तुम्हे अभी भी प्रतीक्षा,
कि मानव का हो और पतन…
हे कृष्णा, चेतो, नारी का हो रहा है भक्षण,
जगत जननी को और कितना रुलाओगे?
इस युग के असुरों का संहार करने,
ओ देवा, कृष्णा तुम कब आओगे?

These days the news papers are full of news about rapes and sexual harassment of all age groups of women. It seems no woman or child is safe in any city of our country.

The poem says that like “Prince Duryodhan” and “Prince Dushasan”, the villains of “Mahabharat” who harassed the queen Draupadi, wife of Pandav princes, while all courtiers stood as helpless witness, the men these days, have been ill treating women everywhere. According to  the scripture “Bhagvad Geeta ” in the epic “Mahabharat” of Hindu Mythology, whenever sins would increase on earth Lord Krishna will be back on earth to slay the demons and bring peace and happiness to the mankind. This poem  asks Lord Krishna when would he fulfill his promise.