Book Review: my GITA

Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Published: 2015
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Pages: 246
My Rating & Recommendation: 4/5, I Strongly Recommend

my GITA is one of the numerous adaptations of the ‘Bhagwad Gita’, the book which has influenced the way of life of people across the world. In order to really make sense of a review for the book my GITA, it is necessary to know a bit about the Bhagwad Gita.

The ‘Bhagwad Gita‘, along with The ‘Ramayana‘ is the sacred book of the Hindu religion.

Across the world, The Bhagwad Gita is widely acknowledged and accepted as the book which transcends a particular religion and has the power to influence and transform the way of life of any individual seeking spiritual evolution and meaning in daily existence. 

The text of the Bhagwad Gita is basically a discourse given by Lord Shri Krishna (Hindu God) to Arjuna (a celebrated Pandava archer) before the start of a mega war (Mahabharat) between the two grand armies of Kauravas and Pandavas. Kauravas and Pandavas are cousins and the cause of their dispute is the accession of the kingdom of ‘Hastinapur’ to Pandavas as previously agreed but later denied by Kauravas. Just before the war is about to begin, Arjuna starts to feel guilt and remorse at the prospect of having to fight and kill his own family and gurus from whom he has learnt his skills. That’s when Shri Krishna, who is Arjuna’s charioteer during the war, gives a discourse answering Arjuna’s questions and addressing his apprehensions.

Lord Krishna through his discourse presents the vedic philosophy that governs life and talks about important issues such as ‘Dharma‘, the underlying value system that governs life , the power and meaning of the supreme being ‘Paramatma’, the existence of an individual beyond his body in the form of an ever transforming ‘Atma‘ and the divine purpose to connect “Atma to Paramatma” by performing Karma, Actions without Expectations of results.

Originally, the Bhagwad Gita was written in Sanskrit language. It has 18 chapters and a total of 700 shlokas (verses).

In my GITA, the author starts with giving an excellent overview of the history of Hinduism that encompasses evolution of religious texts through time and how the superiority of the Gita came into being. Thereafter, Devdutt has made a lot of bold attempts in presenting the original book. For one, this book is a very concise translated version of the original. Additionally, the sequence of the book has been altered as Devdutt has deliberately and meticulously bunched the shlokas spread across chapters to into concepts/themes which can be easily understood by the reader.

Most importantly, the author has attempted to contextualise the interpretations of the various shlokas which appeal to contemporary way of thinking . I really liked the parts where the conflicting views or impressions about the book have been tackled in a logical and rational manner. For instance, there are notions that the Gita is the book of war or why did Lord Krishna allow the war at all? I felt the author acknowledged the thought process and gently introduced an alternate way of thinking and explained how needless judgement inhibits the understanding of the underlying philosophy.

To his credit, Devdutt amply indicates the acceptance of the fact that his interpretation is not the only correct interpretation. Though I personally felt he was spot on most of times as his approach appears rational and grounded in logic. Overall, the book is a treasure trove of useful information and interesting perspectives about intriguing concepts such as Deha, Dehi, Niravana, Yoga (its various forms) and Brahmand (Universe). A lot of diagrams and pictures have been included which really helped me to understand the complex maze of the Vedic system, its evolution through eras and significantly, the wisdom of the Gita. This book is almost a perfect introduction for someone looking to start the journey of spiritual evolution, consciously or subconsciously. In short, reading this book might well be the first ‘Nishkaam Karma‘ (desire less action) is that direction. Happy Reading!

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