Book Name: My Gita
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
My Gita by Devdutt Pattanaik is a contemporary approach to the Indian epic, Bhagavad Gita, presented in the simplest of ways. Pattanaik chooses to elaborate on the recurrent themes in The Gita by taking a personal approach to each one of them.
And that is why he names the book – My Gita.
The connotation of ‘My’ in the title has a personalized feel to it, and it is as if the author directly speaks to you about the ideas in The Bhagvad Gita and their application to modern life. Pattanaik analyzes every aspect and every iota of what Krishna spoke to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra and presents to us a comprehensive view of The Gita. He also paraphrases important verses and makes it understandable for the young readers. However, the highlight of the book are the illustrations which make the narration easier to understand.
Similar to The Gita, Pattanaik’s My Gita is also divided into eighteen chapters. Each chapter focuses on a particular spiritual theme like observation (darshan), rebirth (atma), cause & consequence (karma), appropriate conduct (dharma), yagna (exchange), etc. He intelligently simplifies the three concepts: Karma, Bhakti and Gyana.
While The Gita speaks about disconnecting from material things, relationships & desires, Pattanaik emphasizes on reconnecting and forming relationships that are mutually nourishing. He explains this with a story of how Pandavas, who were born in the forest, returned to it when threatened by Kauravas, when they gamble away & are sentenced to exile and finally when they win the war and rule Hastinapur for many years.
After each return, they find themselves to be more wiser. They are able to reconnect and establish meaningful relationships.
Pattanaik elucidates this with another example of how Shiva, the hermit of Kailasa became the householder of Kashi, thereby concluding that My Gita is meant for readers who are wishing to find inner peace by reconnecting with their soul.
Pattanaik also tells us how we cling to our identity (aham) and property (kshetra). When these both are snatched away from us, we feel violated. Thus begins violence within us – both psychologically and physically. We feel hurt when something belonging to us is damaged or destroyed by some means. We cling to the property as ‘ours’, turn possessive about it and hence we disconnect ourselves from our atma (soul). Only when we learn to let go of what we consider as ‘ours’, do we realize there is much more to life than the property and identity. We identify ourselves with the relationships that we make, the titles that we achieve and the houses that we construct. Pattanaik tells us that we must not be defined by our social status, rather than we must have a heart to let go of our cravings and find peace.
Arjuna, those who keep thinking of property, get attached to it and crave it relentlessly, which causes frustration, which leads to anger, then confusion, then loss of memory, then loss of intelligence, and eventually destruction. – Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2, verses 62 and 63 (paraphrased).
Further, he explains how we have little control over our capabilities, since they are dependent on the three natural tendencies (gunas) that we possess. The gunas are – tamas, rajas and sattva.
Tamas guna takes us towards inertia, while Rajas guna initiates activity and Sattva guna enables balance. These three gunas cannot exist without each other. Pattanaik highlights that though human beings are dominantly sattvik, they show signs of rajas and tamaswhen situations insist.
Towards the end of the book, Pattanaik sums up his thoughts with the advice that we must learn to outgrow our hungers, fears & anxieties, show selfless affection towards our fellow human beings and foster each other through kind words and actions. He aptly concludes with these words:
Can you and I participate in a relationship without seeking to control the behavior 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.
Verdict: Those who are staunch followers or religiously attached to The Gita might find Pattanaik’s modern way of interpreting the concepts to be a little impudent. But My Gita is an enlightening ride for those who seek answers to their queries and nourishment for their soul, though the concepts might take time to register in the minds of the readers.
Click here to purchase a copy of My Gita by Devudutt Pattanaik.
This review was originally written for: Tell-A-Tale
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