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Updated: December 11, 2013 18:56 IST

Words of wisdom

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J.S. Mishra
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J.S. Mishra

J.S. Mishra conveys the essence of the Bhagavad Gita for impressionable minds in his aptly titled work “Art of Life”

As he begins talking about the Bhagavad Gita, one can literally hear in J.S. Mishra’s voice his immense respect and love for the text and his passion for the endeavour he undertook to come up with a shorter version of it, to bridge the gap between those who study the Gita as scholars or researchers and those who most often overlook it as an ancient slice of wisdom irrelevant to their contemporary lives.

Aptly titled “Art of Life”, his collection of 125 shlokas that make up what is, in his view, the core of the Gita and its message, foregrounds what is quite literally a way of living, and one that can apply to any age. “Any great scripture must address the issues and problems of society and indicate their solution, and its messages, wisdom and lessons should have relevance and validity for any time to come in any part of the world. That is where the Gita’s greatest strength lies,” he believes, and says of his version of the text that it has been simplified especially to reach the younger generation, whose minds are most prone to conflict, dilemma and delusion.

He points out how the questions are addressed to Lord Krishna not by Yudhishthira — the eldest and calmest of the Pandavas in the Mahabharata — but by Arjuna, the young warrior: “As he stood before the Kurus, there was a conflict of emotions and the search for a sense of what is right and should prevail. Krishna identified his problem as his attachment to those he stood facing for war, gurus who had taught him, elders who had brought him up...this ignorance born out of attachment and desires happens to any young man or woman today, and to us all, in fact. The main challenge is to achieve a tranquillity of mind and perform one’s duty without dwelling on one’s attachment to the action performed or one’s expectation of the outcome. Someone has to lead a family, another person a team, a corporation, an organisation: he/she will need to have a vision, balance and awareness, and that is what the Gita teaches.”

Remembering how he was fascinated by the text at the age of 12, Mishra says that the beauty of the book lies in the fact that different people can derive different things from it but at the heart of it lies the idea that a good society needs good people, and one needs to perform one’s prescribed duty well in order to be on the right path. “Krishna has called one’s prescribed duty one’s dharma. The sun’s dharma is to give light, a flower’s to spread fragrance and so on,” he says, and hopes that his collection of shlokas and his interpretation of them in the most simple and direct manner possible, will create an avenue for the Gita’s lessons to reach the young minds of today.

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