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Musings on My Gita

Devdutt Pattanaik. Photo: R. Ragu  

Author Devdutt Pattanaik gives no room for argument. After a 40-minute session on his latest book My Gita — his interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita — when someone in the audience picks at snippets from his talk, Devdutt coolly replies — “That is your Gita, this is My Gita.” Here are six takeaways from the mythologist, who is famous for his books — 7 Secrets of Shiva, 7 Secrets of Vishnu, 7 Secrets of Hindu Calendar Art, among others.

There is no truest interpretation

I have a problem with the idea of one truth. It creates hierarchy. My truth is the way I think the world is; and yours is how you think it is. Now, who is true between the two? To find this, we invite the judge — thus creating a hierarchy. I have a problem with that.

There is no true victory

Even after Yudhishtira is crowned, does Arjuna feel a sense of victory? No. His family is lost, his teacher is dead, and he does not get any wiser.

No good or bad

Only if there were asuras, could there have been devas. Only then they could have churned the ocean of milk to get the nectar.

There is constant tension between the hermit and householder

In Buddhism, a man walks out on his responsibilities and goes to a forest in search of an answer to suffering. He returns a hermit — not as a better father, son or husband. His wisdom ruptures all his relationships. In the Mahabharata, which was written in the post-Buddhist period, Arjuna gets wisdom in the middle of the battlefield. While in Buddhism, a man is asked to withdraw from the world by shutting his eyes and doing dhyan, in the Mahabharata, he is asked to open his eyes wide and see what’s going on around him.

Monasticism overshadows the Indian thought

If you see, all great commentators are monks. Take for example (Sant) Gnaneswar, who translated the Gita in Marathi.

He and his brother were neglected by their parents, who took off to a far-off land to become sanyasis, abandoning their responsibility. The children were not accepted by the villagers. While Gnaneswar ideally should have been angered with the situation, he was at peace, as he had acquired wisdom from the sages. The theme of renunciation is quite often used.

Take another example — Gandhi: he never wanted to portray himself as a householder.

Give to get

Yagna, a word that is repeated many times in the Gita, seems to be translated wrongly as ‘sacrifice’, when it means ‘exchange’.

It is an indicator of humanity. You give something, and in return you get. Nowadays, that doesn’t seem to happen. Everybody clings to their territory, resulting in a tug of war.


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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 5:45:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Musings-on-My-Gita/article14003225.ece

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