Sunday, October 7, 2007

A queer mixture of the East and West

“I have become a queer mixture of the East and the West, out of place everywhere, at home nowhere” said Jawaharlal Nehru.

I find myself in a similar situation, atleast partly. Thanks to the Western culture that has crept in majorly into our country, a lot of questions arise in the name of scientific thinking! Nehru felt out of place 60 years back because he was ahead of time but today I think this is common and atleast I don’t feel out of place now.

My daughter participated in a Bhagavad Gita recital competition recently and this turned my attention towards the Bhagavad Gita. The most important thing is that she won a prize and it was a pleasure watching the gleam in her eyes when she shared this news with me. Coming back to the Bhagavad gita, after some struggle going through some translations on the net, I finally managed to come across a simple translation in Tamil by Subramanya Bharathi. I really wonder why translations of great works are so complicated, whether it is the Gita or a Psychiatrist’s essay on dreams? Or is it my bad luck that I come across complicated translations always?

I was particularly impressed by the chapter on Karma Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita. The key message that impressed me was the stress on the need for action, the need for action to fulfill ones duties. Though the Gita stresses the need for a spiritual background to this in the chapters other than the one on Karma Yoga, as I read through the other chapters there were several questions that came up within me for which I did not have an answer.

I feel that the chapter on Karma yoga is still pertinent though the country has gone through several transformations over centuries. The thought that one can achieve salvation by just doing his duties is a total paradigm shift given that we always picturise yogis or sanyasis as people who have given up everything in life and roam around mostly in forests or mountains. More later on specific verses of the Gita in this chapter that impressed me.

An interesting question which came to mind as I read chapter 1 was , how could someone narrate this work running up to 18 chapters in a battle field when both sides were lined up and war was about to begin? To me chapters beyond the Karma yoga don’t seem to have relevance in the battle field and Chapter 3 should have been enough to convince Arjuna and get the war started. I have a feeling that Arjuna’s question in the battlefield triggered chapters upto Karma yoga and the other chapters were finished sometime later for a completeness sake. I don’t know if I sound like a non believer to you but this is the point I was alluding to at the beginning.

I am a queer mixture of the East and West but I still feel at home back home :-)

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