By Richa Tilokani
When I first told my sister I wanted to write on my favourite book, the Bhagavad Gita, she supported me wholeheartedly, “You must. After all, it is one of the most sacred books in the world and many pundits and philosophers have written on it.” Great, no pressure, then.
Well, I was neither of the two (my friends would agree), but I could approach it in a way a lay person would understand, as I had the unique advantage of being one myself. Since I was taught the Gita from a young age by my granddad, an eminent scholar and prolific author, I believed I could attempt a simple translation introducing its treasure trove of wisdom to first-time readers.
When I started writing, I also kept in mind those readers who had struggled with its complexity and depth or faced a language barrier. So I began by simplifying and explaining its basic concepts in an easy-to-read manner for them. Then, I divided the teachings into smaller paragraphs, including bullet points, and examples wherever possible.
I also sought to address the common misconception about it: that it is suitable for retirees, or for those who want to live and meditate in a forest. First of all, good luck finding one nearby and, secondly, if that was the case, wouldn’t Lord Krishna have advised Arjuna to leave everything and go to the said forest? On the contrary, he advised him to always help those in need, to strive for what is right and to never shirk his duty.
In fact, the Gita advises one to balance both material and spiritual goals, while embarking on the journey of self-empowerment. No wonder, then, it is a source of inspiration for millions of families around the world (including ours) and has influenced many self-help books and several new-age gurus, as well.
And as we battle the Covid pandemic, the Gita’s teachings have never been more relevant. They are a soothing and calming presence as we navigate the new normal, although there is nothing normal about living in lockdown and social isolation.
But through these difficult times, it is possible to strive for a positive outlook using the Gita’s message of hope, peace, love and equality (a personal favourite). It inspires us to never give up, to end discrimination based on social status, gender, caste, creed, religion, and nationality, and to live in harmony with each other.
But with so many communities and countries still busy fighting with each other, perhaps we need more time to imbibe its essence – after all, it’s only been 5000 years since it was first shared.
And so, finally, after all the writing, rewriting, editing, redrafting, proof reading, rechecking, and did I mention rewriting, I was able to finish the book on the planned date (deadlines are flexible, right?).
It’s now over to the readers – I hope they will savour and benefit from the Gita’s timeless teachings that can address the challenges of modern life. Now whether they choose to do that at home or in a forest is up to them.
Richa Tilokani is a Chennai-based media and communications professional, and the author of The Teachings of Bhagavad Gita: Timeless Wisdom for the Modern Age (Hay House India, Rs 399)