Thursday, 17 March 2016

Gift of Gita

When I left for Australia in 2008, my mother gave me the Gita as a parting gift. She wanted me to recite at least a chapter every morning, even though I was moving to distant lands. Being a Pandit’s daughter, I have grown up surrounded by the Hindu scriptures, such as the Bhagavat Gita, the Ramayan, the Mahabharat and different Puranas. Although I have great respect for these precious books, I never found the motivation or time to read or recite verses on a regular basis; I could satisfy my religious queries by listening to my parents.

I kept my mother’s priceless gift as a symbol of God in a sacred place in my bedroom, never thinking much of it until my mother unexpectedly passed away in April 2013. I came to Nepal in July of the same year to share my intense pain of loss with my father and other relatives. This time, when I was about to leave, my father gifted me the Gita that my mother used to recite every morning, with a beautiful written message: “Timri muwale sadhai path garne yo Komal Gitako pustak timilai smritiswarup - Buwa.” (I gift you this book of Komal Gita, which your mother used to recite every day, as a keepsake – Father). When I took the small book in my hands I suddenly felt the warmth of my mother’s tremendous love for me; it was truly an amazing feeling. Then and there I deeply realised why Jamie Sullivan, a main female character in Nicholas Sparks’s novel “A Walk to Remember” used to carry her deceased mother’s Bible everywhere she went.

This time I was determined not to leave the Komal Gita (Nepali version) unopened. I wanted to be near my mother and I felt the Gita would be the best link to her. In addition, I had to make sense of her abrupt departure. So I decided to recite a chapter from the Gita every morning as an offering to my mother, which she always wanted me to do. For the first time in my life I completed reading all 18 chapters, and I then went on to complete them twice, thrice... I have lost count.

I had only just started to put into perspective my mother’s passing when suddenly my father also passed away. At that time, I longed to be near my father spiritually. Eventually, I opened the Gita that my mother had gifted me which was written in Sanskrit with its interpretation in Hindi. I deliberately wanted to recite the Sanskrit verses as I had always heard my father doing so. I had assumed this language would help me get connected with him in a better way. As I had expected, I found great solace by reciting the verses.

I admit that I am not yet qualified to argue about the vast content of the Gita. Many scholars, who have devoted a great amount of their time, literally their lifetimes, to studying the Gita suggest that every time you read it, you will find interpret it in a slightly different manner. There are many layers of interpretation of this scripture and it is said that the Gita is the only book which has been most widely studied and appreciated all around the world.

Having acknowledged that, what I understand from the Gita is invaluable enough. Although it was
written thousands of years ago, its content is just as relevant to the contemporary world as it was at the time of its writing. This text teaches us how to live our lives being true human beings. Arjun, the questioner, represents people in general like us – full of worldly desires and confusion, and Krishna, the lord himself, answers every question raised by Arjun patiently and convincingly, so that eventually Arjun will be ready to do his immediate duty, i.e., to fight a war. It feels like ‘the war’ is an essential part of the universe. Can we not see such wars time and again in the world of today? Not only external wars, people fight their internal wars within themselves all the time; as swami Radhanath says, we have a bad dog as well as a good dog inside us and they always fight each other. Here, the bad dog indicates the physical qualities like ego, hate, anger, jealousy; and the good dog is related to the spiritual qualities such as compassion, forgiveness, peace, and self respect. The conversation between Arjun and the lord Krishna depicts the whole philosophy of life. The beauty of the Gita is that we can still follow the instructions given by Krishna and apply them in our lives to live meaningfully. It is full of spiritual gems. In a nutshell, the Bhagavat Gita is a “message spoken by the absolute truth telling us the absolute truth,” according to swami Radhanath, and I wholeheartedly concur.

I am grateful to my parents who gifted me the Gita. They made me read it and be aware of the precious knowledge available within its sacred cover. I wish every parent could make their children read the Gita to understand the true purpose of human life, and act accordingly whenever possible; this would be the greatest gift any parent could give to their child.

(Published in an English Daily The Kathmandu Post on Sunday, March 13, 2016) 

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