Devdutt Pattanaik’s My Gita is indeed a different take on the Bhagwat Gita. It underlines the changes that Hinduism underwent when it progressed from the Vedic times to the Puranic times. It also tells us the influence which Buddhism and Jainism had on Hindu religion. There was no idol worship during the Vedic times. It emerged only during the Puranic times. Hinduism was essentially a religion of householders. Hindus laughed at Jain and Buddhists ascetics who renounced the world. But with growing influence of the latter two religions Hinduism too started its own school of renunciation called Sanyasa.
According to the author the Gita is the book of householders. It is not about denouncing the world. It is about facing the everyday struggle which living involves. According him the very act of farming involves violence. There cannot be any life without violence. Only the non-living are non-violent for they are not hungry. The living eat and eating involves violence. The difference lies in our state of mind. In the animal world when a predator hunts its prey, there are no any feelings involved. The former is looking for food, the latter tries to save his life. But there is animosity towards each other. The predator is not a villain and the prey is not a victim. But we humans are different. We feel. The essence of the Gita is to perform your duties as offerings to the God.
The author very successfully distinguishes the judgment from darshan by saying in judgment, the world is divided: good and bad, innocent and guilty, polluted and pure, oppressor and oppressed, privileged and the unprivileged, powerful and the powerless. In darshan, one sees a fluid world of cause and consequence, where there are no divisions, boundaries, hierarchies and rules.
The author reveals many interesting meanings behind the Hindu customs. According to him fire offers liberation and water entrapment. Hence the corpse is first burned and then the ashes and bones are cast in the river.
The book very aptly distinguishes between Moksha and Dharma. Mokhsa is abandoning the relationships. Dharma binds people to society. Today Moksha is looked at as a goal of life. But according to the author in rebirth cultures there are no expiry dates, hence no goals, only pursuits that can make our endless life meaningful – purusha-artha.
The book offers interesting insights on the Gita. The book is full of illustrations and diagrams, which I feel are nothing but repetitions of the text, hence uninteresting. The book will open many hidden treasures for you. It will be of help if you have been reading about Indian philosophy or else you may even find the book to be heavy and dry. But that doesn’t undermine the value of the book.