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Friday, October 30, 2015


Yesterday my father told me he was considering writing something based on the Bhagavad Gita. If you don't know - and if you read these posts of mine you should, since I have brought up this ancient scripture at least a dozen times - the setting of the Gita is the field of battle during the Kurukshetra War which took place in India around 5000 B.C. The warrior Arjuna tells his charioteer, Krishna, who also happens to be a Hindu God, that he is reluctant to participate in the war. On one side he will encounter family, on the other side stand his friends. Krishna (standing outside of time, speaking as God through man) tells his warrior friend that the Lord already knows the outcome, which has been decided since the beginning of time. And all Arjuna must do is to act his part, which as member of the Hindu warrior class (Kshatriya, which incidentally was also the class of the Buddha who was born 4500 years later), is to fight, and to do so to the best of his ability. Krishna introduces the concept of nishkama karma, or dispassionate action. It means trying one's best at every moment, without concern for the fruits of one's deeds. Whatever it is you are supposed to do, do it to the utmost of your ability. Let excellence be your motivation, not self-aggrandizement and gratification. Let your successes serve others rather than pamper your ego.

My father found this advice very helpful in his own life when as an up-and-coming attorney he first read the book 45 years ago. He was also embarking on the spiritual path, and considering abandoning worldly pursuits, but the book spoke to him, and the message he got was to be in the world, not of it, to have his hands in society, and his head in the forest. He need not retreat to some secluded haunt to meditate and realize God. He could make of his mind a forest retreat while as an upstanding citizen contributing to society in the way he knew best, which was to fight (court battles) and practice law.

For the Gita can be read as a metaphor for life. We may not be warriors, but life, which is often a struggle met with antagonism on every side, can be characterized as a fight. And at each moment we are waging an inner battle, between our lower, ego-based individualized personalities, and our higher Self, which is ageless, timeless, deathless Fineness, which is Bliss. And yet many are there in today's age who are forced either by circumstance or impelled by a desire for glory to enter the fray, literally. To enlist in the army and be stationed in the Middle East or in one of the dozens of other countries that America's troops occupy. (For reasons unknown to me, tens of thousands of our troops currently reside in Germany. Huh?)

And so I suggested to my father that writing such a book, an interpretation of the Gita with an application to his own life and to the life of the modern warrior/soldier would be a timely and valuable contribution to literature which would also be of great service to his fellow men. He could pattern his book after the ancient text, with as many chapters, featuring summaries, personal anecdotes, and practical applications the reader may use in the battle of his own life. Or my dad could create a YouTube channel, and dressed in a coat and tie rather than a robe and beads, which would be a bit of a travesty, give short lectures on the sacred tale. The Great Courses offers another model. If dad wished, he could expand his book into a series of say, 24 30-minute lectures and make them available in either CD or DVD form to our nation's troops. My father, a bit overwhelmed by all this free advice, yawned and said he'd consider what I had said, though the practice of law still keeps him super busy, and how about them Patriots! Before we got off the phone, I reminded dad that to my knowledge such a book, or lecture, had never been done before. "It will be unique," I said. "You can call it The Wisdom of the Gita."

After we hung up I did an Amazon search using the title I had suggested and as I should have guessed there are a half a dozen books already written with Wisdom and Gita in the title. None of them have been very successful. Is there nothing new under the sun? Has everything already been done before? What's the use of doing anything if similar versions have already been released and ignored? Truly, there is very little in the world today that can be called original. Books have been written, books about books have been written, and books about books about books, etc. Even the lives of ancient masters bear striking resemblances to one another. I am reading Huston Smith's classic book The Religions of Man to discover that, though separated in time by 500 years and 3500 miles, the lives of Buddha and Jesus Christ were strikingly similar. Both began their ministry around the age of 30, both were born into one religion (Buddha was Hindu, Christ a Jew) only to reform it and evolve a new religion in its place (Buddhism and Christianity). And many other similarities besides, including their teachings and parables. If the lives of these highly original thinkers, these great God-men, weren't entirely unique, what about yours and mine?

It's true, the events that comprise your day will probably not make a Lifetime movie of the week any time soon. How many others start their day with coffee and a bm, hit traffic on the way to work, plaster themselves to a chair with their eyes glued to a screen for the bulk of the day and watch Game of Thrones or House of Cards or Sons of Anarchy before turning in, only to repeat it all the next day, and the next, and so forth? Lamentably, too many to count. And how many get their opinions from those TV shows, and form desires based on the advertisements that fall in between, and are pushed this way and that by obligations and public opinion only to wonder what the hell am I living for, is consumerism the be-all-end-all of existence, am I nothing more than a pod person?

But the insights, your personal insights, the revelations you draw from these daily experiences, however banal the experiences are in themselves, these are yours and yours alone. And even in today's supersaturated media-driven age, these unique insights on life's everyday experiences are relevant to the times and may even be inspiring, to businessmen, troops, homemakers, and everyone else, provided you write them down. They can be your legacy if you communicate them to others, and if nobody reads or watches what you write or say, your insights are still of benefit to you.

So I still say my father should write his book. If nobody else reads a single world, he will have benefitted by the experience. Just as I have by writing this. And so the world will have been made a better place. All that remains is to come up with a catchy title.

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