In Mandalay jail (in Myanmar), where Lokmanya Tilak was incarcerated, he penned Gita Rahasya, the saar or crux of the Bhagvad Gita, which according to him was the Karma Yoga or fundamental yoga. Tilak’s thrust was on action, which at that point of hour, was to stand up against the British rule.
Tilak employed the knowledge of scriptures to strengthen patriotism in the country, to awaken his country from the deep morass that it was steeped in and thus came about the treatise on the Bhagvad Gita.
For a layperson, the Gita is a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, on the brink of Kurukshetra war. Arjuna, in a dilemma whether it’s correct to kill his own kin (the Kauravas) or not, turns to Lord Krishna for guidance. The text runs into several stanzas, verses and chapters.
Many schools of thought have emerged from the Bhagvad Gita, trying to decipher the philosophy prescribed in it. Tilak’s Gita Rahasya examines all the forms of thoughts and towards the end, advocates that ‘the true spiritual knowledge therefore, is to know what is right for you and work accordingly.’
Reinterpreting Tilak’s Gita Rahasya, exploring the various philosophies, and applying them to the present day world, was no mean task. But scientist and author Arun Tiwari has accomplished it in a compact volume brought out by Sakal Publications.
The book titled, A Modern Interpretation of Lokmanya Tilak’s Gita Rahasya was written as an attempt to reach out to today’s youth and make them aware of India’s rich cultural and historical repository.
Talking about his thought process, Tiwari says, “The times that I grew up in were vastly different from today. We were a little more conscious about our country, heritage. We earned less money, but were more contented. At present, all I see is kids and youngsters engaging with their electronic gadgets, but not with each other. No one wants to look within; there is a lot of chaos around, and no meaningful discussion. I also see them becoming consumerist slaves, earning a big package, but leading hollow lives. So writing in English, their spoken tongue, is a deliberate attempt to make them aware of their rightful position in the world.”
Elaborating on the argument, the former DRDO scientist, adds, “The Gita Rahasya expounds on Stithpradnya. The closest English equivalent to it is ‘steady in wisdom’, and that’s what Lord Krishna would want all of us to be. A steady mind will back steady action, allow it to comprehend the right and the wrong...but this generation is not aware or bothered to find out what it is. How will they differentiate between right and wrong, when they have willingly ‘blindfolded’ themselves by what the corporates are offering? The youth are living in an illusion that they know everything. This is more dangerous.”
Moving on to answer a question about ‘a scientist writing/interpreting religion’, Tiwari, who has collaborated with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam on Wings of Fire, states, “I don’t believe in this dichotomy between a scientist and a philosopher. The distinction between science and religion is artificial. A scientist has to have a philosophical mind, else how can he imagine possibilities?
Tilak Maharaj was not a scientist, but the arguments he made in the Gita Rahasya befit a scientist’s mind — authoritative, well-thought out, well-researched and rational. It was a philosopher talking scientifically.”
Wise words indeed!