Bhagavatgita has always been presented as a religious scripture of the Hindus embodying Lord Krishna'sadvice to Arjuna in the battlefield of Mahabharatha. A gospel par excellence. But Professor Damodar Thakur, in his recent book ?Gita?The song Extraordinary? published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, presents the Gita not as a scripture belonging to one religion but as a treatise for the entire humanity, transcending the religious, cultural and linguistic barriers. He believes that if the Gita is for the humanity, then it should be understandable to the common men and women, not just the elite, ascetics and philosophers and ?its message?(should be)? valid in the context of the ideological concerns and the rational and scientific temper of today? (p.5)
Almost all translators, Indian and foreign, present ?Krishna? as a godhead, but Thakur has made a bold departure to present ?Krishna? as an ?ideal?, which ?is a person, a highly evolved personality who embodies the wisdom of all religions and all ages. ?.Some call him Krishna, some others call him Christ or Moses or Mohammed or Nanak or Zarathustra ?.the same fire assuming different modes of light.? (p.178) His rational reading of the Gita is evident in his interpretation of the verse that includes the oft-quoted gist of the Gita: Do your duty; don'texpect the fruit of your work. Almost all translators have interpreted it with the emphasis on ?abandoning the fruit of action?. But Thakur says ? to say (as other translators do) that we have no ?claim? to the remuneration for the work we are doing amounts to saying something that smacks of cruel and unhealthy dictatorship and militates against the very concept of man'sdignity and his rightful expectations as we understand them these days?. (p.115-116)
So, to him, ?the metaphor of fruit suggests ?. if we are fully and firmly convinced that there is something we ought to do, we must take a bold and courageous stand and go ahead and do it without being worried too much about the fruit of action?. (p.117)
Illustrating from the lives of Thomas Edison and Abraham Lincoln, Thakur says, ?? the lives of so many other great men and women, can be quoted as excellent examples of enormous advantages of concentrating on the effort, instead of obsessively concerned all the time about the result of the efforts.? (p.119) Quoting Kabir and Rahim, two great Indian poets, who say that a tree never bears fruit and a river never stores water expecting any return, Thakur affirms that the philosophy of the Gita is that we must concentrate on what is worth doing in our lives without all the time worrying about the returns of our action.
Another evidence for his rational reading, which is ?out and out original?, according to Dr Ram Karan Sharma, one of the commentators, and ?bold and original?, according to Dr Karan Singh, who has written the foreword to the book, can be his interpretation of another important verse in which Krishna exhibits his innumerable celestial forms for Arjuna to see; Thakur says, ?..This verse is a brave and courageous declaration of the fact that spiritual endeavour has taken hundreds and thousands of shapes and forms. It is by implication a frank rejection of the view that one religion is good and all the others bad. Its message is that one should behold all religions and all sects with equal respect?. (p.292)
In my personal opinion, there can never be a bolder, more secular and more rational interpretation to the Gita, which has all the time been presented as a scripture of one religion, one sect and one culture. There is more in Thakur'sbook to call it a rational reading of the Gita.
To conclude, Professor Thakur, with his exemplary knowledge of Hindi, Sanskrit and English and a rich experience of teaching English literature and linguistics for more than four decades in India and Yemen, presents Bhagavatgita, a well-known religious scripture, as he understands it, demystifying it, not desantifying it, for the common men and women to read and understand. His rational reading of the Gita refreshes the minds of the readers empowering them to interpret it, as they understand it.
(Prof. Bose wrote this piece on the book Bhagavathgita?A rational reading by Prof. Damodar Thakur. The writer is, a professor at Faculty of Arts, Ibb Republic of Yemen and Prof. Damodar Thakur is currently teaching in Sana'sUniversity, Yemen.)