The text and context make it eternal, if not more alluring
By Dr Vaidehi Nathan
Krishna’s Other Song: A New Look at the Uddhava Gita, Steven J Rosen, Jaico Publishing House, Pp 293 (PB), Rs 295
Uddhava is one of the param bhakta (ardent devotee) of Krishna. He had recognised and worshipped Him right from childhood. He was near-inseparable from Krishna. Uddhava was such a great scholar that Mahatma Vidhur wanted to be his student. Uddhava Gita is one of the most celebrated books, though not popular like the other—Bhagavat Gita. Steven J Rosen, a Sanskrit scholar and disciple of His Holiness Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has rendered Uddhava Gita in English translation in Krishna’s Other Song for making it accessible to ordinary readers. Uddhava Gita is part of the Mahabhagavata. Says Rosen “Among the Vaishnavas and Hindus in general, the Uddhava Gita is one of the most frequently quoted sections of the Bhagavata. It is unmatched in its systematic development of detachment and the contemplative life to passionate love, from the organisation of society to a theology of nature that us spiritually informed. Ultimately it teaches the secrets of love of God.”
Uddhava Gita is Krishna’s last instructions before he left his mortal body. According to legend, Uddhava was aware that Krishna was leaving. He beseeched Him to be taken along. Krishna asked him to stay on and promote the cult of Bhakti as Kaliyuga was starting and people needed to be inculcated into faith. “As opposed to the Bhagavat Gita, which Krishna originally spoke for Arjuna’s benefit on the eve of what was to be devastating batttle, the Uddhava Gita was relayed to Uddhava for the purpose of enlightening sages—he was to go to the Himalayas and, once there, to brighten the light of those who already were set ablaze with transcendental knowledge. They, in turn, were to share this knowledge with the world” says Rosen, to reiterate that Uddhava Gita is a text higher in level than the Bhagavat Gita.
Rosen in the introduction to the book euologises Uddhava. When Krishna was in Mathura, and the people of Braj were wallowing in utter sorrow, Krishna sent Uddhava to pacify the gopis and others. Uddhava’s message delivered on the occasion is known as Uddhava-sandesh. “It follows in a long line of duta-kavya or “messenger” literature.” Uddhava tells them to be able to see Krishna spiritually, in their heart of hearts.
In the Uddhava Gita Uddhava asked Krishna to list His divine attributes, to enable devotees to contemplate and mediate on Him. Krishna tells Uddhava that the same question had been asked by Arjuna and proceeds to answer him. He adds several attributes not mentioned in Bhagavat Gita like “Among jewels, I am the ruby, and among flowers the lotus.” Krishna conveys to Uddhava the art of meditation,, explaining that meditation reaches its perfection when one learns how to meditate on Him directly. “As the Uddhava Gita comes to close, Krishna again emphasizes the importance of Bhakti-yoga, or devotion to Him, and makes two additonal points: First, he asks Uddhava to try to see the Supreme Soul, Krishna Himself, in all living beings and at all times… Second, Krishna tells Uddhava to renounce the world and accept the life of mendicant.”
In the Foreword to the book, Charles SJ White, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religion, American University, Washington DC praises the book for its readability and accesssibility. The previous translations (five or six) are dense, unwieldy and heavy. “While giving the reader all of the text’s 1,030 verses in plain English, it offers an accessible commentary, espcially written for modern students of Hinduism and South Asian studies—as well as for those with a penchant for Indian spirituality.”
(Jaico Publishing House, A-2 Jash Chambers, 7-A Sir Phirozshah Mehta Road, Fort, Mumbai – 400 001)
The flourishing fabulous beauty market
By Dr Vaidehi Nathan
Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital, Catherine Hakim, Allen Lane, Pp 372 (HB), £20
The emphasis that the Americans place on good looks cannot be overstated. But when it gets translated into a ‘science’ it becomes ridiculous. Because the definition of beauty or good looks gets narrowed down white skin, coloured hair, rich lips and long thin bodies. Catherine Hakim in her book Honey Money – The Power of Erotic Capital emphasises that beautiful people enjoy advantages right from birth. They are immeidtaely judged as being intelligent, competent and good. This ofcourse clashes with the older theory on women — that beauty and brains cannot go together.
Catherine looks at the good looks as a human ‘asset’ which has been overlooked for too long. She calls it the ‘erotic capital.’ It is a combination of “beauty, sex appeal, liveliness, a talent for dressing well, charm and social skills and sexual competence. It is a mixture of physical and social attractivness.”
The book discusses a whole range of issues involving the body, the looks, with a natural corollary of sex and related topics. Catherine discusses how siblings are treated differently by parents because one is better looking than the other. The good looks today comes at an enormous cost. People invest in enhancing their looks, social presentation, sexual appeal and sexuality. Gone are the days when ‘beautiful’ women dominated only the entertainment field. Today, beauty has become part of a valuable CV for men and women. Catherine gives several case histories of individuals who turned themselves out better and got beter returns in life. “Attractive people draw others to them, as friends, lovers, colleagues, customers, clients, fans, followers, supporters and sponsors. This works for men and women. Indeed, the ‘beauty premium’ seems to be larger for men than for woman in public life, most notably in the workforce, where it can add 10 to 20 per cent to earnings. Clearly, there is some discrmination against beautiful and charismatic women—which requires explanation.”
Two exhautive appendix on Measures of Erotic Capital and Recent Sex Surveys offer explanations on how beauty is measured and what the surveys indicate. The whole concept of beauty as an economic asset and its interference or effect in daily life opens up issues that spread into racial and ethnic discriminations. But they have not been discussed by Catherine, a Senior Research Fellow of Sociology at the London School of Economics.
(Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London, WC2R, ORI England)