Friday, July 3, 2015

Mount TBR #22

I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2015. The challenge is to read books that you already own.

Read for the classic category “a pre-19th century classic

Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God - translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, 1944

The cosmology in the Bhagavad Gita (BG) makes my head sore. Below, a yuga is an immense span of time, an era that our human time can’t accurately reckon:

All the planets of the universe, from the most evolved to the most base, are places of suffering, where birth and death takes place. But for the soul that reaches my Kingdom, O son of Kunti, there is no more reincarnation. One day of Brahma is worth a thousand yuga, known to humankind; as is each night.

The practical advice of the BG, however, works for me, a checklist kind of guy: “There are three doors to hell – Lust, Greed and Anger.” Hell is misery, greed is reaching for a bag of chips, and anger is being annoyed by things that are beyond my control like red lights.The banal, I can understand.

I like the parallels with stoicism. The bad old world is constantly changing and the only thing I can control is my own beliefs and expectations about myself, other people, and the world. “No man is free who is not master of himself,” Epictetus said. In BG. Krishna said to Arjuna, “When a man loses attachment to sense-objects and to action, when he renounces lustful anxiety and anxious lust, then he is said to have climbed to the height of union with Brahman.”

The developing of non-attachment (not wanting things) is urged in the BG. You must work, Krishna said to Arjuna, but “Desire for the fruits of your work must never be your motive in working... Renounce attachment to the fruits” and “Perform every action with your heart fixed on the Supreme Lord.” Recall Marcus Aurelius, writing of his father, the emperor before him, as being “a man who looked to what ought to be done, not to the reputation which is got by a man's acts.”

This translation is beautiful and readable because a great writer like Isherwood was involved in the project. I have kept this book.

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