Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Guiding Spirit

By: Rashmi Kumar

A rickety autorickshaw is seldom pitched as the perfect place to hold a conversation on cosmic questions. But one day 30-something Shanti Rao realised it could very well be. Her evening commute had taken a metaphysical turn when the autorickshaw driver suddenly turned back and asked her in an unexpected mix of English and Hindi — “Aap koi supreme power mein believe karti hain?” As he swiveled his vehicle through the maze of rush hour, he talked about Karma Yoga through his straggly beard and chanted verses from the Bhagavad Gita . As Rao marvelled, he revealed the rahasya: he is a regular at a Gita class.

Plebeians and professionals are all attending the free Bhagavad Gita classes that are cropping up in the nook and corner of the city. Even as the classes cater to an assortment of people, some have gone hi-tech, with Krishna and Arjun speaking through PowerPoint presentations and robotic shows.

Lakshmi Narayanan, a 36-year-old engineer-turned-Gita teacher, mixes PowerPoint with the points of the ancient text. “I teach my students ancient wisdom but place it in a contemporary context,” says Narayanan, who holds classes at the Vedanta Institute at Aurobindo Marg and Vasant Kunj.As he chants, “Fixed in yoga, do thy work, O winner of wealth, abandoning attachment, with an even mind in success and failure, for evenness of mind is called yoga”, a packed class of 70-80 people listens intently. Who thought doctors, engineers and even a smattering of foreigners would find solution to their professional worries in Verse 48 of Chapter 2 of the Gita? But they say they have. Most of them have been fed on Chicken Soup and have gotten tired of it. For others, Paulo Coelho has been like Spirituality 101 and are ready for the advanced wisdom in the Sanskrit verses.

The Gita is a Hindu religious text but for these students, it is more self-help than spiritual. Says Narayanan: “The Gita appeals to those who are religious as well as the not-so-spiritual professionals.”
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON ) has gone a step ahead in giving high-tech lessons: it has robotic light-and-sound shows to explain the sacred text.

While earlier bored housewives and saffron-clad seekers of the soul thronged the Gita classes, now they have been replaced by 25-35-year-olds. Nikhilananda Saraswati, who has been teaching the Gita at the Chinmaya Mission on Lodhi Road for the past 22 years, says, “Now youngsters are taking a keen interest in the Gita.”Nilofer Diwan, a 27-year-old freelance copywriter who has been attending the Gita class at the Vedanta Institute at Aurobindo Marg, claims she has had an inner metamorphosis.

“It has offered answers to many questions and has given me inner peace,” she says. Fifty-year-old Malchand Tiwari agrees. “I would have been an angry man had it not been for the soothing effect the Gita had on my life,” says Tiwari, an executive member of the Sahitya Akademi, who has been conducting Gita classes at Yoga Life at Defence Colony.
The Chinmaya Mission plans to organise a youth camp called Right Click in Himachal Pradesh in June where the Gita will be taught. Meanwhile, pocket editions, translations, commentaries and interpretations of the Gita are flying off bookshelves. Priyanka Malhotra, publisher of Full Circle, says, “Copies of Bhagavad Gita for Busy People by Swami Sivananda and Search the Gita by Swami Prabhupada have been selling like hot cakes.” There is more in store, including Ramesh Menon’s interpretation to be published by Rupa.Submit to: .........Digg It

Source... Utah Krishnas