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Essence of the Bhagavad Gita: A Contemporary…

Essence of the Bhagavad Gita: A Contemporary Guide to Yoga, Meditation,…

by Eknath Easwaran

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book gives a very accessible introduction to the Bhagavad Gita, which I was not familiar with previously. The focus in this book is on applying the lessons of the Gita to everyday life, and as such reads less as an interpretive text than as a motivational or inspirational book, by someone whose life's work was to promote his version of enlightened living. ( )
  the_darling_copilots | Sep 30, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Gita is a wonderful book, full of insight. It is also dense and difficult to read.

I re-read the Gita using this book as a reference and I believe it would make for a much more pleasant experience, not to mention deeper understanding. ( )
  jshorr | Aug 29, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I found this book rather difficult to get into. I loved seeing Peter Brooks' staging of the Mahabharata, and thought I would like a book on the Gita, which is a small section of the Mahabharata. The Gita is a philosophical discourse beween the warrior Arjuna and his charioteer, Krishna, who is actually an avatar of Vishnu. Vishnu (sustainer) is the second part of the great Hindu triad that includes Brahma (creator), and Shiva (destroyer). I guess I find the story in Hinduism as attractive, but not philosophical and ethical discourses on it. Also, Easwaran approaches science from the Continental Europe tradition, which is more deductive, than the more inductive tradition that I am comfortable with.

Easwaran is a spiritual teacher, so in some ways one must get into his vision of life. I have relatives who are impressed by Easwaran, so I do not want to be dismissive. He has a full translation of the Bhagavad Gita. I do feel after looking at his translation that I could not vouch for it without my learning Sanskirt myself and doing my own translation. My own relationship with Sanskrit is having reading a Vedic grammar some 25 years ago, and having an aha experience after finding out how much like Ancient Greek it was. But that was a linguistic joy, not a religious joy. I did come across another translation (with a commentary) of the Gita done by a guru on Long Island, and I coud see myself getting into the Gita. But Sadashiva Tirtha is of the bhakti (devotional) tradition.

I found while reading I got myself into quibbles. On Page 40, there is a discussion of "I" and "You", but I found myself wanting the authro to make reference to the great Judaeo-Christian tradition of lokking at "I" and "Thou." On Pages 41-42, the author attempts an equivalence between Einstein's formula (E=MC²) and the Sanskrit phrase, 'Tat tvam asi' (You are that). This seemed a stretch. Later on page 42, there is a quote from the Gita where Easwaran sees a reference to modern field theory and Krishna stating that he is the "Knower of the field in everyone." I did not really get the impression that the author was conversant in how modern scientists use the word "field". I would have appreciated a little more discourse. After this quibbling on my part, I had to kind of do a light read and see if I got drawn in.

Finally, I did get drawn in a bit, in the last chapter (12), titled "Into Battle". This is where the Gita passes back to the battle which is ensuing, and I felt I could get a hint of the reality that the Gita is trying to describe. ( )
  vpfluke | Aug 25, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have longed admired the writings and life practices of Eknath Easwaran. I was thrilled to learn that there was a posthumous book recently released and eagerly began reading.

While there are many good points made as well as illuminating examples about how to live a more spiritual life, this book did not equal his previous books. This may be because it was put together by students of his 8-point program based on Easwaran's notes and he was not there to bring it all together in a more cohesive way as he had done so professionally with his other books. (His MEDITATION book is a favorite of mine. In fact, I've had to buy it several times over the years because any time I lend a copy, it's enjoyed so much that it doesn't come back! I also highly recommend his three-volume work, THE BHAGAVAD GITA FOR DAILY LIVING.)

One of the things I found disappointing is that someone who is new to Easwaran's work or to Indian Philosophy will be confused by the term "yoga." Yoga is explained, but the book would have been stronger if the book had explained clearly, right from the start, that this is not the yoga "exercise" that many Westerners associate with the word.

There were also errors in punctuation, grammar, and style. I came across several examples that were not attributed to the original source, such as "The Prayer of St. Francis" and a Bible passage, and at least one quote that was incomplete. Also, some examples were presented as if they were just being introduced, but were actually a repeat of earlier examples in the book. Something else that bothered me was that the book blurb included is about an earlier work of Easwaran's. The blurb on the back of the book should be about THAT book.

All this is not to say that the book is without merit. While I would not recommend it as an introduction to the BHAGAVAD GITA, it does reinforce many concepts present in Easwaran's other books, so it works fairly well as a review. Some excerpts:

"That which is infinite can be filled only with something infinite."

We "believe we are separate individuals when there is really only one Self in billions of forms."

"Nirvana" is "the blowing-out or extinction of all self-centered thought."

"...the cause of personal stress is not outside us but arises from our perception."

"Karma is essentially an opportunity to learn."

Finally, a passage from the BHAGAVAD GITA, whose passages are pure poetry:
"You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself—without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind." ( )
  DonnaMarieMerritt | May 24, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have just started reading this book and wil update this review once I finish. Based upon what I have ready to date, I have already ordered Essence of the Upanishads by the same author and look forward to the other companion books being published. I am sure to add them to my library! ( )
  AzureMountain | Apr 30, 2012 |
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Easwaran explores the nature of reality, the illusion of separateness, the search for identity, the meaning of yoga, and how to heal the unconscious. The key message of the Gita, he argues, is how to resolve our conflicts and live in harmony with the deep unity of life, through the practice of meditation and spiritual disciplines.… (more)

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