Yann Martel is the Booker Prize-winning author of Life of Pi and every two weeks, he is sending a book that has been known to expand stillness to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This week it is the Bhagavad Gita.
The reason for sending the books is to teach Mr. Prime Minister the value of stillness.
To read a book, one must be still. To watch a concert, a play, a movie, to look at a painting, one must be still. Religion, too, makes use of stillness, notably with prayer and meditation. Just gazing upon a still lake, upon a quiet winter scene—doesn’t that lull us into contemplation? Life, it seems, favours moments of stillness to appear on the edges of our perception and whisper to us, “Here I am. What do you think?” Then we become busy and the stillness vanishes, yet we hardly notice because we fall so easily for the delusion of busyness, whereby what keeps us busy must be important, and the busier we are with it, the more important it must be. And so we work, work, work, rush, rush, rush. On occasion we say to ourselves, panting, “Gosh, life is racing by.” But that’s not it at all, it’s the contrary: life is still. It is we who are racing by.
The book sending is also to get Prime Minister's attention towards the meager art funding. The whole episode of sending books started On
So what has Yann Martel got to say about the Bhagavad Gita?
Arjuna’s battle may have its origins in a real, historical event, but in the Bhagavad Gita we are to read it as a metaphor. The true battle here is the battle of life and each one of us is an Arjuna facing his or her life, with all its daunting challenges.
The Gita of faith – much like the Jesus of faith – will have its greatest influence on you if you take it entirely on its own terms, making your own way through its grand injunctions and baffling mysteries. The Gita is a dialogue between one man and God, and the best reading of it, at least initially, is as a dialogue between one reader and the text. After that first encounter, if you want, scholars can be of help.
There may be ideas here that will irk you. By Western standards, there is a streak of fatalism running through Hinduism that will bother some. We live in a highly individualistic culture and we make much of the exertions of our egos. Perhaps if we took to heart one of the fundamental lessons of the Gita—to take action with detachment—we might exert ourselves in a calmer way and see that the ego, in the scheme of things, really is a puny, transitory thing.
Read the Bhagavad Gita in a moment of stillness and with an open heart, and it will change you. It is a majestic text, elevated and elevating. Like Arjuna, you will emerge from this dialogue with
Krishnawiser and more serene, ready for action but filled with inner peace and loving-kindness.
Indian politicians never changed after reading Bhagavad Gita. No idea how many of them have read the Bhagavad Gita. Hope the Canadian Prime Minister at least reads it.