Why Millennials Should Read the Bhagavad Gita


Why Millennials Should Read the Bhagavad Gita

Illustration: Palak Bansal

Yesterday, students of the MET Medical College in Ahmedabad commemorated Gita Jayanti by chanting shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita. Whatever your thoughts on future doctors turning into — in the words of dean Dipti Shah — “most-loved devotees of Lord Krishna”, it is undeniable that there’s no cooler book of reference for life than the Gita.   

Like most kids of our generation, I am indifferent to religion, even though my parents tried their darndest to herd me into temples. But thanks to the environment I grew up in — a Catholic school and a multi-ethnic neighbourhood — I invariably learnt the litany, the Ramayana’s Sundarkand, as well as shlokas in Marathi, Gujarati, and Hindi. Yet, I remained largely untouched by these words. I liked their sound, but they did nothing for me.

That was until I actually started reading the Bhagavad Gita.

That the Gita is given a religious connotation that limits its reach, is a pity. Much before you had Twitter threads telling you that your biggest enemy is within, the Bhagavad Gita had already got it covered. Much before you had movies telling you “Paise ka kya hai, aaj hai, kal nahi hai, parsu hai,” the Bhagavad Gita had already done it (moh-maaya).

Long before health and fitness bloggers could emphasise the importance of yoga, the Gita had done it. In fact, it took the liberty to go one step further and emphasise not just yoga in its physical form, but much more in the form of gyan yoga, bhakti yoga, and karma yoga. Did someone say, face your fears and don’t drown yourself in self-pity? Well, guess what, the Gita has that covered too.

We’re living in a world where everyday, we are fighting our own battles like the battle of Kurukshetra. The Gita may have told you that they are nothing but a mere delusion to satisfy your ego. It challenges you — how you would do things differently if you set your ego aside? Does good and evil still look the same now? Who would you be if memories from the past didn’t haunt you? The clothes you buy, the privilege you have because of your family, your friends, what if they are only a rite of passage? What if, the only purpose they are meant to serve is to buffer your experience? Why is social validation so important? Would a friend’s happy Instagram upload still make you unhappy or insecure about your own life? Oh, you are looking for a post from your favourite stand-up comic or online hero to get the answers. Maybe read the Bhagavad Gita instead.

Beyond all this, the Gita has taught me that our role in this battle of life changes every day

While I’ve been able to turn to the Gita for most answers in life, I’ve often wondered if it can enter your work life too. The answer, as it turns out, is an emphatic yes. There is no better management programme in decision-making than the Gita. Have faith in yourself or fear the consequences? The former gives you clarity of thought, the latter gets the job done. Guess what, that’s bhakti yoga right there.

Does woke-ness have its roots in the Bhagavad Gita? You bet. More often than not, we gain comfort in being noble because it massages our ego. It masks our insecurities and helps us stay delusional well within the bounds of being normal and functional. And really, what would we not do for a 100 RTs on Twitter?

But beyond all this, the Gita has taught me that our role in this battle of life changes every day. Sometimes, we are the charioteer, Krishna, and we pull the reins. Sometimes, we are Arjun, and need that extra little push to realise our worth. On some days, you are nothing but one among the Kauravas, and can’t see right from wrong, because of your ego.

It’s a struggle, it’s a battle, and it’s not outside on the battlefield. It is within you. You’ve probably heard this line a hundred times over on various reality shows: It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about discovering yourself in the process. But guess, who said it much before the advent of TV?

Forget the morning WhatsApp forward for inspiration. Just pick up the Bhagavad Gita instead.