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Tuesday
Sep062016

Reflections on Salvation by Kiriti Sengupta, reviewed by Boudhayan Mukherjee

 

Title: Reflections on Salvation

Author: Kiriti Sengupta

Page: 48 [Paperback] First ed. July, 2016

Published by: Transcendent Zero Press (Houston, Texas)

ISBN-13: 978-0996270465

Price: 8.00 US Dollars

 

 

 

The Sreemad Bhagavad Gita (Gita in short) is a narration in the form of 699 Sanskrit verses, contained in 18 chapters, which were composed between 7th and the 6th centuries B.C. and later incorporated into the great Indian epic, The Mahabharata. Gita depicts the dialogue of Arjuna, the great Pandava warrior-prince with the Hindu avatar Lord Krishna. The entire dialogue between them took place on the war-field of Kurukshetra; Krishna trying to convince Arjuna why he should shake off his inhibitions to fight against his own cousins and relatives, the Kauravas. The discourse has been aimed to establish that if actions are performed with an unattached mind, then their defects cannot touch the performer. It is a two-person conversation about Philosophy and yogic principles as opposed to a treatise of battle. Lord Krishna insists that the righteous man will be focused on actions and will not be concerned about the fruits of action (results). By this will come detachment and attainment of godliness. No action should aim at personal benefit and thus, this would lead to the liberation of the mind and finally, renunciation. Gita is, in fact, a many-layered synthesis of ideas and interpretations.

The Gita is the strongest pillar of Vedic teachings, which the greatest minds of the world, both of the East and the West have acknowledged. It is of course the holy book of the Hindus, just like The Bible or The Quran. It is the Hindu custom to read out the slokas (verses) to one who is on the verge of death.  And finally to place an abridged edition of The Gita on the chest of the dead body on its way to the funeral. This is an external measure that makes sure that the deceased attains “salvation” by the grace of the holy text. But there are a few questions that stir a thinking mind. How many Indians, or more specifically Hindus have actually read The Gita? Do the Dalits, the economically downtrodden mass, or the illiterate multitudes of India know about its existence? Is the scripture meant only for the high-cast, the patrons of wealth and power, the so-called scholars and now the political Chanakyas? The sacrosanct scripture has no use for the rag-tags, alas! More so, it has no bearing in the life of our younger generation, who are deeply engrossed in the luxury of materialistic comforts, inappropriate imitation of the Western lifestyle and sometimes super-hedonism.

Kiriti Sengupta’s Reflections on Salvation has probably been written against the said backdrop. Sengupta is a known poet who has a wide range of published works to his credit. The aura of spirituality has always touched his poetry and it is no surprise that he will center on The Gita to ask relevant questions that must have haunted him during the course of his literary ventures. The chapbook is comprised of 18 poetic prose pieces of “anecdotal wisdom that serves to both illuminate and discuss the paradox of faith.” It often questions the logic of the teachings as laid down in The Gita, especially about action without aspiring about a fruitful result, the hypocrisy involved in the act of renunciation, the absurdity in the realm of salvation or moksha. Scriptures of all religions are flawed with their infallible instructions and authoritative dictum. The common man is barely encouraged to question, but to follow them as blindly as possible. The priest or the clergy entertains no questions about the sacrosanct teachings. Religion is made to play an evil role even in the 21st century, causing marked destruction and blood-shed everyday.

But the common man in India cannot shrug off religion completely. Sengupta writes, “I’m aware of a few families who give away funds to the monks and carefully preserve the receipts of their donation. Donors are proud owners of such receipts as those are useful to claim income-tax-exemption. (“Return”)” Indeed! It is also a means to convert black-money into white.

Sengupta believes that “salvation is but enlightenment, achievable only by actions and through your sensory gateways.” He is doubly sure that every action deserves a positive result, which the performer is keen to secure. Sengupta writes further, “Why won’t I dream of eating mangoes if I plant or intend to plant a mango tree?” He hardly believes in afterlife. In “Stagecraft” Sengupta says, “Pleasure of exploring and realizing the unknown arrives only through the eyes, ears, nose, tongue or skin.” He also refutes the advice in The Gita that if you “stop meditating, you are only giving up your zeal to carry it on” and therefore, as the holy text suggests, “benefits would be nullified. (“Meditation”)” This warning is notorious.

There are many such gems in this well-produced book. The foreword by Casey Dorman is a very well-written piece that also contains a candid discussion about the book and his personal opinion about the merits of such a book. The highly interesting post-script by Alan Jankowski followed by an interview of the author by the publisher, Dustin Pickering, are added attractions of this creative enterprise. A must read book by the innovative Kiriti Sengupta who has chosen prose instead of poetry to express his take on religious misconceptions.

 

 

*Boudhayan Mukherjee is a published poet and translator who resides in Calcutta. He has authored six books of poetry and has also taught creative writing. 

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