The Bhagawad Gita holds an eternal fascination to man and the wonder is that each time you read it, like an onion, you can keep peeling different layers from it. I have always been attracted to the Gita and each and every commentary that I have read has helped me gain fresh insights into this little wonder book. Imagine my happiness then to be invited to a seminar on the Gita which was held at the Nehru Centre in London in September 2015. It coincided perfectly with my trip to the UK so I decided to make the most of it.
The Gita is not a religious scripture followed by followers of a particular religion; oh no it is timeless, eternal and has a universal appeal because it provides solutions to every problem under the sun in a simple, logical and humane way. Thus the Seminar comprised of eminent scholars from all over the world who had gathered there to share their ideas and get enriched in the process. Members of the managing committee were drawn from India and England.
A high point of the program to me personally was when one of the keynote speakers, Mrs. Suryakanthi Tripathi remarked that she referred to my website www.indianscriptures.com everyday and has even bookmarked it. She was full of appreciation at my endeavor and congratulated me for presenting articles on a wide range of subjects from our Scriptures in a language easily understandable to the lay public. Scriptures like the Gita should be presented in a simple manner so that the common man can relate to it and follow it easily and the series Layman and the Gita presented on the site does exactly this.
The Seminar saw presentations by well-known academicians and scholars and these are the points what I gathered from them.
Mr. Brian Black is a lecturer of Religious studies in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at the University of Lancaster. He discussed how and why Bhagwad Gita was spoken in the battlefield of Kurukshetra. It created an impact in the listener’s mind about the importance of the knowledge shared by Krushna.
I observed that many misconceptions about Vedic scriptures continue to prevail in people’s minds. The western scholars are highly influenced by scholars from the early 1900’s who presented the Veda in a derogatory manner. They still use the words like Brahamanism etc. which doesn’t exist in our scriptural directory.
Prof. Peter Flugel studies and propagates Jain scriptures and has an amazing in-depth knowledge of various Jain sutras. I felt truly proud of our community members who have emphasized on various such scriptures to impart knowledge to millions.
James Mallinson is a lecturer in Sanskrit and Classical Indian Studies at SOAS, University of London. He shared his true life experiences of the Kumbh Mela, how society connects with each other in India, the importance of Yoga in Bhagwad Gita. Prof. Theodore Proferes is a senior lecturer in Ancient Indian Religions at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. I was truly impressed with his way of presenting the Mimamsa point of view in
Bhagwad Gita. He stated that the theory of Karma is well explained in Gita and that it truly helps us to identify where we stand in life and where we want to go.
Swami Sarvapriyananda from Ramkrishna Math and Mission explained the Vedantic point of view of Bhagwad Gita. Vempaty Kutumba Sastryji explained how Gita strides across like a colossus and time stands still in its pages. Therefore its message is relevant to all people at all times. His paper explained the points of Atman and how it is explained in the Gita.
The most impressive part of the talk was the recitation of various verses from the Bhagwad Gita by Stephen Peter Thompson. He has been teaching Panini, Gita and Upanishads at various universities and centers across UK. He traced the connection between the verses of Chapter 2 of the Gita with Katha Upanishad.
It was nice to know the interest of the Indian High Commissioner to UK in such topics. He shared his idea of the Gita and also spoke of the need to hold such gatherings more often in London. On a personal note, I requested him to see my website and share his comments which he agreed to do.
I also met Prof Shaunaka Das, the Head of the Oxford Center for Religious Studies in another occasion. He answered all my queries and inspired me on how to look at scriptures from an academic angle. How to understand them from an international point of view? I can hardly wait, I am eager to take my research to the next level and make it visible on an international platform. His guidance is really going to help me to learn the Bhagwad Gita differently.