Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Dharma has various nuanced meanings. It could mean one’s religion, or occupation, or moral responsibilities to family and society. It could mean ‘the Path.’ On a deeper level, it means who we are and our purpose in life and our eternal relationship with the Divine. All these are addressed in the Mahabharata.
To maintain the Dharma in society requires good leadership. The pillars of Dharma are honesty, compassion, cleanliness and self-sacrifice. In all fields, especially in spirituality, politics and business, leaders need to understand and practice these qualities.
To whom much is given, much is expected. The people who have the most to lose have to make the biggest sacrifices – not just the regular person on the street. The spiritual, political and business leaders have to lead the way. But where is such leadership? This is one of the important generational concerns before us today: to understand what is real leadership and to train leaders who can tackle the formidable challenges of the 21st century. Justice. The environment. The economy. Moral inspiration. We’re mired in some serious problems that are not going to go away soon.
My rendition of Mahabharata addresses these issues. If we don’t know what real leadership is, then it’s a case of the blind leading the blind. Examples of good leadership are very rare in these times. Without it, the philosophy of ‘greed is good’ runs rampant. If the leaders can’t be examples of self-sacrifice, then it becomes OK to give way to our desires, to secure material wealth and pleasure by any means. When we lose sight of the Dharma, greed becomes dominant and society begins to unravel. Understanding the dharma is pivotal to what Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest is all about.
For reviews and more info see: www.Mahabharata-Project.com
In 2012-13, as I was bringing my book – Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest - to completion, I kept asking myself: what about the Mahabharata would be most relevant to today’s readers. The book has endured for thousands of years. It’s revered by millions of Hindus all over the world. But what does it have to say to anyone else? Is Mahabharata just for Hindus or does it have a place in world literature, or in the very fabric of our diverse cultures?
The German poet Goethe coined the phrase “world literature” in 1827, and he used it in the context of books transcending national themes. To put it more emphatically, it means literature that speaks to all peoples. Mahabharata is the first of books. The Dharma teachings, the responsibilities of leadership, and warnings of the impending Kali-yuga (our age of darkness) are described as the five thousand year old epic unfolds. It’s not only the first of books, but it’s also the first that can be said to be in the class of world literature. Mahabharata belongs to all of us.
Why? The book itself tells us that what is not found within its pages is found nowhere else. That’s a bold claim to make. Plato commented on two books we consider classical literature – Iliad and The Odyssey. At the time of Plato, those classics were already seven hundred years old. He regarded the books as beautiful poetry and great stories. But he lamented: Where was the philosophy and the moral standards to help guide people to live better lives?
Plato would have liked the Mahabharata. It’s not only good poetry and a great story, but Mahabharata is also the embodiment of dharma. The book exists just to help us understand what is dharma or, in other words, what is our collective moral compass. When we understand the Dharma we can live a life of wellness. That means we live in a balance of both the spiritual and the material. In this way, both the individual and society as a whole prospers.
For reviews and more info on my book Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest visit: www.Mahabharata-Project.com
Saturday, February 1, 2014
The storyteller has to be a jack of all trades. You are the script writer, the director and the actor. As such, you have to make a variety of decisions, beginning with choosing a story for your repertoire. Then, how is your story is going to begin and how is it going to conclude. You have to be very clear on that. Know exactly what note your story is going to end on. The fun part is getting from point A to point B. That’s when you take the audience on a little journey. You can weave this way and that, sharing the philosophy here and there. Of course, you should know your story inside and out. Then only can you present the story and make adjustments based on the nature of your audience and how much time you have.
You also have to decide on what the story's focus. What’s your story going to convey? Also, in the hands of different speakers, a story can sound and feel totality different. The same story will even take on different meanings or evoke laugher at a place where an audience has never laughed before. Very often, all these elements fall in place over time. You can’t rush it. Through repeated tellings, deeper levels of the story, and way to share the story, open up. Very often these insights emerge from the responses of your audience. An audience can tell you a lot about how to improve your story. Prabhupada also comments, “Krishna will give the intelligence how to execute. Strictly adhere to Krishna's instructions and He'll give intelligence how to execute them from within your heart.” The thing is, a good storyteller is first of all a good listener.
See www.Mahabharata-Project.com for info and reviews of my book Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest – a ‘cinematic’ rendition of India’s ancient epic.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
In a letter of March 18, 1971 Prabhupada writes, “So when they will read Krsna book, certainly they will enjoy this as a story or as philosophy, morality, religion, etc. and gradually they will become perfect in Krsna consciousness.”
Just like Prabhupada in his presentation of Krsna Book, the idea behind storytelling is to weave story and philosophy together to make it both an entertaining and enlightening experience for the reader. The storyteller, according to the audience, has to determine the right mix of story and philosophy. What would be the appropriate balance for your audience to be engaged. See what is the major point of the story. Look for one or two additional points.
Storytelling is not a platform to convince the listener. Rather, we want the listener to open their minds and get absorbed in the dynamics of the story and “enjoy” the story. The listener should walk away with a satisfying experience. Prabhupada concludes that “gradually they will become perfect in Krsna consciousness.”
See www.Mahabharata-Project.com for reviews and info about my recently published Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest.