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Reviewed by:
  • Transcreation of the Bhagavad Gita, and: Instant Nirvana: Americanization of Mysticism and Meditation, and: An Introduction to Yoga Philosophy: An Annotated Translation of the Yoga Sutras
  • Vasanthi Srinivasan
Transcreation of the Bhagavad Gita. By Ashok Kumar Malhotra. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1999. Pp. xi + 85.
Instant Nirvana: Americanization of Mysticism and Meditation. By Ashok Kumar Malhotra. Oneonta, New York: State University of New York Press, 1999. Pp. xvi + 119.
An Introduction to Yoga Philosophy: An Annotated Translation of the Yoga Sutras. By Ashok Kumar Malhotra. Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2001. Pp. ix + 110.

Ashok Kumar Malhotra introduces his books Transcreation of the Bhagavad Gita, Instant Nirvana: Americanization of Mysticism and Meditation, and An Introduction to Yoga Philosophy: An Annotated Translation of the Yoga Sutras as addressed to a "grass-roots level" audience in general and undergraduate students in particular. All three books develop basic themes and concepts in simple and lucid prose with only a minimum use of technical vocabulary.

Transcreation of the Bhagavad Gita

Transcreation of the Bhagavad Gita begins by outlining the complex ethical dilemma faced by Arjuna between his duty as a warrior and his personal duty, Krishna's logical arguments regarding the immortal self called Ātman, and Krishna's resort to "divine magic" to convince Arjuna.

Malhotra's "transcreation" of the stanzas is discursive, direct, and logical. For instance, the dejected Arjuna of the first chapter says, "I see unholy omens. This fight seems illogical and unnecessary. Nothing good will come out of killing my own relatives" (I : 31, p. 3). Or again, "those who seek a kingdom, pleasures, and enjoyments are assembled here to fight a battle for which they have put their lives and property at stake" (I : 33, p. 3). And Krishna chides Arjuna, "during this crisis, your faintheartedness is disgraceful. At the moment, you are not acting like a warrior, and this is hurting your chances of heavenly fulfillment" (II : 2, p. 5). Krishna reveals: "the self that permeates the manifest world is indestructible. No one can destroy this immutable reality" (II : 17, p. 7). Krishna explains: "nonaction in action involves contentment, spontaneity, nonexertion, and detachment from beneficial consequences" (IV : 20, p. 17). Krishna clarifies: "while speaking, giving, and taking, the senses are engaged in their activities and the knower of reality does nothing that involves effort" (V : 9, p. 20). These direct renditions transmit the doctrines in clear and contemporary prose appropriate for undergraduate students.

Malhotra highlights the moment of spontaneity and effortlessness in explaining desireless action. He reiterates that detachment pertains to beneficial consequences and not injurious consequences; he also emphasizes that desireless action does not stem from indifference but from right knowledge and discipline. In his words, "true renunciation leads to effortless performance of an action in the spirit of worship to [End Page 421] the divine self " (p. 19). This emphasis is well placed given that many newly initiated students confuse desireless action with irresponsible or callous conduct.

The concise summary of the main arguments, metaphors, and symbols at the beginning of each chapter would be useful in focusing classroom discussions. The afterword sketches major interpretations including classical ones by Shankara, Ramanuja, and Madhva; modern ones by Weber and Garbe; and recent readings by Tilak, Gandhi, T. S. Eliot, and Bhaktivedanta, among others. Finally, there is an overview of the main philosophical and religious themes where Malhotra opts to interpret the fourfold varna order as a classification based on natural qualities or gunas of goodness, passion, or inertia. In this context, it is a bit puzzling to read, "those who possess a balance of the three qualities make up the class of businessmen" (p. 79).

While the text is accessible and conveys the key ideas, it does not capture the poetic energy and rhetorical rhythms of the original; here, it may be necessary to supplement translations by Barbara Stoller Miller or Franklin Edgerton. Consider, for example, Krishna's famous self-description in the theophany. Malhotra renders it, "I am time that destroys everything. I have arrived here to devour everything. Even if you do not fight with all these great warriors, they will cease to exist in due time" (XI : 32, p. 43). Barbara...