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Song of Salvation

Author: Rajendra Kher
Genre: Spirituality
Reviewed by Jeremy M. Hoover

552Song of Salvation is an all-encompassing and far-reaching narrative about the truths that are taught in the Bhagavad-Gita. It is a novelization of the core of that sacred book: the discussion between Sri Krishna (the guru) and his disciple Arjuna. The setting for this novel is a battle between two families that are descended from the same family. The Pandavas, exiled for twelve years as a result of losing a rigged dice game, have returned from exile to reclaim the kingdom that is rightfully theirs from the Kaurava family.

Of course, the Kauravas want nothing to do with this. They believe that the Pandavas did not follow the terms of their exile. We find out later that this argument rests on a technicality of whether the lunar or solar calendar was followed. The Kauravas, while accurate from their point of view, are wrong when considering the Pandavas’s point of view. The Pandavas (and some within the Kauravas’s court) press for the return of their kingdom because the terms of their exile have in fact been fulfilled.

A standoff ensues between the two families, and millions of warriors who have taken up arms for one family or the other. When the battle is about to begin, Arjuna, a warrior for the Pandava family, begins to worry about the war. He feels sorrow and pain within for thinking that he may have to kill his own family members. For Arjuna, this war is nothing but a civil, inter-family war.

Krishna comes to Arjuna’s aid and discusses with him the truths of the Bhagavad-Gita (this conversation is the essence of that scripture) to calm Arjuna down, and to help him overcome his doubts about the justness of the war.

Arjuna’s central struggle is with detachment. He must rise above his concern for what is temporal (the fear of killing his own family) and focus on what is eternal. To do so, he must seek self-actualization, where defects of the mind are eliminated. Krishna encourages him to practice karmayoga, the path of duty.

Krishna repeatedly tells Arjuna to do things for duty’s sake, detached from any sense of reward. Arjuna must not give up action, but the desire that makes him act in some ways but not others. Nature exemplifies this selfless duty: Rivers flow and make soil fertile. A river never returns to gauge its work; but it keeps flowing and moving forward, performing its duty without ego.

Finally, Arjuna is able to reach a point where his mind is free from anxiety and he can pursue duty for duty’s sake. At this point he is able to enter into war with the Kauravas, because to not wage war would be unjust: the desire of avoiding personal pain would be the driving force behind his actions.

This is a good story. It is difficult to decide whether to review the story or the philosophy, since the latter makes up much of the former. As for the story, there are some interesting devices used. For example, many parts of the story pertaining to ancient history are told in flashback to bring a better sense of immediacy to the story. The story also uses the “divine sight” of Sanjaya to narrate the conversation between Arjuna and Krishna to a third party. Yet, the story is marred by many typographical errors that interrupt the flow of reading.

The story was difficult for me to work through, but only because I was unfamiliar with this philosophy and many of the people involved. Yet, I found it very rewarding. Detachment, and the pursuit of duty for duty’s sake, has much merit behind it. Perhaps the greatest compliment this book can be given is for a reader to be sparked to begin contemplating the Bhagavad-Gita itself. I, for one, will do so.

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May 19, 2004 in Spirituality | Permalink

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