Jaya: why read this book

Jaya_book_coverThis is part of my series of posts to aid in the reading of Devdutt Pattanaik’s book:  Jaya: An illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata. See my Mahabharata index for more.

Readers can either buy the book now and read it slowly with each post, wait until the series is over and then buy the book or just read the posts without reading the book.

Why read the Mahabharata:

(1) Understand Hinduism: The Mahabharata is one of the classic Hindu you need to read to understand Hinduism. It is not the dry philosophy of the Upanishads or the hard to read Vedas, and it is more complex that the simple good-vs-bad Ramayana (the other Hindu epic, see my posts here.)  And just reading books about Hinduism won’t help you feel the complexity of the faith as reading the Mahabharata will.

(2) Understand Religion: One of my agendas is to help Christians perhaps see their own religion by comparing and contrasting to Hinduism. Perhaps some Hindus will also enjoy learning about Christianity this way. And then for both the secular and religious readers, I hope to point out some of the deep structures in religion.  And all of this done in a very lay fashion — because I can do no differently! 🙂

Why read Pattanaik’s Version:

The actual Mahabharata text is about 5,000 pages long so most translations are short retellings.  I list many of the translations and retellings available here. Pattanaik’s retelling is easy reading with lots of fun illustrations and thus an easy way to learn the story. Simply put — I like this version.



Filed under Philosophy & Religion

7 responses to “Jaya: why read this book

  1. As you may know, Sabio, while I was an ordained monk in Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), a Hindu-inspired religion, I was influenced by the Mahabharata.

    During the 14 years I lived in the ashrams of SRF I read several translations of the Mahabharata.

    Paramahansa Yogananda, the guru-found of SRF, told many of the Mahabharata’s stories to students that were recorded lectures and in books on sale to the public.

    Most of Yogananda’s references are from the Bhagavad Gita section of the Mahabharata, and are used as exaltations and interpretations of what Krishna and the Pandava brothers did or said in Mahabharata.

    While I was a monk reading the Mahabharata or listening to Yogananda’s retelling of the stories I had doubts about the outlandish tales it contained, but I wanted to believe.

    I look forward to your commentaries of the Mahabharata and of Hinduism.

  2. @ Skeptic Med,
    Which translations did you read? Which did you like best and why? (If you have time to answer).
    And how the heck could you do anything but doubt stories in the Mahabharata? Heck, with over 1 1/2 billion people killed — makes the Old Testament look tame. (see my post here)

  3. @Sabio,
    The best translation I read was by Kamala Subramaniam. And, the Bhagavad Gita, best translation was by Edwin Arnold.

    Subramaniam was written in an easier to read, engaging story. Arnold was the classic poetic translation. Paramahansa Yogananda wrote his own interpretations of select stanzas from the Gita.

    I didn’t believe the literal books. At the time I was a monk reading these, I was trying to study the relationships between characters, the devotion to the teachers, and the yoga aspects. Most of these tales could not be taken too seriously, literally.

  4. @SkepticMed,
    Thanks for the sources for those books. Subrmaniam’s abridged retelling was on my list of translations, now I will put it on my list to read. It is 870 some pages, so I can see why I did not buy it yet. But maybe after working on this readers-guide to Jaya, I will get it.

    Translations of the Gita is another issue. Last night I was reading Zaehner’s. Arnold’s poetry seems great and the translation very helpful. I put it on my list too.

    Curious: after years in Christianity and then leaving, many ex-Christians, as a sort of hobby, are still interested in reading controversies about the Bible and such. Do you presently have any relationship with those texts which you once held in high regard?

  5. @Sabio: On rare occasions I may pickup the Autobiography of a Yogi for critical research purposes. I’d started a skeptic’s guide to the Autobiography of a Yogi book, but put that on the back-burner after the first 2 chapters.

    The texts I once held sacred I now think are fantasy writings or morality tales of the poetic imagination. I don’t take them seriously myself anymore except as curiosities as to why I once did take them so serious, and what makes others do so.

  6. @ SkepticMed,
    Fascinating — that may be good blog material for you perhaps:
    “When Sacred Disappears”: looking at texts differently

    Curious, why did you stop the Skeptic Guide to the Autobiography of a Yogi book?

  7. @Sabio: Thanks for your suggestions about topic: When Sacred Disappears. I’ll have to wrap my head around that topic and see what pops out. Know of any source/posts you have on that topic?

    I recorded audio readings of the Autobiography of a Yogi (AY) and added my commentary including interesting factoids and opinions from various sources, from my personal experiences in the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) order, and especially emphasizing many contradictions in the book’s/author’s claims. My intention was to first publish a series of 3-5 podcasts and then respond/adjust to any feedback from listeners.

    FYI– the first ed of the AY is in the public domain, so I can use that version without copyright issues. Some people claim the first ed is more true the author’s intents and purposes, as subsequent editions were heavily edited and sanitized by his institution, SRF.

    At this point, I have more ideas than time to implement them. But, would very much like to publish audio podcasts and reduce blog posts/or repurpose blog for audio elaboration. I don’t know if it’s worth all the time or not.

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