Tête-à-tête with Dr Galyna Kogut, author of An Athiest Gets the Gita.
Why did you write An Atheist Gets the Gita?
Most books on the Bhagavad Gita are either
- Word-for-word translation from Sanskrit, or
- Lengthy purports and commentaries on each verse or
- A devotional homage
This book explains the Bhagavad Gita logically in form of scientific laws and management frameworks. The book is aimed at people educated in modern western education system who are very unlikely to pick up ancient Indian wisdom. It set the ground for someone to pick up the Bhagavad Gita and read it for themselves.
What is it about?
𝑊𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑚𝑎𝑘𝑒 𝑢𝑠 ℎ𝑎𝑝𝑝𝑦?
This question troubles 25-year-old IIM MBA graduate Anveshak Jigyanshu, an investment banker in Singapore, as he meets his two-decades senior Charan Saket. Their conversation reminds the reader of the dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna. Anveshak, a self-proclaimed atheist, is mesmerized by the compelling arguments put forth by Charan as they both explore the world of science and its limitations, what proof means, the dilemma of ethics and finally, what real and everlasting happiness is. In a way, Charan explains the essence of the Bhagavad Gita. Slowly turning from a disbeliever to one who accepts logic, Anveshak discovers the key to his question.
How is it related to the Bhagavad Gita?
The book is positioned as a dialogue between two IIM graduates, much as the Bhagavad Gita itself is a dialogue, but set in a contemporary modern context. Charan Saket who is 25 years senior to Anveshak Jigyanshu presents very rigorous and logical arguments on limitations and expanse of science, the definition of proofs, the dilemma of ethics and what everlasting happiness means. In the course of the discussion, he covers the essentials of dharma (which sustains creation), atma (soul), karma and yoga with a crystal-like clarity on the etymological and epistemological meaning of these terms and their application in the modern world.
What issues does it address?
The book is aimed at people educated in the modern western education system who are very unlikely to pick up ancient Indian wisdom. It set the ground for someone to pick up the Bhagavad Gita and read it for themselves. In fact, in some sense, the entire book is flipped. The very last chapter of the book is “What is Gita?” The book gradually builds on the concepts of jiva, Ishvara, kala, prakriti, and karma in a very lucid manner. After one has gone through 240 odd pages and understood that Bhagavad Gita is nothing but an explanation of how jiva (or soul) interacts with prakriti (or material nature) in kala (or time) governed by the laws of karma designed by Ishvara (or Supreme Controller), one is finally ready and equipped to pick up the Bhagavad Gita and make sense of it.
What solutions does it give related to the current Covid times?
This is a very timely book as in the current Covid times, we are all both individually and collectively as human species are looking for a sense of purpose in our lives. This book is an excellent read for anyone looking for direction in life and career, especially the youth.
Where in Ukraine are you from? Why did you come to Singapore? What are you currently doing?
I come from Vinnytsia in Western Ukraine. I came to Singapore as a researcher. I have a PhD in Pedagogy from NTU and currently work as Research Fellow at NIE.
How did you learn to speak Hindi and about Indian scriptures?
I was always fascinated by Eastern philosophies. The Bhagavad Gita answered my queries on "Who am I, why am I here, what is the purpose of my life", so I began listening to lectures on the Bhagavad Gita by Gurus, Swamis, and Mahatmas. A lot of them spoke only Hindi. Being a linguist who spoke Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, English, and German, I decided to pick up Hindi. I was amazed how similar Hindi is to Ukrainian - perhaps due to the common Proto-Indo-European language origin. I made a short presentation on it https://www.linkedin.com/posts/dr-galyna-kogut_ukrainian-vs-hindi-activity-6846317580777590784-OLMI.
How many languages do you speak?
Ukrainian, English, Hindi, Polish, German, and Russian
How did you get to know about Gita?
I was born in Ukraine and was always interested in the question "Who am I, why am I here, what is the purpose of my life". Here is my YouTube video on it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHQMZGXF4-w. This attracted me to eastern philosophies. Indians take the wisdom of their scriptures for granted but for me it did not come easy. USSR was officially an atheist country. Anyone caught talking about religion was thrown in prisons. In Fact, Srila Prabhupada the Founder of ISKCON was arrested with a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and was almost thrown into the concentration camp. Somehow a kind officer let him go. This is the first-ever copy of the Bhagavad Gita that got smuggled into the USSR. It was in English which later got translated into Russian as typewritten notes. My first Bhagavad Gita was a photocopy of a photocopy of this typewritten version which was circulating underground.
Why do you have a fascination for the Gita?
I was always fascinated by Eastern philosophies. The Bhagavad Gita answered my queries on
- "Who am I, why am I here, what is the purpose of my life"
- "Why do bad things happen to good people?"
- "What happens when we die?"
What has it taught you?
It taught me how to manage my own life, how to better interact with others, and how to deal with the vagaries of life
What is your message through this book?
Bhagavad Gita helps you answer the question "Will I be happy?"
Why should anyone read the Gita?
There are absolutely no perquisites for reading the Bhagavad Gita. Drunkards, Drug Addicts, and criminals have read the Bhagavad Gita and come out transformed
The beauty of Bhagavad Gita is that even if you take the divinity out of it, it is still a very practical book – one that can potentially transform you.
What are the contrasts that you and your co-author Rahul have regarding religion, philosophy, food, etc.
Religion: When I first met Rahul he was an atheist while I was a believer
Philosophy: I am more of a Bhakti Yogi seeking the Paramatma within my heart. Rahul is more of a Gyana yogi trying to understand who Brahman is and how the world operates
Food: When I first met Rahul he was a meat-eater while I was a vegetarian
What is your contribution to the book?
Rahul conceptualized the plot of the book, Galyna provided the scriptural backing quoting sources from Upanishads, Puranas, and Itihasas.
What do you want to say through the book?
Bhagavad Gita will
- Help you figure out your purpose in life
- Help you lead a happier life
- Give you the strength to face the challenges in life
Details about the book: how many pages, who is the publisher, price, where is it available to buy., etc.
242 pages, Rupa Publishers, INR 295, Available globally
𝐀𝐧 𝐀𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐬𝐭 𝐠𝐞𝐭𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐆𝐢𝐭𝐚
𝑁𝑜𝑤 𝑎𝑣𝑎𝑖𝑙𝑎𝑏𝑙𝑒 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑙𝑑𝑤𝑖𝑑𝑒