By Karnamrita Dasa
In my study of the great spiritual text the Bhagavad-gita I have collected over 10 Vaishnava commentaries both ancient and modern—among them “Krishna’s Song” by Steven Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa). I have greatly appreciated his insights and analysis and thought I would share my impression of it with my friends.
The subtitle is fitting as indeed it is a different look at the Bhagavad-gita, at least in the way we usually think of it. The book draws from well known Western authors from the last few hundred years, as well as contemporary books and movies to discuss many of the Gita’s major philosophical ideas. It is actually a collection of bite size and tasty essays or lectures combined to form chapters which draw the educated, inquisitive reader in with catchy, compelling chapter titles. To give you a flavor, my favorite ones are: “Fight or Flight: Violence and the Saga of the Pandavas”; “A Banyan Tree Grows in Brooklyn”; “Explosive Devotion: Robert Oppenheimer and the Universal Form”; Dante’s Song: Was the Famous Italian Epic Influenced by the Bhagavad-gita?”; “Bagger Vance: The Mystical Underpinnings of a Contemporary Golf Tale”; “Yoda and Yoga: Star Wars and the Hindu Tradition”; and finally, “From Ear to Eternity: The Spiritual Dimension of Sound”.
As the first chapter describes, human beings are meant to be thoughtful, and so this book, as well as the Bhagavad-gita are for thoughtful persons interested in contemplating life’s mysteries, the meaning of life, life after death, and God or the Source of everything. Thus we begin from a discussion in the second chapter as to who we are—a small spark of divinity inhabiting a mortal frame—to the last chapter where the perfection of yoga is outlined—Divine union in love of God. In between these chapters we travel on a fascinating journey through the timeless wisdom of the Gita, through the lens of an adept, contemporary, spiritual practitioner.
If the Gita truly explains the “Perennial Philosophy” (as many thinkers have asserted) then it should speak to our times, resonating with modern spiritual seekers and the metaphysically thoughtful. Indeed, “Krishna’s Song” masterfully demonstrates this very fact. One of the many strengths of this book is that it reveals the influence of the Gita’s philosophy in ways that most people—and many who live by the Gita—have not considered before.
Realization of a subject, as contrasted to mere theory, means that a person is able to simplify complex ideas and philosophy to make them accessible and can use contemporary experiences, examples and culture to explain them. Throughout the book Mr. Rosen demonstrates that his book is not written by an armchair philosopher but by one who has considerable realization and insight in the subject matter. Therefore, anyone who reads “Krishna’s Song” will deepen their understanding of the Bhagavad-gita as well as the philosophy it explains. It is a very readable, accessible book that I thoroughly appreciated and benefited from.