"The Bhagavad Gita" Papercut Book Cover

The Bhagavad Gita is latest book read for the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.

About the Book:

What is it about Indian culture that the Western works finds so enticing, evocative, and enchanting? My own theory is that unlike the Western world, which tends to divide and categorize, catalog and compartmentalize, Indian culture is more fluid. It embraces dualities of nature—it flows between the spiritual and natural worlds seamlessly, recognizing their connection in a way that is often viewed as "mystical" to the Western mind. In the Western world, we tend to prefer to delineate more between the spiritual and natural realms, often at the expense of one or the other.



The Bhagavad Gita, or the "Song of the gods," explores the dualities of nature, and embraces the nuances of the mystery of life— albeit in a way that is mostly confusing. It’s 700 verses of Hindu religious text from the great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, which is commonly dated to the second century BCE.

Within the larger epic, the Pandava prince Arjuna is at war with his kin, the Kauravas, and is stuck at a moral crossroads. He seeks guidance from his charioteer Krishna in the Gita, and Krishna instructs Arjuna to maintain selfless action, or Dharma.


The Gita is a primary text for the Hindu faith, and it covers a wide range of spiritual and philosophical topics. And for all the wise-sounding verses I read, I could not make heads nor tails of what the text was actually saying. It’s so "mystical" that it is confusing.


Take this passage for instance:

" Being is not found in that which does not exist. Non-being is not found in that which exists. The limit of both being and non-being is perceived by those who see the truth" (Verse 16).


Umm.. what?

Now it’s sounds really wise and spiritual. It flows between natural and spiritual, seemingly embracing the mystery between being and non-being. But what does it actually mean? Is this even helpful in real life?


Now, maybe to Hindus it is enlightened wisdom. But to your average non-Hindu American girl, (i.e. me) it mostly just sounds like a bunch of confusing "A, but also non-A" type statements. I see the appeal, because again it sounds so mystical and intriguing that you want it to be true, but I can’t makes enough sense of it to reason if it is wise or not. But maybe I’m not educated enough to read it the way it was meant to be read.


Read it for yourself, and if you understand it at all, please share with the class.


About the Papercut:

I had been waiting for an excuse to papercut a mandala, and this was the perfect one. Mandalas are Hindu symbols representing the universe— how perfect for a Hindu religious text contemplating life. I decided to do two cut layers and I choose a vibrant color scheme that felt reminiscent of the many bright colors one finds in India. The mandala was relaxing to both draw and cut, even though this piece took a long time to make. I can understand now why people draw mandalas so often— there is something uniquely satisfying about make a pattern with radial symmetry. While mandalas aren’t going to be my usual subject matter, I’m glad I got to make at least one.

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