In Conversation with Richa Tilokani, Author of "The Teachings of Bhagavad Gita"
“A sacred text is like a life-long relationship and a divine blessing which will not reveal all its secrets the first time you go through it. One has to put many hours and days and days of hard work to understand its heart and soul.”
Marketing and advertising professional turned author Richa Tilokani has very beautifully put in these two lines what Bhagavad Gita can mean to many.
The millennium old knowledge that has been passed down to us through tradition was lost and revived many a times. The original Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit is such that only enlightened Masters can decipher it and make others understand its meaning. However, the author has meticulously undergone intensive research and written the book in English which anyone can just pick from the shelf and start reading with ease. In this exclusive interview with Chrysanthemum Chronicles Richa has revealed the entire journey of the making of this book to the finish results of bringing it out in Print.
Cc. Bhagavad Gita is one such text which many people find it difficult to read and comprehend. You as writer went ahead writing a book on it. What is it that inspired you the most to write on this subject?
Richa. Initially, I started making notes on it, so that my family could read and understand it. But later I expanded its scope as I believed many other people could also read and benefit from it.
I also wanted to bust a few myths along the way. People have pre-conceived notions about the Gita- they think that it is too complex, not relatable to modern society, only for older people or that it encourages one to live in a forest/ cave. All this without reading it. It’s not true at all. In fact, its teachings are relevant to every age group, gender and section of society.
There are so many self-help books based on it but most people do not know it to be the source behind them!
Cc. In the preface of the book it is written that you came across the book in your childhood when your grandfather taught you shlokas. Can you share with us what are the most impressionable memories attached with Bhagavad Gita? At what age you started reading the book?
Richa. I started around age 10 and it was more like listening to a story then. I remember hearing about the cosmic roop as a child, and I was scared but equally excited to imagine it. It was so beautiful, fierce and all-encompassing. The description is really stunning to read. I was fascinated and wanted to witness it too!
Cc. You have been working in the advertising and communication industry. What were the challenges you faced and the learnings in your journey while writing this book?
Richa. For sure, there were many of challenges. I had a lot of self-doubt before writing the book because I was convinced I would not be able to do it. I had writer’s block for the longest time and would sit for months staring at a blank screen. Or I would write something and reject it immediately.
But I realised I needed to practice the teachings myself which inspire us to have faith, however tough the situation maybe. So I kept at it and then, after many months suddenly the words started coming more easily. It was still very difficult but that feeling of struggle and despair disappeared.
Even during those tough days, giving up was never an option for me and I learned that if “we can believe it, we can achieve it”.
I also remembered what my sister used to tell herself,” You can’t edit a blank page.” So that was very inspirational as well.
Cc. At the end of each chapter there are bullet points as well as notes on how the teachings are relevant in the modern times. I found it very intriguing as well as thoughtful to reflect on each chapter from your perspective. Can you tell us more about it?
Richa. Our attention span is very small these days, we have so much to do in such a little time. As a writer, my job was to make the teachings easy to read, relatable and comprehensible for the first-time readers.
So I broke down the important points into relevant sections and bullet points. The goal was to help them understand and imbibe them, so that they could bring the teachings into their daily life.
Cc. You have done an excellent job in writing "The Teachings Of Bhagavad Gita". If you write another book in future what genre we can look forward to coming from you?
Richa. Thank you so much for your kind words. I don’t know what else I can write on, it’s early days for me as a writer. But I do know that whatever I choose, it will be something I’m deeply passionate about.
Cc. The cover of the book gives the perfect look that evokes the feeling of sacredness even while looking at it. The colours and the illustrations are complementing each other. What was the inspiration behind the cover?
Richa. We were trying to do justice to a book which is sacred to millions around the world. So naturally, we had to be very careful and do our very best. The wonderful team at Hay House India came up with a bunch of unique designs and cover options. The cover was designed by Raghav Khattar- and we selected it as it ticked all the right boxes. He’s done a fabulous job with the colour scheme, illustration and the overall look & feel of the book.
Cc. Today’s youth has a mind of its own. Many of them are drifting away from values passed down to us from our ancestors. What is it that you find it missing in them? What do you feel should inspire them to read this?
Richa. I think the youth is very smart, ambitious and gutsy today and I admire them for their drive. Their performance at the Olympics has made the entire country proud.
Maybe they can be closer to their heritage and culture, but that’s upon us. We need to present the wealth of wisdom in our culture to them, in a way which is relevant, understandable and implementable.
As we battle the pandemic, everyone from the young to the senior generation is searching for comfort, hope and solutions to cope with these difficult times, and I think they will find them in the Gita.
Cc. It was evident reading the book that you enjoy reading scriptures. But besides the sacred book what other books and genres you like to read?
Richa. I like reading anything and everything. Be it newspapers, magazines, blogs, romance, poems, fiction, sci-fi and non-fiction. If I have nothing, then I usually start re-reading stuff, especially travel magazines! It’s not a good idea, especially when you are sitting in a lockdown.
Cc. Though all the shlokas in the Bhagavad Gita are inspiring and full of knowledge, we would like you to quote one of your favourite shloka that you draw inspiration from. Also, our readers would be delighted to know which is your favourite chapter and why?
Richa. My favourite quote is in Chapter 3, No 37.
First, a bit of background, Arjuna asked Lord Krishna why do people do wrong things. It’s not like they want to do them, but it’s as if there is a force which is compelling them. So Lord Krishna explained- “Kaameshekrodheshe, rajogunasamudhbhava”. Which means- It is desire, it is anger, (both are same) which is fuelled by rajoguna. It overpowers the mind and drives people to commit wrong actions. It is such a clear, simple explanation but so profound in its understanding of human nature.
I love all the chapters but my favourite is Chapter 11, when Lord Krishna takes the cosmic or universal form and Arjuna finally sees everything in Him and Him in everything. I also love the Sharnagati concept which inspires all to take refuge in Him and to depend on Him for guidance and wisdom.
Cc. Lastly, we would like you to share your journey on the research work done while writing this book?
Richa. It has been a very long journey of research and learning. I was fortunate to learn it from my grandfather who was a devotee, and from my mother who helped me to clarify many doubts.
Some concepts I learned in childhood, some I understood through experience. Every time, I have approached the sacred book as a humble student and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to do so, I learnt a lot. It’s been many years of learning and I still have a long way to go.
Interview by Associate Editor
Shristee Singh (Cc)