I just recently bought a book entitled "Ganesha Goes to Lunch (Classics From Mystic India)" by Kamla K. Kapur, and it's really, really been sucking me in. I read the entire Bhagavad-Gita: As It Is over the course of a couple months, as I wanted to really understand each section I read before continuing onto the next. For those who aren't familiar with translations of Hindu lore/literature, it's the incredibly long-winded version by Bhaktivedanta (founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness/ISKCON/the "Hare Krishnas"), and I read at least half of the purports he included, and I have to admit that while some of the text was incredibly interesting or exciting to read - it either made sense, was incredibly poetic, or echoed some views of mine that I had been worried I would never see etched out by any religious text - it was, for long intervening parts, incredibly dull and often, in the same breath, incredibly offensive, as far as his purports were concerned. This is of course in part due to Bhaktivedanta's translation itself, as he was a man with a specific agenda that I personally hold in contempt. I have no problem with members of ISKCON who are peaceful members of their faith, but Bhaktivedanta had a lot of views of misogyny, racism (in my readings, against blacks specifically) and strangely specific ideas about the human body which had no basis whatsoever in scientific research (that humans need only four hours of sleep, that women's brains are a certain miniscule size, etc). In fact I found one gem of a quote to really sum up my point for me:

"Ah, yes. So these English people, they were very expert in making propaganda. They killed Hitler by propaganda. I don’t think Hitler was so bad man." -source

I'd go on a conversation about what my views are exactly on each of his bastardizations of Hindu principles and what should be the simple guiding thoughts of reasonable people, but I actually started off intending to talk solely about how much I've been enjoying Ganesha Goes to Lunch and so I'll leave this with his own personal invocation of Godwin's Law and call it a day on that subject.

Anyway, this book's preface/jacket/back (Ganesha Goes to Lunch) specifically mention two interesting things. One, that the author is relating a lot of these stories, not directly from other written sources, but from oral stories she was told from a variety of different people, some of whom also only received the story from another's mouth. And two, that she is consciously modernizing the stories.

This means that she's taken a lot of "liberties", it feels like, with telling the stories, but it's in a way that I think is almost completely helpful. For stories as old as ones from Hinduism, a lot of things were implied rather than stated and even the stating of that could lack in a certain art form (at least in the English sources I have found). Kapur tells everything as if she were actually authoring a short story and artfully, I feel, she manages to convey more human emotion from the characters. I've often noted that recaps of certain aspects of the gods are very brief and to-the-point, meant to simply inform the reader what happened to get from point A to point B. In this book, though, it's novelised and it honestly makes a world of difference. I didn't realise this sort of "translation" of things existed and I actually stayed up late last night early morning reading, it was just so enthralling.

This is the happiest I've been with a book purchase in a while, I'm so glad I took the chance. ♥
Current Mood: impressed
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