Book Review: Reflections on Contemporary Values, Beliefs and Behaviours

This book is a collection of episodes that the author has encountered through his time, prompting his readers to enquire into every aspect of life. He gives ample evidence for his actions and opinions by providing numerous references. He brings forth his views vividly, giving adequate evidence while recording his personal experiences and presenting them to the reader. Though the book appears at first glance to be heavy reading because of the abundant references in each chapter, the author has brought out a very delicate subject lucidly and in such a way that even a layman can understand. Those who want to read more about this subject may peek into the references he has given, which will enable them to do their own research into the topic.

Each chapter is different, dealing with how to talk about sex, retirement, superstition, and the Bhagavad Gita. When one reads the episodes that the author went through one can relate them to one’s life and think of their situation from an entirely different perspective. Gautam laments on how we misinterpret the mantras which are of relevance to the modern world, and which are destroyed by misinterpretation. His visit to Hardwar, the foothills of Himalayas, to trace his ancestry, and the vivid picture of pilgrims visiting the holy place, are juxtaposed with images of men, women and children taking a dip into the river. These passages give the reader a taste of the pilgrimage town. The last chapter deals at length with the Bhagavad Gita and its origin. He suspects that today’s Bhagavad Gita may have been tampered with over millennia, suggesting that the verses in it connote other religions which have been later additions.

Finally, Gautam’s explanations of Karma, rebirth, rituals, the life after retirement, and euthanasia, with suitable references, will push the reader to think and question the relevance of these notions in their own life. Judgment directed by ill-informed knowledge will lead to activities which are untrue. This is the status of the present world, where misinterpreted religion gives rise to suffering. The author never says ‘this is it’, but rather leaves us to judge for ourselves by giving us enough points to ponder over. He raises questions rather than providing answers. He asks readers to persist and continue with raising questions such as: why? how? repeatedly until they are satisfied. As a matter of fact they may be going through a similar dilemma. The whole argument in the book is based on the Rig Veda, but he never stops there. He brings in modern science, from bosons to black holes, to explain the indestructible soul. He ends with the simple yet searching question: “In modern jargon, are we then merely the sophisticated and highly advanced hologram?”

In summary, this book is a must to read for everyone who desires to know what life is all about. It is lucid and inspirational.

Reviewed by Dr. K.S.Sangunni,

Former Professor, 
Indian Institute of Science

Prasanna Gautam’s book is available to purchase here.

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