Many Indians living overseas worry that their traditions may end with them. They fear their children may be losing touch with their roots. Recognising this, PAMPOSH DHAR started lessons that are helping the diaspora find equanimity and the purpose of life.
By Pamposh Dhar
It was a personal tragedy, the loss of a much-loved and still-young nephew, that pushed me to search rather desperately for meaning in what seemed at that moment to be the randomness of life. I sought the answers in different traditions and found meaning and solace especially through Buddhism and Sufism, the mystic sect of Islam. I found Buddhism to be amazingly rational and loved its focus on living well now, rather than worrying only about an afterlife. Sufism spoke directly to my heart.
There is no right or wrong response to a spiritual tradition – this was simply mine. So I found myself still seeking – looking for something that would bring it all together for me, something that would appeal to both my mind and my heart. This search eventually led me to a course in the Bhagavad Gita. My studies in Buddhism and Sufism had surely prepared the ground so I understood so well the teachings of this ancient text. I also connected to the Gita on a personal level – as a child I had known that my grandfather read from the text every evening and I had always wondered about this book that never seemed to end! Now I understood that one goes a little deeper, and understands a bit better, with every reading.
I found the Gita to be both practical and philosophical, full of wisdom applicable to everyday living as well as esoteric discussions of the nature of God. It is my greatest gift from the land of my birth. And it is a gift I am most happy to share with others through programmes for adults and children. Given the shifting landscape of Covid-related regulations, I teach online, which has opened up the courses to people outside Singapore, including India. Being based in a cosmopolitan city like Singapore, I am used to seeing people from several different countries in my Reiki and meditation classes. Not so for the Gita courses. About 80 percent of my students are Indian, or of Indian origin.
Many of the Indian students join to gain a better understanding of their own spiritual heritage. Others see the Gita as a major world philosophy, part of the common heritage of humanity.
“Growing up in India, I absorbed messages from scriptures in bits and pieces from my parents,” says Reena Agrawal. “I enrolled in this course to get a deeper and practical understanding of lessons from the Gita.” Among her key learnings were finding equanimity and the purpose of life.
Amita Chawda, too, wanted to deepen her understanding of concepts she had learnt as part of her Indian upbringing. “For me the key takeaway was learning the essence of ‘doing the right thing’,” she says, referring to the concept of karma yoga.
For Bianca Polak, who is Dutch, the reasons for joining were different. “As someone who loves philosophy and culture, I was very interested in learning more about the Bhagavad Gita – especially because the life lessons in this ancient book are in a way timeless and still relevant to this day and age,” she explains. “Through studying the Gita in depth, I also reflected on my own life and experienced new self-realisation.” “The Bhagavad Gita is essential reading for anyone on a spiritual journey to understand the nature of the Divine,” says Geetika Velloor. “With her Gita classes, Pamposh not only helped her students discover their true nature and the nature of their relationship with a higher power, she also helped them gain insights into the nature of life itself.”
Many Indians living overseas worry that their traditions may end with them. They fear their children may be losing touch with their roots. Recognizing this, I offered a course for children in 2020. Reena Agrawal was among the first to sign up her daughters, Sanjana (10) and Samika (8). She wanted to “sow the seeds of spirituality” in her children, she says, and hoped the course would also “bring some mindfulness amidst the crazy world around us during the pandemic.” Children, of course, need to be taught in a very different way from self-motivated adults – firstly, because they often join only because their parents push them to do so; and secondly, they are at an age where their default setting is to question everything. Every child takes away something a little different from the programme.
“We joined the programme because Mom signed us up,” says Sanjana quite frankly. Having joined, though, she found the course “calming and peaceful”. In her feedback at the end of the course, she pointed to a very specific learning: “One thing I learnt is that being smart is not about having the knowledge in your head. It’s about applying the knowledge.” Another student, 15-year-old Advait Atreya, said he learnt “not to have prejudices about anyone – everyone is equal. And just be compassionate. Follow karma yoga – selfless action.” In these few words, he very effectively summed up a great deal of the essence of the Gita.
For me, there is no greater joy than sharing the wisdom that transformed my own life.
Krishna says in the final chapter of the Bhagavad Gita: “Those who teach this supreme mystery of the Gita to all who love me perform the greatest act of love; they will come to me without doubt.” (18:68,
translated by Eknath Easwaran).
The writer is founder of Terataii, a Singapore-based company that offers counselling, coaching, meditation, Reiki classes and courses in the Bhagavad Gita. She works with both adults and children.