How to face the challenges of life with clear thoughts and determination, with a mind free from fear and conflict. This is the timeless treasure that anybody can conquer by reading Bhagavad-gītā, one of the milestones of Indian philosophy, Basant K. Gupta tells us in this interview. “The Gītā An Eternal Wonder”, Gupta’s new book (Laksmi editions), presents a collection of verses, quotes, images and anecdotes aimed at arousing in the reader an inspiration for action. The author is former Ambassador of India in Rome, San Marino, Paris, Algiers, San Francisco, Port Moresby, Hong Kong and Tunis, and representative in Rome for United Nations Organizations such as FAO, IFAD and WFP. He also served as Special Secretary at the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in New Delhi.
Gupta has a deep interest in the Scriptures, philosophy and spirituality of India. He published in 2014 the book “Timeless Wisdom from Ancient India. Teachings from vedānta and Bhagavad-gītā”, and in 2016 “Eternal beauty and Infinite Joy”.
What makes Bhagavad-gītā so powerful and everlasting? Should you choose few words to describe it, which ones would you select?
«Bhagavad-gītā was composed thousands of years ago. Its message is universal, as it has no boundaries, and is timeless. It was relevant yesterday as it is today and as it will be tomorrow. Gītā does not talk about past or future, for the Gītā what is important is the present: how to guide your life. In a world full of stress, full of tension, full of problems, Gītā’s main message is the message of action, action without selfish motives. Gītā talks about living in harmony with yourself and also with people around you and the environment out of you. Its message is therefore not sectarian, not religious: it is about who we are and the meaning of life. Gītā also deals with two aspects: one is transient or temporary, while the purpose of life is eternal. How we can connect with eternity: Gītā has always existed and its message will continue too.»
Do you think Gītā can speak also to young people living in the western world? How can its message be best conveyed?
«Gītā starts with a war; in chapter 2, it claims that the wise, the intelligent, the learned people should not grieve for those who have died or are living. Gītā is about no limitation, no sorrow. The message is that you should be happy and joyful, that you should enjoy life. We are all coming from one source: there is a kinship between all of us. We come from joy, we live in joy. When I talk to youngsters I ask them: “Do you believe in God?”. Fifty percent of them say yes, fifty percent say no. Then I ask them: “If we define God as love, do you believe in love?”. One hundred percent say yes.»
How has Gītā enlightened and helped your career in diplomacy?
«In my humble opinion, Gītā provides answers to all problems. Mahatma Gandhi used to say: “When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-gītā and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow”. Gandhi lost his mother when he was very young: I believe that Gītā was like his mother. In many circumstances Gītā has provided me with help. I tell you a small story to exemplify it. When I was writing my first book on the Gītā in 2006, I was in Hong Kong: I didn’t know anybody to help me publish the book. I was doing a lot of efforts. One day somebody asked me: “How will you publish this book?”. I replied: “Someone will come and knock at that door”. In fact, a gentleman came. He said he was in the publishing industry and accepted to handle my request: in a short time, everything was done. Although I don’t believe in miracles, I think there is a communication that happens at a spiritual level. We are all connected by thoughts, feelings, emotions. The knowledge of Gītā helps, providing clarity in every situation, in everyday life; you can always find that there is a bigger solution. I’ve seen it on quite a few occasions.»
Is there a special relationship between India and Italy? How has it changed over the time, according to your experience?
«I personally feel that there is a lot in common. People in Italy are very warm, very helpful, very keen on hospitality. Same in India, where there is a deep concept of caring and sharing. Fundamentals are very strong in our relationship. Many Italian companies do business in India, many Indians are working in Italy. In every relationship there are small issues in the air, but I feel India and Italy are like natural allies.»
At the end of your mission in Italy, is there an achievement you are particularly proud of?
«Quite a few things come to my mind. Most importantly, when I arrived in Italy there was no direct flight from India. After our efforts, Air India introduced a direct connection. In general, we had a lot to celebrate. When I was ambassador in Rome, I invited for a coffee all businessmen who I knew were going to travel to India in order to exchange views and improve reciprocal knowledge. Italy is a great civilization with several worlds in one single country: Florence is different from Rome, Turin from Sicily. Within a common wonderful landscape, you have different regions, different cultures, different food, different flavours, just like India: my country is a subcontinent too. Having said that, I feel there is a lot more that can be done to promote the relations between our two nations.»
Here the Italian interview.