Book Review – Understanding Vedanta by Dhruv Kaji

It was a few years ago, at the book shop in Delhi airport, that I came across Dhruv Kaji’s self deprecatingly titled book ” Yet another book on Vedanta” . Having just started my spiritual journey, i remember going through the back cover and reading the bio of the author. Much to my surprise, I found that the author was also similarly qualified as an Accountant, but more importantly had similar passions for the ‘good’ things in life. In other words, he was like me ! Somebody I could instantly relate to. A man with a modern outlook and jest for life, coupled with an interest in our traditional wisdom. I do remember finding the book to be a valuable read, as it was appropriately addressed to the beginners, the stage of inquiry, i myself was at that point in time.

Cut to June 2013, at a restaurant in London, with some new friends and the conversation veers around to an old friend of theirs, who celebrated his 60th birthday in my home town, Hyderabad. They describe him to be extremely passionate about life, his hobbies being sailing, scuba diving,flying, art, etc and lastly – he also writes on Vedanta! My antenna goes wild and I promptly ask them if he is Dhruv Kaji, having remembered his background from the book that i read years ago. The rest is what coincidences are made of.

His latest book is a collection of essays titled “Understanding Vedanta – A contemporary approach”. It continues the style of his earlier book, that of approaching the subject in a way that makes it easily accessible to a modern & rational person who has skepticism for our traditional wisdom, the kind whose are exposed to the Bhagavad Gita only because the hotels they stay in keep a copy of the holy book in the second drawer of table on the left side of the bed.

From “Who needs philosophy” to ‘ Not yet convinced ?’ Dhruv, covers a gamut of topics under Vedanta. Although the essays are self contained and have been written addressing a specific topic in mind, they all coalesce together sequentially in a manner that makes it read like a book. (I must admit though that a couple of essays on a shanti mantra and the hidden significance of Nataraja appear out of place and do not flow with the rest of the narrative). There is an underlying attempt throughout to make the reader walk through the subject in a language that is simple without any sanskrit or high sounding words. Another key aspect that comes across, is the manner in which he anticipates the doubts, questions and criticism the reader may have on the subject and clarifies the same in a logical and cogent way. While strictly speaking from the point of view of a book on Vedanta, the topic of Dharma is dealt with in greater detail (as it was a collection of essays written at various points in time) chapters such as ‘ Some big questions’, ‘Snapshot of Teachings’, ‘How do i study Vedanta?’ are insightful reads with just the right amount of explanation and without any compromise, deviation or dilution of the essence of the scriptures. His own personal experiences from his hobbies and pursuits are also explained in relation to his progress in studying Vedanta in a manner that gently and subtly advises the reader to rethink on the extent to which he or she should ascribe value to hobbies while pursuing the study of Vedanta.

This book therefore is a must read for an inquisitive beginner who is yet to become a full-time student of vedanta or still in search of a guru. All the questions one may have are anticipated and answered directly and simply.

Meanwhile I am eagerly looking forward to a sailing session with the author, to discuss amongst other things, waves and the sea.

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