Over the year 2021, YOGA magazine will publish the poem Light Fire and Darkness, written by Dhiru Desai (1932–1991)

Light Fire and Darkness

A modernized version of the Bhagavad Gita, by Dhiru Desai

A Word from the Author

In the ancient Hindu epic called the Mahabharata, the Pandavas, five brothers who epitomize good, go to battle against their one hundred cousins, the Kauravas, the forces of evil. Before the battle Arjuna, one of the Pandavas, hesitates to fight against friends and relations. Sri Krishna then expounds his philosophy, which came to be known as the Bhagavad Gita. In Light Fire and Darkness, Arjuna becomes the devotee and Sri Krishna becomes the divine voice. Chapters 1 and 11 are spoken by the devotee and the rest of the text is the divine message.

This is not a translation of the Bhagavad Gita. This is a modernized version. I am not a scholar of Sanskrit and in this work I have not used any Sanskrit words, nor have I linked it in any way to Hindu philosophy. I have tried to write in a way that is likely to appeal to one not familiar with vedic culture.

Dhiru Desai, May 14 1987, Memphis, USA


“I face a dilemma,

Lord, please guide me.

This battle is for truth

against evil.

It is not of my choice

but forced on me.

My duty is to fight,

but I have no will;

for facing me are friends

and relations.

Seeing them I shudder,

my limbs go numb,

my head reels, my hands sweat,

and my weapon

slips away as my ears fill

with a deadly hum.

I do not seek kingdoms,

no bloodstained crown.

I do not want pleasure

From burning pyres.

Those for whom I seek happiness

may not be around.

What joy is there in killing

one’s kith and kin?

I must slay those

who side with evil.

But I prefer the life

of a hermit,

than to sit on a throne

smeared with the blood

and stained with the tears

of near and dear ones.”


Sentiments cloud

your reason,

do not be weak.

The wise do not

rejoice or mourn

over birth and death,

for they know that:

the soul is not born,

it does not die,

it feels neither

heat nor cold,

pain nor pleasure.

You have no birth

but are born

again and again;

you have no death

but will die

again and again.

One who is born

must die, and

one who dies

is born again.

The body is

a mere garment

which the soul

outgrows and discards

to wear a new one.


Truth is eternal,

falsehood must perish.

Your duty

is to battle

with love for truth.

Desist now and you will

Invite contempt and evil.

Seek not the yield

of your labour.

One who cares not for reward

Remains untainted.

Such a person is determined,

And of one mind.

The indecisive

is of many minds,

filled with fantasy,

and conflicting desires.


One who is content

and defies desire,

one who is untouched

by pain and pleasure,

who is free from passion

envy and emotion,

and who is fair and just

regardless of result,

is the wise and steadfast

philosopher and saint.

The tortoise recoils

into its shell

at the sight of strangers;

similarly let desires be

strangers to you.

Conquer appetite,

not through repression,

but by surrender

of yourself to me.

Let not the winds of desire

blow your boat

off its course.


Pursuit of pleasure

starts with attachment

and leads to lust;

unfulfilled lust

arouses anger,

causes confusion

and this results

in loss of self-respect,

eclipse of reason

and self-destruction.


Control your mind and senses

and you achieve serenity.

Your sorrows will disappear.

You will be composed

and able to meditate.

When the world sleeps

the wise are awake.

An ocean remains undisturbed

even though many rivers

rush into it; so must you

be calm and undistracted.

Be selfless

And without pride

and you shall find peace.