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


Knowledge brings enlightenment

to the universe;

action brings enlightenment

to the active.

Prefer action

to mere inaction,

for the lazy

are a burden

on others.


Actions are either

selfless or selfish.

Selfless action

saves the soul;

selfish action

enslaves it.

One has the scent

of divine faith;

the other has the stench

of self-interest.

Two persons bathe

in the Ganges;

one with faith

and the other without;

both cleanse their bodies,

but the one with faith

purifies also

the soul.


The selfless worry

about seconds lost

in inertia, and

the selfish about

rewards not received.

The selfless eat

merely to subsist,

the selfish live

so that they can feast.

The selfless put the universe

before self:

they water the plants,

feed their birds and pets,

tend to the cattle,

before helping themselves.


Inspire others by example.

Let not good actions

inflate your ego.

They will be free:

those who have faith,

are free from malice,

and take my advice.

Greed, lust, and anger

are your enemies.

Smoke befogs a fire,

dust conceals a mirror,

so do desires cloud the truth.

Selfless action comes

from control of senses,

which though strong

are subject to mental processes.

The mind must be subservient

to reason;

and reason must minister

to the soul.



Whenever evil

dominates the world and

duty is despised,

then to save the earth

I take human form

to destroy all wrongs

and proclaim the right.

One who believes this

and in the final

triumph of truth

achieves salvation.


I am the creator.

I made the tailor,

teacher and trader,

soldier and scientist,

farmer, labourer,

doctor and lawyer,

and the manager.

You can become one

not by right of birth,

but by aptitude,

by ability

and diligence.

I am your maker

but I do not claim

the fruits of your labour,

even though you are

under my power;

and so must you too

seek no undue gains

from your exertions.

The wise one perceives

action in inaction

and inaction in action;

for without vanity

a selfless action

becomes inaction;

and without virtue

inaction is the same

as selfish action.

Work done for reward

will burden the soul.

Work for work itself,

help for help itself,

love for love itself,

yield unsought blessings

and satisfaction.

The wise one is free

from all attachment

without bad intent,

is always content,

controls the senses,

has no self-interest,

is self-reliant,

is not covetous,

is fired by knowledge

and ever at peace.


In prayer, the candle,

the offering, and the devotee

are all divine.

God pervades every place and thing.

Many are the paths to the supreme:

forsaking all wealth;

control of senses;

devoting all passions

in praise of the divine;

living a life of prayer and penance;

selfless action;


and meditation, study and knowledge.


Knowledge is the fire

that destroys all doubts.

Supreme knowledge comes

from the equation:

knowledge plus action

equals action plus detachment

equals renunciation

equals knowledge plus inaction.

Action plus attachment

is selfishness

which leads to worry

and ends in misery.

Inaction without knowledge

is inertia

that only depraves

and enslaves the soul.


Seek the solace of saints

to achieve this knowledge.

Serve the learned one with humility,

but fear not to question, unceasingly.

Seek to quench your thirst

until all is clear to you.

Even wrongdoers can

cross the raging waters

with the ship of knowledge.