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



Which way is better?

Renunciation or selfless action?

Renunciation is

knowledge plus inaction;

selfless action

is knowledge plus action.

Take away knowledge

and what remains?

Inaction and action;

and action is always

better than inaction,

for the idle mind

plays with fire.


The strength of renunciation

is inner knowledge.

The unmoving sun moves the universe;

its heat and light

preserves the earth;

and without it

nothing could exist.


is the strength of

selfless action.

Rainfalls from the skies

gush into the earth

to create lush growth,

and then return

as pure vapour

back to heaven;

the rains do not remain

to feed on the grain.


The wise do not differentiate

between the two paths,

for they know that both converge

on one divine goal

of love and truth.

Renunciation is the way,

however, for one who has

had supreme knowledge.

For the beginner,

learning through trial and error,

selfless action is the road to take.


The wise one views impartially

the learned and

the ignorant,

the great and small,

pain and pleasure

and praise or blame.

The wise are wedded

to five restraints:

stick to the truth,

be nonviolent,

do not covet,

be celibate,

and never accumulate.

And the wise one

observes five rules:





and meditation.

The wise one












and walks,

but knows:

the senses are at work,

not the self, not the soul.

Such a one lives in the body

but is free from its actions.


The lotus remains pure,

untouched by dirt, in muddy waters;

so must one devoted to service be,

by curbing passion.

Let senses be your slave.

Work without fear,

in selfless service.

Know me as one who appreciates

your sacrifice and selflessness,

who is friend of all mankind,

and lord of all the universe,

only then will you attain peace.


Selfless action, in time,

leads to renunciation of action

and meditation.

Renunciation is

plucking out the weeds;

Meditation is

the sowing of seeds.

Control your mind;

if you do not,

you become

your own enemy.

Control your senses;

if you do,

you will be

your very best friend.


Meditation is the focus

of mind on god.

The crested lark

flies out to the sun

every morning;

so must you each day

reach out for god.

This is not possible

for the immoderate.

Eating too much or too little,

sleeping too much or too little

leads to disharmony.

See no evil, talk no evil;

hear no evil, and do no evil;

then only will you

avoid distraction.


Be one with the world.

Perceive the divine in every being.

Another’s pain

must become your sorrow,

and pleasure, your joy.

All that happens is god ordained.

Let no event disturb your mind.

For the mind’s flame

will not flicker

if there is no ill wind.


Sit still in solitude to meditate,

keeping head, neck and body

in one straight line.

The fruit of the mango

ripens and rots,

but the kernel

grows harder every day;

and so must the mind

grow stronger each day

even though the body ages and decays.


If you live a life of moderation,

have mental peace,

and can focus on god,

then through study and renunciation

you can reach god;

if not in this life then in another,

for the good that one does

is never lost.

One who perseveres achieves

in the end

oneness with god.