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


Actions are of three kinds.
True actions are selfless,
austere and generous;
they must not be avoided, provided,
they do not give rise to pride.
Avoidable actions are those
which are selfish, futile, and false.
Natural actions,
like breathing and eating,
are unavoidable,
to the extent that
they are essential.
All actions have defects;
cleanliness is good,
but the act of cleaning
may result in killing
of germs and insects.
To avoid all actions
is not possible,
but one must forego
the fruits of action.


is of three kinds:
true renunciation,
which is selfless,
and without any
selfish renunciation,
which is undertaken
to avoid problems and pain;
and false renunciation,
which is purposeless.
Those who do not
forego the fruits
enslave themselves,
but those who do
find themselves
happy and free.


The success of action
depends on perception,
body, means, ego, and faith.
Motivation for action
comes from knowledge,
and success depends
on the know-how of the doer.
The three elements
of action are:
aims and means and the doer.


True action stems
from self-control,
with the doer seeking no reward.
Selfish action
flows from desire
and is full of expectations.
False action comes
from ignorance,
and is regardless of the results.


True knowledge reveals
the unity of
this large and diverse

Selfish knowledge
perceives a world
that is fragmented
into properties.
And false knowledge
is purposeless,
thriving on the trivial.


The true is free
from pride and desire,
is firm and brave
and full of thrill,
and does not seek
to profit or gain.
The selfish is filled
with anger, greed,
violence and lust
and constantly thirsts
for satisfaction.
The foolish has
no character,
and is inert and obstinate,
creating chaos and confusion.


The true mind
can differentiate;
knows when to work
and when to retire,
what to fear and what to fight,
what to do and what not to do,
and what is bondage
and what is freedom.
The selfish mind
is partisan,

choosing to do
or not to do,
in accordance with
one’s wishes.
The foolish mind
is ignorant
and lives
in a topsy-turvy world.


True intentions flow
from the harmony
of mind, senses, and soul;
selfish intent flows
from greed and desire
and dissatisfaction;
and foolish intent flows
from the emptiness
of a fragile mind.

True happiness comes
from knowledge
that initial pain
is followed by
eternal bliss.
Selfish happiness
is found in pleasure
that pollutes life.
False happiness comes
from dreams and delusions
that destroy the self.


All must do their duty:
the teacher and student,
trader and accountant,
the ruler and soldier,
supervisor and worker,
the farmer and labourer,
scientist and engineer,
the nurse and the doctor,
and the judge and the lawyer.
They must do so selflessly,
with love and truth and faith,
with kindness and courage,
with efficiency and ability.
One must do one’s duty
without encroaching
on the duties of another.
One must work with joy
for work without joy
is no work at all.


Finally, I say to you:
do your duty,
control your mind and senses,
curb your desires,
seek not the fruit of your actions,
be free from pride and selfishness,
devote yourself to truth and love,
acquire knowledge
and meditate,
renounce the world,
and come to me,
come with joy.


With Thanks

We wish to thank the family of Dhiru Desai for giving their permission to publish Light Fire and Darkness in YOGA magazine. This has given us the opportunity to make his beautiful thoughts and sentiments available to a larger readership, in particular those who are interested in spiritual life and desirous to live the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.

With our prayers for peace and prosperity to the whole family.


A Note about the Author

It would have given Dhiru Desai immense pleasure to reach a wider audience with his modernized version of the Bhagwad Gita. The 59 years of his life were lived over four continents – Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. ‘Light, Fire and places but was finally given shape in Memphis, USA, in 1987, in his final home and resting place.

Dhiru Desai was born on 16 January in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) in 1932. After primary schooling at Robert Tredgold School he had to go to India, as there were no high schools for Indians under the apartheid system that prevailed.

He studied at Sheth C N Vidyavihar in Ahmedabad, which was like the Shantiniketan of Gujarat. The principal of the school was Snehrashmi, the famous Gujarati poet, who also happened to be Dhiru’s maternal uncle, and had a great influence on him. After matriculation, Dhiru went back to Zimbabwe to help with the family business. The eldest of eight siblings, he took it upon his young shoulders to ensure a good education for his three brothers and four sisters.

In 1960, after the birth of his two daughters, Shraddha and Nishtha, he moved to London and studied to become a Chartered Accountant at the London School of Economics. His wife, Madhu, worked in a factory and ran the household on a shoe-string budget, making it possible for him to realize his dream of educating himself to pursue a career that would ensure his financial independence.

In 1969, he moved with the family to Lusaka, Zambia, where he worked for nine years, with a break of a year spent in Mumbai. Dhiru took the bold step of moving to the USA in 1979, with the aspiration of running his own business and being his own boss. He and Madhu worked hard and made a success of their business.

He doted on his grandchildren, Sheena and Kabir. He had dreams of retiring and travelling but, in July 1991, he was diagnosed with an incurable cancer and passed away four months later. Throughout his life, Dhiru found delight and solace in writing. A selection of his poems, Across Four Continents, was published in 2017 on the occasion of Madhu’s 80th birthday.