In Ap­pre­ci­a­tion Of An An­cient Guide Book

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES NATION - Vi­jay Kr­ishna Misra

Ed­win Arnold trans­lated the Bhag­wad Gita as ‘The Song Ce­les­tial’ in English. Tech­ni­cally, Gita is part of the last ma­jor San­skrit epic, The Ma­hab­harata, writ­ten by Ma­har­ishi Veda Vyas. For the de­vout be­liever, the Gita is the word of God, teach­ings of Kr­ishna im­parted to Ar­juna when he lost his nerve on the bat­tle­field at Ku­ruk­shetra when he found him­self fac­ing his own kin. The Gita has come to be seen as a guide book world­wide, to an­a­lyse the con­flicts in the hu­man mind, so­cial be­hav­iour and philo­soph­i­cal nu­ances.

The fa­ther of the atomic bomb Op­pen­heimer, at the time of the first atomic test in the Ne­vada desert quoted Kr­ishna from the Gita af­ter see­ing the nu­clear mush­room cloud rise up. “Kaloasmi Lokkshyakrit Pravi­rad­dha” – I have be­come death.

The Gita is a scrip­ture to be read, un­der­stood and in­ter­nalised. It can­not be taught, though in the first in­stance it was a lec­ture. For the cognoscenti it is a trea­sure house of pearls of wis­dom, for be­liev­ers it is an ar­ti­cle of faith, for the learned it is the ul­ti­mate in learn­ing. But for scep­tics it is just re­li­gious mumbo jumbo from the past, ir­rel­e­vant to the mod­ern world.

Whether the Gita is a re­li­gious scrip­ture and should be taught in schools is a ques­tion which can be clearly and cat­e­gor­i­cally an­swered by sim­ply quot­ing some shlokas from the Gita it­self.

It is clear that in dif­fer­ent chap­ters the Gita de­fines, ex­plains and ex­pounds dif­fer­ent forms of yo­gas, tapasya and ya­j­nas, their prac­tice, im­por­tance and ef­fects. Above all, in the end, Kr­ishna reveals him­self to Ar­juna in his vi­rat swa­roop – ce­les­tial form – and di­rects him to leave all dhar­mas and wor­ship only Kr­ishna.

In the last chap­ter he di­rects Ar­juna: “Sarva dharma par­ityaga Ma­makam Shar­nam vraj.” You should re­nounce (or dis­card) all other re­li­gions (dhar­mas) and seek refuge only in me.

In the con­clud­ing verse there is ex­plicit pro­hi­bi­tion from pass­ing on the ar­cane teach­ings of Gita to four types of per­sons: at­a­paskaya, those who lack tapasya; ab­hak­taya, those who lack de­vo­tion; ashushruva, those who are not in­ter­ested and ab­hya­suy­ati, those who find fault with it.

There­fore, any move to make the Gita a com­pul­sory in­clu­sion in school cur­ricu­lum will ex­pose it to some hos­tile and un­de­serv­ing el­e­ments.

I had a very sad ex­pe­ri­ence with such ex­per­i­ments a few decades ago in Los An­ge­les. The bhak­tas and fol­low­ers of the Hare Kr­ishna Hare Rama move­ment, in their zeal to prop­a­gate the Gita’s mes­sage among Mex­i­cans in LA, got trans­la­tions in Span­ish printed and bound in a very at­trac­tive cover. Then they started dis­tribut­ing the copies free among the Mex­i­cans of down­town ar­eas in Los An­ge­les.

In the back al­leys of Per­sh­ing Square I came across side­walks lit­tered with shin­ing brand new un­read copies of the Sri­mad Bhag­wad Gita. Non­be­liev­ers did not care for the sanc­tity of the scrip­ture. As Je­sus has said in the Bi­ble, “Do not throw your pearls be­fore swine lest they tram­ple upon them.”

It will be in the best in­ter­est of a sec­u­lar democ­racy to keep re­li­gion sep­a­rate from day-to-day ed­u­ca­tion, whether in sci­ence, hu­man­i­ties or vo­ca­tional stud­ies. Ralph W Emer­son called the Gita “the voice of an old in­tel­li­gence which in an­other age and cli­mate had pon­dered and thus dis­posed of the same ques­tions which ex­er­cise us”. To­day also the new in­tel­li­gentsia will lis­ten to the old, for the rest, as the Bi­ble says, why waste pearls by cast­ing them... ?

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