By Narayani Ganesh
Dec 23, 2011
Does the Bhagwad Gita entreat you to kill? Of course it does. It is an extremist, metaphysical document that’s full of killer apps, says NARAYANI GANESH
Can the Gita be dubbed extremist literature? Indeed, yes, for it advocates extreme action that could result in sweeping annihilation. Does the Gita promote violent acts? Undoubtedly -- doesn’t Krishna suggest you use the sword without hesitation to fulfill your mission?
Krishna wants all opponents – whether relatives, kings, commanders or friends – to be destroyed. “Go out and kill them,” he says, on the battlefield at Kurukshetra, to a despondent Arjuna who is reluctant to take up arms against his kin. Why was Krishna, avatar of Vishnu the Protector, advising him to kill established order?
“Annihilate your enemy, Arjuna,” says Krishna towards the end of the third chapter of the Gita. He is referring to desire as the enemy; an enemy that intimidates and threatens us all the time. Krishna uses the ‘axe’ analogy in chapter 15, saying: “Fell the tree of life that lacks stability… with the axe of dispassion…”
The entire controversy that has fanned out following the Russian call for a ban on the distribution of the Gita -- dubbing it as extremist literature -- has missed the wood for the trees. Or, one could say they’ve missed the cosmos for the stars! The Gita is extremist, yes, but not in the literal, physical sense. The Gita is full of killer apps but all of them are metaphysical. That’s why it would be more suitable to call it an extremist, metaphysical document, for you are not meant to read it as an alogrithm that advocates physical, military action.
Hence when you are told to kill all your teachers, caste brothers and friends or get rid of all those in command and control of your consciousness – in today’s context it could tantamount to dissolving the UN, G7 and G15 -- the reference is to the established disorder that is inside of you, not outside.
If Krishna’s advice to Arjuna is extremist, so are the utterings of Jesus Christ when he says: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” The ‘sword’ may mean the Gospel, which is the means of dividing and separating the people of Christ from the men of the world, and from their principles and practices, and one relation from another; as also of divisions, discords, and persecutions arising from it: not that it was the intention and design of Christ, in coming into the world, to foment and encourage such things; but this, through the malice and wickedness of men, was eventually the effect and consequence of his coming. So the sword is the sword of the spirit, the word of God, with which you can slice through divisions.
When Buddha reportedly said, “Cut off his head if Buddha crosses your path,” the reference is not to physical decapitation but to the need to cultivate the discipline to be able to remove all distraction – be they your desires or even your guru, so that your path to nirvana is obstruction-free. No person or thing ought to come between you and your spiritual growth.
The allegory is crystal clear: Krishna, the ever-jealous lover, will occupy your heart and mind only if you create the space exclusively for Him. In order to do that, that is, to create room for ‘spiritual royalty’ as personified by Krishna Consciousness, you would have to oust all ‘political royalty’ – as represented by kings and queens and presidents. Once you do that, what remains in you is the Self and your awareness of it – that you may like to call Krishna, the epitome of ultimate love – something that effectively puts an end to all war, all acts of terrorism, all hate and conflict. In such a state, there’s nothing to kill or die for. Or to borrow Engel’s terminology, all externalities simply “wither away.”
Narayani's main thesis viz. that the Gita must be read as a metaphorical text, not a literal one - is valid for other major, religious books as well. The Old Testament is packed with violence against the heathens. So are many portions of the Quran. The target here are infidels. But the Quran too can be seen from a metaphorical prism. The call to wage jihad is a case in point. The 'big' jihad is against human frailties. Islamophobists miss this point.
So rather than call the Gita 'extremist metaphysical literature', I would prefer to refer to it a document that offers an antidote to extremism inherent in earthly endeavours - including religious and spiritual ones! Even the Bhakti Marg propounded in it makes no allusion to God. It gives you two stark choices: either to consider your Self to be the centre of the universe or to regard the self as no more than a a particle in the cosmos. People are welcome to dub these two choices as extremist. But for me, this is realism raised to the pitch of perfection. Texts of revealed religions - or religions of the Book - don't quite make that grade. The Gita makes no claims to omniscience. Hence its appeal. --Dileep Padgaonkar
This all very well unless one understands the Gita in context with its setting in the Mahabharata. In the Mahabharata, Arjun under the guidance of Krishna, does go ahead to kill Bhishma, all his teachers and relatives.
The Bhagavad Gita is clearly a polemical work set to re-establish Vedic Kshatriya Dharma against the rising popularity of Adharmic (non-Vedic) non-violent, ascetically renunciatory, salvation-centric religions that were gaining ascendancy at that time.
It is amusing and ironic when our country believes the Bhagavad Gita appears to need a non-violent veil to conceal its message.
The Gita does not require apologists or spin doctors to torture the text and bring out "inner meanings". If anyone bans the Gita, it is their country's loss.
If precedent tells us anything, the Gita will become most popular text exactly in the countries where it is banned. --Dr. Shantanu Udhav Nagarkatti
Antidote To Terror: Terrorists are cowards. Whenever terror has struck in any part of the world, we have heard people say it is an act of cowardice. A coward runs away from action but harbours all negative feelings and does it surreptitiously.
This is exactly what happened to Arjuna. Arjuna was angry, upset and sad and wanted to run away. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says ‘Don’t be a coward’. Hence the Gita is an antidote to terrorism. Krishna says bravery is the way: Face the war when it is inevitable and do your duty.
A terrorist is stuck in his identity; he hides it, has no rationale and inflicts pain. Whereas the Bhagavad Gita helps you transcend your identity. It encourages reason and infuses wisdom. Therefore it could be called the antidote to terrorism.
The duty of a policeman, soldier or king is to be impartial for the sake of the nation, whether it is their mentors or relatives. Terrorists are never impartial. A soldier is brave; a terrorist is a coward. A soldier protects and prevents violence and a terrorist inflicts pain and suffering. The Gita is the scripture of bravery in both realms -- physical and metaphysical.
The Gita wants you to act without hatred. Terrorism is steeped in hatred. It is unfortunate that some people in Russia are even thinking of banning Gita. Instead of finding a solution to the disease of terrorism they are trying to destroy the only medicine available -- of righteousness, of spiritual uplift and an action or duty that ought to be performed even in the most compelling situation.
Let the judges be assured that in the last 5,149 years of the existence of the Gita, there is no evidence of someone becoming a terrorist after reading it. In fact, M K Gandhi wrote commentaries on the Gita and it was an inspiration for his non-violent movement. The Gita is a unique scripture which caters to the entire range of human evolution, comprising of every level of this vast existence. However, if Russia is still thinking of banning the Gita, it amounts to depriving its people of a life-transforming scripture.
Gita stands for poise and equanimity and for performing one’s designated duty. Krishna does not encourage everyone to take to weapons and fight but a soldier cannot sell bananas in the market. He has to take his weapon to bring security to his people. If the Gita is a terrorist scripture then all military academies in the world are nothing but terrorist organisations. Doesn’t this sound strange? Would the courts ban Lenin, Marx and Mao TseTung, who, to stay in power, inflicted terror on millions?
A terrorist or a coward hides and inflicts pain on others whereas a soldier sacrifices his own life to bring security and peace to people. They both may take the gun but their intentions are poles apart.
The Bhagavad Gita encourages reasoning and dialogue while terrorists are blind to any reasoning and are closed to any form of dialogue. The Russians need to study the mind of a terrorist as much as they need to study the Gita before calling it a terrorist scripture.
Interestingly, in any military training worldwide, soldiers are asked to view enemies as dangerous objects that need to be eliminated. The psychology behind such indoctrination is that when they think the enemy is a human being, soldiers are unable to raise their arms. There are many such survival tactics where the army is desensitised. Arjuna faced a similar situation. Krishna went step-by-step to deal with Arjuna’s emotions, ego, mindsets and concepts. He finally touched on the nature of his spiritual being; revealing to him the highest knowledge and his eternal nature. This brought him enormous strength and then propelled him to perform his worldly duties.
Krishna says, no sin accrues to him whose intellect is unattached and free from cravings and aversions, even if he kills the whole world. Now, the condition of an intellect free from cravings and aversions itself counters terrorism. Terrorism exists when the intellect is deeply attached and is hateful. The metaphors and the high standards of humanism exhibited in the Gita are unparalleled.
Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.” In the Quran, there are many verses which talk about striking terror in the hearts of infidels and cutting off their fingers. By these standards if you still call Gita a terrorist scripture then you have to precede such statements with those from the Bible and Quran.
The fact is that scriptures do not inflict terrorism; it is the misinterpretation by an ignorant and stressed mind which justifies their actions quoting scriptures.
I wish to clarify that this comment is to cater to the common man and to the judges of Russia to whom metaphysics may appear far-fetched. --Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Art of Living Foundation
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi