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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Wire’s latest anti-Hindu bile: Bhagavad Gita is “illiberal theological” text

The Bhagavad Gita is said to be the essence of Mahabharata that has been considered, and rightly so, as the compendium of Sanatana Hindu Dharma. It is the epitome of Hindu philosophy and a summarized version of all the Hindu granthas put together.

The Wire’s anti-Hindu bile

One can, however, trust Hindudveshi (Hindumisic) portals such as The Wire to come up with the most illogical argument to diss Hindu Dharma and its granthas. The article terming Gita an “illiberal theological” text by one SK Arun Murthi, who was a professor of philosophy at Mohali’s Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in the humanities and social sciences department, is a case in point.

His article is a good pointer as to why science institutes should do away with the humanities departments. That Murthi follows the leftist ideology is amply clear from his article in The Wire and The News Minute, sites that are undoubtedly Hindumisic and leftist.

We shall, however, deal with the contents of his article but the reason for bringing up his ideology was to point out right at the start that the author has approached the subject with a biased mind. In the very first paragraph, he targets the Gujarat BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government and dedicates the next few paragraphs to argue that the party is attempting to push its ‘agenda’.

“Though Hindus see Gita’s message as a ‘universal truth’, it remains a religious text. If it is to be part of the school curriculum, it is hard to see why Muslim and Christian teachings – which their adherents also believe are ‘universal’ – should not also be taught. Unless, of course, the aim is to underline the salience (and even superiority) of Hinduism over other religions that Indians profess”, he questions.

Basically, a clever way of saying that Hindus are supremacists while subtly pushing the oft-used leftist argument that all religions are the same to hide one’s anti-Hindu agenda. He then uses terms and jargon such as pedagogic, obscurantist, etc. and ultimately brings in BR Ambedkar to defend his theory even though his arguments have no legs to stand on.

His argument on the karmaṇy-evādhikāras te shloka:

It goes against the very practical psychology of why we work. What should young students make out of this and how should one follow this as a value? Children go to school to acquire knowledge and aspire to do better in life. That is the value of hard work that is taught to them. But here is a statement from the Gita presented as a gospel truth that is in conflict with the value of hard work.

What good does this do for school-going children? In fact, this will demotivate them as this shloka strongly suggests that they should not have the right to fruits of their action and, by implication, arrest their aspirations.

To put the essence of the shloka in simple terms – do your duty and leave the rest to the Supreme. Nowhere does the Gita say that one shouldn’t enjoy the fruits of one’s labour. Bhagwan Krishna says in Chapter 2, Verse 37 “Slain, thou wilt obtain heaven; victorious, thou wilt enjoy the earth; therefore, stand up, O son of Kunti, resolved to fight”. All it says is work without expectations which will help one to avoid disappointments. Contrary to Murthi’s argument, students will be motivated to work harder if they fail to achieve their goals in the first instance.

As is their wont, he doesn’t fail to bring in the ‘casteist’ argument. “In fact, Lord Krishna proclaims that he is the creator of the four-fold social order Chaturvarnya (Chapter 4, verse 13). Ambedkar also mentions this verse as an illustration of one of the dogmas of Gita”. He further argues that ‘modern-day casteists’ use the symbolic meaning argument.

“If it is claimed, as some orthodox scholars do, that the categories are based on innate qualities and activities, then a counter-question can be posed as: why does he (the lord) create such differences in qualities. There is no answer and sometimes a tepid response is given in terms of karma theory which is another theological explanation devoid of philosophical substance. It is a case of defending one dogma by the other”, he claims.

Honestly speaking, it is quite difficult to comprehend what the author is trying to imply. Is he trying to ask why humans have different qualities? Isn’t it like asking why are the five fingers of the hand not the same? Equally obscure and defying logic is his other argument where he says “Ambedkar, therefore, is right when he contends that it is not a philosophical text. He gives an example of how dogma is defended in the Gita…In that case, how does one answer the following: If the body is not real, why did the Lord create an illusory body and then put the soul into it?”

A simple answer to this would be – the soul is the consciousness or energy that drives the body and it is well-known that energy is indestructible but only changes its form. Just as energy needs a vehicle, the soul needs the vehicle called the body. However, this doesn’t do complete justice to the Bhagavad Gita teaching which is also found in Katha Upanishad.

He concludes by saying one dogma is being used to defend another dogma and teaching Gita would stifle students’ rational thinking and critical thinking ability.

Force-fitting Western frameworks

The basic problem here is people like Murthi want to force-fit Western academic frameworks which are based on Abrahamic religious thoughts on Bharat. It is amply clear the piece has been written with the intention of somehow presenting the Gita as an irrational text whereas Gita is a sacred Dharmic grantha that when understood and internalized elevates the human mind to a different spiritual plane.

Those who know and practise the Gita have better control over emotions and senses and are thus better positioned for whatever material endeavours they pursue in life. It creates a value system, something that the modern liberal soaked in individualism can barely comprehend. Only an ignorant fool would judge the Gita by modern liberal, progressive literature benchmarks – it’s like comparing an advanced philosophy work with a Shobha De novel.

This so-called philosophical or rational enquiry argument used in The Wire article is simply a method to stifle native knowledge systems. Westernized, English-speaking elite have been controlling the intellectual discourse for the last 70 years since independence.

The West that these sepoys cheer teaches the Bible as part of public schools, albeit for ‘literary value’.  Sunday schools are integrated into the missionary education system. Yet, these anti-Hindu bigots want to deny the teaching of Dharma, which empowers each human to fulfil their spiritual potential without worrying about the creed, in the homeland of Hindus? 

The Print trumped The Wire in dissing the Bhagavad Gita in its 2019 piece. The latter took a different route by stating that the Panchatantra was more popular than the Gita. “It was only after Western interpretations made it popular that nationalists like Gandhi, Aurobindo and Tilak took up the Gita and made it India’s seminal philosophical text”, argued Prathama Banerjee.

Suffice here to say that several acharyas, including those who predate Panchatantra’s author Shri Vishnu Sharma, have written bhashyas on the Bhagavad Gita. Among them are Bhagwan Adi Shankara, Abhinavagupta, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Vallabhacharya, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Bhaskaracharya, Nimbarka, Yamunacharya, and Dnyaneshwar among others. Bharat doesn’t need ‘western interpretations’ to popularize what has been known for ages to its Gurus and Acharyas who in turn transmitted that knowledge to the laypeople in a language that the latter understood.

In any case, while the Bhagavad Gita is a philosophical treatise (to be precise – a Hindu Dharmic grantha dealing with various philosophical aspects of life), Panchatantra is a political work intended for a different purpose. Comparing the two is like comparing oranges and mangoes. If only these Hindudveshi brown sepoys would put in some effort to understand Bharat’s Dharmic granthas they would do themselves and the world a big favour by refraining from making illogical arguments and comparisons.

(Featured Image Source: The Wire)

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  1. To add to my earlier comment:
    There is no contradiction in
    “1. Svadharme nidhana: Shreya: Paradharmo Bhayaavaha:
    2. Sarvadharman Parityajya Mamekam Sharanam Vraja”
    The former refers to the first phase of a seeker’s journey, namely, the pursuit of Karma Yoga to purify one’s mind and attain maturity/fitness for an exclusive knowledge pursuit (Jnana Ypoga). This is very much in keeping with Krishna’s statements in the first Shatka: 3.3 (Lokesmin dvividha..) or 6.3 (AArurukshor Mune Yogam..). In fact, as Shankara clarifies, Sarvadharmaan in 18.66 actually means sarvakarmaan.

  2. I happened to come upon this article after reading a recent critique of Adi Shankara by Mr. Arun Murthi in (again!) “The Wire”. Mr. Murthi’s translation of the famous “Karmanyeva…” from the Gita
    “‘You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.’”
    is bafflingly hollow. First of all, “Adhikara” does not mean “right” but refers to competence. This is particularly addressed to Arjuna (but applies to most of the seekers) who wants to run away to the forest to meditate. Krishna tells him that he is not competent yet for that and hence has to perform his assigned duty with the yoga attitude so as to attain maturity of mind. What is more, the “adhikara” cannot be carried over to “ma Phaleshu kadachana” and interpreted (wrongly) as : you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Shankara clearly explains that it is the obsessive attachment to the objective results of one’s actions that one must shun. This also connects with the third part of the Shloka – Ma karma phala hetuh – which advises the seeker not to be adopt the attitude that binds the jiva to the cycle of births and deaths. This interpretation is not mine but that of Shankara as I understood from the great scholars in the Advaitic tradition such as Swami Dayananda, Swami Paramarthananda and Swami Omkarananda. In fact, Swami Omkarananda addresses (in Tamizh) these very points tellingly in his commentary on Shloka 18.6 of the Gita which is available on the Youtube (0554 Srimadh Bhagavad Gita 18th Chapter – Shlokam 6).

  3. Thanks for your reply. I agree with you on one count that the word, Christianity does not appear anywhere in The Old or The New Testament which Christians do acknowledge as a matter of fact. Truth cannot be disputed. However, I entered HPD hoping that I can initiate a dispassionate debate purely in academic interest. However, this is not to be, since I and you play different games with different sets of Rules. However, I iterate;
    Long Live Hindu – Muslim – Christian Fraternity
    Incidentally, I am neither a theist, nor an atheist, nor a hater of Hindus, just for information.
    Good Luck and Good Bye to HPD

    • Good bye, Mr. Nandan. Hope you start treating Hindu Dharma and its sacred texts with more respect, and understand that your qualifications do not give you the right to say anything, unchallenged. It is the tragedy of our nation that people like you, who got the opportunity to study and teach our shastras, pretend not to be aware of the aggressive, supremacist threat posed by Abrahamic proselytizers who along with our secular state are destroying Bharat’s delicate social fabric which is grounded in Dharma. Sitting in your academic ivory tower, you instead choose to rebuke and talk down to the ordinary Hindu who is waging an existential battle to preserve his culture and civilization.

    M. R. Nandan ([email protected]), formerly an associate professor of philosophy at Government College For Women, Mandya, Karnataka
    This is in response to the HinduPost Desk (HPD), published by The Wire, 24th March 2022. The author began with the assertion that the Bhagavadgita (BG) is the ‘ …. Compendium of Sanatana Hindu Dharma…..epitome of Hindu philosophy….Further, HPD went on to repeat the assertion at the end of the article and said it is a Hindu Dharmic Grantha. Somewhere in the middle of the article, HPD said that BG is one of the sources of Hindu philosophy. I intend to focus on these issues without going into the merit or demerit of other assertions on the supremacy and inevitability of Hindu Dharma.
    First criticism; the very word Hindu is a misnomer. Second, there is no such philosophy as Hindu Philosophy. We have only Indian Philosophy. If BG is the source of Hinduism, as almost universally believed, then it is necessary that the word the Hindu (TH) should, invariably, appear at least once in BG. Since HPD makes such an emotional and fervent appeal to uphold the sanctity and liturgical character of BG, I shall presume that HPD has read BG, if not the original in Sanskrit, at least its translation to native or English language and I, for one, believe that the original is not accessible to anyone at all. I make an earnest request to HPD to show at least one place in BG where TH occurs. Suppose that this word occurs nowhere in BG, then on what ground can we accept that BG is the sacred text of THs? I, being a philosophy student- teacher for more than five decades, had an opportunity to teach BG to B. A. students for a few years for which I depended on translation carried out by Sri Ramakrishna Mission. I have taught the entire text from end to end, not just the summary. Therefore, with authority, I assert that TH does not appear even once in BG. If BG is completely bereft of TH, then what justification can there be to regard BG as the source of Hindu Dharma? First appearance in the text, then reverence. Indeed, BG is considered one of the prasthaanatrayas (three pillars) of Indian philosophy (the other two being the Upanishads and the Brahmasutras) and many have expressed their reservations on considering BG in that manner. In philosophical circle no one ever said that such a doubt amounts to sacrilege.
    It is not just that TH does not find place in BG. We regard thirteen Upanishads, among approximately one hundred and fifty, as Principal Upanishads (see, Radhakrishnan S., Thirteen Principal Upanishads). We had to study one of them, Mandukyopanishad with Gaudapada Karika, while mastering philosophy. Since it was a text for 100 marks, we studied it from end to end. Again, I point out that TH does not appear even once in the said Upanishad. Not justthat; consider any major Upanishad like Brihadaranyaka, Chandogya, etc. TH does not find place in them. None of the abovementioned texts, which we studied, was printed and published by any non-Hindu institutions. So no blasphemy is involved. My question to HPD; how can anyone justify the claim that such and such a text is the source of a certain Dharma when that particular word does not figure even once in the said text?
    I honestly fail to understand all this social – political – religious conundrum encircling BG? Let me begin with an illustration to drive home the point. Who made the statement; ‘As flies to wanton boys are we to gods; they kill us for their sports (King Lear)? It is not The Earl of Gloucester though quite often the statement is attributed to him. The Earl of Gloucester is only a fictitious character in the play. In reality, Shakespear made this statement. Likewise, Krishna and Arjuna are only two among five hundred and eight characters in TM. Krishna is not the exponent of BG contrary to popular belief in the very same manner in which The Earl of Gloucester is not the one who wrote the above quoted statement. It is Vyasa (or Veda Vyasa to be accurate) who wrote BG. Further, BG is only a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. (Please note; if a claim is made that Krishna is not a fictitious figure, but a historical figure, then Krishna loses his divine character because God transcends the bounds of space and time.) However, we are oblivious of simple fact that BG was, indeed, written by Veda Vyasa and also that he is accountable, and not Krishna, for what is said or not said in BG. When this is the situation, among several thousands of slokas in the Epic why should only this conversation between Arjuna and Krishna receive overriding precedence on all other slokas? In what respect is Bhishma’s exposition of Rajadharma inferior to BG? If it is not inferior, then why are all silent? Not many are even aware of Bhishma’s advice to Yudhishtira when the former was lying on the bed of arrows. Indeed, Bhishma’s exposition of Rajadharma is more amenable to philosophic or empirical debate than BG. In all earnestness, I have a suggestion for the advocates of BG. Please try to access the original TM, definitely not the edited one or translation or commentary, and try to trace the word BG in the Epic. Suppose that you cannot trace this word in the Epic. Then what should be the conclusion? BG must be a sort of honorific used by an admirer of TM. Surely, the author does not admire his own work. It is for the critic to admire or not to admire. Admittedly, a reader has every right to use any honorific. I do not question his or her right. But it cannot be mandated. It is nothing short of brute authoritarian onslaught. No sanctity whatsoever can ever be meaningfully attached to such mandate.
    This is one part. Next, scholars agree on one crucial count; originally, there were a little more than 8800 slokas in Vyasa Bharata. The original title was not even TM. It was Jaya. TM which we can access today has 250,000 slokas. So the leap is from 8800 slokas to 250,000 slokas! How can we explain this gargantuan leap? Second, please note; TM was not composed by one Vyasa. More than one Vyasa contributed for the expansion of the Epic. How many? The legend (mythology?) has it that there are fourteen Manvantaras and in every Manvantara a Vyasa appeared and contributed for the expansion of the Epic. Therefore Vyasa is a collective noun. Even by the most conservative and modest estimate a Manvantara stretches to thirty years (my assumption). So fourteen Manvantaras stretch to at least four hundred and twenty years. Now when exactly was BG, which we venerate so much, written? Over a period of time, so many interpolations took place (otherwise, there could not have been such abnormal leap in the number of slokas in the Epic). When interpolation is there, deletion, modification, etc., are also possible and plausible. Since there are fourteen Vyasas, there must be fourteen different editions of Krishna. Among these fourteen editions of Krishnas, which particular edition of Krishna is acceptable to us as Lord Krishna? Can we say that all fourteen Krishnas are equally adorable to us? This claim does not seem to make much sense. We only succeed in complicating what is already complicated. Indeed, we do not even know with certainty whether or not BG was inserted in some particular Manvantara or it was included in all the Manvantaras and if it was retained in all the manvantaras, whether or not it was retained without modifications. However, given the fact that TM was stretched from one Manvantara to the next and then to another, with all probability and plausibility we can only hypothesise that BG did undergo modifications from time to time before stabilising at some point of time if it stabilised. Against this background, we should ask ourselves the question; where is the reason to randomly adhere to one version of BG only at the cost of other versions? Choice must be preceded by cogent reason; it cannot be random.
    The critic of my argument may maintain that for him or her it is a matter of belief. Then it becomes subjective. What is subjective cannot be imposed on others. On the contrary, criticism is objective. There is only one way of saving BG from criticisms. Do not bring it to the public domain. Please note that it is not the prerogative of BG alone to come under clinical attack. As long as a book, be it BG, or the Holy Bible, or the Qur’an, is restricted to private domain, it is immune to any criticism, not otherwise. Karl Popper, a philosopher of eminence, sarcastically remarked in his, The Logic of Scientific Discovery; ‘to avoid criticism speak as little as you can. Speech is silvern, silence is golden’. Contrary to launching personal attack, constructive criticism reflects not only scientific spirit but also reflects democratic spirit. The bottom line is that criticism does not amount to derogation. Only pre-requisite is that before criticising one should have a thorough knowledge of the texts, not otherwise. Neither Murthy nor I speak on the Bible or the Qur’an because we do not know what they preach or do not preach. It is for the scholars in respective fields to evaluate. Indeed, I do not know how people of other faiths will react when their scriptures are criticised.
    I prefer to buttress my argument by referring to the History of Dharmashastra authored by Dr. Panduranga Vamana Kane which appeared in six volumes, the last one being published in the early 60s. The title does not even carry this much revered TH. The brute and bitter fact is that neither Shrutis nor Smritis nor Bhagavata tradition legislate the authority or the sanctity of TH. Then how did this word make inroads to the present day? This is for the historians and sociologists to decide; neither for policy makers nor for outfits unless they are competent. In all academic matters competence matters. No one is competent in every field.
    Truth is always harsh and bitter. If a word does not find any place anywhere in the text, then the text has nothing to do with that particular word. More importantly, the very word BG is a misnomer. Suppose that one of the Vyasas had changed the title from TM to The Bhagavadgita, then it could not have been debated. Freedom of the poet is unquestionable. However, when a person other than the poet, no matter how great he is, fixes a title, it does not carry much weight or, for that matter, any weight.
    As a matter of generality, there is absolutely nothing wrong in debating. Pointing out an error or any inconsistency does not amount to showing disrespect. What is wrong in criticising BG in sheer academic spirit? That is how we philosophise. How did Indian philosophy evolve over a period of time stretching to several centuries? It was only through dispassionate and objective debate, no other path. Not just Indian philosophy, philosophy in general is characterised by such debate. Here is no room for love or reverence or hatred. S. K. Arun Murthy must be understood against this background (The wire, 21st Mar). Every student knows that Jainism and the Buddhism developed only as a result of opposition to the Vedic tradition. It does not mean that these two schools belittled the Vedic thought. Nor does it mean that the Buddhism and Jainism are perfect. All systems are imperfect and are susceptible to correction. Correction is the way any knowledge system evolves. In other words, to attack the critic on unacademic platform or trying to insulate any system of thought from criticism is to oppose any growth in knowledge. HPD claims that ‘this so-called philosophical or rational enquiry…’ stifles Indian knowledge system. On the contrary, it is this religion-centric view that has stifled Indian knowledge system. Devotion should not be allowed to operate in knowledge sphere whereas knowledge can operate in devotion sphere.
    Forget Jainism and Buddhism. Why did the three Acharyas write commentaries on the Brahmasutras? Suppose that all three Acharyas concurred on all the issues. If so, then the second and third Acharyas would have become guilty of plagiarism if only such a law existed at that time. Admittedly, one Acharya dissents from other two Acharyas. They have criticised, pointed out faulty reasoning, in the works of their respective predecessors. Does it amount to showing disrespect to the preceding Acharya or Acharyas? I and Murthy are only continuing the philosophical tradition nurtured over two millennia. The upshot of my argument is that everyone has built-in right, academic freedom to oppose, to point out errors. If Mr. A has the right to uphold a theory, then Mr. B has equal right to dissent. Freedom is not the prerogative of any one individual. Not many know that even within a system there are arguments and counter arguments. Advaita, for example, is not a monolith. The students of Samkara did revise his doctrine and it is a different story that in the process of revising they unwittingly distorted the doctrine. Same is the case with all other Indian thinkers. Plurality in theories is the essence of knowledge and it is a pointer to the richness of tradition. Further, knowledge is dynamic. It evolves by absorbing new theories and arguments and in the process, offers something novel and interesting. On the contrary, what is static is stagnant. Before anyone admires his or her tradition, this aspect must be borne in mind. Variety is always preferable to monotony. Even in our mundane life we desire variety, not monotony. After all Murthi has not barred any one from opposing his views. No one, therefore, has any right to prevent him from expressing his views. If his views are not acceptable, fine; do not accept. Indeed, I myself do not accept his argument in toto. However, I defend his freedom to express his views. He does not accept my views in toto either.
    Long ago Bertrand Russell wrote Freedom of Thought and Official Propaganda. In a succinct manner he analysed the ill-effects of official propaganda. We have proved time and again that he is right. Why is he relevant even today? That is because emphasis on freedom and ability to think must be the driving force, the entelechy of education. All educationists concur on one count that education does not consist in mere rote learning, what is pejoratively labelled as parrot learning. Learning, in the strict sense of the word, consists in developing inquisitive nature and critical thinking. Teaching consists in inspiring, motivating young minds to sthink. And if critical thinking is injurious to long established beliefs, so much the worse for beliefs and it is not the fault of critical thinking. Further, if freedom to critically think is declared an outlaw to save beliefs from collapsing, then we do not need any enemy to dig our grave. By casting aspersions on Murthi and by calling him names, his critics, in unequivocal terms, have demonstrated that they are against educating children. Or, at worst, they only have an idea of pseudo-education. Already mankind has developed pseudo-religion at the expense of genuine religion. Education shall not meet the same fate. At this juncture, I should quote Socrates; no greater evil can befall men than to become haters of reason. If reference to a Western philosopher amounts to sacrilege and hence an anathema to Murthi’s critics, then I will revert to the Indian tradition. What is the meaning of Tathaa Brahmajignaasa, Kasmai Devaaya Havishaa Vidhema? Jijnase can only be resolved by a reasoned enquiry. The Upanishads have stood the test of time because of their openness to enquiry, not because of opacity. All great minds think alike because intellect knows no bounds.
    Murthi quoted two slokas from BG to make his point somewhat unsuccessfully. I quote two other slokas from the same text. Compare the following.
    1. Svadharme nidhana: Shreya: Paradharmo Bhayaavaha:
    2. Sarvadharman Parityajya Mamekam Sharanam Vraja
    Even a beginner, doing philosophy or logic, immediately discovers that here is a contradiction. What kind of teaching can we imagine if this criticism of BG amounts to blasphemy? If sense of devotion to BG prevents you from seeing contradiction where there is contradiction and blind faith blocks vision, then evidently, education has failed. Now how do you resolve the same? Alright, a devotee is free to give chosen interpretation to resolve contradiction. At least, he must be in a position to identify contradiction.
    This will bring me to a very important, critical, aspect. The author has made another remark. ‘His (Murthi’s)* article is a pointer as to why science institutes should do away with humanities departments’. I do not know whether or not the author is a teacher. Suppose he is not. Then this is my appeal. Please leave education to educationists. It is not your domain. And this is my fervent appeal to all those who govern us, those who are carried away by their rhetoric, etc.; education is not your cup of tea. Further, the author’s credentials matter if his proscription is to be viewed seriously when education is at stake. No one should venture to give advice or command on topics he is uninformed or ill-informed. No sane person thinks of swimming in unfamiliar waters. On the other hand, if he is a teacher, it is for him to prove that free and creative thought is not the goal of education.
    Then what is the status of BG? This question must be answered before settling the question – should BG be taught or not. Contrary to what Murthi says, it is not a theological text because theology is a study of religious beliefs and the very idea of religion is foreign to India. However, I focus more on Murthi’s critics who believe that Hindu religion is sacred. A religion needs a founder. It needs scriptural authority. Followers, who proudly claim that Hinduism does not have a founder, are unaware of this consequence of their claim. Secondly, there are no scriptures which proclaim what Hindu religion is. In India there was never a religion during Vedic Age. It only came from the West much later. And then the word Hindu; this word was introduced by Al Biruni when he visited India sometime in the eleventh century and then wrote Tarikh al-Hind. Before his visit TH was never in use in India. Nor was there any native word of which TH could have been a derivative. First and foremost, BG is a piece of literature, remarkable though. A piece of literature is invaluable or valueless, as the case may be, in its own right. Consider, for example, Hamlet’s soliloquies or Mark Antony’s speech with the slain Julius Caeser lying by his side. They may not find place in hard core philosophy. Nor do they find place in religious text. Nevertheless, their unblemished literary value is unarguable. Secondly, BG is an account of spiritual thought and lastly, a handbook on casuistry. In categorising so, I am not demeaning BG. I am only putting BG in the right perspective. No matter what I say or what I do not say; no matter what I support or what I oppose. The value of BG remains unchanged if it has any. That there are varieties of arguments and counter arguments focussing on BG demonstrate the value of BG beyond all reasonable doubts. Only the type of the value varies from one perspective to the other.
    I categorised BG in this way with a definite purpose. My purpose is to demonstrate that all three aspects of BG are nonrational or nonlogical. Murthi used the word illogical. I say nonlogical; neither logical nor illogical. Neither literature nor casuistry nor spirituality can be viewed through the lens of logic. If so, why should not BG be taught? I will return to this question later from a different perspective.
    HPD made two other unfounded remarks; one is that the Western academic frame-works are based on Abrahamic religious thoughts and second, ‘this so-called philosophical or rational enquiry…is simply a method to stifle native knowledge systems. I prefer to answer the second comment first. This comment represents HPD’s myopic idea of knowledge. Indian system of knowledge is not and cannot be stifled by incorporating its Western counterpart. Does HPD believe that the system which he or she venerates so high is also so fragile as to be eclipsed or destroyed by Western or any other alien system? This is truly surprising. Knowledge knows no bounds. It transcends all artificial barriers created by humans like national, racial, religious, linguistic, etc. Knowledge is unimaginably elastic; a bottomless pit. Medieval Arabs did great service by translating the works of Aristotle, Aryabhatiyam of Aryabhata, etc. Sanskrit scholars did not lag behind. They translated many Arab works on medieval astronomy to Sanskrit presumably because there was no democracy in India at that point of time. That is not the end of this uncomfortable story. Let me further elaborate. German universities have included studies of Indian contribution under the department of Indic studies. Classical Indian Dance System is taught at London. The legendary Jon B. Higgins, an American professor of music mastered and taught Classical Carnatic Music in the USA. Only such people endorse and live by the Rig Vedic Mantra; Aa No Bhadraa: Kratavo Yantu Vishvata: (Let Noble Thoughts come to us from All Sides). It is truly ironical that the votaries of the ancient Indian tradition are themselves blissfully unaware of the essence of the Vedic tradition. This is truly paradoxical. It must be noted that any two systems of knowledge are complementary. They enrich themselves by receiving and giving, but do not stifle one another. Now I will consider the first remark. This is far from truth. There may be lessons on Christianity taught at various institutions in the West. But it does not make the education system Abrahamic. What is taught in Christian seminaries is not the same as what is taught in reputed and accredited universities. There are unrecognised and non-accredited institutions, outside India as well, which teach the Bible. But they should not be taken as standard of reference. Otherwise, no non-Christian Indian would have travelled all the way to the West for higher education. Notwithstanding my comments, we can, surely, include lessons which introduce young minds to Indian heritage. There is absolutely nothing wrong. But then there is a way of doing.
    The whole controversy arose because the governments of Gujarat and Karnataka announced that BG would be taught at middle school level. Neither the policy makers nor the enthusiastic supporters ever cared to address a critical question; who should teach? To get my point, think of this extravagant suggestion; let us make teaching of nanotechnology and Riemannian geometry compulsory at middle school level. If this is plain nonsense, then teaching of BG at middle school level is equally plain nonsense. Reason? Is any teacher, recruited to teach at middle or high school level, really competent to properly and effectively teach BG? Again, this will take us to already mentioned pre-requisite; competence. The critic may retort; anyone can teach BG. This is ridiculous assertion. Nor can everyone teach the Bible and Qur’an. How many Muslims are well-versed in Arabic? It is plain nonsense to claim that I can understand and teach Qur’an without caring to learn Arabic.
    So who can teach the BG? Proper and formal study of philosophy is a necessary pre-condition. And no one wants to study philosophy (sic!). Knowledge of Sanskrit is an added advantage. You can hardly find well qualified teachers – from primary to postgraduate level – who can teach BG if you accept that background training is necessary to teach the same? The policy makers in both the states have to address this question first before making the study of BG mandatory. If they go ahead with their decision without addressing this question, then it will only be a mockery of teaching. As a result, students end up in memorising and reciting certain number of slokas as prescribed by their teacher, nothing more. If memorising is regarded as learning, then it is a mockery of learning. Memory and understanding are two different elements. One does not overlap the other. It only shows that policy makers do not have even an iota of idea of teaching – learning. If it happens, then we are done for ever. We are presiding over the funeral of education.
    Surely, BG can be taught at school level. I do not dispute it, but how! It can only be in the form of a lesson, nothing more. And here is my explanation for my leftist friends. At least to know what are not unacceptable in a text it has to be taught. There is no text in the world, no thinker in the world, acceptable to all and at all times. Universal acceptability or unacceptability is a myth beautifully and deceptively woven by unthinking minds. Students can be made aware of what is good and what is bad, what is acceptable (unacceptable) and why it is acceptable (unacceptable) only when a text is taught, not otherwise. It is here that reason plays its pre-eminent role.
    Should we confine ourselves only to BG? In this respect, I concur with Mr. Badri Raina (The Wire, Mar 27, 2022). Surely, all scriptures can and must be included only in the form of lessons, not as separate subjects. After all, that is the way we were educated. He has rightly quoted gems of sermons from the Bible, for example. How can you say that Sufism should be banished? We had golden opportunity to learn about TM, the Upanishads, fables from the Bible, from Greek tragedies at middle school level itself. A lesson on Antigone, a character in Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus , another lesson on Ulysses chosen from Homer’s Odyssey – two great Greek poets – were part of our study when we were at middle school level. Fragments of Sanskrit, Kannada, English and Greek literature found place in our textbooks. This is real holistic approach. The duration of middle school is of three years. Time is enough to do justice to all faiths. Doing justice to all faiths is incidental. What is of primary concern is to develop universal brotherhood and inculcation of this canon alone can prevent us from impending catastrophe, since we are trapped in glasshouses and are throwing stones at others. This metamorphosis alone will help us to realise the Heaven of Freedom dreamt by Rabindranath Tagore, the Vishvamanava dreamt by Kuvempu (Dr. K. V. Puttappa, the celebrated poet of the 20th century Kannada literature). Ours is a pluralistic society, not a monolith. This point should be borne in mind. Cultural hegemony is not the right path. It is not only unethical but also suicidal.
    An appeal straight from the depth of my heart to my Hindu-Muslim-Christian Fraternity; please restrict your religion to the boundaries of your home and your faith to your soul. Do not bring your God to street. God does not need microphone. Live by your religion; not by your sword.
    *parentheses mine
    The author is grateful to Prof. H. S. Ravishankar, associate professor of Sanskrit (Rtd), Sagar, Karnataka, for his invaluable inputs.

    • OK, this long-winded comment seems longer than our original article 🙂 Here’s what you are saying in a nutshell – Mahabharata is tampered/of dubious origin, Bhagavad Gita is just literature like a Shakespeare play, Western Indology since British times was just trying to ‘advance knowledge’ etc. We have informed the author of the piece if she would like to respond. Just a few observations:

      1.) How many times does word ‘Christianity’ appear in the Old Testament of ‘Holy’ Bible? What is this “Indian” philosophy you speak of? When was the word ‘India’ first used for this land known since millennia as Bharat?
      2.) Your point about 14 Sri Krishnas and all is total nonsense – even if TM was written and expanded by a series of Vyasyas, which in itself is a dubious claims, they all could very well refer to the same Sri Krishna. Honestly, atheists like you should just stay away from commenting on Dharma, but hey – it’s a free country and we aren’t all barbarians who lynch people for ‘blasphemy’, so carry on…although your comments definitely can be seen as qualifying for a case under IPC 295A
      3.) Bharat is the homeland of Hindus and all Dharmik communities – it is natural for the Dharma, spirituality and philosophy native to this land to be taught to children. Religions which emanated outside this country have well developed, globally funded religious infrastructure to teach their tenets. We Dharmiks do not, so the state must step in. But your point about need for well-qualified teachers who can teach essentials of Gita to middle-schoolers is fair.
      4.) “the word Hindu; this word was introduced by Al Biruni when he visited India sometime in the eleventh century and then wrote Tarikh al-Hind”: Patently FALSE. Read this
      5.) “Please leave education to educationists”: Sorry, that ship has sailed. We have seen what ‘educationists’ (propagandist is a more apt word) such as Marxist historians have done to school and college history and social studies curriculum. Should we ordinary people also leave law to judges, and administrative matters to IAS officers, and only comment on sports and Bollywood? You WILL be questioned. Get used to it.
      6.) “No one, therefore, has any right to prevent him from expressing his views. If his views are not acceptable, fine; do not accept.”: So, all we did was pen a rebuttal to a piece which appeared in a noxious propaganda portal like The Wire. How is this ‘preventing’ anyone from expressing their views? If he has written something which hurts Hindus and/or violates the law of the land, and we call that out, that is our freedom of expression.
      7.) Bottomline – if you pen dubious theories and desacralize/mock Hindu texts, you will get a response.


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