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December 06, 2011


Wonderful article..

I look forward to Part 2.

It is a good attempt. However, I believe that it is not effective to view the Gita through the lens of the West (which is what I believe you are doing). Let us firstly agree that no existing system of philosophy/ religion or organised society is perfect. The experience of Life, itself, is subjective for each of us and defies direct analysis. I think the Gita is a parable to show that life is a war - within and without. The deeper thinkers amongst us are frequently frozen by the concern of doing "What is right". However, as Krishna says in the Gita - none of us can sit still in inaction. Act, we must and every action has subjective interpretations anyway. The message of the Gita is that our words and actions are open to criticism and judgement by the World but we should not let that stop us. The World is shaped by the bold - who take action - skilfully (Yoga in action).

Steve Jobs had a bad family life and supposedly cheated his first business partner Steve Wozniak (is it right?) but in taking action, he has shaped the World. Dr. Ambedkar's views were shaped by his own bitter experience of the caste system. I conclude with MK Gandhi's suggestion that it is our duty to study each of the WOrld's religions with a SYMPATHETIC view (and see the truth in them not them as truth)

Kashyap, what is skillful action? Is morality of the action not part of the answer to that? If the question of skill is devoid of morality then even evil actions can be skillful and yes, evil actions too shape the world. If it is admitted that the question of morality must be addressed apriori before action is taken, then the Gita cannot commend skillful action without first clarifying what its moral teaching is. I think Namit's concern is that the Gita's moral view is problematic

Vinod, My point is that morality itself is subjective. The "evil" Lion that slaughters a helpless fawn is doing its duty to feed it's cubs. Many people say Mr. Dhirubhai Ambani indulged in corruption to overcome the stringent measures imposed by the Indira Gandhi government but in doing so he generated thousands of jobs. Was he justified in the original corruption then? So the Gita is a book of science. A manual on nuclear science is devoid of morality. The science can be used for nuclear power or a bomb. Organised semitic religions have tried to preach a common morality but have been revealed to have many failings. We may at least respect the honesty of the Gita when Krishna says - Let the praise or the criticism of your actions be dedicated to me for you are sure to get BOTH regardless of what you do.

Dear Namit,
Thank you so much for your effort.

1) Sorry to admit this but I'm nursing a kind of uneasiness at the lopsidedness of this analysis citing sources that dear scholarly Doniger favored. If you are rebutting to any given post or paper (from the Malhotra camp, for example), please mention the details/links to help balance the plane.

2) A civil court in Siberia is hearing a case to ban Bhagavad Gita in Russia [Dec 19/20]- http://bit.ly/uppZGn just FYI.

3) At the outset, I have my share of skepticism around a "rebel's lore" including that of Nagarjuna et al. It is not without its mandated social agenda of the era, and perhaps, with a little exaggeration, comparable to that of conversionists' to-do list of the present in places like Africa, or previously, khilafat. (Corpus of character assassinations as against to chartered assassinations of that of khilafat, for instance. For Buddhism and Jainism also have had (physical) ahimsa at their core.)

Not to be prejudicial at all, my intention is limited to throw in an appropriate red herring. So with earnest I await your take on this "Eastern" view (as you call it), hoping it won't fall short on the promise of your last para.

Best luck / Warm regards / Indlim

I would like to ask the learned Namit Arora the following questions -

1. If the ideas of the Gita are found diffused throughout the Mahabharata text, would he turn the Mahabharata too into an overrated text with a deplorable morality?

2. Has he indeed studied the Mahabharata to see whether the ideas of the Gita are so present or not?

As a brief starter, go with the set of dialogs beginning here:


I would further ask the question whether anyone really thinks that the Gita can be understood without the context of the Mahabharata to support it, as a stand-alone document? Can the Quran be understood on its own without all the Sunnah? (Indeed all the unvarnished "It is obligatory to kill the infidel" interpretations come by extending Quranic verses beyond the context provided by the Sunnah.) Which Hindu reads the Gita without being aware of the Mahabharata? Which Westerners read the Gita being aware of the context, and not indulge in their philological games?

The last question I'd ask the learned Namit Arora is why is the Indica of Alberuni, written around 1000AD, infused with the Gita, if Hindus didn't revere it until the British came along and elevated it?

If Adi Shankaracharya was instrumental in sweeping away Buddhism out of India, why is his commentary on the Gita considered not influential, so that the Gita was rediscovered by Hindus only because of the British?

These questions can go on endlessly, because the premises lying at the heart of the author's arguments are fatally flawed.

I don't understand you. It is quite clearly and repeatedly stressed in mahabharata that Krishna tried his level best to avert the war. In the end, he asked for 5 villages only and duryodhana refused. He almost imprisoned him for that (hence the first virat roop). The story clearly says that only after every opportunity was exhausted did the war begin. Also Krishna offered his own huge army to Duryodhana not nearly a sign of a person who would unjustly want a war on kauravs. So the great war of mahabharat happened only because Kauravs would not budge from adharma.

Now you say that after 18 days a lot of people died. But head count is surely not the only way to conclude the outcome of war. In that case, one might have said that if Hitler stopped short of provoking Britain into war and kept killing Jews, 6 million and counting, it was a much better outcome than the nearly 30-40 million who perished in the end. Same moral applies here - limits of appeasement.

Pandavas were repeatedly treated badly right from childhood by Duryodhana including near fatal poisoning of bheema, arson in lakshagriha, sexual humiliation of their wife in front of the full court and then refusal to hand back the kingdom after they successfully finished their exile.

You simply cannot cherry pick parts of Gita to suit your already biased conclusion. No doubt Krishna asked Arjuna to kill. But only after every avenue was demonstrably exhausted, and that too it was not merely for land or power. It was dharmayuddha. A moral war. Not for 'not following my God'. It is ethical battle. That has much greater resonance than my God kicks your God's a**s.

The point is not whether the war was justified; perhaps it was. The point is about the quality of the arguments actually used in the Gita to justify the war (mainstream arguments, not fringe ones). In other words, if the best moral justifications for the war lie outside it (and some really bad ones inside it), why uphold the Gita as a great work of wisdom? Why consider it a guide to our "inner battlefield", etc.?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this essay. It should respond to most of the points that have been raised. Coming Jan 2.

Happy New Year!

1. The author's understanding and conclusions are set in the paradigm decided by the western philosophers, so this has to conflict with Gita.
2. To say that Mahabharat happened in 950 BC is the stupidest part in the article. The actual date still cannot be determined, and the date assigned by western 'scholars' was just to comply with their book of Genesis (one of the most immoral and unscientific book), which had 4000 BC as creation of universe.
3. Gita is not the book of morality. It is the book of Dharma. And dharama is not 'religion' as it is commonly translated.
4. Before forming the opinion, please check out the Gita Satsang conducted by Osho Rajnish. Osho was a fair person and was not a hindu 'swamy', so his views are as important as it gets. In fact, his vision goes well beyond that provided by hindu monks..
5. For outside reasons, the conclusions of war were really easy. That's why Bhimasena was not worried, he was okay with the outside reasons. But the trouble with Ajuna was different. He is a notch above every other human on the battlefield, except for Krishna.
6. If Krishna's only goal was to make Arjuna fight in the battle, it was really easy. He could have just reminded Arjuna of all the misdeeds of Duryodhna & Co and Arjuna would be ready to fight. But that would be fighting by animal instinct, not for Dharma.
7. Gita is classified as Upanishad. Please, try to understand why. Upanishad means the knowledge given by Guru to a shishya, when shishya is completely devoted.
8. It becomes difficult to understand gita, when your reference document is 'peter brook's mahabharata'. In fact peter brook's mahabharat is one of the most unfaithful version that fails to capture the soul of the text. With this reference though, your arguments hold a lot of water. :)

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