Feb 03, 2023
Feb 03, 2023
by BS Murthy
The Bhagavad-Gita was eulogized as “the most beautiful, perhaps the only true philosophical song existing in any known tongue” by the 19th Century Prussian philosopher William von Humboldt but Vijay Mankar, the Ambedkarite of the day, avers that it is a rotten work deserving to be thrown into a dustbin for “it advocates inequality of man based on caste, stigmatizes women as an inferior kind and legitimizes violence”. Neither Humboldt was alone in praising the Gita for he had the illustrious company of many a Western thinker such as Arthur Schopenhauer, Albert Einstein, Aldous Huxley, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, only to name a few, nor Mankar lacked company to castigate it as a book of bigotry, for Ambedkar the Dalit intellectual, who piloted the Indian Constitution, was unsparing about it.
Whatever, these extremely divergent opinions about this antique work continue to persist to the hurt of the Hindu polity what with some perceiving it as the ‘epitome of wisdom’ even as the others avoid it treating it as a ‘Brahmanical tome’ of social oppression. Be that as it may, the irony of it all is that even its protagonists fail to benefit from this ‘book of wisdom’ owing, in part, to its very postulations that keep its skeptics away from it.
This endeavour is an ardent attempt to put the crooked record straight for the public good
It may be appreciated that there are no more than seven spoiler slokas (verses) in the Gita’s seven-hundred (not counting the un-numbered one in the thirteenth chapter) that rightly outrage the Mankars of the non-Brahmanical world, which the favoured varnas (castes) downplay with winding explanations that cut no logical ice though. Besides these, among the one-hundred-and-three digressive verses in the in vogue Gita, there are many that advocate the very ritualistic practices that it advises man to avoid in v42, v43 ‘n v53 of its second, and arguably its defining, chapter! Needless to say, these confuse its devout thereby failing them to grasp the art of practical living that the Gita teaches, but yet, sticking to the traditional ground, they are apathetic to any rethink of the obvious and the apparent alike. Let them be for they get what they deserve, and our concern should be for those who keep away from the Gita, on account of the seven as follows that seek to confine them to non-cerebral ways in their ghettoized existence that is besides denigrating the feminine gender as a whole.
1) Ch 3, v35
shreyan swa-dharmo vigunah
swa-dharme nidhanam shreyah
It is far better to perform one’s prescribed duty (read caste duty) faultily than to perform another’s perfectly. In fact, it is preferable to die in the discharge of one’s duty, than to follow the path of another, which is fraught with danger.
2) Ch 4, v 13
chatur-varnyam maya srishtam
tasya kartaram api mam
The four varnas (castes) have been created by Me, based on the division of guna (nurture) and karma (action / duty). Even though I created them, know Me as the non-doer and the imperishable.
3) Ch.9, v32
maam hi paartha vyapaasritya
ye 'pi syuh paapa-yonayah,
striyo vaisyaas tathaa soodraas
te 'pi yaanti paraam gatim.
Surely, O Paartha, even those who are born of sinful origin – women, traders, and also labourers, they attain the supreme state by taking refuge in Me.
4) Ch18, v41
soodraanaam cha parantapa,
The duties of Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras, O scorcher of foes, have been classified according to the gunaas, which have born of (their) nature.
5) Ch 18, vs44
Agriculture, cattle rearing and trade are natural duties of the Vaishya while service oriented actions are the natural duties of the Shudras.
6) Ch 18, v47
sreyaan sva-dharmo vigunah
kurvan naapnoti kilbisham.
It is better to do one’s own duty, even though imperfectly, than to do another’s duty, even though perfectly. By doing one’s innate duties, a person does not incur sin.
7) Ch18, v48,
sahajam karma kaunteya
sa-dosham api na tyajet,
sarvaarambhaa hi doshena
Natural duty (read caste duty), even though fraught with defect, should not be abandoned. For, all undertakings are covered with defect, like fire by smoke.
Now the moot point is, were these indeed bhagvan uvaacha (the Lord’s utterances) as the Gita-in-circulation would have us believe?
The key to the answer, so to say, lies in the Gita’s very own assertion – this is the quintessence of the Upanishads, Brahmasutras, and Yoga sastra – at the end of each of its eighteen chapters, which naturally leads to the counter question – had God preached man from the man-made material for Upanishads, Brahmasutras, and Yoga sastra are just that?
Well, the absurdity of its ever happening should suffice to say that as popularly acknowledged, it was Vyasa, a Shudra, who composed the Gita with Krishna, alike a Shudra, as its main protagonist, which fact puts paid to these seven spoiler verses. So, it stands to reason that it was the priestly interests that inserted these to suppress the other castes, save Kshatriyas with whom they were in cohorts, and belittle the womenfolk in general. What is no less galling, they sought to exalt their Brahmanical social standing with self-serving insertions, and gave the bhagawan uvaacha twist to Vyasa’s work to boot for better effect.
So, it is for the Shudras to realize that in reality, the Bhagvad-Gita was the pristine work of their progenitors that in time got polluted by the others, and it is time for them to reclaim it albeit by ridding it of its obnoxious insertions as was done by the author in his Bhagvad-Gita: Treatise of Self-help sans 110 inane interpolations. In so far as the misconception about Gita’s advocacy of violence is concerned, as and when the interpolative issue is settled, rid of their own biases against it, its detractors would be able to appreciate that it only exhorts man to take up cudgels for justness in its fight against unjustness regardless.
All the same, the Gita eulogizers, in its present-form, must ponder over as to how these verses of inequality in the revered work jell with the much touted Hindu ethos of vasudhaika kutumbakam (world is one family). In so far as the Gita’s admirers among the Whites, it can be said that having internalized the Semitic religious ethos of the God’s alleged partiality towards certain races and also given the prevalence of slavery in their societies, they saw nothing perverse in the inequity of the castes in the Hindu religious fold that its interpolations espoused.
Ridden of the following 110 spoiler slokas, the Gita acquires the clarity of expression and thought required for its comprehension and contemplation.
Ch. 3: s9 –s18, s24 and s35 (12 slokas); Ch.4: s11 - s 13, s24- s32 and s34 (13 slokas); Ch.5: s18 and s27 -29 (4 slokas) ; Ch. 6: s10-s17 and s41 -s42 (10 slokas) ; Ch.7: s20 –s23 (4 slokas) ; ch.8: s5, s9- s14 and s23-s28 ( 13 slokas) ; Ch.9: s7,s15-s21, s23-s25, and s32-s34 (14 slokas) ; Ch.11: s9- s14 and s29 (7 slokas) ; Ch.13: s10, s22 and s30 (3 slokas) ;Ch.14: s3 -s4 and s19(3 slokas) ; Ch.15: s9 and s12- s15 (5 slokas ); Ch.16: s19 (1 sloka) ; Ch.17: s11- s14 and s23- 28 (10 slokas) and Ch.18: s12, s41-48, s56 and s61(11 slokas ).
More by : BS Murthy