Gita's Double Jeopardy

Inane Interpolations in Bhagavad-Gita – 2

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Bhagavad-Gita, often referred to as the Gita, comprises eighteen chapters, which, in all, contain seven hundred slokas (verses) that is not counting the unnumbered opening number of its thirteenth chapter. Though it has gained prominence on its own steam, in fact it is a part of the epochal Mahabharata, which, with over 100,000 slokas, is the longest tome in the world of letters. Moreover, this epic, probably compiled around the third century BCE, whose authorship is attributed to Vyasa, is regarded by the Hindus as the panchama veda (the fifth Veda) and the Gita, its divine part, is celebrated by the world as an unrivalled philosophical work.

Yet it is a safe bet to aver that while most (mainly Hindus) might have heard about it, hardly any would have read it (much less appraised it) though it contains no more than seven-hundred verses, excluding the above cited unnumbered one! Not only that, possibly, this classic could be the only epic in the world that is admired without application of mind and debunked with reasonable misgivings as it, as it is, sanctions the inimical caste structure in the Hindu polity that is as opposed to the Torah, the Bible, and the Quran, which seek to inculcate emotional unity amongst their respective adherents! 

Whatever, on one hand, William von Humboldt, the philosopher of yore, eulogized it as “the most beautiful, perhaps the only true philosophical song existing in any known tongue …. perhaps the deepest and the loftiest thing the world has to show”, and on the other, Vijay Mankar, the Ambedkarite of the day, debunks it is as 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.” Equally significantly, neither Humboldt was alone in lifting it to the skies 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 colossus, who piloted the Indian Constitution, was unsparing about it.

It is possible that the Western intellectuals, who could have internalized the Semitic religious notion of the Lord God’s alleged partiality towards his chosen peoples, might have seen nothing perverse in Krishna’s creation of the caste inequity in the Hindu special fold sanctified in the Gita thus:

Ch4, V13

chaaturvarnyam mayaa srishtam gunakarmavibhaagashaha 
tasya kartaaramapi maam viddhyakartaaramavyayam

It is I who engineered the division of men into four varna (castes) based on their guna (innate nature) and karma (earthly duties) but yet although I am the creator of this system, know me to be the non-doer and eternal,

Or, maybe, they would have simply concerned themselves with its fascinating philosophical postulations, bypassing its alleged espousal of the caste inequities in an alien polity the nuances of which they were unfamiliar with.

However, in contrast, the improbability of their progenitor Krishna, the architect of the Gita, relegating his own ilk to the social margins failed to dawn upon the Shudras that it supposedly slights, even to this day! Thus, their intellectuals, instead of seeking to reclaim their priceless heritage, albeit after ridding its interpolative garbage, tend to rubbish it a la throwing the baby with the bathwater.

Well, if only they apply their mind, bearing Krishna’s advice to Arjuna in mind,

Ch18, V63

That thee heard of this wisdom
For task on hand now apply mind

iti te jnaanamaakhyaatam guhyaadruhyaataram mayaa
vimrishyaitadasheshena yathechhasi tathaa kuru

then, it would be apparent to them that their ancestral work was infested with umpteen interpolations that sanctify their social inferiority and further the Brahmanical religious interests, which together muddy its pristine philosophy besides affecting the sequential conformity and structural economy.

However, to be able to discern the Gita in proper perspective, and to be able to visualize its fouling interpolations, one must appreciate its context in the epic of Mahabharata that is at the threshold of the battle royale between the estranged cousins, Pandavas ‘n Kauravas, when Arjuna, the spearhead of the former, suffers from qualms about the prospect of slaying his kith and kin for power and pelf.

In this urge to usher in Gita’s votaries, as well as the sideliners, into its ancient granary so as to enable them to segregate its grain from the interpolative chaff, the quotes in verses are excerpted from the author’s eBook, Bhagavad-Gita: Treatise of Self-help, which, as already stated, is in the public domain, and the interpolations (in boxes) are obtained from other sources, however, in both cases with the Sanskrit slokas of the in vogue text.

Ch1, V28
Thus spoke Arjuna:
Disturb kinsfolk here gathered
Feel I parched, it nauseates too.

dhrishtvemaam svajanam krishna yuyutsam samupasthitam
seedanti mama gaatrani mukham cha parishushyati

Ch1, V37

See I no gain by their end
Why then kill our kith ’n kin?

tasmaannarhaa vayam hantum dhaartaraashtraan svabaandhavaan
svajanam hi katham hatvaa sukhinaha syaama maadhava

Ch1, V38

Blinded by greed, bent on deceit
Fail they foresee, war ruins the race.

yady apy ete na pashyanti lobhopahata-chetasah
kula-km dosham mitra-drohe cha paatakam

C1, V39

Wiser for the woes of wars
Why not Lord we rescind now.

katham na jneyam asmabhih papad asman nivartitum
kula-kshaya-kritam dosham prapashyadbhir janaardana

Ch 2, V4

Adore as I, how dare I
Make Bhishma ’n Dron target?

katham bheeshmamaham sankhye dronam cha madhusoodana
ishubhihi prati yotsyami poojaarhaavarisoodana

Ch2, V5

Better I go with begging bowl
Than earn disgrace slaying them,
Would the scepter ever glitter
In the bloodstained hands of mine?

gurunahatvaa hi mahaanubhaavaan
shreyo bhoktum bhaikshyamapiha loke
hatvaartha-kaamaamstu gurunihaiva
bhunjiya bhogaan rudhira-pradigdhaan

Ch2, V6

Those us oppose
We hate hurting,
What use war
Who victors are?

na chaitadvidmah kataranno gariyo
yadvaa jayema yadi vaa no jayeyuh
yaaneva hatvaa na jijivishaamas
te vasthitaaḥ pramukhe dhaartaraashtraah

Ch2, V7

About my duty I’m in doubt
Tell me kindly what is right.

prichchhaami tvaam dharma-sammudha-chetaah
yach-chhreyah syaannishchitam bruhi tanme
shishyaste ham shaadhi maam tvaam prapannam

Besides, Arjuna was also concerned about,

Ch1, V40

Die aged en masse dharma’s votaries
Won't that let go youth ours haywire?

kula-kshaye pranashyanti kula-dharmaah sanaatanaah
dharme nashte kulam krritsnam adharmo bhibhavaty uta

Ch1, v41

Sex ratio adverse that war ensues
Turns women soft on caste barriers

adharmaabhibhavaat krishna pradushyanti kula-striyah
strishu dushtaasu vaarshneya jaayate varna-sankara

Ch1, V42

Fallen women all go to hell
What is more their bastards rob
Posthumous rites of forebearers.

sankaro narakaayaiva kula-ghnaanaam kulasya cha
patanti pitaro hy eshaam lupta-pindodaka-kriyaah

Ch1, V43

Liaisons low of women wanton
Set our race on ruinous course.

doshair etaih kula-ghnanam varna-sankara-karakaih
utsadyante jati-dharmah kula-dharmash cha shashvatah

and this is understandable for Arjuna, who was a Kshatriya, seated next only to the Brahmins on the Hindu High Caste-table

So, Lord Vishnu, the Creator, in his avatar as Krishna (lo as Shudra), donning the role of Arjuna’s charioteer, set out to motivate the doubting tom to fight the just war on hand, beginning with a taunt that is –

Ch2, V11

Averring as knowing
Worried over trivia!
Reckon never wise
Dead and alive both

shribhagavaan uvaacha:
ashochyaan-anvashochas-tvam prajnaa-vaadaansh cha bhaashase
gataasun-agataasunsh-cha naanushochanti panditaah

Ch2, V12

You and Me
As well these,
Have had past
Future as well.

na tvevaaham jaatu naasam na tvam neme janaadhipaah
na chaiva na bhavishyaamah sarve vayamatah param

Ch2, V13

Wise all realize
Embodies selfsame spirit in one
From birth to death, in every birth.

dehino smin yathaa dehe kaumaaram yauvanam jaraa
tathaa dehaantara-praaptir dhiras tatra na muhyati

Ch2, V18

Perish all bodies, Spirit not therein
Know this truth, and take up arms.

antavanta ime dehaa nityasyoktaah sharirinah
anaashino prameyasya tasmaad yudhyasva bhaarata

Ch2, V19

With no slayer, nor one slain
Whoso feels that he might kill
It's in delusion that he harps.

ya enam vetti hantaaram yash chainam manyate hatam
ubhau tau na vijaanito naayam hanti na hanyate.

Ch2, V20

Unbound being ever unborn
Ageless since it’s endless too
Goes on Spirit, beyond life-span.

na jaayate mriyate vaa kadaachin
naayam bhutvaa bhavitaa vaa na bhuyah
ajo nityah shaashvato yam puraano
na hanyate hanyamaane sharire

Ch2, V21

Spirit as entity hath no birth
How can thou kill what’s not born!

Vedaavinaashinam nityam ya enam ajam avyayam
katham sa purushah paartha kam ghaatayati hanti kam

Ch2, V22

Change as men fade if clothes
So doth Spirit as frames are worn

vaasaansi jirnaani yathaavihaaya
navaani grihnaati naro paraani
tathaa shariraani vihaaya jirnaanya
nyaani sanyaati navaani dehi.

Ch2, V26

Prima facie if thou feel
Subject Spirit is to rebirths
Why grieve over end of frame?

atha chainam nitya-jaatam nityam vaa manyase mritam
tathaapi tvam mahaa-baaho naivam shochitum arhasi.

Ch2, V27

Dies as one
For like rebirth,
Why feel sad
Of what’s cyclic

jaatasya hi dhruvoo mrityu dhruvam janma mritasya cha
tasmaadaparihaaryerthe na tvam shoochitumarhasi.

Ch2, V30

Dies not Spirit as die beings
What for man then tends to grieve!

dehi nityam avadhyo yam dehe sarvasya bhaarata
tasmaat sarvaani bhutaani na tvam shochitum arhasi

Ch 2 V31

Being a warrior dharma thine
That thee fight with all thy might.

swa-dharmam api chaavekshya na vikampitum arhasi
dharmyaaddhi yuddhaach chhreyo nyat kshatriyasya na vidyate.

At that, had Arjuna picked up the Gandiva, his divine bow, and said “here we go,” perhaps the Gita would have ended then and there, but as he remained unmoved Krishna had continued –

Ch2, V38

Shed thy sentiment, guilt unhinge
Eye not gain as wage thou war.

sukha-duhkhe same kritvaa laabhalaabhau jayaajayau
tato yuddhaaya yujyasva naivam paapam avaapsyasi

Ch2, V39

It's this knowledge that liberates
And helps thee act, with no restraint.

eshaa te bhihitaa saankhye
buddhir yoge tvimaam shrinu
buddhyaa yukto yayaa paartha
karma-bandham prahaasyasi

Obviously privy to the Vedic ritualistic regimen, the bedrock of the Hindu religiosity that comes in the way of man’s liberation, Krishna affirmed in the same vein:

Ch2, V42

Unwise use all enticing
Flowery language to further
Rituals Vedic in their scores
Not the knowledge of Vedas.

yaamimaam pushpitaam vaacham pravadanty-avipashchitah
veda-vaada-rataah paartha naanyad astiti vaadinah

Ch2, V43

Eyeing heaven with mind mundane
Go for ceremonies such in hope
Of having best of both the worlds.

kaamaatmaanah swarga-paraa janma-karma-phala-pradaam
kriyaa-vishesha-bahulaam bhogaishwarya-gatim prati.

Ch2, V44

Pursue if thou wants with zeal
Instincts then would spin thy mind.

bhogaiswvarya-prasaktaanaam tayaapahrita-chetasaam
vyavasaayaatmikaa buddhihsamaadhau na vidhiyate.

Ch2, V53

Stands as firm mind thy clear
Steer thou clear of path rituals.

shruti-vipratipannaa te yadaa sthaasyati nishchalaa
samaadhaav-achalaa buddhis tadaa yogam avaapsyasi.

It was then that Arjuna broke his silence with the query –

Ch2, V54

How to spot the yogi true
Were he there ever in the crowd?

sthita-prajnasya kaa bhaashaa samaadhi-sthasya keshava
sthita-dhihkim prabhaasheta kim aasita vrajeta kim.

Later, having heard Krishna’s exposition of the virtues of self-restraint that was after having goaded him to wage the just war without suffering any qualms about killing his kith and kin, Arjuna, in confusion, quizzed Krishna again thus:

Ch3, V1

Capping wants, if betters action
How come Thou then push for war!

jyaayasi chet karmanas te mata buddhir janaardana
tat kim karmani ghore maam niyojayasi keshava
and then said,

Ch 3, V2

Find I hard to grasp all this
Thou be forthright, what is right.

vyaamishreneva vaakyena buddhim mohayasiva me
tad ekam vada nishchitya yena shreyo ham aapnuyaam

The discourse between Krishna and Arjuna that follows is a treatise of self-help containing the cumulative wisdom enshrined in the Upanishads, Brahma sutras and Yoga sastra, however marred in the latter-period by 110 inane interpolations.

Be that as it may, did Krishna share ‘higher caste’ Arjuna’s ‘lower’ caste concerns?

Seemingly not since he averred that –

Ch9, V6

Skies in rooted wind as spreads
Dwell in Me though disperse all.

yathaakaasha-sthito nityam vaayuh sarvatra-go mahaan
tathaa sarvaani bhutaani mat-sthaanityupadhaaraya

But the interpolartor(s) thought differently,

Ch9, V32

maam hi paartha vyapaashritya ye pi syuh paapa-yonayah
striyo vaishyaas tathaa shudraas te pi yaanti paraam gatim

Surely, O Paartha, even those who are born of sinful origin – women, traders, and also Shudras (labourers), they attain the supreme state by taking refuge in me

Had Arjuna heard Krishna aver the above that dented his concept of kula-striyah (high caste women) aired in Ch1,V41 (quoted before), he would have been truly flabbergasted, and might have even dismissed him (Krishna) from service, for at that stage, the latter hadn’t shown his Vishvarupa (the Universal Form) to him as in Ch10.

Then, what about Arjuna’s concern for the posthumous rites of forebears?

Ch15, V8

Wind as carries scent of flowers
While leaving them as is where,
In like fashion Spirit from frames
Moves its awareness to rebirths,

shariram yad avaapnoti yach chaapy utkraamatishvarah
grihitvaitaani sanyaati vaayur gandhaan ivaashayaat.

So, seemingly Krishna inferred the futility of the Vedic rituals for the dead, the bread and butter of the priestly class of Brahmins?

But then, notwithstanding their meager numbers, as the Brahmins acquired an unrivalled domination over the rest, they even came to believe that they had the power to control the gods as expostulated in the Narayana Upanishad!

daiva deenam jagat sarvam
mantraa deenantu daivatam,
tan mantram braahmanaadeenam
braahmano mama devata.

It’s on god that hinges all
Mantras rein in that godhood
Controlled are those by Brahmans
Making them our own angels.

Not just that, going by the puranas, not only the Brahmin sages and saints through yagnas ‘n yagas ordained the gods to fulfill theirs as well as their clients’ wishes but also were wont to curse them when offended.

Needless to say, the Gita’s pristine text, besides being at odds with their religious practices and social prejudices had the potential to undermine their temporal power and social preeminence for all time to come, and so they set out to dispose that Krishna proposed.

Continued to Next Page 


More by :  BS Murthy

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