Ban ignorance, not bliss

For a change, instead of jaw-dropping semi-clad women and yawn-inducing politician’s photographs, the front page of newspapers these days feature Bhagwad Gita, reporting on the state prosecutor’s office in the Russian city of Tomsk, Siberia, who filed a petition seeking a ban on the Gita. According to them, the Bhagwad Gita is a war-mongering and extremist literature. The 700-versed scripture is something we’ve always highly revered and put on the top pedestal or rather top shelf of our book. Sadly though, there’s where it has always remained. It takes a Russian city to wake us to the importance or maybe futility of the scripture.

The dust on your copy of Bhagwad Gita’s cover hides many a truths that has stood the test of time. But again, was it ever applied in the first place? In this ‘tweet age’ of short attention span, do we really need those voluminous Bhagwad Gita, Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads, Bible, Quran, Tora, Guru Granth Sahib, Avesta, and all those religious scriptures of the yore? Does anybody ever bother to read them, except using them in law courts (who ironically, end up banning them), temples, mosques and churches, where people sing verses without actually understanding them? Suddenly, the much-ignored scripture becomes a topic of national debate.

So we type pithy angry tweets, furious status messages, gang up for ‘weekend morchas’ on street-side, and sing praises of politicians and celebrities who echo our sentiments. A book that we never bothered to read up suddenly becomes so important to us that we nod in acquiesce when Sushma Swaraj asks the government to declare Bhagwad Gita as national book. We applaud Javed Akhtar when he states, “This great book of wisdom belongs not only to Hindus but to the whole humanity.”

A symbol of ‘communal harmony’. Oh really? So, what next? Wait for Amitabh Bachchan to blark (blog+bark) against someone who proposes a ban on the Qur’an for being war-mongering and extremist literature? Well, this reminds of the most misunderstood word, ‘Jihaad’, which actually means ‘struggle’ and not ‘war’ for God’s sake (you can say ‘Allah’s sake’ because Allah is just another word for ‘God’ and is not a ‘Muslim God’).

As for the concept of ‘one god’, almost all major religions speak of one god, which includes Bhagwad Gita. For instance, the Bhagwad Gita makes it very clear that: “Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures” (Bhagwad Gita Chapter 7, Verse 30).

Despite being condemned, idol worship finds a prominent place in all major religions. Reason: We never bother to read up the scriptures and revere it without understanding it. At least, the Russian official who proposed to ban Bhagwad Gita made an attempt to read it. You need to read something to misinterpret it. The Bhagwad Gita indeed contains verses which run the risk of being misunderstood as a ‘war motivational manual’. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra made a film called ‘Aks’, where he featured the antagonist (played by Manoj Bajpai) as a guy who misinterpreted Bhagwad Gita. This reel-life character seems to have been reborn in real life, maybe inRussia.

Some, perhaps in a desperate attempt to sanitize Bhagwad Gita, proclaimed its story as an allegory. For instance, Mahatma Gandhi interpreted the battle as “An allegory in which the battlefield is the soul and Arjuna, man’s higher impulses struggling against evil.” Shri. Aurobindo called it as, “An allegory of the inner life, and has nothing to do with our outward human life and actions”. In the same vein, Swami Vivekananda wrote, “This Kurukshetra War is only an allegory.”

In a world of morally, philosophically, spiritually, and politically correct men, kudos to a lady like Dr. Annie Besant, who was sane enough to translate it verse-by-verse in English for lesser mortals like ‘yours truly’ to interpret the Bhagwad Gita. Swami Prabhupada of ISKON chartered the cobbled path of spoon-feeding people with his interpretation. No wonder some just couldn’t digest it. Hence this kolaveri (I am sure the latest edition of Oxford Dictionary will include this much googled word after Sunny Leone).

It seems the writer of Bhagwad Gita (we’re told Lord Krishna wrote it but wasn’t he busy riding the chariot? Or was it Sanjay?) must have foreseen these days of folly. This is precisely why the writer must have written, “The mind acts like an enemy for those who do not control it.” (Bhagwad GitaCh.6). Quite a befitting rebuttal! Go ahead, tweet it, or rather blark aloud. The world needs your opinion.

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6 thoughts on “Ban ignorance, not bliss

  1. I need to understand this better… so are you saying that Russia is right in banning the Gita and that the Indians shouldn’t be bothered about it? For many who live there the Gita is a part of their identity… (just poking you to write more about it :D)

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    1. Thanks for the feedback priyesha. Nowhere am i saying (implicitly or explicitly) that Russia is right in banning Bhagwad Gita. The question is not about right or wrong, but for all the furor it’s generating. I mean what’s all this fuss about a book which we never bother to read? A colleague just told me that my article resonates with an article in the edit page of Hindustan Times. Am yet to read the article. He told me that the writer said similar things that why make Bhagwad Gita suddenly so important? I appreciated the official of Russia to at least take the pains of reading it so as to misinterpret it. Further, if you read carefully, I’ve also equaled him to the antagonist of a film (Aks) by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, who misinterpreted the Bhagwad Gita. Further, the article is a satire on people hell-bent on voicing their opinions, angst and protest on the social networking sites and streets (which includes me as well haha). Let’s face it, nobody will listen to me if I tell them not to oppose or oppose Russia. (remember the song i wrote ‘a song that’ll change the world?’). This article is purely based on observations, summing up as – why such fuss or rather in popular phrase – why this kolaveri di? Hope that answers your question.

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      1. I understand your point… but my point being… that the Gita might be important to some people ( and I do agree with the point that blind hatred/anger/aggression isn’t the answer.) the Gita is a part of their identity.

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