Ethics from a Non-epic – The Bhagavad Gita

“Your duty as a soldier is to fight for your religion. Do not hesitate; this is the best you can do for your religion. For soldiers like you, this is an opportunity to  reach Paradise. If you do not fight, that will be a sin. You’ll be disgraced.  It is better to die (and go to Paradise) than let others speak of your infamy. Noble  fighters will take you to be a coward. You’d either go to heaven if you die, or will enjoy fame and wealth if you win.  So fight for the sake of fighting (to attain heaven or wealth), loss or gain, victory or defeat, killing will bring you glory, not sin. Those probably were the motivational words the ISI Major spoke to Kasab and company while they were preparing to attack Bombay on 26/11. Those  were , almost precisely, the words that the trainer of a suicide outfit in London told his students (which included a white convert) while preparing them to bomb London. Unfortunately, they were recorded by London intelligence and caught before they could carry out the holy job. BBC ran a program on that recording. The white guy was hesitant and rather unconvinced; the trainer taught him exactly what to say when he met Allah. The trainer even knew the questionnaire that Allah would pose to him when he reached paradise and tutored him what to say. Don’t gloat over those Al- Qaeda-style instructions. Those were in fact  the words that I have quoted from Bhagavad Gita 2.31 to 2.38. That white guy was hesitant because of fear for his life may be, or was worried about the uselessness of wanton killing. Perhaps the assurance that Allah would  appreciate the deed did make a difference to his thought process. Arjuna, on  the other hand, was distressed  at the possibility of killing nearly all of his kith and kin – “fathers, grand-fathers, uncles, fathers-in-law, every kind of relatives’ (2.35). Krishna, unlike the Islamic terrorist of London, did not have to assure him that he would meet God and that He would be pleased. Instead Lord Krishna spent chapters after chapters to reassure him that He was God himself. Arjuna possibly wasn’t convinced enough – so the Lord braced himself up  and showed His true form. (This awesome display took place in the middle of the battle field where the warring parties ware arrayed on either side., but the spectacle was only visible to Arjuna). Furthermore, I can’t help admiring the Kaurava’s side (Great-Grandfathers, fathers, teachers et al) for holding their horses – literally – for the three or  four hours it must have taken Krishna and Arjuna for chatting away in the middle of the battle field. The terrorist in London did not philosophise about the consequence of killing. He probably read out aloud  Quranic verses  , 2:191, 4:89, 8:65, 9:29, 5:33, and so on from the Holy Book. As Mahatma Gandhi and other wisemen had said, all religions lead you right down the same garden path.
Lord Krishna, being God himself, does not quote other’s verses. He philosophises killing.  Killer is not a killer, nor the one presumed killed is killed. (2.19). Killing is like helping a soul discard his old garments and put on new ones (2.22).  One who is born is bound to die, and the dead one would take rebirth. So your killing( your relatives and teachers) Should cause no sorrow . They aren’t there to start with; they are there interim, and then they aren’t there any more. So why cry? Soul is an amazing and incomprehensible thing. It’s what dwells in your body – it cannot be killed. So why grieve for those whom you kill? (2.27 to 2.30). Why, then, can’t  Hegde-Kageri and all his fellow faithfuls (which, according to him, is the whole Country – see quotes from him below) enact a law that killing is perfectly legal? One might argue that Krishna was speaking of killing in war, which is a duty. If fighting between cousins for land is war, don’t the communities that fight each other see it as a war for existence? Ask Mr. Modi at Gandhinagar. Weren’t Bhinderwale’s men and Indira Gandhi ‘s Congress at war with each other? What difference does it make to the deathless souls whether they are being made to change their wardrobe in war or in a communal or personal clash? Let me now quote Mr. Kageri as he is reported to have stated to Times of India: “This Country believes in the Gita. Those who oppose it and believe in philosophies that are not of this country can go there and propagate them……..The Bhagavad  Gita is accepted as one of the greatest epics of all times. No light can challenge sunlight, no other religious epic can compete with the Bhagavad Gita. Ethical values preached in the Gita have been accepted by many foreign countries. So there is no fun discussing the merits of the Gita“This Country believes in the Gita. Those who oppose it and believe in philosophies that are not of this country can go there and propagate them……..The Bhagavad  Gita is accepted as one of the greatest epics of all times. No light can challenge sunlight, no other religious epic can compete with the Bhagavad Gita. Ethical values preached in the Gita have been accepted by many foreig

-Visheshwara Hegde Kageri.Tuesday, 19th July, 2011. Report on the “Times Nation” page of TOI (Delhi Edition) dated July 21, 2011

What Mr. Kageri meant by “this Country beleives in Gita” is that this is a Hindu Nation; forget the Constitution. Let’s drop that. Mr. Kageri obviously has not read Gita. If he did, he has not understood the Sanskrit verses. Most television-show talkers on Gita are more interested to wow the audience with their stale humour and flying-on-tangent parables. Kageri might not have the time to even attend one of those discourses.

 Mr. Kageri, Bhagavad Gita, by no reckoning, is an epic. The “Divine Song” is a piece extracted from the incredible epic called Mahabharatam and expanded to glorify fratricide on the one hand, and Lord Krishna himself on the other. It’s a philosophy that justifies Aurangazeb imprisoning his father; Indira Gandhi’s favourite bodyguards shooting her to death.  What other “epics” have you read, Mr. education minister, to conclude that no other epic can compete with Bhagavad Gita? No other religion is based on epics. Not Bible, not Quran, not even Granth Sahib lays a claim to being epic. True, some white men (who are always the authority – don’t we see our babas promenading a couple of paid whites in front of them to establish their spiritual superiority?) have certified Gita to be a great scripture. But they have also praised, often more forcefully, the other scriptures. What, indeed, are the ethical values preached by Bhagavad Gita? Murdering kinsmen and teachers to acquire lands you did not inherit? That the illegitimate sons of a wayward woman, sharing a common wife among all five of them (Mahabharat doesn’t say anywhere that polyandry was practised by anyone else at that time), hopeless gamblers ready to stake their wife, casteist and unfair in competitions, are nobler than the sons of a devoted and chaste woman who went blind through her married life to emulate her blind  husband and bore him many children (though all at one go) who were charitable in their dealing with even a chariot-driver? That killing – whether at war or otherwise – is an inconsequential thing? That you shouldn’t worry about the results but do your duty? What does that mean, how would one carry out his duty unless he has an idea about the expected results , if  one did not have a motivation? Are you doing your duty as a minister without caring whether your state goes to dog? (Apparently, that’s what seems to be the motto of your CM; is that also yours?) That Vedas – probably the most ancient documents in the world – are flowery nonsense designed for gratification of senses (2.42-46) or that they are the fountains of knowledge  directly manifested by God himself(3.15)? That the greatest sinner can sail through the miseries of punishment by simply acquiring knowledge of scriptures? (Haven’t we read that elsewhere – in the Bible, for instance?) That we should all lose interest in others, shed attachment to our families, discard our God-given senses and seek self-realization? (Everybody speaks of self realization as a great goal but what, indeed, is that? Simply put, you don’t know who you are, and need to become a yogi to find that out? ) That casteism is the most essential need of the society; destroying  caste system would take those responsible to hell? (Arjuna to Krishna Chapter 1.42,43) or that mixing – interbreeding between castes – (Sankara) of varnas (castes) would be a  terrible thing to happen (Krishna to Arjuna)? That colour discrimination among men is God(Krishna)-ordained, based on character and deed and is hence sacrosanct?(4.13).  (Ku Klux Klan, welcome to Karnataka! You have the same philosophy as Krishna’s, and have had many  reincarnations like Him) That an evil-doer will be forgiven and sent to heaven by worshipping Krishna single-heartedly (9.30)?  (Didn’t Jesus’ God and Allah say the same thing? Why do you think George Bush, Osama Bin Laden and Narendra Modi –not forgetting Davood Ibrahim –  look so smug in their photographs? They are all pious men, and will go to Heaven while AK Anthony, our godless Defence Minister won’t – his integrity has no meaning to God. Looks like I could keep him company in hell). That you should sit on a poor deer’s skin to practise yoga and to meditate upon Krishna? (6.12). Why persecute actor Salman Khan, who was probably trying to get one of those God-ordained deer skins to use as his prayer mat? That righteousness and the rich are identical? (6.41). (Despite Jesus’ saying that the rich would not go to heaven just as a camel cannot pass through a needle-hole, he also says that those who have much will be given even more, and those who do not have, even what they have will be taken away from them.) That even the lowest class  of humans –  women, trading class and the dog-eaters in that order -might go to heaven by worshipping Krishna? (9.32). Is it any wonder that the audiences for televised discourses on Gita are mostly women? That the theory of evolution is all wrong – what is right is that seven Rishis  (Saptarshis) and four Manus were born from Krishna’s mind; that all creatures of the world were born from them(10.6). (Oh, God, why did I take my grandchildren out of that  Grace International school and put them in an ‘International’ school in India? Aren’t they all implying the same thing – that science is bullshit?) Should we teach our young students that the mighty wind, after blowing everywhere, rests in the sky (9.6) and that the rain is  a result of yajna or sacrifice (3.14)? Poor godless Chinese and North Koreans as well as Buddhist Srilankans should be baking in drought. Kageri is probably right in saying that there are countries practising the ethics of Gita. Pakistan, for example. Sudan, till recently. Afghanistan, under Taliban. Former  Republic of Yugoslavia.  Like them, you can’t tolerate a different opinion, a different view. Why, Mr. Kageri, waste your time persuading the non-believers to get out of the Country? Why not do the duty that Lord Krishna cajoled Arjuna to carry out – like, say, Slobodan  Milosevic  of Serbia did? Even after the unholy and treachearous war was won,  Pandavas did not give up their duty of killing those who were not with the philosophy of Gita. Charvaka, who argued with logic against Brahminism and their concept of God was burnt alive in Yudhishtira’s court. A prelude to Goa inquisition. Like Hindus admire Pandavas, Catholics praise St. Xavier and worship his shriveled body kept in an airtight casket and put on show periodically. It was Xavier who inspired the first holocaust in India after the Muhammad Ghazni killings of the eleventh century. . Mr. Kageri, I could go on citing verses from the Gita that you have never read. But it would serve no purpose. Not long ago I met a young boy – perhaps not older than 11 or 12 – reciting Quran aloud from memory at Dhaka airport. A couple, obviously his parents, were beaming with pride. “Does he know the whole Holy Quran?” I asked the father. I wore a trimmed beard; my intention couldn’t be doubted. “Of course. Not just Quran” He whispered a few holy words on mentioning the name. “He is first in school in all subjects. English, Bangla, science – everything.” The boy had paused. “Son,” I said,  “what would you wish to be when you grow up – a doctor, scientist – or what?”. “A preacher,” he said without hesitation. “I want to spread Islam throughout the world.” “What if some people resist?” The boy looked agitated. “I’ll kill the haram kafirs,” he said. He must have grown up  now. I guess they might make him the education minister when Khalida Zia is back in the chair. He might by then hopefully moderate his view  and only demand that non-believers leave the country. Just after I wrote that reminiscence about the Dhaka boy, came the news of  another Nishkama karma – action without desiring results. Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year old Arjun of Norway. He shot down 91 or more of his brethren (not forgetting sisters) in the name of an ideology contained in a 1500-page manifesto  – larger than Bhagavad Gita, even larger than Mahabharatam. Breivik was a right-wing extremist. Like, one would presume, Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri. Someone said religious faith is a great leveler. So is the graveyard. BACK TO RELIGION  HOME small

6 thoughts on “Ethics from a Non-epic – The Bhagavad Gita

  1. I do not accept direct or indirect ads on this site. Unless you could write and tell me what “impressive job” this blog has done to your community, this comment will be trashed after a week.


  2. VERY GOOD. Love your perspective brother. Krishna– the first jihadi. I have a similar perspective. I’m glad to see a fellow reader of Charvaka texts on wordpress. I have some posts on my blog which might interest you. One arguing that Arjuna was right in chap 1 of Bhagavad Gita. Another arguing that Duryodhana is overly vilified. I think I’ll write one about Charvaka/Lokayata next. Keep up the good writing friend.


  3. Dear author! You disappointed me. I went through the whole article that was beautifully written to find out if you will correct your mistake that you committed in first couple of line when you just wrote the word RELIGION. To read a historic book or epic or poem kinda, (actually that is what Geeta is written in Shloks.) a poem in Sanskrit) you must be aware of the literal meaning of the words that were used at that time. What you are calling Religion is “DHARMA” and at that time there was no such thing like muslim, Christian or sikh. At that time, dharma was used to describe karma of different people in different situations. Like dharma of a soldier is to protect his country, dharma of a priest is to spread knowledge, dharma of a son is to serve his fathers, dharma of a man is to respect God’s, elder one’s, women. Dharma of a ruler is to protect his kingdom and countrymen. You were talking about lack of knowledge while depicting versus from Geeta, but you don’t even know that in Mahabharat Lord krishna tried his best to stop that war and even put his life to danger when he went to the enemy so as to cancel this war putting his own life in danger.


    1. Dear Dr. Mukul Benjwal,

      Thank you for reading this blog and reacting to it. You read it, that itself is satisfying. I do not dispute your interpretation of the word Religion. Many Western interpreters translated Dharma as religion. That’s wrong. Dharma in modern Hindi might mean religion, in Sanskrit it meant virtue and nobility with responsibility.

      Now your suggestion that Lord Krishna did his best but failed negates the concept that he was God. If he was God, we should imagine that the whole affair was a play for him – see Bhagavad Gita 11.32. The Kurukshetra war was a mere replay of what he had already played out before. His ‘failure’ was an eyewash; even that was rehearsed before – is what we should gather from 11:32.

      Supposing that’s not true; Krishna seriously tried being a moderator to avert the war. His attempt to escape being arrested by displaying his universal form was then a farce, as suggested by Duryodhana. Krishna was then a mere man, a failure in life. His wives – including those 16000whom he married after killing their husband to ‘protect’ them ended in abject failure. After his inglorious death, they were captured, violated and murdered while being escorted by Arjuna and his by-then-useless Gandiva.

      So one needs to take a stand. 1. Krishna is God, Mahabharata is an illusion. (See OR
      2. Krishna was a man. Butter thief and womaniser, torturer of a water snake, murderer, philosopher of genocide, and an eventual failure.
      I, personally, take a third stand. Mahabharata is the greatest work of fiction ever written – where characters are neither black or white, but a human grey – a mix of nobility and greed. Iliad and Odyssey take but a distant second and third.

      Please continue commenting.


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