Monday, April 13, 2009

Misinterpretation of the Bhagavad Gita

Mr.B.S.Raghavan otherwise known for his erudite writings wrote as under in the Business Line dated 25th March:

"The Election Commission (EC) has decreed that he did. His political opponents have no doubt that he did. Even his cousin, Ms Priyanka Gandhi, seems to have assumed that he did, and even helpfully showed him a way out of the mess by asking him to read the Bhagavad Gita.
Incidentally, right here, I am obliged to point out that the advice can boomerang . In the Gita,as in most Hindu scriptures, one can find support for mutually contradicting precepts.

There is a sloka in the Gita, svadharme nidhanam shreyah pradharma bhayavaha, which can be roughly translated as “One had better perish by defending one’s own faith, because of the frightening nature of other faiths”! What other faiths, or ways of life, Lord Krishna had in view is unclear but a Hindu hardliner may well find in it sufficient inspiration for plugging Hindutva for all it is worth."
The author was referring to Varun Gandhi's hate speech against a community.The sloka from the Gita is the 35th in Chapter III. This chapter deals with Karma Yoga or The Path of Action. Dr.Jack Hawley in his book "The Bhagavad Gita : A Walkthrough for Westerners" interprets as follows:
" Krishna tells Arjuna :'You are a warrior-prince by birth and training.If you now try to avoid your duty and mutate into a sanyasi {spiritual ascetic} merely because you face doing some things that you imagine are painful, you will be violating your inner Truth {your conscience, your dharma}, which is the root basis of your life. It is even better to die doing one's own duty than attempt to do the duty of another.' " The western scholar has summarised the meaning rationally. For a similar but deeper understanding, reference to commentary by Shri Nampayal A.S.Iyengar is rewarding. Noting that the verse occurs in the chapter relating to Karma Yoga, his translation goes as follows:
"Better one's own dharma {karma yoga} without excellence {in non-essentials} than another's dharma well practised for some time.In one's own dharma {karma yoga} death is preferable. Another's dharma brings danger." Another's dharma here refers to jnana yoga for a warrior on the battle field.

The Gita, properly interpreted, is uplifting.Our ability to misinterpret is not Krishna's fault. It is better to follow a correct interpretation than to be a creative misinterpreter.

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