The Bhagavad Gita was eulogised as “the most beautiful, perhaps the only true philosophical song existing in any known tongue” by nineteenth-century Prussian philosopher William von Humboldt, but Vijay Mankar, an Ambedkarite from Nagpur, avers that it is a rotten work that deserves to be thrown into a dustbin for “it advocates inequality of man based on caste, stigmatises women as an inferior kind and legitimises violence.”
Humboldt was not 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 and Ralph Waldo Emerson, only to name a few. Nor did Mankar lack company in castigating Gita as a book of bigotry for BR Ambedkar, Dalit intellectual who piloted the Indian Constitution, was also unsparing about it.
These extremely divergent opinions about this antique work continue to hurt the Hindu polity: some perceive it as the ‘epitome of wisdom’ even as others avoid it, calling it a text with a ‘Brahmanical tone’ 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 postulations that keep its sceptics 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 shlokas (verses) in the Gita’s seven-hundred (not counting the un-numbered one in the thirteenth chapter) chapters that rightly outrage the Mankars of the non-Brahmanical world and which the favoured varnas (castes) downplay with winding explanations that cut no logical ice.
Besides these, among the 103 digressive verses in vogue in the Gita, there are many that advocate the ritualistic practices: they advise people to avoid in v42, v43 and v53 of its second, and arguably its defining, chapter. Needless to say, these confuse its devout, thereby failing them in grasping the art of practical living that the Gita teaches.
Yet, sticking to the traditional ground, they are apathetic to rethink the obvious and the apparent alike. Let them, before they get what they deserve, and our concern should be for those who keep away from the Gita on account of the seven shlokas that seek to confine them to non-cerebral ways in their ghettoised existence that is besides denigrating the feminine gender as a whole.
1) Ch 3, v35
shreyan swa-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmat sv-anuṣhṭhitat
swa-dharme nidhanaṁ shreyaḥ para-dharmo bhayavahaḥ.
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 guna-karma-vibhagashah
tasya kartaram api mam viddhyakartaram avyayam.
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
braahmana-kshatriya-visaam soodraanaam cha parantapa,
karmaani pravibhaktaani svabhaava-prabhavair gunaih.
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
krushi-go-rakshya-vaanijyam vaisya-karma svabhaava-jam,
paricharyaatmakam karma soodrasyaapi svabhaava-jam.
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 para-dharmaat sv-anusthitaat,
svabhaava-niyatam karma 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 dhoomenaagnir ivaavrutaah.
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 this 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 in fact puts 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 Brahaminical 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 eulogisers, 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 ).