The Gita is a work whose acceptance and significance transcend the barriers of nationalities, religions and time. It is one of the noble works equally important to a common man in the street to a philosopher or a scientist. It has beckoned people not as a book of Hinduism but due to its high potentialities of satisfying capabilities and energising the human spirit amid the adversities of life. This characteristic has been described by Swami Vivekananda as Karma Yoga. International luminaries like Aldous Huxley, Rudolf Steiner, Hermann Hesse, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David, Albert Schweizer and Albert Einstein are a few names among countless who imbibed the Gita’s message and tried to incorporate it in their own lives. It does not discourage anyone in their faith nor demand forsaking of their mode of worship. None of the above who read the Gita became a votary of Hinduism or abandoned their faith. Rather, it enhanced their role in society for larger interests.
Try telling this to India’s pseudo-secularists, whose hypocrisy is exceptional in the recent controversy on teaching of the Gita. The 5,100th anniversary of the Gita celebrated this year drew predictable howls of ‘saffronisation’. The Haryana government’s addition of the Gita in the state’s school curriculum had the intelligentsia crying foul. This crowd, enjoying predominance in the media and discourse, and instinctively hostile to our cultural heritage, took up cudgels against Manohar Lal Khattar’s government for ‘communalising’ education. Earlier, the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh drew ire for introducing yoga in schools, with Macaulians and Marxists blaming Shivraj Singh Chouhan for ‘communalising school education’. ‘Saffronisation’ and communalisation are synonyms for this bunch. To their agony, the United Nations accepted PM Narendra Modi’s proposal for popularising yoga and declared a Yoga Day, sending these hypocrites scurrying for cover. Surprisingly, they didn’t send even a protest letter to UN General Secretary decrying saffronisation or Hinduisation of the world community.
The pseudo-secularists’ ignorance regarding the Gita was even more evident during a debate on the scripture in June 2011, when acrimony over the Russian edition of the Gita on the charges of ‘religious extremism’ happened. A subsequent trial drew harsh criticism from the Russian intelligentsia who appealed to then President Dmitry Medvedev and Premier Vladimir Putin to intervene. On December 28, 2011, the trial judge and later the appeal court (on March 21, 2012) dismissed the case and upheld the Gita’s sanctity. A Christian extremist group was behind the case, but the Russian government refused to be swayed by pseudo-academic arguments presented through the Tomsk State University.
The matter also resonated in the Indian Parliament through a heated debate. In the Lok Sabha on December 19, 2011, members protested against the farce in Russia. RJD leader Lalu Prasad said, “This can’t be tolerated. We shall reply to this insult,” also appealing to the house to protest to the Russian government. Prasad concluded his speech with the slogan “Bhagwan Krishna ki jai ho”. Members of all parties showed qualified unity on the question of the Gita. Non-BJP members took the lead in a rare demonstration of understanding of cultural ethos, overcoming the colonial impact on our psyche. SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav condemned inaction of successive governments for not popularising the Gita. He said, “I request the parliamentary affairs minister that the government should take steps to make the teaching of Gita possible from primary schools to the university level.” He argued that teaching of the Gita would fulfil the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi and also help in reforming society. But it is only when BJP governments implement such a step that intellectuals of the same consanguinity and other party leaders hurl accusations of “abusing education” by teaching the Gita.
The inescapable lesson is that economic development, which lays a solid foundation of any nation, must be accompanied by philosophical and intellectual growth. Let us not ignore history’s lesson. Indian civilisation has survived all adversities due to its high orientation towards intellectualism, philosophy and quest for truth, while the Roman civilisation perished despite attaining the highest material progress, because it lost sight of reasoning, quest and the value of intellect.
Sinha is Hony Director of India Policy Foundation