God in the Age of Kali
The Bhagavad Gita's True Intent
These days when it seems everyone is talking, and everyone else is relaying whatever everyone is talking about, truth seems to be scarce and difficult to find, even at a premium. And since everyone is talking, the media, which once acted as gatekeepers and minders of truths, now find that the only way to get the attention of the jabbering masses accustomed to "free newspapers" and "limitless talking" is to resort to hyperbole, to add "masala" to bland news, and to curry the favors of their distracted and disgruntled "fly by" readers.
And when everyone can weigh in on anything and usually does, the experts, the scholars, and the careful observers also have to do their trapeze acts to get the attention that they once had taken for granted. So it is that I read The New York Times these days with a chuckle, when there is a long analysis on how yoga can wreck your body, and why you better not take it up at all, or whether yoga is for narcissists, and wonder whether the "Old Gray Lady" has just become even more of an old curmudgeon or whether she has begun to wear her blouse low, in her old age, so that like the rest of them, she too can display her cleavage and get some attention from some chance passersby!
And so it is too that I find an economics professor, an Indian to boot, indulging in the kind of juvenile analysis of the Bhagavad Gita that only juveniles do, or either fundamentalist Bible thumpers used to do, or snide "Hinduism experts" did hiding behind "I was misquoted" excuses. The economist and professor emeritus at the London School of Economics, Lord Meghnad Desai, held forth on the sacred Hindu treatise, and questioned his fellow Gujarati, Mahatma Gandhi's, endorsement of the Bhagavad Gita. Desai, an avowed atheist, and now it seems an avowed demagogue, was speaking on "Gandhiji's views on violence," at the twelfth Prof. Ramlal Parikh Memorial Lecture series. We do not know how the old, the wizened, and the very Gujarati audience in India responded to Desai's "literal," and it seems superficial reading of the Gita, or to the criticism of the most well-known Gujarati and proponent of non-violence by a frizzy-haired Gujarati "Lord" of whom very few Indians have heard or know about.
Below is a summary of Desai's commentary on Mahatma Gandhi, and more dangerously, against the Bhagavad Gita:
"Bhagavad Gita justifies violence," he said, and ". . . if it does so, then why did Gandhiji approve of it?"
"Gandhi argued that Arjuna was blinded by his relationship with the opponent during the Mahabharata war, which was nothing less than a holocaust . . . Arjuna (in Gandhi's opinion) deserved to be re-educated by Krishna that killing was his 'Dharma' (duty) and not a bad thing."
Ramesh Rao teaches communication studies at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. He is a prolific author on Hindu and Indian affairs, and serves as the human rights coordinator for the Hindu American Foundation.