[Advaita-l] A news item

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 11 16:08:48 CDT 2012


> To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
> From: rajaramvenk at gmail.com
> Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2012 18:57:29 +0000
> Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] A news item
> I disagree with the analysis. There are hundreds of interpretations of the gita. None of the authors are known to be violent like Hitler. Gandhi, for example, did not follow any sampradaya in his interpretation. "bhagavad gita kinchita tirtha ganga jalalana ...". A reading of gita mahatmiyam will show how even knowing half a verse is beneficial. 

What analysis do you disagree with? The opinions expressed by the authors interviewed
in the quoted news item or my wistful comment that the European world would have
perhaps benefited from understanding Gita through the eyes of Emerson and Thoreau?
No one, least of all I, is claiming that Nazi racist theories were rooted in the Indian texts.
Rather, what I said was that Heinrich Himmler already had his own misguided Hitlerian
ideology through which he perversely viewed the text. 
And that is precisely why sampradAya is important. Just as what has been built over
centuries through the sweat of a million people can potentially be destroyed by one man
in a fraction of a second, one perverted interpretation is enough to undo the good done
by a thousand others. A tradition of interpretation, a sampradAya, is safeguarded over
time by those who have both the philosophical rigor necessary and loksaMgraha in their
hearts. Giving sampradAya its due importance would therefore be a surer approach to
understand complex texts like the Gita. 
Mahatma Gandhi may not have relied strictly on any one pre-existing sampradAya, but
unlike European translators and interpretors, his personal background made him quite
familiar with the text. One may agree or disagree with his interpretations, but he made
Gandhism a sampradAya of its own, with a diminishing number of followers today. I
make a similar point about the American Transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau,
by calling them a new sampradAya, sadly also with a diminishing number of followers.
My other point was about relying on translations. Himmler and others probably didn't
even know half a verse from the Gita except through a German translation. This is a 
prime example of how relying on translations can be harmful, especially when one
is not ready to divest one's prior intellectual baggage and understand things on their
own merit. Emerson and Thoreau and Einstein and Oppenheimer also probably only
relied on translations, but unlike the Nazis, none of them had delusions of grandeur,
so thankfully, how they understood the Gita in translation didn't leave an unsavory
association with the text. 
ps. bhagavadgItA kiMcid AdhItA gangAjala lavakaNikA pItA - yadyapi samprApte
sannihite kAle naiva rakshati vyAkaraNa-SAstraM, tathApi pAThaSuddhyarthaM
saMskRta jnAnaleSam avaSyaM bhavati.

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list