Twelve hundred years ago Sankaracharya picked up the Gita from the dust it was gathering, wrote a commentary on it with his unmatched genius for sophistry, and placed it before the people as the supreme guide to their life and thought and salvation. Since then its influence has been all too pervasive, all too pernicious. It has made our national mind flabby, our national spirit feeble. It has made us callous to human inequality and human suffering. It has made us shameless psychophants and sanctimonious hypocrites. This is the basic theme of a big and bold book by Prem Nath Bazaz. Of its 750 pages, nearly 500 discuss this particular aspect. Next only to the scattered writings on the Gita by Kosambi, the best critique on it is by Bazaz.
As I pointed out once earlier, the emergence of the Gita as a national scripture and the emasculation of the national mind and spirit are closely linked. This is a historical truth which can hardly be challenged. But no devotee of Krishna, nor an admirer of Sankara, would take that statement lying down. They will react strongly, and call me all sorts of names. The more violent their tirade against me, the happier will I be. For there can be no surer indication that my writing did have the desired effect. What, I desired most was to start a dialogue, to provoke a debate, to stir up a disputation. It is all the same to me whether people agree or disagree with me, whether they praise or abuse me. What I always seek — as I remember to have said elsewhere — is a clash of minds, a flash of ideas. It is the only means for the upsurge of a new spirit, indeed, for the birth of new life.
As I have had my say, it is time for me to wind up. But before doing so, I very much wish to give expression to two of my most ardent wishes. The first is that Krishna, if he is really the greatest god as he claimed to be again and again in the Gita and elsewhere, should not keep his promise to come down again and again to our poor little earth, whenever he thinks that righteousness is in jeopardy (IX - 7). His coming on the last occasion did infinitely more harm than good. In the name of reinstating righteousness, he was primarily instrumental to the outbreak of a terrible war, and if we were to go by the Mahabharata, the number of survivors at its end was just nine from among the millions of its active combatants. What is worse, it marked the end of a better age (the Dwapara) and the beginning of a worse age (the Kali). It may also be recalled in this context that Krishna claimed that, of weapons, he was Vajrayudha or "the thunderbolt", as Radhakrishnan preferred to translate it (X - 28). If he were reappear now, he would claim that he is the latest among the nuclear weapons. And the war which he would actively promote to reestablish righteousness would result in the extermination of all life from the face of our earth.
Now my second wish, no less ardent, is that we as a nation should forget the Gita as Arjuna did. In less than a year or two after it was taught to him by Krishna as a special favour, he told his friend and mentor that it had all "disappeared" from his mind. It will be a great blessing if our nation, too, allows the Gita to disappear completely from its mind. Only then can we awaken from the slumber of ages; only then can we shake off our many illusions and delusions; only then can we know the value of free, daring and original thought. And then only can we learn to despise the ideal of personal salvation and fix our sights on the future of humanity, indeed, on the time when man can migrate to other, and perhaps better, worlds in our vast cosmos. If only he could reach them what a great triumph will it be for the ever-questing, ever-soaring and ever-daring spirit of man! According to Sagan, there may be millions of such worlds in our galaxy alone. Being much older than our earth, some of these worlds may have far surpassed us in arts, science, philosophy, literature, culture, civilization and the rest of the graces of life.
I will not live to see that happy day when India will forget, like Arjuna, the Gita with all its contradictions and confusions, its equivocations and evasions, its twists, turns and trickeries. But such a day will come, may be a long time after my death, but come it will. And when it comes the people of India will begin to live again, vitally, joyously, meaningfully. They would then stop fixing their gaze on the tip of their nose to still the mind and to kill all thought; they would then cease to peer into the so-called empty space within the heart where the soul is believed to have its temporary tenement, they would then scorn the ideal of union with that mirage, the Supreme Soul (Paramatma). With a new awakening, a fresh vision and a burning zeal, they would join the progressive world community in trying to unravel the many mysteries which are still locked inside the microcosm of the atom and the macrocosm of the cosmos.
To hasten that golden dawn on the murky history of India the first step to be taken is to disown Krishna and to discard the Gita.