In reading the Bhagavad Gita

I read the Bhagavad Gita a year ago – during a cold January. I read it every day from 8 to 8:30 in the morning and later when I had time- the only book I’ve ever read with vigorous routine. I read it sometimes half asleep, sometimes listening to music, sometimes with full attentiveness. What I found in the Gita was a long and repetitive and boring poem that somehow never lost my attention. There was something in its essence so captivating and other worldly. It is difficult to put into words – it’s not like I agreed with its messages (often in “contradiction”). But the discourse, the thoughts, the poetry kept me alert.

I’ve always  been fascinated by Hinduism, a religion so vast, diverse, and misunderstood. It’s not like I understand Hinduism, but it’s alien-ness in many ways gives it an attractive exotic-ness (Orientalism, anyone?). I swear the text gives an impression of cyclical infinity, of contentment, of ultimate liberation. It gives the hint of an entirely and so fundamentally different outlook to the world that begs for attention and keen interest. The discourses aren’t like those of Western scriptures or even Western epics. The dialogue is always on thought, on belief, on action, which is like belief, but different, but the same, but both, but neither.

The Gita lives in a world of seeming contradiction and juxtaposition – at one point it’s action, at the other it’s inaction. At one point it’s duty, at the other it’s independence. At one point it’s rational inquiry, at another it’s leaping in faith. But these seeming contradictions, these juxtapositions are never portrayed or interpreted by the reader as bad at all. It’s as if the Gita is begging you to live in contradiction and confusion and to love it. It reminds me of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching, which seems to embrace ambivalence.  And maybe that’s good, maybe that’s bad, maybe I’m unsure. The thought that you cannot know, perhaps, is the whole point.

But all the way through, the centrality of an inexplicable contentment runs. I don’t know what I mean in describing inexplicable contentment. There’s a sense I get in Arjuna and Krishna an apathy. An apathy of action, of feeling, of personality. But the Gita once again puts this in a good light. The reader never sees this apathy in a bad way – it’s blissful. It’s not selfish, it’s selfless. It’s not out of hate, it’s out of love. For what? For God? For duty? For love itself? Maybe there is no answer. The thought that you cannot know, perhaps, is the whole point.

Long story short, I’ll have to read it again sometime. The Gita loves not giving answers while seeming to give answers and changing them the next second. It loves to confuse you and throw you out and lure you in again. It has an almost magical quality to it, exploiting and manipulating its own seeming contradictions all for a blissful apathy all in the name of love for the sake of love. Or does it? And every time you throw it down in agony trying to figure out its message, you pick it right back up and try again, falling to its wonderful temptation…

(My reflections are by no means interpretations, as I refrained from pretending I can)

(A quote from Gita by J Oppenheimer, inventor of the Atomic Bomb)

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“Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”

“Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”

–J Robert Oppenheimer, Father of the Atomic Bomb

The quote is from Vishnu (Supreme God) in the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita, which I should write about sometime…


Interpreting Scripture

People seem to insist that it is okay to take a divine command of scripture, and then carry it out by means the scripture criticizes. This is literalism.

People seem to insist that it is okay to have presuppositions and then force those presuppositions onto scripture. This is arrogance.

People seem to insist that it is okay to pull a quote out of scripture and leave the context of the scripture. This is cherry picking.

People seem to insist that it is okay to give timeless and placeless scripture a time and place. This is playing God.

Henry VII did all four. John Locke did all four.

Al-Qaeda does all four. Robert Spencer does all four.

Rush Limbaugh does all four. Karen Armstrong does all four.

Elijah Muhammad did all four. Archbishop John Carroll did all four.

Quit the crap. Please. Take it for what it means or don’t take it all. I don’t confess to know the truth of every holy book, but I’m not going to make up my own truth depending on my mood.

When you interpret scripture and tell it to the world, as a preacher or a pastor, an imam or a guru, you are signing on behalf of God. Pay attention.

“What goes around comes around”, says Mickey Mouse and his Buddies

The Walt Disney Corporation has some sort of fetish over Karma and Yin Yang. Off the top of my head I can name you half a dozen TV shows that have Karma references (Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Suite Life on Deck,  Hannah Montana, Jessie, or the horrible Wizard one…). There are plenty that involve switching souls or reincarnation, with many in the same shows just mentioned. The same goes for Yin Yang, the Daoist concept frequently abused by corporate television warlords. Hell, Disney once had a Canadian show called Yin Yang Yo!, and in Lilo & Stitch they downgraded the concept of Yin Yang to alien pets(there is also Yang). Nickelodeon abused the same concept and diminished core Daoist beliefs to to spiritual fish (scroll to bottom) in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

So what’s the problem with this? Aside from the fact that Disney degrades some of the most widely held religious concepts in the world as ancient mythic folklore (the belief in divine justice, or “karma”, is in many faiths worldwide, including Christianity, in different ways), when’s the last time Jesus was mentioned in a Disney show? Another example of Disney’s orientalist religious fetish: the horrible indoctrinating trash-of-a-movie we call Aladdin that I wrote a disparaging review on has a scene where Jasmine’s dad shouts “Praise Allah!” after the Princess chose a suitor, and there’s a few other times when we hear the phrase “Allah forbid!” Now, the latter phrase isn’t even used by anyone (they took the phrase God forbid and translated it to what, make it funny?), but the first one is only used by people who want to “make fun of Muslims” or accuse “Muslims of being terrorists.” That is according to urban dictionary. There is no equivalent of that phrase in Arabic or in Islam, and I myself have only heard the phrase used by people ridiculing the Muslim faith. Now you can say what you want about your views on religion, but what the hell is it doing in a children’s movie? Do we really need to just pick out religions from a box and ridicule them since they’re from some “inferior” place of the world? We have a real problem of generalizing other cultures as the “other”. And to think they didn’t bother trying to pronounce Allah right – they might as well have used the English equivalent God – but then again that’s not as funny, is it?

I suppose it’s also not politically correct. You can mention and misinterpret Karma or Ying Yang or some indigenous folklore or the other all you want, but when it comes to Christianity it’s a big no-no. Why not bother anyone? They do enough damage when they call karma “mumbo jumbo” in front of hundreds of thousands of  children…including Hindu ones. Because somehow making fun of any culture or faith other than the majority Western ones is OK. Remember the time Disney told kids that white skin color is the original skin color? See #3 in the link.

I’d like to see Disney grow up. Now the big movement  of removing religious references from all children’s television is a load of hypocritical arrogant trash I’ll bash on any day, but going out of the way to insult and misinterpret religions and cultures is far worse. I’m tired of Disney and their television warlord equivalents (like Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network) poking fun at inferior cultures with sharp stereotypes and shoddy research. The public has literally no idea that this happens (I’ve done plenty of research looking for people with my view – and I found nothing), and that’s because Disney stops short of poking fun at Western culture and religions for that very reason. This sort of inferio-fying Hinduism, Islam, and Chinese traditions is absolutely disgusting, and I am astonished that people tolerate it. I grew up on Disney and know people that do, and I fear for their future.


“Fix your mind …

“Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, offer service to Me, bow down to Me, and you shall certainly reach Me. ” – Bhagavad Gita (18.64)

“The most wondr…

“The most wondrous thing in the world is that all around us people can be dying and we don’t realize it can happen to us.” –The Mahabharata