Should Bhagavad Gita be compulsorily taught in Schools in India?
The Bhagavad Gita has been inadvertently brought into the ambit of public discourse in the past few months. The question that has deeply divided opinions among various religious scholars, government and political parties is a very simple one. Should Bhagavad Gita be taught compulsorily to children in schools? This seemingly simple and innocuous suggestion has been made the subject of fiercely fought debates those who studies and learned Bhagavad Gita but not on national news channels. The media coverage around this issue has taken an inexplicable turn as it has been seen with conjunction to the idea of secularism. For the purpose of being objective and unbiased, let’s try to answer the question in a purely logical way.
Noble Book Rich of Excellent Examples
As we all know, Bhagavad Gita is a Hindu scripture with 700 verses which forms a small part of the epic Mahabharata. Written in a narrative tone, the scripture is essentially an insightful and profound conversation between Lord Krishna and the Pandava prince, Arjuna. The text contains the counsel of Lord Krishna as he helps Arjuna to address a moral dilemma. It encompasses the answers to some of the most common trials and spiritual questions that a man faces throughout his life such as fulfillment of his/her duties, attainment of liberation and many more. How can then a profound scripture addressing the most innate issues of human life be harmful to school going children. Consider this verse from the book for instance.
“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.”
Referred by the founding fathers of India, especially, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi drew inspiration from this great text. It should come as no surprise that many religious scholars have described Gita as a way of life more than anything else. Precisely because the answers that Arjuna seeks are the ones that we might find ourselves pondering over from time to time? For instance, when faced with the choice of fighting a war against his own relatives, Arjuna is stuck in a moral quandary and gets paralyzed to inaction because of it. He seeks the guidance of Lord Krishna who is his charioteer and Guru. In a chapter titled Arjuna’s dilemma, one of the verses goes like this:
“Seeing fathers-in-law, companions and all his kinsmen standing in the ranks of the two armies, Arjuna was overcome with great compassion and sorrowfully said, “O Krishna! Seeing my kinsmen standing with a desire to fight, my limbs fail and my mouth becomes dry. My body quivers and my hairs stand on end.”
We have all been in a situation which makes us feel scared and nervous at the same time. We often tend to make a mess of these circumstances either due to inaction or because of haste. But if we imbibed the learning of Gita at a very young age in our minds, wouldn’t it be much easier to tackle the uncertainties and challenges life throws our way. For instance, look at the answer to Arjuna’s dilemma given by Lord Krishna in Chapter titled ‘Path of Karma- Yoga’
“One does not attain freedom from the bondage of Karma by merely abstaining from work. No one attains perfection by merely giving up work. Because, no one can remain action less even for a moment; everyone is driven to action – helplessly indeed, by the forces of nature.
The wise should not unsettle the minds of the ignorant who are attached to the fruits of the work, but should inspire others by performing all works efficiently, without selfish attachment.”
After the soul stirring teachings of Lord Krishna, Arjuna finally heed the advice of fighting the battle against the evil with only the welfare of society in his mind or as referred in Gita to establish ‘Dharma’.
Lord Krishna profoundly compares the battlefield as life itself and the moral dilemma Arjuna is facing on the battlefield to the ethical struggles a man faces in life’s journey. Having quenched his thirst for meaning, Arjuna says to Lord Krishna:
“O infallible one, please draw my chariot between the two armies so that I may see those present here, who desire to fight, and with whom I must contend in this great trial of arms.”
This verse teaches us the importance of gauging our adversary, be it in the form of a person or a tough situation.
Refrainment from the Goodness of Religious Knowledge
Universities from across the world such as Seton Hall University have made it mandatory for students to study the Bhagavad Gita. It’s ironical that top business management institutes are teaching Bhagavad Gita as part of their curriculum while India’s young generation remains deprived of its benefits.
It seems hypocritical that we make people swear on Gita in courts to invoke their moral sense of judgment but are unwilling to introduce the scripture as a part of children education. Perhaps the trouble starts when we unnecessarily sensationalize the whole issue and give it a color of religion. As a secular nation, everything cannot be looked through the prism of religion and given a communal angle. Unfortunately, those who have vested interests in dividing the populace on the basis of religion find a way to amplify their voice through various mediums of media. The sensible voices have to be brought to the fore of this issue and only then can we become successful in establishing a sound base for our next generation’s prosperous future.
“Wherever there is Krishna, the Lord of Yoga, and wherever there is Arjun, the wielder of the bow, there will indeed abide, prosperity, victory, glory, and righteousness; this is my firm conviction.”
Universal Guidance of Morality
Religion has a lot to offer to humanity as a whole; not just for the people who follow it. Therefore what we need is to embrace the teachings of Bhagavad Gita for the values it instills in us. Gita offers a holistic approach to deal with many curveballs that life throws at us. Perhaps the most renowned teaching from the holy book is when Lord Krishna asks Arjuna to perform his duties without thinking about the results.
This is especially true in today’s scenario where children are overburdened with parental pressure to perform and excel academically. The cases of student suicide are a grim reality that reflects the current environment of cut throat competition and the herd mentality of our society. The question we have to ask ourselves is, “Do we want our children to fear or quiver at the slightest evidence of adversity?” If the answer is No! Then why not introduce them at a young age to a book described as ‘spiritual dictionary’ by the Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi himself. The public needs to disengage from the politics of religious segregation advocated by power hungry people. There is no doubt in the fact that our children are the future of our nation and we need to ensure they get the best possible education right from the start of their school life. Teaching of Bhagavad Gita will undoubtedly help inculcate the virtues we desire in the citizens of tomorrow and act as a moral compass in their times of distress. Keeping the children bereft of its insightful knowledge will do us no good for sure. The glorious future of our country demands for it.
“Good and evil of this world of duality are unreal, are spoken of by words, and exist only in the mind.”
Religious Literary Masterpiece
Bhagavad Gita as a noble piece of literature can provide numerous benefits to the students. Literature from any part of the world transcends time and its significance remain same for seekers of knowledge from every part of the world. Its epical heroes through examples allotted in simple plot allow its followers to extract the power of decision making. It gives us strength to pursue virtuous action and to serve the humanity with righteous deed. It is capable to teach readers with vice and virtues in a delightful manner. In spite of ancient nature of the noble book the power of guidance remains alive. One can easily absorb the essence, teachings and lessons through the actions of noble gods. The epic nature of the story may sometimes become hard to keep track with. But if the book is referred, read and analyzed in chunks then it would be much easier to understand and seek guidance from. In terms of assigning Bhagavad Gita as a compulsory subject can be significant in many ways.
Krishna said,” Do you duty, Arjuna, as your nature dictates. All work fetters, as all fire gives smoke. Only selfless duty saves. Fix your mind on me. Surrender all deeds to me. All problems will be solved by my grace. Pride will lead only to your moral ruin. If, filled with pride, you say, ‘I will not fight,’ it is all in vain. You are foolish. Fight you will, your nature will make you fight. Your karma will make you fight. You will fight in spite of yourself.”
If children at younger age are taught with the power of decision making, cause and effects of vice and virtuous deeds and the method of application of the epic stories in real lives then teachers would ever be so proud of raising children with a positive mind set. Children are the wonders of nature unaware of the realities of life. It is the core duty of the educational institutes to teach students with cause and effects of positive and negative actions. They should be made aware how a vice action can lead to destruction harming the goodness of peace. Apart from the theoretical learning children must be involved in short role plays and performances for in-depth learning. If they are aware of the significance of virtuous action they would play their part in warning other children from envy.
Teaching children at the very step of life about the beauty lied in Bhagavad Gita is to set positivity at the very beginning. In terms of teaching non-Hindu students or foreseers about the noble book, they have their rights to select an optional subject over the study of Bhagavad Gita. One should be free from obligations and must be provided with choice of decision. Academic institutions must provide ease to the non-Hindu followers, giving them a chance to consider the essence of Bhagavad Gita on their own will.
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- Aaliyah Burton. (21 November 2014). Lord of the flies and Hinduistic belifes of evil. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/rh89dvodgi3z/lord-of-the-flies-and-hinduistic-belifes-of-evil/
- Aakash Joshi. (March 16, 2015). QDebate: Should the Gita be Taught in Schools?. Retrieved from http://www.thequint.com/india/2015/03/16/qdebate-should-the-gita-be-taught-in-schools
- THE Quotation and Sayings DATABASE. Retrieved from http://www.quotesandsayingscollection.com/qgita.htm