Bhagavad-Gita as the ‘National Book’?
This article originally appeared in CRI content has now been subsumed in The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of

“The Bhagavad-Gita is a true scripture of the human race a living creation rather than a book, with a new message for every age and a new meaning for every civilization. – Sri Aurobindo”

Let’s be clear at the very outset that this piece arises from a premise that India/Bharata/Hindustan is an intrinsically a civilization whose roots are in Indic traditions and essentially should be a Rashtra  where its citizens are guided by the essence, ethos and ethics espoused by Indic philosophies.

Sri Krishna himself, in what is among the best creations of a mind ever – the Bhagavad-Gita, eschews from making exclusivist claims about the best path to tread and instead relates the various paths that can be tread to perfect oneself – Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Sankhya Yoga etc.

For me personally, the Sankhya Yoga, especially the part where Sri Krishna obliges Arjuna’s request to narrate the nature of the ‘SthitaPrajna – The Equanimous’, represents the pinnacle of all our civilization and its thought. My father, on the other hand, thinks that the Karma Yoga represents the ideal way to live. Then again, there is an elderly uncle, who thinks the Thirukkural is wisdom extraordinaire, above all else. My erstwhile landlord, an ardent follower of Basavanna, thinks that the Vachanas are a man’s best friend, philosopher and guide through all the crests and troughs of life.

Likewise there are many who would swear by the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata-as-a-whole and many other such creations of exalted minds, as the ultimate. Shakti-worshippers, Shaivites and other such schools of thought would probably subscribe to a different world-view which is also essentially Indic.

If naming the Bhagavad-Gita our ‘National Book’ is a way to show the nation is proud of such a gem, are we not equally proud of other creations of Indic thought?

If having a ‘National Book’ is about having a philosophical benchmark that the citizens and the State have to strive for, then why just the Bhagavad-Gita?

Superficially speaking, one may be able to portray that some of these varied schools of thought are mutually exclusive of, or better than others. The Bhagavad-Gita looks better and representative of our civilization to someone because that suits the conditioning of their mind. Ultimately all these are products of the same civilization and the same higher levels of intense thought. They are intertwined and derive from each other.

The wonder that is called Sanatana Dharma, thrives despite endless efforts from various quarters at finishing it, because it has not been built around a rigid framework of assertions pushed top-down from a central authority. It is a loose framework of schools of thought that have sprung up from a bottomless well of philosophical constructs which, at their core, have maintained the essentially Indic ethos and are not antagonistic or exclusive of each other, despite impassioned claims to that effect. Once we start dishing out the pride of this book or that school of thought over other ones in an institutionalized manner from the top, we are automatically doing a disservice to other branches that are as representative of our civilizational ethos.

How sensible is it to isolate the Bhagavad-Gita from the other strands of philosophy that added to it as well as our national character?

It can be said that the Western mainstream thought, limited in its capabilities of perception has reduced this gigantic banyan tree of Indic philosophies to the concepts of Karma, Re-incarnation and lately, Yoga.

We would be guilty of doing something similar by surrendering to such symbolism as making the Bhagavad-Gita our ‘National Book’ reducing the Indic nation to be represented by only the Bhagavad-Gita, while the reality is that it is one among the many shining jewels in the heavily bejeweled crown that is Bharateeya civilization.

This call to ask for the Bhagavad-Gita to be declared the ‘National Book’, is at best unnecessary as well as ill-informed and at worst harmful.

“Let’s not forget that we weren’t and should never be one-book civilizations.”