Hindu holy book Bhagavad Gita has become part of school studies in Gujarat starting this year.
Other states in India ruled by the Bhartiya Janta Party are likely to follow the Gujarat lead in instituting Hindu religious beliefs among the students in their early years.
The introduction of ‘moral education’ through studies in Gita in the educational system as part of the school curriculum affirms the impression that such teachings would make students proud of India’s traditions and glorious past.
Hindu nationalism indeed cheers such selective educational entries while overlooking India’s secular fundamentals.
However, an equally concerning factor relates to the cognitional levels of kids from grade 6 to 12 as to how they will learn and discern the text in Gita.
Besides its ritualistic practices, Hinduism, where Gita occupies a central stage, needs mature handling in its study, interpretation, and insight.
Hinduism is also a democracy of conflicting, contradicting, and controversial thoughts and theories offered by its various schools of theological orders. Gita is not an exception but a part of such voluminous ideologies and disciplines.
Gita’s most known message and compelling theme are Karma, which involves faithfully and sincerely performing our duties and obligations without attachment to results.
“You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction. (Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2, Verse 47)
In short, the Gita doctrine affirms only He governs the result or harvest of action or ‘karma,’ supposedly based on the merits and demerits of the Karm or activity.
Gita belongs to the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism.
In contrast to Gita’s message, the Mimamsa school favours an unconditional release of an activity and its outcome from divinity. It rejects the involvement of the Supreme in creating action and its result.
Known for its philosophies based on hermeneutics, meaning critical interpretation, the Mimamsa is a pioneer of Hindu thought of realism and is a forerunner to Vedanta.
Mimamsa argues that causation, the cause of action, is natural. And it is sufficient to induce the ultimate result. Accordingly, it is a futile exercise to engage divinity to initiate the cause and determine its outcome.
The old Mimamsa school finds common ground and relevancy in contemporary Hindu thought on the concept or the law of Karma. Moreover, it identifies its logical relationship with science.
Newton’s law of motion: Every action leads to a reaction and applies to Karma’s law.
When we bring Newton’s law or the law of Karma as propagated by the Mimamsa School into the classroom, it generates a conflict with what Gita proclaims. Students study with passion and some positive aims, but Gita poses a gospel uncertainty that arrests their aspirations.
Another critical point regarding the Gita reading by young students relates to the caste system.
While the contemporary Indian society struggles for the “annihilation of caste,” Lord Krishna proclaims, “I created the four categories of occupations according to people’s qualities and activities. Although I am the Creator of this system, know Me to be the Non-doer and Eternal.” (Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4, Verse 13)
We agree that the classification does not base itself on birth. Instead of people’s qualities and activities, Gita’s dogma gets easily perceived with Manu’s birth-based caste divisions. The discriminatory lecturing damages the casteless social order envisioned through the moral education we expect the young students to receive.
Besides, as we move to the rest of the Gita chapters, we find them engaged in profound philosophies covering spiritual subjects, creation, preservation, and destruction of the universe; the flight into the celestial worlds of His multi-facet universal form; life after death, etc.
These chapters constitute many esoteric values that are hard to comprehend for school kids who lack critical enquiries and even for teachers trying to impart studies in Gita.
What will eventually happen with the aim of politically-motivated exploration of India’s pride and glorious past through the Gita teaching program is that the students would do the rote learning or memorize the text as they do in most fundamental religious schools.