Remarks on Prophet controversy : Bhagavad Gita Perspective

The recent derogatory remarks made by the BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma on Prophet Muhammad intensified the religious tension in the country leading to riots and violence at several places in the country. It also led to strong condemnation by countries in the Gulf and Turkey. These remarks were made in a debate over Gyanvapi mosque. Religion seems to be the obvious culprit behind all this. But it is not. The culprit is weaponization of religion for ulterior purposes like for gaining political advantage.

Religion gives us an identity that we are Jews, Jains, Muslims, Christians, Hindus etc. We are reminded of this identity and the identity is reinforced in different ways. The purpose of doing this is to make the followers identify with and connect to the spiritual practices and values and take advantage of them. In Bhagavad Gita also, Krishna addresses Arjuna as Partha (BG 1.25) and Bharata (BG 2.14) to remind him of his great royal lineage and the responsibility that comes with that. Religious texts and religious teachers sometimes take to extolling their religion with superlatives even at the cost of criticizing other religions. The whole purpose of this is to connect the followers to the spiritual practices and values offered by the religion. We should not mistakenly consider the purpose of a particular religion is to establish itself as the greatest religion by defeating other religions.

Objectively speaking, different religions are meant for different types of audience at different times and at different circumstances. They are different paths to revive the divinity within us. Every religion has something valuable to offer. And every religion has its own limitations. There can be constructive discussions between different religions on solutions to issues faced by the world and philosophy. Bad mouthing, name-calling and blasphemy in the name of religion does not help anyone and damage the existing harmony in the world. These acts instill a mob mentality and give vent to the lower tendencies of the individual followers. Emotionally it can gives a sense of religious fervor but in reality, it does the opposite (BG 18.32). It takes us away from the real essence and purpose of religion.

Religious identity is not our constitutional and eternal identity. It is a means and support to revive our divine and spiritual identity as children of God. Religion is like a school. The school gives students an identity. They have a uniform that distinguishes them from others. They have events and festivals that showcase the achievements of the school and celebrate success of its students. This is all done to inspire the students to take advantage the education offered by the school and become successful in life.  Religion offers us knowledge, skills and values to elevate ourselves spiritually and become a good contributor to society (BG 16.24). The more we take advantage of spirituality, the real product of religion, the less we will be distracted and degraded by the false and unhealthy show of religion (BG 18.30).