Making the Argument for Sanskrit

Kengo Harimoto kengo.harimoto at UNI-HAMBURG.DE
Fri Jan 12 10:27:55 UTC 2007

I hope this does not go out of hand, but...

On Jan 12, 2007, at 9:05, Dan Lusthaus wrote:

> a
> well-known fact, which is that when Oppenheimer witnessed the first  
> A-bomb
> test, his spontaneous reaction to the awesome power of the  
> explosion was to
> recite, from memory, BG 11.32:
> Kālo 'smi lokakṣayakṛt pravṛddho
> Lokān samāhartum iha pravṛttaḥ
> ṛte 'pi tvāṃ na bhaviṣyanti sarve
> ye 'avasthitāḥ pratyanīkeṣu yodhāḥ

Is this entirely accurate?  According to the more widely accepted  
version of the occasion, Oppenheimer _thought of_ the verse in the  
form of "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds," at the Trinity  
test.  See for example:

This article, published in the Proceedings of the American  
Philosophical Society, deals exactly with the effect of the  
Bhagavadgītā on Oppenheimer.

We can watch Oppenheimer himself recalling the occasion at:

This was shot in 1965, twenty years after the test.

The tone of the above mentioned article in fact is to blame the Gītā  
for the invention of the atomic bomb (which I myself find is  
completely absurd).  On the other hand, the Gītā is (in a way)  
blamed for Holocaust as well. This, at least, is a sad and ironic  

In the context of current discussion, I wonder if listing famous  
people (such as above) who had some Sanskrit background is helpful  
for furthering the cause to maintain indological studies.  Perhaps it  
depends on how we spin it ;)

Wikipedia has an entry "Sanskrit in the West":

As a little lighter note, in the domain of popular culture, Madonna  
had a song in Sanskrit.  And as a little geeky note, the theme of the  
TV show Battlestar Galactica is allegedly the Gayatri Mantra.  But,  
however I try, I cannot hear it as Sanskrit.

All the best,

kengo harimoto

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