what is the Bhagavad-Gita, on which Rishi Sunak took an oath?

Among the texts of Hindu literature, the Bhagavad-Gita is certainly one of the most famous. Often considered the Bible of Hinduism, this poem composed of eighteen chapters and seven hundred verses was the first work translated from Sanskrit into a European language (in 1785, the English version of Charles Wilkins) and has not ceased since. to arouse great interest in the West.

The appointment of the new British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, puts a new spotlight on the text: Rishi Sunak had indeed made an impression in Parliament, after the 2017 general elections, taking the oath by placing his hand on a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita, a first in British history.

Written around the IIIe century BC, considered by tradition to be part of the Upanishads (philosophical texts which form the theoretical basis of the Hindu religion), and not least, the Bhagavad-Gita was elevated very early to the rank of a “revealed” text.

Concretely, it is an episode of the Mahabharata, an immense epic poem that is still very popular today. Therefore falling under the authority of Revelation while addressing the different strata of caste society, its influence in Indian culture became immense.

The philosophical theologian Shankara (IXe century), a great figure in Hinduism, clearly describes the importance of this work in the introduction to his commentary (Bhagavadgita, with the commentary of Shankaracarya, Advaita Ashrama, 1984): “The Gita is a compendium of all the essential truths (…). A clear knowledge of its content leads to the realization of all human aspirations. »

The powers of dharma against those of non dharma

The Mahabharata features characters who symbolically embody the antagonistic forces that govern the course of the world: “dharma” and its opposite, “non-dharma”. This term “dharma”, very present in the Gita, is impossible to render by a single French word. The etymology orients us towards the idea of ​​a universal law or a cohesive force that allows the different elements of the living universe to stay together and in their proper relationship.

Of this, the man is involved. What he does, how he organizes himself, behaves in society and vis-à-vis all creatures, is not without consequences on the maintenance of universal harmony. Also, the dharma defines a set of rules, practices and duties specific to each class of beings.

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