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Monday, March 2, 2015

Nazi and the Gita (Mahabharata Notes #12)

Well, it looks like synchronicity, or coincidence, or my premonition (just kidding), as one of my random thoughts connecting Hitler and Bhagavad Git turned out to be true. Apparently some Nazis did love the Gita. Apparently, ancient Indian mythology and philosophy were a big deal among German intellectuals in the 19th century and subsequently garnered some fans in Nazi leadership. Apparently, it is no accident that Nazis chose the swastika as their symbol and identified themselves as Aryans, which seems to stretch one's imagination if we were to compare the appearances of Indians, however light-skinned they are, with the ideal looks touted by white supremacists. One has to wonder if they asked real Indians whether such re-appropriation of their religion and philosophy was acceptable. Somehow I doubt it.

Perhaps one should not be too surprised. Didn't we all read Herman Hesse's fictional biography of Buddha? Didn't we hear that Schopenhauer was a fan as well? So Hinduism was no doubt pretty fashionable in Germany back then. Here is a fairly substantive article about one of the prominent Gita fans: Heinrich Himmler. He identified the military expansion and aggression of the Third Reich with the martial values and beliefs of kshatriyas (the warrior caste) in Hinduism. According to Himmler, Hitler is Krishna reincarnate (perhaps figuratively) to bring dharma, ie, Nazism, to the world. Funny how mercy and family and the revolving wheel of life and death, and all the other stuff in Hinduism and Buddhism never made it into Nazism, for whom death is just death. You can't blame me for not seeing the connection before.

Nevertheless one does have to wonder whether Herr Himmler actually read Mahabharata. If he had, he might think twice about comparing themselves to kshatriyas, the ancient warrior caste. It does seem to me that he had no idea what happened to kshatriyas in Kurukshetra and what Krishna was sent into the world for. In fact, Krishna was no leader or savior of kshatriyas at all; rather, his true purpose was to wipe out all the kshatriya kings and soldiers in this deadly conflict and leave a world "unburdened" by kshatriyas at the start of the Kali Yuga. If we were to follow this train of logic, hmm, what did happen to Nazi armies in the Kurukshetra of our time? I am not a superstitious person, so I will not say all this is some weird, time-warping phenomenon. But the irony is killing me.

Anyway, what is unexpected in this odd pairing is not that Nazis found inspiration from the Gita (a possibility that even I "foresaw"), but rather that they looked to the Gita at all. I always assumed that they pursued their mission with absolute conviction of their own righteousness and needed no confirmation from anyone, least of all some foreign religious text. Only those with doubts need the Gita to inspire them and spur them into action, no? Might Himmler have doubts about what he was doing, like Arjuna, and feel as if he needed some moral and philosophical support? Taking this thought one step further, we may have to contemplate the possibility that Himmler and other Nazis were indeed human, too.

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