Robert Oppenheimer,Bhagavad Gita

How Bhagavad-Gita Inspired Robert Oppenheimer?

Bhagavad Gita is the sacred Hindu scripture that teaches us the values of life through the epic conversation between the prince Arjuna, and his charioteer Lord Krishna. The essence of the Bhagavad Gita comes naturally to us as it recognizes our inner selves in the most humbly and surreal manner. As per the legend, the Bhagavad Gita also known as tri marga (three ways to attain liberation) was magnificently imparted by Lord Krishna to Mahatama Arjuna.

For instance, in Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna tells Arjuna, “You have all the rights to do your prescribed duty (Dharma), but you are not authorized for the fruits of your action. You should never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities and never be attached to not doing your duty.” This way it teaches us a lot about the true essence of leading a good life. Though many people conceive this knowledge as a part of their religion, there are many who turn to the book to seek peace.

Robert Oppenheimer,Bhagavad Gita

Julius Robert Oppenheimer turned to the Hindu scripture of the Bhagavad-Gita to make peace within himself after he witness the ultimate devastation through his creation.

On July 16, 1945, the nuclear bombs created by Robert Oppenheimer were tested and a month later they were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The event was perhaps the deadliest and most cruel act witnessed during the Second World War. The father of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer recalled seeing the first test where people were congratulating him for creating something that was never witnessed before. But after the events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer realized how the world manipulated his creation for their own good.

He was devastated and hence turned to Bhagavad Gita to make peace with his role in the second World War. He went on to become an advocate against nuclear weapons and termed himself as having ‘Blood on his hands. Oppenheimer first read the original Sanskrit Bhagavad-Gita when he was a professor at Berkley in the 1930s, but after the events of 1945, he found his solace in the scripture.

‘Now I become Death, the destroyer of worlds’ Robert Oppenheimer.

Born on April 22, 1904, Robert Oppenheimer is also known as the Father of Atomic Bombs. He was an American theoretical physicist who created his first nuclear power in 1942. Throughout his college years, he had been doing research on fast neutrons, calculating how much material might be needed for a bomb and how efficient it might be.

Oppenheimer since childhood was a shy and introverted kid who was constantly bullied in school for his sensitive personality. However, he was also a bright student with curiosity that pushes him to learn new things each time. This was the reason why Oppenheimer completed his fourth and fifth standards within a year. He also completed his eighth standard in just six months and by the time he turned 12, Oppenheimer was selected as a lecturer at New York Mineralogical Club. It was only after the club met him in person that they realized that he was just a 12-year-old boy.

In 1925, Oppenheimer began his graduate work in physics at Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England. J. J. Thomson agreed to take him as his student and assigned him with the task of monitoring the electron activities.  It was here that Oppenheimer realized that his talent was for theoretical, not experimental physics and thus he accepted an invitation from Max Born, director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics. Oppenheimer received his doctorate in 1927 and accepted professorships at the University of California. In 1942, Oppenheimer was appointed to the Manhattan Project, the code name for the project formed to develop an atomic bomb.

Robert Oppenheimer,Bhagavad Gita

After the Second World War Oppenheimer became an advisor of the Atomic Energy Commission, lobbying for international arms control. It was around this time, that Oppenheimer’s connection with the Bhagavad Gita grew even stronger.  According to his friends and many scholars, Oppenheimer always kept a thumbed copy of the scripture handy along with him. He would also gift the English-translated versions to his friends and family. For Oppenheimer, Bhagavad Gita wasn’t just a book to console his actions but also to make judgments to follow his duty. Just like Arjuna, he too commiserates with the fact that his duties for the greater good come before anything else.

The Manhattan Project was created in order to use a nuclear weapon at some point in the future and in that context, the physicist’s dependence on the Gita as his guide seems not just right but also needed.

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