I wanted to write a separate post on Bhagavad Gita as it interests me most. Not as the book of Hindus (I feel, we Hindus have no such book). Nor I believe, these are the words of God. (This is so cool. I need not consider Krishna as a God and still proudly call myself a Hindu. Which other religion would have given me this privilege? ) Here I will not discuss about those rational thoughts which draws me towards it, instead focus on those words which I conceive as the a rebuttal to Buddhism.
Gita is presumed to be written in 1st, 2nd century BC, which was later appended to Mahabharata. If so, it must have been after the rule of Ashoka, when Buddhism was at its peak. Obviously every community must have got threatened by the number of people deserting their community to embrace the new religion. The rigidity in caste system could have started here, while every community felt insecure about the number of people leaving their faith to embrace a new faith (before what used to be a dribble, could have been turned into flood).
Bhagavad Gita is supposed have been the words of Krishna, who is a Yadav. But what I find inside him is a master debater, who disguises himself under the mask of a God. It is all written in Sanskrit which was not common man's (Yadav's) language (Prakrit/Pali). So the message in Gita must have been written by some Brahmin for other Brahmins.
Second chapter in Gita showcases the ideological conflicts behind a veil, when it challenges the nonviolence practised at battlefield (which is influenced by Buddhism). While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead. (Who is that Krishna criticising here, Arjuna OR ? ).
Another interesting paradox, when I browse through the second chapter. It is about the route soul would take, after a person is dead. From verse 11 to 25, Krishna says how soul (Atma) inside is indestructible, how it only changes the bodies just like the way a person changes cloth (re incarnation).
I would have got convinced with that. But the next verses (26, 27) amuses me. He says.
If, however, you think that the soul is perpetually born and always dies, still you still have no reason to lament. For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament. All created beings are obscure in their beginning, manifest in their interim state, and get obscure again when they are annihilated. So what need is there for lamentation?
Now my question is why Krishna has to think of an alternate solution? He is God, right? He must know, what must be the stage after death. He should have mentioned/emphasised only the right path and given his explanation for that. Not making any decision on the belief chosen, shows the mastery of the debater. It is like an efficient advocate exploring all possibilities which are adverse to his client and proving they are not sufficient enough to prove the person guilty.
Krishna says one can reach him both by Bhakti (devotion) as well as Sankhya (logical reasoning, which is also practised in Buddhism). One need not bother about the route. (One doesn't need to pick up any new route. Ahem! Which is that !? ).
Krishna does not mention, castes should be by birth. But he insists they have the right to exist in the world by saying, they have been created by him/God (चातुर्वर्णयम मया सृष्टयम). Speaking about the paths leading to salvation he says; When any one can get moksha by this route, is there any need to say a pious Brahmin will not get it? The desperate plea for those Brahmins who are deserting Brahminism looks so obvious here. Final call is clear. (स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेयः / परधर्मो भयावहः ) It is better to die in ones religion than embracing a new one. Gita ends up with a climax which again is a rebuttal to Buddhist's idea of no form of God, ie Vishva Roopa Darshana. I feel, the message of Gita is just being non apologetic about what we are.
Brahminism felt uncomfortable under the dominance of Buddhism. That can be understood. But does this imply Brahminism wanted to keep the hierarchical structure alive and suppress the lower class as sociologists argue? Gita does not mention about hierarchy or demean lower class (In fact, it does not mention any community as lower class). What it emphasises about is right for everyone (every community) to exist, right for every kind of faith to exist. Krishna says, "Whatever God one prays, he will reach him at the end. If you pray me, you will reach me" (seventh chapter). There is no force on other faiths. In other words it strongly roots for Multi Culturalism. Yes, the author of Gita does not do it out of broad mindedness. He does it for the reason of his own survival (being one such member in a pool of communities) being mocked at by a powerful religion. But in his effort of restoring his community, he benefits the whole society which was also struggling to cope up with the pressure. Finally Hinduism manages to remain diverse (or chaotic as however you view it) despite the attack of Monotheism.
Again comparing it to Paganism in West, Paganism could not debate with Christian theology with equal rigour. Here, Brahmins provided the theological support with debates. In other words, the so called outsiders were also one of the reason, native believes were restored from getting destroyed from a monotheistic religion.
During Islamic invasion, Buddhism yielded to Islam easier than Hinduism. May be people who had remained in Hindu society were the stubborn ones, who had refused to convert to a new religion. They retained their fighting spirit with Islam too. Whether Krishna was a prophet or not, his lines; one should not loose the fighting spirit - thus became prophetic.