A Fresh Take: How Arjuna Helped Inspire the Character of Oppenheimer


( – ISKCON News | A Fresh Take: How Arjuna Helped Inspire the Character of Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer photo courtesy of the National Archives catalog.

J. Robert Oppenheimer’s relationship with Indian philosophy, Sanskrit, and the Bhagavad Gita has experienced a revival with the recent controversial Hollywood drama, “Oppenheimer.”  While many articles have focused on the atomic physicist recalling a verse from the Gita when he witnessed a nuclear explosion, the author Syama Allard takes a deeper look at the relationship and parallels between Arjuna and the 20th-century scientist:

“(RNS) — On July 16, 1945, in the desert 210 miles south of Los Alamos, New Mexico, a nuclear weapon was tested for the first time.

Recalling the scene 20 years later, J. Robert Oppenheimer, known as the “father of the atomic bomb,” uttered words he would henceforth be known for. Pale and emaciated for his 61 years, eyes gaunt, the physicist persistently avoided the camera as he spoke with emotionally subdued precision:

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

At the time, only a small number of Americans knew much about the Scripture Oppenheimer quoted, though his hauntingly poignant delivery gave his recitation a special weight. The true impact its spiritual source had on Oppenheimer, however, and on the development of atomic weaponry remained largely unknown.”

You can read the full article, “The Bhagavad Gita, the bomb, and the dharma of Robert Oppenheimer,” here.

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