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Hindus ask Russian court to drop case against holy book
A young Indian Hindu devotee looks at the camera while being dressed as Lord Krishna in Kolkata.
December 20th, 2011
11:53 PM ET

Hindus ask Russian court to drop case against holy book

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) – For Hindus it's the Song of God, but prosecutors in the Russian city of Tomsk want the Bhagavad Gita banned, calling it an extremist book that sows social discord.

A court was supposed to have rendered a decision Monday on the proposed ban, but adjourned until December 28 to hear more academic opinion on the matter.

Hindus around the world have expressed outrage at the treatment of one of the most important texts of Hinduism. The 700-verse scripture, written as a message from God taught by Lord Krishna, is a part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata.

The Indian ambassador to Russia, which guarantees religious freedom, objected to the Tomsk prosecutor's charges. And the Indian parliament erupted in harsh words for Russia. Angry lawmakers in the lower house demanded to know what action the Indian government planned to take.

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON, said it was first notified of a complaint filed by the public prosecutor's office that objected to the third Russian edition of the Gita with commentary by ISCKON founder Swami Prabhupada. The complaint called portions of the book "objectionable" and "extremist."

After initial court proceedings in August, the district court appointed a three-member academic panel to submit a report within three months, according to ISKCON. The final hearing is now rescheduled for next week.

The Hindu American Foundation in the United States said prosecutors have taken words from the Gita out of context.

"We urge the Russian judiciary and government to uphold the basic rights of their Hindu citizens," said Jay Kansara, the foundation's associate director. "Any court ruling or law that would prohibit the Bhagavad Gita or any other Hindu religious literature would be considered a direct attack on the civil liberties of Russia's Hindu community and an affront to Hindus throughout the world."

The foundation raised its concerns in a letter to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in Washington. It said more than 1 billion Hindus around the world consider the Gita sacred.

The text, the foundation said, "is in no way a threat to Russian national security or to the degeneration of Christian values. On the contrary, the Bhagavad Gita is a millennia-old classical spiritual text that has inspired countless people of all faiths, and been studied and imbibed by some of the greatest scholars in the world, including Leo Tolstoy.

The Russian ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, blamed "madmen" in Tomsk for the latest row and said the Russian government has nothing to apologize for.

"Nothing has been committed by the Russian government," Kadakin told CNN's sister network CNN-IBN. "It is not the Russian government that started the case. These are some petty people in the far away though very beautiful city of Tomsk who did it. The government has nothing to apologize for, the government can only testify and reiterate the love and affection and highest esteem our nation has for Bhagavad Gita."

Kadakin said, however, India's reaction has been proper.

"Like Russia, India is also a democratic, secular and multi-confessional country and our two governments should not allow such things to happen," he said. "The Bhagavad Gita is a source of wisdom and inspiration not only for the people of India but for Russia as well and the world."

But the potential ban on the Hindu text is part of a disturbing trend in Russia, according to religious leaders in the United States who penned a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to raise the issue of escalating threats to religious freedom during meetings with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the White House last June.

"Russian authorities are using the 2002 Extremism Law to combat 'religious extremism' and, coming against an established pattern of local government obstruction of non-Russian Orthodox religious communities, this has led to a crackdown on religions that has been termed ... as the new 'Inquisition,'" said the letter signed by more than a dozen religious and human rights leaders.

The crackdown, it said, has affected a host of religious believers from Baptists to Jews to Hindus.

ISCKON has had a presence in Russia for decades. It said it has "faced periodic problems with respect to its properties and functioning in Moscow and elsewhere."

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Hinduism • Russia

soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. proxy gate

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    July 4, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  4. sathyasnehi

    Save The World With Gita Gyan!

    “Karnataka chief minister DV Sadananda Gowda on Sunday announced that the government was considering introducing the Bhagavad Gita in primary and secondary schools”. Mrs. Thoughtless read that news aloud. “Gowda told reporters on the sidelines of Bhagavad Gita Abhiyan organized by religious mutts here (Bangalore). Its teachings are universal. It aims at refining mankind, and other religions have appreciated its philosophical teachings,” Gowda said. She read aloud certain excerpts from that report one of the leading newspapers of India carried on its front page. She knew it might be of particular interest to Mr. Thoughtless.

    “Yes. truly magnanimous. It’s the need of the hour to impose someone’s religious text on impressionable minds that have a right to secular education. And that too in a so-called secular and democratic country. Well, it, doubtless, would delight the fascist fanatics who subscribe to its teachings. They will only be glad to join the desperate campaign to project it universal and establish their beliefs founded on their holy scriptures to be the only truth. Pity the children born in this state, particularly those that are born to parents who do not subscribe to Hinduism. What about those that would like to see their children develop a scientific temperament? Those that have no belief in a God or gods whatsoever? Those that do not want to waste their precious time on religiously swallowing myths and religious fantasies in the name of schooling?”

    January 10, 2012 at 2:20 am |
  5. David Johnson

    See, Christians they hold their "bible" in the same regard as you do.

    Christians are bigoted idiots.

    Cheers!

    December 26, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Hindu Humanism

      I havent read the Bible so I cant comment about its bigotry.
      But I know that as a hindu I can accept the devinity in Jesus.
      Praise Krishna,Praise Jesus.

      December 27, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  6. Karthik

    If Russians do succeed in banning the Gita, the real losers will be the Russian people not the Gita.

    December 25, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • Hindu Humanism

      I dont think its gonna banned in the whole of Russia but its some narrow minded,intellectually limited villagers confined in some blizzard affected town of Tomsk in Siberia.

      December 29, 2011 at 1:29 am |
  7. Excerpt from Essays on the Gita

    “It is not that he did not know these things before, but he has never realised it all; obsessed by his claims and wrongs and by the principles of his life, the struggle for the right, the duty of the Kshatriya to protect justice and the law and fight and beat down injustice and lawless violence, he has neither thought it out deeply nor felt it in his heart and at the core of his life,” Sri Aurobindo wrote.

    December 25, 2011 at 3:29 am |
  8. Excerpt from Essays on the Gita

    “If the Bhagavad Gita is read as a defence of war or a justification for violence, the basic teaching is ignored in favour of a fundamentalist view,” writes Swami Shraddhananda. “The fundamentalist views of each tradition are united on the subjugation of women, war as a viable answer to disagreements, the ‘rightness’ of occupation of one group over another, a static rather than an evolutionary view of development and only one religion as the ‘true’ religion. Human society is evolving in its consciousness of human rights beyond these limitations, in spite of patriarchy.”
    What the Bhagwad Gita urges us to kill is not the physical bodies before us — those are mere symbols, outward expressions. It is our inner obstacles — habits, ego, desires, greed, attachment and so on; and not different from what other religions purport (the seven deadly sins in Christianity for instance) — to the growth of our consciousness that it seeks to neutralise. “All whom the social man holds most dear and sacred, he must meet as enemies and slay — the worshipped teacher and preceptor, the old friend, comrade and companion in arms, grandsires, uncles, those who stood in the relation to him of father, of son, of grandson, connections by blood and connections by marriage — all these social ties have to be cut asunder by the sword,” wrote Sri Aurobindo in Essays on the Gita

    December 25, 2011 at 3:24 am |
  9. Vedic Vidya

    @ Hippy Poet..Hi Hippy ,I 'll be glad to answer your question on Hinduism's take on Buddha.
    Historically Buddha was born as Gautama Siddharta ,a Hindu prince.Buddhism is considered by Hindus as an interpretation of the scriptures,Buddhism is more appropriately regarded as a distillation of Hinduism as Buddha preached at a time when Hinduism was becoming too ritualistic.Also Buddha was a Kshatriya,which means people belonging to warrior profession coz he was a royalty and Buddhism also negates the necessity of brahmanas ,who were priests by profession and claimed to be the inter-mediaries between God and all other people.
    Philosophically Buddha assimilated all the good concepts in Hinduism like Non Violence,Karma or doing good deed,transmigration of the soul and Moksha /Nirvan or Liberation from material bondage.
    Hindus thus traditionally believe Buddha as an Avatar of Lord Vishnu ie,God descending on earth in Human form.This also in keeping with one of the oft quoted and most reverred stanzas in the Gita where Lord Krishna (who is also Vishnu on earth in human form) says to prince Arjuna that when ever and where ever there is a rise in irreligious feelings,immorality and injustice,to restore the moral order and to deliver justice as well as to annihilate evil,I will descend on this Earth again and again.

    December 23, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  10. Vedic Vidya

    @ Hippy Poet..Hi Hippy ,I 'll be glad to answer your question on Hinduism's take on Buddha.
    Historically Buddha was born as Gautama Siddharta ,a hindu prince.Buddhism is considered by Hindus as an interpration on the scriptures,Buddhism is more appropriately regarded as a distillation of Hinduism as Buddha preached at a time when Hinduism was becoming too ritualistic.Also Buddha was a Kshatriya,which means people belonging to warrior profession as he was a royalty and Buddhism also negates the necessity of brahmanas ,who were priests by profession and claimed to be the inter-mediaries between God and all other people.
    Philosophically Buddha assimilated all the good concepts in Hinduism like Non Violence,Karma or doing good deed,transmigration of the soul and Moksha /Nirvan or Liberation from material bondage.
    Hindus thus traditionally believe Buddha as an Avatar or Lord Vishnu ie,God descending on earth in Human form.This also in keeping with one of the oft quoted and most reverred stanzas in the Gita where Lord Krishna (who is also Vishnu on earth in human form) says to prince Arjuna that when ever and where ever there is a rise in irreligious feelings,immorality and injustice,to restore the moral order and to deliver justice as well as to annihilate evil,I will descend on this Earth again and again.

    December 23, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  11. Flashofdawn

    Thought analysis done by Christians????...........Hahaha................great thanks...........much appreciated.

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.................ahemmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...or is that AMEN

    December 22, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  12. Vedic Vidya

    @ Flash of Dawn

    Suno bhai ,tum jise "Dumb" bol rahe ho na wo Bhagavad Geeta se hai. Meri khudki banayi huyi nehi hai.Jao jake Geeta paath karo pehle.Phir pata chal jayega kaun Hindu hai aur kaun Masquerador.

    December 22, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Vedic Vidya

      Bhagavad Gita As it is ...is written by Shri Prabhupada.He is an Indian and a Vaishnav and founder of ISCON ..International Society of Krishna Conciousness which incidentally has become quite popular in western coutries.I have studied Bhagavad Gita as it is ...as it provides word to word translations of the sanskrit texts.So stop acting rediculous and implore you to not make a ignorant fool of yourself in public.I have also done research there after og the different philosophical branches which emanated from it namely The Advaita philosophers,The Vishista Advaita Philosophers , the Dvaita philosophersand the Achinta Bheda Abheda Philosophers who all belong to the Vedanta School.Geeta is a prelude to the Vedanta.

      December 23, 2011 at 1:35 am |
  13. Hindu Humanism

    Bhagawad Gita As it is …as I have studied it
    It is essential for me as a devotee of the Lord to dispel any false assumptions about my religion.
    The book is an extract from the great epic The Mahabharata. The Mahabharata written in Sanskrit by the ancient sage Veda Vyasa is 10 times the size of Illiad and Odessey and 4 times the size of yet another great Indian epic the Ramayana.The Bhagawad Gita is cosidered by noted scholars and intellectulals,like Albert Einstein,Leo Tolstoy and others, as more of a philosophical,spiritual text rather than a dogmatic religious doctrine It consists of some of the most beautiful verses of sanskrit literature..It opens with prince Arjuna,the great warrior/archer,in a moral dilemma.Arjuna wants to give up his arms as he observes the opponents who were his own cousins,uncles,Gurus (teachers) who had imparted great knowledge to him and he considers forsaking the battle field.Lord Krishna who has very graciously taken up the role of Arjuna’s charioteer,though he is the Supreme himself, advises Arjuna to fight because it is his royal duty as the great warrior prince to defeat his enemies.The text then elevates to a moral level explaining the importance of performing ones socio-moral duties and responsibilities which one is born to do on this earth.Thus Arjuna should fight because Arjuna is the bravest warrior and also because Arjuna is fighting for justice,as the Kauravas have wrongfully taken over the throne of the great kingdom of Hastinapur of which the 5 Pandava brothers are the rightful descendents.Thus the fight is symbolic of the struggle between good and evil forces and of the ultimate triumph of Good over Evil..The text then elevates to a spiritual level.Arjuna is a great soul situated in the mode of goodness and thus Lord Krishna ,though himself being the Supreme,is Arjuna’s friend,Charioteer,Guide and Teacher.Krishna thus advises Arjuna to carry out justice for the opponents,the Kauravas; who are misguided souls entrapped in this material existence by the web of ignorance,lust and greed.Thus in defeating the Kauravas ,Arjuna will be liberating them from their state of tamas (ignorance) and rajas (passions).Arjuna by liberating his opponenets will himself attain liberation from the material existence and be united with the Supreme at the highest spiritual realm.The text here elevates to a metaphysical level exploring the nature of existence,the nature of the soul,the nature of ultimate knowledge and the yogic discipline to attain that ultimate knowledge.The ultimate knowledge is that any individual can attain the Lord by complete devotion and servitude toHim or through intellectual persuit by studying the devine scriptures.Lord Krishna also explicitely states that do not try to convince others about me but simply offer your complete devotion to me.Lord Krishna advises Arjuna to do his duties as a warrior prince but without expectations of results.Here he teaches one to perform one’s duties without attachment to its rewards, in servitude to Lord ,knowing that each individual being is but an instrument of the Lord.Thus the Supreme (Brahman/Hari/Maha Vishnu) resides within all individual beings (jeevatma) bar none as the Super soul (Paramatma), but is at the same time above and beyond all of existence and thus remains unaffected by the physical, material universe.In the Vishnu Purana it is mentioned that the entire universe accommodates in an infinitesimal point of His being.In one stanza Lord Krishna says that when ever and where ever there is a rise in irreligious feelings ,immorality and injustice ,to restore order and justice and to annihilate evil,I will descend on this earth time and time again in myriad forms (avatars).

    Hinduism thus doesn’t condone conversion and believes in diverse manifestations of the Supreme Being.

    December 22, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  14. John Richardson

    Man, the Russians are being dumber than rocks in THIS case.

    December 21, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Bhattathiri

      One of the greatest contributions of India to the world is Holy Gita which is considered to be one of the first revelations from God. The eighteen chapters of the Bhagavad-Gita are found in the Bhisma-parva(23-40), of Mahabharata which was compiled by Veda Vyasa. Let me bow with folded hands to Indian Maharishi Veda Vysa, who contributed to the world the “supreme knowledge” through his writings on various sacred texts. Gita is one of the most popular and accessible of all Indian scriptures, which is to be studied by anyone interested in Indian philosophy. The Gita teaches how one’s aim can be achieved; howsoever it may be difficult, by doing his duty with devotion, and meditation, integrating many different threads of Indian philosophy. It gives correct solution to all the problems in human life. One has to do his duty as mother looks after a child. Among all the sacred texts of India, the Bhagavad-gita greatly influenced the east and the west. Many philosophers, transcendentalists were deeply influenced by its insights, and thousands of individuals struggling with many problems have found comfort and wisdom in its pages. The Gita begins with Sri Krishna explaining the essence of human being that he is not the body but the immortal soul. The ancient science of life is called the Bhagavad Gita from the great country India that invented the number zero. All dimensions of human life have been explained in this. Bhagavad-Gita has, for more than two millennia, served as a guide to liberation through a life of knowledge, devotion, and action without attachment to results. The influence of this most renowned of all the Indian scriptures has spread far beyond its religion of origin to inspire figures as diverse as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Aldus Huxley, and C. G. Jung. Their translations stand out from all the others first of all for its careful faithfulness to the original language, but also for the extensive tools for understanding. These are excellent resource for serious students, but it’s also the perfect version for first-time readers who want to approach the text with understanding.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:42 am |
  15. Reality

    10. 7. The Gnostic Jesus
    (Part One in a Two-Part Series on Ancient and Modern Gnosticism)
    by Douglas Groothuis: equip.org/free/DG040-1.htm
    11. The interpretation of the Bible in the Church, Pontifical Biblical Commission
    Presented on March 18, 1994
    ewtn.com/library/CURIA/PBCINTER.HTM#2
    12. The Jesus Database- newer site:
    wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?t-itle=Jesus_Database
    13. Jesus Database with the example of Supper and Eucharist:
    faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb016.html
    14. Josephus on Jesus by Paul Maier:
    mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm
    15. The Journal of Higher Criticism with links to articles on the Historical Jesus:
    mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm
    16. The Greek New Testament: laparola.net/greco/
    17. Diseases in the Bible:
    etd.unisa.ac.za/ETD-db/theses/available/etd-08022006-125807/unrestricted/02dissertation.pdf

    December 21, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Reality

      Ooops, skip these references and go to the bottom of p.1.

      December 21, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  16. Reality

    A 21st century summary:

    • There was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    December 21, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • .........

      skip reading all reality posts hit report abuse on them instead

      December 21, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Mott the Hoople

      You write, "There was no Abraham...", "There was no Moses...", "There was no Gabriel..", and so on. Logic dictates that YOU CANNOT PROVE THE NON-EXISTENCE OF ANYTHING. I am sure you are an atheist. And what has atheism brought to the world? Hedonistic over-consumption, depletion of resources. Atheists bring selfish hedonism, theists bring altruism. What does this world need right now? Selfish hedonism or altruism? This is a rhetorical question, by the way.

      December 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Flashofdawn

      To Mott,
      You have a rather rather broad inclusion criteria.....don't you?
      Atheism brought to the world? Hedonistic over-consumption, depletion of resources (although a rhetorical question or whatever)
      From my perspective.........................and rather broad too I must free admit..............it is the Christianized West that has done this (and although Atheism in the Christianized West varies broadly from country to country.......for example Atheist in the US according to a ARIS Report in 2008-9 accounted for about 15% of the population and worldwide the Encyclopædia Britannica noted that atheists around 3.8%.). So are you saying that this tiny percentage are the caused "Hedonistic over-consumption, depletion of resources".
      So...................logics tells me that you are a christian.....................vomiting up garbage as usual

      December 27, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  17. a human being

    If you need good hits on your website, start an arguement with relifious belief and definitely you will get 10,000 uninvited commnets. I have never read any reiligous book and never doubt any religion. But I hate people who hate people. If a religion teaches you to hate people, you are mistakenly following a distorted form religion. I wish everyone should think before they speak. Try to avoid your unnecessary adrenaline rush after reading anyone provocative comment.

    December 21, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Flashofdawn

      Good for you....................you can also add also any religion that takes a supremacist view over all others religions (Abrahamic religions............please note).

      Also you have to read religious books to know which ones that teaches you to hate and have a supremacist ideology (Abrahamic religions....please note............and in case if you do not know this term it includes...........Judaism, Islam and Islam

      December 27, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Flashofdawn

      oops................(Abrahamic religions....please note............and in case if you do not know this term it includes...........Judaism, Islam and Christianity)

      December 27, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.