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How Oppenheimer was Influenced by the Bhagavad Gita

The man who invented the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, devotes a great deal of his life and work to the study of Bhagavad gita. Cilian Murphy plays him in the film.To put it another way, in a nutshell, Oppenheimer was influenced by the Gita. He quoted Lord Krishna after his first test of the atomic bomb. Christopher Nolan’s film is widely regarded as a masterpiece.It’s been called ‘intense’ and a ‘masterpiece’ by those who’ve seen it. Christopher Nolan’s latest film, ‘J. Robert Oppenheimer’, is set to be released on July 21 around the world. While critics have praised the film’s ‘brilliant direction’ and Cillian Murphy-Robert Downey Jr.’s performance, there’s an interesting connection between the film and the Gita. As you may already know, Oppenheimer was a huge admirer of the teachings contained in the Gita. He was said to have had a copy of the Gita by his bedside, and even studied Sanskrit in 1933 to read the original text of the book.The physicist described the Gita as “the finest philosophical composition that exists in any language,” and named it as one of the ten most influential books of his life.Historian James A Hijiya compares Oppenheimer to the character of Arjuna in Mahabharata: “Krishna says to Arjuna, you must fight. The message to Oppenheimer would have been the same. If Arjuna was right to kill his friends and kinsmen in a dispute over the inheritance of the kingdom, then how can Oppenheimer be wrong to build a weapon that will kill Germans and Japanese, whose governments are trying to conquer the whole world?” While Oppenheimer knew that the atomic bomb was necessary to destroy the Nazis, he also knew that it was a weapon that would destroy humanity. On July 16, 1945, the first successful test – known as the Trinity Test – took place in Mexico.During an interview with Newsweek decades ago, Oppenheimer said recalling the first nuclear test, “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.'”

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Christopher Nolan said in a statement to Reuters, “The story of Oppenheimer is among the most dramatic I’ve ever seen and there are so many reasons why it’s so captivating. I wanted to take audiences there to be in that room, to be with those people as they made those terrible decisions that have shaped the world we live in. It’s a truly remarkable dramatic event that I wanted to bring to life.”When Christpher Nolan was asked about the audience’s reaction to Oppenheimer in an interview, he said, “Some people walk away from the movie completely speechless. I think there’s a certain element of fear that’s in the past and in the background. But the love for these characters, the love for these relationships, is as powerful as I’ve ever experienced.”


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