The renowned theoretical physicist, J Robert Oppenheimer, who gained fame as the “father of the atomic bomb” after making waves in the world of Physics in 1945, is once again a topic of discussion due to the recent release of his biopic titled “Oppenheimer”.
After the release of Christopher Nolan’s latest biographical thriller, it was discovered that the renowned theoretical physicist was deeply inspired by the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text in Hinduism.
Despite its success at the box office since its release on July 21st, a scene in the biopic depicting the scientist reading the Bhagavad Gita after sex has come under criticism from the global Hindu community for “attacking their religion.”
There is a growing demand, particularly in India, for the controversial scene to be censored by the viewers.
As he was a keen learner of multiple languages including Greek, Latin, French and German. He even learned Dutch within six weeks.
However, Oppenheimer was introduced to the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit and the Gita, by Arthur W Ryder, a fellow professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who taught Sanskrit.
Ryder gave Oppenheimer private lessons in Sanskrit on Thursday evenings.
“I am learning Sanskrit,” Oppenheimer wrote to his brother Frank, “enjoying it very much and enjoying again the sweet luxury of being taught”.
In a letter to his brother, Oppenheimer expressed that discipline and hard work were his main values. He attributed this to his fascination with Eastern philosophy.
He wrote: “Through discipline, though not through discipline alone, we can achieve serenity, and a certain small but precious measure of freedom from the accidents of incarnation… and that detachment which preserves the world it renounces”.
“Only through discipline”, he added, “is it possible to see the world without the gross distraction of personal desire, and in seeing so, accept more easily our earthly privation and its earthly horror”.
Furthermore, many of his friends found his new obsession with an Indian language odd, Oppenheimer’s biographers noted.
One of them, Harold F Cherniss, who introduced the scientist to the Ryder, thought it made “perfect sense” because Oppenheimer had a “taste of the mystical and the cryptic”.
According to CNN, two days before the explosion of the first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert in July 1945, Robert Oppenheimer “recited a stanza from the Bhagavad Gita, or The Lord’s Song,” to relieve his tension:
“In battle, in the forest, at the precipice of the mountains
On the dark great sea, in the midst of javelins and arrows,
In sleep, in confusion, in the depths of shame,
The good deeds a man has done before defend him…”