The Mystery of Oppenheimer, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Nuclear Bomb

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer in 1946. (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

When Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan during the Second World War, the U.S. administration wanted retribution. It set out to create the most powerful weapon known to humanity, the nuclear bomb. The man who was tasked with its creation, Dr. Julius Robert Oppenheimer, was not just a theoretical physicist, but he was also deeply interested in philosophy. He is famous in mythological circles because of his statement about the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu holy book, which he said described the first detonation of a nuclear weapon.

The Trinity test quote by Oppenheimer

“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,” said Oppenheimer when recalling the Trinity test of the Manhattan Project:

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Receive selected content straight into your inbox.

The Bhagavad Gita is a talk between a human being, Arjuna, and an incarnation of God Vishnu, Lord Krishna. In the book, Arjuna is worried and depressed about having to fight his cousins in the war. Krishna quotes the statement to imply that everyone on the battlefield will eventually die in time, trying to make Arjuna understand that it is the duty of a soldier to fight the war and that death is an inevitable end result of all life.

Oppenheimer’s interest in the book started after he became a student of Sanskrit professor Arthur Ryder in 1933. Gaining proficiency in the Sanskrit language, he was able to read Gita in its purest form. It is said that after dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Oppenheimer visited U.S. President Truman and stated that he felt he had: “blood on my hands”. Truman apparently became angry at his statement and never wanted to see the physicist again in the office.

Some people suggest that the development of a nuclear weapon took a toll on Oppenheimer’s moral viewpoint and that the Gita consoled his mind by reminding him about the inevitability of death. However, the link between nuclear weaponry and Hindu mythology goes much deeper. The Bhagavad Gita is a part of a bigger book known as the Mahabharata. In the war following the incidents of the Gita, certain statements indicate the use of nuclear weapons.

The Trinity test of the Manhattan Project was the first detonation of a nuclear weapon, which lead J. Robert Oppenheimer to recall verses from the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)
The Trinity test of the Manhattan Project was the first detonation of a nuclear weapon, which leads Oppenheimer to recall verses from the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita. (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

Ancient nuclear weapons in India

In the Mahabharata, there are descriptions of various devastating weapons. One that stands out is the ‘Brahmastra’ a weapon said to be so powerful that there was no way to counter it once launched.

Upon striking the target, the Brahmastra was said to produce “an incandescent column of smoke and flame as bright as 10,000 suns that rose in all its splendor. After, corpses were so burned as to be unrecognizable. Their hair and nails fell out; pottery broke without any apparent cause, and the birds turned white… After a few hours, all foodstuffs were infected. Any target hit by the Brahmastra would be utterly destroyed; the land would become barren and lifeless, rainfall would cease, and infertility in humans and animals would follow for eons of time,” according to Gaia.

In the famed Indus Valley sites of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, a researcher discovered that all objects were fused and glassified around a 50-yard radius at the site. Skeletons found at the site had radiation levels 50 times the normal values. Both discoveries triggered speculation that some sort of nuclear device must have been used in ancient times.

Follow us on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest

Recommended Stories

A submerged Buddha statue.

Buddha Statues, Ancient Towns, and Churches Emerge as Water Levels Drop

As the Earth moves through its phases, land masses keep rising to the ocean’s surface ...

Young woman smiling as she looks down at a butterfly.

What Is the Ultimate Purpose of Reincarnation?

Many cases of reincarnation have been relayed by people from both Eastern and Western countries. ...

Apples hanging on trees.

4 Apple Recipes to Turn Anyone Into a Pro

Baking with apples is usually challenging for first-timers which is why not many beginners do ...

Cardboard cutouts shaped like people stand on a table with a bright light behind them.

7 Boundaries That Will Help Sustain Lifelong Relationships

As human beings, we must keep a “bottom line” or set some kind of boundaries ...

Lauren Tischendorf swimming around Lord Howe Island.

Lauren Tischendorf: First Woman to Swim Shark-Infested Waters Around Lord Howe Island

The past decade has seen long-distance women swimmers achieve extraordinary feats. For example, Lauren Tischendorf ...

Deaf restaurant staff.

Deaf-Owned Restaurants and How They Speak the Language of Good Food

Deaf-owned restaurants are challenging the status quo and proving that you don’t need audible words ...

Splashing water.

How Much Hydration Do You Need Before Bed to Sleep Better?

We’ve all wondered how much hydration is adequate to get through the day. But have ...

Principal of Tsinghua University Mei Yiqi.

Mei Yiqi: President of Tsinghua University Helped His Heroic Wife To Sell Snacks on the Street

In December 1948 (the 37th year of the Republic of China), many intellectuals were faced ...

The River Thames flowing through London.

How the River Thames was Brought Back to Life

London’s River Thames once became a dead river due to the industrial revolution of England.  ...

Send this to a friend