“Now I have become death, the destroyer of worlds.” The story of Oppenheimer’s infamous quote

Arjuna consults them and asks Krishna to reveal his universal form. Krishna obliges, and in verse 12 of the Gita he appears as a transcendent, terrifying being with many faces and eyes. This is the moment that occurred to Oppenheimer in July 1945. Oppenheimer translated the New Mexico desert at the time as, “If the brightness of a thousand suns burst into the sky at once, it would be like the splendor of the mighty.”

In Hinduism, which has a non-linear concept of time, the great god is involved not only in creation but also in dissolution. In verse 32 Krishna says the famous line. In it, “death” is literally translated as “world-destroying time”, says Thompson, adding that Oppenheimer’s Sanskrit teacher chose to translate “world-destroying time” as “death”, a common interpretation. Its meaning is simple: whatever Arjuna does, everything is in the hands of the Supreme Soul.

“Arjuna is a soldier, it is his duty to fight. Thompson states, “Krishna, not Arjuna, will decide who lives and who dies, and Arjuna should not mourn or rejoice at what fate has written, but should completely disengage from such consequences.” “And lastly, the most important thing is that he should be devoted to Krishna. His faith will save Arjuna’s soul.’ But it appears that Oppenheimer was never able to achieve this peace. “In a kind of coarse sense which no vulgarity, no humour, no exaggeration can extinguish,” he said two years after Trinity’s eruption, “the materialists have known sin; And this is a knowledge they cannot lose.’

Thompson says, “It appears that he does not believe that the soul is eternal, whereas Arjuna does.” ‘The fourth argument in the Gita is actually that death is an illusion, that we are neither born nor die. This is actually philosophy. There is only one consciousness and the whole creation is a beautiful play. Oppenheimer could never have believed that the people killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki would not suffer. Although he did his work dutifully, he could never accept that it could liberate him from the cycle of life and death. On the contrary, Arjuna realizes his mistake and decides to join the battle.

Thompson says, “Krishna says just do your duty as a warrior.” “If you were a priest you would not have to do this, but you are a warrior and you have to do it. In the grand scheme of things, the bomb allegedly represented a path of struggle against the forces of evil, which were embodied by the forces of fascism.

It must have been relatively easy for Arjuna to remain indifferent to the war as he believed that the souls of his opponents would live on regardless of the war. But Oppenheimer felt the effects of the atomic bomb acutely. “He did not believe that destruction was ultimately an illusion,” says Thompson. Oppenheimer’s inability to accept the idea of ​​an immortal soul would always weigh heavily on his mind.

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