for The Vaishnava Voice on Jan. 24, 2009
Along with millions of others, I watched Barack Hussein Obama swear the oath while laying his left hand on the Bible. Not just any Bible in this case, but the self same Bible that Abraham Lincoln used back in 1861. Its the most solemn vow anyone in public office in the USA can make, and swearing on the Bible means that the oath is taken in the presence of God. It also means that the person taking the oath asks for God’s help in upholding his oath.
The taking of an oath before giving a testimony in a court of law is almost universal. Some witnesses prefer simply to ‘affirm’ rather than ‘take the oath.’ The idea is that they promise to tell the truth according to the highest set of principles they hold.
Swearing upon the Bible is very common of course, especially in western countries. But what if the person is a Hindu? What holy book should be offered?
In India there are literally hundreds of books that swearers of oaths would deem holy and suitable for their highest promises. Which book should a court of law offer to witnesses. Is there any holy book that all Hindus would agree to? I don’t know what happens in India, but in Britain the holy book of choice offered to the majority of Hindu witnesses is the Bhagavad-gita, the record of God’s conversation with His devotee.
That has come about not only because the Bhagavad-gita is universally known and loved, it is because many of the law courts in Britain have been supplied with a copy of Bhagavad-gita by members of the Hare Krishna movement.
Just the other day I heard the strange case of a man from India, nominally Hindu but not observant, who was asked to testify in court. When offered the Gita to lay his hand on, he reflected that he did not know at all what the book contained. After giving evidence he decided that he would read the holy book from cover to cover.
As the months went by, he became dissatisfied with being a non-observant person and began to visit temples. He specially liked to visit the temple founded by the person who had written the extensive commentaries to the Bhagavad-gita he’d taken his oath on: His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
By reading just a portion each morning he has now read the entire Bhagavad-gita three times. He also chants the Hare Krishna mantra as a meditation every morning on a string of 108 wooden beads. He chants nine times round the beads each day.
Everyone gets their day in court - and this man’s day was a turning point in his life.