Don’t let identity politics blind you to your identity

Identity politics refers to the phenomenon of people identifying themselves with particular political positions and viewing everything in terms of those positions, as for or against those positions. Identity politics can be corrosive. For example, when citizens of a country see themselves as belonging to particular states, castes or religions rather than as belonging to their country, such identity politics corrodes that country’s fabric.

This corrosive effect of identity politics can spread even to spiritual texts. In modern India, which is haunted by the specter of the discriminatory caste system, some people from the lower castes deride the Bhagavad-gita as a tool devised by the brahmanas to dominate society.

Actually however, the Bhagavad-gita is a timeless wisdom-text for helping all people to realize their essential identity as souls, thereby transcending their affiliation to any particular social group. And even when it discusses the division of labor in society that has distorted into the caste system, it stresses (04.13) that such division should be based on qualities and activities or, in today’s parlance, on attitudes and aptitudes. With extraordinary inclusiveness, the Gita (18.45) declares that everyone can attain perfection by doing their own duties, thus implying that spirituality is not any particular social group’s monopoly.

Over the centuries, the Gita’s social division degenerated into the discriminatory caste system because people neglected the Gita. If they had followed it, they would have been both engaged and elevated: engaged materially in vocations compatible with their natures, and elevated spiritually towards higher happiness.

If people open their minds to the Gita and associate with those living the Gita, they will see through the blinders that identity politics has placed on them. Then, they will appreciate the Gita’s non-sectarian gift for all of humanity: the knowledge and the process to realize and relish our spiritual identity.

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