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‘Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.’ The Story of Oppenheimer’s Infamous

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Seeking his counsel, Arjuna asks Krishna to reveal his universal form. Krishna obliges, and in verse 12 of the Gita he manifests as a sublime, terrifying being of many mouths and eyes. It is this moment that entered Oppenheimer’s mind in July 1945. “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one,” was Oppenheimer’s translation of that moment in the desert of New Mexico.

In Hinduism, which has a non-linear concept of time, the great god is involved in not only the creation, but also the dissolution. In verse 32, Krishna says the famous line. In it “death” literally translates 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: Irrespective of what Arjuna does, everything is in the hands of the divine.

“Arjuna is a soldier, he has a duty to fight. Krishna, not Arjuna, will determine who lives and who dies and Arjuna should neither mourn nor rejoice…

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