From Whence Comes Authority to Make War in This World?

by Aranyakananda

In Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna implores Arjuna to fight this battle, telling him that it is his Holy Duty as a kshatriya (a member of the protector or warrior class) to fight. Parts of the scriptures of most religions, if taken literally, will say that there is a time to kill, notably in the Old Testament, the parts of the Qu’ran relating to jihad, and a large part of the Bhagavad-Gita, particularly in Chapter 2.

They all agree, in some way, that no killing of another human being in war is justified if not by the Authority of the Lord. War may be entered into, but only if justified by Divine cause. We humans unfortunately have taken that upon ourselves to decide when it is justified to make war. I wonder if the leaders of the world’s nations today have any idea when they hear that call. Would they know what it sounded like if they heard it? Are they too caught up in the game of war, the personal gain, the patriotic fervor they stir up by declaring war?And that’s just the thing. Some of the most destructive declarations of war are made (in the form of an act of war, not in an actual declaration) in the name of nationalist, patriotic, or religious passion (rajas), not through dharmic understanding of right (sattwa). When these rajasic things are the motivation, the war can not help but be made in the name of ego-conscious ends. This is what is called Terrorism.

In contrast, the Bhagavad-Gita is clear, concise, and personal in describing the nature of the Divine call to action, to ensure that action is taken in the name of dharma.   This concept goes hand-in-hand with ahimsa (non-harmfulness) in that a truly sattwic act of war will not come unprovoked. Those who “never hit a man first” are fighting in a sattwic frame of mind. And the Pandavas in the Gita (Arjuna’s army) certainly did all they could to avoid war.  The Kurus had provoked and preempted in many ways leading up to this so that the dharmic thing to do was to fight, to contain the evil.

Krishna (the Lord, Himself) delivering a one-on-one manifesto to the warrior Arjuna, recorded for all of history to reflect upon down through the ages. It is as true today as it was then, whether we are fighting a war or arguing with our neighbor.

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4 Responses to From Whence Comes Authority to Make War in This World?

  1. thoughtofvg says:

    the problem arises when one side believes that the other has made a transgression that has not happened-then that side can claim they have an excuse to fight. A sad opinion, but i think there is some truth to it.

  2. Dhrishti says:

    Nice post, bhai.

    What you point out here is true: virtually every dharma can, at some time or another, justify war/killing. Interestingly, in my opinion, the Bhagavad Gita-while composed entirely in the context of war-isn’t exactly pro-war.

    If you want to be literal about it, the way Christians and Muslims often are with their respective scriptures, then sure: In Hinduism, the Lord sanctions war. It’s precisely because of this kind of literalism that Christianity and Islam are today two of the strongest sources of war on this planet.

    However, the actual rule within Hinduism is to look deeper. Always, always, always look deeper. On the surface, and to guide those who don’t bother to scratch more than the surface, there may well be a time to kill everyone you know. But with virtually every recognized Hindu Scripture, in fact for a text to even be considered scripture, there must be a certain number of other, much deeper, levels on which the text can be taken, interpreted, and understood.

    This view actually permeates the entire Hindu world, and it’s because of this perpetual search for what’s underneath, what’s deeper still, that virtually all Hindus reading the Bhagavad Gita hardly place focus on the supposed actual setting of Kurukshetra. All Hindus know that the real meat of the Bhagavad Gita lies beneath the surface and can be found in etymological studies of the Sanskrit, in Krishna’s discourses on the various yogas, and, for example, on the subtle meanings/definitions/applications of the names of each of the Gita’s characters-just to name a few.

    So, when you have Christians and Muslims speaking of jihad and swords, you have Hindus learning to fight jihad within and use the sword of sadhana to conquer our own internal Kurus.

    Om Shanti 🙂

  3. treadmarkz says:

    Can’t thank you gentlemen enough for your thoughtful responses. But I will say this, many Muslims have asserted that the jihad is an all-too-often misunderstood concept that, when it comes down to it, IS actually intended to be a means to fighting the Inner strife. just as Kurukshetra represents in the Gita.

  4. bhakta says:

    war is a non religious subject. Why, the message is love, not cruelty in name of somebody., Buddha describes that there is no meaning for a fight at all! When people are realized or enlightened, the are not the body, just the observer (bhagavad gita) . The reason for fighting is thus just a false ego, my land, my job, my street. Jesus told this, turn people who hit you the other cheek. Maybe because people keep on fighting by every resistant?. See Gandhi ahimsa was based on this. And every day the gita, but real ahimsa is Buddha

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