“Therefore the doubts which have arisen in your heart out of ignorance should be slashed by the weapon of knowledge. Armed with yoga, O Bharata, stand and fight.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.42)
“How could Krishna advise Arjuna to fight? How can God advocate violence? That doesn’t make sense.” These were the accusations lobbed by Rick towards his friend Ray. The two liked to discuss philosophy whenever they met, and lately Ray’s portion of the discussion had been dominated by the philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita.
“You don’t understand duality,” Ray responded. “You can’t just say that violence is always good or always bad. There’s a time and a place for everything. Krishna, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, knows just the right potion to administer at just the right moments. Violence was called for in that situation. It doesn’t mean that everyone should be pro-war or anti-war.”
To that Rick stubbornly shook his head. “I can’t accept that,” he explained. “Violence is never called for. Not under any circumstance. Nonviolence is compassion, and I am a compassionate person.”
“You think that you’re compassionate, but you’re really not.”
“Let me tell you a quick story.” Ray then told of a flight he had taken a few years back.
I was so tired, man. It was one of those red-eye flights. You know, one that looks good when you’re first booking it. “Hey, this is great. I’ll just sleep on the plane, wake up, and be ready to go to work.” That’s what I thought when I made the reservation online, but it turned out to be a lot more than I bargained for.
So, for starters, I couldn’t fall asleep. Something about being seated upright and all the movement didn’t allow me to fall asleep. I wasn’t the only one who had this problem, it seemed. What didn’t help matters was this child seated a row in front of me and to the left. He would not sit still. He was maybe five years old. He kept poking at the head of the guy in front of him. The guy looked back a few times, but still didn’t say anything. Finally, after it looked like he had fallen asleep, the kid poked his head again. This time, he wasn’t so polite.
“Excuse me, miss, can you keep control of your son,” he said in a not so happy mood.
“Oh don’t mind him. He likes you,” the mother responded.
“Yeah, but I don’t care. He shouldn’t be doing that. Do you have any control over him?”
“My husband and I don’t believe in punishing. He’s just a child after all. If we were to reprimand him, it might hurt his feelings.”
The situation calmed for a few hours until the kid started poking at the head of the next guy over. After doing it a few times, the man turned around and yelled at the kid. “Don’t you ever touch my head again. If you do, I’ll smack you in the face.”
The child was so frightened that he started to cry. The mother then started yelling at the man. “How dare you speak to my child that way? You made him cry.” The man, not afraid, began to yell at her as well. “Let me tell you something. Someone better discipline that child. You’re going to have a lot more trouble on your hands in the future if you don’t get a hold of these kinds of situations. You think you’re being nice, but you’re only ruining life for him.” The mother was still angry, but the tempers subsided. The child did not bother anyone for the rest of the flight.
Rick heard the story, but didn’t see a correlation. “So you’re comparing disciplining a child to going to war? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Ray responded, “It’s the attitude that’s similar. The parents thought they were being compassionate, but they really weren’t. That was a simple situation like a kid acting up on an airplane, but imagine the same kid not being punished for stealing, cheating and the like.”
“And then they would be a bad adult?”
“Yeah. And so what seems like compassion, really isn’t. It’s similar with Arjuna. He was in the warrior class of men. He was a warrior by quality, not just by birth. It was his duty to defend righteousness. The other side were the aggressors. They had taken land that didn’t belong to them. What did you want Krishna to tell him?”
“He could have tried diplomacy.”
“Already tried it. The other side wasn’t budging. They thought they were in the right. They wouldn’t give Arjuna and his brothers even an inch of land.”
“Hmm. Krishna could have told Arjuna to forget about it? Why sink to the level of your enemies?”
“Okay, if we follow that logic, then the police should never respond to any attacks. They should stay back and not resort to violence.”
“That’s not what I’m saying.”
“No, but the principle is the same. Anyway, I don’t want to get sidetracked. The Bhagavad-gita is not pro or anti violence. It is about the science of self-realization. It is about following the orders of the highest authority. Arjuna was deluded by the material covering, and so Krishna corrected that in Him. We get the same correction from the people who follow devotion to Krishna. They tell us to understand the Bhagavad-gita and take up the mission of devotional service. Only this will permanently clear us of the illusion that strikes at our intelligence. And that devotion today is best followed through chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Whether we are scared, indifferent, or eager towards finding the ultimate objective in life, we should always chant these names. They will lead us to victory in the human birth.”
Violence never to choose,
Diplomacy prefer to use.
Compassionate I am this way,
But means only bad guys to have final say.
To fight Krishna advised,
For Arjuna the course wise.
Not applicable to situations all,
For restraint other times to call.
Follow Krishna’s orders is Gita’s message real,
Then permanently stop reincarnation’s wheel.