During the Kurukshetra war, when the mighty Pandava warrior Arjuna became emotionally disturbed and refused to raise his arms against his Kaurava opponents who were his kinsmen, then the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna spoke the Bhagavad Gita to pull out Arjuna from such a de-motivated and dejected state of mind and re-kindle Arjuna’s warrior self. In the course of motivating Arjuna, Krishna says at one point-
sukhinaḥ kṣatriyāḥ pārtha
labhante yuddham īdṛśam
O Pārtha, happy are the kṣatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets. – B.G. 2.32.
That is, if Arjuna wins the war, he will enjoy his kingdom and if he dies in the warfield, then the doors of heaven are open for him. Thus, considering all aspects, Arjuna is no way a loser and therefore he has no reason to refrain from fighting. Many people question in this regard that did Krishna incite Arjuna into fighting against his kinsmen by injecting into him the greed for unrestrained sensual enjoyment in heaven just as the jihadi extremists urge the suicide bombers to lay down their lives by giving them assurance that after death, they would attain jannat or heaven. Therefore, is Krishna promoting violence in Gita ? The answer is certainly NO. Let’s discuss why.
First of all, the war of Kurukshetra was not about indiscriminate killing of innocents advocated by the jihadis. It was ‘Dharmayuddha’, a war fought for wiping away the irreligious persons who transgressed God’s laws and disrupted peace and harmony in society. Were the Kauravas faultess and unblemished ? According to Vedic injunctions there are six kinds of aggressors: (1) a poison giver, (2) one who sets fire to the house, (3) one who attacks with deadly weapons, (4) one who plunders riches, (5) one who occupies another's land, and (6) one who kidnaps a wife. However, the Kauravas committed all the six kinds of aggressions against the Pandavas and as a Kshatriya, it was the duty of Arjuna to quell this aggression. In the Parāśara-smṛti, or religious codes made by Parāśara, the great sage and father of Vyāsadeva, it is stated:
kṣatriyo hi prajā rakṣan
kṣitiṁ dharmeṇa pālayet
“The kṣatriya's duty is to protect the citizens from all kinds of difficulties, and for that reason he has to apply violence in suitable cases for law and order. Therefore he has to conquer the soldiers of inimical kings, and thus, with religious principles, he should rule over the world."
Krishna is instructing Arjuna to fulfill his specific duty as a kshatriya, not to engage in unnecessary killing as the suicide bombers. It becomes imperative for a kshatriya to take recourse to religious violence in order to stem lawlessness and disorder. By doing so, he gathers massive piety which makes him eligible to enter into the heaven. Therefore, in the religious law books, it is specifically stated-
āhaveṣu mitho 'nyonyaṁ
yuddhamānāḥ paraṁ śaktyā
svargaṁ yānty aparāṅ-mukhāḥ
“In the battlefield, a king or kṣatriya, while fighting another king envious of him (and aiming to create disturbance in his peaceful and orderly administration), is eligible for achieving heavenly planets after death.“
It is only by waging a war with a noble cause of annihilating the demolishers of law and order that one is promoted to heaven to death, not otherwise.
Secondly, for the jihadists, jannat is a kind of heaven where one can enjoy unrestricted sense gratification for eternity. It is by dangling the carrot of this belief infront of the suicide bombers that they are lured to commit ghastly mass killings and ultimately suicide (God knows well whether such abominable cruelty against humanity will lead one to Jannat or Jahannam or hell). However, Gita wisdom offers us a completely different picture of life in heaven. According to Gita, life in heaven is not eternal. It’s temporary and one enjoys in heaven as long as the stock of the results of his pious activites exists and once that stock is consumed, one is thrown out of heaven, back to this material world. The Bhagavad-gītā confirms this: kṣīṇe puṇye martya-lokaṁ viśanti. "When the results of pious activities are finished, one falls down again from the peak of happiness to the lowest status of life."
Therefore, although Krishna inititally speaks about attainment of heavenly kingdom to inspire Arjuna to take up his arms and fight against his enemies, He didn’t establish the achievement of heaven as the ultimate goal. Krishna specifically says in Bhagavad Gita 15.6-
yad gatvā na nivartante
tad dhāma paramaṁ mama
“It is only after attaining His spiritual kingdom of Golok Vrindavan (not heaven) that one never returns to this miserable material world.”
And how to reach there? Gita instructs us in this regard that apart from pious activites and impious activites, there is a third category of activites. Such activities are devotional activities or activities performed only for the sake for the satisfaction of Krishna without desiring to enjoy the fruits of those activities. Only by performing such activities that one can attain the kingdom of Krishna where one can enjoy eternal bliss in His divine association. Therefore, Arjuna was instructed by Krishna not to see his engagement in the warfare as a pious activity but as a means to serve Krishna. Krishna descends in this material world to deliver the pious and annihilate the miscreants. It is Arjuna’s duty to help Krishna in His mission and the best way he can help Krishna is by taking part in the war, act as an instrument of Krishna and eliminating all the miscreants. Therefore, the attainment of heaven is not the supreme instruction of Krishna to Arjuna. The ultimate instruction of Krishna is-
mayi sarvāṇi karmāṇi
nirāśīr nirmamo bhūtvā
Therefore, O Arjuna, surrendering all your works unto Me (i.e. fighting only for the sake of Krishna’s satisfaction without any personal consideration), with full knowledge of Me, without desires for profit (i.e. without thinking of gaining heavenly kingdom or any kind of gain or loss), with no claims to proprietorship, and free from lethargy, fight.- B.G. 3.30
It is only then that the fighting will be converted into a service, devotional service unto Krishna’s lotus feet and it is this devotional service that will make Arjuna eligible to gain an eternal place and enjoy an eternal life of bliss in Krishna’s eternal kingdom. Hare Krishna !
-Gourab Saha, ISKCON Panihati, Sodepur, West Bengal.
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