Religious War

Recent world events have compounded apprehensions about the social implications of religious belief. While governments grapple with the problem of terrorism, the growing opposition to religion becomes strikingly apparent. As a traveling monk, I am often drawn into heated debates over the link between religion and war. To complicate matters further, the revered conversation of Bhagavad-gita is spoken at the onset of a fratricidal war, and Krishna is seemingly the one inciting Arjuna to fight! Does the Vedic tradition promote bloodshed and violence? Do spiritualists in this line secretly believe that war, hostility and the killing of innocent people is necessary for ‘religious revolution’?

In ancient Vedic scriptures we find the famous aphorism, ahimsyat sarva bhutanam – “one should not commit violence to any living being.” Since nonviolence is a cardinal principle of the spiritualist they are urged to refrain from causing harm to even animals or plants. However, non-violence can mean different things in different situations. As a guardian of the people, the warrior Arjuna was required to take responsibility for the upkeep of law and order in society. In this case, his non-violence had to be expressed through confrontational means. Such strong action is neither taken whimsically, nor for the sake of material gain, and never with a mood of hatred or envy. It was the last resort, and even when the battle commenced it was fought between consenting parties who followed strict moral and ethical codes of conduct. Before drawing any parallels between the Battle of Kuruksetra and modern warfare, one must look into the historical, moral and social context of each circumstance.

History shows that violence has touched every part of the world, independent of the theological beliefs of people. In fact the most destructive wars were fought for secular, political, economic, or ideological reasons. Religion is not the cause of conflict. On the contrary, it is the very neglect of genuine spirituality that causes war, violence and unrest in this world. Societies of genuine spiritualists hold great reverence for life. Qualities of respect, contentment, humility and tolerance are the cornerstones of their lives. Saints who have delivered the Bhagavad-gita to the modern world have affirmed that the real revolution in society is to transform people’s hearts through selflessness and love. The real revolution is a revolution of consciousness. The solution for world peace is not in rejecting spirituality, but rather in restoring, reforming and reviving it in its true nature and spirit.

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