Lessons from Mahabharata: Can a non-violent person engage in war?

(This is the 6th episode in our ‘Lessons from Mahabharata’ series. To visit the previous episodes, click HERE.)

The general definition of ‘non-violence’ is abstaining from harming anyone physically in any way. Its meaning is not limited to physical violence though. Verbal abuse or hurting someone through words is also a kind of violence. But in this write-up, we will only be focusing on the physical aspect of violence.

As a non-violent person is not expected to even slap anyone, can he or she ever take part in a war? The whole idea sounds crazy, right? But if you look closely, he or she can do that, at least in my opinion.

To explain my point, I would like to go back to around 5000 years. The Pandavas valiantly fought against the Kauravas in the great war of Mahabharata in Kurukshetra. They eventually decimated their enemy. In other words, they killed them. So, this will obviously make you think that they were violent as they indulged in a violent act. What if I tell you that it wasn’t a violent act by them? Okay, let me explain.

krishna-and-arjunPandavas never wanted the war in the first place. They lost their kingdom through treachery in a game of dice to Duryodhana. They also had to face 14 years’ of forest exile as part of the punishment. Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas, was almost stripped in front of others in the court.

But despite facing such humongous atrocities and that too for no fault of theirs, they were ready to live peacefully with the Kauravas. After completing their exile period, they only asked for five small villages for each brother without showing any desire to win back the entire kingdom of Hastinapur. Can there be a bigger example of non-violence?

Lord Krishna is blamed to have played tricks in defeating Kauravas. But we tend to forget that he himself visited Kauravas with a proposal of peace while asking only five small villages for the Pandavas. However, Duryodhana refused to grant even a needle space to Pandavas.

He was hell bent in fighting the war.

Now, the most important question – What could they have done if Kauravas were adamant in attacking them? Obviously, they would retaliate with equal force. They had to because they can’t let the enemy kill them for no fault of theirs.

The Kauravas were not only wrong but they also wanted to kill the Pandavas to fulfill their evil mission. Hence, being true Kshatriyas, the Pandavas had to make sure that Dharma roots out Adharma.

As explained in the Bhagavad Gita, if Arjuna had refused to fight the war and let Kauravas kill them, it would have given a wrong message for the upcoming generations. It would have shown the victory of evil over good.

Therefore, what Pandavas did in the war was self-defense. It was not violence. To protect the good from evil can never be violence.

Now, let’s see at this situation from today’s point of view. If an enemy country attacks us, our soldiers would retaliate to make sure that the innocent citizens aren’t harmed. In this case, our soldiers aren’t violent. They are only protecting us.

Hence, a non-violent person can indulge in war.

By: Keyur Seta

Advertisements