from God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 2), Paramahansa Yogananda
This stanza of the Gita has special reference to the duty of a spiritual man who has attained the Kshatriya state. Krishna, the soul, says to the devotee: “O Arjuna, you are in the warrior state of spirituality! Your duty lies in fighting the momentarily pleasurable sense attachments of body consciousness! Do not waver! Awake! Rouse the soldiers of discrimination and meditative calmness! Assemble them on the battlefield of introspection! Rout the invading forces of sense attachments!”
The same spiritual instruction can be applied in everyday life. In a righteous material battle, for instance, one should fight nobly and fearlessly to defend his homeland from evil invading forces, safeguarding the well-being and interests of his countrymen and upholding the ideals of virtuous human existence.
“O Son of Pritha (Arjuna), fortunate are the Kshatriyas when such a righteous battle has, unprovoked, fallen to their lot; they find therein an open door to heaven.”
“O PRITHA’S WAVERING SON, a noble-minded warrior should eagerly seize any opportunity of fighting for an exalted cause! Those who respond to the call of a righteous battle, one that comes without aggressive seeking and demands fulfillment of the karmic law of justice, will surely behold in that duty a secret door to heavenly happiness!”
There are two kinds of noble warriors—the soldier of any land who engages himself in a righteous war for the protection of his country, and the spiritual warrior who is ready to use self-control and undaunted endeavor to protect the inner kingdom of peace. No warriors of the Spirit should hesitate because of the delusive stratagem of the inner enemy; no dutiful soldier should waver because of the danger to his life or because of the necessary bloodshed.
In Krishna’s exhortation to Arjuna that he must perform his righteous duty as a Kshatriya (warrior), the Gita warns man against the temptation to use a metaphysical doctrine of nonviolence as a subterfuge for tolerating the slaughter of innocent people by conscienceless marauders. The doctrine of nonviolence as taught by Leo Tolstoy and by Mahatma Gandhi includes resistance to evil. A nonviolent person should resist evil, however, not with physical force but with spiritual force. Gandhi was a warrior without armor, save the invulnerable breastplate of Truth. Nonviolence is passive resistance to evil by love and by spiritual force and reason, without a use of physical force. The nonviolent man maintains that if it is necessary to shed blood in the protection of innocence, then let that blood be his own!
If a person spiritually resists a program of wrong, to the point of inviting his own death at the hands of his infuriated foes, there will ultimately be less blood shed in the world. The point has been proven a practical truth in recent Indian history—India’s victory of independence from foreign rule through Gandhi’s principles of passive resistance.
Thousands of Gandhi’s followers martyred themselves in adhering to the doctrine of nonviolence. On numerous occasions Gandhi’s unarmed followers resisted by noncooperation a law that they considered unjust; they were attacked and beaten by political enemies. Many of Gandhi’s disciples, mercilessly cudgeled, rose again to their feet and, calmly pointing to their broken skulls and limbs, urged their enemies to beat them again! Witnesses have testified that this display of nonviolent courage caused many political enemies to throw down their weapons, remorseful at having attacked brave men who, for the sake of their convictions, were not afraid either of maiming or death.
Right application of doctrine of nonviolence
The doctrine of nonviolence maintains that the sacrifice of one’s self teaches one’s enemies, through the awakening of conscience and the inner urgings of repentance, to eschew violence. This premise presupposes that the enemy’s conscience is capable of being touched. If you walk into a tiger’s cage and start preaching nonviolence to him, his bestial nature, which is unprincipled in the moral standards of man, will cause him to devour you—utterly ruining your fine dissertation! The tiger learns nothing from the experience unless it be that a fool is an easy meal. The smart crack of a trainer’s whip might have engendered a more meaningful conversation between man and beast.
Parallelisms can be drawn from accounts of atrocities in the history of man. Though force in itself is an evil, when employed against a greater evil, the lesser of the two evils becomes in this world of relativity an act of righteousness. But this is not a free license to resort to force or retaliation. For example, there is a great difference between a righteous and an unrighteous war. A country may be purposely aggressive and foment wars to satisfy its greed; a war so motivated is unrighteous action by the aggressors and no soldier should cooperate with it. To defend one’s country against the aggression of another, however—protecting innocent, helpless people and preserving their noble ideals and freedom—is righteous duty.
It is best to consult true men of God whenever there is doubt as to whether or not a war is righteous.
To condone defensive force in certain circumstances is not to demean the superiority of spiritual power over brute force. Even a tiger in the company of a yogi filled with the love of God becomes a pussycat. Patanjali says: “In the presence of a man perfected in ahimsa (nonviolence), enmity [in any creature] does not arise.”
“Love your enemies” is a central part of the teachings of Christ:
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
This is not a sentimental dictum nor a gesture merely to ennoble the giver, but expresses an important divine law. Good and evil are relative opposites in this world of duality. Good draws its power from the pure creative vibrations of Spirit; evil derives its force from delusion. The effect of delusion is to divide, agitate, and cause inharmony. Love is the attracting power of Spirit that unites and harmonizes. When man tunes in with God’s love and consciously directs its vibratory force against evil, it neutralizes the power of evil and reinforces the vibrations of good. Hate, vengeance, anger, on the other hand, are of the same ilk as the evil being resisted, and so only inflame the evil vibration. Love smothers that fire by denying it fuel! God has shown me many times the power of His love in conquering evil.
The resistance of evil by good, not by evil, is thus the ideal method for eradicating the plague of war. The use of force down the millenniums has certainly not banished that plague!
JESUS said, “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”: Yet how many so-called “righteous wars” have been fought in the name of that beloved Christ! If one brandishes his sword against his enemy, that act excites his foe to use any weapon he can get to defend himself. War breeds war. War can be outmoded by practicing a doctrine of peace in international life. Aggressive wars should be effectively outlawed. Wars of defense are not wrong, but a far greater achievement is to be able to conquer one’s would-be conquerors by nonviolent resistance. Jesus could have borrowed twelve legions of divinely armed angels to destroy his enemies—but he chose the way of nonviolence. He conquered not only the Roman Empire, but mankind, by his love and by saving: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” The nonviolent Jesus, allowing his blood to be shed and his body to be destroyed, immortalized himself in the eyes of God and man. A nation that can maintain its independence by peaceful methods will be the greatest example and savior to the arming and warring nations of the earth.
Gandhi maintained, however, that it is better to resist with physical force than to be a coward. If a man and his family, for example, are attacked by a criminal who levels his gun at them, and the man (being actuated by inward fear) says: “Gunman, 1 forgive you for whatever you may do,” and then flies away, leaving his helpless family these actions cannot be called a display of nonviolence but of cowardice. According to Gandhi, a man in such a situation should resort even to force rather than hide his act of cowardice under a mask of nonviolence.
“I accept the interpretation of ahimsa, namely, that it is not merely a negative state of harmlessness but it is a positive state of love, of doing good even to the evildoer. But it does not mean helping the evildoer to continue the wrong or tolerating it by passive acquiescence. On the contrary, love, the active state of ahimsa, requires you to resist the wrongdoer by dissociating yourself from him even though it may offend him or injure him physically.”— Mahatma Gandhi
To return a slap for a slap is easy, but more difficult it is to resist a slap by love! Any warrior who uses physical force or spiritual power to defend a righteous cause always derives in his soul a heavenly satisfaction.
According to the law of karma a man who dies courageously on a battlefield with a clear conscience attains a blissful state after death and is reborn on earth with a valiant mind in a noble family. A storm creates changeful waves on the bosom of the ocean; when the storm vanishes, it is seen that the waves, far from having been destroyed, had merely disappeared by slipping back into the bosom of the sea. A soldier in a righteous war confronted with the grim specter of death has to keep this reality foremost in his mind: There is no death, only a return of the soul-wave to the Sea. And when righteous people, even indirectly, are the cause of slaying evildoers in a battle, they should not flatter themselves by thinking that they personally have any power of destruction! Evil, by the judgment of cosmic law, writes its own death sentence. The hero and the villain are karmically in the right place at the right time (according to God’s view, not man’s) for the judgment to be carried out.*
Yogananda Site Recommends: Gandhi the Man: How One Man Changed Himself to Change the World, by Eknath Easwaran