Is Violence Always Sinful?

War and bloodshed can become a glorious act if done under divine guidance.

aho bata mahat papam
kartum vyavasita vayam
yad rajya-sukha-lobhena
hantum sva-janam udyatah

“Alas, how strange it is that we are preparing to commit greatly sinful acts, driven by the desire to enjoy royal happiness.”
– Bhagavad-gita 1.44

Arjuna here is thinking that the war was arranged for his rajya-sukha, his personal enjoyment. Actually, it was not so. It was arranged by Krishna for His satisfaction, not for Arjuna’s satisfaction. That is the difference between ordinary work and devotional service. Devotional service and ordinary work may look the same, but there is a great difference between the two.

The Whole World is a Family

People often misunderstand that Mahabharata was an ordinary war, but it was not. It was arranged by Krishna in order to fulfill His mission. His mission is paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam (Gita 4.8). He comes, He descends on this planet, in this universe, just to establish the real purpose of religious life and to vanquish those who are opposing the real purpose of life.

Here svajanam means kinsmen. Kinsmen does not mean only my brother, sister, father or uncle – my immediate relatives. Svajanam means all living entities, because God is the father of all, as all religions proclaim. Krishna claims in the Bhagavad-gita (14.4), aham bija-pradah pita: “I am the seed-giving father.” Aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate (Gita 10.8): Everything has come from Him. Therefore a devotee of Krishna does not harm any living entity. That is Krishna consciousness.

This is the vision of a panòita, one who is truly learned. He is samadarsinah, equal to all. Just as Krishna has equal vision towards all, His devotee also sees everyone equally. He considers everyone svajana, a member of the same family, regardless of what kind of body the living entity is in.

brahmane gavi hastini
suni caiva sva-pake ca
panditah sama-darsinah

“The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Gita 5.18) Of course, externally, it is not that I shall behave equally with the brahmana and the dog. That is external behavior. But internally, we should know that both the brahmana and the dog are spiritual sparks. This is called brahma-jnana, or knowledge of spiritual self. When one attains this brahma-jnana, then one develops equal vision towards all. Brahma-bhutah prasannatma na socati na kaìksati, samah sarvesu bhutesu (Gita 18.54).

So Arjuna says here, aho bata mahat papam. Mahat papam means a greatly sinful act. Killing anyone for my satisfaction, either the satisfaction of my tongue or any other purpose, is considered maha-papam, because everyone is our svajana. A truly learned person thinks, “The lower animals are also our family members. And if I kill them for my satisfaction, it is sinful.” Unfortunately, most people today indulge in the killing business. Although it is prohibited, people are killing in the name of religion. How can they be happy by living sinfully?

Right and Wrong – How to Discern

Arjuna is now thinking, “For the matter of getting a kingdom and sense gratification, I am going to kill my kinsmen. It is great sin.” That’s a fact. If the Kuruksetra war was for Arjuna’s sense satisfaction, then it was a great sin. But actually, it was not arranged for Arjuna’s satisfaction; it was arranged for Krishna ’s satisfaction. A karmi works for his own satisfaction, whereas a devotee works for Krishna ’s satisfaction. Externally the activities of both appear same, but there is great difference. The conclusion is that if we act for our own sense satisfaction, it is maha-papam, sinful activities. But if we do the same thing for Krishna ’s satisfaction, that is spiritual advancement. This is the difference. Working for Krishna opens your path to liberation, back to home, back to Godhead. You have to change the consciousness. What you are doing? For whom you are doing? For yourself or for Krishna ? This is Krishna consciousness. And that is the perfection of life. In whatever position you are, whatever you are doing, it doesn’t matter. This is confirmed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:

atah pumbhir dvija-srestha
svanusthitasya dharmasya
samsiddhir hari-tosanam

– Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.13

Hari-tosanam means to satisfy the Supreme Lord, Hari. That is perfection. It doesn’t matter what you are doing. “Whatever you are doing” does not mean any nonsense you do will be accepted. No. Varnasrama-vibhagasah. According to Vedic civilization, there are divisions of varna: brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra. So activities must be done according to the varnasrama prescription. Therefore it is called varnasrama – the prescribed duties are already there. When one acts according to his varnasrama position for the satisfaction of Krishna , it is the perfection of life. It doesn’t matter whether you are a sudra or a brahmana, but if you act for the satisfaction of Krishna according to the prescription of your position, then your life is perfect. That is wanted. The whole human civilization should be based on this principle. There must be division; the divisions are already there. They should be coordinated, systematized. Not that everyone is brahmana. Brahmana means the intelligent man. So we should pick up the intelligent men. They should be trained as brahmana. Those who are martial, having fighting spirit, should be selected as ksatriya. Those who are good at business, mercantile mentality, should be trained as vaisyas. And similarly sudras. And everyone should be trained to satisfy Krishna . Svanusthitasya dharmasya samsiddhir hari-tosanam.

Krishna ’s Prophylactic Nature Arjuna is a fighter, so he is engaged in fighting. Because he is a devotee, he is properly thinking, “For my sense gratification I am going to kill my kinsmen? Oh, what a great sinful activity I am going to do.” But actually, Krishna is not engaging His devotee to act sinfully. No, that is not Krishna ’s business. Superficially it may appear that Krishna is engaging Arjuna in sinful activities, but that is not sinful. Whatever Krishna does is never sinful; it is transcendental, the most pure activity. The rascals who do not understand Krishna say that Krishna is immoral. They do not know what Krishna is and what Krishna ’s action is. They argue, why did Krishna engage Arjuna in the fighting business? Or why did Krishna dance with the gopis, who were wives and sister of other men? It is sinful.” This is because they do not know Krishna ’s position. Krishna can do anything. Tejiyasam na dosaya: “The status of powerful controllers is not harmed by any apparently audacious transgression of morality we may see in them, for they are just like fire, which devours everything fed into it and remains unpolluted.” (Bhagavatam 10.33.29).
The sun, for example, is very powerful. It evaporates water from the sea as well as from filthy places like urine and sewage. But does it cause the sun to get polluted? No. Rather, the sun by its prophylactic nature purifies the place. Similarly, Krishna is prophylactic in nature. Anyone who comes to Krishna with a purpose that may not be pure or moral becomes purified. And Krishna of course is not affected by impurities. This science has to be understood by all before calling Krishna immoral. Therefore Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, manusyanam sahasresu kascid yatati siddhaye/ yatatam api siddhanam kascid vetti mam tattvatah (Gita 7.3): “Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.”

So Krishna is not immoral. He is not engaging Arjuna in svajanam hatva, committing such sinful activities. Krishna is engaging him in His service. When Arjuna understood, “This war is not for my sense gratification but for Krishna ’s sensIs Violence Always Sinfule gratification,” he agreed to fight, because he is a devotee. Karisye vacanam tava (Gita 18.73): “Yes I shall now act.”

Selfishness and Selflessness Defined

Atmendriya-priti-vancha – tare bali ‘kama’. Kama means lust, which means the desire to satisfy your senses. On the other hand krsnendriya-priti-iccha dhare ‘prema’ nama: “The desire to please the senses of Lord Krishna is prema [love].” Practically the same business, but one is selfish while the other is for Krishna . So Krishna consciousness movement means we have to do everything for Krishna under proper direction. We cannot whimsically do anything and think, “I am doing this for Krishna .” That is another danger. Therefore we require the guidance of the spiritual master. Guru-Krishna -krpaya (Cc. Madhya 19.151): You have to seek the mercy both of Krishna and guru, not that you think you are so advanced that you are directly in connection with Krishna and whatever you are doing is transcendental. No, it must be under guidance, it must be confirmed by guru.

Choose Your Source of Knowledge Carefully

This knowledge has to be received by parampara system. Evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh (Gita 4.2). So simply by academic career, by knowledge of ABCD, you cannot understand the Bhagavad-gita. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said, bhakto ’si me sakha ceti (Gita 4.3): without becoming bhakta, you cannot understand the Gita. Therefore Sanatana Gosvami has forbidden us to hear anything about Krishna from a person who is not a Vaisnava. Avaisnava-mukhodgirnam putam hari-kathamrtam sravanam naiva kartavyam.

First of all, we have to see who is going to speak about Krishna . Is he a devotee of Krishna ? Is he a Vaisnava or not? If not, then immediately reject: “Oh, we are not going to hear from you.” But people do not know. Because they hear about the Bhagavad-gita from any rascal, they misunderstand the philosophy. Sarpocchistam yatha payah: Just as milk touched by the lips of a serpent has poisonous effects, so talks about Krishna given by a non- Vaisnava are also poisonous. Therefore don’t hear Bhagavadgita or any talk about Krishna from a person who is not a Vaisnava, who is not a devotee of Krishna .

Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam (Gita 4.8). Krishna is engaging Arjuna in fighting in order to fulfill His purpose. And Arjuna is executing the mission of Krishna not for his personal benefit.

Thank you very much.

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