Forgiveness, non-violence are not enough

For today's "Thought For the Day", I would like use one my articles published in the Hindustan Times, one of India's largest english language daily newspapers. Printed on 11 May, 2002 FORGIVENESS (KSHAMA and sometimes shanti) and non-violence (ahimsa) - long associated with Gandhi - are core values- There are many instances in history where saintly persons, even though provoked, did not succumb to anger or violence. It is recorded in Vedic literature, that when Daksha, presiding over a sacrifice, first ignored Shivji, the great god did not retaliate, although he was fully capable of doing so. This was an exhibition of great forbearance. Lord Buddha is said to have totally rejected Vedic knowledge - almost itself an act of violence - in order make his teachings of non-violence stick. In his rendering of the Bhagavata, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami writes: "forgiveness is a quality of those who are advancing in spiritual knowledge". This may he considered the Vedic version of the maxim attributed to Alexander Pope: "To err is human, to forgive divine." However, according to Vedic injunctions there are six types of dangerous aggressors: (1) a poison giver; (2) one who sets fire to the house, (3) one who attacks with deadly weapons, (4) one who plunders wealth, (5) one who occupies another's land, and (6) one who kidnaps a wife. And such persons may be killed, with no sin accruing to the executioner. Laws of self-defence allow violence in these circumstances. Further; the Manu-Samhita supports capital punishment, so that in the next life murderers will not have to suffer for their great sins. Although the passive resistance tactics of Gandhi laid the groundwork, it was the more militant campaign led by Subhas Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army, which ultimately gained us independence. The protection of citizens' life and property is a governmental necessity involving violence on many occasions. Yet, it is a law of Mann that one who identifies the doer of heinous acts receives the same karmic punishment as the perpetrator. From the Bhagavata, we read of Maharaj Parikshit saying: "O you, who are in the form of a bull! You know the truth of religion, and you are speaking according to the prineiple that the destination intended for the perpetrator of irreligious acts is also intended for one who identifies the perpetrator. You are no other than the personality of religion." This reminds us that the finer intricacies of religious codes do require forgiveness. But to act as a saint when we are not one is ill-advised. So violence, often thought to be decisively 'un-Hindu', is sometimes necessary for the protection of our lives, for personal karma, and for a world, where core values can be established and maintained for the good of all.