When violence begets peace

(The following article was posted in the “Meditations” column of the Hindustan Times, one of India’s largest English language daily newspapers, on 20 April 2004.) ‘AAAAARGH’. Tommy swung the big bruiser by the arm and twirled him around. ‘Uuuuuuh’, the large man bellowed, as he lost his balance and crashed against the corner of a shelf sticking out from the wall. The blow on Tommy’s left ear from Edleman’s iron sap was still ringing like a bell in his head. But the fat fellow had lost out, hitting his head on the sharp metal plank. Accounts like this are played out daily in comic books, novels, films and bars around the world. And in 2994 BC iu Kurukshetra, India, at the onset of one of history’s greatest wars, a spiritual dialogue between two people occurred at the centre of the vast array of opposing forces. The speakers were between two armies bent on total destruction. The discussion included a principle of peace that would hold fast for thousands of years. Sports, films and everyday conflicts express our proclivity toward the need to fight in some form or other. At the start of the seventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita — the name given to this timeless discourse — Krishna speaks of asamshayam or doubtlessness. He explains how to deal with intense moral struggles. He tells Arjuna how to face difficulty in a spiritually intelligent manner. Reading about the Kurukshetra satisfies a need to experience violence. The battle between good and bad is a common enough story. Yet the Gita exercises the deepest principles of right versus wrong. It sheds practical light on how to act and illustrates how devotion to God is a lifelong conversation. It offers the kind of peace that makes violence dull. (The writer is emeritus member of the ISKCON governing Body Commission)