(The following article was posted in the "Meditations" column of the Hindustan Times, one of India's largest english language daily newspapers, on 30 April 2003.)
THE BOOK most often cited as the oldest and wisest, Bhagavad Gita, seems to promote anger. The text appears to consist mainly of Shri Krishna attempting to arouse Arjuna to fight.
Yet the Gita is cited as an ultimate treatise of right over wrong. Although anger is generally prohibited in Vedic thought and action, the Gita is a notable exception. How can its hero and protagonist decide to kill his own relatives?
We generally agree to violence in cases of defence and when we need protection. We approve of police and other peace-keeping armed forces. Life and property are considered sacred things for which we can give up our own lives when necessary. But what about fighting for kingdom and glory? The Kurukshetra war was fought for two main reasons: to establish right over wrong (4.8) and to validate unconditional surrender to God (18.73). These messages unravel the mystery of bloodshed within a religious tradition.
We might recall that Jesus acted violently when he saw a temple courtyard filled with money-lending stalls. His righteous anger is part of a tradition that dominates today's religious landscape.
In its second chapter, the Gita repudiates anger (2.63), citing it as a key factor that keeps us trapped in the material world. And at first, the saintly Arjuna refuses to fight (2.9).
But, in criticising Arjuna's 'petty weakness of heart,' Shri Krishna explains that He has already put the Kuru warriors to death and that Arjuna will be only an instrument (11.33). When God Himself appears in His original form, whatever He prescribes will be good for all. He knows the future. Duryodhana and company represented evil and tyranny.
The Gita tells us that the ultimate good is surrendering to the desires of God, even when those instructions seem wrong to us or 'un-doable'.
Modern warfare is hardly godly, and certainly doesn't implement good over evil. To compute current affairs with no basic understanding of karma and transmigration is myopic. All leaders have been appointed to act by the Supreme Lord, and their duty is to consult the Gita, which is not for the lily-livered. But it's the final peace treaty.
The writer is emeritus member of the ISKCON Governing Body Commission.