Of all the wars Americans have waged, the World War II is the one that is least controversial. There is an almost unanimous agreement on the virtue of this war against Nazi Germany and the imperial militant Japan. The only exception to that is the particular event of using nuclear weapons in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
Almost every moral precepts that we preach to one another was violated while waging this war against Hitler and his henchmen. The allies (the “good guys”) killed brothers and sisters and fellow man. They told lies through and through. They stole, they massacred, they bombed the innocent (collateral) yet, in the bigger scheme of things, what the allies did was the right thing to do. Almost every “wrong” mentioned here had a purpose for the larger moral purpose.. The larger moral purpose here is that evil cannot be allowed to reign supreme. These immoral acts of “killing”, “lying”, “spying”, etc were the cost to pay for the larger moral purpose of stopping a larger evil. With the few exception of the idiotic “pacifists” there was a general consensus that the war should be fought. Most reasonable people would agree that, in the absence of the WWII Hitler would have had the nuclear weapons and even if he did not possess the nuclear weapon , he would have continued to do more evil, Hitler and his Nazis managed to eradicate 6 million Jews by following Martin Luther’s fundamentalist wish to eradicate Jews for they refused to convert to Christianity.
Mahabharata (the Great Epic) and the Bhagavad Gita (“Song of the lord”)
Tell me, Sanjaya, of the warriors’ deeds
On that day when my sons faced the sons of Pandu
Eager to to battle on the field of Kuru,
On the field of Valor.
– The Bhagavad Gita
The story in the Mahabharata (the Great Epic) and the Bhagavad Gita (“Song of the lord”) in it describes a story, a sophisticated moral story with the background of war between brothers in the battleground Kuru The lecture of Lord Krishna to the prince Arjuna on his obligation to fight the war. Arjuna was hesitating to kill in battle, while talking about immorality of taking another’s life. Yet Lord Krishna prompts him to wage the battle for greater good, for the moral duty a man has to prevent evil from winning. Yes, the subtle discussion of killing, lying to win the war of righteousness is the story of the Mahabharata. Our moral obligation to help good over evil is what its about. Many anti Hindus including the “pacifist” Wendy Doniger and Martha Nussbaum et al (University of Chicago professors) talk about the evilness of the Gita. They have taken the Gita out of context and say, Hinduism preaches violence . The sad irony is, Wendy Doniger , Martha Nussbaum et al political leftist fanatics are Jewish. What did these “pacifists” expect during Nazi reign? Nazis to continue to gas more Jews and the allies to remain pacifist and not war against such evil?
If you are not familiar with the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita I suggest Peter Brook’s play to get familiar (if you are interested.)
Point : “Thou shall not kill”: Lord Krishna prompting Arjuna (Arjuna being the varna of Kshatriya/Marine. Semper fi ) to take up arms to fight even though Arjuna becomes a pacifist at the start of the battle. The context of this battle is, the battle at Kuru was a last resort. After all reasonable negotiations had failed. The battle was not the first option. Now put this in the context of WW II and the D-Day. Imagine the doubt in a warrior’s heart and mind just at the time on D-Day. What is that soldiers duty? What is his Dharma (righteousness) at that time? What is his life worth? Why should he risk his life at that point in time? What about his Judaeo Christian obligation of “thou shall not kill”? Lord Krishna’s lecture to Arjuna would have been perfect in the context of D-day and the soldier who is about to do his duty has a bout of “pacifist” cowardice. Not to act at that point in time and context is evil. Allowing evil to survive is evil. To act to defeat evil is our foremost duty (Dharma aka Righteousness). Even if it would kill us in the process. Our duty is to defeat evil. That is our primary duty (Dharma aka Righteousness).
Point : “Thou shall not bear false witness”: Anti Hindus often point to Lord Arjuna rationalizing lies and deception to win the battle to defeat the mightiest evil of his time. Arjuna often questions Lord Krishna about the immorality of telling lies and the immorality to deceive (even to his enemies). Yes, lies and deception are immoral and not right in absolute and isolation. But in certain context these are not evil. Lord Krishna lectures and prompts Arjuna to do the same. During WWII, deception and lies and false rumors were used to defeat the enemy (to defeat evil). No reasonable person would consider that bad, compared to the alternate of losing to evil. The Mahabharata and the Gita are sophisticated philosophies of good vs evil, about morality and virtuousness. Its about doing our duty (Dharma aka Righteousness) and its about the constant moral battle that all of us have to wage in our hearts. Its a moral precept, a guide of sort to put these things in context and judge for ourselves.. It expects us to be sophisticated in our thought and actions. It asks of us to do our moral duty to be righteous (Dharma) and to do our duty no matter where the fruits of our labor may fall. Do the right thing. “Doing the right thing” is not prescriptions to do certain things like “Thou shall not kill”, “thou shall not bear false witness”, “Thou shall not covet” etc. Such empty morality without a context is not worth the stone its etched on. These lessons are to do the right thing using our moral compass and in the context in which we might be in at any time. It’s not about copy paste absolute rules but to use our mind.
Point: Krishna persuades the hesitant Arjuna to kill Karna even when he knew all the misfortunes, misunderstandings and virtues of Karna. Here, Karna is a moral person. a good person fighting for the other side. The context here is, although karna is a moral person, he is now fighting on the side of evil. He is vulnerable at this time in the battle Taking him out at this vulnerable time is like shooting him in the back. Yet Lord Krishna prompts Arjuna to take him out. Karna is in possession of a WMD that can wipe out humanity. Karna is being prompted by evil to use the ultimate WMD. Imagine an otherwise moral and good person who has access to a nuclear weapon and happens to fight for someone who is evil out of loyalty and who is prompting Karna to use the WMD to end all of humanity. In this context, Lord Krishna is prompting Arjuna to take Karna out. What about the immorality of shooting someone in the back while a good moral man Karna is vulnerable?. Good and evil is not black and white at times… Yet we have to use our mind and heart to do the right thing, after taking into account all the small sins and morality and immorality and still do the right thing. This is the sophistication of the morality in the Mahabharata.
There are various such moral dilemma that one faces during the epic story of the Mahabharata. This is a sophisticated thought process for all of us. Not some simpleton precepts like “thou shall not kill”, “thou shall not bear false witness” which is meaningless in the sophisticated moral dilemma we face every day.
The Mahabharata and the Gita are not about the virtues of violence or blood letting like the anti Hindus are telling others about Hinduism. It is a story that challenges us to exercise our own mind and to fight our own battle in our hearts and minds every day to do the “Right thing”. To Act but not to reflect on the fruit of the act.. To not act against evil while pontificating the virtues of pacifism is not only cowardice, it’s downright evil.
The longer version of Peter Brooke’s Mahabharata: Part 1
Oppenheimer Quotes out of Hinduism’s Bhagavad Gita after the first Nuclear explosion
Louis L’Amour’s “The Quick and the Dead” – Full movie available on You Tube. See the parallels of the values in this story is to the Mahabharata
The morals and virtues in the Mahabharata are the same values of the American Frontiersmen. I don’t mean the christian values of people who robbed the Natives of their land in the Americas using the term “Manifest destiny” or The church’s “Doctrine of Discovery “. I mean the values of ordinary western frontiersmen who traveled west and tried to make a home for themselves and in how they fought for the underdogs and for righteousness.
IF you want to understand a people, you need to understand their folklore. Folklore celebrates a peoples heroes, their values. IF anyone wants to understand the people of India (Dharmic people)_, it would help to read and understand their folklore of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. And if anyone wants to understand the Americans, It helps to be familiar with their folklore. Louis L’Amour novels are one of the best way to become familiar with the American folklore. (There are other movies like “The wizard of Oz”, “Its a wonderful life”. I found Oz to be quite boring…but its fascinating to see why Americans at large keep this movie close their heart)
Growing up reading the Amar Chitra Comics (Folkore of Hindu people) and the Louis L’ Amour novels (American folklore), I saw the uncanny similarity of Hindus morals and values were to the American western frontiersmen values. If you really think about it, the true nature of the American to stand up to bullies and to not to succumb to cowardice is the true nature and values prescribed in the Mahabharata.
Louis L’Amour’s “The Quick and the Dead”
This is the story of a Pacifist navigating the world of outlaws and Krishna like benefactor lecturing the pacifist to stand and fight for what is right and in the process helps this pacifist grow into a real man.https://youtu.be/3o5Tn5tv_eg
“One may talk of peace only with those who are peaceful. To talk of peace with him who holds a drawn sword is foolish unless one is unarmed, then one must talk very fast, indeed.” -Kerbouchard
Book: The Walking Drum
Charlie Farnum and me we started east for the herd, riding together. When we were a few miles off we started to sing, and we sang a dozen songs before we shut up and left it to the coyotes. That Charlie Farnum had a better voice than me. For that matter, so did the coyotes.
I knew the dangers a coward can offer, for his fear will often drive him to kill more quickly than if he were a brave man. ~Mathurin Kerbouchard
Book: The Walking Drum
“Do not be afraid. A little fear can make one cautious. Too much fear can rob you of initiative. Respect fear, but use it for an incentive, do not let it bind you or tie you down.” ~Miss Nesselrode
Book: The Lonesome Gods
“What it all comes down to in the end is a matter of honor and simple decency. If a man doesn’t have that, he’s nothing, and never will be anything, no matter how many cows he owns.” ~Dal Traven
Book: The Shadow Riders
There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. Yet that will be the beginning.