Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Is there a Place for Compassion in a War?

Kannada Article by: Sumukha Hebbar

English Rendering by M R Bhashyam

Respond to (lekhana@ayvm.in)


The time to kill the enemy has arrived. The gallant soldier says "The arrow that I am going to launch presently is going to separate life from you. Offer prayers to your personal God". The arrow fulfills its destiny and pushes the enemy into the abyss of death. It is not clear whether the uttered words were because of supreme self-confidence or due to great vanity. These types of incidence appear in Mahaa Bhaarata and other classics.

A thorn is buried into the sole of our foot. We remove the thorn. If gangrene attacks we cut the toe. If it spreads to the feet, the entire feet is cut off to prevent the spread of the malady to the rest of the body. In a similar way, if non-righteous actions, adharma, are not nipped in the bud, it will engulf the entire body, mind, speech and spirit and makes the person evil. If that wicked person becomes a king, one can imagine the fate of the kingdom and its subjects. Where is the place for dharma (righteousness) in that kingdom?

In the olden days, wars were waged principally to establish dharma, in addition to expanding the kingdom or to display valor or to increase the state's wealth. A righteous emperor would declare war against a demonic king. It is very difficult to correct a person who has vile filled in his entire body. If someone is intent on performing heinous acts through all  his senses-physical, speech and mind - let that person be purified by death and at-least be noble in his next birth was the intent of the Knowledgeable, Jnaanis.

"If the thorns declare 'We have surrendered to you. Let us serve you through your feet' then, it is only perilous to the leg. Hence to protect dharma, it is necessary to eradicate evil" - Shri Shriranga Mahaguru used to say.  Thus killing is necessary.

What is desired just before death leads to the path of the next birth. Hence before the enemy is eliminated, it is one of the characteristics of heroes to warn "you will be killed by this arrow" and give time to pray to his own deity.  It is one of the rules of war.  Similarly "those who are fearful, those without arms or those who surrender should not be killed" are other aspects of dhaarmic war.

The experts in archery knew the technique of making life depart in such a way that death was not painful and at the same time lead to a future more noble life. Hence we see warriors in Mahaa Bhaarata wanted to be killed by Bhishma or Arjuna.  This was one of the features of the art of archery in Bhaarath.  Though it may outwardly appear that war was primarily for making one suffer, if we understand protecting dharma and compassion on the soul are also parts of a war, we will begin to appreciate the sublime rules of war laid down by our sages with the intent of protecting dharma

Note: The Kannada version of this article can be viewed at AYVM blogs.