The Future Belongs to Krishna
QUESTIONER: WHAT ARE THE DISTINGUISHING VIRTUES OF KRISHNA THAT MAKE HIM RELEVANT TO OUR TIME? WHAT IS HIS SIGNIFICANCE FOR US? PLEASE EXPLAIN.
Krishna is utterly incomparable, he is so unique. Firstly, his uniqueness lies in the fact that although Krishna happened in the ancient past he belongs to the future, is really of the future. Man has yet to grow to that height where he can be a contemporary of Krishna's. He is still beyond man's understanding; he continues to puzzle and battle us. Only in some future time will we be able to understand him and appreciate his virtues. And there are good reasons for it.
The most important reason is that Krishna is the sole great man in our whole history who reached the absolute height and depth of religion, and yet he is not at all serious and sad, not in tears. By and large, the chief characteristic of a religious person has been that he is somber, serious and sad-looking - like one vanquished in the battle of life, like a renegade from life. In the long line of such sages it is Krishna alone who comes dancing, singing and laughing.
Religions of the past were all life-denying and masochistic, extolling sorrow and suffering as great virtues. If you set aside Krishna's vision of religion, then every religion of the past presented a sad and sorrowful face. A laughing religion, a religion that accepts life in its totality is yet to be born.
And it is good that the old religions are dead, along with them, that the old God, the God of our old concepts is dead too It is said of Jesus that he never laughed. It was perhaps his sad look and the picture of his physical form on the cross that became the focal point of at traction for people, most of whom are themselves unhappy and miserable. In a deep sense Mahavira and Buddha are against life too. They are in favor of some other life in some other world; they support a kind of liberation from this life.
Every religion, up to now, has divided life into two parts, and while they accept one part they deny the other, Krishna alone accepts the whole of life. Acceptance of life in its totality has attained full fruition in Krishna. That is why India held him to be a perfect incarnation of God, while all other incarnations were assessed as imperfect and incomplete. Even Rama is described as an incomplete incarnation of God. But Krishna is the whole of God.
And there is a reason for saying so. The reason is that Krishna has accepted and absorbed everything that life is.
Albert Schweitzer made a significant remark in criticism of the Indian religion. He said that the religion of this country is life negative. This remark is correct to a large extent, if Krishna is left out.
But it is utterly wrong in the context of Krishna. If Schweitzer had tried to understand Krishna he would never have said so.
But it was unfortunate that we did not allow Krishna to influence our life in a broad way. He remains a lonely dancing island in the vast ocean of sorrow and misery that is our life. Or, we can say he is a small oasis of joyous dancing and celebration in the huge desert of sadness and negativity, of suppression and condemnation that we really are. Krishna could not influence the whole spectrum of our life, and for this we are alone to blame. Krishna is not in the least responsible for it. We were not that worthy, that deserving, to have him, to imbibe him, to absorb him.
Up to now, man's mind has thought of and looked at life in fragments - and thought dialectically.
The religious man denies the body and accepts the soul. And what is worse, he creates a conflict, a dichotomy between the body and spirit. He denies this world, he accepts the other world, and thus creates a state of hostility between the two. Naturally our life is going to be sad and miserable if we deny the body, because all our life's juice - its health and vitality, its sensitivities and beauty, all its music - has its source in the body. So a religion that denies and denounces the body is bound to be anemic and ill, it has to be lackluster. Such a religion is going to be as pale and lifeless as a dry leaf fallen from a tree. And the people who follow such a religion, who allow themselves to be influenced and conditioned by it, will be as anemic and prone to death as these leaves are.
Krishna alone accepts the body in its totality. And he accepts it not in any selected dimension but in all its dimensions. Apart from Krishna, Zarathustra is another. About him it is said he was born laughing. Every child enters this world crying. Only one child in all of history laughed at the time of his birth, and that was Zarathustra. And this is an index - an index of the fact that a happy and laughing humanity is yet to be born. And only a joyful and laughing humanity can accept Krishna.
Krishna has a great future. After Freud the world of religion is not going to be the same as it was before him. Freud stands as a watershed between the religions of the past and the religion of the future. With Freud a great revolution has taken place and man's consciousness has achieved a breakthrough. We shall never be the same again after Freud. A new peak of consciousness has been touched and a new understanding, an altogether new perspective, a new vision of life has come into being. And it is essential to understand it rightly.
The old religions taught suppression as the way to God. Man was asked to suppress everything - his sex, his anger, his greed, his attachments - and then alone would he find his soul, would he attain to God. This war of man against himself has continued long enough. And in the history of thousands of years of this war, barely a handful of people, whose names can be counted on one's fingers, can be said to have found God. So in a sense we lost this war, because down the centuries billions of people died without finding their souls, without meeting God.
Undoubtedly there must be some basic flaw, some fundamental mistake in the very foundation of these religions.
It is as if a gardener has planted fifty thousand trees and out of them only one tree flowers - and yet we accept his scripture on gardening on the plea that at least one tree has blossomed. But we fail to take into consideration that this single tree might have been an exception to the rule, that it might have blossomed not because of the gardener, but in spite of him. The rest of the fifty thousand trees, those that remained stunted and barren, are enough proof the gardener was not worth his salt.
If a Buddha, a Mahavira or a Christ attains to God in spite of these fragmentary and conflict-rid den religions, it is no testimony to the success of these religions as such. The success of religion, or let us say the success of the gardener, should be acclaimed only when all fifty thousand trees of his garden, with the exception of one or two, achieve flowering. Then the blame could be laid at the foot of the one tree for its failure to bloom. Then it could be said that this tree remained stunted and barren in spite of the gardener.
With Freud a new kind of awareness has dawned on man: that suppression is wrong, that suppression brings with it nothing but self-pity and anguish. If a man fights with himself he can only ruin and destroy himself. If I make my left hand fight with my right hand, neither is going to win, but in the end the contest will certainly destroy me. While my two hands fight with themselves, I and I alone will be destroyed in the process. That is how, through denial and suppression of his natural instincts and emotions, man became suicidal and killed himself.
Krishna alone seems to be relevant to the new awareness, to the new understanding that came to man in the wake of Freud and his findings. It is so because in the whole history of the old humanity Krishna alone is against repression.
He accepts life in all its facets, in all its climates and colors. He alone does not choose he accepts life unconditionally. He does not shun love; being a man he does not run away from women. As one who has known and experienced God, he alone does not turn his face from war. He is full of love and compassion, and yet he has the courage to accept and fight a war. His heart is utterly non violent, yet he plunges into the fire and fury of violence when it becomes unavoidable. He accepts the nectar, and yet he is not afraid of poison.
In fact, one who knows the deathless should be free of the fear of death. And of what worth is that nectar which is afraid of death? One who knows the secret of non-violence should cease to fear violence. What kind of non-violence is it that is scared of violence? And how can the spirit, the soul, fear the body and run away from it? And what is the meaning of God if he cannot take the whole of this world in his embrace?
Krishna accepts the duality, the dialectics of life altogether and therefore transcends duality. What we call transcendence is not possible so long as you are in conflict, so long as you choose one part and reject the other. Transcendence is only possible when you choicelessly accept both parts together, when you accept the whole.
That is why Krishna has great significance for the future. And his significance will continue to grow with the passage of time. When the glow and the glamor of all other godmen and messiahs has dimmed, when the suppressive religions of the world have been consigned to the wastebasket of history, Krishna's flame will be heading towards its peak, moving towards the pinnacle of its brilliance.
It will be so because, for the first time, man will be able to comprehend him, to understand him and to imbibe him. And it will be so because, for the first time, man will really deserve him and his blessings.
It is really arduous to understand Krishna. It is easy to understand that a man should run away from the world if he wants to find peace, but it is really difficult to accept that one can find peace in the thick of the marketplace. It is understandable that a man can attain to purity of mind if he breaks away from his attachments, but it is really difficult to realize that one can remain unattached and innocent in the very midst of relationships and attachments, that one can remain calm and still live at the very center of the cyclone. There is no difficulty in accepting that the flame of a candle will remain steady and still in a place well secluded from winds and storms, but how can you believe that a candle can keep burning steadily even in the midst of raging storms and hurricanes? So it is difficult even for those who are close to Krishna to understand him.
For the first time in his long history man has attempted a great and bold experiment through Krishna.
For the first time, through Krishna, man has tested, and tested fully his own strength and intelligence.
It has been tested and found that man can remain, like a lotus in water, untouched and unattached while living in the throes of relationship. It has been discovered that man can hold to his love and compassion even on the battlefield, that he can continue to love with his whole being while wielding a sword in his hand.
It is this paradox that makes Krishna difficult to understand. Therefore, people who have loved and worshipped him have done so by dividing him into parts, and they have worshipped his different fragments, those of their liking. No one has accepted and worshipped the whole of Krishna, no one has embraced him in his entirety. Poet Surdas sings superb hymns of praise to the Krishna of his childhood, Bal. krishna. Surdas' Krishna never grows up, because there is a danger with a grown-up Krishna which Surdas cannot take. There is not much trouble with a boy Krishna flirting with the young women of his village, but it will be too much if a grown-up Krishna does the same.
Then it will be difficult to understand him.
After all, we can understand something on our own plane, on our own level. There is no way to understand something on a plane other than ours.
So for their adoration of Krishna, different people have chosen different facets of his life. Those who love the Geeta will simply ignore the BHAGWAD, because the Krishna of the GEETA is so different from the Krishna of the BHAGWAD Similarly, those who love the BHAGWAD will avoid getting involved with the GEETA. While the Krishna of the GEETA stands on a battlefield surrounded by violence and war, the Krishna of the BHAGWAD is dancing, singing and celebrating. There is seemingly no meeting-point whatsoever between the two.
There is perhaps no one like Krishna, no one who can accept and absorb in himself all the contradictions of life, all the seemingly great contradictions of life. Day and night, summer and winter, peace and war, love and violence, life and death - all walk hand in hand with him. That is why everyone who loves him has chosen a particular aspect of Krishna's life that appealed to him and quietly dropped the rest.
Gandhi calls the GEETA his mother, and yet he cannot absorb it, because his creed of non-violence conflicts with the grim inevitability of war as seen in the GEETA. So Gandhi finds ways to rationalize the violence of the GEETA: he says the war of Mahabharat is only a metaphor, that it did not actually happen. This war, Gandhi says over and over again, represents the inner war between good and evil that goes on inside a man. The Kurushetra of the GEETA, according to Gandhi, is not a real battlefield located somewhere on this earth, nor is the Mahabharat an actual war. It is not that Krishna incites Arjuna to fight a real Mahabharat, Mahabharat only symbolizes the inner conflict and war of man, and so it is just a parable.
Gandhi has his own difficulty. The way Gandhi's mind is, Arjuna will be much more in accord with him than Krishna. A great upsurge of non-violence has arisen in the mind of Arjuna, and he seems to be strongly protesting against war. He is prepared to run away from the battlefield and his arguments seem to be compelling and logical. He says it is no use fighting and killing one's own family and relatives. For him, wealth, power and fame, won through so much violence and bloodshed, have no value what soever. He would rather be a beggar than a king, if kingship costs so much blood and tears. He calls war an evil and violence a sin and wants to shun it at all costs. Naturally Arjuna has a great appeal for Gandhi. How can he then understand Krishna?
Krishna very strongly urges Arjuna to drop his cowardice and fight like a true warrior. And his arguments in support of war are beautiful, rare and unique. Never before in history have such unique and superb arguments been advanced in favor of fighting, in support of war. Only a man of supreme non-violence could give such support to war.
Krishna tells Arjuna, "So long as you believe you can kill someone, you are not a man with a soul, you are not a religious man. So long as you think that one dies, you don't know that which is within us, that which has never died and will never die. If you think you can kill someone you are under a great illusion, you are betraying your ignorance. The concept of killing and dying is materialistic; only a materialist can believe so. There is no dying, no death for one who really knows." So Krishna exhorts Arjuna over and over again in the GEETA, "This is all play-acting; killing or dying is only a drama."
In this context it is necessary to understand why we call the life of Rama a characterization, a story, a biography, and not a play, a leela. It is because Rama is very serious. But we describe the life of Krishna as his leela, his play-acting, because Krishna is not serious at all. Rama is bounded, he is limited. He is bound, limited by his ideals and principles. Scriptures call him the greatest idealist: he is circumscribed by the rules of conduct and character. He will never step out of his limits; he will sacrifice everything for his principles, for his character.
Krishna's life, on the other hand, accepts no limitations. It is not bound by any rules of conduct, it is unlimited and vast. Krishna is free, limitlessly free. There is no ground he cannot tread; no point where his steps can fear and falter, no limits he cannot transcend. And this freedom, this vastness of Krishna, stems from his experience of self-knowledge. It is the ultimate fruit of his enlightenment.
For this reason the question of violence has become meaningless in Krishna's life. Now, violence is just not possible. And where violence is meaning less, non-violence loses its relevance too. Non- violence has meaning only in relation to violence. The moment you accept that violence is possible, non-violence becomes relevant at once. In fact, both violence and non-violence are two sides of the same coin. And it is a materialistic coin. It is materialistic to think that one is violent or non-violent.
He is a materialist who believes he can kill someone, and he too is a materialist who thinks he is not going to kill anyone. One thing is common to them: they believe someone can be really killed.
Spirituality rejects both violence and non-violence. it accepts the immortality of the soul. And such spirituality turns even war into play.
Spirituality or religion accepts, and unreservedly accepts, all the dimensions of life. It accepts sex and attachment together, relationship and indulgence, love and devotion, yoga and meditation, and everything there is to life.
And the possibility of the understanding and acceptance of this philosophy of totality is growing every day - because now we have come to know a few truths we never knew in the past. Krishna, however, has undoubtedly known them.
For instance, we now know that the body and soul are not separate, that they are two poles of the same phenomenon. The visible part of the soul is known as the body, and the invisible part of the body is called the soul. God and the world are not two separate entities; there is absolutely no conflict be tween God and nature. Nature is the visible, the gross aspect of God, and God is the invisible, the subtle aspect of nature. There is no such point in the cosmos where nature ends and God begins. It is nature itself that, through a subtle process of its dissolution, turns into God, and it is God himself who, through a subtle process of his manifestation, turns into nature. Nature is manifest God, and God is unmanifest nature. And that is what adwait means, what the principle of one without the other means.
We can understand Krishna only if we clearly understand this concept of adwait, that only one is - one without the other. You can call him God or Brahman or what you like.
We also have to understand why Krishna is going to be increasingly significant for the future and how he is going to become closer and closer to man. It will be so, because the days when suppression and repression ruled the roost are gone. After a lengthy struggle and a long spell of inquiry and investigation we have learned that the forces we have been fighting are our own forces. In reality we are those forces, and it is utter madness to fight them. We have also learned we become prisoners of the forces we oppose and fight, and then it becomes impossible to free ourselves from them. And now we also know that we can never transform them if we treat them as inimical forces, if we resist and repress them.
For instance, if someone fights with sex, he will never attain to brahmacharya, to celibacy in his life. There is only one way to celibacy and that is through the transformation of the sex energy itself. So we don't have to fight with the energy of sex; on the contrary, we should understand it and cooperate with it. We need to make friends with sex rather than make an enemy of it, as we have been doing for so long. The truth is, we can only change our friends; the question of changing those we treat as enemies simply does not arise. There is no way to even understand our enemies; it is just impossible. To understand something it is essential to be friendly with it.
Let us clearly understand that what we think to be the lowest is the other pole of the highest. The peak of a mountain and the valley around its base are not two separate things, they are part and parcel of the same phenomenon. The deep valley has been caused by the rising mountain, and in the same way the mountain has been possible because of the valley, One cannot be without the other. Or can it? Linguistically the mountain and the valley are two, but existentially they are two poles of the same thing.
Nietzsche has a very significant maxim. He says a tree that longs to reach the heights of heaven must sink its roots to the bottom of the earth. A tree that is afraid to do so should abandon its longing to reach the heavens. Really, the higher a tree the deeper its roots go. If you want to ascend to the skies you will have to descend into the abyss as well. Height and depth are not different things, they are two dimensions of the same thing. And their proportions are always the same.
Man's mind has always wanted to choose be tween the seeming opposites. He wants to preserve heaven and do away with hell. He wants to have peace and escape tension. He desires to protect good and destroy evil. He longs to accept light and deny darkness. He craves to cling to pleasure and to shun pain. His mind has always divided existence into two parts and chosen one part against the other. And from choice arises duality, which brings conflict and pain.
Krishna symbolizes acceptance of the opposites together. And he alone can be whole who accepts the contradictions together. One who chooses will always be incomplete, less than the whole, because the part he chooses will continue to delude him and the part he denies will continue to pursue and haunt him. He can never be rid of what he rejects and represses. The mind of the man who rejects and represses sex becomes increasingly sexual. So a culture, a religion that teaches suppression of sex ends up creating nothing but sexuality; it becomes obsessed with sex.
Up to now we have stubbornly denied the Krishna who accepts sex; we accept him only in fragments.
But now it will be quite possible to accept him totally, because we are beginning to understand that it is the energy of sex itself that is transformed into the highest kind of celibacy, into brahmacharya - through the process of its upward journey to the sahasrar, to the ultimate center in the head. We are beginning to learn that nothing in life has to be denied its place and given up, that we have to accept and live life in its totality. And he who lives wholly attains to life's wholeness. And he alone is holy who is whole.
Therefore I say that Krishna has immense significance for our future. And that future, when Krishna's image will shine in all its brilliance, is increasingly close. And whenever a laughing, singing and dancing religion comes into being it will certainly have Krishna's stone in its foundation.
QUESTIONER: KRISHNA PLAYED A GREAT ROLE IN THE WAR OF THE MAHABHARAT.
IT MEANS HE COULD HAVE PREVENTED IT IF HE HAD WANTED. BUT THE WAR TOOK PLACE, BRINGING HORRENDOUS DEATH AND DESTRUCTION IN ITS WAKE. NATURALLY THE RESPONSIBILITY SHOULD BE WITH HIM. DO YOU JUSTIFY HIM OR IS HE TO BE BLAMED?
It is the same with war and peace. Here too, we choose. We want to keep peace and eliminate conflict and struggle. It seems we cannot act without choosing. But the world is a unity of contradictions and dialectics. The world is an orchestra of opposite notes; it cannot be a solo.
I have heard that once someone was playing a musical instrument. He played a single note on a single string at a single point, and he played it for hours on end. Not only his family, even the neighborhood felt disturbed by it. Finally a group of people came and said to him, "We have heard any number of musicians and they all play a number of different notes. How come you are stuck with a single note?" The man answered, "I have found the right note; others are still searching for it.
That is why I stick to the right spot. I need not search any more."
Our minds would like to choose a single note of life and deny all others. But only in death can one find a single note. As far as life is concerned, it is composed of different and contradictory notes.
If you have seen an arched door in some old building, you might have noticed that, to construct it, opposite kinds of bricks are laid side by side. And it is the opposite kinds of bricks, placed together, that hold the heavy burden of the house on their shoulders. Can you conceive of using the same kinds of bricks in the construction of an archway? Then the house cannot be constructed; it will collapse then and there.
The entire structure of our life is held together by the tension of its opposites - and war is a part of the tension that is life. And those who think that war is totally harmful and destructive are wrong; their vision is fragmentary, myopic. If we try to understand the course of development that man and his civilization have followed, we will realize that war plays the largest share in its growth. Whatever man has today - all the good things of life - were found primarily through the medium of war. If we find today that the whole earth is covered with roads and highways, the credit should go to war and to preparations for war. These roads and highways were first constructed for the sake of waging war, for the purpose of dispatching armies to distant lands. They did not come into being for the sake of two friends meeting or for a man and a woman belonging to two distant towns to marry. The fact is, they came into being for the encounter of two enemies, for the purpose of war.
We see big buildings all over. They all came in the wake of castles. And castles were the products of war. The first high walls on this earth were built with a view to keep out the enemies, and then other high walls and buildings followed. And now we have skyscrapers in all the big cities of the world.
But it is difficult to think that these highrises are the progenies of war.
All of man's modern affluence, backed by scientific inventions and high technology - indeed all his achievements - basically owe their existence to war.
In fact, war creates such a state of tension in the mind of man and presents such challenges, that our dormant energies are shaken to their roots and, as a result, they awaken and act. We can afford to be lazy and lethargic in times of peace, but moments of war are quite different. War provokes our dynamism. Confronted with extraordinary challenges, our sleep ing energies have to awaken and assert themselves. That is why, during a war, we function as extraordinary people; we simply cease to be the ordinary people that we are. Confronted with the challenge of war, man's brain begins to function at its highest level and capacity. In times of war man's intelligence takes a great leap forward, one it would ordinarily take centuries to make.
Many people think that if Krishna had pre vented the war of Mahabharat, India would have attained to great affluence, she would have touched high peaks of growth and greatness. But the truth is just the opposite. If we had had a few more people of Krishna's caliber and had fought more wars like the Mahabharat, we would have been at the pinnacle of our growth today. About five thousand years have passed since the Mahabharat, and for these five thousand years we have not fought a single major war. The wars we have had since then were baby wars in comparison with that epic war of the Kurukshetra. They have been quite petty and insignificant. Indeed it would be wrong to even call them wars, they were petty fights and skirmishes. Had we only fought some major wars we would be the richest and most advanced country on this planet today. But our present state of affairs is just the opposite: we are at the bottom of the ladder.
The countries that fought great wars are at the pinnacle of development and prosperity today. At the end of the First World War people thought Germany was destroyed, debilitated for good. But in just twenty years, in the Second World War, Germany emerged as an infinitely more powerful country than the Germany of the First World War. No one could have even dreamed this country could fight another war after she was so badly beaten in the first. Seemingly, there was no possibility for Germany to go to war for hundreds of years. But just in twenty years time the miracle happened, and Germany emerged as a giant world power. Why? - because with will and vigor this country utilized the energies released by the First World War.
With the conclusion of the Second World War it seemed that there might be no more wars in the world. But, so soon, the powers that fought it are ready for a much deadlier and dreadful war than the last. And the two countries - Germany and Japan - that suffered the worst destruction and defeat in the last war have emerged, amazingly, as two of the most affluent countries in the world. Who can say, after visiting today's Japan, that only twenty years ago atom bombs fell on this country?
Of course, after visiting present-day India, one could say that this country has been subjected to recurring atomic bombardments. One look at our wretched state can make one think that, down the ages, we have been through unending destruction brought about by war after war.
The Mahabharat is not responsible for India's degradation and misery. The long line of teachers that came in the shadow of that war were all against war, and they used the Mahabharat to further their anti-war stance. Pointing to that great war they said, "What a terrible war! What appalling violence!
No, no more of such wars! No more of such bloodshed!" It was unfortunate we failed to produce a line of people of the caliber of Krishna and also failed to fight more Mahabharats. Had it been so, we would have reached, in every succeeding war, a peak of consciousness much higher than the one reached during the Mahabharat. And, undoubtedly, today we would be the most prosperous and developed society on this earth.
There is another side of war which deserves consideration. A war like the Mahabharat does not happen in a poor and backward society; it needs riches to wage a great war. At the same time war is needed to create wealth and prosperity, because war is a time of great challenges. If only we had many more wars like the one Krishna led!
Let us look at this thing from another angle. Today the West has achieved the same height of growth that India had achieved at the time of the Mahabharat. Almost all the highly sophisticated weapons of war that we now possess were used in the Mahabharat in some form or other. It was a highly developed, intelligent and scientific peak that India had scaled at the time of that historic war. And it was not the war that harmed us. Something else harmed us. What really harmed us was the fit of frustration that came over us in the wake of the war, and its exploitation by the teachers of those times. The same fit of frustration has now seized the West, and the West is frightened. And if the West falls, the pacifists will be held responsible for it. And its fall is certain if the West follows the pacifists. Then the West will be in the same mess that India found herself in after the Mahabharat.
India listened to her pacifists and had to suffer for it for five thousand years. So this matter needs to be considered fully.
Krishna is not a hawk, not a supporter of war for war's sake. He, however, treats war as part of life's game. But he is not a warmonger. He has no desire whatsoever to destroy anyone; he does not want to hurt anyone. He has made every effort to avoid war, but he is certainly not prepared to escape war at any cost - at the cost of life and truth and religion itself. After all, there should be a limit to our efforts to avoid war, or anything else for that matter. We want to avoid war just for so it does not hurt and harm life. But what if life itself is hurt and harmed by preventing war? Then its prevention has no meaning. Even the pacifist wants to prevent war so that peace is preserved. But what sense is there in preventing a war if peace suffers because of it? In that case, we certainly need to have the strength and ability to wage a clear war, a decisive war.
Krishna is not a hawk, but he is not a frightened escapist either. He says it is good to avoid war, but if it becomes unavoidable it is better to accept it bravely and joyfully than to run away from it. Running away would be really cowardly and sinful. If a moment comes when, for the good of mankind, war becomes necessary - and such moments do come - then it should be accepted gracefully and happily. Then it is really bad to be dragged into it and to fight it with a reluctant and heavy heart.
Those who go to war with dragging feet, just to defend themselves, court defeat and disaster. A defensive mind, a mind that is always on the defensive, cannot gather that strength and enthusiasm necessary to win a war. Such a mind will always be on the defensive, and will go on shrinking in every way. Therefore Krishna tells you to turn even fighting into a joyful, blissful affair.
It is not a question of hurting others. In life there is always a choice of proportions, a choice between the proportion of good and of evil. And it is not necessary that war bring only evil. Sometimes the avoidance of war can result in evil. Our country was enslaved for a full thousand years just because of our incapacity to fight a war. Similarly, our five-thousand-year old poverty and degradation is nothing but the result of a lack of courage and fearlessness in our lives, a lack of expansiveness in our hearts and minds.
We suffered not because of Krishna. On the contrary, we suffered because we failed to continue the line of Krishna, because we ceased to produce more Krishnas after him. Of course, it was natural that after Krishna's war a note of pessimism, of defeatism, became prominent in our life - it always happens in the wake of wars - and that a row of defeatist teachers successfully used this opportunity to tell us that war is an unmitigated evil to be shunned at all costs. And this defeatist teaching took root, deep in our minds. So for five thousand years we have been a frightened people, frightened for our lives. And a community that is afraid of death, afraid of war, eventually begins, deep down in its being, to be afraid of life itself. And we are that community - afraid of living. We are really trembling with fear. We are neither alive nor dead, we art just in limbo.
In my view, mankind will suffer if they accept what Bertrand Russell and Gandhi say. There is no need to be afraid of war.
It is true, however, that our earth is now too small for a modern war. A war, in fact, needs space too. Our instruments of war are now so gigantic that, obviously, war on this planet is simply not possible. But it is so, not because what the pacifists say is right and has to be accepted out of fear, but because the earth is now too small for the huge means of war science and technology have put into our hands. So war on this planet has become meaningless. Now the shape of war is going to change and its scope, escalate. New wars will be fought on the moon and Mars, on other planets and satellites.
Scientists say there are at least fifty thousand planets in the universe where life exists. And if we accept the counsel of despair, if we listen to those who are frightened of nuclear weaponry, we will prevent the great adventure which man is now going to make into the vast infinity of space. But it is true we have reached a point where war on this earth has become meaningless. But why it is so has to be clearly understood.
War has become meaningless not because what the pacifists say has struck home with us, war has lost its meaning because the science of war has attained perfection, because now a total war can be a reality. And to fight a total war on this earth will be a self-defeating exercise. War is meaningful so long as one side wins and another loses, but in a nuclear war, if and when it takes place, there will be no victor and no vanquished - both will simply disappear from the earth. So war on this earth has become irrelevant.
And for this reason I can see the whole world coming together as one world. Now the world will be no more than a global village.
The earth has become as small as a village - even smaller than a village. It now takes less time to go around the world than it took to go from one village to another in the past. So this world has become too small for a total kind of war; it would be sheer stupidity to wage a war here. This does not mean there should be no wars, nor does it mean there will be no wars in the future. War will continue to take place, but now it will take place on newer grounds, on other planets. Now man will go on newer adventures, newer incursions and greater campaigns. In spite of what the pacifists said and did war could not be abolished. It cannot be abolished because it is a part of life.
It makes an interesting story if we assess the gains we have had from war. A careful observation will reveal that all our cooperative efforts and institutions are the products of war. It is called cooperation for conflict: we cooperate to fight. And with the disappearance of war, cooperation will disappear.
So it is extremely important to understand Krishna. Krishna is neither a pacifist nor a hawk. He has nothing to do with any "ism". In fact, an "ism" means choice, that we choose one of the opposites.
Krishna is "non-ism". He says that if good comes through peace, we should welcome peace, and that if good flows from war then war is equally welcome. Do you understand what I mean? Krishna says, and I say the same, that whatever brings bliss and benediction and helps the growth of religion is welcome. We should welcome it.
We would not have been that impotent if our country had understood Krishna rightly. But we have covered all our ugliness with beautiful words. Our cowardice is hiding behind our talk of non violence; our fear of death is disguised by our opposition to war. But war is not going to end because we refuse to go to war. Our refusal will simply become an invitation to others to wage war on us. War will not disappear just because we refuse to fight: our refusal will only result in our slavery. And this is what has actually happened.
It is so ironic that, despite our opposition to war, we have been dragged into war over and over again. First we refused to fight, then some external power attacked and occupied our country and made us into slaves, and then we were made to join our masters' armies and fight in our masters' wars. Wars were continuously waged, and we were continuously dragged into them. Sometimes we fought as soldiers of the Huns, then as soldiers of the Turks and the Moghuls and finally as soldiers of the British. Instead of fighting for our own life and liberty we fought for the sake of our alien rulers and oppressors. We really fought for the sake of our slavery; we fought to prolong our enslavement.
We spilled our blood and gave our lives only to defend our bondage, to continue to live in servitude.
This has been the painful consequence of all our opposition to violence and war.
But the Mahabharat is not responsible for it, nor is Krishna responsible. Our lack of courage to fight another Mahabharat is at the root of all our misfortunes.
Therefore I say it is really difficult to understand Krishna. It is very easy to understand a pacifist, because he has clearly chosen one side of the coin of truth. It is also easy to understand warmongers like Genghis, Tamburlaine, Hitler and Mussolini, because they believe in war as the only way of life. Pacifists like Gandhi and Russell believe that peace alone is the right way. Both doves and hawks are simplistic in their approach to life and living. Krishna is altogether different from both of them, and that is what makes him so difficult to understand. He says that life passes through both doors, through the door of peace and also through the door of war. And he says that if man wants to maintain peace, he needs to have the strength and ability to fight a war and win it. And he asserts that in order to fight a war well, it is necessary, simultaneously, to make due preparations for peace.
War and peace are twin limbs of life, and we cannot do without either of them. We will simply be lame and crippled if we try to manage with only one of our two legs. So hawks like Hitler and mussolini and doves like Gandhi and Russell are equally crippled, lopsided, useless. How can a man walk on one leg alone? No progress is possible.
When we have men like Hitler and Gandhi, each with one leg, we find them taking turns, just like passing fashions. For a while Hitler is stage-center, and then Gandhi appears and dominates the stage. For a while we take one step with Hitler's leg and then another step with Gandhi's leg. So in a way they again make for a pair of legs. After Genghis, Hitler and Stalin are finished with their war and bloodshed, Gandhi and Russell begin to impress us with their talk of peace and non-violence.
The pacifists dominate the scene for ten to fifteen years - enough time to tire their single leg, and necessitate the use of another. Then again a hawk like Mao comes with a sten gun in his hands.
And thus the drama is kept on going.
Krishna has his two legs intact; he is not lame. And I maintain that everyone should have both legs intact - one for peace and another for war. A person who cannot fight is certainly lacking in something. And a person who cannot fight is incapable of being rightly peaceful. And one who is incapable of being peaceful is also crippled, and will soon lose his sanity. And a restless mind is incapable of fighting, because even when one has to fight a kind of peace is needed. So even from this point of view Krishna is going to be significant for our future.
In regard to our future we need to have a very clear and decisive mind. Do we want a pacifist world in the future? If so, it will be a lifeless and lackluster world, which is neither desirable nor possible.
And no one will accept it either. In fact, life goes its own way. While the doves fly in the sky, the hawks continue to prepare for war. and in the way of fashions, the pacifists will be popular for a while and then the warmongers will take their turn, becoming popular with the people. Really, the two work like partners in a common enterprise.
Krishna stands for an integrated life, a total life; his vision is wholly whole. And if we rightly understand this vision, we need not give up either. Of course, the levels of war will change. They always change. Krishna is not a Genghis; he is not fond of destroying others, of hurting others. So the levels of war will certainly change. And we can see historically how the levels of war change from time to time.
When men don't have to fight among themselves, they gather together and begin to fight with nature.
It is remarkable that the communities that developed science and technology are the same that are given to fighting wars. It is so because they possess the fighting potential. So when they don't fight among themselves, they turn their energies towards fighting with nature.
After the Mahabharat, India ceased to fight with nature simply because she turned her back on fighting. We did nothing to control floods and droughts or to tame our rivers and mountains, and consequently we failed, utterly, to develop science and technology. We can develop science only if we fight nature. And if man continues to fight he will first discover the secrets of this earth by fighting its nature. And then he will discover the secrets of space and other planets by fighting their nature.
His adventure, his campaign will never stop.
Remember, the society that fought and won a war was the first to land its men on the moon. We could not do it; the pacifists could not do it. And the moon is going to exert tremendous significance on war in the future. Those who own the moon will own this earth, because in the coming war they will set up their missiles on the moon and conquer this earth for themselves. This earth will cease to be the locale for war. The so-called wars that are currently being fought between Vietnam and Cambodia, between India and Pakistan, are nothing more than play-fights to keep the fools busy here. Real war has begun on another plane.
The present race for the moon has a deeper significance. Its objective is other than what it seems to be. The power that will control the moon tomorrow will become invulnerable on this earth; there will be no way to challenge it. They will no longer need to send their planes to different countries to bomb them; this job will be done more easily and quickly from the moon. They will set up their missiles on the moon, warheads directed toward the earth - rotating a full circle in its orbit each twenty-four hours. And that is how each country on this earth will be available, every day, to be bombed from the moon.
This is the secret of the great competition between the world powers to reach the moon first. And that is why the world powers are spending enormous amounts of money on the exploration of space.
America spent about two billion dollars just to land one man on the moon. This was done not for the fun of it; there was a great objective behind this effort. The real question was, who reaches the moon first?
This contest for space is similar to another historical contest that happened about three hundred years ago when the countries of Europe were rushing towards Asia. Merchant ships of Portugal, Spain, Holland, France and Britain were all sailing towards the countries of Asia - because occupation of Asia had become immensely important for the expansionist powers of Europe. But now it has no importance whatsoever, and so, soon after the Second World War, they left Asia. The people of Asia believe they won their freedom through their nationalist struggles, but it is only a half-truth. The other half of the truth is quite different.
In the context of the modern technology of warfare, the occupation of Asia in the old way has become meaningless; that chapter is closed forever. Now a new struggle for the conquest of lands altogether different and distant from this earth has begun. Man has raised his sights to the distant stars, to the moon and Mars and even beyond. Now war will be fought in the vastness of space.
Life is an adventure, an adventure of energy. And people who lag behind in this adventure, for lack of energy and courage, eventually have to die and disappear from the scene. Perhaps we are such a dead people.
In this context also, Krishna's message has assumed special significance. And it is significant not only for us, but for the whole world. In my view, the West has reached a point where it will, once again, have to wage a decisive war, which of course will not take place on the planet Earth. Even if the contestants belong to this earth, the actual operation of the war will take place elsewhere, either on the moon or on Mars. Now there is no sense fighting a war on the earth. If it takes place here it will result in the total destruction of both the aggressor and the aggressed. So a great war in the future will be fought and decided somewhere far away from here. And what would be the result?
In a way, the world is facing nearly the same situation India faced during the Mahabharat war. There were two camps, or two classes, at the time of the Mahabharat. One of them was out-and-out materialist; they did not accept anything beyond the body or matter. They did not know anything except the indulgence of their senses; they did not have any idea of yoga or of spiritual discipline.
For them the existence of the soul did not matter in the least; for them life was just a playground of stark indulgence, of exploitation and predatory wars. Life beyond the senses and their indulgence held no importance for them.
This was the class against which the war of Mahabharat was waged. And Krishna had to opt for this war and lead it, because it had become imperative. It had become imperative so that the forces of good and virtue could stand squarely against the forces of materialism and evil, so that they were not rendered weak and impotent.
Approximately the same situation has arisen on a worldwide scale, and in twenty years' time a full replica, a scenario of the Mahabharat will be upon us. On one side will be all the forces of materialism and on the other will be the weaker forces of good and righteousness.
Goodness suffers from a basic weakness: it wants to keep away from conflicts and wars. Arjuna of the Mahabharat is a good man. The word "arjuna" in Sanskrit means the simple, the straightforward, clean. Arjuna means that which is not crooked. Arjuna is a simple and good man, a man with a clean mind and a kind heart. He does not want to get involved in any conflict and strife; he wants to with draw. Krishna is still more simple and good; his simplicity, his goodness knows no limits. But his simplicity, his goodness does not admit to any weakness and escape from reality. His feet are set firmly on the ground; he is a realist, and he is not going to allow Arjuna to run away from the battlefield.
Perhaps the world is once again being divided into two classes, into two camps. It happens often enough when a decisive moment comes and war becomes inevitable. Men like Gandhi and Russell will be of no use in this eventuality. In a sense they are all Arjunas. They will again say that war should be shunned at all costs, that it is better to be killed than to kill others. A Krishna will again be needed, one who can clearly say that the forces of good must fight, that they must have the courage to handle a gun and fight a war. And when goodness fights only goodness flows from it.
It is incapable of harming anyone. Even when it fights a war it becomes, in its hands, a holy war.
Goodness does not fight for the sake of fighting, it fights simply to prevent evil from winning.
By and by the world will soon be divided into two camps. One camp will stand for materialism and all that it means, and the other camp will stand for freedom and democracy, for the sovereignty of the individual and other higher values of life. But is it possible that this camp representing good will find a Krishna to again lead it?
It is quite possible. When man's state of affairs, when his destiny comes to a point where a decisive event becomes imminent, the same destiny summons and sends forth the intelligence, the genius that is supremely needed to lead the event. And a right person, a Krishna appears on the scene.
The decisive event brings with it the decisive man too.
It is for this also that I say Krishna has great significance for the future.
There are times when the voices of those who are good, simple and gentle cease to be effective, because people inclined to evil don't hear them, don't fear them, blindly go their own way. In fact, as good people shrink back just out of goodness, in the same measure the mischief makers become bold, feel like having a field day. India had many such good people after the Mahabharat, like Buddha and Mahavira. Nothing was lacking in their goodness; their goodness was infinite. In fact, it was too much - so much that the country's mind shrank under the weight of this goodness. The result was that the aggressors of the whole world set loose their hordes on India.
It is not only that some people invade others, there are people who invite invasion on themselves.
You are not only responsible when you hit others, you are also responsible when others hit you. If you slap someone's face, your responsibility for this act is only fifty percent, the other fifty percent of the responsibility should go to the person who invited and attracted your slap, who took it passively, without resistance. Know well that when someone slaps you, half the responsibility rests with you, because your being weak and passive becomes an invitation for him to hurt you.
A long succession of good people, of absolutely good people, was responsible for constricting and enfeebling the mind of India, for making it weak and passive. And this became a kind of invitation to aggressors around the world. And, responding to this invitation, they came, almost with walking sticks in their hands, and subjugated us, enslaved us. For long spells of time they ruled over us and oppressed us. And when they left, they did so on their own; we did not throw them out.
What is unfortunate is that we continue to be a shrunken people, suppressed and enfeebled in our minds and hearts. And we can again invite some aggressor to enslave us. If tomorrow Mao overruns this country, he alone will not be responsible. Years back, Lenin predicted that communism's road to London lay through Peking and Calcutta. His prediction seems to be correct. Communism has already arrived in Peking, and the noise of its footsteps are being heard in Calcutta. And so London is not far off. It will not be difficult for communism to reach Calcutta, because India's mind is still shrunken, still suppressed and stricken with fear. Communism will come, and by accepting it, this country will go down the drain.
That is why I say that India should do some serious rethinking about Krishna.
QUESTIONER: IF KRISHNA WERE PRESENT TODAY, WHICH OF THE TWO SIDES WOULD HE CHOOSE?
Whenever there is a crisis like this, one finds it difficult to decide which side in the conflict is right and which is wrong. This was not easy even on the eve of the Mahabharat. Not all the people on the side of the Kauravas were bad; a great soul like Bhishma was with them. Similarly, not all those who were on the side of the Pandavas, who were being guided by Krishna, were good; there were bad people as well. So, in a matter like this, there is always some difficulty in coming to a decision.
But some values clinch the issue. Why was Duryodhana fighting? What was his motive in forcing such a great war? It was not that important whether the people on his side were bad or not, the important thing was his intention, his objective, the values for which he forced the war. And what were the values for which Krishna inspired Arjuna to fight bravely?
The most important and decisive value at stake in the Mahabharat was justice. The war had to decide what was just and what justice was.
Again today we have to decide what is just, what justice is. In my vision, freedom is justice and bondage is injustice. The group or class that is bent on forcing any kind of bondage on mankind is on the side of injustice. Maybe there are some good people on their side, but all good people do not necessarily have clarity and farsight. Often they are confused people, people who don't know that what they are doing is going to serve the side of injustice.
Freedom is of the highest; it is the most significant, most decisive issue today. We need a society, a world where man's freedom can grow and blossom. And we don't want a society, a world that will destroy man's freedom and put him in shackles. This has to be clearly understood.
It is natural that people wanting to impose bondage on others would not say so, would not use the word "bondage". The word has a bad odor; it is hateful and repelling. They will find a word or a slogan that will put people into bondage without letting them know it. "Equality" is such a new slogan, and it is full of cunning and deceit. Thus they sidetrack the issue of freedom and shout, instead, for equality. They say they stand for equality between man and man. They argue that equality is basic, and that freedom is not possible without equality. And this argument is appealing to many who are led to think that as long as people are not equal they cannot be free. And then they consent to forego freedom for the sake of equality.
Now it is very strange logic that equality has to be had for freedom to come, and that freedom has to be sacrificed for equality to come. The truth is, once freedom is lost it will be impossible to restore it. Who will restore it?
You all are here listening to me. I tell you that in order to make you all equal it is necessary to put you in shackles first. I tell you that without putting you in fetters it will not be possible to equalize you. Maybe someone has a bigger head than others, another has larger arms and a third one has longer legs - they all will have to be cut to equal size. And this painful operation will not be possible without first depriving you of your freedom. And it sounds very logical.
But people forget that the person who will make them all equal will himself remain tree and unequal; he will remain outside them all. He will have no fetters on his feet and, besides, he will have a gun in his hand. Now you can well envision a situation, a society where most people are in shackles, maimed and crippled, and a handful of people are free and powerful with all the modern instruments of suppression and oppression at their disposal. What can you do in a situation like this?
Marx held the view that in order to achieve equality in society it would, in the first place, be necessary to suppress political freedom, destroy individual liberty and establish a dictatorship. And he thought that after the achievement of equality, freedom would be restored to the people. But do you think people with such enormous power in their hands that they can equalize everyone will ever give you back your freedom? We don't see any sign of it in the countries where such experiments have been conducted. In fact, as the power of the rulers grows, and as the people, the ruled, ate systematically suppressed and debilitated, the hope for freedom becomes increasingly dim. Then it is difficult even to raise the question of freedom. Nobody dares ask a question, speak his thoughts, much less dissent and rebel against the established tyranny.
In the name of equality, and under the cover of equality, freedom is going to be destroyed. And once it is destroyed it will be neatly impossible to win it back - because those who destroy freedom will see to it that the chances of its being revived in the future are also destroyed.
Secondly, you should know that while freedom is an absolutely natural phenomenon, which everyone must have as his right, equality is not. Equality is neither natural nor possible. The concept of equality is unpsychological; all people cannot be equal. They are not equal; they are basically unequal. But freedom is a must. Everyone should be free to be what he is and what he can be.
Everyone should have full freedom and opportunity to be himself.
In my view, Krishna is on the side of freedom; he cannot be on the side of equality. If there is freedom it is possible that inequality will diminish. I don't say equality will come with freedom, I only say in equality will gradually be reduced. But if equality is forced on people then their freedom is bound to diminish and disappear. Anything imposed with force is synonymous with slavery.
So basically it is a choice of values. And in my vision the individual is the highest value. So freedom of the individual is of the highest.
The camp of evil has always been against the individual and in favor of the group, the collective, The individual has no value whatsoever in the eyes of evil, and there is good reason for it. The individual is rebellious; he is the seed of rebellion. You will be surprised to know that if you want some evil act to be done you will find it easier through a group than through an individual.
It is very difficult for an individual Hindu to set fire to a mosque, but a crowd of Hindus can do it for fun. An individual Mohammedan will find it hard to stick a knife into the chest of a Hindu child, but a horde of Mohammedans can do it without a qualm of conscience. In fact, the bigger a crowd the less soul it has. But it is the sense of responsibility that forms the kernel of the soul. When I go to push a knife in somebody's chest my conscience bites at me. It says, "What are you doing?" But my soul does not feel disturbed when I am with a crowd, killing people recklessly and burning their property. Then I say it is not me but the people, the Hindus or Muslims, who are doing it, and I am just keeping company with them - and tomorrow I will not be held individually responsible for it.
The side of evil always wants to attract the crowd; it depends on the crowd. Evil wants to destroy the individual whom it feels is a thorn in its flesh. It wants the crowd, the mass to live and grow. Good, on the contrary, accepts the individual and wants him to grow to his supreme fulfillment and, at the same time, it wants the crowd to disappear gradually from the scene. Good stands for a society of individuals, free individuals. Individuals will, of course, have relationships, but then it will be a society and not a herd, not a crowd.
This needs to be rightly understood. Only free individuals make a society, and where the sovereignty of the individual is denied, society turns into a herd, a mob. This is the difference between a society and a crowd. Society is another name for the inter-relationship of individuals, a cooperative of individuals - but the individual has to be there, he is the basic unit of society.
When an individual freely enters into relationship with another individual, it makes for society. So there cannot be a society inside a prison; a prison can only have a crowd, a collection of faceless individuals. Prisoners also relate with each other, exchanging greetings and gifts among themselves, but they are definitely not a society. They have just been gathered together and forced to live within the four walls of a prison; it is not their free choice.
Therefore I say that Krishna will choose the side where freedom and the sovereignty of the individual, where religion and the possibility to seek the unseen and the unknown will be available in predominance. I say "in predominance" because it never happens that one side has all these values and the other side is wholly devoid of them. The division between good and evil is never so clear-cut, even in a battle between Rama and Ravana. Even in Ravana there is a little of Rama, and there is a little of Ravana in Rama too. The Kauravas share a few of the virtues of the Pandavas, and the latter a few of the vices of the former. Even the best man on this earth has something of the worst in him. And the meanest of us all carries a bit of goodness in him. So it is always a question of proportion and predominance of one or the other.
So freedom and the individual and the soul and religion are the values with which the intelligence of good will side.