Sunday, 11 December 2011

In Indian tradition and thought, is war justified?

Very interesting and helpful post on "Is War Just"

But how is the term "dharma" (usually translated misleadingly as "righteousness"), in the Mahabharata, to be defined?

Moreover, if there is no such act as killing, why are murderers considered bad?

And if there is no such act as killing, is there such an act as stealing? If not, why should thieves be considered bad?

Ditto lying...

And is there such a thing as adultery? Or, more deeply, lust or jealousy or anger or spiritual laziness or....?

In other words, what is a "just cause" and what an "unjust cause"? Sadly, the article referred to above, leaves us in the dark on this matter.

And why is the action of defending "dharma" (however defined) any better than refusing to defend dharma?

Finally: Gandhiji was certainly a "great soul", and Rajmohan Gandhi is a man that I have admired ever since I met him in the Sxities, but it is not clear why Gandhiji should be considered an authority on Hindu thought, or on the Gita. Certainly, Gandhiji had his view and his interpretation, and I treat them with respect, but why should Gandhiji's interpretation be considered "correct"? In fact, do we have such a thing as a "correct" interpretation in our traditions? If, as far as I am know, we do not have such a thing as a "correct" interpretation in our traditions, why should Gandhiji's interpretation be considered worthy of more respect than the interpretation of those who have argued that, in the Mahabharata, war and violence are justified when struggling for whoever one considers the rightful or legitimate ruler?

I guess another question remains: tradition is the basis on which the order of birth is the key factor determining whether the Pandavas or the Kauravas should rule; is primogeniture such an important principle to uphold that it justifies destroying the millions or at least tens of thousands that the Great War is supposed to have killed? And is primogeniture relevant to producing governmental competence in the modern world?

The Mahabharata is of course a beloved epic. But why should we pretend that it offers any morality whether in its own time or in ours? Epics have never been morality tales in any culture. The Indian preoccupation with finding morality in our epics may be simply, via Western-style education and the influence of globalisation, a result of the influence of Christianity on our culture.

Let morality be morality, and stories be stories, I say. Perhaps we should look elsewhere for guidance regarding whether or not war in any circumstances may be justified?

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