None other than the Dalai Lama himself said recently, “When dealing with terrorists, with whom we cannot reason, and who are bent upon violence, we cannot continue to be non-violent as a matter of policy”, or something to that effect. This was highlighted publicly by none other than our current Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who said, “It’s a sad conclusion that the Dalai Lama had drawn, but the right conclusion”. Wonder if the destruction of the historic Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan not-so-long ago by the Taliban in Afghanistan was in his mind when His Holiness made that startling remark.
The question is, is ahimsa synonymous with Indian culture and political philosophy as it has been made out to be ever since Gandhi emerged on the scene? Has ahimsa always been the bedrock of Indian statecraft? Is it our dharma to be avowedly non-violent at all times? Does our karma have to be shaped by this age-old choice? If that is the case, what about Kshatriya dharma? What about the significance of weapons in the life of a Kshatriya? What about ‘raj dharma’, which includes protecting the lives of the subjects of a kingdom or citizens of a nation?
What do our shastras say? What do our epics teach us? What about that celestial song, the Bhagwad Gita? Where does ahimsa fit into its rich and varied tapestry of Indian philosophy at its loftiest? What did Lord Krishna tell Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra? Did he preach ahimsa to him? Did he forbid him from shedding blood? Did he counsel him to retreat from the arena to a life of contemplation? Did he propose a non-violent solution to what was an intractable problem? No!
Lord Krishna urged Arjuna to be true to his Kshatriya dharma. He asked him to pick up his weapons and fight. He reminded him that nothing was higher than dharma. He cautioned him against emotionalism associated with his clan and kindred. He explained the meaning of life to him and the imperishability of the atman. He soothed his frayed nerves saying that if Arjuna killed even his close relatives on the battlefied in the interests of dharma, it was not wrong, it was not murder. It was ”vadh”, not ”hatya”. Interestingly, that is exactly what Nathuram Godse said after he assassinated Bapu!