Musings On War And Peace

February 10, 2009

image credit: cloud_nine

In my post The Inner Battle, I mentioned the epic Mahabharata war where Lord Krishna counseled Prince Arjuna to fight. Though this dialogue in which Arjuna refuses to fight his own friends and relatives may be a metaphor for the inner war that we engage in, it is a fascinating study about  performing one’s duty and surrender.  In the following verses from the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna counsels Arjuna on his sacred duty as a member of the warrior caste:

Chapter two, verse 31: And, perceiving your own caste duty, you should not tremble. Indeed, anything superior to righteous battle does not exist for the kshatriya (man of warrior caste).

Verse 33: Now, if you will not undertake this righteous war, thereupon, having avoided your own duty and glory, you shall incur evil.

Verse38: Holding pleasure and pain to be alike, likewise gain and loss, victory and defeat, then engage in battle! Thus you shall not incur evil.

In The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell said, “The battlefield is symbolic of the field of life, where every creature lives on the death of another. A realization of the inevitable guilt of life may so sicken the heart that, like Hamlet or like Arjuna, one may refuse to go on with it. On the other hand, like most of the rest of us, one may invent a false, finally unjustified, image of oneself as an exceptional phenomenon in the world, not guilty as others are, but justified in one’s inevitable sinning because one represents the good. Such self-righteousness leads to a misunderstanding, not only of oneself but of the nature of both man and the cosmos. The goal of the myth is to dispel the need for such life ignorance by effecting a reconciliation of the individual consciousness with the universal will. And this is effected through a realization of the true relationship of the passing phenomena of time to the imperishable life that lives and dies in all…Man in the world of action loses his centering in the principle of eternity if he is anxious for the outcome of his deeds, but resting them and their fruits on the knees of the Living God he is released by them, as by a sacrifice, from the bondages of the sea of death.”

The Mahabharata war can be considered a myth or teaching story that helps us humans to come to terms with the paradoxes in  life. It is difficult for us to accept this story of the God of the Hindu religion, advising his devotee to engage in war. And yet it is the human experience that as long as we live, we incur violence knowingly and unknowingly so that we might live.

In order that we might live, we have to kill. Most people eat the flesh of animals that have been slaughtered. Though I have been a vegetarian for almost thirty years, I now eat some fish to get my Omega 3s. Yes, even being a vegetarian, I kill slugs and pests so that my vegetables will live. I kill millions of microscopic bugs as I cook my vegetables.

Every day I am grateful for my health, that my immune system is strong. My body produces millions of killer antibodies that wages an ongoing war with invading germs, viruses and parasites. What would happen if my body decided that it wants only peace? I would not be alive.

I partake in violence every time I purchase any given item on the market today. Almost everything is produced by the modern-day slavery of cheap labor.  Our out of control consumerism encourages the profiteering madness that is taking place in China and India. Agricultural lands are being destroyed to create factories and super-highways to produce and transport our must-haves. Our lifestyle is creating harm for millions of displaced people, due to unscrupulous land grabs by government to further the booming economy of foreign exportation, without just compensation for the victims.

Even the war in Iraq is largely due to our dependence on foreign oil. None of us can truly say that we are totally committed to peace. If we are,  then we must make stringent changes in our lifestyle, and even so it will be almost impossible to live in a manner that marginalizes our impact, because we are so enmeshed in a globalized economy.

So is it really possible to live a peaceful life? We can only do what we can to minimize any unneccessary violence that hurts another living thing so that we might live. We have to accept that this life is sacrifice.  In the words of Joseph Campbell, “the hero is the conscious vehicle of the terrible, wonderful Law, whether his work be that of butcher, jockey, or king.”

{ 18 comments }

1 Jude Lamare 02.10.09 at 11:18 pm

These musings lately about the lessons to Arjuna are just what the doctor ordered. I so value this opportunity to contemplate battle and how we can learn spiritually from this experience. Thank you for the food for the soul.

2 Pamir | Reiki Help Blog 02.11.09 at 5:24 am

My guru was matchlessly interpreting the ancient texts. At his feet, I was in perfect peace. A rude mosquito entered the idyl and competed for my attention. As it dug a poisonous hypodermic needle into my thigh, I automatically raised an avenging hand. Reprieve from impending execution! An opportune memory had came to me of Patanjali’s yoga aphorism on ahimsa (harmlessness).

“Why didn’t you finish the job?”
“Master! Do you advocate taking life?”
“No; but the deathblow already had been struck in your mind.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Patanjali’s meaning was the removal of desire to kill.” Sri Yukteswar had found my mental processes an open book. “This world is inconveniently arranged for a literal practice of ahimsa. Man may be compelled to exterminate harmful creatures. He is not under similar compulsion to feel anger or animosity. All forms of life have equal right to the air of maya. The saint who uncovers the secret of creation will be in harmony with its countless bewildering expressions. All men may approach that understanding who curb the inner passion for destruction.”

“Guruji, should one offer himself a sacrifice rather than kill a wild beast?”
“No; man’s body is precious. It has the highest evolutionary value because of unique brain and spinal centers. These enable the advanced devotee to fully grasp and express the loftiest aspects of divinity. No lower form is so equipped. It is true that one incurs the debt of a minor sin if he is forced to kill an animal or any living thing. But the Vedas teach that wanton loss of a human body is a serious transgression against the karmic law.”

I sighed in relief; scriptural reinforcement of one’s natural instincts is not always forthcoming.

–Paramahansa Yogananda in his “Autobiography of a Yogi” telling one of many stories about his own guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar

3 Mark 02.11.09 at 6:10 am

This has given me much to think about, thank-you for this lesson! Well done.

4 Liara Covert 02.11.09 at 7:43 am

During physical existence, human beings are invited to cross the paths of others so they test each other. You are repeatedly confronted with people and situations that bring you face to face with your beliefs and principles as a way to invite you to dissolve your own illusions. Why is it that particular family members, colleagues or friends somehow press your mental buttons, as if to trigger certain emotions? This is part of an exercise you have devised so that you can recognize what you do and why it does not serve you. Each person constructs a mental identity using imaginary bricks and misperceptions. Emotions are a wonderful gift from divine sources. They enable one to strengthen a sense of alternative beliefs and transcend distorted perceptions. Appreciate above comments and depth of blog post.

5 Lea 02.11.09 at 11:46 am

Another thought provoking article. I am truly enjoying your site. It’s just what the higher consciousness ordered :) You are opening up a whole new perspective to me and it’s like a breath of fresh air. Thank you so much.

Have a beautiful day filled with many blessings

6 Miruh 02.11.09 at 5:53 pm

Hello Jude,

There is so much grist for the mill in this study of the Mahabharata war. Its interpretation is so multifaceted. Its lesson on duty brings to mind the usefulness of war and surrender. I am thinking about the situation in Tibet in particular. Lots of food for thought.

I marvel at the topics that pop into my head to blog about. Some ideas just need to be put out there, that others are wanting to contemplate also.

I am touched by your beautiful comment.

May the beauty of contemplation be a balm to your soul!

7 Miruh 02.11.09 at 6:09 pm

Hello Pamir,

Thank you for this appropriate contribution from Sri Paramahansa Yogananda.

“Patanjali’s meaning was the removal of desire to kill.” This is the level we need to work at, isn’t it? If we are not working at the root of our negativity. then all outward actions are in vain.

“But the Vedas teach that wanton loss of a human body is a serious transgression against the karmic law.” There is no one pat answer in life, every law is subject to interpretation according to the circumstances.

I really enjoy this story. It sheds more light on the topic of discussion.

May the light of Awareness hold you in its protection!

8 Miruh 02.11.09 at 6:15 pm

Hello Mark,

There is so much depth and richness in the wisdom of this epic story. It really challenges one to think about life and our standing in the scheme of the whole of creation.

Thanks for your kind comment, I have much to think about too after blogging on this subject.

May truth reveal its majesty to you!

9 Miruh 02.11.09 at 6:21 pm

Hello Liara,

I often have to remember to be grateful to all the people with whose interaction, my ego becomes refined. 😀

We are each others gifts to becoming whole. It is difficult to see that in the fire of intense relationship, but it is the way we have chosen to grow.

Thanks for sharing your wisdom my friend.
May you bask in the light of Awareness!

10 Miruh 02.11.09 at 6:33 pm

Hello Lea,

I notice that what I blog about is usually eye opening for me too! I am sure you too have that experience. What we need to learn about is what comes as inspiration.
In my work, I often notice that what I say to clients is often what I need to hear myself.

I appreciate your dropping by and your kind words.
May your heart dance in the spaciousness of love!

11 Alexys Fairfield 02.11.09 at 6:40 pm

Hi Miruh,

This post covers much ground and sky. (Love the photo too)

What one man perceives as violence, another man perceives as safety. What one man perceives as right, another man perceives as wrong. What one man perceives as peace, another man perceives as chaos. And the list goes on and on.

In the battles that we wage, we forget that everyone is figthing for something, striving for their own version of peace, but in doing so someone usually dies.

I think we can have peace, but to what degree I am not sure, but nevertheless, we still have to continue to strive for peace – if everyone can get on the same page and strive together.

Thanks for a thoughful piece/peace. 😀

12 surjit 02.12.09 at 2:26 am

A wonderful post.We are all actors playing our roles assigned to us.As we finish our part, we exit the stage.
“Ten thousand things are happening around you,
percieve the cycles, stay detached.”..Tao
Thanks for sharing your wisdom.
God bless.

13 Miruh 02.12.09 at 10:46 pm

Hello Alexys,

The image is impressive isn’t it? Says it all.
Yes, a series of books can be written on the points mentioned in this post. I have to wait for the call though. 😀

I agree, we all have different perspectives and we all feel ours is the truth and indeed, it is true for us. When we start imposing those truths on others, it becomes an act of violence that too often results in harm.

We are no doubt coming to a time when the mass consciousness is beginning to see the senselessness of war. It begins with each one of us being the peace that we want to see in the world, within ourselves and in our immediate relationships. I hope we make a breakthrough in my lifetime.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Deep peace to you my friend!

14 Miruh 02.12.09 at 10:52 pm

Hello Surjit,

Good to have your gracious presence here!

I work at remembering that this life is The Play of Consciousness. It is the enlightened way of being. We are all evolving though the parts we have been assigned.

Thanks for sharing your wise words.

May you enjoy the play!

15 Lea 02.13.09 at 11:05 am

I agree Miruh, a lot of what I write about on my site is sharing what I needed to learn and understand. Like the statement, “Learn by teaching.”

I also wanted to let you know that I have tagged you. You can get the details on my site.

Have a wonderful weekend!

16 Maithri 02.13.09 at 7:52 pm

Dear Sister Miruh,

Your words come singing to my heart….

Now I have a confession to make… Just prior to reading your words, or in the process thereof…. I picked up my shoe and killed a big black cockroach walking across the wall….;)

This concept of perfection is illusion…the further we seek it.. .the further it recedes…

In denying our humanity, in denying our paradoxes, we hold on to a lie… that somehow we are called to be perfect….

I would far rather be human. Rather inhabit my life consciously. Than set myself an uttainable standard…I think so much psycic dysfunction and disease stems from this fear of not being perfect…

Thank you my sister for these words so full of love, so full of compassion and grace…

You’re my hero,

With deep love, Maithri

17 Miruh 02.14.09 at 11:31 am

Hello Lea,

Thanks for the tag!

I agree we teach what we have to learn.

May you be surrounded by love and light on this day!

18 Miruh 02.14.09 at 11:46 am

Hello Maithri,

For your penance you may say three Hail Marys while standing on your head for three minutes so you do not come back as Mr Cockroach next life. 😀

I read somewhere, a student asked her spiritual teacher about killing cockroaches. He said, if you are cleaning, you have to kill the cockroaches or else they infest your living space. It’s practical, I suppose you could take them out to the bushes far away from your house. 😀

I agree with you, “in denying our paradoxes, we hold on to a lie… that somehow we are called to be perfect…. ” We are called to be real, we do have a human nature and a spiritual nature, the two can live in harmony.

As always, your beautiful words here are a balm to the soul. Thanks for sharing.

May you bask in the soft light of love’s tenderness on this day of celebration of Love!

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