Last Updated on February 1, 2023
One question that has been asked about the Bhagavad Gita is whether it justifies war. In other words, does the Gita condone or support the use of violence and warfare as a means to achieve certain goals or resolve conflicts?
Context of the Kurukshetra War
To understand whether the Bhagavad Gita justifies war, it is important to consider the context in which the conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna takes place.
The conversation occurs on the battlefield of the Kurukshetra War, a war between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, two branches of the same royal family. The Kurukshetra War is described in the Mahabharata as a war that was fought over a dispute about who should rule the kingdom of Hastinapura.
In the Gita, Lord Krishna counsels Arjuna, who is a warrior and a member of the Pandava army, to fulfill his duty as a warrior and fight in the war. Arjuna is hesitant to fight because he knows that many of his friends and relatives are on the other side of the battlefield, and he is worried that he will have to kill them in order to win the war.
Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that it is his duty as a warrior to fight in the war and that he should not be attached to the outcomes of the war or the lives of those he fights against.
The Gita’s Teachings on Dharma and Action
One of the central themes of the Bhagavad Gita is the concept of dharma, or righteous living. According to the Gita, dharma is the moral and ethical principles that govern an individual’s actions and guide them on the path of righteousness.
Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that it is his dharma as a warrior to fight in the Kurukshetra War and that he should perform his duties without attachment to the outcomes of the war or the lives of those he fights against.
The Gita also teaches the concept of “karma yoga,” or the path of action. According to this concept, an individual should perform their duties without attachment to the outcomes of their actions and without desire for personal gain or reward.
The idea is that by performing one’s duties without attachment to the outcomes, one can achieve spiritual enlightenment and liberation from the cycle of reincarnation.
Does the Bhagavad Gita Justify War?
So, does the Bhagavad Gita justify war? It is important to note that the Gita does not condone or encourage violence or warfare for the sake of violence or warfare. Instead, the Gita teaches that an individual should perform their duties, including the duty of a warrior to fight in a war, without attachment to the outcomes of their actions and without desire for personal gain or reward.
It is also important to note that the context in which the Gita’s teachings are given is specific to the Kurukshetra War and the duty of Arjuna as a warrior.
The Gita is not a blanket endorsement of all forms of violence or warfare, but rather a specific guidance for Arjuna in fulfilling his duties as a warrior in a specific situation.
Additionally, the Gita’s teachings on dharma and karma yoga are not limited to the context of war. These concepts apply to all aspects of an individual’s life and encourage righteous living and selfless action in all circumstances.
Like you, I too had the same question. I wanted to know if Bhagavad Gita encourages wars to happen or if it says that war is the ultimate solution. But after reading various perspectives I have come to conclusion that it teaches the neccessite of actions when needed. To perform the duty without any question or attachements.
Devdutt Pattnaiks explains this in a very logical way. He says:
You must understand that the Gita’s teachings on dharma and action are not limited to the context of war and apply to all aspects of an individual’s life.
In order to save dharma, one must fight war internally and to shed his/her ego by fighting the internal demons and you’ll see God in every being.