Found in Sanga, Sanga 2001.

Q. How can we credibly explain or justify the violence of the Bhagavad-gita’s Battle of Kuruksetra in which 640 million people were said to be killed?

A. The problem we encounter in trying to explain the violence of the Kuruksetra war, the number of people killed, the short period of time it took, the relatively small area it took place in, and how all of this could have taken place at the will of the God (who, as love personified was personally present) arises when we try to explain the war as an historical event. Although it is an historical event, when we try to make its morality, facts, and figures fit with our experience, we end up looking foolish because we forget what kind of historical event it really is. It is a history of Krishna’s lila on earth.

The lila, although human-like in many respects, is as human as it is divine. It is aprakrta. In the drama of Krishna lila, many things occur under the influence of Krishna’s svarupa sakti that do not quite fit into material calculation. Just as in a drama things happen that do not happen in the ‘real world,’ things happen in Krishna lila that do not tally with our list of possibilities.

The lila of Krishna is his own carefree life, which at the same time is wonderfully filled with knowledge, lessons by which humanity can realize its own potential for love. Krishna plays, and through this play he teaches and attracts us. Arjuna is encouraged by the most loving God to be instrumental in the killing of 640 million people, and if that is not bad enough, people who were in many cases his own relatives and teachers. Why didn’t Krishna stop the war and convert Duryodhana, etc. by other means? Certainly he had the power to do so. The reason is that this was his lila, his personal drama in which no one is really killed, and through it he teaches us something wonderful.

The contrast between the killing of millions of people including one’s own relatives and the pure person Krishna wants Arjuna to be, must be noted and underscored. This contrast is there to teach us just how pure the devotee of Krishna is. Throughout the Gita, Krishna teaches Arjuna what it means to be free from false ego, unidentified with the movements of one’s body, pure, God’s instrument, his devotee, and so on. This is no small accomplishment. As much as Arjuna is woeful at the prospect of war, he is awestruck by what Krishna is teaching him to be.

Careful study reveals that it is practically unimaginable that one could attain this state, but the good news of the Gita is that it is indeed possible to be such a person, a Vaisnava, and that this is the perfection of life. It is a conscious living in which one can do no wrong. Even the killing of millions of people and one’s relatives bring no negative consequences to one who has risen to the height of being Krishna’s realized devotee. And living in the consciousness of pure devotion brings benefit to all in its path.

This to me is the reason for the apparent emphasis on violence in the Gita. It is stressed and takes place in order to teach by way of contrast just what absolute nonviolence and actual love involves. The possibility of abusing this teaching of the Gita leading to antinomainism (the doctrine that moral law is not binding on religious followers) is checked considerably by the standard of consciousness described at length in the text that one must attain before he can be considered free from reaction to his actions.

The above explanation, to me, is a non-confrontational approach to answering the question about the battle of Kuruksetra. After all, it is a valid question on the part of people trying to understand an extremely esoteric teaching. In my opinion, we do not compliment ourselves by responding to such questions with indignation. By stressing how the war was different from today’s wars, with codes of chivalry fought between professional warriors, etc. only serves I believe to take away from the contrast the killing is intended to highlight.

This question should be answered theologically and philosophically, and not in terms of historical and practical possibilities that seek to make the war fit within our experience and moral sensibilities. The Kuruksetra war is meant to take us outside of the limited realm of our experience, from the very domain of violence in which we live to die and think that taking is getting, to the plane of eternal life and absolute love where giving is synonymous with getting.

Q. What’s the best way to overcome addiction to pornography?

A. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna describes the psychological cycle that supports the perpetuation of addictions. Since yoga involves controlling one’s thoughts, it is a natural remedy. However, the practical action of yoga must be integrated with knowledge, which includes knowledge of the social, metaphysical, and theological realities surrounding the object of one’s attachment. This theoretical knowledge helps to fortify one’s practice and gives birth to realization and the transcendence of addiction, leading to love of God.

The Bhagavad-gita’s metaphysics and their social implications are outlined in the concluding six chapters, 13-18. We should consider the metaphysics of what is involved in pornography. For this we can turn to chapters 13 and 14 in particular, wherein Krishna describes the nature of the field (the body) and the knower of the field (the soul) as well as the nature of the threefold modus operandi of material nature — intelligibility (sattva), action (rajas), and inertia (tamas) — and their psychological implications of goodness, passion, and ignorance. From the vantage point of the metaphysical considerations of the Gita, enjoyment of pornography is seen as the excessive influence of rajas and tamas in which one is deluded about the nature of the field and its knower.

The social and moral implication of the influences of rajas and tamas are described in chapters 16, 17, and 18. Excessive influence of these two ultimately cause suffering. Knowing this, one can understand that pornography involves considerable violence — violence to oneself and others. Those in the pornography business are not really bad people. And if they are, they are no worse than you. For you represent the demand that creates it. Most get involved when they are very young. They are victims of circumstances and they need help. Instead of helping them, you are providing the demand that is destroying their lives.

How would you feel if one of the teen porn girls was your daughter, sister, or niece? They are all someone’s daughter, sister, or niece. How do you think their parents feel, seeing their children involved in the pornography industry? Knowledge of the fact that you are instrumental in perpetuating their involvement in this should help you realize just how ugly you become when you implicate yourself in pornography, whether it is on the Internet or elsewhere. It is a violent activity with violent results.

The will to transcend one’s addiction must involve a willingness to acknowledges one’s weakness. This goes straight to the heart of bhakti, wherein one acknowledges his utter dependence upon God. It is not by asserting one’s own willpower that one can succeed. If we are to conquer our addictions, we must acknowledge our weakness. In doing so we will simultaneously realize the power of God. From this fortified position we can succeed and conquer the insatiable enemy of addiction.

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