Do the epics glamorize violence?
Many thoughtful people, especially including parents, are concerned about the glamorization of violence in today’s media. When they read epics such as the Mahabharata, they may feel similarly apprehensive about the violence found therein. Their concern may extend even to the Bhagavad-gita, which is a text within the Mahabharata; it seems to glamorize violence frequently, as when it lauds Arjuna for being “the chastiser of enemies” (02.03).
However, the epics are centered not on the glamorization of violence, but on the glorification of virtue. The epics depict heroes such as Arjuna who embody many virtues such as thoughtfulness, truthfulness, humility, self-mastery, commitment, selflessness, spiritual depth and service attitude. And one such virtue is his capacity to protect the innocent from the vicious. While offering such protection, he exhibits peerless prowess to punish wrongdoers and thereby deter potential wrongdoers. Therefore, though the epics do contain violence, they don’t glamorize violence. They glorify heroes who put an end to indiscriminate violence. Arjuna is not the reason violence occurs; he is the reason violence ends. He heroically stops those who are indiscriminately violent.
In contrast with virtue-centered heroism depicted in the epics, much modern media depicts violence-centered heroism. Those who consume such media never realize that the essence of heroism is virtue; they end up equating violence with heroism. Such a misunderstanding is aided by the human tendency to choose the path of least resistance — engaging in violence is far easier than acting with virtue. However, violence divorced from virtue weakens people’s character and disrupts society. Thankfully, such harmful effects can be countered by cultivating heroic virtue, as the epics inspire us to do.
The epics don’t glamorize violence; they glorify virtue; glamorization of violence leads to individual degradation and social disruption, whereas glorification of virtue leads to individual elevation and social harmonization.
Think it over:
- Though the epics contain violence, they don’t glamorize violence. Explain.
- How do the epics glorify virtue?
- How does heroism in the epics differ from heroism in much modern media?
02.03: O son of Prutha, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy.
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