The Gita’s choice is not about nonviolence or violence – it’s about disintegration or integration
The Bhagavad-gita’s asking Arjuna to fight understandably unnerves many people.
Though the Gita’s framing narrative involves choosing violence over nonviolence, its core is far deeper. The Gita itself contains only a handful references to violence – and so too to nonviolence. Among its many erudite commentators over millennia, none have deemed violence its central message.
What, then, is its central message?
Integration with the whole.
We long for eternity, while our physical heart beats inexorably towards mortality.
The Gita speaks to the universal problem of the human heart: its problem of unfulfilled aspirations. We long for eternity, while our physical heart beats inexorably towards mortality. In our present existence, our need for meaning, love and happiness are constricted to the temporary material level where they can never be permanently or completely fulfilled.
Our existential miseries originate in disintegration. The Gita (15.07) states that we are parts of God, Krishna. He is the supreme and infinite spiritual being, and we are subordinate and infinitesimal beings. As parts we can’t be satisfied without being linked with the whole. The way to fulfillment, then, is by integration with the whole.
The same Gita verse emphasizes that we are parts of Krishna eternally, so our integration with him is not ontological, but emotional. We re-connect with him through pure love. And establishing that reconnection is the essence of dharma and is the heart of Krishna’s message.
When anti-spiritual elements grab power and block this integration in society at large, then society’s martial guardians need to take corrective action assertively, using violence as a last resort when necessary. Such an exceptional circumstance induced the Gita’s time-specific exhortation to fight.
But the Gita’s universal call, the reason for its enduring appeal, has nothing to do with violence. That call is for an intimate integration through spiritual love that brings the supreme peace within and without.
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