The harmony of the sword and the word
We often dread communal violence. So, we frequently feartheocracies due to their likely intolerance towards people who don’t abide by their sectarian beliefs.
Naturally then, we may feel apprehensive when we read the Bhagavad-gita’s glorification of saintly kings who live and lead according to scriptural wisdom (04.02). However, the Gita destroys our sectarian categories right at the start of its message. It declares that we are not our bodies, but are eternal souls who have no intrinsic connection with the bodies that we presently inhabit. Bodily misidentification is the basis of all sects, including even sects with religious nomenclature like Christians, Muslims and Hindus.
Gita wisdom takes us beyond all our sectarian notions of identity to our universal essence as souls. It recommends that we act on that spiritual level for the holistic welfare of everyone. To fulfill that universal purpose, it urges us to harmonize the word, our intellectual resources, and the sword, our administrative resources.
The Gita illustrates this harmony through the example of Krishna, who is actually God himself descended to the earth. In the context of the Mahabharata, Krishna plays the role of a prince, an administrator who uses the sword when necessary to check sectarian materialism. But in the context of the Gita, he accepts the role of a spiritual intellectual who empowers the warrior-prince, Arjuna,with the word for rising individually and socially beyond sectarianism to the spiritual level. The Gita recommends the word as the preferred way for raising consciousness. However, for those who have not only buried themselves in sectarian materialism but are bent on similarly burying the whole society, it sanctions the sword only as a last resort.
Thus, through this harmony of the word and the sword, Gita wisdom takes us beyond sectarianism.
“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.”