The inner war is the bigger war
People new to the Bhagavad-gita often ask: “Does it endorse war?”
At one level, the Gita does indeed urge a virtuous warrior to fight against vicious opponents. But that call is contextual – and those who read the context of the Mahabharata will find that the virtuous made every possible attempt for peaceful resolution and chose war as an unavoidable last recourse for protecting order in society.
But at another, more universal level, the Gita urges all of us to fight an inner war against our lower nature. It uses war-related terminology to refer to not just the literal outer war, but also the metaphorical inner war. It pinpoints repeatedly to selfish desire or lust as a deadly enemy (03.37, 03.39, 03.43); identifies knowledge (04.42) and detachment (15.03) as weapons for combating illusion; and declares devotional surrender (07.14) as the central strategy for overcoming illusion.
Overall, Gita wisdom indicates that the inner war is the bigger war: bigger in terms of both material effectiveness and spiritual productiveness.
Material effectiveness: To have peace, is it enough that the virtuous win over the vicious? No, because other vicious people will inevitably arise, necessitating violent disciplinary action. The more effective way is to empower people to win their inner wars by equipping them with spiritual wisdom – something that the Gita (18.68, 18.69) wholeheartedly endorses. Being thus empowered, people will fight vice within themselves more successfully, thereby minimizing the need for outer wars.
Spiritual productiveness: To have lasting peace, we need to fight the inner war and rise to the spiritual level of Krishna’s world of love, which is forever beyond all material wars. Additionally, while we are still in this world, fighting the inner war enables us to relish the security and sweetness of spiritual reality, thus transcending various material miseries, including war.