Why couldn’t the Pandavas resolve their conflict peacefully?

Much modern thought, especially liberal thought, holds that all conflicts are caused by misunderstandings and can be resolved by discussions. And this is true on many occasions; better communication can prevent small issues from escalating into full-blown confrontations. 

Still, not all conflicts are caused by misunderstandings alone; many are caused by malevolence. Ill-motivated people driven by a wild hunger for power, pleasure, property may be the main cause of the conflict. Such people can’t be pacified by discussion, however expert. In fact, they may cynically use discussion as a tool to buy time while they covertly gather resources for acting on their malevolent intentions. Appeasing them is like feeding milk to a snake — the milk doesn’t make the snake less venomous; it makes the snake more voracious. And it eventually stings with greater force and ferocity. 

A question may arise, “Then, are all people like snakes? After all, doesn’t the line between good and evil pass through every heart?” Yes, but that line doesn’t divide every heart equally. In some people, the portion of the heart dedicated to good is greater; in others, the portion of the heart given to evil is greater. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (16.06) declares that people’s natures can be broadly divided into two categories: divine and demonic. Demonic people often need to be disciplined or even neutralized by force. Such was the enemy confronting the Pandavas — Duryodhana was unscrupulous and unrepentant. He had dismissively rejected all peace proposals, leaving the Pandavas with no option except war to stop his reign of evil. 

By thus analyzing the motivations of those involved in conflicts, we can arrive at the means that are most likely to be effective. 

One-sentence summary: 

Conflicts caused by misunderstanding can be resolved by discussion; conflicts caused by malevolence can be resolved only by confrontation. 

Think it over:

  • When can conflicts be resolved by discussion?
  • When can conflicts not be resolved by discussion?
  • What defines a nature as divine or demonic?


16.06: O son of Prutha, in this world there are two kinds of created beings. One is called divine and the other demoniac. I have already explained to you at length the divine qualities. Now hear from Me of the demoniac.

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