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hato vA prApsyasi svargaM jitvA vA bhokShyase mahIm| tasmAduttiShTha kaunteya yuddhAya kRRitanishchayaH ||2.37||

"O son of Kuntī, either you will be killed on the battlefield and attain the heavenly planets, or you will conquer and enjoy the earthly kingdom. Therefore, get up with determination and fight."

There are three flaws in this argument:

(1) Since Krishna incited the Pandavas to commit war-crimes

"Krishna defended his actions as follows in a voice deep as that of the clouds or the drum: "All of them were great car-warriors and exceedingly quick in the use of weapons! If ye had put forth all your prowess even then ye could never have slain them in battle by fighting fairly! King Duryodhana also could never be slain in a fair encounter! The same is the case with all those mighty car-warriors headed by Bhishma! From desire of doing good to you, I repeatedly applied my powers of illusion and caused them to be slain by diverse means in battle. If I had not adopted such deceitful ways in battle, victory would never have been yours, nor kingdom, nor wealth! These four were very high-souled warriors and regarded as Atirathas in the world. The very Regents of the Earth could not slay them in fair fight. Similarly, the son of Dhritarasthra, though fatigued when armed with mace, could not be slain in a fair fight by Yama himself armed with his bludgeon! Ye should not take it to heart that this foe of yours hath been slain deceitfully. When the number of one's foes becomes great, then destruction should be effected by contrivances and means. The gods themselves, in slaying the Asuras, have trod the same way. That way, therefore, that had been trod by the gods, may be trod by all." (Mahabharata, Salya Parva, Section 61)"

Arjuna might well have gone to hell on being killed.

(2) These are not the only two alternatives - Arjuna and/or his kinsmen might have been horribly wounded, but alive and lived a long time in terrible pain.

(3) Assuming weapons like Brahmastra weer real - there might have been an ecological catastrophe from the war.

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    yes, krishna's argument is correct. – ram Feb 25 '18 at 2:25
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    I have prepared the answer. And if we think its ok to reopen it , we also can give the answer to this question . – SwiftPushkar Feb 25 '18 at 10:01
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    if krishna had posted his argument here - would that have been "opinion based" also? – S K Feb 25 '18 at 12:19
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    The question is asked and answered in the body by the OP himself saying that there are flaws in it. What is the point if the OP is answering question in the question body himself? Such questions will be closed. Dear reviewers, don't cast reopen votes because some one has an answer. Questions should be based on the question and not on a user's answers or there is an answer to the question. No improvement done from the OP side. So it is not eligible for reopening. – Sarvabhouma Feb 26 '18 at 4:51
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    @SK If Krishna posts his argument here, he would post his argument in an answer. Separate the question and answer. Your question itself has an answer. Such questions will be closed. – Sarvabhouma Feb 26 '18 at 4:54
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All the three objections are based on the possible ill effects of violence, possibility of going to hell, possibility of getting wounded and ecological disaster. Yes, all three possibilities are there. However, can we avoid violence completely in this world? Could Adolf Hitler and his murderous hordes be stopped by non violence? Would the world have been better off if the Allies and the USSR not fought the Nazis although there is no doubt of the collosal losses due to the war?

Krishna advocated the path of minimum violence to uphold Dharma. It is not always possible to eschew violence. One can not live life by running away from evil. There are situations when one has to fight to uphold Dharma. Take the cases of Adolf Hitler or Islamic terrorists. You will not be able to contain their depredations by taking 'the higher moral ground and the noble path'. In fact such a course would be simply cowardice and egoistic. It would simply result in the massacre of innocents. Should one live oblivious of the cry of the innocents? Krishna's position is far more nuanced and subtle than that of the Buddha.

This is what Sri Aurobindo says on this issue:

We see in the teaching of the Gita how subtle a thing is the freedom from egoism which is demanded. Arjuna is driven to fight by the egoism of strength, the egoism of Kshatriya; he is turned from the battle by the contrary egoism of weakness, the shrinking, the spirit of disgust, the false pity that overcomes the mind, the nervous being and the senses, - not that divine compassion which strengthens the arm and clarifies the knowledge. But this weakness comes garbed as renunciation, as virtue: "Better the life of the beggar than to taste these blood-stained enjoyments; I desire not the rule of all the earth, no, nor the kingdom of the gods." How foolish of the Teacher, we might say, not to confirm this mood, to lose this sublime chance of adding one more great soul to the army of Sannyasins, one more shining example before the world of holy renunciation. But the Guide sees otherwise, the Guide who is not to be deceived by words: "This is weakness and delusion and egoism that speak in thee. Behold the Self, open thy eyes to the knowledge, purify thy soul of egoism." And afterwards? "Fight, conquer, enjoy a wealthy kingdom." Or to take another example from ancient Indian tradition. It was egoism, it would seem, that drove Rama, the Avatara, to raise an army and destroy a nation in order to recover his wife from the King of Lanka. But would it have been a lesser egoism to drape himself in indifference and misusing the formal terms of the knowledge to say, "I have no wife, no enemy, no desire; these are illusions of the senses; let me cultivate the Brahman-knowledge and let Ravana do what he will with the daughter of Janaka"? The criterion is within, as the Gita insists. It is to have the soul free from craving and attachment, but free from the attachment to inaction as well as from the egoistic impulse to action, free from attachment to the forms of virtue as well as from the attraction to sin. It is to to be rid of "I-ness" and "my-ness" so as to live in the one Self and act in the one Self; to reject the egoism of refusing to work through the individual centre of the universal Being as well as egoism of serving the individual mind and life and body to the exclusion of others. To live in the Self is not to dwell for oneself alone in the Infinite immersed and oblivious of all things in that ocean of impersonal self-delight; but it is to live as the Self and in the Self equal in this embodiment and all embodiments and beyond all embodiments.

The Bhagavad Gita with Text, Translation and Commentary in the Words of Sri Aurobindo

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Yes , Shree Krishnas argument is correct. There are multiple interpretations available of this verse and his saying to Arjuna. What is actually its inner meaning and what is Shree Krishnas actual message to us.

हतो वा प्राप्स्यसि स्वर्गं जित्वा वा भोक्ष्यसे महीम्।
तस्मादुत्तिष्ठ कौन्तेय युद्धाय कृतनिश्चयः ।।BG 2.37 BG 2.37।।

hato vā prāpsyasi svargaṁ jitvā vā bhokṣyase mahīm
tasmād uttiṣṭha kaunteya yuddhāya kṛta-niścayaḥ

O son of Kuntī, either you will be killed on the battlefield and attain the heavenly planets, or you will conquer and enjoy the earthly kingdom. Therefore, get up with determination and fight.

English Translation of Ramanuja's Sanskrit Commentary By Swami Adidevananda.

2.37 If you are slain in a righteous war by enemies, you shall thery attain supreme bliss. Or, slaying the enemies, you shall enjoy this kingdom without obstacles. As the duty called war, when done without attachment to the fruits, becomes the means for winning supreme bliss, you will attain that supreme bliss. Therefore, arise, assured that engagement in war (here the duty) is the means for attaining release, which is known as man's supreme goal.

See the real meaning of this shloka beautifully explained by Shree Ramanuja. He is explaning us that this verse is intended towards both Arjuna as well as the people who are following path of Karma Yoga. Here Krishna is giving stress on Karma i.e. our duty , Swarga is symbolic of supreme bliss which one will attain by following his duties without attaching to its fruits. And Shree krishna here is perfectly right , because Niskam Karma Yoga is is the means for attaining release.


Answer To Your Argument No .1 - Since Krishna incited the Pandavas to commit war-crimes ?

No he is not encouraging Pandavas to commit war-crimes , he is just asking them to wage a war against Adharma , and win a righteous war for establishing of Dharma. To set an example. As it is duty of kshatriya Varna to protect Dharma even through war. So No war crimes here. Krishna Himself. Then He said to Arjuna, “They are already killed. You just become My instrument.” So no war crimes again here , because Bhagvanta already killed them. Apart form that Krishna also told Arjuna that death of the body is not the death of the soul ,where as our pure self or Atma is non perishable.

So Pandavas were just the cause

तस्मात्त्वमुत्तिष्ठ यशो लभस्व जित्वा शत्रून् भुङ्क्ष्व राज्यं समृद्धम्। मयैवैते निहताः पूर्वमेव निमित्तमात्रं भव सव्यसाचिन्।। BG 11.33।।

tasmāt tvam uttiṣṭha yaśo labhasva jitvā śatrūn bhuṅkṣva rājyaṁ samṛddham mayaivaite nihatāḥ pūrvam evanimitta-mātraṁ bhava savya-sācin.

Therefore get up. Prepare to fight and win glory. Conquer your enemies and enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasācī, can be but an instrument in the fight.


Answer To Your Argument No .2 - These are not the only two alternatives - Arjuna and/or his kinsmen might have been horribly wounded, but alive and lived a long time in terrible pain.

Yes Pandavas were got wounded in the war and they suffered the pain due to great loss of kinsmen and people at the end.


Answer To Your Argument No .3 -Assuming weapons like Brahmastra weer real - there might have been an ecological catastrophe from the war.

Scriptures tells us that there were mass destruction , but see what Gita is telling us about disasters or destruction.

अव्यक्तादीनि भूतानि व्यक्तमध्यानि भारत।
अव्यक्तनिधनान्येव तत्र का परिदेवना।। BG 2.28।।

avyaktādīni bhūtāni vyakta-madhyāni bhārata
avyakta-nidhanāny eva tatra kā paridevanā

All created beings are unmanifest in their beginning, manifest in their interim state, and unmanifest again when annihilated. So what need is there for lamentation?

English Translation Of Sri Shankaracharya's Sanskrit Commentary By Swami Gambirananda.

i.e. with regard to beings which are objects of delusion, which are invisible, (become) visible, (and then) get destroyed!

So destruction and again manifestation both are part of great cycle. This destruction was planned by Bhagvanta himself for the re-establishment of dharma. And there is presently no mentioning of any ecological disaster happened during or after the war apart from lots of wood piles were used to burn the bodies of the dead. But Jungles and trees can grow again. And the animals which were killed in the battle attained swarga.


Conclusion - So krishna' s argument is correct ,and its been well verified and commented by lots of Scholars and Acharyas. There is no doubt about correctness of this saying by Krishna.

  • Why is the heavens symbolic and not the actual heaven? What happened to arjuna after death ? – Rakesh Joshi Feb 26 '18 at 10:47
  • Haha , No ,my answer does not asume swarga is symbolic. But as i said in earlier part of my answer , there are various interpretations of this verse as well as message in it. The word to word meaning is quite clear from my answer and its easy. So i am not saying that the swarga is symbolic or those who die in battlefield showing bravery do not attain swarga , its as real as depicted in scriptures. – SwiftPushkar Feb 26 '18 at 11:22
  • But its not possible to provide all interpretations here , so its just one of the meaning provided by one Acharya. Even he is not assuming swarga to be symbolic one , but explaining its another angle / inner meaning also – SwiftPushkar Feb 26 '18 at 11:23
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    Gita is full of absurd contradictions: "Therefore get up. Prepare to fight and win glory. Conquer your enemies and enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasācī, can be but an instrument in the fight." if his enemies were predestined to be killed, then why is he telling Arjuna "if you die you'd go to heaven"? he might as well have told him "I'm god and i am on your side and will ensure your victory" @swiftpushkar – S K Feb 26 '18 at 13:47
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    @SK Everything is predestined, and yet our actions and choices still matter. There is no contradiction in this. We are genuinely making decisions, it is just that the decisions that we are going to choose to make are fated to occur. – Keshav Srinivasan Feb 26 '18 at 14:56

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