Gita: How is War Dharma and not Violence?

Violent Kings

Chapter – 2 Verse – 21

वेदाविनाशिनं नित्यं य एनमजमव्ययम् |
कथं स पुरुष: पार्थ कं घातयति हन्ति कम् ||

Purport of the Verse

O Partha, how can one, who knows the soul to be imperishable, eternal, unborn, and immutable kill anyone or cause anyone to kill?

Explanation of the Verse

Sri Krishna strikes at the root of Ignorance, to make his point about the knower of Truth.

According to the Lord, the Knower of the Imperishable aspect of life, of that which is eternal, is truly non-violent.

He can never kill.

But before we take a deep dive into this statement we should know what is non-violence.

Nature of Violence

A person may appear calm and collected.

He may appear and behave sweet-spoken and kind in his approach.

He may be stable and humble when he interacts with people.

Let’s call this man Character A

There is another person, who appears to be a bit rough, may also appear curt and unpolished.

He may appear arrogant and pushy.

He may also give the feeling that he is in command and the others need to follow.

Let’s call this man Character B

Analysis of Character A and Character B

Of these two categories of people, which one of them is non-violent, humble?

Going by the external characteristics, it appears that character A is non-violent and character B, appears to be, by all means, a violent character.

Now, how are we to judge the right man?


It is very much possible that character A is actually a gangster who kills people for a ransom or for political advantage.

It is also possible that character B is a school teacher, who punishes children so that they take the right path.

Character B, worries about the reputation and well-being of his institution, because of which he behaves in this manner.

Character A appears kind and humble because this combination of being a killer and at the same time being soft-spoken is the perfect combination for a high-profile cold-blooded goon.

It is the characteristics of a man, who rarely fails in his violent missions.

The Intent decides the Violator

Real violence is in the intent.

Our intent runs everything, right from our character to the execution of our work.

If our intent is genuine, everything that we do is genuine and worthy of applause.

Intent also drives killing.

If I kill someone driven by greed, then the intent is bad.

I kill someone accidentally for self-preservation, without the least intent, that killing cannot qualify as an act of violence.

It was an accident.

Violence is always in the intent and not in the act per se.


Armies of either nation are at war.

But no soldier on this side of the border has personal enmity with their counterparts on the other side.

Then such a war does not indicate violence on the part of the soldiers.

It shall only indicate violence in the heart of the government which wants to push its agenda of capture.

Self-defense can never qualify as violence.

Knowing the Self takes you beyond All violence

Sri Krishna is trying to exhort this very point.

A person who has become sensitive to the self is aware of his own deepest intentions.

No intention of the violent kind will ever float in the conscious, subconscious, or unconscious domains of the mind of the Knower of the Self.

Auditing of thought, word, and deed is happening at all times.

A Person who has realized the Self has known the purpose of life.

He has attained the goal of all lives.

He is now living only to exhaust the age of the body.

Such a being achieves all his purposes through non-violence intentions.

Then what is the need for violence?


People misinterpret right action, driven by right and precise intention as violence.

This was what Arjuna also appeared to be not sure about.

Sri Krishna clears this point.

The Shastra says that Dharma drives the person who knows the Self.

Dharma guides such a person, which is the very form of the Deity, the Lord.

A person established in Dharma only thinks, speaks and does what Dharma underlines.

So none of his actions will fall under the category of violent or non-violent works.

The War is Dharma, not Violence

The Lord advises Arjuna because Arjuna is the Lord’s intimate friend as well as his foremost disciple.

Arjuna surrenders to the Lord.

Sri Krishna is Dharma incarnate and anyone who has surrendered to Dharma automatically attains the path of Dharma.

The Lord also represents the Self and is the Absolute Truth.

Therefore, to know the Lord is also to know the Self.

Arjuna has already established his identity with the indivisible Self, the Lord who is unborn and untouched by material nature.

The Lord puts a pertinent question to Arjuna as to how, the one who knows the soul to be eternal and immutable, ever kill?

Nothing can touch the soul, leave alone intentional killing.

So, under such circumstances, having established his identity with the Lord, Arjuna has transcended the path of aggression and violence.

There was no question of Arjuna becoming violent and a killer.

The Lord argued thus.

Chapter – 2 Verse – 31

स्वधर्ममपि चावेक्ष्य न विकम्पितुमर्हसि |
धर्म्याद्धि युद्धाच्छ्रेयोऽन्यत्क्षत्रियस्य न विद्यते ||

Purport of the Verse

Besides considering your duty as a warrior, you should not waver.

Indeed, for a warrior, there is no better engagement than fighting for upholding righteousness.

Explanation of the Verse

Actions Based on Gunas

The 4 Varnas and the 4 Ashramas is the basis of Sanatana Dharma.

Even in the modern context, the Gunas dictate our work or occupation.

The person who is Rajasic takes up active professions like farming or business.

Alternately, a Satvika person takes up the teaching profession etc.

But these professions are also mixed in nature.

They may represent Dharmika as well as Adharmika action owing to the mixed nature of consciousness.

One should always take up prescribed activities as per Shastra.

For example, the modern form of Gambling is to invest in Shares and play in the Secondary market.

This indicates a gambling tendency.

Hence one shall always have a disturbed mind and shall be always bothered about the results, more than, on focused actions.

Sinful activities always yield negative results.

However, the definition of Sin in Hinduism is extremely esoteric.

To understand it, the listener must have some spiritual inclination and be mantally advanced.

To establish Dharma, a Kshatriya can Kill

One should always be cognizant of what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.

According to Sanatana Dharma, a man who is a teacher, should not indulge in the trade of leather.

So, a person who is a vegetarian should avoid setting up restaurants that serve non-vegetarian food items and so on.

In this case, Arjuna was a Class-1 Kshatriya, and Arjuna was expected to perform the role of Kshatriya to perfection by the Lord.


A Kshatriya can kill only if the intention is to attain harmony.

Therefore, he has the right to fight for righteous causes, even if it requires the killing of transgressors.

If Arjuna failed in his duty, he would have gone against Dharma, he would have gone against the Lord Himself.

Hence the Lord urges Arjuna to take action and punish the Kaurava miscreants.

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