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80. Introducing Ahimsa to the Battlefield
The history of any country is the history of their kings, their battles and the wars they fought. In a way history is the documentation of violence. If mankind had forever been engaged in violence, it would have become extinct. But it survived because non-violence was also there along with violence. Non-violence too has a historical background like violence. If one wants to search for its point of emergence, we would have to begin with Sri Krishna. He tried his best to avoid the war of Mahabharata. He went to the Kauravas as an envoy from Pandavas, but could not evade the war due to Duryodhana’s obstinacy. He offered his army to the Kauravas while he stayed with the Pandavas on the condition of abstaining from direct involvement in the war. In this way Sri Krishna gave the message five thousand years back that violence might be necessary sometimes, yet non-violence will ever be the better choice. The Mahabharat war could not be avoided. It had to be accepted as an unavoidable calamity. But Sri Krishna warned all of them that violence would never benefit anyone and he would never opt for it. Although Pandavas gained victory in that war but ultimately the massacre dejected Udhishthira and Vyas has expressed the futility of violence through him. After a considerable lapse of ages, Krishna was followed by Buddha and Mahavir. Both the contemporaries laid the foundation of Buddhism and Jainism respectively, both of which honour non-violence. Similarly, the massacre during the Kalinga War had also dejected Ashoka resulting in his acceptance of Buddhism. Regarding Jainism, we can say that non-violence is the core of Jain religion. Besides them a lot of saints and monks have advocated non-violence.
Then came Gandhiji, who accelerated the promotion of non-violence. Prior to Gandhi, it was considered to be a means to achieve personal salvation, but he explained its utility and importance in the social-life. The truth and non-violence can be used like weapons. They are more powerful and effective than weapons of violence. Gandhi made non-violence a people’s movement on a large scale. He applied it in the battlefield and used it to gain independence for this vast country.
Let us again glance back at Kurukshetra. Although Pandava’s commander did not hold a weapon in his hands yet the army used them to fight. Guess what could have happened had Krishna insisted that Bhim and Arjun too should not use weapons, like him. He could have said that their army too would not use weapons and would have asked Pitamah Bhishma and Guru Drona to aim their arrows at his army! He could have said that they had come there to die, not to kill! They would face them with all their might but not with the weapons. He could have said that he and the Pandavas loved them and would conquer them with love.
Although Krishna didn’t say so, Gandhiji said it. He not only emphasise it but applied it into practice. He challenged the mightiest British nation saying, “You don’t have a right to enslave us. We oppose this injustice but we would do it through truth and non-violence. Do you want to shoot us? Shoot! Lathi charge! Send us to jail. We won’t utter a word. We are not angry or jealous. We do love you!” It had never happened before. Gandhiji ‘nationalised’ non-violence. He gained freedom for the country through non-violence and has set a new example of bravery. This is a delightful and enlightening message for mankind.