War and Peace in Relation to Religion

It was indeed a matter of pleasure to receive an invitation in 1999 from my Danish friend Niels Thomassen to speak before teachers, students and researchers of the South Denmark University on ‘War and Peace in Relation to Religion’. I was keen to discuss the topic in some detail. But Niels mentioned the words ‘little’ and ‘short’ in the invitation. It was his loving restriction imposed upon me. I would not have cared for it much, had I received his invitation a month earlier. But I got it only a week before my departure to Denmark. Therefore, I was not in a position to dwell at length on the topic. Even then having a keen interest in this subject as it had always been relevant and important, I expressed my views before a selected gathering of teachers, students and researchers in brief on ‘War and Peace in Relation to Religion’, extracts of which are hereunder:

I have always been very much interested in any of the subjects or topics related to ‘War and Peace in Relation to Religion’, as it contextual and important. Side-by-side, if War and Peace are affiliated to religion and are viewed at or studied in that then, in my view, the importance of subject is very much enhanced.

Now, prior to viewing War and Peace in relation to Religion, it would be better if we first understand the meaning of religion. What is religion? As I have already clarified in my lecture delivered in various countries, ‘Religion is to adopt goodness.’ This religion had its origin on this planet along with human being. That is both were born together. Religion is devoted or dedicated to welfare of one and all. Its scope is very wide. If it had not been with human being from the very beginning then what to say of progress made by him so far, his very existence would have been extinct. Therefore, it is necessary that we understand well the real or true meaning of religion. It is owing to the fact that usually or generally religious community is considered as religion that is not fair or proper. Religion and religious community are quite different.

Understanding and persuading the meaning of religion in context of adopting goodness, we have to magnify the discussion on ‘War and Peace.’

War and Peace are, in reality, two different situations in which one leads us towards decay and destruction and the other towards welfare. The basis of war is violence while the basis of peace is non-violence. Non-violence is in human nature permanently. It is in itself a religion, realization of which was made by man in the very beginning. I mean, first of all.

Violence is the contradictory situation of non-violence. It can never come within the circumference of sanctity. Why is it so? It is because whatever is gained on its basis is not at all sacred, stable or permanent. Someone may give an argument against this statement or my point of view but I am firm on my opinion. I know that violence is ever an impure means.

Not only one but several instances come before us which reveal that in order to end injustice, when there was no other alternative left except to use violence, it was recoursed to. In other words, violence was used as the alternative or means. By using this, triumph was achieved. But definitely, we shall have to agree that even then it was not within the domain of sanctity. I can stress on it firmly in relation to wars fought in presence of propounders of religious communities or their leaders.

Hindus have two great ideals. These are Lord Rama and Lord Krishna. In the times of both of them terrible and fiercest, wars were fought. Rama straight way, fought with Ravana- the then king of Lanka. It was in the nature of a world war. Numerous lives were lost and property was damaged. As described, Rama was fighting for justice. It is also described that before indulging in the war, he adopted various non-violent measures to remain aloof from or avoid nude dance of violence. But when no alternative, within the sphere of non-violence could be successful, he had to resort to violence.

He became victorious. But as a human being, he also imbibed in him the virtue of non-violence. Therefore, the remnants of pain for countless people killed in the fiercest battle, subsisted in his heart. We can realize this pain in Rama, after the war, in his following request to Indra:

Sunu Surupati Kapi Bhaloo Hamare,

Pare Bhoomi Nisicharanahi Je Mare,

Mam Hita Lagi Taje Inha Prana,

Sakal Jiao Sures Sujana”

Meaning thereby:

“Listen O king of heaven! Our monkeys and bears are lying there on the ground. They have laid their lives…, restore them all life, wise Lord of gods!”

During Lord Krishna’s time Mahabharata was fought like world war. As described, Krishna was guiding or pioneering the side indulged in war for justice. People having knowledge of Mahabharata know that there is mention in it that ‘Non-violence is religion in grandeur.’ It is also mentioned that Lord Krishna has himself stated that even if any one non-violent way is available… we should give up violence and adopt the non-violent way. But as it is said in order to wipe off injustice, there was no other alternative left except a recourse to violence. Consequently, battle of Mahabharata took place. Hundred of thousands of people were killed; dreadful destruction was displayed. Probably not a single sphere was left which would not have destroyed. Lord Krishna’s side became victorious. But he never hailed the terrible consequences that ensured in the wake of war. ‘Had God willed otherwise’, it was the call from the core of his heart.

Likewise, there are several examples, not only in the Hindu Religious Community but also in those of other religious communities. I do not want to dwell on them at length at this juncture. I only want to stress that non-violence is permanently in human nature; ultimately, he realizes it. And it is the only reason that after violence, a time certainly comes when human heart spontaneously speaks, ‘Had God willed otherwise’ or ‘Had it never occurred’.

History is full of numerous instances relating thereto. Here, I shall present only one example that is about Emperor Ashoka [3rd Century B.C.]. Ashoka fought the war with the king of the state of Kalinga. In the battle, about one hundred thousand people were killed. Far more people than this number were injured and one hundred fifty thousand were made prisoners. I have no data concerning the loss of property. As is known, Ashoka became victorious. But soon he had the futility from violence. He felt deep sorrow at the nude dance of violence. He followed the way of compassion. Although he, throughout his life, had recourse to the path of compassion but the big empire set up by, he was founded based on violence. All know that his empire did not last long.

And why only about Ashoka, how far did the big empires extended based on war, could continue to remain in permanent existence? Where are they in existence today? Therefore, I stress that violence can never come within the sphere of sanctity. Whatever is achieved on its strength; can never remain stable.

Contrary to it, everything achieved through non-violence is ever abiding, permanent and sacred. Man realized it when he was tempted to the safety of his existence, although it was already in his nature from his very origin. Thus, it was the only first religion for the surety of his life, the realization of non-violence and thereafter its continuous development was the greatest need. That is why, all religious communities, founded later on, gave a foremost place to it in their values. None of the prophets, propounders or saints made its importance less. How could they afford to do so? It is very essential for the achievement of peace. And peace is the aim of human life. It is only in it that progress is possible. What anyone will gain from war? What will be achieved by causing destruction? Let us ponder over it. Let us keep aloof from violence, the basis of war, and give preference to the non-violence – the basis of peace. And while doing so remember the past wars. If not much, we should not at least forget the colossal amount of loss of lives and property the last two world wars of this century brought about.

In many of my lectures and in writings, I have tried to mention about loss that took place during the last two world wars. Based on available data, I have stated that in the First World War one crore [ten million] and in the other World War five crore [fifty million) people were killed. In the first one about 2.25 crore and in the second nearly 3.5 crore of people were severely wounded. A few days ago, I have seen and known these data extensively or in detail, particularly relating to First World War, have confirmed that one crore people killed in First World War were known dead soldiers only. Besides, 30 lakhs presumed dead soldiers were also there. Not only this, one crore thirty lakhs civilians were killed; ninety lakhs people were orphaned; fifty lakhs became widows. As I have already stated, out of entire population 1225 millions were badly affected; their condition became pitiable. The number of refugees was one crore and that of prisoners was thirty lakhs.

This is the situation. Now, I leave it to you to ponder over it. What war can bring to mankind? Nothing. So please come and join me to declare that we shall avoid violence – the basis of war, continuously, admitting that war is inherently and essentially a supreme violation of Jesus’ way of life and Christianity.

Dr. Ravindra Kumar is an eminent writer, Indologist, political scientist and a former vice chancellor of Meerut University, India, who authored and edited over 100 works on great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi and on various social-cultural issues.