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Chapter 2: The Roots of Violence

Arjuna saw “my people.” In that horrendous situation of war, in that immediacy of war - when the war is just about to start - he sees “my people.” If Arjuna had said, “War is useless, violence is useless,” the book of the Gita would not have been born. But what Arjuna said is, “Our own people are assembled here and my limbs are giving way at the mere thought of killing them.” In fact, it is only natural that one who has built the whole edifice of his life upon the foundation of “mine-ness” will find his limbs giving way at the thought of killing them.

A death occurs in the neighborhood, but it does not touch people’s hearts. People simply say, “The poor man died.” We are unable to brush it away like this when it occurs in our own homes. Then it affects us, because when a death occurs in our homes, when one of “our own” dies, we also die, a part of our own selves dies. We had an investment in this person who has died, we used to get something from this person’s life. This person was occupying a certain corner of our hearts.

So when a wife dies it is not just the wife who dies. Something in the husband dies too. The truth is that the husband came into being when the wife came into being. Before that there was not a husband or a wife. When a son dies, something in the mother also dies - because the woman only became a mother at the birth of her son. With the birth of a child, the mother is also born, and at the death of a child, the mother also dies. We are connected with the one we call ours. When he or she dies, we also die.

It is not surprising that when he saw his own people assembling to fight the war, Arjuna felt as if he were committing suicide. It is not the idea of others’ deaths that shook Arjuna. It is the idea of his own death, the possibility of a suicidal experience, that made him shaky. He felt, “Where will I be if all my own people die?”

This is worth giving some thought to.

Our “I” is nothing but a name of the sum total of what we call “our own people.” What we call “I” is the name for all the accumulations of “mine.” If all those who are “mine” are to leave, then I will be no more, then I cannot remain. This “I” of mine is attached partly to my father, partly to my mother, partly to my son, partly to my friend.to all of these people.

What is even more surprising is that this “I” is not only attached to those whom we call our own, but it is also attached to those whom we consider outsiders or “not-mine.” Although this attachment is outside our circle, nonetheless it is there. Hence, when my enemy dies, I also die a little, since I will not be able to be exactly the same as I was while my enemy was alive. Even my enemy has been contributing something to my life. He was my enemy. He may have been an enemy but he was my enemy. My “I” was related to him too: without him I will be incomplete.

Had Arjuna seen that it was others who were going to be slaughtered, that would have been a different matter altogether. But what he saw, deep down, was: “Actually I have been eager to kill no one else but myself. It would be a suicide. What would be the point of continuing to live when all ‘my very own’ are dead? Even if I were to gain everything, it would be worthless if none of ‘mine’ were alive.”

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