Chapter 1: A Mystic Born before His Time
There is perhaps no one like Krishna, no one who can accept and absorb in himself all the contradictions of life, all the seemingly great contradictions of life. Day and night, summer and winter, peace and war, love and violence, life and death - all walk hand in hand with him. That is why everyone who loves him has chosen a particular aspect of Krishna’s life that appealed to him and quietly dropped the rest.
Gandhi calls the Gita his mother, and yet he cannot absorb it, because his creed of non-violence conflicts with the grim inevitability of war as seen in the Gita. So Gandhi finds ways to rationalize the violence of the Gita: he says the war of Mahabharata is only a metaphor, that it did not actually happen. This war, Gandhi says over and over again, represents the inner war between good and evil that goes on inside a man. The Kurushetra of the Gita, according to Gandhi, is not a real battlefield located somewhere on this earth, nor is the Mahabharata an actual war. It is not that Krishna incites Arjuna to fight a real Mahabharata, Mahabharata only symbolizes the inner conflict and war of man, and so it is just a parable.
Gandhi has his own difficulty. The way Gandhi’s mind is, Arjuna will be much more in accord with him than Krishna. A great upsurge of non-violence has arisen in the mind of Arjuna, and he seems to be strongly protesting against war. He is prepared to run away from the battlefield and his arguments seem to be compelling and logical. He says it is no use fighting and killing one’s own family and relatives. For him, wealth, power and fame, won through so much violence and bloodshed, have no value whatsoever. He would rather be a beggar than a king, if kingship costs so much blood and tears. He calls war an evil and violence a sin and wants to shun it at all costs. Naturally Arjuna has a great appeal for Gandhi. How can he then understand Krishna?
Krishna very strongly urges Arjuna to drop his cowardice and fight like a true warrior. And his arguments in support of war are beautiful, rare and unique. Never before in history have such unique and superb arguments been advanced in favor of fighting, in support of war. Only a man of supreme non-violence could give such support to war.
Krishna tells Arjuna, “So long as you believe you can kill someone, you are not a man with a soul, you are not a religious man. So long as you think that one dies, you don’t know that which is within us, that which has never died and will never die. If you think you can kill someone you are under a great illusion, you are betraying your ignorance. The concept of killing and dying is materialistic; only a materialist can believe so. There is no dying, no death for one who really knows.” So Krishna exhorts Arjuna over and over again in the Gita, “This is all play-acting; killing or dying is only a drama.”