Chapter 10: Spirituality, Religion and Politics
The other part of your question is also significant. You say that in politics Krishna uses means that cannot be said to be right. To achieve his ends, he uses lies, deception and fraud - which cannot be justified in any way. In this connection one has to understand the realities of life. In life there is no choice between good and bad, except in theory. The choice between good and evil is all a matter of doctrine. In reality, one always has to choose between the greater evil and the lesser evil. Every choice in life is relative. It is not a question of whether what Krishna did was good or bad. The question is whether it would have resulted in good or bad had he not done what he did. The question would be much easier if it was a simple choice between good and bad, but this is not the case in reality. The realities of life are that it is always the choice between greater evils and lesser evils.
I have heard an anecdote:
A priest is passing a street when he hears a voice crying, “Save me, save me! I am dying!” It is dark and the street is narrow. The priest rushes to the place and finds that a big strong man has overpowered another man, who seems to be very poor and weak. The priest demands that the strong man release the poor man, but he refuses. The priest physically intervenes in the struggle and succeeds in releasing the victim from the strong man’s grip, and the poor man takes to his heels.
The strong man says, “Do you know what you have done? That man had picked my pocket and you have helped him to run away with my purse.”
The priest said, “Why didn’t you say it before? I thought you were unnecessarily torturing a poor man. I am sorry; I made a mistake. I had thought I was doing something good, but it turned out to be evil.” But the man had already disappeared with the purse.
Before we set out to do good, it is necessary to consider if it will result in evil. It is equally necessary to know that a bad action may ultimately result in good.
The choice before Krishna is between lesser evil and greater evil. It is not a simple choice between good and evil. The fighting tactics which Krishna uses are nothing compared to those used in the war of Mahabharata by the other side, who are capable of doing anything. The Kauravas are no ordinary evil-doers - they are extraordinarily evil. Gandhi would be no match for them; they could crush him in moments. Ordinary good cannot defeat an evil that is colossal. Gandhi would know what it is to fight with a colossus of evil if he had fought against a government run by Adolph Hitler. Fortunately for him, India was ruled by a very liberal community - the British - not by Hitler. Even among the British - if Churchill had been in power and Gandhi had to deal with him, it would have been very difficult to win India’s independence. The coming of Atlee into power in Britain after the war made a big difference.
The question of right means, which Gandhi talks about so much, deserves careful consideration. It is fine to say that right ends cannot be achieved without right means. However, in this world, there is nothing like an absolutely right end or absolutely right means. It is not a question of right versus wrong; it is always a question of greater wrong versus lesser wrong. There is no one who is completely healthy or completely sick; it is always a matter of being more sick or less sick.