In spite of his insistence on right means for right ends, the means that Gandhi himself uses are never right. And I am bold enough to say that whatever Krishna did was right. In a relative sense, taking his opponents into consideration, Krishna could not have done otherwise.
Questioner: Could he not have killed them straight away with weapons, instead of resorting to dubious means?
They are being killed with weapons. Don’t forget that cunning and deceit are parts of the arsenal of war. And when your enemies are making full use of this arsenal, it is sheer stupidity to play into their hands and get defeated and killed.
Krishna does not use deception against a group of good and saintly people. They are all unsaintly and unscrupulous people. It has been proved a thousand times, and Krishna is having to deal with them. Before going to war Krishna has done everything to bring them round to some compromise so that war is avoided. But they force a war. They are nor ready for anything short of war, and they are ready to use every foul means to destroy the Pandavas. And their whole past record is one of unabashed dishonesty and treachery. If Krishna had behaved with such people in a gentlemanly way, the Mahabharata would have ended very differently. Then the Pandavas would have lost the war and the Kauravas would be the victors. Then evil would be victorious over good.
We say that truth wins – satyameva jayate – but history says it differently. History also puts the victor on the side of truth. If the Kauravas had won, historians would have written their story, extolling them to the skies. Then the Pandavas would have been forgotten, and no one would have known Krishna. An altogether different story would have been written.
I think Krishna did the only right thing to do in the face of the realities of the situation, and all talk of purity of means is irrelevant. In the world we live in, every means has to be tainted more or less. If the means is absolutely pure, it will soon turn into an end; there will be no need to strive for the end. A wholly pure means ceases to be different from the end; then ends and means are one and the same. But ends and means are different from each other, as long as the means is tainted and the end is clean. While it is true that a clean end is never attained through unclean means, is a pure end ever achieved in this world? It is always there in our dreams and desires, but it is never really achieved.
Gandhi could not say at the time of his death that he had attained to his lofty ends of truth and non-violence and celibacy, for which he worked hard throughout his life. He died experimenting with them. If the means were right, then why did he not achieve his ends? What was the difficulty? If the means are right, there should be no difficulty in achieving the end.