The Bhagavad Gita
I have always respected India and Indians so I thought that it was time to read something of their great holy book, written around 200BC.
I have just read the first two chapters and am very impressed. Its thoughts resonate with me. Chapter 1 sets out very vividly the folly of war. Even though I am a former member of the Australian army, war has always seemed a horror to me: So many deaths of so many good men for so little gain. I am at the moment distressed by the war in Ukraine. I have Russian and Ukrainian friends so Russian and Ukrainian deaths are horrible thoughts to me. Why can we not put that ongoing disaster to a stop? And the Hindu prince (Arjuna) in the Gita expresses grief at war very vividly. He sets out the folly of war better than I could do. He sounds very modern to me.
I am no pacifist. I accept that if we are attacked, we have to fight back. But the Bhagavad Gita questions the very essence of that. It asks what is the benefit of any attack? Nothing is worth it. The Hindu prince asks should we simply refuse to fight. Is pacifism better?
I have some sympathy for that view. Would rule by Hitler be so bad? Germans loved him. Was it worth all the bloodshed to defeat him? Hitler did after all initially just want to banish all the Jews to Palestine (The Haavara Agreement) but the British and others blocked that. Those are the sorts of doubt that the Hindu prince had in chapter 1 of the Gita. And a couple of hundred years later Jesus said much the same: "Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matthew 5:38). That scripture has worried me since I was 14 and is why I was a pacifist in my teens
But the Gita said it first and said it much more vividly.
And in chapter 2 the Gita goes on to answer the pacifist doubts. It says your soul is indestructible so what you do in war can cause no serious harm. I don't believe in God or souls so that is no help to me. We atheists are stuck with reality.
I will read on