Non-violence and War (HH 249)

A Talk by Alok Pandey from the “Tuesday Talks” series (AUDIO)


Non-violence is a spiritual principle but Wars too, like the Mahabharata, can be an instrument that Divine may use for the evolutionary march of mankind. Today we share the deep insights given by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo on this issue in the backdrop of the recent border conflicts on the Indian borders.


Words of the Mother

September 16, 1965

A member of UNESCO has asked a stupid question, something to this effect: “There was a time when India represented the spiritual consciousness” (or “taught the spiritual consciousness,” I don’t remember now), “but now that she is engaged in such a war, who will play this role?”… So instead of replying to the question, because I might have told him a thing or two, I answered what you’ve just read:
“… The fight in which we are engaged is not like the wars of old in which when the King or leader fell, the army fled. The King whom we follow to the war today is our own Motherland, the sacred and imperishable; the leader of our onward march is the Almighty Himself….” [Sri Aurobindo, May 11, 1907]

Then I wrote this:
“It is for the sake and the triumph of Truth that India is fighting and must fight until India and Pakistan have once more become ONE because that is the truth of their being.”

And here is another text of mine that someone has brought back to life:
“The world situation is critical today. India’s fate too is hanging in the balance. There was a time when India was absolutely secure, there was no danger whatever of her being a victim to Asuric aggression. But things have changed. People and forces in India have acted in such a way as to invite Asuric influences upon her; these have worked insidiously and undermined the security that was there….”

[May 25, 1941].

Long ago, you said, “If there is another war, it will be over India.”

Yes, that was long ago.

But when the division between India and Pakistan took place, Sri Aurobindo wrote very strongly: this division MUST go somehow or other, “by whatever means,” he said. And to me he said, “If they can’t agree on doing it, they will fight.” […]

In Pakistan, there was a firing system of the latest American model, in which they take aim with, I don’t know, electrical systems, and they can fire several thousand shots in … anyway, it’s frightening; and shots that reach exactly where they want. It’s quite an organization. They’ve become very efficient. It was given to Pakistan by the Americans. And it had to be destroyed. So one of the Indian pilots went and crashed his plane into it. Naturally, the plane crushed everything – he too was crushed. But the installation was demolished…. People here are capable of such things. If they feel what Sri Aurobindo says in this letter I have just given you, that the leader of our march is the Almighty, if they feel that way … That’s what made the strength of the Japanese in the past. That’s what makes the strength of people here, once they are convinced. That’s how the Japanese took Port Arthur; there was a sort of ditch around the fortress, as there are in fortified places, and because of that they couldn’t get in; well, they let themselves be killed till they were able to walk across on the bodies: the bodies made a bridge by filling up the ditch, and then they walked across.

People who are conscious that death isn’t the end, that death is the beginning of something else, it gives them a strength that these Europeans cannot have.

***

February 18, 1973

(Extracts from a meeting with the schoolteachers. One of them complains that the first signs of violence are showing up in the children.)

Violence is necessary as long as men are ruled by their ego and its desires. But violence must be used only as a means of defense when you are attacked. The ideal towards which humanity is moving and which we want to realize is a state of luminous understanding in which each person’s needs as well as the harmony of the whole are taken into account.

The future will have no need of violence because it will be governed by the Divine Consciousness, in which all things are harmonized and complement each other.

For the moment, we are still in a stage where weapons are necessary. But it should be understood that this is a transitory stage, not a permanent one, and we must strive for the other one.

Peace … peace and harmony will be a natural outcome of the change of consciousness.

You see, in India there reigns the Gandhian concept of nonviolence which has replaced physical violence with moral violence, but it’s far worse!

But if you dare speak against Gandhi, everyone will immediately … oh!

You don’t need to mention his name, you can explain to the children that replacing physical violence with moral violence is no better. Lying down in front of a train to stop it running is a moral violence that can ultimately cause more disorder than physical violence.

There would be a lot to say…. It depends on each case. I myself very much encouraged the practice of fencing because it gives you skill, control over your movements and discipline in violence – I very much encouraged fencing at one time. I learned how to shoot; I used to shoot with a rifle, because it gives you steadiness and skill and a very good eye; and it forces you to remain calm in the midst of danger. All these things are…. I don’t see why one should be hopelessly nonviolent, it only makes a spineless character.

Turn it into an art! An art for cultivating calm, skill and self control. There’s no need to cry out indignantly as Gandhi would. It’s useless, useless, absolutely useless – I am not at all in favor of it! One should master the means of self-defense, and one should cultivate them in order to do so.

Above all, make them understand that moral violence is just as bad as physical violence. It can even be worse, that is, at least physical violence forces you to become strong and control yourself, whereas moral violence is…. You may be like this [apparently quiet] and harbor the worst moral violence in yourself.

***

 Are all these wars necessary for the evolution of the earth?

 At a certain stage of human development, wars are inevitable. In prehistoric times the whole of life was a war; and to the present day human history has been one long history of wars. Wars are the natural result of a state of consciousness dominated by the struggle for life and egoistic aggressiveness. And at the present time, in spite of some human efforts towards peace, there is, as yet, nothing to assure us that war is no longer an inevitable calamity. Indeed, does not a state of war, open or otherwise, exist at this moment in many parts of the world?

Besides, everything that happens on earth necessarily leads to its progress. Thus wars are schools of courage, endurance, fearlessness; they may serve to destroy a past which refuses to disappear although its time is over, and they make room for new things. Wars can, like Kurukshetra, be a way to rid the earth of a domineering or destructive race so that justice and right may reign. They can, through the presence of danger, shake the apathy of a too tamasic consciousness and awaken dormant energies. Finally they can, by contrast, and because of the horrors that accompany and follow them, drive men to seek an effective way to make such a barbarous and violent form of transformation unnecessary. For everything that is unnecessary to the evolution of the earth automatically ceases to exist.

***

August 25, 1965

 (Mother reads a passage from “Essays on the Gita,” which she wants to publish in the next Bulletin:)

“No real peace can be till the heart of man deserves peace; the law of Vishnu cannot prevail till the debt to Rudra is paid. To turn aside then and preach to a still unevolved mankind the law of love and oneness? Teachers of the law of love and oneness there must be, for by that way must come the ultimate salvation. But not till the Time-Spirit in man is ready, can the inner and ultimate prevail over the outer and immediate reality. Christ and Buddha have come and gone, but it is Rudra who still holds the world in the hollow of his hand. And meanwhile the fierce forward labour of mankind tormented and oppressed by the powers that are profiteers of egoistic force and their servants cries for the sword of the Hero of the struggle and the word of its prophet.” (Essays on the Gita, XIII.372)

It is the exact portrait of the situation.

Last time I said how close the thing was, and then … (gesture like a ground swell) immediately the exact opposite rises: everyone goes awry, some are sick, others are nasty, yet others are furious … oh! And everything grates and cries and … Every time that something draws near, “Ah, here it is, we have caught the thing,” immediately, vrrrm!

Very well.

We haven’t paid our debt yet, as Sri Aurobindo says.

What can we do? … Go on. Be more enduring than the opposition. More enduring. Sri Aurobindo said, “Victory belongs to the most enduring.” That’s obvious.

We only have to last.

Words of Sri Aurobindo

It is the creed of the Aryan fighter. “Know God,” it says, “know thyself, help man; protect the Right, do without fear or weakness or faltering thy work of battle in the world. Thou art the eternal and imperishable Spirit, thy soul is here on its upward path to immortality; life and death are nothing, sorrow and wounds and suffering are nothing, for these things have to be conquered and overcome. Look not at thy own pleasure and gain and profit, but above and around, above at the shining summits to which thou climbest, around at this world of battle and trial in which good and evil, progress and retrogression are locked in stern conflict. Men call to thee, their strong man, their hero for help; help then, fight. Destroy when by destruction the world must advance, but hate not that which thou destroyest, neither grieve for all those who perish. Know everywhere the one self, know all to be immortal souls and the body to be but dust. Do thy work with a calm, strong and equal spirit; fight and fall nobly or conquer mightily. For this is the work that God and thy nature have given to thee to accomplish.”

***

What then is the master man, the divine worker, the opened channel of the universal Will to do when he finds the World-Spirit turned towards some immense catastrophe, figured before his eyes as Time the destroyer arisen and increased for the destruction of the nations, and himself put there in the forefront whether as a fighter with physical weapons or a leader and guide or an inspirer of men, as he cannot fail to be by the very force of his nature and the power within him, svabhavajena svena karmana? To abstain, to sit silent, to protest by nonintervention? But abstention will not help, will not prevent the fulfilment of the destroying Will, but rather by the lacuna it creates increase confusion. Even without thee, cries the Godhead, my will of destruction would still be accomplished, rtepitvam. If Arjuna were to abstain or even if the battle of Kurukshetra were not to be fought, that evasion would only prolong and make worse the inevitable confusion, disorder, ruin that are coming. For these things are no accident, but an inevitable seed that has been sown and a harvest that must be reaped. They who have sown the wind, must reap the whirlwind.

[Essays on the Gita, CWSA 19]

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