A CHARIOTEER’S TEACHING FROM THE BATTLEFIELD…

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The Russia-Ukraine War has claimed a large number of casualties on both sides. Estimates vary, but deaths and other casualties combined on both sides could be anywhere in the region of half a million, with no end in sight. By the end of the war, whenever that may be, the numbers will be significantly higher. Why are people being killed so needlessly? Basically the question is, why the war? Several reasons can be attributed, predominant among those being unresolved legacies of the Soviet break-up on the one hand and the clear alignment of Ukraine with USA/Europe, eastward expansion of the NATO and consequent insecurities of Russia on the other. Not just Ukraine-Russia, wars are waiting to ignite in other parts of the world.

In our deeply interconnected world, half the world being engaged in this conflict in various degrees, has affected not only themselves, but the other half as well. Most of the involved parties belong to the affluent and developed world, on whom others depend for food, technology, education, travel, financial aid, commerce and livelihood. In earlier days, rival kings fought and commoners paid the price. Today, world leaders fight and humanity pays the price. Earlier, kings fought for territory and influence, even over women. Today, world leaders fight over territory, climate, technology, economy, religion, ideology, everything.

Rewind to the Mahabharata. At the spiritual level, the basic fallibilities of human beings are revealed to Arjuna, the Great Warrior, by his Divine Charioteer, Sri Krishna, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra as explained in ‘The Song Celestial’, our very own ‘Bhagwad Gita’. Among the several life-changing lessons that he imparts to a shattered and distraught Arjuna in the face of imminent war, is the need to be equanimous, composed and stable of mind, as in this state, one is able to see and do the right thing without unnecessary attachment. People with scattered and unstable minds are not likely to envision the larger good.

Sri Krishna educates Arjuna about the ‘sad-ripu’ or the six enemies of every human being, which must be controlled; else they lead us to the path of unrighteousness and destruction. These are Krodha (anger), Kama (desire), Lobha (greed), Moha (delusion), Mada (pride and arrogance) and Matsarya (jealousy). Of these, it is said that the first two are the most dangerous and hardest to control. Once these are controlled, the others are relatively easier to control with the right kind of teaching and internal discipline. Look around in the world today. Whatever ails us – from wars and conflicts at one end to school shootouts and eve-teasing on the other – and everything in between can be attributed to the unbridled gallop of the ‘sad-ripu’.

The Divine Charioteer spoke centuries ago. The Arjunas in us have ignored that wisdom. And the world is paying a hefty price. Humanity needs a rough wake-up call as it hurtles at hypersonic speed towards assured self-destruction. It is time to heed ‘The Celestial Song.’

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