Is Hinduism a Pacifist Religion? What is the Answer

M G SinghStarred Page By M G Singh, 1st Sep 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Philosophy>Eastern

war is part of Hindu thought and philosophy and was given a respected place. The lord justified a righteous war as a part of Dharma


Many people are in the belief that Hinduism is a pacifist religion. Even my girl friend in Abu Dhabi is of this opinion. I think it will be interesting if I can throw some light, whether this is true or not. The concept of a non violent Hinduism came to the fore because of men like Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave. These men were apostles of non violence and at the same time they espoused themselves as devout Hindus.

Thus an aura of Hinduism as a pacifist religion has been built up. In real terms the only pacifist religion is Buddhism. Hinduism was never a pacifist religion and the warrior and war was always held in high esteem.

The Mahabharata and War

Hinduism espouses war. The Hindu epic ‘The Mahabharata’ talks of war as a noble profession. The Mahabharata was composed around 4000 BC and as such is an excellent expose of Hindu philosophy. The poet Vyasa who penned the Mahabharata writes verses and verses on war as well as discussing the battle between the Kaurava’s and the Pandva’s in great detail. He gives military strategies and over all conveys that fighting as a soldier is a noble profession. The Mahabharata is dominated by warriors and soldiers. Even the other epic Ramayana relates a massive battle when the army of Rama invades Ceylon to fight the Lanka king Ravana.
Both epics talk of ‘just wars’. Obviously they do not talk of non violence for men to achieve their aims.

Laws of Manu

Much before the Mahabharata, the sage Manu laid down the ‘Laws of Manu’. These laws were the corner stone of Hindu jurisprudence for close to 6000 years. It was only with the advent of the Raj that the Laws of Manu were made redundant with the passing of the Indian Penal code.
The Laws of Manu divided society as per their profession. He created the Kshatriyas, the warrior class. This class was held n high esteem, second only to the Brahmins. The acceptance of a separate warrior class as a distinct entity, establishes that Hindu philosophy recognized the warrior as an important constituent. The Kshatriyas was a much respected figure and his job of fighting was thought to be the noblest of professions.

The Gita and War

The Gita is the repository of great wisdom. These are verses supposed to be delivered by Lord Krishna to the Warrior Arjuna on the battle field at kurukshetra. As the armies were lined up for battle, Arjuna the Pandva prince had serious misgivings of going to war against his own kith and kin. He did not want to kill anybody and was afraid that death and destruction will follow.
But the Lord prevailed upon him to fight the Mahabharata war saying that a just war is a righteous duty. This is contrary to what Gandhi preached. Guru Gobind Singh the Sikh Guru, himself a great warrior sums up by saying”if all else fails its righteous to draw the sword”.

Last Word

The Lord himself persuaded Arjuna to fight the battle against his cousins. This is in the first chapter of the Gita itself. The Gita subsequently dwells on many other matters like transmigration of soul, rebirth, Dharama, etc. But the Lord himself accepted war as inevitable. Thus anybody who says that Hinduism is a pacifist religion must read the Hindu scriptures that glorify war and the art of war. But they do distinguish an unjust war from a righteous war. Fighting a righteous war is part of Dharma and a ‘duty’


Hinduism, Lord Krishna, The Gita, War And Hinduism, Warrior Class

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author avatar M G Singh
A man who spent his early years in Air Force. An avid writer with over 6000 articles and 60 short stories published.Two novels on the anvil for publication.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
1st Sep 2013 (#)

Thought provoking Madan. Wars should be the last resort when all else fails. But modern war is more opportunistic driven by greed. Wars need not be through weapons but by exposing unjust societies through use of media - siva

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author avatar S. C. Weeks
2nd Sep 2013 (#)

Yes, modern warfare does not need blood shed to conquer.
An open hand can be more deadly than a sword. Choose wisely.

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author avatar Retired
1st Sep 2013 (#)

Thought - provoking article.

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author avatar Lady Aiyanna
1st Sep 2013 (#)

Hinduism to me is the following of various scripts of the Vedas and Upanishads that are interpreted by various priests trying to control religious sentiments. Facts is that the caste system is based on the work you choose and not the denomination you were born into. Many of these battles fought are the allusive fantasies depicting good and evil with the Gods fighting for their rights.
Most of Hinduism today is about traditions and legends, rituals and blind beliefs resulting in the way people think about it.
It is a rich learning with some very meaningful sayings and parables just like all the other religions but with a different storyline.
To me all religious books are giant fairy tales with topical allusions to do good, be compassionate and understanding etc. to evoke the spirit of brotherhood and live a life without wars and fights.
I say this as a person married to a Hindu man. I am born Syrian Catholic with a priestly background who later converted to Anglican which I am to this day....
Religion is what you want it to be, I prefer it to be a giant fairy tale with morals and allusions to the Gods and lives led in the eyes of the beholder.

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author avatar Randhir Bechoo
1st Sep 2013 (#)

Interesting article.Hinduism is base on reality.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
2nd Sep 2013 (#)

fascinating Madan...

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author avatar Ptrikha
2nd Sep 2013 (#)

From what I understand, even Mahatama Gandhi though opposed to violent means and war, did admit that in some circumstances, war can be a "last resort".
So, Hinus can fight a war and can prove to be tough warriors!

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
2nd Sep 2013 (#)

Great piece as always, Madan

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author avatar S. C. Weeks
2nd Sep 2013 (#)

Though our egos would say different, we live the lives of candles. ... yet ..,

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author avatar Trillionaire
5th Sep 2013 (#)


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author avatar Pallav Roy
14th Dec 2014 (#)

To answer this question, you must find out why Hindus prefer non-violence in the first place. The answer to this can be found in the ancient principle of Ahimsa, but like all sanskrit words, the english translation can't justly definte it. It does not mean non violence, but to avoid violence. In other words violence is inevitable, but avoid it.
In the case of the Mahabarat, the war was avoided countless times, but inevitably the battle between Good and Evil had to be made. But even then there were strict rules of war.
Also in Hinduism war is only aloud if it is for the good of the people, NOT its rulers! Only then is it a righteous war, and again to keep that title rules cannot be broken.
If all war was condemned then how would the people protect themselves, Hinduism unlike Buddhism and Jainism has recognised this from the beginning. That is your answer.

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