Bhagavad Gita One: On Just War and the cowardice of Gandhi.
Re-reading the first half of the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, it becomes clear to me that Arjuna is not only on his own side. Rather, Arjuna seeks to transcend the duality of both sides.
Why would a military leader order himself to stand between two armies - his own and that of his family? What's going on there?
What's he trying to do? Obviously he's literally trying to see both sides of the war impartially, but that's only the mundane way of seeing it. Arjuna is the soul of man, and in him in his chariot driving it is Krishna, the avatar and image of the divine.
Why is the soul of man placed between these two armies and with it the divine image?
We cannot say what it means without saying everything that follows between Krishna and Arjuna. We can draw general insights that are rare and valuable:
The lesson here is that far from being an obstacle to spirituality, war and worldly conflict is a rare spiritual opportunity. The lesson here is, when you find yourself taking a position on either side, or taking a non-position (and avoiding conflict, like Gandhi) then you have lapsed into either false courage - mere bravado - or into Gandhian unprincipled cowardice.
A word on Gandhi. Gandhi was put in place by the colonial authorities to prevent conflict. He was the unwitting cats-paw of Indian cowardice. And to support that Quixotic mission, Gandhi became the greatest historical perverter of the meaning of the Gita. Mohandas Gandhi's unprincipled cowardice destroyed India and his own life and then shattered the country into three - Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India. Worse, however, Gandhi's perversion of the doctrine of war in the Bhagavad Gita helped explain the unmanly and defeatist narrative of the oppressed peoples of Pakistan and Bangladesh; this created a refugee catastrophe, and to this day Gandhi's cowardice threatens India with nuclear war. Gandhi may be correctly seen as a failed Socrates, in that his killing killed a failed policy rather than a successful one.
A wiser guide to the great dualities of the world-historical process is not Gandhi but the dialectic of G.F. Hegel, who locates the correct space of engagement in neither to one side as an observer nor in the fighting ranks. No, like Arjuna, we must place ourselves in the middle of the field of battle, to see and feel the battle as they really are, as a man, with courage.
More crucially, by doing this, we invite God in. We deliberately position ourselves at the position of maximum drama, and therefore maximum learning and growth.
Let's look at some basic world-historical dualities:
Arabs and Israel.
Russia and free world.
China and the West.
China and India.
India and Pakistan.
Iran and Saudi Arabia.
If you don't know about these dualities you can hardly be expected to place yourself, personally, in the middle of them. But through interest, study and sympathetic effort, you can draw yourself near to the nature of these dualities, you are in a position to grasp and see and understand what is going on in reality.
Try it with one of the world-historical dualities. Place yourself in the middle like Arjuna.
Like Arjuna, your side is fighting your own human family.
And like Arjuna, you must grieve for their inevitable death and decline in the coming battle, or otherwise suffer your own inevitable decline and death.
If you fail, like Arjuna fears, to do your duty (your dharma), then you must pay the debt (your karma) for your cowardice. By placing yourself in the middle, however, you also invite God to be present in your life. God, it seems, loves drama. Perhaps that is why all great nations are dramatic artists.
Worldly events can be opportunities to grow spirituality. By taking a side then moving into the middle, we can see the world-historical failure of great saints like Gandhi as they really are: personal success, devotion to the wrong ideal, marked by catastrophic failure in the world-historical scene.
If Indian affairs, and if world affairs, are ever to be governed by wisdom then they will be marked by people go take a side and place themselves in the middle with God, to hear his guidance.