We must realise that Indian civilisation, right from the beginning, had the acceptance, acknowledgement of this basic fact of war. But it was also aware of other factors: while war is a factor of life, war is not the only factor of life; because to say that war is the only factor of life is also a kind of ignorance. War is a result of a movement, but this movement is a multiple movement. And these movements which are multiple are moving in such a way that apart from the battle many other factors also begin to manifest: there is also the law of ‘association’; war is not the only thing, there is association also.
The mother wants the child to be protected and very sincerely; and there is a constant movement towards protection so that there is a survival of the individual and protection from the war. This also is a fact. In other words, the world is not a wild movement of struggle; the world is moved by Dharma. Therefore, Kurukshetra is a fact, but Dharmakshetra is also a fact. Kurukshetra by itself is not the complete description of the situation from where the Bhagavad Gita starts. The Bhagavad Gita starts from the fact that you realise there is a war, but that war has behind it a tremendous force of Dharma; and if you don’t realise that, then you cannot face the war by itself. That is why the very first word of the Bhagavad Gita is dharmakṣetre.
Dharma is first, because of Dharma a certain kind of war arises. The war itself is a result of sense of Dharma. Not that everybody was aware of Dharma; whether you are aware of it or not, there is a Dharma; there is a law. Just as there is a law of destruction, there is also a law of creation, law of association, law of preservation, law of love, law of mercy, law of bounty, plenty, these are also the laws. Therefore the Bhagavad Gita although it starts with the stark fact of war, does not merely say that war is all. While Heraclitus is quite right in one sense that war is the father of all things, he is not right totally. It is not that war if only “the father of all things”, not at all; something else is also the ‘father of all things’. Darwin is right in saying that the struggle of existence is there in the world, but it is not the only law; struggle for existence is not the only law of life; it is not true that everyone only strive to survive.
There is a beautiful example given by Ruskin in one of his books: supposing there is a mother having three children, all of them suffering from stark starvation, mother and children; and from somewhere, the mother receives a small piece of loaf; she has three children and herself. How will she divide this bred among the four? You cannot make four pieces out of it; if you make four pieces everything is finished. You can make only three pieces. What will the mother do?
Answer: She will give it to her children.
Children first, exactly, the law of life is not only ‘struggle for existence’. That was his argument: the law of life is not only struggle for existence and to survive. There is also ‘the law of sacrifice’.
On the realisation of this, Indian civilisation built up a society, structure of society, and decided that if Reality is Satchitananda, then this phenomenon of struggle is not a direct manifestation of Satchitananda: there is some obstruction between Satchitananda and this world. Therefore the human society is required to destroy that obstruction, and by destroying that obstruction Satchitananda can manifest fully in the world, and in that world there will be no law of struggle, no law of survival of the fittest. Therefore the task of the human society is to destroy ‘this obstruction’ between the divine and the world. How to create therefore a society, in which you take cognisance of the law of war, but also you take cognisance of the law of association, of love and of self-sacrifice?
Therefore Indian society did not remain itself confined only to the task of war, battle and conquest. This is one of the great distinguishing features of the Indian society. If war was the only factor to be considered for forming a society, then you would have a different kind of organisation. The hunter for example lives by what? ─ By hunting, by destroying, by war. Therefore his society of hunters will not create the kind of society that India created. India applied a tremendous wisdom in creating a very special kind of society: it recognises that war is a fact, but it need not be permanently a fact of life, permanent fact of the world: this was the starting point of the structure of the Indian society. War is a fact, you must recognise war, you cannot avoid war; but war is not the ultimate manifestation of the divine. It is true of the present manifestation: when there is an obstruction between the divine and the world, but the fact is that there is an obstruction between the divine and the world and the task of the society is to remove that obstruction. But that removal will take time: it cannot be done overnight. Therefore in the meantime recognise war, but strive towards elimination of war. This was the concept on which the human society in India came to be built up.
This is very important to understand because without that, we won’t understand the whole of the Gita: the Gita’s Kurukshetra is not only a field of battle, it is also a field of Dharma; it is in Dharmakshetra and Kurukshetra that the war takes place. It is in a given situation of society, which has been built up on a certain conception of society, the task of the society, in is in that context that the war takes place. Unless we realise this important aspect, we will not understand the significance of this Gita’s teaching.