73 years ago, this week, the United States dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing approximately 225,000 people. Some say that the bombing hastened the end of World War II because the Japanese surrendered unconditionally on August 15, just nine and six days after the bombings on August 6th and 9th. Others say that it was unjustified because Japanese leaders were in Washington at that time negotiating a peaceful end to the war in the Pacific. The Germans had surrendered unconditionally in Europe on May 8 earlier that year.
Since then many nations, especially the United States and Russia have developed many variations and quantities of nuclear weapons and methods of delivering those bombs to targets.
What does yoga say about our current nuclear situation?
Yoga, in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, promotes “ahimsa,” which is defined as “not harming, non-violence,” in all its forms. Yoga says that indirect violence to others by violating another’s opportunity to live peacefully and happily contradicts this most important principle in the life of a yogi or yogini. Even when we watch or financially support another’s harm, we violate the number one principle of living a yogic life. Therefore, it is a person’s duty to resist any form of
Yoga also says, through the Bhagavad Gita, the story of Arjuna and Krishna arguing about the use of violence in a potential upcoming war with Arjuna’s cousins. Krishna, the voice of God in the story, says that the use of violence is a person’s duty (dharma) when grave injustice occurs or when one’s freedom to live happily, peacefully and justly is violated by another. Krishna says that violent action is appropriate when defending the dignity of the human being or race. Violence is also appropriate when it is one’s duty as a warrior to defend those in need, as long as the defender, using violence, is not angry at the “enemy”, but is acting totally because the action is flowing from one’s station in life.
Does the Yoga Tradition contradict itself?
No, not at all. Our spiritual purpose in life, as human beings, is to do our duty. We are to fulfill our karmic and stage in life duty, which is called our dharma. For example, in my case, it is my duty/dharma to teach. After years of wondering what my life is about and why I am on this earth, I am certain that my role in the universe is to teach peace, love and justice for all. That is my calling in this life. I know that deeply.
It is just like the duty that some young men and women, whom I have taught in the university, feel when they entered the military or the police or fire forces. They feel an absolute duty to peace, love and justice for all. They know that deep in their bones and therefore, they sign up for the military, or the police or fire departments. They feel called to that life.
So, each of us is called to fulfill the same duty—to work for peace, love and justice for all. The challenge and confusion in knowing this is that each of us sees ourselves, as peacemakers, coming from different directions and using different definitions and different means to fulfill the same purpose in life—namely, that of doing God’s will to maintain God’s creation.
The Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, two sacred books of the Yoga Tradition, do not contradict each other. They both say that vairagya (non-attachment to the outcomes of performing our duties) is what will bring true happiness, peace and justice. When I stimulate anger towards a political leader or person who speaks violence and hatred towards another or when a soldier rejoices in the destruction of a city or the death of another person whom he or she considers an enemy: each of us is not doing our duty, but violating the law of ahimsa. And when that happens, both sacred books say that we are creating very bad, negative consequences for our spiritual selves. We are violating our core-self, our Divine-Infinite-Perfect Self.
Then getting back to the nuclear weapons that started exploding in 1945—we must never use them or not use them with hatred in our hearts. We must always act, even in extreme cases, with love in our hearts. We must realize the consequences of every action that we take.
Vairagya is our guiding principle for The Divine Source of Life, which knows what must and should be done and it knows the consequences of our doing. All we need do now, in reference to the existence of these weapons, is to do our duty—to work for happiness, peace and justice by fulfilling our duty, while following the principle of vairagya. We must resist anything that does not promote happiness, peace and justice for all.