A student of mine once asked me: “If someone oppresses us – do we fight or do we retain or patience”. I was at that time emphasizing the importance of patience when we try to achieve something – in this case – their getting jobs after completing their education with us.

I’d been thinking on this matter for some time and the answer that popped out was an interpretation of the Mahabharath.

I had recently faced the same question. For some reason, I had been refusing to “fight” against some people very dear to me. Though all indications to me were to fight for my “rights”, I wasn’t very sure on whether it would be appropriate for me. I also pursued a line of thought from the Gita which referred that Krishna had advised Arjun not to spare even his relatives and even most respectable and honored people including Bhishma and Drona as they were fighting on the side of Adharma.

At that time, I wasn’t very clear but the thought developed in my mind and I found another interpretation to the Mahabharath. The Pandavas went thru a lot of strife and oppression. They were quite badly treated by the Kauravas and in turn the King Dhritarashtra. Their right to the throne was violated. As Kshatriyas and rulers, it was their Dharma to rule and rule righteously for the prosperity of the kingdom but they were not allowed to do this. However, the war for them was a last option. When the Kauravas tried to get rid of them at Varnavrat, they escaped and remained incognito. After they were back in the limelight, they were offered 5 villages in the barren country of Khandavprasth.

Now this is the episode which caught my mind. When offered this “kingdom”, they took up the arduous task of bringing prosperity to barrenness. Their strife in the most difficult task is talked about very little. And the learning I see in this is the onus of creation.

We tend to spend a lot of time trying to recover our so called “losses” and fighting against “injustice” done towards us. But in the process – do we not compromise of the ability provided to us to create and make a better world of what we have? The Pandavas could have fought a war right after the Vaarnavrat incident and when they were given five measly villages instead of a kingdom (which was rightfully theirs by way of the social system at that time). But they choose to be creative and work on their creative aspect – making a barren land into a prosperous kingdom: which became the point of envy for their cousins.

So, my summation is that a fight is necessary in case it a question of survival and hindrance to performing one’s Dharma. Now the definition of Dharma is by no means clear. While it the Dharma of a soldier to kill – even one’s own friends if need be, a nurse’s Dharma is to heal the injured if they be enemies. So the act of killing is right in a soldier’s perspective but wrong in that of the nurse. A soldier too, in today’s times, is not allowed to kill in times of peace. So the soldier’s right to kill is limited by the situations. Every person also plays many roles. We are a parent, house holder, student, teacher, professional, all at one time.

Swamiji’s easy advice on this was that one needs to set their own priorities. And while he didn’t say it – I look at this as one’s Dharma. When Yudhistra lost his kingdom playing dice – it was not his Dharma as a Kshatriya to fight back against the deceitful means adopted against him but to quietly relinquish what he had gambled away. After fulfilling the conditions of the game, his Dharma was back to that of a ruler – to get back his kingdom and fight for it if required. Dharma is probably most situational and left to one’s conscience and priorities.

Coming back to the issue of “fighting”, after this series of thoughts, a wonderful input was provided by my wife after watching the “Krishna” cartoon movie. The scene is that of Kamsa getting ready to kill his beloved sister Devaki after a prophesy form the sky stated that Devaki’s eight son would kill Kamsa and Vasudev is out to protect Devaki – his newly wedded wife. Now Vasudev, also knows to fight and has a large army to support him. But he opts to buy peace in return for a very heavy price – the lives of his eight children. Should he have fought Kamsa then? And we probably may not have a Mahabharat story or even the birth of the Lord on this Earth. But he chose peace as his Dharma and sacrificed something which normal humans would never think of – in the larger perspective of peace for his people. The reward for this immensely huge sacrifice was that the Lord came into the world as his own son.

So does fighting help solve a situation – maybe it does when there is absolutely no way out. I guess what one needs to assess is whether there is a way out, which leads to better – more creative goals. Fighting in my perspective is essential only if the matter is one of survival.

While this sounds spiritually nice to hear – does it work out in professional life. After all, in a day, we spend 9 hours a day (including our much required lunch time) on our work, an hour or two in commuting, an hour at least on our necessary bodily maintenance functions, 6-8 hours sleep and ultimately around just about 3-5 hours on ourselves and our family. This actually translates to just an hour or two everyday with our family. So a philosophy is of little value unless it applies to a larger part of our daily lives.

So when we are out in the field fighting for an order, when someone is bulldozing the stock market and causing our share value to decline, when a customer refuses to listen to our ideas and mounts undue and unjustified pressure, when a co-worker takes credit for work done by us and earns a promotion while we get chided for poor performance – do we keep our cool and be patient till the situation comes where we are in absolute dire straits and then we fight out?

Well, there is another Dharma which everyone has to practice for oneself – one’s own protection. To build up a fort for oneself – is the only answer I find for these situation. Maybe I’ll learn something more on this soon.






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Subhash Iyer

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