Defending Hindu Dharma, The Warrior’s Path

Lord Krishna

by Jayaram V

Summary: This essay is about Kshatriya Dharma in today's context, or how one may defend Hinduism or Hindu Dharma the right way on the warrior's path, without indulging in verbal or physical violence.

Dharma primarily means a set of moral and religious duties which are obligatory to human beings. Hinduism is a Dharma, which means that as householders (grihastas) Hindus have duties and obligations to fulfill for their existence and continuation upon earth and for their final liberation, while for their peace and happiness they pursue the four chief aims of human life, namely Dharma, Artha (wealth), Kama (fulfillment of righteous desires) and Moksha (liberation). These duties do not apply if they take the vows of renunciation (sanyasa) and practice spirituality or  yoga to achieve liberation.

Our scriptures affirm that Isvara, the lord of the universe, entrusted the duty of protecting and upholding the Dharma to gods in the higher worlds and to humans in the mortal world. By limiting and defining their respective power and roles, he also ensured that they would depend upon each other for their wellbeing and work together to ensure peace and happiness for all and the orderly progression of the worlds. If gods do not help us, our world will decline and fall into chaos and evil ways. If we do not help gods, they will become weak due to lack of nourishment and fail to contain the rise of evil forces and the decline of Dharma.

In the mortal world of ours, every faith needs to be protected from external and internal threats. In the past, this duty was traditionally assigned to Kshatriyas (warriors, kings, provincial rulers, ministers, feudal lords, etc.) upon earth and to the warrior gods such as Indra, Soma, Varuna, Mitra, etc., in the heaven. Since the governments are now secular and cannot interfere in the religious affairs of their citizens and since the caste system does not anymore define our lives or our conduct or our duties, the duty of defending the faith primarily falls upon its practitioners and institutions according to their personal choices and natural inclinations.

God as the protector

Hinduism is known as an eternal faith (Sanatana Dharma) because it is believed to be founded by Isvara (manifested Brahman) himself. He not only personally practices it to set an example but also personally undertakes the duty of protecting it from evil influences. If necessary, he also incarnates upon earth to protect it fully or partially. Thus, whether we do anything about it or not, our Dharma is always well protected by God himself. If we do our duties, we qualify for liberation. If not, we suffer from the consequences.

According to our scriptures, apart from participating in creation, as the creator, upholder and destroyer, Isvara also entrusted gods and humans, with the obligatory duty to protect it from all possible threats by performing similar roles within their respective spheres. Thus, human beings have the divine right to participate in God’s creation and perform his duties upon earth without selfish intent and as a service and sacrifice to him. It means that we have the freedom to perform God’s eternal duties upon earth as the creators, preservers and destroyers within our limitations and God-given obligations.

Doing it the right way

However, to act as warriors does not mean that we have the license to engage in physical or verbal violence or ignore the rights and duties of others or suppress their voices and freedom. In protecting and upholding Dharma, one must also practice Dharma and set a personal example. It means that one must always stick to the path of righteousness and shun the use of violence, force or aggression, since they are considered evil in themselves, while nonviolence, righteousness, strength, courage, resolve and firmness are deemed divine virtues. As we learn from the Bhagavadgita, we can neither surrender to evil and injustice nor resort to evil and injustice to achieve our ends.

Hinduism has a long history of tolerating and peacefully coexisting with other faiths, while resisting and countering external threats to its continuity and integrity. A warrior on the path of righteousness fights evil at various levels both externally and internally. First, he has to fight and win against himself, opposing and subduing his own evil thoughts and intentions, while resisting the temptations of the outside world.

It is through internal battles that he gains strength and courage to withstand the inimical forces of the external world and stand for righteous causes and actions with courage and resolve. Having said that, now let us examine how as Hindus we can protect and uphold our Dharma as a part of our religious and spiritual duties and as selfless warriors of God on the path of righteousness for the welfare of all and for the order and regularity of the world.

  1. Acquiring a deeper knowledge of the faith through learning, observation and self-study.
  2. Practicing the Dharma to promote and uphold its best ideals, morals and values.
  3. Pursuing the chief aims of wealth (artha) and pleasure (kama), with dharma as the foundation and moksha as the ultimate goal.
  4. Abstaining from sensual pleasures and attachment to material things
  5. Hosting sacrifices and rituals to support religious activity and religious causes
  6. Giving gifts to the Brahmanas and helping the poor and the needy.
  7. Countering malicious propaganda by the groups that are inimical.
  8. Clearing doubts, misconceptions and misunderstandings about the faith.
  9. Standing for righteous causes without fear or selfish motives.
  10. Lending physical or moral support to those engaged in righteous actions.
  11. Opposing injustices, inequality and evil practices within the community.
  12. Setting a personal example through righteous conduct.

The Taittiriya Upanishad declares that if you protect the Dharma, the Dharma will protect you (dharmo rakshita rakshatah). It is because doing so is a virtuous deed and pious karma which leads to righteous consequences. God is the primary defender of our faith. In the Bhagavadgita we have the assurance that whenever Dharma is in Decline, and evil is in ascendance, God himself shall incarnate upon earth to restore balance. Therefore, when we defend the Dharma, we are participating in his work as his true warriors.

Despite the numerous threats Hinduism faced in the last few thousand years, it survived because of the contribution of countless great souls, saints, seers, scholars, divine beings, and social and religious reformers. It faces numerous threats even today. It is the prime duty of every devout Hindu to protect and uphold our numerous traditions by all possible means, without being aggressive, violent or evil. We have to protect it from the evils of conversions, misinformation, corruption and misuse of our openness.

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