The following is not my opinion, but a submission from someone I know.
Hinduism and self-defense? Hindus and guns! That’s a thought, but it’s really very rare to find anyone of Indian origin at the firing range. I know non-violence is a big thing in India, and the great Mahatma Gandhi used non-violence or “ahimsa” as the weapon of his choice to free his country from the Brit, but really, I find most of the Hindus I meet to be too pacifist for their own good.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve a lot of Hindu friends and get along very well with. But they really start getting uncomfortable the moment I start talking about guns. I found out a bit later that nobody has any guns in India, certainly not the public.
The Indian Army has more-than-decent decent assault rifles, sniper rifles and submachine guns such as the SAF Carbine 2A1, Micro-Uzi, Heckler & Koch MP5, IMI Tavor TAR-21, M4A1 Carbine, Heckler & Koch PSG1 and Mauser SP66, but the Indian police are generally armed with rifles that date back to WW2!
The public – no, none of them have any guns. It’s next to impossible to get a gun license in India. Sure, there are a lot of criminal gangs in India that carry guns of all sorts, but not the average public. I’m not going to judge them for this – or maybe I am – but I did research a bit on Hinduism and what Hinduism said about self-defense. I mean, do Hindus really not care about self-defense?
First, it’s important to understand that “Hinduism” covers a range of religious groups in India, each of which have their own distinct traditions. So a tall, muscular and typically aggressive Jat from Haryana is completely different from a more studious and cerebral Brahmin from Tamil Nadu – but they are both Hindus.
There is no central tenet that defines Hinduism, although texts such as the Bhagwadh Gita and the Upanishads contain a number of teachings that define Hinduism and give it its structure. What does Hinduism say about self-defense, or rather about war?
Hinduism does not condemn self-defense in any way or manner and says that self-defense is the duty and the moral obligation of every Hindu. For sure, ahimsa or non-violence is one of the ideals of Hinduism – not the main one. Ahimsa became closely associated with Hinduism largely because of Mahatma Gandhi’s fight for India’s independence. Otherwise, it is a concept that is more in line with the teachings of Buddhism – the Buddha was from India – and Jainism than it has to do with Hinduism.
The most important Hindu mythologies, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are all about war. Indeed, the Bhagwad Gita is nothing more than a pep talk given by the Hindu God, Lord Krishna to the warrior prince Arjuna, just when he becomes disillusioned with war, is on the verge of giving up without a fight and starts talking about going to the Himalayas and living the life of a monk.
Krishna tells Arjuna why he should fight. For one it is his duty, his “dharma” as a Kshatriya – a born warrior. (War in Hinduism is to be carried out by a warrior caste called the Kshatriyas.) That his duty as a warrior and to his people is more important than any precious personal feelings about war, and that any violence only affects the body, not the soul – so there is nothing wrong about killing an enemy who is out to get you in a fair fight.
Well, Lord Krishna says a lot in the book, but this is the gist of it, anyway. Did the pep talk work? Yes, and spectacularly so, as Arjuna goes on to kill most of the enemy warriors (the Kauravas – the bad guys) and wins the war of the Mahabharata virtually on his own for his side (the Pandavas – the good guys).
So, there’s nothing wrong with self-defense in Hinduism – even the Gods want you to fight when you’re under attack. But there are some rules to be followed. The most sacred of all Hindu texts, the Rig Veda says that a warrior basically goes to hell if he does any of the following…
- Poisons the tip of his arrow
- Attacks the sick or old
- Attacks a child or a woman
- Attacks someone from behind
Now, those are good rules, nothing wrong with that. That reminds me of the Psalm 82:4: Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.