, Research Paper
The Oxford American Dictionary describes war as a “strife (especially between two countries)” and an “open hostility between people.” These definitions give a good perspective on war itself, but do not give an explanation of why wars occur. The dictionary also gives the definition of a pacifist as, “a person who totally opposes war, believing that disputes should be settled by peaceful means.” In the novels The Bhagavad Gita and Agamemnon, the authors give not only a story of war, but reasons behind it and the means, which they pursue, it. In The Bhagavad Gita Arjuna does not want to go to war with his fellow peoples. He shows pacifism because he doesn’t want to hurt others. Krishna calls Arjuna to arms and explains to him why he can go to war. In Agamemnon, Agamemnon is called to arms by the awesome factor of revenge. This is such a powerful force that Agamemnon cannot overcome it and thinks he must go to war. In the end both Arjuna and Agamemnon learn through their experiences about the costs and benefits of their struggles. From these classic texts we can learn lessons of war and the consequences that come with it.
The call to arms is an important theme in both The Bhagavad Gita and Agamemnon. In The Bhagavad Gita, the omnipotent Krishna, the being of all beings, calls Arjuna to arms. He explains to Arjuna that the souls of those he is about to fight cannot be destroyed, but rather they will live on. He says, “Interwoven in his creation, the Spirit is beyond destruction. No one can bring an end to the Spirit which is everlasting.” This quote is a good representation of Krishna’s call to arms, which is directed towards Arjuna. In Agamemnon, Agamemnon is called to arms by his thoughts of revenge. His own mind is what gets him to destroy Troy, and with it many other people. When Agamemnon says, “My will is mine, I will not make it soft for you,” he shows that his motives were personal and not for any other purpose than to please his thoughts. In each case the call to arms was different, and in each case the benefits and consequences varied as well, according to their calls.
As Arjuna and Agamemnon came to know, there are costs and benefits for every action. In The Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is a pacifist at first. He does not want to kill his own kinsman because he thinks that by destroying them, the cost would be high and the benefits slim. This is why he decides at first to be a pacifist. He would rather let himself be killed than to destroy many of his own people. Krishna comes to Arjuna and tells him that by killing his kinsman he will not be doing a costly act, but rather set their souls free to another life and a chance at becoming supreme. At these words Arjuna is called to arms, but this is where the story ends. In Agamemnon, Agamemnon’s own mind takes control of him. He is controlled by hatred that stems from revenge. He is so blinded by this that he will not stop to think about the costs, which are to come. Agamemnon destroys Troy and in the process kills thousands of people, including his daughter. The benefits are that he destroyed his enemy, that is all. Agamemnon’s actions show that he is not a pacifist because if he was then he would have gone out of his way to do these terrible acts. From the stories of Arjuna and Agamemnon we can learn a lot about the role of war in human affairs.
The stories The Bhagavad Gita and Agamemnon show us a lot about human nature as it relates to war. The tale of Agamemnon shows us the instinctive hate and vengeance of mankind. Agamemnon goes out on a quest to destroy Troy because of his personal feelings and the minute rewards he would get. He does not realize that the means did not justify the ends in this situation. His benefits were much less than what he sacrificed to achieve them. In the end his wife kills him for sacrificing their daughter and at this time Agamemnon must have realized the true consequences of his actions. This story is a good example of the old saying “What goes around comes around,” and has many similarities with historical warfare. Whatever the reasons for warfare have been in the past, they have always had consequences much greater than the rewards. A classic example of this is the Roman Empire. They conquered people after people in the quest of world domination and unlimited wealth. And it is true that the Romans achieved this, but only for a while. In the end they were defeated and left in ruins. The Bhagavad Gita gives us a better look at what we are striving to do now in modern times, as relates to warfare. Arjuna was a pacifist and if he had gotten the opportunity, would have settled the dispute with words in a peaceful manner. This is the exact method of warfare today that is part of a politically dominated society. There have been no major wars between first world nations since Vietnam. And even that was only after long political efforts. The ways of war are turning from fighting to negotiating, and this will continue progressively with time.
Both of these classic texts present a different perspective on war. Agamemnon is motivated by pride and revenge, and will stop at nothing until his war is won. The Bhagavad Gita on the other hand is a pacifist and does not want to fight in the first place. Both Arjuna and Agamemnon answer their call to arms, but the way that each goes about it is different. And afterwards each learns that the cost of war is great and the benefits little. We can apply these great readings to our own society in how they pertain to war. Agamemnon represents the days of old when empires would try to rule the world. The Bhagavad Gita shows us the path that we should follow, pacifism.