Are the beliefs “kshatriya martyrs attain heaven” & “jehadi suicide bombers attain paradise” different?

by Chaitanya Charan dasDecember 22, 2013

The Mahabharata states that Duryodhana and his aides despite their viciousness attained heaven because they died on the battlefield? Didn’t their past bad karma matter? If it didn’t, how is this belief different from jehadi suicide bombers who kill hundreds of innocent people believing that they will attain jannat and enjoy virgins there?

Answer Podcast

Thank you. Hare Krsna.

Transcription by: Nair Arun Prabhu

Edited By: Priyanka Amit Kumar

Question: Isn’t the Mahabharat’s idea of anyone who dies fighting a war attains heaven similar to the Islamic idea of suicide bombers who die fighting Jihad, in attaining Jannat and enjoy 73 virgins for all of eternity?

Answer. No,there is a huge difference between the two.

Firstly,it is very clear from the Vedic culture  that heaven is not eternal whereas, according to  the Abrahamic religions, which includes Islam, one attains Jannatfor eternity, which does not stand true..

When one attains heavens, one can, actually stay till the time the results of his good karmas get exhausted, and afterwards  falls back,to face the consequences  of his other karmas.

The suicide bombers today,  attack unarmed and unprepared civilians who are   often non-combatants, whereas  the wars  described in the Mahabharata,  were  fought between combatants, and civilians were never wounded, infactnot even a    single incident where the civilians were attacked can be witnessed. While, the suicide bombers – the Jihadis – who attack civilians are nowhere like the chivalrous kshatriyasas  described in the Vedic literatures ,like Mahabharata.

The rules of warfare, in Mahabharata, were strictly adhered to,and not even a single rule or code of conduct was violated. Even the combatants who were not ready for the combat werenot  attacked, what to speak of innocent, non attacking civilians. For this very reason Ashvatthama’s killing of the Pandavaswarriors while  they were asleep, was not mentionedas a glorious activity , one that would have led him to heaven, rather was very  strongly condemned in the Mahabharata. Accordingly, there stands no similarity between the kshtriyas and suicide bombers…

In addition to this, these suicide bombers,jihadis commit suicide and suicide in itself  is a  grievousbad karma, consequently, there are multiple bad karmas involved in this act. – Firstly, killing civilians is  a bad karma,and then killing self adds on to it , for  even for  a combatant there is no glory in turning the sword on oneself and killing oneself.

If a combatant is wounded, then he can do praya-vrata. Thatis  sitting ina yogic posture,  meditate on the Absolute Truth  and fast till death. Such voluntary embrace of death while meditating and performing worldly austerity is spoken on laudatory terms,rather than  blowing up  one’s body and causing the death of civilians and thus being responsible for creating grievously bad karma and facing severe consequences thereof.

It is  veryessential to understand the idea behind the principle that anyone who dies fighting a war attains heaven. . It is not that one’s death on the battlefieldwillexpiate one  from all sins.  In fact, when one is ready –yudhechapyaapalayanam–, to fight and die   on the battlefield courageously, it is considered to be a virtuous and   – a laudatory act for a ksatriya, and as a result    attains heaven.

Further, all heavens are  not homogeneous. There is multiplicty  of heavens at different levels and not all the kshatriyasdying on the battlefield attain the same heaven. The type and level of heaven attained by  differentkshatriyas depend on the manner in which  theylived, the extent to which they followed dharma and the manner in which they died..For that matter  even the Kauravas  attained heaven because they fought courageously and  died on the battlefield. What is praised is the courage to give up one’s body for a cause on the battlefield and not all can show this virtue, but this alone, as mentioned earlier ,shall not make up for all the other  ,  karmas one would   have doneand  has to face the consequences of such other karmas .. Bhagavatam  alsodescribes the story of Maharaj Nrga,where he faces the result of his karmas ,first bad and later good karmas ..

The point is that we are accountable for our actions;   being willing to lay down one’s life on a warfield, is appreciable, andone attains heaven for that.

Let’s say, if  Islamic Jihadis,  are truly fighting a war to protect their  religion and  are in a head-on combat with others, and  die, then that willingness to lay down one’s life on the war field,can grant them an auspicious result,however along with that the way they  lived is also important.

The farmost fundamental fact of the law of karma and of actions giving consequences should not be divorced from this fact of kshatriyas laying life on the battlefield.This one particular actiondoesgive one a glorious consequence, but  doesn’t mitigate or eliminate the actions that one has done otherwise, and their consequences..

The Vedic culture offers a comprehensive world view, wherein we  allare accountable for our actions and  within that it is gives one specific example of action-reaction, that is if one dies in the battlefield one attains heaven.However,if that were simply like whitewash which counters all the negative things that one has done, then  Mahabharata wouldn’t  have mentioned about dharma at all,infact,we witness   repeated urge to Duryodhana not  to tread the path of adharma.

With respect to morality in this world,  Mahabharatadoes talk a lot about path of righteousness and  just attainment of heaven is  not all ..This worldly conduct of ours and its consequences  form an elaborate part of the discussions,  dialogues and discourses in the Mahabharata.

We should understand that we are accountable for our actions and therefore should carefully choose them  such that they bring good consequences in this world, and  the next world to us and others . Results not just in terms of some temporary attainment of heaven but  lasting spiritual growth which will take us back to the spiritual world.

Hence, even if kshatriya dies in the righteous war doesn’t mean that the ksatriya would go back to the spiritual world. It’s one who develops love for Krsna, will go back to the spiritual world and that is the only lasting attainment.andeverything else   is not very important and therefore devotees focus on that transcendental attainment.  Further,  dying on a warfield andattaining heaven in not a license for immorality, or terrorism or barbaric activities .. The theme is  we  all are  accountable for our actions and that’s why there is a huge difference between the Mahabharatconception of Kshatriyas attaining heaven and the Jihadis, suicide bombers, idea of attaining Jannatby killing civilians through terrorism.

Thank you. Hare Krsna.

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Chaitanya Charan das
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