Arjuna is a renowned Indian culture hero and Krishna‘s charioteer in the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna arguably has the status of a demigod among of much the Hindu-Indian populace. In the Gita he is prodded by the god Krishna to fight kith and kin.
Krishna philosophical rationalization for killing can be summed up as follows: He instructs Arjuna that the body dies but the soul is immortal. Moreover, the sacred duty (dharma) appropriate to Arjuna’s kshatriya caste demands that he fight.
According to a literal interpretation of the Gita, it is better to do one’s dharma – even if it means killing – than to ignore it.
Today the Gita is cherished for its psychological and spiritual value. Arjuna’s “killing” is usually interpreted as the death of negative attitudes and actions which otherwise would bind the eternal soul (atman) to worldly pleasures and desires.
Politically, however, the Gita may be taken as similar to the Christian idea of the Just War and the Muslim idea of Jihad. Most religions, even Buddhism, try to justify “unavoidable” war somewhere within their teachings. For this and other reasons, religion in general has been challenged by some pop stars (e.g. Elton John and John Lennon) and by other prominent figures throughout history.¹