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Hindu arguments in favor of war and Hindu arguments against the war.

Updated: Aug 18, 2022

PHIL 348 Week 4 Discussion

Construct a well-written initial discussion post of about 300 words addressing the following questions about Hindu and Sikh conceptions of war.

  1. Describe 1-2 Hindu arguments in favor of war and 1-2 Hindu arguments against war. Be sure to include the beliefs that support these arguments.

  2. Describe 1-2 Sikh arguments in favor of war and 1-2 Sikh arguments against war. Again, be sure to include the beliefs that support these arguments.

  3. Which point of view (in favor or against war in Hinduism or Sikhism) makes the most sense to you and why? Which point of view makes the least sense to you and why?

According to BBC, the Sikhs have a Just War concept called Dharam Yudh which translates to “war in the defense of righteousness” (BBC). This is rather clear and concise but according to Urubshurow, this is also reflected throughout the history of the Sikh religion as well. As an example, the sixth Guru, Hargobind, was the son of the first martyred Guru: Arjan Dev (421 - 422). 5 days prior to Guru Arjan Dev’s death, he instructed his 11-year-old son to “sit fully armed on the Guru’s seat, and maintain a Sikh army” (Urubshurow 420). Hargobind and Hargobind’s eldest son, the seventh Guru, heeded Arjan Dev’s advice and they both heralded armies to defend against the religious oppression brought upon by the Mughals (Urubshurow 422). Therefore, in this historical context, we can dissect an argument for war and also an argument against war.

First, the argument for war, according to the Sikhs, is argued in the name of what is deemed “righteous.” So, in other words, what is the Sikhs’ subjective truth. However, this is a double-edged sword (pun intended) because war is only advocated for the defense of what is righteous and holy. As BBC clearly states, “ the motive must not be revenge or enmity.” In a similar view, another argument against war also stems from BBC; the Sikhs believe that war is a last resort and must only be initiated when all other means of resolving the conflict have been concluded (BBC). The key term here is “all other means” because that is rather open-ended and can be very subjective depending on the context vis-a-vis easily manipulated to fit an agenda. However, more than likely, this can be a great Sikh argument against war.

Rounding off the Sikhs, a final argument for war comes from Guru Gobind Singh, who stated: “When all efforts to restore peace prove useless and no words avail, Lawful is the flash of steel. It is right to draw the sword” (BBC). Redrawing our own punny sword, this is once against a double-sided argument because the same principle for going against war can be used to vote for war. In a little more detail, there is a certain threshold where war and anti-war linger and this threshold is dependent upon the Sikh faith itself: a fine line. In my opinion, the Sikhs lean much more towards advocating for peace; however, an important note is that only if this “peace” fits within their religious scriptures and doctrine.

Similar to the history of the Sikh religion, the Hindu were also acclimated to a war-readiness. Starting off, the religious Vedic devas named Indra; Indra was a warrior-God but was also symbolized as a protector of warriors (Urubshurow 361). This is quite fitting because according to our learning resources in UMGC’s module three, “Traditional Hindu society is thought of as a kind of organism governed by the varna-ashrama-dharma” (UMGC). Warriors fit into the kshatriya social class of traditional Hindu society (UMGC). Backing up a tad, it is important to remember that dharma is the prevailing law of Hindu society, and one’s “law” is dependent upon the social class (varna) that one is categorized in. Accordingly, the celebration of Indra, a warrior-God, would be very relevant as part of the varna-ashrama-dharma. Moving on to the topic at hand, there are multiple Hindu texts that described “laws of war” (Subedi 355). Accordingly, one such text is called the Manusmriti and dedicates an entire chapter to the topic. Subedi captured each of the five tenants verbatim but I will paraphrase them here:

(1) warriors must be humane in their methods of killing—no poison, concealment, or mischievous weapons; (2) warriors must not strike foes who cannot defend themselves, such as from horseback toward the ground, when one is fatigued, or when the enemy has given up; (3) warriors may not strike a sleeping enemy or otherwise an enemy without armor; they may also not strike non-combatants; (4) warriors must kill with honor and therefore never strike an enemy with their back turned (Subedi 355).

With such a set of very detailed text regarding war, this can be highlighted as the first Hindu argument that supports it, for if they did not, then they would not have “laws of war.” The second argument for a Hindu favoring of war stems from the Vedic devas Indra. Indra was a warrior-God who symbolized power to their warrior social class. So, besides the fact that they have a social class dedicated to “warriors,” this is also a great argument to highlight in favor of Hindu support of war.

However, not all Hindu agreed on the more violent ethical side of the pendulum. Mohandas Gandhi believed that self-less actions of devotion were pure, but Gandhi disagreed that Hindu ethics permitted violence (Urubshurow 381). Accordingly, Gandhi based this anti-violent stance from the symbolic Bhagavad Gita. Therefore, a Hindu argument not in favor of war is that it is not symbolic of Hindu ethics. In more detail, Ghandi believed that physical warfare was really a battle of internal psychological warfare—regardless of the opponent (Urubshurow 381). Conclusively, Hindu ethics could be used as a stance of being not in favor of war due to the nature of what is considered “humanism.”

Similarly, the final point I would like to make for Hindu anti-war favoring resonates with the secular humanism of the Hindu teachings. As the “laws of war” state above, there is a clear humanism ethical code embedded within the Hindu perspective that only permits violence from a strict rule set. As such, this can be used as a premise in favor of the Hindu anti-war because the conservative Hindu laws of war are much more strict than even our modern-day Geneva Conventions. As Subedi also referenced, “The world would be a better place to live in if the modern laws of war based on the Geneva Conventions were to incorporate some of the rules of Hindu laws of war. For instance, even when engaging in ‘just’ or defensive wars the fight should take place only among equals” (360). Nonetheless, the chief piece of the final anti-war Hindu argument would be that war shall only be considered if the opponent is equal on both sides.

With all this background, I would say that my opinion is that the Hindu Just War concept is definitely the more ethical of the two. So, the altruistic part of me supports these humane principles whole-heartedly. However, since humans are humans, these principles are also much more apt to be exploited by an enemy, so the Sikhs would have an advantage in this context because; thus, war, would be justified. Honestly, is it a slippery slope either way and I see strong points with both. Overall, when I see people, I am largely optimistic, but when I see systems and the world as a whole, I am much more pessimistic. In today’s age of rapid travel, instant communication, and technological prowess, I simply do not see the Hindu principles of war being favorable—though I wish this could be true.

Works Cited:

“Module 3: Karma, Rebirth, and Freedom in the Liberation Family.” PHIL 348 6380 classroom, UMGC, 2022,

Subedi, S. P. “The Concept in Hinduism of ‘Just War.’” Journal of Conflict and Security Law 8, no. 2 (October 1, 2003): 339–61.

Urubshurow, Victoria Kennick. Introducing World Religions. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, 2008. EBSCOhost,

Hindu people believe that war is a moral duty. "The teachings that condemn violence are contained in the doctrine of ahimsa, while those that permit it centre around the Kshatriyas - the warrior caste (BBC. (2005, July 04))." They believe that it is one's duty to fight for righteousness because one was born a warrior. They also argue that violence to the body is just to the body and not the soul. This allows for people to fight in the name of righteousness without having to worry about any remorse. They do believe, however, in the idea of ahimsa which is to avoid hurting any living things. Not only avoiding physically but avoiding wanting to hurt. Additionally, they do seem to believe that bad karma will be accumulated, which is another reason why they would advise against war.

The Sikh believe that war is fine when it is just. The justness of war depends on the situation at hand. One of the Sikh teachings is divine justice. "As God exercises justice, so Sikhs are committed to protecting the downtrodden and defending their faith (Urubshurow, V. (2008))." This argument shows that war is fine if all other options have been tried. Another argument that is related to the previous one is that war is the means to an end. "There must be no looting, territory must not be annexed, property taken must be returned (BBC. (2009, October 27))." These further cements the thought that war is only fair if it is just. They are firmly against any sort of war that is done for any selfish reasons. Additionally, they talk about war as if it is a last resort.

I would follow through the Sikh line of thinking if I had to choose one regarding war. It makes more sense to me. War is a means to an end and should only be allowed when every other option has been chosen. The Hindu idea of war seems a bit paradoxical to me. They are claiming that killing people is fine whilst also preaching that there should be no harm done to anyone or any being for any reason. I don't think that makes as much sense as having war be a means to an end.


BBC. (2005, July 04). Religions - Hinduism: War. Retrieved from

BBC. (2009, October 27). Religions - Sikhism: War. Retrieved from also believe that treaties and cease-fires must,be undertaken even if it cannot be won.

Urubshurow, V. (2008). Sikh tradition. In Introducing world religions-the EBook. JBE Online Books.

One of the Hindu arguments in favor of war is the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita about the importance of following Dharma. "It may be the duty of some Hindus, particularly those whose varna is Kshatriya, to fight wars. Hindus believe in karma or 'intentional action.' The Bhagavad Gita goes as far as to say it would be negative action not to fight in some cases. However, the motive must be of defense, or to protect the innocent and not to gain land, power, money, or as an act of revenge or anger" (BBC Bitesize).

A Hindu argument against war is about one of their virtues. The principle of Ahimsa is crucial to most Hindus, and this is where the divide in opinions about the war. "They may describe themselves as pacifists and so refuse to fight in a war. In addition, many Hindus would agree that killing or using violence is bad action" (BBC Bitesize). One of the key players in this is Mahatma Gandhi. Hindus may have different beliefs, depending on which teachings they follow most closely.

The Kumara Vaisnava Sampradaya commented on the study of the words of Arjuna. "Arjuna said: O Krsna, please place my chariot between both of the armies so that I may look upon those warriors arrayed for battle with whom I have to fight in preparation for combat" (Gita). Kevasa Kasmiri commented, "Addressing Lord Krishna as Acutya, the infallible one, Sanjaya repeats Arjuna's request to Lord Krishna to position the chariot in the middle, between the two firmly opposing armies indicating the mighty strength of Lord Krishna's firmness on all sides. No rule of warfare states that one should fight in only one place. Yet why should Arjuna request to have the chariot stationed between the two armies? In this verse, he states that he wishes to observe those arrayed against him desiring to fight. If it is asked, has he come to witness the battle as a spectator or to fight? Arjuna has no intention of being a spectator, but to see those opponents who he is worthy of fighting against and who is worthy of fighting against him" (Gita).

The Sikh argument favoring war is the Dharam Yudh (Just War). "Sikhism has a concept of the Just War. It's called Dharam Yudh, meaning war in defense of righteousness" (BBC). "They believe that in such a war, the war must be the last resort - all other ways of resolving the conflict must be tried first; the motive must not be revenge or enmity; the army must not include mercenaries; the army must be disciplined; only the minimum force needed for success should be used; civilians must not be harmed; and there must be no looting, the territory must not be annexed, property taken must be returned" (BBC).

One of the Sikh arguments against war is that Sikhism, at its core, avoids corruption of one's heart (Not falling into the trap of revenge, enmity, or any sins for that matter). "A true martyr in the Sikh religious tradition cannot be a terrorist because he loves the Creator and His creation. Even while resisting evil, he remains a friend of all and an enemy of none. He fears none and frightens no one" (Munde, Amarpreet). In the time of its founder, Guru Nanak, in the 16th century CE, Sikhism was clearly a religion of peace. "Guru Nanak mentioned, 'No one is my enemy, No one is a foreigner, With all, I am at peace, God within us renders us Incapable of hate and prejudice" (BBC).

The Dharam Yudh, or the Sikh's argument in favor of war, is the most compelling and makes the most sense, followed by the ideas of teachings of Bhagavad Gita(following the importance of Dharma) or the Hindu's argument in favor of the war. War is inevitable in the human condition, but these arguments give the most utilitarian or pragmatic solution to such conditions. My bias might lead me to believe that violence is such a detrimental part of human existence. This idea, in turn, brings me to the idea that violence might be necessary for conditions with no other options. That's why the guidance for the Dharam Yudh and even the Bhagavad Gita's teachings are virtuous codes of conduct essential for Dharma. The idea of Ahimsa is very noble, and as much as people wanted this to be the objective, not all humans are capable of realizing and acquiring the wisdom of the martyrs that preaches this ultimate goal; thus, leads me to accept the necessity of virtues such as Dharam Yudh and Bhagavad Gita's teachings.


"Gita: Chapter 1, Verse 21,22." Bhagavad,

Munde, Amarpreet Singh. "A Sikh Approach to War and Peace." Sikh Missionary Society (U.K.),

"Religions - Sikhism: War." BBC, BBC, 27 Oct. 2009,

"What Does Hinduism Teach about War and Peace? - War and Peace - GCSE Religious Studies Revision - BBC Bitesize." BBC News, BBC,

Urubshurow, Victoria Kennick. Introducing World Religions. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, 2008. EBSCOhost,

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