Photo source: Time Magazine
‘Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.’ This is the worn-out phrase used by politicians who can’t offer solutions to curtail the level of violence in this country.
When mass school shootings started, the politicians were probably hoping that it was just a fluke and that the problem would go away by itself. We are witnessing a leadership that is unable, or unwilling, to do anything about this crisis, and the steadfast refusal of many to seriously discuss the issue.
Mass shootings have become common in the USA. We live in a society where assault rifles are prolific. Of course, this is the Kali-yuga – the age of hypocrisy, greed, lies, and anger. Today, there are no real ksatriyas or leaders. No one really wants to protect the citizens, or they only want to protect the citizens who agree with them and vote for them.
First, a look at the spin. In speaking about restrictions, one devotee talked about the process she underwent to receive a license as a massage therapist in Texas. It required 300 hours of education, an SSI number, a background check, and two million dollars of insurance just in case the therapist hurts someone. But there are no restrictions for an immature or disturbed 18-year-old to purchase a gun in Texas.
One nefarious method used to deflect attention from the problem is to point to gun violence in inner cities which takes the lives of so many children. Politicians will tell us that gun laws don’t work because these cities are in states where the gun laws are the most strict. But they don’t tell us that criminals just go to nearby states to purchase guns.
And there’s the much-quoted, ‘The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.’ But there were good guy officers, lingering at the Texas school with their guns for an hour before anyone moved in on the shooter. Perhaps they mistakenly thought it was a hostage situation.
Again, in the aftermath of the shooting, many politicians claim that it’s not the guns or the gun laws that are the problem but now point to mental health issues as the “real” problem. But we must ask if that’s the case, why are there no laws restricting guns from falling into the hands of those who are mentally disturbed?
Ultimately, there is no silver bullet (pardon the expression) to gun violence. It can only be a multileveled solution. At schools, it’s not only about the number of children and teachers dead or wounded. It’s also about the impact on the survivors at these schools, and the countless children across the country who go to school feeling unprotected.
Krishna Consciousness is, at its core, an educational movement meant to provide people with the tools they need to improve and deepen their lives. Of course, the Krishna Consciousness movement, considering the sacred Bhagavad Gita was spoken on a battlefield, does not espouse pacifism. But considering the gravity of the issue, we must search our scriptures to offer a solution to the continuing tragedy. For a Vaisnava, whatever conclusions one comes to must be based on scriptural reference. Below is a four-pointed solution, both long and short term:
1) If government leaders were actually responsible they would make sure that the deadliest weapons don’t get into the hands of the wrong people. This was the concern of Drona. In the ancient history found in Mahabharata, Drona taught the military arts to the royal, young men of Hastinapura. His best student was Arjuna, who he finally taught the use of a most deadly weapon – the brahmastra. He did not teach it to others, even to his son Aswattama. Aswattama angrily objected, “Why have you taught the use of this weapon to Arjuna, but not to me, your own son?” Drona knew his son was impetuous by nature and immature to handle the weapon.
Here is the principle and example from shastra. One should not be allowed to possess a deadly weapon if one is not in control of their senses and does not know how to use it responsibly. This is only common sense. The best thing is to restrict military weapons by establishing a two or three-level solution concerning gun licenses. It can be compared to getting a driver’s license. Anyone can get one, but if they want to drive semi-trucks, then that requires extra training and a special license. It is the responsibility of leaders, politicians, judges, and administrators from preventing deadly weapons from falling into the hands of the untrained, irresponsible, immature, and mentally disturbed. Switzerland is a good example of a society that has taken the lead in public safety and gun ownership.
2) Arjuna was a great warrior. There is an account in Mahabharata when he was visiting a neighboring kingdom. There, he heard the complaints of a man whose child had died shortly after the child was born. The man was vehement, saying there must be something wrong with the leaders of the kingdom for such a thing to happen. And his newborns again died on several other occasions. Arjuna took up the man’s cause, vowing to protect his next child. If he failed, Arjuna vowed to commit suicide by entering the fire. (KRSNA Chap 34) So this is the measure of a leader and a warrior – to give protection at all costs and at any personal expense.
3) The Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna explains in Bhagavad Gita (14:4), “It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kuntī, are made possible by birth in this material nature and that I am the seed-giving father.” The reverence and compassion for all life is a Vedic principle. Protection must especially be given to women, children, cows, the elderly, and the saintly brahmanas who help guide society.
Why the cows? one may ask. The cow is considered a mother to all of us and is an important animal for our prosperity. She provides us with her milk, manure, and urine, which all have remarkable benefits for human society. But instead of protecting cows and other animals, society is maintaining horrific slaughterhouses to kill them. Srila Prabhupada explains, “These greatly sinful acts are responsible for all the troubles in present society.” Srimad Bhagavatam 1:17:3, Purport. The slaughter of human beings cannot be curbed until we address this essential, societal flaw: the operation of slaughterhouses.
4) To maintain a peaceful and prosperous society, the youth, tomorrow’s citizens and leaders, require an education based on the universal principles of Dharma. These principles are most concisely found in the Bhagavad Gita, which describes itself as “the king of education.” The purpose of education is to help young people recognize their God-given propensities and to understand one’s relationship with the Supreme Lord: the eternal witness to our actions, our guide, and well-wisher residing within the hearts of all living beings.
An important aspect of education is to understand that we are not the temporary body, but we are the eternal soul, the individual consciousness, residing within the body. We are not meant to be overwhelmed by the pushings of the mind and senses. Neither should we judge others based on their bodily identification. When politicians, police forces, and other administrators understand the principles of Dharma (justice, truthfulness, self-discipline, compassion) only then can justice be equally available to all? Without a clear understanding of Dharma, we cannot expect our government to be efficient.
In closing, our country has grown from a land-based culture to a highly commercialized, high-stress culture, a culture where we have to be fearful of being lied to and cheated. In all aspects of our lives, we have grown suspicious and feel unprotected. These qualities are all symptomatic of the Kali-yuga. With the recent mass shootings, the hypocrisy of our materialistic culture has reared its ugly head once again. Were the teenaged shooters part of a “well-regulated militia” as the 2nd Amendment intended? Can we claim to be a civilized culture when assault rifles are available to the untrained or mentally unstable?
Of course, there can be no failsafe security for anyone in this dangerous world. But if we want to secure the reasonable safety of our children and citizens, the first step is to make sure that all children are safe and that they all receive an education that is both materially and spiritually stimulating. This will prepare them for the challenges they must face. To help humankind in these times of crisis, devotees of Krishna must present Krishna Consciousness in a way that any intelligent person can see the necessity to implement the universal principles of Dharma into their lives.
Sankirtana Das, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, is a longtime resident of New Vrindaban Community and an award-winning author and storyteller. His most recent book, Hanuman’s Quest, has received a Storytelling World Resource Award. For more info about his work visit www.Mahabharata-Project.com
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies