Chakra Discussions

Proving conscientious objection to war is difficult for Vaisnavas

by Jaya Govinda das

Posted May 14, 2004

There was a recent article about conscientious objection and some questions on how to become one. Try going to the website "The Objector." They provide free information on how to apply for conscientious objector status. Let me tell you, it is not an easy process. If you plan on using religious conviction as the basis for your application, you'll need to prove that:

You can't file to be a conscientious objector simply because you disagree with the war in Iraq.

It was also mentioned in the article that some devotees might not want to go to war because it may impede their spiritual path. To that, I have some comments: A devotee's spiritual path is not impeded and is not dependent on circumstance. Although some situations are more favorable for spiritual practice, it is possible to be a devotee in any situation, and an unfavorable situation can sometimes make one stronger.

I'm a soldier in Iraq and I'm probably more Krsna-conscious now than I was before I left. With nothing but sand and nothing to do except sweat and dodge mortars, a devotee can't help but think of, and rely on, Krsna. The only difficult thing is the food situation. You would not believe the amount of meat that is served here. From what I've seen so far, I must be the only vegetarian, let alone devotee, on this post. But that only makes me stronger.

My godbrother is also in Iraq. He's been in the military for 10 years, and I've known quite a few devotees who've either joined the military or became devotees while in. I met a Prabhupada disciple in the Marines who had a preaching center right on post in North Carolina, and there are two matajis I know of who are officers in the Air Force.

Now, I'm not encouraging devotees to join the military. Personally, I'm getting out after this enlistment. But, to say that it may be detrimental to one's spiritual life isn't quite true. In the case of a brand new devotee, it most certainly would be, as would any situation outside the temple. It's no different than working any other job. One mataji told me once that being a soldier is a contradiction if I'm a devotee. Begging her pardon, I asked her if she thought Arjuna to be contradictory -- or Krsna, for that matter.

Being a soldier is one of the four varnas. There was a time when soldiers were held in the utmost respect. Of course, they were defending Vedic culture and their leaders were devotees, but that's beside the point. We may not be (or should I say, we are definitely not) following a righteous leader, but we are still obligated to perform our duty, by both modern law and Vedic law. I didn't want to come here. I'd give anything to come home to my wife and daughter and all my godsiblings, but it's my duty to fight. This is according to Krsna. I wouldn't plan on a draft happening, but if it does, it does. And if Krsna wants you here, good luck!

I apologize if I offended anyone. If anyone has any questions about what it's like being a devotee in the military, please feel free to write (jayagovinda@msn.com).