Chakra Discussions

Resources for the conscientious objection debate

by Ananda das

Posted May 14, 2004

Aside from the website Jaya Govinda das cited (, in his helpful article, here is a list of other sites that may be helpful to this discussion. These four sites provide some insight into conscientious objection and some religious responses to war: Youth and the Military, American Friends Service Committee, Veterans for Peace, War Resisters League. Karl Nelson's book By reason of religious training and belief, a balanced history of conscientious objection during the Vietnam War era, is available for online reading, although the hard-return formatting creates problems if your browser is set to a large type size.

The following sites provide a contrasting point of view, based on the theory of a "just war": Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and John H. Yoder's essay, How Just War thinking and Pacifism coinhere.

As Jaya Govinda prabhu suggests, the Bhagavad-gita cannot easily be used to support conscientious objection without, as Gandhi did, doing violence to the text. Indeed, a recent scholarly edition of the Gita is subtitled "Krishna's counsel in time of war." However, for those looking for scriptural support for conscientious objection, the last third of an article on Ahimsa provides some selected quotations from Upanishads, Vedas and dharma-sastras.

With parallels to the Vietnam War becoming stronger, with news of barbaric, heinous torture sanctioned or ordered by officers in the US Defence Department taking direction from US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Defence Secretary Wolfowitz that Iraqi prisoners not be treated as PoWs under the Geneva Convention, and the consequent evaporation of any concept of "just war" in the case of the Anglo-American Iraq invasion, as well as the prospect of a US military defeat dramatically and progressively increasing, there is a growing movement in the US Congress to reinstitute conscription. If H.R.163 and S.89 pass the US Congress, devotees not wishing to be drafted for Iraq may wish to consider fleeing as refugees to a peaceful, non-involved, welcoming country like Canada or Sweden, just as many devotees did during the Vietnam War.