Perspectives on Killing: Krishna, Mahavir, and Sikh Teachings

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Throughout history, different religious and philosophical traditions have offered diverse perspectives on the topic of killing. In this article, we will explore the viewpoints of Krishna, Mahavir, and the Sikh faith, each of which presents a distinct perspective on this complex moral issue.

Perspectives on Killing:

Krishna: “Kill to Win”

In the Hindu epic, the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna imparts his wisdom to the warrior prince Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Krishna argues that a warrior must fulfill their role in society, even if it means killing. He emphasizes the importance of performing one’s duty without attachment to the outcome, as the soul is eternal and the body is transient.

While Krishna’s teachings may seem to advocate violence, it is essential to understand the context in which they were given. The Bhagavad Gita serves as a guide for individuals facing moral dilemmas and encourages them to act by their dharma, or righteous duty.

Mahavir: “Don’t Kill”

Mahavir, the founder of Jainism, takes a contrasting stance on killing. Jainism is a religion that emphasizes non-violence, compassion, and respect for all living beings. Mahavir teaches that harming any living being, intentionally or unintentionally, leads to negative karmic consequences and hinders spiritual progress.

Jainism advocates for Ahimsa, the principle of non-violence, which extends to all aspects of life. Followers of Jainism practice vegetarianism, avoid harming insects and take great care to minimize harm to any living being. Mahavir’s teachings promote a deep sense of empathy and non-violence as the path to spiritual liberation.

Sikhism: “Kill to Survive”

Sikhism, founded by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, takes a different approach to the question of killing. Sikhs believe in the concept of self-defense and protecting the weak and oppressed. They emphasize the importance of standing up against injustice and defending oneself and others when necessary.

However, Sikh teachings also stress the need for proportionate force and avoiding unnecessary harm. Sikhs are encouraged to exhaust all peaceful means before resorting to violence, and even then, violence should only be used as a last resort to protect oneself or others.

Interpreting the Perspectives

It is important to recognize that these perspectives on killing are deeply rooted in the cultural, historical, and religious contexts in which they emerged. Each viewpoint reflects the specific values, beliefs, and circumstances of the respective traditions.

While Krishna’s teachings may seem to endorse killing, they are within the framework of fulfilling one’s duty as a warrior. Mahavir’s emphasis on non-violence reflects the Jain belief in the interconnectedness of all living beings and the pursuit of spiritual liberation. Sikh teachings, on the other hand, advocate for self-defense and the protection of the vulnerable.

The Question of Rightness

As for who is right, it is not for us to definitively answer. Moral perspectives are subjective and influenced by personal beliefs, cultural norms, and individual experiences. Each tradition presents a valid viewpoint within its context and offers valuable insights into the complexities of moral decision-making.

It is essential to approach these teachings with an open mind and a willingness to understand the nuances and intricacies of each perspective. Engaging in respectful dialogue and considering multiple viewpoints can help promote empathy, understanding, and tolerance.

Considerations for Individuals:

  1. Personal Beliefs:
    • Consider your own ethical and spiritual beliefs. Which perspective resonates more with your values and worldview?
  2. Cultural and Religious Background:
    • Your cultural and religious background might influence your inclination towards a particular teaching.
  3. Context of Application:
    • Consider the specific context in which these teachings are applied. The appropriateness of each perspective may depend on the situation at hand.


The perspectives of Krishna, Mahavir, and the Sikh faith on the topic of killing offer distinct viewpoints that reflect the diversity of human thought and belief. While Krishna emphasizes duty, Mahavir promotes non-violence, and Sikhism advocates self-defense.

By exploring these perspectives, we can gain a deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding the topic of killing and develop a more nuanced approach to ethical decision-making. Ultimately, the question of who is right remains subjective and dependent on individual beliefs and interpretations.

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