God and His teachings are for everyone. One shouldn’t make distinctions as to who is allowed to receive His message and who isn’t. We living entities are all His children and are all equally entitled to have an opportunity to serve Him.
Judging the actions of military servicemen on the material platform is a mistake. The concept of good and bad actually doesn’t exist in the spiritual realm. In actuality, any and all fruitive activity is on the same level since it has karma associated with it. Karma refers to any activity performed which has a material consequence attached to it, be it good or bad. Whether one is engaged in pious or impious works, as long as they are acting on the material plane, there really is no good or bad.
Now this doesn’t mean that we should all behave impiously. Material nature is composed of three gunas or qualities, known as goodness, passion, and ignorance. All karmic activity can be classified into one of these three categories. However, above these three modes is pure goodness, which is completely spiritual in nature. Pure goodness, known as suddha sattva, is characterized by any activity done for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna. Bhakti yoga, or devotional service, is the only good activity since it involves service to God, thus making it completely immune to the reactions of karma. This is the aim of human life, to become devotees of Krishna. One who is devoted to God and thinks of Him at the time of death, is completely absolved of all their sins and thus never returns to this material world. Krishna is by nature impartial to all living entities. He makes an exception however, for His devotees as stated in the Bhagavad-gita:
“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Bg. 9.29)
The brahmanas are considered the highest class in society because they have dedicated their lives to serving God. It is the duty of the brahmanas and all devotees of Krishna to spread the message of the Lord to everyone regardless of cast, color, or creed. One’s standing in society or one’s occupation should be of no concern, since it is one’s character which determines whether or not they are fit to serve Krishna. We need only look to Vedic literature to see examples of this principle in practice.
The Bhagavad-gita, the most famous spiritual scripture in the Vedic tradition, was spoken by Lord Krishna, God Himself, to His cousin and dear friend Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Arjuna was a kshatriya by trade, meaning he was a military man whose duty it was to administer justice. The Bharata War involved a dispute between two sets of cousin brothers, the Pandavas and Kauravas, over who had the right to rule over a kingdom. Arjuna, the leading warrior on the side of the Pandava brothers, was feeling weak hearted just prior to the war’s commencement, not wanting to commit violence against family members in order to win the material comforts of a kingdom. It was Krishna who convinced him otherwise, informing him that it was the duty of a kshatriya to fight and defend his territory. Krishna did not think to Himself, “Oh this man is involved in violence simply for sense gratification, thus I must not instruct Him on the proper rules of conduct.” On the contrary, the Lord judged Arjuna based on his qualities. Arjuna was a great devotee of God and very pure hearted, and it was for this reason that the Lord viewed him as a worthy recipient of the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita.
As the war proceeded, Arjuna would end up mortally wounding the opposing army’s greatest warrior, Bhishma. Bhishma was the grandfather of both the Pandavas and Kauravas, and thus was respected by everyone. While lying on the battlefield about to die, he fixed his mind on Lord Krishna. The Lord, being all-sensing, knew this was happening, so He instructed Yudhishthira, Arjuna’s older brother, to go to Bhishma and take instruction from him on spiritual matters. On the surface, this appears very surprising. Lord Krishna served as Arjuna’s charioteer, thus He somewhat played a role in Bhishma’s defeat. As previously mentioned, the concept of good guys and bad guys didn’t apply in this situation, since Bhishma was a great devotee, who was performing His duty by fighting nobly for his side. His pure devotion to Krishna and firm grasp of Vedic teachings endeared him to the Lord. It was for this reason that though defeated in battle, Bhishma gained everlasting fame by instructing Yudhisthira on dharma and devotion to Krishna just prior to quitting his body.
Another famous example of the Lord’s mercy can be found in the Ramayana. Krishna appeared on earth as Lord Rama many thousands of years ago for the purpose of killing the evil rakshasa demon Ravana. Ravana had propitiated various demigods and was using the boons received from them to wreak havoc throughout the world and disrupt the sacrifices of the great sages. As part of his dastardly deeds, he even kidnapped Lord Rama’s wife, Sita, while the couple were serving an exile period in the forest. This gave Lord Rama the excuse he needed to march to Ravana’s kingdom and take him on in battle. Just prior to embarking for Lanka, the island where Ravana had set up his kingdom, Lord Rama’s army was visited by Vibhishana, Ravana’s younger brother. By birth both Ravana and Vibhishana were rakshasas, a race of demons evil by nature, who feast on the flesh of others, and who involve themselves in the art of black magic. Vibhishana, however, was a devotee of Lord Rama and he tried his hardest to persuade Ravana to return Sita to the Lord. After Ravana refused to listen to him, Vibhishana decided he would surrender himself unto Lord Rama and ask to join His side. When Vibhishana arrived at their camp, all the members of Rama’s army were very suspicious. They were hesitant to accept Vibhishana due to his being a rakshasa, but Lord Rama overlooked that fact. Since Rama knew him to be a great devotee, the Lord accepted him wholeheartedly, welcoming him to their side. After Lord Rama defeated and killed Ravana, He installed Vibhishana as the new king of Lanka. Thus his devotion to the Lord paid off.
When Krishna appeared on earth as Lord Chaitanya some five hundred years ago in India, His immediate expansion, Baladeva, also appeared with Him in the form of Nityananda Prabhu. Lord Chaitanya inaugurated the sankirtana movement in India, travelling throughout the country chanting the holy names of God to everyone He would meet. Nityananda Prabhu was part of His group, and one day while preaching in the street, He was attacked by two drunkard brothers named Jagai and Madhai. Madhai wanted no part in hearing about the glories of Lord Krishna, so he threw a pot at Nityananda’s head, causing Him to start bleeding. Lord Chaitanya became very angry upon hearing of this incident and wanted to take out His wrath on the two brothers, but it was Nityananda Prabhu who immediately stepped in and forgave them. Taken aback by Nityananda’s kindness and mercy, the two brothers immediately changed their ways and became disciples of Lord Chaitanya.
As we can see, God is very merciful. His name, fame, and glories should be distributed to everyone. Most in society today are involved primarily in acts of sense gratification, thinking only of the demands of the body. In the United States, the military is an all-volunteer group of men and women. Deployed servicemen put their lives on the line every day in order to protect the livelihoods of their fellow citizens. Through such service, they transcend the natural attachment that people have to their own bodies and their way of life. This selflessness is a very good quality to have, since understanding that we are not this body is the first step in spiritual realization. In the Vedic tradition, the Sanskrit term aham brahmasmi, meaning “I am Brahman” or “I am a spirit soul who is part and parcel of God.”, is the first lesson taught to aspiring transcendentalists. Our bodies are temporary, but our souls are not. The soul is eternal and never dies.
“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same. It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.” (Lord Krishna speaking to Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita 2.24-25)
Since the brave men and women serving in the military have already risen above bodily designations, they are ideal candidates for receiving spiritual instruction. In the classic system of varnashrama dharma (the four divisions of society and time periods in one’s life recommended by the Vedas), the kshatriyas were in charge of the government and the brahmanas served as their chief advisors. This system desperately needs to be reintroduced in society, since brave warriors versed in the science of bhakti yoga would make ideal government leaders. If the government is filled with God conscious people, then the rest of society will soon follow. Hopefully through Krishna’s mercy, this ideal system can one day become a reality.