Question: Regarding wars, if it is the desire of a person to kill another, how does Lord Krishna sanction it in the first place and then calculate his karma for his future sufferings?

Lord Krishna sanctions activities based on one’s desire and one’s karma. For example, if I desire to walk, if it is in line with my prarabda karma, it will happen. But if, due to prarabda karma, I have no legs, then even if I desire to walk, it will not happen.

Each of us is receiving the results of our previous activities. At the same time we have the freedom to create new reactions through use or misuse of our free will in the present. When someone dies in a war, it is due to his fructified karmas, both from the past and from the present life. But the person who is killing, he is utilizing his free will and creating a fresh karmic reaction, which he will suffer in his next life. Krishna’s role as paramatma is as a witness and a sanctioner. He witnesses our actions so that we will be held accountable through karmic reactions, and he sanctions our activities based on our own desires and prarabda karma. He does not interfere in our desires, nor in the desires of other living entities. Why does he sanction our actions? Because the individual souls have no potency to move the material nature:

prakriteh kriyamanani
gunaih karmani sarvashah
kartaham iti manyate

“The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature.”

In reality we are not the cause of action. We are the cause of our own desires, and based on those desires the Lord sanctions the nature to cause activity.

From the absolute perspective our play within the modes of nature is nothing but an illusion. The Lord knows that the soul is eternal and that the soul does not die. The Lord is not subject to illusion, and thus he can see each of us perfectly as we are. He knows each of us personally, what we were doing with him in the spiritual world, what we have done in the millions of lives in the material world, and what we are doing at present. The purpose of the material world is to educate the living entities, and that is the Lord’s ultimate desire. Sometimes a small child thinks his parents are punishing him by making him go to school, study and waste his time in education. In reality it is in the child’s self-interest to be educated, though it is not possible for him to understand this. The child thinks it would be better if he could be playing outside with no limit nor restrictions.

The conditioned living entities are also ignorant children of the Lord. We wonder why there are so many limitations and restrictions put on our play, such as birth, death, old age and disease. We think it would be better if we were allowed to play undisturbed and with no restrictions. We fail to understand that these limitations imposed on us by the Lord are actually in our own self interest. They help us in our process of spiritual education.

Sometimes the child thinks it would be better if everyone automatically passed the exams regardless of the scores they received on the test. They cannot understand the purpose of passing some and failing others. They think it is to punish those who failed, but in reality it is to help those who failed. In a similar way the child like conditioned souls cannot understand the workings of the Lord. Why are we given freedom to choose? Why are we then punished for the misuse of our freewill? In reality we are not being punished, but we are being blessed. It is the Lord’s mercy on us to help us educate ourselves in spiritual knowledge.

Because we cannot see how this process of education spans many millions of lives, therefore we cannot understand the ultimate benefit everything brings. By failing the exam we are also learning a lesson, and that lesson will push us forward towards realization in a gradual manner.