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the way

In "The Way," both Xena and Gabrielle experience a tremendous amount of spiritual growth. In the episode itself, each realizes her dharma, her Way. Dharma is a key concept in Hinduism; the religion's original name is actually Sanatana Dharma. "Sanatana" means "eternal." "Dharma" is a loaded word that means "the way of the universe," "a code of living," "Truth/God" name a few connotations. In the case of Xena and Gabrielle, the two realize how they must live in order to achieve the liberation from suffering that they desire.

Xena realizes that her dharma in her present life involves being a warrior, resolving an internal struggle she has felt on and off since the beginning of the series. The reason that her fighting caused her emotional and spiritual turmoil in the past was that her actions were based on violent emotions and intent. When she initially tried to leave her old life, she thought that abandoning violence was the key--only to promtply discover that she could use her skills as a warrior to better the world and in doing so, atone for her crimes. Despite her resolve to fight, however, she still viewed Gabrielle and others like her as possessing virtues superior to her own dark nature. In "The Way," Xena comes to understand that her role as a fighter against injustice is no less valid in the scheme of things than Gabrielle's path of love and nonviolence. If she embraces her identity as a warrior and acts without malevolent intentions, she will fight only as much as necessary to prevent injustice.

Gabrielle's dharma, on the other hand, involves following a code of ahimsa, nonviolence (both physical and mental). It's the path that fits best for her. At the beginning of the series, the thought of fighting thrilled her, but she soon realized that her Way is not Xena's. Gabrielle lives the Way of Love and Compassion, seeking to free herself and others from cycles of pain and suffering by doing no harm. This is difficult, particularly when she has to choose between helping Xena and being true to her own spiritual journey.

However, I think that Eli may have portrayed The Way of Love as a bit too inactive. Followers of ahimsa have taken very active roles throughout history, a prime example being Mohandas Gandhi, who led India in the only nonviolent revolution ever recorded in the world. And on an interesting note, the Jain religion, which is founded on the basis of ahimsa, traditionally praised the warrior caste in Indian society as superior to all others. This is because members of the warrior caste would live in accordance with their duty, acting selflessly without thought of their own happiness, or something along those lines. I recall reading an account of ancient Jain warriors sterilizing arrows so that they might defend their loved ones while doing as little harm as possible--not only to their enemies but to anything, including the insects in the air. (Bear in mind that the followers of the Jain religion revere life and go out of their way to prevent unnecessary violence.)

In the end, Gabrielle's analogy about the river is true (and also quite commonly found in Hindu teachings); no matter how different the respective Ways that she and Xena follow may be, they lead to the same Truth. And the each could never have found her Way without the other; Gabrielle helped Xena out of the spiritual slump she had fallen into while Xena, as Gabrielle said, taught her of selfless love...

the subversive pomegranate
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Xena: Warrior Princess is MCA/Universal and whoever else legally owns it. This page is 1999 shilpa.