The Bhagavad Gita is an investigation of the war of kshetr-kshetragya: of the conflict between the material body, engaged in action, and the accomplished Soul that is ever conscious of his oneness with the Supreme Spirit. As song of revelation, it strives to demonstrate what God must be in all his divine splendour. The sphere that the song celebrates is a battlefield: the body with its dual, opposed impulses that compose the“Dharmkshetr“ and the “Kurukshetr.
The first chapter of Bhagavad Gita itself reflects metaphysical vision which elaborates respective structure and base of the strength that characterize the adversaries. The sounding of conches proclaims their valour as well as intentions. There is then a review of the armies that are, to fight in the war. Their numerical strength is estimated at approximately 6500 million, but the number is really infinite.
Nature embodies two points of view, relevant to the opposed impulses that clash on the field of action. There is first the inward looking mind that always aims at realization of the Self and looks up to the adored God. On the other hand, there is the outward looking mind, preoccupied with the material world and dominated by unrighteous impulses.
The first enables the self to be absorbed in the most sublime dharm that is embodied in God, whereas the second contrives illusion (maya) by virtue of which the material world is taken as really existent and distinct from the Supreme Spirit. The initial step of the spiritual wayfarer is to seek moral excellence so as to subdue unrighteous impulses. Subsequently, with the perception of and union with the immutable, eternal God, even the need for righteousness is done away with and the final outcome of the war between matter and spirit is revealed.
To have an understanding of the metaphysical concepts behind Bhagavad Gita verses, has no intentions to contradict the contents of the great epic Mahabharat in any case. In fact, with gradual elevation on spiritual path, the same characters with different happenings with all it’s contents get transformed into different metaphysical references by inner divine intuitions which can only be understood by sitting in lotus feet of totally accomplished and enlightened sages. The ability to acquire such knowledge comes only with a wholly dedicated devotion, reverence, self-surrender, and humility.
Within this human body, in its mind and heart-the innermost seats of thought and feeling-there have always dwelt the two distinct, primordial tendencies-the divine and the devilish. Pandu, the image of virtue, and Kunti, the type of dutiful conduct, are parts of the treasure of divinity. Before the awakening of righteousness in a man’s heart, with his deficient understanding he regards whatever he does as an obligation. But, in truth, he is incapable of doing what is worthwhile because there cannot be an awareness of proper duty without the advent of moral virtue and goodness. Karn, who spends all his life fighting the Pandav, is the only acquisition of Kunti before she is wedded to Pandu. And the most formidable enemy of her other sons-the Pandav-is this Karn. Karn is thus the type of action that is hostile to the essentially divine character of the Self. He stands for traditions and usages which bind and hinder men from getting rid of false, misguided rites and ceremonies.
With the awakening of virtue, however, there is the gradual emergence of Yudhisthir, the embodiment of dharm; Arjun, the image of affectionate devotion; Bheem, the type of profound sentiment; Nakul, the symbol of regulated life; Sahdev, the adherer to truth; Satyaki, the repository of goodness; the King of Kashi, an emblem of the sanctity that abides within man; and Kuntibhoj, the symbol of world-conquest through earnest undertaking of duty. The total number of the Pandav army is seven akshauhini. “Aksh” is another word for vision. That which is made up of love and awareness of truth is the treasure of divinity. In fact, the seven akshauhini, which is given as the total strength of the Pandav army, is no physical reckoning; the number verily represents the seven steps – the seven stages of yog – that the seeker has to traverse in order to reach the most sublime God, his supreme goal.
Opposed to the Pandav army, embodiments of pious impulses that are beyond counting, is the army of Kurukshetr-of the Kaurav-with a strength of eleven akshauhini. Eleven is the number of the ten sense organs and the one mind. That which is constituted of the mind along with the ten senses is the devilish hoard, a part of which is Dhritrashtr, who persists in ignorance inspite of his awareness of truth. Gandhari, his consort, is the type of sense-bound disposition. Along with them there are also Duryodhan, the symbol of excessive infatuation; the evil-minded Dushashan; Karn, the perpetrator of alien deeds; the deluded Bheeshm; Dronacharya of dual conduct; Ashwatthama, the image of fixation; the skeptical Vikarn, the symbol of alluring fancies; Bhurishrawa, the deluded state of being puffed up (shwas); Kripacharya, the type of compassionate conduct in a state of incomplete worship; and Vidur, who stands for the Self that dwells in ignorance but whose eyes are always aimed at the Pandav. Vidur is the nature-bound Self that yet strives to make his way towards virtue and spiritual enlightenment, because he is after all an immaculate part of the Supreme Spirit. Thus the number of unrighteous impulses, too, is infinite.
Virat and the great warrior leader Drupad, symbolizing consistency and steadfastness on the path of spirituality, Dhrishtketu, the steadfast-in-duty; Chekitan, who can rein in his straying thought and concentrate it on the Supreme Spirit; Purujeet, the one who obtains victory over matter in all its forms-gross, subtle, and instrumental; Shaibya, of virtuous conduct; the heroic Yudhmanyu of warlike temper, Uttmauj with the spirit of abandon that flows from sacred excellence; Abhimanyu (Saubhadr), Subhadra’s son, with a mind without fear because it is propped up by righteousness, and the five sons of Draupadi who herself is a form of discernment of the divine, named tenderness, beauty, compassion, spiritual repose and consistency, are all great warriors. All of them are noted for their ability to traverse the path of spiritual fulfillment with perfect skill.
Shikhandi represents the rejection of shikha-sutr (sacred signs traditionally worn by Hindus). There are people who believe they have achieved renunciation just because they have got their heads shaved clean, cast away their sacred threads, and stopped lighting fire. But they are mistaken, for, as a matter of fact, shikha symbolizes a goal which has to be attained, and sutr the merits of action in a previou existence (sanskar). The chain of sanskar is intact so long as God has yet to be realized. How can there be true renunciation till the moment of that fulfillment? Till then we are only wayfarers. Delusion subsides only when the desired God is attained and the merits of previous deeds are reduced to nothing. So it is Shikhandi who proves to be the undoing of Bheeshm, the image of delusion and self-deception. Shikhandi represents the unique quality that is essential for the man who chooses the path of reflection, a truly mighty fighter on his side.
The above mentioned characters are among one of the few characters of the great epic Mahabharat, whose names have been almost used in verses of Bhagavad Gita. But, since this is a metaphysical synopsis as per inner spiritual intuitions and hence, in any case does not contradict the contents of the great epic Mahabharat.
As we have thus seen, the sphere-the battlefield-is only one, the physical body, but the impulses that wage constant war against each other on it are two. While one of them tempts man to regard nature as real and thus effects his degradation to birth in lower forms, the other convinces him of the reality and all-pervading domination of the Supreme Being and so provides access to him.
When the seeker takes refuge in a sage who has perceived the essence, there is a gradual but steady ascent of virtuous impulses on the one hand while, on the other, there is a decline and then the final destruction of evil impulses.
When there remains no malady and the mind is perfectly restrained, even the restrained mind atlast ceases to be and there is no longer any need of even the treasure of divinity.
Arjun has the vision that following after the Kaurav army, even the Pandav warriors are hurling themselves into the fiery mouth of the Omnipresent and getting annihilated. Even pious impulses are thus dissolved with final attainment and the ultimate consequence then issues forth. If the accomplished sage undertakes any enterprise after this final dissolution, it is only for the guidance and edification of his less fortunate fellowmen and disciples.
~Revered Gurudev Swami Adgadanand Jee Paramhans~