CURIOSITY ABOUT ACTION
In the nature of a preface, Chapter 1 presents the seeker’s doubts and confusions. The participants in the war include all of the Kaurav and Pandav, but Arjun alone is subject to misgivings. However, Arjun is the very embodiment of devotion as a wayfarer on the path of spiritual quest. It is his love for God that inspires him to get ready for the war between matter and spirit. The initial stage is thus of love, adoration. My revered teacher used to say, “Believe that adoration of the Supreme Spirit has commenced when, even while one is leading the life of a householder, there are signs of weariness and tears, and sentiment so powerful that it chokes the throat.”Manifold strands are entwined in love: of dharm, precept, restraint, pious association, and sentiment.
In the first stage of spiritual seeking, attachment to the family looms as an obstacle. At the outset everyone wishes to achieve the ultimate reality, but the worshipper is overtaken by despair when he realizes that after going a certain length of the way he will have to sever all his ties of attachment to the family. So he learns to be contented with whatever customs he had followed earlier. He even cites prevailing customs to justify his infatuation, just as Arjun does when he insists that family rites are Sanatan Dharm. The war will cause the extinction of the Sanatan Dharm itself and, along with that, destruction of families and loss of civilized ways. Far from being an independent view of Arjun, his ideas only reflect some inherited creeds he had acquired earlier before approaching an accomplished teacher such as Sri Krishn.Mired in these traditions, men devise numerous religions, sects, groups small and large, and castes beyond reckoning. Some press the nose while others pierce their ears, while yet others lose their dharm because they are touched by someone, or because their food aid drink are defiled.
2.1 – Sanjay said,”To him (Arjun), whose eyes were brimming with tears of grief because he was overcome by pity, Madhusudan spoke thus.”
2.2 – The Lord said,”From what cause, O Arjun, does this unmanly (un-Arjun-like), heaven-barring, and shameful despair come over you at this perilous spot?”
Sri Krishn uses the term”visham” for the place where Arjun and he are at the time. Besides meaning “difficult” or “dangerous,” the word also means “unique” or “unequalled.”
So Sri Krishn really wishes to know that which has caused spiritual ignorance (agyan) in Arjun in this unusual, unparalleled setting. The setting is one, the like of which, can be found nowhere else in the entire world, because it is the sphere of spiritual striving towards an unworldly, celestial goal.
In such a universal and undisputed setting, how has spiritual ignorance come over Arjun? Why does Krishn call Arjun’s views spiritual ignorance? Has Arjun not said categorically that it is his heartfelt wish to defend Sanatan Dharm ? Is it spiritual ignorance to be resolved, body and soul, to protect what Arjun believes to be the immutable, eternal dharm?
According to Sri Krishn it is so, for it has not been the practice of those who truly deserve to be called men. Neither does it provide access to heaven. It is also not conducive to glory. The one who keeps firmly to the path of righteousness is an Arya. In Hindu scriptures, instead of referring to any race or stock, “Arya” denotes an exceptionally cultivated man who adheres scrupulously to dharm. If dying for one’s family were not an instance of ignorance, Sri Krishn adds, sages would have practised it.
Had family traditions been the ultimate reality, they would have been used as a ladder for climbing up to heaven and salvation. When Meera sang her songs of divine adoration, people declared her insane and her mother-in-law condemned her as a destroyer of the family.But no one today remembers the mother- in- law for shading copious tears of concern about the well being of her family and safety of it’s honour,while the whole world cherishes the memory of Meera.
After all,how long can we remember the man who is concerned only about his family?Is not evident then that customs which bring neither glory nor sublime happiness,and which have at no time been accepted by an Arya( a man of Dharm),must be a kind of ignorance?
2.3 – “Don’t give in, O Parth, to unmanliness for it does not become you. So, O Parantap, stand up and drive away this disgraceful weakness of your heart.”
Sri Krishn exhorts Arjun not to yield to impotence (klaibyam). Is Arjun impotent-lacking in virility? Are we virile men? An impotent man is one who is devoid of manliness. All of us, according to our wisdom, do what we believe to be manly. A peasant who sweats day and night in his fields, tries to prove his manliness by his labour. Some demonstrate their manliness in commerce and yet others try to prove that they are real men by abusing their powers.
Ironically, however, even after this lifelong display of manliness, we depart but empty-handed at the end. Is it not obvious then that all this is not true manliness? True manliness is Self-knowledge: awareness of the Soul and its divine origin.
To cite yet another example from the Brihadaranyak Upanishad, Gargi tells Yagnvalkya that a man, though endowed with sexual prowess, is yet unmanly if he has no awareness of the embodied Soul. This Self is the real man (Purush), radiant and unmanifest. The endeavour to know this Self is true manliness (paurush).
It is because of this that Sri Krishn asks Arjun not to surrender to impotence. It is unworthy of him. He is a scorcher, a formidable vanquisher, of foes. So he ought to reject his grovelling feebleness and stand up for battle. He should give up his social attachments, for they are mere frailties.
2.4 – Arjun said, “How, O Madhusudan, slayer of enemies, shall I shoot arrows in
the battle against men like Bheeshm and Dron who deserve only my honour?
Arjun addresses Sri Krishn as Madhusudan, destroyer of the demon of ego, and wants to know from him how he can fight with his grandsire Bheeshm and teacher Dron. Both are deserving of only reverence.
Dual conduct, as we have seen, is Dronacharya: the conduct that arises from the feeling that God is separate from us and we are separate from him.
But the consciousness of this duality is also the initial urge for spiritual accomplishment. This is Dronacharya’s excellence as a teacher. And then there is Bheeshm, the very image of delusion.
So long as we stray from the right path and are under the sway of delusion, children, family, and kinsmen all appear as our own. The feeling that they belong to me-are mine, is the medium through which delusion works. The deluded man regards them as worthy of worship and clings to them, for that one is father, the other one grandfather, and still another the teacher who has taught him.
But after spiritual attainment there is neither teacher nor pupil, and the Self who has gained awareness of the essence, of the Supreme Spirit, is left all alone.
When the Self is absorbed in God, neither is the teacher a preceptor nor the disciple a receptacle.This is the state of the most exalted excellence.
After assimilating the teacher’s excellence the disciple shares it, and the distinction between the teacher and the pupil is obliterated.Sri Krishn says, “Arjun, you shall dwell in me.”
Arjun will become identical with Sri Krishn, and the same is true of every sage who has known attainment.In such a state the teacher’s existence merges into, and his magnificence flows spontaneously like a crystal stream through, the disciple’s heart.
But Arjun is yet far from that state and at present he exploits even the teacher’s office as a shield to ward off participation in the war.
2.5 – “Even to live in this world as a mendicant begging for alms is better than killing teachers, for if l kill them all my joys and riches and desires in this world will be drenched in (their) blood.”
Arjun prefers life of a beggar who lives on alms to killing his teachers. Rather than meaning “to beg for livelihood”, “begging” here denotes soliciting great men-through rendering even a half-hearted service to them-for favour of propitious fortune.
Food is the only God, after partaking of which the Soul’s hunger is assuaged for ever. That he should, even though in small measures, continue to taste the manna of God’s excellence by serving and soliciting a sage, without having to part with his family, is the craving behind Arjun’s tearful appeal. Don’t most of us do the same? It is our aspiration that we should gradually, at some point, achieve spiritual liberation without having to destroy ties of familial love and attachment. But there is no such way for seeker who has achieved a higher level of accomplishment than this and is strong enough to face war raging on the battlefield of his heart. Soliciting and imploring like an alms man rather than doing something on one’s own is like begging for food like a mendicant.
In the ” Dhamnadayad Sutt” of Majjhim Nikaya, Mahatma Buddh has also declared the food obtained by begging inferior because it is like flesh received as alms.
How will he profit, Arjun asks, by killing his teachers? What else can the world reward him with for this crime but the unnatural enjoyment of bloodstained pleasures of sensual gratification and material prosperity?
It appears from this that he perhaps believes that loving adoration of God will augment his worldly happiness. So his only achievement even after the most strenuous struggle,he believes,can be nothing more than enjoyment of riches which sustain the body and sensual pleasures.
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