With his heart enfeebled by pity and his mind clouded with infatuation in regard to dharm, Arjun begs Sri Krishn to tell him the means that will definitely be the most conducive to what is supremely propitious for him.
“With my mind swamped with feeble pity
and confusion regarding duty,
I entreat you to guide me as to what is definitely conducive
to my glory, for I am your disciple
and have taken refuge in you.”
But why should Sri Krishn do this?
According to Arjun, it is Sri Krishn’s duty to show him the right path because he (Arjun) is a disciple who has found shelter under him.
Furthermore, he needs not only instruction but also support when he stumbles. He is like the man requesting a helper to place the load on his back, help him in securing it there, and also to come along with him, for who will put back the load in place again if it slips down. Such is Arjun’s abject submission to Lord Krishn. At this point Arjun’s surrender is complete.
Until now he had thought himself an equal of Lord Krishn in merit and, in fact, even superior to him in certain skills. But now he really puts himself at the mercy of his charioteer. An accomplished teacher dwells in his disciple’s heart and is always by his side until the goal is reached. If he is not there by his side, the pupil may falter in his quest. Like the guardians of a maiden who protect her till her marriage, an accomplished teacher acts as a charioteer who skilfully manoeuvres his disciple’s Soul safely across the perilous valleys of nature.
“I do not see that obtaining an undisputed
and profitable dominion over the whole earth or,
for that matter even lordship over the gods,
can cure the grief that is wearing out my senses.”
Arjun cannot believe that even a secure and lucrative realm extending across the whole earth or even an Indr-like lordship over the gods of heaven can help him get rid of the sorrow that is withering his senses.
If his grief is unabated, what shall he do with all these acquisitions?
He begs to be excused from fighting in the war if these are to be his only rewards in return. He is utterly disheartened and he does not know what to say after this.
Lord Krishn, knower of secrets of the innermost heart (Hrishikesh),
speaks smilingly to the grieving Arjun.
“Although sorrowing over those who ought not to be grieved for,
you yet speak wise words;
but the discriminating mourn over
neither the living
nor those who are dead.”
Sri Krishn tells Arjun that while he grieves for those who are unworthy of such grief, he also speaks words of wisdom, but men of discernment mourn neither for those whose souls have departed nor for the ones who are living. They do not grieve for the living because they shall also die. That means that Arjun only talks like a wise man; he does not know the reality.
Lord Krishn adds:
“It is not that either you or I,
or all these kings, did not exist in the past,
nor is it that our being will come
to an end in the future.”
It is not, Lord Krishn explains, that he, the accomplished teacher, or Arjun-the devoted pupil, or all these kings with the vanity that is characteristic of rulers of men, did not exist at any time in the ages to come. The accomplished teacher is for ever, and so are affectionate disciples as well as rulers who symbolize the perversions of passion and moral blindness. Here, besides throwing light on the permanence of Yog in general, Yogeshwar Krishn has particularly stressed its existence in the future.
Explaining why the dead should not be mourned over, he says:
“Since the embodied Spirit passes through infancy,
youth, and old age in the body,
and then transmigrates into another body,
men with steadfast minds do not grieve
over his passing away.”
As the embodied soul waxes from childhood to youth, then wanes to old age, and assumes one new body after another, wise men are not prey to infatuation. At some time a man is a boy and then he grows into a young man. But does he die by this? Then he grows old.
The Self is ever the same; only the condition of the physical body in which he resides goes on changing. There is no crack in him when he changes over to a new body. This change from one physical body to another will continue until the Soul is united with the Supreme Spirit who alone is beyond all change.
Lord Krishn sings:
“There are sensations of heat and cold,
and of pain and pleasure, O son of Kunti,
as senses meet their objects.
Bear them patiently,
O Bharat, because they have a beginning and an end,
and are transient.”
The contact of senses and their objects, which generates pleasure and pain, and feelings of cold and warmth, is occasional and momentary. Arjun should, therefore, abandon them. But instead of that, he is shaken by the mere thought of pleasures that are derived from the union of senses and their objects. The family for the sake of whom we yearn for pleasures and the teacher, whom we revere, both represent the attachment of senses.
But the causes of this attachment are momentary, false and perishable. Neither shall our senses always meet with objects they enjoy, nor shall they always be capable of enjoyment. So Arjun is counselled to give up sensual pleasures and learn to withstand the demands of his senses.
But why is Arjun counselled thus?
Is it a Himalayan war in which he has to endure cold?
Or is it a desert war in which he has to suffer heat?
As knowledgeable people say, the actual “Kurukshetr” has a moderate climate. During the mere eighteen days that is the total duration of the Mahabharat war, is it possible that seasons will change: that winter and summer will come and go?
The truth is that endurance of cold and heat, of happiness and sorrow, of honour and dishonour, depends upon the seeker’s spiritual endeavour.
The Bhagavad Gita is, as we have seen more than once, an externalization of the inner conflict that rages within the mind. This war is the war between the gross physical body and the Self which is aware of his identity with God.
It is a conflict in which ultimately even the forces of divinity grow inert after they have subdued unrighteous impulses and enabled the Self to become one with God. When there remains no impiety, what else is there for pious impulses to fight?
The Bhagavad Gita is thus a picturization of inner conflict that rages within the mind.
What advantages, however, will the recommended sacrifice of senses and their pleasures bring? What is gained by this?
Sri Krishn speaks of this in next verse:
“So, O the noblest of men (Arjun),
one who is possessed of equanimity in pain and pleasure,
and firm, and untormented by these
(feelings produced by the meeting of senses with their objects),
deserves to taste the nectar of immortality.”
The steadfast man, who regards sorrow and happiness with equipoise and is not troubled by his senses and their association with objects, is worthy of the state of immortality that realization of the Supreme Spirit brings.
Here Lord Krishn refers to an attainment, namely amrit, literally the drink of immortality. Arjun had thought that in return for the war he would be rewarded with either a heavenly abode or the authority to rule over the earth. But now Lord Krishn tells him that his prize will be amrit rather than the pleasures of heaven or earthly power.
What is this amrit?
Lord Krishn sings:
“The unreal has no being and the real has no non-being;
and the truth about both has also been seen
by men who know the reality.”
The unreal has no existence; it has no being and so bringing it to an end is out of the question. On the other hand, there is no absence of the real in all time-past, present or future.
Arjun then asks Lord Krishn whether he is saying this as an incarnation of God. Lord Krishn’s reply to this is that the distinction between the real and the unreal has also been revealed to sages who have realized the true nature of the human Soul as identical with the Supreme Spirit pervading the universe. That is to say that Lord Krishn of the Gita is a seer who has gained an insight into reality.
What, after all, are true and false, real and unreal?
Lord Krishn adds:
“Know that since the Spirit
which pervades the universe is imperishable and immutable,
no one can effect his destruction.”
That which spreads through and is present in every atom of the universe is indestructible. No one is capable of destroying the imperishable principle.
But what is the name of this deathless amrit? Who is he?
Lord Krishn concludes:
“Fight, O Bharat (Arjun),
because while the bodies which clothe the Soul are said
to come to an end,
the embodied Spirit itself is for ever,
indestructible, and boundless.”
Arjun is exhorted to get up and fight because all these physical bodies that embody the indwelling, boundless, and eternal Spirit are said to be ephemeral.
This Spirit, the Self, is imperishable, and it cannot be destroyed at any time. The Self is real, whereas the physical body is subject to death, and so unreal and nonexistent at all times.
Lord Krishn’s injunction to Arjun is, “Fight because the body is mortal.” But it is not evident from the exhortation whether Arjun is required to kill only the Kaurav.
Aren’t the men on the side of Pandav, too, “bodies”? Are the Pandav immortal? If physical bodies are mortal, who is Sri Krishn there to defend? Is Arjun not a body, too? Is Lord Krishn there to defend that body which is unreal, without being, and unceasing?
If it is so, may it not be assumed that he too is ignorant and lacking in discrimination, the power that distinguishes between the visible world and the invisible Spirit.
Doesn’t he himself say later that the man who thinks of and toils only for the physical body (Chapter three, Verse 13) is ignorant and wanting in discernment?
Such a wretched man lives in vain. There is also another problem.
Who really is this Arjun?
As it was said in Chapter one, Arjun is an embodiment of affectionate devotion. Like a faithful charioteer, the revered God is always with his devotee. Like a friend, he guides him and shows him the right way.
We are not a physical body. The body is a mere garment, a dwelling for the Soul to live in. The one who lives in it is the affectionate Self. The physical body was sometime back called “unceasing.” When one body is forsaken, the Soul just assumes another body. It is with reference to this that Lord Krishn has said that there is change from one body to another just as a man grows from childhood to youth, and then to old age.
The real base of the body is constituted by sanskar, the merits-the influences and impressions-earned during a previous existence. And sanskar rests upon the mind. Perfect subjugation of the mind, so that it can be changeless, firm, and constant, and the dissolution of the last sanskar, are all different aspects of the same process.
The disintegration of the last crust of this sanskar marks the end of physical existence. To bring about this dissolution we have to undertake aradhana, worship and adoration, of the desired God.
Lord Krishn has named it action (karm) or the Way of Selfless Action (Nishkam Karm Yog). In the Bhagavad Gita, he has from time to time urged Arjun to wage war, but in the entire poem there is not one verse that supports the idea that its war is a physical war or in any way related to the idea of actual bloodshed.
Evidently this war is the war between the opposed impulses of righteousness and unrighteousness, the forces of piety and those of impiety, that is fought within man’s Soul-the seat of all thought and feeling.
~ Revered Gurudev Swami Adgadanand Jee Paramhans ~
~ mrityunjayanand ~
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