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Arjuna is stunned PDF Print E-mail
Gita - Gita Articles

arjuna uvaca
katham bhismam aham sankhye
dronam ca madhusudana
isubhih pratiyotsyami
pujarhav ari-sudana

Arjuna said: O killer of Madhu [Krsna], how can I counterattack with arrows in battle men like Bhisma and Drona, who are worthy of my worship? ||2:4||

gurun ahatva hi mahanubhavan
sreyo bhoktum bhaiksyam apiha loke
hatvartha-kamams tu gurun ihaiva
bhunjiya bhogan rudhira-pradigdhan


It is better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of great souls who are my teachers. Even though they are avaricious, they are nonetheless superiors. If they are killed, our spoils will be tainted with blood. ||2:5||

na caitad vidmah kataran no gariyo
yad va jayema yadi va no jayeyuh
yan eva hatva na jijivisamas
te 'vasthitah pramukhe dhartarastrah


Nor do we know which is better--conquering them or being conquered by them. The sons of Dhrtarastra, whom if we kill we should not care to live, are now standing before us on this battlefield. ||2:6||

karpanya-dosopahata-svabhavah
prcchami tvam dharma-sammudha-cetah
yac chreyah syan niscitam bruhi tan me
sisyas te 'ham sadhi mam tvam prapannam


Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me clearly what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me. ||2:7||

na hi prapasyami mamapanudyad
yac chokam ucchosanam indriyanam
avapya bhumav asapatnam rddham
rajyam suranam api cadhipatyam


I can find no means to drive away this grief, which is drying up my senses. I will not be able to destroy it even if I win an unrivaled kingdom on earth with sovereignty like the demigods in heaven. ||2:8||

sanjaya uvaca
evam uktva hrsikesam
gudakesah parantapah
na yotsya iti govindam
uktva tusnim babhuva ha

Sanjaya said: Having spoken thus, Arjuna, chastiser of enemies, told Krsna, "Govinda, I shall not fight," and fell silent. ||2:9||

The war has been declared. Arjuna is affected deeply by the possibility of impending death of his loved ones and narrates to Krishna why he does not want to fight. He talks with command and confidence. Krishna, on the other hand, has a very affectionate yet very blunt reply to all what Arjuna had to say. As we noted already, Krishna’s reply was short and precise. Krishna pointed out that Arjuna’s timing was wrong; he further says that this line of thinking and action does not befit him, will not take him to heaven and may be downright disgraceful for Arjuna. He asks Arjuna to give up coward like thinking and arise for the occasion and fight.

To understand the current shlokas and the Gita as a whole we have to not only understand what Arjuna is saying but also experience Arjuna’s pain. We have to immerse ourselves so deeply that we can feel Arjuna’s pain, his anguish, his despondency and his despair. The feeling has gone to the deepest core of Arjuna. He can no longer hold on to his Gandiva (his bow), his eyes are full of tears and Krishna simply says that his timing is off. Arjuna is stunned by Krishna’s reply. It has certainly made him think again. The momentum of his thought process is definitely stalling. But, still Arjuna’s intellect has been hurt; his pride, however subtle, has been touched. His mind in the background is wondering if there is truth in what Krishna is saying. After all he had great respect for his long time friend Krishna and Krishna had never said anything in the past that has not been true. In this state of two minds Arjuna tries to put forward his own points.

We examined developing of ego in the last column, “Is Ego really bad.” Let us examine it a little further to understand image building and developing value system. We are given a name when we are born. Arjuna got a name and so did Duryodhana. They went to schooling and training. While learning they also interacted together. While one person’s ego was building there were other individuals whose ego was developing as well. Everyone is getting identified with his or her achievements and failures. A net image of an individual is thus created. The society develops an image about such a person and the individual develops somewhat similar image about himself as well. While Arjuna is developing his image Karna is also developing his own image. Arjuna is son of Indra and Karna is son of Sun. They are both awesome warriors. Karna is famous for giving; Arjuna is famous for his righteousness.

Who can better understand anything about image building more than the people of today? Image building is a big industry today. There are professionals who will train you how to look authentic on a television appearance. These image-building professionals advise all the presidential election in the USA or the parliamentary elections in India. Image in some ways is collective ego added to individual’s identity over time. There is also the development of collective images. India has its own image and Australia its own. Pandavas had one image while Kauravas had another.

While several people are developing the ego of their own and creating different images, conflicts are bound to happen. To deal with this every society down the ages has developed value system. Dharma is one such value system. When there is conflict there are ways and means for resolution. If there is no agreement on resolution then there is war.

We all have an image of ourselves of who and what we are. Arjuna also had an image of himself; he must have been right to think that he was a nice man, a man who respected the elders, Gurus and the Shastras; he was intelligent and an awesome warrior. Arjuna always operated within the framework of Dharma. Arjuna would never have thought himself to be anywhere close to being a coward; instead he was the brave heart of his times. If we can see that Arjuna, then we can understand how shocked he must have been with the reply of Krishna. I am not implying that Krishna was wrong; on the contrary, I think Krishna must have done it with full knowledge and on purpose.

Krishna is a different story. He does not have any ego or any image about himself. Others have an image about him; many believed he was Parmatma himself. But, even Krishna operates within the framework of that image. He goes to Duryodhana with a peace proposal knowing fully well that Duryodhana will not accept his proposal. Krishna mentions the reason for this to Draupadi in a conversation. Krishna said to her that he has to do it for others will accuse Krishna of not having tried for peace.

Krishna is very straightforward, to the point and quite blunt. He definitely is talking at Arjuna’s level. Arjuna must have been stunned with this reply. As we all know Arjuna was at his peak; he was not only an invincible warrior but also a great intellectual who had read the Vedas and other contemporary shashtras (scriptures). He was expecting Krishna to agree with him in not going for the fight; instead Krishna was calling him to be behaving like a coward. This must have hurt Arjuna.

Arjuna has his own value system, which goes with the image he has about himself. Krishna had mentioned that the timing of Arjjuna’s thinking pattern was wrong. Now Arjuna may concede to that but he brings out a point, which to him is not related to time. A Guru in his times and even today is revered, respected and killing a Guru is unthinkable. There is no right and wrong timing for this thinking pattern. What Arjuna is trying to point out is that certain principles are outside of the relativity of right and wrong. They are always right. You do not kill a respectable Guru. Arjuna is saying that it won’t be worth living after he kills respectable grandfather Bhisma and Guru Dronacharya. Arjuna then also raises a new point as to the uncertainty of the outcome of the war; who is going to win and for what avail? How Krishna deals with this will be discussed in future columns. Let me say here that the plane of discussion will change. So far Krishna has been on Arjuna’s level, he will and will have to talk from Krishna’s level to answer such questions.

Then Arjuna picks up the point of coward like action (2:7). He is definitely hurt by that statement. Who will not be? How can anyone even imagine Arjuna to be a coward? He had won Draupadi in a competition. He had single handedly defeated the Kauravas in battle at the end of guptavas, he had fought valiantly with the gandharvas to protect the Kauravas and had even fought bravely with Shiva himself. Arjuna considered himself beyond even the shadow of a coward like action and hence takes a special note to mention that he is not thinking like a coward or acting like one; he is just confused about what his Dharma should be.

In the same shloka he appears to be surrendering to Krishna calling upon Krishna to guide him to do the right thing. Krishna has already asked Arjuna to arise for the occasion and fight (2:3), but it appears that Arjuna did not hear that part. I am not questioning the sincerity of Arjuna in this shloka, but at the same time it is obvious that Arjuna is not surrendered as yet to Krishna. If he were, then this would have been the end of Gita. There is no need to go any further.

We have examined the difference between curiosity and inquiry in our earlier column,” To kill or not to kill (1:28-1:39).” Surrendering is another entity that needs to be appreciated. Surrendering is quality of the heart, when surrendering happens no questions arise. Arjuna still has many questions. He is looking for answers. This shloka is symbolizing the deep inquiry of Arjuna; he wants clarity and knows that Krishna is the only one who can take him to the place of clarity. Arjuna knows that only Krishna can quench his thirst of knowledge that will bring him to a state of being that will have no doubts as to what he needs to do.

The next shloka is so beautiful. It deals with the basic question and that is, “Can desires be fulfilled.” Arjuna is saying that even if he is the ruler of the entire earth and heaven, his sense of despair will not be satisfied. Arjuna is unaware of the fact that desires can never be satisfied. No sooner than one desire is satisfied, another one arises. You want to own a blue Mercedes. As long as you do not have it, it has great value and meaning. You call your Mercedes garage every day as to when it is being delivered. The first day it comes on your door, you are so happy. After a few days, it is business as usual. For motorboats there is a saying and that is you are happy twice, “once when you buy it and the second time when you sell it.” Desires can never be fulfilled. And that is the problem. We go on believing that happiness comes from fulfilling desires and desires can never be fulfilled. So, what is the way? We will get into the whole topic in later columns.

We also need to understand here that we are actually slaves of our desires as expressed by the indriyas (senses) and the sad part is that most of us do not know it. We feel that we are the source of what we do. When I am sad or depressed, we always give a reason and are satisfied. We do not acknowledge that grief, sadness and depression have their own existence and there is very little we can do to change that. Let us examine that a little further. Someone is going through a divorce. The wife is unhappy or found out that she married the wrong man. In the beginning you go through a phase of denial. You think you will patch up. But then the patch up does not work. A sense of grief and despair follows and you get depressed. The divorce goes through and in time you find a new wife and are happy ever after. The question I have is could you have changed your feelings at any stage of this progression. We accept all these responses to be normal, but at the same time when the depression comes, you are actually enslaved by that. You cannot simply come out of it. And that is what Arjuna is saying to Krishna. He is admitting the state of being where he is stuck at present. He is recognizing that unless he comes out of this dark place, he wont be able to act appropriately and until then he wont be able to fight. In the ninth shloka he makes it very clear that he is not going to fight. Arjuna knows that as long he is enslaved by his indriyas (senses) regarding this despair, he is in no state to be able to fight and hence he declares to Krishna that he has decided not to fight.

Arjuna has raised some questions and is asking Krishna to guide him like a Guru and then admits that he is enslaved by his indriyas (senses) and cannot fight as he is. Although, Arjuna seems to have decided not to fight, he has prepared himself for further guidance from Krishna.

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