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Introduction to Bhagavad Gita – Victory with Krishna

Bhagavad Gītā is the analysis of the human mind, which is a most complex and unpredictable asset.

In this universe, everything comes in ordered cycles. The seasons come and go, days and nights come and go, and creation and destruction occur, but the most uncertain, and therefore problematic, aspect is the human mind.  In many ways, we are our mind, and depending on the nature of the mind, a human being can be 5% human being and 95% animal, or 20% human being and 80% animal. It’s difficult to say what a person is since he may look like a human being but what is going on inside the mind is very difficult to know. A dog is 100% dog. An apple tree is 100% an apple tree. But this does not apply to human beings. 

The situation at present is especially complicated because we cannot even tell whether somebody is a male or a female. Previously, that distinction was there. A male was a male, and a female was a female. Now with the progress of civilization, our identities have become more complex. We are not sure which pronoun we should use for the person we are communicating with. Our minds have become more complex.

Although so much research has been done in the fields of psychology, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, neuroscience, neurobiology, etc., there is no conclusion about what the human mind actually is, how to control it, how it works, and what is the energy that makes it function. But this knowledge is very conclusively given in Bhagavad Gītā, which is a study of the human mind. It’s not a very big book. Unlike the Vedas, Mahābhārata, or Rāmāyaṇa, which are very voluminous, the Gītā has only 700 verses. One will find very important and practical instructions in it. There are various topics in this small book. Let’s look at them in brief.

The last verse of Bhagavad Gītā says:

yatra yogeśvaraḥ krsno yatra pārtho dhanur-dharaḥ
tatra śrīr vijayo bhūtir dhruvā nītir matir mama

“Wherever there is Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the master of yoga, and wherever there is Arjuna, the wielder of the bow, there will surely be opulence, victory, prosperity, and statesmanship. This is my conviction.”

The verse is very simple, but it contains deep meaning. 

We want beauty, wealth, and power. We want love and victory. We want morality. To acquire these desirable assets, you need two things. One is to become a Pārtha, Dhanurdhara. These are two names of Arjuna used in this verse. The other is Yogeśvara Kṛṣṇa.

Arjuna’s mother’s name was Pṛthā, and therefore he is called Pārtha, which means “the son of Pṛthā.” But pārtha also has another meaning. It refers to a person who is sincere and who has some worth. Or, in other words, someone who is qualified.

The word “apārtha” means “useless,” so “pārtha” means the opposite of that—someone who has some worthy qualification. Thus, the word “pārtha” signifies a person who has attained qualification in his or her life. If we want to be successful, we have to work and become educated. Other species of life, such as animals and birds, instinctively know how to survive. They don’t have to go to school or undergo training. But when human beings are born, they are completely helpless and have to be taught everything, even how to go to the toilet.

We have potential and we need to learn to develop and use that potential. Therefore, one should try to become educated, or qualified, pārtha. Qualification does not merely mean gathering information, which is freely available on the Internet. This kind of information is also needed but the primary education is to develop character. This is real education and is what everybody should acquire first before getting professionally trained. That is the implication of using the word “pārtha.”

Only human beings have the capability to acquire education and transfer knowledge. They can progress because they can learn and pass on knowledge. Other species of life are doing the same things in the same way they always have. Dogs lived 1,000 years ago, and they have continued to live in the same way. They eat in the same way; they don’t improve. Human beings, however, are changing because of the knowledge they have acquired and transferred. However, the most important form of knowledge is not about our life-style. It is about our own life, about the self, about character, about the purpose for which one exists. This type of knowledge and character development must be acquired.

The other name used for Arjuna is “dhanurdhara,” which means “one who carries a bow.” A bow is representative of diligence and hard work.  This implies that we must endeavor. It is not that after acquiring knowledge, we sit quietly, and things will happen automatically. We must become qualified and make an effort to reach our goal. Arjuna represents a person who is interested in spiritual life. He is dedicated to it, and he has his teacher. But the work must be done by Arjuna himself.  Everyone has to perform his sādhana (spiritual practice), which means effort and endeavor.

The next word of significance is “Yogeśvara-Kṛṣṇa.” Yatra yogeśvaraḥ kṛṣṇaḥ. He represents both guru and God. Even if we are qualified and we endeavor, we still need guidance in crucial times and we must have God in our life. Not only is Arjuna a very qualified person, and ready to fight, or ready to work, but he is also guided by Bhagavān. It is Kṛṣṇa who is driving the chariot. This implies that we must have some guidance in our life. It is needed both for material as well as spiritual success. Nobody can become enlightened by oneself. We are not born with knowledge. We all need guidance. This is the significance of Arjuna sitting on the chariot which Kṛṣṇa is driving.

If a person is educated, qualified, has good character, is sincere and hardworking, is also devoted to Bhagavān, and follows the scriptures properly, then there is bound to be success in life. There will be happiness, wealth, beauty, pleasure, and enjoyment. This is the meaning underlying the words of this verse.

Bhagavad Gītā was spoken on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra, which is about 200 kilometers north of New Delhi. The battle was between cousins who were fighting for property. Before the battle began, both sides were trying to fortify their armies. They approached different kings in India to request them to fight on their side.

Both parties also approached Kṛṣṇa, who was living in Dvārakā. Duryodhana reached His residence first, arriving early in the morning. At that time, Kṛṣṇa was still in his bedroom and had not yet gotten up. Since Duryodhana didn’t want to take the chance that Arjuna, being Kṛṣṇa’s friend, could ask Him first for His alliance, he went straight into Kṛṣṇa’s bedroom and sat next to His head.

After some time, Arjuna arrived and was surprised to see Duryodhana sitting there. He then placed himself next to Kṛṣṇa’s feet. In India, to sit near the feet is considered respectful to the person, and it also means taking a humble position in relation to that person.

When Kṛṣṇa, who was not really sleeping, realized that both had come, He sat up. If one gets up from sleep and sits, it is natural to look toward one’s feet. When Kṛṣṇa saw Arjuna sitting there, He asked him when he came. Hearing this, Duryodhana became worried that Arjuna would ask Kṛṣṇa for His alliance first and said, “I’m also here.” Kṛṣṇa then turned His head and greeted Duryodhana.

Upon hearing both of their intentions to ask for His alliance, Kṛṣṇa told them that since they were both His relatives (Kṛṣṇa’s sister was married to Arjuna, and Duryodhana’s daughter was married to Kṛṣṇa’s son), He could not agree to help one and not the other. He offered to divide Himself and His army. Whichever side He was on, the army would be on the other side. He also put a condition: He personally would not fight.

Duryodhana wanted to get the first choice so that He could immediately ask for the army. However, Kṛṣṇa requested Arjuna to ask first. Duryodhana objected, saying that he came first, thus he should have first choice. Kṛṣṇa replied that although Duryodhana may have come first, He saw Arjuna first. Duryodhana understood that Kṛṣṇa was favoring Arjuna. Thinking that he would lose the opportunity to get the army, Duryodhana argued that He is senior, and thus should be given the first choice. Kṛṣṇa objected. In a family, when there are small children, they are taken care of first. When some sweets or gifts are to be distributed, they are first given to the children, not to the adults.

Kṛṣṇa then asked Arjuna what he wanted. Arjuna replied, “Kṛṣṇa, I want You. Give the army to Duryodhana.” Surprised, Kṛṣṇa asked “Why do you want Me? There will be a battle, and I’m not going to fight. It is not a festival that you are inviting Me for, you will need an army.” Duryodhana was feeling very happy inside, thinking that he will get the army and that Arjuna was foolish. Arjuna replied, “If You are with me, I have everything; if You are not with me, I have nothing.”

This is the difference between a materialist and a spiritualist. A materialist wants to have Bhagavān’s power, wealth, and energy, whereas a spiritualist wants Bhagavān. If Bhagavān is with us, then everything that a materialist hankers for is with us, plus more. Therefore, there is nothing else that a spiritualist needs. This is the significance of the words “yatra yogeśvaraḥ krsno yatra pārtho dhanur-dharah.” Where there is Arjuna, there is Kṛṣṇa.

This should be our life. We should work hard, attain qualification and education, and be with God. When we choose to follow God’s instructions, when we follow the principles set up by Him, then we are with God. Then our life will be successful.

This is the difference between Arjuna and Duryodhana, representatives of a spiritualist and a materialist. Duryodhana had a huge army, more than one and a half times the size of Arjuna’s. Duryodhana’s army had eleven akṣauhiṇīs, and Arjuna’s army had only seven akṣauhiṇīs, yet Arjuna was the one who became victorious. Duryodhana had all the great warriors on his side—Bhīṣma, whom nobody could defeat, Droṇa, who was his own teacher and a great fighter, Karṇa, Duḥśāsana, and many great heroes. Yet Arjuna became victorious only because he had Kṛṣṇa on his side.

Delve into the timeless wisdom of Bhagavad Gītā through our Sunday Livestream at 10:30 AM IST, eloquently explained in Hindi by Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa and translated simultaneously into English and Spanish via Zoom: