Tag Archives: Arjuna

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: https://bit.ly/JivaVedicInstituteBGWebinar. 

 

Krishna – A Warmonger?

By Satyanarayana Dasa

 

While traveling in the West and lecturing on the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most common questions asked by peace loving Western students is, “Why is Krishna preaching and almost forcing Arjuna to take up weapons against his own kinsmen while Arjuna shows no interest in it and argues against the ghastly warfare and its irreligious and immoral outcome?”

They assume Krishna to be a warmonger and Arjuna a champion of peace—a compassionate and kind-hearted dude. Indeed, anyone who gives a cursory reading to the first chapter of the Gita sympathizes with Arjuna and is puzzled with Krishna’s preaching to Arjuna to stand up and fight. Even Mahatma Gandhi, an ardent lover of the Gita, could not digest Krishna’s instruction to Arjuna to fight, and thus commented that the whole plot of the Bhagavad Gita is allegorical. Truth, however, is more mysterious than it appears.

Surfacing of Material Attachments

As is understood from the preceding chapters of the Mahabharata, Krishna had no personal gain in engaging Arjuna in the battle. He himself vowed not to take to weapons although approached by Arjuna to support their side. Indeed, He even volunteered to meet the opposite side for a truce to avoid the family feud. But the opponents, who were illegally occupying the kingdom of Arjuna’s brother, refused to part with even an inch of land, and challenged Arjuna and his party that if they had the power and grit, they could snatch away their share of the kingdom by force.

Arjuna and his brothers were ksatriyas, royal soldiers, and had no choice but to take up the challenge and save their kingdom or country from the clutches of the opponents.

Arjuna came well prepared to Kurukshetra, where the battle was about to take place, and was full of enthusiasm. He was the greatest war hero of his time, acknowledged even by his enemies. But after seeing his relatives face to face his material attachment surfaced and subdued his sense of duty. He became confused about the righteousness of war against his own irreligious and immoral cousins. Krishna was his chariot driver. He followed Arjuna’s instructions to move the chariot. But when confused, Arjuna requested Krishna to clear his doubt regarding his duty in this complex situation. Krishna advised in the best interest of Arjuna.

Responsibility to Protect

Since Arjuna was a warrior, Krishna advised him to perform his duty without self-interest. If a soldier does not want to engage in war but wants to be a mendicant instead, as proposed by Arjuna, then he should not join the army. It is paradoxical to join the army and then refuse to fight when the need arises. The army has the responsibility to protect a nation from its enemies. By engaging in warfare when necessary, the army grants a peaceful life to the civilians. The duty of a policeman, a soldier or a king, is to be impartial for the sake of the nation, even if they have to stand up against their own teachers or relatives.

Krsna is instructing Arjuna on the battlefield

Krishna is not propagating violence. Rather, he is imploring Arjuna to vanquish the enemies, i.e. his cousins, who plotted to kill him and his brother surreptitiously by poisoning their food, setting fire to their residence and other such hideous means. A soldier protects citizens and prevents violence.

In modern times, terrorists attack innocent civilians and inflict pain and suffering on them for an ultimately selfish purpose like enjoying heaven or materially benefitting their family members and kinsmen because it relates to the material body. The job of the police and army is to face such terrorists and protect the civilians.

A soldier is brave and a terrorist, who is motivated by hatred, is a coward. While causing fear, he himself is full of fear. He remains hidden, while a soldier faces the situation with bravery. A terrorist is not an object of compassion for a soldier.

An Antidote to Unjust Violence

Arjuna was confusing his material attachment with compassion, which resulted in cowardly behavior. If a serial killer or a terrorist enters the house of a civilian who has a gun and can use it to protect himself and his family members, should he bravely face the intruder or become a compassionate peace loving saint and allow his family to be murdered? If someone, like a police officer, advises him to take the gun and face the intruder, is such an advisor to be branded a violent nut?

Deliberate on this and see if Krishna was wrong in advising Arjuna to fight with the criminals who stripped his wife, a queen, in front of his own eyes, and in the presence of the very people who were now standing against him with weapons in hand. These very kinsmen had sat speechless, and some even mocked the hapless, innocent queen of high moral character and her husband and did not oppose the stripping.

Krishna is not preaching to Arjuna to be violent against innocent civilians like a terrorist. He is asking him to be brave in the face of the imminent situation. A coward runs away after his act of violence. Arjuna also wanted to run away, albeit from the war. Lord Krishna advised him not to be a coward and do his duty as a soldier. So, it is an antidote to unjust violence.

Bodily Attachment as the Real Cause

If Arjuna had run away from his duty as a soldier, he would have become instrumental in allowing unjust violence. Moreover, being a celebrity and a great hero he would have set a bad precedent for other soldiers. His opponents, who respected his bravery and chivalry, would have ridiculed him. They would have thought that Arjuna became fearful and ran away after seeing his opponents on the battlefield (which included great warriors like Bhisma and Drona), on the pretense of being compassionate toward them.

The real cause behind Arjuna’s confusion is his attachment to his physical body. The misidentification with the physical body is bringing a sense of fear and loss, manifesting as compassion. Krishna saw through this and advised Arjuna to not be bogged down by this ignorance.

Krishna is not preaching unjust violence in the name of religion. Unjust violence is deeply rooted in selfishness. Krishna teaches to rise above hatred and attachment, be equipoised in all situations, and do one’s duty, which happens to be fighting in Arjuna’s case. His advice is not specific to Arjuna only, but applicable to all human beings. He propounds action without hatred and attachment.

Equanimity and Performance of Duty

Sri Krishna and Arjuna

Bhagavad Gita was spoken more than 5000 years ago. It is one of the most popular Hindu scriptures. In this long history, there is not a single instance where someone became a terrorist after reading the Gita. But there are thousands of people who became peace loving by following the instructions of Krishna. Indeed, the Gita was an inspiration for Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent movement. He even wrote commentaries on it.

Therefore, to think that Krishna incited Arjuna to unnecessary violence is a complete misunderstanding. Krishna teaches equanimity in life and performance of one’s designated duty. He does not encourage everyone to take to weapons and fight in the name of God. But a soldier has to take his weapon to bring security to the civilians. Otherwise, why join the army?

A terrorist inflicts pain on others whereas a soldier sacrifices his own life to bring security and peace to people. They both may take the gun but their intentions are poles apart. A surgeon inflicts pain by moving his knife into the body of a patient, and a mugger may also attack someone with a knife. We laud the surgeon and punish the mugger. We need to study the intention behind an action to know if it is an act of violence or peace.

Violence can be motivated by selfishness or to maintain peace and order (dharma). If Krishna was propagating violence, then all the world’s military organizations would be nothing but havens for breeding violence at the expense of taxpayers’ money. Defensive violence is necessary for maintaining peace. Otherwise one may face the same fate as a peace-lover like Martin Luther King Jr or Mahatma Gandhi.

Feeling Guilt

By Satyanarayana Dasa

Guilt is an emotion which most of us have felt at various times in our lives. It is amazing how quickly guilt can kick in for the smallest, most meaningless things. It can be draining and depressing and can rob us of our mental peace and energy. To overcome guilt and get rid of it, we need to clearly understand why we feel guilty.

Why We Feel Guilt

Guilt is felt whenever we think we should have done something but failed to do it or should have refrained from doing something but ended up doing it. Guilt is attached to judgment. It is a hidden cultural imperative, related to fear of punishment from some authority, society or God. The imagined punishment could be corporeal or mental.  If we stick to the ideals set up in our minds and perform our duties accordingly, there is no guilt.  Any discrepancy between the concept of our ideals and our actions gives rise to the feeling of guilt, making us feel miserable and depressed.

The starting point of all guilt is in the mind. Guilt is an emotional warning sign that most people learn through their normal childhood social development. We learn it from parents, teachers and society. Its purpose is to let us know when we have done something wrong, to help us develop a better sense of our behavior and how it affects ourselves and others. It prompts us to re-examine our behavior, so that we do not end up making the same mistake twice. But more often, this purpose is not achieved. Rather we end up in frustration, grief and depression. It robs us of our vigor, vitality, health and peace of mind. Although guilt has a good purpose, if it is based upon irrational morals or standards, or if our judgment about our actions or failure to act is skewed, then it may lead to an irrational feeling of guilt.

Getting Rid of Guilt

To get rid of guilt, we need to have the proper concept of right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral. But many of these concepts are not absolute. What is good or moral at a certain time or place may be bad or immoral at another time or place. What is a good action for one may be a crime for another. For example, if a civilian shoots another man, he will be prosecuted, but if a policeman shoots at a murderer and protects the lives of others, he will be praised and rewarded.  There are many stories in the scriptures to illustrate this fact. Therefore, it is important to discriminate between proper and improper causes of guilt.

When you feel guilty, try to analyze the cause and see if the action/inaction was harmful to others or to yourself. Be skeptical about the guilt feeling – is it trying to teach you something rational and helpful about your behavior, or is it just an emotional, irrational response to a situation? The answer to that question will be the first step to helping you better cope with guilt in the future. Arjuna in the first chapter of Gita feels guilty about his decision to fight against his own kinsmen and becomes despondent. Krsna, however, shows that his guilt feeling is inappropriate. He argues from various angles – personal, social, and spiritual — to disprove Arjuna’s guilt feelings.

In Sanskrit, guilt is called a dosa which means that which pollutes the mind.  It is explicit in the first chapter of the Gita that guilt had polluted Arjuna’s mind and made him so weak that he became impotent, physically as well as mentally.

The purpose of atonement and confession in Hindu scriptures is to get rid of the guilt feeling so that one can engage in execution of one’s duty whole heartedly. Atonement is called prayaschitta, which literally means ”that which purifies the mind.” (Even the English word seems to mean ”to be one with oneself” (at-one-ment)). This is also one of the purposes behind scriptural statements which say that by taking bath in a holy river like Ganga, one becomes free of all sins. Confession in Christianity serves the same purpose. It helps one get rid of the guilt feeling. The feeling of guilt itself is a sin. Krishna (Gita 2.2) calls it impure (kashmalm) and hellish (asvargyam). The worst thing one can do to oneself when one feels guilty is to do nothing or to abandon one’s duty, as Arjuna did in the first chapter of Gita.

Improving our Behavior

Instead of becoming bogged down by guilt, one should learn from it. If the guilt is rational, then one should peep into one’s own heart and recognize the weakness, which led to the guilt, and then work to be stronger. Do not succumb to the weakness again (Gita 2.3). If you are feeling guilty of a wrong action, such as for eating five chocolate bars in a row, that is your conscience sending a message to you about a behavior you probably already recognize is a little extreme. Such behavior may be self-destructive and ultimately harmful to your health and well-being. So the rational purpose of this guilt is simply to try to convince you to change this behavior.

If we acknowledge the mistakes which led to our guilt, then we can go about correcting them. We should not procrastinate in improving our behavior. Healthy guilt is telling us that we need to be different and the sooner the better. Guilt feelings will return time and again unless we have learned our lesson. Like in school, we will not move to the next grade unless we pass the exam. It can be frustrating, but that is how life works. The sooner we “learn the lesson,” e.g., make amends or work to not engage in the same hurtful behavior in the future, the sooner the guilt will disappear. If successful, it will never return for that issue again. We have passed the exam, but to neither acknowledge nor accept our mistakes is foolish, as we have to carry the burden of guilt without any solution. It is like putting our car in neutral gear and pressing on the accelerator. It makes noise and pollutes the environment, but gets us nowhere. Unattended guilt brings only pollution to our lives and to those around us.

If you did something wrong or hurtful, acknowledge it mentally. You cannot change the past, but you can make amends for your behavior. Guilt is usually very circumstantial. That means we get into a situation, we do something inappropriate, and then we feel badly for a time.  If we recognize the problem behavior and take quick action, we will feel better about things and the guilt will be alleviated. Obsessing about it, however, and not taking any type of compensatory behavior (such as apologizing or changing one’s negative behavior), keeps the bad feelings going. Accept and acknowledge the inappropriate behavior, make your amends, and then move on.

Purpose of Guilt

Everything has a purpose. The purpose of guilt is not to make us feel bad just for the sake of it. The purpose of guilt is to get our attention so that we can learn something from the experience and become a better person. That is  healthy guilt. If I have accidentally said something insulting to another person, my guilt is telling me I should apologize to the person and think a little more before I speak.

And lastly remember that nobody is perfect. To err is human and to forgive divine.  So let us be divine also and forgive ourselves. Even those who appear to lead perfect, guilt-free lives may not be doing so. Striving for perfection in any part of our lives, except spiritual, is a recipe for failure, since it can never be attained. The only perfection possible is spiritual perfection.

We all make mistakes. Nothing is new or strange about that. Many of us go down a path in our lives that can make us feel guilty later on when we finally realize our mistake. The key, however, is to realize the mistake and accept that you are only human. Do not engage in days, weeks or months of self-blame or battering your self-esteem because you should have been an ideal person. You’re not, and neither am I. That is just life.