Bhagavad Gita Chapter 1 Arjuna Visaada Yoga; 4th part

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4th Part; The first chapter of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita is called Arjuna Visaada Yoga or The dialectical conflict of Arjuna: Lamenting the Consequence of War.

In continuation of 1. Introduction of Srimad Bhagavad Gita

2.Chapter 1 Arjuna Visaada Yoga; 1st part

3.Chapter 1 Arjuna Visaada Yoga; 2nd part

4.Chapter 1 Arjuna Visaada Yoga; 3rd part

Thus solicited by Gudakesa, (Arjuna is also called thus) because he had mastered the ability to go without sleep, in the present context the term indicates always alert and circumspect. Sanjaya proceeds to describe how Lord Krishna responded to the request of Arjuna. The Supreme Lord Krishna the treasure-house of attributes such as wisdom, strength, sovereignty, eternality, supremacy and magnificence placed that chariot between the two armies in such a way as to give a view of both the armies on the battlefield. He placed the chariot between the two armies in front of the Kaurava commanders Bhishma and Drona and said: O Partha, survey all the Kauravas and see all those who are assembled here.  The use of the word Kauravas has a special significance; in the sense the fighters in the Kaurava army are mostly members of the Arjuna’s near relations. The use of the word Hrsikesa meaning (O master of the senses) indicates that Arjuna will lose his craving to fight so what is the rationale of screening the enemy army on the theatre of war and within Lord Krishna’s words are a suggestion of veiled sarcasm. These words acted as the starting point from which spiralled the nervousness of Arjuna incited by empathy for blood-relations and induced dejection in the mind of Arjuna. The resultant corollary in the form of Arjuna’s refusal to participate in the fight caused the flow of nectarean stream of words in the form of Gita directly from the lips of the God.

Arjuna saw in both the armies many of his friends and associates uncles, grand uncles, teachers’, sons nephews, grandsons, grand-nephews, as well as acquaintances, friends, admirers and others who had presented a few good deeds earlier. It should be understood that those cited as fathers are ones who were from the same generation as his father such as Bhurisrava and grandfathers are similarly from the same generation as his grandfather such as Bhishma, Somadatta and Bahlika. The teachers referred to are Drona and Kripa, maternal uncles are Salya, Kuntiboja and Purujit; brothers are Karna, Yudhisthira, Bhima etc. and cousins Duryodhana etc. sons are of the age of his own son Abhimanyu, are resembling Laksmana the son of Duryodhana, etc, grandsons like the sons of Laksmana, etc; friends like Asvatthama and other and well wishers like Kritavarma, Bhagadatta and others and also the soldiers fighting on his own side.

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, EVEN TOUGH ONES CAN GET DELUDED: Arjuna was actively marshalling the forces on his side; he desired and asked his charioteer Sri Krishna that his chariot be stationed between the two armies in order that he might have a look at those misguided Kauravas against whom he is about to fight and his exceptional chariot was forthwith lodged in the centre from where he could see his adversaries. On the one side Arjuna saw Duryodhana stood with his army marshalled by the Patriarch Bhishma and aided by his military adviser Drona, also there were his uncles, granduncles, his preceptors, the relations of his mother, his cousins their children and grandchildren and his erstwhile friends and on the other side was Arjuna’s own army under the command of brother Bhima, marshalled by his wife’s brother Dhrstadyumna.  Before seeing the actual persons holding arms against each other, Arjuna accepted the challenge and the war cry began; thus he committed himself fully to the situation, but regretted it as soon as he saw his friends and relatives standing on either side waiting to kill each other. Instantaneously he was overcome by compassion and regret, his heroism deserted him as a result of this weakness he shifted his position from an active participant to one of witness; thus there is a paradoxical incompatibility between the attitude of the participant and that of a neutral witness and the advent of feelings of peace for the time being completely overlaid the warrior qualities in Arjuna. Gone was his fortitude, he was now full of softened emotions; he said to Sri Krishna; “I see on both the sides all my relations, friends and tribesmen; the very idea of a bitter fight shakes me up to my roots.” Arjuna the great warrior now caught in his delusion began to behave like a simpleton, he would prefer to lose his life, and the call of war had no meaning to him, Arjuna found the situation too hard to tackle.  

According to his position in life, a role that Arjuna on purpose opted for; the action that was most natural for him was to kill his enemies before they could strike back; for killing an enemy by fair means in an all out battle is an act of gallantry, but killing one’s own teacher (Drona) brother (Karna) grandfather (Bhishma) has no moral justification. In other words the dilemma was to decide between two weighty values, both of which had merit and compulsions. What happened to Arjuna on the battle field was a process of fallacy in which the whole mechanism of the mind is subjected to a series of hindrances, a characteristic that is not based on the true outline presented. Essentially all things considered interpersonal relation of a family or class or community is different from the interpersonal ensemble of an enemy camp in a battlefield, here the nature of interpersonal relationship is one of rivalry and not friendship.  Thus we see in Arjuna the unfathomable case of dynamics of social process urging him to carry out the duty of a warrior, and at the same time a philosophical disposition that was compassionate and unselfish, compelling him to give up war.

Arjuna an unassailable warrior is grief stricken; greatly despondent, overwhelmed, overcome, besieged and possessed by despondency. He came to the flawed conclusion that as a warrior fighting this battle was in opposition to the principles of morality. Arjuna the son of Kunti naturally empathetic, is affected by the morality and afflictions of the mundane world and all the signs of being anguished like shedding of tears, trembling, being suffocated showed up as he wretchedly spoke these words. “O Krishna, seeing these relatives straight in front of me ready to fight, my hands, arms, legs and feet become numb; they fail me and my mouth is completely desiccated.” It can be said that the drying up of the mouth is much more awful than physical exertion occasioned by hard labour. Arjuna is intensely expressing how the jolt and revulsion of the imminent war is starting to distress him. His physical body is being assailed by weakness of limbs, parched throat, horripilation and hair standing on end, and even his celebrated Gandiva the celestial bow is tripping from his hand.

“Furthermore O Kesava I am not able to stand here and compose myself for I see adverse omens and portents which forebode evil. It is as if my mind is unsteady.”  With these words of gloom the weakness of Arjuna is disclosed and it can be understood that he is close to losing perception. He says; in this war that even if he were victorious in obtaining the kingdom he would not feel any happiness to the contrary he would feel guilt. In this sense the inauspicious omens are not given as a symptom but as a result. The burning sensation in his skin and tremors in the left side of the body are all indicative of adverse omens signifying dreadful consequences. Arjuna asserts that he cannot anticipate any gain from killing his own kinsman in encounter. It is stated in the lore that in this world two classes of living creatures are normally granted access to the sanctified planets: one being the renunciate who is disciplined in the practice of yoga and the other is the combatant slain in battle. Arjuna’s possible speculation is that although there is provision for the slain, there is no declaration of any merit for the slayer. Arjuna says, “I do not see any benefit from slaying family members who oppose us  in combat,” he has previously said that he doesn’t crave for triumph in the conflict, so putting it to him fighting them will lead to victory will be superfluous. Arjuna states clearly, “They for whose sake we want sovereignty are gathered here to fight; they are prepared to forfeit their life and possessions, hence of what use will sovereignty be to us?” The reason for not desiring the kingdom is that possession of a kingdom even by placing personal life in jeopardy is for the happiness of one’s own kinsman but on this occasion when the destruction of one’s kin is assured it is an unfulfilling yearning to seek victory.

If it were to be suggested that even if Arjuna out of concern might possibly not desire to eliminate his adversaries; surely his foes will slay him to keep the realm free from anxiety. As a counter to this Arjuna says even if his rivals intend to eliminate him he will not kill them. He says; “In anticipation of transitory, worldly delight, and regal gratifications in this world for the slayer; fratricide is not in any way an appropriate action and will only guarantee eternal damnation; what gratification is there for us the Paandavas to kill the sons of Dhritaraashtra, I do not even desire the sovereignty of the three worlds let alone this kingdom.” He addresses Lord Krishna as Janardana which implies Lord is the owner of timeless existence, perception and harmony; the one who at all times essentially protects His devotees. Since His incarnation is to wipe out the transgressions from this world, Arjuna is imploring that the Lord can eliminate all these reprobates Himself and Him being the Supreme there is no issue of Him acquiring any culpability in causing their deaths and he should satiate Himself with this bliss. Describing Lord Krishna with the vocative Madhusudana gives credibility to Arjuna’s position by illustrating as an example that demons (Madhu) are to be annihilated and not relatives Invoking vocatives like Govinda, Madhusudana and Janardana, Arjuna is supplicating Lord Krishna to destroy his ignorance as well.

Just in case it is assumed that in the homicide of antagonists there is felony, then it is to be stated, in the Vasistha Samhita/Smrti the following six categories of assailants viz. 1) one who administers poison 2) one who commits arson 3) one that attacks with deadly weapons 4) one who steals another’s wealth 5) one who usurps another’s property 6) and one who kidnaps another’s wife can be slain without any pang of conscience and this is confirmed in Manu Samhita. It is explicit that every one of these six aggressions has been previously committed by Duryodhana and his brothers, so all of them certainly should be slain. To answer this Arjuna replies that it would be sinful to kill friends, relatives and superiors. His logic is the annihilation of antagonist is found in the ethical codes of Niti sastra whereas in Dharma sastra it is stated that one should not cause harm to any created beings (it is stated by the sage Yagnavalkya; when two scriptures differ the one whose conclusion is the most reasonable and most logical is to be considered superior.) Since Dharma sastra is superior to Niti sastra the killing of revered elders such as Drona, Bhishma and other relatives will only result in remorse, thereby be the cause of misdeed; there is no reward in this world or the next for such an action; therefore the delight of having acquired the sovereignty will not be palatable and consequently it would be improper to slay these people in the field of battle. Calling, Lord Krishna as Madhava; the Lord of Sri the goddess of fortune, regulator of all wealth and opulence, implying He is the progenitor of the family not the destroyer of the family Arjuna is asking the Lord why He would encourage him to fight a battle that will be full of gore and death, sans wealth and opulence.

Although it is factual that the result of warfare will not give happiness to the family members of the deceased, it is irrational for us to be engaged in this battle. It may be argued that the action of slaying kinsman is common to both the Paandavas and the Kauravas; so even as the Kauravas are determined to fight; it is better for Arjuna to likewise engage himself in the battle. On the other hand the tradition of accepting a challenge by kshatriyas is applicable only when there is no probability of destruction of the dynasty. Arjuna asserts that the mind of Kauravas is destitute of piety; they see no flaw and perceive no wickedness in the carnage of kindred; therefore lacking in awareness they persist in sinful actions and in this respect unlike the Kauravas the Paandavas are not deprived of discrimination. Now in support of his reason for not fighting Arjuna states that because of knowing fully the sinful reaction of slaying kinsman, hence why should they engage in this grotesque act. Being a devotee of the Supreme Lord Krishna who is the advocate of righteousness, Arjuna addresses him by the vocative Janardana meaning the remover of His devotees ignorance; why should the devotees  not refrain themselves from such repulsive acts after being aware of the suggestion of unrighteousness.

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About Sridharan Lakshmanan 12 Articles
Retired officer from Syndicate Bank
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