Welcome to the podcast – Learn With Hari. I am Siddha Hari das a.k.a Sidharth chhabra. This is the 2nd episode in this series of studying Gita. We discussed yesterday that Krsna chided Arjuna for speaking depressing words. Arjuna reiterates his reasons for his lamentation and state of confusion. We shall look at Arjuna’s response in verses 4 through 10.
The 4th verse is as follows:
Arjuna said: O killer of enemies, O killer of Madhu, how can I counterattack with arrows in battle men like Bhīṣma and Droṇa, who are worthy of my worship?
Arjuna addresses Krsna as Arisudana i.e. killer of enemies. In other words, he is hinting that Krsna, you are known to kill enemies and not your relatives. Why are you asking me to attack my respectable teachers? You wouldn’t dare to attack your teacher like Sanipani Munu. Therefore, why are you suggesting such a heinous act?
Arjuna continues in verses 5 & 6:
It would be 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 desiring worldly gain, they are superiors. If they are killed, everything we enjoy will be tainted with blood.
Nor do we know which is better – conquering them or being conquered by them. If we killed the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, we should not care to live. Yet they are now standing before us on the battlefield.
Arjuna accepts that his teachers have not acted appropriately. Bhishma and Drona had sided with Duryodhana and had been implicated indirectly in heinous acts towards the Pandavas. In fact, Bhisma tells, in Mahabharata, Yudhisthira, the oldest Pandava, that because he has been taking financial assistance from Duryodhana for a long time, he is bound to side with Duryodhana but he wished the Pandavas victory in the battle. Drona, too, had given similar instructions to Arjuna long ago. Arjuna knows that when a teacher or senior acts against the principles of religion, then such a teacher or senior must be rejected. But Arjuna finds it hard to accept and openly reveals his pain to Krsna.
Arjuna is willing to completely let go of the war and live like a pauper. Srila Prabhupada remarks that this is a sign of Arjuna’s detachment. He is born into a royal family, but at once he is ready to renounce. This is a desirable quality.
Arjuna realizes that he needs more help from Krsna than just a friend. In verses 7 & 8, he says:
Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.
I can find no means to drive away this grief which is drying up my senses. I will not be able to dispel it even if I win a prosperous, unrivaled kingdom on earth with sovereignty like the demigods in heaven.
Arjuna sees that on all sides of war, whether losing or winning, there is distress. He recognizes that dharma is very subtle, and he needs the help of a teacher. Therefore, he tells Krsna that please act as my teacher and guide me.
Srila Prabhupada remarks that we can learn from Arjuna’s situation that there are perplexities at every step in life. The material world is so designed that every few steps, there is a dire problem seeing into our eyes. What are these problems: birth, disease, old age, and death? Who wants to face any of these? No one, and yet we all have to, sooner or later. Arjuna has mighty strength and can win wealth from the war, but he recognizes that no amount of scholarship, wealth, or strength can relieve him of the perplexity he was facing at that time.
In the Brhad-Aranyaka Upanishad, it is stated that one who doesn’t address these problems lives like an animals despite being in a human body. Therefore, Arjuna asks Krsna to be his spiritual master and raise him out of this mire situation.
In verse 9, Sanjaya, Dhrtarastra’s minister, remarks:
Sañjaya said: Having spoken thus, Arjuna, chastiser of enemies, told Kṛṣṇa, “Govinda, I shall not fight,” and fell silent.
Two points. One, we can note here. Arjuna addresses Krsna as Govinda. Govinda means one who brings pleasure to one’s senses. Arjuna is seeing a dim situation in all directions. Therefore, he tells Krsna indirectly that you are known to give pleasure to everyone’s senses; please, I seek refuge.
Another point is that Sanjaya addresses Arjuna as “Parantapa,” which means one who can destroy the enemies. Why did he use this name for Arjuna? Again, Dhritrarastra was feeling overjoyed to see Arjuna renounce but Sanjaya could see that Arjuna was seeking the right refuge and, therefore, he could see Arjuna coming victorious. Hence, Sanjaya shared his prediction with Dhritarastra.
Elephant in the room: I remember this phrase from Randy Pausch’s talks. Randy Pausch was a famous professor and scientist at world’s top University, Carnegie Mellon University. When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he delivered a famous series of lectures sharing his life insights, which were later compiled into a bestseller book: The Last Lecture. Once, he began his talk with a picture of tumors in his body, stating that they are the elephants in the room and shouldn’t be ignored. He meant that we should always be conscious of major issues in life. We are all caught up in maintaining a healthy body, comfortable lifestyle, secure income source and forget to ponder over the undefeatable problems of life: birth, disease, old age and death. Prof. Randy lived life being conscious of its near-future termination. It gave him tremendous focus. Arjuna is faced with the prospect of the death of his loved ones very shortly. He is accepting the elephant in the room. Do we wish to wait like Arjuna or Randy for a dire situation to stand at our doorstep or recognize the indefatigable nature of these problems and attend to them daily by seeking spiritual advice? I learned from today’s passage to remind myself of them and make choices in recognition of them.
Have you faced any of these 4 inevitable problems of life? What was your response?