Divine Discourse in the Battlefield
Lord Krishna, in His infinite love and wisdom decided to give us Gita. In His perpetual drama, with the Universe as a stage, Gitopadesam is nothing but a single scene! He chose Arjuna to be the recipient of His teachings. He knew that all sorts of doubts will spark from his mind which would in fact be the doubts of any layman in this world. They were both friends from childhood and first cousins. So He knew that Arjuna would not hesitate to ask Krishna any question that cropped up in his mind be it ever so silly.
The venue of the lecture is unique. It is a battlefield! The timing of the lecture is also extraordinary. It happens when Arjuna appears despondent and confused, amidst the two armies of Kauravas and the Pandavas standing ready for action. That is when Krishna gives His revelatory instructions and removes all doubts and fears from Arjuna’s mind.
We hardly get any doubts in any subject matter while being taught by a teacher in a classroom. But we are plagued with doubts while leading our life in the real world, out of the confines of a classroom. That is when we actually need a guide and a teacher. Bhagavad Gita is that great teacher which helps us overcome our trials and tribulations we face in our day to day life. The universal teacher Lord Krishna has offered this ready reckoner which we can refer to at all times, to win the obstacle race that is our life!
Looking at his teachers and grand-uncles and cousins and hoards of other relatives and friends on the opposing side, Arjuna drops his weapon and decides not to fight the war. He laments to his charioteer. He tells Him that he does not have the heart to kill the elders who were his teachers and revered relatives, and so justifies his decision to withdraw from the war. He says that no kingdom is worth the sadness earned through killing his relatives and making thousands of women widows. He stands like a coward, cowed down by feelings of guilt.
We too face a similar situation on several occasions. We refuse to act when action is required. In our childhood, we find excuses to not study. Later in life we refuse to take up several job opportunities saying they are not what we are looking for. Married life again has lot of responsibilities which one tries to evade as much as possible. All one cares for is a carefree life 🙂
Initially Arjuna treated Krishna as a friend. But when he found himself in dire straits, he surrendered himself to the Divine. He stands before the Lord, his mind filled with fear and confusion. He looks up to Krishna as he realises His superiority in every area. We do the same in our everyday life. We often seek the advice of a knowledgeable person or a well wisher when we are unable to make an important decision in our lives. At that moment we are without any ego and willing to listen. That is also the opportune time for a guru to give instructions that will be eagerly listened to and implicitly obeyed. Arjuna was exactly in that stage.
Acknowledging Arjuna’s plight, Krishna starts His divine instructions. They are not simple philosophies. Hence understanding the teachings requires deep knowledge, dedication and humility.
We outgrow our childhood and become a youngster. Pretty soon we lose our youthfulness and become old. We do not grieve during those stages of changes. We consider it a part of life. The final stage of change is death. But cursing and blaming oneself for the death of another is utter foolishness says Lord Krishna.
He then explains the difference between the body and the soul “atma”. The atma is different from the body though the body functions due to the presence of this subtle atma. The atma is connected to the Paramatma and functions through its connection to this higher soul. What can be destroyed can be reproduced. So you are after all going to destroy the body which is any way going to die and decay. This will again be reborn. Hence march forward towards the enemy and destroy them says the Paramatma.
That which is connected to the Paramatma will live forever. So the atma stands witness to every birth. The atma is ancient, but renews itself in every new birth. We discard worn out clothes to drape ourselves in new attire. Similarly the atma clothes itself in new bodies through new births. Krishna tells Arjuna, you are only going to destroy something that is going to be destroyed, so fear not and fight.
The atma is indescribable. It is next to impossible to visualise it. It is extremely subtle. It is beyond birth and death. Lord Krishna uses another approach to explain the situation in an easier way. He says to Arjuna that if he is not able to differentiate between body and soul, then your assumption will be that the soul will die along with the body. In that case the soul is also going to be reborn along with the body. So he asks him not to fret. A pot is made from clay. Once it breaks it becomes clay again. But again is mixed with water and made into pot. One who understands this process will not be saddened by death.
According to tenements of Kshathriya Dharma it is the duty of a soldier to fight against injustice. Courage, steadfastness, commitment, protecting those under his fold and fighting against evil are the required noble qualities of a leader. If such a leader were to die in war, the gates of heaven would any way be kept open for him. A prudent leader will only make use of such an opportunity to fight for justice. If he failed to do so he would be ridiculed as a coward by his own kith and kin. Krishna also says that nobody would believe that he backed out because he did not actually want to fight his teachers and relatives to get back his rightful kingdom, but did so out of fear. According to Him embracing death would be a better alternative to withdrawing himself from the field.
The teachings to Arjuna by Krishna are not just advice relating to warfare. They are in fact lessons on fair social living. In our day to day lives, we too have to perform our duties and fight through innumerable obstacles. We face conflicts in our lives very similar to what Arjuna faced in the battlefield. How in fact do we conquer them?
Let me explain this from a woman’s point of view. As a daughter, a girl’s first duty was to satisfy her parents. Suppose she had fallen in love with a guy who her parents disapprove of, their first reaction would be to make her feel guilty. Oh, how much we sacrificed for you and now all you have done is to bring shame on us. What is a female to do in such a situation? Her first step is to analyse objectively if her decision to marry the boy she loves is the right one. Next try to understand why her parents oppose this marriage. If she is madly in love with her boyfriend she can never see his faults. But if she saw the situation in a detached fashion she will be able to weigh the positives and negatives clearly. After such a clear analysis, if she still believes that her decision is right she has the responsibility to explain her point of view to her parents in a manner that they understand. Maturity and intelligence is required to fulfil this function. After her marriage she also requires the wisdom and capacity to make her new married life a success. This is just a simple example. Knowingly or unknowingly we do follow what is stated in the Gita in our everyday life.
We have to perform our duties with utmost sincerity. Our efforts require total dedication. Only then will we be able to think clearly and execute effectively. But the catch here is that we should not be attached to the fruits of our action. This is the simple advice to us by Lord Krishna. The great sages and seers followed this principle in their lives. Mahatma Gandhi is one such person. If we attach ourselves to the fruits of our labour, then when the result is a failure it will lead to sadness, dejection and, as a result, lack of interest in carrying out our other duties. If we succeed in our efforts it will only result in jubilation and possible wrong moves due to over confidence. But when our actions are not influenced by the results, then our efficiency improves as a result of undisturbed focus. This is not easy to attain. It requires enormous practice. But the moment we realize that this is very essential for a successful life, we begin to follow this right path of detachment.
To begin practicing this, we have to overcome our attachment to duality. Happiness and sadness are the two extremes of our mental pendulum. Our achievement lies in not getting elated by the emotion of happiness nor being bogged down by sadness. This is the state known as “sthithapragna” or equanimity. This is not an easy state to achieve. We have to have control over our sense organs. Eavesdropping and voyeurism are not easy habits to control and overcome. But if we divert our attention to the lotus feet of Lord Krishna and dwell on His amazing qualities, we can win over our weaknesses. With His grace we can conquer the evil qualities of jealousy, hatred, greed, selfishness, passion and pride, and turn victorious and virtuous in the battle of our life. Of course, His immense grace is required to make this a reality as is our intention and effort. Unbridled emotions only lead to our downfall and we will never be able to come out of the quagmire of unending births and deaths.
The combination of our longing to know God and pure and simple love is only “Bhakthi”. Bhakthi moistens the land which is our heart and makes it ready for cultivation. Karma uses Swadharma as the plough and cultivates the land. Good thoughts and good deeds gained through knowledge are seeds sown in that land. After all this it is Lord Krishna’s grace which comes down as rain to make the crops sprout and lead too harvesting!
My Guruji states this in a simple manner. Life’s experience is Vedham. Vedham is nothing but our life. Life is Karma. Karma is experience. Through Karma there is every chance of purifying our actions. This in turn leads to an easy path to escape the cycle of birth and death and reach God!
Each man is at a different stage in his life. What each one wants out of life is also different. The paths chosen by each are obviously not the same. So how can one assume that the goal of every human being is to attain moksha or reach God? Hence, we cannot assume that each human being will try to understand God through knowledge and discriminating power. But one thing is certain and common to every human being. Nobody can live in this world without action. Even our bodies are active and functioning every millisecond without our conscious effort. We cannot be inactive even for a minute. We continue to act in this birth based on beliefs carried forward from our previous births.
Learning to follow the practice of not being attached to the fruits of our labour is really simple to understand and execute. This path is the chosen one, not just to attain God successfully, but also to excel in our profession and business. Though there are so many paths advocated in the Gita itself, Lord Krishna is definitely partial towards Karma Yoga which is easy and simple to one and all.
Lord Krishna in the first part of His avatar was a cowherd and a charioteer in the second half. As a cowherd, He drew the cows (us) to Him with His enchanting music. Later, as a charioteer in the Kurukshetra war He controlled the horses by holding the reins, leading the Pandavas to victory, in turn teaching us to control our senses by using the reins of will power.
Krishna, the cowherd
The atma cannot be understood by someone lecturing you about it. It can neither be understood by speaking about it or meditating on it. It can be realised only by those chosen by the atma. Whom does the atma choose? It chooses those who use their discriminating power as their guide, those who are on the path to mastering their sense organs, and those who with deep love and devotion are aiming to be in the fold of God. The atma reveals itself to them.