Bhagawath Geetha is the well-known Hindu treatise on life and living. It is the conversation between Arjuna, the war hero and Krishna, the Lord serving as the charioteer. In the middle of the battlefield and just as the war is about to begin between the two clans, the heroic warrior puts down his arms and ponders into the right and wrong of his action to engage in this war. Lord Krishna in his human form reasons with Arjuna on his need to perform his duty and if that calls for fighting in the war at this moment that is what he has to do. Krishna further advises that “Carrying out the duty that one is required to perform at a given moment without heed for the outcome is the only true course for life and living”. This dictum is further elaborated in great detail through seven hundred verses of this epic poem in eighteen chapters. For those interested in some statistics, these verses are divided between the opening verse by the blind king Dhritharashtra (representing the unrelenting desire in all us, which blinds us to the reality and reasonable alternatives); 41 verses by Sanjaya, the narrator of the scenes in the battle field to the blind king (representing the unrelenting exposure to evidences which we may choose to benefit from or ignore them at our own peril and for the peril of all those near and dear to us), 84 verses by the pondering, curious and anxious warrior Arjuna (representing the average man in his daily battle of life) and 574 verses by Lord Krishna (representing our reasoning, logic and highest level of objectivity and analysis).
Recently my thoughts turned toward Arjuna’s state of mind. We get some insights into Arjuna’s state of mind by reading through the verses in the first chapter of Bhagawath Geetha. It paints a dejected and depressed war hero unwilling and unable to proceed forward. This state of despair is described in great detail by many scholars. Swami Chinmayananda has described this state of mind as “hysterical coma”. I had accepted this notion of a sudden and unexpected onslaught of concern and ambiguity on the part of Arjuna. That is until now. Recently I have been watching the many CDs in which the story of Mahabharatha is very well documented. Bhagawath Geetha – though very powerful and influential – is a small episode in this long and complicated epic. As I have been watching this series of CDs, I could relate to an evolution in the life experiences of Arjuna. It is not that Arjuna became overcome by a sudden burst of anxiety at the battle field (in the moment of crisis and the moment calling for decisive action). Instead one could reasonably argue that his reaction is a logical outcome of a life time of experiences, their impact and his cumulative and collective response as a result.
Why is this important? In our daily life we come across events, where we witness the behavior of others at that moment. We are called upon to make judgments and react. The only person whose entire life experience is known to me, is myself! For all others, I have merely a partial window at best of their cumulative experiences leading up to that moment. Until I took the time to pull up a chair and watch the hours of video on the CDs, my impression of Arjuna’s state of mind was that of a momentary weakness on his part. After watching the CDs I conclude that Arjuna by his very nature is always conscious of the right vs. wrong. There are many episodes where he is challenged by the same question. There are many instances where Arjuna is engaged in conversation on this subject with his brother Bhima, elder brother Yudhistra, the grandsire Bhishma and others.
Why is this important? Often in life that we make judgments and form our impression based on momentary information. Perhaps we all make this mistake too often and unconsciously. Instead of reacting to what we hear, see or observe at a given moment, would we all be well served to take the time to probe into the history of experiences leading up to the moment? Would it also be better for me to reflect on my accumulated history of events and judge my response at a given moment with respect to all that, rather than be merely wound up with my impressions of the moment? Would we all be better off reflecting on the source and causes of inputs in greater detail rather than merely reacting to the symptoms and the symbols?
Our state of mind is not a momentary event. It is a reflection of an accumulation of experiences leading up to that moment. But, if the process is consistent all along the way, the accumulated experiences merge into a single sublime entity. What is that process which brings consistency across all our experiences even as they occur over a period of time? That is the life and way of living articulated in detail in Bhagawath Geetha. It can be summed up as “Total Self Control and Unattached active Engagement”. We have discussed many facets of this principle in many our earlier essays. For details please see:
As the all-pervading space remains unaffected or unchanged, the enlightened person – of total self-control and unattached active engagement in all the activities of life – remains seated everywhere (in all bodies and objects) and yet remains unaffected. BG 13.33
As the single sun illumines the entire world, the single universal concept – total self-control and unattached active engagement in all the activities of life – has the potential to pervade and illumine all our activities and the entire field of activities. BG 13.34