DECISIONS OF THE EMOTIONAL
In Arjuna’s own words, let us see what decisions he makes in this emotional state. Arjuna says, “O Keshav! I see negative omens. By killing my relatives in war I do not see my liberation. O Krishna! I do not wish for victory nor a kingdom nor happiness. O Govind! What is the purpose of such a kingdom? What is the purpose of such (material) pleasures or even of life itself? Those for whom we desire a kingdom, material pleasures or happiness have themselves left all hope for their own wealth and life and are present here for war. Also, these are all teachers, fathers, sons, grandfathers, maternal uncles, in-laws, grandsons, brothers-in-law and other relatives. So, O Madhusudan! Even if I am slain, I do not wish to kill these relatives even to attain rulership of the three lokas. So, what remains to be said about (fighting for) land? O Janardan! By slaying the sons of Dhritrashtra, what joy will we attain? By killing these troublemakers, we will only incur sin. So, O Madhav! I am not fit to kill the sons of Dhritrashtra, who are my brothers. By killing our own relatives, how will we become happy? However, these people, controlled by the power of greed, do not see the consequences arising from the destruction of family and the sins due to maligning friends. Yet, O Janardan! Knowing the faults resulting from the destruction of family, why should we not think about avoiding this sin? Also, destruction of kin destroys the eternal family dharma, and with the destruction of this dharma, the whole family is engulfed by unrighteousness. O Krishna! Due to the force of adharma, the women of the family will become extremely unfaithful. And when the women are unfaithful, a hybrid lineage is born. Such hybrids destroy the family and consign the family to hell. Also, their forefathers, who are not offered appropriate tarpan, suffer decline from the heavens. The faults arising from these kin-destroying mixed-breeds uproot the eternal family and community (jati) dharma. Also, O Janardan! We have heard that people whose family dharma has been destroyed are consigned to hell for an indefinite period. It is sad, that even though we are intelligent, we are ready to commit such a grave sin, and for the greed of a kingdom and happiness we are prepared to kill our relatives. Instead of this, I will not retaliate and will remain weaponless. It is better if the armed sons of Dhritrashtra kill me. That for me it will result in a greater liberation” (Bhagavad Gita 1.31-46).
Arjuna said all this to Bhagwan Shri Krishna. In fact, it was the monologue of a depressed person engulfed by infatuation. It was a philosophy born from the attachment to his relatives. It was an exercise in logic to justify his thoughts and wishes. But in Arjuna’s mind, this was the truth. To him, his version of dharma was the highest command of the shastras. Often, those who are lost believe their path to be the right one. And they justify this with the support of various examples. Arjuna was in that frame of mind. His attachment for his relatives was leading his thoughts in an inappropriate direction. However, Arjuna believed that to be the right path.
What Arjun did after saying all of this is described by Sanjay with the words: ‘एवमुक्त्वार्जुनः सं ये रथोपस्थ उपाविशत् । विसृज्य सशरं चापं शोकसंविग्नमानसः’ – ‘Evamuktvãrjunaha sankhye rathopastha upãvishat, visrujya sasharam chãpam shokasanvignamãnasaha.’ – ‘Having said all this on the battlefield, Arjuna, his mind agitated by depression, left his bow and arrow and sat down in the rear of the chariot’ (Gita 1.47).
How would this scene have looked? What would the Pandavas and their supporters have thought? What would the Kauravas have thought? And, above all, what impression would the mere description of this situation generate in the calculating mind of the blind Dhritrashtra? To what extent would his mind be rejoicing? And of course, what would Arjuna’s charioteer, Shri Krishna, have been thinking? Whatever the answers maybe, it is certain that this scene would have resulted in a variety of conclusions in the minds of all who witnessed it. So, in one respect, this situation was a reflection of the attitudes towards Arjuna of all those who were observing him.
It is at this point, with Arjuna engulfed in despair born out of infatuation that the first ãdhyãy of the Gita concludes. This despair is special in that even in this despondent state, there is the yoga (presence) of God. That is why this adhyay is titled ‘Arjuna Vishad Yoga’. This adhyay lays the foundation for the rest of the Gita.
GREAT GIFTS OF DESPAIR
While on the subject of despair, the following is noteworthy and of special interest.
India (Bharat) has been blessed with many shastras that have their basis in despair.
Valmiki’s despair led to the first poem, the Ramayan. This historic shastra results from the despair of the kraunch bird, whose partner was suddenly killed by a hunter’s arrow. Valmiki saw this and he too became plunged into despair. He voiced this despair in the form of a chhand, a poetic metre. Then Brahmaji arrived there, consoled Valmiki and instructed him to use this chhand and ‘रामस्य चरितं कृत्स्नं कुरु त्वम् ऋषिसत्तमम’ – ‘Rãmasya charitam krutsnam kuru tvam rishisangamam’ – ‘Describe the complete story of Bhagwan Shri Ram.’ Then, truly, ‘शोकः श्लोकत्वमागतः’ – ‘Shokaha shlokatvamãgataha’ – ‘That despair was transformed into a verse (shlok).’ This resulted in the Ramayan.
The story of Veda Vyas is well known. Once, he was seated alone on the banks of River Saraswati, engrossed in atma-contemplation. He thought of his contributions, such as the classification of the Vedas and the writing of other shastras. Despite this, he did not at all feel bliss within his atma. On the contrary, his atma cried out, ‘तथापि बत मे दैह्यो ह्यात्मा... अस पन्न इवाभाति’ – ‘Tathãpi bata me daihyo hyãtmã… asampanna ivãbhãti’ – ‘O! After doing so much, why is there despair within?’ (Shrimad Bhagavat 1.4.30). This was the despairing voice of his atma, which felt empty and unfulfilled.
At that time, Naradji arrived there. Vyasji revealed his sense of despair to him. Naradji advised him to write a shastra describing the divine exploits of the manifest avatar of Paramatma as the solution to remove his pain. Vyasji did as advised, and wrote the Shrimad Bhagavat Mahapuran. As a result, he experienced great joy. Thus, out of Vyasji’s despair, the Shrimad Bhagavat Mahapuran was born.
‘सोहं भगवो शोचामि। तं मां शोकस्य पारं तारयतु।’ – Soham bhagavo shochãmi, tam mãm shokasya pãram tãrayatu.’ – ‘O God! I am drowning in the ocean of despair. So please save me from this misery.’ This is the despair voiced by Naradji in the first mantra of the seventh ãdhyay of the Chandogya Upanishad. He opened his heart at the feet of the great Rishi Sanatsujat. In response, Sanatsujat revealed the bhoomividyã to remove Naradji’s despair and bring him joy. Thus, Naradji’s despair resulted in the bhoomividyã being revealed in the seventh adhyãy of the Chandogya Upanishad.
As revealed earlier, the despair of Arjuna gifted us the Bhagavad Gita.
Sadhu Bhadreshdas, Ph. D., D.Litt.
Translated by: Sadhu Paramvivekdas