Friday, 9 June 2017

Arjuna’s sorrow

Gita essays – 1

Arjuna is in high spirits as he enters the Kurukshetra battlefield blowing his bugle.  He imperiously asks the charioteer to take the chariot to the front of the Pandava army to survey the assembled armies. The charioteer, Lord Krishna, implicitly obeys and takes the chariot forward and stops it not before his arch-rivals, Duryodhana and Karna, who started the war, but before Drona and Bhishma.  Seeing them as the revered Guru and beloved grandfather and not as warriors supporting adharmic Duryodhana, his enthusiasm collapsed, his attitude underwent a sea- change and his mental weakness was exposed.  Instead of seeing the warriors in opposing armies, he saw now his cousins and relatives arrayed on both sides engaged in a do or die battle.  Until this moment he was clear in mind that this was not a battle between relations but between Dharma and adharma.  But the sight of Drona and Bhishma changed all this and his attachment for them now started ruling his emotions, influencing his words and directing his action. He is struck with deep sorrow directly proportional to the intensity of attachment to Bhishma and Drona.  The impact of grief on Arjuna, in his own words is as follows (1-29,30):
सीदन्ति मम गात्राणि मुखं परिशुष्यति। (Seedanti mama gaatraani mukham cha parishushyati)
वेपथुश्च शरीरे मे रोमहर्षश्च  जायते।।1.29।। (Vepathushcha shareere me romaharshashcha jaayate)
My limbs fail and my mouth is parched up, my body quivers and my hairs stand on end! 
गाण्डीवं स्रंसते हस्तात्त्वक्चैव परिदह्यते। (Gaandeevam sramsate hastaat twak chaiva paridahyate)
शक्नोम्यवस्थातुं भ्रमतीव मे मनः।।1.30।।(Na cha shaknomyavasthaatum bhramateeva cha me manah)
The Gandiva (bow) slips from my hand and my skin burns all over; I am unable even to stand, my mind is reeling, as it were. 

 We can see Arjuna’s condition as one of anxiety neurosis from the symptoms he described. His limbs started shaking so much that he could not hold on to his famous bow, Gandiva, firmly.  His mouth goes dry with increasing anxiety and the skin felt burning and the hairs on the body stood at their ends due to rising tension.  His limbs failed him to such an extent he couldn’t even stand steady.  His attachment led to this grief and the grief in turn leads to confusion or delusion, as he himself acknowledges that his mind was reeling.  The one who used the words ”well-wishers of evil-minded Duryodhana” , to describe the warriors on the other side when he asked Lord Krisna to take the chariot forward, now started referring to them as ‘svajana’, relations.  He calls Duryodhana an “aathathayee”, and yet he says that sin will accrue by killing him forgetting that as Kshatriya it is his duty to punish an aathathayee.  For an aathathayee is one who has committed any of the Pancha Maha Pathakas, five great sins.  They are; setting fire to one’s house, poisoning a person, stealing the property of another person, taking the land or wife of another person, and killing an unarmed person in fight.  Duryodhana had committed all these; tried to burn Pandavas alive by setting fire to their house of wax, tried to poison them and took their kingdom by deceit through game of dice. He also tried to kill Lord Krishna, when he went to Duryodhana’s court as a messenger of Pandavas.  Yet Arjuna reacts as he did towards Duryodhana and Kauravas, shows that he was terribly confused and deluded due to his deep attachment. 

Arjuna’s deluded mind affects his intellect as well with the result Arjuna now mistakes Dharma for adharma and adharma for Dharma and has Dharma-Adharma-aviveka.  He advances brilliant arguments about the evils of war which are very much true, but now he talks from a weakness of mind at a time when he has come all set for a war that has been forced upon the Pandavas by adharmic acts of Duryodhana. Secondly for a kshatriya not to fight a war forced upon him and to run away from battlefield is against his Dharma.  By not following his Dharma he will be then incurring Pratyavaya papa.  He also tries to justify his delusion by arguing eloquently about the importance of family for preserving the culture and how war will destroy the family fabric and spell the doom of culture.  Though the arguments cannot be faulted, the time and place for them are not proper ones as they are advanced for wrong reasons, to cover up his mental and emotional turmoil.  All this eloquence on the evil effects of war and on saving the culture is only to camouflage his anguish to take up arms against Bhishma and Drona is revealed when Lord Krishna sharply rebukes him and calls upon him to stand up and fight, giving up the unmanly behaviour.  After pouring out his mental dilemma and emotional helplessness, Arjuna surrenders to Lord seeking His advice.

The three afflictions, attachment (Raga), sorrow (Soka) and confusion (Moha), put together is samsara or bondage.  This problem of samsara is not unique for Arjuna but it is universal.  We also find in our life we are confronted with moments of sorrow and confusion arising from our attachment and emotional dependence.  As children it is for toys or balloons and as grown-ups it is for luxury things and relationships. In life normally we experience only movement from one bondage to another and not to Liberation, if we do not build up a spiritual buffer.  Here it is to be noted that Arjuna after the initial rambling finally came to recognize the problem and states clearly the reason for his grief and confusion.  Secondly he did not hesitate to seek advice from a competent person. His experience of samsara was so intense that he did not want to proceed with the fight and sat down in the chariot with tears of sorrow.  Luckily he had Lord Krishna at hand to seek guidance and surrender and Lord’s advice to Arjuna in the form of Gita is available to us now also to tide over similar circumstances of emotional turmoil and mental confusion in our life’s battle. Let us equip ourselves with that advice to help us to stand up and fight keeping the Lord always in our heart  rather than sit back depressed, crying in desperation and blaming others and factors outside our control.