Essays on the Gita

Track Running Track 801

Last time we simply read the question or the condition of Arjuna. I would like you to open the book Essays on the Gita on page 532. In these five–six lines, Sri Aurobindo had analyzed the state of Arjuna, when he refuses to fight. So I would like to study these five–six lines first.

“The refusal of Arjuna to persevere in his divinely appointed work proceeded from the ego sense in him, ahankara. Behind it was a mixture and confusion and tangled error of ideas and impulsions of the sattwic, rajasic, tamasic ego, the vital nature’s fear of sin and its personal consequences, the heart’s recoil from individual grief and suffering, the clouded reason’s covering of egoistic impulses by self–deceptive specious pleas of right and virtue, our nature’s ignorant shrinking from the ways of God because they seem other than the ways of man and imposed things terrible and unpleasant on his nervous and emotional parts and his intelligence.”

These lines describe accurately the entire cry of Arjuna and his decision that he is not going to fight. He does not even ask in the first place what he should do, he decides, "I shall not fight". So that is why Sri Aurobindo speaks of the refusal of Arjuna and although the words may seem the words of wisdom, the words of great renunciation, na kankshe rajyam, he says, "I don't want the kingdom, I don't want all bhogas, all the enjoyments". So it looked as if it were a tremendous renunciation on his part but as Sri Aurobindo points out, it proceeds from the ego sense in him, ahankara. In fact that is the reason why Sri Krishna when he starts speaking to Arjuna, he rebukes him, he does not encourage him saying na kankshe rajyam, `it is a wonderful statement', he does not say `wonderful, you do not want this, you do not want that'; on the contrary he says, "What is this weakness that has gripped you? What is this recoil?" It is because it has proceeded from the ego–sense in him.

Now the words that Sri Aurobindo has written here are in a sense you might say merciless analysis of Arjuna's state of mind. In fact the importance of these words lies in the fact that all of us are cast in the type of Arjuna. Arjuna was a pre–eminent man, the highest human being in his own type, of his own times, and when he was confronted with a terrible action and which, as Sri Aurobindo says, which was divinely appointed, an action  that was not an ordinary action, but it was `divinely appointed action', and now you see how many strands in His special statement that He makes: "Behind it was a mixture and confusion and tangled error of ideas and impulsions." So there was confusion, error of ideas, error of impulsions and these also were mixed sattwic, ­rajasic, tamasic and all shot through an egoistic sense. Then there was "the vital nature's fear of sin and its personal consequences" when he says that "When we do sins of this kind, then we have to go to hell and to a great suffering", that was his argument. The vital nature’s fear of sin, "The heart's recoil from individual grief and suffering" – again `individual', his own grief and suffering, when he says, "What is there when I have to enjoy after killing those very people with whom I would like to enjoy the fruits of my endeavor and my victory." So it is again his personal enjoyment that he would have liked very much to share `his' victory with 'his' friends in `his' own way.

"The clouded reason's covering of egoistic impulses", this is one of the most merciless sword of Sri Aurobindo. He covers as it were these egoistic impulses although what he says is egoistic, he gives a covering to it as if it shows that he is very wide and very virtuous and he is speaking from the highest point of view of the virtue of the whole race. So "reason's covering of egoistic impulses by self–deceptive (even he deceives himself) specious pleas"; "specious pleas" are the pleas or arguments which seem, in appearance to be right, but in themselves they are wrong – ‘specious pleas of right and virtue’

Then the last sentence: "our nature's ignorant shrinking from the ways of God"– we have normally only one vision of God as merciful, benevolent, full of love – but we do not know that God has many faces, many aspects. He is not only Love, but He is eternal Peace. And sometimes when you are in need of love and you approach the peaceful God, you feel that He is hard like rock, because it is nothing but peace, you do not get from Him that kind of emotional response that you expect from Him. He is also the one who has sword in his hands, He has discus in his hands, the weapons of various kinds, and sometimes He demands with a wrathful face, He is not only peace, not only love, He is also the wrath of Rudra, the Terrible. It is like the loving mother, who when the invader comes to hurt her child, then it is not the loving mother, not the peaceful mother, it is the wrathful mother who wants to destroy the invader – that is also is the face of the Lord. And when that face is before us, our ignorant self is troubled, not understanding the wrath, not understanding the tremendous love that is behind it, who wants to protect everybody, and wants to destroy the invader, but we do not want to see that face. And that is why " nature's ignorant shrinking from the ways of God because they seem other than the ways of man, and impose things terrible and unpleasant on his nervous and emotional parts and his intelligence." In fact this is the face of God that Arjuna was facing, the wrathful God who is before him, and there was a tremendous demand to do something that normal human beings would never demand: to kill one's own grandfather whom one has worshipped all his life, and his friends and his gurus and his colleagues. And when yoou stands before them ...normally human beings would never impose such things upon anybody, but not knowing that God has this face also and God at a certain stage of development in the world, he confronts you with a terrible task and your nature normally shrinks from it. It is that shrinking which is to be defended by Arjuna, and therefore there is a covering of his shrinking to show that, `I am not really shrinking, I would like to do the best, I would like to do that which is virtuous', and that is the argument that comes out automatically.

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