Essays on the Gita - Track 603

Let us take the example of some of the dramas that we might have seen. Take the drama of Hamlet. It is said that Hamlet is typical story. Every human being who arrives at a certain intellectual level, in a state of innocence, of relative innocence, and when that person's innocence is broken, or shaken, blown, by a very shocking experience, then disbalancement will take place. As a result of that, the kind of things that Hamlet does in the play, a human being normally begins to do. This applies to the type of situation that can exist in the world quite often. So Hamlet is supposed to be typical. Macbeth for example is a typical example of a man of ambition. A human being who was so obedient and so faithful to his master, Duncan in this case, suddenly hears a voice from three witches: "Hail King!" giving the impression to Macbeth or injecting into the  mind of Macbeth an ambition which was not there at all. But this ambition is  injected into the mind of Macbeth and once that injection takes place, he becomes possessed by that ambition, shares it with Lady Macbeth and she also becomes attached to that ambition, and then goes Macbeth to realise that ambition, to such an extent that both of them plot, make a conspiracy. They invite Duncan for dinner and when Duncan was asleep, during that time Lady Macbeth goads Macbeth to go and kill Duncan so that after his death he can immediately pronounce himself to be the king. Macbeth does not symbolize something, just as in the case of the flow of water, flow of water is a symbol. It’s not that Macbeth is a symbol of somebody else, but what happened to Macbeth can happen to many human beings. A certain type of human being can become capable of receiving that injection – not everybody, not that everybody can be inspired to have ambition – but certain type of human beings they can become suspect, they can become so weak as to receive the suggestion, and something which was not there before in their heart, in their consciousness, they become possessed with it.

King Lear again is a typical example. The father who has tremendous attachment for his daughters that he wants to give everything to his daughters, he wants to make them happiest and then he gets disillusioned, he becomes frenzied and mad. It is also typical psychological condition of man. There are types of human beings who can become affected in this way.

Othello again is a typical example, not a symbolic example, but a typical example. That when a person is in love with his wife so deeply that he can become a victim of jealousy of somebody else, who can inject into him a terrible poison, so that he becomes burning all the time with fire of jealousy and begins to suspect his faithful wife and ultimately murders her. These are typical frailties of human beings and these examples show that human beings are of this type, or that type, or that type, or that type.

If the Mahabharata were only a symbolic story, we might say that Kauravas stand for evil forces and Pandavas stand for good forces and read the story in that symbolic manner. So you might say that there was no such actual war at all, it is only a symbolic story and how to symbolise good forces and evil forces, a fiction was created by Vyasa and said that Pandavas represent the good forces and Kauravas represent the evil forces and the whole story can be read in that way. Some of the people actually who interpret the Gita, tell you that actually, there was no question of war, Arjuna is only a kind of a symbolic human being, there never was an occasion when Arjuna actually stood in the battlefield and he saw the Pandavas on this side and Kauravas on that side and became depressed. According to this symbolic interpretation, Arjuna himself is symbolized as having two forces within himself, good forces and evil forces in his own consciousness; and the whole battle that is shown in Mahabharata was simply a battle going on between the two forces and Arjuna is a symbolic figure.

In symbolism, the thing that is described never happens but it is a method, a kind of a figure, which is created to express certain inner, inmost things, it is a kind of a literary method of presentation. Symbolism or figurative language is a method of expressing certain things which you cannot directly express otherwise. When the Veda says for example, "Cows were born in my mind": this is a symbolic language. It is not typical because there is no actual case where cows can really be born into the mind. So, you cannot say it is a typical thing. It is a symbolic expression. "Cow" stands for "light”, the word cow stands for light so instead of saying, "Light was born in my mind", it says, "Cows were born in my mind". And that is why the Veda is very difficult to understand because unless you know the symbolism you can’t make it out as to what it means. So many people try to show that Mahabharata is a symbolic story, that Bhagavad Gita is a symbolic story, but Sri Aurobindo says that actually if you read the Bhagavad Gita and Mahabharata, if you merely treat it as a symbolic story, it is so difficult to stretch at every time symbolism. In a symbolism whatever is symbolically presented should be actually fitting in it, like the "rivers flowing in my mind". Now real river and the consciousness that flows have a real comparative value; now similarly if you say that Mahabharata story is nothing but a story of evil forces and good forces coming together, that if you read the whole story, you won’t be able to sustain the symbolism at all. It is a typical story, you might say that there are occasions in human life, in the human story, where such situations do arise physically - not symbolically, they do arrive physically and Mahabharata is therefore a 'typical' story.

That is why you have, a film like Kaliyuga, where Mahabharata story is typically shown, as if the same story which was in the Mahabharata with other characters but the same kind of…. there is a typical Draupadi which is shown here as Draupadi and there is Arjuna, which  and so on. Such a thing is typical in the sense that what happens at a given stage is typical of similar situations which can arise in the world at many times. So Arjuna is a 'typical' figure in the Bhagavad Gita. In other words there are 'types' of human beings in the world which fit into the description that is given of Arjuna.