Essays on the Gita - Track 701

Last time we were speaking of Arjuna's psychology, and we had made distinctions between different kinds of personalities: aesthetic, rational, ethical and various combinations. We were trying to see more and more clearly the combination that we obtain in the psychology of Arjuna. And the most important element that we had seen was that he is basically ethical. Now what is "ethical" is to be understood much more deeply than we have done so far. We may say that ethical sense begins in a human being when he or she begins to feel that he should not do unto others, what he or she does not expect others to do unto oneself. When this sense begins to preponderate you can say someone begun to have a true ethical sense. In this sentence what I spoke just now said, there are three elements. One is the concept of ‘should’,  `One should not do'. ‘Should’ is a very important word. The second word which is very important is `others' and by `others' is not meant ‘some others' but `all the others'. So, there is a sense of `all'. And third is the relationship of `all' with ‘oneself’. So ‘all’, `oneself’, and `should', these three words are very important in the ethical sense.

Now there is a lower state of consciousness where there is a sense of `should' but with regard to others, you don’t have the same connotation as `all'. For example, when one wants from `all others' everything, but one does not want to do the same to the `others', one feels that `one' is so important that `everybody’ should  serve him or her. But as far as he or she is concerned it is up to him or her pleasure. Now when this consciousness is present, it means that the person is not yet ethical.

For example when one says, "One should seek one's own pleasure", there is a concept of "ought" or "should". One should seek one’s own pleasure. And one argues: "'Why not?" But very often he does not apply the same sentence with regard to others, suppose for example he says, “I should seek my own pleasure. Because if I go further and say, "Let all seek their own pleasures." In an argument, the other party will say, "Yes, why not?" But if you say, "Look, my highest pleasure consist in your sacrificing this pleasure." Then what happens? Fine, I should seek my highest pleasure but if somebody else's pleasure lies in your sacrificing some pleasure that you are seeking, then what happens? It is at that point that one feels that my own seeking of pleasure is more important than the others' pleasure; and you say, "You'll find out your own way of pleasing yourself, why should you put yourself on me? Why should your pleasure depend upon my sacrificing anything?"

So in that condition one feels to make oneself an exception to the rule. So that’s why so as far as I am concerned, I should seek my pleasure. If you want me to sacrifice, well, that you must cancel out that aspect, I allow you to seek your own pleasure and seek your own highest pleasure but don’t impinge your pleasure on me in which I am obliged to sacrifice something from my seeking of pleasure. Very often human beings whenever they make  some general rules which apply to all, they want to make their own case an exception. Everybody else, all people should be like this excepting that in my case there should be something extra which is not demanded from others which I do not want to part with. So here also there is a sense of "should" but with regard to "all", there is a kind of a limitation, a hesitation, and some kind of a compromise. This is not strictly an ethical sense. One uses the language of ethics but it’s not strictly ethical.

Now Arjuna was an ethical being and he knew very well that rules are to be applied to all, including himself, and he was living a life in which he was very considerate and very, very perseverant to follow the laws of ethics. That was his constant effort. In order to be sure, he was in the habit of consulting people, consulting Dharmashastras,  consulting elders, so that his action could be really 'ethical', really 'right', really 'good'. Now this aspect has to be realised very well before we understand the crisis of Arjuna. This was very fundamental to him: that there is a law of conduct, law of action, Dharma and that that Dharma should be all the time observed under all circumstances. And whenever there was a conflict, of what one should do or what one should not do, one should refer to Dharma and take a decision according to Dharma.

Now this seeking of Dharma, seeking of the law of action, was fundamental in the character of Arjuna. Usually those who are highly moralistic are also in their psychology practical. Let us understand this word 'practical' because  there are many meanings of the word practical. `Practical' is certainly connected with the word `practice'. So, those who are inclined to practice may be regarded as practical. This is not the usual sense in which people use the word `practical', normally. The usual meaning of this word is one who succeeds, one who is able to compete very well, one who is able to see one’s own interest in things and adjust his means and ends according to the benefit that he is going to derive. This is the normal sense in which the word `practical' is used, but its original sense in which practical is used or should be used is `one who has tendency, inclination, to practice' as opposed to `theoretical'. A theoretical consciousness is apt to reflect, to arrive at general ideas, general conclusions, and those who dwell all the time in the realm of ideas, generalities, theories, principles. Very often there is a kind of a conflict between the theoretical and the practical. Those who are turned to be practical in the real sense of the term, they do not very well fit in with an atmosphere where people go on discussing theoretical ideas, what is the general principle, universal ideas, reflections, purely for the sake of search for the truth, for the sake of truth. And those who are theoretical they begin to dwell in the plane of thought so much that for them to come down to the plane of action, to put into practice one has to make a very special effort. A thinker usually finds it like climbing down to action. When he is in the field of thought, he feels he is very high and elevated and when he comes to practicing something he feels that he is climbing down. Surely there is a conflict between the theoretical and the practical. And many conflicts in the world arise because of the presence of these two elements in any given situation. There are some people who are practical and some who are theoretical. The highest combination is one, where both theoretical and practical are so harmonised that one enters into theory and practice at ease.