The crisis of Arjuna was not only sensational, not only emotional, not only practical, it is a deeper crisis, it’s a crisis where the whole idea of morality itself becomes questionable: if by doing the right thing, you ultimately create a wrong thing, what happens to the right thing? This is the question: you do your right thing, you destroy the evil; by destroying the evil, if you really create more evil; then what do you do? You want to destroy the evil, fine! But if by destroying the evil, ultimately you will produce more evil, a greater evil, an irremediable evil! What will happen? This is the crisis; this is the question that he puts. Arjuna's questions are really difficult actually. Only Sri Krishna could have given answers because his questions are very, very formidable. So, the crisis through which Arjuna passes is of a very tremendous kind.
Sri Aurobindo says that you could not have the kind of great teaching of the Gita unless the crisis to which it’s an answer, itself is a great crisis. A small crisis could not have produced such a great teaching. It was a crisis in which some of the most fundamental questions of human life are to be answered. And the situation was such that the questions arise in the mind of Arjuna only at that moment and that’s why the crisis become so difficult and in a sense even typical because most of the human beings are of the type of Arjuna. Very few people are thinkers and philosophers and so on. But most of us are largely emotional, practical, ethical and sensational. We are all basically of that type and our crisis usually comes in this fashion. We may have decided hundred things but when we see the situation we are completely changed. When we sensationally see a situation, the whole heart melts. We may have thought that we want to work for one, but when we really see something else, you work for somebody else. At the last moment some appeal comes from somewhere and emotionally you are carried away.
Question: The crisis of the Gita was at a national level but as you said that this was a very typical thing; so was not the crisis also to be identified at a personal level?
Answer: Oh yes! That is why it has such a great relevance to us. Why we read the Gita because we find our own life portrayed in the Gita, we find that Arjuna is ourselves. And that is why we turn to the Gita at every step, because the questions that Arjuna asked are so dear to us because these are the very questions that we would like to ask.
I would now like to give you the text of Arjuna's argument, first in Sanskrit and then in English, so that we can study this more carefully.
sīdanti mama gātrāṇi mukhaḿ ca pariśuṣyati(1,28)
vepathuś ca śarīre me roma-harṣaś ca jāyate
gāṇḍīvaḿ sraḿsate hastāt tvak caiva paridahyate(1,29)
na ca śaknomy avasthātuḿ bhramatīva ca me manaḥ
nimittāni ca paśyāmi viparītāni keśava (1,30)
na ca śreyo ‘nupaśyāmi hatvā sva-janam āhave
na kāńkṣe vijayaḿ kṛṣṇa na ca rājyaḿ sukhāni ca (1,31)
kiḿ no rājyena govinda kiḿ bhogair jīvitena vā
yeṣām arthe kāńkṣitaḿ no rājyaḿ bhogāḥ sukhāni ca (1,32)
ta ime ‘vasthitā yuddhe prāṇāḿs tyaktvā dhanāni ca
ācāryāḥ pitaraḥ putrās tathaiva ca pitāmahāḥ (1,33)
mātulāḥ śvaśurāḥ pautrāḥ śyālāḥ sambandhinas tathā
etān na hantum icchāmi ghnato ‘pi madhusūdana (1,34)
api trailokya-rājyasya hetoḥ kiḿ nu mahī-kṛte
nihatya dhārtarāṣṭrān naḥ kā prītiḥ syāj janārdana(1,35)
pāpam evāśrayed asmān hatvaitān ātatāyinaḥ
tasmān nārhā vayaḿ hantuḿ dhārtarāṣṭrān sa-bāndhavān
sva-janaḿ hi kathaḿ hatvā sukhinaḥ syāma mādhava (1,36)
yady apy ete na paśyanti lobhopahata-cetasaḥ
kula-kṣaya-kṛtaḿ doṣaḿ mitra-drohe ca pātakam (1,37)
kathaḿ na jñeyam asmābhiḥ pāpād asmān nivartitum
kula-kṣaya-kṛtaḿ doṣaḿ prapaśyadbhir janārdana (1,38)
kula-kṣaye praṇaśyanti kula-dharmāḥ sanātanāḥ
dharme naṣṭe kulaḿ kṛtsnam adharmo ‘bhibhavatyuta (1,39)
adharmābhibhavāt kṛṣṇa praduṣyanti kula-striyaḥ
strīṣu duṣṭāsu vārṣṇeya jāyate varṇa-sańkaraḥ (1,40)
sańkaro narakāyaiva kula-ghnānāḿ kulasya ca
patanti pitaro hy eṣāḿ lupta-piṇḍodaka-kriyāḥ (1,41)
doṣair etaiḥ kula-ghnānāḿ varṇa-sańkara-kārakaiḥ
utsādyante jāti-dharmāḥ kula-dharmāś ca śāśvatāḥ (1,42)
utsanna-kula-dharmāṇāḿ manuṣyāṇāḿ janārdana
narake niyataḿ vāso bhavatītyanuśuśruma (1,43)
aho bata mahat pāpaḿ kartuḿ vyavasitā vayam
yad rājya-sukha-lobhena hantuḿ svajanamudyatāḥ (1,44)
yadi mām apratīkāram aśastraḿ śastra-pāṇayaḥ
dhārtarāṣṭrā raṇe hanyus tan me kṣemataraḿ bhavet (1,45)
evam uktvārjunaḥ sańkhye rathopastha upāviśat
visṛjya sa-śaraḿ cāpaḿ śoka-saḿvigna-mānasaḥ (1,46)
These are the cries of all the crisis of which I have spoken: sensational crisis, vital crisis, emotional crisis, practical crisis. Now let us read in English. I am reading something which was not read in Sanskrit but that is important to understand the context. (page n°78)
"Right in the midst between either host set thou my car, O Unfallen. (he speaks to Sri Krishna) Let me scan these who stand arrayed and greedy for battle; let me know who must wage war with me in this great holiday of fight. Feign would I see who are these that are here for combat to do in battle the dear will of Dhritarashthra's witless son."
This is the proud, great Arjuna, decided to win the battle of justice, this is the spirit in which he comes to the battlefield.
"Thus, O Bharata, to Hrishikèsha, Gudakèsha said, who set in the midst between either army the noble car, in front of Bheeshma and Drona and all those kings of earth. (and he said, Sri Krishna said) “Lo, O Partha,” He said, “all these Kurus met in one field.” There Partha saw fathers and grandsires stand, (this is the sensational experience) and teachers and uncles and brothers and sons and grandsons and dear comrades and fathers of wives and hearts’ friends, all in either battle opposed."
"There when the son of Coonty beheld all these dear friends and kindred facing each other in fight, his heart was besieged with utter pity and failed him and he said: “O Krishna, I behold these kinsmen and friends arrayed in hostile arms and my limbs sink beneath me and my face grows dry, and there are shudderings in my body and my hair stands on end, Gandeva falls from my hand and my very skin in on fire.” This is the sensational experience.
"Yea I cannot stand, and my brain whirls and evil omens, O Kèshove, meet mine eyes. I can see no blessing for me, having slain my kin in fight." This is the emotional crisis, the vital crisis."I desire not victory, O Krishna, no nor kingship, nor delights." This is the vital reaction, the vital crisis, all the ordinary enjoyments of life, they mean nothing now to him, there is a vital disgust towards it. "What shall we do with kingship, O Govinda, what with enjoyments, what with life? They for whose sake we desire kingship and enjoyments and delight, lo, they all stand in battle against us, casting behind them their riches and their lives, our teachers and our fathers and our sons, our grandsires and uncles and the fathers of our wives and our grandsons and our wives’ brothers and the kin of our beloved. These though they slay me, O Madhusudan, I would not slay, no not for the empire of Heaven and space and hell, much less for this poor earth of ours. Slaying the sons of Dhritarashthra, what joy would be left to us, O Janardana? Sin, sin alone would find lodging in us, if we slew these though our adversaries and foes. Therefore we do not right to slay the children of Dhritarashthra and their friends, for how can we be happy, O Madhove, if we slay our kin? Even though these see not, for their hearts are swept away by greed, error done in the ruin of one’s house and grievous sin in treachery to natural friends, how shall we not understand and turn back from this sin, we who have eyes, O Janardan, for error done in the ruin of our house? When the family dwindles the eternal ideals of the race are lost, and when ideals are lost, unrighteousness besets the whole race; in the prevalence of unrighteousness, O Krishna, the women of the race go astray, and where women grow corrupt, bastard confusion is born again; but confusion brings the slayers of their race and the race itself to very hell; for the long line of fathers perishes and the food ceases and the water is given no more. By these their sins who bring their race to perdition, fathers they of bastard confusion, the eternal ideals of the nation and the hearth are overthrown; and for men who have lost the ancient righteousnesses of the race in hell and eternal habitation is set apart, ’tis told. Alas a dreadful sin have we set ourselves to do, that from greed of lordship and pleasure we have ready to slay our own kin. Yea even if the sons of Dhritarashthra slay me with their armèd hands, me unarmed and unresisting, it were better and more fortunate for me than this."
"Thus spake Urjoona and in the very battle's heart sat down upon his chariot seat and let fall his bow when the arrow was on the string, for his soul was perplexed with grief."
We shall stop here today.