Question: Is it difficult to become impervious to physical suffering? About death, I know and now I have quite an indifferent attitude, but about physical suffering I still get very upset at times. How does one overcome that?
You know, physical suffering is certainly the most pressing pain. Other pains are easier to come out as you rightly said by psychological treatment of our own consciousness. But physical pain is the most difficult thing and this will take time. We have to give time to overcoming this pain, and the more we are able to allow the higher force to penetrate into the body the better it is, but that is a very difficult task. First of all the body has to be kept in contact with the Divine more and more to allow the atmosphere to remain as peaceful as possible. It is the first condition.
Although life is full of hustle and bustle and noise all around, we actually live in a marketplace all the time psychologically, therefore to allow the consciousness to remain as peaceful as possible, like here now for example. The peace of the Divine is quite great in this room, and to be in such a condition for a long time until the body itself begins to feel the presence, not only psychologically but the body itself, the vibrations in the body, the vibrations of peace and calm and silence and so on. The more this happens, the greater is the delight penetrating into us.
First, peace is the easier thing to have normally. Our first experiences of the Divine are more or less those of peace and silence. But as you move forward, a positive gladness arises, and in every condition that gladness is sustained more and more, there is an inner cheerfulness, under every circumstance that cheer remains, and then, there is a positive delight even in every circumstance: if I am insulted I do not feel offended, I feel delighted; if I fail, I do not feel depressed, I feel delighted. Not that I welcome insults, not that I welcome failure, but my condition is such that I derive from it the real rasa and my consciousness perceives that something else has been worked out through these experiences.
As Mother once said, "Humiliation is the sure gate of glory." Normally, humiliation is something which people try to avoid, and they don't like it, but Mother said that if you really want real glory, not that you invite humiliation, but if it occurs, then it can open up in your life a gate of glory. So if you realise this not only intellectually but in your state of presence of the Divine, because when the Divine is present all around, it is always the invasion of Sachchidananda around you.
Now, the more you live in this condition the more you remain free from suffering, even if it is the suffering of somebody else, and the more you will be able to help the suffering individual to help him to receive a similar peace and delight. In fact this is the best way of helping others. Normally we console people by words, by remaining together and so on. It is also all right, but that is not the effective method. The effective method is if we can carry within ourselves that vibration of peace and delight, and then even if you are with somebody for a short time, you can impart it more easily and that gives a great strength to the suffering individual. So the more we live in a state of peace and delight, the more we carry with us, the more we are able to help others.
Question: When a person has a humiliation I tend to feel very sad for that person also.
That is good. That is a great sympathy. As I said, it is not that we invite sorrow, it is not that we invite defeat, it is not that we invite humiliation, but if it happens because of circumstances and by the various situations in which one is placed, then these very things open up a gate which otherwise would not open at all. There is a secret meaning, as Mother said: "it is only in the night that the greatest secrets are revealed". That is a scheme in the world. So those people who feel, "Oh, my Lord, I am in darkness and I am in the night..." But the whisper of God comes more readily when you are in the night! It does not mean that during the day it does not come, but the scheme of the world is such that some of the most important things, some of the best things can occur when there is defeat, when there is insult, when there is humiliation, when there is a 'night'. The scheme of the world is such because if you are going into the night it means that you have dared to enter into that very field where God is to manifest fully. So somebody should go to that plane, and you have dared, and if you are there naturally the Divine is closest and gives the best help at that time.
Question: But in ignorance, as you said or in the night or in defeat, does in ignorance we aggravate the situation in a defeated circumstance?
You do. That is why we do not know how to take a defeat.
Question: But then that does not help you or elevate you in fact you are further degraded...
...because we take it wrongly, that is why. Just as success also will leave us degradation if we become extremely proud of success, which is the wrong way of taking success. The whole point is that all experiences have to be taken in the right manner. We have to see the message involved.
Question: But for that the basic ignorance has to be tackled...
Not the basic ignorance. Ignorance is not something like one uniform piece, it is a kind of a degradation in ignorance. If one is totally ignorant one becomes insensitive so there is no problem. In total ignorance there is only insensitivity, so nothing happens, whether you succeed or fail, there is no difference. Even the experience of success or failure, even awareness means that the ignorance has slightly diminished. Now, if it diminishes further then you are able to deal with it properly. In fact if you see in perspective all your failures, if you really measure them, you will find that they were 'really' the doors to success, in retrospect if you examine your life truly.
Question: Is that a universal truth? Does it apply to everybody?
Everybody. Actually this is the truth because fundamentally the scheme of the world is that you are to walk. The whole world is nothing but walking, this is what is called jagatyam jagat (Isha Upanishad 1), jaga means gaman. Walking is the whole meaning of the world, so we are all walking actually. Our entire delight is nothing but walking. Now as we walk, we pass through many sceneries, many gates which are locked, they are closed, and we are supposed to open them. When they are really blocked, we are prevented from walking, and we feel pain, suffering, depression, etc. because we are unable to walk further. So when you stand at the gate, which is closed, you try to knock. Normally, we do not know what is to be done, we do not even know that knocking is necessary. That is why Christ said, "Knock and the gate will open." It is as simple as that basically. Therefore, do not feel depressed, do not feel disconcerted, just knock and simply say open, it will open.
Now, intellectually it is very easy to say all this, but actually to do it at the right time in the darkness, sometimes we don't even see that the door is locked; you may be before a door, you can't move forward, but you don't know there is a door which is locked because there is so much of darkness, therefore it is even difficult to say: 'now, you open', you don't know even how to knock. So you have to gradually find out, by standing, by groping, that this door is locked and then you simply say, "Now, open!" sincerely, and it will open.
So, in a certain sense you might say the world is very easy to cross, you are just supposed to walk and go on walking, walking, walking, that itself is a delight. We are all together here for a walk. It is a picnic, you might say! We have come from the camp of God and we are going to another camp of God. In the middle, all this is a process of walking. And in this process, because it is a good picnic, there are all kinds of hideouts and then somebody conceals, somebody knocks, somebody tries this way, that way, doing all sorts of games because life is nothing but a game actually and we play various kinds of games, and the greatest game, as Sri Aurobindo said, is a hide-and-seek. So this is all that is happening. You go on moving forward and then you reach the other camp and there is also a delight; if you take walking as a delight, it is really delight. So it looks very simple and very straightforward but because of ignorance, we do not know what is to be done, we do not know where we are, what we are doing. It is like children who do not find the mother who is deliberately hidden. But the mother knows all the time that the child comes to trouble and she is there to take him. And there will be no more problems. Basically the whole scheme of the world is quite simple but because of our ignorance, we are in trouble.
In fact what Sri Aurobindo says about the Bhagavad Gita is precisely this, that there are three things which are of greatest importance. The first is the divine Teacher about whom we spoke last time; the second is the human disciple, Arjuna; and the third is the occasion, the occasion of the war. And all the three are basically typical. The divine Teacher that is spoken of in the Bhagavad Gita is the inner Divine. The emphasis in the Gita is not upon Sri Krishna, the Avatar, who is speaking physically but upon the inner Divine who is always present, in everybody's case. It is typical because the situation that is portrayed in the Gita is a perennial theme of the world and for everybody. When we are moving in this world, we can imagine that we are ourselves in a chariot and that the charioteer is Sri Krishna himself, whether you know it or not but it is a fact. The eternal Avatar is always there around us, it was not only that Arjuna was so privileged that he had Sri Krishna with him, and therefore his problems could be resolved so easily, but the same situation can be obtained by each one of us. That is why the Mother and Sri Aurobindo have said, "Read the Gita as though the divine Teacher is in you." And wherever Sri Krishna says, "I am this, I am there." It is the inner Divine of whom Sri Krishna speaks.
Now Arjuna also is a typical human being. There is a difference between the two words: 'symbolic' and 'typical'. Some of the parables of the Veda or the Upanishads are symbolic and often it was said that even the Bhagavad Gita was a symbolic story. But Sri Aurobindo said that the Bhagavad Gita and the Mahabharata are not symbolic stories: They are typical stories. A symbol is some figure which stands for something else. When you say, "There is a flow of the river in my mind", it is symbolic. It only means that just as the river flows, with ripples and waves and currents, similarly there is a divine consciousness which also flows in the same way. Now, in the case of the parable of Indra and Kutsa which you find in the Veda, this story where Indra fights in his chariots along with Kutsa who is also with him and during the fight Indra meets the adversary forces, kills them and comes to conquest; in the means time Kutsa which is in company with Indra becomes himself like Indra and when he reaches the home of Indra, it was difficult for people who distinguish between Kutsa and Indra because both looked alike except Sachi, the wife of Indra who could make a distinction between the two. Now, this story Sri Aurobindo says is symbolic—not typical—in the sense that Indra stands for the Lord Himself and Kutsa stands for somebody seeking the divine light. Now how the seeker of the divine light himself becomes illumined by accompanying the symbol of the Lord, Indra is symbolic, Kutsa is symbolic of somebody seeking the light. So this whole story is symbolic of one particular kind of experience that one can have when one really has a great seeking of the Lord. Now such is not the case of Arjuna and Sri Krishna. Their being together in the chariot is typical in the sense that every human being can regard himself as Arjuna and can always find Sri Krishna, the Divine, because He is seated within him.
Let us take the example of some Shakespeare's dramas that we might have seen. Take Hamlet. It is said that Hamlet is a typical story. Every human being who arrives at a certain intellectual level, in a state of relative innocence, when that person's innocence is broken, shaken, blown by a very shocking experience, then disbalancement will take place. As a result of that, the kind of thing 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 the voices of three witches: "Hail! King!" giving the impression to Macbeth or injecting into his mind an ambition that was not there at all. But once that injection took place, he became possessed by it, shared it with Lady Macbeth who also became 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 is asleep Lady Macbeth calls 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, 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 that everybody can be inspired to have ambition—but human beings of a certain type can become suspect, so weak as to receive the suggestion, and something which was not there before in their heart, in their consciousness, possesses them.
King Lear is also a typical example. The father who has such a tremendous attachment for his daughters that he wants to give them everything, he wants to make them happiest and then he gets disillusioned, he becomes frenzied and mad. It is also typical of the 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. When a man is in love with his wife so deeply that he can become a victim of somebody else's jealousy who can inject into him a terrible poison so that he becomes burning all the time with the 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 belong to such and such a 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 not such actual war at all, it is only a symbolic story and in order to symbolise good forces and evil forces, that fiction was created by Vyasa: Pandavas represent the good forces and Kauravas represent the evil forces and the whole story can be read in that way. The same applies to the Gita. Some people actually who interpret it tell you that 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 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 his own consciousness: good forces and evil forces; and the whole battle that is shown in Mahabharata is simply a battle going on between the two forces.
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 inmost phenomena, it is a kind of a literary method of presentation. Symbolism or figurative language is a method of expressing certain things that 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. The word "cow" is a symbol 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 cannot make out as to what it means. Many people try to show that Mahabharata is a symbolic story, that Bhagavad Gita is a symbolic story, but Sri Aurobindo said that actually if you read the Bhagavad Gita and Mahabharata, if you really treat it as a symbolic story, it is so difficult to study as all the time you encounter symbolism. In a symbolism whatever is symbolically presented should be fitting in it, like the "river is flowing in my mind". Now the real river and the consciousness that it flows have a real comparative value; similarly if you say that the Mahabharata story is nothing but a story of evil forces and good forces coming together, if you read the whole story, you will not be able to sustain the symbolism at all. It is a 'typical' story. You might say that there are occasions in human life where such situations do arise physically—not symbolically and therefore the Mahabharata is a 'typical' story.
That is why, a film like Kaliyuga, where the Mahabharata story is typically shown with other characters who play a typical Draupadi and a typical Arjuna 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 who fit into the description that is given of Arjuna.
Now Sri Aurobindo explains what is the psychology of Arjuna which 'typifies' similar human beings. The interest of Arjuna's character is that most of us fulfil that type of Arjuna. Most of the human beings in the world are in a sense similar to Arjuna. Therefore, his story fits in our life quite easily. Now what are the characteristics? In fact the whole chapter called "The Human Disciple" is written to describe the psychological nature of Arjuna. 'The Divine Teacher' is already shown to be the 'internal Avatar', whereas Arjuna is a kind of a representative man with certain typical characteristics, and Sri Aurobindo now points out that this typical character is first of all sattwic in nature, but subject to all the three Gunas. It is the first statement about Arjuna. He is sattwic, but not totally. Normally human beings are neither one nor the other absolutely; there is a mixture of the three Gunas all the time. Arjuna is fundamentally a man of the mind, a mental being. Among the mental beings there are three basic types, there is rational mental being, an ethical mental being and an aesthetic mental being.
When the mind begins to develop, the sattwa begins also to develop. What is sattwa? sattwa has two fundamental characteristics: One is light and the other is delight. These two characteristics are very peculiar to sattwa. Anybody who is sattwic in temperament has a natural liking towards knowledge„ and there is always some kind of harmony in his consciousness, some kind of delight—not the supreme delight—but some kind of delight which constantly goes on vibrating. For example, sattwic children are very often misjudged by their parents because they are not so-called smart. The rajasic children are often smart, they are very dynamic, bubbling and moving about, courageous and doing this and that, they can never rest.
The sattwic boy or girl remains very quiet basically, because there is an inner harmony. This quietude may also sometimes be misunderstood as tamasic because there is some kind of likeness between inertia and lack of movement, and in this harmony there is also a lack of movement of the ordinary kind. But whether this inertia is tamasic or sattwic will be determined by the fact that sattwic consciousness is in search of knowledge—but not a rajasic search of knowledge. In a rajasic search of knowledge one goes about breaking, opening, in a very great rush. But a sattwic mind is quiet, considerate, looks at the things from many points of views and opens the doors of knowledge very quietly, seriously, sincerely but his tendency is to discover knowledge, and there is an inner delight. This is how you can distinguish between the sattwic child and the rajasic child.
But as I said, in sattwa or at the mental level, there are three kinds: the rational, ethical and aesthetical predominantly. Now a rational sattwic person is a thinker, is a philosopher who is in search of truth as distinguished from appearances. The aesthetic mental man is in search of beauty and creativity, and experience, he is a pursuer of experience as distinguished from the sattwic rational personality who is in search of thought, of knowledge in the form conception. The sattwic moral personality is in search of doing good, as distinguished if doing evil. This is the fundamental drive of the sattwic moral man. Now Arjuna is cast in this particular mould, he typifies a 'moral sattwic' human being.
Question: Is there not overlapping of all the three Gunas?
Yes, as I said in the very beginning predominance of one guna is what distinguishes one type from the other; but otherwise all the three gunas are present. Human nature is actually a great mixture; there is nobody purely sattwic without rajas and tamas, nobody purely rajasic without sattwa and tamas, nobody purely tamasic without having some rajas and some sattwa. That is of course understood. And yet by virtue of predominance of one or the other you can make a distinction.
Question: Is not there also overlapping of the ethical, moralist and aesthetical characteristics also?
Oh yes! Similarly there is mixture. Similarly, every mental being basically begins to think. The question is what kind of thinking? The purely mental sattwic being who is rational has a special kind of temperament which is scientific, philosophic, and which pursues knowledge for the sake of knowledge, this is the special characteristic of sattwic rational being. The moralist may also seek knowledge but his question is: What is the use of that knowledge in the practice of good? So he tries to equate knowledge immediately with action. A philosopher may not be so very eager to implement his knowledge into action. Ultimately he may do so because there is a personality that combines all the three together. At a higher level, the rational, ethical and aesthetical, all the three can be together although there are still complexities amongst these three personalities.
In fact the science of personality becomes complex because of the fact that at different levels different harmonies are obtained, but not complete harmonies. Some kind of harmony arises but there are gaps in the personality, there are conflicts of personality that still remain to be resolved. Even in the developed aesthetic personality, which combines the powers of rationality and ethicality, some predominance of one or the other may remain for a long time, depending upon the line which has been pursued so far. And you will see that the aesthetic tends to give less importance to the questions of morality, tends to give less importance to the debates of appearance and reality. Very often the aesthetic man is tired of attending a philosophical debate, so the moralist when he assists at a philosophical debate will ask immediately for the ultimate conclusion to put into practice. This is his fundamental drive, but the rational man says that to arrive at the truth you require long practice of understanding, gathering data, which requires a long time, and he is not in a hurry. So a philosopher thinks that the moralist or the aesthetic men are unnecessarily in a hurry, they do not have the patience to find out the truth. They simply want to grab the truth and to immediately apply it. These are the characteristics of the three personalities.
Only when you have ultimately developed some kind of harmony then you can have human beings who are all rounded. But even at that level you cannot integrate them, you require a further development: the psychic development, the spiritual development, because sattwa, rajas, tamas and rationality, ethicality and aesthetics are really reconciled in the psychic and the spiritual. So when the personality becomes more and more psychic and spiritual, you become more and more integrated. You cannot really have integration without the psychic and the spiritual that is the necessity of it. It is not as if you develop a psychic being as a kind of a luxury; it is not something like an option given to you that you may develop or not. But at a certain stage of development it becomes a necessity.
Let us take the example of Hamlet once again. What is the combination in the characteristics of Hamlet? It is a characteristic of a philosophic mind, which has a very high dose of moral tendency, a philosophical mind which has a high turn towards ethicality. Aesthetics is very little in his personality but these two elements are quite developed. He has a philosophical mind, in his university he was doing philosophy: a philosophy student, one who is turned towards philosophical thinking, but turned towards the 'Good'. This personality suddenly comes across an experience where his thinking is shocked; his moral sense is shocked; there is a double shock to his thought and his ethical sense; then these two are blocked and he does not know how to overcome this conflict. If he were a complete thinker he would have withdrawn completely into solitude or quietude and would have thought over the problem he was facing in a very patient manner. If he was only a philosophical mind then this would have happened. But he was not merely a philosopher. The profound question that he asked for example, "To be or not to be, that is the question" is representative of a philosophic mind. But the fact is that he is not able to think very deeply; he raises the question but he does not have the patience to think it out. Why? Because he immediately wants to do something; he wants to act; and act rightly. If he were just a rajasic personality he would have murdered his mother and uncle immediately. He would not even have questioned whether he was right or wrong. But he was not sure first of all whether 'to be or not to be', that was the first question, and what was the truth about it. He was not really sure whether his mother was a conspirator in the murder of his father; and he was not sure whether his uncle was a partner to the conspiracy. He was not sure and he said, "If I am not sure how can I do something wrong?" Now it is there that he was blocked, the whole tragedy arises from this fact.
If he was not a philosophic mind, if you are simply like Macbeth...Macbeth had no philosophic mind, he does not typify a philosophic mind but a man of morality, of action, not even a sattwic man, he is a vital, but with some tinge of morality and ethicality. So he was a faithful man to begin with, but when ambition was injected into him, he became subject to the vital impulse. If Macbeth were a philosophic mind, or something much more than that, the tragedy would not have arisen. Because of an ethical sense of good and an ambition put together there was a battle in his life: a tendency towards ambition to be fulfilled, and a tendency to do the good thing, the right thing. That entire tragedy is a result of these two tensions and ultimately he does it and once he has done it, he does not mind at all the boundaries of morality. He goes on the whole spree of killing thereafter; the vital altogether takes him over. That shows that he is a typical human being who is slightly reasoned to the level of ethicality, but still subject to the temptations of the vital being to such an extent that ultimately the ambition can overpower him and make him do the terrible action of killing the very man of whom he was a faithful servant. And then the result and tragedy takes place. So when these different aspects of the personality begin to develop in a certain manner and are not yet fully reconciled, then the result is that in the transitional period a crisis arises.
If Arjuna were a very rounded personality in which rationality, ethicality, aesthetics, spiritual, higher domains, all had been conquered, the crisis would not have arisen at all. It is because his philosophic mind was at a lower level, because his ethical mind was at a higher level, but that higher level of ethicality was not at the top of it, and this also is to be noted. Arjuna was a practical, pragmatic, emotional, ethical man, these were his special characteristics. But ethical, not guided by philosophical thought.
Socrates, for example, was at once philosophical and ethical. He had thought over the problem of the good and the evil leisurely on a long canvas as it were, he had walked the path of thought on 'Good and Evil'. And that is why when he was charged he did not come to a crisis. When Socrates was brought before the tribunal and Melitos began to put questions to him, he was not at all ruffled; he knew what was good, he knew that he had known the whole path of philosophical thought as a result of which he had concluded of what was right. And he took even the imprisonment knowingly, consciously, without a crisis. He went to the prison, began to discuss with his disciples as if nothing had happened, and he was teaching philosophy even in his prison room. Even when the jailer came and said, "I will give you a secret passage to go out of the jail" he said, "No". He was sure it would be wrong to do it. There was no doubt in his mind. It is not as if he studied the question for a day and said, "Ultimately I came to the conclusion now that I do not want to escape from here". There was no crisis at all. And ultimately he 'faced', even when the poison was given him to drink, he took it very lightly and said, "After some time you just go on seeing my limbs one after the other and when you come to the heart and you find it is cold, then you will realise that my heart has stopped and I have gone." This is the simplicity with which the whole thing happened without crisis. It is because his philosophic nature and his ethical nature were very developed, so there was no conflict on that account.
Question: Is thinking contemplation?
Yes. Thinking has three levels. First is the thinking based upon ordinary observations; observation is a starting point of real thinking. There are many other kinds of thoughts that arise directly from our emotions, impulses. They are also called thoughts but the real thinking, real philosophic thought, arises on the basis of the data, which are presented and observed. So this is a first starting point. Even in science observation is a starting point. Observation, experiments, formation of hypotheses, verification of hypotheses, confirmation, repetition, these are the steps of scientific thought. Similarly in a philosophic thought, observation of facts of life is a starting point, but normally you do not have all the facts before you start, so it is a gradual building up. You observe many facts, you encounter many experiences, but while you investigate your mind is observant, it is a speciality of a philosophic mind or a pure scientific mind. Developing an observant mind is the fundamental condition of rationality. One who is purely ethical and not philosophical has no patience to observe, he is very impatient to do something and do something that is right. But if he has not arrived at a philosophical conclusion, he tends to accept the authority of higher people who simply tell him what is wrong or right. And as soon as he knows what is right, he starts doing it, because the tendency is to do the right thing. But as far as discovering what is right or not, he depends upon somebody else whom he believes, whom he trusts. So most of the ethical beings in the world are those who are not philosophical and tend to accept the word of a master, the injunction of friend whom they consider to be much more developed, or the injunction given in a book or a shastra, or even if they attend to a debate on the subject, their attitude is to come to a conclusion as soon as possible. There is impatience to do the right thing before arriving at the end of the process revealing the ideas of what is good. If they were philosophical at the same time, they would spend time in thinking and would stop or resist their tendency to act immediately.
And this is what happened to Hamlet because he was philosophic in his mind so did not immediately jump into action. He allowed some time to think out, even to verify his doubts. He made a plot, enacting a drama in which the whole conspiracy of which he had learnt and about which he was not sure, he got it enacted, just to see the reaction of his uncle and his mother while watching the drama. So you can see how much he was considerate to the demands of philosophic truth, as to what exactly was the truth—that was what he wanted to find out. Otherwise he would have murdered his uncle very easily when he was in a prayer room and Hamlet is just there and he had a full chance of killing his uncle, just at that time, because he is not sure whether it is right or wrong.
In the case of Arjuna you cannot say that he had no philosophic training at all—he had. But predominantly he was an ethical man, an emotional man, a practical man therefore sensations, emotions, practicality and ethicality were the fundamental forces of his life. And if you read the whole of Mahabharata, you will find confirmation of this description of Arjuna: sensational, emotional, pragmatic, ethical. But ethical not philosophically, ethical in the sense that he was prone to accept the truth of good as declared by Dharma or Dharmashastra or philosophers or the sages or great men. The crisis of Arjuna arises because a situation arises in his life where this kind of personality can no more answer the questions pertaining to the situation in which he was. All crises are a resultant of the inner abilities and inabilities to confront the demands of a situation. And when the equation is unbalanced between the two, that is to say the force that you have to deal with a situation is less powerful, less capable, than the demands of the situation, then one is put in a crisis. This was the situation in which the kind of ethicality that Arjuna was pursuing so far had no answer to the question, which arose in that situation.
In every human life we find the question of right and wrong almost at every step. What is right, what is wrong, we normally know as it were and therefore life goes on smoothly. It is easy to tell the child, "Read" because you think reading is good, isn't it? You have no doubt in the mind at all that you have given the wrong advice to the child. No question, no crisis. "Go to sleep early", you are quite right, you are sure this is the right thing to do, therefore no crisis at all. But when the child reads properly, when the child sleeps properly and yet the child is not happy, yet the results are not commensurate with your expectations, then you begin to wonder what is really right and what is wrong. A question really arises when you really expected results that did not come about. Then you begin to wonder whether your handling of the child is proper or not. Now this is an ordinary kind of a problem in which you may find an answer more quickly after some reflection, after making this or that effort, by trial and error you finally find out some kind of a workable formula. But there are situations where you cannot find an answer at all! And then a crisis arises when on one hand one must solve the problem and on the other hand one can't solve the problem. When these two things confront each other sharply, then you call this situation 'a crisis'. Till that time your situation is of 'a problem', not of 'a crisis'. As long as you have elbow room and you can swim further, it is just a 'problem'.
Question: Does not this crisis arise because you do not understand what it means to you?
Yes, it is quite right. Absolutely. You are not able to face the situation which is before you because of three reasons: You do not understand it; or even if you understand, the force opposite to you is very powerful and you do not have the means of meeting it; or thirdly, even if you have the power, you are restrained, you do not have the means to act, you are chained as it were, you cannot do anything. For example, there are human beings who are addicted to liquor; some of these people know what is to be done, they have the capacity of doing it, but liquor disables them to do it, then the crisis arises. So in any case, the general definition of a crisis is a situation where you must do and you cannot do and the two confront each other with tremendous pressure, then you say, "I am in a crisis".
Question: In that case, in the conflict between will power and imagination, imagination will always win because that is what is strong with such persons?
It may be, but it may not be necessarily. The different individuals have different combinations. In a given personality, you cannot say that imagination 'always' wins. Sometimes imagination is very often the cause of your failure, because you can imagine very well, because you can anticipate very well, therefore you cannot act very well. Action requires a certain kind of quickness and imagination takes you away from quickness, therefore you cannot act, so it depends upon different combinations. But the general point is that in any state of crisis ultimately you reach a point where 'you must do and you cannot do'. This is a state which you can call a state of crisis.
Question: There is not much time for the "must do"...
Yes, there is either no time, or something else: a disability, a doubt.
In the case of Arjuna, his psychology being what it was (mainly practical, emotional, sensational, ethical which is not guided by philosophical thought, but by norms set by other people which have so far worked very well in his life), he was confronting a situation where two norms stood side by side, confronting with each other. In the past, there was only one norm to be followed and there was no conflicting norm demanding that you do this. Now in his life, he had come to a point where two norms, both equally good, were confronting each other and he could not decide which one of them to accept. The arguments on both sides were so powerful that he simply collapsed and even when he said, "I will not fight", he still was not sure whether this was right or not and turned to Sri Krishna and asked, "Please tell me decisively what is right". And you will notice that when Sri Krishna discussed the problem, Arjuna showed impatience, saying, *"You tell me quickly what is right, do not confuse my mind" because he was not accustomed to that philosophic thought.
Now Sri Krishna, being a very great teacher, knew that without a dose of philosophic thought, Arjuna could not come out of this crisis. Not that he was 'troubling him, not at all! He was very kind, very compassionate. But he knew that the remedy of Arjuna's problem was to bring him to a state where philosophically he had to be elevated from his present grooves. Therefore Sri Krishna began to speak to him of going beyond a bit, of attaining to the state of samadhi, he spoke about the soul that never dies and other things, and Arjuna felt very impatient.
Question: Was it not to keep contact with the situation?
Yes, he wanted the immediate situation to be tackled. But Sri Krishna knew that his problem could be resolved only if he was taken out of this mentality which wants an immediate solution, because the solution could not be otherwise given to Arjuna.
So what was to be done? As a good teacher, he bore even to be scolded up Arjuna! This is typical of the human mind which is ethical and pragmatic and which is not accustomed to a good philosophical debate. And Sri Krishna had precisely started a kind of philosophic debate! Actually, this is 'typical' of all of us!
Very few people are prepared to discuss a problem with great patience until the highest and ultimate is sure and connected to the present situation. And Sri Krishna knew that the problem that Arjuna faced was so grave that unless he was uplifted first of all, the problem could not be solved.
Question: Is that the same as saying that very frankly he could not give time to the problem, meaning that he must give time to the problem?
Exactly. Precisely, this was also part of Arjuna's crisis. And he was anxious and that created a lot of problems in his mind. So even when Sri Krishna went on explaining to him ...in the second chapter he scolded him and again in the fourth chapter, saying, "Well, if you think that intelligence is more important than action then why did you throw me into this ghora karma at all?" But Sri Krishna really wanted to tell him that unless you go into that intelligence first of all, you will not be able to solve your physical, practical, problem. So first of all, hear about intelligence! And Sri Krishna poured a good lecture on him about intelligence. So, Arjuna being impatient says that "if you think that intelligence is more important than action, so why do you want me to do this action at all?"
I think we can stop here now; we shall go into the real crisis next time.
But this is the real problem of the Bhagavad Gita. Unless we understand the nature of this problem: first of all the psychology of Arjuna; the tendency for him to do “good" and his inability to seek out the philosophic, or spiritual basis of good, and the impatience arising therefore, we cannot understand the fundamental cause of the crisis of Arjuna. On the other hand, the solution that was necessary at that time could not have been given without that great philosophical and spiritual upliftment of the mentality of Arjuna. Therefore, the difficulty for Sri Krishna as a teacher, and therefore he took bare the questionings of Arjuna. Even when Sri Krishna told him what is samadhistha, his first question was, "All right, samadhistha is accepted, but now tell me how does he walk, how does he talk, how does he move about?" It was immediately applied to action and he continued, "So supposing I also go into samadhi, will my problem be solved?" That was his real question. All the time this was his fundamental tendency.
So we shall see next time this real crisis, the real problem, where exactly there is failure to apply the idea of 'good' which up till now had helped him, and fails in this particular situation. Just as a mother comes across the situation where she has applied to her child all that she knew was good and now yet her child is facing a problem, then what is now that new knowledge that has to be given to the mother to be able to overpass the problem of the child?
Similarly, here there was a problem. What was the good that he knew, which he had applied in his life, and as a result of which up till then he had been successful? What was the new problem that had arisen now before him? As a result of that there was a conflict between one 'good' and the other 'good' which had never come in his life before. What had to be chosen between the two? What exactly was this choice before him that he could not decide upon? As a result of which mama gathran, all his limbs became absolutely feeble, and he threw away his gandiva (the name of Arjuna's bow).
So we shall see that next time, because if it took no time I would have said it immediately but it is rather a long thing which will require at least one hour to expound this particular crisis.