Essays on the Gita (The Mother’s Institute of Research) - Session 8 (28 March 1998)

Last time we simply read the questions 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 analysed 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 [B.G.18.58] work proceeded from the ego sense in him, ahaṅkāra. 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 impose 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 ask in the first stage 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 the 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 when Sri Krishna 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 he 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. The importance of these words lies in the fact that all of us are cast in the type of Arjuna. Arjuna was a preeminent 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, was divinely appointed, it was not an ordinary action, but a '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 said, "When we do sins of this kind, then we have to go to hell and to a great suffering": that was his argument. "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 endeavour 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 word of Sri Aurobindo. Arjuna covered as it were these egoistic impulses although what he said 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 specious pleas of right and virtue"; "specious pleas" are the pleas or arguments which seem, have an appearance to be right, but in themselves they are wrong.

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 peace of 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 swords 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 she is not anymore the loving mother, the peaceful mother, she 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 plot, 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 "our 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 he 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 was 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.

The real renunciation is something quite different, there is the vital impulse to embrace that which is attractive; it is the same vital which recoils from that which is attractive. They are only the two faces of the same vital. The one towards which you are attracted at a certain stage, and that which you embrace, at a certain stage you find that this is a terrible embrace. And then you return and you say, "I don't want to do anything with that object which was attracting me so much." And you may, in doing so, use the language of morality and virtue, and say: 'I do not care, I do not wish, I have no desire', actually it is simply a recoil of the same vital but instead of attraction it is a repulsion. It is not renunciation; it is only 'repulsion'. So When Arjuna says na kai iuke rajyaCi, "I do not wish the kingdom", it is not the words of renunciation, it is a recoil, it is the loss of faith in the object of attraction. Sri Aurobindo analyses these very things earlier, in my book (Essays on the Gita, chapter III The Human Disciple), it is page 22, in the middle of the second paragraph.

The revolt itself is the most elemental and simple possible; sensationally, the elemental feeling of horror, pity and disgust; vitally, the loss of attraction and faith in the recognised and familiar objects of action and aims of life; emotionally, the recoil of the ordinary feelings of social man, affection, reverence, desire of a common happiness and satisfaction, from a stern duty outraging them all; morally, the elementary sense of sin and hell and rejection of B.G.2.5 “blood-stained enjoyments”; practically, the sense that the standards of action have led to a result which destroys the practical aims of action. But the whole upshot is that all-embracing inner bankruptcy which Arjuna expresses when he says that his whole conscious being, B.G.2.7 not the thought alone but heart and vital desires and all, are utterly bewildered and can find nowhere the dharma, nowhere any valid law of action.

This is Sri Aurobindo's analysis of the situation. Now that being very important, I would like to go once again through the argument of Arjuna, in the original of the Bhagavad Gita.

Question: ....last time.

Yes: sidanti mama gatrani. You have got it? I have only one copy with me.

It does not matter. In the original: sīdanti mama gātrāṇi the limbs of my body get shrunk, sīdanti mama gātrāṇi mukhaḿ ca pariśuṣyati, my mouth gets dried up; vepathusca śarire, my whole body is full of shudderings; roma–harṣaśca jāyate, and my hair stand on end". This is all sensational revolt; this is the description of the sensations:

sīdanti mama gātrāṇi mukhaḿ ca pariśuṣyati (1,28)

vepathuś ca śarīre me roma–harṣaś ca jāyate
gāṇḍīvaḿ sraḿsate hastāt tvak caiva paridahyate (1,29)

gāṇḍīvaḿ sraḿsate hastāt, my bow, Gandiva, slips down, hastāt, from my hand and tvak caiva paridahyate, and my skin is on fire; na ca śaknomy avasthātuḿ, I am not even able to stand; bhramatīva ca me manaḥ and my mind seems as if wandering. (I, 30) nimittāni ca paśyāmi viparītāni keśava, and I see all around, viparītāni adverse, nimittāni omens, O Keshava. na ca śreyo ‘nupaśyāmi, I don't see anything good, na ca śreyo ‘nupaśyāmi hatvā svajanam āhave, in this battle; āhave, in the battle; having killed, svajanam,...Now from sensation he moves towards the vital condition, hatvā svajanam – but it is egoistic: svajanam, it is my own people, having killed my own people in this battle, I see nothing good. Now, this vital recoil up to now a sensational revolt, now comes the vital revolt. (I, 31) na kāńkṣe vijayaḿ, there is a vital recoil, instead of attraction there is now a repulsion; na kāńkṣe vijayaḿ kṛṣṇa na ca rājyaḿ sukhāni ca, nor do I wish the kingdom, nor the happiness; kiḿ no rājyena govinda kiḿ bhogair jīvitena vā, what is the use of the kingdom, what is the use of enjoyments, what is the use of living: this is all vital reaction. It is not the renunciation of a Yogi, it is a pure revulsion, because it is preceded by svajanam āhave hatvā, it is my people whom I am about to kill and therefore I am shrinking from there. yeṣām arthe kāńkṣitaḿ no rājyaḿ bhogāḥ sukhāni ca(1,32) for whose sake yeṣām arthe kāńkṣitaḿ for whose sake we desire our kingdom,no rājyaḿ bhogāḥ sukhāni ca (1,32), and enjoyment and happiness; ta ime ‘vasthitā yuddhe prāṇāḿs tyaktvā dhanāni ca, it is these very people who are standing before me. You can see the attachment to these people: personal egoistic attachment, – ta ime ‘vasthitā yuddhe prāṇāḿs tyaktvā, they have already given up their lives, see how better they are than myself, they are already there, having given up their own lives,dhanāni ca, all wealth they have given up, their lives they have given up and they are standing and it is for whose benefit and for whose enjoyment I would like to do anything in life'. You see the scope of the life and the scope of the motive of life:what do I live for, for svajanam, for my people I live'. That entire idea of the duty, of the righteousness, of the people being oppressed by the evil forces, all this has disappeared, it is not in the field.

yeṣām arthe kāńkṣitaḿ no rājyaḿ bhogāḥ sukhāni ca

ta ime ‘vasthitā yuddhe prāṇāḿs tyaktvā dhanāni ca
ācāryāḥ pitaraḥ putrās tathaiva ca pitāmahāḥ(1,33)

who are these people? They are teachers, ācāryāḥ pitaraḥ, teachers, fathers, putrās – sons, and also pitāmahāḥ, the grandsires, the grand fathers mātulāḥ śvaśurāḥ, those who are whose relationship I am a son in law mātulāḥ śvaśurāḥ pautrāḥ, even my grandsons, śyālāḥ, my brothers in law, sambandhinas tathā, all kinds of relatives. (I, 34) etān na hantum icchāmi, I don't wish to kill them. Now, you can see that from vital, there is a further development of what is called emotional': emotional revolt. There is the vital recoil: from sukham, and from rajyam, and then comes the emotional attachments to all the people whom he describes and says:how can I suffer this, suffering of my, my people, emotional attachment with whom I have so great'. etān na hantum icchāmi ghnato ‘pi madhusūdana,even if I am killed, ghnato' pi, even if I am killed O Madhusudana, I don't wish to kill them; api trailokya–rājyasya hetoḥ, I do not wish to kill them even though I may be killed for the sake of the kingdom of three realms, trailokya–rājyam, that is earth, heaven and the Supreme, whatever is the highest and everything combined together, even for that sake I am not prepared to kill them; kiḿ nu mahī–kṛte, what is this only for the sake of the earth? Even three kingdoms, if I have to be given by killing them, I won’t do it. What is the question of having only this earth in return to this victory?

Nihatya dhārtarāṣṭrān naḥ kā prītiḥ syāj janārdana, by killing the sons of Dhritarashtra, what will be the happiness in it? pāpam evā, now, comes the moral sense, the moral revolt, it is gradually, you can see how beautifully Vyasa has described the condition, sensational, vital, emotional, and now moral, pāpam evāśrayed, I will only resort to sin, asmān hatvaitān ātatāyinaḥ, these are all ready to fight, but having killed them, I will only enter into sin. So, this is a new argument, up till now it was only emotional: my brothers, my friends, now comes a greater argument that this will be a sin, that is to say, even from a universal point of view, not only because they are my brothers, and my fathers and grandfathers, but now the sin is a concept which is a more universal concept: when you do a wrong thing in itself from a universal point of view, then it is sin. So, now he brings another argument which is a moral crisis: pāpam evāśrayed asmān hatvaitān ātatāyinaḥ (I, 36). tasmān, therefore, nārhā, we don't deserve, vayaḿ hantuḿ, we don't deserve to kill them, dhārtarāṣṭrān sa–bāndhavān, sa–bāndhavān, again there is a lapse again to the emotional crisis. As Sri Aurobindo says there is confusion, tangle of error which is egoistic shot through egoism of Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas all together. svajanaḿ hi kathaḿ hatvā sukhinaḥ syāma mādhava, having killed svajanaḿour own people, O Madhava, syāma, how shall we be, sukhinaḥ, how shall we become happy? So, once again there is an emphasis on svajanaḿ. (I, 37)

Now comes a tremendous sense of virtue: again it is a moral crisis and imagine the vastness of his proposition:yady apy ete na paśyanti lobhopahata–cetasaḥ, even if they don't see, yady apy ete na paśyanti, even if they don't see what is right and wrong, why? Becauselobhopahata–cetasaḥ, because their consciousness is killed by lobhah, by greed;kula–kṣaya–kṛtaḿ doṣaḿ mitra–drohe ca pātakam, but what do they not seekula–kṣaya–kṛtaḿ doṣaḿ, the error which arises by the kula–kṣaya, by the destruction of the entire family, clan;mitra–drohe, by treachery of the friend, pātakam, the sin, they don't see the sin. (I, 38)kathaḿ na jñeyam asmābhiḥ, but I am not like that who are ignorant, I am jñeyam, I am one who knows, kathaḿ na jñeyam asmābhiḥ pāpād asmān nivartitum, but having known ourselves that this is a sin, they may not see because they are lobhopahata–cetasaḥ, they are shrouded, they are clouded by the greed, but having known ourselves, why should we not be freenivartitum, why should we not come back from pāpād, from the sin; kula–kṣaya–kṛtaḿ doṣaḿ prapaśyad, because we can see very well the doṣa, the error that arises by the destruction of the clan, janārdana. This is the specious argument: 'they' are narrow, but 'I' am so wide, I understand, they don't understand therefore they are not to be blamed, because they don't know, their consciousness is blinded, but 'my' consciousness is not blinded, I see very clearly that this is kula–kṣaya doṣaḿ (I, 39)kula–kṣaya prapaśyadbhir, now he expounds the whole theory, why kula–kṣaya doṣaḿ, why is it pāpād, why is it sin; now he expounds why is it a sin:kula–kṣaye praṇaśyanti kula–dharmāḥ sanātanāḥ, if the whole clan is destroyed, thenkula–dharmāḥ praṇaśyanti, then the laws, the dharma of the family are all destroyed, kula–dharmāḥ(s) which are sanātanāḥ, the eternal laws of the family, of the clan are destroyed; dharme naṣṭe, and when Dharma is destroyed, kulaḿ kṛtsnam, the whole family, adharmo ‘bhibhavaty uta, the whole family becomes seized by adharma, abhibhavaty, – adharma takes possession of the entire family. And then he explains to Sri Krishna what happens thereafter. If adharma takes place then he says to Sri Krishna. (I, 40) adharmābhibhavāt kṛṣṇa praduṣyanti kula–striyaḥ, O Krishna, when adharma seizes the whole clan, then kula–striyaḥ praduṣyanti, then the women of the clan enter into a sin; strīṣu duṣṭāsu vārṣṇeya jāyate varṇa–sańkaraḥ, when the women fall into sin, then the offspring will be bastard offspring,varṇa–sańkaraḥ.

Now, he further explains: the exposition of morality, the exposition of Dharma and his own awareness, whereas they are all blinded, but he is very fully aware of what happens if you fall into this kind of a pāpād. (I, 41). sańkaro narakāyaiva kula–ghnānāḿ kulasya ca, and when this kind of bastard offspring arises, this kind of mixture arises, sańkaro actually is a mixture, sańkaro narakāyaiva, it leads you straight to hell for whomkula–ghnānāḿ, when you destroy your own kula, kulasya ca, even the whole family is destroyed, it is the only end is going to hell; and when you go to hell further things happens, patanti pitaro, even the forefathers who have died, even they do not receive the water and offering from you, which sustains them in a higher good condition even after death, patanti pitaro hy eṣāḿ lupta–piṇḍodaka–kriyāḥ, what food you offer and what water you offer; that offering who will do when you go to hell? So, even that will not happen; therefore even your forefathers, they will suffer;patanti pitaro hy eṣāḿ lupta–piṇḍodaka–kriyāḥ.(I, 42).

doṣair etaiḥ kula–ghnānāḿ varṇa–sańkara–kārakaiḥ
utsādyante jāti–dharmāḥ kula–dharmāś ca śāśvatāḥ (1,43)

That is why all these sins, all these errors takes place because of the killing of your clan, and because of that bastard offspring arises and therefore all thejāti–dharmāḥ, all the dharmas of the clan, and all thiskula–dharmāś, all the laws which were binding the family and which are eternal, they all are transgressed, utsādyante, they are all transgressed.

utsanna–kula–dharmāṇāḿ manuṣyāṇāḿ janārdana
narake niyataḿ vāso bhavatīty anuśuśruma (I, 44)

He has been a very learned man so he says:īty anuśuśruma, we have already heard what happens;narake niyataḿ vāso, we have got to stay eternally into the hell, whenutsanna–kula–dharmāṇāḿ manuṣyāṇāḿ, when you destroy the dharmas of people and of the clan then the only result is that you have to live in a hell for eternity. aho bata mahat pāpaḿ kartuḿ vyavasitā vayam: alas, indeedmahat pāpaḿ kartuḿ, a great sin is about to be committed, vyavasitā vayam, we are engaged in committing a great sin;yad rājya–sukha–lobhena hantuḿ sva–janam udyatāḥ, and all this for what?rājya–sukha–lobhena, only for the greed of happiness and of kingdom, for that we have become ready to kill our own people! (I, 45)

Now, comes his last renunciation and a great sacrifice and he says:

yadi mām apratīkāram aśastraḿ śastra–pāṇayaḥ
dhārtarāṣṭrā raṇe hanyus tan me kṣemataraḿ bhavet (I, 46)

yadi, if, mām apratīkāram, apratīkārammeans one who does not resist, aśastraḿ, unarmed; I would like to be unresisting, I would like to be without any arms in my hands;yadi mām apratīkāram aśastraḿ śastra–pāṇayaḥ, thesedhārtarāṣṭrā, these sons of Dhritarashtra, they all have got arms, śastra–pāṇi, pāṇi means the hands, śastra means weapons, they have got arms in their hands, dhārtarāṣṭrā raṇe hanyus, they are armed with weapons, I unarmed and unresisting, if they kill me, hanyus tan me kṣemataraḿ bhavet, that will become much better for me.

I unarmed, unresisting, and they armed in their hands and if they kill me in the battlefield, tan me kṣemataraḿ bhavet, it will become much better.

evam uktvārjunaḥ sańkhye rathopastha upāviśat
visṛjya sa–śaraḿ cāpaḿ śoka–saḿvigna–mānasaḥ (I, 47)

evam uktva, having said this, arjunaḥ, Arjuna, sańkhye, in the battle, rathopasthe, in the seat of his chariot, upāviśat, he sat down; he gave up visṛjya sa–śaraḿ cāpaḿ, his bow which was already strung with the arrow, sa–śaraḿ cāpaḿ, that arrow, that bow, visṛjya, he gave up, śoka–saḿvigna–mānasaḥ, and his whole mind was completely bewildered with grief, śoka.

This is the description of Vyasa, and you can see how psychologically, Vyasa himself analyses Arjuna: the sensational, the vital, emotional, moral, practical, in all the levels of his consciousness one by one, every part of his being. Now it is this argument, this kind of question, in which there is so much of confusion and there is so much of sattwa, it is not only rajas and tamas, it is so much of Sattwa, and so much a sense of self-giving, so much of sense of sin in the action, so much of awakening when he says, "I know what is right; anususruma I know also what other seers have said about what happens." So with this much of knowledge, with this much of moral sense awakened against the sin, all this mixed together but everything shot with svajanam, everything which is shot for svasukha, svarajya, the whole scope is egoism. It is in that scope that everything is confined in the whole argument.

Now, imagine from here the real solution of the problem is so far, so far, so far! If it was a very near answer it would have been very easy to answer within a short time. But the answer that had to be given is so wide, and that is also the importance of the questioning; if the questions are very easy, they could have been answered easily, but no! The questions are extremely difficult, they are challenging questions. And ordinary answers will not do. Why? Because the answer that will come will be only at the highest level of consciousness. The consciousness which is limited in the egoistic consciousness which is so much shaken vitally and sensationally and which has confused ideas of right and wrong, and which even is prepared to make a tremendous sacrifice of one's own life and one's own life mission: to 'that' consciousness, the answer that has to be given, has to be at the deepest level. As Sri Aurobindo says, "an ordinary question could not have produced the Bhagavad-Gita." The question must have been extremely serious, extremely challenging and something that happens so typically to human beings at the most crucial moment of life that is why we have to return to the Gita so often, and again and again, and forever. Now imagine the answer that Sri Krishna has to build up; let us go immediately to the full answer that Sri Krishna wants to give to him then we can see the distance between the questioning and the real answer. Open Essays of the Gita, chapter 22 called "The Supreme Secret", page 521, where Sri Aurobindo summarizes the entire answer of the whole Bhagavad-Gita in a few lines.

Having given the full answers over the 18 chapters, now, Sri Aurobindo summarises that answer in a few lines. He says:

"The essence of the teaching and the Yoga has thus been given to the disciple on the field of his work and battle and the divine Teacher now proceeds to apply it to his action, but in a way that makes it applicable to all action."

Not only to Arjuna's action, but to everybody's action.

Attached to a crucial example, spoken to the protagonist of Kurukshetra, the words bear a much wider significance and are a universal rule for all who are ready to ascend above the ordinary mentality and to live and act in the highest spiritual consciousness.

What is that teaching? This is the answer:

To break out of ego and personal mind and see everything in the wideness of the self and spirit, to know God and adore him in his integral truth and in all his aspects, to surrender all oneself to the transcendent Soul of nature and existence, to possess and be possessed by the divine consciousness, to be one with the One in universality of love and delight and will and knowledge, one in him with all beings, to do works as an adoration and a sacrifice on the divine foundation of a world in which all is God and in the divine status of a liberated spirit, is the sense of the Gita’s Yoga.

The entire experience and the status to which the soul has to ascend is given here in all these five-six steps. I would like to read again because they deserve repetition again and again, they are the quintessence of the whole teaching of the Bhagavad-Gita. I do not think anywhere in the whole world such a summary of the whole teaching of the Gita is given in one sentence: "To break out of ego and personal mind and see everything in the wideness of the self and spirit, to know God and adore him in his integral truth and in all his aspects, to surrender all oneself to the transcendent Soul of nature and existence, to possess and be possessed by the divine consciousness, to be one with the One in universality of love and delight and will and knowledge, one in him with all beings, to do works as an adoration and a sacrifice on the divine foundation of a world in which all is God and in the divine status of a liberated spirit, is the sense of the Gita's Yoga."

I would like to dwell a little more on this question of Arjuna because unless we understand the question, we cannot understand the answer; that is why we are taking so much time on the questioning of Arjuna. I have summarised in a schematic form this question of Arjuna, but this is the analysis of the whole situation:

"When Arjuna entered the battlefield his mind was clear and convinced that the claim of the Pandavas to the legal rights was perfectly justified and that his own duty as a warrior and as a soldier was to protect the right, to fight for the right, and to establish the right, even if that meant a battle and a war with those who are protagonists of the illegal and unjust claims. But as he began to view the armies on the battlefield, his mind became filled with sensations and emotions, with thoughts and arguments, with the deliverances of consciences at various levels, sattwic, rajasic, tamasic, he felt a disabling disgust towards material objects, towards action, towards life itself; it is this disgust that Arjuna expressed in short but piercing statements. In the first place he said that he would like to reject that aim of life, which seeks enjoyment and happiness. In other words he rejected what we might call in modern terms the aim of egoistic hedonism."

Egoistic hedonism is a theory which says that you should seek your own pleasure. So he first of all says, "I renounce". Egoistic hedonism is a very low thing. 'To seek one's own pleasure and enjoyment', no, this I don't want.

"Secondly he declared that he would reject the aim which seeks to attain victory and rule and power and government of men. In other words, he rejected what might be called the vital aim of enjoyment that was allowed in the Indian ethos to the Kshatriya."

This was the one enjoyment that you fight the unjust, destroy, establish and then enjoy the kingdom; this enjoyment was allowed to the Kshatriya in the Indian ethos. But Arjuna says that even this is a lower aim and he does not want that aim.

"Thirdly, he rejected the ethical element that was the main spring of the entire preparation of the war."

Now this ethical element is a very important element of the whole argument. So I am analysing it in detail. His argument could be translated as follows:

"What exactly is justice involved in fighting the war that was just to commence?"

The ethical element was that he was fighting for justice; so now he ask the question: what is justice? What exactly is Justice involved in fighting the war that was just to commence?

"Is it not, he asked, interest of himself, his brothers, and of his party for possession, enjoyment, and rule, what was the injustice in the situation, we are not allowed to rule, and we mean it is only justice that we should be allowed to rule; is that the meaning of justice? I don't want this kind of justice. It is only a selfish kind of a proposition. So he says: what is this justice involved in fighting the war that was just to commence? Is it not, he asked interest of himself, his brothers, and of his party for possession, enjoyment and rule? Even if he be granted that these aims were justified, he raised by implication the question as to what will be the cost of securing that justice. Would it not mean, he asked, the sacrifice of the right maintenance of social and national life, which in the person of the king of the race, stood before him, opposing him in the battlefield? This is the subtlety of the question. Even if it is allowed by Kshatrya Dharma to kill the unjust, and even the enjoyment is allowed by the Dharma, then he says: what is the price you have to pay for this kind of holding of Dharma? The price you have to, pay is the sacrifice of the right maintenance of social and national life. If it was a small thing to be decided, it is alright but here I am going to destroy social and national life, which is represented by my opponents today, because they are also part of the national life. This is one line of his argument, where the ethical element for which he had come, the main sustaining force was the ethical element; very often it is said that Arjuna was so clouded, he forgot his Dharma; this is not true. If you analyse the argument, it is not that he has forgotten what is Dharma, he had come for Dharma to establish justice and right; but now new questions have arisen: if that justice can be established only by paying a price which is so heavy that even the national life is destroyed, so where is the question of that justice.

Now, he turns to another argument: turning to another line of argument, Arjuna seems to feel that even if happiness and life are desirable, they are desirable only if they are shared with all others, particularly with our own people. In modern terminology, Arjuna was referring to the doctrine that seeks to secure maximum happiness for the maximum number of people. 'Even if I destroy these people, the happiness will be only ours'. But the higher ethical doctrine is that you should have the maximum number of people sharing the maximum amount of happiness, which is a higher principle. But here Arjuna argued by implication: 'our own people are to be slain and who would consent to slay them for the sake of all the earth, or even for the kingdom of three worlds?' At this stage, Arjuna formulates even more fundamental objections; the arguments become even more formidable: he declares that slaughter is a sin, and mutual slaughter is a heinous crime in which there is no right and no justice. And this is a heinous sin when those that are to be slain are objects of love and reverence. So, the argument that Arjuna puts forward is very formidable. The whole idea of justice is now overshadowed by all these considerations. What price do you want to have justice? Formulating these ethical arguments further, he grants that the sons of Dhritarashtra are guilty of the offences, of sins of greed and selfish passion. But Arjuna argues that they are overpowered by ignorance and they have no sense of guilt; but would it be right he asked in effect, to enter into a sinful act voluntarily, with a clear knowledge that sin is to be committed? Once again, he brings in another ethical consideration; even if a sin is to be committed, and even if that could be justified in one way or the other, how could it be justified if that leads to the destruction of any morality, social law, law of the nation? Arjuna declares that the family itself will be brought to the point of annihilation: morals will be corrupted, race will be sallied, laws of race, morality, and family will be destroyed and who will be the author of these crimes? Arjuna means to imply those in particular who will enter into the war with the knowledge and sense of guilt and of sin. Arjuna then concludes therefore: it is more for my welfare that the sons of Dhritarashtra armed should slay me unarmed and unresistant. I will not fight."

It is not a question of a conflict between Dharma and Adharma.

When the conflict is only between Adharma and Dharma, and that was the conflict that he had already resolved, when Arjuna entered in the battlefield, he knew that the fight is between Adharma and Dharma; and the "I" stands for Dharma and "they" stand for Adharma. But when "Dharma" collides with "Dharma", and that is the real conflict, the problem became irresolvable, because Dharma to establish justice was collided with the price that had to be paid which would create Adharma. While doing Dharma, if you are going to produce another Adharma, if the offspring becomes varoasaokara, when all the Dharmas of the family and the clan are to be destroyed, then how are we to reconcile? If by doing Dharma you are going to produce Adharma; how are we to resolve the problem? If we don't fight then Adharma already reigns, therefore you must fight, but if by fighting you are going to produce Adharma then, should you fight? This is the dilemma, this is the great question.

It raises the basic question: what is Dharma, what is Adharma? Are all our notions of Dharma and Adharma, exactly correct, accurate? This raises the question of the entire ethics: ethics actually is a study of decision of what is right and what is wrong. And if you study the entire history of ethics, if you want to summarise the entire history of ethics, you will find that ethical philosophy has given no unanimous answer as to what is right and what is wrong. Normally in a science you have one unanimous answer: this is the disease and this is the answer to cure it. But in the field of what is right and what is wrong, even after so many thousands of years, people have decisive questions: what is right and what is wrong? This has not been answered unanimously. And that is why there is a big question.

If you study even the modern ethics developed by Europe, it passes through three stages of ethical thought. There is a doctrine that the highest good is pleasure: this is one, the highest good is pleasure and you must pursue pleasure because it is the highest good. This is called the doctrine of "Egoistic Hedonism": to seek one's own pleasure, and to maximise this pleasure, and to have the longest duration of pleasure; that is the doctrine of "Ethical Egoistic Hedonism".

Question: Is it ethical?

It is ethical, it is the doctrine of "Ethics": there is a difference between Psychological Hedonism and Ethical Hedonism. Psychological Hedonism only says that all human beings pursue their own pleasure, this is Psychological Hedonism. There is a long debate in Europe: 'is it a correct doctrine?' But without going into this debate, the general proposition that is made is: that it is a fact that every human being seeks his own pleasure, psychologically. And then the argument is that since everybody seeks one's own pleasure, that which is 'desired' is 'desirable': this is the argument.

Therefore one ought to desire: that is the transition from Psychological Hedonism to Ethical Hedonism. From what one normally does, what you cannot prevent, what automatically happens; it is that which should be desired then: what is 'desired' is 'desirable'. Of course there is a fallacy in the argument, but this is the argument which is put forward. What is 'eatable'? That which you can 'eat', isn't it? You cannot eat a cassette; it is not eatable because it is not an object of eating. That which is eaten, that which can be 'eaten', is 'eatable'. So what is desirable, that which can be desired. So this is the first answer to what is right and what is wrong. Everybody normally seeks one's own pleasure, since it is desired, it is desirable; therefore everybody ought to seek one's own pleasure.

Second point: since everybody seeks to maximise one's pleasure, therefore one should maximise one's pleasure and how to maximise it? European ethical thinkers have even gone to the length of making a calculus: they propose that you should have a kind of a chart and make all your objects of desire into a kind of a scale, and then see from what object you get a maximum pleasure. Because it is also accepted that the world is such that pleasure is always mixed with pain, and pain is something that you like to reject; and pleasure is what you like to embrace; therefore, you should try to maximise by making a chart: there are so many objects of pleasure, which one gives the best pleasure, highest pleasure? So, while doing so, first of all you have the quantity of pleasure; that which gives you the highest quantity of pleasure is the object of your seeking. Second is, the duration of pleasure; you may have some great pleasure quantity may be very great but duration is fraud; then, in calculus you should give less marks to it; you should have the greatest quantity of pleasure and then you should have the longest duration.

Third is the intensity of pleasure: it is not enough that the duration is long; some pleasures are long in duration but the intensity is not so great; so you should have intensity. So 'quantity', 'intensity' and 'duration', all the three maximise them; and that, you can do only by making a chart: it is not easy to find out which is that pleasure that gives you the longest pleasure, the most intense pleasure, the most durable pleasure. This is the first answer of Ethical Egoistic Hedonism. It is ethical because it says "you ought to"; you ought to seek this pleasure, therefore it is ethical. And why is it ethical? Because you are desiring; what is 'desired' is 'desirable'; therefore you should pursue this. This is the straight argument.

I am only summarising the argument given by one great thinker called Bentham (jeremy Bentham,1748-1832). Bentham was a great philosopher of morality, ethical thinker and this is his doctrine which he gave in this ...I am only summarising, but this is the offshoot of his whole argument.

Now, he had a pupil called Mill, (John Stuart, 1806-1873). He was not satisfied with Bentham's doctrine. So, he went one step forward. He granted that everybody seeks pleasure, everybody seeks maximum amount of pleasure, greatest intensity of pleasure, longest duration of pleasure; but he argued that even your own pleasure is not so great when your pleasure is shared by others. Your own pleasure is one thing, but it has to be shared by others, and when shared by others your own pleasure increases. There are certain pleasures which are enjoyed by you alone, but that is not all; there are certain pleasures which are enjoyed better, when they are shared with others and their enjoyment increases your enjoyment. So in your calculus there should be another column. Your own pleasure should be maximised in context of the greatest pleasure of others.

So that is how the question of society came into the picture. This is not "Egoistic Ethical Hedonism", but it is called "Universal Ethical Hedonism"; not 'egoistic' but 'universal'. You can see how Vyasa knew this doctrine earlier, when Arjuna himself says: "what is this pleasure which is only for me? Those people for whose sake I would like to enjoy, and with whom I would like to share, if they are to be killed, what is my pleasure?" So he is arguing 'Ethical Universal Hedonism'; and this is the argument which came in Europe much latter in the 18th century; and Vyasa has declared this doctrine long, long ago. And Arjuna is aware of this doctrine, therefore he puts forward this doctrine.

So against purely Ethical Egoistic Hedonism, he puts forth the argument of Universal Ethical Hedonism. He says, "What is this, I am only trying to seek my own pleasure, no! A greater pleasure is when I share it with others, so in my calculus the survival of my enemies is necessary; because only when I am victorious I can enjoy their company, then my pleasure will be much greater!"

This is the doctrine in the west as it is called "Utilitarianism". Utilitarianism is a doctrine according to which you ought to seek the maximum pleasure of the maximum number of people. So, when you want to do any action, then you find out whether it is right or wrong by asking whether it will benefit the largest number of people and will give the largest amount of pleasure, with the greatest intensity for the longest duration: this is what is called "Hedonistic Calculus". You make a calculus which is hedonistic. He even applied this to political action. If you want to pass a law; how will you decide whether a law is a right law? You find out what will be the effect of the passage of a law by the parliament; if that law is going to promote maximum pleasure to a maximum number of people, then that law is right; if not then you should not pass that law.

Now, there is a third doctrine in the west which has been defined, and which has been refined, and forwarded powerfully by a philosopher called Emanuel Kant. Now, he examined human nature once again; and he said, "it is not true that human beings seek their own pleasure, psychologically it is not true'". What is it that human beings seek, if not pleasure? The answer was that human beings even seek 'pain'. It is not true that human beings seek pleasure only; people also seek pain. They do not come out of the path of pain simply because their path will lead them to pain. Why, because there is a greater demand in human beings. What is the demand? The demand to do the right action for the sake of being right, even though it may produce unhappiness, great trouble, difficulties, austerity. Human beings according to him have a motive to act only from the motive of doing the right action, and right action is not to be defined in terms of that which produces pleasure, because people do right action even when pleasure is not obtained. Therefore it follows that there is something other than pleasure. Rightness of action is something other than pleasure.

In what then consists the rightness? If not in pleasure, in what consists the right action? His answer was: a right action is that which you can will at the same time to be 'universal'; personal pleasure you can never make universal. Even maximum pleasure you can never make universal; that which you can make universal, that is the right action; and action which you can at the same time will to be universal. For example: "I should tell a lie", supposing this is the doctrine, I should tell a lie". He says, this is a proposition, if it was a real ethical law, then you should be able to make it universal. Now try to make it universal: "I should tell a lie". If everybody knows that he is going to tell a lie, he said, what is the profit of telling a lie? If it was a law, everybody knows that it is a universal law, then, is there any profit in telling a lie? The lie is useful only so long as it wear the garb of truth; then only it can succeed, otherwise it cannot succeed. Therefore, "tell a lie" cannot become a universal law. Then he said you find out 'those principles' which you can make 'universal'. "Tell the truth" is applicable to the whole world; even if everybody knows that he is going to tell the truth it will not destroy itself.

So, he argued that there is in the human being not a seeking of pleasure, but seeking the right itself which is universal. He said that human being is so constituted psychologically, he cannot help to discover a law which is universal and an impulsion to do that and that alone and nothing else. This is his famous doctrine of "Duty for Duty's Sake". Why do you perform a duty? Duty is a universal law which you obey: and why do you do it? Not because it is going to give you pleasure or pain or anything of the kind; whether it gives pleasure or pain or anything; you do it because it is the right thing to do. This is the doctrine of "Duty for Duty's Sake".

Now, even this idea is present in the mind of Arjuna. He had come with that idea, that justice should be established: 'justice', why, because it is Justice. Not because it is going to give me happiness or happiness to others or anything of the kind. Justice is justice, whatever may happen. So, that argument is known, therefore first of all he says, "Egoistic Hedonism is to be thrown away." Then he says, "even the Universal Ethical Hedonism is to be thrown away." For the sake of justice, for the...what is called "the idea of categorical imperative". Kant's theory is called "the Theory of Categorical Imperative". An imperative is a command, "Do this!" Categorical means, "unconditional". Not because you are going to get this result or that result, it is categorical, for its own sake. So, he says again, he argues, "yes, I know what is justice. And it is true, I have come for justice. "But now the more difficult question which arises, and that which takes Gita's teaching higher than that of Kant: that is: 'if that justice itself is going to produce injustice'; if by doing this very just act: 'I am going to kill all the people', and first of all slaughter itself is a wrong thing, because if everybody slaughters everybody else, so, where is the question of doing anything in the world at all? It is not a universal law: universal ethics lies only in things in which you can protect, maintain everybody. So, slaughter itself is unethical, first of all. It is not a universal law. So, slaughter itself is sin. So, to establish justice, if I have to make slaughter, then, that itself is Adharma. So, between these two what have I to select, this Dharma or that Dharma.

Kant was not aware that there are conflicts, not only between Adharma and Dharma, but also between Dharma and Dharma. And that is what makes Gita's teaching on a very high plane. When Arjuna says that, "This Dharma I know, I would even fight in spite of all this, but when this slaughter itself is a sin and further, by doing this, a greater bastard progeny is going to be produced, in which Dharma will not be resurrected at all, and there will be a reign of Adharma. So doing itself, slaughter itself is a wrong action, it is going to produce a further wrong action because of the bastard progeny". In that condition what is the solution?

Therefore Sri Aurobindo says: "whenever you think at the ethical level, all your standards of conduct, right and wrong, 'depend upon the stage at which you have reached in your development'. If you are at the lowest level then Hedonism is alright, at a higher level Universal Hedonism is alright, at a still higher level Categorical Imperative is alright; but when one 'Categorical Imperative' fights against another 'Categorical Imperative', then the solution is only spiritual. You have to transcend ethicality; at the ethical level there is no answer. The conflict of ethics can be resolved only at the spiritual level.

And that is why Sri Krishna entered into a spiritual answer to the question.

So, now next time we shall study the fourth chapter which is the core of the teaching.