That Arjuna the hero entered the battlefield in a chariot which was driven by Sri Krishna and this entry was very important because of the fact that Arjuna was the principal hero, the one without whom the war would not have been fought at all, such an important personage in the drama. Pandavas were confident of victory or possibility of victory only because of the presence of Arjuna. The enemies, the Kauravas had only one fear and that was the presence of Arjuna. It is only because they had Karna with them that they had some confidence of victory. So the balance between the two parties was Arjuna on one side and Karna on the other but Karna was not a very big problem for Pandavas because of the fact that when the war started Bhishma was appointed the commander-in-chief of Kauravas. Bhishma who was a grandfather of both the parties, the Pandavas and the Kauravas, both obeyed, loved and admired Bhishma. It is in the lap of Bhishma that Pandavas and Kauravas were brought up. He had showered his love on all of them, given to them the benefit of wisdom at every circumstance. But this Bhishma was appointed commander-in-chief of Kauravas and he stood against the Pandavas because of some very important reasons. He would have liked a complete harmony among all of them but which had failed. He could have said I will not fight at all since all of you are my friends, my sons, my grandsons, but there was a reason we shall see later on.
He was obliged to enter into the war but he made one condition. He said I will lead the army but I shall not kill the Pandavas. He agreed to be the commander–in–chief only on that condition that Duryodhana accepts it that Bhishma will not kill the Pandavas. That means Arjuna will remain alive. And if Arjuna remains alive the most powerful hero had every chance of success and then he made a second condition which was according to them fatal. Karna will not be allowed to come to the battlefield. That means the rival of Arjuna, the equal of Arjuna, even more than equal than Arjuna, was prevented from entering into the battle. And Duryodhana had accepted both the conditions even though he would not have liked to accept them, but there was no other alternative. There was nobody equal to Bhishma who was at that time quite aged, beyond 100 years, but he had a tremendous power, physical power, mental power, spiritual power. They could not have afforded anybody else as a commander because he was the most senior man. To bring somebody else will be an insult to Bhishma. So there was an obligation on the part of Kauravas to appoint Bhishma as the commander-in-chief. Therefore now, you can see the importance of Arjuna. He was the principal centre of the whole war, the entire war hinged upon him. Now it is this hero who entered into the battlefield with great confidence, with pride even, he entered as if he was on a holiday, that much of confidence and proudly asked Krishna to place his chariot in the middle of the two armies so that he can have a very good view of all the great warriors with whom he had to fight but when he saw those who are standing against him, particularly when he saw that his own grandfather was standing there and that if he had to win the war he had to kill him, his own teacher, his name also you should learn, Drona, full name of course is known as Dronacharya (acharya means a teacher, name was Drona). Arjuna was his most favourite pupil and it was that teacher who was against, standing against him. There was another called Kripacharya, also a revered teacher, and then there were all the brothers of Duryodhana. They were cousins and their relatives, their friends, some were brothers-in-law, some were sons-in-law, people with whom they have grown up together, friends for whose sake you can sacrifice everything, friends with whom you can share your joy, joy of victory if you became victorious. But they were the very people who had to be slain, to be killed. It is in that condition that suddenly Arjuna was seized with emotions, his mouth began to become dried up. He was overcome by an emotion of self-pity. What a condition! What a tragedy that he had to stand to kill his own people. And immediately he said to Krishna, "I shall not fight" − the most disastrous decision that he declared.
This is the main theme of my talk with you. What is it that happened to Arjuna? What were the arguments that came up in his mind? What was the force of those arguments which invited from Krishna an answer, a long answer? In fact, this book called the Bhagavad Gita, the entire episode is the whole book, is mainly the answer of Sri Krishna. It's a long answer as a result of which ultimately Arjuna agreed to fight, became enthusiastic to fight, came back to his self again, greatly inwardly changed but now ready to fight and because of him the Mahabharata war was won by the Pandavas. So what I want you to study is a very simple thing. What was the question of Arjuna? What were his arguments? Answer we shall deal with later on but first we must understand the question, the force of the question. Very often the question itself is not understood by most of the people and if you don't understand the question even the answer you can't understand perfectly well. Now I don't know if you have a copy of this book with you. No? No, don't have a copy? All right, then I'll have to read out to you this question very slowly. I will first read out the text and then I shall dwell upon it, taking up each sentence separately so that the entire question is understood and I will ask you to answer the question. The question which was answered by Sri Krishna, we shall appreciate his answer only when we try to answer the question. So we shall try that as if we don't know the answer of Sri Krishna, and actually you do not know yet. So it is a good living condition. Supposing these questions were put to you, how would you answer the question? So let me see: On seeing all these kinsmen thus standing arrayed, the son of Kunti Arjuna overwhelmed with pity spoke thus in sadness and dejection.
What was that Arjuna said?
Arjuna said: seeing these, my own people O Krishna, thus eager for battle, my limbs fail and my mouth is parched, my body is quivering and my hair stands on end. Gandiva, ( Gandiva is the name of his bow,) Gandiva slips from my hand and my skin seems to be burning. I am not even able to stand and my mind seems to be whirling.
I see, O Keshava, (Keshava is the name of Krishna) I see, O Krishna, adverse omens.
You know omens are the signs when it rains you say is a very good sign. So:
O Keshava, I see adverse omens, not good omens, not good sign and do not see any good in slaying, in killing my own people in the battle. O Krishna, I desire not victory nor kingdom nor pleasures. What is kingdom to us? O Krishna! And what enjoyment? What even life? Those for whose sake we desire kingdom, enjoyments and pleasures are all standing here in the battle abandoning life and riches. Here are my teachers, fathers, sons, grandsires, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law, as well as other kith and kin. These I would not like to slay though myself slain.
Let me be killed instead of killing them.
These I would not like to slay though myself slain even for the kingdom of the three worlds. What is this world? Even if I get the kingdom of three worlds, I would not like to kill my own brothers, how then for this Earth? What pleasure can be ours? O Krishna! On killing these sons of Dhritarashtra. Sin alone would take hold of us in our slaying these hostile aggressors. It is not therefore befitting for us to kill all these sons of Dhritarashtra, our own kinsmen. How can we be happy? O Krishna! Having slain our own people even if these with their consciousness clouded by greed do not see any guilt in the destruction of the family and no crime in hostility to friends. Why should we not have the wisdom to draw back from such a sin? We who see the evil in the destruction of the family, in the annihilation of the family, the Eternal Dharma of the families destroyed with the collapse of Dharma, Adharma, lawlessness, overtakes the whole family when Adharma predominates, O Krishna, the women of the family become corrupt, the women corrupted the confusion of the orders of society arises. This confusion leads to hell, the ruinous of the family and also the family itself deprived of the right of offering, their ancestors fall by these offences of the ruinous of the family leading to the confusion of the order of society, confusion of the eternal laws of Dharma, Dharma of the family. All that is great is destroyed and men whose families Dharma is lost live for an indefinite period in hell. Thus have we heard. Alas, a great sin have we set ourselves to committing, we who are endeavouring to kill our own people from greed of the pleasures of kingship. It is more for my welfare that the sons of Dhritarashtra, armed, should slay me, unarmed and unresisting, in the battle.
This is his argument.
Having thus spoken on the battlefield, Arjuna sat down on the back seat of the chariot abandoning his bow and arrows, his spirit overwhelmed with grief.
This is the situation that arose. The argument still continues further with a slight conversation. So I will continue that also. Sri, Krishna then speaks:
O Arjuna, whence has come to thee this rejection in this hour of difficulty and peril? It is not cherished by Aryan man. It leads neither to heaven nor to glory. Yield not to impotence.
Do you understand this phrase 'yield not to impotence'? What is the meaning of yield? To give up is called yield. Do not give up yourself, do not consent, do not agree. To yield these, not to agree; I'm sorry: to agree. Yield is to agree, to consent. Yield not, do not agree. Do not agree to impotence. What is impotence? Potence is power. Impotence says lack of power is weakness. Do not agree to your weakness. Yield not to impotence, do not become weak, remain powerful, remain potent. So yield not to impotence. The entire phrase should be understood very well. Do not give up yourself to weakness; do not agree to take up weakness in your heart. So yield not to impotence. It is not worthy of thee. Shake off this paltry faintheartedness and arise.
Now comes the answer of Arjuna to Krishna which contains the argument further, more explicit, more clear. He says, Arjuna said:
O Krishna, shall I strike Bhishma and Drona with weapons in battle? both being worthy of worship. Better in this world to live even on alms than to slay these high souled gurus, better to live without food and only taking food from people by begging but to kill my own teachers. For even by slaying these gurus, if I have to kill these gurus, I would be tasting only blood-stained enjoyments of wealth and desire in this world, even if I have to still sit in the palace after conquering them and when food will be served to me I'll feel it is all spittled by blood. There is no pleasure in eating the food which is soiled, which is polluted by blood and I will feel all the time that I am eating by killing my own people. Nor do we know which for us is better.
For the first time now, he is preparing a question. Up until now he was only arguing.
Nor do we know for which, which for us is better that we conquer them or they conquer us. Which is better whether they conquer us or we conquer them. Before us stand Dhritarastrians, sons of Dhritarashtra, whom having slain we would not even care to live.
Now he makes a confession:
It is the poorness of spirit that has smitten away from me my true nature, my true heroic nature. My whole consciousness is bewildered in this view of right and wrong. I ask Thee,
Now he puts a question,
I ask Thee: what may be right and good, that tell me decisively. I am thy disciple and seek refuge in thee. Enlighten. I see not what shall thrust from me the sorrow that dries up my senses, even if I should obtain a rich and unrivaled kingdom on Earth or even the sovereignty of the gods. Having thus spoken to Krishna. He said to Krishna, "I will not fight." And he became silent.
Remember the scene, the two armies are already ready to fight and he's a principal hero and he simply sits down in his chariot saying "I will not fight."
I have read the whole argument but now I shall go step by step. The argument is rather very complex. It has many strands in the argument. For all students of philosophy, this is a starting point of a philosophical study. The situation itself without the study of philosophy, you can't answer this question. That is why the importance of studying philosophy is because in life sometimes such situations are bound to arise. This is called a dilemma whether I should do this or not. It's a word dilemma, you should understand. Dilemma is an argument arising from a situation in which a choice is offered to you, in which there are two alternatives, either you do this or you do that. If you do one thing there will be a consequence which you don't like, if you do the other there will be a consequence which you don't like and there is nothing else which is offered to you. If you do one thing there will be disaster, if you do the other there will be disaster and no other choice is available. Such a situation creates in your mind an argument which is called a dilemma. There is a very good expression which you should remember: horns of dilemma. It's a kind of metaphor given to you. Supposing there is a big bull, the bull has two horns. If you turn to (this bull) this horn, it will kill you; if you turn to (other bull) the other horn, it will kill you. So these are the horns of the dilemma. Both the alternatives are equally disastrous and you are attacked by a bull and there is no (third) third horn, only (two) two horns. This is also called when you are facing the horns of a dilemma; it is also called the condition of crisis.
There is a difference between a problem and a crisis. There are many problems which you find can be resolved. You can overcome the difficulty but crisis is a problem which is so acute that whichever way you turn to solve the problem, it can't be solved. So a crisis is a problem, a situation of a problem, which faces you in such an acute form that whatever solution you can suggest to yourself is unworkable and yet you must do something. A crisis is a situation where something must be done and yet it is impossible to do. Therefore the situation of Arjuna is supposed to be called a critical situation, the situation of crisis. Since every human being at a certain time comes across a crisis therefore people turn to Bhagvad Gita to read because there was a crisis in the life of Arjuna and ultimately the crisis was resolved. So people turn to Bhagavad Gita to find out by what means the crisis was resolved. So now let us analyze the crisis first, the dilemma first. Now I have read out the argument. I will ask each one to give me at least one argument. There are many arguments which have come up. They all constitute one argument basically. We shall build up the argument ourselves now. We shall start from here.
What was the first argument? You want me to read out again? Yes?
Seeing these my own people, O Krishna, thus eager for battle, my limbs failed and my mouth is parched. My body is quivering and my hair stands on end.
The argument is here are my own people, that is the argument. That means if some other people were there it would have been all right, but these are my own people. So mark this aspect of the argument: my own people. He makes a great distinction between my own people and other people.
Now next. What is the second argument?
He says, (I shall read for you):
I see, O Keshava, O Krishna, adverse omens and do not see any good in slaying my own people in the battle.
What is the argument?
Good. That is to say he would agree to kill his own people which is the first argument: How can I kill my own people. Now, he says even if I kill my own people some good should come out of it. But I see no good coming out of it. You can see the further argument. It is now one step further.
The first argument was I cannot kill my own people.
The next argument is even if I kill my people, if it was to produce good, I would not mind it. But I see no good coming out of it.
Now comes the third argument.
Now it is your turn.
O Krishna, I desire not victory, nor kingdom nor pleasures. What is kingdom to us? and what enjoyment? or even life?
What is the argument?
I desire not victory, nor kingdom nor pleasures. What is kingdom to us? and what enjoyment? or even life?
When he came to the war, he knew that he was fighting for kingdom, for victory. Now he says: I desire not victory, nor kingdom, nor pleasures.
What is the argument in it?
He says I desire not. There is an argument involved in it.
The argument is you live life normally for victory, for kingdom, for pleasure but he says since I desire none of this the question of my entering into the war does not arise. This is the argument which has given a sign as it were that Arjuna was so uplifted, so high, so noble, so great, all these things which are trivial − kingdom, pleasure, victory − they are trivial things. What is this? Why should people work for trivial things? It gives an impression that now Arjuna is so much uplifted, he desires no victory nor kingdom nor pleasure. And he says, what is this enjoyment? What is even life? One of the most important questions of human life is what is life. So he raises the most fundamental question − what is life? Why should one live at all? You normally live for victory, for pleasure, for kingdom but if you don't desire at all, what's the point in life. And he claims: I have now no desire. Imagine the claim that he makes: I have no desire, nakankshe vijayam (that is in Sanskrit). Nakankshe vijayam − I do not desire victory. He is now uplifted above all desires. He has become now a saint. It might seem freed from all the bondages of life.
Now comes the next one. Now be prepared, your turn. No?
Those for whose sake we desire kingdom, enjoyments and pleasures are all standing here in the battle abandoning life and riches. Teachers, fathers, sons and grandsires, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law, as well as other kith and kin.
Is it different from the first argument where he says: seeing here my own people. Now there is any further argument because here also it seems he's only saying that these are my own people but there is a further development of the argument. Now read again.
Those for whose sake we desire kingdom, enjoyments and pleasures
Normally your own people you would not like to kill but then particularly if for whose sake you want to enjoy and if they are themselves going to be killed what is the motive of action? Right? It's not only a question of "my people" now comes another argument "for whose sake we would like to enjoy the world and kingdom" and then further argument.
They are all standing, abandoning life and riches.
When they are here, they know that they might be killed. Therefore they have given up the desire for riches. So when they're given up the desire for riches and for victory, they have given up the desire for life then if I don't give up my desire for life and riches I'll be lower than them. They are much higher. They have already given up hope for riches and life and still if I continue to work and to live for enjoyment. I'll be much lower.
Is that clear? Yes?
So there is a further argument then he says:
These I would not like to slay though myself slain even for the kingdom of the three worlds. How then for this Earth?
Is there any further argument development of the argument you find?
These I would not like to slay though myself slain
These I would not like to slay though myself slain
You're quite right that even if I am killed.. good!
Now further argument:
What pleasure can be ours on killing these sons of Dhritarashtra. What pleasure can be ours.
That is to say.. any new argument in this? No?
What pleasure can be ours on killing these sons of Dhritarashtra.
He grants that even if you get pleasure you can kill them but he says: "what pleasure can be ours. If some pleasure were to come it will be all right, but when I'll be killing my own people, there'll be no pleasure at all. Therefore, I cannot kill." And then he says:
..sin alone would take hold of us.
Now, this is a new argument.
Sin alone would take hold of us.
There'll be sin. It's a new idea, which is now being introduced. The idea of sin. It's a big problem of life. Is there anything like sin? What is sin? It's a lot of associations with this word sin in the whole history of human thought. This word has often come up. So we shall have to discuss this question:
What is sin?
This is the argument. He said: if I kill them, sin alone would take hold of us. We shall be called sinners. Not only called but we shall be sinners. To be called sinners is another thing but we shall be ourselves sinners.
..sin alone would take hold of us in our slaying these hostile aggressors.
Now comes the next sentence. You can see the writer of this book must be so powerful and so intelligent, in seeming repetition of ideas how the argument proceeds, onwards. It's not as if the same statements are made. No! Every time a new statement is made, a new argument is introduced. Now, the whole argument stands on another line. Up till now he was only saying it will give us no joy, "how can I kill my own people?" Why should we live at all?
Now comes a new argument − sin. If I kill them, there will be sin. Then he says:
even if these..
that is to say my adversaries, my enemies,
..with their consciousness clouded by greed do not see any guilt in the destruction of the family and no crime in hostility to friends. Why should we not have the wisdom to draw back from such a sin? We who see the evil in the destruction of the family
He expounds the idea of the sin:
..even if these with their consciousness clouded by greed
These enemies are clouded by greed.Their minds are not clear. They are not able to see things as clearly as I am seeing now, they
do not see any guilt in the destruction of the family
They do not see any sin. Sin of what? Sin in destruction of the family. This is according to him: sin means destruction of the family. So here sin means killing one's own people is a sin. You can see that the whole argument now lifts up on a higher level. Up till now he was only arguing "my own people I don't want to give because it will give no pleasure" but now he says "I will not kill because it will cause sin", pleasure, no pleasure is a different matter. Particularly the sin is committed when you are conscious of it. There is no sin if you are not conscious. If by chance I happen to disturb you then there is no sin. But if I desire that you should be disturbed, if by consciousness if I disturb you, then there is a crime. It is a sin. So he says I am conscious that I am going to destroy my family and therefore there will be a great unhappiness, not only unhappiness but a sin. It is a crime. It is guilt. Having known this, how can I do it? They do not know that this will be a sin therefore they can fight if they want but I, who know it, I who have consciousness, it will cause so much of sin. How can I do it? Very saintly proposition, no?
..even if these (that is my enemies) with their consciousness clouded by greed do not see any guilt in the destruction of the family and no crime in hostility to friends. Why should we not have the wisdom to draw back from such a sin?
Seeing this as sin, I should draw back. It's called wisdom. Now comes another argument. Now listen:
..in the annihilation of the family, the Eternal Dharma of the families destroyed
Now, you see a further argument. Not only will I commit a sin but the Eternal Dharma of the whole family is destroyed. It's a greater sin. If only I am destroyed it doesn't matter, it is a sin but it's a minor sin. But when the Dharma of the whole family is destroyed it's a greater sin. Why? Because with the collapse of dharma, adharma overtakes the whole family. When dharma, when lawlessness, what is order, harmony, the law that keeps a family united, if that law is destroyed then lawlessness will overtake the whole family. This is a greater sin. So the first argument, earlier argument, was there will be sin. Now the argument is that a greater sin will be committed. Now a still greater sin is still to be announced. He says not only greater but a greatest sin now will be committed. He says when adharma predominates the women of the family become corrupt and when the women are corrupted the confusion of the orders arises. This confusion leads to hell. Now you see a farther sin when adharma predominates. That means there will be no law. Now why does he say women of the family become corrupt when he says adharma even men become corrupt, but he says women will become corrupt. There is a reason behind it because children are born only from women. If men become adharma, they have lawlessness, it is one thing, lesser evil, but if women become lawless than children will be also lawless. It will be a greater evil and when children become lawless then disorder arises in the whole generation, the entire next generation becomes corrupt. Therefore, this is the greatest sin. So he says this confusion leads to hell. So there is a sin, greater sin and the greatest sin. You can see the argument how it develops. By these offenses the eternal laws of the race and the dharma of the family are destroyed. It will affect even a larger community, not only our own family, whole race. So even this is greater than greater sin.
And now he goes on to an argument which is according to the belief of that time. Man whose family's dharma is lost they live for an indefinite period in hell. This is an idea like sin, this is another idea of hell. We should discuss this idea. Also here is only the argument and that too for an indefinite period to go to hell is one thing but to go into hell for an indefinite period, if you commit sin you will go to hell, but if you commit this kind of greatest than greater sin, then it will be for indefinite period. Now, he has become so wise that he says: "alas! a great sin was about to be committed. Now I refrain from it."
Alas, a great sin have we set ourselves to committing, we who are endeavouring to kill our own people from greed of the pleasure of kingship.
Our motive is only to have pleasure but having seen the whole gamut of argument, he realizes what a terrible thing he was going to do. Having said this he sat down in the chariot.
Now, the same argument is repeated to some extent. So he says:
O Krishna how shall I strike Bhishma and Drona with weapons in battle both being worthy of worship. Those who are to be worshipped by us instead of worshipping, how should I kill them?
This is another argument: to kill even friends would be pardoned, killing other people is of course pardoned, but people whom you worship to kill them? Then he says even by slaying these gurus, I would be tasting only blood-stained enjoyments of wealth and desire in this world.
But now comes a question:
We do not know which for us is better that we conquer them or they conquer us?
Then he admits:
It is poorness of spirit that has smitten away from me my nature, my whole consciousness is bewildered in its view of right and wrong. I ask thee what may be right and good that tell me decisively.
Having argued, having been convinced that he was about to commit sin, now he has realized that he should not. Even then he is not sure whether it is right for him to withdraw from the battle or whether to fight.
We shall stop here today and we should analyze this argument still further tomorrow. It's a very important argument in the history of thought. Very rarely you'll come across a formulation of an argument in so many layers. We shall see what are the layers and then we shall try to resolve the problem ourselves if possible. So it is a very interesting argument and in doing so we shall be solving many problems of our own life because such arguments come up before us very very often. All right. Thank you.