Text of the Bhagavagd Gita (Mother's Institute of Research) - Session 1: Dharmakṣetre Kurukṣetre (1 August 1998)

We have already done quite a good deal of Bhagavad Gita, but in a general way in the form of an introduction. But there is a feeling that we can go to the text of the Gita. There are two merits to doing this. One is that Bhagavad Gita is one of the most important works of India and of the world. It is surprising that for over 2000 years or more, it has remained alive and it has been a subject of guidance, inspiration and people have studied this work with tremendous scholarship. It is one of the most extraordinary works in the world. It must be answering questions to the people, helping the people so that they are turned to Gita again and again. How many people have declared that whenever they have a problem they have turned to the Gita and derived a lesson from the Gita?

The second reason is that there is a great difference between listening ‘about’ the Gita and listening ‘to’ the Gita. When you listen ‘about’ the Gita, you may try to understand its greatness, profound meaning, but you never get a real hold on the Gita unless you read the text of the Gita. You never feel authentic about it even if you form certain ideas; you still remain nebulous to some extent. So there is a need to study the Gita in its very body. It is to take hold of the Gita itself, to read the text itself. For these two reasons one can concentrate upon the Gita; this is the second alternative.

The third alternative is, I am taking democratic vote, what we should do further: one alternative is to stop; one other alternative is to study the Gita, the text of the Gita, at least a few chapters of the Gita; the third alternative is to take up specific problems. There are many, many problems over which we need to think in depth, about which we have certain ideas, opinions, reflections, but they need to be matured, one can take up many problems.

Take for example: I have spoken quite often about the supramental, and the question is: what is supermind? It is one question: what is supermind? We may have some ideas, but to make them more precise, more crystallised, more clear: this is also an exercise which is very important to be undertaken. Questions like freedom: what is freedom? What are the most important problems of humanity? How can we contribute the best to the world today? This is also another question. What is the crisis of which people speak? Is there a crisis at all in the world?

When I was a student in college, I gave a lecture on crisis; and my professor who was presiding over the lecture praised my lecture but at the end he told me: “Kireet I want to advise you: do not be overwhelmed by any crisis. The sun shines in heaven, the earth is green and the wind is pleasant; the world is so beautiful, think of today, and tomorrow will be taken care of by itself”. This is also a view: is it necessary to be worried? For even if you are worried, on what issue are you worried? There are many problems on which we can make a list of so many subjects, let us discuss this subject or that subject or that subject. This is the third alternative.

The fourth alternative is: a very important book of Sri Aurobindo, it is called “The Supramental Manifestation on the Earth”. This is the last prose writing of Sri Aurobindo he wrote between 1948 and 1950: he tells us as to what exactly is the meaning of the Supermind, what is the meaning of the descent of the Supermind on the earth, and if it descends what effect it will produce upon humanity. That Supermind has descended already, we need to study this book particularly and ask ourselves what Sri Aurobindo had said about humanity and what is happening in humanity. This is also a very important subject.

Comment: You are the best guide.

Answer: No, it should correspond to your need; since we are talking to a group, it should correspond to a general need; individual needs are many.

All right, then if you all agree but then we should do the text of the Gita.

Let me concentrate only upon the first two words of the Bhagavad Gita:

dharmakṣetre kurukṣetre

These are the two first words of the text of the Gita. Earlier we had already seen the need to study the Gita; we had also studied two basic characters of the Gita: Sri Krishna and Arjuna. We had also tried to understand the situation in which the two are placed: the problem that Arjuna had in his mind, what is the question that he raises? And the answer that came from Sri Krishna which satisfied him and he said that ‘all my doubts are now resolved’: moha naṣṭa, (18.73) ‘all the delusion is now finished’, and he was prepared to do the bidding of Sri Krishna. In a general way we know what was the question, what is the answer.

In short, the question was: “I know that there is a task to be done, I must fight; on the other hand, I know that this fight will cause a massacre, slaughter, destruction, and destruction of such a nature that it will create a great chaos and fall of Dharma. There will be varṇasaṁkaraḥ, (1.41). On the one hand I know Dharma: to fight. On the other hand I know that if I do the dharma, it will lead to adharma. Between the two, what is the best that I should do?”

This is his question basically. And Sri Krishna’s answer is that ‘Your question arises out of a confusion in the mind, out of egoism, out of attachment and out of a fear’, because at the end he says that: ‘I shall go to hell if I produce so much of adharma’. Therefore Sri Krishna says that, “neither ‘this’ is dharma nor ‘that’ is dharma. To fight is no dharma, nor not to fight is dharma. Dharma is something different”. Even the concept of dharma is to be transcended. You are today only thinking of dharma, but dharma is not the highest thing in the world: there is more than dharma, beyond dharma and that is the discovery of the Divine’s will, and to perform the Divine’s will. The entire argument of the Bhagavad Gita is only this: discover the Divine’s will and act according to the Divine’s will. It is not ‘your’ dharma, nor ‘his’ dharma, not ‘this’ is right, nor ‘that’ is right. Only divine action is the right action, because it proceeds from the supreme purity, supreme compassion, and therefore if you follow that Will, then the right thing will be done.

That is the basic answer of Sri Krishna: to become a flute. You know the analogy of flute is very great: a flute cannot play any music by itself. This is a fact. For the music to be produced there must be somebody to blow the wind into the flute. Flute by itself cannot put that wind into itself, nor does it know what kind of music it should produce. It has a capacity of producing the most wonderful music, but by itself it cannot produce that music at all. Therefore Sri Krishna says, ‘you become instrument’: nimittamātram bhava. (11.33)

You become only the nimittamā, you become only the instrument like a flute: allow the Supreme to blow the wind into you, and allow Him to play the music that He wants to play through you. All our difficulties are because we are obstructing that flow of the wind coming from the divine. So, remove those obstacles: parityajya sarvadharmān. (18.66)

All kinds of dharmas, all kinds of ideas you have, you completely avoid them and surrender them. Allow the Divine Will to manifest, and then do what the Divine wants. Divine wants that you should fight, this is what He declares: the Divine Will is that you must fight. The answer is not because it is dharma or adharma: the divine will say you must fight and therefore you fight. This is the answer.

From this, a very important question arises: can the Divine Will massacre of people? This is a very important question because many people believe that Divine being pure, compassionate, most wonderful, omniscient, omnipotent, how can he will that there should be Kurukshetra, a battlefield in which people should come and massacre each other, in which the Divine says: “yes, you must fight, you must kill”? Can there be such a divine who can make this kind of a demand? Can there be such a will as the Divine’s Will? People see a great inconsistency between the omnipotence of God, the compassion of God, the Divine Love, and this kind of a battlefield, in which He wills massacre, He wills destruction. This inconsistency, this contradiction between the nature of the Divine and the will of the Divine in this particular situation, seems to jar the conscience of people so much, that many people think that this cannot be the teaching, the supreme teaching.

Some people have therefore tried to defend the Gita by saying that the Bhagavad Gita is not a command to fight the war; it is not a command to massacre people. According to them Gita is an allegory. It is a kind of an inner story, a battle between the right forces and the evil forces which are all the time within ourselves, and the Bhagavad Gita is a teaching which says to the man that between your evil forces and good forces, you fight, and destroy your evil forces which are in your heart, in your mind, in your thoughts. He does say “massacre”, but massacre what? Not the people who are assembled in the war, but the forces which are there in you, which are evil, unjust and which are contrary to your highest aspirations. This is one interpretation that has been put forward in order to show that the Supreme cannot demand a fight, a physical fight, a physical war, and massacre of people. It cannot be! But if this interpretation is valid, then it means that this Mahabharata is also a fiction, and that the great crisis that Arjuna faces is also a fiction. His crisis was not merely that ‘Well, there are good tendencies in me and evil tendencies in me, and I require to conquer my evil tendencies’, not at all! His main question was ‘Bhishma, Drona, Kripa are before me, how can I take arms against them and slaughter them physically?’ That was his question! He calls it “sin”: that was his question.

In fact, such is the real question of everybody’s life. Our life is not merely allegory: our life is a concrete life in which we ourselves are required to fight the battle; we ourselves come to the crisis of the kind that Arjuna faced.

In other words, we may say that Bhagavad Gita boldly takes up the question. This is the courage of the Bhagavad Gita: to recognise that there is in this world a phenomenon of struggle, phenomenon of battle, phenomenon of wrestling, of conflict which leads to armed conflict; this is the phenomenon which we have to take cognition of as a matter of fact! And the Bhagavad Gita faces that question in its concrete terms: what are you to do when you are face to face with a conflict? Will you say that God does not exist in that conflict?

That is one way of coming out of that question: that God is above, it is human beings who are fighting with each other, and God has no role to play in it! This is one of the answer which have been given by some people: ‘God is transcendental, God is supreme, He looks at the world as if on a chess board, where people are playing with their pieces, may be He is amused by what is going on there, or may be He leaves everybody to their own fate, according to their own actions, but He cannot enter into this stupid little thing in the world.’

If you take the Buddhist position for example, the world is what? World is something that is happening ‘momentarily’, it is a movement of a flux going from moment to moment, which can be re-absorbed, which has no significance in itself. It has no meaning in it: it is a bubble which will burst, which will create another bubble which will burst, till another bubble will burst, and the best thing is to seek a complete extinction, instead of allowing it to burst, to arise again and burst again. It is unnecessary because it produces so much misery in life; therefore the best thing is to allow the extinction to come about; and the method of extinction, and you are out of it.

If such is the world, then the Bhagavad Gita has no meaning at all. Bhagavad Gita does not declare that ‘this whole war is nothing, is a bubble, it will burst; or it does not matter what will happen to it; the Divine has no will about it’. Surely, this is not the view of the Bhagavad Gita.

There is another view, which says that the whole world is a kind of a dream. In dream many things happen, may not happen, it has no significance. When you wake up, everything disappears. So, wake up, and you find nothing happens in the world. So, where is the question of war, fighting etc?…nothing! It is a nightmare at the most, or at the worst: the world is a nightmare in which you are troubled by so many things happening, and when you wake up you find that there is nothing! If such is the world, then there is no question of Divine Will in the world! According to that view: Divine has no will, it is pure existence or pure silence, and all this bubbling of the world is a kind of a dream which takes place and which can be removed, can be eliminated altogether.

In contrast to these two views, Sri Krishna declares that the Divine is not only the ‘creator’, not only the ‘preserver’, but He is also the ‘destroyer’. If He is Durga, He is also Kali. If He is Shiva, He is also Rudra and that nothing is ‘outside’ Him. Even if you call it a dream, even that dream happens in Him, because there is nothing else than Him. Even if it is a nightmare, the nightmare happens to Him, because there is nothing else than Himself. ‘The Reality is only one’, this is the starting point of the Bhagavad Gita: “the Reality is only One”.

Therefore, you cannot wish away the phenomenon of battle and war and massacre. Therefore the Divine can Will ‘fight’, because He ‘is’ the world, He is moving in the world, and He has a will in it. It has not happened simply because somehow it has happened. It is a plan of the action of the Divine, who is moving with the world, developing the world, and at different stages He has a different kind of will and manifestation of it: if He is your friend, He is also your enemy, because your enemy is non other than the Divine Himself, because there is only one Reality – The Supreme Divine. As a friend He protects you, as an enemy He strikes you, Himself! Such is the consequence of the idea that ‘Reality is One’.

If you say the Reality is not one, then of course different consequences can come about; but if Reality is one, then this is the necessary consequence of it that ‘all’ the forms of the Divine, ‘all’ the relations of the Divine are all ‘relations of the Divine Himself within Himself’. On ‘all sides’ the Divine stands; in ‘all things’ is the Divine that is the proposition of the Bhagavad Gita: ‘in all things is the Divine’.

If the Kurukshetra has come into existence, if the battle has come about, there must be some Divine Will. The discovery of the Divine Will is the fundamental task. The Divine manifests in such a way that He does not reveal to you His will very easily: this is the law of the development you might say. Why? There must be some reason we shall come to later on, but the fact is that this will is not so easily revealed. We do not know what is the Divine’s Will; and all our problems arise because we do not know the Divine’s Will. If you therefore discover the Divine’s Will and become an instrument of it, then the problems are resolved. You might say therefore that Bhagavad Gita is not an allegory. If it is only an allegory, much of the significance of the Gita vanishes: it means that the Gita does not face a concrete real situation of life, and does not help you in answering the concrete situation of life. It only talks in a cloudy manner, like a poet who stands above in the ether, but does not come down on the brass tacks of the earth. Therefore, right from the beginning, there is a complete recognition in the very first word, dharmakṣetre kurukṣetre (1.1): it says very clearly that all this is happening in the Kurukshetra.

Let us first understand the meaning of Kurukshetra.

If Divine is the creator of the world, then one consequence could be that the world should be manifesting divine nature. If Divine is the creator, then the creation must bear the stamp of the creator. If the creation itself is the stuff of the creator, then in the creation also there must be the stamp of that stuff of the creator. If the creator is Satchitananda, we should expect in this world only ‘garden of Love’, this should be our expectation! If Divine is the creator who is Satchitananda, then his creation must be nothing but a garden of play! Everywhere there should be Satchitananda manifesting. This is the one logical conclusion that we can derive.

And yet we find the world is not like that! The world is not found by our experience to be a garden of play. On the contrary we find one very important phenomenon: struggle, battle, in which the very ‘life breath’ is produced by destruction: you cannot breathe without killing germs, constantly. Our own food is devouring: “anna” is the word, which is used in Sanskrit language for food that means that which is devoured. So, the very basis of our life, which is anna, is productive of life, it destroys itself: in the process of eating we destroy; and by destruction we live.

In the Upanishad there is a beautiful sentence to describe the world: “The eater eating is eaten”. You may think that you are eating something else, but you are not aware that you are also being eaten by somebody else: the eater normally thinks that he is eating somebody else, but he does not suspect that he himself is being eaten by somebody else. The whole world is nothing but “eater eating is eaten”. There is also a very great figure given in the Upanishads that God when He sits for His banquet, then ‘men of learning and men of war, (courage), are articles of His food, and that is the spice’. When He sits for His banquet, then brahmins and kshatriyas that means men of knowledge and men of war and courage, heroism, are the articles of His food. He lives by eating the brahmins and kshatriyas, and that is the spice in the food! His own food is dependent upon the articles of brahmins and kshatriyas and death is used as a kind of a sauce, so that the whole feast becomes very pleasant and tasty.

This is a great graphic picture of the world, as Sri Aurobindo says the Indian thought is bold and courageous; it does not shirk from deriving consequences from its premises. If God is the only Reality, if the very stuff of the world is God and if there is this kind of a problem of ‘death, killing, eating, devouring’, then God must be in it! He Himself must be the ‘eater’; He Himself must be the producer of death. This consequence cannot be thought out or wished away, it is a necessary consequence and you must take it in our premise, in our solution of the problem. We should not run away from it, saying: “Oh! God cannot be like that”. But why not? Try to understand what this ‘massacre’ is. Try to understand what is this ‘eating’. What is death? Try to understand this, instead of running away from it, saying this is contrary to God.

He is akartā but He is also kartā: “kartāram…māṁ” (4.13). I am akartā, but also“kartāram…māṁ”. He says himself “I am also the doer”. Therefore Sri Krishna says that this is when you understand this contradiction, and then only you understand the problem and then the solution. Sri Krishna says very clearly: “I am both the immobile and the mobile, I am akṣara, I am also kṣara, and I go beyond both of them because I am puruṣottama”. Therefore, the Divine if you want to understand the world, it starts with this basic proposition that the Purushottama is something ‘wonderful’: it is He, who in Silence can produce millions of universes, through Silence, on the basis of Silence, that is the capacity of the Divine: Silence is at once ‘immobility’ and yet ‘greater power’.

In fact, even in human psychology, when do we become most powerful? The only way by which you can become most powerful is by attaining to Silence. So long as you are drifting, wavering in your thoughts, there is no stability; when there is no stability, there is no force. A lion for example sits very quietly; at the right moment it springs into action, within a moment it finishes its task and sits again very quietly. It is a strength, which comes from a great quietude. This is the nature of the Reality that ‘Silence is fullness’, fullness, which is not incapable of manifestation. It is not a zero: silence is not emptiness. It is that from where things manifest.

That is why even in our very ordinary situations, when you are looking for a solution of a problem, we are told first of all: “gather yourself”. When you don’t gather you are only reacting. A problem is there before you go on reacting to it, but reaction will not produce a solution. Gather yourself. Be very, very quiet. In that quietude, you will find an answer emerging out of it. This is the experience even of school children: when a problem is to be solved in mathematics, and you cannot find a solution, you become very, very quiet and then you will find suddenly an idea coming out, and the solution is found. This is the power of silence.

Therefore those who believe that silence is emptiness are wrong; silence is nothing but a state of fullness. In fullness there is no need of anything, therefore akartā: that which is full requires nothing to be done. It has everything within itself, therefore has no need to do anything at all. Therefore Sri Krishna says: “I have no need in the three worlds to do anything at all and yet”, He says “yet I go on doing all the time”. It is only when you are full that you have the capacity of manifesting fully; if you are not full then you are still striving to attain something from outside; but when you are really full then you have the real capacity of manifesting without any obstruction, an irresistible manifestation. Those who believe that silence is emptiness is a wrong idea. Silence is not emptiness, although emptiness may be a condition for attaining that silence. Before you become full, you have to throw away all that is there, dirt in you, throw it away, and then become absolutely empty so that the real fullness enters into you.

We start with this premise and the Gita starts with this premise, that the Divine is the creator; the world itself is the Divine; and all multiplicity is the multiple faces of the Divine Himself: this is the starting point of the Gita. And this is the starting point not as a dogma, but after considering all the alternative views of the world, which we saw just now. There are two basic alternatives: one to say that God is the creator, but He lives always above in the seventh heaven, and has nothing to do in this world. He watches everything, amuses himself, but allows the world to move according to its own will. This is one view.

The other view is that the world does not exist or as only a dream. Basically, there is nothingness at the root. There can be a third view also that the world is not a creation at all: the world exists by itself; there is no question of a Divine having created it. This is the purely materialistic view, in which matter exists by itself. The only problem is that if matter exists by itself, how could a conscious intelligent being come out of it? If matter alone exists in the world, which is unconscious, which is unintelligent, how could it produce human beings like us who can think intelligently, who can put everything in terms of ends and means, who can design things, who can consciously pursue ends, how could such a consciousness arise?

Having considered all the other alternatives, the answer is that Reality is One, which is conscious, and therefore Gita does not run away from the consequence. That even in the war, even in the clash, even in the struggle, you must see the divine; and then having seen that, what is the answer of it? The whole Gita is nothing but an exposition of this vision.

Arjuna is deluded because he did not have that vision. Arjuna’s doubts are resolved when this vision was presented to him, when he could see that there is something far above himself. Until now he was the centre of everything, he was deciding everything. He said: “I will fight or I will not fight, I will kill or I will not kill and if I do this what will be the consequence”, without realising that there is a supreme will, which has its own designs, which has its own purposes, and which is the master of all fruits. Arjuna was thinking that he was the creator of the ‘fruits of actions’: ‘if I do this, this will be the consequence’, without knowing that he is not a master of the fruits of action. This delusion had to be cut asunder.

To return to this basic proposition that in this world, we do find the phenomenon of struggle, and struggle of such a kind that different forces come and clash with each other, not only that they clash with each other, but they clash with each other with ‘arms’, in which the basic proposition is of destruction, it is not merely a kind of a debate in which two opponents come together, and they throw one against each other, and ultimately one person convinces the other. But here, there is no question of convincing anybody, it is simply a massacre; the enemy is to be killed. Such is the grave situation from which the whole problem of Gita starts.

Modern science, while discovering the theory of evolution, also has come to this conclusion that the whole law of life is struggle for existence and survival of the fittest: this is the famous theory of Darwin who put forward the theory of evolution. This whole world is nothing but a struggle.

In this struggle, each one tries to hurt the other. Each one is trying to devour the other, destroy the other and by destroying each one succeeds in living, in continuing to subsist, to survive and in this battle according to Darwin, only ‘he’ can survive or only ‘that’ can survive which is the fittest, the strongest who can battle best, and keep its own feet on the earth.

This is the modern view of the world, but this view is as ancient as the Upanishads, in fact not only Indian ancient conception even in the west there was a great thinker called Heraclitus, much before Socrates and his one great dictum was: “War is the father of all things”. He pointed out that if you look at the whole world, nothing happens in the world without a war. He said: “War is the father of all things”. And therefore he said “Do not run away from the war; war is a fact”, the world design is such, whatever may be ultimate purpose which you can find by greater devotion of thinking or realisation, but the fact is that in the movement of God, the design of the world is such, that struggle has been put as a fundamental law, at least at present, whether it is an ultimate law or not we have to see, but at present there does not seem to be any escape from the fact that forces come from different directions, they meet each other, they collide with each other, they battle with each other, they try to destroy each other and ultimately some survive, some are destroyed and again some other forces come to battle with them, and it goes on and on: “War is the father of all things”! This is how we can see the whole world to be.

The Gita does not shrink from this basic proposition. Therefore He starts with kurukṣetre. The very starting point is a stark realisation of the reality of the world that your greatest problems of life arise when you realise that you are in a battle. Whether you know it or not, you are already in a battle, everyone of us; there is a battle going on in the world even though we are now born and come into the field, remember that you are already a member of an army, already, by the very birth.

First we have to realise, it is Kurukshetra; it is a battlefield. Therefore the basic proposition of the Gita is: ‘Do not run away from the battle, face the battle, even if you run away, you are in the battle, because there is nothing else in the world except battle’. Breathing itself is a battle, then where is the question of running away from the battle. You are in the battle. So, you start by saying that you are in the Kurukshetra. If you run away from this, you won’t find the solution, not that problems will not arise: if you run away from this proposition, problems are always there, because battles already exist everywhere. So, be in the battle and look at all the people who are around you and have a good look at all the people who are arranged, one side here, one beside the other, and they have all assembled together as if on a ‘holiday’ to fight with each other.

We must realise that Indian civilisation, right from the beginning, had the acceptance, acknowledgement of this basic fact of war. But it was also aware of other factors: while war is a factor of life, war is not the only factor of life; because to say that war is the only factor of life is also a kind of ignorance. War is a result of a movement, but this movement is a multiple movement. And these movements which are multiple are moving in such a way that apart from the battle many other factors also begin to manifest: there is also the law of ‘association’; war is not the only thing, there is association also.

The mother wants the child to be protected and very sincerely; and there is a constant movement towards protection so that there is a survival of the individual and protection from the war. This also is a fact. In other words, the world is not a wild movement of struggle; the world is moved by dharma. Therefore, Kurukshetra is a fact, but Dharmakshetra is also a fact. Kurukshetra by itself is not the complete description of the situation from where the Bhagavad Gita starts. The Bhagavad Gita starts from the fact that you realise there is a war, but that war has behind it a tremendous force of Dharma; and if you don’t realise that, then you cannot face the war by itself. That is why the very first word of the Bhagavad Gita is dharmakṣetre.

Dharma is first, because of dharma a certain kind of war arises. The war itself is a result of sense of dharma. Not that everybody was aware of dharma; whether you are aware of it or not, there is a dharma; there is a law. Just as there is a law of destruction, there is also a law of creation, law of association, law of preservation, law of love, law of mercy, law of bounty, plenty, these are also the laws. Therefore the Bhagavad Gita, although it starts with the stark fact of war, does not merely say that war is all. While Heraclitus is quite right in one sense that war is the father of all things, he is not right totally. It is not that war is only “the father of all things”, not at all; something else is also the ‘father of all things’. Darwin is right in saying that the struggle of existence is there in the world, but it is not the only law; struggle for existence is not the only law of life; it is not true that everyone only strive to survive.

There is a beautiful example given by Ruskin in one of his books: suppose there is a mother having three children, all of them suffering from stark starvation, mother and children; and from somewhere, the mother receives a small piece of loaf; she has three children and herself. How will she divide this bread among the four? You cannot make four pieces out of it; if you make four pieces everything is finished. You can make only three pieces. What will the mother do?

Answer: She will give it to her children.*

Children first, exactly, the law of life is not only ‘struggle for existence’. That was his argument: the law of life is not only the struggle for existence and to survive, there is also ‘the law of sacrifice’.

On the realisation of this, Indian civilisation built up a society, structure of society, and decided that if Reality is Satchitananda, then this phenomenon of struggle is not a direct manifestation of Satchitananda: there is some obstruction between Satchitananda and this world. Therefore human society is required to destroy that obstruction, and by destroying that obstruction Satchitananda can manifest fully in the world, and in that world there will be no law of struggle, no law of survival of the fittest. Therefore the task of human society is to destroy ‘this obstruction’ between the divine and the world. How to create a society, in which you take cognisance of the law of war, but also you take cognisance of the law of association, of love and of self-sacrifice?

Therefore Indian society did not remain itself confined only to the task of war, battle and conquest. This is one of the great distinguishing features of the Indian society. If war was the only factor to be considered for forming a society, then you would have a different kind of organisation. The hunter for example lives by what? — By hunting, by destroying, by war. Therefore his society of hunters will not create the kind of society that India created. India applied a tremendous wisdom in creating a very special kind of society: it recognises that war is a fact, but it need not be permanently a fact of life, permanent fact of the world: this was the starting point of the structure of the Indian society. War is a fact, you must recognise war, you cannot avoid war; but war is not the ultimate manifestation of the divine. It is true of the present manifestation: when there is an obstruction between the divine and the world, but the fact is that there is an obstruction between the divine and the world and the task of the society is to remove that obstruction. But that removal will take time: it cannot be done overnight. Therefore in the meantime recognise war, but strive towards elimination of war. This was the concept on which the human society in India came to be built up.

This is very important to understand because without that, we won’t understand the whole of the Gita: the Gita’s Kurukshetra is not only a field of battle, it is also a field of Dharma; it is in Dharmakshetra and Kurukshetra that the war takes place. It is in a given situation of society, which has been built up on a certain conception of society, the task of the society, in is in that context that the war takes place. Unless we realise this important aspect, we will not understand the significance of this Gita’s teaching.

Let us come to this question as to how India developed its own society, based upon the perception that war is a fact, you cannot avoid it, but ultimately you have to arrive at the situation where war can be eliminated altogether: if Divine is Satchitananda, manifestation ultimately must be Satchitananda. There, war cannot have any place. Satchitananda would have only the garden of delight; war would not be the fact; pain would not be the fact; death would not be the fact. On the one hand realise that this is the present fact, but work in such a way that these facts can be removed, can be eliminated.

How to create a society of that kind? Very wisely the human society, which was concepted, decided that ‘all people should not be engaged in war’; war is a fact, but let not everybody be engaged in war. It is true that people will be engaged in war because war is a fact, but at least let people not be obliged to participate in an armed war. That people won’t fight, you cannot avoid fighting, this is a fact of life, but let not everybody be required to participate in a war which is fought by arms. Only one portion of society may be assigned the task, and who? Only those who by nature are capable, brave, courageous, fighters, who are even violent in their nature; let these people be identified and let them be assigned the task that whenever the war takes the form of armed war, then, you kindly join this war.

And fight for what purpose? Indian society made a tremendous kind of concession and also a kind of a restriction. You should fight ‘only’ when you think that you are to fight for dharma. Your idea of dharma may be wrong but on your side you must be sure that you are fighting only for the preservation of the dharma, otherwise don’t fight, don’t take to arms. Tremendous restriction was put upon war, fight only when you have to protect somebody else. Self-defence of course is required but that should not be the only purpose of your fight: basic purpose must be to support the weak, the oppressed and to protect them. Only when such an occasion arises then you come into the armed conflict.

Even when you fight, do not create such enmity between the two camps that you cannot even visit each other. The war must end at the end of the day: it was also the rule of law, at the sunset the war comes to an end, and you can even visit your friends or enemies in the other camps; there is nothing like a surprise war, like bombardment suddenly coming up on you, that was not Indian idea of civilisation; that even if you fight you must fight in a very civilised manner. Become as civilised as possible. You cannot avoid war, that is a fact, but make such a design of war that only those who are really powerful, those who are really developed, only they will win. It will not be the law of wilderness or vile law in which only ‘the might is right’. The ‘right’ also has to have a great consideration in the movement of ‘might’.

It did not only ‘prescribed’; it is also said, “Others shall not take part in the war”. Those who are in charge of teaching, those who are brahmins, those who are vaishyas, those who are sudras, they shall not take part in the war.

It was this kind of society which was created by India and sustained for a long time in the history of India which is itself a tremendous task. To create a condition in the minds of men, which will obey this kind of an order, accept it, implement it, sustain it for ages is a tremendous success of Indian civilisation of the past. This kind of society and this kind of social structure is quite different from our present structure of society. That is why for us it is very necessary to understand in which conditions the Mahabharata was a war, how it was fought. We will not understand very easily because we are removed from that ethos of that time. Our ethos at present is different. We are supposed to be both a teacher and a producer and a warrior at the same time. When the war starts in the west at least we know that everybody is required to join the war; everybody, a priest even who is actually going to preach silence and peace, even a priest is required to take the gun in his hand and to shoot. This is the law of the society in the west; in India also at present. If the war breaks out every Indian will be required to take part in it, this is the modern idea of society.

Both the structures of society have its advantages and its disadvantages. We do not say that the modern society does not have any advantage at all, but the one great disadvantage in this particular present structure is that you are required to do things, which are against your own nature: when you are required to participate in a war or a participation in every kind of activity in life, then very often you are required to act against your own nature. I may not be a teacher by nature and yet society might say: ‘you must become a teacher’. How often our system of education is such, if you don’t get ninety percent marks you take philosophy; you may not have anything of philosophy in you but you must study philosophy, why? Because that is all that is required in the present society, you should be in a slot and if you can’t come in a slot of doctors you should become a philosopher. You must be quite omnipresent as it were: if you don’t fit into this, you will fit into that. It does not take care of the specific needs of nature: it does not take care of Swabhava and Swadharma. This is the great disadvantage of the present form of society.

But there is a great advantage also. What is the advantage? That it provides you the possibility of developing not only one Swabhava but multiple Swabhava. The divine is multiple Swabhava, Divine Himself; therefore if you can take it rightly, you become so powerful that you can develop any kind of swabhava which is necessary for a given moment: this is the great advantage of modern society. By asking you to be a producer and a teacher and a warrior at the same time, you are required to develop various kinds of capacities and skills, you are required to become multiple in your own personality.

Question: But one cannot be expert in everything? 

Answer: It depends, therefore there are problems, but this is the advantage. There is also an advantage: if you can receive this challenge of modern society and master it then the result will be what? Result will be that you will create personalities of the type of Sri Krishna. Take Sri Krishna Himself: He was the greatest teacher in the world, therefore Brahmin. The greatest teacher having taught Gita in the way in which He has done, He can be regarded as the greatest Brahmin in the world. He was Kshatriya, great warrior of which there is no question. He was a great lover, and love is an element of Vaishya–hood; Vaishya is one who knows how to exchange and exchange is a fundamental power of love. The best way by which love can thrive is by exchange. You cannot stand on the river’s bank, look at your object of love and do nothing about it. There has to be an exchange between the two then only the love manifests. Therefore, Vaishya is one who is the master of exchange, and Sri Krishna was the greatest lover in the world, on this question also there can be no doubt, we have known about His love for the people, for His friends, for Radha, for Gopis, and for the whole creation in fact. He is the greatest lover therefore greatest Vaishya. He was also a great charioteer. When He was asked to be a charioteer, He did not say: ‘no, no this is not my task’. Not only did He become a charioteer, but He became the best charioteer in the whole Mahabharata.

This great possibility exists in the modern times: because the modern times ask you to take up any challenge of life and to be prepared for any challenge of life therefore you can be integral in your personality, as much as the Divine is. There are problems of the kind that you just now said, to become “a jack of all trades, but master of none”, this also is a possibility; but another possibility is that if you can receive the challenge of the time and master it you can become integral.

In any case we are not at present discussing this question of ‘what is the right structure of society’ and ‘what we should expect from each individual’. We are at present only studying history, what historically is a fact: in history, at a given time Indian society was structured on an idea that everybody should be asked to do something that is appropriate to his swabhava, and therefore restricted to his own swabhava and his swadharma; this was the idea of the Kurukshetra war, a concept which is different from the present kind of war which we are fighting in the modern times.

This is an aspect which has to be remembered while discussing the whole theory of the Bhagavad Gita, because you will come across in the Bhagavad Gita a statement by Sri Krishna who says, “Even by looking at your swadharma, you should fight”. Now, this statement will not be understood unless we understand the structure of the society of that time. Why does Sri Krishna argue in this way, that looking to your Swadharma, you should fight?

According to that Swadharma, Kshatriya is supposed to be one who should be ready to be in the battlefield: whether we like it or not the world is war; whether we like it or not we are in the battle, but consciously for a Kshatriya, he should be conscious that he is in a battle and when the battle comes up and demands any kind of sacrifice, he should accept it. This is the basic law of a Kshatriya in Indian society. More consciously therefore, it should be applied to everyone in the world. In the largest sense of the term, what is true of an individual like a kshatriya, if the message of the Gita is to be universal, we have to realise that everyone is in a battle and whenever the battle comes up do not run away from the battle. This is the basic message of the Gita.

It is in this context of ‘Kurukshetra’, ‘Dharmakshetra’, of the theme of the battle of life, in the background of the concept that the world is not an accident, world is not a nightmare, world is not a dream, world is not nothingness, world is not a mere bubble, but this world is something in which the Divine Himself is active and He is the supreme master of the whole situation, against this background, the whole of the Bhagavad Gita’s problems and the solution arise.

I think we shall stop here today. We shall begin the consideration of the text of the Bhagavad Gita. Today we restricted only to the first two words of the text of the Gita: dharmakṣetre kurukṣetre

Comment: According to my understanding there is the entire meaning of the whole Gita in these two words dharmakṣetre kurukṣetre.

Answer: That is true, but also that you have to go beyond dharma. sarvadharmān parityajya, (18.66), that also is a truth, in fact the final message of the Gita is that ‘When dharma collides with dharma, you go beyond all dharmas’, and that is the Divine’s Will and that is the real solution. Dharma is a solution at the lower level of existence, but that when dharma collides with dharma, and very often it does, your demand of love may demand you to give up your dharma for something else: both are your demands. When the two dharmas collide with each other, then what is the solution? And the real problem of the Bhagavad Gita is not the problem of dharma: the problem is of the ‘collision of dharmas’. On one side there is one dharma, on the other side there is another dharma. Swadharma also is not sufficient. Bhagavad Gita says that ‘All dharmas you go beyond’, māṁ ekam, that is ‘My Will’; you see what is ‘My Will’, and ‘My Will is the supreme Will and this is most compassionate will, wisest will, it is the most efficient will, therefore you follow it.’

Question: How does one know the Divine’s will?

Answer: This is the most important question; I am very pleased.

Comment: Is it not actually the entire pursuit of life?

Comment: Is war the final manifestation of God?

Actually this is the message of the Gita that you are in a war but arrive at a situation when you will be out of war. You have to create a world in which war will have no place. That is why Bhagavad Gita and the whole Mahabharata is called śānti. The aim of Mahabharata is not war, the aim of Mahabharata is shanti, the end is the shanti; the whole message of Mahabharata is that although the war is a fact, fight the war, do not run away from it, but it is only by fighting the war that we will be able to create the conditions in which permanent peace can be achieved, and freedom from struggle will be achieved.

When this is synthesised then the war will be transcended. War is a state of incompleteness. When there is perfection then there is no war.

That is the real truth. From the Divine’s point of view even the Mahabharata war is not a clash. From the Divine’s point of view, it is ‘embrace of lovers’, even this great war. He sees as if people who were loving each other so much are wrestling and embracing each other so tightly: that is the divine’s vision of the war.

No, it is a fact, from the Divine’s point of view: as you see two children fighting with each other, both love each other but they fight with each other very tremendously, wrestling with each other. From the Divine’s vision the whole world is quite different from what we see it, but the Gita is aware that the human point of view also has a value, and therefore has to be thoroughly worked out. If you simply tell the world that there is a divine’s vision in which lovers are embracing each other, then the real battle also will not be fought properly, even the love will not be done properly. Let everybody do the work according to his level of consciousness and don’t mix up, varṇasaṅkara is always a wrong thing: if you have a point of view, so act according to that point of view.

Why Sri Krishna says that, “I shall not take the arms”, because for Him it was only the ‘embrace of lovers’; that is why He said, “I will not take the arms”. But He did not tell Arjuna, “don’t take arms”, on the contrary He said, “You fight!” So, each one according to his own condition of consciousness he has to be given the right advice. When according to them all the four elements are synthesised, he has the real vision of the divine. There remains nothing but delight. Even the contrary phenomena are seen differently.

I would like you to have the text of the Gita with you next time. Any Gita with the translation will be alright because I don’t want the commentary, I want the pure text, only text and translation both in Hindi and English.