“Even if Arjuna did not believe in the existence of the soul – as in the Vaibhashika philosophy – there would still have been no cause for lamentation. No one laments the loss of a certain bulk of chemicals and stops discharging his prescribed duty.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.26 Purport)
Friend1: Arjuna did not want to fight.
Friend2: Why not?
Friend1: Many reasons.
Friend2: Name a few.
Friend1: Loved ones on the other side.
Friend2: Such as?
Friend1: Cousins. Grandparents. Teachers. These were either directly family or treated as such.
Friend2: He was going to be weak of heart fighting against them?
Friend1: No; he was worried about the consequences to victory. The cost of war. Arjuna was something like a conscientious objector.
Friend2: What other reasons?
Friend1: He threw some good ones out there. If you kill respected people, then family traditions die with them.
Friend2: What is so important about family traditions?
Friend1: They help to maintain peace and order in society. Culture is crucial; otherwise people go the way of the animal, where the only thought is how to satisfy the senses.
Friend2: Oh, that’s good. I like how you threw in the animal stuff.
Friend1: And when family traditions are gone, there is a mixed population. There is unwanted children; those born through kama instead of dharma.
Friend2: That’s true. Every four years I hear the two political parties debate over abortion, but why is there unwanted pregnancy to begin with? Shouldn’t people behave in such a way that they never have to think of ending a pregnancy?
Friend1: Krishna stepped in to deal with the situation. Arjuna had his doubts and he put them to the greatest teacher.
Friend2: What was Krishna’s response?
Friend1: You want me to recite the entire Bhagavad-gita?
Friend2: What were some of the initial arguments given? What was Krishna’s opinion?
Friend1: He said that Arjuna should stand up and fight. The first thing taught was the difference between spirit and matter. The individual is spirit soul. They are not born at any moment. Nor can they ever be killed. The body is what gets destroyed when there is death. But there is change happening all the time.
Friend2: From boyhood to youth to old age. So Krishna only argued one point of view?
Friend1: Actually, that’s what I wanted to ask you. I think He took the position of the atheist, right?
Friend2: He did.
Friend1: How does that work? Isn’t that an opposing viewpoint?
Friend2: It was quite brilliant actually. Krishna was making the argument that no matter how you viewed things, the proper course was to stand up and fight.
Friend1: From the theist’s perspective I can understand. The individuals on the other side wouldn’t die. If Arjuna fought in the war, they would be killed and move on to a different body in the next life. Hence no reason to lament.
Friend1: How about from the atheist’s perspective, though?
Friend2: The atheist is the opposite in thinking. They are in ignorance. They think the body is everything. They consider every living thing to be merely a bunch of chemicals.
Friend1: Okay, I agree with that, but then why should Arjuna fight if that was his thinking?
Friend2: Does anybody lament for a lump of matter? If we’re all just chemicals anyway, what is there to be sad about? Go through with your duty. Why are you so worried about the feelings of the chemicals on the other side?
Friend2: Krishna says that every person who is born must die. Every person who dies must take birth again. What is the fuss over, then?
“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)
Friend1: How about in the larger picture?
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: Should the atheist follow devotion to Krishna? Should they take up bhakti-yoga? Is this an argument in favor of devotional service, the kind followed by Arjuna?
Friend2: Absolutely. From whatever angle of vision you come, you will be benefitted by submitting to God the person, the all-attractive one named Krishna. If you think the soul is born at some point and then dies later on, you should still chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. If you’re concerned with finding happiness for this lump of chemicals, there is no happier place than the shelter of the Divine. Give it a try and you’ll see. In the process your ignorance will dissipate.
Life in bunch of chemicals spent,
So no reason for its death to lament.
Argument of the atheist taking,
Shri Krishna, the most sense making.
Whatever angle, any point of view,
Bhakti right course for me and you.
Soon from ignorance free to be,
And Divine presence everywhere to see.