Four Impurities That Overtook Arjuna

[Krishna and Arjuna]“The Supreme Person [Bhagavan] said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They do not lead to higher planets, but to infamy.” (Bhagavad-gita, 2.2)

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Unfortunately, the word Aryan is today misunderstood in the context of general conversation. The blame can be put directly on the deeds of a wicked and cruel world leader who became infamous during the time of World War II. The word is actually of Sanskrit origin, and it refers to someone who knows the values of life.

During one of the most famous conversations in history, Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, invoked the negation of this word in His strong criticism of His dear friend and cousin. Arjuna was the leader of the Pandavas, a family who had been wronged for a very long time. They didn’t need to ask the authorities for help since they were part of the administrator/warrior class.

On the day the wheels of justice, dharma, were finally to be set in motion it seemed as though Arjuna forgot everything. Instead of being guided by the values of life, he reversed them. He was choosing to let adharma triumph, and he made excuses that he thought were valid. Shri Krishna referred to those arguments, which were really personal sentiments, as impurities [kashmalam].

1. Concern over bodily welfare

If the issue had been brought before a fair and impartial judge, there wouldn’t have been much of a case. Duryodhana and his family not only took the land that rightfully belonged to the Pandavas, but they tried to kill those five brothers and their mother several times. They were legitimate thieves and attempted murderers.

That should have been enough to give Arjuna the impetus he needed to start the war. There was even a last-ditch effort for peace made by Krishna. Duryodhana was so sinful in nature that he thought of binding Krishna. This would hopefully dispirit the Pandavas, who thought so highly of the all-attractive one. Of course the only way to bind Krishna is through devotional love, such as that exhibited by mother Yashoda in Vrindavana. Showing a version of the universal form to Duryodhana, Krishna laughed off the incident.

The impurity of concern over bodily welfare arises at the time of birth, and it more or less afflicts every person. Spiritual education exists to eradicate this impurity. This is one reason initiation with a guru, a bona fide teacher of the spiritual science, is referred to as a second birth. Those who have this education are known as dvija, or twice-born.

During Arjuna’s time the kshatriyas were part of the twice-born population. Arjuna received training in the military arts. Unfortunately, the person who taught him was now fighting for the other side. Still, one of the key principles of upholding justice is to not have concern for bodily welfare. Duryodhana had wronged the innocent. He deserved punishment. In fact, by delivering that punishment Duryodhana would be saved from future suffering.

The future there would surely be, as the body from this lifetime is not everything. Arjuna should have known about the imperishable nature of the soul, and how it can never be killed. He would soon be reminded by Krishna.

2. Not properly identifying dharma and adharma

Arjuna contemplated giving up. He saw that as righteous, or in line with dharma. He considered killing the enemy as adharma, or that which was wrong. This was a complete misidentification. He made up new rules based on his sentiment. He felt bad for the other side. In one sense Arjuna was so renounced that he looked only to the personal implication of the struggle. He would enjoy a kingdom and the other side would not.

Arjuna had no desire to increase his material enjoyment, but that wasn’t the issue. Whether or not material fortunes increase, kshatriyas should perform their duty. Otherwise, who will make sure wrong doesn’t overcome right? In addition, the warriors on the other side would enjoy life in heaven, for that is the immediate reward of dying valiantly in battle.

3. Choosing to be killed without a fight

Arjuna at one point suggested something akin to suicide. He would rather lay down his weapons and let the other side kill him. That would be a magnanimous gesture. It would prove to everyone his detachment. He wouldn’t be at fault.

This is another impurity, because there is a hint of desire for mana, or honor and respect. If he didn’t want to fight, then at least flee the scene. No need to show everyone how kind you are, even if that compassion is misplaced.

Dharma for a kshatriya is to fight nobly. Laying down the weapons and allowing the enemy to overtake you is ignoble, for there are dependents to consider. It is something like the police allowing a thief to enter a home and take whatever they want. For Arjuna, there were other people to consider besides himself.

4. Overwhelming grief

More than anything, there was nothing to worry about. Krishna was there as the charioteer. No one else had this help. Every living being has the Supersoul inside of them, Paramatma. This is Krishna’s expansion as the overseer, the all-pervading witness.

Paramatma is the guru within, but to change the role from neutral to actively engaged, the help from a guru on the outside is required. Arjuna was given the special favor of getting the Supersoul Himself on the outside to act as spiritual guide.

“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

[Krishna and Arjuna]As He would go on to reveal, Krishna is the source of remembrance and forgetfulness. For the conditioned souls He sanctions forgetfulness since that is their outstanding desire, to be separate from God and enjoy without Him. For Arjuna the forgetfulness was intentional, a product of yogamaya. Those temporary impurities allowed for the sacred conversation to occur, which would benefit countless future generations.

In Closing:

Consumed by overwhelming grief,

From responsibility seeking relief.

Non-violent, the weapons to cast aside,

As objector renounced in forest to reside.

These impurities the warrior Arjuna overcoming,

To help Shri Krishna the guru becoming.

So that future generations to save,

Knowing proper way to behave.

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3 replies

  1. a good attempt by krishnamercy to say the problems about Arjuna- the mighty warrior of kurukshetra. But lengthy to read.

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