“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)
Though admonished by the teacher for showing signs of not knowing the progressive values of life, Arjuna actually put forward decent arguments. His inquiries made the subsequent discussion all the more important.
It is one thing for a teacher to impose his will. “Do this. Do that. Don’t ever do this. Just follow and you’ll be fine.” It is another for a strong case to be squashed with logic, reasoning, and more importantly, authority. Shri Krishna is the ultimate authority figure in this regard, as He is the adi-guru. The Bhagavad-gita spoken to Arjuna is actually timeless; it was uttered many years prior as well.
Arjuna and his brothers had every justification to commence the hostilities. No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more letting the other side bend the rules. It was time for justice, which was to be delivered in a ghastly manner, through the amazing arrows released by Arjuna, the greatest bow-warrior at the time. Despite having dharma on his side, Arjuna was a reluctant participant.
1. I don’t need to enjoy a kingdom
The winner of the war would get the kingdom. The conflicts during that time period were to the death. Those were the stakes. Arjuna looked into the future and saw the result of victory. He and his brothers, known as the Pandavas, would take over Hastinapura and essentially rule the world.
Arjuna had no need for such enjoyment or prestige. He was renounced in spirit, having once lived in the forest for many years. More importantly, the source of that vairagya, or detachment, was his devotion to Shri Krishna, who happened to be right there on the same chariot, steering the ship so to speak.
2. Why am I going to kill respected people on the other side
Politics is complicated. Issues don’t always fall comfortably into right and wrong. Sometimes you get good people opposing you. This was the case with the Bharata War. On the opposite side were respected teachers and members of the family. Arjuna knew that to succeed in war you have to break things and kill people. He didn’t want to kill people he respected. By avoiding war, their lives would be spared.
3. Why should family traditions be destroyed
The Sanskrit term here is varna-sankara. This is a mixing of the occupations, or classes. In the time period in question such intermingling would only take place through kama, or lust. Since unions should take place in dharma instead of kama, varna-sankara can also be translated as “unwanted population.”
With children born from lust, the family traditions eventually die. When that occurs, society goes to hell. People essentially turn into animals, concerning themselves only with eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Arjuna wanted to avoid creating such a situation. He figured if the other side remained alive, the family traditions would as well.
4. Doesn’t killing equate to sin
There would be tremendous violence. Krishna gave a glimpse into the future by showing the virata-rupa, which is the universal form. This was a three-dimensional image that also featured the time factor. At one point Arjuna saw practically all the soldiers assembled rushing into Krishna’s many mouths. This indicated that death was guaranteed, regardless of the choice made.
Arjuna worried that so much papa, or sin, would accumulate as a result. They were on the side of piety, so why should they risk inviting negative consequences? Just drop the weapons, retreat to the forest, let the other side continue to rule, and everything would be fine.
But it was Arjuna’s duty to uphold righteousness. His arguments reflected kama. They were a way to hold on to the sentiment of bodily attachment to the other side. Additionally, there was a false prestige factor. By voluntarily giving up his weapons, Arjuna hoped to earn some acclaim.
As Krishna would clarify, for a warrior by occupation it is a high honor to die valiantly on the battlefield. Arjuna would win heaven either way, by winning or losing, provided that he fought. Giving up would actually be more sinful.
Moreover, the result of the war was already slated. Destruction was the Divine will, and Arjuna had the choice to act as the instrument of delivery. Insulation from all sinful reaction was available only through following Krishna, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the ultimate lesson to take from their discussion.
From careful study of Gita to make,
One lesson most important to take.
That partially sinful is every path,
Something negative in the aftermath.
Even if family traditions ending,
Misplaced the compassion extending.
Proper with devotion to fight,
Krishna’s cause always right.
Categories: the four