“I would consider it better for the sons of Dhritarashtra to kill me unarmed and unresisting, rather than fight with them.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.45)
Arjuna was worried. There was concern over the future. Perhaps the doubts lived in the back of his mind for a long time, only to manifest in full at this critical moment. On the precipice of a great war, the leading fighter for his side, the one representing dharma, or righteousness, did not want to proceed further.
Taking the matter to his guru and well-wisher, Shri Krishna, there was hope that the proper decision would be reached. No more doubts. No chance of incurring sin, and no regrets after the fact. The teacher happened to also be the charioteer. Thus Arjuna did not require visiting a distant place. The guidebook for living in any time period was there to consult, coming through in the beautiful words emanating from Bhagavan Himself.
1. Join the other side
This was the initial concern, that there were respected members with the opposition. The Kauravas had done wrong; of this there was no doubt. The kingdom of Hastinapura, which essentially controlled the entire world, rightfully belonged to Arjuna and his brothers. Instead, the cousins, headed by the wicked Duryodhana, took control. This was an unjust act, and to make matters worse the Kauravas tried to kill the Pandavas in so many ways, to remove any future opposition, so that the proper payback would never arrive.
In the midst of these crimes, which were fresh in the memory, Arjuna still had a soft spot for the other side. He could have joined them. That would solve the problem, except then new ones would arise. Arjuna would have to fight against his own brothers. He would also be considered the greatest traitor, which he did not want.
2. Retreat to the forest
This was a viable option. Just drop your weapons and go live in a remote area. No one to bother you. No violence to see. No bloodshed in which to be involved. No killing on your conscience. Just retire and meditate. Become a yogi.
In response Shri Krishna explained the different kinds of yoga, as they are understood by the wise. Though the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, Arjuna’s charioteer always cites Vedic authority. This is to show the proper way, the etiquette followed by the genuine spiritual master. There is no making things up. There is no concocting theories that aren’t based in past authority and evidences.
Retreating wasn’t an option for Arjuna because it was ill-rooted. He was trying to avoid responsibility and the supposed accompanying sin, but leaving aside his dependents was actually just as sinful. The mentality was rooted in concern for bodily welfare, as well, which means that the spiritual vision was lacking.
3. Become a travelling preacher
If going to the forest and escaping the situation weren’t viable, how about travelling to different places and spreading the message of Divine love? Become like the person teaching him, a guru, and liberate the whole world. Surely there wouldn’t be sin as a result? Narada Muni is already known to live like this, and he is so dear to the Supreme Lord.
4. Go on a suicide mission
Similar to dropping the weapons, what if Arjuna gave the visual appearance of an active participant but then didn’t actually fight? Show up on the battlefield, but don’t release any arrows. Let the other side kill you. Hopefully no sin in this way.
In truth, by becoming an unwilling combatant Arjuna would invite sin for the opposing side. He was concerned with their welfare, after all, and so by attacking someone who was not fighting, there would be a violation of the code of conduct for warriors. It wouldn’t help Arjuna’s side, either, as they might become dispirited upon witnessing his defeat.
5. Proceed forward, thinking of Krishna the whole time
The best of yogis is the one who is always thinking of Krishna. Meditating in truth, keeping the thoughts fixed on His interest. Arjuna had the luxury of not having to search after God; the Supreme Lord was right there next to Him. The advice offered by Krishna was perfect.
Proceed forward. Prosecute the war, fighting valiantly. Cast aside concern over the outcome. Releasing arrows in a fury would be exactly the same as sitting in a remote cave and repeating the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Before great war to begin,
Arjuna on how to avoid sin.
Option one for forest retreat,
In peace take meditation’s seat.
Another accept opposition’s shelter,
Or without fighting battlefield enter.
To proceed and think of Krishna the best,
Work in devotion, let Him sort out the rest.
Categories: the five