“Alas, how strange it is that we are preparing to commit greatly sinful acts, driven by the desire to enjoy royal happiness.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.44)
अहो बत महत् पापं
कर्तुं व्यवसिता वयम्
हन्तुं स्व-जनम् उद्यताः
aho bata mahat pāpaṁ
kartuṁ vyavasitā vayam
hantuṁ sva-janam udyatāḥ
Due to its popularity throughout the years, standing the test of time, and the reliance upon it by stalwart defenders of the Vedic tradition, the acharyas with followers numbering both large and small, the Bhagavad-gita is in the hall of fame of great literature. Though much more, a transcript of a conversation that took place on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, the work is generally held in high esteem due to its teacher.
The words inside best describe Him. In Sanskrit it is Bhagavan. So many verses begin with, “shri bhagavan uvacha.” The English translation is, “The Supreme Personality of Godhead said.” More than the formless Absolute known as Brahman. More than the invisible Divine expansion residing within known as Paramatma. Bhagavan is the complete feature, a specific manifestation of God visible to the fortunate of this world, but also not lacking anything in terms of potency.
Since the text is a conversation, the corresponding party also plays an important role. Arjuna is the ideal disciple. He accepts the words from the spiritual master, the adi-guru of the universe, but it is not simply the nodding of the head. There is no fear of punishment should the advice be rejected. In fact, the concern is over the opposite, of what might result should the disciple proceed forward on the recommendations.
1. He has a conscience
Arjuna is a conscientious disciple precisely because he has a conscience. There is a stark contrast in the situation. Juxtaposed with the rival cousins, the Kauravas, Arjuna and his family look like saints. They indeed are, at least in spirit, though they follow the occupation of warrior.
The Kauravas were headed by Duryodhana, who tried to kill the Pandavas in so many illegal ways. Duryodhana had no conscience when he set the trap to have the brothers and their mother killed by a fire in a house that was something like a tinderbox, constructed intentionally of lac. Duryodhana showed a lack of conscience when he one time hatched a ridiculous scheme to try to bind Krishna, who was visiting simply as a messenger of peace.
Needless to say, the other side deserved what they were about to get. The Pandavas were the rightful heirs to the kingdom of Hastinapura, but they tolerated injustice for a long time. Now it was time to right the wrong, but Arjuna still had reservations. He did not want to harm people on the other side.
2. He is concerned about doing what is right
The intelligence said to proceed forward and the heart said to step back and reassess the situation. Arjuna knew that his side depended on him for victory, but what exactly would result from winning? Was that situation preferred?
Arjuna did not act whimsically. He was conscientious since he was concerned with dharma, or duty. He wanted to do what was right. Sometimes the proper action in a situation is not clear. There is nuance. There are connected consequences, like a network of action and reaction, which perfectly illustrates the concept of karma.
3. He was concerned with executing duty properly
Not just following duty, Arjuna wanted to do it well. Let not anyone have doubt on the matter, after the fact. Let not anyone blame him for senseless violence or destroying families. People would perish, after all, and their departure from this world would break families apart. Was going to war worth this cost?
The conscientious disciple had the most rational and sober thinking spiritual guide. Krishna at first chided his friend and cousin for casting aside good sense so quickly. Yet He was still patient enough to work with Arjuna, to accept the many questions and discuss the issues in detail. In the end it was up to Arjuna for how to proceed.
The Supreme Lord is merciful in this way; He does not force others to follow. Material nature already creates so many problems. There are enough miseries with which to contend on a daily basis. If a person follows the Divine way out of fear, if they accept their duty only begrudgingly, the full benefit will not be experienced in the aftermath. They may go further away from the proper consciousness, which is the opposite of the intended aim of the human existence.
Since from many angles to see,
Conscientious disciple was he.
Arjuna on battlefield ready to start,
But chided for good sense to depart.
Wondering if war worth the cost,
When friends and family members lost.
Hastily not acting, to Krishna presented,
Who timeless tradition represented.
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