“Therefore get up and prepare to fight. After conquering your enemies you will enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasachin, can be but an instrument in the fight.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.33)
तस्मात् त्वम् उत्तिष्ठ यशो लभस्व
जित्वा शत्रून् भुङ्क्ष्व राज्यं समृद्धम्
मयैवैते निहताः पूर्वम् एव
निमित्त-मात्रं भव सव्य-साचिन्
tasmāt tvam uttiṣṭha yaśo labhasva
jitvā śatrūn bhuṅkṣva rājyaṁ samṛddham
mayaivaite nihatāḥ pūrvam eva
nimitta-mātraṁ bhava savya-sācin
Friend1: Do I do everything or is it Krishna?
Friend2: You are, of course, familiar with the Bhagavad-gita verse about the doer.
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
Friend1: I was setting you up. Then why did Arjuna even proceed to fight in the battlefield? If he is not the doer, what is the point to action?
Friend2: Provide some context.
Friend1: The Bhagavad-gita conversation. Krishna and Arjuna seated on the chariot in the middle of the battlefield. They are the central figures to this sacred text, which is something like a transcript of a conversation that took place some five thousand years ago.
Friend2: Sung in beautiful verses of the Sanskrit language. Preserved for eternity in the epic work of Vyasadeva known as the Mahabharata.
Friend1: Krishna is the charioteer at the moment. Arjuna is the leading bow-warrior for one side in the conflict. Krishna shifts to the role of guru. This is not unfamiliar to Him, as He is the adi-guru.
Friend2: The original spiritual master.
Friend1: Arjuna becomes the disciple. At one point Krishna says that the living entity is not the doer. Material nature is the one who first gives sanction. Then the results manifest.
Friend2: Correct. This is to highlight how little control we have over outcomes.
Friend1: Yes, but the entire premise of the situation is outcomes. Arjuna is concerned over what will happen. He is afraid of winning, more or less.
Friend2: Just see how kind Krishna is. Everything is already arranged. The Pandavas will emerge victorious, but most of the assembled fighters will perish. Time, material nature, the master coordinator – whatever term you want to use will be responsible.
Friend1: Arjuna can be just an instrument. I get that. Why should he take any responsibility, at all? If the outcome is already known, arranged by Krishna, what is the point to action?
Friend2: Become an instrument and receive the credit.
Friend1: What if I don’t want the credit?
Friend2: What is it that you want, then?
Friend1: In Arjuna’s case I guess a stable position in the kingdom. Peace and prosperity. Everybody living.
Friend2: That was not going to happen. You couldn’t maintain that forever, anyway. Better to be on the side of good, perform your duty, follow dharma, and let everything get sorted out naturally.
Friend1: I understand that Arjuna was serving Shri Krishna, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That seems like a heavy responsibility to me. War is dangerous. Why would someone take that risk?
Friend2: Again, the outcomes are already set. The more responsibility you take in service, the more pleased Krishna becomes. Not that you should become overburdened, but find what you are good at and stick to it. At the very least you can chant the holy names in a fixed routine and introduce others to the same blissful process: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
If outcomes already set,
What for service to get?
And great risk to take,
When future living at stake.
Chance as instrument afforded,
As blessed servant rewarded.
From more responsibility assuming,
And steadiness in bhakti resuming.