“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.63)
इति ते ज्ञानम् आख्यातं
गुह्याद् गुह्यतरं मया
यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु
iti te jñānam ākhyātaṁ
guhyād guhyataraṁ mayā
yathecchasi tathā kuru
Shri Krishna gave the proper explanation. Though brief in comparison to the much larger work serving as the container, the Mahabharata, Bhagavad-gita is still significant in length. The many verses cannot be memorized today so easily, but they are beautiful nonetheless, in the spotless Sanskrit language.
Question and answer, back and forth, doubt and resolution, argument and rebuttal – this was not merely an authority figure asserting their dominance. That is entirely possible in other instances, as Shri Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan. He could have deemed the entire line of questioning inappropriate. He could have compelled Arjuna to behave a certain way.
That is not in the nature of higher dealings. This was a special case. A higher purpose would be served by Arjuna choosing the proper course of action, after a sober and rational review of the many options.
1. Leave for the forest
He was initially leaning in this direction. Arjuna had dropped his weapons. The visual at the battlefield of Kurukshetra was breathtaking. Arjuna got a panoramic view after Krishna placed the chariot directly at the center.
Both sides featured some of the best fighters in the world. Respected personalities could not settle their differences peacefully. War was the only option. Like the Supersoul in the heart, Krishna remained neutral. He did not choose sides, but when one individual sincerely asked for direction, Bhagavan was there to provide it.
After hearing Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna could have retreated for the forest:
“Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t want to be part of this ghastly war. Let time, the great devourer, take care of what needs to be done. I will accept the stigma associated with fleeing the battlefield. Let others deride me as a coward. I do not mind.”
2. Ask more questions
The discussion carried on for as long as it did because Arjuna was an active participant. He did not simply sit there like a stone and listen to someone else lecture. He did not ask to be shown glowing images with associated sound, such as when sitting in a cinema hall.
As there was symbolic reference to the Supersoul with Krishna driving the chariot, participating in the war but not taking sides, when the role changed to spiritual guide there was just as much symbolism to the ancient tradition of guru-disciple interaction.
तद् विद्धि प्रणिपातेन
उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)
The recommendation is to approach a tattva-darshi. Someone who has seen the truth. They can describe that truth to others. The necessary qualification is humility. Do not ask in a challenging way. Do not approach as an enemy, as someone looking to do harm. If you are genuinely interested and willing to offer some service, the guru will remain with you for as long as necessary.
Thus Arjuna had the option to continue to ask questions. In this special instance the teacher is the controller of time. The war could have waited. Previously, Krishna had attempted to avoid hostilities altogether by acting as emissary. The Divine will was set, but Arjuna could have asked as many questions as were necessary to remove doubt.
3. Follow devotional service
This was Krishna’s recommendation. Proceed in the war, which was in line with dharma. Consider neither victory nor defeat. Worry not over the outcome. Participate in the will of the Divine, acting as but an instrument.
Nevertheless, it is important to see that Krishna asks Arjuna to deliberate. We receive the same choice. Devotional service is the constitutional engagement, something every person should follow in order to reach true bliss, happiness and contentment.
Yet that service has to be voluntarily accepted. Compulsory love violates the requisite conditions. When the choice is made after a proper analysis of the different options, then the likelihood of remaining on that path in the future greatly increases, reducing the chances of ever associating with the illusory energy known as maya again.
Choice to him came,
That run away in shame,
Where the battlefield fleeing,
Or more time for doubts freeing.
The recommended option the best,
That on devotional path blessed.
So with the war proceeding,
With Krishna’s will succeeding.
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