“O greatest of all personalities, O supreme form, though I see here before me Your actual position, I yet wish to see how You have entered into this cosmic manifestation. I want to see that form of Yours.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.3)
एवम् एतद् यथात्थ त्वम्
द्रष्टुम् इच्छामि ते रूपम्
evam etad yathāttha tvam
draṣṭum icchāmi te rūpam
Arjuna specifically asked for a viewing. He had an inkling the entire time. It is something that needs to be placed in the back of the memory, that your best friend is really the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan. He is your cousin and well-wisher during the daytime, but rewind back to the beginning of the creation and He is there speaking to Lord Brahma, the creator.
अहम् एवासम् एवाग्रे
नान्यद् यत् सद्-असत् परम्
पश्चाद् अहं यद् एतच् च
यो ऽवशिष्येत सो ऽस्म्य् अहम्
aham evāsam evāgre
nānyad yat sad-asat param
paścād ahaṁ yad etac ca
yo ‘vaśiṣyeta so ‘smy aham
“Brahma, it is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation, when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation what remains will also be I, the Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.33)
Only through temporary, and perhaps intentional, forgetfulness could Arjuna be overcome by fear and doubt. Though he was of the kshatriya order, which has bravery as one of the top field requirements, the worry was not over potentially losing.
The great bow-warrior and battlefield leader of the Pandava family was uncertain over being willing to accept the consequences of a successful fight. In fact, there were several categories of inquiry, showing that the wise disciple did not halt his progress at the mere acknowledgment of a supreme controller.
1. On how to proceed
Not just where to go, in which direction to turn, at what time to prepare the arm to release an arrow, on which enemies to keep vigilance. More simple than that – yes or no? Should I proceed in the battle or is it more righteous to sit back? If I am a conscientious objector, will others not view me more favorably? Will I not be considered a saintly person if I retreat to the forest and avoid responsibility for bloodshed?
These were difficult questions, though Krishna initially chastised the disciple for presenting such foolishness in the guise of wisdom. There was no question as to what was right. The Kauravas had done too much. They had crossed the line of decency a long time ago. There was no one else around to deliver justice.
An audit of the vote, a strongly-worded letter, a well-attended political rally, or a secret recording exposing illegal behavior were not going to do anything. Duryodhana and clan had all the power. They were in the wrong, but no one was stopping them. Until Arjuna and his brothers, that is.
2. On the impact of different choices
If only we could see into the future. If only we knew what would take place if we accepted the pending job offer, leaving a company we were loyal to in favor of one we know nothing about. If only we knew if the house we are moving into is right for us, if the noise levels are tolerable, if the heating system is sufficient, and if there is enough space for our growing family.
As Shri Krishna can see past, present and future, He was the best person to consult on the result to different choices. In that amazing vision specifically requested by Arjuna, there were three-dimensions and also a time element. Arjuna could see the soldiers rushing into the many mouths of all-devouring time, which is another manifestation of God.
अमी च त्वां धृतराष्ट्रस्य पुत्राः
भीष्मो द्रोणः सूत-पुत्रस् तथासौ
सहास्मदीयैर् अपि योध-मुख्यैः
वक्त्राणि ते त्वरमाणा विशन्ति
केचिद् विलग्ना दशनान्तरेषु
सन्दृश्यन्ते चूर्णितैर् उत्तमाङ्गैः
amī ca tvāṁ dhṛtarāṣṭrasya putrāḥ
bhīṣmo droṇaḥ sūta-putras tathāsau
sahāsmadīyair api yodha-mukhyaiḥ
vaktrāṇi te tvaramāṇā viśanti
kecid vilagnā daśanāntareṣu
sandṛśyante cūrṇitair uttamāṅgaiḥ
“All the sons of Dhritarashtra along with their allied kings, and Bhishma, Drona and Karna, and all our soldiers are rushing into Your mouths, their heads smashed by Your fearful teeth. I see that some are being crushed between Your teeth as well.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.26-27)
Destiny was set. The outcome was already known. Arjuna could act in righteousness and receive credit, serving as an instrument of the Divine will. This is the best occupation to accept, one for which everyone is eligible, provided they have the proper guidance.
3. On the exact nature of future births
For however many would come, to where would the individual go? What if they died on the battlefield, fighting valiantly for their side? What if they had tried for perfection in yoga, but failed to reach the pinnacle? What if they came close, but time ran out? What would happen in the next life?
छिन्नाभ्रम् इव नश्यति
विमूढो ब्रह्मणः पथि
chinnābhram iva naśyati
vimūḍho brahmaṇaḥ pathi
“O mighty-armed Krishna, does not such a man, being deviated from the path of Transcendence, perish like a riven cloud, with no position in any sphere?” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.38)
The entire exchange symbolizes the ideal relationship between disciple and guru. There is a reason to become a disciple. If not formally, then at least in terms of consciousness. Acknowledging God is an important first step, but just as we question so much of the world around us, there is no harm with inquiring into the spiritual subject matter.
With the Vedic tradition, there is as much information as needed to consume. It may not be understood immediately. The same questions may have to be repeated in the future, but the patient representative of the Supreme Lord provides a mechanism for resolution, for bringing enlightenment and thus making the most of the auspicious human birth.
Acknowledgment a start,
For ignorance to depart.
But Arjuna inquiring more,
A peak at the future in store.
And whether chosen path right,
Or sinful reaction in sight.
Krishna in proper way to steer,
Guru with understanding clear.
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