“O Krishna, maintainer of the people, I have heard by disciplic succession that those who destroy family traditions dwell always in hell.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.43)
नरके नियतं वासो
narake niyataṁ vāso
“From the opening moments of Bhagavad-gita, I get the feeling that Arjuna is expecting a certain response. His justifications for abandoning the fight are logically based. He did not reach the decision without careful deliberation.
“For instance, there is lack of desire to enjoy the fruits of action. Arjuna doesn’t want the kingdom. He doesn’t want to conquer the foe. He is fine with the way things are, that the Kauravas maintain control of Hastinapura. Granted, they came upon that power illegally. They represent the side of unrighteousness, adharma.
“I know that Krishna chastised Arjuna, in response. He classified Arjuna’s arguments as anarya. This is someone who does not know the higher principles of living. If you think about it, that is a great insult. The teacher did nothing to soften the blow. It was like they intentionally wanted to shame the student, highlighting the grossness of their inaccuracy.
“Arjuna, who was known as the greatest at shooting arrows, was way off the mark. You could say that his heart was actually in the wrong place. That is the stunning contrast to Bhagavad-gita. That the conversation took place on a battlefield, amidst countless soldiers armed and ready to fight, makes the content more appealing.
“The response from Krishna was certainly surprising, if not completely unexpected. We have similar experiences in the regular course of affairs. We might bounce an idea off a friend or family member. We want some sort of validation, but they might not be willing to give it.
“Do you think Krishna should have gone easier on Arjuna? Was it necessary to be so strict? I thought Arjuna had some valid points, such as the disintegration of family traditions. If the leaders perish during a war, the future generations are bereft of a proper example to follow. There is the potential for everything to descend into chaos and madness.”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada often uses the phrase “cheaters and the cheated” when describing the phenomenon of bogus gurus and spiritual leaders. From a few minutes of casual analysis, any sane person could notice that such and such leader was not genuine.
They use flowery language. They manipulate meanings through double-speak, with the intention of getting what they want, for a personal interest. There is no basis in truth or authority, but they attract followers nonetheless.
The reason for the relative popularity is that the followers are looking to be cheated. They want someone to validate their lies. It is only natural. If there is a stamp of approval for my improper way of living, I will feel less guilt in moving forward. If the teacher at school tells me it is okay to think that two plus two equals five, that no one will get a failing grade on an examination, of course they will be preferred.
That is not the best thing for the student. In the long run, it is better to be corrected. Whether delivered in a harsh manner or with style and grace, I should at least know the truth. With spiritual life, the first rule is the distinction between matter and spirit.
I am not the body. I am not this identity I carry, at the moment. I took birth at a certain time and place, but that is not everything. I might take birth again under different circumstances. I come and go, like the ocean waves hitting the shore. The different births are like taking off clothes and putting on new ones.
वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय
नवानि गृह्णाति नरो ऽपराणि
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णान्य्
अन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही
vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya
navāni gṛhṇāti naro ‘parāṇi
tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny
anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)
The anarya person places topmost priority on the temporary body. This was the flaw in Arjuna’s thinking. He was concerned with his prestige, at the same time. Perhaps he would be praised by the other side for abandoning the fight, for retreating to a forest to practice mystic yoga.
Success or failure, winning or losing, triumph or defeat, ultimately there is no difference. Arjuna was a member of the kshatriya order, and it was his duty to follow through in upholding dharma. There was no need for extra concern for others. While it is nice to worry about others, that sentiment should not result in a deviation from the proper path.
In this way, Arjuna was blessed. He received the truth directly from the source of everything. Everything came to him straight, with ample opportunity for rebuttal and further clarification. It was ultimately his decision on how to proceed, and he ended up choosing wisely.
For his validation tries,
Hoping teacher to tell lies.
Such that confirmation to give,
For sinful way to live.
But Arjuna fortunate and blessed,
That Krishna directly addressed.
As anarya the thinking directed,
Better now immediately corrected.