Three Ways To Understand Advaita From Arjuna

[Arjuna and Krishna]“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)

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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

It doesn’t seem to be the general focus. When a person takes their position on the seat of Vyasa, they do not necessarily announce their allegiance. They do not reveal upon which side of the argument they fall.

They tend to speak on the basic principles of Bhagavad-gita. The difference between matter and spirit. The importance of approaching and accepting a spiritual guide. The factor of the three modes of material nature, which must give sanction for any result to manifest.

प्रकृतेः क्रियमाणानि
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते

prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni
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)

The higher philosophical breakdown is between dualism and non-dualism. The Sanskrit terms are dvaita and advaita. What is the verdict of Bhagavad-gita on this topic? Is it squarely on the side of dvaita, where there are two distinct entities?

That would make sense, as the main characters are Arjuna and Krishna. Arjuna is the one in doubt. He is approaching the superior entity. Krishna is equivalent with the entire cosmic manifestation and more. He displayed such a vision so as to remove any doubts on the matter.

श्री-भगवान् उवाच
पश्य मे पार्थ रूपाणि
शतशो ‘थ सहस्रशः
नाना-विधानि दिव्यानि
नाना-वर्णाकृतीनि च

śrī-bhagavān uvāca
paśya me pārtha rūpāṇi
śataśo ‘tha sahasraśaḥ
nānā-vidhāni divyāni
nānā-varṇākṛtīni ca

“The Blessed Lord said: My dear Arjuna, O son of Pritha, behold now My opulences, hundreds of thousands of varied divine forms, multicolored like the sea.” (Bhagavad-gita, 11.5)

It might surprise someone to learn that there is just as much support for the advaita side. The true meaning to non-dualism can be learned through the example of that great bow-warrior of the Pandava family.

1. In the sense of cooperation

Arjuna and Krishna are distinct. They are different people. If Arjuna is releasing arrows in a fury during a heated contest on the battlefield, this does not mean that Krishna is doing the same. If Krishna is guiding the chariot in a specific direction, Arjuna has nothing to do with the turns; other than perhaps being the origin of the ideas.

The dvaita side is easy to understand. At one point, Arjuna even asks about which side is better to follow, personalism or impersonalism. Krishna replies that impersonalism is more difficult for those who are embodied.

क्लेशो ऽधिकतरस् तेषाम्
अव्यक्ता हि गतिर् दुःखं
देहवद्भिर् अवाप्यते

kleśo ‘dhikataras teṣām
avyaktā hi gatir duḥkhaṁ
dehavadbhir avāpyate

“For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.5)

While the word advaita is obviously a simple negation of the concept of dvaita, the two truths can exist simultaneously. While there is separation in terms of two distinct entities, Arjuna and Krishna, there is also a sense of oneness.

[marriage ceremony]There is advaita in the sense of cooperation. We can think of it like teamwork. The husband and wife agree to raise a child together. They follow religious duties, together. As the wife supports the husband, she can be known as a sadharma-charini.

सदृशं चानुरूपं च कुलस्य तव चात्मनः।
सधर्मचारिणी मे त्वं प्राणेभ्योऽपि गरीयसी।।

sadṛśaṃ cānurūpaṃ ca kulasya tava cātmanaḥ।
sadharmacāriṇī me tvaṃ prāṇebhyo’pi garīyasī।।

“My dear beautiful wife, what you have said is befitting the occasion and also indicative of the greatness of your family heritage. You are dearer to Me than My life, for you are My companion in the performance of religious duties.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.21)

2. Of working together

The oneness begins from the decision to cooperate, and there is maturity in the state through actual work. The two entities decide to work together. They are part of the same cohesive unit. While Arjuna may be in doubt and ready to toss aside his weapons, he is always with Krishna.

There is never separation, as even when contemplating as such, the devotee knows where to turn for resolution. The husband and wife may disagree on occasion, but in a healthy relationship there is no question of separation. They are always working together, even when there are differences of opinion.

3. Carrying out the interests of the personal God

The full truth of the advaita principle manifests when the living being carries out the interests of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Then there is no question of separation. There is no division. The two become one.

Even that is not the most accurate way to describe it. The dvaita principle has the foundation of a superior and an inferior. One way the living entities are inferior is that they can succumb to illusion. They have the potential to think that they are separate, that there is no God, that they are all alone.

From Krishna’s perspective, there is never separation. He is always with the living entity. He is always wishing them well. He never leaves them totally alone, even if they happen to be cast into abominable species due to misdeeds or gross violations of etiquette and good judgment.

[Arjuna and Krishna]When Arjuna agrees to follow Krishna’s orders, to be but an instrument in the fight to deliver justice, he is in a state of oneness. There is both dvaita and advaita, to satisfy the curious philosopher. The living entity is always part and parcel of Krishna, and when they act with that understanding they return to the healthy state of living.

In Closing:

If with curiosity found,
To advaita philosophy bound.

That Bhagavad-gita answer still,
Where Arjuna sky with arrows to fill.

Separate from role of driver seated,
Inspired so that enemy defeated.

But since in singular interest aligned,
Non-duality to find.

Categories: the three

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1 reply

  1. Radhe Radhe ❣️ oshriRadhekrishnaBole ❣️ Hare Ram Hare Ram Ram Ram Hare Hare
    Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
    Jay Jay Shree Siya Ram

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