The scene of war
The scene of war is Kurukshetra, the Dharmakshetra or the field of Dharma. Dharma has many connotations. The literal meaning virtuousness indicates that ultimately right will be done. Dharma is the name of Yama the God of death and sure he is going to have sumptuous fodder in this war. It is presided over on side by none other than the son of Dharma who again is the embodiment of Dharma.
Although the Kauravas are larger in number and army strength, the psychological advantage and popular backing are in favour of Pandavas. The opening words of Duryodhana the King of Kurus amply reflects Hamletian dilemma. Even the lion like roar of the conch shell of Bhishma is subdued by the Panchanjanya of Krishna. The entry of Arjuna to the warfield is also very impressive. He has the chariot given by his father Indra, Lord Anjaeya guards the flagstaff and more than anything else Achyutha is his driver- the achyutha who never encounters any fall. Four immaculately white horses drawing the great chariot enters the battlefield, with Arjuna, giving an emphatic command to his driver Krishna, “ oh achyutha take my chariot to the middle of the two armies.” His intention is to have a last detailed view of his own people for whom he is going to bring glory and to the foes whom he is going to slay mercilessly.
Suddenly a cloud of anguish arises in his mind. On both sides he could see only kinsmen, relatives by marriages, gurus, friends and at the worst, some evil people. He is haunted by the doubt as to what achievement could match the loss of all these kinsmen, and alternately what virtue can be there in slaying the sinners. For a moment, he tends to forget that the very purpose of his birth is to kill the enemies and mercy for others and self-pity should have no place in his psyche. But his psychological burnout is a fait accompli. He drops down like ninepins on the floor of the chariot declaring to Govinda the Krishna that “I will not fight”
Now the entire focus shifts to Krishna. He had many choices. He could have empathized with Arjuna and as bidden he could have taken him away from the battle. That action could have reduced the death toll in Bharatha war at least by half. Alternately Krishna could have taken Arjuna away from warfront for some time ( This strategy actually cost dear for Kauravas where Karna had refused to enter war till Bheeshma was in) But Krishna did something better. It is meaningless to show kindness and dish out sweet words to a recalcitrant friend. Knowing Arjuna to be a hot-blooded Kshatriya, whose hesitancy was only temporary, Krishna started admonishing and chiding him in very tough words
Kuthastwa kasmalamidham vishame samupasthitham,
anaaryajusta maswargyam akeerthikaramarjuna
Klaibhyam ma sma gam paartha naithat twayyupapadhyathe
kshudram hrudaya daurbhalyam thykthothishta paramtapa
Here I would summarise the words of Krishna, “Arjuna, your mind is turbid, depressed, unbecoming of a sane person. You are inviting eternal infamy, You are behaving like a eunuch. You abandon this state of mind and raise up”
Now the great Master reveals his tricks of the trade one after another to drag the ace archer Arjuna from his temporary state of stupour. Krishna is very quick in reading the mind of Arjuna. The primary reservation that plays on the psyche of Arjuna is indecisiveness and sense of inadequacy before an array of warriors like Dronacharya, Bheeshmapitamaha, Aswathama, Karna, and maybe to a lesser degree, his hundred valiant cousins. Of course to camouflage his fear he presents it as his reluctance to take arms against Bheeshma and Drona. “katham bheesmam aham saankhye, dronam cha madhusoodhana, ishubhih pratiyotsyami, poojarhau arimardhdhana.” Krishna had anticipated this argument and that is why he does not hesitate to rebuke him as behaving like a eunuch. (It should be remembered here that the same Arjuna, in the garb of a eunuch Brihannala, staying in Virata Rajya had defeated the whole Kaurava army including all the so called stalwarts and saved that kingdom from disaster) Another lame excuse presented by Arjuna is that he, along with his army was fighting for the Kingdom and the riches attached to it only to keep their kinsmen in happiness and prosperity and that many of such relatives are arrayed in the war against him , willy nilly, offering themselves to be the fodder for his arrows. Here what Arjuna forgets is that greater number of relatives and kinsmen have assembled on his own side, depending solely on him for victory and restoration of their honour.
Now the blessed lord makes his first attempts to drill in some reason
into the muddled mind of Arjuna.
He starts by declaring that Arjuna was crying over the fate of group which deserved no sympathy, His argument was an exhibition of pseudo intellectualism at its worst. Moreover, those who have real knowledge will not cry over either whose lives have not been lost or those whose lives were still intact, because life was ephemereal.
“Asochyaan annwasochasthwam pranjnaavaadhamsch bhashsey
Gathasoon agathasson cha na anucsochanthi Pandithaah”
The Lord goes on to state that the existence of the vital force in the human body was a transient phenomenon. Just as the body starts with infancy and grows to adolescence and maturity and finally to decay related to old age, the cessation of life in one body and the germination of the same in another body (may be it is human or any other living being) is but a natural process and the man with strong mind should not lose his good sense over such occurrence.
Further the one who considers himself as the killer or the one who is taken as killed, both of them do not understand that the former is not the killer and the latter in not the victim, but only time does the trick.
“Ya enam veththi hanthaaram yaschainam manyathey hatham
Ubhau tau na vijaaneetho, naayam hanthi na hanyathey.”
The Atman temporarily attributed to the body through illusion is imperishable. It is neither born nor will it die. “Ajo nithyah saaswathoyam puranah, na hanyathe hanyamaaney sareerey…”
Then the lord gives a beautiful example. We wear nice clothes. We wash them many times and use them repeatedly. But when the clothes become torn and colourless, we discard those clothes, and cover our bodies with newly made clothes. In the same way the vital force also takes leave of the body which is rendered useless either through injuries, diseases or old age and finds a new body to occupy comfortably. Where is the room for regret in this change of clothes?
“Vaasaamsi jeernaani yadhaa vihaay navaani grihnaathi naro aparani
Thadha sareeraani vihaaya jeernaanyannyani samyathi navaani dehee..”
The understanding of the geriatric process in the body, the inevitability of war, the need for capacity to view at things with non attachment and equanimity are all relevant for all humans as canvassed by the Blessed Lord in Gita.
But Arjunas mind is utterly confused. Such gentle admonitions could cut very little ice with him.
The lord knows it and he reveals more and more techniques of reaffirmation to effect the recovery of Arjuna to his normal state of mind and the process unveils over more than seven hundred slokas of Geetha. Hopefully the Lord’s strategy and its successful execution will unwind themselves in the future editions.