Standing there, the Son of Pritha* [Arjuna] saw fathers, grandfathers, teachers, maternal uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, brothers in law,
Fathers in law and dear companions among both of the two armies. Contemplating all of them, all his kinsmen, standing before him, he, the Son of Kunti* [Arjuna],
Was filled with profound despair and said to Krishna, “Having seen these my own kinsmen, all standing right here ready to fight,
“My limbs are weak, my mouth is dry, my body trembles, and my hair stands on end.
“Gandiva falls from my hand, my skin burns, I am unable to remain standing, and my mind is going around in circles.
“I perceive inauspicious omens, O handsome-haired One [Krishna], and I see inauspicious omens in destroying my own kinsmen in this battle.”
* In verses 26 and 27 Arjuna is referred to as the “son of Kunti” (spear or lance, sometimes associated with the god of love) and the “son of Pritha”. Pritha is another name of Kunti. The word pritha refers to the palm of the hand extended and used as a means of measuring, which makes this name similar in meaning to ‘Ma’ (‘to measure’), which is often used to refer to the Divine Mother. The idea of measuring, which implies time and space, puts us in the relative realm of this world. Interestingly, both Kunti, Arjuna’s mother, and Lord Krishna are descendants of the same Yadava Prince (Prince Yadu – heroism; valiant warrior, champion; strong, heroic, brave).
These verses clarify the title of this chapter, “Arjuna’s Depression”. Arjuna’s state is one of despair. He has come to realize that he knows everyone in both armies, that he is related to all of them, and that all of these relatives are about to kill each other. He cannot see why this should be. It was Krishna himself who urged this war in order that Arjuna and his brothers could take their rightful place as rulers, but Arjuna can see only “inauspicious omens” in this situation.
We are given an account of the participants in this war as “fathers, grandfathers, teachers, maternal uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, brothers in law, fathers in law, dear companions”. For the most part, this seems to just about cover everyone in Arjuna’s life, but there is one group of people mentioned here that I find interesting: maternal uncles. Why not just uncles? Or for that matter, paternal uncles? Why maternal uncles? This has long been a question of mine. Clearly there is something being implied here. Is there something about DNA the sages knew that we don’t (don’t laugh, it’s possible)? If you think you know the answer, please share it with us.
“Gandiva falls from my hand, my skin burns, I am unable to remain standing, and my mind is going around in circles.”:
Gandiva is the name of Arjuna’s bow. This bow was owned by a succession of gods. It was first passed on by Soma (holder of immortality) to Varuna (god of heaven), by him to Agni (god of fire), and by Agni to Arjuna, the son of Kunti (earth) and Indra (god of the gods). It is also said to have belonged to Prajapati, lord of embodied beings, Brahmaa, the Creator, and Shiva, the destroyer-transformer (evolution). Whew! See what you can do with all these symptoms to come to an understanding of the importance of this bow, Gandhiva, especially to Arjuna, who has just lost his grip.
Now let’s look at the symptoms of Arjuna’s state: weakness, dry mouth, trembling, hackles (fear), burning skin (the word for this also means ‘fully consumed by pain or grief’), instability, and a mind wildly vacillating with confusion. It appears that a combination of sorrow, fear and self-doubt all mixed together are the cause of Arjuna’s depression.
The physical state of depression is lowered energy—directionally or qualitatively or both. A low energy state of the body often causes a low moods, even without a person’s awareness of what is triggering it mentally or emotionally. Just look at what Arjuna is going to lose, even if he wins the war. It’s no wonder he’s in trouble and seemingly throwing in the towel, telling Krishna that this war business is not a good thing and that he can’t bring himself do it.
The Bhagavad Gita is a scripture. At one level it is a manual of yoga. So what are we being taught or told in this section? It is safe to say that in the process of yoga sadhana, all is not roses…or so we think…and we will experience this depression-confusion ourselves at some point. We will say to ourselves, “Hummmm. I don’t know about all this. Doesn’t seem right to me. Must be something wrong with what my guru (Krishna in Arjuna’s case) is telling me.” Well, this is just chapter one, so I think we are going to find out what will happen if we can just get through chapter one of our sadhana. More on this next time.
Jaya Bhagavan! (Victory to God!),