Arjuna speaks to Krishna:
“O Chief of Cowherds [Krishna was a cowboy in his youth], I have no desire to win this war for the sake of kingship and happiness. What to us is kingly power and the pleasures it brings?
In these verses we see how Arjuna has begun to view this war. He assumes that it is all about having rulership of a kingdom, and having the power and the perks that go with it—pleasure and enjoyment.
“Those for whose sake we desire these things—kingship, pleasure and enjoyment—they are all here ready to do battle, willingly abandoning their lives and riches:
“Teachers, fathers, sons, grandfathers, maternal uncles, fathers in law, grandsons, brothers in law, thus kinsmen.
We read this list before in the previous issue, but now Arjuna is now getting a reality check on who is on this roster. He is coming to realize that the major players on both sides are descended from the same ancestors—everyone is related to everyone else, and every reason they have for getting into this war in the first place is going to leave no one to enjoy the spoils. They are going to kill each other.
“I have no desire to kill them for a kingdom, even though they are bent on killing us, Slayer of Madhu*, not even for the sovereignty of the three worlds.
* Slayer of Madhu – An epitaph of Krishna who is an incarnation of Vishnu, the Sustainer, who killed the demon Madhu (‘destroyer of delight’).
“For the Sovereignty of the Three Worlds”
Arjuna uses this statement to emphasize his opposition to the war, for most would willingly fight for this alone, but Arjuna says no, “not even for the sovereignty of the three worlds”. What is the significance of the ‘three worlds’, and why would anyone covet rulership over them?
The sovereignty of the three worlds refers to rulership, or control, of the body, the emotions and the mind. I think we would agree that most people would see this as a desirable goal worth fighting for, but Arjuna is saying that not even for this will he go forward with this terrible war. This is how affected he is by the realization of who and what he is up against.
The three worlds are earth, sky and heaven, the worlds of humans, ancestors and gods.
The earth is the body. The sky, or atmosphere, is emotions. Heaven is mind-no-mind.
In the body, the earth is below the diaphragm, the sky is above the diaphragm, and heaven is above the third eye.
The body is the physical plane, the earth. The feelings are the atmosphere, the astral, or emotional body, which permeates and extends beyond the physical body. Mind-no-mind is heaven, the etheric, or causal body that permeates the head and brain.
These are some of the different ways the concept of the ‘three worlds’ is thought of.
“What joy would there be for us in striking down the sons of Dhritarashthra, Krishna? Misfortune would surely cling to us by having killed them.
“Therefore we are not justified in killing the sons of Dhritarashthra, our own kinsmen, O Janardana*. How, having killed our own people, can we be happy?
* Janardana – ‘Agitator of Men’, an epitaph of Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu, the divine sustainer, maintainer and protector of life. Arjuna is throwing it in Krishna’s face in this verse—Krishna is the Sustainer of Life, yet he is urging a war.
In a very short time, Arjuna has talked himself out of going forward with the war against his enemies. He cannot justify it. He sees it in terms of his own history, what he knows, and what he has been taught, and it just doesn’t add up. He sees it as logically wrong—remember Drona (‘reasoning’)? He was Arjuna’s teacher, but he is fighting on the side of Arjuna’s enemies.
You will recall that the “sons of Dhritarashthra”, the “enemies”, represent the desires of the mind. Arjuna has begun to doubt the wisdom of doing away with them. After all, if there are no desires to fulfill, whence comes happiness?
The enemy armies outnumber Arjuna’s, and Krishna’s army is among them. But Arjuna has chosen to have Krishna drive his chariot over having the use of His armies—Arjuna has put God in the driver’s seat.