The Yoga of Knowledge
Arjuna has reached a crisis point and appears to have given up. We are about to witness what the culmination of this will be and what happens next. What will Arjuna do? and what will his guru, Lord Krishna, have to say about it? …
Seeing Arjuna depressed and overcome with sorrow, his eyes filled with tears and downcast, Lord Krishna spoke these words:
We listen in as Samjaya relates events to the blind king, Dhritarashthra, using his power of divine sight.
Lord Krishna spoke:
Where is this faint-heartedness of yours coming from in this time of danger? It is dishonorable and unacceptable, and does not lead to heaven but to disgrace, Arjuna.
The word for ‘heaven’ refers to that celestial ‘world of light’ where we go between incarnations to await the next earthly body. Apparently, backing down will not get us there, but will engender criticism.
Do not become a coward, it does not suit you. Abandon this cowardliness and stand up, Scorcher of the Foe!”
Scorcher of the Foe is an epitaph of Arjuna. By using it here, Krishna is reminding Arjuna of his purpose as a warrior.
O Slayer of Madhu, how can I kill Bhishma and Drona in battle? How can I fight with arrows against these two revered men, O Slayer of the Foe?
Slayer of Madhu and Slayer the Foe, are epitaphs of Krishna. Arjuna is coming back at Krishna by reminding Him that it was He who put down the enemy of ‘delight’ (Madhu), and yet has urged Arjuna to kill the sons of Dhritarashthra (desires)!
Bhishma* (continence and fidelity) and Drona (intellect and reason) are both highly venerated teachers whom Arjuna has always respected, yet they are fighting on the side of his enemy.
* Bhishma – ‘Terrible’. Fixity, the unwillingness to change.
I would rather live in this world as a beggar than slay these gurus out of desire for worldly gain. Anything we might enjoy would be smeared with blood.
Living as a beggar would be demeaning to a warrior.
Arjuna presses his case with this remark. By restating that this battle is for the purpose of gaining the throne, a ‘worldly’ ambition, he is implying that he and Krishna are above this kind of thing.
And we do not know whether it would it be better to conquer them, or they us. Having killed all these sons of Dhritarashthra standing here before us, we would not want to live.
Which is better? Defeating them (desires), or being defeated by them? Life would surely be intolerable without desire, for only through their fulfillment can there be any happiness. Or so Arjuna believes.
Self-reference: The enemy is the blind king, ‘ignorance’, and his sons represent ‘desires’. The ‘enemy’, the force that is hostile towards you, is ignorance and desires together.
With my own being overcome with depression, my mind is confused as to my duty, so I ask you, which would be better for certain? Tell me, your pupil. Correct me, your suppliant.
Now we see Arjuna doing a turn-about, and resorting to his guru for instruction. However…
I do not see what could possibly dispel this sorrow that dries up my senses, even if I were to obtain unrivaled and prosperous royal power, and the sovereignty of the gods.
Chapter one was entitled Arjuna’s Depression. Depression is a low energy state, and indeed Arjuna did end that chapter by sitting down on the seat of his chariot, throwing down both his bow and his arrows. Aside from all the biochemical and psychological implications, the bottom line is that Arjuna’s energy has hit bottom.
A low energy state means not only has one’s energy fallen, but there is less energy available, which is indicated in the verse as the drying up of the senses. Depression is a physical phenomena that affects the senses by making it difficult to take things in, think straight, and function normally. One way of countering depressed energy is to fulfill a desire—it feels good, and up you go (albeit temporarily). Hence Arjuna’s many mentions of his resistance to killing ‘desires’.
Thus having addressed the Master of the Senses [Krishna], Arjuna said, “I shall not fight,” and Having spoken to Krishna, he became silent.
And here we thought Arjuna was going to heed his guru’s instruction to “stand up and fight!”. We know what Lord Krishna has told Arjuna to do, but now we see that Arjuna will not to do it. Next week we will see what Krishna has to say about this capitulation.
Jaya Bhagavan! (Victory to God!)
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