Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 1, Vs 22-25

22 – 23
“I [Arjuna] would look upon these battle-hungry warriors with whom I must fight, to see those who have come together here to do battle in service to the evil-minded son of Dhritarashtra.”

The “evil-minded son of Dhritarashtra” is Duryodhana. Duryodhana, who is the son of the blind king, ignorance, represents the ego.

Arjuna has asked Krishna to draw his chariot between the two facing armies so that he can look things over to see what his own armies will be facing in the upcoming battle.

24 – 25
Samjaya spoke:
O Descendant of Bharata
, thus the Master of the Senses [Krishna], having caused the chief chariot to stand in the middle between the two armies, was addressed by the Thick Haired One [Arjuna], while standing in front of Bhishma and Drona and all the rulers of the earth. To the Son of Pritha [Arjuna] He [Krishna] said, “Behold all these Kurus assembled here.”

The “Descendant of Bharata” is Dhritarashtra, the blind king to whom Samjaya, his minister, is narrating events using his clairvoyant powers from afar.

The “Master of the Senses” is Lord Krishna, who is driving Arjuna’s chariot, implying that the devotee’s (Arjuna’s) state at this point is pratyahara.

The “Thick Haired One” is Arjuna, devotee of Krishna. This epitaph (Gudakesha) also means, “preserver of one whose lord is Prajapati (‘lord of creatures’, ‘protector of life’)”.

Krishna is calling Arjuna’s attention to the “rulers of the earth”, and He does it while they are parked right in front of both Bhishma and Drona. What does He what Arjuna to see, to notice, to pay attention to? And why has He brought them to this particular place in front of Bhishma and Drona? The answer is in what these two Kurus represent.

Bhishma – Absolute loyalty to Ignorance and ego. The word Bhishma means ‘terrible’. When Bhishma decides something, it is final; he holds on to it for all he is worth. Bhishma is known for his vow of lifetime celibacy, his wisdom, bravery, keeping his word, and his absolute loyalty. But his loyalty is to the Kurus.

Drona – Intellect and reason. Drona taught archery to the major players on both sides. The name means ‘bucket’. He is called Drona because he was born in a bucket, in other words, outside of the womb. He represents intellect, the neutral power of the mind to discern and differentiate.

Galen, this is for you; you asked the question:

Intellect is not dependent on the birth of a body for its existence; it is not born of the womb. We tend to think of intellect as a function of the brain, because we think of the mind and the brain as the same. They are associated with each other, but they are not the same thing. The brain is the gross, physical instrument, and the mind is the subtle, non-physical, instrument.

The basis of the mind is chitta, ‘piled up, collected’, as in a bucket, from the root chit, ‘knowing, understanding, perception, comprehension, consciousness’. Consciousness comes into play when a non-physical individual first becomes aware of another non-physical individual. This creates a dual situation—self and other-than-self—by which the ‘sense of self’ (asmita) becomes the core of a developing ‘mind’, and differentiation becomes a feature of this ‘mind’, called buddhi. Buddhi is the power of discernment, the ability to make distinctions, judgement, intellect, and reason. Buddhi uses the contents of the mind, which arrive there via the senses, to make these determinations. Hence, Drona is ‘intellect’, which is by nature neutral, though in this case has taken its place in support of the Kurus.

The Kurus – The verb root of the word kuru is kri, meaning ‘to do’, so you can think of the Kurus as ‘doers’. While the scope of action of the Pandavas is dharma, Truth, for the Kurus it is doership. These two, Truth and doership, are contending their right to rule. The winner will be in charge. What they will be in charge of is you. Remember that this is all about you, your life, your sadhana. (This might be a good place to review the post on the subject of Surrender and Non Doership.)

The Pandavas – The root of the word Pandu is pan, which is a stake in a game, the prize, the bet, so you can think of the Pandavas as the willingness to take chances in order to win the prize, and equate this with surrendering to God in meditation to win union with God—you don’t know what will happen and you accept that. The Kurus on the other hand, are all about control.

By placing their chariot in front of Bhishma and Drona, Krishna is showing Arjuna that what he is primarily up against is determined loyalty to the ego (this would be Bhishma), and the full support of this by the Intellect (Drona). These are his most powerful enemies. They are the mightiest “rulers of the earth”.

The ‘earth’ is the body, our chariot, and our life in this world. So we realize now that it is not just ego, but our absolute loyalty to it, that rules our personal ‘world’, and that it is intellect that supports and maintains this alliance by means of judgement and reasoning. These are the greatest enemies of graduation from the world of the will, to the world of surrender.

This gives us some idea of the kinds of things Krishna wants us to be aware of. As we consider these verses, and the previous verses and the ones to come, we will find this same teaching reiterated in many different ways in this song in verse and meter, the Bhagavad Gita, ‘the song of God’.

Durga Ma

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Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 1, Vs 20-21

Arjuna’s Depression

The Bhagavad Gita (God Song) is a dialogue in verse and meter between Arjuna and Krishna. Krishna is Arjuna’s childhood friend and guru.

The Characters:

Krishna – ‘Dark blue-black’, the color of the night (moon energy, apana). Divine incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu, God as Sustainer-Maintainer.

Arjuna – ‘Pale yellowish white’, the color of the day (sun energy, prana). A master archer, Arjuna is the greatest archer in all the world, He is married to Draupadi (shakti), who is the wife of all five Pandava brothers.

Having seen the Sons of Dhritarashtra [the blind king], arrayed and drawn up for battle, raising his bow as the clash of weapons began, the Monkey-Bannered Son of Pandu [Arjuna]

Monkey-Bannered Son of Pandu – An epitaph of Arjuna referring to Arjuna’s use of the image of the monkey-god Hanuman on his banner to communicate his intentions to the enemy. Hanuman, Arjuna’s standard, is the ultimate devotee of an earlier (prior to Krishna) incarnation of Vishnu, Lord Rama. Because of his supreme devotion, Hanuman achieved liberation, superhuman powers and immortality. With Hanuman as Arjuna’s standard, the message of this banner is clearly “victory”.

Why a monkey? The image of a human-like monkey attaining the highest state strongly suggests evolution and transformation from the animalness of meat and bones, to the perfection of immortal Divine Body, which is said to be the final achievement of yoga sahdana. This state is spoken of in other Sanskrit texts as “cheating death”, and in the Bible in such phrases as “this corruptible shall have put on incorruption”, “this mortal shall have put on immortality”, and “death is swallowed up in victory”. Arjuna’s standards are high indeed, and reveals the degree of his own devotion, commitment and determination.

Arjuna spoke:
To the Bristling Haired one
[Krishna], [Arjuna] then spoke these words: “Cause my chariot to stand in the middle between the two armies, Imperishable One.

Bristling Haired – An epitaph of Krishna meaning ‘master of the senses’.
Imperishable One – Another epitaph of Krishna meaning ‘permanent, firm, unfailing’.

Arjuna has asked Krishna to position his chariot between the two opposing forces. You will recall that Krishna is driving Arjuna’s chariot. Earlier I said that this was “another story”. Here is that story in short:

After having unrelentingly urged the Pandavas to take back their rightful place as rulers of the kingdom, Krishna took a neutral stance by offering his armies to one side, and himself to the other. But who would get what? To determine this, he said to Arjuna and Duryodhana, the two leaders of the two sides, that the first of them that he saw upon awakening in the morning would get to choose. Duryodhana spent the night stationed at Krishna’s head so that he could know the moment Krishna awoke and be seen immediately. Arjuna arrived before Krishna awakened and stationed himself at his feet, and as a result, was the first to be seen. Oddly, but to Duryodhana’s happy surprise, Arjuna chose Krishna, leaving Krishna’s armies to Duryodhana.

What we see here is Arjuna putting God in the driver’s seat. Even though it appears that he may have given up the victory by losing the opportunity to expand his own forces, Arjuna chose God. He did this by placing himself at his guru’s feet, so guru is now able to effectively serve him. (This scene serves as a teaching that explains the custom of bowing at the guru’s feet: It is not for the benefit of the guru, but for the devotee.) 

Being in the middle between the two opposing forces is significant. Earlier we spoke of these two opposing forces as representing the upward-flowing and downward-flowing energies in the body—sun energy that warms, and moon energy that cools. These two energies are about to come crashing together. This crashing together signals the awakening of the evolutionary force, Kundalini. In fact, the union (yoga) of these two forces is Kundalini. So now we know what this dialogue of eighteen chapters is going to be about.

We already have two opposites in union in order for this to have come about: Krishna (dark), God/guru, and Arjuna (light), devotee/disciple, are unified within the vehicle in which Arjuna takes his position: his chariot, the body.

Being in the middle between the two armies gives Arjuna a vantage point for looking things over, and we have the opportunity to listen in on his conversation with Krishna throughout the eighteen chapters that make up the Bhagavad Gita. So the fun has only just begun.

Durga Ma

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Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 1, Vs 14-19

Arjuna’s Depression

In case you are beginning to feel a little overwhelmed with all these names, don’t worry, it won’t go on much longer. Meanwhile, take it seriously. All these folks and their weapons and horns, etc., are aspects of you and what you have to work with. Do consider this as you read. For guidance on how to understand what you read and how to apply it to yourself, see this issue and scroll down to just after verse 6.

Standing in a great chariot with yoked white horses, the Descendant of Madhu [Krishna] and the Son of Pandu [Arjuna] sounded their divine conch horns.

Great Chariot – The body, the vehicle we humans use.

White Horses – The senses, our means of perception.

Descendant of Madhu – An epitaph of Krishna, ‘sweet effect of springtime.’

Son of Pandu – Arjuna, one of the five Pandava brothers.

Conch horns – A horn made from a conch shell; an instrument of sound used to intimidate the enemy when going into battle.

The Bristling Haired One [Krishna] blew Pancajanya, the Conqueror of Wealth [Arjuna] blew Devadatta, and the Wolf-bellied [Bhima] blew the great conch Paundra;

Characters and Conch Horns:

Bristling Haired One – An epitaph of Krisha, meaning ‘master of the senses’. Conch horn Pancajanya, meaning ‘being of five’—being of all five elements (the body), and/or all five classes of beings. The five classes of beings are gods, men, ancestors, and gandharvas (divine musicians) and apsaras (divine dancers)—we would call these last two angels.

Conquerer of Wealth – An epitaph of Arjuna, meaning ‘winner of wealth’. Conch horn Devadatta, meaning ‘God-given’; the vital air exhaled by yawning; God’s Breath.

Wolf-bellied – An epitaph of Bhima (‘formidable strength’), meaning ‘voracious eater’. Conch horn Paundra—finding a definition of this word has given me a merry chase, but I cannot help but notice its correlation with the word ‘Pandu’, the family name of the ‘good guys’ in this story. One definition says paundra is a mark of distinction, and since Bhima is indeed being distinguished in this verse as someone who does ferocious deeds and eats like a wolf, maybe we will just go with that.

The [rightful] king, the son of Kunti, Yudhishthira, blew Anantavijaya, [and] Nakula and Sahadeva blew Sughosha and Manipushpaka.

Characters and Conch Horns:

Yudhishthira – ‘Standing firm in battle’. He is the son of Kunti (lance) and the god Dharma. His conch horn is called Anantavijaya, ‘always victorious’.

Nakula and Sahadeva are the twin Pandu princes, the sons of the twin gods, the Ashvins, and Madri (joy), the second wife of Pandu. The Ashvins (‘possessed of horses’) are ‘The Two Charioteers’, two divinities who appear in the sky before the dawn in a golden carriage drawn by horses. They bring treasures to men and avert misfortune and sickness, and are considered to be the physicians of Heaven. 

Nakula means ‘night’, and is also the mystical name of the sound ‘ha’. Sahadeva’s name means ‘with the gods’, and is the mystical name of the sound ‘sa’. These two, ‘ha’ and ‘sa’, represent the outgoing and ingoing breaths, the moon (night, cooling) and sun (day, warming) energies in the body associated with healing and purification. When joined together (‘saha’) they mean ‘together’, ‘joined together’, ‘natural’, ‘innate’.

Nakula’s and Sahadava’s conch horns are called respectively, Sughosha, ‘making a loud pleasant sound’ and Manipushpaka, ‘jewel-flower’, or ‘jewel-lotus’.

The King of Kashi (the splendid) a mighty archer, and Shikhandin the great chariot warrior, Dhrishtadyumna and Virata, and Satyaki the invicible,

Shikhandin – ‘Having a peacock as an emblem’, signifying emancipation from social restrictions—Shikhandin was once a woman who was later changed into a man.

Drishtadyumna – ‘Daring, confident and powerful’.

Virata – ‘One who has many arrows’.

Satyaki – ‘One whose nature is Truth’.

Drupada [quick step], and the Sons of Draupadi [the daughter of Drupada], and the strong-armed Son of Subhadra [Abhimanu, ‘fearless and wise’], all blew their conches simultaneously, O Lord of the Earth [Sanjaya, who has divine sight, is narrating all this to the blind king].

The noise burst asunder, and the tumult caused the sky and the earth to resonate and the hearts of the Sons of Dhritarashtra to tremble.

The sky and the earth are the lower and central areas of the body.


The conch shell resembles the cochlea, the spiral cavity of the inner ear that produces nerve impulses in response to sound vibrations. It is associated with yawning. The response to sound vibrations here refers to the onset of meditation. Notice when your meditation time comes around and you start yawning!

If you have ever heard a conch being blown, you will know that the sound it makes is not noise, but tone. Tones are made of regular vibrations, and noise of irregular vibrations. If you have ever tried using earplugs to block sound, you may have noticed that they block noise fairly well, but they don’t entirely block tone. This is because of the regularity of the vibrations of tones cutting through the barrier like a corkscrew penetrates the cork. Tone is effective. Noise is clutter.

Tone is linked with the meditative state due to its association with nada (divine sound), which is associated with ether, the subtlest element, and the fifth chakra, where the life energy (prana) concentrates to produce pratyahara and generate a true meditative state. The ego and its supporters—Dhritarashtra and his ninety-nine brothers, doership and desires—are always threatened by meditation. So when you think you will just skip your meditation today, think of this and who is winning.

In the story of the Mahabharata war, with all this tumultuous racket, we are being notified that things are about to get dicey. You’ll see why in the next issue.

Durga Ma

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