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1 | On Bhagavad Gita | The backdrop of an eternal warfield dialogue

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

27 March 2022

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Bhagavad Gita presents the most puzzling interactional human life, enlightening and enriching you with the knowledge, skills and merits to face and overcome interactional challenges, unhurt and unaffected.

Historic rendering of a crucial warfield dialogue

Bhagavad Gita is a portion of immense import from Mahabharata, a very extensive historic narrative on the decline and fall of Kuru dynasty which ruled India for long. Bhagavad Gita emerged as a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, who were together in Arjuna’s chariot, which Krishna drove. Thus, it is a two-and-a-half-hour conversation between the Master of the Chariot and the charioteer. In other words, it is a dialogue between the ‘enlightened intelligence’ (of Krishna) and the ‘deluded and debilitated mind’ (of Arjuna). Herein lies Bhagavad Gita’s ample relevance to any one’s life in the present.

Imperative need of human mind and intelligence

As long as humans have mind and intelligence, Bhagavad Gita also perforce comes in as an imperative need to befriend every one, bestowing inner strength, stability and vision to face and resolve, with confidence, all conflicts and confrontations our interactional life in the world poses from time to time, whether it is in one’s own family, professional or societal front.

Tell me, whether such a source, treasure, is desirable or not.

Kurukshetra reverberating the dialogue even today

The dialogue took place on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, which is 145 km away from New Delhi, the capital of India, in the state of Haryana. The State Government is trying to restore the greatness of the place and Kurukshetra is regaining its glory of having given birth to Bhagavad Gita, the eternal message on human life.

Great events often follow simple beginning

Often in the world, great things follow simple events. Personal stories are ever the prevailing influence in humanity. Life is always individualistic, but what a person thinks and does can be too consequential. He can set the standard for the character and behaviour of the whole people of the country and beyond. Kurukshetra and the events that took place there 5000 odd years ago, have become the indelible history of India with its message and value, spreading still far and wide the world over.

King seeking the fishergirl, her father’s unrelenting demand

Shantanu was the great king of Hastinapura. He was so good, loving and kind that he radiated and spread peacefulness everywhere. It was on this ground that he derived the name Shantanu. One day he went hunting in the forest and happened to see Satyavati, whose enchanting looks robbed the king’s heart. He approached Satyavati’s father seeking his daughter. The father heard him and said:

“Oh king, I am a poor fisherman, but my fondness for my daughter is no less than a king’s to his princess. The moment I give my daughter to you, she becomes your queen. I will have no place in your palace, where the voice of royal men alone prevails. All the right I will have is what I can press for before giving my daughter.

I want my grandson born of her to be the next king of Hastinapura. How to ensure this?” His anxiety was quite in place because Shantanu already had a son Gangadatta by name.

The king could not deny the relevance of what Satyavati’s father apprehended. He bent his head and went back to the palace. But his mind was in turmoil. Though he was bent on heeding his fondness for the fishergirl, he could not ignore his son’s right and fate. He found himself between the devil and the deep sea.

Prince’s dialogue with Satyavati’s father

All in the palace began to wonder, their peace-spreading King was now radiating grief and agitation. He could not conceal his heart and its powerful feelings.

His son Gangadatta was the first to sense the father’s plight, he found from the ministers what transpired to the King during his hunting expedition. The son did not wait for a moment. He got into the chariot and rode straight to the fisherman’s cottage. Hearing the whole story from Satyavati’s father, he said: “I give you the promise that I will not inherit the throne. Instead, I will give it to the son born of your daughter from my father”.

The fisherman did not nod his consent. He spoke in a gentle voice but firmly. “Your word is yours alone but what about the child born to you after your marriage? My daughter’s son may not be a match for your son. So, I am apprehensive. What about your princely son? When he gets married and begets a son, will he not stake his claim for the throne? Neither my daughter nor her son will have any place then. The Kshatriya pride and valour will alone rule the course of action. I am unable to feel safe.”

Prince’s life-long celibacy wins the girl for his father

Gangadatta was quick to utter: “Here now I swear to hearing of the firmaments that I shall not marry at all.”

Satyavati’s father was consoled and assured on hearing the startling promise of young Gangadatta. None ever had undertaken lifelong celibacy to enable his father to marry the girl who robbed his heart. The surrounding sky reverberated, acclaiming Gangadatta’s promise as Bheeshma (exceedingly huge and great). Shantanu’s prince ever since was known as Bheeshma, the Great.

Taking Satyavati from her father, Shantanu’s son rode the chariot to the palace. He narrated all that happened to his father the King, who gave him the boon of swecchaa-mrityuh (dying at will).

Undue safeguards bound to be abortive

Shantanu had two sons from Satyavati – Chitrangada and Vichitraveerya. Both of them died childless. The fisherman, Satyavati’s father succeeded in his wish, but not for long. For, his daughter did not have any grand prince. Yet, Bheeshma did not relent on his lifelong celibacy. Hastinapura throne stood orphaned. Bheeshma stood by his promise and refused to impregnate his brothers’ wives, though pressed for it by Satyavati. In grave situations wherein the throne is left heirless, the scriptures exhort such a course for the good of the people. Bheeshma, however, suggested to approach the ascetic Vyasadeva to solve the problem.

Vyasadeva sternly declined to heed the queen’s entreaty, as he was given to the life of chastity, asceticism and austerity. Satyavati ultimately prevailed upon Vyasadeva to accept that mother was the first and last Guru and her words could not be dishonoured. Finally, Vyasadeva obliged Satyavati. Thus, Dhritarashtra and Pandu were born of him to Ambika and Ambalika respectively. Vidura also was born of the Sage to their maidservant.

Dhritarashtra blind, Pandu accursed

Dhritarashtra was born blind. Hence Pandu became the king. Once he went hunting and aimed his arrow at a deer which was copulating with its partner. Before dying the deer said: “Yours is the most cruel act. I curse you: You will die whenever you attempt copulation with your partner.”

The king was thus forbidden from causing pregnancy in his queens. However, Kunti had been gifted a magical formula, mantra, by Durvasa Maharshi. Using that mantra as desired by  Pandu, Kunti and Madri, her cowife, had five sons, the Pandava brothers!

Pandu knew his fate but senses were powerful as ever, as Bhagavad Gita says, to rob the mind. When he attempted sexual union with Madri, his wife, he breathed his last. Both the wives Kunti and Madri wanted to enter the pyre of their lord.

But who would look after their five children? Madri pleaded to Kunti: “I miss the grace to look at your and my children alike, but you have it in abundance, dear sister. So, allow me to go and you mother the children.’’

Bheeshma parents Pandavas

The five Pandava brothers thus lost their father and Bheeshma was parenting them. Bheeshma did his role exceedingly well. He used to put them on his lap, feed them, showering all the fondness, also wisdom to make them grow well with exemplary character, behaviour and interaction. Thus they stood together under the leadership of Yudhishthira, an embodiment of righteousness.

One cannot but marvel at reading Vyasadeva’s matchless narration arraying grave, perplexing and confounding instances with matchless description, full of message at every time and turn.

Imagine the blazing emotions in Arjuna in having to confront such a grandfather, Bheeshma.

Drona seeks Gurudakshina from Arjuna

I would like you to know about the Teacher, Drona and how dear Arjuna was to him as the chosen disciple. Drona held Arjuna as the dearest and most competent among his students. He taught him all the archery skills and gave him many weapons. Finally, Drona said: Dear Arjuna, hear me well: “I have taught you all the archery skill I know and have gained through unparalleled austerity. May this stand you in good stead.”

“Now be ready to give me Guru Dakshina (reward for Guru).” Arjuna prostrated before Drona and stood before him with joined palms.

Drona said: “Should you happen to face me in battle, do not waver or doubt. Fight relentlessly.”

Guru-shishya relationship amazing and exacting alike

Was Arjuna baffled! Guru-shishya relationship, especially for the Kshatriyas, the fighting community, can be appalling and bewildering to any extent. Under the Kshatriya code, a brother has sometimes to fight against his own brother, even other kith and kin. Likewise, a disciple may have to fight against his own Teacher.

Do not waver. Gain the super wisdom, dispassion, and inner expansion to fulfil the task unaffectedly. The whole world is the singular, magnificent display of Nature. Heed and follow her. You are none to question Nature’s ways. The world is not yours; you are its, every time, in full. Learn and imbibe the secret of sacred harmony. That alone will enable you to surmount all obstacles and remain afloat in all challenges and consternations.

Bhagavad Gita enlightening, enriching and empowering at every step

Bhagavad Gita presents the most puzzling interactional human life, enlightening and enriching you with the knowledge, skills and merits to face and overcome interactional challenges, unhurt and unaffected. True human life is an enriching and empowering journey, but of knowledge. The journey is taken up and pursued by intelligence. It becomes complete when you realize your own inmost Self, the ‘I’ whose display the whole creation is.

I am telling you all this so that you will come to know why Krishna stopped the chariot in front of Bheeshma and Drona. His intention was to make Arjuna think about the event deeply and ascertain for himself what the real challenges even in the most heroic life are. Yes, the real tussle is of the mind within the body, before itself. It is grief, doubt, fear and delusion. Knowledge is the only means by which the crisis can be dealt with and resolved.

Secular possessions flimsy and hollow

Arjuna had the exterior, physical possession – the great bow of Gandeeva! He had a powerful mind to perform prolonged austerity forgoing even sleep. He also had a sharp intelligence. All of you today either have or can have only these. All of them deserted Arjuna one after another. The famous Gandeeva slipped derisively from his fist. His body trembled, mind whirled and intelligence argued adversely. Tell me what further in him was left to alleviate his distress?

Yes, points Krishna, there reigns the supreme ‘I’, before which the intelligence, mind, body and material possessions are all the transitory ‘mine’s. The ‘I’ stands alone, sovereign, unaffected, stable and poised! Unless you are able to draw from its inexhaustible resource, your life is bound to prove hollow, insufficient and weak. How well Krishna by stopping the chariot in front of Bheeshma and Drona, showed to his friend his own spiritual hollowness and the imperative to fill it forthwith!

Arjuna’s confrontation was mainly focused on his grandfather and Teacher. You have already seen what Drona, the Teacher, commanded him last. Hear also how Bheeshma spoke to Yudhishthira just before the actual battle began.

Krishna’s timely instruction redressed Arjuna’s distress. He was restored and stabilized. Taking back his bow and arrow, he stood ready to fight even a dozen Mahabharata wars. The atmosphere was clear. And all were ready to discharge their arrows.

Yudhishthira marches to the opposite camp

Right then Yudhishthira laid down his weapons and walked fast to the opposite camp. Arjuna was taken aback again: ‘Is my brother going to surrender or have a truce with the opposite camp? What is this?’ He ran and pulled Yudhishthira’s hand. Yudhishthira wriggled out and walked faster. Krishna told Arjuna “Leave your brother to himself”, adding he would not do anything wrong. “He is possibly wanting to take blessings from the elders’’.

Arjuna restrained himself. Yudhishthira straight went to the grandfather and prostrated before him, seeking blessings and direction to fight. Bheeshma was extremely happy and relieved to see his grandson, who was always wedded to righteousness. He said: “Dear son, it is good that you came to take my blessings. If you had not come, I would have cursed you. Did you think that by standing with Duryodhana I am averse to your success? I am pleased, fight and win.”

Enigma of fighting for Duryodhana but blessing Yudhishthira

“Understand that I am somehow bound to Hastinapura, where I have been living since the birth of my body. You grandchildren chose to part and precipitate a war between yourselves. I only continue to live here. I do not take sides. The differences and fight are between you. I have my food from this palace, so I am bound to its welfare. Wealth is not a slave to anyone. But all are slaves to wealth. This proverb seems true of me and my life in Hastinapura. Go ahead with your plan and purpose. Achieve the goal of Dharma, righteousness.

“Ask for anything, but direct battle.’’ Yudhishthira said: “Dear grandfather, fight for Duryodhana, but mentally wish my welfare and success.” Bheeshma said, “Yes.”

Yudhishthira asked the grandfather how to bring him, the invincible, down. Bheeshma replied: “Come to me at the right time. I shall advise you.”

Responding to Yudhishthira’s call, Yuyutsu changes side

While returning, Yudhishthira announced: “If anyone wants to come to my side from the other and escape disaster, come freely and be safe.’’ Yuyutsu heard Yudhishthira and came away. He was welcomed.

Of the 18-day war, one day after the other passed. Some days Bheeshma stood like God of Death, sowing huge destruction. Duryodhana used to go to him frequently and speak teasingly that he was only physically with him (Duryodhana), but his mind was on the other side. Enraged by his grandson’s words, he would spread destruction the next day. On the 9th day, the grandfather shone like destruction personified.

Great Bheeshma discloses how to subdue him

Yudhishthira was inconsolable. So, he went to the grandfather and sought the means to put him down. The grandfather said: “True, as long as I am up with my weapons, none can face me. But I have avowed that I would not fight a eunuch. Shikhandi is a Maharathi on your side. He is a eunuch. Ask Arjuna to keep Shikhandi in front and hit me from behind. I would lay my weapons down. You can vanquish me only in this way.’’

That was done exactly so.

I am describing all this so that you will know the mindset of both the Grandfather and the Teacher about the war and their attitude towards Pandavas, who they thought and wished should win the battle.

Arjuna’s doubts unfounded and hollow

It is these venerable ones that Arjuna was unwilling to fight, saying that would be unrighteous. But were they not the great ones who blessed Yudhishthira to fight and win the war!

Arjuna’s confrontation – the present-day distress of all

This is what actually happens to people when they battle with their daily life, at home as well as in the professional and societal fronts. The individual remains the same everywhere. Mind and intelligence are the sole factors to think, decide, design and execute every activity and interaction.

Dear souls, yes, you have to nurse your mind, nourish it, make it strong, stable and poised. Your intelligence has to gain clarity of vision and purpose. You have to instil commitment and resolve to whatever you pursue. It is lack of these qualities that breathe debility into your being and make you stumble and deflect. The only answer is to enlighten yourself with truthful introspection, tattva-vichara, as Krishna was making Arjuna do sitting on the chariot.

As human mind and intelligence are the same, then and now, the truthful introspection Arjuna was induced to take up and pursue, holds good even today for every one and all. Gita provides this alone in ample measure. Its relevance is unquestionable, also unfathomable. Know this to be so and be rewarded by its grace and grandeur!

Ascent from emotional flux to intelligential firmness

See how Krishna makes Arjuna rise from the emotional flux and stand firmly on the intelligential depth: He says: “You grieve over those not to be grieved at. At the same time, you speak like one wise. What a grave contradiction! Why should the truly wise grieve over either the dead or the living! Their minds and vision are even towards both.

There are only two categories of people on the earth. Those who are dead and those who are going to die, in fact are dying day by day. The former are those from whom life forces, pranas, have left. The rest are those from whom pranas have not yet left, but are about to leave.

Suppose you grieve over those bereft of pranas, should you not equally grieve over the living too, in whom the pranas are getting ready to leave? The difference is merely in time, either now or moments or days later. Pranic departure is certain for all. In fact, the only outcome certain for everyone is his death!

In one set of persons, death has already taken place; in the others, it is going to transpire. If you cry over the first group, by the same token you have to cry over the second group as well. “Ah, here pranas have gone, here pranas are about to go.”

The people who have died on this earth are around 100 billion. Those living are about 7 billion. If all the hundred odd billion were to be living even now, would there be any place for even ants to crawl on the earth? Where will you have food for all? What about water and even air? So, Arjuna what is wrong with death? Is not death the terminus of life, the desirable goal!

In fact, every moment after birth is a movement towards death, also a distancing from birth. Every day the born is nearing death and getting away from birth. Our birthday is a fallacy. It is either a birth distancing or death approaching day! Who can deny this fact?

Be thoughtful, enhance your knowledge

“Arjuna, be thoughtful, employ your intelligence and reason out matters. Human life is not to eat and bloat. It is to gain true knowledge of life and rejoice in its lasting bounties, not on fleeting thrills! The whole human civilization thrives on knowledge and its bounteous gifts and glories!

The first effort in anyone’s life, including the child is to learn and enhance this knowledge. In other words, it is to employ one’s mind and intelligence and pursue knowledge consistently covering both what one sees and the one who sees.

“In other words, knowledge is of objects existing around and the Subject reigning within one’s own body. Thus, mind, intelligence and ego which constitute our inner being also become the subject of knowledge, in fact, the more important in the domain of knowledge and knowing.

“Dear Arjuna, somehow you were engrossed only in gaining skill, might and magnificence for acquiring ‘object knowledge’; by that you gravely neglected the more important part of knowledge and the knowing process. The crisis you confronted has been the direct result of this tragic indiscretion.”

Fill the gap at least now

“I am trying to fill your gap, though it is late. See what you have done. After war cries have been raised, when the discharge of arrows should have begun, both the armies are holding their breath and waiting impatiently.

Is it right to keep them in such stifling suspense? If we want to avoid this kind of unjust behaviour, one has to become wise beforehand. The effort to gain proper knowledge about life, living and interactions should be made right in good time. I can only say, better late than never.”

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“Bhagavad Gita is a dialogue between the ‘enlightened intelligence’ (of Krishna) and the ‘deluded and debilitated mind’ (of Arjuna). ”

“One cannot but marvel at reading Vyasadeva’s matchless narration arraying grave, perplexing and confounding instances with matchless description, full of message at every time and turn.”

“Life is always individualistic, but what a person thinks and does can be too consequential. He can set the standard for the character and behaviour of the whole people of the country and beyond. ”

“The surrounding sky reverberated, acclaiming Gangadatta’s promise as Bheeshma (exceedingly huge and great). Shantanu’s prince ever since was known as Bheeshma, the Great.”

“Drona said to Arjuna: “Should you happen to face me in battle, do not waver or doubt. Fight relentlessly.” ”

“Yes, the real tussle is of the mind within the body, before itself. It is grief, doubt, fear and delusion. Knowledge is the only means by which the crisis can be dealt with and resolved.”

“The ‘I’ stands alone, sovereign, unaffected, stable and poised! Unless you are able to draw from its inexhaustible resource, your life is bound to prove hollow, insufficient and weak. ”

“The world is not yours; you are its, every time, in full. Learn and imbibe the secret of sacred harmony. That alone will enable you to surmount all obstacles and remain afloat in all challenges and consternations. ”

“As human mind and intelligence are the same, then and now, the truthful introspection Arjuna was induced to take up and pursue, holds good even today for every one and all. ”

“True human life is an enriching and empowering journey of knowledge, taken up and pursued by intelligence.”

“Suppose you grieve over those bereft of pranas, should you not equally grieve over the living too, in whom the pranas are getting ready to leave?”

“Be thoughtful, employ your intelligence and reason out matters. Human life is to gain true knowledge of life and rejoice in its lasting bounties, not on fleeting thrills!”

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