Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha
21 April 2022
The Dharmakshetra aggravated Duryodhana’s wickedness and made him behave condescendingly to his elders while Arjuna, though gravely aggrieved, was led to a deep spiritual enquiry which crowned him with supreme inner enlightenment.
Dear and blessed souls:
Harih Om Tat Sat.
Unwilling Pandavas forced to war
Kurukshetra battle, the Mahabharata war, was unprecedented in every way. It was a battle between cousin brothers, who grew up together and were taught and trained alike. Duryodhana, son of blind Dhritarashtra, was right from the start wicked in every way. He banished his five cousins, together with their wife Draupadi, for a 12-year forest exile, by defeating them through foul play in a game of dice. At the end of the exile, Pandavas had to undergo one year incognito life.
If they were discovered during that period, they would have to undergo another 12 years of exile. If not discovered, then only they could claim their kingdom.
But completing both the terms successfully, Pandavas came in the open and asked for their Kingdom back. Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandava, sent Krishna as an ambassador to talk to Duryodhana. When Duryodhana refused to return the Kingdom, Krishna went to the extent of asking for at least a small village with five houses for the brothers to live. Duryodhana sternly denied saying “I will not spare even a needle point of space for them. Let them fight and get back the Kingdom if they can.”
Duryodhana’s team greater in number and leadership
War thus became inevitable. Duryodhana had enough time to muster wide support for him, but Pandavas, bound to the 13-year exile, had no time at all for mustering support. Thus, of the 4.5 million warriors assembled in Kurukshetra, Duryodhana’s army was 2.75 million and Yudhishtira’s was only 1.75 million, gravely unequal by all means.
Sanjaya to narrate war events to blind Dhritarasthra
When the battle was about to commence, Sage Vyasadeva came to the palace of Hastinapura and asked the blind King, his biological son: “Dear son, do you wish to see this great eventful war? If you do, I shall gift you a special vision to see the whole event in full detail.’’ Dhritarashtra replied: “No. I do not like to see. Which father would relish the sight of his sons falling one after another in the battlefield.” See, he was sure that Duryodhana and his team would lose the battle – another subtle effect of Dharmakshetra!
It was then that the Saint gifted Sanjaya, Dhritarashtra’s trusted counsellor, with a special power to move around in the battlefield as well as the army camps unseen by others, to see and hear all that would transpire, overtly and covertly.
Stopping narration, Sanjaya rushes to Kurukshetra
When the Sage returned, Sanjaya took up his mission of narration. He started describing the great subcontinent of India, describing all its mountains, rivers, holy places, etc. While the narration was in progress, the war began and he rushed to the battlefield to witness the whole event.
Kurukshetra events held him in full. Nine days passed. On the 10th day Arjuna hit Bheeshma, the grandfather with arrows, making him fall from the chariot. The scene was unbearable. How could Arjuna, his grandson, do the crime of bringing his grandfather down?
Arjuna does as grandfather himself instructed
When Yudhishthira went to Bheeshma seeking to know how the grandfather could be vanquished, Bheeshma said: “Yes. As long as I am up with my bow and arrow, none can subdue me. So, keep Shikhandi in front. He is a eunuch. I had vowed that if a eunuch faces me, I will keep my weapons down. Let Arjuna then fight from behind. Go back, do what I said.”
Arjuna did the way the grandfather had directed. Sanjaya was totally unnerved on seeing the grandfather fall from the chariot. A huge suspense gripped the whole battlefield. The grandfather lay on a bed of arrows, but his neck was drooping. Some ran helter skelter to get pillows to raise his head. The grandfather refused their service. He called for Arjuna to solve the problem. Arjuna dispatched his arrows, raising the head comfortably. The grandfather was pleased.
Sanjaya runs to apprise the blind king of the tragedy
Meanwhile, Sanjaya had rushed back to the blind King. Announcing his identity, he said: “The great grandfather has fallen. He is lying on a bed of arrows.”
Dhritarashtra lost his mind on hearing the tragic news. He began to wonder: “How could the invincible grandfather fall from the chariot? How could Arjuna hit his beloved grandfather like this? What am I to think? Has dharma, righteousness, lost all its power? Has unrighteousness started ruling the people instead? What will happen to the world now?
Dhritarashtra taken aback, laments and wonders
“How could the Pandava do such a horrible crime? No. I should not blame him either. In calamity, the righteous warrior should always act like this. Yet, the event is unbearable.
“With the grandfather lost, I think my son has virtually lost the war. Dear Sanjaya, I am unable to contain my mind. I want to hear something that will console my mind and enlighten my intelligence, so that I may listen to your further war narration with stability and poise.
Dhritarashtra yearns to know all that transpired in Kurukshetra
“Tell me whether any discussion took place in Kurukshetra about right and wrong, good and bad, giving clarity to the assailed mind. Arjuna, a righteous fighter, would not have been able to battle the grandfather easily. He must have had grave emotional and intellectual conflicts. How did he surmount them? Of course, Krishna was there as his charioteer. As he reins the horses, he also reins Arjuna’s mind and its distress.
“Dear Sanjaya, I want to know what verily happened in Kurukshetra before the actual fight began. Was there any moral, philosophical or spiritual exchange about felling the beloved grandfather? If there was, narrate it to me first in all detail. As Partha got consoled and clarified, let me also be appeased first, so that I may listen to your further narration of war incidents.”
First verse, the only words of Dhritarashtra
Thus, stands before us the first verse of Bhagavad Gita, the only enquiry the blind king Dhritarashtra makes before Sanjaya, his counsellor:
“What did my sons and Pandavas do in Kurukshetra, which is otherwise a Dharmakshetra, the field of dharma, righteousness, having come and arrayed there in full fighting readiness?”
Kurukshetra became Dharmakshetra because of the holiness it imbibed due to the prolonged austerities the Kuru ancestor had performed earlier there.
Opening verse wrongly commented
The first verse of Bhagavad Gita is mostly commented wrongly. The writers interpret it to say whether Kurukshetra, which was also a Dharmakshetra, an abode of righteousness, had its mystic influence in the righteous Yudhishthira, as a result of which he felt like abandoning the war. Mind you, Sanjaya had stopped his narration to the blind King and had rushed to the battlefield when the war began. He was glued there for nine days. On the tenth day he rushes back to the blind King to apprise him of Bheeshma’s fall. Where is then any question of Yudhishthira abandoning the war at all? The correction in thinking is obvious, inescapable.
Duryodhana’s insulting words to his teacher
Sanjaya strikingly describes all the war events right from the beginning. Seeing both the armies, Duryodhana had gone to his teacher and spoken to him in an unmannerly and offensive style, explaining how meritorious the leading warriors on both sides were, but asking his revered Teacher not to take any initiative himself. It was enough if he would protect the great grandfather.
Bheeshma standing closely felt hurt by Duryodhana’s impudence. To stop him, he roared like a lion and blew his conch. Following this, the entire Kaurava army raised all the war cries. They were huge, describes Sanjaya, but had no effect on the Pandavas’ side.
Krishna gives the lead by blowing his Panchajanya
It was now for the Pandavas to reciprocate Bhishma’s lead. Dhrishtadyumna was Yudhishthira’s commander-in-chief. He discreetly kept quiet, but the silence was impermissible. So, Krishna, who had promised not to wield any weapon in the war, blew his conch Panchajanya. Following that, the entire Pandava army blew their conches in impressive order. Sanjaya says that the conch sound broke the hearts and minds of the huge Duryodhana army.
Dharma’s mighty influence evident all through
Tell me, how could this happen? What made Duryodhana go to his Teacher and speak discourteously? Why was it necessary for Bheeshma, the commander-in-chief, to stop Duryodhana’s aggressiveness? See what followed in the Pandava camp.
Both the armies had raised their war cries. Discharge of arrows was about to begin. Despite all this, Arjuna still felt like taking a look at both the armies before deciding on his strategy. He instantly told Krishna to drive his chariot and station it suitably so that he could inspect the armies well. See what happened. Arjuna, though gravely aggrieved, was led to a deep spiritual enquiry which crowned him with supreme inner enlightenment. What a subtle, undeniable, contrasting influence Dharmakshetra had both on the wicked Duryodhana and the virtuous Pandava!
Duryodhana intensifies his wrong, Arjuna fills his gap
The Dharmakshetra aggravated Duryodhana’s wickedness and made him behave condescendingly with his great Teacher, whereas, it deftly steeped Arjuna in uncontrollable grief, persuading him, the matchless hero, to submit before his charioteer Krishna as a seeker looking for everlasting goodness and the freedom of the Soul. Good leads to greater good and bad leads to graver bad!
Sanjaya’s description of the events in succession is very striking and wholesome. What all did the unparalleled archer Partha see and say? It brings to light the astounding picture of what Dharmakshetra can verily mean in critical moments and consequently what all did Arjuna feel and submit.
Remember, Krishna drove the chariot and stopped it in front of Bheeshma, Drona and other leaders of Duryodhana’s army. He then asked Arjuna “see all those assembled on the opposite camp”. Sanjaya says, Partha saw standing in his front his own parents, grandparents, teachers, uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons and friends. Looking at all the relatives and friends, he was overcome with sympathy. With tearful eyes he said:
Arjuna arrays his thoughts and feelings to desist from war
“Seeing all these relatives assembled in full battle array, my nerves are aching, mouth is parched, the whole body trembles, making my hairs stand on their end, my Gandeeva slips from my hold, skin burns, I am unable to stand, mind is whirling and seeing all kinds of evil omen.
“By fighting I do not find any lasting good – shreyas. Dear Krishna, I desire not victory nor our Kingdom or royal pleasures. Of what use is the Kingdom or sensory enjoyments? For whose sake, we desire enjoyments and comforts, those very people are standing in my front, virtually abandoning their pranas; among them are teachers, parents, children and grandfathers, uncles, in-laws, grandchildren, brothers-in-law and relatives. I do not wish to kill any of them, even if I were to be killed instead. No, not even for the sake of the three worlds! What to speak then of a small piece of earth called our Kingdom?
“What joy can we have by killing Kauravas? By destroying relatives sin alone will accrue to us. Therefore, these Kauravas, who are our own relatives, do not deserve to be killed. By killing relatives can we ever be happy? Will not their memories haunt us always?
“Even if they are led by greed and fail to see the evil in destroying their own clan, why should we not see the vice properly? When the whole lineage is destroyed, all their tradition, religious ethics and disciplines, which have an eternal bearing, will be destroyed, and the entire clan will be overtaken by unrighteousness. The women of the lineage will become corrupt in their character. When women turn corrupt, there will follow admixture of traditional castes. That will lead the destroyers and their families to hell. The departed souls will suffer a grave fall, denied of their due offering from relatives. There will be further confusion and downfall for the entire families and all of them will be damned in hell for countless years.
Therefore, Krishna, we are out to incur a colossal sin, and what for, only because of our greed for Kingdom and royal pleasures. Therefore, even if the opponents happen to kill me with ease, seeing me unarmed and un-defending, that will be better welfare for me!’’
Sanjaya says, expressing all these Arjuna left his bow and arrow, and sat on the chariot with his mind drowned in utter sorrow.
Divergent tendencies also include fighting
Is not Arjuna’s plight clear like daylight? To fight is undoubtedly the most cruel act. But that too has its place in human mind as well as in the society. People by birth differ in their tendencies. In fact, these differences are what constitute the much desired variety indispensable to enable the society to co-exist, contributing to the welfare, cohesion as well as the mutli-splendoured character of humans. It is wrong not to recognize the varietal tendencies of people.
Every fighter intends to kill others or be killed by them
In a warfield, the most cruel and terrible scene, it is obvious that no fighter can think of yielding to undue sympathy. The only saving factor is that each fighter has come to the battlefield with his own resolve to kill the opponent or to be killed by him. In that is their fulfilment. Everyone wants to see as well as display belligerent valour and resolve. It is exactly like the combatants in football or cricket. The only difference is that in the warfield they use bow and arrow, gun and bullet.
Arjuna’s concern personal, professional, societal and religious
Arjuna, you can find, has presented his thoughts and feelings from a personal level. He has also incorporated the societal, professional, religious and hereditary dimensions with equal importance. That is how he brought social disorder, life in hell, etc. as imperative considerations. Krishna’s response should now be such as to deal with the entire spectrum of Arjuna’s torment and concern, giving him a much greater vision, which will include and fulfil all the needs – personal and societal, professional as well as religious consequences. The subject is wide and the treatment has to be comprehensive indeed!
Where lay his lack and what?
Love, sympathy and sacrifice are the three fundamental virtues to adorn the human mind. Arjuna has all these. He was fond of his kith and kin. He was quite sympathetic to them. He was ready to sacrifice even his life for their sake. That is why he said “let me remain unarmed and undefending. Even if their arrows hit me and I fall dead, that would be a greater reward for me.”
Where and what did he then lack or lose? The point is to be pondered over well. Most of you too, if you think well, must be feeling “we have the same gap that Arjuna had, though whether we have ample love, sympathy and sacrifice as Arjuna had may be debatable’’. Herein lies the relevance of Bhagavad Gita to the modern world.
All resistance and adverse thoughts finally evoke grief alone
We certainly want to have a mind and intelligence, light, clear and insightful to deal with all problems of our day to day interaction, whether at home, in the office or in the society around.
Whatever be the conflict or confrontation, the adverse emotion it generates is grief. Arjuna had, in addition, fear and doubt as well. Fear and doubt also verily generate finally the recurring unfavourable response called grief. Thus, what Krishna had to resolve for the illustrious fighter was the overpowering grief he encountered.
Intelligence alone can sublimate and strengthen mind
Grief is what the disturbed mind produces. Intelligence alone can deal with it and bestow the necessary solution. Therefore, Krishna decided to make Arjuna reflect upon his grief itself in all thoroughness and amplitude.
Krishna analyses grief and death rationally
This is how the charioteer came out with a wonderful and absolutely relevant proposition before the distressed Arjuna. Krishna critically points that Arjuna is ‘grieving over those who do not deserve to be grieved at, at all’. At the same time, Krishna says, Arjuna was speaking like an exceedingly wise person (pandita) – a grave contradiction indeed! For, posits Krishna, a verily wise person, an enlightened one, will not either grieve over ‘the dead or the living’. The wise look at both the living and dead alike. They have equal vision towards both. Their vision arises by elevating their mind and intelligence from the body and reaching the pedestal of the Self, everyone refers to as the ‘I’. This inmost identity is very evident in everyone. It is indisputable.
Krishna’s persuasive words, Arjuna’s instant response
My dear young thinkers and rational men and women, you have to pay special attention to what Krishna says, the line of reasoning he institutes in the aggrieved mind of Arjuna. Arjuna has already experienced the effect of activating the intelligence and taking up introspection when Krishna first pointed the impropriety of Arjuna’s sympathy.
Arjuna, instantly felt the impact. The first symptom was his eyes stopped shedding tears. He was then able to present a number of feelings, thoughts and arguments before Krishna. Krishna takes up the thread and wants to make Arjuna introspect deeper about life, living and the Soul animating the body.
The contradiction Krishna points is very clear. Bheeshma and Drona about whom he grieves are themselves stable and poised. They even give consent and blessing to Yudhishthira to fight and win the war. What greater evidence is called for to know that the war was not uncalled for and it had his grandfather’s and Teacher’s full blessing.
The wise grieves not over living or the dead
While this is so, why is Arjuna, Krishna asks, talking like a scholar but behaving like an idiot. What a pertinent question, provoking statement! Arjuna had to understand and evaluate matters more deeply. To help his introspection, Krishna significantly adds the next sentence: The wise person, a Pandita, does not grieve over either the living or the dead.
There are only two categories of people in the world. Those from whom life forces have departed (gata-asoon), and those from whom life forces have not departed (agata-asoon). What does this mean? Either people are already dead or they are to be dead. Yes, every day we are moving away from birth and going nearer and nearer death. The day you calculate and observe as birthday, is not actually ‘birthday’ but ‘death approaching day’.
The only event one can be sure about is his death, that he will die one day. Upon this earth all people who were living, have gone away. The dead are about 10,000 crores (100 billion) and the living are 700 crores (7 billion). If all those dead were also to be living even now, will there be space on the earth even for ants to crawl!
Shed narrowness, let mind be broad, deep and lofty
Arjuna, shed your karpanya – narrowness of mind. Think broadly, widely and comprehensively. The entire ill of human life is the lack of proper introspection and evaluation. The world has been living for long. No event here is new in the true sense of the term. As is the earth revolving cyclically, so is everything in and around earth also.
Assimilate all events alike, be enriched and empowered
People will be born, they will grow, then decline will follow and death also. Neither birth nor death will stop forever. Death is complementary to birth. Human wisdom consists in comprehending, assimilating, both alike. When anything is assimilated by the mind, it becomes enrichment and empowerment. This unprecedented war also is like this.
Dear Arjuna, think understand and evaluate matters well and be enriched by every instance of life. Men and women are born here to live, assimilate and imbibe greater and greater enrichment and fulfilment. This unprecedented war has the greater role of enriching, empowering and fulfilling your mind. Be a real Pandita – a wise person – and look at birth and death alike, living and the dead alike.
Krishna’s illuminating words brightened Arjuna’s face
Arjuna’s face became brighter. He found Krishna’s words insightful, inspiring and persuasive. He was looking fondly to understand how the enlightened people look at the living and dead alike. What is the secret of their greater vision? How to gain it for himself?
Arjuna picks up the long-missed truthful introspection
Such an enquiry had not the least occurred to him earlier. Hence, he was all the more excited and inquisitive about what Krishna said and would say. Krishna, he felt, was leading him to a new dimension of thinking, vista of knowledge. He became too shy about what he missed – truthful enquiry and finding!
Dear souls, everyone is born in this world. His body grows from stage to stage. On becoming an adult, body stops its growth and begins to decline. Finally, it becomes breathless. Throughout the decades it lives, none takes up the question of birth and death – the two events which mark the life in between both.
Birth and death none’s direct experience
What is getting born and who really dies? Does anyone know about one’s own birth? Also is there anyone who has experienced his death? We believe so much in sensory facts, truths and phenomena. Direct perception is what guides everyone. We argue so much for and about them. Let me ask you, is birth your experience, what about death? Your mother told you, as you were growing, “I am your mother, this is your father’’.
So too, others see and touch your body and will say you are dead at one time. It is others who determine the death and will cremate your body. Neither birth nor death is a direct experience of anyone. Yet, our life is marked by birth and death, the duration between the two!
See, how foolish and deluded everyone is! All are given to arguing and probing, meaning to give a very high place for reason and rationality. But alas, they fail to search into their own birth and death.
Spend time with mind and intelligence, as with body
Mind you, you are awake every day for about 1020 minutes, out of these should you not at least spend 20 minutes to be with your mind and intelligence, to feed and nourish them. At the same time, you are spending about two and a half hours to three hours to look after the body – for washing the teeth, bathing, dressing, having food, answering the calls of nature, etc. How do you account for this grave disparity, negligence, inattention?
Have you thought about how many kinds and levels of activity humans have? Out of countless number of creatures on the earth, the human is the highest. His power, potential and greatness are not due to his body, its size and might. Many creatures have bigger and stronger bodies. Their senses are far more powerful than what we humans have, but none of them has the power of thinking, understanding and articulating. It is in our knowledge and articulation that all our superiority verily consists.
Four levels of human activity
The human has four levels of activity. The first is bodily activity done by the limbs and senses. We have five organs of action, namely hands, feet, mouth, etc. We also have five organs of knowledge, namely eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. All these have their own respective activities ¬– grouped as bodily activities.
Then the oral activity comes, especially speaking, articulating. The bodily and oral activities alone are visible and external.
Next is inner invisible activity done by the mind and then intelligence. They are called mental and intellectual activities. Thoughts, feelings, emotions, memory, responses, reactions, etc. come under mental activity. To think deliberately, know, enquire and arrive at, come under intellectual activity. Both are inner and invisible. Nonetheless, one can know and comprehend them. The inner activity is the cause of the external, visible, bodily and oral activities.
Body and senses cannot cause any experience or knowledge
Our body and senses are made up of matter and inert. They cannot cause any experience or knowledge. Inner mind alone empowers and employs them and gains experience and knowledge every time. But alas, it is these inner faculties that we totally neglect in our life. This is what Arjuna had done. Though he was close to Krishna and spent abundant time with him, he never cared to think about human life and its potential, worth and possibility. It was this grave gap that enfeebled him in Kurukshetra, where there was no scope for any such crumbling.
See how for the first time in his life Krishna deftly leads him to truthful introspection about life, living, death and the lessons these bestow to make one strong, stable and sustaining. Do not miss the interactions that follow the grief of Arjuna. How effectively Krishna takes up grief itself as a subject of introspection.
Hindu dharma based solely on reason, rationality
Dear souls, know clearly that Hindu Dharma is all based on ‘reason and rationality’. It makes one think, enquire, understand and arrive at stable findings, leading to the Supreme Truth about life, living and its goal. It unearths through admirable reason, your identity, what you call and say as ‘I’. What is this ‘I’, closer to us than our body, mind, intelligence and ego?
“I will not spare even a needle point of space for them. Let them fight and get back the Kingdom if they can.”
“Kurukshetra became Dharmakshetra because of the holiness it imbibed due to the prolonged austerities the Kuru ancestor had performed earlier there.”
“The Dharmakshetra aggravated Duryodhana’s wickedness, whereas, it deftly steeped Arjuna in uncontrollable grief, persuading him, to submit before Krishna as a seeker looking for everlasting goodness and the freedom of the Soul.”
“Was there any moral, philosophical or spiritual exchange about felling the beloved grandfather? If there was, narrate it to me first in all detail. As Partha got consoled and clarified, let me also be appeased first, so that I may listen to your further narration of war incidents.”
“The entire Pandava army blew their conches in impressive order. The conch sound broke the hearts and minds of the huge Duryodhana army.”
“Seeing all these relatives assembled in full battle array, my nerves are aching, mouth is parched, the whole body trembles, making my hairs stand on their end, my Gandeeva slips from my hold, skin burns, I am unable to stand, mind is whirling and seeing all kinds of evil omen.”
“Expressing all these Arjuna left his bow and arrow, and sat on the chariot with his mind drowned in utter sorrow.”
“We certainly want to have a mind and intelligence, light, clear and insightful to deal with all problems of our day to day interaction, whether at home, in the office or in the society around.”
“Grief is what the disturbed mind produces. Intelligence alone can deal with it and bestow the necessary solution. Therefore, Krishna made Arjuna reflect upon his grief itself in all thoroughness and amplitude.”
“The wise look at both the living and dead alike. They have equal vision towards both. Their vision arises by elevating their mind and intelligence from the body and reaching the pedestal of the Self.”
“The entire ill of human life is the lack of proper introspection and evaluation. The world has been living for long. No event here is new in the true sense of the term. ”
“Death is complementary to birth. Human wisdom consists in comprehending, assimilating, both alike. When anything is assimilated by the mind, it becomes enrichment and empowerment.”
“Arjuna, think understand and evaluate matters well and be enriched by every instance of life. Men and women are born here to live, assimilate and imbibe greater and greater enrichment and fulfilment. ”
“You are awake every day for about 1020 minutes, out of these should you not atleast spend 20 minutes to be with your mind and intelligence, to feed and nourish them? ”
“Hindu Dharma is all based on ‘reason and rationality’. It makes one think, enquire, understand and arrive at stable findings, leading to the Supreme Truth about life, living and its goal.”