Gita – As I Understand

The best clash of reasons is in the Gita. And no, it does not come only from Krishna. Arjun is equally convincing, if not more, to present his point of view. His attempts to reason with Krishna on the futility of war is as brilliant as Krishna’s reasoning.

Gita opens with the chapter known as ‘Arjun-Vishad-Yog’. Vishad means despair. But if you read Arjun’s point of view, the reasoning and argument is far from any show of despair. Arjun appears to be right and convincing. Compared to the present scenario, Arjun’s reasoning and argument will make him a very successful salesman.

The question is; what started the argument in the first place. Why did Krishna stop in midst of the battle field and go for a lengthy discourse. Why did Krishna’s point of view prevail and why is it still followed as a standard.

Mostly, we all know Gita through popular quotes, “Karmanya Vadhika…” and “Yada Yada ud Dharmashya…” made famous by the tele serial Mahabharata. But our focus on the book is one sided. We extensively concentrate on Krishna’s side of the Gita and completely ignore Arjun’s point of view. Simply put, we start with – Arjun did not want to fight – so Krishna gave a big advice to Arjun – and finally Arjun decided to fight!

Had it been so simple, The Gita wouldn’t have been such a great book. The importance of Gita and Krishna is highlighted by the fact that how he contested a popular and complex reasoning presented by Arjun which appeared to be so correct. If you read the first chapter of the Gita, I bet, you will come out convinced that Arjun is absolutely right. Arjun presented a ‘fait accompli’ – some brilliant views, which seemed irresolvable facts. Had there been no Krishna to contest his point of view, there would be no war and our history would be different.

But it was not to be. Mahabharata is like a Bollywood blockbuster with a huge canvas. There is not a single event which does not lead to some action. But as the story progresses, the “why” of all the “fight” is kept silent. There are politics, discord and lots of drama. When the story nears culmination, I feel, the author needed some space to explain the “why”. Without the Gita, you cannot see Mahabharata as complete. The author needed the right protagonists at the right time to make clear the necessity of war. Visibility matters!

Arjun represents the environment which prevailed at the time. The thoughts and the reasons which Arjun presents are the reflections of that society and appear to be genuine. Left to itself, the prevalent thinking of that time would have led to degeneration and collapse.

Krishna represents the environment as it should be. The ways of life and thoughts should not only support the present but create a better future. The truth must stand the test of time. All reasoning and thoughts should abide by that truth.

So when Arjun and Krishna meet, with their differing point of views, there was bound to be friction. Arjun, who represents populist sentiments, will win the first few rounds. As humans, we love winners and as humans, we can relate to Arjun’s point of thought.

On the other hand, Krishna’s point of view is so fantastic. Left to ourselves; we will never understand Krishna’s thoughts. The author needed the character like Arjun; attribute him with special qualities, and then face up to Krishna. Arjun’s points are important to explain Krishna’s counter-point. They both complement each other.

Given both arguments, through ages, we have been influenced to lean on the side of Krishna, for good reason. His thoughts are defused in our psyche. But we should not forget Arjun. His contentions are equally important. We need to know why we have to discount the temporary and go for the permanent. In this context Arjun’s chapter is as important as Krishna’s.

Mahabharata and Gita are more rooted to this world. But in essence I like what is said in the Upanishads:-

“There is in truth no creation and no destruction;
No one is bound, no one is seeking Liberation,
No one is on the way to Deliverance.
There are none Liberated.
This is the absolute truth.”

My dear disciple, this, the sum and substance of all the Upanishads, the secret of secrets, is my instruction to you. – Shankaracharya


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