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(Arjuna Vishada Yoga)
"Why should I wage a bloody war? ...
Death would be better for me!"
His unseeing eyes blinked several times as he spoke to 1 his minister Sanjaya. The blind old king, Dhritarashtra, fidgeted and cleared his throat. "Tell me, Sanjaya, what is happening on the holy plain where the mighty armies of my son, Duryodhana, and the armies of his cousin Arjuna are gathered to fight?"
The old man knew that his son Duryhodhana's decision to go to war was wrong. He knew that the young king's judgment was clouded over by his jealous hate for his cousin. The old man had felt pangs of conscience but had said nothing when his son cheated Arjuna's family out of their rightful kingdom and then denied their requests for even a trifling parcel of the land that was rightfully theirs. The old man had maintained his curious silence when his son mortified Arjuna's wife and the whole family in public by having a henchman attempt to strip her of her clothes. He didn't condemn his son's heinous attempt to assassinate Arjuna's entire family. Nor did the old man try to change his son's mind when the young king sneered at all the recent peace overtures from Arjuna's family.
Indeed, the old man was so caught up in his mindless support of his son that neither ethical nor spiritual feelings could find their way into his heart. All good judgment had been lost. An unfair and ill-conceived war was about to erupt, and though he was the only person who could at this point avert the disastrous slaughter, he had no mind to do so.
2 The minister Sanjaya, because of his honest character, had been granted temporary yogic powers to see and hear what was occurring on the distant battlefield. (Sanjaya's name means "victorious over the self.") With a steady voice he replied to the old king's question: "Your son, King Duryodhana, is now viewing for the first time Prince Arjuna's opposing army all drawn up and ready to fight. It is obviously more formidable than Duryodhana had expected and he seems a bit anxious. Your son turns to his own forces as if looking for something or someone. Almost childlike in his manner, he finds Drona, his old archery teacher, in the crowd and moves quickly to him."
Sanjaya paused and leaned toward the old man, "Why is your son running to his former teacher? Perhaps his confidence wanes, or his conscience bothers him."
The old king didn't immediately react to this, which 3 to Sanjaya showed that the old man's spirits were as sinister as his son's. Sanjaya continued his description of the distant scene: "Your son, almost flinging his words at his venerable teacher, says, `Well, Drona, take a look at the army marshaled by your talented disciple, Arjuna. Why did you accept him as your pupil and teach him the arts of war?' The question carries a taunt, implying that Drona had made a mistake years ago in tutoring this prince who is now the enemy."
Sanjaya shook his head, "No one should ever speak to his teacher this way; it reveals your son's nervousness."
Without waiting for the old king's reactions, Sanjaya 4-6 continued his account: "Your son is now mentioning the names, one by one, of the noted leaders of Arjuna's opposing army, some of whom were also Drona's students. He is too carefully enunciating each name, which is an indirect but rather obvious censuring of his ex-master for the opposition's great strength.
"But now your son realizes that he has overstepped his 7-8 bounds and switches to listing the leaders on his own side. He puts the teacher Drona at the top of his list, clearly a patronizing gesture. As your son continues speaking, the generals standing close by appear uncomfortable with the too careful way he is voicing their names."
Sanjaya waited a moment, as though continuing to 9-10 watch the far-off scene, and then resumed his account. "Sensing his generals' discomfort, your son abruptly stops. `But we have many heroes on our side,' he says, `and they're ready to lay down their lives for me!' But again his words don't fit his demeanor. There's a forced bravado in his voice; it's not clear whether he's putting down his own army or the opposition's. It's as though your son is unwittingly spelling ruin to himself and our forces even as he attempts to put weakness on the enemy.
11 "He tries to rectify this, and blurts an order to his generals, `Go, assume your positions,' he says and then adds, `But at all costs protect Field Marshal Bhishma.' His words and manner again reveal doubts, as if he does not trust his own generals. Or perhaps his concern about protecting Bhishma, the venerable old man both sides call `grandfather,' is a grasp at a semblance of righteousness for his own side."
12 Sanjaya stopped talking as he watched the events unfold on the distant battlefield, and then resumed his narration: "Now, Bhishma, as if trying to cheer your son and rescue the deteriorating situation, is suddenly roaring like a lion and blowing his conch, indicating that the battle has begun!
13 "All the armies standing behind him have suddenly come to life, blaring forth their conches, kettle drums, cymbals, cow-horns, and trumpets. It's a loud, tumultuous noise.
14-15 "Now the opposition, led by Prince Arjuna and his lifelong friend Krishna, are answering this deafening voice.
"Arjuna now looks long at both armies, staring especially 26-28 at his paternal uncles, teachers, cousins, and various benefactors, friends, and comrades on both sides. As his eyes fall on those who are now his enemies, his attitude seems to waver and he appears confused. He begins to speak to Krishna but the words get caught in his throat. The prince collects himself and again begins, `Seeing my kinsmen gathered here ready to fight,' he says, `all of a sudden I am overwhelmed by my emotions.
"`My arms and legs feel heavy, Krishna. My mouth 29-30 is dry and my hair stands on end — and my body is shaking. See!' Arjuna holds out his hand and even he is surprised at the forcefulness of his tremors. He clears his throat and continues, `I can hardly hold my bow. My skin burns all over. My mind whirls. I can barely stand up. What is happening to me?'"
31-32 With this indication of Arjuna's weakness, a slight smile formed on the old king's face. Sanjaya noticed it and continued his account. "Arjuna takes a deep breath and speaks, `I see bad omens for our side, Krishna. I can't see any good coming from slaying my relatives. This is unlike our earlier days of glory, Krishna, old friend. Now I don't desire victory, or a kingdom, or pleasures. Of what use are they? Of what use is life, Krishna?
33-35 "`It is for the sake of the people on our side — our own teachers, relatives, and allies — that we seek the pleasures of victory and kingdom. Here they are in battle gear ready to give up their property and even their lives. It's all so useless, Krishna. Even though these enemies want to kill me, I don't want to kill them — not even for the kingship of the whole world or even the heavens. If these great prizes hold no interest for me, why should I wage a bloody war for this paltry kingdom?
36-37 "`I would be forever ashamed, Krishna, if I were to kill my kith and kin. I could never find any satisfaction in such slaughter. Though their bows are drawn to kill, to slay these people would be a sin. So what if they're evil? They're my relatives. How could I ever again be happy?
38-39 "`I know they are overcome with greed. And I know they are blind to the evil in all their treachery. But does that justify my being blind too?
"`Old friend,' Arjuna continues to Krishna, `when a 40-41 family declines, its traditions are destroyed, and the entire family loses its sense of oneness. Without unity, the women get corrupted, and with the decline of women the world is plunged into chaos.
"`Social turmoil is hell, Krishna, for the family, for the 42-45 destroyers of the family, and for the whole society. It is said that those who destroy family unity have to live in hell. Ah! And yet here am I, goaded by greed, ready to kill my own kinsmen!
"`Krishna, if those same relations attack me and kill 46 me, unresisting and unarmed on this battlefield, so be it. Death would be better for me!'"
At those final, labored words of Arjuna, Sanjaya 47 stopped his commentary for a moment and then told the blind old king what he saw. "Now, the great warrior Prince Arjuna, overcome by anguish in the middle of the battlefield, slumps to his chariot seat and flings his bow and arrows to the floor of the chariot."
Excerpted from the Bhagavad Gita by JACK HAWLEY. Copyright © 2001 by Jack Hawley, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Publisher's Preface ix
Preface to the Paperback Edition xi
Part 1 Knowing the True Self Within, and Selfless Action
Chapter 1 Arjuna's Anguish (Arjuna Vishada Yoga) 3
Chapter 2 The Path of Knowledge (Sankhya Yoga) 11
Chapter 3 The Path of Action (Karma Yoga) 27
Chapter 4 Integrating Knowledge, Action, and Renunciation (Jnana-Karma-Sanyasa Yoga) 39
Chapter 5 Contemplating the Goal (Sanyasa Yoga) 49
Chapter 6 Taming the Mind and Senses (Dhyana Yoga) 57
Part 2 The Very Nature of God
Chapter 7 Both Knowing and Experiencing Divinity (Jnana-Vijnana Yoga) 67
Chapter 8 The Imperishable Godhead (Akshara Brahma Yoga) 75
Chapter 9 Royal Knowledge and the King of Secrets (Rajavidya Rajaguhya Yoga) 83
Chapter 10 The Divine Glories (Vibhuti Yoga) 91
Chapter 11 The Cosmic Vision (Visvarupa Darsana Yoga) 99
Chapter 12 The Path of Love (Bhakti Yoga) 109
Part 3 Attaining Liberation Now
Chapter 13 The Field and Its Knower: Distinguishing between Matter and Spirit (Kshetra Kshetrajna Vibhaga Yoga) 115
Chapter 14 Going Beyond the Three Forces of Nature (Gunatraya Vibhaga Yoga) 125
Chapter 15 Devotion to the Supreme Self (Purushottama Yoga) 131
Chapter 16 The Two Destinies: Divine or Degenerate (Daiva-Asura Sampad Vibhaga Yoga) 137
Chapter 17 The Path of Threefold Faith (Sraddha Traya Vibhaga Yoga) 143
Chapter 18 Liberation through Knowing, Acting, and Loving (Moksha Sanyasa Yoga) 151
About the Author 197
Posted August 11, 2011
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