(Last Updated on : 08/09/2009)
The epic poem Mahabharata
is a colossal one, strung with every possible kind of complex relationships, battles, greed for kingdom and lusting to be the great. The several parts in which the epic has been divided, makes up for the whole storyline, branching out to several plots. One such pivotal one governs around Arjuna, the mighty third Pandava, a master in archery. He is unanimously known to one and all as the gallant warrior, fearing none as intimidating. Yet, prior to commencement of the historical battle of Kurukshetra
with their cousins, the Kauravas
, he had fallen down on ground, dejected and lost. All of a sudden he felt extremely apprehensive to war with his kinsmen, his grandfather, his master in the art of war and other dear companions. Lord Krishna
, being Arjuna
's charioteer, had thus embarked on a historic and climactic journey of philosophy and knowledge, to make Arjuna realise his true goal. In this context, Krishna had to explain Arjuna the philosophy of discrimination, comprising a part of Bhagavad Gita
Lord Krishna explained to his beloved friend Arjuna and forbade him to yield, just on the eve of battle, to the weakness which did no credit to those who called themselves Aryans. By this process, Arjuna would only bring upon them infamy and bar against themselves the gates of heaven.
Krishna exclaimed, "O Arjuna! Why give way to unmanliness? O thou who art the terror of thine enemies! Shake off such shameful effeminacy, make ready to act!"
Arjuna however argued, addressing to his Lord that how could he stay unravelled, when the battle was about to rage on. He could never send an arrow through Bhishma
, who, on the other hand, should receive his stern reverence. If he were compelled to kill his masters who are actually his benefactors that would be tantamount to stain the sweetness of life's pleasure with their blood. It mattered nothing to Arjuna whether it were better that they conquer him or for him to conquer them, since he would no longer care to live if he killed the Kauravas, who were almost prepared to battle.
In this context, Arjuna's heart was oppressed with pity and his mind confused as to what would be his exact next duty. Therefore, he pleaded to his lord to tell him what was best for his spiritual welfare. He prayed to Krishna to guide him to perfection, as he was Krishna's ardent disciple, urgently in need of assistance.
Saying thus, Arjuna, the conqueror of all enemies, then told the Lord of All-Hearts that he would not fight and turned silent.
Thereupon, Lord Krishna, with a gracious smile, addressed Arjuna who was so much depressed in the midst between two armies, beginning his philosophy of discrimination enlisted in the Bhagavad Gita. Lord Shri Krishna explained to Arjuna that why would he grieve for those who felt no grief on their part at all. For such a grieving person he himself would not render wisdom. "The wise grieve neither for the dead nor the living."
Krishna's philosophy of discrimination implicated that there was never a time when He never existed, nor was Arjuna ever in a position that he never existed, nor these princes were in a state of inexistence. There would never be a time when they would ever cease to be. Just as the soul experiences in this body, infancy, youth and old age, hence, finally it passes into another. The wise are never deluded regarding this. Those external relations which bring about cold and heat, pain and happiness, they come and go; they are never permanent. Krishna thus ordered Arjuna to bravely endure them. The hero whose soul is unaffected by circumstance, who accepts pleasure and pain with calm and composure, only he is fit to be an immortal.
According to Bhagavad Gita's philosophy of discrimination, "that which is not, shall never be; that which is, shall never cease to be. To the wise, these truths are self-evident. The Spirit, which pervades all that we see, is imperishable. Nothing can destroy the Spirit." According to Krishna advising Arjuna on his phase of despondence, the material bodies which the Eternal, Indestructible, Immeasurable Spirit inhabits, are all finite. Therefore, it would be best for Arjuna to fight like a valiant. He who thinks that the Spirit slays and he who thinks of It as killed, are both ignorant. The Spirit never slays, nor is it never slain. It was not born; It would never die: nor once having been, can It ever cease to be: Unborn, Eternal, Ever-enduring. The Spirit never dies even when the body is lifeless and dead. One who is knowledgeable about the Spirit being Indestructible, Immortal, Unborn, Always-the-Same, can never slay one or become the reason to be slain.
According to Krishna's philosophy of discrimination, just as a man sheds off his ragged robes and puts on new ones, so the Spirit casts off Its worn-out bodies and takes on fresh ones. No earthly weapon can split the Spirit apart, no earthly fire can burn It out, water can never drench It entirely and wind never can dry it out. The Spirit is impenetrable; It can be neither drowned nor charred nor dried. It is Eternal, All-pervading, Unchanging, Immovable and Most Ancient. Krishna thus explains that the Spirit is named the Unmanifest, the Unthinkable, the Immutable. Arjuna has no cause to grieve thus, knowing the Spirit as such. Even if one thinks of It as constantly being born, constantly dying, even then, one still holds no reason to grieve.
Bhagavad Gita speaks that, "For death is as sure for that which is born, as birth is for that which is dead. Therefore grieve not for what is inevitable." Philosophy of discrimination states that end and beginning of beings can never be known. One perceives only the intervening formations. There is hence no cause of grievance for Arjuna. One hears of the Spirit with surprise, another thinks It as spectacular, the third listens without apprehending. Thus, though many are told about It, scarcely is there anyone who knows It.
Krishna advised Arjuna not to feel anxious about the approaching armies of Kauravas. The Spirit in man is imperishable. Philosophy of discrimination speaks that one must always look towards their own duty. Nothing should be more welcome to a soldier than a righteous war. Therefore to vacillate in one's resolve is grossly despicable. Those soldiers who are successful to find such an opportunity are truly thus blessed. Such an opportunity has opened for Arjuna the gates to heaven. If now, Arjuna refuses to fight for the righteous cause, he would be labelled a traitor, lost to fame, bringing in only sin. People would forever talk of his disgrace. To a noble, such dishonour would be worse than death. Great generals in later periods would think that Arjuna had fled from the battlefield in cowardice; he would be seen as unworthy. His adversaries would spread scandal and mock at his courage.
It can be noted in this context that Lord Krishna's discourses were not meant to only imply Arjuna. In the long run, it was also meant for the common mass in subsequent ages to come. In fact, Krishna's messages had gone on to become the Bhagavad Gita, the cardinal text for Hinduism. Hence, in a pan-Hindu perspective, the philosophy of discrimination can also be applied to every generation in the making. Krishna continued to Arjuna that if he is slain in battle, he would attain Heaven; if he emerges victorious, he would enjoy the kingdom of earth. Therefore, Krishna eggs on the son of Kunti to fight back. The Lord instructs Arjuna to, "Look upon pleasure and pain, victory and defeat, with an equal eye. Make ready for the combat, and thou shalt commit no sin."
The aforementioned discourses by Krishna were about the philosophy of Knowledge, entailed within philosophy of discrimination. He was now embarking on to explain the philosophy of Action, by means of which, one can break through the bondage of all action. "On this Path, endeavour is never wasted, nor can it ever be repressed. Even a very little of its practice protects one from great danger." By means of philosophy of Action, the wandering intellect becomes stabilised in the reflection of one object only. On the other hand, the minds of the vacillating stray into immeasurable byroads. Going by the Bhagavad Gita, only the ignorant speak in figurative language. It is they who glorify the letter of the scriptures, saying-"There is nothing deeper than this." Referring to only their desires, they weave their own heaven,
machinating strenuous and complex rites to secure their own pleasure and their own power. The only result in the end is rebirth. While their minds are engrossed with ideas of power and personal enjoyment, they cannot concentrate their discrimination on one point.
The Vedic Scriptures speak about three constituents of life, the Qualities. Krishna prompts Arjuna to rise above all and go forth in the battle. Arjuna is asked to stand up against all the pairs of opposing sensations, to be steady in truth, free from worldly anxieties and centred in the Self. Philosophy of discrimination explains that just as a man can drink water from any side of a full tank, so the skilled theologian can obtain from any scripture that which will serve his purpose. However, it is essential for Arjuna to only look towards his right to work, but none of the fruit thereof. Krishna advices to Arjuna that it would be better that he focus his attention on work and never on the fruit, nor ever be entranced by inaction. Bhagavad Gita states one to perform every action with mind concentrated on the Divine, to renounce attachment and look upon success and failure with an equal eye. Such action of spirituality implies equanimity. Physical action is far inferior to an intellect focused on the Divine. In this context, it is best to have recourse to the Pure Intelligence. It is only the lowly-minded who strive towards reward.
Lord Krishna went on in his dissertation on the philosophy of discrimination, enlisted in the Bhagavad Gita. The lord said thus that when a man attains Pure Reason, he abdicates in this world the results of good and evil alike. Krishna advises to Arjuna to cling to right action, because spirituality is the real art of living. The sages steered by Pure Intellect renounce the fruit of action; freed from the chains of rebirth, they reach the highest bliss. When one's reason has crossed the intricacies of illusion, then shall one become indifferent both to the philosophies of action and knowledge. When the intellect, flummoxed by the numerousness of holy scripts, stands unperturbed in idyllic contemplation of the Infinite, then one has attained Spirituality.
At this point of convergence, Arjuna enquired from his Lord, how exactly can one recognise the saint who has attained Pure Intellect, who has reached such a state of Bliss, and whose mind is steady. Lord Shri Krishna replied thus that when man has abandoned the wants of his heart and is satisfied with the Self alone, then only one can be sure that he has reached the highest state. The sage, whose mind is unflustered in suffering, whose desire is not bestirred by enjoyment, who is without attachment, anger or fear, he can be considered as the one who stands at that lofty level. He who is never attached to any person and to no place by ties of flesh, wherever he travels; who accepts good and evil in the same plane, neither welcoming the one nor averting the other, he can be considered to be one who is merged in the Infinite. He who can arrest his senses from the attraction of their objects, as the tortoise draws his limbs within his shell, he can be regarded as one who has attained Perfection. The objects of sense turn from him who is self-disciplined. Even the zestfulness for them is lost in him who has perceived the Truth.
While guiding Arjuna towards the philosophy of discrimination, Krishna speaks that the one's mind, who is trying to conquer the highest state, is forcibly carried away in spite of his efforts, by his troubled senses. Restraining such kind of actions and reactions, it is better for one to steadfastly meditate on Shri Krishna, because who thus conquers his senses, achieves perfection. "When a man dwells on the objects of sense, he creates an attraction for them; attraction develops into desire, and desire breeds anger." Anger according to Bhagavad Gita, stimulates delusion; delusion induces loss of memory; through loss of memory, reason is shattered; and loss of reason eventually leads to the path of destruction. But the self-disciplined soul, who moves amidst sense-objects, free from either attachment or repulsion, wins eternal Peace. Having attained Peace, he becomes liberated from misery; because, when the mind gains peace, right discrimination succeeds.
However, Krishna warns in this context that right discrimination is not for him who cannot concentrate. Without concentration, there cannot be meditation; he who cannot meditate must not anticipate peace; and without peace, no man should expect happiness. Just as a ship at sea is agitated by the tempest, likewise, the reason is carried away by the mind when ravened upon by the rambling senses. Therefore, Krishna instructs Arjuna that he who keeps his senses detached from their objects, assumes that his reason is purified. A saint is always awake when the world sleeps and he disregards that for which the world lives. He accomplishes Peace, into whom desires flow as rivers do into the ocean, which though overflowing with water remains the same forever. Peace can never be attained by one who is carried away by desire. He attains Peace who, giving up desire, travels through the world without ambition, possessing nothing which he can call his own and free of conceit.
At the end of this prolonged discrimination philosophy by Krishna, he concludes to Arjuna that this precisely is the state of the Self, the Supreme Spirit. If a man has once attained this blissful state, it shall never be taken away from him. Even during the time of leaving the body physically, he would securely remain installed there and would become one with the Eternal.