Chapter 1 Bhagavad Gita
Pic cred: A street artist from India
I am sharing some of notes from my Bhagavad Gita classes and continue to share as I learn.
Bhagadvad is a spiritual teaching within the mega story of Mahabharatha ( like the movie inception which weaves story within a story within a story sharing different narratives) which features Arjuna and Krishna as main characters supported by Dhuryodhana, Dhrutaraastra and Sanjaya as the story unfolds smack in the middle of a battle field right at the beginning of a epic war between cousins of the same tribe called Kuru dynasty.
Most teachers and philosophers skip the first chapter while teaching Gita as it mostly give the context to the study. So if the characters in the first chapter feels intimidating, then do not give up yet as the self evaluations thickens at the beginning of second chapter.
To all my Yoga teachers and students , it is important to note that each of 18 chapters in Gita has Yogah in its name indicating that Yoga here means the topic of discussion to solve a problem to reach a state of equanimity.
Is understanding the context and the characteristics of the characters in the Bhagavad Gita very important ? clearly not.Gita is offered as a path of liberation ( moksha shastra) but for a picturesque setting , to keep our thirst for story telling alive , to be a part of the narrative as if you stood in the middle of the battle field with Krishna and Arjuna, its interesting to understand some of the main characters.
Dhristarashtra - A blind king , physically and also spiritually
Sanjaya- A minister with a special vision , who could see the happenings of battle from the comforts of the palace
Dhuryodhana - Evil son of the blind king
Arjuna - Main character of the story who is a great warrior, a seeker, great but reluctant student who is kind of the lead player among the sons of Pandu
Krishna- A king, kingmaker, God, friend, philosopher and charioteer
Both the parties belong to the same tribe/dynasty called Kuru and the place of the battle is called Kurukshetra.
Arjuna vishaadha yogaha
Topic of Arjuna's grief / dilemma / hopelessness
It is important to note that all the 18 chapters of BG have yoga in the heading indicating that the topic of discussion in each chapter is based on attaining equanimity ( yogas definition here) by seeking the ultimate truth.
Bhagavad Gita starts off with a question by blind king Dhritarashtra asking his minister Sanjaya about the happenings of the battlefield between the army led by his son and the opposition of his brother Pandu' s sons. Dristarashatra , blinded by love for his cunning son Dhuryodhana wishes with building uncertainty of the outcome of this war happening in kurukshretra ( land of kurus)which is also meant to be Dhramakshetra( the land of fair and moral living). Sanjaya , a third party narrator of this story replies that both the parties of war are taking stock of the great warriors on their respective side who have strength, skills , expertise in different techniques of warfare ,courage and wisdom to win this battle or die fighting. Finally , after reassuring the strengths of their army, various conches were blew with other war sounds thus indicating their readiness for this battle . The war sounds were so terrific that it thundered into the sky and created fear amongst everyone.
At this point, Arjuna ,the best of the warriors , son of Pandu asked his best friend, his charioteer Krishna to take him to the middle of the battle field so he can look in the eye of the enemy , he will be fighting against. The arrogant and brave Arjuna equipped with several skills , known for his archery and techniques of warfare decides to analyze the battlefield for a quick plan of attack. Krishna drives the chariot into the middle and points at the other side which comprises of Arjuna's own teachers, uncles, cousins, nephews, grandfathers and relatives close to his heart.
Reality of the situations strikes Arjuna that those he has come prepared to fight are none other than his own people who will be dead in next few days which causes him heartache and overwhelm . Arjuna says, he can physically feel radiating pain in his limbs, mouth drying ,shivering in his entire body thinking what good can come from fighting with my kinsmen and killing of my own family members. This feeling of hopelessness is explained in half of the first chapter. He goes further predicting that even he win this battle , what is the use of such pleasure , wealth and kingdom which would cost him the dear lives of his loved ones. As the grief overtakes he says"I would not hit back even if I am attacked. I understand that my evil cousin is wrong who can only think through the lens of greed and do not hesitate treachery on their friends but I am sure we also will gather sin by killing them which will only cause more suffering. True happiness cannot come from this manslaughter."
He further adds , that but we are moral and ethical people who can clearly see the harm the killing and destruction brings which only will disrupt the very fibre of the society. The traditions will be lost, our ancestors spirits will suffer and most importantIy women will be harmed which will last generations to come . Arjuna then cites from the quotes from the scholar which points that such families and next generations will suffer indefinitely . Arjuna becomes so engulfed in this moral dilemma says to Krishna that he rather be killed by the sons of Dhristarashastra without ever lifting a weapon as he do not wish to be a part of this bloodbath. Saying all this Arjuna literally throughs his bow and arrow , drops to his seat in the chariot overwhelmed with this grief.
My notes :
How are we any different from Arjuna?. Not only does Arjuna has to face loose of his loved ones but also be the one to the inflict the pain.Arjuna is skilled, educated ,equipped, ethically driven but drops on the ground and throws his towel so to speak when faced an impossible situation. We make these kind of small and big decisions very often which involves our loved ones and the common good of the society. If we ever feel overwhelmed by the tough choices we have to make , Gita gives the objectivity and a different perception. Krishna doesn't really tell Arjuna to kill his kinsmen but makes him aware of the choices of action and inaction. As the chapters unravel, Krishna gives answers to some of the tough questions Arjuna has.