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21/07/2014 01:58 Bhagavad Gita in Modern Life: Chapter 1 The Sorrow of Arjuna

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Chapter 1 The Sorrow of Arjuna
In the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, we meet the hero of the story, Arjuna, the great archer,
leading an army to fight against an army which includes his stepbrothers, uncles and other relatives,
teachers, guru, many other respected elders, allied kings and many warriors who are his equals and
with whom he had various close relationships. In his own army are his brothers, cousins, uncles, and
other allied kings. Driving his chariot, and giving him guidance, is the Avatar Lord Krishna. The
armies gather on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
The story is being told by Sanjaya, who is the charioteer of the blind king
Dritharastha. Sanjaya is also Dhritarashtra's advisor and has the gift of seeing
events at a distance granted by the sage Vyasa. He narrates to Dhritarshtra the
action in the climactic battle of Kurukshetra.
Arjuna asks Lord Krishna to drive his chariot into the centre of the battlefield so
he can see whom he is facing in battle. As he recognizes so many familiar faces, his feelings get the best
of him, his whole body reacts and he is overcome with sorrow.
What is this crime
I am planning, O Krishna
Murder most hateful,
Murder of brothers!
Am I indeed so greedy for greatness
He loses his will to fight, saying even if they wish to kill him, he does not wish to kill them. He sees no
point in the battle - if it is gaining rulership of the earth, it is not worth it and if it is to gain glory in
heaven - it is also not worth killing his own kinsman. He cites the destruction that comes to family and
society in the aftermath of war, and even to the ancestors whose descendents will no longer be able to
make offerings on their behalf. Arjuna becomes confused, discouraged and lays down his weapons
saying he will not fight. He would rather remain unarmed and let the other army kill him.
Rather than this
Let the evil children
21/07/2014 01:58 Bhagavad Gita in Modern Life: Chapter 1 The Sorrow of Arjuna
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Of Dritarashtra
Come with their weapons
Against me in battle:
I shall not struggle,
I shall not strike them.
Now let them kill me,
That will be better.
Having spoken thus, Arjuna threw aside his arrows and his bow in the midst of the battlefield. He sat
down on the seat of the chariot, and his heart was overcome with sorrow.
It is an epic story - for some, it is history and for some it is spiritual allegory and for some both. Each
of us will read the text differently. The symbolism of the great archer, the Avatar, the battle between
brothers makes this a universal classic and gripping tale through which deep religious, philosophical
and spiritual truths are conveyed.
Discussion: If we see the setting as a way of staging human existential dilemmas, psychological
challenges and spiritual truths, we can find in this epic tale, answers for our personal modern life,
guidance for conduct in society, encouragement in the face of despair, solace in the depths of grief
and ongoing questions and answers about the nature of life, death and rebirth.
For most of us, the battlefield is not a physical war, but symbolic of the challenges of living one's life.
We are, in a way, on a battlefield, where we are faced with our positive ambitions and desires, duties
and obligations to self, family and society and poised against us, are negative characteristics and
temptations.Each of us has our own cultural and family environment in which we are embedded and
through which our minds, our personality are conditioned. Our lives are a classic battle between
good and evil, a mystery we have difficulty comprehending. Why are we here? What purpose and
meaning does our life have? What happens to us and our loved ones when we die? Existential
questions, if not directly on the surface, run like a river beneath our busy daily lives. We get confused
about how to live and we seek answers that will make sense out of the sorrow of life.
21/07/2014 01:58 Bhagavad Gita in Modern Life: Chapter 1 The Sorrow of Arjuna
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And many times, like our hero Arjuna, we are overwhelmed by the array of problems standing
against us. We get confused, paralyzed when we have to make decisions, weighing our own
interests, those of others whom we love, our duties, possible outcomes, possible consequences of our
actions or the actions of others with whom we have struggles. The dilemmas are often within
ourselves or they could be both within and without. We reach a point where we just want to give up
or we want someone to tell us what to do, because we are at a loss; what we are facing seems beyond
our capacity to comprehend or solve wisely.