25.4 :   KRISHNA'S TEACHING TO US ORDINARY MORTALS

As we know, it was Arjuna's confusion and psychological collapse at the crucial moment that occasioned the preaching of the bhagavad-gItA by Lord Krishna, who had condescended to be the princes's charioteer in the 18-day war. The various arguments that Lord Krishna advances to dispel the confusion of Arjuna can be classified  into five as follows:

 

The most fundamental one is the philosophical (Vedanta) argument. That is the one with which Krishna begins his whole sermon. Nothing is permanent in this ephemeral world. The only permanent thing is the Self which is untouched and uncontaminated by anything that happens to the non-self. The second argument, which may be called the svadharma argument, is based on the duties of one's varNa  (four-fold status in Hindu societal tradition) and Asrama (four-fold status in individual life). Though this is mentioned very early in the second chapter itself of the gItA, Krishna makes a real issue of it only in the eighteenth chapter where he links it up with his third major argument, namely, the argument of Detached Action as a karma-yogi. This third argument is the topic of elaboration all through several chapters - from the middle of the second to the end of the sixth. The fourth major one is the argument of Faith. There is not a leaf that moves in this world without the sanction of the Lord of the world and so let no man think that he is the doer. This argument runs through several chapters - from the seventh to the fifteenth - supported by all the metaphysical technicalities that Krishna chooses to bring in. Among these technicalities, there is a major one that sprouts forth, even as early as the third chapter, as the fifth major argument, namely that it is really Prakriti that is the doer of everything. The relationship between this argument and the earlier one that the Lord is the Prime Mover of everything is explained elaborately by the Lord in the thirteenth, fifteenth and eighteenth chapters. There are a few other arguments like the commonsense one, which says that whoever is born has to die and so forth. But Krishna does not stay long on these minor arguments. The five major arguments however, are unified and crystallised in the eighteenth chapter and brought to a consummation in the carama Sloka (Verse No.66) of that chapter.

 

 

It may be alright to say that Krishna used five major arguments to convince Arjuna that his business was to begin the war and fight then and there. But what does it mean to us, ordinary mortals in this world, separated from the world of the mahA-bhArata by more than five millenia in time? We are told by every one of the world's great men that the gItA has great relevance even in modern times. What is it that makes it so relevant? What exactly did Krishna expect us to learn from his long sermon to Arjuna? In what sense does it transcend the context of the mahA-bhArata and remain of great value to us today? What are Krishna's teachings to us? The gist of the teachings of Krishna to all humanity may also be capsuled under five heads as follows.

 

  1. nishkAma-svadharmAcaraNaM : (nishkAma: without desire; svadharma: one’s innate duty; AcaraNaM: observance)  Doing one's duty without any attachment to either the fruits thereof or to the act itself in terms of doership.

 

  2. advaita-bhAvanA-sahita bhakti : (advaita : non-dual; bhAvanA: attitude; sahita: along with; bhakti: devotion)  Dedication and devotion to the Supreme with an attitude of non-duality of the Supreme. Undivided faith in the non-dual Absolute.

 

  3. sama-dRRishTi through brahma-bhAvanA : (sama: equanimous; dRRishhTi: view; bhAvanA: awareness, attitude) An equanimous view of the entire universe gained by a constant awareness of the omnipresent brahman.

 

 4. indriya-nigrahaM and yoga-sAdhanA:  (indriya: senses; nigraham: control; yoga-sAdhanA: concerted effort to discipline the senses) The senses to be put in their place and deliberate efforts to be consistently made to transcend the senses as well as rid oneself of all attachment.

 

  5. SharaNAgati (Process of Surrender): The principle of surrender to the divine of everything that one calls his own and living up to that surrender.

 

That these are the only five injunctions of the Lord to mankind and that these cover everything else said in the Gita, is confirmed by the Lord Himself summarising the entire gitA in a nutshell at the end of the eleventh chapter, after He gives Arjuna a vision of His cosmic form. The last verse of the eleventh chapter says: Do your actions for My sake; Have me as your ultimate refuge; Be My devotee; Be rid of all attachment; Have no hate towards anything or anyone. Then you shall reach Me.: Adi Sankara refers to this verse as the summum-bonum of the entire teaching in the gItA scripture.

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© 2017 by V. Krishnamurthy

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