What is it that helped Arjuna clear his confusion on the battlefield?
How did Krishna convince Arjuna to slay his brothers and yet feel righteous?
Roopa Pai’s The Gita: For Children is a marvellous book that retells the epic conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, that will long stay with you after you have turned the last page.
We carry an excerpt from the book…
‘Shame on you, Arjuna!’
The words were uttered quietly, but there was no mistaking the rebuke in Krishna’s tone.
‘Greatest archer in the world, he calls himself! Noblest of warriors, destroyer of foes, most single-minded of men! Ha!’
The hunched figure on the floor of the chariot refused to be provoked. Instead, Arjuna seemed to sink further into himself. ‘Oh, come on! You knew all along what this war was about, whom you were going to fight. You’ve had enough time to debate the rightness and wrongness of it before the decision to fight was made. You cannot start thinking about it now, when you are already on the battlefield, when your side is depending on you to lead them to victory!’
Krishna waited, hoping for some kind of reaction.
‘This is completely disgraceful behaviour for a warrior, and you know it. There is no honour in running away from battle, and dejection does not suit you.’ Krishna’s voice grew sterner. ‘Enough of that snivelling, Arjuna. Stand up, pick up your bow, and fight a battle worthy of a Pandava prince!’
‘Do stop, Krishna!’ begged Arjuna. ‘Do you even realize what you’re asking of me? Slaughtering my brothers, murdering my teachers — how can that be noble or right, in any universe?’ Arjuna shook his head incredulously. ‘Why, every holy scripture I have ever read roundly condemns such killing as the most terrible of sins. Every moment of my life beyond such a war will be stained with blood-guilt and utter despair. Don’t you see how…?’
Arjuna stopped. His arguments had begun to sound weak and hollow, even to his own ears. For Arjuna came from a proud bloodline of fighting men, and both his natural warrior instincts and years of rigorous training had been waiting a lifetime to find expression in a war exactly like this one.
Every fibre of his being reaffirmed to him that it would only be the worst kind of coward who ran away from the battlefield, even though fleeing
seemed a very tempting proposition, even a noble one, at the moment. If he followed his impulse and ran, though, would he be able to live with himself?
But the alternative — not running away, staying and fighting and killing the people most dear to him — was equally terrible to contemplate. Lost in a fug of utter bewilderment, Arjuna did what he had always done over the years in such situations. He turned to his closest friend and his wisest mentor, the only one in the world he completely trusted, and placed the dilemma in his hands.
‘I have no answers, Krishna. I cannot see my way forward. You have never let me down before, and I know you will not now. Help me, my friend. Tell me, straight up and without mincing your words, what I should do.’
There was a pause. Krishna waited, sensing he wasn’t quite done yet.
A moment later, Arjuna lifted his chin defiantly, a touch of the old haughtiness back in the handsome face. ‘Let me clarify one thing, Krishna, before you speak. You know I trust your judgment, but I will need to be fully convinced about your point of view.’
‘Otherwise,’ he locked eyes with Krishna, ‘I will not fight.’ Krishna smiled. ‘Listen then, my dearest Arjuna…’
Lessons from the Gita:
1. It’s not only okay to be confused, it’s a darned good thing.
2. Now that you are confused, don’t look outside for help, look inside. Krishna’s smile is an important turning point in the conversation. Krishna is amused at Arjuna’s attempts to find excuses for his sudden weakness on the battlefield, but pleased that he has finally stopped arguing, and accepted that he does not know what to do. There is no shame in admitting that you don’t know what’s right; in fact, it is the first step to figuring out what is.