“Arjuna said, My dear Krishna, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy, and I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.” (Bhagavad-gita, 18.73)Download this episode (right click and save)
naṣṭo mohaḥ smṛtir labdhā
sthito 'smi gata-sandehaḥ
kariṣye vacanaṁ tava
In some ways life gets better as you get older. You supposedly have more freedom. If you’re out of pens at home, you can step in the car and drive over to the store. If you feel like pizza for dinner, you can make that desire a reality. Though the entire time, whether as a child or an adult, you’re under the strict laws of the material nature, it appears that in adulthood you have more control over the direction of your life.
Four things are characteristic of a material existence: birth, old age, disease and death. We get this list from Vedic teachings but it’s obvious for anyone who is willing to look. Old age means the body starts to decay. Thus it becomes more susceptible to disease, which at that point has a greater chance of being fatal. As more time passes through life, the difficult moments start to accumulate. This is due to attachment. Whatever we are attached to will eventually leave us.
In dealing with loss or a bewildering situation, it helps to consult someone who has experienced the same. For instance, if we lose a close family member to a disease, the initial moments of shock and despair are difficult. We look for others who have gone through a similar situation. There are the commonly uttered comforting words of “I know how you feel.” This statement can only be true if the person has indeed gone through the same struggles that we find ourselves in.
Unfortunately, there are many bewildering situations in a material existence. For each one, we may not be able to find someone who knows how we feel. Fortunately, there is Vedic literature, which deals with both the theoretical and the practical. There is philosophy mixed in with historical accounts. From one character alone, we find a person who can relate to a lot of difficult situations in life. His name is Arjuna, and he plays a central role in the famous Bhagavad-gita, which is the song of God.
1. He lost a father at a young age.
It is a great fortune to have loving parents at the time of birth. They are our only support system. So to lose one of them at any time in life is not easy. Arjuna’s family was known as the Pandavas, getting the name from their father Pandu. Arjuna and his four brothers lost the association of their father at a young age. They had to deal with a terrible loss.
2. He was attacked unfairly.
We’ve surely been wronged at least once in our lives. The feeling is not good. Justice should prevail, but sometimes it doesn’t. Arjuna and his family suffered grave injustices. After Pandu’s passing, the brothers were subjected to torture from their cousins, known as the Kauravas. This family was led by Duryodhana, who tried to kill the Pandavas several times. Arjuna lived in a house that was set on fire once. He and his family fortunately escaped in time due to well-placed intelligence. The crown of Hastinapura rightfully belonged to the Pandavas, but Duryodhana would not give it up.
3. He had tremendous success.
What need is there to relate to someone who is successful? Do not the spoils go to the victor? Actually, success can be more bewildering than loss. The reason is that happiness doesn’t come from material objects alone. Arjuna was so successful that one of his names was Dhananjaya. This name means “conqueror of wealth,” and it was used by Shri Krishna to address him many times. Arjuna one time brought a great amount of gold from a mountain range and gave it to his brother Yudhishthira. So Arjuna acquired tremendous wealth and then gave it all away, making him a conqueror over it.
4. He saw terrible things happen right in front of him.
One doesn’t have to look far to find depressing images. They are shown on the nightly television newscasts. They are in the daily newspaper. A person who witnesses these events firsthand can get traumatized. Imagine, then, how Arjuna felt after the battle of Kurukshetra. He saw millions of people die, and he was not happy about it. Though his side won, he was not elated over the victory. He witnessed and caused tremendous bloodshed.
5. He was bewildered and needed help.
The starting point of the Bhagavad-gita is Arjuna needing help. A great war is about to commence and oddly enough Arjuna is afraid of winning. He doesn’t want to see important people on the other side perish. There is the saying that he who hesitates is lost. Arjuna hesitated and he seemed lost. Everyone goes through this at some point, and with Arjuna the hesitation became logged in one of the most famous books of all time.
As Arjuna can relate to so many different people, his example becomes all the more important. He went through so much but he maintained a level head due to his devotion to Krishna. When he was most bewildered he turned to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who happened to be roaming the earth at the time as his cousin and dear friend. Arjuna received the science of self-realization directly from God and implemented the principles in his own life. As he can relate to us, Arjuna knows how we feel. He also knows the solution to the problems of material life: devotional service. By remaining in bhakti-yoga, he shows how the precious human life can mature to its destined fruition.
Tragedy in front of me to see,
By life’s struggles bewildered to be.
Best when someone to feel our pain,
Since went through difficulties the same.
From history Arjuna’s example to take,
Study of his dealings with Krishna to make.
Devotional service the answer to him,
Over enemy of doubt to win.