“Savyasachin refers to one who can shoot arrows very expertly in the field; thus Arjuna is addressed as an expert warrior capable of delivering arrows to kill his enemies.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 11.33 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
Destiny. The uncontrollable future. Providence. The hand of the Divine. Is there anything we can do to influence it? Is our future set? Can personal action prevent something catastrophic from happening?
The distressed and compassionate warrior named Arjuna had some of these concerns while on the battlefield. He was doubtful over how to proceed. His friend happened to be the Divine Himself, Shri Krishna kindly acting as Arjuna’s charioteer. The Supreme Lord shows the future in an awe-inspiring vision known as the virata-rupa.
Arjuna saw destiny in a frightening way. The leading soldiers for the opposing side were rushing into Krishna’s mouths. Victory was assured, and so Arjuna was advised to simply act as Krishna’s instrument. There are many reasons he was selected to carry out something so important.
1. He was not interested in his own fame
Indeed, Arjuna was prepared to accept infamy in order to spare death on the other side. He and his brothers were the aggrieved; they were wronged. In a court case, they would be the plaintiffs. The case was pretty straightforward. The kingdom belonged to the Pandavas, and the Kauravas took it over by force. In the legal system, the courts redress grievances.
But what if the court’s judgment is not enforced? What if the aggressors, the illegal land owners, are running the government? Violence is the last resort. Known as danda in Sanskrit, it is one of four ways to influence an opposing party.
There was no fear in this area, either. Arjuna could win pretty easily. In fact, that is what the concern was. Arjuna was worried about the friends and family who were fighting for the other side. He did not hold their offenses against them. He instantly forgave them. Arjuna was not interested in earning the fame that accompanies victory. By quitting the battlefield he would gain infamy, one of the very arguments used by Krishna in urging Arjuna to continue.
2. He was fearless in battle
In selecting someone to carry out the Divine will, that person should be fearless. Arjuna’s worry was not in the area of combat. He had many accomplishments already under his belt. If his heart was in the right place, Arjuna was prepared to rush into war with all guns blazing. As mentioned before, the fear was over victory and the accompanying death toll. Otherwise, Arjuna assertively carries out his prescribed duties.
3. He asks insightful questions
Arjuna proceeds with intelligence. He does not act blindly. There is a verse in the Bhagavad-gita where Shri Krishna describes four kinds of people who approach Him. There is the distressed, the person who seeks wealth, the inquisitive, and the one who is already knowledgeable but wants to advance further.
“Of these, the wise one who is in full knowledge in union with Me through pure devotional service is the best. For I am very dear to him, and he is dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.17)
The Supreme Lord declares the last group to be the best, the jnani. This is because they carry forward in devotion with knowledge. They are not just following blindly. In the same way, Arjuna’s insightful questions to Krishna, which is the stage for the Bhagavad-gita conversation, show that when eventually carrying out the Divine will he does so with intelligence. He is acting without motive, since he has removed all personal desires.
4. He is eager
There is doubt at the start. This is because of bewilderment. Arjuna is a liberated soul, not subject to the influence of maha-maya, which is the illusory energy pervading the material world. His doubt was the result of yoga-maya, which is directly controlled by God. Arjuna’s doubt was the spark that ignited that sacred conversation that has benefitted countless souls through the years and is still just as relevant in today’s world.
When Arjuna’s doubts are removed, he proceeds with eagerness. The desire is to please Krishna, and enthusiasm is a key component to success in the service. The Sanskrit word is utsaha. Krishna chooses people with enthusiasm because that trait will help them overcome obstacles. It also means that they will be pleased throughout the service.
5. He is an expert marksman
In the verse where Krishna tells Arjuna to simply act as an instrument of the Divine will, the name used to address the warrior is Savyasachin.
“Therefore get up and prepare to fight. After conquering your enemies you will enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasachin, can be but an instrument in the fight.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.33)
This means a person who is an expert archer. Bows and arrows were the principal means of warfare during that time. The arrows were fired from chariots driven by expert drivers. You had the combination of the best driver and the best shooter, so victory was assured. Arjuna hits the intended target, after he gets guidance on where to aim. He received guidance from without through Krishna the charioteer, and the surrendered souls get the same guidance from within through the chaitya-guru residing in the heart.
Not accidentally chosen was he,
For Divine will instrument to be.
Of personal desire totally free,
Ready even for infamy to see.
Proceeding in war without fear,
Insightful questions for understanding clear.
Eager in purpose proceeding,
With expert ability to victory leading.