"Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do." (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.63)Download this episode (right click and save)
A lifelong friend turned charioteer. A close relative turned spiritual guide. The person who helped so much in terms of support during difficult times is now providing answers to the most puzzling questions life has to offer.
Arjuna found himself in an interesting position. On the precipice of one of the greatest wars in history, he had some self-doubt. There was some uncertainty over the future outcome, as no one can fully know the exact details of the future. The bigger issue was the cost of victory. Millions of lives would be lost, included among them cousins, respected personalities from a higher generation within the family, and spiritual guides.
Arjuna turned to Krishna, who was previously only known as friend and cousin. The discussion that followed became known as the Bhagavad-gita, or “The Song of God.” Arjuna did not follow Krishna’s instruction blindly, but there is substantial justification if he would have.
1. Proved to be a great friend
Friends are made among equals, with a common interest shared. Neighbors become friends because of the link in location of residence. Colleagues become friends because of working in the same field or place of business. It’s easiest to make friends in school since so much time is spent in the same place.
Krishna was always a great friend to Arjuna. They were so close that they would often relax together, with Arjuna addressing Krishna casually and not with the respect that is due the Supreme Personality of Godhead. After getting proof of his friend’s Divine nature, Arjuna openly regretted some of his past behavior.
“I have in the past addressed You as ‘O Krishna,’ ‘O Yadava,’ ‘O my friend,’ without knowing Your glories. Please forgive whatever I may have done in madness or in love. I have dishonored You many times while relaxing or while lying on the same bed or eating together, sometimes alone and sometimes in front of many friends. Please excuse me for all my offenses.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.41-42)
2. Saved Arjuna and his family from the wrath of Durvasa Muni
A saintly person is supposed to be level-headed. They understand that happiness and sadness come and go. Life has its ups and its downs, and those changes travel in and out, almost like the changing of seasons.
“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)
Though a saintly person, Durvasa Muni was known for his wrath, which no one wanted to see. The key was to avoid triggering the anger. Duryodhana was the leader of the rival cousins and he thought of a plan to use Durvasa’s wrath against Arjuna and company.
Arjuna was living in the forest at the time, with his four brothers and their mother, Kunti Devi. Duryodhana influenced Durvasa Muni enough to trigger a visit by the sage to the group. In those times properly receiving a guest was considered extremely important. In this case both sides knew the etiquette. The Pandavas had a special pot that could produce endless food, but the stipulation was that the supply stopped as soon as Draupadi, the wife, took her meal.
When Durvasa visited, he brought so many of his disciples with him. Draupadi had already eaten. The Pandavas bought some time when Durvasa decided to first go take a bath. Shri Krishna then happened to visit, and by taking the last morsel of food left in the special pot Durvasa and his associates were completely satisfied. They felt too full to eat, and so they decided to simply leave the area.
In this way and others Krishna spared the Pandavas so much pain. For this reason alone Arjuna could have blindly accepted whatever Krishna instructed on that famous day on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
3. Agreed to act as charioteer
Krishna did not impose Himself on anyone. He tried his best to broker peace between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, but Duryodhana would not compromise. He would not give even an inch of land, though the kingdom was the rightful property of Arjuna and his brothers.
For the upcoming war, Krishna agreed to be Arjuna’s charioteer. This was an extremely kind act. The charioteer departed from the role only at Arjuna’s insistence, when the great bow warrior fell into doubt and required guidance.
4. Explained so many concepts
Time, the living entities, the material nature, fruitive activity, and the Supreme Controller. Krishna covered the most important topics in the discussion that followed. There was room for questions. In fact, when learning the spiritual science a person is encouraged to inquire. The key is to do so submissively, not with a challenging attitude.
The knowledge coming to Arjuna was not revealed in the same way anywhere else. The presentation was unique, and the content itself justified full faith and surrender to the person speaking. Not at any time did Krishna tell Arjuna to follow out of blind faith, to give up everything just because He said so.
5. Showed the universal form
This is the visual proof demanded by the less intelligent. They don’t have the eyes to see the Divine influence that is present in every inch of space, so they insist on something amazing. Krishna delivered by giving a vision of the virata-rupa. This is the complete everything. There is no way to accurately put everything into a single image, since there are three dimensions and also the time factor. Yet Arjuna was shown such a wonderful image.
Since Krishna showed it, He is God. That is one way to get proof. Still, to Arjuna it wasn’t so important. Those who know the Supreme Lord understand that He has an amazing personal form, and that His expansion of the Supersoul proves the existence of the Divine in every aspect of life. But since he saw the virata-rupa, Arjuna had every reason to follow blindly.
With everything presented, with the question and answer, the back and forth, and the vision of the universal form, Krishna still did not insist on blind faith. He asked Arjuna if he had understood everything properly. He asked Arjuna to deliberate, to come to his own conclusion.
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)
In case there were any doubts going forward, Krishna made the promise to protect Arjuna from all sinful reaction that could possibly occur from following the path recommended. Abandon all dharmas, or varieties of religion, and just follow Krishna. He will deliver Arjuna and anyone else who makes the same choice. Get confidence to make that decision by studying the conversation between those two cousins, which contains the timeless teachings about the soul and the proper way to live.
Highest principles and universal form to demonstrate,
Still, at end asking Arjuna to deliberate.
Not recommended to follow blind,
Voice doubts over any issue to find.
But justification in so many ways proved.
Like when eating Durvasa’s hunger moved.
Always a great friend in past indeed.
To act as charioteer in war agreed.