Towards the end of the first chapter, we see a dejected and confused Arjuna who through wrong thinking analyzes the problem and comes to conclusion that backing out of the war is a better solution.
Krishna grossly advises Arjuna to rise and give up such delusions.
“O son of Prtha, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weaknes of heart and rise, O chastiser of enemies”.
Arjuna, still in a dilemma, addresses Krishna as follows:
- How can he attack someone who is worthy of his respect?
- He would rather resort to seeking alms than kill his teachers.
A wonderful thing that can be noted here-
- In spite of Dronacharya and Bhisma not siding Arjuna in the battle, he reveres them because they are his teachers. Bhisma was bound to the throne by his word and Dronacharya because of his son, Ashwatthama.
- Arjuna doesn’t mind begging in order to sustain. This is a sign of detachment.
Arjuna totally confused and bewildered ultimately surrendered unto Krishna and sought refuge. This is where things change. Krishna and Arjuna who were friends now took roles of a guru(teacher) and student.
“Now that I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your discipline, and a soul surrendered unto you. Please instruct me”.
A guru is a spiritual teacher. Guru is the one who dispels the darkness of spiritual ignorance and bestows spiritual knowledge upon the seeker. It is Guru who shows the path and hence is revered more than God. Now that the chords of guru-shisya relationship have been struck, the teaching can begin.
Krishna points out that all the problems of Arjuna are because of delusion caused by ignorance. Krishna gives Arjuna the instruction of performing his duty by enlightening him:
1. From the perspective of the true nature of the soul (Atma)- the soul is immortal. Ātmā is never subject to changes in spite of the changes of the body. It is neither a doer nor an enjoyer. Thus neither is anyone killing/killed.
“That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul”. -BG 2.17
“The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by wind”. -BG 2.23
Even if the soul isn’t immortal, Arjuna shouldn’t lament because what is born must die. Change is the beauty of this creation. It looks malicious when our intentions are. Therefore, why should Arjuna be mournful for the physical separation from his kith and kin which is inevitable in life?
“One who has taken his birth is sure to die, and after death is sure to take birth again. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.
2. From the perspective of a Kshatriya’s duty, Arjuna can fight if it’s necessary to establish order. He must look for a solution keeping the society in mind.
“Considering your specific duty as a kshatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation”.
3. From a materialistic perspective, Arjuna should not withdraw from the war. He will be called a coward by everyone and infamy is worse than death. With these as arguments, Krishna persuades Arjuna to fight.
“People will always speak of your infamy, and for a respectable person, dishonor is worse than death”.
This concludes the first part of his teaching. He calls this Sankhya-yoga. Sankhya yoga is the highest knowledge. This is the first set of instructions Krishna gives to Arjuna surrenders.
4. Lord Krishna describes the glory of karma-yoga and its principles. One has full control over the action but not the consequence. The result is dependent on the laws of action and other factors of the world, known and unknown. All these may bring totally unexpected results and this one cannot avoid. In spite of all this, inaction is not a solution. Hence, actions are often imperfect in spite of our best effort because of our imperfect senses. One must hope for the best but must also be prepared for the worst. When one moves ahead with the above understanding, victory and defeat are just words. Thus, one can convert the binding karma into a valid teacher. This is a skill in action. A poised mind will shed its false value of attributed to the world and turn towards the soul. When, through Self-knowledge, one gets established in the peaceful atma, he attains liberation.
“O Krishna, what are the symptoms of one whose consciousness is thus merged in transcendence? How does he speak, and what is his language? How does he sit, and how does he walk?
Now, Arjuna asks Krishna how a person who is firmly established in Self-knowledge behaves. Krishna gives Arjuna the means of stabilizing knowledge. Knowledge cannot be fruitful unless it is stabilized and assimilated. For this, Kṛṣṇa talks about two important practices- control of the mind and sense organs and contemplation upon the teaching. If these are not practiced, the mind and the sense organs will drag a person to the field of sense-objects and gradually pull him down spiritually.
“In the material world. one who is unaffected by whatever good or evil he may obtain, neither praising it nor despising it, is firmly fixed in perfect knowledge”.
Talking about the characteristics of a wise man, the Krishna enlightens Arjuna that a man of Self Knowledge is always satisfied with himself and is free from all desires He doesn’t depend externally for happiness. He is free from attachment, hatred, desire, anger, fear, elation and depression. Though he lives in the same material world, he enjoys freedom and contentment which is unknown to others.
5. The ocean is independently full and is unaffected by the rivers. Similarly, the wise man’s mind is independently full. It is not disturbed by any favorable or unfavorable experiences, entering or not entering. This is the state which Krishna describes as one not getting deluded again. He lives life as a jīvan-mukta (liberated while living). After death, he becomes with Brahman which is called dvideha-mukti.
“A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of the desires- that enters the rivers into the ocean, which is ever being filled but is always still- can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires”.
Though sankhya yoga is the true solution for sorrow, not many benefit from it because of the false idea (moha) that worldly pursuits can solve the problem. So, initially, one pursues them by meeting their worldly ends. In the course of time, one will discover for oneself that actions and their results are temporary. This leads the mind to lose the taste for these materialistic requirements. A dispassionate mind can pursue sāṅkhya-yoga. Thus, karma yoga eventually introduces us to Sankhya Yoga.