by Swami Krishnananda
Gita Jayanti message given in the year 1976. Gita Jayanti falls on Ekadasi, or the eleventh day of the bright half of the month of Margasirsha (November-December).
I shall endeavour to touch upon a few salient points in the gospel of the Bhagavadgita, which will be of some meaning and utility in our day-to-day life. To apply a knowledge to life is the most difficult aspect of knowledge. We have always been accustomed to bifurcate life from knowledge, and vice versa, so that a learned man is not necessarily a happy man, nor even a rich man. The reason is that learning or knowledge has been isolated from the facts of life. This is one of the conflicts that we observe in life. As they say humorously, Sarasvati and Lakshmi never live in the same house, meaning thereby that learning and wealth do not go together. There are many such conflicts, all which are supposed to be resolved, in one way or the other, by means of the great teachings known as the Bhagavadgita.
Bhagavan Sri Krishna, when He spoke the Bhagavadgita, intended to resolve a conflict. What is a conflict, may be a question that raises itself in our minds. There are, actually, four types of conflict, within which every other type, kind, or variation of disharmony can be subsumed. The occasion for the delivery of this Gospel was the battle of Mahabharata, which represents a field of conflict with other people. This is what is known as a battle. The first problem one encounters in life is conflict with other people. "You do not like me" and "I do not like you". When we wake up in the morning and look at the world, we are faced with a conflict with other people. This is a difficulty which saps the vitality of many in the world. We have to see faces with whom we cannot reconcile ourselves. It may be a boss, a subordinate or an equal – it makes no difference. When we cannot reconcile ourselves with another face, there is a conflict; and we see nothing but faces when we get up in the morning and look at the world outside. The battle of Mahabharata is a large epic, describing this primary conflict of human nature – conflict of one person with another person, in which can be included conflicts of groups, communities and nations, because all these are nothing but personalities and individualities associating and clashing in certain manners and patterns. What you call a society, or a family, or a nation, or a community is nothing but human beings grouping themselves into patterns. So, conflict with other people includes every kind of conflict in the world. Thus, we have the Mahabharata epic, in the middle of which the Bhagavadgita occurs.
Where is the Bhagavadgita located? In the middle of the battle of the Mahabharata. What is this epic battle? A conflict between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, brothers in a unitary family. It was a family feud. We may say it was a conflict between Yudhishthira and Duryodhana, which amounts to the same essential situation. So, again, to reiterate, the conflict which Bhagavan Sri Krishna tries to resolve has as its background the conflict enumerated in the long epic poem of the Mahabharata. What is this background? The conflict of personalities! That was the occasion for the war. Huge armies were arrayed on both sides. Thousands were about to fly at the throats of each other. That was the occasion for the giving of this Gospel. The Gospel was not given in a school, a college, or a university, a temple, a church, or an auditorium – nothing of the kind. This most interesting and indispensable Gospel which we try to enshrine in our hearts, in our memories, was given on that momentous occasion of a war that was about to break between large contending armies. Nobody would like to seek wisdom on that tense occasion. That is not the time to speak at all; it is the time to act and do something immediately. Who would speak philosophy when there are large numbers of men emotionally worked up into such a heightened pitch of anxiety and wrath that they will hear no words spoken by anyone, and are bent upon a severe type of action! On that occasion, who would speak a sublime gospel or a scripture! But that was the occasion, and there could not be a better occasion.
Now, the very purpose of this war was primarily to resolve a social conflict. Well, it was agreed that the war was indispensable. The purpose behind the war was not to destroy people but to resolve a social conflict or a political tension. It was impossible to mend people, and so they thought it was necessary to end people. And they concluded that by the ending of the people the conflict would automatically vanish. If you cannot untie a knot, you cut the knot.
For memory's sake I may mention a few names who were involved in this conflict – the leaders, the generalissimos of the war. There were powerful veterans on the side of the Kauravas, almost invincible in battle, three of whom, the most prominent ones, were Bhishma, Drona and Karna. Nobody could face them with immunity to their lives. On the other side, that of the Pandavas, we have leaders like Bhima and Arjuna, the brothers of king Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandavas. While the most powerful from the Kauravas side was Bhishma, the most invincible on the side of the Pandavas was Arjuna. They knew every tactic of war, and people would shudder in their hearts by merely hearing their names.
On mutual acceptance, it was agreed that the war had to be waged to end a social conflict. But, when the hour of crisis came, when the iron was hot and it had to be hit, when that moment came, what happened? A most unexpected conflict arose within the mind of Arjuna. It was not a conflict with other people, but a conflict within his own self. I told you that there are four types of conflict. The first one is conflict with other people, and to end it they embarked upon this perilous adventure of war. But before it broke out or started, the most important of the leaders, the hero of one party, the most renowned warrior, had to pass through a muddle of conflict within himself – his own thoughts, feelings, emotions, and the various tantrums of his psychological organ. We know the situation. All action emanates from the individual, and to do or not to do is to be decided by the individual himself. A decision can be taken only when there is no conflict in one's mind. Either we do a thing or we do not do the thing. We want a thing or we do not want the thing. These are decisions that the mind takes. But if one begins to waver between the two horns of the dilemma, and one does not know which side to take and what steps to put forward due to a conflict within one's own mind, there would be no solution at all. A most surprising attitude did Arjuna take, to the wonder and marvel of everyone there. The most heroic of persons began to speak words of pusillanimity, feelings of pity which would be completely unexpected from a warrior girt up on the brink of a war. Instead of attempting to solve the social conflict for the sake of which the war was to be engaged in, another conflict was added on to it. So instead of one conflict, we have two conflicts here. Arjuna, the leader, the great warrior, advanced specious arguments before Krishna, his colleague, his friend and guide, who was seated on the very same chariot, and clinched the whole matter by saying, "I am not for this." It was a very difficult thing to swallow, and only a personality like Krishna could take it in the true spirit in which it arose.
When a person is truly friendly with us, he knows how to take our moods. That is wisdom of life. Krishna was not pleased; nor was he displeased. A doctor is neither pleased nor displeased with a patient. An emotion will not rise in the mind of a physician. Krishna was not distressed at the agonising condition of the mind of Arjuna. He did not weep, cry or beat his breast. He spoke words of wisdom laden with the profundity of the experience of life which, incidentally, opened up the gates for a solution to all conflicts in life. Not merely Arjuna's conflict but your conflict, my conflict and anyone's conflict at any time found a solution therein. All problems, all conflicts, all disharmonies, in everyone's mind, in every pattern of society, and for all times, were dealt with effectively. Thus it is that the Bhagavadgita became a scripture of universal significance. Though it arose on account of a historical context, it gradually bordered upon timeless questions and the eternal problems of mankind, of humanity as a whole. The Bhagavadgita teaches not the Hindu religion, but religion as such. It is not my religion, or your religion, but the religion of the human soul that is spoken in the words of the Bhagavadgita. It is an answer to the questions of mankind, not merely the themes of some religion, cult or creed. It is 'man' putting a question to God. It is not any particular person or a particular faith or association or affiliation raising a problem, but 'man' signifying humanity, raising a problem before the Maker of all things. And to it, the answer came from all sides. The answer came from all the mouths of the Cosmic Person, not merely from one individual called Krishna. There was no Krishna then, when this answer came. The query was not raised by Arjuna as a historical person. It was not Arjuna that kicked up the problem; it was the humanity present in Arjuna that raised the question. There is a character of humanity in every one of us, which is neither male nor female, neither eastern nor western. That human element puts the eternal question. Hence, the answer has to be all-comprehensive. The human complexity raised the question; and who will answer the question? Not another man. One man's problem cannot be solved by another person, because another person is also a human being like this person. You cannot solve my problem, nor can I solve your problem, because both of us stand on the same pedestal of humanity. And here was the problem of humanity as a whole, not of one individual; and who will answer this question? Not Krishna, because to utter the name Krishna in this context would be to raise the questionof an individual. It was not the historical Krishna that spoke to Arjuna, but it was Narayana who spoke to Nara. This is also known as Nara-Narayana-Samvada, not merely Krishna-Arjuna-Samvada. God spoke to man, not Krishna to Arjuna. The Universal spoke to the particular. The All-comprehensive began to speak words of wisdom to that which is localised in space and time. Humanity was face to face with the Absolute. With this background of understanding, we shall be able to realise the importance of this scripture.
Thus, on the background of the necessity to solve a social conflict, an individual conflict arose in the mind of a symbol of humanity, known as Arjuna. As already pointed out, I cannot answer this question, and you cannot answer this question either, because we are all persons, human beings, individuals, and it is the individual that raises the question. Then, who is to give the answer? Not anyone in the world. The answer has to come from That which is beyond the world. And hence the personality of Krishna began to expand gradually into the All-inclusive Consciousness which covers the entire gamut of the evolution of mankind and the world as a whole. This apocalypse of consciousness is what is known as Virat, or the Visvarupa. It expanded not merely quantitatively in space and time; it is not the swelling of a body that is called Virat or Visvarupa, but a humanly unimaginable expansion of Consciousness, which alone can solve the questions of mankind's conflict.