The armies of the Pandavas, and the Kauravas stood facing each other on the battlefield. Then suddenly, a chariot drew away from the Pandava side and came between the two armies. A banner displaying the image of a monkey fluttered above it. It was Arjuna.
Arjuna looked at the army before him. Then he looked at the army behind him. Brothers, uncles and nephews, ready to fight and kill one another – for what? A piece of land? “I cannot do this”, he said. “This cannot be dharma!”
To the surprise of all assembled warriors, he lowered his bow.
“Don’t be such a weakling, Arjuna. Face the situation like a man!” shouted Lord Krishna.
“I cannot”, moaned Arjuna, his shoulders dropping.
‘It’s your duty as a Kshatriya”, said Lord Krishna, trying to reason with him.
“I cannot”, said Arjuna.
“They abused your wife. They encroached upon your kingdom. Fight for justice, Arjuna”, pleaded Lord Krishna.
Arjuna replied – “I see no sense in killing brothers and uncles and friends. This is cruelty, not nobility. I would rather have peace than vengeance.”
Lord Krishna said – “Noble thoughts indeed. But where does this nobility comes from? Generosity or fear? Wisdom or ignorance? Suddenly, you are confronted by the enormity of the situation – the possibility of failure, the price of success – and you tremble. You wish it had not come to this. Rather than face the situation, you withdraw. Your decision is based on a misreading of the situation. If you knew the world as it truly is, you would be in bliss even at this moment.”
“I don’t understand.”, said Arjuna.
It was then that Lord Krishna sang his song, a song that explained to Arjuna the true nature of the world. This was The Bhagavad Gita.
“Yes, you would kill hundreds of warriors. But that would be the death only of the flesh. Within the flesh is the immortal soul that never dies. It will be reborn; it will wrap itself in a new body as fresh clothes after old ones are discarded. What is a man’s true identity; the temporary flesh or the permanent soul? What do you kill, Arjuna? What can you kill?
“The flesh exists to direct you to the soul. For the flesh enables you to experience all things temporary – your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions. The world around it is temporary. The body itself is temporary. Eventually, disappointed of all things temporary, you will seek permanence and eventually discover the soul. You grieve for flesh, right now, Arjuna, without even realizing the reason it exists.”
“Of all living creatures, the human being is the most blessed. For human flesh is blessed with intellect. Humans alone can distinguish between all that is temporary and all that is not. Humans alone can distinguish between flesh and soul. Arjuna, you and all those on this battlefield have spent their entire life losing this opportunity – focusing more on mortal things than on immortal things.”
“Your flesh receives information about the external world through your five sense organs: eye, ear, nose, tongue and skin. Your flesh engages with the external material world through your five action organs: hands, feet, face, anus and genitals. Between the stimulus and the response, a whole series of processes take place in your mind. These processes construct your understanding of the material world. What you, Arjuna, consider as the battlefield is but a perception of your mind. And like all perceptions it is not real.”
“Your intellect is not aware of your soul. It seeks meaning and validation. Why does it exist? It seeks answers in the material world and finds that everything in the material world is mortal, nothing is immortal. Awareness of death generates fear. It makes the intellect feel invalidated and worthless. From fear is born the ego. The ego contaminates the mind to comfort the intellect. It focuses on events, memories and desires that validate its existence and make it feel immortal and powerful. It shuns all that that makes it feel worthless and mortal. Right now, your ego controls your mind, Arjuna. It gives greater value to the finite experience of your flesh and distracts you from the infinite experiences of your soul. Hence, your anxiety, fear and delusion.”
“Your mind retains memory of all past simulations – those that evoke fear and those that generate comfort. Your mind also imagines situations that frighten you and comfort you. Goaded by your ego, you suppress memories that cause pain and prefer memories that bring pleasure. Goaded by your ego, you imagine situations that the ego seeks and shuns. Right now, Arjuna. on this battlefield, nothing has happened. But a lot is occurring in your mind – memories resurface as ghosts and imagination descends like a demon. That is why you suffer.”
“Your ego constructs a measuring scale to evaluate a situation. This measuring scale determines your notions of fearful or comforting, painful or pleasurable, right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate, good or bad. It is informed by the values of the world you live in, but is always filtered by the ego before being accepted. Right now, Arjuna, what you consider right is based on your measuring scale. What Duryodhana considers right is based on his measuring scale. Which measuring scale is appropriate? Is there one free of bias?”
“The world that you perceive is actually a delusion based on your chosen measuring scale. New memories and new imaginations can change this measuring scale, hence your perception of the world. Only the truly enlightened know the world as it truly is; the rest construct a reality that comforts the ego. The enlightened are therefore always at peace while the rest are constantly restless and insecure. If you were enlightened, Arjuna, you could have been in this battlefield, bow in hand, but still in peace. If you were enlightened, Arjuna, you would have fought without anger, killed without hate.”
“Your ego clings to things that grant it maximum comfort. The purpose of life then becomes the pursuit of comfort – generating states, the shunning of fear – generating states. Attainment of desirable states brings joy, failure to do so becomes sorrow. The ego clings tenaciously to things and ideas that validate its existence. The ego does everything in its power to establish and retain a permanent territorial hold over all external states that give it joy. Do you realize, Arjuna, all you want is to reclaim or recreate situations that give you joy? You have attached your emotions to external events. Separate them.”