Recently in one of the Eastern states of India tension erupted at a village which was marked as a future economic zone. Paramilitary forces and villagers whose lands were appropriated fought pitched battles. As the situation was going out of hand the paramilitary forces had to resort to firing on the rioting mob. A number of people were killed and many injured seriously. Later when the state home minister was questioned about the use of force he sarcastically replied, "Seeing a mob trying to attack them, should my forces sprinkle Ganga jal (Ganges water) and sing Bhagavad gita to them".
I was as amused as indignant upon reading these words. Amused at the typical Indian mindset that the Gita is something that cannot be used in an emergency situation. And indignant because this very book is meant to teach these ministers the very first lessons of governance. That they choose to follow Duryodhana and Sakuni and not partake of the nature of Arjuna is another matter.
The minister was trying to imply that the Gita is not something you use in your daily life which is full of difficult situations. When everything is alright then perhaps you may sing the Gita in order to gain some extra piety otherwise you have to rely on your own strengths. This is precisely what Arjuna did when he told Krsna, "0 infallible one, please draw my chariot between the two armies so that I may see those present here, who desire to fight, and with whom I must contend in this great trial of arms." As a dutiful charioteer Krsna did as he was told. Slowly the chariot was brought between the two armies, and Arjuna saw before him the vast army of the Kauravas. Behind him was his own army. Seeing the imminent slaughter of all the assembled soldiers confused Arjuna to such an extent that he was prepared to leave the battlefield altogether. Arjuna's excuses for not fighting can be summarised in five broad categories:
1) Compassion: Arjuna had deep compassion for those he was about to kill. He didn't want to kill his loved ones.
2) Enjoyment: This was a lessnoble reason . Arjuna knew it would be impossible for him to enjoy the kingdom if he won it at the cost of the lives of his family members.
3) Destruction of family : With the death of so many great ksatriyas, irreligion would flourish, and the women would be unprotected and corrupted by unscrupulous men. The society would be overrun by unwanted progeny. The traditional Vedic rituals would no longer be performed because no one would be qualified to perform th em, and thus hell would await both the family and the destroyer of the family.
4) Fear of sinful reactions: Arjuna thought that the enjoyment of royal happiness was not worth the suffering he would have to undergo as a sinful reaction for destroying the family and killing his superiors.
5) Indecision: Arjuna was not convinced that conquering his enemies was better than being conquered by them. The kingdom was flourishing under Duryodhana's rule, so why should the Pandavas fight only to take over the kingdom for themselves? He wondered whether millions of people should die just to enthrone him and his family. Arjuna also reminded Krsna that his objections were not his own mind's speculations but were based on knowledge heard from authorities.
Imagine trying to satisfy a mind like that of Arjuna's. No mean task indeed!
Lord Krsna begins his discourse by explaining to Arjuna that from the spiritual point of view his arguments do not hold water. Just as our naked eye cannot see what is happening inside our body, but the X ray scan can, similarly Arjuna's outward looking analysis was different from Lord Krsna's spiritual vision. Arjuna's analysis was not even useful to him as he himself confessed in the following words: "I am now unable to stand here any longer. I am forgetting myself, and my mind is reeling. I see only causes of misfortune."
The turning point occurs when Arjuna accepts Krsna as his spiritual master "Now 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 disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me". (Bhagavad gita 2.7). Then the teachings of Gita unfold.
To conclude, the Gita is not meant for cowards, nor does it make one. It is the most practical handbook for tackling any emergency.