by Swami Krishnananda
The reply of Sri Krishna to Arjuna’s questions comes from various levels the social, the personal, the cosmical and, ultimately, the spiritual. A problem has to be tackled in every way, because our difficulties arise from the depths of our being. No difficulty belongs merely to one side of our life, just as a disease has a root in the layers which are beneath the mere physical. Interpreters of scriptures and students of philosophy are asked to take into consideration all the possible aspects of a particular situation, even if it be a commonplace event. A little event is a cosmical event; though it may be a very insignificant, meaningless something, for common perception. But a thing is not so redundant as it may appear on the surface. The universe is awake at the birth of every event. That is why we are told that there is no such thing as a secret in this world; everything is public, open and common. An event has to be viewed from various angles of vision. Mostly, we are inclined to study things in a one-sided manner; we study themes, for example, from the political context, and interpret them only from that viewpoint, as if there is nothing else about things. Students of sociology and psychology, again, think only from their points of view. There are others, who are the religious people, who interpret everything theologically, and so on.
There is an objective universe, no doubt. The world appears to be outside us, and the objectivity of the event is also something that has to be taken into consideration. But we, as subjects, take part in the event that appears to be objective. Inasmuch as we, as subjects, participate in the objectivity of the event, there is also a subjective aspect of the event. So, no event or circumstance is wholly objective, nor can it be said to be wholly subjective. There is an inter-mingling of the outer and the inner, the objective and the subjective in the occurrence of any event. There is also a transcendent meaning inherent in the occurrence of anything. It is not merely the world and the individual that react upon each other; there is a final deciding factor which requires the objective and the subjective aspects to react in that manner. Often, we call this transcendence the Will of God. There is also the social side of it, because an event occurs in a social atmosphere. By society we need not necessarily mean a group of human beings. Society, in general, is an organised order, whether it is human or otherwise. And an event that occurs in an organised atmosphere has the impact of this organisation, whatever that organisation be it may be a family; an institution, or the entire mankind. There are many other aspects which will be gradually revealed through the course of the chapters of the Bhagavadgita. Arjuna, as the representative man, the specimen of a disciple, is admonished by the great example of the teacher, Sri Krishna. It is, no doubt, true that every human individual, Arjuna or whoever it is, is in a social atmosphere and to argue on a basis which has absolutely no relevance to society would not be a completely valid procedure. Though it is true that a purely sociological argument is also not complete, because there are other aspects to it, yet, initially, we speak as social units. Rarely do we imagine that we belong to the vaster physical nature. Only in the philosophy classrooms may we be thinking in this manner, perhaps; but in our work-a-day life we imagine that we are human beings living in a human society concerned only with human relations. We are not so much bothered about the five elements.
The sociological argument is the primary argument, the initial step. Have we a duty to human society? One cannot say, “I have no duty; I am the soul, the Atman, a consciousness that is immortal, eternal, infinite.” This would be a fallacious argument, because here we are trying to inject a metaphysical level into a social atmosphere, which should not be done as long as one is obviously aware of the fact that the social atmosphere is a reality. When the reality of social relationship has vanished like mist before the sun, and we cannot see it with our eyes, then, may be, we need not take it into consideration in the judgement of anything. Anything that we are compelled to recognise as a reality cannot be ignored when any argument is put forth. And who, on earth, that is human, can affirm that one does not belong to human society and social laws do not operate? Arjuna was certainly a social being and every human being, normally speaking, is a social unit. Inasmuch as we are conscious of our being in human society and there is a give-and-take attitude of co-operation in this atmosphere of human society, we must be sure that we have fulfilled our obligations in the form of a co-operative activity in respect of society. We cannot expect facilities from society and then feel that we have no obligations in return. Let anyone think for himself, or herself. Do you derive any benefit from social relations, from other human beings than yourself? If you are sure and honestly convinced that benefit accrues from outer society for your existence and continuance in this world, you have also to pay back the dues expected from you by society in return for the benefit that has been received by you from society. In a religious enthusiasm we cannot abrogate human society, as long as we are sure that there is such a thing as society and we are in it. The other aspect is that we are an individual in a bodily encasement and we have a duty towards ourselves, also. We cannot kill ourselves in the name of society, nor can we kill society for our own personal advantage. These are important things which one has to bear in mind in tackling any question. There are martyrs who destroy themselves in the name of something other than themselves. And there are others who convert society into a martyr to fulfill the demands of their own egoism. History is an example before us. Neither can we exploit society for ourselves, nor is the society expected to exploit us. We are not a stooge in the hands of social laws, we are not a puppet or a slice of human society; nor can we regard society as a slave or a means to our personal advantage or satisfaction. The role of importance that society plays in the rule of co-operative living, and the importance we too have in the context of this relationship is all to be well considered.
But a very important ‘but’ indeed there is something more than all this. There is the universe which is not exhausted by human society. This world of Nature with its birds and beasts, rivers and mountains and the solar system is not unimportant. The adhibhautika jagat, or the world of Nature, externally visible to us, in which we are located, is not in any way less significant than human society or our own personal individuality. We are expected to co-operate and collaborate with the world of Nature in as efficient a manner and as dexterously as we are expected to perform the duty in respect of ourselves and human society. There is a supreme duty that we owe to the Creator of the universe. The Atman within us is the symbol of the Absolute that is everywhere. So when people speak of atma-sakshi and regard the innermost-self as the witness of all things, they bring God into the picture of the judgement of all things, who sees everything with His millions of eyes. Just imagine how difficult it is to live in this world in a successful manner! All these aspects, of course, are to be borne in mind. These aspects mentioned are, as known in Sanskrit technical terminology, the adhiyajna level, the adhyatma level, the adhibhuta level and the adhidaiva level. There is a fifth aspect which is generally not mentioned in the commentaries on scriptures. This is what is known as the adhidharma the Law, the Righteousness of the Kingdom of God, as we generally call it. The Kingdom of God is the adhidaiva, principal spiritual Reality. The righteousness thereof is the law that operates in the universe. The Vedas speak of this righteousness as the satya and the rita: the Absolute law and the cosmical operative law. As in the constitution of a democratic republic there is a super-departmental power vested with the President, while there is a departmental law operating through the Prime Minister, one not completely dissociated from the other and yet one having a significance of its own independent of the other; likewise, is the ‘Satya’ and the ‘Rita’ spoken of in the Vedas. The satya is the super departmental Absolute principle, we may call it the basis of all law, and the way in which it operates in a particular context of creation is the rita. And one has to abide by this law. ‘Law’ has a vast connotation, not easy to comprehend, because it has various degrees of manifestation and action.
Sri Krishna, in his reply to Arjuna, refers to all these aspects, so that the answer of Krishna is a complete encounter to life. He does not leave anything unsaid, because the problem of Arjuna was a total problem and not something that arose from a side of his personality. We would ask, what is meant by a ‘total’ problem: It is a difficulty that arises in the entirety of the personality socially, physically, vitally, mentally and intellectually. Earlier we made mention of the difficulties Arjuna had in his mind in respect of his duty towards human society. He was doubting the consequence that would follow from his engagement in the war. It would be destructive of all, moral, social and ethical values; a sin, in a sense. But not merely that. Arjuna was in a worse condition, still. His whole personality was shattered. He was not thinking like a sane person at that moment. The organisation of the personality had given way completely; there was a tendency to disintegration of his individuality. He began to say, “Oh! my body is burning, the hands are trembling, the hair is standing on its end, the head is reeling, the mind is unable to think, my reason has failed me.” And what remains in a man, then! Everything is gone. He lost control over everything that he had within himself, and everything that he was. All the five layers of his personality, or the koshas the annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya, anandamaya, the physical, vital, mental, intellectual and causal being all things were shaken from their roots. It appeared that the very edifice was crumbling; and under those circumstances, what opinion could he express about anything? It was all a bungling, a fumbling and an erroneous viewpoint taken by him.