by Swami Krishnananda
Many a time, even though the preparations are well contemplated and the processes have been well thought out, when we actually come to the forefront of the task, we will find that it is a terrible thing that is before us. This is what happened to Arjuna, as described in the first chapter of the Bhagavadgita. It was all a grand preparation for the practice of yoga, a glorious proclamation of the war of the spirit that was to take place, and a tremendous contemplation in all its intricacies had been worked out. But when the forces were confronted in the field of battle, it was enough to give a shock to the entire personality of Arjuna. Now, this Arjuna is everyone in the world. Every individual is an Arjuna – an individual, a seeker, a soldier in the battlefield of spiritual practice.
All our preparations go in vain when we actually confront the terror that is in front of us. When we are in our rooms, we can speak like this: “When I go to the jungle, I will meet the lion; what is there? I will show my gun. I will give it a clout on its head. I will draw my spear!” But when it opens its mouth in front of us: “Oh God! This lion is not the one that I thought of in my room! This is something different!” We run for our life.
All our preparations go to the winds, because the idealistic preparation which is merely a thought process – though honestly entertained within oneself – is a little different from the very same thing when it is connected with the realistic pattern of the world. The world is not merely an individual idea, though the idea of the individual has something to do with the objects of the world.
In the practice of yoga, we should not be one-sided, as I mentioned sometime back. We should not lean too much either on the side of our own thoughts and feelings entirely, to the exclusion of the facts of the outside world, nor should we lean too much on the world outside, completely ignorant of what is happening to us within our own selves. The subject and the object have to be correlated in the practice of yoga. As a matter of fact, the Universal is nothing but such a correlation. The Universal is neither a subject nor an object; it is both things blended in such a manner that no individual can imagine what it is.
So, in the beginning of yoga, at the very outset, when we are seated and put forth effort to contemplate, we will find that we are at sea. What is that on which we have to contemplate? Then the doubts arise in the mind. One of the greatest dangers to the spiritual quest is doubt in the mind – doubts of various types. One of the doubts is: “Am I properly prepared for this task ahead of me?” There may be a suspicion which tells us from inside that perhaps we are not up to the task: “I have made a mistake.” This thought occurs to the minds of seekers within a short time after they have severed themselves from relationships with what they regarded as bondage in the world. It may be home, state and chattel – whatever it is.
A second doubt may arise in the mind: “Is the technique that I am adopting in my practice okay? Or is there something wrong in the technique? Is it capable of piercing through truth?” A third doubt may come: “Is the master who has initiated me competent? Or should I have gone to a better one, a more competent one, a more advanced one?”
But the greatest of doubts is something different. This was the doubt of Arjuna. He had three doubts in his mind, which he expressed to Lord Sri Krishna, and this is the doubt coming in a threefold form to every seeker of truth. One of the doubts is: “Will I succeed? I am a single person, and the problems before me seem to be so vast. Have I the courage and the power to face these problems?” Sri Krishna was queried by Arjuna: “What is the guarantee that we will win victory? Perhaps the other side also may win victory. Then what is the purpose? What is the good of all this?”
Secondly, a very subtle social sense of ethics enters the mind: “What will happen to my wife? What about my children who are not settled? What about the opprobrium that will be cast upon me? Am I a selfish person who is seeking an individual salvation while the whole world is in agony and sorrow?” This was another doubt of Arjuna. “We will be creating a chaos in the world by entering into this war. The consequence of this battle will be a terrible chaos, confusion in the entire human society. Also, is it worthwhile to break traditions, uproot temples of sacred worship and defy all the rules and regulations of human society which are held in high sacred esteem – the bonds of affection among people?” This is also a doubt of Arjuna. These doubts do not come on the very first day. They come after a few months, and they are enough to shake a person from the root.
These doubts arise because the initial enthusiasm which has driven a seeker to the path of yoga has not been backed up with sufficient understanding. We are mostly emotional people. Every one of us has an emotion; and when emotion gains an upper hand, we get into a mood and take steps which on sober occasions we would have hesitated to take. When we hear a powerful discourse by an experienced mahatma on the nature of God or the glory of spiritual salvation, we can be fired up with the zeal of leaving everything, throwing out all things and getting out from bondage. But this is an enthusiasm – which is good as far as it goes. Because it is a spiritual enthusiasm, we should regard it as good. But it is not merely goodness that counts in this world. There are other things which have to be combined with goodness. Goodness is one of the features and characters of human nature, but there are other characters we should not ignore, which are equally important.
We have a body; we are a biological individual, and the body has its own urges. We have a subconscious layer of mind which will have its own say at one time or the other but which, for the time being, has been buried underneath by the pressure of the conscious activity of the mind at the present moment. And there is what is called the social sense in a human being, which is not a feeble bond, but a very strong bond, but which can be submerged by emotions of a different type when they gain an upper hand.