The Bhagavad Gita, translated from Sanskrit as “The Lord’s Song”, is the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Prince Arjuna as the charioteer and archer enter battle in the Mahabharata. Arjuna tells Lord Krishna that he feels emotionally conflicted entering into this war since it requires him to kill his own blood, and engage in actions that he feels go against his beliefs as a Hindu. At this point, the two stop in the middle of the battlefield, and Lord Krishna launches into a narrative that enlightens Arjuna on human nature and the purpose of human life as defined by one’s duties, actions, and knowledge.
Arjuna’s main conflicts from engaging in the war were rooted in the fact that he would be spilling the blood of his own relatives, and that killing his relatives in order regain control of his family’s kingdom would be just as sinful as would his relatives killing him in order to keep control of their lands. Arjuna could not understand how the needs of one could warrant the death of another, and because of this questioned his friend, Lord Krishna.
Bhagavad Gita Essay Example
This paper will analyze the ways that Lord Krishna justified war and death by giving the knowledge of the cycle of reincarnation, atman, and Brahman, and by necessitating them as one’s duty based on Arjuna’s Kshatriya status. In Lord Krishna’s orations to Arjuna, Krishna’s words shed understanding to Arjuna on the cycle of incarnation and the idea of atman and Brahman. You grieve for those beyond grief / and you speak words of insight; / but learned men do not grieve / for the dead or the living. / Never have I not existed / nor you, nor these kings; / and never in the future / shall we cease to exist.
/ Just as the embodied self / enters childhood, youth and old age, / so does it enter another body; / this does not confound a steadfast man. (Vyasa 33). Lord Krishna reminds Arjuna that in the Hindu cycle of reincarnation, samsara, no atman ever goes away until it is ready to be released through moksha and transformed into the universal soul known as Brahman. Krishna is telling Arjuna that by slaying his cousins in the war, he is not ending their lives altogether. Krishna reminds Arjuna that a person does not cease to exist whether alive or dead; the person is eternal and shall continue on endlessly, and that Arjuna’s grief is unwarranted
since it assumes that a person will be no more, when actually the person shall always survive in soul and memory. “As a man discards / worn-out clothes / to put on new / and different ones, / so the embodied self / discards / its worn- out bodies / to take on other new ones. ” (Vyasa 35). An atman only occupies a body temporarily, and because of this Lord Krishna urges Arjuna that there is no wrong in righteously moving the atman away from it as it continues on in its cycle of samsara.
Arjuna can end the life of one of his relatives on the battlefield, but he will never be able to take the atman that controlled that body away from the cycle of samsara. Lord Krishna also uses the argument of duty and bhakti to justify Arjuna’s participation, since it is his duty as a Kshatriya. Krishna tells Arjuna “Look to your own duty; / do not tremble before it; / nothing is better for a warrior / than a battle of sacred duty. ” (Vyasa 36). Prince Arjuna was born into the Kshatriya caste, and as a Kshatriya, Arjuna is a warrior and a leader.
Krishna implores Arjuna to see the war this way; not as something he was forced into by circumstance, but rather as something he was born to do by way of the caste system. “If you are killed, you win heaven; / if you triumph, you enjoy the earth; / therefore, Arjuna, stand up / and resolve to fight the battle! ” (Vyasa 37). Krishna explains to Arjuna that there is no loss for him in this battle. The battle is righteous, and its cause is just, and because of this it is Arjuna’s duty to pick up his weapon and fight to fulfill his dharma.
No matter the outcome, Arjuna will be able to reap rewards either in heaven as he progresses forward in his cycle of samsara, or on the earth where he can finally rule what is finally his. Krishna tells Arjuna that the only way he can lose in this battle is If you fail to wage this war / of sacred duty, / you will abandon your own duty / and fame only to gain evil. / People will tell / of your undying shame / and for a man of honor / shame is worse than death. / The great chariot warriors will think / you deserted in fear of battle; / you will be despised / by those who held you in esteem.
/ Your enemies will slander you, / scorning your skill / in so many unspeakable ways / could any suffering be worse? (Vyasa 37). Death should mean nothing to Arjuna because death is natural and a part of reincarnation. Failing to follow one’s duty however, is cause for shame, embarrassment, and ridicule, and this leads Lord Krishna to tell Arjuna that people will not see him deserting the war as an act of compassion, but rather an act of cowardice. No respect will be brought to a Kshatriya leader who cannot fulfill his duty as a warrior and would rather cower away from a righteous battle.
Arjuna’s name would be associated with great humiliation, and he himself would be brought more fear. Krishna conveys to Arjuna that “No effort in this world / is lost or wasted; / a fragment of sacred duty / saves you from great fear” and in doing so illustrates the idea that just by Arjuna taking the effort to participate in the war he will be fulfilling his sacred duty and in doing so saving himself, and his family, from the great fear of humiliation and insult (Vyasa 38)
Some would argue that Arjuna spilling the blood of his elder’s goes against his duty as a son to respect and worship those that have taught and raised him. This argument is correct in assuming that it is the duty of a younger family member to respect, worship, and follow elders. However, Arjuna’s main duty is not to his family, but rather to his people. As a Kshatriya, Arjuna was born in a position where he was meant to lead his people, not for his own gain, but for the gain of the entirety of his kingdom.
Arjuna and his family have a duty to their people as leaders born into the ruling caste, and because of this Arjuna is able to go against his elders and fight his righteous war as a Kshatriya. The Bhagavad Gita acts as an encompassing piece of literature for all of Hinduism. Though it does not preach violence, the Gita recognizes it to be necessary at times. Lord Krishna justifies war and loss by preaching the recognition of the cycle of reincarnation, atman, and Brahman, and necessitating righteous war as a duty based on Arjuna’s Kshatriya status.