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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

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Who Fights Whom and Why

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Shrimad Bhagawad Gita is said to  be a discourse delivered by the Lord for Arjuna, while the two armies of Kauravas and Pandavas were arrayed against each other in the battle- field of Kurukshetra. Shri Krishna was his charioteer. He placed the chariot in between the two armies, at his instance, to enable him to see the warriors eager to fight on both sides. Arjuna was distressed to see his own relatives on both sides and dropped his bow, ‘Gandiva’, determined not to fight. A question often asked is why did the Lord not agree when Arjuna declined to fight and thereby avoid the great war of Mahabharata. His endorsement of the change in the mind of Arjuna would have obviated the heavy loss of life resulting from this war and would have served the cause of peace. In order to find an answer to this question, we can proceed in three different ways. First let us see what was the immediate cause of this war. The immediate cause was that Kauravas denied Pandavas their due. In fact Shri Krishna tried His utmost to avoid the conflict by counselling Kauravas. He made a last ditch effort and went to the extent of even settling with just five villages for Pandavas. It was the ego and the adament nature of Duryodhana that thrust the war on Pandavas and  forced them to fight for their rights. So it was a war for the right cause and, therefore,  it formed the duty for Arjuna, a warrior as he was. Perhaps it is in this context that Shri Krishna says: ‘Atha chet-tvam-imam dharmyam sangramam na karishyasi. Tatah svadharmam keertim cha hitva papam-avapsyasi. If you do not wage this righteous war you will destroy your duty and your fame and thereby incur a sin. II.33.’ The epithet used for this specific war  here is ‘dharmyam’, righteous. So it has to be noted that Shri Krishna wants Arjuna to fight for righteousness as a part of his duty. The duties of a warrior have been laid down clearly: ‘Shauryam, tejo, dhritir-dakshyam yuddhe chapi-apalayanam. Danam-ishwar-bhavash-cha kshatram karma svabhavajam. By his very disposition, the duties of a warrior are bravery, radiance, resoluteness, expertise, generosity, lordship and determination not to desert in the war. XVIII.43.’ He should not run away from the battle-field, an honoured warrior as he is, for if he does, he will not only be forfeiting his own duty but also will incur slanderous defamation from his fellow warriors. ‘Bhayad-ranad-uparatam mansyante tvam maharathah. Yesham cha tvam bahumatah bhutva yasyasi laghavam. You will be deemed to have run away from the field out of fear. The warriors who held you in high esteem shall look down upon you with contempt. II.35.’ 

Another important point to be noted is that Arjuna declines to fight not as a principle that war is evil but because of two distinct reasons. One that he did not want to wage a war against his own kinsmen and kill them and  two that he was not sure which of the two sides was going to win ultimately. This will be clear from these shlokas. ‘Dhrishtva-imam svajanam yuyutsum mama gatrani seedanti – seeing these Kinsmen ready to fight, my limbs fail me. I.28 & 29.’ ‘Nimittani cha pashyami viparitani – I see adverse  and unfavourable omens. I.31.’ ‘Na cha shreyo-anupashyami hatva svajanam-ahave. Na kankshe vijayam Krishna na cha rajyam sukhani cha. I do not visualise any good ensuing from the killing of my own kinsmen. I do not desire victory nor any empire. I. 31& 32.’ ‘Yadva jayema yadi va no jayeyuh . Whether we shall be victorious or they shall defeat us. II.6.’  Arjuna is unsure about his duty. He is confused, weakened and, therefore, unable to decide the right course of action. ‘Pricchami tvam dharma-sammudha-chetah yat-shreyah syat-nishchitam bruhi tanme..- My understanding about my duty is confused. I am asking your advice. Tell me for certain what is beneficial for me. II.7.’ Shri Krishna’s replies to these doubts are very pointed. It is not winning or losing in the war that is material. What really matters is doing one’s ordained duty. ‘Hato va prapsyasi svargam jitva va bhokshyase mahim.- slain, you will gain access to heaven and victorious, you will enjoy sovereignty over the earth. II.37.’ ‘Svalpam-api-asya dharmasya trayate mahto bhayat.- even a little of this righteous duty when executed protects you from great fear. II.40.’ As regards the point raised by Arjuna about the killing of his  own kins, he is put wise by Shri Krishna on the broader questions of  who the ‘karta’, the doer is and the fact that the soul is immortal. He reveals an important secret that these kinsmen, the kauravas, as others,  existed before and shall  exist hereafter. This is the eternal nature of existence. ‘Na tu-eva-aham jatu nasam, na tvam na-ime janadhipah. Na-chaiva na bhavishyamah sarve vayam-atah param. – These ruling kings, you and I were never non-existent. All of us shall similarly never cease to be existent in future. II.12.’ So far as the bodily existence is concerned, the life and death is in the hands of the Lord. In this case also He has already slain Kauravas and Arjuna is being made only an instrument, an agent, which gives him name and fame as a warrior. He also is assured of the sovereignty over his kingdom. ‘Tasmat-tvam uttishtha yasho labhasva. Jitva shatrun bhukshva rajyam samriddam. Maya-eva-ete nihatah purvam-eva, nimitta-matram bhava savya-sachin.- Get up Arjuna! Earn name and fame, conquer your enemies and enjoy the rich and prosperous kingdom. I have killed them already and you be only an instrument for their killing, a cause of their death XI.33.’ 

The second way of examining the question is to analyse whether the war or the fight referred to in the Gita at all is Mahabharata or is it some other conflict. This doubt is well founded and can be corroborated with internal evidence from the Gita. Sanjay reports to Dhritarashtra that Arjuna said to the Lord, ‘I shall not fight,’ and then kept quiet. ‘Na yotsya iti Govindam uktva tushnim babhuva ha. II.9’ Had the reference been to the war of Mahabharata the logical reaction from Shri Krishna would have been, ‘Why? But why don’t you want to fight? You want to spare these plunderers who have usurped your legitimate right to kingdom. You are prepared to let these sinners get away with the unmanly treatment they meted out to Draupadi. Don’t you remember that I tried my best to avert war by asking Kauravas to part with just five villages for you and your brothers, and they declined.’ It will, however, be seen that nothing of this sort was told by Him. No such argument was put forth by Him in defence of waging the war. The first reaction of the Lord on seeing Arjuna lay down his arms was, ‘Kutas-tva kashmalam-idam vishame sam-upasthitam. Anarya-jushtam-asvargyam akeertikaram-Arjuna. – Whence has this dejection come upon you at this crucial hour? It is unmanly, heaven-barring and liable to defamation. II.21’. Next when he said in so many words that he was not going to fight, the Lord chastised him for grieving on a situation which did not warrant to be grieved at. He brought in straightaway the subject of the mortal body and the immortal soul to bring home the fact of  inevitability of death for the body and indestructibility of the embodied soul. ‘Ashochyan-anvashochastvam prajnavadansh-cha bhashase. Gatasun-agatasunsh-cha nanushochanti panditah. II.11’. 

In this context one would like to go back to the first word of the Gita which is ‘dharma-kshetre’, meaning in the field of righteousness or duty. This is followed by the word ‘kuru-kshetre’ meaning in the field of action. So the battle-field intended is the field of action for righteousness. It is a common knowledge that a person has two aspects of vice and virtue of his nature. The aspect of virtue is sedate, unassuming, sober and beneficial in the long run. The aspect of vice is vibrant, attractive, alluring and of momentary happiness. This aspect becomes dominant and  controls and directs our thought, speech, actions and attitude. It is these traits in the form of Kauravas which are to be slain. But they are so enticing that they appear to us to be our own near and dear ones. We don't want to fight them, let alone kill them. Shri Krishna warns us that any idea of not facing and annihilating these is unmanly and disastrous. It will bring only defamation as this will turn us of '‘asuri prakriti'’ demonic nature and will deprive us of heaven. ‘Anarya-jushtam-asvargyam akeertikaram. II.2’. So He wants us to shun the faint-heartedness and rise to vanquish these enemies. ‘Kshudram hridaya-daurbalyam tyaktva-uttishtha. II.3.’ Therefore, one could conclude that it is this struggle constantly on against these vicious elements, in our own mind, which the Lord inspires us to fight to the finish. The entire Gita is replete with the details of these two aspects, the consequences of each one of them and the ways and means of killing the vicious one and then realising the true nature of the Self. 

The third way of tackling this question is to keep in mind the basic purpose of the Lord’s appearing in the embodied form. This has explicitly been made known in these two shlokas: ‘Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir-bhavati Bharata! Abhyutthanam adharmasya tada-atmanam srijami-aham. – Whenever the righteousness declines and the vice is at its ascendance I embody myself. IV.7’. ‘Paritranaya sadhunam vinashaya cha dush-kritaam. Dharma-sansthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge.- For the protection of the good and destruction of the evil-doers and for the establishment of righteousness I am born age after age. IV.8’. It is, therefore clear that the Lord had embodied himself to protect Pandavas, whose case was just and right. He was here to destroy Kauravas, who were ‘dushkritam,’ evil-doers, whose actions were unjust, wicked, cruel and sinful. He had to re-establish the rule of law, justice and truth. It was, therefore, imperative for Him to aid, abet, encourage and support the war effort of Arjuna, or else it would go against the very purpose of His ‘Avatara’, descent on this earth. He was his charioteer and was guiding him in this mental and spiritual struggle of his life. We have to remember that we are not the doers. ‘Naiva kinchit-karomi-iti yukto manyeta tattvavit. – One who knows the truth believes, and rightly so, that he is not the doer. He does nothing. V.8’. The Lord is the creator and the destroyer of the whole world. ‘Aham kritsnasya jagatah prabhavah pralayas-tatha .VII.6.’ It is because of this that Arjuna is urged to fight in order to carry out the task of the Divine as His instrument. ‘Antavanta ime deha  nityasya-uktah sharirinah. Anashino-aprameyasya tasmad-yudhyasva Bharata! – The bodies have an end. The indweller in them is indestructible and formless. Therefore Arjuna you nust fight. II.18.’ ‘tato yuddhaya yujvasva naivam papam-avapsyasi. – engage yourself in the battle, There is no sin involved for you. II.38’. ‘Tasmat-sarveshu kaleshu mam-anusmara yudhya cha. – Remember Me all the time and fight. VIII.7’. The Lord says that we should surrender all actions unto Him and be free from hope of selfish motives, even while engaged in battle. ‘Mayi sarvani karmani sanyasya-adhyatma-chetasa. Nirashi-nirmamo bhutva yudhyasva vigata jvarah. III.30.’ This is repeated again when the Lord wants us to make all our actions an offering to Him, ‘Yat-karoshi yad-ashnasi yaj-juhoshi dadasi yat. Yat-tapasyasi Kaunteya tat-kurushva mad-arpanam. Whatever you do, eat, sacrifice, donate and whatever penance you practise, do it as an offering unto Me. IX.27.’ 

Ego is one trait that is never approved of by the Lord. Humility, submission and surrender before Him are the qualities that endear us to Him. Any action which is carried out without any notion of egoism keeps us free from the fruits of the action. ‘Yasya na-ahankrito bhavah buddhir-yasya na lipyate. Hatva-api sa iman-lokan na hanti na nibadhyate. Once there is no notion of ego and once the wisdom is untainted, even if you kill these people, you are not held responsible for the killing and, therefore you do not get involved in the act and its fruits and result. You are not bound at all. XVIII.17.’ A practical demonstration of the fact that these Kauravas had already been slain by the Lord and that Arjuna would only be an instrument, has been made to Arjuna when he sees all the warriors enter the mouth of Shri Krishna involuntarily. Awe stricken, he narrates, ‘Ami cha  tvam Dhritarashtrasya putrah sarve sahaiva-avanipala-sanghaih…. Vaktrani te tvaramana vishanti danshtra-karalani bhayanakani. All the sons of Dhritrashtra along with other monarchs enter hurriedly into your mouth, terrible with teeth and fearful to look at. XI.26 & 27.’ 

Thus it will be seen that the Gita supports and advocates legitimate action including a war which is righteous and is waged to protect the truth and justice and forms a part of one's’duty. It further makes it known that:- 'Sahajam karma Kaunteya! Sadosham-api na tyajet. One should not abandon one’s natural duty even if it is faulty. XVIII.48.’ It inspires the war effort against animality within our selves, so that we are able to raise ourselves to divinity. It says that we are helpless in carrying out the fights on His behalf to restore  and re-establish ‘Dharma’ as His agents and instruments for carrying out these tasks. 

(Taken from the Book ‘Bhagavad Gita, the Elixir of Life’ written by T.N. Dhar)  

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