BhagavadGita Themes Essay Research Paper The BhagavadGita

Bhagavad-Gita Themes Essay, Research Paper

The Bhagavad-Gita begins with the preparation of battle between the two opposing

sides: on the left stands the collected armies of the one hundred sons of

Dhritarashtra and on the right lies the soldiers of the Pandava brothers.

Warring relatives feuding over the right to govern the land of Kurukshetra, both

forces stand poised and ready to slaughter one another. The warrior Arjuna,

leader of the Pandava armies, readies himself as his charioteer, the god

Krishna, steers toward the opposition when the armies are ready to attack.

Arjuna stops Krishna short before the two sides clash together. Hesitation and

pity creeps into Arjuna?s heart as he surveys his family and relatives on the

other side; he loses his will to win at the cost of the lives he still loves. As

Arjuna sets down his bow and prepares for his own death, the god Krishna begins

his council with Arjuna, where Krishna uses various ideas on action,

self-knowledge, and discipline to reveal to Arjuna the freedom to be attained

from the suffering of man once Arjuna finds his devotion to Krishna. Before

Krishna begins his teachings, Arjuna analyzes his emotions and describes to

Krishna the way his heart feels. ?Krishna, I seek no victory, or kingship or

pleasures? (The Bhagavad-Gita, p. 25). Arjuna admits that he stands to gain

nothing of real worth from the war. He knows he cannot consciously triumph over

family for his own wealth and glory. ?We [Pandava brothers] sought kingships,

delights, and pleasures for the sake of those assembled to abandon their lives

and fortunes in battle? (The Bhagavad-Gita, p. 25). Arjuna continues on to

state that once the family is destroyed and family duty is lost, only chaos is

left to overcome what remains. He goes so far as to describe how chaos swells to

corrupt even the women in the families, creating disorder in society. Arjuna

tells Krishna that the punishment for men who undermine the duties of the family

are destined for a place in hell. Finally, Arjuna asks Krishna which is right:

the tie to sacred duty or reason? Krishna begins his explanation by stating that

all life on earth is indestructible. ?Never have I not existed, nor you, nor

these kings; and never in the future shall we cease to exist? (The

Bhagavad-Gita, p. 31). Because life has always been, reasons Krishna, then how

can man kill or be killed when there is no end to the self? Also, Krishna tells

Arjuna that his emotions of sorrow and pity are fleeting, and that endurance is

all that is necessary to outlast the temporary thoughts. ?If you fail to wage

this war of sacred duty, you will abandon your own duty and fame only to gain

evil? (The Bhagavad-Gita, p. 34). Krishna reinforces the idea of dharma,

reminding Arjuna of the consequences faced when one does not fulfill the duty

set before him. ?Your own duty done imperfectly is better than another man?s

done well. It is better to die in one?s own duty, another man?s duty is

perilous? (The Bhagavad-Gita, p. 46). Doing one?s job poorly is preferable

to doing another?s well. Even if talents lie in a different area, the duty one

is assigned to is the responsibility of the individual. Failure of Arjuna to

abide by his duty would have a profound effect on his worldly life as well.

Enemies would slander Arjuna and companions would lose faith and respect in the

man they once held in such high favor. If Arjuna loses his life, then he gains

heaven and if he wins then he gains the earth; thus there is no need for Arjuna

to fear for his own fate. To complete his sacred duty, Arjuna must perform the

necessary actions for the duty to be achieved. ?Be intent on action, not on

the fruits of action; avoid attractions to the fruits and attachment to

inaction!? (The Bhagavad-Gita, p. 36). In the third teaching, the abstinence

from action fails because one cannot merely reject one?s actions and find

success. Inaction threatens the well-being of the physical body, warns Krishna.

Discovered through techniques like yoga and inner reflection, action allows the

freedom of the self to be found and attained. Once Arjuna loses desire in the

consequences of his actions, then a new kind of discipline can be realized.

Understanding, rated superior to action by the god Krishna, provides the

necessary tools to perform the skills needed to execute the action. Krishna

warns Arjuna that this understanding can be lost once man begins a downward

process by lusting after pleasurable objects which creates desire, and from

desire anger is born, from anger arises confusion, from confusion comes memory

loss, and from this the loss of understanding, signaling the ruin of man.

Krishna blames Arjuna?s current emotions on worldly desires, and encourages

Arjuna to seek a detachment from these worldly ties, so that the duty may be

completed and Arjuna will achieve his release from human suffering. The

discussion of passion in the fourteenth teaching illustrates one of many

inconsistencies in Krishna?s argument. ?Know that passion is emotional, born

of craving and attachment, it binds the embodied self with attachment to

action? (The Bhagavad-Gita, p. 122). Previously, Krishna counseled that a

strong detachment from action, as well as from the fruits of action, is

necessary for the success of the endeavor. In a sense, Krishna says that passion

creates the drive and will needed to accomplish an action. ?When passion

increases, Arjuna, greed and activity, involvement in actions, disquiet, and

longing arise? (The Bhagavad-Gita, p. 122). Exactly what merits the longing

remains to be seen; Krishna gives the impression that this craving may deal with

the fruits of action, a clear contradiction to Krishna?s past words. In this

sense, Krishna describes a unit of the three qualities that bind man to the

self. Including passion, lucidity, and dark inertia, these qualities (while

being praised by Krishna) must be transcended for the achievement of liberation.

To receive all knowledge of the cosmos and the self, Arjuna learns of Krishna

himself. Krishna describes himself as having eight aspects: earth, fire, water,

wind, space, mind, understanding, and individuality. These are his more worldly

factors labeled as his lower nature. His upper nature is Krishna?s ability to

sustain the universe, and be the source of all in existence. The three qualities

of nature arise from him, as well as the beneficial aspects of strength without

desire and desire without imposing on the duty all man must possess. ?The

disciplined man of knowledge is set apart by his singular devotion; I am dear to

the man of knowledge, and he is dear to me? (The Bhagavad-Gita, p. 73). To

Krishna, the man of wisdom and knowledge goes hand in hand with the man who has

complete devotion to the god. Krishna likens the man of knowledge to himself,

saying ?…self-disciplined, he holds me to be the highest way? (The

Bhagavad-Gita, p. 73), once again establishing the need for complete submission.

Knowledge, while seen as a way to achieve freedom, requires enough discipline to

be able to fully devote oneself to the god Krishna. It is through devotion,

Krishna reveals, that man can truly achieve freedom from life and death. ?By

devotion alone can I, as I really am, be known and seen and entered into, Arjuna?

(The Bhagavad-Gita, p. 108). In his teaching on devotion, Krishna tells Arjuna

to ?renounce all actions to me? (The Bhagavad-Gita, p. 112) In the fifth

teaching, Krishna calls for the release from attachment and the fruit of the

action, saying that once this occurs, then joy is found in the detached

individual. Yet, freedom can not be achieved through renunciation alone; it is

action with discipline that is essential for the success of the enlightened. As

Krishna continues his discourse, he begins to talk about the divine and demonic

qualities inherent in all of man. ?All creatures in the world are either

divine or demonic;? (The Bhagavad-Gita, p. 133). Apparently, all creatures are

naturally good or evil. ?…do not despair, Arjuna, you were born with the

divine? (The Bhagavad-Gita, p. 133). Born with the quality of good or evil,

the individual is fated to be what is in his nature. If it is his duty to be

evil, then it is at evil that the man will succeed. Krishna states that living

in evil leads to the bondage of the self in worldly things. Unable to free

himself, the demonic man is forced to repeat the cycle of life and death in an

everlasting pattern as Krishna casts each evil man back into demonic wombs.

Krishna also identifies the evil man as a slave to his own desires. Controlled

and dictated by futile efforts, ?they hoard wealth in stealthy ways to satisfy

their desires? (The Bhagavad-Gita, p. 134). The god also warns against three

gates of hell: desire, anger, and greed. The renunciation of these allows for

the release of the self. In the seventeenth teaching, Krishna discusses the

differences in the nature of man. As stated before, these three aspects (also

thought of as aspects of faith) are lucidity, passion, and dark inertia. The

lucid man sacrifices to the gods, eats of the rich and savory foods, and

sacrifices with all the traditions met. The man of passion sacrifices to the

spirits and demons, eats harsh and bitter food that cause suffering, and

sacrifices only to gain. The man of dark inertia sacrifices to the dead and

ghosts, eats food that has long spoiled, and sacrifices void of faith or any

real emotion. Into one of these three types fits every human on earth. Krishna

praises the lucid while warning of the passionate and the darkly inert. The

discussion comes to a close when Krishna begins to summarize and conclude the

points he has already mentioned. He specifies the difference between

?renunciation? and ?relinquishment?. Renunciation is the refusal of

action grounded in desire, while relinquishment is the rejection of the fruit of

action. In death, the relinquishing of the fruits allows the self to lose all

ties to the body and the desires that go with it. Krishna reminds him that

resistance to his duty, that is, refusal to go into battle is futile because

Arjuna?s nature compels him to it. Krishna spurns Arjuna to go against his

will and do what his heart forbids. Arjuna learns to take refuge in Krishna and

to commit fully to him. Krishna vows that Arjuna will be received to him in good

time. ?Arjuna, have you listened with you full powers of reason? Has the

delusion of ignorance now been destroyed?? ?Krishna, my delusion is

destroyed, and by your grace I have regained memory; I stand here, my doubt

dispelled, ready to act on your words.? (The Bhagavad-Gita, p. 153) Thus

Arjuna, through his discourse with the god Krishna, accepted his duty with

devotion and learned how to overcome his desire, while freeing himself from all

worldly suffering.


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