The Bhagavad Gita is a timeless story of the moments before a civil war when the protagonist begins to doubt what he must do. His chariot driver is the beloved god Krishna who, thru his playful spirit is a delight to all.
These doubts of Arjuna are not the doubts of someone just coming to yoga like most of us here in the west as something separate from our culture (or appropriated by it). Arjuna had been trained and lived with the highest masters of yoga his whole life. He was a follower of dharma; an exemplar of moral living. Compared to most of us he’d be a god. When he had to face his family and kinsmen in war; when he had to face some decisive action of magnitude like we all do a various times of our life — you know, those times when we have to make a choice between two (or more) unfavourable action – he cracked; this god of man lost his composure. He doubted everything he knew and felt inside. He doubted his dharma, the whole tide of his life that had brought him to that moment was questioned in every way. He became like a child again. Fearful of making a choice. His mind wavered incessantly. He tried to cling to universal rules instead of following his individual path for dealing with the difficult situation in which he found himself.
He was born a warrior king and knew deep inside what he had to do. As readers, we all knew what had to be done. It’s hard to imagine the kind of disappointment reader would have felt if Arjuna would have dropped his bow and refused to fight. His brothers would most certainly have killed him without ceremony or remorse. The lesson of the Gita would have then perhaps been to follow the rules and do as your told; don’t think for yourself even if you’re faced with tyranny. But Arjuna rose above even the most sacred of the universal laws that states we should not kill our own family and gave us the lesson of looking within and following our own path; that each and every moment and choice is unique and cannot be legislated universally as one set of laws for all times. We cannot discount universal law altogether, but we must know that as individuals, each of us gods unto ourselves, are capable of rising above the universal. In fact, it’s our duty to do so.
Arjuna was in a unique position in that he had a god as a chariot driver and counsellor. It would have been easy for Krishna to just give him a smack and tell him to snap out of it and fight, but he never does this because he knows that it’s up to each of us to decide for ourselves. Krishna merely answers his questions and tells him to choose. Like the sun, he illuminates the way but he does not force anything upon him.
Arjuna is free to choose, just as we are all free to choose. Of course fate and circumstance and our own inner fires often makes choices for us leaving us with but one path to follow; but it’s still up to us to choose that path and often times struggle with the choice even if fate has already decried what is to happen. Unfortunately we cannot stop time as Arjuna and Krishna seem to do in order to make our choices, but the pain of indecision can most certainly be lessened by having faith that our inner chariot driver knows the way.
4 thoughts on “The wavering mind: Arjuna’s doubt”
Is this a Karma-yoga according to you?
The article didn’t really approach the topic of Karma yoga. I was discussing more about the process of choice.
Right. May be I have interpreted Lord Krishna as the guru of Arjuna and Arjuna was abiding by Krishna’s orders. Other way of Karma yoga. Because, your choice is chosen by Guru, not by yourself.
Krishna does not choose for Arjuna he just guides him to the choice he knows he’ll choose