Messages of Bhagavad Gita

Arjuna is worried about entering the battle and destroying his own family, so Krishna begins by explaining five reasons why Arjuna should not be troubled by this.  Essentially Krishna shows Arjuna why he will not get bad karma from taking part in the war.

The first reason Krishna mentions is that because atman (the self) is eternal, it is a mistake to think that one can actually kill someone.  What actually happens is that people are sent to the next stage of reincarnation.

 

[Krishna speaking] One believes he is the slayer, another believes he is the slain.  Both are ignorant; there is neither slayer nor slain.  You were never born; you will never die.  You have never changed; you can never change.  Unborn, eternal, immutable, immemorial, you do not die when the body dies. (Bhagavad Gita 2:19-20)

 

Another reason why Arjuna should fight is because of honour and duty, also referred to as dharma or cast duty.  Arjuna is a member of the warrior class; the battle is the very reason of his existence.  It is not sinful to fulfil your duty in life.

The third reason Krishna gives is that inaction is impossible.  Withdrawing from battle is in itself a conscious decision; not choosing is still a choice.  This is in a way a criticism of some world-views, such as asceticism, which claim that leaving everything behind is inaction: Withdrawing from society is always a deliberate act.

Another reason given by Krishna is that the source of evil is not in actions, but in passion and desires, the intentions behind the actions.  This brings the dialogue to the last reason.

The fifth and last reason is that there are ways to act where we can do what we have to do without getting bad karma.  In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains three ways.

The first way is Jnana yoga (the way of knowledge).  This idea is based on the Upanishads and holds that life and death are not real.  Selfhood is nothing but an illusion.  All we see are manifestations of the oneness.  Once we realise that the oneness is behind all things, we can escape the bad karma from acting.

 

[Krishna speaking] I am ever present to those who have realized me in every creature. Seeing all life as my manifestation, they are never separated from me. (Bhagavad Gita 6:30)

 

The second way is Bhakti yoga (the way of devotion).  This in an idea developed in great detail in Hinduism and holds that our actions can be dedicated to Krishna by surrendering our will to him, and he will take upon himself any bad karma.

The third way is Karma yoga (“the way of action” or “the way of works”).  The idea behind Karma yoga is acting without attachment; in other words, to act without being so concerned about the outcome of our actions.  According to this view, if we act in such a way as not to get attached to the fruits of our actions, we can be more effective. Sometimes emotions like fear, embarrassment, or anxiety can interfere in the outcome of what we do.

 

[Krishna speaking] Neither agitated by grief nor hankering after pleasure, they live free from lust and fear and anger. Established in meditation, they are truly wise. Fettered no more by selfish attachments, they are neither elated by good fortune nor depressed by bad. Such are the seers." (Bhagavad Gita 2:56-57)

[Krishna speaking] Thinking of objects, attachment to them is formed in a man. From attachment longing, and from longing anger grows. From anger comes delusion, and from delusion loss of memory. From loss of memory comes the ruin of understanding, and from the ruin of understanding he perishes. (Bhagavad Gita 2:62-63)

 

Each of these three ways to act without getting bad karma is suitable for different people or castes.  Priests would follow the way of knowledge; peasants, merchants and commoners might be inclined to the way of devotion; warriors would identify themselves with the way of action.  Finally, Arjuna decides to obey Krishna by engaging in the battle and in the end the Pandavas regain control of the kingdom

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