Topics for today:
- Opening prayers and Gita Dhyanam
- Chapter 2. Verses 5-9
Highlights of today’s class:
Arjuna’s realization of his helplessness:
- Arjuna realizes that all his knowledge including that of dharma and adharma was unable to help him in this moment of emotional crisis. Inspite of all his knowledge he was still confused as to his duty in the situation he found himself in.
- In verse 5 he says that leading a life of renunciation of action or sannyasa was perhaps better than indulging in this terrible action of killing his elders. This dilemma regarding which of the two lifestyles he must adopt – engaging in action vs. renouncing action – prompts Arjuna to raise the same question multiple times in the Gita. We shall see this in chapters 3, 5 and 18.
- In verse 6 Arjuna confesses that he did not know if it was better for Pandavas to kill the sons of Dhritarashtra or to be killed by them. He did not see any good in either of them, hence the idea of giving up the battle altogether.
- In verse 7 Arjuna describes his feeling as a sense of miserliness or karpanya. Karpanya is krupanasya bhavah, a sense of being a miser. Arjuna felt like a miser because in spite of his vast knowledge of dharma and adharma and everything else he knew, he could not spend or use it to help him in this situation. In worldly sense a miser is one who is unable to spend or use his wealth even when necessary. In the vision of the Upanishads, a miser or krupanah is one who in spite of having the wealth of a human life does not gain the knowledge of atma during his lifetime. This description comes in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad in a conversation between sages Yajnavalkya and Gargi.
Is there anything to know beyond dharma and adharma?
- Since Arjuna found his knowledge of dharma and adharma and everything else that he knew inadequate to help him in this situation, he felt there must be something more for him to know beyond dharma and adharma.
- Dharma shastra needs to be interpreted based on place, time and situation. Therefore it does not have the status of being the ultimate.
Viveka – antidote to karpanya:
- Viveka or discrimination is the antidote to the feeling of karpanya. Viveka is the ability to discern what is real and what is unreal. The term ‘viveka‘ is used even in the sense of discerning what is dharma and what is adharma. But here a higher level of viveka was necessary. This higher viveka is the discernment of what is real and what is unreal, what is satyam and what is mithya. This is knowledge of the self which the Gita primarily teaches.
Sreyas vs Preyas:
- Two pursuits are open to a person – sreyas and preyas. These two terms appear in the Kathopanishad in the course of Lord Yama’s teaching of self-knowledge to Nachiketas.
- Sreyas is something that is the ultimate good for all, something that is above dharma and adharma. Sreyas is moksha, freedom, brought about by self-knowledge. Sreyas is complete acceptance of oneself. It is knowing that one is completely acceptable as one is, through proper knowledge of oneself.
- Preyas is worldly prosperity and pleasure. Preyas includes artha, kama and dharma.
- Lord Yama tells Nachiketas that a person of viveka and dhariya or courage chooses sreyas over preyas.
- Arjuna requests Krishna to teach him that which will lead him to ultimate good or sreyas. Sreyas brings about an end to sorrow and therefore Arjuna asks for it.
Arjuna’s submission to Krishna as a student:
- In verse 7 Arjuna submits to Lord Krishna as a student and seeks his instructions on that course of action which would lead him to ultimate good, sreyas.
- Arjuna calls himself as a sishya.. sishyaste aham. Sishya is one who is qualified to be taught, as against a vidharthi – one who has a desire to know or an antevasi – one who enrolls in a course of study. It is the teacher who determines ultimately if a student is fit to be taught.
- With this submission and plea, Arjuna became quiet. Sanjaya picks up the narrative and describes what Krishna did and said afterwards. We will see this in the next class. Krishna’s teaching of self-knowledge begins from the next class onwards. Shankaracharya’s bhashya or commentary also begins from here onwards.
om tat sat