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The Age of Innocence in a Life Full of Struggle

What should be the age of innocence in a person’s life? When does one get over the emotional self? Is there any real value of emotions in the purest form? Is being an excessively calculating in the affairs of life a better option? What distinguishes innocence from shrewdness? Does one outgrow innocence or should one outgrow innocence at all? Should a person charged with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the family or society or state, such as a king or any other kind of a ruler, abandon his responsibility only because of emotions of love, attachment or delusions of sibling affinity in the most challenging and testing situations like war or administration of justice or law & order? Can such a response be termed a weakness or strength of the person? Is it born out of ignorance, lack of education, emotions or simply innocence about others or their motives or designs or the complexity of life? How should one get over these mental obstacles to do his duty? Is there a text governing the conduct of such a person? If there is some treatise strategizing responses in any given situation of this kind, is it universally applicable at all times? Most of such questions come for incisive and intense examination in the The Bhagwat Gita, in one of the most exciting and engrossing forms of an extensive dialogue between Lord Shri Krishna and Arjun.

Arjun and the other Pandava brothers had lost their father, the King Pandu, in early childhood. They were reared up by their mother, Kunti. They grew up under the affection of their grandfather, Bhishma Pitahmah. Their father had appointed his elder brother, Dhritarashtra, as the regent to run the affairs of his state, Hastinapur. Dhritarashtra was blind from birth. Had he not been blind he would have become the king of Hastinapur under the custom of primogeniture, where the elder one became the head of the family and king in royal households. But Dhritarashtra always wanted to wear the crown and secretly nursed the ambition of seeing his elder son, Duryodhana, as the next king. Pandu’s eldest was Yudhistir, who would have become king had Dhritarashtra returned the reins of power to him as normal. The ambition of Dhritrashtra, inflamed further by his eldest son, the over-ambitious Duryodhana, led to the miseries rained on the Pandavas by the king, his sons and courtiers. The family feud led to the great war or the Mahabharat between the Pandavas & the Kauravas, on the fields of Kurukhsetra. The Kauravs had lined up all great warriors, including Bhismapitamah, who had special attachment to Arjun and whom Arjun loved most. Their teacher and military trainer Dronacharya too was fighting for the Kauravs. The Pandavas had a few kings on their side and Lord Shri Krishna. The two great armies were lined up on the battlefield facing each other. Seeing the opponent, the great warrior Arjun, suffered a sudden bout of melancholia. It was still the same emotional, pure hearted and innocent Arjun, who could never rise to charge at his most loved icon, the Bhishmapitahmah and his most revered teacher, the great Dronacharya. Arjun was too artless in machinations, knavery, crookedness, cleverness, dissimulation and sagacity. The demand on a warrior of his stature was to fight the war which was forced on the Pandavas by the unreasonable king and his son and other courtiers. What if those ranged against him were his most loved ones, who would die if victory was scored by the Panadavas. He found it most unpalatable- he didn’t want such a victory; he had no use for the pleasures of a kingdom built on the dead bodies of his elders, teachers, brothers and subjects. Though it was not the right moment to discuss those issues on the battlefield or be in two minds or suffer emotional delusions of such kind, Arjun needed to get the missing education to be able to take the decision and execute it with full confidence in his mission. So he poured his anguish before Shri Krishna. Seeing the plight of Arjun and his self doubt and the deludion clouding his mind, Shri Krishna agreed to answer his questions and remove all his doubts, so that he could arrive at the most considered decision himself in the full knowledge of all the complexities and nature of life.  It is always the individual who has to take the decision, but the most beneficial are those decisions alone that are taken after due consideration and the knowledge about every aspect of the demand for the best decision. The exposition by Shri Krishna  to Arjun is known as the Bhagwat Gita, a treatise that has been read by billions of inquisitive individuals over the globe in as many centuries. Given below is an attempt to delve into some aspects of this great exposition.

 

Shri Krishna uses a number of epithets for Arjun, all of them containing deep meaning. One such epithet is “Nishpaap Arjun”, meaning the pure Arjun. This purity is the valuable asset of an innocent person, which becomes clear when contrasted with the cleverness of another. Since the Pandavas had lost their father they saw in Bhishmapitamah and the king their father. They failed to discern the subtle difference between being the father and like a father or being a born son and like a son that unfortunately is the crude reality of this complex world. It is the nature of the creation that such intelligent discriminations are practiced generally. Only God is capable of loving everyone equally. While Arjun is afflicted by the sudden onset of melancholia or vishaad(dejection/depression), the other side displays no such qualms of conscience. But in his innocence, Arjun fails to register that finesse in filial love and descends in to the deep sorrow, taking his victory for granted and the annihilation of all those he held in the highest love and esteem. He was grossly mistaken, for there was no annihilation possible as there was no victory in sight. That was so because Bhismapitamah could not be killed by anybody, he had the boon to die only at the moment of his choosing. It was the ichchaamrityu vardaan (death at will)for him. He could not defeat his own teacher because he was still superior to anybody on the battlefield. Therefore, it was immature as well as premature for him to think of victory even before the start of the battle. Besides, he had no escape from the war, since it was a war for Dharma or principles of ethical governance, where the honour of women was guaranteed and citizens enjoyed a life of prosperity and happiness. Only because his loved ones had to be annihilated, the war could not  have been simply thrown away. When principles are involved, it is necessary to do everything to re-establish order in society, otherwise anarchy and chaos will destroy everything. The individual can’t remain innocent or emotional forever. Emotions and innocence have their extremely positive role in shaping the personality of an individual, but so is the case with rationality, sagacity and wisdom. Life is complex. Complexity demands complex solutions. What Shri Krishna did to Arjun on the battlefield was to complete his education, in placing before him the whole complexity of life, the delineation of the insignificance of “I” in comparison to “we” the people on this earth or Vasudhev Kutumbakam(global family). In life, each one has to play his assigned role, according to his composition, whether positive or negative. When such knowledge was revealed by Shri Krishna to Arjun and he was given the choice of doing or not doing whatever he thought appropriate, the adolescent Arjun acquired adulthood, learnt to discern & discriminate, weigh the pros & cons, take his own decision and came out of his melancholia and took his arms to give the call for the imminent battle.

One very interesting aspect needs to be noted. What Shri Krishna told Arjun was heard by three persons only, who were the protagonists- Arjun, Dhritarashtra and Sanjay.  Dhritrashtra was offered the divine vision of watching the proceedings of the war, but he declined. Instead he asked it to be given to his charioteer named Sanjay, who was directed by the king to narrate it to him. So Sanjay is just relaying the proceedings, but the actors are Arjun and/or Dhritarashtra only. It needs to be emphasized that the Gita discourse had the desired effect on Arjun only, because he was like a clean slate, whereas Dhritarashtra was biased, prejudiced, unprepared to listen or act and failed to stop the catastrophic war, which killed all his 100 sons besides uncounted casualties of innocents, near and dear ones, kings or commoners. Sanjay benefited from his complete neutrality. He had witnessed what the great saints, Rishis, Munies and other devotees crave for- the darshan of the Lord. He witnessed the Viswaroop that the Lord was pleased to show to Arjun on the battlefield of Kurukshetra! Arjun was able to gain the insight because he suffered no mental blocks like those of his uncle, the king Dhristarashtra! Arjun also developed a comprehensive view of life, including filial bonds and duties of rulers, life and death, dharma and adharma(the righteous and unrighteous), the power behind the visual phenomenon, the physical and the spiritual reality, the visible and the invisible and above all the Almighty in the vision of the universal power in the form of the viswaroop.

The whole discourse is an exposition of the life cycle. Life is enveloped by positivity and negativity. How we are nurtured depends on the dominance of one of these forces. It is possible for an ordinary person to control negativity and increase positivity. An objective view tends to encourage neutrality where the rewards or punishments don’t guide the actions of a person but dharma alone guides it. So long as we are able to do our duty as per the righteous code of conduct, we perform well in life. But when we decide to indulge in ourselves to do everything for personal gratification alone even if it is violation of the ethical norms, we harm not only ourselves but the whole society. Life is a running battle of Mahabharat- that is within ourselves. Our body, mind, soul and consciousness is the Kurukhetra of life where we act like Arjun and fight the battle continuously between what is doable and what is non doable. We are always at cross roads and cross purposes in life. We desperately seek guidance of our elders, loved ones, friends or teachers. They do their bit. But life is different for each individual. So, one set of rules does not serve everybody all the time. The “Time” cycle presents vastly different situations in the “time” cycle of the life span of a person or a species, calling for individual remedies to individual problems at the given point of time. A developed consciousness helps one take a comprehensive view of the universe and establish a communion with the Life Force or the Almighty! Now, it hardly matters whether the Almighty is Lord Krishna, as seen by Arjun in the Viswaroop Darshan or any other appearing to some other person in another form. What is significant is the journey of the pure, pious, uncorrupted, unsullied and innocent soul to maturity on a growth path that empowers an indecisive mind to make well informed correct choice and do as righteousness inspires.

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