In the previous chapter on Sāṅkhya Yogaḥ, Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna that knowledge of the Self is the supreme path to Enlightenment. He explains the nature of the indestructible Self. Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna to shed all root patterns of fear, abandon his desires and go beyond success and failure; to practice authenticity in action, to be unattached and steady in completion of the Self, the state of Brahman.
Arjuna is still in the space of inauthenticity. He is confused as to what he should do. At one level, he understands what Kṛṣṇa says to him. However, the explanation about the spirit living on while the body dies, and the idea that all those he is about to fight and destroy have already been destroyed in the cosmic sense, does not appeal to him. Arjuna is a warrior. To him, what is seen in front of him is what exists. He sees all his elders and relatives arrayed against him in battle and he has to make a choice to kill or be killed. This is the physical reality that he faces. Kṛṣṇa tells him not to take this reality seriously. He says all the living people in front of him are already dead, and therefore he is committing no sin by killing them again. In fact, if he does not fight them, he is being out of integrity; by running away from the battle as an inauthentic coward. He also tells Arjuna that he has the right to do his duty but no right to its results.
‘Let not the fruit of action be your motive and let not your attachment be to inaction either,’ Kṛṣṇa warns him.
Arjuna is totally confused. He tells Kṛṣṇa, ‘I do not understand what you are saying. First, you tell me to fight. Then you tell me to shed anger. You say I must kill my enemies, who are my elders and relatives, but then you say I should not worry about the end result.’ Arjuna says, ‘All I need to know is whether I should act or not. You say knowledge is superior to action and yet you say I must act. What should I do?’ he asks.
Arjuna is clearly in violence. Asking, expecting or thinking only one act can be important is violence. Only violence asks for instruction without inspiration. A violent person cannot be inspired. He can only be instructed.
Arjuna is asking for a single instruction from Kṛṣṇa, he says, ‘Tell me clearly what is best for me?’ Arjuna’s pattern of asking for only a single best instruction is the pattern of violence. By asking for a clear instruction, he can hold Kṛṣṇa responsible for his own inauthenticity and escape the responsibility for his actions. I want you to understand that asking for a single instruction itself is from the violence. And if the single instruction is given, that is encouraging your violence, only inspiration should be given. Before you take up any philosophy the first quality you should check for in that philosophy is this – how does it introduce yourself to you?
If any religion gives you a manual, that religion is born from violence and will continue to flourish in violence. In the Bhagavad Gītā, you will rarely see Kṛṣṇa giving Arjuna instructions. All seven hundred verses are literally nectars of inspiration uttered out of Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa’s love and compassion. They are all inspiring, empowering and enriching. Nowhere will you see instructions!
You see, in the beginning of Gītā when Arjuna says, ‘Leave me, I am going and becoming Sannyāsi.’ Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa says, ‘No!’ He asks him to fight. Later, when Arjuna is asking, ‘Why should I act? How can I fight?’ Bhagavān tells him about Sannyāsa, how to become a Sannyāsi.
Arjuna is supposed to fight, but he is being taught the knowledge of completion with Sāṅkhya Yoga! He is being taught to meditate with one full chapter for dhyāna yoga and he is being taught the different great aspects of Sannyāsa yoga! Karma-Sannyāsa Yoga! Jñānakarma-Sannyāsa Yoga!
This is the beauty of Hinduism! No single instruction can work because the root pattern of asking for a single instruction is violence. Why? Because we feel either we should be alive or the other person should be alive. The mentality of fighting and violence always excludes. The root of the problem should be solved. Anything that talks about one and only one solution is born out of survival instinct, never out of inspiration.
What Arjuna leaves unsaid is, ‘What use is knowledge if it cannot be used in action?’ Arjuna is a kṣhatriya, a warrior, not a brāhmin, a scholar or a philosopher. Philosophers can keep arguing for both sides of an issue, without bothering about any logic. They are only interested in advertising their so-called knowledge. But warriors are men of action. They have no time to waste in idle talk. So Arjuna says, ‘Cut out all this superficiality; tell me the truth as it is. Tell me what I should do.’ True to his conditioning, Arjuna is uncomfortable when he is not in action; when he has no clearly defined purpose and motivated instructions before him.
Your whole life is purposeless, but again and again, you are conditioned to run towards something—whether it is in material life or spiritual life. Some goal is always put in front of you. The so-called goals in material life or spiritual life continuously make you feel you are not good enough. Just understand, whatever you think of as your purpose in life, whether it is money or relationships or name and fame, even if you have fulfillment in that dimension, you will not rest, you will not be complete!
Someone told me this, I believe a management consultant said it, ‘If you place a ladder somewhere and climb as fast as you can, you will quickly reach the top of the ladder. But unless the ladder is placed where you want, where you reach will be of no consequence!’ Climbing as fast as you can is efficiency. We all think we are very efficient. Placing the ladder where you want is effectiveness. Not all of us know where to place the ladder. So, the consultant says to focus on where to place the ladder.
But I say even he is mistaken. It does not matter where you place the ladder as long as you enjoy the climb! As long as your ‘why’ is with the right context, with completion as your root cognition, ‘what’ and ‘where’ does not matter. More than your actions, it is the space from which the actions are done, and the context and reason from which the actions are done that matter!
The trouble is that we spend the entire climb obsessed with where we will reach and what we will do there. If we spend that time enjoying and being enriched by the journey, any destination we reach will be the right destination. The destination is not important; the journey is. The goal is not important; the process, the path is.
We are always greedy for more. We continuously pursue material goals. As a result, we never relax within ourselves. That is why even when we become old we are unable to relax. Have you seen a single man above seventy relaxing? People can never sit with themselves! If they have company, they will start talking about their golden past. If they don’t have company, they will watch television or read the same old newspaper, from the first line to the last with a big magnifying glass! They just can’t sit with themselves.
A man who can’t sit with himself misses one of the major dimensions of his being. Continuously running, thinking there is some purpose to life, his whole being will be in a state of tension, conditioned to running out of compulsion, never out of completion.