Bhagavad Gītā begins with Arjuna’s dilemma – whether to fight or to abandon the battle. Arjuna is leaning toward giving up arms and abandoning the battlefield. He cannot conceive of shooting arrows at his teacher Droṇa nor his grand-uncle Bhīṣma; after all, they are worthy of his honor and worship. Yet, Arjuna is also not very sure of not fighting. He knows that the opponents headed by Duryodhana have done injustice to him and his family members. Duryodhana refused to return Indraprastha, even though the Pāṇḍavas had fulfilled the terms of spending twelve years in the forest and then one year incognito. As a kṣatriya, it is Arjuna’s duty to fight and claim his right.
When people come to the spiritual path, they face a similar dilemma. On the one hand, they come to understand the purpose of human life, and believe that the problems of life have a solution in spirituality. Consequently, they have some attraction and sense of duty toward following the spiritual path. On the other hand, they do not want to let go of their material attachments. Similar to Arjuna’s approach in the first chapter of the Gītā, they try to rationalize their material attachments as their dharma. Material attachments weaken our decision-making faculty. The mind remains irresolute. We become doubtful. Doubts can be about our own ability to attain success on the path, about the prescribed process to reach the goal, or about the goal to be achieved.
When the mind is not resolute, one does not act very enthusiastically. Therefore, one wavers or remains listless in one’s practice. One thinks, “Am I really qualified for this path?” or “Can I really make it?” In such a state of mind, kāma takes over. Kāma is the lower nature under the influence of attachment to material pleasure and comfort. One feels weak spiritually, but energetic for materialistic activities. One is forced to act in a wrong way although one knows that it is improper. Arjuna asked Kṛṣṇa about the reason why people are compelled to act against their will. Śrī Kṛṣṇa replied, “It is kāma, born from the guṇa of rajas, which later transforms into anger, that is insatiable and highly inauspicious. Know this to be the enemy on the spiritual path” (Gītā 3.38). He instructed Arjuna to destroy this formidable enemy called kāma. (Gita 3.43). The fact that Kṛṣṇa instructed Arjuna to destroy kāma implies that it is possible to get rid of it. If it were an impossibility, Śrī Kṛṣṇa would not have asked Arjuna to vanquish it.
We, however, should know that we cannot overcome kāma and its associates such anger, greed, delusion, fear, depression, and so on by our own strength. We need Kṛṣṇa’s support. Arjuna knew this and, therefore, he took shelter of Kṛṣṇa. He said to him, “Only You can uplift me from the grief that is debilitating my body, senses, and the mind” (Gītā 2.8). Arjuna rejected the option that any material power could bring him relief.
The good news is that Kṛṣṇa is ever ready to help us if we are willing to approach Him like Arjuna. Kṛṣṇa says that He is our well-wisher, suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ (Gītā 5.29). We just need to accept this fact. If we have a well-wisher who is incapable of helping us, then his wishes cannot do much for us. In fact, taking shelter and support of an incapable person will result in frustration and nothing else. This can be experienced in our social dealings. But Kṛṣṇa is not such an impotent well-wisher. He is sarva-loka-maheśvara—the master of all the worlds or people. Having such a capable well-wisher, we need not despair.
Material powers in the form of lust, greed, anger, and so on trouble us only as long as we do not take shelter of divine power. Śrī Kṛṣṇa has categorically declared that by taking His shelter, one can cross over all difficulties (Gītā 18.58). By surrendering to Him alone, one can cross over formidable māyā (Gītā 7.14). This is the special advantage on the path of bhakti that is not available on other paths. On the path of bhakti we have the support of the Supreme Īśvara, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself.
Thus, we should not have any doubt about our success. No obstacles can overpower a surrendered devotee. Kṛṣṇa’s devotee will not perish (Gītā 9.31). After hearing Bhagavad Gītā, Sañjaya, who was blessed by Vyāsa to know everything that transpired on the battlefield of Kurukṣetra, declared: “Wherever there is Kṛṣṇa, the Master of yoga, and wherever there is Arjuna, the wielder of the bow, there will surely be opulence, victory, prosperity, and statesmanship. This is my conviction” (Gītā 18.78). And Sañjaya’s conviction certainly came true. The Pāṇḍavas were victorious and had all opulence and prosperity.
Arjuna is a representative of a sādhaka. Like him, any sādhaka who takes shelter of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and performs his duty well, is assured of success and victory. There is no doubt about it. A sādhaka should be like Arjuna. One should be enthusiastic, determined, and persistent in one’s sādhanā. One should remain fixed in one’s goal, just like Arjuna on the battlefield. On the battlefield, there is no chance to think of anything else but to fight with the enemy. Otherwise one can lose one’s life. It is a matter of life and death. A sādhaka has to be alert in that way. Otherwise, the enemies can overpower him. Of course, if one has fully taken shelter of Kṛṣṇa, then if one becomes lax or deviates, then Kṛṣṇa Himself will protect such a devotee.
A resolute devotee will quickly become righteous, as Śrī Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna: “Very quickly he becomes righteous-minded and attains eternal peace” (Gītā 9.31). A devotee may face obstacles on his path but he is not deterred by them. Śrī Kṛṣṇa transforms the obstacles into stepping-stones to success. This is expressed by the devas headed by Brahmā in their prayers to Kṛṣṇa, “Those devotees of yours, O Mādhava, who have deep affection for You, do not ever deviate from the path of devotion, unlike those on the jñāna-marga. Being protected by You from all sides, they move fearlessly, putting their foot on the head of the masters of obstacles” (SB 10.2.33).
In fact, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself enters into the heart of His devotee and destroys the very cause of obstacles. This is confirmed by sage Karabhājana to king Nimi, “If a beloved devotee, who has renounced all other attachments and has taken complete shelter of Kṛṣṇa’s feet, somehow happens to engage in a forbidden act, Kṛṣṇa, situated in his heart, destroys the reaction to such an act” (SB 11.5.42). Therefore, a devotee should have no misgivings about success. Once a person has taken wholeheartedly shelter of a genuine guru, he or she is accepted by Kṛṣṇa as His own. Such a person is free from the law of karma. Such a devotee comes under the direct care of Kṛṣṇa. Whatever happens to such a person is the grace of Kṛṣṇa.
Here it should be said that although the way for a sincere devotee to progress on the spiritual path is to fight like Arjuna, this fight should be for achieving success on the path of bhakti. In other words, this fight is against lust, etc. Unfortunately, I have observed many devotees fighting the wrong battle. Instead of fighting against lust, greed, anger etc., they utilize their fighting skills to fight against fellow devotees for power, position, and even for romantic relations. Śrī Kṛṣṇa clearly instructs us how we have to combat against our lower nature or inclinations of the mind, which is the toughest battle to fight. Although most devotees know this concept, they may not put it into practice. Instead, they get involved in demeaning other devotees by gossiping about their weaknesses, or minimizing their strengths, and blocking their sevā. This is not a healthy attitude. It is like looking into a mirror and seeing dirt on one’s face, and then wiping the dirt off the mirror instead of one’s face. Similarly, kāma is in our mind, but we tend to project it onto fellow devotees and engage in blaming, naming, gaming, all in the name of bhakti. We should honestly take a look at our mind and work to purify it. Then Kṛṣṇa will assist us in our endeavor.
You should have one desire, and that is that you want prema. Then you should work to fulfill that desire, no matter what obstacle comes your way. Stay focused and fixed on this goal. Make this your resolve. Every morning take a deep breath in, and then push all of the air out out of your lungs. And just when you feel like you are about to die, resolve mentally, ‘I want Krishna prema – nothing else.’ Do this five times each morning and also five times at night before sleeping.
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