Bhagavad-Gita Summary, Chapter I

[For the Disciple—A Guide]

"The Despondency of Arjuna."

The dialog opens with a question from King Dhritarashtra (ruler of the physical body) to Sanjaya, an aspect of his consciousness, able to access the plane where Krishna, the Higher Self resides. (Gita, p. 1 and see p. 96)

Dhritarashtra, asks his Counselor, Sanjaya ("Victorious One") about the disposition of the forces on the war-field of Kurukshetra. It symbolizes the personality in which karma acts and the skandhas (life-atoms) exist (Gita, p. 1). The "war" is the struggle between man's Kama (desires) and Buddhi (wisdom). [This "Field of the Kurus" is located historically about 55 miles North of modern "New Delhi"]. Delhi at the time of the Pandavas and Kurus was named Hastinapura. Its ruins can still be seen.

The opposing armies consist of the qualities, powers and forces which make up each person's psychological nature. Broadly divided these are the Righteous and Virtuous, that confront the Selfish and Vicious. These qualities and emotions are found in all of us, and are called, usually, our "good," and "bad" inclinations, character and motives. (Gita, p. 2)

The son of Dhritarashtra, Duryodhana, to whom the actual governing of the Kuru kingdom was entrusted, is heard describing the disposition of the armies to Drona, his instructor in arms. All the names of Kings, heroes, their standards, conch-horns and arms symbolize and indicate psychological forces resident in the passional (rajasic) nature of every man and woman. (Gita, pp. 2-4)

Arjuna asks Krishna:

"I pray thee, Krishna, cause my chariot to be placed between the two armies, that I may behold who are the men that stand ready, anxious to commence the battle; with whom it is I am to fight in this ready field; and who they are that are here assembled to support the evil-minded son of Dhritarashtra in the battle." (Gita, p. 4)

Arjuna represents the devoted man, the aspiring mind in all of us, which desires to learn and do that which is right. Krishna, in us, is the Wise Spirit—the Higher Self and discriminating Mind. It is one with the Universal Mind. We, as the embodied mind, hold a discussion, however brief, every time we make a choice.

Arriving at this survey position, Arjuna is suddenly overwhelmed by seeing the many friends, relatives, and allied kings that stand ready to fight. Although they are all related, they oppose each other. Arjuna, who knows them all intimately (seeing that they are part of his own lower nature) is troubled with indecision; and, fearing to make an evil choice, he tells Krishna, using many arguments derived from Scripture and conventional philosophy, that he is unable to decide, and being fearful of doing wrong, he will do nothing. He says that he will not even commence his part of the fight, because he fears he will be breaking religious, and customary familial laws by harming or killing these close relatives of his. He says he is prepared to offer himself as a sacrifice to them. (Gita, pp. 4-6)

Sitting down in the chariot, Arjuna sets his bow aside.

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